The Lost Writers

lost writers

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In 2007, the job market was not as dire as it would become, but it was already tumbleweeds in the tech sector in Southern Virginia. I relocated to Austin, Texas where tech was (and is) booming. I had a job within a week, but I had no friends in my new town. That’s where blogs filled a gap, giving me access to the intimacy of friendship without geographic constraints. I discovered several writers’ blogs, and anticipated their posts with the giddiness of afternoon coffee with a good friend.

It would be another four years before I started my own blog. In the intervening years, I lurked rather than commented because I felt weird with how lopsided our “relationship” would be, given I wasn’t blogging. I learned about the illnesses, the envies, the fears, and the joys of many writers I’ve never met. Sadly, none of continue to blog. I wonder what happened to them. Did life crush them with obligations, commitments, or depression? Did they move to a new blog with no backlinks to avoid a troll? Are they dead?

I had a writing mentor at that time. We met in Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio, a forum for writers to critique other writers, rank them, and possibly get a story picked up by Zoetrope for their lit magazine. Most of the writers were newer than I was to the craft, and I lucked into finding IJJ, who was a very experienced writer. At one point, he sent me a physical copy of a story of his published in The Paris Review. (Yes, mind=blown!) IJJ never wavered to tell me when I’d edited out the heart of my story. He called me on my BS and also told me where my writing shone. IJJ was in his sixties, and there were intimations of health issues. The last time I heard from him was in 2007, and he was moving to a new home in the country. He reminded me that while we put ourselves into our writing, strict adherence to our personal reality can diminish the impact of the story. I wrote back, and he never responded. I tried again last week, even knowing his email address has been disconnected for years. He hasn’t logged in at Zoetrope or any other known haunts in the last seven years. I think that he is dead. I am sorry that I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that my writing is better for having his influence. I hope that he knows that.

There are many other writers I’ve met that have disappeared. They stopped blogging, stopped commenting, stepped away from the community. I wonder where those lost writers are. I wonder if they are still writing, and if their silence means they are working on the next Great Novel. I hope they aren’t sick, dead, depressed, or utterly gone from writing. I miss them.

I understand disappearing. I disappeared physically from Virginia, choosing to start fresh without leaning on any of my former friendships. Later, I disappeared from the online writing community, not even connecting with the people in my writing guild. I know what happened to me. In both cases, I felt too raw to connect, too vulnerable. I retreated into isolation because I didn’t know how to cope with what felt like Really Big Things: job loss, shattered dreams (I wanted to be a philosopher of science, imagine that!), broken friendships, living in a new place, the fact that self-publishing wasn’t what I thought it would be, and later, that submission to traditional publishers was what I thought it would be.  There are a lot of situations in life that are overwhelming. My coping mechanisms were faulty, and they left me isolated. I’ve learned new ways to deal with life, and they’re working for me. I banished artist’s envy. I got out of the ambition room, and stopped striving for success that didn’t thrill my soul. I seek fellowship with others on my path. I embody gratitude. I’m entering into a more spiritual mode of coping. I’m no longer one of the lost writers.

I’m busy writing a guide explaining the precepts I followed to get to where I am now: happy, peaceful, excited about writing. It’s called Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I know it can’t bring back IJJ, RIP. I know it probably won’t ever reach the bloggers who pulled me through the loneliness of 2007, and have since disappeared. It might reach you, though, and be of some help. When it is ready, I’ll announce the release of Bring Your Joy. The guide will be offered as a free PDF download. Expect it within the month. If you’re in dire need now, though, leave me a comment, and I will get you a rough-draft. It’s that important to me to share the message.

If you are a writer or blogger who has gone away from the community, know that someone misses you. We wonder where you are. We hope you are okay.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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Finished!

creative flowering

The novel doesn’t have a name. The series doesn’t have a name. The feelings I have right now don’t all have names, but that doesn’t change the fact that I finished.

Yes, finished.

I’ve completed the first (full) draft of my second novel.

It is one-hundred and thirty-eight thousand words long, which is four-hundred and ninety-two pages. It took me two tries, with one near-complete rewrite. It took courage, because the people in this story are not kind. It took dedication, because this was a very long haul, and nothing about the story came easily or without destabilizing everything I’d already written. It took tenacity to forge through my doubts, and balls of steel to rally the nerve to try again, no matter how often the story unraveled.  It took over a year to get to this moment, the one just after typing “Austin, Texas – April 7, 2013” at the end of the manuscript. I am hopeful and tired and slightly in awe of whatever it is that compels me to put forth this much effort. I don’t know if I deserve this largess. I don’t know that I would have asked for it. Yet here it is – because of me, because I didn’t give up. No one can ever take this moment from me. The manuscript could be lost, it could be turned down by every publisher, it could get laughed at by everyone who reads it, but none of that changes the fact that I accomplished this. I finished my second novel!

This is worth every pre-dawn writing session, every missed party, every Saturday spent alone with my keyboard. I can’t imagine life without this, I can’t imagine me without this. Thank you to everyone who helped me move through the darkness, doubt, and story paralysis to reach the fullness of this blossoming, this becoming.

-aniko

 

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Publication Is a Question Generating Machine

Prior to publishing my first book, I spent five years writing. My goal was not publication; in fact, in the entire half decade of practicing, I sent a paltry seven short story submissions to literary magazines. My goal was to write. That’s it. To write was both the means and the ends. Back then the question everyone asked was, “Have you published?” My answer was a short, happy “No.”

Most of the time, I didn’t even share my stories with anyone. A few of my works were read by select handful of temporally and geographically disparate readers. In almost all cases, those occurrences can be linked back to participation in a workshop or online critique group. The online critiques helped, paradoxically, by providing too much help! The deluge of criticism initially led me to stray from my own intuition. I began to revise stories to take everyone’s suggestions. Can you imagine the steaming mess? A trusted critique partner, IrishJohnJohn, told me that he wept when he read a revised version of a story I had revamped to gain (of all things!) higher critique ratings. He was the one who told me to trust my voice – not by shutting out comments, but by learning how to evaluate all suggestions from the perspective of what I was trying to do with any given piece. The experience taught me that I cannot take a conglomeration of suggestions that may or may not be contradictory, incorporate all of them, and expect the resulting mash to read like something that is authentically mine. My friend, Jonathan Allen, discusses his experience learning this lesson in a recent blog post. I think he’s correct in saying a conscientious writer should “incorporat[e] feedback in an active, intelligent manner.”

During my five years of ‘going to the mountain,’ I wasn’t hiding that I was a writer, but I didn’t mention it often, either. The same old question would always rear its curlicue of a head: “Are you published?” By the end of the fifth year, my “No” began to feel hollow. I’d done good work. Not perfect, but I’d put in the time, practiced, and come out of it with increased skill and a completed novel.

Well, I thought it was complete.

Revision is a beautiful, time-devouring beast. Hereby amend the record!  Five and a half, not five, years elapsed before I had a work I felt was worthy of readers.

What I’ve learned in my one month post-publication interval is that where there once was one question, now there is a horde:

Who published it? Do you have an agent? Can I read it on my Nook/Kindle/Smartphone/PC? Why do you write horror? Did you try to run me over in the parking lot as a plot device? How are sales? How much does the book cost? Did publication cost anything? Did you hire an editor? Who is the person on the cover? Can I have an autographed copy?  Will you be using this in your next book? What is your next book? When will it be ready?

Do you want to know the answer to these questions? Do you have any of your own? I’d love to answer them!

You can leave your question in the comments, tweet @anikocarmean, or send an email to anikocarmean at gmail dot com. The plan is for me to record a video where I divulge all the secrets… um, answers to your questions. I’ll post the video here on my blog.

Feel free to be creative! In fact, feel free to try and stump me. You never know, I might be a Blade Runner replicant!

 

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Last Friday of 2011

Today I will go to work. If this past month has been indicative, some truly absurd events will transpire. It takes effort to remain positive, but over time I’ve heard it’ll prevent that whole stress-induced-death-syndrome that afflicts many of my ilk.

There is something to be said for reminding yourself that the people around you are humans with feelings: no one is just an accountant or just a boss or just a developer. Snapping doesn’t help. A calm demeanor and smile does.

If it is true that how we end one year is how we will live the next one, I want to be sincere and happy today. I want to be the best version of myself, not the one that flips people off in the parking garage and growls at someone who is just trying to do her (albeit annoying to me) job. I want to be the girl at the office who makes you smile, even when the whole project has gone red and the klaxons are blaring.

I’ll report back on my progress. If you’re a writer with a day job, do you have any special plans on how to approach this, the last Friday of 2011? If you’re a day-jobber who wants to be a writer, wouldn’t today be a good day to start that story?

 

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

My nephew wants to be an ice road trucker. Even knowing his opinion on what he wants to do when he grows up will probably change tens if not hundreds of times between now and his first paycheck, I envy his surety. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

the path

I have a vocation; I’ve been in the technical side of software for over a decade. I meant to stay just long enough to help pad whatever grad school stipend I could get, hoping the extra cash would help me avoid scurvy from living off of ramen. A decade later and I’m rather entrenched, less concerned with scurvy, and more certain than ever that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

I have an avocation. I am a writer. Most writers say they’ve known forever that’s what they want to be. They regale with their early memories of writing and their invariable, precocious ability to read at the tender age of three. I don’t remember wanting to be a writer at all. No, I wanted to be a veterinarian, a nutritionist, an etymologist, a historic preservationist, a violinist, or Sherlock Holmes. I spent my time reading and playing make believe, not penning verse. I can’t go so far as to deny the extant examples of my juvenilia that are full of talking horses in tragic situations, nor the journals filled with illegible, elementary school scrawl, but writing wasn’t my raison d’être. I really wasn’t an early reader, either. I was six. The triumph and sheer drunken joy of that experience has yet to be replicated.

I’ve witnessed others bridge the gap between vocation and avocation. To be honest, I’m not sure what my life would ‘look like’ if I were able to sustain myself with full time writing. As much as I grumble about work, there is value in the human interaction and macrabe humor in the outright bizarre things that happen in the workplace. I like my team, even the ones that drive me a little nuts. And just that quickly, we’re back to the fact I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

What I do know is that I have an impending book launch. I have a variety of ideas for marketing online, but would also love to host an author meet and greet at my favorite cupcake shop (happy horror writer and cupcakes, what could be more perfect?). I have a book cover to reveal, a trailer to share, and a draft covered in proof marks I need to update and get to my formatter.

What I do know is that I have another novel that wants to be written. It has been in my mind, restless, for almost a year. I want to finish the first draft in four months, because I want to try produce a book a year.

What I do know is that I have some tough and exciting work ahead of me. I will need to be my own strict taskmaster. I will need to balance marketing, writing, working, maintaining healthy relationships with both humans and dogs, reading books because there’s no life without literature, exercising, sleeping, and possibly even occasionally stopping to just enjoy the wonder of being alive. I will need to be clear in my intent and honest with myself about who it is I want to be. Because although I don’t know what I want to do, I know who I want to be.

 

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