Leaning over the counter top painting my toenails a deep raisin, I am wishing I were a better writer. You know like the ones who can conjure up an entire world made electric with the sweetness of wicked delicious fantasy. Most people think writing is just about writing but it isn’t. It’s so much more than that. Writing is about coming undone and dying inside over and over. It’s about becoming the person you always knew you could be without the hindrance that is most of the rest of this ridiculous life. It’s about giving a middle finger to the rest of the world because you know they are ignorant to all of your most sacred fears and why they matter so much to you. It’s about fingering your darkest secrets until they flower for you into everything that makes your gums bleed with naked desire; the way you obsess…
As a poet and author, I know full well what many do not: delivering a message of great import in one hundred words is much more difficult than writing it in one thousand. Condensing meaning, crafting and shaping ideas with an efficiency of words, is harder than it looks.
I enjoy the challenge, though, of telling a story in such a very compact form. A well-written drabble is a thing of beauty, and while I am not suggesting every one I write is excellent, some of them are.
The poem ‘Inside My Head’ was published on The Drabble blog yesterday. It is one hundred words long, yet captures the experience of being inside my own mind perfectly. It’s so relatable, so deep, so powerful – and yet, so concise. I doubt I could explain it better, so I am sharing it here for your enlightenment and enjoyment.
‘Les Miserables’ is among my favourite books of all time, and it is also one of my favourite musicals.
I saw a fabulous production of ‘Les Mis’ last night at the theatre in Warrnambool.
My major achievement for the evening was not singing along out loud— which took more self-discipline than you might ever realise.
I was moved to tears by the emotion and beauty of the performances, but also— as always— by the power of the lyrics.
There are many moments and several songs in the show that I love, but my absolute favourite lines are sung by Fantine:
“But the tigers come at night With their voices soft as thunder…”
‘I Dreamed a Dream’
Those words are so profound.I find them powerful because I know that whatever it is that a person struggles with – pain, grief, depression, anxiety, worry… those tigers visit more often at night, and stay for longer, than they ever do during daylight hours.
One of the reasons I began taking my writing more seriously a number of years ago was because I found it an excellent way of dealing with my night tigers and answering their voices with my own.
That’s why many of my poems deal with themes of mental health, pain, depression, grief, and resilience. Its also why I insist that writing is the most effective therapy I have ever had. It hasn’t cured me or solved my problems, but it has certainly helped to heal me and enable me to deal with the challenges I face in life in a much healthier way.
Those tigers still come at night, but they have discovered that I, too, can roar.
I am a real sucker for posts that offer writing tips, publishing tips, and the experiences of other authors and bloggers. I’ve shared a number of them on this blog, because some people have genuinely good advice and share their experiences in a very positive and constructive way.
This response to those kind of posts is quite refreshing in its honesty and in its explanations of why those posts can actually be demotivating for some people. I can totally relate to the feeling of disappointment in myself that I haven’t adopted and implemented more of the great advice given by other Indie authors since beginning my own author journey, and to the sense of “exhaustion” at the number of “You Can Do This If You Follow My Formula” posts out there.
It’s true that those hints and tips for success aren’t “one size fits all”, and nor is success. There are many ways to measure success, and we all have individual goals that determine what our own standards or images of success might be.
It is also fair to say that there is so much advice, so many tips, so many things people tell us to do, that it’s simply not possible to try it all out, and we really do need to remain realistic about what advice we are going to take on at any given time.
I do like Daegan’s points about daily and weekly reviews of what has been done or achieved. I actually do this, and it helps me stay on track because I find achieving small goals and milestones along the way incredibly motivating.
I don’t meditate as such, but I do set time aside for quietness and reflection in my daily routine. I wear a lot of hats in my day-to-day life, so taking even just a few minutes when my brain has nothing to do is a vital means of refreshing and resetting my mind at various stages of the day. As an introvert who is often surrounded by people all day long and again at home, that quietness is also how I recharge my energy, so it’s a crucial thing for me to do.
My “takeaway” from this article is that it’s important for each of us to set our own goals, define what sort of “success” we are hoping to achieve, and find what works for us as individuals.
The one thing we should all do is keep striving to make it happen.
I have read so many articles that have a headline similar to:
“If you want to be successful, adopt these 5 habits right away!”
The problem is, the author is always telling me what I should do to be successful as if my success and their success looks exactly the same.
I get so many of these articles telling me about the habits that I should have or my life is clearly falling apart. I’ll admit, many are good and I have certainly tried them.
But what about the author? Are they using all of those tips? Do they really have all of those habits locked down when they had a post a month ago telling me 12 other success tips? I want to know the person behind the word and if it’s actually worth my time.
Maybe I’m small minded and not wired for success, but…
Writing is an invitation to humility—you realize you’re on the wrong track, you’ve lost connection with a scene, an emotion, a voice. The return on that humility is when your imagination lets you slip into someone else’s skin. The tales you come up with tell the story you are trying to tell when you sit down to write and also the story of the years you spend working on the book. Rendering a/your life into art changes you.
Trust your intuitions but trust (admit) that you don’t understand what your intuitions are telling you. They have their own truth and direction; your job is to follow where they lead. This doesn’t mean you don’t exert control, but you don’t exert as much control as you think you do. And you are often at your best when you don’t.
I’m always interested to see how different people react when I tell them I’m a published author. You can never really tell which way it’s going to go.
I’m accustomed to people saying, “Oh, that’s nice” or “Oh, interesting! I’ve never met an author before!”. Some people look at me with pity, others adopt an expression that suggests I have three heads.
I am, I confess, always puzzled by people who say, “I don’t read”. I have absolutely no idea what that kind of existence must be like, so I just smile and nod.
The response I find most confronting, though, is “Oh, you must be rich!”
I have two favourite responses for those people: I either say “Nobody gets rich writing poetry!” or “You don’t become a writer if you’re looking for an easy way to make a buck.” To write really well is hard work. It takes time, commitment, energy and attention to detail – and those things generally don’t see a vast return in cash.
My motivation as a writer doesn’t come from money – if it did, I’d have quit after the first book. Sure, I’d like to sell more books, and be able to quit my job and write full time. That would be great… but it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
For me, writing is a passion, a drive that I find it almost impossible to resist. When I write something good, I feel fulfilled. When I refine it, edit it, craft it, polish it and finally publish it, it’s both exciting and immensely satisfying.
The real thrill comes when a reader responds positively to my work, especially my poetry. To know someone has enjoyed one of my stories or been touched by one of my poems is the best feeling because that doesn’t happen accidentally.
This post by Sara Wolf, which I found on Ryan Lanz’s blog, addresses the issue of the vast differences between what the majority and the minority of authors earn. It’s a well-written article with a message that comes as no surprise to me or any other Indie author.
Most authors aren’t rich. Some manage to make a living. Only a very small percentage make it into the big league and get rich and super famous.
It is a frequent occurrence in the news to hear about authors cutting multi-million (or even billion) dollar book or movie deals. Famous examples of ridiculously successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, E. L. James, and Stephen King, often lead people to think that becoming an author will undoubtedly lead to an equally as lucrative outcome. However, it turns out that the average author makes much, much less.
Pinterest is great for inspiration, curating themed collections and procrastinating by getting distracted with eye candy.
It is a platform on which the users create collections of images called boards. These are usually themed, although how organised and themed they are is entirely up to each individual user.
I love being able to put together a collection of images on any theme I wish. The evidence of this is the fact that I have a bazillion Pinterest boards for everything from books worth reading, my book reviews and blog posts and social media for Indie authors to costume and set ideas for musical theatre productions and swoonworthy libraries. I’ve collected hundreds of great looking recipes that I might never make, and probably twenty that I have. I can be as nerdy about things as I like- in fact, that is positively encouraged! It really is all very enjoyable.
Pinterest is a great way to highlight my own content and link it back to my blogs or website. When I write a blog post relevant to Indie authors in one way or another, I can add it to one of my boards on Pinterest where it is easily found and accessed by others. The link back to my blog post is an integral part of the pinned image, so that a click on that image takes a viewer straight to my blog. This link is easily achieved by sharing to Pinterest directly from each WordPress blogpost, or by adding the link manually to a custom image.
It is a wonderful thing to be inspired by others, whether it’s by “how to do something” posts, images of places you’d like to travel to, or ideas about how to take better photos of different things. This is something that Pinterest and Instagram have in common because they’re both highly visual in nature.
I also like the fact that you can have secret boards. This means that you can save collections of things like Christmas or birthday gift ideas or whatever else you want to keep private, and nobody else can see them.
One very practical, personal use for Pinterest is creating a Wish List. My best friend, my sister and I all have a Wish List board, where we place images of things we’d like to have as birthday or Christmas gifts. It makes shopping for one another so much easier, and enables us to buy the perfect gift every time. They don’t have to be expensive things – one of my friends used that board to find the pattern for a pair of knitted gloves I liked, and presented me with those very gloves in my favourite colour: black! If there is a particular book I want, or a particular bear I want to add to my collection, I can add it to that list and use it as a shopping list for myself, too!
What frustrates me, though, is that Pinterest is really not all that social.
You used to be able to like someone’s post, but you can’t do that anymore. You can save it to your own collection. You can leave a comment, but not many people do. You can send someone a pin via direct message, assuming they’re on Pinterest too. But none of it feels much like an immediate connection like it does on Facebook or Instagram. I may have 735 followers, but I never actually know if they’re there.
I suppose that’s because Pinterest is focused more on curating content than on creating connections between people. I understand the different emphasis, but I really don’t think being able to like someone’s image distracted from that.
The Verdict: Pinterest is a helpful and enjoyable media platform, but not exactly social in nature. It is best used for collecting and sharing content, not connections.
Having said that, if you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, you are more than welcome to do so. You won’t be able to ‘like’ my posts, but you may find one or three – or thirty – boards that inspire or help you somehow.
Yesterday afternoon I took some friends to one of my favourite bookstores — which I lovingly refer to as book rescue shelters — in Bendigo.
While looking through the Historical Fiction section, I was delighted to find two books from the ‘Plantagenet Embers’ series by Samantha Wilcoxson that I really enjoy.
What made that such a cool thing for me is that Samantha is an Indie author from Michigan with whom I have interacted on social media. I have read several of her books on Kindle, and they are really well written.
As Indies, most of our sales are on Kindle, Kobo or other ebook stores. We don’t get big, fancy distribution via a global publishing company. so it’s great to see that Samantha’s papaerbacks have made it to Australia! That’s really exciting! And now I own two of them, because I knew right away I couldn’t leave them there.
These are excellent books that I am proud to have in my collection. And now that I have books 2 and 3, I may have to see if I can buy a signed copy of book 1 direct from the author. That would be an awesome addition to my bookshelf!
Lucy Mitchell’s experiences, as she describes in the article reblogged here, are not uncommon. Many writers, artists and musicians use their creativity to help process and deal with their mental health issues.
I share this author’s experience of gaining motivation, encouragement and purpose from writing and self-publishing my works.
Withdrawing my first book from its publisher and taking control of my publishing journey as an Indie author was incredibly empowering. Producing not just good writing but excellent books has been as source of both pleasure and pride for me, but it has also been fabulous therapy.
Every poem I write, whether it’s about mental health or a medieval princess saving herself and taking control of her destiny is evidence of my strength and resilience, even at those times when I am not feeling particularly strong or resilient.
The fact that I can write about my own mental health in a way that others relate to and find powerful is both liberating and encouraging. And every time I kill someone fictionally, it saves me bail money and keeps me out of jail because I haven’t actually laid hands on anyone. That’s a system that has worked extremely well for me so far, so I will stick with it.
Every book I have published is testimony to my survival. This is, perhaps, most true of A Poet’s Curse, which was written indirect response to evil behaviour and nasty people. Publishing that little volume, to which I like to refer as my “dark little book of hateful poetry” really felt like I was taking my life back from those who tried to destroy me, and I celebrated it as such.
At this point of my writing and publishing career, I can say that I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved. That in itself is positive and motivating, and encourages me to keep going. There are still a lot of ideas bubbling away, and there’s life in the old girl yet.
And where there’s life, there’s hope.
All of this is proof of how far I have come from those very dark times that almost destroyed me, and of my determination to never go back.
I hope you appreciate and enjoy the insights from Lucy Mitchell as much as I did.