Four Things That Scare Me While Writing A Novel

As I close in on 20,000 words for my YA novel, I keep hitting the same anxiety hurdles:

  • What if I don’t finish?
  • Will I like my story when I finish?
  • What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
  • What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

These four questions swarm my head like flies buzzing around a overly-ripe melon. I’m constantly swatting at them as I write. Sometimes the questions become too much and I have to stand up and walk away from the keyboard, away from my doubt, and away from the swarm.

Combating the fear

I’ve always been a worrier, even as a child I would literally worry myself sick and give myself stomach aches. My mom would soothe me by asking,

“What is the VERY worst thing that could happen in the scenario that you are dwelling on? Discover what is in your control and the factors that are left to fate.”

So taking my mother’s advice, I decided to list my fears and examine the worst-case scenario for each.

What if I don’t finish?

Completion is entirely up to me. I have ultimate control on whether or not I finish this story, unless I die before it’s completed, but hey at that point i won’t care anymore. In order to finish I just have to get past my fears and procrastination.

When I rationalize this part of my anxiety, it’s really quite stupid. So, moving on…

Will I like my story when it’s finished?

What I’m really afraid of, or the “worst case scenario” is that I will finish it and then abandon it because I’m tired of it. What if the completed story is a cheap re-print vs. the original masterpiece I created in my head? (I’m abusing the word masterpiece here.) The mountain of edits and rewrites is daunting, and I don’t know if I will have the motivation to summit that mountain.

But again, I can control the outcome, I just have to battle the same demons above: fear and procrastination.

What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?

Now we are getting to the festering part of my anxiety. This is where panic sets in and my manuscript is about to brutality end because my fears strangle my creative voice.

So I put a ton of time, energy, and heart into my story. I complete a solid draft and edit until I can’t edit anymore. I line up my list of book agents and publishing companies and write a snazzy cover-letter, attach my manuscript, hit “Send”, and nothing.

I don’t hear back. I don’t even know why my book was rejected.

Months go by, and I open my story again. The malleable story I thought I was sending out into the agent/publishing world to be critiqued, re-shaped, perfected, but nobody wants to work with my little fledgling story.

Where did I go wrong? What do I change?

This question breeds more questions and anxiety. This is a scenario where outside factors play a role in achieving my dream.

What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

Again, I complete my draft, pay multiple editors to review my book for grammar, structure, and flow. I pay someone to publish my manuscript, now I have time AND money invested in my story.

Then nobody buys my book. Or maybe a few people do and it gets horrible reviews. I literally paid to have my dreams crushed.

Pretty dismal right?

So how do I combat my fear?

When I start to panic and drown in a sea of self-doubt I remember this quote:

 

professional-writer-quote

 

I also remember what my mother would ask me, how much can I control? I realize that I can control most of the fate of my book. I may get rejected from my top choice of agents and publishing companies, but if I keep re-writing eventually someone will want to work with me. Or I can take my chances self-publishing and be content knowing that my loved-ones will read and enjoy my book (simply because I wrote it and they are biased). Neither of these outcomes are terrible, and most importantly by writing this novel, I am becoming a better writer.

What do you do to combat your fear of failure? Please answer by commenting below.

♥R♥

 

Published

I’m excited to say that a personal essay of mine was published today on XONECOLE. I’m honored that a website dedicated to empowering women decided that my short, non-fictional story called “When I Realized I Couldn’t Fix His Mental Illness”  was content-worthy.

This is actually how I look right now.

The published piece is a story about when I dated a young man with extreme bi-polar disorder.

If you would like to read the entire article here is the link.

 

 

 

Courage is 75% of the Battle When Writing Non-Fiction

Short non-fiction is my jam. I gobble up the words when I read it, and feel rays of enlightenment when I write it. Writing non fictional pieces about the experiences in my life is exhilarating, but it’s also terrifying. There is the ever-present fear of do I remember that correctly? or what if I insult someone by telling MY truths? And then there is this little thing called social media where people don’t forget it you say something incredibly stupid. Nope, you can’t burn that embarrassing opening line because it’s on your blog and guess what, hundreds of people have already read it.

I will be honest, there are things that I have wanted to write about, but are so personal, embarrassing, raw, etc. that I have held back. I know that family and friends read my pieces (thank guys), and I want to make them proud. I don’t want to hurt anyone by the things I say. And then I read about women and men who tell their sexual assault stories. Young boys who were gang beaten and had the courage to speak up. Parents who lost their children to mass shootings, the horrible list continues. My point being that thousands of people have to face the verbal assault on social media after telling their horrific stories and I want to tell them all how much I deeply admire their courage. When I think of the writers who have been persecuted for their work I am deeply humbled.

The women of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul Afghanistan risk their lives to have their voices heard through their poetry every day. Let me say that again, RISK THEIR LIVES to have their poetry heard….it’s 2016. One woman by the name of Zarmina committed suicide in 2010 after her brothers beat her and ripped up all of her poetry notebooks. She was reading her poetry to her fellow female members on the telephone and they assumed she was talking to a man. Another female Afghan poet wrote this about the tragic death of Zarimina,

“Her memory will be a flower tucked into literature’s turban.
In her loneliness, every sister cries for her.” – Amail

My writing dismay is incredibly petty. I know that my fears are minuscule in my privileged life. Sure I may get a few troll attacks, I may offend, but like Kingsley Amis said,

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”

Thank you to the men and women who have made significant change through their words. Thank you for giving other writers the courage and confidence to stand behind their writing. I humbly bow my head to the people who know true sacrifice by telling their experiences.

♥R♥

Featured Image found @:http://weheartit.com/entry/174554343

14 Pieces of Advice from this New Mom to the Next

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My son will be 8 months old on March 10th. I can utter, “Hello eight months and goodbye eight months.” in one breath. The time went by in one inhale and one exhale. It’s redundant and cliche to exclaim how quickly time flies when you have a baby, but there is a reason it’s repeated day in and day out by parents on your Facebook feed, it’s true.
I guarantee you will spend a good portion of your day frantically Googling every stage your baby is going through to make sure you and baby are up-to-snuff. Let me save you some time, the odds are strongly in your favor that you will not kill your newborn baby. You will find  a wide range of opinion on how you should or should not raise your child. Here are 14 pieces of advice from one new mother to the next:
  1. Kiss your little one often and snuggle them closely, you will hug a slightly different version of them tomorrow. You can’t spoil your baby with affection..
  2. If you fall asleep exhausted in bed with your baby, they will be just fine. You will wake up with the first movement or sound your baby makes. There is much more of a health risk to you, your heart may fall out of your mouth in a panic, but your baby will be fine.
  3. Sleep training is a mean experiment to drive parents crazy! Don’t stress about sleep training and don’t measure your success as a parent by the hours your baby sleeps. (But seriously try to sleep when they do, you deserve it.)
  4. Breastfeeding is one of the most selfless things you will ever do. It’s fucking hard, it’s stressful, it hurts and it’s okay if you swear while your sweet little bundle is ripping your nipple off.
  5. It’s okay if you don’t breastfeed.
  6. The people who judge you for the method you choose to feed YOUR baby are assholes and not worthy of your time or consideration.
  7. You may feel depressed, scared, or like an utter failure at motherhood. From what I hear these “postpartum” feeling will reappear for the rest of your life.
  8. Get ready to feel guilty every day.
  9. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgive yourself AND your partner.
  10. Treat yourself: get a pedicure, take a walk alone, go have some girl time. Give your partner alone time as well.
  11. Buy your favorite bottle of wine and stay up late with your partner after baby has gone to bed and watch a sitcom that makes you laugh.
  12. It’s okay if you and your partner don’t have sex for the first six months postpartum, you will again…. one day. Women recover from the PTSD of delivery at different rates and in different ways, start by testing the water.
  13. If your baby doesn’t poop for a week it’s actually okay. Why does nobody tell you this?
  14. Embrace the smiles that you and your baby share. Remember the way they look at you with sleepy adoration when you feed them before bed. Take Polaroids of moments in your mind, you don’t have to capture every moment for social media.
Nobody can prepare you for how fast the time will go by, don’t waste it trying to be the perfect mother, just be their mother, I promise it is enough.

The Lazy Writer: Reading is My Crutch

Since I made my declaration of “I’m going to Write a Novel!” on FB, people ask me all of the time, “How is your novel progressing?”. To which I reply, “No comment…hahaha” or “Writers block is a bitch you know?” as I shuffle my feet and avoid eye contact.

I have a pretty extensive outline (which I am quite happy with) and tons of notes and ideas, but when it comes to the writing, well I don’t have  much. The few pages I do have I am not happy with and honestly it has thrown some water on my fiery passion of writing. I think damp is a good way to describe how I feel about my novel. I got caught up in the storm of a great idea and I was running full tilt and splashing in the puddles, but now the thrill has worn off and I am just wet and cold. To distract myself I read a lot.

Image result for sopping wet

I have always been a voracious reader and a half ass/part-time “writer”. I read everything I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been on a huge Tudor/English court kick. Phillipa Gregory and Sandra Gulland are two authors who I highly recommend if you like the genre. I took a break from Henry the eighth and all of his dramatic descendants to read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. You have to love the sexy, sassy Sookie and all of her supernatural eye candy. But I have to wonder, is all of this fun reading just a delightful distraction?

Front Cover  Front Cover Front Cover

Are voracious readers all just lazy writers? Are we the crash and burn wannabe authors who just couldn’t hack it in the literary race? My story is the one novel I can’t buy off of the bookshelf until I write it.

Time to put on my rain boots and word sludge.

The Stupid Girl

Disclaimer to all readers: Please don’t read this article as me casting my emotional rod into the internet ocean for compliments. This narcissistic issue starts and ends with me.

“I am stupid.” I say this to myself often throughout the day. I whisper it to myself in the bathroom at work after I ask an obvious question to my co-workers. Every day when I leave the office, I think to myself, “I am the weakest link on my team.” Hell, I would vote myself off in most team situations. I inhale the word idiot and exhale in a rush of anxiety when someone asks me for directions within the town I reside. How do I explain that I can’t remember street names that I drive on daily? When people talk about North, South, East, and West they may as well be speaking a foreign language. My family has had to deal with more directional hysterics from me than anyone should have to in a lifetime. I thank God daily for their patience.

I think my stupidity complex started in elementary school when my class began learning multiplication. My teacher created a pyramid to chart the basic 0-12 multiplication table. Well let me tell you I was no Pharaoh of THAT pyramid. My peers started to progress, but I always stayed at the bottom. I think I got through the 2’s (2×2 =4, 2×3=6, etc.) and just stopped. For months I sat in shame at the bottom of that pyramid while I watched other children receive treats for their success. It was not the rewards that I coveted, my parents were generous people, I didn’t want for much growing up. I wanted to be equal with my peers, but I was always behind.

I hated sitting in class where the whispered words “You’re stupid.” echoed throughout my mind and bounced around the walls. School was my mirror, where I had to face the part of myself I desperately loathed. In high school I graduated with a 2.0 GPA, a courtesy from teachers who desperately wanted to see me succeed. Even living through the trauma of K-12, I decided to attend community college. The decision was due to my best friend applying. I thought, “I guess college is the thing to do”.

After my first quarter at community college which felt like a flash back to the nightmare of K-12 (Pre-reqs are the worst!) I began to look forward to class. I found a passion for learning aside from the anxiety of everyone finding out just how stupid I really was. I devoured the content of each class. I knew that my work was weak so I made up for it in participation. I volunteered my ass off. If the teacher asked a question, I was the first to answer. Extra credit, I was all over it. My GPA went from a 2.0 in high school to a 3.7 upon graduation from Western Washington University.

My time at WWU was a chaotic, wonderful, crazy time in my life. I was working two jobs and completely immersed in my English literature degree. I was finding my way and learning who the “adult Rachel” was. I had my setbacks as well though. For example, I remember being in a study group for a 400 level English class. I was with two very intelligent classmates (the Sheldon and Leonard of the English world) and I told them I felt bad because I wasn’t helping much with the assignment, they were just flat out faster than me. But in good humor they joked that I provided the tea and the study space at my apartment. I cried that night, all of my old anxieties and worries rushing back at me. The echo of “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid” was an earthquake inside my dark bedroom.  The next morning the emotional disaster that was my ego followed me onto the bus. I went to class with a residual “Stupid“.

Time reveals the magic of our past, hidden behind the black curtain of the present.

All of my life I had teachers and parents who believed in me. They were showing me their faith in a variety of ways. My 3rd grade teacher had me read one of my stories out loud to three other classes. My math teacher Mr. Sessions gave me extra assignments so I could graduate from high school. Upon graduation day he gave me a dream catcher that he made himself. My Dad paid for my first two years of college out-of-pocket, with only a 2.0 GPA from high school backing up my scholarly reputation. My Mom and step father let me live at home for four years after high school. They spent hours every week helping me with homework. None of those people would have gone to such effort if they did not see any potential in me. I will never forget how I almost fell to the floor when one of my classmates introduced me to his reading group as one of the most insightful, intelligent people in our class. That compliment was a cast for my broken confidence that was beaten down by yours truly.

I can look back now and appreciate my academic achievements; I can attribute graduating to not floating by on participation and extra credit. I looked like an idiot (often) and I survived. I hope sometime in the future I will look at this time in my life and realize that: I was good at my job. My novel was decent. I should listen to my husband when he patiently tells me that I am, in fact, an intelligent woman. Maybe one day I will realize that I am not the only driver in a constant state of lost. Tomorrow I will look in the mirror and tell myself, “You are not the stupid girl.”