Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nurturing My Inner Writer

The writing process is a pretty miraculous thing, when you think about it. It never ceases to amaze me how word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page a story unfolds itself in front of me. And most of the time I find myself rereading my words at the end of the day and thinking, "wow--where did that come from? I didn't know I had that in me."

But it's also a very ... fragile process.

If my confidence gets shaken, or my resolve gets shattered, or I let too much noise into my head, it can set me back for days, weeks--maybe even months.

So I've learned that I have to sort of ... nurture my inner-writer--protect that part of myself in various ways, in order to keep myself going. And I've developed a few personal rules I try to live by in order to do that:

I write for me.

Yes, in order to be published I have to think about what agents / editors / publishers / readers / reviewers / teachers / librarians might want from my story. But I CAN'T think about any of that when I'm writing--especially in the drafting stage. At that point I'm just writing to entertain myself, to see the story in my head play out on the page. As long as I'm having fun and liking what I'm seeing, I'm good. I'll worry about all those other people in the revision stage.

I have full permission to suck.

Writing is rewriting. It really, really is. Sure, we all wish we could get it right the very first time. But that just doesn't happen--at least not for the draft as a whole. There's always some stuff that's salvageable--and the more I write the more salvageable stuff I seem to get. But on the whole, I'm going to spew out a whole lot of stuff that SUCKS in the beginning. And that's okay. That's just Step One in the process. Word vomit on the page. I will clean it up later.

My writing life is a drama-free zone.

Honestly, I have no time or tolerance for drama in any part of my life--but DEFINITELY not in my writing life. I surround myself only with supportive, talented, encouraging writer friends who build me up when I need it, push me to make every word I type the best it can be, and cheer me along at every victory--big or small. Nothing can be more discouraging or damaging to a writers confidence than being surrounded by competition or comparison or negativity. So if I see any sign of that (which fortunately doesn't happen very often in the children's writing world) I separate myself as quickly as possible.

My journey is my own.

It's HARD not to compare myself to others--but that is such a toxic, destructive thing that I take extra care to prevent it from happening. I refuse to let myself dwell on how much a book sold for or how fast it sold or how much publicity it's getting. Sure--I'm aware of it. It's impossible not to be, and honestly, I always want to be able to celebrate for my friends, so I want to know what's happening for them. But then I force myself to put that out of my mind. It's not easy to do, but here's how I do it: I love what *I'm* writing. Do I wish someone else loved it enough to snatch it up for seven figures within mere hours of me typing, "The end"? Sure. Who doesn't? But if they don't, I'm okay with that, because *I* love it. It's *my* book--the book *I* wanted to write. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

I write the way that works for me.

Some people write in public. Some people write in groups. Some people write on a schedule, with daily goals and deadlines. Some people write at a desk. Some people need total silence. Me, I write at home, alone, in my bed with my laptop, for large blocks of time but without any specific word count goals and I always have music playing. That's what works for me--and it took me a while to figure that out. Now that I have, that's what I stick to.

Writing is priority one.

Okay, obviously my husband and family and health and such come before writing. But all the other stuff: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, email, WriteOnCon, Bookanistas, reading, whatever. All of that is great and I try to give it as much priority as I can, because I really do enjoy it. But writing has to come first. So if I'm too busy to blog, I take some time off. I disappear from social media when it's becoming overwhelming. Or I take a break from reading/reviewing. Or my email response time increases. And I try not to let myself feel guilty about that. Because really, what good is all that other stuff if it chokes out my time to write?

I know some of those seem obvious, but it's amazing how easy it is to forget those things. And it can be HARD to stick to those rules. But I try to be vigilant about it.

Writing is a beautiful, wonderful dream--and an intense passion of mine. It's something worth protecting. So I fight to keep it safe and nurtured. Any way I can.

What about you guys? Any goals/rules you set for yourself to keep your writing life well nurtured?


  1. Your highlighted sentences say it all: Be you and all else will fall into place.

    Thanks for the reminder, Shannon.

  2. You said it all, so clearly and succinctly. Good luck with your writing. (I should do the same and put my blog aside for a while:))

  3. If I think about all of the rejections I'm going to get on a story I'm writing, I freeze up. So I CAN'T let myself think about rejections...pretty much ever. At the same time, I can't let myself believe that everyone will love my story. So I do have to write for me, and have faith that if I love my story, someone out there will to. Hopefully. I just keep going forward. Just gotta keep livin. L I V I N.

  4. I'm trying to remember that the journey is my own even if it is slow. I could stay off blogs more.

  5. Writing is such a long and hard process. But it's worth it in the end. And my first drafts always suck.

  6. This post is pure brilliance, #1. If only we could all have such a clear perspective and understanding of our needs as writers. My goal is to do a better job of juggling writing with work and my family.

  7. We should be friends...this so echoes my own writing rules. Only, I like to write on the couch with my cats snuggled up next to me. Great post!

  8. I don't let myself think about the length of time it's taking to be published because I knew with all my other responsibilities it would not happen quickly. I can't write full time.

    But I know it will happen so I'm just enjoying the ride. And yeah, I try not to let anything interfere with the time I DO have to write.

  9. THis is just a fab post! FAB!

    I have a rule and I rarely break it - I don't work evenings and weekends. I'm lucky in that I'm a full time writer, because I know for some people evenings and weekends is the only time they CAN write. But for me, that's family time. That's what keeps me balanced. And unless I'm really under the gun, those times are sacred.

    That being said, my work time in my office during the day is pretty darn sacred as well. :-)

  10. This is great- I agree with every single one of your highlighted points.

  11. Thanks Shannon, I really needed to hear this today. I have a first draft I'm working on, and my inner editor is crazy out of control. Am going to give myself permission to suck today-and I'll worry about my craptastic first draft later. One of my rules is that I give myself permission to not clean my house all that well when I have a deadline looming. This means people might want to call first before stopping by:0)

  12. Great post, Shannon! Sometimes we all need a little encouragement to be ourselves and stick to what works for US. :)

  13. I absolutely LOVE your highlights. They must be inspired. I'm still trying to figure all of this out. Your words helped.

  14. I'm good on all of these except for writing being priority one. I never have time to make it work that way.

  15. This is brilliant! And so important but like you said, it's easy to forget. I should put your main points on a poster over my laptop. ;)
    I'm still looking for my writing nook. But I know I need my music. :)

  16. I learned the allow myself to suck a while ago and my writing improved dramatically.

  17. Those are some great rules. I've had to learn some of those the hard way. I think it's important to write what I love just because I love it. Otherwise, it just wouldn't seem worth it.

  18. Great post. Great rules. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Oh, I adore this post, Shannon. :)

    I also write in bed...good to know I'm not the only (what my husband calls me) bedbug. I have a theory about why the bed is my best writing place: because it's where I'm most relaxed and comfy and where I dream. I think subconsciously my brain links the bed to the creative, open, imaginative dream place. (I can write other places, but not as well or prolifically)
    I wonder how many writers with laptops write in bed?

    I don't struggle with competition or jealousy/envy about my journey as compared to others. I don't feel any rush, I'm not in need of money nor do I care about 'fame' or popularity. I write because I love to, because I enjoy the creative process and words and worlds and craft. Not for a contract or money. (I'm blessed to be in said position) And I sincerely love love LOVE any and all success my fellow writers have. Everyone's journey is unique and my wish is for every writer (and I mean EVERY...because I don't care what age range, style or genre a person writes, or what stage in the process they're in. To me, there is no hierarchy. I love it and them ALL.) to enjoy their journey and love (nurture) themselves and their fellow writers.

    I'm betting this post helped someone who needed to nurture their inner writer. :)


  20. I love the drama-free zone rule - that's perfect! It's amazing how strong & happy people can lift you up!

  21. Love your rules! My writing partner helps motivate me to continue, we motivate each other, really, never letting our "bad" days linger.

  22. This is a great post! Giving yourself permission to suck (I'd say stink), and making your writing life a drama-free zone are both wonderful rules.

  23. I remind myself that only I can say what I have to say, write what I have to write. That helps me sit down and work on my own creative view of the world and experience.

    Thanks for this lovely post. I'm going to send it to my creative writing students!


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.