Month: October 2010 Page 2 of 3

Gratitude

My friend Ashley is kicking off a new blog carnival/blog series dedicated to self-discovery and building a healthy life — appropriately titled Self-Discovery, Word by Word. The inaugural theme is Gratitude, and I thought I’d use that as a springboard to talk about a few things that have been on my mind lately.

I am in the perfect position to pursue and fulfill my dreams. I have the support of my parents, boyfriend, friends, and even workplace. I’ve had to make some small personal sacrifices (sleep, free time, and frivolous spending) but all the big picture things that are important to me (writing, loved ones, world travel) are present and thriving.

In general, people express gratitude for things pretty freely. “I don’t know what I’d do without my computer.” “Grey’s Anatomy is amazing.” “I love mac and cheese!”

So why aren’t we just as vocal when it comes to appreciating people? “You look lovely today.” “Thanks for listening.” “You’re the best mom ever.”

It’s obvious who benefits from the kind words more.

I used to be a lot better about this sort of thing. I would write people random notes, hand out compliments like they were going out of style, and constantly tell my friends and family how much I love them. For whatever reason — insert lame excuse here, probably tiredness/lack of time — I’ve slacked on this quite a bit. Well, I’m trying to get back into my old good habit. Because it’s a nice, easy thing to do, and it feels good to make other people feel good. Everybody wins.

What on earth am I going to write for my first book dedication?! There are so many people to thank, so many people who have helped me. Do I choose one per book? But then how would I pick the order? Will people take offense?

Well, it’s definitely better to have this problem, of too many choices, than the opposite.

(In the shower the other night, I drafted what I think my first ever dedication will be… but I still have to write the book it goes in, hahaha.)

Last but not least, I’d like to say how grateful I am that this city councilman in Fort Worth, TX spoke out to gay teens with a personal, heartfelt message: It gets better.

The recent spate of teen “bullicides” has really hurt my heart. I wish I could find every kid who doubts their self-worth and get to know them, so I could point out what makes them special and wonderful and worthwhile. But I can’t. So I’ll do my best to watch out for the kids in my life; will you please watch out for the ones in yours?

Writerly Wednesday

I think this link is pretty self-explanatory: “I Will Be Your Friend, But I Will Not Be Your Fan: A Rant About How Authors Use Social Media For Self-Promotion.”

Ideally, I think, social sites are for friendly conversation and debate, for sharing good news and bad news, for meeting new friends, for posting amusingly captioned cat pictures. The community we’re building is a community based on friendship. Now, we humans have verrrry sensitive antennae when it comes to our social interactions. We can tell when somebody is being friendly versus when they’re trying to sell us something. When authors intrude on social spaces with their self-marketing it can make our antennae twitch like crazy.

The best writing advice I ever heard was from an extremely successful writer of MG and YA books, and it was about self-promotion. The advice was, essentially, this:

Don’t bother. Just write the next book.

There was also an excellent follow-up: “Solutions: One Way to Deal with the Self-marketing Frenzy, Plus a Shout-out to Publishers.”

(Both of those came to me via Erin — thanks!)

Also, did y’all know that Dr. Seuss’s GREEN EGGS AND HAM is now 50 years old? Man, hearing that makes me feel 50 years old. I remember my mom reading Dr. Seuss to me as a kid… I also had a video of ONE FISH, TWO FISH, RED FISH, BLUE FISH that I absolutely loved!

Anyway, to celebrate the anniversary, Random House is sponsoring an adorable Ham It Up video contest, going on between now and Nov 3rd. Prizes include $2,000 and a year’s supply of ham (probably not the green kind). I watched at least one really cute entry that could be stiff competition, but in general the odds are pretty good, so check it out!

Milestones & celebrations

One of the hardest things about writing as a career, for me, is the lack of tangible progress. I mean, you can write 1,000 words in a day, but what does that really mean? What if you end up having to scrap 800 of those words during revisions? Do they still count as progress?

(I would argue yes, but that’s a tangential discussion.)

In writing fiction, the concrete steps of progress, for me, are to finish a manuscript, secure an agent, and get a book deal. But each of those steps can take months, if not years. I am not the type of person that naturally self-motivates for long stretches like that. I’m the type of person that loves daily to-do lists because I can cross off every little thing (fold laundry, email Ana, eat chocolate, meet friends at B&N) and tell myself I’ve been productive that day.

So how the heck have I managed to stick with this for… 2.5 years, if you start counting when I quit my job to pursue author-dom, or 15 years, if you start counting when I first realized/decided this was my dream?

Good question. Sometimes I’m not really sure, haha. But I suppose that my answers would include blind faith in myself; lack of anything else I’d rather do; and enough encouragement (both personal and professional in nature) to propel me past the many rejections. Even so, it’s hard to stay patient. I long for the future, when I will be a famous and prolific writer galavanting about the country on book tours, writing full-time in my beautiful luxury home, and swimming in a pool of money because I don’t know what else to do with it.

(Note: If you think this is really how writers live, you obviously don’t know any.)

As I said in my last post, I am definitely learning to appreciate the present, to enjoy the journey rather than obsess about the destination. But at the same time, I am trying to figure out how to motivate myself through the next 25 words, 25 days, 25 rejections, 25 books.

To that end, I recently created a spreadsheet called Milestones & Celebrations. Basically it catalogues X and Y for the statement “When I achieve X, I will do/get Y.” I know that sounds a lot like bribery, but I think it’s subtly different. Y is always something I couldn’t easily get now. For example, “When I finish editing this chapter, I can eat a bowl of ice cream” is bribery, but “When I get a book deal, I will vacation in the Australian outback” is celebration.

(Note: this is also different from “If I don’t achieve X, I won’t do/get Y.” That’s more of a… threat? punishment?)

I don’t know why, but thinking about it like this, thinking about the things I want and at what point I would deserve them, helps motivate me in a way that bribing or threatening myself doesn’t. Do any of you do this? If so, what are your milestones (they don’t have to be writing-related) and what are your celebrations? Since we’re sharing, here are mine:

– Agent: Verizon iPhone
– Book deal: website redesign, Herman Miller chair

Of course I plan to add more milestones and celebrations as I continue through my career, but those seem pretty lofty for right now…

Right here, right now

Whoops! This happened a couple weeks ago but I keep forgetting to mention: I heard back from the Major Publisher, and they passed on Twenty-Somewhere. Yes, it was definitely a bummer, but I never had any expectations, only hope. Plus they were very complimentary, and even invited me to submit other manuscripts, so there was a silver lining. That’s actually pretty good for this biz.

The whole process (from contest to submission to querying) with 20SW was a fantastic learning experience, and it connected me to some great people — other writers, as well as potential agents. In fact, I’ve got a list of the agents that responded favorably to me, and I plan to query them with my next project (an awesome YA novel!) soon.

To be honest, other than that, there hasn’t been much going on with me. Work, write, try to live a little. That’s my day, every day. I struggle with the usual problems (not wasting my time, not freezing up when I’m faced with a blank page), and I cope in the usual ways (Yagoot). Sometimes I get very restless, impatient, desperate for the start of the career I’m working towards. But lately I’ve been reminding myself to enjoy this phase, to relish this time when I’m writing (mostly) for myself. I will get “there” someday. Someday soon, I hope. But for right now, I’m “here,” and I need to appreciate that too.

So, things I appreciate:

  • Last night Andy helped me take the wheels off my desk, thereby lowering it a couple inches and hopefully easing the strain on my wrists and shoulders when I write.
  • I’ve started using Freedom again, working in 20 minute blocks and then giving myself 5-10 minute breaks. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 20 minutes, if you’re focused.
  • I like working late at night, when the lights are out, the world is quiet, and Andy and Riley are sleeping peacefully nearby. My characters slowly come out of hiding, out of the shadows and onto the glowing screen.
  • The air is cooling, and the leaves are turning to fire. Fall is my favorite time of year.
  • It’s Friday!

What do you appreciate about where you are right now?

Letter from a disgruntled pup

Dear Momma,

Yesterday I turned 3 years old. But apparently you don’t care, because you didn’t even blog about it until Dad (posing as me) told you to. That’s fine, I see how it is.

Well, maybe someone else will appreciate me. Hey guys, if any of you are interested in an adorable, snuggly, 25-lb. guard dog who can sit, stay, lie down, come, roll over, play dead, shake, catch, and bow, I’m available!

I also make good art…

Savannah Day 2 020

I can carry stuff…

blurry Cincinnati Xmas 007

And if you take me to work, I will increase your productivity (or at least your popularity).

Riley at work 001

Send me your best offers! Bribes are accepted. I prefer kibbles, Frosty Paws, or a thick juicy stick/steak (either one will do).

Love,
Riley

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