1. Beginnings and Endings
I used to rush through my beginnings and endings. These are the most exciting parts for me. In the beginning (HAH!), the ideas are fresh and loud and flashing in front of my eyes. In the end, I am drunk with power. Not really power so much as "HOLY CATS THIS THING IS ACTUALLY ENDING AND I AM A REAL WRITER." I know I'm a real writer now, and I don't really rush, not anymore. I have nothing to prove. After going through this process over a dozen times, I can stop and enjoy the feeling of elation that comes with both beginnings and endings. Relax into the excited panic. Feel that heartbeat pounding against your chest so fast you can barely breathe? That is why you do this, that is the thrill of creating. Make it last. Enjoy it. There are bad feelings that come with writing, but this is not one of them.
2. Getting Stuck
I get stuck a lot. I used to cry. I used to feverishly Google "writer's block." Now I take a deep breath and take a day. I let the anxiety about the story wash over me, but when it's done, I don't let it stay. I go back in the story and figure out where I went wrong. Then I fix it. Either that, or I take a weekend (or a week, I'm not the boss of you) to recuperate. Then I look with fresh eyes. Of course, I've given up on books before, but if I'd learned how to unstick myself earlier, I might have a lot more backlog floating around the bookiverse. Don't equate getting stuck with being washed up. Getting stuck is not a career ender. Everyone gets stuck. Often. And sometimes in legitimately startling ways. While writing my last book, I found myself stuck three-quarters of the way through. Once I would have freaked out. But I calmly found the point of departure and started at that part. I had to delete four chapters, but I did it. And then sailed toward the end.
You are not your writer's block, and don't let anyone tell you it doesn't exist. It exists. But it just means you have to go back and fix something, and you have to get your head right. Don't let yourself stay in that mindset for months. Work on other stuff. Don't stagnate. Keep moving, whether it's on one book or another isn't going to matter in ten years. The work will get done if you want it to get done. And if something just isn't meant to be, let it go. But don't live in your writer's block. Keep busting through walls and kicking things down and writing. It doesn't matter what. Just use your creativity and don't let it sit unused. In my book, that's what sin is. Having a gift and letting it rot. Don't let it rot. Use the hell out of that mofo. It's what you've got, and it's sometimes what you are. Feed it.
3. No Limits
I'm essentially attempting a career change right now. I might succeed, and I might fail, but even the failing isn't that bad. I'm trying to become a hybrid author (someone with both indie and traditionally published books), instead of strictly indie. Most people (sane people) stick with what works and keep going. But I like to challenge myself because only boring people are bored. I also like to get what I want and aggressively follow my dreams. So here we are.
I started out this gig writing urban fantasy, and was pretty successful. Then I did the unthinkable. I ended the series. The fact that the series had five books and ended just where I wanted it to didn't matter. Some writers go an entire career writing dozens of books about the same characters. How dare I do this thing? But I did. And then, I did something else. I wrote a book in a different genre. And then I started a series in yet another genre. Then, after all that, my books started changing. I was still writing fantasy books and post-apocalyptic books, but then I started getting a little bit literary. I'm not making nearly as much money as when I was devoting every waking minute to pulpy urban fantasy, but I'm a hell of a lot happier not being penned in.
Sending queries out to agents for my last book was the most freeing thing I've done in a while because it was strictly for me. It wasn't for money, or my family, or my readers. I did something that I wanted to do, something I'd always dreamed about. I was taking steps to expand my own horizons, and that's a powerful thing. If you dictate limits for yourself, you're basically building your own prison. I feel that writing in many genres might be sticky in the short term, but in the long run, it's going to be fantastic. And when I look at my books, I don't cringe. I feel powerful and fierce and like I can do anything if I want it enough. There is no spoon. There are no limits. Any limits you perceive are all in your head.
4. Take Time Out
I have two awesome kids. And sometimes, you have to shake yourself out of obsessing over a plot detail to join your family in the real world. When I was first starting out, I didn't do this as much as I should have. I was moody when I wasn't writing (I still am sometimes, but I'm getting better), I snapped at people, I let life slip through my fingers. But after doing this as long as I have, I don't have panic attacks if I don't make my word quota. I don't even really have a quota any longer. I just try to get good words in. And if I have to work a little less one day to play board games with my kids, so be it. The work will still be there tomorrow. I can't write real characters if I'm not living as a real person. So be real. Go out for ice cream, go for a swim, ride a bike on a nice day, talk to random people for no reason. You've got to refill the well, as they say, and Netflix isn't enough. Leave the house and be a person for a day. It's worth it.
I am not a fame and fortune kind of success as a writer. (But I won't limit myself by saying I never will be) But you know what? I'm a moderately happy writer, and that says a lot in this business. I'm not much for rules or lists, so even if you throw all of these out of window, do remember one thing: Do what you feel is right for you. Feed your soul. Smile. Glower. Stamp your foot and scream what you want out of life to the stars. And then sit down and write when the words are building up inside of you and threaten to bust you apart. There's no right way or wrong way. Write and live. Live and write. That's our lifestyle. Our gift and our curse.
I wouldn't trade it for anything.