Finding Confidence

Image coutesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published in July 2014. Over the last few days I’ve been worried about my writing life. That is, whether I can create a writing life around my day job, family and the general struggles assoicated with self publishing, like marketing and list building.

When my confidence takes a knock I avoid the computer, which only makes the problem bigger. Looking over some past posts I came across this one and thought it was worth sharing again.

Once you have the tools go out and use them..

Finding the tools you need to achieve

I have been reading a lot lately about writing, motivation, goal setting, confidence, business practice, editing, and more about writing. This focus on non-fiction is to find new tools to improve my writing practice; and in part to research what tools could work for others (that’s you dear reader). We write differently and use different processes. Although I may do some things like you do, I may do others like someone else. And what works for me may not for you and what works for someone else may be good for you and not me, or both of us…

Anyway, amongst this reading I came across website that is a supportive network to help people build resilience and confidence in working at what they love…it could be termed self-help (if that title works for you).

One post discussed people that read all the books, do all the workshops yet find that life is not getting any better and that things are not improving.

The author’s words of wisdom: Don’t just read the books, act on the book, don’t just sign up for the course or the workshop, you must do the activities and find the tools that work for you and use them.

“Well duh!” I hear you say, although one or two of you may have mumbled something like “Oh, really?”.

 “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Bruce Lee

Not everyone is prepared for the work that goes along with following your dreams. That to meet your goals you have to take action on them. Lists alone will not get you there and reading a book is not a quick fix.

We also need to be careful not to get so caught up in finding the tools to make it through the day that we have wasted the time we could have spent doing or changing or acting.

I know this can be a struggle, for I have struggled myself at times to take action but we won’t get anywhere without it.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

There is only one person that can act on your goals – you.

It is up to each of us to find the tools to help us take that action. There are no quick fixes and there is no easy route. Because we are working toward something we care about then that action should also be enjoyable. Half the fun is in the journey after all.

Do you have a useful toolbox to help you take action on your goals?

When not writing begets not writing

When not writing begets not writing
Poor Orange Snoopy was too unwell to write too

I am very late posting this week, in fact I nearly put it off until next week. But then I thought it was better to share my failures with you as they happen so we can all learn from them. Not that I’m really putting my hand up to claim failure; I just haven’t been writing, which has compounded into more not writing.

Last Wednesday at the gym I pinched a nerve or a muscle or something in my shoulder which triggered a migraine. I very rarely suffer from migraines and it threw me for six. In fact, Dad had to pick me up from work and drive me home and Mum had to collect my daughter from school. It was hideous, debilitating and very scary.

I was heady and achy and so not up to very much at all. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. Over three days I rested in bed watching all 100 episodes of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I got better. Of course, a migraine is just a nasty big brother to a headache after all, but it took me longer than I thought it would. In fact I was still feeling “funny in the head” on Saturday.

When I did start to feel better I was keen to pick up where I’d left off and get back to my previous work load. But I over did the planning of it. I couldn’t face sitting in front of the computer for very long (especially after a day at work) and my enthusiasm dropped and I found I lost a couple more days out of fear of not being able to do what I wanted.

Not only had I lost a week of writing time I felt the pressure of that lost time and how far behind I was. The added pressure dried up any writing, or editing, I could have been doing. This added to the stress and around and around we go.

Then I took a deep breath.

I was trying to do too much.

Maybe if I started with just one page of editing instead of three.

That helped. I wasn’t coming close to my previous daily targets but something was better than nothing. I wanted to prioritise my editing over my read through but sometimes reading and note taking was far easier on the mind than editing.

There are times when we just can’t achieve what we want to because all sorts of things get in the way. And for some of these barriers there isn’t much we can do about it. When these things do happen it is important to stay calm and work on a little rather than trying to get it all done. My daily targets were set fairly high for this month because of what I know I can achieve on a good day.

Maybe I should revise this down a little to give myself some breathing room for those days I can’t reach the ideal. I continue to record all my writing times and rather than change my entire plan for the end of the year (and next year) I will see out the month and then assess how I’m going. Maybe I can make up the lost time with a little dedication. Maybe I’ll just have to work that extra time into the plan.

The important thing right now is to keep writing. And if that is only a page a day then that’s ok because a page a day is better than none. Writers do write after all and I’m trying my best to be a writer.

For more about Lizzie Bennet and my other distractions sign up for my newsletter. Every month I talk about how my projects are going and what non writing activities I’m allowing to get in the way of my writing activities.

Are you confident to change your goals?

DCF 1.0

There are times when we are part way along a path when we realise that it is not where we want to be heading. That a change is needed in what we are doing and where we are going.

It is not a failure to change your mind. Nor is it a failure to decide that this is not the path you want to travel.

When your needs change so should your goals.

I am not advocating that when it all gets too hard you should give up and work on something else. It is a matter of making sure you are working on the right goals. That the actions you take are enjoyable but also carry you along the path toward your long term goals.

My overall life goals or my long term goals have not changed. But how I want to reach this has changed a little in the last couple of weeks.

I have discussed publishing a non-fiction ebook about taking action on writing goals. This project means a lot to me as it was an area I struggled with a lot myself and I was keen to share what I have learnt. But it was not coming together as I thought it would and I have lost confidence in the market. I will continue to post hints and tips that I have learnt through my own practice on the blog and if you would like a follow up please comment on any post, or contact me via the Contact page.

I need to focus on my fiction writing and so I have changed my publishing plan for this year. Instead of the non-fiction I am working on another short story (Science Fiction this time) due out around Easter.

Changing my short term goals ensures I am on the right path to my mountain.

And I want to write what makes me happiest, because I believe that will produce better work that you, as readers, will gain more from.

Do not be afraid to change your goals because you never know what may present itself that you had not thought of before. And it might just be what you need. Are you struggling with your current action plan or goals? Take some time to revisit what you are doing, why you are doing it and whether or not it makes you happy.

Courage to Write

the blank page courage

 

At the beginning of the year I read a lot of posts about taking the courage to do something this year; to follow through with a dream and no matter where I turned (or which blog I followed) everyone was sprouting the same message.

So I took a leap, yelled Geronimo, and launched my new website. No fear!

Well not quite, I was scared witless. But I did it anyway because I knew that it was something I needed to do as the first step to actually acting on my goal of being a full time writer. A bit of a slow start perhaps but a start all the same.

I have wanted to be a full time writer for a long time. Each year I only made tiny inroads on that dream, not really making the effort for it to become a reality. Then I discovered several communities of different people with different dreams all taking the action to do something about it.

I may have some self-confidence issues when it comes to my writing yet I am working on ways to get it out there.

I have the courage to try.

To advertise myself (here at least) and test my writing on others (so far in the safety of my writing groups/uni tutorials, and to an extent through this blog.)

I have the courage to do what is necessary to improve my confidence as a writer. I may not be very confident in what I’m doing yet I am still pushing through to do what is needed. Confidence might come later but I won’t let a lack of it to stop me now.

As I battle to work out the next step forward for my novel (once it comes back from readers) I plan to push myself a little further.

I have previously discussed the idea of publishing my short stories in a collection. But my confidence was quashed somewhat when I read the dangers of, or at least mistake of, publishing collections of short stories that are not necessarily very well linked. Given that my collection covered both fantasy and science fiction with no shared theme I started to agree with what I read.

So instead I am considering publishing them individually (at different times). As the first one will be a real test it will be free when it hits the shelves (electronic shelves).

I’m going to be testing this on my writing group first, then some playing with cover design and then a lot of courage to put it out there. It is still a little way off, but keep your eyes peeled because it is coming.

Please share your stories of courage or what you wish you had the courage to do.

Writing confidence

confidence

While completing the read through of my novel recently my confidence waned. The story still seemed to be lacking in some areas and I lacked confidence in my ability to save it, or if it was even worth saving.

In the hope that I’m not the terrible writer I think I might be I have been researching what other writers have said about improving writing confidence.

Below is a list of the key advice I found.

  1. Practice
  2. Rewrite (more practice)
  3. Share with others
  4. Use editors
  5. Read/about the writing processes of other writers
  6. Learn the craft (practice) and take courses
  7. Submit work – to publishers, competitions and magazines (also sharing)
  8. Kill off the inner critic (for a while); your inner voice and those around you
  9. Finish something

The first thing this list has helped me discover is that there are others out there suffering as I am.

And there is a lot of info out there (point 5). It is even easier now to read what other writers are doing and I’m amazed at the number of writers I’ve discovered, and still discovering. Many of them have a range of interesting and useful information and tools on their sites. I have found quite a few writers that have similar processes to me and I am always interested in how they handle different issues. I have also found quite a few with different processes from which I can learn a lot.

The first point about practice is the most important, I think. My aim is to write every day. It doesn’t always happen but if I’m not writing then I’m thinking about writing or ideas for writing. And blogging counts as a form of practice too.

I also advocate finding like-minded people, or writers at a similar stage, and sharing your writing with them. I’m a member of two different writing groups (one in person and one on Facebook) and I find both useful for testing my writing and learning.

In the possibility of self-publishing my work I have considered an editor, quite seriously. I’m not sure that this improves my confidence or is more like a safety net. At least if my story isn’t very good then the editor will pick up where the issues are.

One of the most important points (and I didn’t include it on the list above) is that the writing doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. You can’t start from the top, so to speak. This helps in some way by giving me the freedom to be bad and getting the story down first, then improve on it later.

Finishing something is great for the confidence levels. As of yesterday I have “finished” the current draft of my novel and that completion certainly helped boost my confidence. I was somewhat nervous as I pressed the send button to forward it to the beta reading group but it is comforting to know it is out in the world now (if only a small part of it).

Confidence seems to be a key element in any writing. How do you maintain your confidence or pick it up when it is slipping?

 

Image courtesy of Eric Chan, Flickr

Short Stories

1688897198_59a4054886

I mentioned last time that I was playing with the idea of pulling a collection of short stories together.

Usually I would describe myself as a writer of longer stories – novel length. I struggled with the short story feeling it wasn’t enough words to tell the whole story. I couldn’t really see the story as finished after several thousand words. The characters lived on, their stories continued and evolved. How could I stop writing?

For my recent Masters course most of my assessment was by short story. This was a huge learning curve for me. No matter what I thought was best for the characters or the story, I needed to work out how to confine the narrative within the confines of the short story. The university setting offered great support for this learning with the feedback from tutorial groups and tutors.

At the end of the course I have a small pile of reasonable stories that I would like to do something with – but what?

I submitted one (yes, only one) to a fantasy magazine but the readers found it too ambiguous. From my recent reading about self-publishing I now have more confidence in appealing to an audience. I quite enjoy a little ambiguity in my reading, I’m sure there are other such readers out there too.

Each story is quite different ranging across various forms of fantasy and science fiction. I am in the process of editing each one and writing another – that is part treat because it seems like forever since I got to draft some fresh fiction.

This is a real push for me to get some writing out there. It is challenging my self-confidence. I’m also looking at self-publishing the collection which is another challenge. This push into self-publishing is partly to see if I am right about my audience and to see if I can self-publish or whether I want to.

It is worth challenging yourself and pushing your boundaries because you never know what you may learn from the experience or what you may be able to achieve. I have discovered that short stories are worth the time and hopefully that I can tell a story in fewer words. What could you do to push your boundaries?

What have you done to really challenge yourself? What did you learn from that?

 

Image – Reading a book from Flikr – by ckaroli