Writer Wednesday: When You Hit That Wall, Do You Nurse Your Head, Or Climb Over?

Face Rock'dThis is the full post! Sorry about the earlier post, I accidentally hit Publish, instead of Save Draft, so email and RSS subscribers, ignore the first one (please?)

Yesterday on Mina Khan’s blog, I talked about the strategies I use to cope with the vicissitudes of the writing life. I thought I’d expand a little on one of my strategies: envisioning my setbacks as brick walls to climb over. In my guest post, I gave this advice for setbacks:

When I come across a setback (rejections), I picture that I’ve just hit a solid wall along with many others on the same journey. Then I picture myself scaling it and getting to the other side so I can keep going. It also helps to know that many don’t do this and they’re milling around at that wall too afraid to climb over, etc, BUT I also make sure when I see someone else I know hit that wall that I lend a helping hand to help them over, whether it’s words of encouragement or an offer to critique. The sad truth is, many writers give up way too early and don’t keep going forward.

This garnered the most comments, and so I thought I’d expand the analogy a bit here to talk about it as a great coping mechanism. I can’t take credit for the visualization, though. I first saw it mentioned by agent Rachelle Gardner, in her post What’s Your Brick Wall? She in turn had heard about it from Randy Pausch who talked about brick walls as obstacles to achieving childhood dreams and wrote that these walls “stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” It resonated with her, because she’s often the brick wall to writers and their dream of being published. She said:

Each time I become the brick wall… each time an author crashes into my “no,” they are forced to reckon with their own dreams. They have to ask themselves once again, “How badly do I want it?” That can’t be a bad thing, right?

Thankfully, I read this post before I started the agenting process and it truly helped me, not only with that phase, but any time I had a writing setback. I cannot stress enough how much it truly helped to picture this. Honest-to-God picture it. As in, visualize it. See yourself hitting it, and then see yourself shaking your head, dusting yourself off, and scaling that wall. Then look around. There aren’t as many people aspiring to be writers around you, because they didn’t climb that wall! But as I said in the post yesterday, if you see a friend struggling behind a wall, lend a helping hand.

Facing a false brick wallThis can be taken further. That wall is only as thick and tall as you make it! Don’t let it stop you! It also could just be imagined. Is it fear making you think an obstacle is there and it really isn’t?

Do you let it define you as the writer who keeps hitting these walls at every turn and wear it as a badge of honor? And I don’t mean as one of the many aspects of our writing lives, but does this become the whole definition of you? Your excuse for not being where you want to be, and you nurse it, and point to the wall to anyone who will listen? Many aspiring writers find safety in the numbers milling around that wall and commiserate with them. But they never climb that wall, and they let that last obstacle define them. It’s fine to commiserate when you first hit that wall–lord knows it helps!!–but only aspiring writers stay there.

It’s also so apt, because often when we smack headlong into that brick wall, it can really hurt. We can feel bruised, our head can feel a bit dazed. But see it for what it is–an opportunity to go further than others have the guts to go.

Keep climbing those walls, my fellow writers!

What about you? Have you seen this analogy before and did it help? If this is new, did this post help? How else does it apply to our journey that I overlooked?

Yes, You Should Blog and Tweet Before You’re Published

funny pictures of cats with captions

Are you an unpublished writer without a blog? Not tweeting? Well, you should! And here’s why.

Today’s post was inspired by the guest post by Heather Kopp last week at agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, 7 Reasons to Quit Balking & Start Blogging. She makes some very good points and I’d like to add some more to them from my own experience.

I’d meant to do this post months ago when I ran across a blog post from a writer who posted that tweeting and blogging, she discovered, was not beneficial. The problem was her reasons for doing it and her methodology. See, she’d just published her first book and wanted to get the word out and heard that blogging and tweeting helped. So she set up a blog and a twitter account and went at it, and got no results. The problem was not only her timing, but the way she went about it. We all know those tweeters, who only send out auto-tweets promoting their book and you’ve never heard of them and they don’t engage you on twitter. I think at her stage, her audience was readers, and only readers who’ve found her book through other means would seek her out and follow her. But would a reader only be interested in Buy My Book tweets? No. Anyway, let’s move from that example, as I think enough has been blogged about the perils of this type of approach by others more articulate than me.

Let’s just use the above example as Reason #8 (picking up from Gardner’s post)…

8. You need to build your audience BEFORE you’re published. True, at this stage you’re not targeting readers because they have nothing to buy and read, but there are plenty of examples of folks who did this who benefited when her book came out. I think Jody Hedlund is one, am I remembering right? She’d built up a tribe of supporters who then wanted to help promote her when she published.

9. You are missing out on a whole passel of contacts that can help you. I started blogging and tweeting in September and felt really, really self-conscious, since I hadn’t published anything. It felt very strange and I really thought I wouldn’t last past two months, because who would want to visit my blog?? And for what reason?? I forged ahead anyway, and boy, I can’t tell you how much I don’t regret it. I’ve made SCORES of friends who have helped me learn so much more about my craft, who have given me encouragement, you name it. I’ve also found my Beta readers this way. I can’t honestly imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t started in September, but I can tell you, I’d be a whole lot further behind on my learning curve.

One of them, Jami Gold, I connected with back around Thanksgiving when she needed some quick Betas. I stepped up and we struck up an email correspondence, helping each other with pitches and queries. I then Beta’d her full and she recently Beta’d mine and really truly helped me see just what I needed to do to make my piece stronger. She’s been so helpful and supportive she even let me call her to hash out some writerly stuff and we’re going to be roommates for RWA.

I also wouldn’t have met Stephanie Lawton (via Twitter) and learned about the Mobile Writer’s Guild, which I’m now Vice President of and have met other wonderful writers in my local area. I also can’t always attend my local RWA chapter meetings because of my day-job work schedule, but tweeting helps me keep up with my fellow members.

And where would I be without my Six Sentence Sunday buddies? I’ve made wonderful friends through it, and discovered some new fave authors whose books I’ve bought.

None of this, none of the knowledge I’ve gained, none of the friends I’ve made, would have happened if I hadn’t started. Plus, I’d be a month away from going to my first national writers conference (RWA) and not know a soul. I can just picture myself (cuz I’ve been there) wandering around, watching others greet people they know. But now I’m a month away from not only learning a bunch of stuff, but a month away from meeting all the people I only know by name and their profile pic!

10. It CAN help in your actual writing output. I know it can be a time sucker, constantly checking Twitter, but once you get over that need to stay on top of EVERYTHING (because you finally realize you can’t), it’s wonderful for not only making new friends and learning about writing, but it can also help you with your output. Just hop onto the #1k1hr thread and you’ll see. You’ll meet other writers who are wanting to sit down for an hour and just write. You agree on a start time and you don’t come up for air until the end of the hour, when you report your output. This has helped me tremendously in meeting my daily goals and to stop me from obsessively checking all my online stuff.

11. Potential agents can find you. I personally haven’t had agents find me this way, but I have heard of it happening. I have had an agent who requested a full who commented in her email that she loved my Monday Hunk Who Reads. They ended up passing, but still, that was cool :) By having a blog, you are showing your brand, what you are like as a writer and person, and it can help them decide.

12. You’ll be stronger when you do publish. This is rehashing #8 somewhat, but I think it’s important enough to circle back to after showing all the other benefits. Now, when you do publish a year, two years, three years later, you’ll not be one of THOSE on Twitter who is only me, me, me and no one’s ever heard of you. No, instead you’ll have writer friends who support you and want to see you succeed. THEY’LL promote you. I know, because I help promote those that I’ve met since September whose work I’ve read and liked. Writers read, and they have family and friends who ask for recommendations all the time.

What do you think? Are you a writer worried about jumping in before you’ve published? Are you already blogging and tweeting like me? Do you have any other reasons why it’s a good idea? Please share!

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Making Sure You Have the Right Batman

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Lakme” from The Hunger soundtrack

Writing and the Writing Life:

Ada Lovelace:

In Geekdom:

  • And I’ll leave you with this. Make sure you book the right Batman (h/t Stubby the Rocket):