IWSG: My Best Coping Mechanism

October 3, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

I don’t usually answer the optional IWSG question each month, but this month’s question sort of relates to what I wanted to write about anyway:

How do major life events affect your writing?  Has writing ever helped you through something?

I can answer these questions fairly easily, or at least I could until recently.

  • In 1993, I lost my father. Books helped me cope with that, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune.  This is the reason why I decided to become a writer.
  • In 2008, I discovered that my girlfriend, the only woman I’ve ever truly loved, was cheating on me. So I wrote a cheesy Sci-Fi love story, and that helped me cope.
  • For well over a decade now, I’ve worked in the news business. It’s a high stress job that often exposes me to some of the worst that humanity has to offer. So I’ve been writing a series of short stories and novellas about a journalist who travels through time. That helps me cope.

Throughout my life, writing has always been my best coping mechanism.  But there have been times when I’ve been too stressed, too traumatized, or too emotionally drained to write.  So what do you do when your best coping mechanism fails?

2018 has been an all-around troublesome year for me. Minor and major life events seem to keep piling up.  Witnessing a murder back in July was obviously the worst, but even before that happened I was struggling.  I spent much of this year dealing with financial problems, health concerns, and a work-related issue that took an agonizingly long time to resolve.

The latest crisis has been family drama.  I have a couple relatives who do not have the foggiest idea what’s wrong with me but who apparently know exactly what I should be doing to fix it.  Admittedly, this is not the worst thing that’s happened to me this year. But still, it is so irritating.

Through this whole pileup of problems, my writing has been inconsistent.  Some days, some weeks, I go into a writing frenzy unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past.  But other times, I feel so worn out that I can’t write anything at all. This is understandable, I think, but it’s also a problem because when I have so much stuff to cope with, I really need my #1 best coping mechanism to work.

IWSG: True Muses Never Leave

September 5, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

For last month’s IWSG, I wrote about a traumatic experience I recently went through.  It was a difficult thing to write about, and I’m sure it was a difficult thing to read as well.  Thank you to all of you who did read that post and left such kind comments. I realize this is an odd thing to say, but the love and support I received from “strangers” on the Internet meant a lot to me.

I still have some raw emotions about what happened, but I’ve gotten back to writing.  To be honest, I got back to it a whole lot sooner than I expected. I’m not sure how to explain why that happened, so I’ve asked someone else to write a post explaining it for me.  She’s written IWSG posts for me before.  At this point, I’m sure many of you know her well.  She’s the magical fairy person who helps me write: my muse.

My writer has been plagued by a secret fear. This has been going on for years now, but he’s been too afraid to talk about it or write about it.  He’s even tried to conceal certain dark thoughts from me (in case you weren’t aware, muses have mind reading powers). But of course I still sensed this fear stirring in the depths of the subconscious.

So what is this secret fear?  Here’s an easy answer: the fear that I would leave, that I might never come back, that maybe I’d go be a muse for someone else—some new writer who’s more disciplined and talented than the writer I already have. But like all easy answers, this answer is not the full truth.

What really frightened my writer was the thought that maybe, deep down inside, he didn’t really want me around in the first place, that maybe he didn’t really want to be a writer at all, and that maybe he’d be happier doing something else with his life, something that didn’t involve a muse like me constantly pestering him to do his writing.  No matter how much my writer insisted that he wanted to keep writing, there was always that nagging fear that whispered: “you’re wrong, you want to give up.”

Then came the traumatic events that occurred a little over a month ago.  My writer’s been through some painful experiences before—the loss of a parent, a nasty break up—but nothing compares to witnessing a murder.  In the aftermath of what happened, my writer lashed out at me and at writing in general.  He told me to go away.  He told me to never come back because the things I made him write about—death, violence, various other atrocities—suddenly hit way too close to home.

Of course I didn’t leave.  True muses never leave.  It’s not in our nature.  I guess my writer didn’t know that, but he knows it now.  And I didn’t have to wait long before my writer picked up the pen again and asked for my forgiveness (which was easily given).

To my surprise, my writer chose to dive straight back into the story we’d been working on before all this happened—one of those violence and destruction stories.  But that’s what he wanted to do, and with a renewed sense of urgency too, because the casual disregard for human life that would lead one person to kill another—my writer has some things to say about that, things that he only knows how to express in one way: through fiction.

And that’s the secret truth about writers: they may think they can give up on writing, until they actually try to do it. But writers need to write as badly as other humans need to eat or breathe.  It’s in their nature.  I guess my writer didn’t know that either, but he knows it now.

So much for that secret fear.

IWSG: Survivor’s Guilt

August 1, 2018

This is not going to be a happy post. I’m not sure if this is really the kind of thing the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is meant to address. But I feel I need to do this in order for my healing process to begin.

In the stories I write, characters die.  Sometimes people are massacred in great numbers.  Other times, characters get killed off individually for dramatic effect. It’s all done in service to the plot.

I’ve heard writers joke about how often they “murder” characters in their stories.  I’ve joked about it myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever find those kinds of jokes funny again.  Not after the experience I had late last week.

It would be inappropriate to discuss the details of what happened in a blog post, so I’ll only say this much: a gun was involved. At one point, I thought I was going to die.  One person did die. I knew the victim, and I knew the shooter, though I can’t say I knew either of them particularly well.

Friends tell me I’m handling all this remarkably well. But of course I’m not.  Not at all.  I’m never going to forget the things I saw and heard.  I’ll never forget the fear I felt.  My healing process is going to be long and arduous.  I know part of that process will involve returning to my writing routine, because writing is so central to who I am.

Except given the subject matter I tend to write about, how the hell am I supposed to go back to doing that?  Right now, I can’t bring myself to look at my manuscript. I can’t even think about it without reliving what I’ve just been through.  Nor can I work on something new and different—something fun and lighthearted—without constantly reminding myself that there’s this thing I’m trying really hard to avoid thinking about.

But I can write this blog post.  Maybe that’s enough for now.  At the very least, I hope it’s a place for my own healing process to start.

IWSG: Should Writers Believe in Muses?

July 4, 2018

I know a lot of writers who don’t believe in muses. Sometimes I don’t believe either. I’m a scientifically minded guy. The idea that little magical fairy people are assigned to us writers at birth, that they’re supposed to teach us and guide us through our writing journeys, occasionally providing little flashes of inspiration… none of that sounds particularly scientific.

And that’s okay.  If you’re a writer, you don’t have to believe in muses.  The important thing is that no matter what, your muse still believes in you.

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a monthly blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our writerly worries and offer each other advice and encouragement.  To learn more about IWSG and to see a list of participating blogs, click here.

IWSG: When Science Gets in the Way…

June 6, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

The month of May brought me one of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced: I finished a certain long anticipated manuscript.  May also brought me one of my lowest lows.  Two close friends agreed to look over the manuscript, and… well, let’s just say they didn’t think it was very good.

After a heartbreaking week and a half of going over my friends’ feedback, I’ve realized that I made two fundamental mistakes.

  • First off, I’d been playing with a new writing style. It was very flowery. Very fancy.  I thought it sounded awesome, until I tried to read it out loud.
  • And secondly, I tried to cram as much science into the story as I could. I thought I was making my Sci-Fi universe more believable, but all I was doing was adding info dumps.  Very flowery info dumps.

When I started this blog, part of my intention was to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring science fiction author, thought I ought to be doing.  But in one of my earliest posts, or maybe it was an early tweet, I wrote that I’d never let a scientific fact get in the way of a good story.

This blog really has served its purpose.  I’ve done a lot of research over the last eight years.  Can you blame me for wanting to show off everything I’ve learned?  But, of course, I let all that science get in the way of good storytelling, and now I need to fix it.

For a start, I’m breaking up some of those long, flowery sentences.  And as for the science, I’m not going to remove it entirely, because I still believe good science is crucial for good science fiction.  But maybe I don’t need to spend so much time explaining everything.

So now, back to writing.  Or rather re-writing.

IWSG: Punching My Problems in the Face

May 2, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

Over the last few months of Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts, I’ve been telling you that I’m struggling with certain real life problems (without going into any specific personal details, of course, because this is still the Internet).

In January’s post, my muse came up with an interesting solution to this: use writing as an excuse to just not deal with real life stuff. And that worked, sort of, for a while.  But you know how real life problems are.  They don’t just wander off and bother somebody else when you ignore them. They nag you… and nag you.  And in turn, that makes writing harder.

After March’s post, I started doing better, thanks in large part to all the encouragement I got from IWSG members and all my regular readers. By April, I was starting to worry less about real life and more about writing, and for the first time since I’ve known her, my muse had something insightful to say about the business side of writing (and also art) rather than just about the craft of writing itself.

So now it’s the beginning of May.  I suppose I could tell you how I’m doing right now, how well writing is going, and how optimistic I feel.  But you know what?  I think I’ll just let this drawing speak for itself.

Not my finest work of art, I admit, but that may have been the most satisfying, most therapeutic drawing I’ve ever done.

IWSG: Dreams and Fairy Dust Won’t Pay the Bills… Or Will They?

April 4, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

As some of you already know, I’ve been going through some stuff.  It started back in December, and the real life problems have just kept coming ever since, one after the other.  It’s been truly unfair.

But I’m recovering, finally.  Those real life problems that have been plaguing me have been resolved, most of them for the better, a few for the worse, but at least they’re resolved and I’m able to move on.

The challenge now is that, during my times of trouble, I seem to have picked up a whole bunch of new writing insecurities, and a few old insecurities have resurfaced as well.  It’s not so much my writing process that I’m worried about but rather my ability to turn writing into a profitable and sustainable career.

Fortunately my muse, who came to my rescue in last month’s IWSG post, has returned to give me some sage advice.

So is my muse right?  I sure hope so.  I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety, most of it financial in nature, because of the turmoil I just went through.  But I’ve promised my muse that I’ll set that aside, at least while I’m writing, and have faith that so long as I put my best into my stories everything else will somehow turn out okay.

P.S.: I want to mention, because a few people have been asking, that I really wanted to participate in the A to Z Challenge again this year.  I had a plan.  A really good plan. But given the circumstances, I think it’s best if I save it for next year.