Taking chances.

Sunday, July 15, 2012
Sometimes as a writer, you have to take chances. Scratch that, you always have to take chances, because just by deciding to become a writer, you've already taken a pretty big chance. The whole process is about taking chances, from the writing to the editing to submitting.

Then, if you get something published, you're taking the chance people won't like it. (Believe me, there will always be someone who doesn't like what you wrote. Accept it now.) You take the chance friends and family won't support the fact that you're "playing" as a writer or what you write about.

It's not a vocation for the faint of heart.

I'm not the first one to say this, and I've said it before, there is no magic formula to what we "professional" writers do. We work our asses off at it. It's a job. It's a hard job, it's sometimes an unrewarding job, but it's what we love to do, it's who we are, and we wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Fear holds us back. Not just in writing, but in life in general. If you try to say fear has never held you back, you either need to take your meds, or you're lying to yourself. At some time in our lives, fear gets a stranglehold on our short-hairs and fills our minds and hearts full of lies about why we can't ________.

For writers, you throw in rejection from agents and publishers, and it can end a career before it even begins.

But on the other hand, it means those writers didn't want it badly enough.

I can hear some of you now. "Well, Tymber, that's all fine and well, but you've got over thirty books out. You don't have any reason to be afraid. You've made it."

Bullshit.

Let me tell you a secret, sparky. I sweat every submission to my publisher. EVERY ONE. Even though my publisher told me TO MY FACE I didn't have to have that worry. (Seriously, we were all at lunch one day.)

I STILL sweat every submission. And the books I self-publish, I sweat those.

Every book I write, at least once in the process, I sit back and think, "Well, this is utter donkey shit. It sucks." Then I get back up on the donkey and keep riding that ass as hard as I can.

Here's another secret: EVERY writer, no matter how "famous" they are, has moments of self-doubt. Fear, if you will, in their own abilities. They wonder if they'll ever get that book finished. Or if anyone will like it. Or if that's the book that will sink their career.

That's not me making it up, either. That's coming from writing books by people like Lawrence Block, Stephen King, and James Scott Bell. If they're willing to admit they have fears from time to time, I'm certainly not going to lie about it.

It's okay to have doubts and fears. It's not okay to let those doubts and fears hold you back. And it's not just in writing, either. It's in life in general.

The things that make good writers successful can be applied across the board.

  1. Work hard at your skills. Meaning take classes, read books, and strive to improve. All the time.
  2. Never take success for granted.
  3. Never rest on the success of your last success. Keep thinking and working and moving forward.
  4. Never let fear hold you back.
  5. Use criticism (valid criticism) to help better yourself.
  6. Ignore the haters.
  7. Work hard. (Yes, that was also #1.)
  8. Have fun.
I don't think enough people have fun with what they do. For me, having fun sometimes means following a screaming story that pops up out of nowhere and resets my mental palette. Currently, while I am working on Tony's story from "The Reluctant Dom," I am also racing through a series of novellas about...wait for it...dolphin shape-shifters. Hot, smexy, m/m, dolphin shifters. (The sea mammal, not the fish.)

It literally hit me out of nowhere after a nap one afternoon almost two weeks ago. I had the titles show up in my brain, and the first book completely wrote itself. Now I'm deep into the second one, with the third and fourth plotted. (They're novellas, so they're going fast.)

And I'm having fun. At first I thought, hmm, but you know what? I'm taking the chance. Screw the self-doubt, the story is coming fast and furious, and I have learned never to ignore my muse when it's screaming this loudly.

And since it's a totally different kind of story than Tony's story, lighter in tone overall and completely different genre, it's giving my brain a rest from the heavy-duty BDSM m/f story while parts of it gel for me. If I force a story before it's ready, it'll suck.

And that's totally different than avoiding the story. Sometimes, a story does need to sit for a while. But I don't sit there and piss and moan that it's not working. I switch immediately to another project, whatever is screaming loudest. Then it's like my brain is still working on the other project subconsciously, because when I go back to the first project, the solution is almost always staring me in the face.

That's working hard and smart.

Don't be afraid to take chances in life. I'm not even talking bungee jumping or skydiving. I'm talking don't be afraid to sit down at the computer and write whatever comes out. If you rein yourself in before the story's even on the page, you'll never know what it could have been. That's why I don't work with exhaustive outlines, just some plotting. (I'm a pantster.) It's too easy to try to stifle the story when it heads in directions I haven't decreed. Therefore, it's far better for me to follow the characters. To let them lead me. To take the chance to follow them. (Usually makes the story easier to write, too.)

If you take a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised where it leads you.

3 reader comments:

  1. Shannon Owens said...:

    Thanks for your great post, you always know how to put it, bullshiting aside. I'm no writer but I am an avid reader. I read about 2 or more books a day depending on the book. Although my husband tells me I should start writing my own, I am a stay at home mom, but I am afraid, afraid of the reasons you listed. However, I think the voices in my head are going to win out to tell there story, because I'm tired of not sleeping. Even though I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. I thank you, your post was great!! Thank you, Shannon Owens

  1. Go for it! :) And thank you! :)

  1. vanessa said...:

    Hi Tymber, great wisdom and advice not just for writers but for life.
    The 'little hobby job'! golly brings back memories. Those people who have used that phrase probably would think they were being supportive never mind how confidence eroding it was/is. All the best from Vanessa