Facts of Life,  Writing World

The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side…

A few years ago, I read some writing advice in which the author told unpublished writers to enjoy being unpublished while it lasts.

At the time, I remember thinking, “Da-fudge? Heck, NO! I’ve been unpublished long enough!”

She mentioned how when you’re unpublished, all of your deadlines are your own. If you’re working on a story and it sucks, you can just walk away because there’s a lot less pressure to finish it.

I understand where she was going with that now. Even after you fall into the published circle, you can still always walk away from something that isn’t working. There’s just a different dynamic. You may be walking away from money. You may be letting down some fans who may have been waiting for it. You may a bunch of other things I don’t realize because I’m not on that side of the equation. It’s just not as easy as when you’re unpublished and no one is looking at you at all.

I have so often put too much pressure on myself. Have to write, have to write, havetowritehaveto–

And it’s like, why? Why am I stressing myself out all the time? If you’ve never pressured yourself to meet a deadline, I think it’s absolutely a great experience. It pushes you through obstacles, and the sense of accomplish you get with that is amazing. But I don’t need to do that every time.

There’s a relief in that. There’s a relief in the fact that I really can take my time, if I want. I don’t have to push a story out in 5 weeks. I don’t have to put all of that pressure on myself.

I don’t have to write everyday. Or every week, even. Sometimes I’m too depressed. Some days my brain isn’t working. Sometimes I’m busy and squeezing a writing session in will cause me a great deal of stress. And that’s okay. Sometimes I need a day where I watch television or Netflix all day. Or stay in bed reading all day. Sometimes I just need to recharge my batteries.

I hear things sometimes like, “Treat writing like it’s a job.” “Write at the same time everyday?” Why? Do I write regularly when I have an active project on my hands? Totally! I love it! I do it almost every chance I get. But my schedule fluctuates. Some nights I have a late dinner training for work. Some afternoons or nights I’m at the theatre. I have laundry days. Errand days. I have to work writing around the rest of the crap I have to do.

It’s true that writing is not a hobby for me. My hobbies collect dust. But why can’t writing be serious AND super fun, too? Why make it stressful? Maybe one day it will actually be a job instead of this nice little limbo it’s in. And I will have to make sure I set aside time to write so nothing else gets in its way. Maybe I’ll even write at the same time every day then! But if I treat it like a job now, I’m stressed out all the time because I feel like I have two full-time jobs, and then I get no sleep. Which makes me crazy. And then I can’t write. Which makes me sad, and makes it harder to write.

So, now, where I am right now: unpublished. It’s okay. I know that if I ever really need to treat it like a job (one that I love – one that I’m excited about), I can. I know if I ever need to force my butt into the chair and write, I can. I know that if I need to power through something that’s hard to write or edit or whatever – I can. I know that I can write and edit something amazing that I love in four months. Because I’ve done all that stuff.

I understand what that author was saying now. I can’t let my relentless pursuit of the holy publishing grail take the joy and awesomeness out of my writing. And I’m certainly not going to get there any faster by writing crap. I want to keep improving. I can’t do that if I’m stressed and rushing all the time. I don’t want to keep taking five steps forward and five steps back.

It’s okay if it takes me six months to write my next story. Or a year. Although, honestly, the thought makes my stomach hurt, but it’s okay! Where I am right now, I need to slow down and enjoy the process again. Take the stress out of my writing and amaze myself again. That’s what I need. Not some crazy, must draft every story in 4 weeks and be published by 26, kind of deadline…which I missed, by the way. 😛


  • Andi Loveall

    As a published writer, I can promise that the grass is definitely NOT greener over here. I always figured the most stressful thing about being published would be receiving bad reviews. It’s not. In fact, I didn’t even get any bad reviews, and all of the hardest things about publishing are things that no one ever prepared me for. Like communication issues with the publisher, confusion over contracts, and the ever-present, torturous fear about lack of sales. You can lose a book deal due to low sales–no one ever told me that, either.

    Being published has been an amazingly eye-opening and rewarding experience that has greatly improved my confidence as a writer. That said, I’m leaning toward self-publishing in the future for all the reasons you mentioned here. I miss the freedom, the relaxation, and the simple FUN that came with writing before I was published. I miss the lack of pressure. I’m not saying I would never attempt to get a traditional book deal again. I might. But if I do, I’ll go into it a lot more mentally prepared than I was this time.

    • Krystal Jane

      Wow, you’re awesome! ^_^ I can’t remember too many details about the article, I might have it saved somewhere, but she mentioned a list of things like this that she wished she knew beforehand. I wish more published writers would talk about what it’s like on the other side to help the rest of us better prepare for it. Because it’s really not this magically place of smooth sailing, and I feel like a lot of us on this side feel that way. I was at a query workshop last year and the author leading it said writing queries and synopses doesn’t stop when you get published. Sometimes it sounds kind of terrifying, but I appreciate being kicked out of the rose-colored cloud. 🙂

      • Andi Loveall

        I’m sure it would be even more pressure it we were to ever make it really big. That’s the crazy part–if I’m stressed as a relatively unknown author with one book out, how would it feel to have big-time success? I guess it would balance out, since you could quit your day job. I can’t imagine it would get any harder than being low level like this, needing to not only promote and write more books but also maintain a day job at the same time.

        I don’t mean to make it sound terrifying. I’m definitely very grateful. There are just so many unknowns, and because there’s so much out there about getting published, there is a lot less advice about how to handle actually being published. I realize it’s one of the best “problems” one could have. 🙂 Also, I’m without an agent, which is partly why it has been hard for me. Having an agent to help answer questions for you and have your back in this industry would be very helpful.

  • Thea Landen

    Yeah, I’m feeling that self-inflicted pressure right now. On one hand, I just hit 10K words on my WIP, so yay…but on the other, it’s like “ugh, it took me this long to get to 10K words? I suck”. At least I don’t have any actual deadlines to meet, but I’m still feeling a little crappy about my current output. So yes, enjoy the ride! 🙂

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