Friday, January 17, 2014

We All Have Stories That Kick Our Butts - But We Will Survive!

One of my authors has been working on one project for a while now, and I have to say, it has seriously been kicking her butt! There isn't a week that goes by that I am not working on the computer and my SKYPE light starts blinking and it is from the author simply asking "Do you have a minute to chat?" Now first of all, don't get me wrong. This is what I am here for and I very much appreciate our chats together. These are far from interruptions. The point though, is that the struggles this author is facing are issues that EVERY author goes through at least once in their career. Most likely, it happens a lot more than we know.

There will be times that we have this great story idea and, for some reason (and these reasons can vary from book to book) you will hit a point in the writing or editing process that you feel you totally suck as a writer. You hate the characters. You hate your last scene. You feel your editor will completely disown you and throw you to the street if you don't pull this off. You know your agent is never going to help you with a project.... you get the idea.

Unfortunately, this becomes a downward spiral for you. Yes, we know you will hit moments when the story isn't working right for you, but, if you add in that element of stress, you will only make things worse for you. Increasing the stress and the pressure to succeed is not going to get you through this. You have to find a way to work through this.

There are a lot of people who have tried to convince themselves that they need to write under pressure to succeed. Yes, we do know having a deadline is important and we can set our own deadlines, but writing under pressure to increase that stress turns out to be counter productive. In a 2012 article from Forbes Magazine discussing How Stress Affects Your Mental Health (this information also came from the APA in 2010), the author notes "Stress also causes the release of chemicals that impair the function of the prefrontal cortex, home of higher level thinking.  When we experience acute stress, these chemicals–including cortisol and norepinephrine–heighten our reactive tendencies by muting our reflective tendencies, leading to everything from anxiety to aggression to depression." For an author, this is not good. We need those higher level thinking skills to problem solve our way out of the story.

Now I don't want to spend a lot of time giving you all of these solutions of how to "fix" your stress level with this impossible story. This is one of those times when you need to go back to what works best for you. Chocolate, Hot Baths, A Cruise, Whatever.... What I do want to stress is that you are not alone.

You need to take a quick moment though to realize that you have the skills to get through this. You have the resources around you. For this author, it took some comments by both the editor and me to tell her we had confidence that she would do it. Yes, it took a couple of calls on SKYPE, but we got through it.

What was the end result? The manuscript was turned in. The editors loved it. There was a scream of excitement heard around the world knowing that story was behind her. And more importantly, her enthusiasm to get into the next project was even stronger. In many ways, I am reminded of the final line from Paul Newman in the Color of Money... I'm Back!


  1. A cruise...are you talking about me? It's okay if you are.

  2. A cruise...are you talking about me? It's okay if you are.

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