Thursday, September 15, 2011

SETBACKS...or more of those blessings in disguise?

Current Project: LEGACY series
Status: editing third book
Posted by: Genene Valleau

You might see a theme in my blog posts about rejections and setbacks this month: digging for blessings, the silver lining, the positive spin--whatever you want to call it--from something hurtful.

Because no matter how much I know the mantra, "It's not personal," in my brain, there's still a sting that comes with rejections. Perhaps I've become better at minimizing that sting or finding the positive, but there's still that moment of feeling "not good enough."

But what about the setbacks we create ourselves? What about the writers' blocks, the family events that we "have" to attend, the day job, the story we lose interest in…I'm sure you can add your own reason for not writing to this list.

I'm not talking about compelling, moral (in my opinion) reasons why writing sits in the back seat for a time. When my kids were young, pretty much anything connected with caring for them immediately hit the top of my priority list. That included the day job, which paid the mortgage and put food in our bellies.

Other writers have priorities in their lives such as caring for aging parents, their own health issues, or many other things life brings our way that push writing aside for a time. It's not my place or purpose to judge others. We all need to choose what's best for us at any given time.

However, sometimes I notice patterns of my own that suck up writing time. Things that could be called self-induced setbacks.

Here's one I use a lot: Something came up that has to be done…a

nd pretty soon cleaning up that doggie accident by the door has turned into talking to my mother on the phone for an hour, followed by a call from one of my sons saying they are stuck on the freeway and can I bring a can of gas, and by the time I get home the doggies are unhappy because it's an hour past dinner time, and the neighbor just got back from vacation and had some wonderful experiences, and have I watered the yard today because the flowers are drooping in the heat, and…pretty soon it's past midnight and I haven't done any writing.

A string of days like this destroys most of my forward progress, sets me way behind my writing schedule, and makes me crabby. When I recognize I'm falling into this pattern, I need to remind myself "no" is a complete sentence, kick writing higher on my priority list of things to do, then BICHOK--Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard--and write! Yeah, I'm in the middle of this pattern now and am getting crabby. I guess even this self-induced setback has a positive side in that it focuses my determination to get back on the writing schedule I want to be on.

However, sometimes avoiding my story is a signal I took a wrong turn in the story. Or I'm missing a vital piece of information about a character because I'm not digging deep enough into their emotional motivations. Once I pause, and take a close look at the story, I can usually fix it and the words start flowing again.

Though sometimes setbacks or side trips pay off in writing a better story. When I was preparing for the September meeting presentation about "Storyboards…and Beyond!" and caught up on my databases, I realized the heroine in the second book of my series needed to confront the villain face to face and not let others fight her battles. Rewriting several scenes of that book resulted in more emotional growth for this character, which made a better story.

I also saw an online class about the emotional make-up of law enforcement officers. Since several of the heroes in my series are police officers, I signed up for this class. The instructor's first lecture gave me some great insights in why LEOs act like they do, and I tightened the beginning scene of the book I'm currently editing. Yes, the class is taking time I could be writing. However, I think it's worthwhile in helping me craft better stories.

How about you? Do you have familiar patterns to avoid writing? Are those choices you consciously make that fit your priorities or are they a symptom of something in your writing that needs to change?


Paty Jager said...

It's called getting off track too easily! LOL Well in my case. I tend to use visiting people's blogs and sending e-mails as a means to "avoid" writing then it's 2:30 and I've only written 500 words! So I jump to my word document, start the music and don't come up until I've written a sizable chunk.

This summer with all my company it has thrown my discipline out the window and I'm struggling to get it back.

They are leaving October 9th, until February. I'm hoping int hat stretch of time I can get back on a writing schedule and when they return keep them locked out of my writing space.

But like you, family comes first.

Sarah Raplee said...

I think you hit on the things that set me back, too, Genene.This summer it's been family visiting and like Paty, I'm struggling to get back on track.

Great post!

Genene Valleau said...

Paty and Sarah, thank you both for stopping by. I struggled with this post so much I went back this morning and added a couple more sentences about not judging the choices and priorities in the lives of others. That was not my intent at all with this post!

I don't have the family or financial obligations many writers have, so when I look at my calendar and find my writing time and productivity shrinking, I start looking for the reason(s) why. So part of my rambling blog post was my own search for those reasons.

My next step is to take a close look at what comes up and make a conscious choice of what's truly a priority and what can wait until my writing is done, or what I don't need to do at all. In other words, to move from an automatic, "Yes, I can do that," to a "No, thank you." I've been working on this lesson so long, I should have learned it by now!

But it's definitely time to BICHOK--well, tomorrow anyway. Today is pretty full of other choices. :)