Date Archives

2018

The Trade-Off: Whip vs. WIP

I used to work in construction, having spent two ill-fated seasons as both a stonemason’s labourer and a carpenter’s helper. Unfortunately for my thumbs, I am Bella Swan-level clumsy. I also had no upper body strength. Let’s just say, it didn’t go very well, and I now have a desk job.

However, the experience of being a woman in trades proved to be rich fodder for my new work-in-progress: a contemporary romance about a woman who accidentally finds herself becoming a carpenter’s apprentice.

They say, ‘Write what you know.’

I don’t know much about billionaires or fast cars, but I do know a few things about trades and craftsmanship (and for what I don’t know, I have fabulous beta readers who actually work in construction, so they should hopefully catch my mistakes). But let me stress that I was a terrible labourer, and this new romantic WIP is not autobiographical. My adventures in framing and fabrication were not very cute. Lots of com, very little rom, unless you count my innocent crush on the electrician with a man-bun.

One day, while working inside a giant, temperature-controlled warehouse when I was about twenty-one, my bricklayer was building a wall inside a freezer. If you’ve never mixed up mud for laying blocks (basically, the grey stuff in between bricks), and if you’re thinking of doing it, I’ll give you a free tip: don’t try to mix up mud in a freezer. With the jaunty enthusiasm of youth, I started up the mechanical whip that was stuck in a bucket of grey, sludgy mud. Unbeknownst to me, the mud had frozen in the last half-hour, and the whip—sort of a giant, mechanical egg beater—had no intention of moving. Now, torque being what it is, the energy had to go somewhere. The handle of the mechanical whip kicked out and spun around like a fairground attraction, nailing me directly in the gut.

As I heaved and coughed, doubled over in my steel-toed boots, my hard hat knocked askew by the force, I couldn’t help but question my life choices. To my great relief, there was no one around to see me in action as I nearly vomited up my lunch, my knees hitting the concrete as hard as my ego did, but it was shortly after The Whip Observation that I realized I wasn’t cut out to work as a stonemason.

I’m much happier writing about trades than working in one. More WIP, less whip. After all, safety first.

My new novel, PERFECT DISASTER, is coming soon to Wattpad!

ETA April 2019: Perfect Disaster has a new name! GIRL UNDER CONSTRUCTION is now complete on Wattpad.

How Being Short on Time Made Me a More Productive Writer

I’ve always been the sort of writer who waited for inspiration to strike. This meant I spent a lot of time waiting and very little time writing. I didn’t start writing in earnest until I was thirty, and then I wrote in stops and starts—but mostly stops. I spent long, maniacal days at my computer when I was on vacation, then months away from it when my laptop was merely a vehicle for Netflix binges, my home row gathering Cheeto dust as I wiled away my hours. That is, until I went to university.

“You won’t have time to write,” they said when I announced my grand plan to become a student at thirty-five.

Well, I just finished my first term, and I think they may have underestimated me. You see, going back to school has taught me more than marketing and graphic design and how to format a spreadsheet; it’s taught me the value of my time.

See, I’ve always treated time like an inexhaustible resource. Didn’t get to that scene today? No worries. Tomorrow is a new day! Don’t feel like working on that plotting spreadsheet? Relax! Maybe it will “feel right” later. Boy, are those lackadaisical days over. Now, I spend so much time studying or working on papers or designs, my time has divided itself into neat blocks without my really taking a knife to it consciously. And there, cleaved away from my student duties, are small chunks of time I would have, until now, simply thought of as down time between distractions. Until I ran out of time.

Don’t get me wrong; one needs to relax, too. But when you’re a writer, you have to grab on to those chunks of meaty time like you’re starving for them. Grab ‘em and make a meal of ‘em.

I learned to take each block of time and make it count. Instead of waiting, I approached these slots proactively. What was my goal? What was the purpose of the scene? If I was stymied, what had gone wrong yesterday and needed to be deleted? I stopped waiting. I wrote for that half-hour. Being short on time made me long on purpose. And I learned that works for me.

Now, I don’t recommend taking out thousands of dollars in student loans and throwing yourself into schooling as a writing technique, mind, but I do recommend rethinking the value of your time. Yes, relax. Yes, eat. Yes, go to work. But if you only have fifteen minutes to write, make a plan. Pick one goal and reach for it as single-mindedly as your chaotic life will allow.

Here are the goals that worked for me:

  • Word count: Watching that ticker go up is like a natural high. Who needs running? (Spoiler: me, probably.) Get your endorphins up! Hit that word count!
  • Purpose of the scene, Plot: Where are you now, and where do you want to be? What needs to happen in order to bridge that divide?
  • Purpose of the scene, Emotion: If you haven’t read Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction, take the time, if you possibly can. Thinking about the emotional purpose of the scene is my number one motivator.
  • Posting a new chapter to Wattpad: You may not be a Wattpadder, but if you are serializing your story, this goal will be familiar to you. Consistency is important to your readers. If knowing you have readers waiting gets your writing motor running, like it does for me, gear up to get posting.

Those are just a few writing goals that inspire me to compete with myself to make the most of what’s in front of me. When I began to hold my own time in higher esteem, my objectives became clearer. What are your goals in a time crunch?

Impostor Syndrome and Finding a Support Network

Knowing the eyes of other humans will be on my work gives me the howling fantods, but I still crave the feedback and connection of being part of a writing community. Seriously, writers toiling in isolation: don’t do it! (Or do. I mean, you do you. I’m just saying it’s a lonely endeavor. Besides, one generally improves with feedback.)

Anyway, why has widening my circle by sharing on a site such as Wattpad kept me up at night?

The answer: impostor syndrome. Fear of being “found out.” For a writer, it may manifest as crippling anxiety that they don’t really know how to write and that, any day now, they will be exposed. It’s a ceaseless waiting for the other shoe to drop, for someone to point and laugh . . . and laugh some more.

I’m not alone in this. My cursory Google search of “impostor syndrome writers” yielded nearly 200,000 results and some very good articles on the subject. (I recommend a good googling, because there’s great advice out there.)

So what do you do when you find that, for you, there’s an inverse association between success and self-esteem?

FIND A SUPPORT NETWORK

I asked this of my boyfriend, James, who is a published author, and his response was heartening. Pretty much every writer feels this way, he said. The solution? Surround yourself with people who are uplifting.

Being believed in goes a long way, let me tell you.

Lean on your family and friends, yes, but if you can, find other writers. If you can’t find them close to home, lean on an online forum. Join a writing site or app; Wattpad is just one. (I haven’t used the others, but they’re out there.) Check out your local library for a writing group, or, failing that, a book club.

Here’s a tip: be respectful and kind to your fellow writers in these places. Kindness goes a long way to building your support network!

FOCUS ON YOUR SELF-ESTEEM

If you have impostor syndrome, you may have some self-esteem issues to unpack. Seriously, if your fear of failure/success/being found out is arresting your ability to write, maybe it’s time to talk to someone about it. I do. We all received messages about our abilities when we were children, and we may have internalized some unhelpful things. Maybe it’s time to embrace the extraordinary, creative creatures we truly are and to let go of the BS.

The bottom line when dealing with impostor syndrome is to be proactive in finding ways to cope. Don’t languish at your desk, writing and deleting, writing and deleting, ad infinitum. Alone. Seek help. Your writing will thank you for it.