Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecure Writers - January 2012 Edition


The internet has Alex J Cavanaugh to thank for Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s a monthly opportunity to vent your fears, insecurities, and whatever else writers get weird about, and get to know others that feel the same way.

For the first couple of weeks of the year I’m going to have to try real hard to not start every post with some sort of ‘this is the first time this year that blah blah blah…’ or ‘this is the best (or worst) thing that happened this year.’ It can be a hackneyed way of doing things, but at least for me, it’s heartfelt. One of the few holidays that really impact me on an emotional level is New Year’s.

Every year I find some time to reflect, see what I’ve done, what I’ve not done, dream of what may come, and predict what seems likely given my past performance. It’s this weird time of despair and optimism. Where I wonder if this is the year I quit dreaming and grow up, or if this is the year I actually begin to live the dream.

2011 felt like a pretty productive year for me, until I stopped to see what I actually accomplished. Which was close to nothing. I managed to submit a novel for publication, see it rejected, submit it again to someone else, and not hear back. I wrote a novelette, and novella, and a short story… I have half a draft for a novel, and another short story that I can’t really call done because it’s too horridly awful.

That doesn’t seem like very much. All that combined puts my word count for the year at close to 100k. That feels about typical for me. But that is nowhere near the productivity I would like to have. By my math, that averages out to around 250 words a day.  Not so much, that’s about a single page’s worth of text.

That sort of failure to produce is exactly why I at least try to make resolutions around writing, around goals. I mentioned yesterday some of the writing things I want to get done this year, and I need them, because without setting goals, I will achieve nothing. I’ll end up here in 2013 lamenting that I didn’t do what I hoped to.

And that’s my worry now. I did spend close to a decade of my life talking about writing, and researching for a novel I never wrote. My big moment of realization came when I, per chance, had a professional, published author, a guy nominated for a Pulitzer, offer to read over some of my stuff and give me some helpful tips.

I jumped at the chance to let him read some of my stuff. I had nothing. Nothing! I recall running home and writing a three page story about a college professor fretting about the world ending, then rushing back to his office the next day and handing him my crappy story. The poor guy very politely went over some storytelling basics with me, and gave me a book on the craft of writing that I still savor to this day.

And if I’m not diligent, I’ll spend the next 20 years of my life turning out stuff at a snail’s pace. Not because I can’t do more, in which case it wouldn’t bother me as much, but because I didn’t make good use of my time. And that, well, that bothers me.

33 comments:

Rachel said...

I understand your feeling that time is getting away from you, or that you want to accomplish more in a certain time frame. I feel like that a lot!
But your accomplishments from 2011 are fantastic! You wrote a novel that's submission-worthy; that's AWESOME!
(I'm stuck in the 80's; I apologize, but only a little.) *smiling*

Deborah Walker said...

I managed 200K and I work at this writing thing full time.

But I was kinda happy with my output. Because I felt it was the best I could do. Don't be so hard on yourself, Rusty. (I know that's some what the point of the Insecure Writing post, and it's entertaining).

Or maybe, I'm not hard enough on myself. Oh no!I hadn't thought about that.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

You should go see if you can reconnect with that guy. Maybe get a blurb or something for your novel. Because the publishing industry does seem like a good ol' boy (or girl) network to a large extent.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

But you have accomplished a lot! Beyond your novelette and other efforts. You helped this Ninja fine-tune a book that's going to come to life next month. As the best damn critique partner one could ever have, you are amazing and I am in debt to your talents.
Your glory is coming, Rusty.

Tonja said...

I'm the same way - I need goals to be productive but then feel terrible if I'm not productive enough. If you write every day with a day or two a week off, the words will add up very quickly. Maybe just getting in the habit of writing at the same time every day will make you feel diligent and productive. Or maybe that's what I need to do....

Cherie Reich said...

I always plan to do more than I do or could do. This year I'm trying for less procrastination and more results.

You've managed to do quite a bit, though. You got your work out there, and that's something. After all, 100k is so much better than 0.

Cindy said...

I think it's all about finding the time. It's not easy when you work and with all our other responsibilities. As Alex said, more success is coming for you. :)

Brinda said...

Hi Rusty. 100K sounds pretty good to me, but that's also about what I did in 2011. I don't think you realize how many people I know who want to write and then don't even accomplish 10,000.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Um, it sounds like you have accomplished a great deal. I too was a time waster. I made myself write down what I had done for the day and found that too much of it was watching Scrubs episodes. Great post and good luck with future projects! New follower :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

I know how that goes - I also spent lots of time talking without writing, and now I write, but my yearly word count . . . whoa. I'm not sure I want to go there. I know it's somewhere between 100k and 125k, just from doing some quick math from projects I worked on last year. Still, not as much as I had hoped and planned. Trying to make better goals for this year.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Sometimes it's better to write 250 good words than 1000 words that need to be scrapped. Sometimes you also need to give yourself a break too. I push myself to write and read a lot, but I don't give myself enough time to breathe, observe life, and let my subconscious work. Maybe between the two of us we could find some balance. ;)

Sherri said...

Good post, thanks for sharing! I remember someone once saying that we will never become better writers if we never write or let the fear of failure keep us from writing. I try to keep that in mind when I'm feeling like what I write doesn't matter.

M.J. Fifield said...

Lisa Gardner once told me that as long as you're writing, you're winning. She did not offer to read anything but she did offer to have security to show me out if I didn't leave her alone. All right, that last part's a lie but I can tell she was thinking it.

Happy New Year and good luck with all your goals...

Nicole Zoltack said...

Finding the time to write is always a struggle but writing is the only way to become a better writer. Well, reading helps too.

I came over from Alex's blog and am your newest follower. Nice to "meet" you!

Kathleen Doyle said...

How about a different perspective?
I see it as, you wrote 100,000 words. Words that hadn't been written before. Maybe you didn't write as much as you wanted to, but you still wrote 100,000 words! That is a lot better than 0. I have faith that, if you really want to, you will find the time to write more... And even if it's only 100,001 words, it's still more=)

Mark Noce said...

I feel ya. 2011 seemed like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff, especially when you're spending lots of time on research. Hopefully things will turn around in 2012:)

Carrie said...

100,000 words - I think that is amazing! I can relate to that 'time getting away feeling'. I can be such a huge procrastinator!

Good luck with your 2012 goals!

Joanne said...

Like everyone else has said, 100,000 words is awesome. And to manage that while spending most of your time on research is double awesome! I know how you feel though - we strive ahead and think we're not achieving what we set out to do but in fact we are. Best Wishes for the New Year. :)

Patsy said...

I'm not good at making the best use of my time either - but I'm trying to improve.

Briane P said...

I read both this and your prior post. You're going to lose 30 pounds? I hope you do it, and you tell me how because I've been working on THAT particular goal for about 4 years now.

*he says while munching a corn dog*

It sounds like you had a reasonably productive year; are you counting blogging as part of that?

I can't wait until we get the continuation of "A Dead God's Wrath," so if one of your goals could be "Make Briane Pagel happy by getting the next book out," I'd appreciate it.

Jay Noel said...

Give yourself more credit. I think you've actually done more than you think. You got this, man.

Success is just around the corner for you. I can feel it.

LynnRush said...

Write on, my friend. You'll get there in your time. It's a crazy fun journey with ups and down. Write on!

Nancy said...

I was going to say the same thing Briane said in terms of blogging. I bet you have written way more than you think because you probably are also not including the things you have written and scrapped like writing exercises in critique group, that kind of thing. Although when it comes down to it, as many have said, it isn't the quantity and I do think you have quality.

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

Wow...a guy that was nominated for a Pulitzer gave you writing tips. Now that is some serious street cred.

julie fedderson said...

What??? You published this year, right? I mean, I'm not hallucinating the kick ass gunslinger in the background, right? 100K is huge and so many people talk the talk but never get the balls to put their babies into the world, but you did. I think 2011 is the platform for an even more amazing 2012.

Andrew Leon said...

It seems like Michael is all about stret scred, today. I wonder if he picks a theme for the day and goes around to all his blogs and makes comments about it?

Seriously, you shouldn't snarf at 100k words. Especially if you're -not- including your blogging. I did House (first edition (the one without your cover)) in 6 months at 125k, but I wasn't blogging then. I'm pretty sure I'm well over 100k words in blogs. Too bad that comes out of my regular writing time :(

Do you have art goals for the year? (that's only a tiny hint >grin<)

Rusty Webb said...

Holy cow! Thank you all, seriously what a huge amount of support from so many people. Time prevents me from thanking everyone individually, but there are just a few points I'd like to make here.

Briane - a sequel/prequel novella was completely written... just needs a little, er, cleaning up. And no, I don't count blogging. I have no idea what that would do to my word count.

Michael - street cred? Okay.

Andrew - I do have art goals, believe it or not... I hate to put my foot in my mouth here, but doing something for you is at the top of that list, well, think of it as 1A at least.

Damon said...

greeeat post amazing blog =) follow

Gina said...

I think your accomplishments for 2011 are more than note worthy and you should give yourself more credit. I understand what you feel, I'm a pretty tough judge on myself too, but being too harsh with yourself will only stop you from getting better. We all need to feel love and recognition, that includes how you see your own achievements. I can't stop myself from making a big thing about what I consider my shortcomings but I make a point on shedding at least the same amount of attention to what I feel are the highlights of my performance. I use the positive to feed my optimism and push forward, and the negative to learn and grow. It has worked for me and I hope it helps you too.

Man O' Clay said...

Did you count words you wrote on your blog? I'd be proud about 250 words per day. Any more than that and I'd be hard pressed to write with any quality to it. At least that's where I'm at in my life now...I'll be following to see how you do!

M Pax said...

I started setting weekly goals. Depends on what I'm doing. I've been bogged down with editing & revising lately, and with deadlines looming, I had to let the other things drop.

This week I start writing again and let the revisions take the backburner. So, I'll aim for 5,000 words a week until the draft is done. I set a deadline for when it has to be done.

Sometimes I find it daunting. Sometimes I don't use my time wisely. Sometimes I need a break.

Maybe you need to look at it differently. And I think it's important we all remember to give ourselves some down time and a break. Doing your best is good enough. Some progress is better than none and sometimes all we can manage.

You'll get there. You will. Believe it.

Andrew Leon said...

LOL
How about if I think of it as A1? I like the sound of that.

Anne K. Albert said...

Not making better use of time is a huge issue for me, too, but I've come to realize that flitting about from one task to the next is part of what makes me ME. Still, one of my 2012 resolutions is to write more.

Blogs and blog comments, however, don't count!