Thursday Words, Uncategorized

The Chain

Hello friends and welcome to another less-than-ideal edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

Friends, I don’t know if you have noticed, but I am not a perfect writer. Brave of me to reveal this publicly, I know, but I must speak my truth as I live it. Yes, its true, there are times when I find it difficult to sit down and write. Unfortunately for me, one of those situations is literally any time I am in my house.

Home Is Where The Black Hole of Motivation Is

I have a moderately stressful day job. I prefer not to get into the details, but it requires more emotional labor than the average profession. Though I love what I do, it is often a strain on my mental resources. My job is part of the reason why I absolutely have to have time every day to decompress and destress from work.

This has ultimately led to the deeply engrained mindset that my home is the place I go to not work. When I get home after a long day at my day job, plus extra curricular activities, oh and don’t forget dinner, dishes, laundry, and cleaning up that thing my dog just shredded, sitting down in my recliner, even if my laptop is right there next to me, my brain automatically switches into leisure mode. Its almost Pavlovian at this point.

However, as we all know, writing is also work. It requires mental energy, focus, and stamina — things that tend to be in short supply after, well, *gestures above* Not writing when I get home isn’t even necessarily about the myriad distractions at my disposal (although they certainly play a part), its about breaking out of the mental feedback loop of home = not work.

I’ve tried a couple of different ways to fix this. I’ve tried writing in the mornings before work (a Herculean effort for a lifelong night owl), I’ve tried carving out a space to treat as a home office (which was just a nook in my bedroom, and you can see how that would cause motivation issues), I’ve tried Pomodoros (“I’ll just work for twenty minute and then get a little five minute break for video games as a treat”).

You might be wondering to yourself, if I struggle so much to write at home how in the hell do I get any writing done at all?

Well. Truth be told, about 80% of the writing I do, blogs and drabbles included, I do at work.

Kerry, you might be saying to yourself, what??

Its true. I use the creases in my work day to write. I bring my notebook with me and leave it open on the desk next to me. When I have a few moments, I jot down a sentence or two. When I have dedicated breaks, I drabble or blog. My lunch is spent with the WordPress app open on my phone. During the commute, I’ll talk to text ideas to myself. Because I find it so difficult to write at home, I have found ways to sneak in creativity throughout my day.

This extends not just to work, however. My favorite place to write is my daughter’s gymnastics practice. I get one hour uninterrupted, with the only distraction the occasional outbreak of applause when a gymnast sticks a landing. I’ve also started working at my other daughter’s guitar lesson. I’ve even brought my notebook along to my son’s allergy shots, because we are required to wait half an hour afterward before we can leave.

Anywhere I have a few minutes, I use it. As long as I’m not at home.

If that seems not ideal to you, well, you’d be right, its not. Because, while my method works to an extent, if I find myself at home unexpectedly for any reason (like today, home with a sick kid), every last iota of production goes right in the toilet. I have to make a concerted effort to do even the bare minimum *coughlikethisblogcough* Weekends, what should be my peak writing days, are, you know, not. Bank holidays? Don’t get me started.

Druthers, Druthers Everywhere

It seems to me that in a perfect world, I would find a place I could go after my kids went to bed where I could put my earbuds in and just buckle down and write. There’s a library literally right across the street from where I live, but they close at eight. There’s a Starbucks down the street, but that closes even earlier. Deep in suburbia, it seems that there is just no good place for a writer who prefers to work in a public environment late at night.

However, part of me knows that even if such a place did exist within a reasonable distance from my home I wouldn’t actually utilize it. Because once I get home, once I sit down… its all over man.

So, what I actually need to do is just get over myself and do the work, even if there’s a basketball game on. Even if the latest Final Fantasy XIV patch just released. Even if Twitter has some amazing discourse I want to watch go down. I don’t need to push myself past my limits, of course, that’s a short road to potentially long term burnout. But, on days — like today — where I’m just sitting at home anyway, I need resist the urge to take a second nap, to open my Steam library, to make excuses not to write.

I don’t think it’ll be easy. Changing something so deeply engrained never is. But, earlier today I was standing at my sink doing some dishes and thinking about how much of a bummer it would be to let my 25-day blogging streak come to an end just because of a stupid habit of needing to preserve my home as a non-working space. So, as soon as I finished up, I walked to my computer, and I opened WordPress.

The desire to keep the chain going was enough to kick my ass into gear.

Now, if I can just start a chain for writing 3 pages a day, regardless of where I’m at, I might actually be a little less of a struggling writer.

That’s all from me this time. I’ll be home again tomorrow it looks like, so if I can keep the streak going despite the significant disruption to my routine, I’ll allow myself a little pride. See you then!

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations

Monday Motivations; A Bump In the Road

Hello friends and welcome to another wintery week of writing.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’ve been slacking the last few days writing wise. I’d like to think I have a good reason. I sometimes foster dogs through my local animal shelter, and on Thursday we took in a very sweet but skittish boy. Settling him in has been a task. He’s not sleeping through the night just yet, and we’ve been testing various sleeping arrangements the last three days. All of them have seen me spend at least part of the night on the couch. (Pet tax below.)

So, I’ve been, uh, a bit of a zombie to say the least (today included). Words have been thin on the ground since Thursday, and it’s given me a sort of creative atrophy. Like, I just can’t seem to get up for my WIP, despite finally hitting the end of the first act, something that has felt like it took for-freaking-ever.

But it’s Monday now, and time to get back to the routine. There are just eight short days left in January and I’m well short of my 500 words a day goal (to say nothing of the 1000 words a day I once aspired to). It’s still very achievable, but taking more time off to dither and snooze isn’t an option.

I’m so indescribably proud of myself for the habits I have begun to build this far this year. I’m not going to let a little fatigue related writers block set me back.

In an acronym, LFG!

Pet tax.

Kerry Share

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Thursday Words

Authors Behaving Badly; Writing While Depressed

CW: Depression and suicide

Hello friends and welcome to a deceptive edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

Well everyone, we are just four short days into 2023 and we already have our first case of Authors Behaving Badly.

Bring Out Your Dead

In case you were offline the last two days, or are far enough from the indie-romance writing sphere to not have heard, indie author Susan Meachen returned to her private Facebook group a few days ago to announce her return to writing after a two-year long hiatus.

The only problem is, that hiatus was precipitated by the news of her sudden and tragic passing.

Yes, according to an October 2020 Facebook post from Susan’s own account, made ostensibly by her daughter, Susan, a beloved figure in the indie romance world with a small but devoted group of fans, tragically took her own life. Susan’s daughter pointed the finger at bullying within the indie romance community, specifically other authors, as the cause of her mother’s suicide.

Susan’s daughter went on to explain that she would only be using the page to promote her mother’s books, as well as solicit assistance in completing her mother’s final novel – which had meant to be a wedding gift for her daughter.

Understandably, Susan’s friends and fans in the writing community were devastated to hear this news. Many rallied to donate funds toward funeral costs, and an anti-bullying anthology was dedicated to her memory.

So, when Susan suddenly reappeared to announce that she was not dead after all and was hoping to get back to writing, with little explanation for the last two years and lacking in any remorse whatsoever for those who mourned her death… Well. We all know what happens when shit and fans meet.

Many of the incriminating Facebook posts, including the original announcement of her supposed suicide, have since been deleted – but screenshots are forever.

It’s a wild story, but as I pored over the details, it didn’t pack the same sort of… schadenfreude-like punch that other writing/book community drama usually brings. There was no silver lining, there was no fun to be made. It was all just… very sad.

A Single-Use Solution

The writing/publishing (including indie) industry and ecosystem can be especially tough on writers with mental health struggles. The constant churn of rejection can definitely lay an aspiring writer low, even if they aren’t already down to begin with thanks to an accident of brain chemistry. In the indie publishing world in particular, the need to constantly promote your books, write new ones, and organize editing, cover design, and ads is a grind I certainly know I am not capable of. I can only imagine how it must feel to check Amazon for your sales numbers only to find nothing, leaving one to wonder if the hundreds of hours they put into their book was even worth it. It’s enough to beat even the most mentally healthy author down.

I’m not making excuses, of course. What Susan did was reprehensible. But I guess, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety pretty much my whole life, I can see how a person might reach a point where they want to blow everything up and walk away from it. In an especially low moment, yearning for something – anything – to give your life meaning again, I can actually kind of understand on a base level how pretending to have died so that you can watch the love pour in might make sense to a person.

Trouble is, it’s a single-use, temporary solution to an on-going problem. More importantly, it is not victim-free. Susan intimated in her Coming Back post that she is in a much better place mentally now (something we should all be happy to hear), however now that she is feeling well, she wants to return to her old life of writing and publishing. But, she can’t unbreak the emergency glass and she can’t undo the harm she caused to her friends and fans, no matter how hard she tries to point the blame at her daughter. She certainly could refund the money apparently donated to her fake-funeral expenses, but it seems like she’d prefer to pretend that she never received such charity. In fact, from her post it seems like she wants to pretend none of this ever happened, which, of course, she can’t. Even if she were to stalwartly ignore every attempt to guilt or shame her for the fake-suicide scheme, the internet won’t. I would be stunned if she ever sold another book. Her writing career, barring a new pen-name and a new brand to go with it, is likely over for good.

There are no winners in this tale. Not Susan, not the admin of her fan page who has been implicated in the plot, not the daughter who is being fingered by her mother for having initiated the whole thing, not the friends who genuinely cared for her – who posted to her fan page as recently as a few months ago that they missed her – and certainly not those who donated funds, provided free editing services, or spent their labor organizing that anti-bullying anthology dedicated to her.

So even while I cannot and will not defend Susan, or what she did, I do empathize with her. Because I’ve been in that place before, where something completely irrational and harmful seems like the only solution you’ve got. I hope she finds the strength to make the necessary amends. She’ll feel so much better for it.

Believe me, I know that too.

Oof this was a heavy one. Gentle reminder to all of my fellow depressives out there that you are loved and appreciated and seen, and that one woman’s poor behavior does not make your experience any less valid.

Until next time my friends (hopefully next week we’ll have something fun to talk about), may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations

Monday Motivations; Ace of Swords

Hello friends and welcome to another whirlwind week of writing.

Friends, I come to you today from the inside of a blender. Some mysterious fever-causing illness has once again crept into my household, on the very week my elder two children have a veritable smorgasbord of school/extra curricular activities, and, oh yeah, my son’s birthday is Friday.

Needless to say, staying on top of my writing obligations is going to take some heroic concentration. If writing was my full time job, I might would choose this week to relax my wordload (get it?), but alas I do not have that option. There are no sick days or time off requests. There are no coworkers I can lean on to help me out during this kind of pinch.

Yet to say my writing goals are impossible to meet this week would not be accurate. I can still blog, get my words done, and meet my other obligations. There is simply less room for error at the moment.

That means keeping my eyes on the road. Staying focused. Not letting additional distractions delay my progress any further.

Heroic concentration. That’s my motivation this week.

Kerry Share

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Thursday Words

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Hello friends and welcome to another deceptive edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer. 

I’m not feeling especially good today, mentally, so my apologies in advance for kind of a downer post. 

Continue reading “The Lies We Tell Ourselves”
Thursday Words

90 Days

Hello friends and welcome to another habitual edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer. 

Write every day. We’ve all heard that age old refrain, haven’t we? The idea that, if we want to be successful writers, we must practice our craft every single day. And, on its face, the suggestion seems sound. Musicians probably play their instrument every day, runners likely go for at least a jog every day, right? (Caveat: I am neither a musician nor a runner so I don’t actually know.) So, why shouldn’t we writers do something similar?

Well, first of all, lets address the fact that writing advice (much like any advice on any creative endeavor) is not one size fits all. For some writers, the chronically ill or disabled for example, the poor and working multiple jobs for another, getting one uninterrupted hour of writing a week might be cause for celebration. Some others might get their best creative work done in binges, and find it difficult to get into the write (hah, see what I did there) mindset when they only have an hour. To put it simply: write every day might work for you, but it’s hardly the only way one can become a successful writer.

That all being said, I’d really like to get into the habit myself.

*record scratch*

I am a chronic procrastinator. It’s a byproduct of my anxiety. I even procrastinate doing things I know I will enjoy (I’m still three episodes behind on Andor). In truth, I have found that in about 75% of the obligations, tasks, and activities I encounter or plan for over the course of my day I just never feel mentally prepared for. Of course, I often have to push through that feeling and when I do I realize that it wasn’t that big a deal to begin with, and yet the cycle continues with the next task. 

For years I have been trying to stymie the worst of these mental block with healthy habit forming to mixed success. The reasons why are best left to therapy, but one of the biggest hurdles has been maintaining the habit long enough for it to actually become ingrained. Often times, when I’m trying a new routine, something will come up a week or two in to interrupt it (appendicitis twice in two months for example), and then after things settle down I just give up. But, more often than not, a new routine that starts off strong just… fades until I’m back to the way things were before I started.

This week in casual conversation about changes we were implementing at my day job, my boss mentioned that it takes about ninety days to form a new habit.

Reader, I was floored. For some reason, I think maybe I read something online somewhere, I thought that habit forming only took three weeks. Now I’m being told it’s actually three months?! 

So much makes sense now about my failures to form new, healthy habits, and the ones that did manage to take were largely by happy accident. I haven’t been trying to keep the new routine up for nearly long enough. 

And now I’m thinking about all the things I would like to turn into habits, if I can make it the three months. Obviously writing every day, sure, but blogging also. Reading. Making an effort to connect with the community (via Twitter, Instagram, etc). Suddenly my growth, not just as a creator but as a person who doesn’t want to go home and sit in her recliner and doomscroll the news or veg in front of the TV like I have been doing, seems… actually possible?

Ninety days. If I started today on these habits, by roughly Valentine’s Day I might see everything about the way I spend my free(ish) time radically transformed. 

And if that’s not something to get excited about, then I don’t know what is. Here’s to trying.

Well, that’s all from me today! Until next time my friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few. 

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations

Monday Motivations; Ace of Cups

Hello friends and welcome to another wet and wintry week of writing.

You find me today in somewhat of a limbo. Due to ~reasons~ my most recent romance manuscript is on hold pending instructions from my editor. After struggling all month it feels like with illness both physical and mental, I finally emerged from the haze of emotional exhaustion and realized with perfect clarity that my due date would not be met.

I don’t like being that person. I pride myself on my work ethic, but even more than that my punctuality. I know that these sorts of extensions (and possible postponements) happen all the time in publishing, but after eight novella manuscripts turned in on time, I hoped I would manage to avoid it. Alas. Strep throat (twice) and a depressive episode collaborated to ensure that I swallowed that point of pride.

So, here I am, waiting on guidance for the next steps and trying to use this moment (however brief it might turn out to be) to, well, first relax, but also reflect on just how lucky I am to get to do this whole writing thing (semi) professionally.

I will admit I’ve gotten a bit complacent with my arrangement. More than eighteen months in, some of the shine was worn off. I’ve forgotten just how truly awesome (in both modern and original senses of the word) it is that stories I wrote are out there in the world for people to read and hopefully enjoy.

Yes, it is a lot of hard work. Yes, there are times when I come home after a long day at the day job and extra curriculars and the only thing I want to do is get in bed or veg in front of the TV instead of write. Yes, there are times when I get so frustrated because the words aren’t coming and I just wasted two precious hours staring at a blinking cursor.

But it is also an incredible privilege. One that I’ve likely been taking for granted of late.

So while I have a moment to do so, I choose to reflect upon this opportunity with gratitude. I am so fortunate that I get to call myself a (semi) professional writer. I am blessed that I get to advance my craft in such a practical way. I am lucky beyond all comprehension that I get to share my words with you all.

And that’s my motivation this week.

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations

Monday Motivations; Nine of Wands

Hello friends and welcome to another worn out week of writing.

Do ever get tired of being strong? Do ever wish people would stop admiring your resilience? Do you ever feel like the trials life, the universe, or your favored deity throw at you are not a compliment to your fortitude and toughness, but just another mountain to haul your weary bones over? Do you ever wonder if it will ever pay off? Even just slightly? Just long enough to recharge your batteries?

Friends, it’s one of those days.

Actually it’s been one of those years, but it all feels like it’s coming to a head.

Lately I feel like all I do is work. I have my full time day job, plus a gig as a parent of three, often times a manuscript on deadline, any personal writing I want to do, and now an additional time consuming endeavor. I feel like every minute of my day is spoken for, from six am when my alarm goes off til midnight when I finally close my laptop. And achingly little of that time I am free to use to unclench, and even less that pays off in the way I need it to: financially.

And I know that’s tacky to say about something that is supposedly my passion, but writing is hard, y’all. Writing is work. If I were a full time writer I would 100% say every day that I love my job. But writing would still be a job.

I’ve seen dividends from this second job of mine, to be sure. And I have heard more times than I can count that if I just stay the course, I’ll see all this hard work pay off in more ways than one. But the truth of the matter is, in a creative and notoriously difficult industry to break into like writing, having one’s efforts rewarded is more like luck of the draw than guarantee.

And I’m tired. I am tired of working sixty hours a week with minimal pay off. I am tired of calculating how many words I’ll have to write tomorrow because I have to take my kid to the doctor today. I am exhausted of feeling guilty when I spend a few hours playing a video game with my partner. I am beyond frustrated that I lay down to take a nap, or catch a few hours of sleep because I can’t wrack my brain any longer just to wake up feeling worse.

Mostly, I am tired of being assured that it’s all worth it by people who know better.

And yet.

And yet.

I’m going to carry on anyway. Because, otherwise, what’s the point?

Kerry Share

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Thursday Words

Deadline Withdrawal

Hello friends and welcome to another bass ackwards edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

Friends, I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts of late. Very tired, but also restless. Bored, but also completely lacking in energy. As a person who is regularly depressed, this feeling is not totally unknown to me, but I did not think – for once – an accident of brain chemistry was at fault for my present malaise. 

After a great deal of pondering, it occurred to me that the reason I was feeling so discombobulated was because I no longer have anything pressing to work on. Of course, I have my personal fantasy projects I could be writing, but, honestly… I haven’t really felt motivated to tackle any of those ideas, even my current WIP, Pieces of Eight. 

The question this led me to ask was: why is it easier to write romance, a genre I am admittedly less versed in and certainly less passionate about, than the fantasy ideas I’ve had brewing for a decade or more? Why is it that I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for pitches I came up with in about two weeks, but can’t string 90k together for an epic fantasy I’ve been building since 2015? 

Well, friends, I’ve cracked the case. 

It’s the deadline.

I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why my own personal dreams and desires aren’t enough to motivate me the way the expectations of others can, but for some reason I just work really, really, actually kind of phenomenally well under pressure, specifically time pressure, even more specifically external time pressure. 

Without that pressure, I honestly feel kind of adrift. When I’m not under a firm deadline, more than just leaving the option to procrastinate under my own discretion, I actually feel sort of useless. Lost. Worst of all, giving myself a deadline doesn’t seem to have the same effect as someone else giving me one. Its too easy to ignore, or make excuses for missing. 

Which then begs the question: how do I simulate external pressure that I cannot easily blow off? 

As much as I’d love that answer to come from within myself, uh, that hasn’t worked. So, my accountability partner on Twitter came up with a solution: get my kids involved. 

In short: promise them something fun and exciting, but only if I am able to meet a writing goal by a specific time. That way they can pester me when they see me loafing and it’ll actually feel motivating, because I certainly don’t want to let my babies down (even if I don’t really want to go the trampoline park).

Would I prefer that I not need to stoop to such tactics? Sure, of course. But something I have come to realize (even if I’m not sure I’ve accepted it) is that when you’re working, raising a family, keeping a house, maintaining a relationship, and writing, finding the time, energy, and reason to write can be thoroughly exhausting – even before you’ve had a chance to open your laptop (or, if you’re like me, notebook). Sometimes, we’ve gotta take whatever works and roll with it. 

And off I go.

Okay, so here’s the thing. I actually wrote all that last week, and that got overwhelmed with other stuff and didn’t end up posting it. Since then, I have actually learned that my most recent (last minute) pitch I submitted to my editor has been accepted and I’m once again under contract for another romance novella due next month. 

Up until yesterday when I got that email, I had been laboring under the aforementioned funk. Struggling to be productive and prioritize my time wisely. My anxiety dial was on eleven and even with the deal with my kids in place, I had trouble focusing on my work. 

Today, knowing I have five weeks to churn out another novella, I woke up energized and excited. If ever my deadline withdrawal was in doubt, this sequence of events proved it. 

I just work better under pressure. 

Hey its been a minute since I reminded yall that my first romance novella release, The Dutiful and the Disfavored, is available now on my Patreon for just $0.99. If you’re a fan of regency romance, know someone who is, or just want to support indie creators, please consider checking out my page. 

The Dutiful and the Disfavored

That’s all from me this time. I’ve got some new ideas brewing, though now that I’m under contract and under pain of child disappointment, they may have to wait until the new year. I can’t wait. Until next time friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few. 

Kerry Share

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Monday Motivations

Monday Motivations; Knight of Pentacles

Good morning friends and welcome to another woozy week of writing.

This week the name of the game is routine. Last week I really struggled to stay focused and on track, largely because my anxiety decided it was a good time to take me on a little trip round the bend.

Routine is important for me to feel grounded when my brain does funny shit like that.

Take this blog for instance. Every Monday (most Mondays anyway) I write the little motivations post. I just do. Even on days like today when I don’t feel like I have anything particularly insightful to say or any updates to share, it’s important to me to write this post anyway because otherwise my week is getting off to a shaky start. If I don’t do it then something has interrupted my flow, either externally or internally, and it takes me an annoyingly long time to get my head back in the right space.

I learned last week that the ritual of posting my daily tasks on Twitter for all to see (those who haven’t muted me yet anyway) is actually really important to my motivation level. It’s not just the dopamine hit of checking off my tasks. I mean I do that anyway in the physical planner I carry with me. It’s the public nature of it. Sure, there are few people who see these posts, and fewer still who care about them, but something about the knowledge that my successes (and failures) is on display for all to see is somehow more meaningful to my mess of synapses I call a brain.

Last week I changed my routine in the interest of being concise and private, and my productivity suffered for it. So, today I am giving myself the space to not care if it doesn’t make sense. What works for me works, and I should just take that for what it is.

So, that’s my motivation this week.

Kerry Share

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