When It’s Hard to Stay Positive

I am, in general, a positive person. In situations where I don’t know what could happen, I try my best to think that the good outcome will happen. This is especially helpful in writing. Writing is a deeply personal endeavor that many of us want to share and put out in the world. I think that writers have to maintain some positivity to do that, because otherwise, it’s an endeavor that feels less personal and more lonely.

But I also think it can be hard to look at thoughts from other writers and see nothing but blinding positivity. Oh, keep going! It’s all for you! Don’t worry what people think. You do you! It’s all a step forward! Granted, that line of thinking is much more helpful than the other end of the spectrum, the slew of negativity that makes you wonder why anyone writes in the first place. This is one of the reasons I try to stay positive online. I want to add a hopeful voice, to encourage others and myself to keep doing what we love.

But to all things there is balance. I know on the days I’m feeling down — not angry, not petulant, but down and discouraged — that reading nothing but positivity can almost make me feel worse. It makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong, that I must be a failure because I’m not harnessing the power of positive thinking. I forget that feeling blue is not only okay, it’s part of the process — and it’s also part of being human. It’s easy to forget that, though, when I’m trying to cheer myself up; and even harder to remember in the face of relentless positivity — especially from myself.

So, for myself and for anyone reading: despite my general positive feelings towards writing, there are days when it is hard. There are days when I click “Submit” and feel like my work is going into a void where once someone reads it, they’ll reject it. There are days I check in on Submittable and see entries I sent several months ago still listed as “Received,” telling me they didn’t even open it; and I wonder why I even bothered. There are days I write and feel like every word is crap, that the stories only make sense to me and maybe should be kept to myself. There are times I look at the rejections in my binder and think they’ll be all I ever see. There are days that the sadness is so deep that it takes every ounce of energy to open my drafts and type one word, two words, one sentence. Sometimes I don’t write anything at all.

It’s normal to feel this way, and it’s okay. It’s okay to want to cry sometimes, or to sometimes worry that writing is a dream that will only be dreamt. Everyone does this, and as a writer, I appreciate seeing a writer at any stage, aspiring or successful, admit to the days that they feel that sadness, when they feel discouraged and limited. Because we also see that they keep going.

I won’t end this entry with a jolt of positivity, as I think a little melancholy is okay and even necessary. But I will say this: keep going, any way you can. Feeling sad is normal, and when I feel that way and still try to do what I love, it helps me along through the fog.

My Favorite Books of 2017

It’s been a year. Some parts were good, others not so good. But the year has come and gone, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.

I am an avid reader, but noticed the voraciousness ebbed a little as I worked on Please Give, and readied both that and The Crow’s Gift for publication. Still, I read; and close to 30 books this year. I liked most of what I read, and wanted to highlight my favorites that I read this year (even if they weren’t written this year). Here are my favorite books of 2017, in alphabetical order.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman — I had never heard of this book until I saw the preview for the movie earlier this summer. Once I realized the movie was an adaptation, I got a copy from the library and sped through it in less than a week. It tells the story of Elio, a young man who falls in lust (and perhaps love) with his father’s research assistant over the course of the summer. The book is told from Elio’s perspective, and his scattered thinking — scattered by the sudden onslaught of lust and love at once — is perfectly captured in Aciman’s prose. I recommend both the book and the film.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — Roxane Gay released two books this year, Difficult Women and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. I loved Hunger, but was struck by Gay’s beautiful short stories in Difficult Women. Months later, I still hear passages and see scenes in my head. My favorite stories were “Water, All Its Weight” and “La Negra Blanca.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Thomas’ story of Starr, a teenage girl who witnesses her friend being killed by a cop, is a haunting, timely story. It does a deft job of exploring both the personal toll on Starr and the far-reaching ramifications on her family, her friends, her school, and her neighborhood. I highly recommend it.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977 – 2002) by David Sedaris — this is as-advertised: a collection of Sedaris’ diary entries from 1977 up until 2002. Other than the introduction, they’re presented as-is. I really liked this, as the reader is able to fill in context of current events of the time, where Sedaris was in his career, and other items not necessarily told in each entry. I also read this book during a stressful time in my personal life, and found the picaresque mundane of daily diary entries very comforting to read. Make no mistake, though — Sedaris’ wit and talent as a writer are still present in each entry.

Honorable mention: “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian — like seemingly most everyone in the second week of December, I read and enjoyed “Cat Person.” It was a good story — it didn’t bowl me over or beg for a reread, but it was a good story with some great passages. I give it an honorable mention because I was so struck by how it took off online, especially on Twitter. It speaks to Roupenian’s talent that so many people thought it was an essay or a true, personal story. I recommend giving it a read (the full story is available in the linked title) if you haven’t read it already.

What were some of your favorite books of 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year, everyone.

Let’s Get Social: Instagram

I am on a select few social media sites. Twitter and Goodreads take up a good chunk of my time, Twitter moreso than Goodreads. However, I’ve recently given in to another platform and joined Instagram.

Given its visual focus, my posts there are less about my writing; but I invite you all to follow me there all the same. Writing-wise, I’ll be sharing book covers, illustrations, and who knows, maybe seemingly random pictures that inspire me. I’ll definitely share pictures of the outdoors, food, beer, and my view for the day at Capitals games.

You can find and follow my Instagram profile here — and if you have any recommendations for accounts I should follow, writing or otherwise, please let me know.

Also, a reminder that my first novel, Please Give, is available now on Kindle and Nook. Thank you for reading!

Holiday Gift Idea: The Gift of Editing

Give the Gift if Editing from Open Boat Editing

When we think of what to get for writers in our life, we often think of things like books, a typewriter (if they’re old-fashioned), or maybe enrollment in classes or seminars. Another idea, though — especially for self-published writers — is to give them the gift of editing.

I will extol the merits of getting an editor — not just a beta reader or a proofreader, but a full-fledged copy-editor — until the end of time. A proper edit has done so much to bring my stories together into completion. All of my published and yet-to-be published work has been edited, and it’s been edited by the very talented Evelyn Duffy.

For the holiday season, or any special occasion, Evelyn is selling gift certificates for editing work. The certificates offer hourly increments of editing time — so, while not enough for a book-length manuscript, the gift will buy time to review the beginning of a short story, CVs, websites, and more. I highly recommend this as a gift for any writer you know, but especially one looking to get started on writing fiction more frequently and with plans to publish. It’s also a great way for writers who are nervous, unsure, or otherwise hesitant to reach out to a copy editor to not only see how not scary a round of edits is, but to see how great it is for one’s final piece.

More information from Open Boat Editing:

Give a practical gift this holiday season — give the gift of editing! Open Boat Editing gift certificates are useful for getting a loved one started on publishing that short story they’re always working on, giving a friend’s business website a thorough review, or lending a helping hand with a family member’s resume and cover letter.

Evelyn Duffy of Open Boat Editing and The Proofread Bride will apply her editing and critiquing skills to any small project in one-hour increments at a discounted rate.

Editing gift certificates are an especially thoughtful gift for the newly engaged or those writing their applications to grad school. Contact Evelyn to personalize your gift certificate today.

You can learn more, and purchase personalized gift certificates, at Open Boat Editing.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for an interview between Evelyn and myself. We talk writing, editing, publishing, and watching sitcoms; amongst other things.

Finally, a quick reminder that I will be publishing my debut novel, Please Give, next Tuesday, Dec. 19, on Kindle and Nook.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve always enjoyed this holiday. It’s the calmest of the Big Three this time of year, and I appreciate time being taken to express gratitude, be it with relatives or with friends adopted as family — or both.

I wish I had a Thanksgiving poem, or a story, or something to share beyond my holiday greetings. However, November has been a long month in my personal life. Things are getting better, and I for one am thankful for good medical care, loving family members, caring friends, and the encouragement received from all of those things.

Writing has been a small comfort during this time — usually fluff pieces, or writing a few paragraphs at a time of a bigger piece; but all comforts all the same. Even writing this entry has brought a bit of routine peace to a crazy few weeks. I hope that Thanksgiving dinner will do the same. I know the people I’ll share it with will.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone; and have a great week.

A Halloween Poem

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I favor the macabre most days out of the year, but Halloween is when we can go all out (and when it’s acceptable for me to wear my skeleton jewelry to the office). Last year, I wrote a very short poem to commemorate my favorite holiday. I hope you all have a wonderful day, however you celebrate it.

**

A Halloween Poem

At last, it’s here!
The time of year
When all we fear
Is held so dear.

10.31.16

Psst — don’t forget that The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales is on sale for $1 — but only until midnight tonight!

Writing in Seasons

Fall is my second-favorite season (spring wins because it’s warmer). One of the things I like about it is the sense of calm that comes after summer. Summer is typically busy — a good kind of busy, as it’s filled with trips and barbecues and movies and hours of light — but as evidenced by all those and’s, it’s still busy. As the weather cools, it’s easier to pause for a moment and sit in a chair with a cup of tea.

It’s also easier to pause and write. I write all year, but during the summer and spring, I find it more difficult to write anything long. I finished the first draft of Please Give in April, and sent it for edits in June. I thought I’d spend the time it was with my editor working on my next novel.

I thought wrong. It was a prolific stage, as I finished five short stories and started another, longer one between April and September. But it was prolific in a somewhat manic way, as I wrote in short story bursts as opposed to one long, lingering novel (though there were times when pounding out pages of Please Give felt like anything but calm and lingering).

Fall is back, and so is the book. I’ve been revising it for the past few weeks, and of course, I got ideas for my next novel once my current one was back in my inbox. And, I not only got an idea for the next one, but an idea that would turn the unfinished, longer short story into a proper novella — or maybe even a novel, once it’s done. Two novels to work on, and I’m still revising the first one. Thanks, brain, for having such a great schedule.

In all seriousness, I am starting to wonder if fall and winter have become my novel-writing seasons, while spring and summer are the seasons for short stories. Fall and winter do lend themselves beautifully to a book. It gets darker earlier, which puts me inside with my laptop. There are a flurry of activities with the holidays, but it still feels slower than the onslaught of Things To Do that comes with the excitement of the weather warming up and my winter hibernation coming to a close.

All year, there is a lot — and all year, there is a lot to write. It seems for me at least, the time of year dictates how much I’ll write until the story feels complete.