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Continuing to Write in Tough Times

I can’t go anywhere without someone either telling me or implying how difficult 2016 was. I see it on Twitter and I’ve been hearing it time and time again from my own clients. A lot of people are struggling to shake off a year that made them feel, well, a lot of things. Betrayed, frightened, upset and, I guess, generally overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is the best I can do since the list of feelings suddenly got too great, and yet not enough.

No matter how you feel about 2016, we are all required to move on. My clients are still expecting me to review and negotiate their contracts, to give them feedback on their proposals and to push their publishers for something more. I get it. I’m working on it. I’m getting things done.

The struggle to move on and “get things done” is so much greater for those in a creative field. Those who are required to tap into emotions and feelings in order to do the job, a job that doesn’t always have the menial or mindless tasks I can count on when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It’s the greatest challenge an author will face and you will all face it, whatever your feelings about 2016, life is guaranteed to throw you a curveball and you’ll be forced to fight through it.

Even though life (and the world) might feel like its falling apart, it is still going on. Publication dates are still scheduled, deadlines must still be met and an entire team is still counting on you–your editor, your agent, the sales force, the Barnes and Noble buyer and, of course, your readers. The great irony of being a writer in difficult times is that you are forced to put aside your feelings just to give your readers the ability to put aside theirs. Who doesn’t turn to a book when you need to hide from the world?

I wish I could end this with some great eye-opening advice on how to keep plodding through when you already feel too drained to even get to the computer. I don’t. I can tell you to keep writing. I can tell you to focus on other writing. I bet you already know that and I bet you’re already doing that.

I can tell you what I do and that’s look at the big picture. I’m lucky that I can always say “it could always be worse” and to me it’s not a platitude. It’s truth. There are so many in this world suffering so great. Sure I can imagine worse, I have an imagination too (and a good one), but why bother. Where is that going to get me? Instead I take time out to think of the great in my life. 2016 wasn’t all bad. I signed more than a few clients to incredible, career-altering deals. Books publishing in 2017 that I’m extremely excited for and proud of. We welcomed a new agent to BookEnds and my team continues to grow and thrive. More importantly, I see a group that’s coming together to support each other and help each other grow to truly become a force in publishing. I see a world where people are uniting to fight for the rights of others as well as themselves. I see that while some divide, many unite.

There is good in every bad and we have a choice. We can wallow in what we hate or we can fight for and relish what we love. To me, the most powerful act of rebellion is to continue on in a bigger, better and stronger way.

Being creative in tough times is hard, but it’s not impossible. In fact, I see some who have been able to not just push past the difficult times, but excel and use them to empower. Whatever gets you through will be personal and for some right now it might seem impossible. But it’s not. Nothing is.

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6 comments

  1. To be honest I recently was thinking of focusing on other stories, but in times that get rough for muslim people who am I to turn my back on my protagonist Faris Iskander? He is muslim because I made him being one and I was planning to sent him to US in one of the next novels. Now I seem to have to decide between reality and my plans for the next plot.
    Anyhow: Thank you for these words here. They are encouraging in some way I need right now.

  2. 2016 was the most difficult year I have had as an author, right down to my very first case of writers block, ever. I’ve never spent so many wasted hours staring at my laptop without a word to write. I finally realized that the book that was stopping me had to get written, but not as I’d originally visualized the story.

    Instead, I went with how I was feeling (Jessica knows how much I dislike dystopian stories–I need that happy ending or it just won’t work) and when I let myself go and wrote a much darker story than I usually do (there was one other–Wolf Tales 10, where I killed off a favorite character) it was almost as if the story gave me a place to channel the anger I was feeling. For whatever reason, it worked, and I was still able to pull out a happy ending, but the story itself and the threat it represented also pulled me out of my funk.

    The thing is, I love being able to lose myself in my fantasy world. In fact, I like it much better there most of the time, but writing to fit my current mood allowed me control of that world in a way that I can’t control the real world. It seems to have worked. My next project, oddly enough, is to start edits on Wolf Tales 10, that other dark story I wrote a few years ago, since I’ve got rights back and want to re-release it. Hopefully, by the time I’m through with editing I’ll also have gotten myself back into a better place in my real world. If not, the fantasy world is always there.

  3. Glass half full. It’s the only way to look at life. Look at the bright side (there’s always a silver lining, no matter how small, if you only look hard enough), do things that make you happy and the rest won’t seem so overwhelming. Writing, for all its moments of hair-tearing frustration, takes me to a happy place. The only thing that stops me writing is time (and I’m working on clearing some of that!).

  4. Kate, I love love love your thoughts! Thanks for sharing. I hate dystopian too, I think the world has way too much of it, and we need more happy ends, even from (or ESPECIALLY FROM) those great minds who think themselves much above the happy-end writer. It has almost become a matter of status to go dystopian, if you ask me as a reader. The bigger the name, the more dystopian the work (or latest work).
    I have been staring for hours at the computer screen too in 2016, but, honestly, it wasn t for the usual reasons: I couldn t put the words on the page as a rookie anymore, I was constantly aware of the agent and editor s eyes one day on those sentences. The writing goes slower, as a consequence, but I love re-reading later. It s so much better than the first drafts of the first four novels.

    1. Ana, fwiw, I tried for twenty years to get published in New York. I read books by each publisher I submitted to (back in the day of mailing a manuscript with return postage and never doing more than one editor at a time because they didn’t allow multiple submissions…and I was doing it without an agent) I studied up on the editors in my Writers Digest, and during that time got rejected by the best in the business. I finally reached a point where I was doing well with epublishers and figured NY was out of reach. I had sold to an epublisher in 1998 when no one knew what an ebook was (including me!) and by 2004 I was actually making a decent income.

      I also had an agent–I’d signed with Jessica Faust in 2001 and she’d submitted a couple of contemporary romances for me, but didn’t get any bites. I was writing erotic paranormal stories at that time and Jessica said NY was taking notice of the sales a lot of us were making with books that had, to this point, not been deemed acceptable by NY publishers. I gave her five short stories, the first in a serial I was writing for Changeling Press. They were not at all geared to NY and I really didn’t expect anything to come of them.

      So, you can imagine my surprise when I got “the call” from Jessica–on my cell phone while pulling into the parking lot at the local Safeway. Those five short stories became the first book in the Wolf Tales series released by Kensington Publishing, and that first book went into eleven print runs and continues to sell even now, eleven years later. The series went to twelve books and nine novellas, and then to a spin-off series called Spirit Wild that I now self-publish. Point being in my rather convoluted backstory–I finally sold to NY when I quit writing TO New York “standards.”

      Don’t write what you think they want to read–write the books YOU want to read. Write stories that aren’t like anyone else’s, because they’re the ones that will catch an editor’s eye. Besides, it’s a lot more fun and I bet your writing will be 100% stronger when you’re writing something you love without your internal editor constantly second guessing what your characters want you to say. Just give them their lead–and their voices–and you’ll get the book that works.

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