My Fallow Periods

I’m back!

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Hello strangers, remember me? I’m the person that’s supposed to keep this blog updated, even though I haven’t posted in MONTHS. I apologize for my LONG absence, but to be fair you can still find me pretty regularly over at Writer’s Block Party! And I have been much better at keeping up my new(ish) Authortube/Booktube vlog over at YouTube.

STILL, this blog was my first love and I’ve been horrible at keeping it updated. Partly because I did want to try out those other formats of connecting with everyone (vlogging is fun but time consuming, y’all!)

Also, because my writing has…not been going well. So, I thought I might talk about fallow periods and the search for motivation and inspiration when you’re a writer or a creator.

According to Cambridge dictionary “fallow” means: Fallow land is not planted with crops, in order to improve the quality of the soil A fallow period of time is one in which very little happens.

But Mirriam-Webster has a girl’s back because this is the first thing that pops up in their definition:

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Way to both support and subtweet me Mirriam-Webster!

ANYWAY! You get the gist. It’s a period of time where a writer is not writing. There should be a sub-definition that says “a period of time where a writer questions all their life choices and regrets everything.”

The idea of a fallow period for writers is not new. However, if you look at the origin of the word it’s a time when fields don’t produce crops, but it’s ALSO a time when the fields are regenerating nutrients to be able to grow crops again! This definitely changed my view on the time periods when I couldn’t write and how I would treat them. This idea was first presented to me when a CP sent me this post.

So, instead of just seeing periods of time where I’m not creating as a negative, I see it as a chance to rejuvinate my creative well and to refresh my mind. I try to read all the books I couldn’t concentrate on when I was actively writing or revising. I use it to watch all the shows I’d been missing out on. And I pursue other creative endeavors because I know that when I’m actively writing I can’t do many other creative things at the same time. So, right now that’s being more active on my Instagram

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And on my youtube channel!

Still, the idea of most of the things I’m doing is to work toward being able to write again. So I try to find inspiration and motivation in everything I do. I keep journals and lists of ideas as they come to me. And I try to let myself write if I want to, but I don’t set any deadlines and let it just flow naturally. This way, I find that most of the things I end up writing during my fallow periods is very personal and it helps to bring my stories closer to my heart.

What do you guys do during your fallow periods? How do you refill your creative wells?

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Finding Hope & Inspiration through Community

Sometimes, when you’re writing you lose sight of things. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget what you’re writing for. I know that I write for myself, for my story, for my heart. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I write so others can read my stories and find something to love too.

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This is when community helps me find my perspective. I love seeing people get excited about stories and books. It’s great to see people that I’ve always respected and cheered for getting book deals and debuting. This year alone, I have multiple friends and CP’s debuting and I am so excited I can barely contain it at times. I think it’s alright to find your happiness where you can. And taking some time away from your own work to be happy for others is not only nice, but I think it’s key to keeping your perspective on the publishing world. If we can’t find like-minded people and form these connections, writing and publishing will feel like a very lonely place. Especially since the writing itself is a solitary activity.

I live for the moments that my CPs share pieces of their work, or an aesthetic collage, or an initial outline of a new idea. These are the times when I can sit back and be in awe of the people I’m lucky  enough to call friends. And I can be inspired by the talent around me. I’ve heard a lot of advice that says when you form a critique group you should find people who are more talented than you, and I’m pretty smug about the fact that I’ve accomplished that.

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My Critique Group is as cool as f(x). Well, I think so at least…

It helps to give us moments of hope when we feel like all we’ve been doing is drafting and revising, drafting and revising. It’s wonderful to see a story that we used to read as CPs go from draft to final MS to sold to book. The thrill of that journey is enough to inspire us to keep going with our own work so one day we can see a book cover made from scratch for the stories we’ve created.

I also think it’s important to still be a fan. Everyone I talk to about their writing journey usually says something along the lines of “I’ve always loved stories and reading.” And I think that’s so key! Being a fan means that we can appreciate the craft and creativity that goes into the field we’ve chosen. We can still be in awe of the beauty and talent that goes into crafting a story. We can have hero authors that (if we’re lucky) we might meet one day (and maybe cry on. NO YOU CRIED ON LAINI TAYLOR).

And, I also believe that writing is not ONLY about the writing. It’s about living a life worth inspiring a story. It’s about reading other stories to get motivation and inspiration. And it’s about knowing what books are out there right now being devoured and loved by the very audiences we’re writing for.

I have this analogy I make about my creativity where I call it a bank. I have a certain amount of words saved up that I’ve collected as I read or watch other stories. And when I write too long without reading I spend all of my words. There are legit moments where I feel so burned out that I cannot form coherent sentences anymore and it feels like I’ve used up all the words in my word bank and I need to fill it again. I hate when these moments happen, but at least I know that I can just go to my TBR and I can be inspired from the very first sentence I read.

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I find joy in almost every part of publishing (reading, writing, revising, meeting other writers). Seeing a CP or friend find success helps because it shows us that good stories can find a home and that talent is appreciated. Taking a moment to bask in the glory of your talented friends can warm some of the cold nights spent revising your MS for the umpteenth time. And it also helps to live vicariously through them as their stories find their audiences. I believe these communities are key to creating a sustainability in this industry so we don’t burn out or lose sight of why we’re doing this all in the first place.

If you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?

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Usually at this time of the year, I’d do a year-end blog post about my favorite things that I’ve read and watched and listened to. I might still do one of those, but I can’t ignore that this year wasn’t business as usual for me.

As 2016 draws to a close, it feels like you can’t go anywhere or read anything without politics coming up these days. At first, I was worried that this would be off-putting for many, then I realized that ignoring the problems in our world might be what brought us here. So, I’m facing it. I’m not going to talk about politics with every blog post, but I won’t shy away from it either.

It’s like the line from Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”*

After looking into the quote, I think it is meant to ask what you’ll die for, but I always thought it had a bit of another meaning (probably because of the quote it’s based on*). If you don’t stand for anything or have any convictions, will you just be a follower listening to the loudest voice at the time? Will you fall for anything? I don’t want to just follow the crowd to the “safest” place I can find. I want to create safe spaces. I want the whole world to be safe for everyone.

Many people are happy 2016 is coming to a close, but I see 2017 as an even bigger battle. I think it’s a worthwhile battle and perhaps 2016 prepared us and pointed us in the right direction. However, now we need to follow through and fight for what we stand for.

And that brings me to another Hamilton quote, “Let’s take a stand with the stamina God has granted us.”

While I’m healthy and able, I want to take a stand for what I believe in.

I believe that my identity is not something to be hidden but something to be proud of now more than ever. I believe that there are more good people in this world than bad. I believe that fear has won for now, but it won’t win forever. I believe that hope is stronger than the fear that has driven us here. I believe in #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ownvoices. I believe that my story matters even if only to a few. I believe in equality and I believe that in order to build a foundation for equality  we must first look for equity.

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* This line was inspired by the quote, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” It’s often been attributed to Alexander Hamilton, though I’ve found no concrete proof of its origin.

The "Right" Kind of Hope

When I wrote about getting my agent and writing my current MS, I spoke a lot about hope.
Almost immediately after, I came across a wonderful post by Kristin Nelson, “What’s Your Magic Number,” about how many books most published authors write before they’re agented or published.
The reason these two things synced up in my mind was because they’re both about hope. But what I’m going to call “The ‘Right’ Kind of Hope.”
In writing and publishing there’s a lot of wishing, a lot of dreaming, and a lot of hoping. However, there is a big difference between hoping for things to just fall into your lap and knowing that hope needs to be mixed with a good amount of hard work and determination.
The wrong kind of hope can make you think that if you have an idea and get it down on paper, then you’re golden. The wrong kind of hope can make you think all of those “I wrote a book in a day and got a six-fig publishing deal” stories are the norm and that’s going to be you. The wrong kind of hope has you finishing your MS and then wondering how much you’ll get for the inevitable movie deal in such a way that distracts from much needed revision and honing.
This kind of hope can be debilitating. Because when you hope for something so grand and possibly misguided (such as writing a full book during NaNoWriMo, then querying in December, and getting a publishing deal in January) then any possible rejection will hurt that much more. It could potentially push you into a dark place that will be hard to climb back out of (and I say this because I experienced this. I wrote an MS for all the wrong reasons and thought I had it in the bag. And I failed miserably!).
As readers, we like to hear about how our favorite authors came up with their idea because they had a crazy dream, or saw a man save a girl from falling down the stairs in the subway, or read about a ghost ships in the harbors of Japan (this is an actual story I’ve read). But those stories gloss over the years it takes to go from idea to actual publishing. And it also never tells about the rejections that happened in between.

As writers, we need to know that “overnight success” stories are not the norm, they’re just the magical outliers that we love to talk about because they’re so interesting and induce a WOW reaction in us.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have hope. I believe in it so deeply that it brought me out of times where I felt like my writing and my life were going nowhere. I believe that it is important in any life, not just a creative one. It was actually very hard for me to even think of the title for this post because I don’t think I always know what the “right” kind of hope is (and isn’t it a bit presumptuous to believe I can say what’s right and wrong?). I was going to call it the “good” kind of hope and my critique partner said,”Isn’t all hope good?” I couldn’t necessarily say “No” to that because I believe that hope is a good thing.

I’ve read countless posts about how the thing that got most people published is an unwillingness to give up. THAT’s the kind of hope writers need. Because the thing that drives you forward even as you get dozens of rejections is the hope that someone will love your work.
ALMOST EVERY agent that requested material this time around rejected me when I queried them with my previous MS. It took me years to get an MS that was query-able and then even more time to get it in shape for sending it out to agents.

So, what I’m saying is that everyone should have hope, but have the right kind of hope.

The hope that tells you that the work you’re doing is good.

The hope that says that your late nights or early mornings putting in writing hours to hone your craft are worth it.

The hope that says that if you can keep working and dreaming, then you’ll find the perfect person to champion your work.

I hope for that for everyone.
Now here’s a GIF of J-Hope from BTS: