Of Cat Allergies And Mountains And How They Relate To My Writing Journey

Once upon a time, I got a cat.

Don’t hit the back button just yet – this has to do with writing, I swear.

A few years back, I was a single gal, living in my very own apartment, feeling all smart and independent and adult-like. And while I felt I wasn’t around enough to take care of a dog, I did miss having pets, and I thought I would get a cat to keep me company when I was sitting around watch House Hunters marathons. (Preferably House Hunters: International. I mean, come on.)

Lo and behold, a girl I work with posts about a cat she found who needs a home. Because I am both impatient and impulsive, I snatch that kitty right up.

“Don’t do it,” my mom tells me. “It’s not good for your asthma or allergies.”

“Don’t do it,” says my sister and my boyfriend. “You need to make sure you’re really ready for a pet first.”

Me:

Becks not pictured. This is a reenactment.
Becks not pictured. This is a reenactment.

Guess what.

I’m allergic to cats.

And they’re hard on my asthma.

And I wasn’t quite ready for the responsibility of a pet.

I had people try to tell me these things, but I wasn’t willing to listen. I couldn’t hear them. I wanted to hit the fast forward the button, and nothin’ but experience would teach me. After a week, I realized the situation wasn’t good for me OR the cat and placed him a loving home where he’s very happy.

Here’s the part where I bring it back to writing.

When I got back into the swing of things in fall of 2011, I had Plans. Epic Plans. I was going to rewrite my YA urban fantasy that had once been repped, snag a new agent with my polished-up words and get back on track to being published. The Man told me to take my time, to think through my revisions, to make sure there was water in the pool before I threw myself off the high dive.

I didn’t. I threw together the revisions as quickly as possible and started entering contests and querying. I threw together another set of revisions before I had even really let the first set breathe. I could hardly sit STILL long enough to wait on crit responses or query responses.

Part of this is because I’m still an impatient person, but, more than that, I felt this urgency in my chest. I felt like a clock was ticking.

It was very similar to a biological clock. Only instead of human babies, it was book babies.Β I had intended to be published YEARS and YEARS ago, and I hadn’t yet succeeded. I just needed to get it done, get it out there, because I was BEHIND. I was stuck while EVERYONE around me was hitting the goals I had set out to achieve: agents, publications, etcs. Every year that passed was just another year that I had failed to get ahead in the author-ing game, to get a book out there on the market (where it would, of course, dazzle all readers).

Write. TICK TOCK. Revise. TICK TOCK. Write. TICK TOCK. Revise. TICK – GODDAMNIT WHY ISN’T THIS FINISHED YET? I’M BEHIND!

I’ve been doing this for over a year now. Feeling behind. Feeling like for every step I take toward the Ultimate Publishing Dream, I take three steps back. My writing has suffered for it. That poor YA book has been ravaged by my urgency to try and get it into publishing shape.

Not “the best shape for it” or “the best book it can possibly be” – just ANY shape so long as I can throw it out there and hit that “published” checkmark.

I am lucky to have patient people around me – people like my husband who wait until I’m ready listen and remind me that there’s no clock. I’m not behind anything or anyone.Β There’s just me and the stories and words I love.

Recently, I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve let myself have the breathing space to play with and muck around in multiple story ideas as it suits me. And it’s been fun.

No, not the band. Though they're awesome, too.
No, not the band. Though they’re awesome, too.

Remember that? Writing=fun? I think it’s easy to forget sometimes – or, at least, it’s easy for me to forget. And I have to keep having these moments where I learn it all over again. Where I sit myself down, look at myself in the mirror and go, “Stop it.”

Stop flailing, Becks. Stop trying to scrabble up a mountain like if you just throw yourself around hard enough, you’ll magically wake up at the top of it. Stop even looking at that fucking mountain. That fucking mountain is in your imagination. Stop bruising your body and your hands trying to fight your way ahead. Ahead of who, exactly? Or what? Look around, Becks. It’s Fight Club, and you’re your own Tyler Durden. Knock that shit off.

The likelihood that this message – to be patient, to write for fun because there’s no clock – will stick is, honestly, not high. πŸ™‚ We all have our flaws that we try to overcome, and impatience is one of mine. But I’m putting this down on here so, if and when I find myself with bloody fingernails and a panicked heart, I can come back here. Reread this. And remember.

Breathe. Think about the cat. And stop looking at that fucking mountain.

17 thoughts on “Of Cat Allergies And Mountains And How They Relate To My Writing Journey

  1. I think that MOST writers fall into the same trap. After I wrote my first book (four books ago), I didn’t even wait for my crit partners to finish their review before I started querying. 66 rejections later…you get the picture. My advice (in addition to stop looking at the fucking mountain) is to stop reading Publishers Marketplace. We’re not in a competition with others. They haven’t taken something that should be ours.

    And I love this line: It’s Fight Club, and you’re your own Tyler Durden. HOW TRUE!

  2. Brilliant! And so true! I’m in a cafe today, trying to rethink my writing “plan” for the hundredth time, and I want more FUN and less ANXIETY when it comes to writing. πŸ™‚

  3. Totally. I did that vlog about the “ladder” of publication (cause for me, I saw a ladder, not a mountain.) and man, I can just GET OBSESSED with watching everyone else climb higher and higher and higher, an I forget that there isn’t an effing ladder. This isn’t a race, or a climb, or a pie eating contest. You know? It’s like, a bunch of chickens running around like crazy people in a coop. And then randomly, the stars align, and it’s Sir Clucks-o-lot’s turn to make it to the dinner table.

    (wait, I don’t think I planned out this analogy right cause in this one, the winner is dinner. But whatever.)

    The point is, if we could just all DECIDE we’ll never compare ourselves or our journey with anyone else ever again, we’d be so happy… but that’s hard if not impossible.

    Great post, becks.

  4. What a fantastic post, my friend. This is exactly true. “Breathe. Think about the cat. And stop looking at that fucking mountain.” You need to print this out and plaster it above your writing workspace. πŸ™‚

  5. This is exactly me. Except I’ve been doing it for about five years now. And every day, I try to remind myself that my journey isn’t anyone else’s, to be patient, to enjoy writing bc it’s supposed to be fun!! It’s good to have a reminder like this every now and then though (especially when it’s someone else saying it and I realize I’m not the only one going through this) πŸ™‚

  6. Boy, do I feel you with this: planning to be published “years and years” ago, feeling behind, feeling like a clock is ticking…

    But…I don’t know. It’s odd, but somehow in the last year, when I’ve been working more regularly on my novel, I’ve been LESS stressed about the whole “getting published” thing. Maybe it’s because since I’m not putting it off as much as I used to, I can see the progress I’m making.

    Or maybe it’s because I got hit with the clue bat sometime in the last year and came to the same realization you did: It’s not a race. There isn’t a clock. It’s not a zero-sum game (which I think is another post you did :-)).

    And writing is really, really fun. πŸ˜€

    (In other news, “Some Nights” is stuck in my head now. Thank you.)

  7. I had those feelings. I think we all do. That, oh my god I need to get this published stat thoughts. That maybe we’re falling “behind” the rest of the crowd. That it is some f-ed up race and everybody is driving porches and we have a skateboard. The thing is, it isn’t a race. It isn’t a mountain. It’s a road. It has curves and off ramps and ups and downs, but it’s a paved road and if we’re patient, we’ll get there. It might take a while, but the end is there if you follow the road. Your friends are your GPS.

    I totally ❀ you for this post, Becks and I will always be there to cheer you on. Oh and that skateboard? It isn't a skateboard. It's way cooler than that. πŸ˜€

  8. Here’s a secret: I’ve been published for something like mumble-cough years now. (OK, OK — almost 20 years.) But because most of my published work has been in the tabletop RPG category, rather than fiction, I *constantly* feel like I’m “behind.”

    Nearly 20 years. Working on properties like Doctor Who, Star Trek, D&D and my own original settings too — but because I don’t have any novels out yet, I feel like I’m failing to scrabble up the mountain… completely missing the fact that I’m *already standing on the goddamn thing.*

  9. A very timely post for myself as well. πŸ™‚ I think we all have those days, and months, and years, where we feel like we’re behind. I’ve been working on my current mss since August 2008, and sometimes I feel like I should just set it aside already. At the same time, though, I see its potential. Hubby constantly reminds me to take my time. To make it the best it can be before worrying about querying.

    And now staring my goal of querying this fall in the face, and facing some major revisions suggested by my CP, I still know he’s right. The publishing business will always be there. There will always be people wanting to read what I’m writing (what you’re writing). My tastes haven’t changed much since I started writing in 2003, so I know there will be a market for my books. It’s just going to take some time. And I’ve come to realize I’m fine with that. I’ve come to the conclusion that my goals should be as flexible as possible. I’ve needed these last 5 years to grow, to let my story grow.

  10. I believe you’re almost there. Actually, it could very close. Just taking one step at a time you will conquer that mountain before you know it. I know how you feel, I was there, I’m tons older than you, so it took some time. It just gets harder when you reach that peak, because that mountain is blocking the view of all the other mountains you’ll have to climb. But you’re in the best shape to conquer them all!

  11. I totally related to this post. Every time I see a writing contest going on I think “well, my manuscript isn’t totally done but I think the beginning is in awesome shape” and I have to fight myself to not enter because I want stuff to start happening NOW. It is very hard to be patient for me. Even writing my novel, I see the ending and how all the pretty threads of it will all come together and be beautiful but I hate the time it takes to thread them. I am an obsessive word-count checker and I’m always saying “I only wrote XXXX words so far??!!?!”

    But there is no going back and reclaiming any lost time, so I have to make do with where I am not and just always remember that when I write that perfect line, when I think up that totally real and lovable character, when I create the greatest analogy for what I’m trying to say – that is the part I love most. And it’s why I really do it.

  12. ❀ Sweetie? the frightening part is I've known multiple-books published authors to still sit there and go " But this person is doing *insert thing here*. I'm not yet! So FLAIL!!". What this keeps teaching me? There's NO right or wrong. There's Now. There's Later. There's Past. Acknowledge the past. Act on the present. Plan for the future. It's taken me 10 novels to get to the point where I feel like I have ANY handle on what I'm doing. Is This one maybe THE novel? Only time will tell, but I figure i can only do the best I can at the time, and my challenge is to keep getting better with every single novel. ❀

  13. great post! it’s really hard to take your time when you see so many people around you succeeding and reaching that goal before you. i used hate it when editors and agents at conferences would give you short windows to submit to them because i’d try to rush something out to them – never surprising when i’d later receive rejections. recently, i’ve been attending a lot more events where the editors and agents have been saying “take your time and submit when your work is ready.” it think that is the best message this industry can give to aspiring authors. submit when your work is as polished as it can be. we want your best.

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