On sharing tricks of the trade

I had the most interesting conversation with one of our Master’s students the other day. The man lives in California, and he’s getting a degree in creative writing online. When I told him I was also a writer, he was thrilled. So much so that he asked my name and bought a copy of my book while we were on the phone.

And yet he told me I had made his day.

All because I was willing to give him my contact information, to help him along the rocky road to publication. I told him that as an educator, it’s only right to share whatever knowledge I have, even if its imperfect. We all know in writing there are many roads one can take to publication, and its not a one size fits all situation.

Then he said something that really struck me. He told me that most of the authors he comes across zealously guard their writing, their publishing path, and anything else that might be useful to a possible competitor.

Is that what the writing world is really like?

In my experience, writers have supported one another, built each other up, helped when asked. I felt so terrible for this man, who was clearly without a writerly support system of any kind. It inspired me to collaborate with our Creative Writing department, and I’m in the process of creating a writer’s group for our online community. No one should feel like they have nowhere to turn when they’re trying to live their dream of publishing a novel.

What do you think? Are you one of those people who loves collaborating with other writers, or do you prefer to figure things out on your own? When you do ask for help, are people willing to share their stories?

My books may not be the most beautiful. Smaller publishing houses don’t have the budgets of the Big Five. Still, they are out there, and that in and of itself was a process, and an achievement. I would be loathe to keep the journey to myself, if for no other reason than to prepare other writers for what will most likely be a difficult and trying road. I’ve learned things that might come in handy to someone else, and I hope that it does.

Food for thought, n’est pas?


On working through #adaywithoutwomen

Let me tell you one thing about being a woman.

You are never enough.

Today, I had to go to work. I feel guilty that I can’t take the day off and do a full boycott to show my solidarity. As I sit here in my red shirt, telling myself that support is sufficient, I’m reminded that my whole life, all day, every day,  I am not enough.

I’m not pretty enough. My baby weight clung to me like glue, and it really doesn’t want to come off. I’m not strong enough to have the energy to work out as much as I need to, and I don’t have the will to say no to the cookies brought into work, so that makes me less than. A woman is judged on her appearance first and her mind second.

I’m not successful enough. Even though I have a Master’s degree and years of experience, I work in a predominantly female profession, which means it will take years for me to earn enough to support a family, have money in savings and be able to vacation every so often-if that day ever comes. Middle Class status was something I thought my Master’s degree would earn. It didn’t.

I’m not a good enough wife. When I get home I’m exhausted, and I have to take on my toddler while my husband gets a break. There are so many nights when we just snack on popcorn for dinner or eat pasta because its the easiest thing to reach after we’ve ensured that the baby ate at least three of her peas. I’m bombarded with videos of yummy, healthy things that look so easy to make…if I had the time, or the money. Since I don’t, you guessed it. Not enough.

I’m not a good enough mother. I don’t bench lift my toddler to sneak a workout in. I lose my patience easily, because I’m tired from working two jobs to provide a decent life for her. Every mother knows that look you get any time your child does anything remotely out of line. According to society we are, none of us, good mothers, and the world is quick to let us know why.

Today I couldn’t take the day off to show the world what we are, and why we matter. One thing I do have, though, are my words, and now I’m going to use them to empower, rather than to tear down.

Today, and every day, my dear woman, you are good enough. You wake up, you show up, you fight through the microaggressions that Twitter trolls think are meaningless, but you know better. You’ve been harassed, belittled, made to feel less than all your life, and you’re still here, fighting for a better future for little girls like my daughter.

If you still think we don’t need feminism, consider this: If Emma Watson were a man, no one would have noticed what she was wearing, much less comment on it and cause an uproar. If we have to justify what we’re wearing when we’re raped; if we have to get over it when we’re harassed on the street; if we get called an ugly bitch because we dared to stand up for ourselves; if our looks are always considered as part of our evaluation over our thoughts and ideas–we are not done fighting for equality yet.

People will tell us that we are stupid, emotional, bitches, witches, nasty women, you name it. There could be a dictionary written on derogatory terms for women, and it would be a thick volume. It is our job to stand up while they spit on us and cut us down and send us from the Senate floor. If we do this, much like the women who came long before us, our daughters will be forever grateful.

True change takes centuries. We may never see the fruits of our labor. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Don’t you see? In trying, we are already enough.

Today I do my part. It may seem small, but I am here. I am watching. I am fighting in my own way. If we all do what we can together, our efforts will slowly culminate into a better future for all people-and that, after all, is the entire point.

On writer burnout

There must be a balance somewhere between doing what you love and turning your passion into a job.

I used to say that you didn’t need to write every day and could still be a good writer. I still believe that. Now I’m wondering if writing every day is making me worse.

To be fair, writing is actually my job. I ghostwrite stories that are sculpted out for me in skeleton form, and its my job to weave straw into marketable gold. I do this, writing one novella a month, to provide for my family, as a second job. The only thing I have to offer are my words, and I sell them, giving away pieces of my soul for far less than it is worth.

Without that, the credit card doesn’t get paid.

I’ve been writing one book a month for almost a year. I’m grateful for that. I can really call myself a writer, because I get paid a measurable sum to put words to virtual paper. That’s always been the dream. Meanwhile I have no creative energy left to think about my own next piece, and I haven’t written for myself in ages. It feels like my brain doesn’t work anymore.

I wish I had a solution to writer burnout, writers. The truth is we can’t afford to take a break and vacation our brain back into place. We are the starving artists, piecing off our words to the highest bidder. And let me tell you, people don’t bid high for writers.

Get your writing done well, for cheap!

That’s how they advertise us. I check my bestseller status on Amazon, and I watch the numbers go down, no matter how many link clicks I got this month on my Facebook ad. Sometimes you just think, why am I writing into an empty void, when no one seems to hear my voice?

I guess you just can’t. I can’t not write. I mean, I’m here, aren’t I? Writing about how burned out I am on writing. I can’t even avoid writing when I’m complaining about it, and I know I have no right to. When I was nearly destitute, not terribly long ago, I would have given anything for this.

Between working full time, mothering full time, writing stories on the side, managing the household, and wifing, I’m not even on my own list of things to take care of anymore.

I’m so tired.

Don’t you just hope, in moments like these, that it’s all going to be worth it? Maybe someday someone will read this in awe. She struggled too, just like me! Maybe I’ll make it, just like she did, after the hard days passed and she skyrocketed to success. One can hope. 

Maybe not. Maybe we’re destined for the virtual mills, like our ancestors before us, enslaved by a society that cares nothing for the suffering of others if it means the individual can get ahead.

I wish I had an answer. Until then, keep on writing. After all, our words are still there for us, even when no one else notices. There’s always hope in that, at least.