Remembering the Value of Patience (and other mental health tips for writers)

When I started writing Welcome to the Nexus, my debut novel and the first book in the Planar Gates series, I set myself the goal of writing it in a year.

I started writing on July 4th. To meet that goal, I would need to write, edit, and publish the last 10-15 chapters of the next 6 days.

It’s not happening.

Then I set a Plan B deadline – I’ll have the book done by August 1st, in time to hand print copies to my brother when he visits from Spain.

But I want to redo the cover, and with writing + editing + redoing a significant chunk of the first third of the book, that’s not going to happen either.

Ok, Plan C – release the book October 26th – the 4 year anniversary of my aortic dissection. There’s something poetic about taking the worst day of my life, and marking my survival with the victory lap of achieving a lifelong dream. This one is not out of reach.

This is my debut novel. I’m a nobody indie author just starting to build my platform and find a fanbase. My published chapters are already available for anyone who believes in me enough to buy in early and read along as I write. (And those people will get the final book w/o having to pay twice.) It’s important make it as good as I possibly can.

I’ve given myself a lot of stress over the last two months worrying about hitting self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines. I’ve had to remind myself the process matters most. If I’m still writing, it’s good. If I’m releasing a chapter a week like I want to, that’s GREAT. The rest will fall into place later.

The book will release wide when it’s good and ready. I’ve been making my writing public for a year now, I’m not going to be one to agonize forever and ever about it being perfect. I have a clear idea of what needs to be changed beyond a basic edit pass, and once that’s done, I’m shipping it.

I honestly think I’m a better editor than drafter – and I know what weaknesses my manuscript has. Many of those I can shore up or fix in revision, but one is such a deep-seated issue I’m just going to do the best I can, live with it, and take those lessons learned with me into Book 2. (No, I won’t tell you what I think it is.)

I’m rambling, but my point is this: be patient with yourself. Don’t create stress on yourself by comparing your daily wordcounts / pace to the people in the 20books Facebook group who crank out a book a month or more. Your art will suffer for it.

Trust yourself. Writing is a muscle – our ability to write gets stronger over time by using it. I want to increase my speed and quality, but I’m working on that without breaking the processes that have allowed me to write a story that’s 115k words and counting. Trying to “lift above your strength” with writing is a recipe for failure, which just leads to disappointment and self doubt. Relax. Set modest, achievable goals and build up gradually.

If you’re putting the time in, working to YOUR pace, and making consistent forward progress, you’re doing great.

I’m also taking a long view. Do I want my book to sell well? ABSOLUTELY! But I also know my brand of fantasy is weird, and it takes a few books before marketing becomes worth it. I’m writing the kind of fantasy I’d want to read, and I love my characters (so far, my readers do too. Everyone loves Ivy and Tako, I swear. I’ve been so pleased with the response to my two weirdest characters.) I’m having fun, and that makes it easy to keep going. Going to do everything in my power to put the conversation with myself on if “I’m doing well as an author” off until after I’ve shipped Planar Gates 3 or 4.

One last thought and then I’ll end my rambling – if you’re ever stressed out with your writing, take a deep breath and think about (or search for) your “why.” Why are you writing? What made you choose this hobby or profession (depending on your goals.) What thought gives you an ironclad sense of purpose? This is EXTREMELY personal and will be different for everyone. Reflecting on this has helped me kill stress before and get my mind back on achieving my writing objectives.

I have a couple:

1 – Reality sucks. And I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in the past. Stories have provided me blissful escape and helped keep me grounded in rough times. I write because I want to produce stories that can bring some happiness, fun, and fancy into the world. I want to do for others what other authors have done for me.

2- I’ve always had an extremely active imagination. If I don’t commit some of this to paper, there’s a non-zero chance my brain just explodes someday.

3- Writing books has been my dream since I first learned how to write. It’s the only desire I’ve held onto consistently my whole life. And I put it off my whole adult life for “real” jobs… until I nearly died. Worst possible way to make someone reassess their life’s priorities — but if I can take anything positive from that experience, it’s that I’m now laser-focused on writing, and “I’ll get to it eventually” is no longer a phrase in my vocabulary for things I really care about.

Look for the final cut of Welcome to the Nexus first on Laterpress, and everywhere in October! (Hopefully)

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