Tag Archives: comparisons

Never Give Up (Or Why New Writers Feel A Little Nuts)

It’s FALL here in beautiful New England!

The trees are showing off their magnificent colors. October is magical. It’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring. It’s glorious and crisp. October is the best time of year.

Unless you’re an acorn.

I am not an acorn, but I would imagine that if I were, and if I were sentient and anthropomorphic, it would be very difficult for me not to feel sorry for myself in October.

Where would acorns like me go? If not eaten by a squirrel, then I and my friends could be buried in a hole somewhere, forgotten under the brutal snow that New England’s prize for loving autumn too much.

Poor me. All alone in the darkness. Decomposing. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll germinate in the spring. If we ever have spring.

Ah, but this is where I get to sermonizing, so I need to get back to October.

If you are a beginning writer, you are much like a wee acorn.

Small, seemingly insignificant, a bit nutty, occasionally accosted by squirrels. If you are a beginning writer, you may look at those towering, more experienced, more successful writers (a tree in our analogy if you haven’t got it already) and think that you should just give it up and become squirrel fodder.

Don’t!

Don’t believe for a minute that you are less because you are just beginning. Please don’t believe that your future is bleak because it’s dark in your squirrel hole. Don’t believe that their strength should be compared to your weakness.

Writers can feel this same way. They may feel that because the market is huge and saturated, they don’t have a chance. Or they may feel that because writers around them are more successful that there’s no room for another voice. They may be so busy looking at the circumstances around them that they forget to plow through.

Instead? Do this:

1. Write every day.  Even ten minutes will keep you going in the right direction. If you can’t write every day, write as often as you can.

2. Remember everyone was a beginner sometimes. If you have to, research your favorite authors and study their early years. Go back to this list of famous rejections. Make it a game to collect your own

3. Worry only about you, and no one else. Writing isn’t a game for the insecure. It’s a quest for those of us who look straight ahead and stick to our convictions and our determination.

4. Hang on to the dream. George R.R. Martin said, “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.” How did he get to his level of fame and success? One word at a time. Now, you can always take a break. You will always have drier seasons, but that doesn’t mean you should quit altogether.

5. Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, compare yourself to another writer. Either you will compare your strengths to their weaknesses and come out looking like a smug know-it-all (and no one buys books from smug know-it-alls) or you will compare your weakness to their strength and give up entirely.

It’s autumn in New England. There’s beauty everywhere. In the grand and in the small.

Keep writing. You will have the glory someday.


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top 10 Ways To Love Yourself When You’re Sick

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

You know when you’re playing Wii Golf and you hit the ball way to hard? That was the noise I heard in my ear whenever I blew my nose.

I didn’t have the flu, a sinus infection, an ear infection or bronchitis.  I didn’t have the fever to warrant antibiotics and I didn’t have enough symptoms to make even a trip to the ER worth it. I knew they’d say, “yup, your ears are stuffed up”.  I knew that the treatment would be a combination of Mucinex and Benadryl and Motrin for pain and rest. Lots of fluids.

This stupid virus was interfering with my life! I had plans! Big plans! I was spending over an hour every day on the treadmill. I was writing 1000 words a day in addition to  leading the fastest growing writers’ group on Facebook. I was marketing my new release. I was homeschooling 5 children. I couldn’t afford to be sick.

And for a moment or two there, I thought I had let myself down. I can’t meet my goals if I’m sick. 

 

It’s hard to go from Super Mom mode to snothead. It’s hard to decide that you just don’t have the energy to write today.  It’s hard to realize that the Benadryl is making it way too difficult to do anything but watch The Lego Movie for the millionth time.  It’s also easy to slip into self pity when you’re confident that the amount of stuff that’s come out of your nose is way more than the volume your nasal cavity can hold.

I should have taken the opportunity to be kind to myself.should have said this: Just rest. Just close your eyes. Just think about something else. Don’t think about the things that are not getting done. Don’t think that your book will not be marketed properly because you coughed up three lungs today. Don’t worry about it.

 I should have fought against the self condemnation in the same way that antibiotics would have fought off an infection. If someone around me couldn’t fulfill their obligation to me because they were sick, wouldn’t I have grace for them? Why don’t I have grace for myself?

I know why. Or at least I know partly why. I know that my mother never reduced my workload when I was sick. I was taught to tough it out. I was taught to shut up and get over it because there was work to do. I was taught that sickness was for the weak. All I’m doing this for is attention. If I had been working harder, I would have never been sick.

I need to change my thinking. I need to learn to love myself. 

Top 10 (28)

  1. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pushing myself mentally or physically when I am sick is rarely a good idea. I need to stop comparing the productivity an on fire good day to a wiped out sick day and just enjoy the extra sleep. 
  2. Take cues from your body and your family. If any of us is physically down, then a change must be made. As the mom, I need to figure it out. I’d be the first one in my family to send them to bed if they’re sick, I need to be just as bossy with myself. 
  3. Stick to a schedule, a survival life schedule. This means eating regularly, sleeping regularly, spending the minimal amounts of time doing the basics. Even one load of laundry a day, when you are sick, will keep the mountain from growing in the laundry room. 
  4. Get back to the basics. Enough sleep, water, right food etc. I have a mental list of what Survival Life looks like. This means the most basic of hygiene, the simplest of meals, the past of least resistance in everything I do. When I’m sick, I need to just default to this setting and live with it. 
  5. Lower your expectations. When I am sick, I need to just set the bar on the floor and try to step over it. I also need to not beat myself up for this, listen to negative thinking or feel the least bit guilty. 
  6. Celebrate what you can do.  Get the whole family cheering when you can take a shower without passing out or eat a simple meal without losing it. 
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is great advice for all of life, but when you’re already weak, it’s even more of a bad idea to look beside you. Someone will have it better than you: their kids vomit in the toilet instead of the bed. But then, someone will have it worse: it’s not the flu, it’s Lyme disease! This division of mind will never be productive if you are trying to recover. Just don’t do it. 
  8. Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities. Ask to move the deadline. There is grace in this season. Regardless of how humiliating it feels at times to ask for help, you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask kids, in-laws, neighbors, or anyone within reach to ease your life just a bit while you’re down. 
  9. Say no. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow we believe that we have to say yes, even when we don’t have the strength. While you’re sick, make sure that you have steadfast boundaries with those around you. 
  10. Think positive thoughts. Generally speaking, most minor illnesses go away in time. Keep it in perspective. You can catch up on reading, you can buy a new coloring book, you can finally get the rest you need. 

There is no shame in being sick. There is however, a lot of shame in not believing that you’re worth the effort of self-care. Maybe I’ll learn my lesson and be a better patient next time. 

Now, to print this and paste it next to the Mucinex and Benadryl.

How about you? What do you to care for yourself when you’re sick and weak? What else can be added to the list? 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist and Mother of Five

 

Becoming an author is like becoming a parent. 

The writing of the book, was the pregnancy. You conceived the idea in a romantic, intimate moment.

You developed it secretly in the dark. You wrote while stuffing your face with all kinds of snacks. You tried to explain your characters and your plot to others and they just didn’t understand. And the length of the ms got bigger and bigger. And you wondered will I ever get this done? Will I be waiting for the arrival forever? 

And the big day comes!

You get your little bundle of joy from Createspace or some other expert labor and delivery establishment! You count all of the pages to make sure that it is all there!  You think that your book is the most beautiful and the most amazing thing that was ever created! And you tell all your friends! You post it on Facebook! There has never been a book before this book! No one will be a better author than you!

And then the novelty is over.

The well wishers have bought their copies. You realize that you’re the one up all night with the little buggar. You second guess yourself, are you the best marketer you could be? Amazon Kindle sales are nice but the reviews aren’t as complete as you’d like. The sales are only trickles. You thought that perhaps something significant would happen now, something bigger? The blues come on you and you don’t know what to do. One star reviews smell like dirty diapers. Rejection letters are the mean toddlers who throw sand on the play date. And then there’s that other author close to you who says, “I would never do that to my book! What are you thinking? What kind of an author are you?”

This metaphor can go on forever. 

Just like parenting, we often don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to marketing our books. Just like parenting, we read good advice and we try it, but it doesn’t always work for us. Just like parenting, we have great aspirations, but sometimes we get caught up in our own inadequacies and our own faults. Sometimes the frustration of knowing what is best for us is overwhelming.

Like parenting, if we are going to market our books, we kind of have to figure it out as we go. 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. A good parent does what they can when they can. You don’t fill out college applications the day after coming home from the hospital. A good marketer understands that there are seasons for their book, look at the process in the long term and gives themselves grace.

2. A good parent has low expectations. A first time author should have them too. I haven’t  met a mother of a toddler yet that  didn’t. If you’re a first time author, understand that you won’t sell thousands of books. That’s okay. You’ve got your future ahead of you.

3. A good parent attends to the basics automatically. For a parent, that means having baby fed, washed, nurtured and well rested. For an author, that means having the manuscript well-written, well-edited, well-covered, and accessible to readers on the most basic of platforms, like Kindle direct. As your platform and skill set grows, your accomplishments will too.

4. A good parent doesn’t compare their kid or their style to another parent’s child or style. A good book marketer doesn’t either. What works well for your friend’s book, Amish Zombie Princesses won’t work for your book, Lint Art for the Lonely.  Like parenting, our marketing journey is a personal one and we have to choose what’s best for us and not judge others’ choices.

5. A good parent knows parenting is a game of inches. Children don’t master good manners in one lesson. It takes years. Authors who market should understand this too. A first book gains a few readers, the next book gains more. This game — parenting and marketing — is not for the impatient.

6. A good parent uses their community. Who hasn’t asked a friend, neighbor or family member to watch a child? What parent hasn’t depended on a social group to help them out? Authors need community too. If nothing else, an author’s community can encourage him, help promote, help fine tune and show how things can be done.

7. A good parent manages their time the best they can. They have an understanding of what must be done and figures out ways to get it done. A marketing author does this too. The engage with their readers without being too distracted. They delegate. They learn how much they can do in 10 minute increments.

8. A good parent takes reasonable risks. They want their children to stretch themselves, try new things and grow. A good marketer does this too. They aren’t afraid of speaking to the librarian at their local branch or calling the local paper. Both parent and marketing author knows you never know what great thing could happen if you try!

9. A good parent knows the “rules” but makes them work for their situation. A good marketing author does too. They’ve read marketing blogs, they understand generosity, they’ve taken great notes. Then they get good ideas and apply the principles their way.

10. A good parents sees the differences in their children and nurtures them accordingly. A good author may also see that each of their books opens doors that the other one can’t. They also aren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes and do better with children and books this time around.

Authors should take another lesson from parents — just because you do everything “right” doesn’t mean that there are guarantees. Parenting is fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, pain and expense. But then, it’s awesome and joyful and exhilarating.

But like parenting, marketing will take hard work, trial and error, risk-taking, expenses, time, energy, possible humiliation, disappointment, regret, sleepless nights, and the list is endless.

So are you a good parent/marketer?  What other similarities do you see? What has parenting taught you about marketing?

The Single Best Writing Advice (Too Bad I Don’t Always Follow It)

We’ve heard it before, write what you know. Or, write every day. Or, READ! READ! READ!

And while that is all very good advice, and you should follow it fervently, it’s still not the best.One of the best pieces of advice I was given in college was this:

The Single Piece of Best Writing Advice

Never compare yourself to others. 

If you do, you’ll compare their strengths to your weaknesses, and you’ll always be the loser.

When I compare myself to other writers, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I either pick up some frothy bonnet romance and throw it across the room, puffing myself up with thoughts of superiority. My books will have more meaning! I will be more literarily significant! I won’t have any ripped bodices! Or, I will read something breathtakingly good, like The Elegance of the Hedgehog  or Someone Else’s Love Story and moan in despair that I can never achieve what that author has done, so I might as well give up.

I will not compare my novels to this magnificent book. Because first of all, I'm not French.

It also doesn’t help that I’m a bit melodramatic in just about everything I do.

The truth is that if I’ve signed up to be a writer, then I’m already pre-disposed to be melancholy and moody. I’m already insecure. I’m already thinking that living a secluded life like Salinger or a despairing life like Sylvia Plath isn’t all that unreasonable. So this whole business of wallowing in what I’m not is an easy and comfortable occupation at times.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
You can’t love yourself if you’re busy comparing yourself to others.

The truth is, I’m not going to be successful that way. 

I should not look at the accomplishments, styles, sales or rankings of any other writers around me. I shouldn’t compare blogs, compare paths to publication, compare works in progress, compare how many followers I have on Twitter, instead, I should focus only on meeting my goals for the day. One day at a time.

Today’s writers’ market is brutal to the insecure.

Because of the highly competitive market out there, the demand for originality, the constant pressure to be liked, followed, or tweeted is everywhere and it can easily wear away at our self esteem. It wouldn’t take much to find a way that our statistics aren’t good enough. But if we keep looking at the writers around us, we’ll just make ourselves miserable. I’m pretty sure that’s a creativity killer, right there.

You know, it's like comparing apples to or. . .HOLEY MOLEY! That's the biggest orange I've ever seen!

And EVERYONE has advice to follow. 

We need to be secure enough in our own skills, talent and abilities to know what NOT to do, what won’t work for us, or what can wait for another time. We don’t have to read every writing book on the market. We don’t have to create a promotional video. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be teachable. 

It is the poor writer who chooses not to learn. But when I move from teachability to despondency because of my perceived limitations (which is a short trip in my brain) then I’m in trouble.

So, write what you know, write every day and read constantly. But most importantly, just keep your head down and pay attention to you and your work alone.

You may not be the richest or best selling author, you may not be the most famous or win the most awards . . .

But you will be the happiest. And it will show in your work.