F is for FREEDOM! Love what YOU love, No Regrets, No Excuses

It’s easy to get discouraged about your writing. Even when you know you’re doing everything in your power to get better. Learn from every book you write. Every book you failed to finished. Every book that wasn’t “The one.” Everyone you’ve met on this path you chose, writers, family on the sidelines, and not let setback and disappointment be the end of you, because it isn’t, but these feelings never go away once you’re published.

But I know that’s hard to really understand when you collect nothing but form letter rejections year after year, I’m the same as some of you who are reading this now, and you’ve been struggling to get published as I am, you know as I do that as much as you need and sincerely want to be positive, keeping yourself motivated and finding fun in the process is not always simple, and that’s why the first step in my F.U.N. factor method is FREEDOM.

Say it aloud. Freedom!

Keep saying that to your heart, it feeds on this word, you resolve needs to hear it, your thinking must NEVER forget this word, a word we can take for granted, when we lose our way in life.

I’m not talking only about freedom to write what we love, and read what we love, if you follow my blog you believe that on some level already, or at least learning to, I also mean freedom to tell yourself the truth, it will hurt, but lying to yourself hurts even more.

After my last meltdown back in February, I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid talking too much about myself, I didn’t start this blog to bore folks with my problems, or to demonize writers I can’t equal, and let my jealousy cloud my thinking more than does now, zero. Okay, 0.5, but I’m not trying to be a saint here, and it’s better than when it was 60%.

But this is a story I must share with you, because it’s something I wish I’d done years ago, and I hope it will help at least one of you get on the path to healing the true writer within you.

Today, I told a wise writer I know that as hard as I try, my query letters sucked, and nothing I did made them good. No matter how I came at them. She gave me some good advice, which I understood in ways I never would’ve a year ago, but that didn’t make my recent attempts any better, even if they weren’t getting worse.

I tried so hard not to tell her off. After all, she’s a busy lady who would gave up time from their busy life to givr me insight. Few people would do this if it’s not mandatory, especially when times are tough for so many in the world right now, suffering far worse than me, and maybe some of you, for all I know, one of them could be reading this now. It’s something I work hard to be mindful of.

But sometimes, despite your intentions, you give into the frustration, and for someone like me, who can not hide their rage and frustration behind  a mask (One of the many reasons I’ll never go into politics or law enforcement) you ruffle people’s feathers more than gain new skills and insight to improving your craft.

She said what she did for my benefit, not to make me feel worse, and I need to remember that she’s been where I am, and she rose above it to achieve her goals, I can do the same.

I need to remind myself that the only way this will end is either figure out my mistakes and plow through them or quit. But I know I’ll never quit, so I move forward, not always in graceful silence, but I do, and if a flaky crybaby guy like me can do it for eight years and counting, anyone can. So long as being a better writer day by day is your goal too.

In those eight years, I studied my craft, stayed up late polishing my manuscripts, did things I loathed because I sucked at them, but needed to learn, and while I’m never going to love writing query letters, trying to craft those letters helped me learn things I needed to know, and even if I don’t understand them now, someday I will.

There is something I do understand now.

I need to be more patient with myself.

This has always been my greatest weakness next to taking criticism poorly. Whether it’s true or not.

It’s better than when I was 5, (Thank God! All those writers who tried to help me would seriously hate me) but it’s still something I have to watch carefully, and there are times when staying silent doesn’t help you learn anything, the trick is knowing what to say, and how to say it approtiately, but everyone slips up sometimes. That’s human and normal, just don’t let it become a habit, trust me, it’ll be a demonic habit to curb the older you get. Not impossible, but hard, even harder than “Mastering” query letters, balancing the business aspects of publishing with what you as a creative person needs and deserves, but if you can do it, or at least not let it stop you, it will only make you stronger, as a writer and a person, for the rest of your life.

I still haven’t gotten there. But I know what holds me back. That’s really half the battle. A doctor can treat a patient if he doesn’t know what’s ailing him. A Realtor can’t find you a house if they don’t know your budget and what you can realistically attain, and maintain.

So it stands to reason a writer can’t know where he’s going wrong if he doesn’t find out, and what he just can’t find on his own, know the right people to ask, and leverage that to see where you’re at or where you need to be to achieve your goals.

So much about writing is subjective, once you get spelling, grammar, punctuation out of the way. This is both great and grueling. Grueling because it’s easier to see what’s WRONG in someone’s writing than what’s RIGHT with it. Yet it’s also a good thing, because what some think is meaningless drivel, others can see the merit where others don’t, otherwise the only books that would ever get sold would all be somewhat the same, and that’s no fun, right?

At the least, remember the following: I have to write what I love, read what I love, and improve what I hate to best champion for what I love, no excuses, no regrets.

Madame Novelist, if you read this, know I heard you loud and clear today.

One day, I will be as strong as you, and when that day comes, I want to share a meal with you, and tell you with my voice, not just my words, “I understand, and I’m a better person for it, thank you for seeing past the pain I harbored, for it was never meant for you, only myself for lacking your patience and even temperament.”

Until then, I toast you, and all writers who read this with these words-

To us, the writers,
Who love what we do, no matter how much fail,
How many times we’re faced hardship,
For that will make our victory all the sweeter,
Because we earned it, and it’s what we love!

Love your overemotional literary rat,
Whose sober in terms of alcohol but hopelessly drunk with passion and persistence,

P.S: Check back tomorrow for part two in my F.U.N. factor method. Understanding.

Take the "P" out of pain and add "G" for Gain

No Pain, No Gain.

At some point we’ve all heard or been told this phrase countless times in our lives. Especially in recent years, when our economy, government, and even Mother Nature dealt us pain we often fear they’ll be no gain at all.

But this is neither a financial or political blog, this blog is for aspiring and emerging children’s book writers, but trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.

Just like the troubling times going on worldwide, and in our respective homelands, every man, woman and child faces their own trials and triumphs. But just as our predecessors survived and thrived despite The Great Depression, and two World Wars almost back to back, we’ll survive these tough times too, even though sadly many of us will recover far slower than others.

But while the modern phrasing of this now clichéd saying is most well known, it comes from an old proverb coined by one of America’s most influential voices, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who said in his Poor Richard’s Almanac: There are no gains without pains.

While this witty pearl of wisdom is mostly used in modern times as a self-motivator to physical fitness, it definitely applies to writers to further understand our craft, and sharpen it, like a hand crafted Chinese meat cleaver.

You’d be surprised at some of the common turns of phrase we still parrot today were first penned or made it wittingly candid by him.

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is another of his most well known quotes.One I’ve yet to master, but at least I’m not drowning in debt, and that was a ditch I nearly dug myself in, but now I’m in the black and intend to stay that way.

But Time is Money, A place for everything, and everything in it’s place, and even, Honesty is the best policy. They all came from the witty Doc Franklin himself, whose words no less true now as they were in colonial America, but despite all the ignorant prejudice and inequivalent among the American colonists faced with England, and even amongst themselves, imagine how scathing it could’ve been if we had colonial equivalent of television, Facebook, or Twitter? Can you say, “Social Death By Journalism?” 

I’ll take Death by Chocolate instead, cake that is.

One of my favorite Franklin phrases is one I first heard in 2002-

“A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”

Peanuts Charlie Brown I imagine would find much solace in that quote. I sure do.

What I gather this means is that it’s never too late to better one’s education, or build character, and integrity where previously there was none. Something I think all writers, but especially newcomers to the field like me, need to remind ourselves every day, minute, and hour we live and on the endless journey to improve our writing, for ourselves, and the readers we one day want to have. 

Many wise and more patient writers than I always told me, the journey is more important than the destination. But I believe it’s too stark a message. Though I’ve come to see the truth to it. The destination is still important. 

If it wasn’t, many of the truly joyous moments in our lives, both as a country, as well as individuals, would’ve never occurred. I hope Ben’s Words, and mine, bring you the comfort and joy I’m starting to find again.

I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote from Dr. Franklin I sincerely wish all my readers and fellow writers can achieve in some form, for their sake, and for the sake of the future generations of wordsmiths-

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Until tomorrow,
May the fantastic fauna be with you.

P.S: While I applaud Ben for his searing sentences that speak truths we often recoil against, but need to hear anyway, I feel sorry for dogs everywhere when he uses these loyal, brave, and playful companions as metaphors on the sins and frailties of human nature. But I did find one dog quote by Dr. Franklin that shows that loyalty. As an animal lover,  whether the creatures of fact, or fiction, it was a quote I was glad to find.

Many Thanks, Ben. Many Thanks.