3 Ways the Writing Community Helps During a Writer’s Peaks and Valleys

By Jennifer Hallmark

Emotional highs and lows.  Ebb and flow. Good and bad times. Wax and wane.

All writers have them. One minute you’ve sold an article or wrote a magnificent sentence in the novel or your book has been nominated for an award.

The next, you’re reading another rejection email addressed to occupant, scrapping half of your novel because of plot issues, or you notice a scathing review on Amazon. Or maybe you’re struggling to write because you’re worried about a pandemic. (I never thought I would write those words.)

Many people who pen words are solitary creatures, leaving the computer only for a grocery run or to go to their regular job. You know, the one where you are actually paid? Now many of us are home from the regular job and finding it hard to focus.

Being a writer is a difficult profession. What can we do? Who can we turn to for help in the peaks and valleys?

#WritingCommunity to the rescue.

How does the writing community help?

    1. Other writers give encouragement both online and at conferences/meetings. I cannot stress enough the positive difference in my life when I started going to meetings, then attended my first writing conference. Just knowing other people saw the world as I did was life-changing. The positive feedback gave me the courage to continue.
    2. The writing community can support us through reviews, offering guest post spots, and by purchasing our books. I began my “hobby” by contacting a faith-based free article site and asking if I could upload an article. My first attempt online led to guest posts from other authors, much-needed thoughts on my articles, and even a guest column on an Australian on-line women’s magazine. The community proved invaluable when I released my first novel, Jessie’s Hope.
    3. An important part of writing is to find people who will offer feedback and accountability. When I first began, I thought highly of all my work. Then I joined a local writing group and an online critique group. Yes, there was pain involved when I shared my “darling” and found out it wasn’t as perfect as I thought. But growth occurred and I became a much better writer. Also, writer friends would occasionally check on me to see how I was doing.
    4. They can spread the word on social media. The community, especially on Twitter, shared my articles and book news and even added me to lists about writing. Facebook helped me connect with many people within my own community and share about book signings and nearby places to buy my book.

The writing community took my writing from hobby to career and I’ll always be grateful. I try to pay it forward by offering guest posts and interviews on both my blogs, whether a writer published or not. I share a lot on social media and try to offer feedback when asked. And now I’m working hard to encourage people during this crisis. Pushing past my own fears and paying it forward.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindness. One writer to another. Help in navigating those deep, lonely valleys. A high-five from others while standing on the mountaintop. Both needed, both appreciated.

Thank you, #WritingCommunity!

Writing prompt: Share in the comments below one way the writing community has helped you, especially during hard times. We’d love to know!

Good Launch Weather

by Kristy Horine

My husband went into the hobby store for a battery tester. The tester was for the wireless stomp pedal that turns the pages on the iPad where he stores his music sheets for the trumpet he plays on Sunday mornings.

He’d been having trouble with the stomp pad. He attacked the problem like he usually does: a serious process of elimination.

First, he changed the batteries. Then, he played around at the angle his feet hit the silver depressor buttons. Then, he jumped online and waded into every forum he could find on stomp pedals. Then, he watched a few YouTube videos. Then, he landed in the hobby store to find all the right wires, gauges, and alligator clips necessary to test batteries.

“Ah.” He nodded his head, rubbed his chin a bit.

Turns out, there was something wonky with the wiring inside the stomp pedal connecting the batteries to the device.

Also turns out the warranty had recently expired.

My husband ordered a DC adapter. He can still use his devices and toot his horn.

Still, there was something that just wouldn’t let go of him. Something that kept him staring into space, rubbing his chin, zoning out on conversations.

It wasn’t long before I received a text. “I’m in the hobby store. Think Sadie would like to shoot off a rocket?”

And so it began.

Each step of the build, a grown man and his five-year-old daughter glued together much more than Part A to Part B. It wasn’t long they had a completed rocket. My husband opened an app.

“Good launch weather.”

We trudged over the fields – the rocket and we three.

A connection here, a countdown there, and the rocket was off in a whoosh of flame and a cloud of smoke. It reached an apex and began a descent. The parachute failed to deploy. The rocket plummeted to earth.

My husband shook his head.

“I’m sorry for the launch failure.”

My mouth fell open a little.

“Are you kidding?!? That launch was perfect. The landing was a little iffy, but the launch was fantastic!”

The rocket lived to launch another day – five more times, to date.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

We have a problem, a need or a want, an assignment, or a story spark. Sometimes the writing comes fast, the words falling into perfect places. Sometimes there’s a distraction and one thing leads to another. We go in for a tester and end up standing in a field by a launchpad. T-10 and counting.

There are times we know the beginning. There are times we think we know the beginning. Often, we can only guess at where or how our work might land.

No matter the unknowns, dear writers, today there’s good launch weather. It’s T-10 and writing.

Click-to-Tweet: How is writing a story like launching a rocket? Good Launch Weather – @Kwriteone via @InspiredPrompt – The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing


Writing Prompt – Using this story starter and photo, write an opening paragraph:   “The heather is blooming on the mountain,” Oriole said. “I’m longing to go.”

The War Within

By Tammy Trail

Giving up is never an option. Sometimes a physical goal, like running a marathon challenges your endurance. A body can only do so much, and joints don’t last forever. Once they need replacement, there is always that chance they won’t work quite the same as before, and we struggle to do what we did with ease in the past.Perhaps you never had it in you to finish a race, a project or fulfill a dream. That brass ring always seems to be just beyond your reach no matter how hard you try to stretch out your arm to grab it. Your fingertips always brush against it without the prize in your hand.

I started to think that way about my writing. I’d start a story and get excited about all the possibilities. What kind of adventures could I create for my characters? What lessons do they need to learn along the way? I’d get so far with this and then the story ideas would fizzle like out like a spent sparkler on the 4th of July.

I’ve gone months without writing a single word or reading any resources that would inspire a new look into an old, lifeless story. Why then, when I’m sitting doing nothing, do I suddenly think of a scene for one of my characters in a story that I have not even thought of for weeks? Then I’m right back into the thick of it. The stories won’t die. It’s as if my characters are begging me to tell their story. How can I do them justice with my meager half-hearted attempts?

Then, one Sunday, while I sat trying to focus on the Pastor’s message, he said something that made me sit up a bit. “Focused intensity, over time, multiplied by God, equals momentum.”  I honestly don’t remember the rest of the sermon. I was so caught up in pondering those words. Was God trying to tell me something? I wanted to embrace this new idea and the possibilities it could hold. Finally, I googled it and found out that a popular Christian life coach uses this mantra a lot. Could I use this in my writing life?

Discouragement is a tough pill to swallow. On one hand, I understood that to get to the level of writing I wanted to achieve I had to write. From there I wondered which writing project I should pick up or should I start a new one? I chose to start a new one, but that didn’t last long. So, I am working on a western story that I started a few years ago. Now all I need to do is get focused.

Back to Fi/TG=M, which is the formula for Focused Intensity, over time, multiplied by God, equals momentum. My focus needs to be so intense that I let nothing get in the way of my goal. With that intensity I should be able to meet that goal. But it will be a challenge.

Now back to the marathon runner. No one wins a distance race by running as fast as they can as hard as they can until they run out of steam. It’s steady progress over time. And quitting is not an option.

Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” NIV. We all know this scripture. It is one of the first I memorized. When the formula is in practice the last step is to let it all go. Trying to achieve this formula on your own could cause burnout. You need to give it to God. Then HE will step in and give you what you need to meet your goals.

I am going to do this. Just watch me!

Don’t quit #just start again

 

The Rejection Badge of Courage

I have been asked to write a post on the “Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing.” I wish the blog powers-that-be would have given me a topic I know something about.

I’m kidding. I’m a kidder.

Actually, if degrees were given for Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing, I would have a doctorate. If awards were given, I would have an Oscar. If money was doled out based on those highs and lows, I would be a zillionaire.

When I first started writing as a calling, it was pure bliss. The exhilaration of putting words on the page and finishing a piece was wonderful. Then I decided to try to get some of those pieces published.

Well, hello, emotional lows.

In those early days, I got enough rejections to wallpaper my house. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. And I have been rejected by the absolute BEST in Christian publishing.

Top-tier agents? Major publishing houses? Publishing companies in someone’s basement? Been turned down by all of them.

You can only be rejected so many times until you question yourself and your abilities. Yes, I have heard all the encouragement about rejection—it’s just not your time, your piece didn’t match their needs, it’s not a reflection of your talent. All true, but rejection still hurts.

Slowly but surely, I began getting acceptances. One year I had multiple devotions published in four different books. What an emotional high!

The next year? The lady who does my taxes asked, “Don’t you have any receipts from your writing?” I buried my chin in my chest and answered with a quiet, “No . . . but I’m trying.”

A couple of months after that encounter, I was preparing to attend a big writers conference. I had been preoccupied with my day job and found myself scrambling the week before the event to put together writing samples, one-sheets, and anything and everything else I thought I would need. I stopped for a moment and asked myself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?”

My agent was pitching several book proposals, with no word from anyone. Shouldn’t I just quit? Give up? Go fishing instead of to the writers conference?

I actually hate fishing, so I went to the conference, with the idea that I would cut up with my writer friends and maybe talk to some editors/publishers just for fun.

The second day of the conference, I got a call from my agent, telling me he had gotten a serious inquiry from a well-established publishing house about one of my book proposals. I had been on this roller coaster before, so I kept my emotions in check.

Another day passed, another call from my agent. “It’s looking good, but it still has to go to committee.” I wanted so much to get excited, but I suppressed those happy feelings.

The conference ended and I began the three-hour trek home, winding my way through a mountainous area with spotty cell service. Once I hit “civilization,” I stopped at a store to stretch my legs. I checked my phone and saw I had a missed call from my agent. I returned the call.

“We’re in! We’re getting a contract!”

I restrained myself from doing a happy dance in the middle of Wal-Mart.

That book, Adventures in Fatherhood (co-authored with Holland Webb), releases April 7. Proof that God is good and that there is hope in the middle of the highs and lows.

Hang in there, writer friends. It will happen.

Click-to-Tweet: Rejection hurts! “You can only be rejected so many times until you question yourself and your abilities.” The Rejection Badge of Courage – @carltonwhughes via @InspiredPrompt #writerslife #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Start a story using these three words: sunset, shovel, hardhat.


Carlton Hughes

Carlton Hughes, represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary, wears many hats. By day, he is a professor of communication. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, he serves as a children’s pastor. Carlton is an empty-nesting dad and devoted husband who likes long walks on the beach, old sitcoms, and chocolate–all the chocolate. His work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, The Wonders of Nature, Let the Earth Rejoice, Just Breathe, So God Made a Dog, and Everyday Grace for Men. His latest book, Adventures in Fatherhood, co-authored with Holland Webb, releases April 7.

I Didn’t Write for a Month…And Lived!

By Jennifer Hallmark

I am a writer. My job in life is to pen words and share them with my world: family, friends, social media, and the Internet. My mission statement is “to write with God and bring hope and encouragement through my words, both written and spoken, to everyone I meet, both online and in-person.”

And on top of that,  I just found out that my debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, finaled in the Selah Awards. Did I actually have the audacity to take time off?

Yes.

In taking a month’s sabbatical, my mission statement would be somewhat placed on hold. I found not writing extremely hard. After all, my life had been wrapped up in this chosen profession since 2006 when I attended my first local writing class. Fourteen long years of studying, writing, being critiqued, more writing, more studying, and attending meetings, conferences, and retreats. I’ve read over twenty-five books on the craft, listened to numerous podcasts, and taken tons of classes: in-person and online.

Factor in writing a few hundred blog posts, interviews, guest posts, three full novels and a couple of half novels and you can see I haven’t been idle when it comes to this writer’s life.

And that was part of the problem.

At first, I loved all of it. My hobby proved to be fun and for five years, I enjoyed penning words as a pastime. Then, I wanted more. Maybe a published author and, gasp, being paid money for something I’d written. Was that too much to ask?

My writing went to the next level starting with me attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference with lots of other writers. And work. My hobby became a job, second to being a mom and housewife and chicken farmer. 48,000 baby chickens raised every six weeks to be exact. Life was full but enjoyable.

My children grew up and moved out and before you could say empty nest, I had six grandchildren. Then my stepdad passed away and Mom moved nearby. As I think back, I really didn’t enjoy the grown children stage the way I would if I had it to do over. Parents, my word of advice: Enjoy the empty nest while you can.

In 2011, we sold our chicken houses and I started writing full-time.  And babysitting. And helping Mom as the only sibling in the state. Then a good friend became a widow and another good friend died. Life suddenly started to drain the life from me. Add in a few health issues of my own and I was totally being set up to fall apart. The plates I’d kept spinning for so long began to fall, one at a time, until I stood amidst broken glass, mourning so much change and so many losses.

So, I wrote faster. With longer hours to try and purge my soul of the pain that was piling up on me. I thought I could put these sorrowful thoughts on paper and they’d magically disappear. But they didn’t. I reluctantly contacted a therapist because I knew I was on the verge of a breakdown but didn’t know how to stop it. My first assignment? Read the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Life-changing. The book and my therapist began to show me what I’d done wrong. No boundaries. No self-care. An aging body and more people who needed me. So I made changes. I started going to the gym, then changed my diet. See my article on my new way to eat.

From January of 2019 until today, I’d lost twenty-seven pounds and kept it off, then added strength training. I felt so much better physically. But setting boundaries was still hard for me. I’m one of those people who found it hard to say no but I’m learning. Self-care became more of a way of life and everyone around me is benefiting from it.

My only problem? I was still totally and completely mentally burnt out. You can’t keep it all going, seven days a week like I had for too long of a time. I had spent less and less time with real people and more time in my office and I became emotionally burnt out too. We were created for relationship and hiding doesn’t heal anything.

I made a major decision. Eight months after I’d released my first novel and with my agent shopping my second novel, I would take a month off.

February would be a time of renewal which also happens to be my word for the year. No writing fiction, articles, and no social media. More family time. Did you miss me on Facebook or Twitter? Probably not but somehow I’d gotten in my head that I was indispensable to the online world. And guess what I learned?

Social media went on without me. My book sales did drop a little without me marketing but not as much as I feared. And the rest and peace I received were well worth it.

I went back to work on March 2nd with more wisdom I hope, planning a four-day workweek for now. I have a planner to help me stay on track and am penciling in “me” time, a lot more than I ever have before. And it’s okay.

Everyone has to work with who they are and what their situations are in life. I tried to pretend it all didn’t bother me and failed miserably. But God, my family, friends, and writing buddies didn’t turn their backs on me. My blogging friends at Inspired Prompt kept the blog running. My family gave me some space and though the needs were still there with the grandchildren and Mom, I learned to say no or wait or soon. Not always yes, this minute.

Does anyone out there relate to this at all? Maybe you could share a comment below and tell me how you handle it all. I’m always thankful for suggestions as I journey on this new part of life…

Click to tweet: I Didn’t Write for a Month…And Lived! #amwriting The emotional highs and lows of writing. #WritingCommunity