The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing

I went out for a walk after a long night of rain. The sky overhead was a brilliant blue. On the sidewalk at my feet, an earthworm washed up by the rain writhed in agony. I felt sorry for it, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Yuck.

I couldn’t help thinking about it, because sometimes I feel like that earthworm. Ecstatic one moment, curled up in a fetal position hours later.

We’ve all been there. It’s not just you, and it’s not weird.

I remember the euphoria when I’d met an actual published writer at my first regional writers’ conference who befriended me like I was someone with promise. She was an encourager, and I basked in her attention. She suggested I go to the ACFW conference. “You’ll meet big names, agents, publishers!”

I thought long and hard about it. This conference would be an investment. It was expensive and I’d have to fly there. More expense. My husband decided we should both go. He could play golf while I attended the conference. I was beyond excited and so, so nervous.

I prepared everything I would need for my very first meeting with a publisher. I had recently completed my novel, a wonderful fantasy with a strong spiritual message. It was gonna WOW him!

Photo by Wokandapix via Pixabay

Some of you can probably guess what happened. He smiled politely. “This is not ready, and not only that, it’s not even believable. And fantasy in the Christian market,” he shook his head. “It’ll never sell.” And then he proceeded to tell me not to quit my day job. I wasn’t ready, my story wasn’t ready.

Not ready, not believable? It’s fantasy, for goodness sake!

I’m stoic. I don’t like to show my emotions, especially in front of strangers. So, I plastered on a smile and thanked him for his time.

My husband was playing golf. Our room was empty so, I left the conference and went there. I curled up in a fetal position and cried. My heart was broken. Crushed. I was convinced I would never recover. It was over. (Only stoic in public, quite dramatic in private.)

The fantasy I had been living for the past year had ended in a devastating crash.

I got up, washed my face and repaired my makeup. Then, I put on my mask and returned to the conference. Weeks and months would pass before I fully recovered from this experience. Weeks when I never touched my manuscript. Why should I? It was over. I was not a writer.

Gradually, I crept back into the world of writing. I read about writing. I attended local writers’ meetings. I talked to other writers. And after that long, hard year passed, I went back to that regional writers’ conference. I took the classes and soaked it all up. I began to breathe again. And hope. And dream. And finally, to write.

Such is the life of the person who dares to identify as an author.

Our proclamation of, “I have a fantastic idea for a story!” is met with, “Meh! It’s too cliché. It’s been done. Blah! Don’t waste your time, because it’ll never sell.” Yada. Yada. Yada.

Don’t even get me started on what happened when I joined a critique group. Talk about trauma and anguish—oh my!

Thankfully, my story has a happy-ish ending. That original fantasy is Indie published. I completed two three-book series for Write Integrity Press and I’ve started a third series, soon to be contracted. I LOVE my critique group!

My sales haven’t rocked, so I still experience the highs and lows associated with our chosen profession. It’s never been easy. Each new story brings fresh challenges and sometimes, I’m convinced they will never work. I’m wasting my time! What makes me think I can write? There’s so much competition! When I’m all “Woe is me,” I’m still that earthworm.

Then, I’m stopped by a reader who gushes over my latest book and my emotions soar! Maybe I can write, after all.

I sit down and begin to write and the joy returns, especially when I get to write posts that will ultimately encourage young writers and help them understand the struggle we face.

Click-to-Tweet: The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing might be your everyday reality, but you don’t have to let them rule you.

Writer’s Prompt: Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a chair, conversing with your prospective agent. Your heart pounds, you take deep breaths and struggle to remember your elevator pitch, then something happens. You start talking, but it’s not what you’d planned…

Let’s Get Technical

By Carlton Hughes

If I asked, “What is one thing you have written that would surprise others?” I would get numerous answers. What’s my answer?

I have two: standardized test questions and an instructor’s manual for a textbook.

Sounds thrilling, I know. Here’s the deal: they remain the highest-paying freelance jobs I have ever completed, by far.

First, how did I get into writing standardized test questions (and who would want to write those?). A friend’s mother knew a guy at a well-known company that needed writers. I submitted samples, and bam! I became that guy.

My job was to research any topic I wanted, provide some facts, and then write a summary in three different skill levels as a rubric. So I got paid to write on a scale from excellent to POOR about pot-bellied pigs, Babe Didrickson, and the history of radio. Good work if you can get it.

The textbook job was a bit more complicated. I’m a teacher by trade, and we get emails all the time from publishing companies. To be brutally honest, I usually ignore them, but one subject line caught my eye: “Take survey, get money!”

This company wanted feedback on the Interpersonal Communication textbook I have used for years. The survey required me to share my opinions in different areas. I provided highly detailed answers, probably longer than they wanted, but I like big sentences, I cannot lie. I hit “submit,” and, a few weeks later, I was twenty bucks richer.

A month later I was at a WRITERS CONFERENCE taking a continuing class on FREELANCING. Warning: irony ahead!

One morning I checked my email before class, and I had a message from this same company, offering me a contract to write the instructor’s manual for the new edition of the communication text. The money offered was ridiculously good, so I jumped at the chance. The work wasn’t exactly easy, but I did get to use knowledge I already had.

Here’s what I learned from my technical writing experiences:

  1. Write what you know. Most of us don’t sit around writing creative stuff all day (If you do, great!). You might work a public job or have hobbies or skills that could translate to the technical market.
  2. When opportunities come, take them. I took that seemingly innocent survey that led me to my biggest writing job ever; I heard a guy was looking for a question-writer and went for it.
  3. Don’t be a writing snob. Sure, I would love to write award-winning literary works that appear on bestseller lists. But I’m not going to dismiss other opportunities that will sharpen my skills (and pay really well).

So, if Johnny takes the train 200 miles south and then switches trains and goes 80 miles east, what topping will he choose for his pizza for supper?

I’ll wait for your answer . . .

 

Click-To-Tweet: #HowTo break into technical writing! Let’s Get Technical with @carltonwhughes via @InspiredPrompt #freelancewriter


Carlton Hughes wears many hats. By day, he’s a professor of communication at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, he does object lessons and songs with motions as Children’s Pastor of Lynch Church of God. In his “spare time,” he is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicken Soup for the Soul and several devotional books from Worthy Publishing—The Wonders of Nature, Let the Earth Rejoice, Just Breathe, So God Made a Dog, and Everyday Grace for Men. His book Adventures in Fatherhood, a 60-day devotional co-authored with Holland Webb, will release in Spring 2020. Carlton and his wife Kathy have two sons, Noah and Ethan, and a daughter-in-law, Kersyn. He is on the planning committee for Kentucky Christian Writers Conference and is a year-round volunteer for Operation Christmas child. Carlton is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.