Working on developing a writing project when you are *ahem* bi-vocational (meaning that you love writing and want to write full time but need to also eat and have clean water because apparently your body will shut down without these things?) is a series of fits and starts.
It’s understanding that being creative requires attention to detail and time and being unwilling to compromise on either… but being unable to give them in unlimited quantities. Reading over a single paragraph ten times to get just the right punctuation, just the right words, just the right ‘feel’ is time consuming. You must choose to either feel good about putting out volume or quality. With other things vying for your attention, you cannot have both.
It’s understanding that your success is directly connected to your ability to pick yourself up, again and again, when you fall short of your goals. Often, no matter how hard you try, other things get in the way of your writing, and these things NEED to be done. Even when you make it a priority to write, five “important” emails and an unexpected meeting at work can blow up the best of intentions. You need to accept that failure to write, and try again the next day (or the next month).
It’s understanding that sometimes silence doesn’t mean that you have nothing to say, you just can’t say it right away. You have to hold onto your own value, the fact that what you’re trying to say, the story you’re trying to tell, may be on hold, but that doesn’t mean that it has lost value. You just can’t work on it now. You still have a message.
I have had a challenging past few months professionally, and that has gotten in the way of my writing. And I mean any writing of any kind - obviously. Now that I’m back in my work-in-progress (dredging through the sequel to ‘Assigned’ to get ready for layout and formatting), I have to constantly remind myself of these things.
I’m very excited to be getting ready to release ‘Queen’ in the next few months, and I’m enjoying the editing process (probably more on that later). I hope that you’ll enjoy it, too, but, more than that, I hope that somebody who needed to hear that they need to brush the dust off and get back to their dream-lay-dormant will read this.
Just because you’ve had to wait doesn’t mean you’re done.
As I write this, I'm sitting on my couch, enjoying the sacred long weekend. It's Monday, and I get the day off to reflect on the greatness of some dead, white, slave-owning men. God bless America. I'm also carefully watching every model of weather forecast as a storm may or may not be dumping s school-cancelling quantity of snow and ice at the optimal these-roads-are-impassable time. I'm optimistic.
I'm taking advantage of my day off to get some writing done, I mean, some actual, pop-on-the-headphones-and-forget-the-outside-world writing.
As a teacher, I consider it a service to my students to take this time. No joke. I do have a list of things that need to be done to prepare for my week educating and molding young minds, and I'll get to that, but this writing thing needs to be on my list as well. And I have a very sound reason.
It sucks to be in education right now. And just by saying that, I'm opening myself to a world of criticism from some members of my community. For some of these folks, I should be grateful that their tax dollars support me. Please don't get me wrong, I am grateful that I am able to help support my family with what I make in the classroom. I am not complaining about the amount I am paid.
For that matter, I'm not going to go through a list of the problems in education right now. As with any societal issue (and, let's face it, public education is a societal issue), there are layers and layers of problems. I'm not necessarily equipped to answer to all of them. I can only speak to my experiences, but, from them, I CAN confidently say that all teachers need a creative outlet to keep themselves healthy.
Originally, I got into education because it was an outlet to work with kids. And working with kids can be messy. It's exhilarating to solve problems on the fly, it's challenging to try and meet students' needs, it's empowering to think that I can impact them for the future through something that I say or a challenging discussion.
Since I promised to not address the problems with education, I need to stand by that. Let me simply say that there are fewer and fewer days in which I am able to solve problems and more and more days in which concern over testing and numbers dominate my day. The data is an ever present factor in everything that I do, and every decision I make has to be able to answer to those test numbers. Gone are the days (or, at least, severely minimized) when a teacher can simply say that he or she knows in the gut that students are enjoying something or struggling with something. Teaching is much less about creativity and much more about meeting state, federal, and local mandates.
Therefore, I have a mandate of my own. Some people need to be creative. Humans need hobbies, we need things to work on and relax with that will fulfill and challenge us when our jobs do not. I would argue that the teaching field has traditionally attracted creative people, and I am certain that I am not the only one leaving my workplace feeling the change from the creative field I fell in love with. No matter how the school has changed, as long as I am in it, I owe it to my students to keep trying to help them. I also need to acknowledge how the landscape of my career has changed, and it has changed away from the inventive, open ended, and stimulating.
This means that writing, for me, has become more important.
People come by writing through a variety of channels, and it may be possible that those channels are often therapeutic. I can not encourage enough other teachers to give yourself the time to tell your stories. The stress of the job does not show any sign of abating soon, and, regardless of what that stress can be attributed to, Publish, don't publish, solicit agents, never send out a resume. But write. And make time to do it, don't just pick away when you get time - you and I both know that you don't just get time.
Finding an outlet for the drive that got you into teaching is important. I will continue to encourage other teachers to continue fighting the good fight in their classrooms - and that means being fulfilled yourself. Write or paint or play and then teach.
In case you're completely unobservant, it will not be news to you that my website is was designed on the Weebly platform. In the two years I've been with them, I've learned a bit about how big and fun the internet can be.
Some very seasoned authors I have met have no website of any kind, sometimes saying that they "don't have the time", and that makes me sad. Especially with Weebly, designing and maintaining a website (let alone a shop or a blog) is easy and, dare I say, rewarding.
First of all, when shopping for a provider to launch your website with, you need to understand that Weebly and similar website design services do not sell the domain name (that would be the "www.faerynnforever.com" part). Weebly will check for you to see if your preferred name is available, and you can buy it through their site, but that's not precisely what Weebly's for.
Once you have bought the rights for your desired domain name is when Weebly really shines. They have gorgeous layouts already made for you, and lots of them. You can choose from lots of looks and then either modify it in infinite ways or keep it as is and just input your information. You can change fonts, colors, pictures (they've got some great pictures stock, or you can upload your own), sizes, and organization in each page. All of the options allow you to truly customize what you're doing. I had an awesome experience, and it wasn't overly technical. There was no coding or jargon, and I was able to find videos on YouTube to answer most of my questions.
I don't want to make this sound like a commercial for Weebly. I've had a great experience with them and would obviously recommend them to anyone, and sometimes it's nice to hear companies that other people have had success with. What I would rather you walk away with is this:
At this point in technology, websites are so affordable, so easy, and so versatile, you are stupid not to have one. It expands your ability to reach people with whatever message you have. It gives you a home base to control your image, your brand, or your reputation.
And beyond that, you get the warm fuzzy of the "page views" count.
Y'see, I have this app-thing (from Weebly, remember them?) that gives me stats on how many people have been to my site, where they came from, what specifically they looked at, among other things. Do you know how awesome it can feel to know that I've had 144 folks on my website this week? That's 144 people who are being introduced to what I do, and I love what I do (well, I love writing. The day-job thing is pretty much only to support this writing issue). That's 288 eyes who may never read my book - but who CERTAINLY weren't going to read it before they came to my site.
The indie publishing movement can be very lonely. You can feel like you're shouting into a void, and it's easy to get discouraged. Having a page not only helps me with my PR, it expands my ability to connect with people. And that's huge.
So, thanks for reading. I appreciate you, and I appreciate your time!
Heather Winn is the author of Bound: The Story of the New Faerynn. She is also an 8th grade English teacher, mother, and baseball coach's wife. She enjoys sarcasm, good Chai tea, and fleece pajamas.