March update

I may be a tiny bit behind on my goal of writing a million words this year, but it’s not out of reach. I’ve written a lot of poems in the past month, and have done some heavy work on world development, characters and the plot for two books in different series. I’m really excited by both series, and took the time to read several books on craft (I recommend Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland).

I’d hoped to have the next book out by the end of this month, but I’m running about three weeks behind. That means an April release for Warden of Storms under my pen name K K Ness. In the past, I’ve felt disappointed or ashamed by publishing delays. This year feels different, where my focus is on developing as an author, focussing on craft, and not worrying so much about deadlines.

It’s feeling good so far.

And following on from my last post, the PDT treatment on my face went really well. Most of the redness receded after ten days, and my skin is now clear and better than it was before. I’m kinda looking forward to the next few rounds of PDT, too. There’s a certain relief in knowing that a medical issue is being dealt with, rather than being left to fester.

So 2019 is shaping up to be a healthful, productive year!

blog post

Cancer and countdowns

Okay, that’s a gloomy heading, and perhaps a bit more dramatic than warranted, but the past few weeks have been more full on than expected.

I’ll start with the cancer. After my last blog post, I went to a skin specialist to have my freckles and moles checked (a necessity when living in Queensland), and discovered that a spot on my back had been misdiagnosed as benign six years ago. A sizeable excision was taken from my back (it now looks like a baby shark decided to take a bite), and the results came back as an aggressive BCC (basal cell carcinoma). While it’s the ‘safest’ type of skin cancer you can get, mine had been squatting there for six years and had grown deep, and is expected to recur. I’m a little bummed by this, as I wasn’t expecting to have skin cancer at 37 years old (or technically at 31), but I’m also pale, freckled and burn rather than tan. Wear sunblock, people!

Day 1 of PDT

Day 1 of PDT: swelling, oozing and pain!

Five days ago, I also underwent PDT (photodynamic therapy) to deal with any cancerous and pre-cancerous cells on my nose and cheeks. It involved having my face sandpapered, a cream put on and left to seep in for three hours, and then being baked under a red light for about 10mins. The heat from the light was so intense I could feel my skin shrivelling, hardening and cracking liky a crusty loaf of bread. It was alarming and super painful even with nerve blockers.

 

My face is now bright red, tender, itchy, oozing and peeling. I won’t know how successful the treatment has been for a few months, and it’s likely I’ll need to go another round, particularly for my scorched nose. In the meantime, I’m hiding in the house because there’s only so much pointing and staring a woman can take.

I’ll say it one more time:

Wear. Sunblock.

As for the countdown…I’m talking about the goal of 1 million words in 2019.

The whole business with my skin has been a bit of a distraction, so I’m feeling a little doubtful about reaching it. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the type of woman I need to be in order to write a million words.

Being someone who writes regularly and a lot is a given, but I don’t think that a million words is possible (or healthy) without coming from a place of enjoyment, capability, and self belief. Like so many writers, I write not because I want to, but because I need to. I feel hollowed out and sad if I don’t write for an extended period of time. Life would be easier if the stories weren’t calling me.

But a million words is the other end of the spectrum. It demands a lot of time and energy and willpower. Setbacks feel big and impossible to overcome (just like the goal itself). And if I approach the goal wrong, it’ll cause burnout. In truth, I’ve spent decades feeling miserable and full of doubt because of my writing. There have been long periods where I forgot how to love being a writer. Some of my bleakest moments have stemmed from the guilt, shame and doubt that burbles up when I sit in front of the laptop. It doesn’t matter that I’ve published three books. I’m very familiar with feeling like a self-indulgent fraud.

So my writing the past few weeks has been around light topics, like poems about my dog and word prompts from one of my favourite books: Theasaurus of the Senses by Linda Hart. I open it to a random page and then write a paragraph, short story or scene involving whatever word leaps out at me.

None of this writing will see the light of day. There’s a lot of pressure on writers to be ‘productive’. Fanciful stories about the coarseness of sand and poetic puffery about dogs kinda misses the mark. But I’ve had fun.

While the next K K Ness book is moving forward and will be out at the end of next month (eep!), reminding myself that I love writing has been the biggest progress toward a million words so far.

Hello Stranger

I haven’t here for a lifetime, but it hasn’t been because of a lack of activity.  Last month, I published my first book under a pen name. To say it’s been a rollercoaster of terror and awesomeness is a wee bit of an understatement. I’ve learnt a lot (but not nearly enough) and can already see some of the mistakes I’ve made as a newbie indie author.

My aim now is to share with everyone the mistakes and missteps I’ve made, and (hopefully) the knowledge I’ve gained as I fumble my way towards long term indie author success.

Bear with me. It’s gonna be bumpy.

The long silence

Yep, it’s been some time since you last heard from me. Not because I haven’t been writing—there’s been lots of revision and writing and outlining new projects—but because it’s been a big year with highs and lows, and sometimes it’s better to turn the focus inwards than express everything to the world.

Right now I’m looking with excitement at cloudy skies. The summer here has already been long; the front yard is scorched to bare, cracked earth, the local river is running dry, and we’ve been on water restrictions for months. But the chances of rain for Christmas are looking pretty good, and for the first time in a decade, all of the family will be together for the festivities.

The start of this year saw me determined to have my writing take centre stage in my life, only for it to be nudged aside in the face of moving interstate, a return to study, changing jobs, a focus on mental health, and the death of an incredible woman, my grandmother. And yet, writing has always been there, burbling in the background, and as I look over my work and my journal, I can see a year of breakthroughs and growth, and maybe just a little bit more confidence.

As the year draws to a close and the inevitable list of writing goals start to emerge for 2016, I ask that you be kind to yourself, be honest about your ability to achieve what you set out to do next year, and remember to exercise—a healthy body leads to a healthy soul and a fruitful, creative mind.

Have a wonderful holiday season and very writerly new year.

I don’t ask for help

Help and support signpost

I was seventeen when I drove my car sideways through a sugarcane field. The fault was all mine—I’d driven too fast around a corner on a dark and wet country road while tired after a long shift at the local fast food restaurant. One small overcorrection left me fishtailing across the road and down the embankment. Then the car bucked and tilted onto two wheels before the 5m high sugarcane suddenly brought everything to a halt, providing a soft, green cushion that gently tumbled the car back onto all fours.

I was fortunate to be alive. The only injury I had was a tiny cut to my cheek courtesy of a cane frond that had come in through the driver’s side window. But in the aftermath, all I could think about was how Mum would yell and offer me a cup of tea, and how Dad would scrub his hands over his face, unable to speak. I knew I’d be teased mercilessly at school, and that my sister and brother would lord it over me with their lovely, undented cars and pristine driving records.

So when the headlights from another car came into view, I did the only thing that made sense—I turned off my lights and hunkered out of sight.

It was only after the car had gone safely past the corner that I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake. Mobile reception didn’t exist in the area and no one knew of my predicament. So I sat there in the dark, contemplating my life choices, until the next car came along almost an hour later and I sheepishly caught a ride home.

I’d like to say that the accident taught me a great life lesson. But I’ll wait until I’m overwhelmed with exhaustion and about to press delete on a year’s worth of writing before I begrudgingly raise my hand.

Because I’m still the kid who’d rather sit in a banged up car in the middle of a sugarcane field than ask for help.

When do you sacrifice passion for production?

I have worked on my redraft for months now, exploring new paths, rewriting old chapters, and discovering new aspects of myself in the process. I have done my best to show up and write as often as possible and to commit to lofty goals that will one day hopefully see me as a full time writer.

And yet, when I read my work, I can hear a hollowness in my characters’ words and a lack of colour in my world. Authenticity is missing, and no matter how many times I delete and try again, I just can’t seem to find it. Compounding this is the guilt I feel for not posting here often enough, for not commenting on my favourite blogs, for not staying in touch with my writerly mates.

I’m desperate to complete this draft and send it out into the world and find some readers who like what I do…and I think that’s where the problem lies.

quote2We live in a society where a writer’s success is predicated on bestsellers, money and fame. According to the myriad of blogs, books and websites out there, a true writer needs to write every day, post on their twitter/facebook/blog/whatever every second day, comment on other writers’ social media every other day, network at every festival and con they can get to, and generally tell the world that they’re the next best thing…without being annoying about it. Do all that, and you might enjoy a modicum of success.

It’s rubbish.

A writer needs to hold onto their passion for writing. You lose your passion, you’re just working another shitty day job. And what’s the point of that?

So I’m going to spend my precious writing time just focussing on the fact that I love to write. It is a stabilising, joyful force in my life. I get to live in two worlds. I get to discover words like ‘pyknic’ and ‘sabrage’ and I get to flood my sentences with my friend, the gerund. I get to live a life I find fulfilling.

It’s my version of writerly success.

5 ways to get your writerly groove back

computer1Suffice to say, taking a long stint away from writing makes it extremely daunting when you finally decide it’s time to get back into it.

It’s been a little while since I last worked on my manuscript, but here’s how I’ve started dragging myself out of the mire.

Visualise yourself writing

If an activity is visualised often enough, your subconscious will believe it is a part of your real life. So be specific and involve the senses. Imagine the tap of the keyboard, the creak of your chair as you lean forward, the coolness of the floorboards under your feet. Remember the warm rush in your mind as the words flow out and the satisfaction you feel as a blank page is transformed. Imagine yourself entirely in that moment, with none of the guilt or panic you feel at not actually being at your desk. And do it often. When you’re finally ready to work on the manuscript, it won’t feel so alien or overwhelming.

Don’t set goals on your first day back

Face it, you’re going to be pretty emotional. There’ll be the relief of finally writing again, plus the anxiety of having wasted so much time. Don’t pressure yourself by committing to some sort of grand production schedule or list of tasks that will get you back on track. Calm down. You’ll be okay. Just write.

Start with something simple

computer2Whatever you write on your first day will probably be hard work. It’ll take twice as long to write half as much, and it likely won’t be your finest achievement. So start on something you won’t have to fight with. If setting is your strength, focus on that. If you have a clear idea of how two characters are going to interact, get writing. But don’t start on a critical, vague or difficult scene—that’s how you end up hiding under the bed with a tub of ice cream.

Accept that it won’t be easy

You’re going to struggle, and writer’s guilt seems to hit whether you’re writing or not. So be kind, acknowledge all of the negative thoughts, and then move on.

Celebrate the small successes

Managed to write a sentence, paragraph or page? It’s more than you’ve written in eons! Revel in it and ignore all of the imperfections. Follow it up with a second day of writing, and a third, fourth, etc. Get some momentum and allow yourself to enjoy the process. You’re a writer once more.