Now that Sandy has blown through, I'm left in my kitchen filled with candles, lanterns, extra batteries, containers full of water, check lists, and boxes of non-perishable goodies as per our family's planned Safety Kit. (If the Halloween Storm last year taught us nothing else, it is that it's good to be prepared!) Of course, we were following the advice of those who've weathered such storms before us and knew what to do. In that spirit, I wanted to provide a Safety Kit for would-be writers to weather the storms of pre-publication (and even post-publication!) better, perhaps, termed a "Sanity Kit."
Your Sanity Kit:
1. Writer friends. Of course your current friends and family are your biggest cheerleaders and will praise you for any pages you've written and how great your opening paragraph is, but when you start talking about things like queries and publishing credits, inciting incidents and plot arcs, you may notice their eyes start to glaze as if you're speaking a foreign language (and you are). Without encouraging feedback, your energy can start to wane, flicker and die. This is when you need to have people who *understand* what you're going through/thinking about/obsessing over as you keep checking the mailbox like a Pavlovian hound or refreshing your email or blog site every five minutes. Like recharging your batteries, this is when you need your critique partners who already know that you're crazy enough to pursue writing as a career choice and are already with you on the journey to publication, checking the map for directions, cheering each other on for every milestone, bird by bird. (Note: if you don't already have critique partners, this is a good time to get some!) If you can't find people IRL, look online where groups of debut authors gather (eg: the Debs, Tenners, Elevensies, Apocalypsies and Lucky Thirteens or class of 2K(x), eg: 2K7, 2K8, 2K9, etc. up to 2K13) or writerly forums like AbsoluteWrite or the Blueboards where you can finally be among "your people" who are only a click away!
2. Join a national, reputable organization. This is where the learning happens, like shining a heavy duty flashlight into the dark. This is where the pros are and kind folks who like to Pay It Forward (or Back) to the next folks in line. Write for ages 0-18? Try the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Write Science Fiction or Fantasy? There's the Science Fiction Writers of America. Romance? Know Romance Writers of America. There are so many places online that are helpful guides and they hold conferences all over the country just for people like you/me/us! It's where to go for the 4-1-1.
3. Secure your space. Whether you like to type in a busy cafe or at a quiet desk in a corner of your couch, find your writing space and make it a habit to check-in regularly. Like checking the smoke alarms to make sure they're still working properly, try writing at the same time for the same amount of time every day, ideally for 3 weeks, to create a regular routine. It primes your creative energies and eliminates distractions/excuses/reasonable reasons that undermine your ability to be at your ready best. Procrastination is like having a personal power-outage.
4. Feed the Muse. You can't keep creating if you're not having new experiences. Be sure to stop writing when you still have more to say and get out and do something else! Visit with friends, go on a walk, get some exercise, check out a museum, listen to some music, go dancing, try a class...the important things is to keep adding to your sense of well-being and connection to the world at large which provides so many inspiring people/places/art/colors/sounds/smells that you can feel better than if you're madly typing away fueled on nothing more than coffee and whatever's in the cupboard. Your brain needs more. Your body needs more. Be sure to keep them both running well.
5. Be kind. To yourself and others. Once you make sure you're okay, check on your neighbor and see where they're at. Post on your favorite blogs, write something positive to someone on Twitter, share a great quote or picture on Facebook or Tumblr, send an email to a friend, write an article to share online. All these little things can make a big difference to your mood and can brighten everyone's day. As big as we feel the Internet is, our own little corner is *just* a little corner and the "echo effect" is long and loud. Why not put something happy into the mix? Something powerful and helpful or supportive and fun? I am constantly amazed at what writers create out of nothing; stories that touch the world or take a stand to make things better. The pen is mightier than the sword so make sure the pointy end stays sheathed and use your power for good!
Having a Sanity Kit at hand will keep you from feeling like this:
P.S. If you're caught in a tornado, put the camera down and get in the basement.
Am I missing anything? Please say so in the comments so that we can ALL be better prepared for contingency plans.
Go write & may you enjoy sunny skies ahead!