Act how you want to feel

Its ok to write when you feel lousy. In fact, as I reckon any aspiring author knows, this is a common state in which to write. Authors have a reputation to ride on (or a deal to fulfil) and writers have some short-term goal and/or excitement. Meanwhile, aspiring authors have faceless agents and publishers who provide no feedback, and no shortage of onlookers with opinions.

It isn’t a pleasant place to be.

Understandably, motivation and a helpful attitude are in short supply at this point in the journey. The desire to write comes and goes, and it’s difficult to summon a positive view of my desired future, of becoming a widely known author.

This is why I’m always hungry for author’s stories: How was their journey and how did it feel? Unfortunately, all I could find before I established my blog were self-evident summaries stating that so-and-so was published in some year or other (and good luck with that to anyone else).

Anyway, I was reading a book last week that was an oleo of wisdom. One of the few things I got out of the content (it was exceedingly vapid and egomaniacal) was to act the way you want to feel. I latched onto this because it’s what I need right now, with my writing career.

I intend to take it on as a maxim: To act, then feel.

I’ll trial it for a couple months and see how much if a difference it makes, then report back. Until then, there isn’t much else for me to say on the idea except that it rings true in my own life. It’s my hope that, since I’ve witnessed it in action before, it might help me to be more active in my writing and selling.

Hate mail

I got my first hate mail a while ago. It was, predictably, in response to the article I posted about unhelpful things people say. Equally unsurprising, it was anonymous so as to preclude any discussion.

If you’ve ever been at the helm of any meaningful endeavour, you’ll have attracted detractors. When I did public speaking, I could see frowning faces in the crowd. Those people did not do public speaking themselves. As the head of a successful business, my wife faces detractors from all angles. These people are not running their own business. As an aspiring author, I’ve found people with no shortage of derisive opinions. By their own admission, they are not writers. From these experiences and more, it didn’t surprise me to receive hate mail for daring to create.

The key theme here is that only people on the sidelines of life have the lack of focus to attack those who have chosen to lead.

An analogy that helps me with this topic comes from Brene Brown.  In one of her books, she wrote that standing out in life is like being in a fighting ring, except instead of a corporeal opponent you’re up against something much more frightening – an aspect of yourself. Whether you’re fighting your own fears, preconceptions or otherwise, you can be guaranteed that as soon as you step into that ring, hecklers will turn up in the stands around you.

What I’ve noticed about these hecklers, from having seen them in numerous times, is that they rarely have the courage for a direct confrontation. Instead, they act as hyenas, taunting and ridiculing in the hope your own doubts will destroy your ambitions. Perhaps, to stick to Brene’s analogy, they are cheering for your opponent.

It really is an all-out fight when you try to do something difficult.

I don’t think the crowd around the ring understands this, or even recognises how it feels. After all, that would require experience.

There isn’t much more to say on this topic. It’s my hope, as with the rest of this blog, that other aspiring authors will stumble upon this time capsule at some point and find it helpful. I know hate mail will be an evergreen topic. With that in mind, all I can say is to keep going – keep writing no matter what. I’ve watched my wife agonise about anonymous feedback and believe me, it did her no good. When she directed her emotions and rallied, however, she was able to continue achieving great things. I wish the same for you.

The port of success

This entry is a short story, essentially. Written one morning whilst wondering when my ship is going to come into port.

Adrift at sea, view shrouded by a thick fog. Storms come and go but even those are a welcome change from the horrible dullness in between. I can hear others lost at sea. Sometimes we talk, and then they drift away. Regular sessions at the oars seem to have no effect. What does it matter if the boat moves a few miles when it’s lost in an endless ocean?

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a light shines through the darkness. Moments later, the mist clears to reveal a safe harbour – the port of success! With the end goal in sight, frantic efforts are made to bring the boat in safely and, in short order, it is docked.

A small gathering of merchants await, smiling crooked smiles, their eyes shining with avarice. These are the people who will announce my arrival. Eventually. It’s a tenuous connection with no assurance of realisation. “It’s just a transaction,” their eyes tell me. More explicitly, their words make it clear that they expect my product to make them money. Well, they are merchants, after all. I pay them their fees and they disappear.

The port of success quickly loses its appeal to me. The merchants demand I work for them for no pay. Sometimes their requests make sense but other times they seem arbitrary. We argue now and then, bickering over small things that are merely a difference of opinion. The only thing that keeps me here is their promise they will sell my product.

Mostly, it is the endless waiting that grates on me. Being at the port of success feels no different than being lost at sea. What does it matter if I fulfil the merchant’s work requests if I know they’ll just come back with another one? Soon, they promise, soon I will be successful. I begin to question if I’m moored at the right harbour.

One day, years after having docked at the port of success, the merchants tell me I am to be successful. However, I can find no enthusiasm. Years of waiting for success have given me ample time to produce many more products, and I am eager to sell those, also. Must I wait years for them to be sent to market, too?

Success comes to me, and it is underwhelming. Success means more work. Meeting, speaking, and personally vouching for my product at stores. I can now afford to fund the oceanic journey I undertook. Half a decade after the fact, mind you. If this is success, it’s not a form I recognise.

I go to the docks and sit on a pier, deep in thought. All around me, other successful people are departing. “The vastness of the sea,” they tell me, “is better than what I went through here!” I can’t say I blame them. Even so, who knows where they will end up. I feel they are trading one uncertainty for another.

As is customary for me when I have a moment, I take out my notebook and begin to record some words. I note interesting people and odd behaviours. I let my mind wander so that ideas may come to me. For better or worse, this port is where I belong. So what if success brings more work and more challenges? In my journey to become a recognised author, I will not be deterred.

What’s the point?

Have you ever finished a chapter in a book and wondered, “What was the point of that?”

Perhaps the pacing felt off, the author went on a tangent, a dull character was the focus, or my personal favourite – the protagonist is on a long, boring journey during which nothing happens.

Is it of interest?

For all the importance (as an aspiring author) I put on smooth pacing and having a significant point to every scene, the audience sure doesn’t pay much attention to it. As I’ve noted before, nobody cares about perfection except for the perfectionist.

Perfect doesn’t exist, Brett… 

Yes, I know. I wasn’t trying to imply that books ought to be perfect – far from it. Rather, it’s that I know what a bad story looks like. This is probably a result of where I am as an author. I used to tolerate pointless writing because I had no choice – I wanted stories and took whatever was on offer. Now that I create stories, I don’t have to put up with boring writing so it’s ok to see it, and to try and avoid it when I write.

Having reached this point, I have a burning question: Why did I ever tolerate bad storytelling?

These days, if a story gets boring I just skim read until it picks up. If it doesn’t pick up after two or three chapters, it goes on the donate pile. I’ve got better things to do than read crappy stories.

It feels deeply disappointing to read a bad story because I know I can do better. I denied this for many years, and find myself wishing I had begun to write a long time ago. Of course, there were reasons why that didn’t happen, but they are a story in themselves.

Am I asking too much?

You know, it’s strange that the more I write, the more alienated I feel from other readers. So many popular books are riddled with pointless sections and bad storytelling. I deride them, yet my reader friends don’t notice them, more often than not. It seems we’re seeing very different things.

My perception is changing as I write – for the better, I think. I’ve always thought of a person’s perception as being at the centre of their voice. It’s one thing you can’t teach, buy or copy. Developing it is half of the battle, using it is the other.

It’s tough to stand alone, to see what others don’t.

That said, it’s a theme of my life. You’d think I’d be used to it by now yet I still find it confronting. I suspect I always will.

Anyway, whats important is how I handle seeing things differently. I don’t for a moment think my books will be superior. I only know that they have consistently engaging storytelling, and that this is a rarity among the stories I’ve read. In short, not having others know my voice exists (yet) doesn’t bother me too much. I know it exists and that it’s worth hearing, so I’m putting it down in writing and working on gaining an audience.

In closing, I wish more authors were good storytellers. Too often, I find myself reading the concept of a story as opposed to a real story – fully fleshed out, meaningful and evenly paced. I’d like to make sure I never tell a story in such a lazy manner.