For the DenNerds: Witchshadow Paperback Cover Reveal!
For the Daydreamers: Ditching Goals
Recent Goings On
I have to be honest that I am unsure about the future of this newsletter.
Don't get me wrong! I still love talking about writing, and I of course love sharing actual book-shaped updates...But the cost of maintaining this is getting prohibitive.
Plus, there's the time element. I am still handling full time childcare + my actual demands as an author. I'm not complaining! I think I've found a pretty good balance, but my time is limited for things like social media and (obviously) newsletters.
A lot of people moved over to Substack during the pandemic, and I considered it. But now I'm afraid people are Substack-ed out, and the efficacy of newsletters is just waning in general.
I began my newsletter 8 years ago (wow!) and before that, I had been blogging on my website and Pub(lishing) Crawl. Just as I shifted formats then, I am looking ahead to what the next iteration for writing advice might be...while also ensuring I can financially justify it. (This seems like a good moment to point to my Ko-Fi.)
For now, things will stay as they are, though! I won't suddenly abandon you. I'll keep sending these monthly updates with free writing advice until I can find a better model.
And no matter what comes, thank you for subscribing and supporting me. You're amazing, and I hope your 2022 is everything you hope for.
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For the DenNerds:
Witchshadow UK Paperback Reveal!
Aaah! I am so excited to share the newest Witchshadow cover! For those of you who don't know, Tor UK always creates the most incredible covers for my mass market paperback editions of the Witchlands books.
And of course, Iseult's book is no different!
So behold! A shadow wyrm in Void purple. I love the colors, and I think it's going to look so incredible on the shelf next to the other editions like it.
As the year closes, I am going over what worked and what didn't work for me in 2021 -- and of course thinking about what I want from 2022.
I went into 2021 so gung-ho. I had discovered Sarra Cannon's HB90 Method (highly recommend!), and I'd also discovered the joys of washi tape, stickers, and taking time to plan my week each Sunday. Also, kanban boards!
All of those things are still in use a year later (just bought new stickers and a new 2022 planner; very exciting), but I've decided to come at 2022 with a new mental game.
Basically, I'm ditching a word from my vocabulary: goal.
I know, I know. You're probably thinking, Wtf, Sooz. Are you just gonna be an aimless monster for the rest of your life?
Yes! That's exactly my plan, dear reader.
NO. Of course not. 🙄 But there are a few reasons the word "goal" has become an impediment for me instead of a motivator.
And, like, obviously this is just me! I'm not suggested we all remove the word "goal" from our 2022 vocab. I just personally need to make a change, and I'm hoping that reframing how I approach my writing (and other parts of my life) will help me feel more fulfilled overall.
How "Failure" Derails Me
The first quarter of 2021, I absolutely obliterated my goals. My kanban board was a magnificent post-it display, and I was able to move things from "goal" to "due this week" to "DONE" with awesome regularity.
I finished March 2022 beaming with pride and pumped to move into Q2 with the same clear focus and direction.
But then...things fell apart. Ranging from sleep schedule changes to unexpected deadlines popping up on things I hadn't anticipated needing to work on...to HAVING A BOOK RELEASE and all the complications that come with that during a pandemic.
But also, I had finally come up against the inevitable Writer's Block that plagues me with every sequel I ever write (although, I prefer to call it Writer's Constipation, since the story is in there. It just needs help coming out sometimes). I had written plenty of words in my books, but all of them had been tossed in my usual false-start-churning that comes at the start of a new project in an old world.
Yeah, so I finished June with a Q2 kanban board that was depressing. "Finish Act 1 of Witchlands 6" --> I wrote three different Act 1's and threw them all away. FAIL.
"Brainstorm Act 2 of Witchlands 6" --> Welp, seeing as I never could find a solid Act 1, that never happened
"Write Act 1 Luminaries 2" --> LOL. SAME ISSUE. I wrote two false starts and threw them both away. FAIL.
I was so disheartened at the end of June by my failures! I had met none of my goals! I hadn't kept any focus! I was so disappointed in myself that I didn't have the heart to use a kanban board or set any goals for Q3.
Worst of all, my self-talk was brutal. I was constantly berating myself over the fact that I hadn't reached my goals. The only thing that had been going well was my new attempt as a runner. So for Q3, I focused on running, took a break from writing while I mentally recuperated, and just did whatever work hit my inbox (i.e. Luminaries edits).
It was much needed break, if for no other reason than without goals, I couldn't be so awful to myself for missing them. And I emerged from Q3 much clearer, much happier.
So I tentatively set new goals for Q4: a writing goal + a running goal. I made my post-its; I added them to the kanban board.
Well, the same thing happened with my running -- I kept missing goals. My area has been hit with some pretty wild weather (like everyone these days), and there's a point at which running in snow/sleet/high winds is just stupid. I had to accept that me skipping a few runs did NOT make me a failure.
But here I am again, looking at a kanban board that doesn't look quite like I wanted it to at the end of the quarter.
Measuring Creative Output
This is the point where I suggest you all read the awesome book Hustle & Floatby Rahaf Harfoush. It really helped me realize that creativity isn't something that can be measured by standard productivity measures.
Writing books is not the same thing as producing widgets on a line. Yet we act as if it is. As if getting in words each day happens by the same mechanism as that widget assembly.
But it doesn't. At least not for me. Sure, word count goals have gotten me through many books. But they've also sent me into emotional tailspins and led me to writing a LOT of words I ultimately threw out.
(NOTE: This is just me; please don't ditch word count goals or writing everyday if that works for you. Every brain is different!)
I abandoned writing every day long ago, and also learned to lean into the cyclical nature of my process. But I am still finding myself falling into the productivity trap of "if I don't meet X outcome, then that makes me a failure."
Now, look. On the one hand, this is what pays me. So I do have to meet contracts and publisher timelines. And on that same hand, sometimes those deadlines really help my brain get into gear when nothing else will. It's like in the terror of knowing a bomb will explode means I suddenly understand electrical engineering and which wires to cut.
Plus, I think working in some way/shape/form on my books every single day is important. It's just that the output measure we as an industry typically use (word count) doesn't work for me.
First drafts of first books (or standalones) tend to pour out of me pretty easily.
But give me a sequel? Suddenly I am Michelangelo faced with the stone, chipping away all the bits that aren't David. I have to write a lot of wrong pieces so I can discard them to find the right ones.
And this all brings me back to the idea of goals
I've written a lot of books at this point. The tenth published one comes out next year, but I have written many more than that. I have a pretty clear idea of how my creative process works -- with first books, with sequels, with revisions and rewrites and outlines.
And for all the challenges (yargh, where are you in all this marble, David?), I actually love the way my creativity works. When things are going well, I feel like QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE. And even when things are sticky, it's satisfying. Like finding the best way through an immersive sim.
What always sends me spiraling emotionally is when I miss goals. When I don't live up to some external measure that I've placed upon the situation.
Example: During NaNoWriMo, I wanted to write 30K in Luminaries 2. I easily hit that number, but I also tossed out most of it...leaving me with a net of ~10K words.
On top of that, in a rush of inspiration, I wrote 25K in something totally new. Yet, rather than be proud of all that did get written -- new words in something new + removing all those bits of stone that weren't David -- I was frustrated and depressed. FAILURE, FAILURE, FAILURE. I ended November in such a funk.
So something has to change, friends.
Something kind of drastic that will allow me to enjoy my creativity and celebrate the gains I do make. I have to stop viewing my job as purely "output based," I have to remove the pressure of "constant productivity" in favor of "this is how creativity works, so embrace the words as they come."
As such, I am bidding the word "goals" adieu.
Looking to 2022
Again, I am not advocating waiting around for inspiration to strike. Not at all. I think if you want to write things and finish them, you have to show up and put in the time.
What I'm advocating is how you measure the output that comes from that time.
If I put in 4 hours a day, rather than being upset if I don't get 4,000 words, is there some different way I can evaluate the progress I made?
Honestly, I don't have an answer yet. I've been mulling this idea for the last few weeks, and as I slowly make my planner look pretty (see image above, lol) and start filling in various scheduled appointments and important dates, I will continue to mull.
I'm toying with maybe setting general "intentions" instead of goals for 2022. Although I'm worried that might just turn into another word for goal. 😉
Or maybe I'll come up with certain emotional experiences I want to enjoy this year -- like, I want to feel the rush when a book finally comes together and I can just fall into it. Or I want to feel the utter joy of writing something that is just for me. Or I want to feel the runner's high that comes from a long run on a day I didn't want to leave the couch...
I don't know yet, friends, but when I come back in January of 2022, I'll be sure to update you on what I've found. I'm really hoping I can find a way to incorporate the kanban board, though I can't yet see what that will look like.
If the pandemic and full time momming have taught me anything, though, it's that we really, truly cannot control anything. I can't make people be safe and wear masks; I can't make Covid stop its natural evolution that adds horrible mutations; I can't make Cricket eat her freaking eggs; and I can't make people buy and enjoy my books.
I also can't make my stories turn into words if they're not ready to be words yet -- I have never been able to do that; it's not how my brain works. And so, it's time to find a new way of measuring joy and satisfaction in what I do.
If anything I've just talked about sounds like you at all, then maybe you too will consider reevaluating the way you measure joy and satisfaction in what YOU do. These past years have been hard enough; we don't need self-hate from a "bad" output day to add to it all.
I'll see you in 2022, friends. Stay safe. Enjoy the holidays. 💚
I have nothing planned right now, but stay tuned for 2022!