Thursday, October 09, 2008

Guest Blogger Christie Craig

The Playfriends met Christie Craig when she spoke at our chapter meeting in August. She tells a great story (ask her about the rental car and the mattress...), and she's amazingly inspirational. Today she offers some important tips for everyone (even the non-writers)...




Divorcing Doubt

Why am I even trying to write? I’m not any good at this. I wouldn’t know a good sentence if it jumped up and tattooed itself on my butt! I’m tired of having to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. If I was any good, I’d get it right the first time. Besides, I’m too old to learn! How many rejections does it take for the message to sink in! I quit! I quit! I really quit!

They arrive in droves. One will hit me, then before I have a chance to recover there’s comes another. BAM! Oh those negative, piercing, painful thoughts. And sometimes they’re not even just about writing. How about the ones that attack the size of our thighs? Or start criticizing the lines around our eyes? Or those that criticize our parenting abilities? Self doubt can sting.

Have you ever dealt with self doubt? If you’ve never suffered from this problem, you have my permission to stop reading right now. Go scrub a toilet or do something equally important. But if you, too, have been smacked around a time or two by the villainous self-doubt, then listen up.

First, we all must realize that it’s normal for us wacky people who call ourselves writers to be a bit manic depressive. (You don’t even have to be a writer to suffer from it.) I don’t mean for you to run off to the doctor and sign up for some meds. What I’m saying is that that most of us, especially writers, live on highs and lows. We make a sale, write a good scene, discover a new market, and we’re on Cloud Nine. We get a rejection, someone butchers one of our pieces, or we go too long without hearing anything back on our manuscripts and we, like the drama queens and kings that we are, go to the edge of our cloud, close our eyes, release all our negative voices, and commit emotional suicide.

I said it might be somewhat normal, but I didn’t say it was okay—because it’s not okay.

Especially if, after you hit rock bottom, you don’t pick yourself up, wipe up the blood, sweat and tears, (you don’t want to leave the mess around for anyone else to pick up) and go in search of a ladder. Heck! You’ve got clouds to climb. Markets to research, manuscripts to write. You’ve got to make it up to Cloud Nine so you can jump off again!

My point is that, in this business, there’s going to be highs and lows. And most every published author will tell you that it doesn’t stop when you get that call, or the first contract, or the tenth, or twentieth contract. Self doubt plagues all of us.

The first thing you need to do is to accept and know you’re not alone in the crazy ups and downs. Most writers experience it, live with it, deal with it, most of us even survive it. We divorce it. We usually have to keep divorcing it, because just like a bad penny, or a bad (but sexy) man, the moment we let down our guards, it sneaks its way back into our creative souls. The way we deal with it is to start enjoying the climb up the ladder as much as possible. Being on top is fun, Cloud Nine is a nice place to be, so milk it for all it’s worth. But more important is to find ways to enjoy your work—to enjoy the climb, the steps, even the baby steps. Hey, remember writing when you loved it. When it was all about the passion of getting that story on paper? Yeah, that’s where you need to be again.

To help control and divorce those doubts, try these tips.

- Seek out positive people. Negativity is like a bad stomach virus. All you need to do is be in the room with someone who has it, and you’re gonna get it. And generally, it ain’t pretty.
- Get into a competition with another writer. A healthy competition. See who can complete a proposal first.
- Allow yourself to dream, picture yourself getting the call, the contract! Or that positive review.
- Make it fun by dangling a carrot out in front of yourself. A completed chapter warrants a lunch out with a friend, or even a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
- Relieve stress by keeping your focus. Set a schedule and stick to it, you’ll not be near as hard on yourself if you are working on that goal than if you are procrastinating.
- Come up with some positive affirmations to offset the negative self-doubt stuff. Go around singing, “I’m good. I’m really good.” Sounds crazy? Of course it does. It will also sound crazy to anyone hearing you, but it does help. Besides, everyone who knows you already knows you’re a fruitcake.
- Play positive music while you write.
- Keep proof of your successes in front of you when you write—a contest certificate, a positive critique, anything that reminds you that you can do it.
- Never put all your eggs in one basket. Start a new book after the first one has been submitted.
- Laugh at yourself. Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Laugh at your mistakes. We all make them, we might as well have some fun with them.
- Remember: if we don’t learn from our mistakes, there’s no use in making them! Yeah, laughing at them is fine, but you still have to learn from them.
- Take time to play. There can be a fine line between dedicated and obsessed. Make sure you’re on the right side of the line. Skipping baths and letting fuzzy stuff grow on your teeth just because you need to finish a scene, this might mean you’re a little obsessed. But just a little, cause we’ve all done it.
- Try writing something totally different. Sometimes we just need to try a new approach or a new genre to get our creative juices flowing and to chase away those negative feelings.
- Allow yourself to feel challenged. Boredom quickly leads to failure. A quick fix to boredom is to accept a challenge, to try something new, something new encourages you to learn, to push yourself, to grow. And I don’t mean in pant sizes. Watch those calories.
- Face your fear and slap it around a little. Go ahead; admit what you’re really afraid of. Admit it, and then figure out how you will deal with it, how you’ll overcome it, how you’ll smack it around. Show fear that you are no one to be messed with.
- Try meditating. You know why all those good ideas come to us when we’re driving or in the shower? It’s because you’ve allowed your mind to rest. So give your mind a rest, even it means standing in the shower for an extra ten minutes every day.

Oh, you’ll still be doing belly flops and nosedives off a few clouds—the publishing business almost guarantees it—but hopefully you’ll be spending less time on rock bottom, and more time happily tagging clouds as you make your climb upward.


Christie Craig was born and raised in Alabama and now resides in Texas. But she still talks with an Alabama twang. Her humorous romantic suspense novels are published by Dorchester. On the shelves now: Divorced, Desperate and Delicious, Weddings Can Be Murder. Her third novel, Divorced, Desperate and Dating will be released November 25. Christie, with her non-fiction writing partner, Faye Hughes, wrote The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel. To check out Christie’s website go to http://www.christie-craig.com/. To read her humorous blogs go to http://killerfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ where her blogs appear every Tuesday. You can find some more writing articles on her and Faye’s site at http://www.writewithus.net/.

We'll be giving away a copy of Divorced, Desperate and Delicious today! You know the drill.
P.S. Playground Monitor picked two winners from all the recipes yesterday. First is Claire Winston because PM loves cranberries. And second is Terry S because there’s just not a whole lot in the world better than peach cobbler. Please contact PM at playgroundmonitor@writingplayground.com with your name and snail mail address. And thanks for all the terrific recipes!

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog, Christie and look forward to your upcoming book.

It is nice to meet authors on the net and hear what they have to say.

Pat L.

wutthi.20 said...

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Christie Craig said...

Pat L.

Thanks! It's nice to meet readers on the net too.

Best Wishes,

CC (Christie Craig)

Christie Craig said...

Wutthi20,

Thank you. And keep do keep reading.

CC

Faye Hughes said...

Great blog, Christie!

And since I've had the pleasure of reading Divorced, Desperate and Dating, I'd like to add that this is a fun, sexy book that will give you as many laughs as it will sighs. We should have the video finished in a few days. Visit Christie's website, www.Christie-Craig.com, or our YouTube site, http://www.writeruniv.com/, for more details.

Faye

Christie Craig said...

Hi Faye,

Thanks for stopping over girl.

CC

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Christie. I ride this roller coaster on a daily basis alternating between "I suck" and "I'm awesome." Mostly "I suck." I guess as an artist, you never stop questioning, never stop critiquing.

One of my concerns has always been that my story ideas are bigger and better than I'm capable of pulling off. That if Nora wrote my story, it would be so much better. It would hit the Times List and she'd be praised as a genius. I just get rejected with the exact same premise.

The important part, though, it getting back on the ladder. I always do, it just requires a carton of Ben & Jerry's and a day or two of moping.

amy*skf said...

First, I need a moment, I heard Christie speak twice in San Francisco--once with 3 other authors from Dorchester--great panel and then with your writing partner Faye.

I heard the mattress story and almost peed my pants I laughed so hard.

Then I read Weddings Can Be Murder--and fell in love, with your characters, it was so good.

On to the blog--perfect timing. And my Mother speaks on positive thinking, but sometimes you need to hear it from a peer. The good news is even as I'm spiraling into doubt there's lots of times I can simply cut it off--Yes I Can Do This! I tell myself, then I cry.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Christie, it was great meeting you at HOD! Love the mattress story, but the huge pile of rejections was even more inspiring.

Self-doubt is my constant companion. I'm on a high right now, but it won't last. The doubt will return. Thanks for the suggestions on how to deal with it. :)

Instigator said...

Welcome to the Playground, Christie! We're really excited to have you here. Let me tell you, if you ever have the chance to hear Christie speak run don't walk to get your chair. She's fantastic and hilarious.

The doubt doesn't go away. I just turned in a book after revisions yesterday and I held onto it longer than I should have futzing with words that didn't really matter. They were fine the way they were...I was just scared to let it go.

Instigator

Christie Craig said...

Smarty Pants,

Yup, we're artists and we all bounce from the positive to the negative. Recently, I realized that even the negative doubt has a purpose. If I didn't have it, would I work so hard to compensate? Probably not. So, while I still fight the negative demons, I think that in a small way they help make me a better writer.

It's when the negative demons win and I don't submit or give up that they need to be slapped around a bit.

And remember that as writers we need to stop thinking of rejections as the end of a career, and realize they are stepping stones. I've got plenty of those stepping stones to prove it, too.

And as for the Ben & Jerry's, call me when you've got a carton of the chocolate stuff. :-)

Thanks for stopping by.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Amy,

Thank you so much for visiting my workshops at national. I love talking and teaching writing and in a zany stand-up-comedy sort of way. Making people laugh is so rewarding to me.

How neat is that you have a mother who is into the whole positive thinking frame? Appreciate her, girl. And yes, we still need to hear it from our peers.

I recently wrote an article on: The Power of Your Circle of Influence. Negativity is so contagious, and if you're hanging with negative people, it rubs off you. So hanging in positive circles, will keep you on track and can help you meet your goals.

Thanks so much for stopping in.


CC

amy*skf said...

Christie, I do appreciate her. I know just how lucky I am. She also speaks on the myths of aging and the fact that she is 86 and doing it is a testament to her words.

She is my inspiration. Her name sometimes leads to confusion though: Joan Kennedy. She always says, "No, I'm the other one."

I loved what you said about sometimes the negative demons make you work all the harder, it's almost like the best revenge is success.

Christie Craig said...

Lynn,

You know, "the rejection dump" as I have so titled that part of my talks, is very popular. When I first thought about doing it, I was worried people might see it as a negative thing. I even worried a bit about people knowing I'd gotten that many rejections. But then I realized that writers need to know that a rejection doesn't mean you stink as a writer.

A rejection can be just because the book didn't appeal to that one editor, or it can mean you need to work on some aspect of your craft, but either way, those little painful suckers can help us. And for most of us, rejections are part of this darn business.

And hey, enjoy your high, girl. Stay up there as long as you can, and just know that if something less than "great" happens, it’s okay. You can climb right back up to cloud nine.

Thanks for stopping by.

CC

Playground Monitor said...

That mattress story is one of the best I've heard in ages. I'd recommend a Christie Craig workshop to anyone because with her clever style of delivery, you'll definitely remember it. And that pile of rejections! That's a lesson in itself -- a lesson about perseverence.

Doubt seems to be my daily partner, but as long as I can keep the positive thoughts above 50% I figure I'm winning.

Thanks for joining us today.

P.S. Verification word is cquywexl -- I like the exl part. Excel, get it?

Christie Craig said...

Instigator,

I taught an on-line class last month, and in it one of the students described going to the post office and handing over her manuscript to the post lady. When the woman would touch the envelope, the writer would quickly pull it back. After a second, she'd get her courage up and hand it over again, but darn it every time the woman would touch it, she’d be compelled to pull it back again. She said the post lady started laughing.

I can so relate to this. I think so many writers fret and worry that maybe if we give the manuscript one more spit and polish, one more tweak, then we’ll make it perfect.

So don't worry too much about your futzing, (I like that word.) because I think we all deal with this a little bit. But you're right, we have to control it and not let it control us.

Thanks so much for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Amy,

Your mom sounds very special. And I love the fact that she speaks on the myths of aging. We all need to hear that. I like the saying, "We don't grow old. We get old when we stop growing." Deepak Chopra. It sounds as if Joan Kennedy is a woman I would like to meet.

And yup, success is the best revenge. For some reason that saying always reminds me of my ex husband. LOL.

CC

Hey, I love her name.

Christie Craig said...

Playground Monitor,

Thanks for inviting me to guest blog.

And I like how you put it. "Doubt seems to be my daily partner, but as long as I can keep the positive thoughts above 50% I figure I'm winning."

I think a lot of people think that if you have doubts, about anything, be it going back to school, asking for a promotion, or trying your hand at a new writing genre, then it means you shouldn't proceed forward.

But I seriously think only idiots, or super intelligent people, never doubt or question themselves. I work hard at not being an idiot, and I sure as heck don't fall into whiz kid category, so doubt is just something I have to deal with. And I think it’s true for most of us.

Thanks again for the opportunity to be here today.

CC

Sherry Werth said...

Hi Christie, It was great to meet you at HOD and listening to you speak was both an inspiration and a hoot! I don't think anyone will ever top the mattress story. And watching you dump out all those rejection letters is something I will never forget.

I let so many things get in my way of writing. I know it's on purpose and due to self doubt and fear, but at least I have acknowledged that's what it is and can work on not letting it win.

I really like the ladder idea and reaching for the clouds. I bet that little Doubting Doofus that constantly sits on my shoulder is afraid of heights. :D

Christie Craig said...

Sherry,
((I bet that little Doubting Doofus that constantly sits on my shoulder is afraid of heights.))

I love that!! Because you are so right, he'll shudder with fear as you accomplish your dreams. You go girl!! And don't ever let that negative voice stop you.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

catslady said...

killerfiction has been one of my favorite blogs for a while now. Everyone interacts and there's lots of humor.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Catslady!

It's so good to see you out and about on the net.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

nancy kay bowden said...

Christie, you never fail to inspire. Thank you AGAIN! BTW, The Writing Playground is an interesting place to visit... I'll be back!

Hugs,
Nancy

Christie Craig said...

Nancy,

Thanks for stopping in.

This is a great blog, isn't it? And girl, you know I'm here to give you a good kick in the pants whenever you need it.

CC

Kathy said...

Hey Nancy! Nancy's one of my HHRW buds.

Welcome, Christie! I'm another HOD fan, properly converted to the rejection dump. Man, I couldn't believe how many slipped out of your hands. The fear of getting rejected holds me back. I'm trying to get better about this and your presentation really helped me see things a bit differently. Thanks!

You have a way of seeing the glass half full. How do you do it?

Also, I know you have great support from your hubby. What would you recommend for someone starting out who feels she has to justify her time with family members?

ArkieRN said...

I live with self doubt daily. Thanks for the tips on managing it.

Christie Craig said...

Kathy,

I'm glad I gave you something to think about with my rejections. I think we forget that most every successful writer has her pile of rejections. Some of us just have a few more than others. :-)

Now about the cup half full question. I have three tips:
1) Watch your circle of influence. As parents we worry ourselves sick about whom our children hanging out with. And for good reason, if some teen is encourages getting in trouble, the likelihood of your own precious child following is high. Yet we forget as adults that this same influence is held over us. If you hang out with negative people, people who spend all their time whining, instead working on making their dreams come true, then it's so easy to follow in their foot steps. These don’t have to be just writing buddies either, negativity in any area can effect all goals. If you don’t have a positive circle of influence, find one.
2) Set goals, realistic goals. Don’t set yourself up to fail.
3) Do something everyday, no matter how small, to keep your dream alive. Some days all I do is give my plot a three minutes working over in my head. These small steps will keep you actively pursuing you goals, and remaining positive is easier when you feel you are moving ahead, rather than doing nothing at all.


Now, about justifying your time to your family: first and foremost, you need to treat this like a business. If you show them you are seriously working at it, they will be more likely to respect it. I don't mean work full-time, I mean treat the time you can give to it, seriously.

Then you need to be honest to them about how important it is to you.

Don’t be afraid to barter. Tell your family, if you’ll let me have two hours Saturday morning, I’ll bake you guys cookies Saturday night. Hey, tell your hubby, "Give me some writing time, and I might need you to help research a few love scenes." :-) (They love that.) I seriously have found asking them for help makes them feel important and they are more likely to respect your goals. I have my son help me with taking pictures for my videos, and blogs. My husband helps me by reading my ARCs. He feels he has a stake in the books. My son actually, goes to my blogs to read them because he knows he’s being mentioned and he wants to see the pictures.

Now this said, Kathy, I know there are some families who will not give an inch. Then it’s up to you to make some demands and find ways to sneak in time. Getting up before everyone else does in the house, or staying up an hour or two after everyone goes to bed. If it’s really important to you, you can find a way.

Good luck and thanks for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Arkiern,

It bites us all. Good luck dealing with it.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

cas2ajs said...

It is hard to shake off self-doubt sometimes. And I think we're all harder on ourselves than anyone else. Thanks for some useful tips to deal with it.

Cheryl S.

Christie Craig said...

Cas2ajs,

That's so true. I tell people all the time that I work for myself, and I'd like it a lot better if my boss wasn't such a B with an -itch.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Virginia said...

Great blog Christie, I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to be a writer to have that self doubt. We all have it from time to time. I think we are just a little unsure of our self, we just got to keep saying we can do it.

Christie Craig said...

Virginia,

You are so right. We all have them. Even some non-writers are experts at what I call creative worrying.

Thanks so much for stopping in.

CC

Jane said...

Christie--Thanks so much for these suggestions. Sometimes it helps to know other writers go through this.

Jane

Anonymous said...

love weddng can be murder so funny an d romantic.

kh

Anonymous said...

any winner