I don’t know about you, but these days, my focus comes and goes in spurts. Trying to get anything done is a slog, uphill both ways, with a short stopover in the kitchen for a snack.
Right now, we’ve got the whole ‘social isolation’ thing happening, with worries about how fast COVID-19 already spread, and what the job market is gonna look like when this whole thing ends. Cause it has to end, right?
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you should know that I’m the very definition of a Type-A lady. I need to feel some control over my life.
However, we all know the best type of productivity for this Type-A lady? Involves check-lists!
Remember a couple months ago when I started spouting the glories of using project management tools from the office for my writing? (For me, I picked Trello. They are not sponsoring me. I have no sponsors. But hey, Trello, feel free to sponsor me!)
Turns out? Offices use project management tools cause they kinda work.
I’ve almost kept up with all my self-imposed tasking. Seriously, for an unpaid vanity gig, I give myself a lot of work! Sometimes I think maybe I should focus more on my actual writing [my mom AND my dad both agree]. (But, hey, if you do find this blog helpful, leave a comment!*)
During the first 3 months of 2020, I only dropped the ball once. (Turns out, if you send Author Spotlight interviews less than 24 hours before they should go up, the replies might be done in voice-to-text. I deserved it).
To keep from making my mistake?
3 “Tricks” for Making Checklists Work
Put the things you want to accomplish on them
Add due dates
Actually check the thing regularly
Now, I tried, really hard. It was just a bunch of small things that added up to the big miss. I added a spotlight but didn’t add it to the trello, I was sick and didn’t do my weekly task of ‘checking my trello board’, and I waited until bedtime, the day the author spotlight should have been prepped, before triple-checking my gmail draft that actually has the master list of author spotlights.
Before you go thinking I was born a Type-A, I must confess the reality of the situation. I’m a recovering messy-girl. That’s why organization is a thing I do in binges, and then coast until something goes wrong. I was the one who missed recess to clean up her desk. The one who was once hoarding seven library books in her desk and/or locker.
I am the girl who SOMEHOW managed to lose a spelling test DURING the test, before turning it in.
You think I’m joking? It started off with a messy scrawl and a spare sheet of paper where I was copying over the words in neater handwriting and ended up… I still don’t know.
Where was I going with this?
Humble-brag time. Since I’ve been home, I’ve managed to:
my weekly, unattended Twitter chat: #ChatWriteNow (10pm Thursdays)
Plus, of course, my 3 author spotlights, and as soon as I finish this, 3 blogposts and vlogposts
Plus, a not-a-rejection from an editor on a short story. (She’s no longer the editor on that project, I need to resubmit).
When I look at my Trello board for the entire 1st quarter (I organized it like that to keep from getting too cluttered), the only things I missed were:
Monthly #authortube video that wasn’t my blog — although, if joining a livestream counts, I’m okay.
Updating the trello board one week (obv)
Still waiting on feedback from a few readers of my middle-grade novel, so I haven’t started its revision
And that’s not counting the hours and hours I spent mindlessly browsing facebook or ‘playing’ the fb not-a-puzzle-game Hero Wars.
I am doing my dayjob from home — but it’s a new project with a lot of moving parts where I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
I’ve done a fair amount of cooking lately — pasta, stew, boxes with directions on the back. I’m surprised I haven’t resorted to stress-cleaning yet. But, I did find a pressure washer because my sidewalk needs it. Maybe this weekend?
Minor confession. Remember last week’s post where I said a lovely walk between dayjob and writing helped break everything up? Well… I sprained my ankle on Saturday, so I’ve unfortunately been forced to slack on the couch this week. But, hey, it’s been cold and rainy, so I don’t think I’m missing too much, besides the step-count.
I’ve been sleeping better, although I’m pretty sure it’s getting used to the stress, not decreasing my stress. But, hey, I’m great at binge reading when I’m stressed.
As all the experts are saying, be patient with yourself if productivity or creativity is on hold from the stress. Figure out what you can do, and make sure to leave some time to bring yourself joy — or at least distract yourself from the stress for a bit.
How are you holding up?
* Or, if you want, I did actually add a donation button over on the side. If you actually find this blog helpful and worthwhile, plus have the spare cash, I’ll give a shout out to my first sponsor.
I’m torn between, “other people are more deserving” and “I should value my own time and work”. Hence why it’s been up for months and I’m just now mentioning it. In a tiny aside. At the end.
Last week, I was home sick with a normal cold — no fever, wet cough, progressing like my normal colds. I spent the week half-napping and binge-reading paranormal romances, half doing my day-job from home and vegging. Paying a little attention to the news.
By Friday, when I started to feel well enough to socialize? The state of Virginia had been told we should be “socially distancing” ourselves. I didn’t even know what that meant until a week ago.
My last hurrah was a D&D game with 5 friends and 3 pies, for Pi day. With D&D, you only touch your own dice and mini figure, and the host’s table is LARGE so were pretty spread out. We still all washed our hands 10 times and did our best to keep our distances.
I know I’m one of the fortunate ones. I’d already stocked up on groceries when I started coming down with my cold, I have plenty of toilet paper, and a day-job that easily supports work-from-home.
Watching the guidelines roll out, with 2 weeks turning into 4 weeks hinting at 8 weeks or more, I saw those conventions I was so excited to panel at just last week have to close their doors. They’ve tried to reschedule, there are rumors of trying to run a few things online, but the cons themselves aren’t happening.
With a death-rate ten times that of the flu, and a lack of any vaccine or natural immunity making the choice to let it just run its course look like a natural disaster on a scale not seen outside of war and/or the history books, I can’t blame them. I understand.
But it hurts.
I was so excited and proud.
Now? I’m just bummed and fighting anxiety.
I’m worried for my friends with high-risk factors — age, wellness, public service sector jobs. Worried for my friends who are going to lose their jobs — their healthcare, their food access, their homes. And hoping the grocery stores keep managing to restock.
I’m a bit type-A, so once I realized I’d be working full time from home, I set up a folding table so I could see 3 laptops and a monitor at the same time. Couch-working, like I did when I was home sick last week? Isn’t really set up for full-time work.
Next? I took inventory of all my food and grocery items, just to reassure myself I’d be okay. Seriously. On a pad of paper — down to calculating servings per meal and doses of meds.
It reassured me at first. Until the 8+ weeks part started to spread and I realized, my calm, “totally handling this” self was having trouble falling asleep. I guess I’ll have to stop avoiding the grocery store at some point, but not for a few weeks yet.
I know I’m going to start getting cabin fever at some point. I’m an ambivert and going INTO social isolation after a week home sick really just belabors the point. So, I’ve taken a few steps to try and ward off the inevitable. (Remember: Type A)
5 Things I’m Doing On My Own
I’m keeping to my same wake/sleep/work schedule that I do when I have to go into the office.
I’m getting dressed, not just staying in my pajamas all day.
I’m making sure to stop and eat regular meals, not just snacking all day, like work-from-home can so often turn into.
I’m taking a walk a day (weather permitting), to try and get some steps in, get some fresh air, and keep from sitting at my desk 16 hours a day.
I’m stepping away from my computer for at least an hour between the end of my day-job workday and the start of my writing time.
It’s scary, not knowing when this is going to end. Not knowing when or if things will ever get back to normal. I like to plan, and you can’t plan unless you know when an emergency will be over.
So, it’s more important than ever to keep in touch with Team You. The people who love and support you. The people who brighten your life and enrich it. The people who can distract you from the news for more than 5 minutes.
4 Ways I’m Socially Connecting
I’ve participated in a live-stream author write-in. It’s a great way to socialize with other writers, online where it’s ‘safe’, and actually get some writing sprints in. I plan to join more.
I’m calling friends or family at least once or twice a day, to hear a voice other than the one inside my head, or on my telecon.
Some of my weekly hangouts with friends look like they may be going online. A voice-chat editing session with my Anansi Storytime people, Netflix Party with some friends to watch a movie or tv. Just hanging out and chatting, only from more than just a chair away.
And obviously, there’s that whole “Morgan has a social media addiction” thing.
It’s tough. It’s scary. We’re all worried.
But, I do know one thing. I can’t make it through this alone.
If you’ve been told to ‘socially distance’ yourself, how are you handling it? How is your workplace handling it? If you are one of the amazing people on the frontlines of this thing (medical professionals, food service/grocery, cleaning), how are you holding up?
P.S. I cope by using a lot of gallows humor. Anyone got some good pandemic memes?
Sometimes? You’re learning a new skill, practicing and playing with it. But something is holding you back from taking the next step — be it submitting your work, trying out for that team, or selling your creations.
Sometimes, you’re placed in a position where you supposedly know what you’re doing — either because of your bluster or someone else’s assumptions. It could be on the job, online, or when they send you home with your first newborn kid (or so I’ve been told). And every moment, you’re just sitting there, hoping to keep everyone fooled so they don’t know how big of a fake you are.
Impostor syndrome. Most of us have experienced it. Some of us live with it.
For those that don’t know? Impostor syndrome is defined as “a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.“
In my most recent Author Spotlight, Katherine talked about submitting hundreds of poems while in college and it made me think. I always wanted to be a writer, but it took me until I’d been out of college for a long time before I started taking my writing seriously. Before I even started contemplating sending my work to other people.
With my first manuscript? It’s on its EIGHTH round of revisions, because every handful of rejections, I stop submitting and start looking into how I can make it better. I tell myself it’s making me a better writer. I tell myself I’m building skills and improving. But, there’s definitely a part of me that is LOOKING for things to fix. Because if my best effort was rejected, that means I’m not good enough. I should just go home.
Dwelling on that might be good for a night or a week after a rejection, but it’s not going to get me anywhere.
5 Ways To Confront Your Impostor Syndrome
Take a class
Maybe you do stink. Maybe your skills aren’t where you want them to be. And honestly? All of us could improve, no matter how good — or bad — we are.
In that case? It could be time to take a class, brush up on the skills we’re good at, learn techniques to deal with our weaknesses, and discover new things that can make us shine.
See How Far You’ve Come
If you look at your old stuff, compared to your new stuff, you might notice a change. An improvement.
Or? If you like your old stuff better? Revisiting it might be the way to get that voice back — so you can run with it!
Re-visit What You’re Proud Of
Whether it’s a single sentence, a poem, or a novel, reread that thing you made that made you proud. See what you’ve done, what you’ve created. Remind yourself that this is a thing you can do!
Save The Good Notes
When a beta-reader or critique partner or reviewer says something about my work or forgets they’re critiquing, I file that away. In one (very stalling moment last October), I copied one encouraging note onto a piece of paper and taped it to my wall.
Then? When my writing is going rough, I reread their kind words, where they tell me how much they enjoyed my writing, or compared it favorably to an award-winning series I adore, I stick my chin up, and I get back to it.
Say “BLEEP It”
Sometimes? All you can do is tell yourself: “So what if my writing stinks, and everyone else’s writing is amazing and so much more deserving. I finished this and I’m putting it out there anyway. They can take it or leave it, but it’s mine.”
Otherwise known as ‘fake it til ya make it’.
It can be hard. Writing is years of work with no guarantee of success. It’s a labor of love and requires near-infinite patience with the publishing industry.
If you need to step away and take a break; if you need to do something else because it’s killing you? Do it! Do what you need to take care of yourself.
Plus? You can always change your mind. Your writing will always there for you. Waiting. However comforting or creepy that sounds.
Besides, you can’t be the impostor, I’m the real impostor!
Recently, I’ve been making a lot of progress on my short term goals — the ones I can control. So, what triggered my recent bout of self-doubt?
On the advice of a friend, I started applying to be a panelist at science-fiction and fantasy conventions a couple years ago. You know, the ones I like to attend 30 panels in 4 days at?
And this year? I’ve had 3 conventions accept!
Meep! I’m still an unpublished writer. All I’ve got is this blog/vlog where most of the time it feels like I’m shouting into the void. Basically, a free vanity press where all it costs is my time and my dignity. I’ve been going to these cons and taking notes from the greats! What makes me think I can sit up there and talk, that my advice and perspective is something worth listening to?
Well, as my calendar reminded me, I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years and haven’t missed a week since before this time last leap year! I’m consistent, mostly coherent, and still giving fresh takes. I’ve got experience querying in the current market, and people I beta-read for keep coming back for more, so I can’t be too useless — or mean!
Step one for this bout of impostor syndrome was to update my business cards and add “Blogger | Vlogger” to it. Because that’s a big part of why I’m going to be up there.
Enough teaser, Morgan. Tell us where you’re going to be so we can properly stalk you. (Note: please don’t stalk. Just say hi, and keep it casual.)
I’m going to be at RavenCon 15 in Williamsburg, VA April 24-26 and once I got my tentative schedule, my impostor syndrome backed off a little. (Plus, I have my own panelist bio page that is basically the best. I’m pretty happy with what I finally decided on for my new profile pic). But, anyway, my panels.
The Writer and the Beta Reader
Social Media Best Practices for Writers
Social Media, or, Why I Haven’t Finished My Novel
This schedule is still tentative and subject to change. But these are all things I can talk about for ages — at least the basics — without feeling like I need to step back and let the experts talk! Now to find out if I actually enjoy being on panels, and get my stuff out there to be published!
For the others conventions, I have no schedule yet, but I’m going to be on panels at Balticon in Baltimore, MD May 22-25, and in New ZEALAND at CoNZealand for WorldCon from July 29-August 2nd! With any luck, those panels will be along the same vein and I’ll really find my footing on panels.
And maybe get something published.
Have you ever faced impostor syndrome? What did you do to work past it? Or did you just run?
Have you ever paneled at a convention? Any tips for a neophyte?
Have you ever gotten feedback from someone who you respect, saying they hated your work? They liked the idea, but think you should have done it a completely different way?
No? Just me?
Recently, I submitted a couple of short stories to different markets, but after a pair of quick rejections, I sent them to friends for another look. Most of the feedback was along the same lines, so I looked at what I could fix and what I couldn’t.
But for the reader who hated the story? We sat down and talked about what they did and didn’t like about the story.
The real issue was the set-up — it was a horror/suspense sort of story and I was giving away too much too soon.
That was entirely in line with other feedback I’d had, although more precise in what parts worked, versus what parts should be changed.
So? I sat on that for a week. I pouted. I thought. I considered if these were even changes I wanted to make.
But my knee-jerk reaction (for once) wasn’t “they don’t get my story”, it was more of a, “I don’t wanna!” mixed with “How do I do that? While making sure the ending is still properly supported” (i.e. doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere).
Last night? I sat down to start on the changes, taking out the heavy foreshadowing (easily found in italics, on their own lines). And replaced those instances with more subtle hints at what lay ahead.
Fifteen minutes later? I was done.
I still need to do a re-read, to make sure the updates are smooth. I still need a second set of eyes (maybe fresh ones to make sure the ending wasn’t too abrupt), but this huge change? That seemed like massive structural issue?
With a few short line changes, I fixed it.
Remember when setting something up in your writing, be it foreshadowing, backstory, world-building, or more — oftentimes, less is more. You only need enough to spark the imagination and flesh out the world. Not enough to slow the story.
Have you ever been intimidated by a suggested change you agreed probably needed to happen in your work?
Were you ever surprised at how little you needed to change your story to make a completely different impression on the reader?