Hello, to all you who read this blog.
First, thank you for visiting my blog and I hope that you enjoy it. Second, I do misspell words on this blog because I usually form the idea and start to write within a few minutes it. What does that have to do with misspelling, I don’t know, but I do have dyslexia and that sure as hell does not help with editing.
Well, “Once more upon the breach, dear friends, once more;” Billy Shakespeare. Anyone else think that old Billy was a group of writers who got together and just tried to outdo each other in creating grandiose poetry? (I do, but that will be kept between us.)
So, what the heck is this blog about? Well, as you can guess, I brilliantly took the 7 stages of grief and tuned them into the 7 stages of writing. Trust me, they have more in common then ya all think. The stages are: Anger, Depression, Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance, Guilt, and Sadness. I went through all these stage during writing, editing, releasing, re-editing, rewriting, and relaunching my first book. On my twitter account, @berwyn_j , I have read accounts of many writers going through every stage on this list. I’m on my second book and I am currently in the depression/anger stage. It’s about how I feel about my writing, but, do not fret, I felt the same way during my first book too.
Stage 1- Anger.
GGGGGGRRRRRRR! I like to growl a lot at work and during my writing. (Don’t judge, you do it too, only, most people don’t verbalize it like I do.) As I have written about in a prior blog, https://jwberwyn.net/2021/07/15/my-brain/ , I have problems when I write tired. My brain doesn’t like to work past a lizard level of thinking when I get tired. I know that I’m not the only one. So, frustration boils up inside me. Frustration turns into anger, then my writing goes to a dark place that we will not talk about. After I get angry, I just say “F-IT!” and quit.
This stage of writing is a terrible place to write in. Every mistake compounds upon itself, building a larger and steeper slop that becomes a wall rather quickly. This wall become impossible to clime over and then, you’re done. Just get up, walk away, go for a hike, hug your cat or dog or both, eat a piece of cake (Who angry eats cake?!), and so on. Do something that make YOU FEEL BETTER before attempting to write again. Burn off that negative energy and re-emerge a better person and writer. On to stage 2…
Stage 2- Depression.
When I think of depression, I think of Eeyore and his very monotone, morose voice. Yes, I watched a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh when I was a kid. Many writers become depressed about their own writing. Why? Well, all us writers have to do is get online and read some of the giants of literature and just know in our soul that we do not stack up to these incredible authors.
Well, hell, now that I know that I do not stack up to James Joyce, JRR Token, Jane Austen, N.K. Jemisin (BTW, if have not read her works, get out and read them. She is incredible!) and so on. I read amazing authors all the time, some famous and some not. I read my minuscule talented writing and I know deep down that I SUCK!
(Eeyore’s Voice) “Everything sucks, I suck, my life sucks, my cat sucks, my left big toe sucks.” I take a big breath and walk away from the computer and go and hug my sucky cat. (She hates to be hugged, so now we are both having to dig through this feeling.) This is also about the time that I down a quart of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, a bag of chips and some trail mix (I need to keep it healthy).
This is another dark place to write in. Full discloser, I’m kind of in this place now, as I write this, but I know how got find the way out of this hole and I’m putting one foot in front of the next to drag myself out. So how do I dig myself out? Growing up, I was taught NOT to talk about things like this and just “man up” and “grind thought it” or my favorite, “just get over it.” Learning coping mechanism as a male athlete during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was not the best place to do it. I had to figure it our myself and then bend and twist it to fix my needs. What I came up with is; “I am me, this is my writing, feelings, my place that I need to be in to keep myself sane and moving forward.”
Depression is a terrible place to be and a terrible place to try and get out of. Please, if you’re reading this and have thoughts of hurting yourself, call someone, talk to a friend, or call Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, please, they can help.
Okay, lets move forward…
Stage 3- Denial
I have run into some authors that live in this space of denial. I think was all have. These are the authors that think that their writing doesn’t need any work, it’s perfect and damnit, people like it! Well, Sparky, you’re wrong. Denial is a self-serving pit of despair that will chew up an author and spit him/her out. Every author, including the conglomerate that is Billy Shakespeare, needs help. All the big authors like, Steven King, JRR Martin, and many more, have four, five or more helping them bring a book to market. Just read the Acknowledgement part of any book and you will see that there are a boat load of people helping out authors getting their book ready to launch.
Denial is a tough nut to crack. People live their whole lives in denial of wrong doings, sickness- both mental and physical, greatness, and so on. How do you get past denial? Perspective, mostly. Sometimes you just need to accept that you’re not as great as you think you are. Humility, thoughtfulness, calmness, acceptance, and the biggest one, understanding. Yoga, for me, takes me to a place of calm and acceptance that I can take a hard look at myself and work on every aspect of my life, everyday.
Stage 4- Bargaining
Bargaining was one stage that I really had to think about. What is bargaining? Well, glad you asked, “The negotiation phase occurs when a grieving person needs an emotional release from the shock and pain of loss. This phase involves wrestling with fate or “the powers to be” to try and make sense of loss.” http://www.gatewaycounseling.com Heavy stuff here. So, what does this have to do with writing? Glad you asked, again.
Have you ever had to chop parts of your book away? Having to cut parts of your book that you spent hours on, writing, rewriting, and agonizing over only to be told that you have to cut it away by some god damn editor who would rip out your soul if she could?! Have you?! Well, I haven’t, but I have had to cut out parts of a book that I did spend hours writing. It sucks, big time.
In a way, you bargain with yourself over the importance of that piece of the book and if you truly need it. I cannot imagine the edits that the big writers have to cut out of their books to make it “saleable or marketable”. The old adage of cutting quarter to third of your book out right away seems crazy to me. F-That! (Anger, denial) As painful as cutting parts of your book out is, sometimes it’s needed to drive the story forward. It will make a better book no matter how much bargaining is going on in your mind to try and keep it.
Stage 5- Acceptance
In my list of stages of grief, I feel like acceptance should be last, right? But, my list is not set in stone nor, as I read further, even in the correct order. But, I’m not talking about the stages of grief, I’m talking about writing, right? Sure, so lets move on.
Acceptance is hard to grasp as a writer. My first book will always, in my eyes, need fixing. What do I need to fix, everything! When did I come to this realization? After I released the book into the wild. I’m sure that all writers come to this conclusion at some point. Creator Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, wrote that one of his biggest mistakes was cutting off Rick’s hand in the comic. At some point, he accepted this part of the comic and moved on.
This is normal. Writing something, letting it out of your control, publishing it, then having a “OH SHIT!” moment is normal. Giving up control and accepting the book as it is, is healthy and a learning experience. Giving yourself over to the knowledge that you braved the world and put a part of yourself out there for all to see is f-ing frightening. Accepting that this book is what it is and moving to other projects is a cleansing experience.
Stage 6- Guilt
Yep, this should have been before acceptance and maybe a few other steps. I feel bad that I got these out of order. (See what I did there?) Guilt is a hard one for me. I feel guilty about events in my life and about some of my writing. My life experiences are mine to deal with. My writing is something I can let out.
As an author, I constantly feel like I can do better, I can spend more time on my writing, I can mold the book into something I can be proud of. Pride is a real bitch! I feel that pride and guilt go hand in hand. I am very proud of my first book but I also feel that I could have done more to improve the book. What could I improve? Stuff and things in the book!
I know that I should kill off one of my characters at some point. I have lived with this knowledge for over five years now, yet I have not. Yes, I love my characters, all ten of them. Yes, I would cry my eyes out to kill off anyone of the ten characters. The guilt would crush me. The reason that I do not do this, is because I would feel guilty and I don’t want to feel this way! Yes, my deer reader, I’m selfish that way.
Guilt is a great motivator and unmotivated. How do I get past this? Should I just kill off a character just to kill off a character? I’m sure as hell not going to ask JRR Martin for advise. That dude kills off characters like he’s mad at all them for taking his candy bar. My answer to how you get past guilt is…I don’t have one. Guilt is a deeply personal feeling that every writer must grapple with on their own personal level. Sorry, that’s my answer.
Stage 7- Sadness
Do I feel sadness that this blog is almost over, yes and no. Sadness is a weird animal to grapple with. To me, sadness is a feeling that comes and goes. Sadness cold be coupled with longing, wanting, needing, and the loss of so many other emotions. As a writer, I feel sad during so many different parts of the writing, editing and launching periods.
Sadness in losing your character(s), publishing your book, cutting out aspects of your book during editing are all feelings that I have gone through. Writing is a very personal experience. Writing is a work that is hard to define. When asked, astronauts cannot explain the shade of blue the oceans are from space, it’s just something that you have to witness to understand. Writing is the same way. You have to write in order to experience it.
There is a sadness in losing a book to publishing. There is a finality to publishing a book. When I published my first book, there was a sense of a weight being lifted off my shoulders, an end point in the experience. Later, I did feel sad that it was over. My characters that I have lived with for over four years are now on their own, forever locked in those pages. How did I get past the sadness, I started to write a second book.
I do read long series, like The Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara, or Jim Butchers, The Dresden Series, both series are well into their teens in number of books. I use to not know what drove authors to write so many book about one or two characters, but now I do. I have looked upon the Earth and seen the shade of blue. Am I saying that Zenith and her group will be in twenty books?……yes, no, maybe, might, possibility……who knows?
Thank you for reading these blog. Please have a great day and happy writing.