Here is a paraphrased IM conversation I had with Seanan from Wednesday morning, the 23rd (mostly because I can’t find the chat log).
Seanan: Have you looked at your email today?
Jenn: No. Didn’t sleep well last night. Guess I should.
Seanan: Go read your email, hon.
Jenn: Oh! Oh! Yay!
Jenn: Thank you. I was a little afraid of reading my email this morning because of this.
I read my email and discovered that The Last Days of Salton Academy has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award. My imposter syndrome had convinced me that I would never make the ballot two years in a row. It’s why I didn’t sleep well the night before the announcement and why I was afraid to check my email that morning. I didn’t want to face the disappointment.
Being a finalist for an award is awesome. Especially something like the Bram Stoker award.
However, being a finalist for an award for the second time is even better—for me that is. There’s something wonderful and concrete about the second finalist nomination. It tells me:
…I wasn’t ‘just lucky’ the first time.
…It wasn’t a pity vote.
…It wasn’t just my friends voting for me.
…I do have skill and talent as an author.
…It validates me as a creative professional.
Imposter syndrome is a green-eye monster that wants your attention. It doesn’t want you working on the next thing. It doesn’t want you to celebrate your wins—no matter how large or small. It wants you spiraling into its clawed embrace with no way out. With this repeat nomination, I have a reprieve from imposter syndrome’s ever-present looming nature. At least for a little while.
I’m happy. I really am.
Of course, I want to win the Bram Stoker award. The Last Days of Salton Academy is a good book. Also, that haunted house statue would look lovely on my brag shelf. It really would. Until then, I really am honored to be Bram Stoker nominee again.
Five days in the rainforest with minimal internet, an outline, and someone to compete with = 28,356 words written. I am brain fried and dead. I don’t actually recommend this to anyone. I took Monday off writing to recover a bit and it was needed.
All day Monday, while I did other things and played PokemonGO, I kept thinking of things I forgot to add into the manuscript. From descriptions to full scenes. I’m probably going to spend the next two days editing what I wrote to see what else I missed and add it in. Then I’ll feel comfortable enough to continue on. I just feel like my narrative foundation is a bit too cracked and shaky.
View from the 2nd floor Parkside Suite, Thursday morning. Before they brought me a boat and waders.
Beyond teaching a session at RWR, I got to experience the adventure of having Lake Quinalt rise two feet. The Husband thought we might have to evacuate. We didn’t, but I did have to borrow thigh-high waders to get to and from the rest of the resort for two days. A couple of attendees who didn’t know me thought I was part of the Park Service. It was a fun and interesting experience. I’m glad the lake didn’t have a current. I put more pictures and a video of it up on my Facebook.
What Lake Quinalt usually looks like. Saturday morning.
Also, while I was in the land of no internet, the podcast of my short story, “Endless and the End,” went live on The Overcast. My story is episode 49. It’s my creepy little steampunk story inspired by the likes of The Mummy and the casual game Bejeweled. The end of the story includes an afterword by me and a "warning" from The Overcast. I hope you listen to it.
Yesterday, I began writing the first book of a new teen horror series. The series is called Fever County, thus the first book has the temp title of FC01. I’ve got another title in mind, but I’ve discovered that, sometimes, in the writing of a novel, a new title will present itself. I don’t know if that will happen here or not. We’ll see.
I do know that the day flew by. It wasn’t the only thing I had to do. There’s a myriad of tasks I do each day / week. But when it comes to writing, new writing always comes first. I ended the day content and feeling productive. It was one of those days when I looked up from my last task and saw that it was 4:55pm. I was surprised. Some days drag on and on. Not yesterday.
Not today either.
The first words to a new novel always come slow for me. It’s like warming up an engine. I schedule no more than 500 words a day for the first week and I don’t worry at all if I make that or not. If it’s only 200 words—so be it. If it’s 700 or a thousand words—awesome. It’s not until the second week that I usually drop into a minimum of a thousand words a day or more. By the third week, I’m writing as fast as I can.
I’ve scheduled myself to finish the first draft of FC01 by Mar 31st. April will be for the short stories I know I have to do. The first part of May will be the first edit pass. Then I’ll hand the novel off to Alpha Readers. While that’s going on. I’ll fully outline FC02, write the 2 page synopsis, and generally begin the mental stewing process. Maybe I’ll figure out the 1 paragraph synopsis for FC03. June will be for fixing FC01 before handing it off to my agent for her thoughts. While she’s reading/critiquing it, I’m going to be writing FC02.
Of course, that’s all in the future. For now, I am content. I’m writing new words again. Not just editing. Not writing in another IP’s world. Fever County is all mine. I can’t express just how right everything feels.
Also, I have the best map ever. I commissioned Elizabeth (she's fab!) to draw it for me. It is the perfect reference doc.
(P.S. Yes, Mom. I really am feeling better.)
A lot of people—including me—are experiencing a wide variety of distressing emotions in regards to what’s going to on right now in the world. Sometimes, it’s hard to create when the world feels like it’s on the brink of a disaster there’s no turning back from. What good is a short story or a piece of art in the face of that?
Everything. Absolutely everything.
In-between the real life horror of politics, protests, cruel laws, crueler enforcement of those edicts, and numerous other terrible things, those who fight need a space to go to recharge, a respite, a safe fictional place or a piece of beauty to remind them what they are fighting for.
Still, it’s hard to reach for the life-saving, life-affirming creative work. This is why self care for the creative is so important. Here are a couple of suggestions to add into your daily life.
Daily or at least weekly, schedule time to get away from the 24/7 news. Unplug from the internet. Whatever is happening will still be happening when you get back. I choose at least 2 hours away every other day. Being online is part of my job, but I don’t need to be connected all the time. If it is an emergency, those who need it have my phone number.
Enjoy an activity you know you like. Watch reruns of a favorite TV show or movie. Listen to music. Listen to an audiobook. Crochet or knit. Read comfort books and comics. Cook a grand meal for one or many. Meditate. Do something you know you enjoy. Let yourself get lost in it. Forget about the world and its troubles as much as you can for as long as you can. It will be there with you get back. Dedicate this time to you. Bob Ross and I are becoming very good friends again.
I’m not telling you to exercise—though exercise is a good thing to do. But walk away from your desk, your computer, your phone (turn your phone off if you can’t stand to leave it behind). Window shop at the mall or the bookstore. Go to the lake and watch the waves for a while. Visit that nearby museum that tourists always go to, but you’ve never visited. Get out of the physical space you are usually in. This helps your mindset. Even if it’s just a walk around the block or to pace the stairwells in your office building. For me, I play Ingress and PokemonGO.
These are all coping mechanisms that I use. Creatives have deadlines and decisions to make that don’t go away. Writing, painting, carving… creating… while in the midst of turbulent times can be the hardest thing to do, but that is when the world needs us most.
Finally, after you have taken some time to care for yourself, you can ENGAGE with the world again. Volunteer. Protest. Call your representatives. Donate to the cause. Do as much or as little as you are able to. Remember, your creative work may be the thing that recharges another so that they may also create while working towards their political and social goals.
Cat pictures always help.