The Impossibility of Doing It All

Lately, I wake with a series of panic attacks. None of that compression in my chest, or inability to fill my lungs with air, has anything to do with writing. No, it’s the mounting self-inflicted pressure of having to complete a blog post, catch up on e-mail, check out my Twitter accounts, and, of course, there’s Facebook. I’m fairly certain, when I decided to become a writer and allow my creative juices to churn out bestsellers, this wasn’t what I had in mind. But, then again, I haven’t quite reached that bestseller status yet, so perhaps this is my comeuppance.

Often, I’m amazed at what other authors accomplish. Churning out books in 8 weeks’ time, writing a blog (sometimes 2 or 3) every week, belonging to 50 groups on Facebook and posting regularly (in some cases every hour) about their books, their drop in sale price, their blog appearances, their upcoming book-signings.  You name it, like flies on sherbet, their postings are everywhere:  Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, LinkedIn, ReadersInTheKnow, Kindle this, Kindle that, Tweet, Tweet, Tweeting, the list goes on-and-on. Is it possible that they have a team of elves, secret slaves tied up in the basement, maybe a high school cheerleading squad, or a full-time personal assistant with staff at their beck-and-call? Where do they find the time to do all of this, and still write their next book?

What I find the most annoying is all the advice writers shell out about writing. I’m not ungrateful, everyone wants to know the secret to success and is anxious for those precious tips, but, what is the most important tip they can give you, or the one that should be the most important? It’s to write, stupid! Yes, W-R-I-T-E!  All of the rest of it doesn’t mean a darn thing if at the end of the day you haven’t written 300 or 1,000 words in your manuscript. For me, that requires plotting time to boot. I have to visualize that next chapter. Hell, I have to smell it, taste it, touch it, wrap my arms around it, do everything with it, but have sex with it, and, actually, I do that too, since my novels are very sexy. And, because I’m a bit of an obsessive/compulsive (I didn’t know this until I started writing), I have to reread everything I write countless times and self-edit as I go. I can’t just let go and give birth to 50 pages. 10 yes, 20 once in a great while, but most likely I’ve gone over those 10 or 20 pages’ innumerable times perfecting them, cutting this, changing that, only to consider throwing the whole damn thing out and starting again. You know the idiomatic expression, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. What that means, is it’s important to be “careful not to completely reject an idea, practice or concept on the grounds that part of the argument is faulty or even bad. Instead, it must be reviewed in its entirely, and if needed, to revise it—but to still retain what is good and helpful”.  It’s a fine line, and a battle I’m constantly fighting. “To be or not to be?” In the case of my writing, to keep or not to keep, that is the question?

What is strange, and I didn’t know, is that my process of writing is uncannily similar to Ernest Hemingway’s. I am not comparing myself, it has probably more to do with a psychological flaw than anything else. I certainly don’t plan on killing myself anytime too soon. But, unbeknownst to me, until I wrote this post and went searching for Papa’s advice, his process of writing, reading and editing as you create your novel, are exactly the habits I employ, and why I now consider myself to be compulsive.

brand_fyi_bsfc_116472_sfm_000_2997_15_20140905_001_hd_768x432-16x9So without further ado, I give you a snippet of his advice to writers. Says Papa: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along. Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece. And when you go over it, cut out everything you can. The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away. If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good.”

And my favorite part of Papa’s advice is the following: “Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”

Wait, speaking of compulsive, I’m starting to itch just thinking about those emails filling up my inbox as I write this post. Now I know why Hemmingway drank. Oh, I forgot, he didn’t do any of this virtual stuff, he just wrote. Perhaps, the best advice as we attack this difficult job of writing is to just take a deep breath, because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to do it all. There are not enough hours in a day, or in a night for that matter.

Speaking of night, as of late, when the Facebooker’s and the Tweeter’s curl up in their nests the virtual highway becomes a road less travelled, I find myself contentedly propped up by pillows, in bed, with my laptop balanced on my lap, coffee in my hand, and all sound and distraction suppressed, contained, and relegated behind a closed door. In this cave of silence, I write and rewrite, listening to my inner voice, or voices (psycho that I am), and channeling the advice of one of my favorite author’s Ernest Hemingway.

Coming 2016 – One More Time is Not Enough (The Only One) #3

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onemoretimeisnotenough

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About BelleAmiAuthor

I am an author of Romance/Suspense/Sexy/Hot Novels. I'm a mom, a gourmet chef, a pianist, an avid spinner, a skier, and a lover of life!
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25 Responses to The Impossibility of Doing It All

  1. LOVED your post, Belle! I identify with that rising panic! Thank God for our supporters. I was laughing on the phone last night with a friend about the day-after-day tedium of checking every phrase, every line of my 95,000-word book prior to print. She said, “On TV and in the movies, writing books looks so easy and fun. We never hear about tedious!” I’d rather be writing!!! We need bumper stickers!!! –katie o’boyle

    • We definitely need bumper stickers to remind us of what we do, and the amount of effort, sweat, and high anxiety it takes to bring our labors of love to fruition! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Excellent advice, Belle! Thanks for sharing the quotes from Ernest Hemingway…much food for thought. 🙂

  3. mandyb2012 says:

    Loved your post! Such great advice and Papa too!

  4. designtoo says:

    Wow, I understand obsessive, complusive. I am one of those as well. Writing is hard and takes such amazing discipline. You have tackled and continue to tackle those moments where these traits continue to make you a great writer. I salute you.
    Love,
    Eileen

  5. Great post, Belle Ami! I love the truth behind Hemingway’s description of writing – that readers shouldn’t just be reading a story, but experiencing it, as something happening. Thanks for this post.

  6. Joy says:

    Excellent article! It make me, as a reader appreciate all the hard work and countless hours that go into creating a masterpiece! I love your books and always look forward to your future novels! Thank you for sharing your wisdom! Continue your passion….

  7. L.D. Rose says:

    I’m with you and Hemingway, Belle! Great post and very relatable. 🙂

  8. Pingback: The Impossibility of Doing It All | amydeason

  9. Linda says:

    BelleAmi
    just returned from Cuba where Hemingway is close to GAWD Every place he drank, which were many, and places he lived are almost shrines to the Cubans and American visitors. In th e main Havana cemetery is buried Hemingways favorite bartender. A beautiful marble grave site. Apparently on Heminway’s birthday many come to the cemetary to have a drink with the bartender on his grave site..

    • I haven’t been to Cuba yet, however, it is featured in my second novel The One & More so I can’t wait to visit the places I researched. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love feedback.

  10. On the other hand, Hemingway is a pretty high standard. I personally think he is America’s “greatest” author. Greatness connotes genius; genius carries strains of madness.

    For us mere mortals, giving in to obsessive-compulsive tendencies turns writing from being the joy that it can be into the work that Hemingway describes. Ugh. No thanks. Writing in the zone has too many moments of sheer bliss to just “hand them over to the reader.”

    I think for the 21st century writer, balance is more critical than ever. Polish each chapter to a certain point, then let it go for now. There will be plenty of time–well, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean–for editing later. Excessive editing keeps the story itself tamped down, begging to be let out with an ever-diminishing voice.

    And don’t check Facebook/Twitter/your email while you’re writing.

  11. lori says:

    ,,,,,,,love reading your words Tema…keep writing! You have such a special voice and you are a thrill to read! Love the blog – thank you for letting us know about it

  12. lori says:

    …thank you for writing – for your passion and insight – keep doing it! I love your blog and am excited about your upcoming book!

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