IWSG | Insecure Writer’s Support Group

IWSG March 2014 — My Last Post

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge As I have shifted my feelings for where I belong in the publishing world, and consequently what I want out of my writing, this blog and the way I use social media has shifted as well. Simply put, the kind of author I am is one who needs a lot more privacy than I’ve been allowing myself. More than anything, I’d rather be writing. It truly is the best way I can share myself.

This may be my last post for IWSG, but it is not the last post here on my blog. I’ll continue to post here, but my posts will be more project-centered, focusing more on my writing projects for those truly interested. Thanks to everyone who has supported me while I’ve blogged with IWSG!

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG February 2014 — Are We in an Age of Writing for Other Writers?

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It was the late 90’s when I started writing my first novel. It was an era of adult novels, when John Grisham was having his heyday and there was no such as thing as a Young Adult section in the library or bookstore. It was also an era of isolation because I didn’t even know what an email address was, let alone the internet.

But most of all, I didn’t know a single other writer doing what I was doing — writing novels.

I wrote in complete and utter bliss. I look back on that time with wonder and awe because not only was I writing whatever I wanted how I wanted, but I was never once told that I was doing something wrong by another writer. If I felt that at any point, it was only because I was comparing my unpublished novel to published novels.

All of this changed, of course, when I entered the realm of college and became a creative writing major. I was suddenly surrounded by writers, professors, and even published authors. I felt pressure. I felt lower than low. I stopped writing novels and focused on only poetry and short stories instead. My ego was crushed probably a thousand times. But it was all good! I grew as a writer.

Now, in an era where just putting my big toe into the waters of social networking and blogging, I am surrounded even more by opinions, advice, and ways to compare my work. It seems everywhere I turn — online and offline — I am surrounded by other writers. Sometimes it feels like EVERYBODY WRITES, and if they don’t, a large portion of them seem to want to write. I’m not even sure why I get unnerved by this, but maybe it’s because I feel heavily influenced on so many sides now. For a long time, I’ve often felt I am writing, selling, marketing, and getting feedback from only one group: other writers. I know it’s not entirely true, of course, but sometimes it feels that way.

In all honesty, especially when I’m feeling insecure, I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a great thing. After all, writers are readers too, and if more people are reading, that’s a good thing right? It’s also good to interact with other writers and make those incredible connections. I do know nobody can tell a story exactly the way I tell it, but I’m not sure if the rest of the world sees it that way, especially when there are so many books and it’s getting harder and harder to be seen, let alone read. I guess that’s my true insecurity right there — I’m afraid of getting lost in the grand shuffle of the ever-growing realm of writers. Are you?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG January 2014 — The Problem With the Advice, “Never Give Up”

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI’ve been to a lot of book launches and signings in the past few years. Almost all of the authors who have spoken at these events have said one thing — Never give up! Their message is usually one of comfort and peace to the audience, which is bound to contain hopeful authors wishing they will one day be up there launching their own published book. They go home, their hearts filled with hope and a little bit of jealousy and a lot of motivation to just keep going. They think, If I keep going — if I never give up — I will get that. I will get exactly what I’m working for.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works. At least, my little pessimistic brain and experiences have summed it all up as such. Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience — and sometimes nothing more.

If you  work hard enough, it’s not going to guarantee you an agent or a big publishing deal or a best seller. It’s not going to guarantee you a lot of money and happiness. Hell, it’s not even going to guarantee you an equal amount of what you put in. Especially if that’s the reason you’re never going to give up.

I’ve watched some of my author friends work their fingers to the bone, certain that if they hit the right formula with marketing or self publishing, or tried hard enough, they’d be a best seller — never to become a best seller with that book, or the next books after it. I’ve watched some friends query for years and years and years, finally get an agent, never sell a book with that agent, and then finally leave that agent only to start over again at the bitter beginning. Never giving up.

michelledargyle_sarablarson_defylaunch_kingsenglish

Me and Sara B. Larson at her launch for her debut DEFY. Sara never gave up.

And I’ve watched myself start out on almost every endeavor, absolutely certain that this is the one project that will get me exactly what I want — and discover that the only tiny point of “major commercial success” I’ve found so far was on the book that I didn’t do anything for, the one I had very little faith in, the one I just gave to my publisher on a whim because it was sitting there. So I foolishly decide that if I have little faith in anything and repeat that process, maybe I’ll get lucky and see that kind of success again. Yeah, right.

The truth is, life isn’t fair. And it’s incessantly unpredictable. Hard work sometimes gets you nothing but experience and bloody knuckles and a whole lot of frustration. Some authors never sell more than a few copies of their books a month. Ever. No matter how hard they work at it, and it’s not because their writing sucks or they aren’t trying hard enough. They’re often the ones who never stop trying. Some authors don’t hardly try at all and they hit all the jackpots one after the other, making it look easy. And some authors work their butts off and do finally get exactly what they want. For a minute.

But most of us? Most of us are the ones who follow that advice and never give up and find one small success for every ten, twenty, thirty failures — and then forget about those small successes because they seem so freaking far apart. They lose their luster and brilliance, like so many gold coins gathered in a dark, dusty bag at the bottom of our pocket. I imagine that over the course of time, however, that we sometimes dump out those coins and realize that we have gained something, and it’s worth more than we realized. I imagine that no matter the outcome of our “not quitting”, the experience we gain is far greater than those pieces of gold. I imagine our friends’ pieces of gold often look brighter than our own, especially when compared to one another. I imagine, however, that it’s not the actual pieces of gold that sparkle, but the glasses we’re wearing that determine their brightness. And I imagine, going one step further, that it’s the “never giving up” that gives us better glasses to see with.

So the problem with the advice to “never give up” is that I think it so often implies that you’ll get exactly what you want if you follow it. But that’s almost always never true. What you do get is often a quite different version than what you imagined, filled with disappointment, but also satisfaction and some sweet, sweet happiness — usually enough to motivate you to tell others never to give up either.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG December 2013 — Sick and Tired of Thinking This Isn’t Worth It

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I stood on my porch and stared out at the snow, felt the dropping temperatures creep around me, saw the icy roads and the cars driving by way too fast, and I felt despair in the pit of my stomach and thought, Why am I doing any of this? Why am I making myself miserable over writing when so many other things in life make me miserable? Like snow and winter and cold. I might as well get rid of the things I have control over. Right? 

Right.

Except, then I read this lovely post from Cassie Mae about mediocre being extraordinary. At first I thought, gosh, if she thinks she’s mediocre, then what am I? She was wildly popular with one of her self published books, then she got an agent. She has published with small presses and big presses now, and she says she’s still mediocre. So if she’s mediocre and has done all that, then where does that put little tiny me, who now has no publisher anymore and has decided to just go at it on her own — small sales and all? Does that make me below mediocre or just mediocre right alongside Cassie? Who the heck knows. But as I stood and looked out at winter today, I finally realized none of it matters anyway, whether we believe we’re mediocre or not. In the end, it truly doesn’t freaking matter. I read this study awhile ago. 268 male Harvard undergraduates were tracked from classes 1938 – 1940, collecting data at regular intervals during their life for the next 75 years. The conclusion: Love really is all that matters. “A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (‘Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.’).’

So why the heck am I so hung up on all these little things that will, yes, give me the cart, but not pull it? I should be more hung up on how happy I’m making my husband and my family than anything else. And honestly, I haven’t been doing that lately. I’ve been more worried about sales and publishing and writing and figuring out how to make this career work so we can pay off debt and … what? Not have debt anymore? What will that accomplish? Sure, it’s important to pay it off, but it’s not going to make us any happier than we are. There will always be something we’re working toward. Right now debt just happens to be it.

I’m sick and tired of thinking this isn’t worth it, that I need to be on top to make it worth it, that I need to reach such-and-such numbers to make it worth it, that if I don’t reach certain goals and milestones by such-and-such time, I’ll throw in the towel and call it quits. Whatever. I’m done. I want to write and whether I succeed or fail with the numbers, I’m going to do it anyway. It is worth it to me. I’ve become a better person because of it. I’m braver than I used to be, and I’m getting braver every step of the way. And that’s pretty dang awesome.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG November 2013 — Taking Really Hard Risks (and Not Backing Out of Them)

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I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m the slow tortoise with five boulders strapped to its back, limping up a mountain. I’m moving upwards, or at least sideways, which is something at least, but it’s slow and sometimes I look back and second guess my choice to pile on those boulders. That was a risk, and one I’m not sure will pay off in the long run even though everybody else with boulders on their back told me it would be worth it — and also that a lot of other people have told me the boulders are unnecessary and I would do better pouring my time, energy, and money into something more lucrative. If you ask some of my friends, they’ll tell you I’ve come awfully close to hurling off the boulders so I can head back down the mountain and live once again without such risks piled on top of me. No more writing. No more spending precious time and money on things that are never guaranteed to succeed according to the world’s measure of success. I mean, wouldn’t waitressing or a cashier job be more secure? It’s especially tempting to quit when little hares are bounding past me, giggling as they chomp away on cupcakes and talk about unicorns. I don’t know who these hares are, if they’re a figment of my imagination, or if they really do exist. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Maybe they are the ones who took more risks than me, or they’re simply luckier or more talented. What matters is remembering that even if I get rid of the boulders, I’ll still have to pay for them (with little or no reward since I’m not following through with them). So I might as well follow through, you know?

I’m a “once you start, you should finish” kind of tortoise.

And sometimes … sometimes when I’m trekking up the mountain, which I’m not even sure is a mountain more than a flat, wide field where no direction is wrong as long as you keep moving, I almost feel like I’m one of those hares bounding along. I’m pretty sure I’m delusional at that point.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG October 2013 — I Am Surviving!

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMy last post was pretty depressing. Sorry about that. I like to freak out, and sometimes it leaks out into posts and social networks. For the most part, I try to keep these freakouts to myself. It’s best for everyone, I think. The truth is, I’m surviving! Before I bore you with details, I’ll entice you with the news that I’ll be announcing a new book release date very, very soon. Double yay! Then, once that is out of the way, things will calm down and I’ll get to drafting my next novel.

So, my insecurity for this month? The wonderful thing is that I feel less insecure right now than I have in a long time. Not sure why, but it’s a great feeling. My family is happy and healthy, the weather has been beautiful (despite the fact that we have snow in the forecast for this Friday), and I’m feeling confident about my writing. Let’s hope all of this lasts! My encouragement to others is to hang in there and keep your sights focused on what is most important to you. Things almost always sort themselves out, maybe not in the ways you expect, but sorted nonetheless. More than likely, I’ll have something huge to be insecure about next month, but I’m hanging tight for now. I hope you are too! Let me know what is good in your life right now, even if it all seems bad. Find one good thing and share if you can.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG September 2013 — Two Reasons Why I Haven’t Quit

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMany of you might have read my post yesterday about my publisher closing their doors. I didn’t talk too much about my emotional turmoil over the whole thing, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest thing to dwell on, in all honesty. I’ve decided what I want to do, and the point of this post is to say that quitting is not in the decision I made.

Now, I’ll admit that quitting crossed my mind, but not for very long. When I considered throwing in the towel and never writing again, I ended up with two very strong reasons why I should not do such a thing. Yes, I boiled it down to two because sometimes when you’re freaking out, simplicity is the best medicine.

I Am Alive and Anything is Possible

This might sound a little cheesy, but it’s true. As long as I am a breathing, functional human being, anything is possible. I was listening to the radio yesterday about a football player who had to have his leg amputated. The man seriously didn’t give up. He said, I will be back on the field someday! I promise! And he totally did it. He got a prothetic and he’s back on the field playing professionally. He says it hurts every single damn second because the prosthetic grates against his bone, but his love for what he’s doing makes it so that it doesn’t matter.

That, you guys, is something to learn from. Sure, stuff hurts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and as I told my seven-year-old daughter the other day, You can do hard things. She kept saying she only wanted to do easy things because they were easy, and I stopped and I thought about that. I thought, well, if you only stick with the easy crap, there sure isn’t much payoff, is there?

Even if I Haven’t Meant to, I’ve Made a Difference

My writing — this thing I do that causes pain and joy at the same time — really does make a difference in so many ways. Even if it’s just a difference to me. My publisher might close their doors, but I’m finding another way to share my stories. That way might fail at some point, and if it does, I’ll find another way. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HOW I AM PUBLISHED. THIS IS NOT ABOUT INSECURITY OR INADEQUACY, OR MONEY, OR WASTING TIME ON SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T MATTER. Because it has made a difference for good in my life, and I haven’t given up yet.

You never know what your example will inspire in someone else, what your words can do to change another, and where your motivation will lead.

As I told my husband when I was considering walking away from all of this — “If I quit writing, what else would I do that I love just as much? I would probably find something, sure, but then I’d probably want to quit that too because anything I love as much as this will require the same amount of effort, pain, and dedication. So why not this? Why. Not?”

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG August 2013 — When Should You Call Yourself a Writer?

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeYears and years ago, I used to own a photography business. I had a license and everything (really). I knew what I was doing (not really), and I was on fire about making that business work (really). Eventually, I realized that everyone and their next door neighbor’s dog owns an SLR digital camera, and everyone and their next door neighbor’s dog wants to make money off their newfound photography skills. I did find that many people actually were making money off their legitimately professional skills, but sadly, many people I ran across were not quite making it. They were making a little money off their little businesses and providing decent products to their clients, but from what I could observe they were not anywhere near those big-league professional photographers with studios and paychecks to support themselves. I was one of those artists who wasn’t quite making it, and I gave up because I believed I’d never be a “real” photographer.

This brings me to writing because I feel that when I switched over from photography, which had been a brief respite in the long haul of my writing career, I was still an amateur in a business filled with truly legitimate professional writers and authors. Although I now get paid for my writing, I still feel small-league. But it’s fine. I’ve finally realized something very important — something I wish I’d realized back when I was doing photography (but I’m kind of glad I didn’t because then I probably wouldn’t be a writer right now). What I realized led me to these questions:

When should you call yourself a writer? What makes any writer a professional writer?

My answer to Question #1 is — If you make a conscious effort to sit your butt in a chair/sofa/bed/floor and write on a consistent basis, you are a writer. If you are consistently producing material, whether you are publishing it or not, you are a writer. If you’re taking a break from writing and you have plans for when you will begin again, you are a writer. If you don’t have any honest plans to write again … I’m afraid you are on a break from being a writer, as well. If you’ve completed writing projects in the past, or published projects in the past, and you are no longer writing, then you are only an author, not an author and a writer. I think there’s a big difference there.

My answer to Question #2 is — That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? What makes a writer a professional writer? I’d have to say it’s a combination of things, but no one person can tell you if you’re a professional writer or not. I think one qualification is if you’re making money off your writing and you are still writing and you’re treating that writing as a career, then you’re a professional writer — even if it’s a small amount of money. Nobody can start throwing out numbers for that, so in my opinion, as long as you’re making consistent money off what you produce, you’re likely a professional, whether or not you’re living off that income. If you’re no longer actively writing and you’re still making consistent money off past projects, then you’re an author who makes money off past projects, but you’re no longer a writer. If you’re not making money off your writing yet, and you’re aiming to do that at some point, I hope you don’t call yourself “just a hobby writer”. It’s not just a hobby if you’re genuinely aiming to make a career out of it!

These are, of course, just my opinions. I’ve heard many times that you are only a professional when you are making a living off your work. This is what I bought into when I was trying to make my photography business succeed. I was so far away from reaching that “professional” status that it drove me to quit altogether. I treat photography as a hobby now, and that’s okay. But my writing is currently not a hobby. It’s a real career for me, and I proudly call myself a writer, an author, and a professional. I won’t let labels drive me to quit this time! If you’re on a similar path as me, I sure hope you don’t either.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG July 2013 – On Planning to Give Up

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI don’t know about you, but when it comes to writing, I go through the “I want to give up now” phase every once in awhile. Sometimes it’s extreme and I’ll think about deleting my site and Facebook account and all my other networking accounts. Then I realize there are published books I can’t get rid of since they are signed over to a publisher. My heart sinks. It’s nearly impossible to completely disappear, isn’t it?

I think the biggest factor in me wanting to give up is comparison. I will be on top of the world one day, thinking I’m the best at something, and then the next day I’ll find someone better and I deflate. It’s the constant barrage of realizing I’m not the best at any one thing that gets me so down. So I not only want to give up, but I PLAN to give up, like some sort of writerly suicide, I suppose. I’ll start validating my feelings with lists of why I should give up.

My books don’t sell as well as I think they should be selling and I can’t figure out how to change it

I made mistakes in my published book that I shouldn’t have made and now I can’t change them

I will never write a book as good as X-book or X-author

I will never make it big, never make a living off my writing

I am wasting my time

Then I’ll make a list of how I’m going to get out of all of this.

I will delete every profile I’ve ever put up connecting me to writing

I will ask my publisher for my rights back so I can get rid of all evidence that I’ve published books

I will never talk about writing again with anyone

I will pick up a hobby I love and never attempt to make it into a career

A little extreme? Probably. These lists can go on and on and on and on. Forever. So I look at them and convince myself that giving up is THE ONLY VIABLE OPTION. If I give up, all of that will poof! go away. Problems solved. But then I remember my published books are still published and that asking for my rights back may not work. Even if it did work, my paperback books are still up on Amazon forever, even if they’re not for sale, and plenty of people still have copies. I can’t get rid of everything, and that makes me realize I can’t give up on something I’ve been working toward for over half my life. I decided to get into this and I have to stick it out through the fiery periods of writerly depression.

So my plans to give up? Foiled once again. Do you ever get in the rut of wanting to give up? Planning to?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG June 2013 – Bottom of the Barrel

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeThis is my first time participating in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I’ve put it off for a long time, mainly because I kept telling myself every post I put up here on my blog is a post about insecurity and feeling insecure. I’m a very insecure person, and what makes me sad is that most people don’t like insecure people. They aren’t very fun to be around. Confidence is a magnet if it’s honest confidence, so I aim for that and often fall short. Ego-driven confidence is a turn-off. So, in short, I put off belonging to this group because I do enough of trying to get over my insecurity as it is. But, what can this hurt? I’ll give it a try for awhile and see if I like it! Welcome to anyone visiting for the first time!

What am I feeling insecure about this month? Probably the fact that I feel at the bottom of the barrel all the time. What I mean by bottom of the barrel is that I know many people whom I consider “higher up the ladder” than myself. I’m published. I have five books out, but I feel lesser than most people who have just one out. Why is that? I used to blame it on my publisher (and I adore my publisher, so don’t get me wrong) because they are a small press and newer. I used to blame it on book sales, even though mine aren’t shabby (but in comparison to what?). I used to blame it on my personality because I’m quite introverted and a hermit (and it’s getting worse every year, it seems). I used to blame it on what I write (something between YA/New Adult/and stuff that takes itself too seriously).

In reality, I don’t think my feeling insecure and inadequate about where I am on “the publishing scale” is even a valid point anymore, mainly because I’m trying to convince myself there is no publishing scale. It’s more of an illusion than anything else. At least, I’m trying to get to the point where I can see that illusion instead of believing it’s a solid wall right in front of me. It has to be an illusion because if we all based our self-worth on where we lie in our accomplishment in comparison to others, everyone would fall short and I doubt anyone would be truly happy. As a friend of mine said yesterday, it’s the pure love of writing and the act of writing that makes me happy, so that’s what I’m going to keep doing. Sometimes writing is all you can do.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group