Archive for the 'psychology' Category

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Stress will kill you

Or so my doctor tells me. She’s pretty smart, so I guess I should listen to her. As I take an inventory of what is causing me stress and figuring out what I can eliminate, I am thankful we are finally at the end of another political circus. That’s the worse.

I don’t know about you, but man I am so glad this election season is winding down. I don’t care who you wanted to win any of the zillions of offices, amendments, or initiatives. I just glad we can turn our attention to de-stressing and simplifying our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I have deep and detailed political opinions, but I just don’t want to churn through those for a while.

Today, I’d like to discuss something that has been praying on my mind under the cacophony of political rhetoric and posturing. I want to talk about stress management.

Most writers I know have to have day jobs to make ends meet. Working full-time with a family, as I do, adds to the level of busy. Then adding a writing career in whatever time is left takes the last vestiges of rest and relaxation you can possibly muster.

So, you start burning the candles at both ends, skipping not only sleep, but generic down-time which your brain and body so desperately need. You drive toward deadlines, real or self-inflicted and before you know it you hit a wall and burn out sets in.

I have experienced this more than once in my life and it’s debilitating, frustrating and counter-productive. When you sit at the keyboard and try to produce words and nothing happens because your brain refuses to move out of neutral, it’s time to assess the situation and make a change.

That change may be as simple as getting some exercise (you should always be exercising), make sure you are eating a healthy diet, and take some down time. Naps are good. Reading is wonderful. Watch a movie, go for a walk, do a puzzle, veg in front of a video game. All of these are very helpful in resetting the creative switch in your brain.

Forcing yourself to produce at this point is frequently counter-productive and can lead to even longer periods of inactivity if you do not take the proper care of your mind and body.

I’m realizing as I write this post that this has been a rather stressful year for me. I’ve written posts here that relate to this problem from different aspects. I think it’s time for me to get back to the gym, take a few things off my plate, and make a promise that I will stop over committing and guard my free time with vigor.

After all I have novels to finish. Apparently some of you want to see book four in the Sarah Beauhall series sooner rather than later. I’ll go catch a nap and watch a show. By this weekend I’ll be back in the saddle and working on Hearth & Home with a distinct urgency.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Trust the mirrors

While most people will agree that writing is a solitary endeavor, I’d like to point out one very important aspect of your social network.

My friends and I call it trusting your mirrors.

Due to human physiology, we cannot see out the back of our heads, so we can never truly see behind ourselves.  We can’t tell where we’ve been with a clear view.  But if you have a group of trusted confidants, then you can not only see behind you, but you can get the old “objects in mirrors appear larger than they are” aspect of it and really get a good look at what you’ve been doing.

Take a new story, for example.  You write it, and if you are like most writers I know, you immediately think that it sucks.  It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh off the hotplate of creation, you know, deep down, that it has negative value, you’ve wasted your time, and that this is the last thing you will ever write. Mainly because someone will finally figure out that you are a fraud and the entire house of cards will come tumbling down.  Or, you know, worse.

Not everyone goes through this roller-coaster of self-doubt and recrimination, but let me tell you, I know veterans with thirty years of sales who still think like this when they finish something new.  We are all meat puppets with a chemical soup battery in our heads that controls our emotions and our thoughts.  Who can blame us for panicking and expecting the worse.  It’s survival instincts.

But, if you are a very lucky person who has enough good sense to find like-minded individuals as well as a diverse base of support, than you can trust them to be your eyes in the back of your head.

They become your mirrors and they can show you a view of yourself that you cannot see.  This is an amazing gift, let me tell you.  Finding someone who you can trust to be honest and who has your best interest at heart is worth more than a Hugo, a Pulitzer or even a NY Times Bestseller slot.

Because you will always have to write the next thing and the world is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of place.  A single success or failure will not define your career.  If you surround yourself by good souls and put in the hard work you can maximize your success and minimize your pain.

Trust the mirrors, watch when things are larger than they appear and don’t forget to let those around you protect your flanks.  It’s what friends and family are for.

If you are not careful, you may end up having a very fulfilling life with good friends, good writing and high expectations.

And probably some wine, but that’s a different post.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
The Dangerous Dream

Sometimes you want something small, something you are worthy of.  Maybe you even want it bad enough to go after it.  You work harder, you look for angles and you push toward a goal that seems reasonable.

Sometimes you want something that appears to be totally out of your reach.  Something so unfreaking awesome and yet so hilariously out of the realm of reasonableness that you just shrug and walk away.

And sometimes, when you reach for your dreams, you fall.  You come away battered and bruised and you decide that life has taught you a very important lesson and that you should learn that you have limits and you need to keep your dreams to the realm of possibilities.

The truth is — and this should scare the living daylights out of everyone here — there is nothing out of your reach.  NOTHING.

I’m a published author because I wanted it bad enough to make it happen.  I had faith.  I did the hard work and I believed in the dream.  I refused to let little things like a decade of rejection get in the way.  I ignored others who told me my writing wasn’t good enough.  By all that is wholesome and pure, I ignored those idiots and kept my dream alive.

How dare anyone tell you that your dreams are not achievable.  Never listen to someone who tells you that you should settle for what you can have.  I don’t care if you want to be an astronaut, the President of the United States, or if you decide one day that the reason you are unhappy is because despite the biological evidence, you really are a woman (or a man).

I swear to you that you may have pain, you may walk through fire, but you have got to live for your dreams.  When you stop dreaming you start dying.

I’m a writer, damn it and I will put my work out in front of people until all of them know the truth.  I only have three novels on the market but that in itself exceeds some people’s dreams.  Dare to dream bigger, shoot for the moon.  You need to gather all the energy you can muster and push it into your dreams.  I will break into the NY Times best seller list some day.  I will become a full-time writer.  I will stand in front of my fans and accept awards.

And I know all of this because my dreams are powerful.  My dreams have teeth.

You are worthy of joy.  You are worthy of big dreams.

Do something, right now.  Stand up and declare to the world that you will not be kept back by those who are afraid.  You will reach for the stars and you will, come hell or high water, you will achieve the unthinkable, the unfathomable.

Eschew the fear, abandon the doubt.  Take a deep breath and let the possibilities fill you to overflowing.

Then roll up your sleeves and do the hard work.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 by Sasha White
The things we forget.

In July I went out and got a day job, and I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s in a retail store, but I mostly work in the back, doing stock, so for me it’s the best of both worlds. I get out of the house, I get to be social, but I don’t have to be on the sales floor all the time (In fact I’m rarely on the sales floor.) Being back in the ‘work force’ has reminded me that people are really fascinated by writers.

I’m not shy about being a write, or about what I write, and at some point in time over the last month, every person I work with has asked me some questions about my writing. Sometimes it’s ‘why erotic fiction?’, and others it’s ‘where do you get your ideas?’. And of course someone always has to ask how much money I make as a writer. ANd then there’s those that wait until they get you alone, then tell you about the story they want to write.

Yesterday one of the ladies told me that she used to blog-before her divorce proceedings started- and a friend of hers told her she should write a book because she was so funny. Now that things are mostly settled she’s going to start again, and she thinks her story, along with her snarky humor, would be a great memoir. What did I think?

My advice to her was to go for it. Why not? I mean seriously, if you have a story to tell, and you want to tell it, why are you not doing so? That is the difference between writers, and those who want to be writers. Writers actually sit their ass down in the chair, and work at it. In my mind, its as simple as that.

And in what might seem like a totally unrelated way, I wanted to share this blog I found with y’all. I found Fabulous Forth Grade through Pinterest. (Yes, I was killing time) Someone pinned this image with Character Traits, and it caught my eye. I clicked through and saw a few of the charts there that I thought would look cool on my plain white office walls. I like the simplicity and color.

The blog also made me wonder if things like this in grade school are why everyone is so curious about writers, and why it seems like everyone I meet/know has a secret desire to be one.


Friday, August 17th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Why I’m Not Talking About My Next Book

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking me about my next book. What is it, when is it coming out, etc. etc. And I want to say to each and every one of you: thank you SO MUCH. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you are interested, even excited, to read my next book. I’m excited for you to read it, too. I really love these characters and their world, and I hope you will, too.*

But I’m not saying any more about it at this time. I think I’ll be making all kinds of official announcements within the next few months (especially since I’ve just gotten a sneak peek at a cover!). The problem is, as I learned with For Darkness Shows the Stars, is that it’s not good for me to announce books online until I’ve got a finished product on my hands.

There are so many amazing things about the information age, and I feel so lucky sometimes to be working now. But there’s a downside, too. On the upside, I have so much more access to readers and other writers, even when they live on the other side of the world (ahem, Justine). On the downside, I have so much more access to critics and rumor mills that take statements out of context or even repeat outright mistakes as if they are gospel truth.

The other day, I started getting notifications from folks who were under the impression that For Darkness Shows the Stars is the first in a trilogy. I had no idea where that notion came from**, particularly since a) I only have one more book under contract with Harper, and we all know I’m not about to go down that killer unicorn path again, and 2) I’ve always said that For Darkness is that rare-as-a-unicorn thing in YA romance/dystopia: a stand-alone.

What I eventually found out had happened is that the book review site, Goodreads, has some kind of annoying rule to their classification system whereby if you link two entries together, it automatically makes them a series, with numbers. So someone had listed the prequel novella, “Among the Nameless Stars” on Goodreads, which automatically changed the For Darkness Shows the Stars listing to (I kid you not):

For Darkness Shows the Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #1)”

Say that five times fast. It’s harder than “post-apocalyptic Persuasion,” which used to give my agent fits. (The prequel is listed as “Among the Nameless Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars #0.5”.)

So when people were going to the FDSTS page on Goodreads, they were seeing that listing and coming to the admittedly obvious — though crazily wordy, amirite?*** — conclusion. Thankfully, someone fixed it for me after I ranted asked nicely on Twitter. But I do think that’s a really limited worldview on series that Goodreads takes.****

So yeah. Announce a book, and next thing you know, people are chatting about what it all means, Goodreads entries are formed, and people even give star ratings — star ratings, for a book that hasn’t been written yet! — and just general speculation that messes with my head, even if it’s of the positive, “I’m so excited for this” variety. So yeah, I definitely need darkroom periods, even if the books are already under contract. Which this is.

But I can tell you this (in answer to some of your questions):

  • It is not Killer Unicorns 3. (Sorry! I know, but hope springs eternal, right?)
  • It is, indeed, the “frockalicious” book I occasionally mention on my blog. It is not called that.
  • It is a YA, and will be out from Harper (Balzer+Bray) in fall of 2013.
  • I do not have a release date yet.
  • It is not based on a Jane Austen novel.
  • I will not be taking guesses in the comments.

So, cue the “Frockalicious” (Frockalicious #1) by Diana Peterfreund entry on Goodreads in 5,4,3,2,1…*****


* Mostly I love it. Occasionally I’m in revision hell and I seriously consider just killing them all off in a freak water buffalo stampede.
** Well, actually I do know where it came from. You can’t swing a stick in the YA section these days without smacking into a trilogy. But no, not a trilogy.
*** If I were writing a trilogy (NOT A TRILOGY), then I am sure I could come up with a better series title than that.
**** And it doesn’t always do that. No one calls “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish (Glass, #1)” or anything ridiculous like that. Or worse, “Franny and Zooey (A Perfect Day for Banana Fish, number 4 & 6)”. Can you imagine?
***** Except, don’t. Really. Because I totally taught Queenie to Hulk!SMASH this summer and she’s adorable and crazy good at it.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 by Sasha White
Words to inspire

Sometimes others can say what I want to say better than I can. I hope these quotes help inspire you.

You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows.
And a dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes.
Trying to learn from what’s behind you and never knowing what’s in store
makes each day a constant battle just to stay between the shores.
And I will sail my vessel ’til the river runs dry.
Like a bird upon the wind, these waters are my sky.
I’ll never reach my destination if I never try,
So I will sail my vessel ’til the river runs dry.
Too many times we stand aside and let the water slip away.
To what we put off ’til tomorrow has now become today.
So don’t you sit upon the shore and say you’re satisfied.
Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tides.

Garth Brooks from the song The River ( co-written with Victoria Shaw )

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. – Harriet Braiker

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 by Sasha White
The Writer I Was

When I first started writing, I had no idea what a Critique Partner was, or that there were writer forumns online, and workshops, and all manner of learning tools out there. Then again, I started writing 10 years ago, and online wasn;t as populated as it is today…anyway…what I’m getting at is this. WHen I started writing, I wrote, to the best of my ability, and I submitted. The only people who saw my work was me, and the editor I submitted to.

I did take a correspondence writing course, and had a mentor who was supposed to go over my work before I submitted it, but, well, like I said, online wasn’t as populated then as it is now, and the correspondence was snail mail, not e-mail. Combine that with my impatient nature and I never waited to hear back from my mentor before submitting my work. Needless to say I never finished the course either.

Because I started out like that, and because of my own personality quirks, I always wrote fast and furious, and totally by the seat of my pants. I never gave much thought to book planning, let alone career planning.

Times have changed.

Now, I look at trends, keep up with industry news, and think harder about what each story/release means on my career path. Some are certainly just for fun, but others are written with more in mind. I’m still not a plotter, but I’m no longer strictly by the seat of my pants. I’ve changed, my process has changed, and my writing has changed. And it’s not a bad thing.

So if you’re finding yourself a little lost, or feeling down because you’re doing the same thing you’ve always done, and it’s just not working anymore, think about this. Change = growth. And unless we’re talking about weight gain, growth is a good thing. 😉