Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Do You Deal With the "Am-I-Crazies?"

Every writer I know, whether they've written one novel, two novels, or twenty-five novels, at some point had to deal with the "Am I crazies" before they found publication.

You probably know what I'm talking about: the "Am I crazies" are that feeling you get where you're spending so much time writing a novel or multiple novels, your friends and family are wondering what you're doing, and you have no idea whatsoever whether you will ever see publication. You could be spending your hours writing the great American novel or you could be writing something that will only be read by your critique partners. No way of knowing. That's when you stare at the ceiling and wonder, "Am I crazy for spending so much time doing this?"

The "Am I Crazies" are a natural result of writing a novel without having any idea whether the novel will find its way to publication, which is... you know, every novel by an unpublished author. This feeling can also be a pernicious, crippling force for some writers as they struggle with self-doubt and try to keep going without knowing what the future will bring.

So. How do you deal with the "Am I crazies" and keep yourself writing?






282 comments:

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Christina G. said...

One word. Denial.
I try to ignore my self doubts a much as possible while I'm querying agents and writing the sequel to a book that may never see a Borders bookshelf.
Is it the best method? Maybe not. But self-confidence is priceless.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I try to remember that even if I don't get published, I'll be glad to have told a story. Even if only my son or wife or friends read the book, I've accomplished something. Don't get me wrong: I'm not happy about being unpublished. But I'm also pretty sure my life doesn't depend on publication.

Kiersten said...

Lots of M&Ms.

Also supportive writer friends.

But mostly chocolate.

onipar... said...

Initially, I found a critique group and asked them, straight up, "Am I any good?"

Beyond that I submitted short stories for publication. The few that were published helped alleviate the "Am I crazies," if only temporarily.

Otherwise, I try to remind myself that I love to write. If someone offered me money to *stop* writing, I wouldn't take it (although it would probably confirm that I am in fact crazy).

Taymalin said...

It takes a certain level of insanity to write. Embrace it and keep writing.

Jeremy Robb said...

I get this all the time. My wife thinks of my writing career as a fad, and patiently ignores me when I spend time writing one point or another, taking notes, or jump up suddenly to record some idea I had. I personally feel that the story itself is important for me, as a way of working out a concept or concern. So the story is my end goal, whether or not it gets published. Not that I wouldn't say no to a nice, fat advance. ^_^

Charlee Vale said...

I remind myself how much I love my characters. I started writing the story for them in the first place. What kind of writer would I be if I left them hanging and did finish it? That is usually enough to get me going.

CV

Jennifer said...

It's easy. I find something else to use a distraction. Video games, books, talking the dogs for a walk, cooking, cleaning, or working in the garden. Anything that pulls my attention away from writing also pulls my attention away from doubts and worries.

Not to mention it keeps me slightly more sane than I would be otherwise.

Kimberly J. Smith said...

This tends to hit me once I'm finished more than "in progress". More like what-in-the-world-did-I-just-do??? So far, my second draft beta readers have affirmed time well spent. Thank God for them.

Alicia said...

I take break from my project and just ride the wave. Not very useful or productive, but I find that it helps overall.

Chuck H. said...

I try to recall and re-experience that feeling I get when the words are flowing and I'm creating a world and people who never were and probably never will be.

My critique group's encouragement and the support of family and friends help, but for me it's mostly the experience and the feeling.

Eileen said...

Single malt scotch.

That and the realization that writing was what I love to do. Publishing it is great and I love seeing my books on the shelves, but the writing part gives me the most joy.

Athena's Little Helper said...

I deal with the "Am-I-Crazies" by taking breaks from writing to read books in my target genre. The best case scenario is that I'll read something so mediocre that I can sit back and say, "Well this somehow got published, so why not mine?" It's a smug thing to do, but it works for me.

Mira said...

Cool question, Nathan.

I know I'm crazy. That helps. Having that resolved.

I also know that the primary person who benefits from my writing is me. Even if I never publish, I will have grown greatly from the process.

Finally, alot of people say luck is involved in being published. I disagree. I think it's something much more profound than luck. Who am I to say how my writing is best utilized?

Maybe my writing is meant to reach thousands (that would be cool) but maybe not. Maybe my piece is smaller, and maybe it's better that way. If I'm part of a chain, who am I to say I must be the biggest, most shiny link?

So, I'll write and dream of reaching thousands, but I'll also trust that my job really is just to write. If that means only I benefit from it, maybe that's the best possible outcome - I don't see the big picture. I'll do my part, but try - even on days where I'm shaking my fist at the sky - to have alittle trust.

B. Jason Roer said...

I openly acknowledge I am crazy. There's been little doubt about it for years now. Just embrace it, says I.

sunna said...

Easy. I *know* that I am crazy. I embrace the crazy, in all it's babbling, drooling, it's-4am-but-I-just-need-to-finish-this-scene glory.

Booze, chocolate, and writerly friends in the same boat also helps.

Kate said...

I just remind myself that writing is fun. If I spent the same amount of time reading books as I spend writing them, I wouldn't think I was crazy. And I like writing. If sometime in the future, I become rich and famous because of my writing - well that would be a huge bonus.

PurpleClover said...

Eh. I've been struggling with that one now. I know quite a few friends on my blog have given me awesome and detailed (and brutally honest) feedback. Its what I need to hear to make the novel better but then you second guess whether you have what it takes.

I've had to take a little more time off my novel writing because of school and family because there is no guarantee I will be pub'd. So I can't ignore the things that ARE there for something that I WANT to be there. KWIM?

I wish I could have someone say, "You have what it takes!" that isn't just saying it because we're co-bloggers. lol. The only way I will ever know is by continuing to write, finish, and then query. But its hard to keep the motivation when you have so much responsibility that takes priority since you have no guarantees.

I lost a lot of book in a crash so not having that guarantee or confidence is what is making it hard to get back on the wagon. That and I'm waiting for a physicist to get back with me on certain details of my manuscript (not a joke). Soooooo with that being said, I'm in limbo. Thanks for rubbing salt... ;)

PurpleClover said...

Sorry...that sounded soooo WHINEY!

lol.

Kellie said...

Yes. All of it. All the time.

I try to remind myself of the little accomplishments along the way -- an article accepted here, a positive critique there -- and take comfort in knowing that someone somewhere is feeling it, too. Mostly I keep reminding myself that I need to finish the story for me: the goal is to have it written. Anything after that is cake.

kasi said...

I know God gave me this gift of writing for a purpose, so I don't doubt. I know I'll get published again. I just don't know how successful I'll be. I'm aiming for the stars.

But even if I didn't get the trilogy I just finished published, I loved writing it. The characters are alive to me, and it was great spending so much time with them.

Ink said...

I think it helps if you write the stories for yourself, first. I write to explore something, to experience something. The desire for an audience is subsidiary. And it helps to try and balance your life as well as possible. Dedication is necessary... but it's helpful not to let the writing subsume you. I think you have to at least strive for some balance between family, work, writing and recreation.

Sean Craven said...

I was hit hard by this feeling over the last week. Major mood plunge. So what did I do?

I worked hard to address the specific issues in the novel that made me feel as though it was a disaster. Many scenes and characters were removed, many jokes inserted.

I reminded myself of all the good things in my life that had come about as a result of writing the novel -- even if it never gets published it was still very valuable to me.

I turned to my writer's group last night, and they were very comforting and encouraging.

So now I feel better. These things helped. But mostly I followed this piece of traditional advise.

"When in trouble, when in doubt,
run in circles, scream and shout."

frohock said...

I developed a business plan that gives me five years to see some kind of results. At the end of five years, I'll take an inventory and see if I want to continue.

I have a great online critique group and lots of new blogging friends who are going through the same pains of pre- and post-publication that I am.

Regardless as to what happens with my writing career, I've had great fun, and I have met wonderful people. When that happens, you can't lose.

Teresa

rightonmom said...

Well, first off I realize that I AM probably a little crazy. Then on some cosmic level, I tell myself that its entirely worth it, even if it never comes to much. At least I can say I did it, and for me, that's sometimes enough reason to keep at it. Also, giving myself periodic rests and pauses to break up monotony.

beckylevine said...

Well, I whined about it yesterday all over Twitter & FB, then decided I'd better grow up and stop that today. :)

The only way for me is to make the books the best I can, treat them professionally when I submit, and realize that even if this never happens, which would be incredibly hard, I'd still write. I'd still dream, too, but I can't not be writing. Bottom line, I guess.

Lauren said...

I love my characters.

A lot.

More than anyone really should.

I've "known" them for years (my sister and I made them up when we were kids, and I still write about them), and they're like friends to me. So any time spent with them is time well spent.

I enjoy the process of writing. I wrote over a dozen novel manuscripts before I knew anything about the publishing industry. Writing fiction is something I'd choose to do over pretty much anything else -- whether I ever get paid for it or not.

(I've gotten paid for it a little bit -- a few short stories, personal essays, and contest wins have netted me some cash. But that happened after I wrote the dozen-plus novel manuscripts.)

Plus, my husband and my critique buddies really enjoy my stories and my characters, so even if I don't ever have a large pool of readers, I've at least got a few people who are always hungry to read what I write!

Also, for when I'm feeling really nutso, there's always bourbon. It worked for Faulkner, sort of.

Autumn Rose said...

I just think, even if I AM crazy, or if this novel IS crap, at least I'm doing something creative with my time, exercising my brain, and striving for a dream without a paralising fear. Most people wouldn't even try at all, and that gives me confidence.

Tracy said...

I had 5 kids within a 6 year span, so I already know I'm crazy. Why should that stop me from doing anything else? Besides, writing is more fun and less frustrating than, say, scrapbooking. Blech!

Bane of Anubis said...

By remembering that my writing is better than that in some of the popular books I've encountered.

By (to steal from Onipar)thinking about my pubbed or to be pubbed shorts.

By recalling the strangers who've told me that I can write... sure it's nice to hear it from your family, but what the hell do they know?

If all else fails, by soliciting for cathartic support of my fellow sufferers.

Pete Miller said...

I just write because I have to. My brain wants the words to get out.
I've started small and am working my way up to the big SF novel in my head, but I want to be a better writer before I start that. For now, short stories and novellas in a niche market where I will hopefully see publication.

Laura Bruno said...

LOL, I'm a past life reader, medical intuitive, soul psychic, raw foodist with a head of hair that spontaneously changes colors. Writing's the least "crazy" thing I do!

After editing for months, I recently released my first novel, "Schizandra and the Gates of Mu." Whenever I wonder if I'm crazy for writing, I reread reader's emails to me or the comments so far on Amazon. That helps -- just knowing that my book has opened some people's awareness. Any life enhanced or changed by one's writing still has a ripple effect. Of course, I'd love to have my book leap forward on the charts, but at least it's being read and enjoyed by some.

Kristi said...

I'm usually writing for a specific person and feel fulfilled knowing that person will read it. My trilogy is for my daughter (once she's old enough to read it), my picture books are for my son and my YA is for me. If others read it too - well, that's a bonus.

Also, I honestly don't doubt I will eventually be published. This isn't due to grandiose thoughts about my amazing writing technique - I'm just not going away, and I'll keep writing until something sticks. :)

JES said...

Pretty much what others said: arm myself in advance by writing FOR myself, and then when the Sh!tbird on the Shoulder starts to squawk I do the silent mental equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing the La-la-la song.

From something I wrote about a year ago: "To my knowledge, there's no way of banishing [the sh!tbird] permanently. You can’t sprinkle rat poison in the birdseed. The only way to shut him up is to train yourself to keep him glutted: dump out the words as fast as you can. Don't stop. Keep writing. Don't look back. This confuses the heck out of the sh!tbird (after all, he's a wordivore like you). You have one advantage he can't overcome: the act of putting words on paper or screen takes a lot less time than the act of analyzing, let alone critiquing the words.

"Eventually, engorged and exhausted, he'll give up."

EC Sheedy said...

Coping with the "crazies?" A cup of good coffee and a sunrise.

nkrell said...

This is too funny! I just had an "Am-I-Crazy" moment! I forgot to tell my sister-in-law that I'm going to be in town this weekend for my high school reunion. I'm flying how many thousands of miles to see people I haven't seen for how many years and I forgot to tell her about my arrival? This was not a Freudian slip, I swear. I genuinely like my sister-in-law.

Maybe I should step away from the computer for a second. Just one...no, take another step back.

Marsha Sigman said...

Funny, I just finished my blog post about this and then clicked to see if you had posted yet.

Sometimes I write depressing little poems to amuse myself or I blog....give myself internal pep talks...but when I need the really big guns....I call my mother. She thinks I am a genius and anyone else who does not think so is either crazy...or just evil.

Then I get back to work.

Hobert said...

I love to write, and enjoy having created, but the crazies settle in when I'm too focused on the business. As Henry Miller once said about his Nordic ancestors, "Everything was about tomorrow, and tomorrow never came."

It's important for me to step away and embrace life as a writer. That's where the new material comes from. When done properly, the next great idea always brings hope, and hope chases the crazies away.

Anthony said...

"How do you deal with the "Am I crazies" and keep yourself writing?"

Embrace the Suck!

A Paperback Writer said...

Well, since I teach junior high and write YA, I at least have an eager audience of 50 or 60 kids (out of 150 or so every year) who are excited about whatever I write. That helps a lot-- even when I get down about not getting published.

Melissa McInerney said...

After four years of writing non-stop and making some progress (35 rejections so far, but requests for my full manuscripts), I began to seriously doubt my talent, dedication and drive.

So I took the summer off. I worked on a movie. I coached swim team. I avoided anything that had to do with writing, except reading.

It has helped tremendously. I'm refreshed and ready to go. It didn't hurt that my critique group loooved my newest effort.

I'm thinking of taking the advice of the other posts: embracing my insanity. Oh, and chocolate and scotch. I'm down with that.

Fawn Neun said...

I drink. (Isn't that what you're supposed to do?)
I also have an editing job and help head an arts charity project, so I use those to bounce back to when I'm feeling like I'm not making any difference. I also have supportive writing friends.

Word Verification: refill *snort*

Fawn Neun said...

Oh, and ironically enough, the arts charity project deals directly with artists, writers and musicians suffering from depression, addiction and other mental health disorders.

Weronika said...

Chocolate, denial, crying, throwing a fit, running for miles -- all of the above.

Just kidding.

I blog, actually, and listen to great music. As soon as I think it through and realize that I can leave all of my doubts for the rewrite or for later, it's easier to move on.

Kristine Overbrook said...

I started out with a father who on one hand said I could do anything and on the other said you'll never be good enough so why bother.

I overcame that. I write it and whatever happens, happens. At least I'll have written it. You can't get published until you write the novel.

IMHO, the crazy person is one that gives up or doesn't try.

Vicki said...

What the hey, I am crazy. Writing calms me. Writing the book was cathartic for a particular difficult situation. Others have found it fascinating to read, but no, it isn't published. I'm not agressively sending it out for consideration because writing it has already satisfied on many levels. Publication would be icing on the cake. Icing is nice, but my favorite part is the cake.

Stephanie Faris said...

I enjoy writing. At some point in my journey I made the decision that every day in which I write is a day in which I'm happy. Publication is the ultimate dream, certainly, but when you realize you are writing for YOU, because you love to do it, suddenly those Am-I-Crazies go away.

Alicia A said...

I just went through an I am crazy moment not too long ago and contiplated deleting everything I had ever written.

I decided to walk away from the computer until it passed. And it did.

A. Grey said...

I deal with 'Am I crazy?' more and more because I keep writing and have yet to get published. But I agree with Taymalin. Embrace your insanity and keep writing! I will, and I am, and some day I'll talk about it and laugh!

Laura Bruno said...

Oh, and yes, chocolate definitely helps. A LOT. Lots and lots of raw cacao, followed by a nice, brisk walk and some Krishna Das music.

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

And what's wrong with being crazy?

I've never fit into a proper box and there are those who think my dream is foolish, but I realize I'm not the 1st dreamer to try.

I get down and wonder if this vampire wave that washed around me has cost me my chance. When those fears hit me, I focus on the words of my family, friends, critique partners, beta readers and the two 6th grade classes that read it. They all liked it so I must be doing something right.

Kat Harris said...

1. I believe what I'm saying through the written word is important.

2. I believe even if what I'm saying is never published it will somehow/someway eventually reach the audience for which it was intended, even if that audience is a single person.

Rick Daley said...

I have myself convinced that my insanity arises from a different set of issues. Whether or not this is true is a subject I avoid at all costs.

WORD VERIFICATION: dismi. When someone speaks ill of me, they dismi.

Sarah Erber said...

I know I'm crazy, so I don't have a problem with staying up til 4 in the morning because I can't stop writing.

(I love that adrenalin rush when you're close to writing "the end")

Don't you really need a little bit of craziness to have a good imagination for a story?

I think so :P

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

I harass my husband (and he loves me anyway);

I eat a lot of chocolate;

I remind myself that lots of great artists were and are actually crazy, so if I'm nuts, I'm at least in good company; and

I remember that if I abandoned the characters in whom I believe so strongly (don't tell me they're not real!) and if I stopped writing the story I am trying to tell, I would go much, much crazier than I am right now.

David R. Slayton said...

I get out of the house, go for a run, play frisbee with friends, anything to step away from the words for a while. Or I try to take Miss Snark's advice and do something artsy not related to writing: go to a museum or something that can show me value in creativity but still give me a mental break.

I have to say, these reponses are giving me a whole other list of tactics though!

Natasha Solomons said...

I don't think it ever goes away. Now I have a publishing deal, I fret constantly about book 2. 'Now they'll find me out... this one will suck...suppose I can't do it again...' et infinity into the darkest hours of the night.

John Connolly the acclaimed thriller writer, wrote a wonderful post on this. He's written 13 books, and the 'crazies' still haunt him. I'm not sure if this should comfort or terrify us!

http://www.johnconnollybooks.com/2009/04/on-starting-again.html

Vegas Linda Lou said...

The “Am I Crazies” applies to both writers seeking representation and those, like me, who’ve opted to self-publish. Right now I feel like I’m at mile 24 of a 26.2-mile marathon and sometimes I just want to throw up, cry, and quit. What keeps me going are my blog readers who tell me they’re chomping at the bit to hold Bastard Husband: A Love Story in their hands and my belief that they will dig it so much it’ll be a case study of frenzied viral marketing. They’re my motivation to push forward and I love every single one of them, even my loony stalkers.

Angie said...

I'd have to say I'm going through that right now. But I couldn't quit writing. It would break my heart. Besides, even if my novel is only loved by my kids and a few friends, it was still worth it to write it!

Steph Damore said...

With sites like this one Nathan - seriously. Talking with a community of writers and researching the publishing industry makes me feel like I'm part of the industry, even if I've never published a novel (yet).

That, and writing is really the only profession that makes me happy. Which really doesn't make sense because technically it's been the least rewarding financially.

And of course, I embrace moments of confidence and clarity - because I know they may be short lived - and try to remember these moments when doubt resurfaces.

Sarah Erber said...

Jack Roberts~

I know everyone's tired of Vampires, but I hope they're not over with yet!

One agent said that Post-apocalyptic stories are becoming big right now.

(Finished my YA urban fantasy about Nephilim Vampires) ;P

Laurel said...

I seem to fit the mold here...embrace the crazy. Everyone who knows me will tell you I AM a little crazy.

I've never written to get published, I write because I love it. I like to weave the threads of different ideas into a cohesive story about people I like or admire. The "Am-I-Crazy?" moments strike when I start working on a query letter.

Sure, I liked it. But will anyone else? So far all my beta readers have so that helps a lot.

Lori O said...

The "Am I crazies" is something I struggle with frequently (I nearly had a panic attack in IKEA today!) I manage this demon by taking a break, and telling myself that I’ll come back to my work when I’m refreshed and recharged.

csmith said...

I have a friend, a published writer. When I start with the "Am I crazies" I get informed not to be such an f***ing diva, and virtually smacked with a wet fish. Depending on my level of diva-ness, it can be anything from a minnow to a great blue whale. If I'm particularily irksome, I get a narwhal, because of the spike.

Normally this cheers me up enough to continue. It is somewhat difficult to work yourself up into a paroxysm of self loathing when people are hitting you with virtual fish.

Chris

Dawn Maria said...

I'm coming off a period where I had to take some time away from my book and the stress of agent hunting. I'm glad I did.

Now I'm getting geared up again. I'll be back at work in three weeks (for our school district) and the momentum of work/write/life is stressful, but keeps me honest. I've also decided to take a novel writing class this semester for the next book so I'll have deadlines, community and structure.

The biggest thing that keeps me going is the fear of what I'd feel like if I didn't try and do this. If I don't get published, I don't get published, but I'm sure glad to be trying. I've learned a lot about myself, publishing and made great connections in life and online with others doing the same thing.

DebraLSchubert said...

BTW: I know you're famous for lightening fast turnaround on your queries. Are you caught up right now? Inquiring minds want to know. (Read: queried almost two weeks ago - no response...)

Rick Daley said...

When this thread is done, I'll be interested to know how many of us openly admit to and embrace our craziness. My guess is "the majority."

Anyone crazy enough to crunch the numbers?

Nathan Bransford said...

debra-

Yes, I'm caught up. Did you check your spam filter?

DebraLSchubert said...

Nathan, Thanks for your quick response. I've tried checking the spam filter, but obviously failed. I'll have my IT guy (aka "husband") check it for me. Any suggestions?

Shykia Bell said...

Thank you for asking this question, Mr. Bransford.

I have come to know that the road of an author is a lonely one, often paved with uncertainty and apprehension. Though I try my best to use this energy to help propel my work, it is sometimes overwhelming. I cope by reminding myself that I am privileged to have the opportunity many others don't--the ability to follow my passion. Keeping this in mind makes it easier to strap on the armor each day and fight for my dream. An author's most formidable adversaries include self-doubt and fear--especially that of rejection. Although unpleasant, I believe these natural feelings reflect an author's recognition of their tough competition. It also signifies the hope they have for their work to be successful. I think it's no coincidence that the "Am I Crazies" strike me whenever I hit a wall. During that time, I reevaluate my life and the choices I have made. I can proudly say that I have given myself a chance to pursue what I was born to do.

Best,
Shykia Bell

Nathan Bransford said...

debra-

If you don't find a response you can try again.

Vacuum Queen said...

What the??? You totally stole my guest blog post.

Well anyway, the way I deal with the crazies is to become a complete shut in. It's not working too well for me. I stopped talking through my ideas with anyone simply because I got tired of explaining to people that it takes time and it's tough to find an agent, etc. People everywhere seemed to be smirking at me. So...I wrote in private. At night. Late.

My sleep got all messed up. My kids wondered why they suddenly got to watch tv for hours at a time while mom napped on the couch in the middle of the day.

I began to pretend I wasn't writing anything anymore and that it really was a silly little fun thing to try, but that I had moved on.

But really, the ideas kept pouring in and two new book ideas were begun. Picture book (series) and middle grade books became beloved and original story out on query seemed less dire. Maybe pack that one in a drawer for another day - a post published day. :)

Maybe that's crazier than ever, but it's how I roll...

goldchevy said...

When I get that frequent feeling that I'm crazy for thinking that anybody would ever want to read my book, I just remind myself that it was my craziness that made me start the book to begin with. And writing stops me from going completely crazy anyway. Crazy for me is my lifestyle. So bring on the crazies.

lmmay said...

When I get the "Am-I-Crazies," I reach for Ralph Keyes' THE WRITER'S BOOK OF HOPE. I love that book. It's crammed full of true stories about writers dealing with the crazies. Never fails to relax me and put things in perspective.

Nathan Bransford said...

vacuum queen-

Coincidence! I haven't actually read any of the guest blogs yet.

Dan Geilman said...

Mountain Dew. Lots and lots of Mountain Dew but that's only for when the writing isn't going well. When it's flowing, the words hitting the page are just as entertaining to me as reading someone elses. Okay, so maybe I am a literary narcissist but I enjoy creating and that more than anything keeps me writing, editing, and querying when all evidence points towards my children finding a box full of unpublished manuscripts after I die.

WindyA said...

I've found that it is nice to have a group of people who share your "Am-I-Crazies" and can relate to how you're feeling. They support you when you vent, as you do for them. Then suddenly, it seems you're not so crazy, yanno, because everyone else around you feels it too! LOL!

Karla Doyle said...

The first thing I do at those times is send whatever I'm working on to my best friend, who will tell me how great it is (whether or not it is) and urge me to keep on going.
Constructive criticism is fine most of the time, but when I'm wondering "Am I Crazy" to be doing this, I appreciate her blind enthusiasm and support.

What NOT to do when wondering "Am I Crazy to be spending so much time doing this?" - look at the dirty dishes piling up or last week's still unanswered laundry!

Joann Mannix said...

I've been having an "Am I Crazy" week full of self-doubt and angst. I find snapping on my running Ipod and sweating it out stirs up some endorphins which helps a bit. Then there's the wine. Mainly, though I have no choice but to write. I can't deny my little writer's soul, so whatever comes-published or not-I will still write. I will still kill myself with self-doubt, but I'll be doing it at my laptop, plugging away, until they take me away to the funny farm.

Tabitha Maine: said...

I feel this way too, but I write because there isn't anything else I'd rather be doing. Oh well, I am what I am--crazy. With that said, I don't like the negative stigma.

Livia said...

I can't control whether I get published, but I can control whether or not when I look back on my life, whether I regret not having tried harder.

Anna said...

Does it count if one novel has been published but it was such a fluke that all the subsequent manuscripts now languish in the 'crazy' pile...

If so, then I just keep writing, because having had one (my first, which basically says it all) published gives me hope subsequent publications will occur.

In the meantime, there is always tea, football season approaching, new tunes to peruse and endless summer days to enjoy. And words; there never seems to be an end to them!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I read a good book and remind myself that once that writer felt the same way.

Fresh Water Mermaids said...

ahhhh, the immortal question!

Lupina said...

I channel Ross Perot every time I write anything, whether I have a contract or not. What helps is remembering those who have believed in me, and wanting to prove them right.

Heidi Yantzi said...

Dude, I don't have to ask. I already know that I am crazy and long ago accepted it and am quite at peace with it. Just part of being me. The crazy keeps me going, in a way. I don't know if that makes sense to sane people but I'm cool with it.

I want to be a published author. I know it will happen for me, just now how or when. Until then I'll keep writing because it's one of the things I do.

It keeps them voices at least manageable.

And it's fun... even if it causes me great frustration!

Vacuum Queen said...

Actually I haven't even sent my guest blog post i yet. It was "in the works." But totally on the same train of thought. Brilliant minds and all that...

I'll skip down to idea number 2. Or maybe 3.

Sophie W. said...

It's really hard sometimes. I find it's most effective to ignore writing during those spells and start writing again when you feel like teh ubar literaree geniuz again, whether that takes hours, days or weeks.

DebraLSchubert said...

Nathan, I've got a query (hah!) into my security company (ESAT). In the meantime, I'm going to try sending to you again...

Sarah said...

This might make me sound more crazy, but my characters are some of the coolest, most interesting people I know. If a never get published, I owe it to them to finish their story.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Radical acceptance. In other words--I haven't found a way to deal with it yet :) I still feel crazy. I still wonder if it will amount to anything. And I still keep writing.

Having a young child does help put the priorities in focus, though.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

What keeps me goin'? Well, if you consider the alternative, seems to me, everyday on this side of the grass is a good day!

Also, between writing bouts, I'm working on my Master Zen Badge in Sling Shot shooting...

Haste yee back ;-)

Melanie Avila said...

As I'm still in crazy mode, I'll just see what everyone else has to say.

Pat Bracewell said...

It isn't so much "Am-I-Crazy" as "Is there something more meaningful that I should be doing with my time and whatever talent I have?" Should I be spending my days volunteering at a food bank or a literacy program? My writing is meaningful to me, but is fulfilling my own creative need what I was put here to do? I haven't found the answer yet.

Kristi said...

Rick - it's sort of the same thing as people who say their family was dysfunctional. Everyone is crazy the same way everyone's family is dysfunctional - it's just a matter of degree, and there will always be people who are off the deep end of that continuum. So my answer would be 100% but everyone would differ on their level of craziness. :)

Anonymous said...

There's a wonderful quote by John Gardner about this sort of thing.

“True artists are possessed…they are messianic egomaniacs. They believe that what they do is unspeakably important: it is only that conviction that makes the writer himself important…So Beethoven does draft after draft of his works, scrutinizing, altering, improving them long after anyone commonly sane would have stopped, delighted…Only the absolute stubborn conviction that with patience enough he can find his way through or around any obstacle---only the certainty solid as his life that he can sooner or later discover the right technique---can get the true artist through the endless hours of fiddling, reconceiving, throwing out in disgust. If he does his work well, the ego that made it possible does not show in the work…He builds whatever world he is able to build, then evaporates into thin air, leaving what he’s built to get by on its own…”

D. G. Hudson said...

For me, the 'Am I Crazy?' phase hits me when I get to a tough spot in the novel or rejections have come back. Followed closely by angst and sinking self-esteem.

I worry if the story is a good one (I need support from an outside source on these down days - which is where hubby comes in.)

Sitting and thinking outside always helps me, preferably if I'm away from my writing spot (at home). I'm a firm believer in 'letting the story simmer' when this type of feeling hits me.

IMO, all writers and most creative people are a little crazy anyway. We see the world in a different light. Great topic, Nathan.

Maureen said...

Being surrounded by results oriented bottom-line individuals, can make it difficult to explain why I write....so I don't. I write and create my art for myself. To deal with the "crazies" I go outside to walk, hike or tend to my garden. This clears my mind and allows me to refocus on characters or whatever. Taking time off of writing every now and then helps too.

And of course, chocolate helps lots.

tlmorganfield said...

Funny, lots of folks I know have been talking about this lately, so much so I wrote a blog entry about it yesterday, about my own experience with "Am-I-Crazies", though I tend to think of it as the "I should just quit writing" wall. (I'd put a link to it, but I don't know how you feel about links in the comments, so I'm going to error on the side of caution.) In a nutshell, I find it often helps to step away from the notion of publication and write just to write, to get back to the real reason I started writing, before I ever latched onto the idea of actually getting published. Also changing my route to novel publication helped quite a bit (I'm building a rep in short fiction first, which is quite a popular route in my particular genre.).

Ben said...

When you ask that question...wait for an answer. If you hear an answer, any answer, then you will know. Yes, you are crazy. And you may look up at the heavens with clenched fists shaking and scream aloud, "Crazy? I'm Crazy?" But inside you will be saying, "Well, at least I am that."

Cathryn said...

What else would I do at 4am?

Alice Luther said...

I remind myself that I am truly the best version of me when in the clutches of beautiful creativity birthed on paper. . . when I no longer see the words flowing across my computer screen, but hear the voices of fictional people I have come to love . . . and that publication does not define success—love of work does.

brian_ohio said...

What are these 'crazies' of which you speak? Ha! I guess *giggling* I guess I haven't hit that point yet. Hee, hee!

I suppose, ooh... eraser shavings... pretty, er... I mean I suppose I'll find out *laughing at my pencil's joke* soon enough.

Writing is tough and... Hey! Get out of here! No! Hee, hee! I told you I could still type in this straight jacket. Ooh, my nose hurts. Please! It's Nathan's blog... Please! Don't take my keyboard away...

Cadence said...

Elizabeth Gilbert touches on this at the beginning of her really great talk on creativity. (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html)

She reports being asked whether she wasn't afraid of failure, of rejection, of "dying on a scrap heap of broken dreams with a mouth full of the bitter ash of failure."

She goes on to discuss her mindset for getting distance from success or failure and getting work done. The thing that I got from it was that whether it's fear or "crazies" your work can't come from that place.

The only way I can think to get past it is to be so in love with the work and so excited even with the process, that I can't imagine not doing it. The "crazies" become a non-issue.

So pretty much what everyone else has said. But I wanted to chime in because, seriously, listen to the talk.

Kim said...

Well, today, I've just been crying.

ElanaJ said...

Nathan, have you been inside my brain? LOL. Seriously. I think every writer (especially us unpublished ones) feel this way from time to time.

The cure? Writerly friends who share the same craziness. They can talk you off the WTH-am-I-doing? ledge, join you on the ledge or sometimes even encourage you to jump off the ledge. Yeah, it's the friends you have that help you through the crazies.

Bane of Anubis said...

Tim, links seem to be fine, just no attachments :p

Other Lisa said...

I think I'm joining the increasingly large "I am crazy" contingent.

I don't know; i think writing is a lifelong habit for me. Other things in my life that I've done that I had passion about, when I stopped doing those, it was hard in a lot of ways, but stopping felt okay in the long run. Writing is something I just always return to, no matter how crazy it makes me.

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

I don't regret the time I spent writing either of my trunk novels, or anything else I've ever written.

I wouldn't want to be doing anything else during that time. (Well, except maybe writing those selfsame books in a small cafe in Paris.)

This means it's worth doing for itself.

I Dreamed I Saw: said...

Find something miniscule to celebrate - like a turn of phrase you can't believe YOU wrote, and think to yourself: even so, this little piece of language is, for me, perfect.

Y.B. said...

It is crazy to spend hours in front of the TV. It is crazy to spend hours on the internet. It is crazy to spend hours at restaurants; it is crazy to spend hours in the car. It is crazy to spend hours asleep; it is crazy to spend hours asleep to your dream. Is it crazy to spend hours on a wish? Isn't a wish - your wish - more worthy of you than any of these things?

Jess Haines said...

I didn't send my work around for years because of "Am-I-Crazy" Syndrome. I was terrified of others reading my work, of rejection, people possibly wanting more (no, I'm not kidding), etc.

It took a long time (and the poking and prodding of one of the few people who I dared let have a peek at some of my work) for me to get over it enough to send out some queries. Mostly it was me deciding that I needed to suck it up and get to work if I was ever going to see one of my books on the shelves in a Borders or B&N. The bright side? I now have a great agent, a three book deal and a novella coming out next year.

The moral? Don't discount your ability, be open to constructive criticism, and most of all, keep writing.


On an entirely different note: Word verification = corms

This, perhaps?

cipherqueen said...

I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy my characters. Writing a book takes extreme dedication- and no matter how crazy you appear to be in the process, you should keep going and finish the race. Even if it gets stuck in a shoebox for thirty years, someone will probably read it later on.

a polite user of anon said...

I also refer back to the ten writer commandments post on your blog, Nathan.

And, I observe that I keep writing even when I realize the state of my bank account. What changes isn't the pull to write, but the reluctant acknowledgment that I need to acquire a day-job or better source of income too.

I just wonder if that supports my writing or if it undermines my faith in myself?

Douglas Brown said...

I confide in my imaginary friend. He tells me I'll be published any day.

Shennandoah Diaz said...

I belong to a very talented and dedicated critique group, Cen-Tex Writing, and am a member of the Writers' League of Texas. Constant interaction with both groups gives me the drive and the courage to continue.

Erastes said...

I still go through this, I think to myself right at the beginning, that I must be barmy to spend months of sweat and research on something that may never sell because it's politically difficult, or that I'm forever going to be only be able to sell to tiny presses if at all.

I just have to ignore that little voice - squash it flat.

angelicambyence said...

I get depressed for a short while as I realized that there's no way I can just do something else and thus get out of 'Am-I-Crazies' spell.

Two things bring me up.

One, the fact that I just love these stories of mine and even if they don't sell, at least I can appreciate them in all their glory.

Two, Fear. Fear of spending my entire life doing something for a living I do not like. Which is everything that isn't writing or making stories.

The last one is what really works XD.

Anonymous said...

Simple. I love writing and my life has changed since I started. Even if I don't get my work published, I'll always continue to write. It would be a nice to get it published, but that's not why I write. I write to tell a story that I feel needs to be told, and if someone else thinks so too, then that's great.

tlmorganfield said...

Thanks for the clarification, Bane. I see now several people after me have posted links, so I suppose it's generally done. It would feel a bit weird to me to drop in now though, but I'll know for next time.

Oh heck, if I'm going to take the time to comment, I might as well. If folks are interested: http://tlmorganfield.livejournal.com/338848.html. (and if you're not cool with this, Nathan, feel absolutely free to delete this post. I don't want to tread on toes.)

BTW, it's actually Traci, not Tim, but no worries. Folks mistake the "L" in my user name for an "i" quite often. :-)

Thermocline said...

I embrace the fact that I don't know what every literary agent would love to read. Therefore, I might be published someday. I'll wait to give in to my insecurities when the rejections pile a little higher.

WV: knubprep - A college preparatory school for Norwegian dorks.

Laura Martone said...

Wow. What a terrific question - and one that I consider on a regular basis.

As with many of the other commenters here, I take comfort in the fact that I KNOW I'm crazy. No one needs to confirm that for me - which helps.

And, while I'd be lying if I said my ultimate goal WASN'T to be published, I do simply love to write... and often can't imagine doing anything else. When the Monster of Self-Doubt gnaws at me, I just disappear into the world I've created, happy with the knowledge that my characters appreciate me. That - or I just whine to my supportive husband, who always assures me that he'll never let me give up.

At the same time, I'm with Ink who said "I think you have to at least strive for some balance between family, work, writing and recreation."

Amen to that, brother!

--Laura

Mercy Loomis said...

I have to write. Can't help it. So I don't much wonder whether I am crazy to spend so much time writing - there's no point to asking the question because I can't stop doing it. (Which may very well answer the question, honestly...)

Charlie said...

Well, being crazy, it's everyone else's problem!

Kimberly Moore said...

I'm not one to play rejection games. You'd never see me on the bachelor. Then I entered the world Children's book publishing.

Despite feedback such as "witty, well-written and brilliant" my work has not been picked up. I have just hired my own illustrator and am going to do the unthinkable: voluntarily becoming a social outcast, a leper in publishing community. I'm going to self publish.

I believe this product should be available now, not in 3 years when someone else can make time for it. Your question is timely, as I just blogged about my decision.

Marilyn Peake said...

It depends on the day and where I’m at with a particular project. Right now, I’m trying to focus on improving my writing with each new manuscript, making it the best it can be, without worrying too much about whether or not it will lead to signing with an agent. (And I really, really hope to sign with an agent!!) I’m proud of my current manuscript and very excited about the story, so I know that I’ll be able to publish it somewhere even if that means self-publishing, whereas my first several unpublished novels will never see the light of day without a complete editing overhaul.

Sometimes after something bad happens in my writing career – e.g. I discover illegal copies of my published books selling online, a distribution channel for small press books is bought out by a larger company and will no longer distribute my small press books, etc. etc. – I feel incredibly frustrated and sad. I find myself questioning whether or not I should have spent so many hours on writing and book promotion when I could have been doing something else. I love writing so much, though, and there are so many ways to stay involved with the writing community online, that I usually find joy in some aspect of writing that helps me to bounce back.

I also try to maintain balance in my life, so that I’m not totally consumed by writing. Because of that, each disappointment isn’t actually devastating.

Regan Leigh said...

I'm a therapist in my "day job" and I often hear my clients discuss how unhappy they are in their lives. I'm reminded that writing makes me VERY happy. So, I'd be crazy not to write. Even if it is only for me. And just as in counseling, hearing that others go through the same thing I'm dealing with helps me to feel less crazy. I'm comforted by the idea that even the most accomplished writers also deal with self doubt.

Charlee Vale- Your answer is perfect for me! I find myself feeling the same way. If nothing else, I find peace in telling the story of my characters.

A lot of people have mentioned their critique buddies. I don't have a critique group, only a few friends that I've trusted with my stories. Sounds like it's something I should really look into soon, though. Any ideas on how best to get involved with a group? I'm also trying to look into competitions and places I might be able to submit a short story. Hopefully, that will build my confidence some.

Kristi, your comment, "Rick - it's sort of the same thing as people who say their family was dysfunctional. Everyone is crazy the same way everyone's family is dysfunctional - it's just a matter of degree, and there will always be people who are off the deep end of that continuum. So my answer would be 100% but everyone would differ on their level of craziness."

I agree. :)

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, I *am* crazy. There's really no internal debate going on. I just accept that and keep on a-writin.'

JillinPC said...

I read published author's blogs. They say the same kinds of things about their own projects reminding me we all have to go through it. I do that and bang my head repeatedly against my keyboard.

Ash D. said...

I definitely have times when I get stressed out and wonder why I bother when the chances of publication are so slim.

When that happens, I back up and let myself take a little break but I inevitably find myself writing again.

Why? Because, I've fallen in love with my characters. They're part of me and I feel that I owe it to them to tell their stories, even if I'm the only one who ever reads them.

Even if there was no hope of being rewarded for the hours of emotion and labor that I put into my stories, I would still continue to write. I just love it.

I remind myself of that and it helps keep the "Am-I-Crazies?" at bay. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan – Thank you so much for asking the question posted on your blog today. I’m about a quarter of the way through reading all the comments, and am finding so much support in all the comments. It really, really helps to discover that an entire community of people are struggling with the same issues as me.

C Riede said...

Faith.

spinregina said...

Force of will? Denial? I-think-i-can-i-think-i-can...

It's all going to be just fine. That is what I know with the core of my being, and that is what I hang onto in the midst of periods of worry.

When in doubt,have a nap. Go to bed early. The sun will shine (or not, if you live where I live, apparently) but metaphorically, at least, it will shine. My day will come.

Shelli Cornelison said...

I turn to other writers for reaffirmation.

Then I indulge in Pinot Noir and dark chocolate.

Anonymous said...

If it's enjoyable, I'll keep doing it. With a 40-hour-a-week day job, 168 hours in a week, subtract 56 for sleeping, that leaves 72 hrs a week; lop off 32 hours of that for friends & family, and there's STILL a whole ''other 40 hr work week in there somewhere; gotta have something to do in my spare time, might as well be something that is both fun AND could pay off tangibly someday.

Mariana said...

I just know I'm going to be published. What I don't know is when.

Julia said...

I guess I am a bit more crazy than most people - I have never had doubts about writing in the first place. I think my friends, family and other people who read my stories are more anxious to see me published. I am perfectly comfortable with the way things are :) I guess I will have to step out of that comfort zone some time when I send out query letters for my novel, but if all fails, I'll just post it on some website that kids read, like fanfiction.net or something similar, and bask in a glory of their praise. Because that in the end is what matters to me, my stories to be is read and loved.

Kristin Tubb said...

My "crazy" day was July 7, 2003. I know this because I was asking myself all the questions you listed (plus a few more not fit for a children's author to print), and I decided to go for a walk. On that walk I decided that I would never, ever doubt myself more than that day. It just wasn't possible. I went home and wrote "July 7" on a sticky note and tacked it to my bulletin board. Whenever the doubt started creeping in again, I'd stop it by saying, "Yeah, but the doubt's not as bad as it was on July 7." And then I'd get back to work.

Jen P said...

all these responses make me think of those "what mood are you in today?" magnet boards - there should be one for "how crazy am I feeling today?" - M&M crazy, chocolate crazy, sunrise crazy, coffee crazy, bourbon crazy, they would make great smilies!

Anyway - my current solution, I think of the people who are contributing to my research and want me to tell their story, say they believe in my writing and are looking forward to seeing it making it to publication or those who call me to ask how it's going and if they can help further. I suppose, the reason behind the writing above and beyond my enjoyment of writing and telling a story.

And not to forget, being welcome as part of a community of people who share the same self-doubts and having a 'virtual-coach' in you here on the blog helps. Thank you Mr. B and all contributors.

Lazy Writer said...

Face the fear head on. Write for the joy of writing. And, then, hope for the best! That's what I've decided to do.

RW said...

The "am I crazies" would be a relief. I get the "I must be crazies."

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm lucky in that most of my friends/family are supportive of my writing, all believe absolutely one hundred percent that I will land the first agent I query and have an instant bestseller, and usually bug me on why I'm not querying now that I have one complete MS to my name. (I want the practice, dang it! And to make sure it wasn't a fluke. :-) My current WIP is *killing* me...)

But when I start getting the crazies (especially if I'm doubting my own ability and have the idea that I'm spending all this time on something that, according to statistics, won't ever be published--a very negative place to be), I remind myself that at least I'm doing something mentally productive, as opposed to something destructive, or even just plain lazy, such as watching TV. (Don't get me wrong, I do watch TV sometimes; I just don't know how I'd fill up my time (outside of hanging out with friends/family, who can't be around 24/7) if I didn't have hobbies, and writing's my main one.) At least I'm stimulating my brain!

PRNewland said...

For all who said something along the lines of "I already know I'm crazy"

I love you guys. =)

Props also to 'single malt scotch' guy and 'denial' girl. I loved those answers.

We all go through this. Even the published writers among us. Yes, knowing you're crazy is half the battle.

MommyJ said...

I talk to voices in my head. They know I'm wonderful and will one day be published. :)

I'm kidding.



Sort of.

Chris Bates said...

I’m late to the party on this one and the comments are racking up.

You can tap every writer for an answer and all of the responses will be valid… and all proof of craziness.

I don’t necessarily believe that it’s an affliction limited to unpublished authors, however. It’s all authors, fullstop. (I'm unpublished)

I ride that pendulum of crazy emotions every single day, questioning my motivations. Some writers write because they do it for hunger (money, fame etc), some for therapy, others for fun, and countless more because they are hard-wired for it.

Personally, if I had a lazy few million in the back pocket I’d sooner fly around the world and follow every major sporting event, live on Thai takeout and drink rum. Forget this writing gig. Or so I kid myself.

I need to write. Now, that’s crazy.

Am I crazy because I can’t turn the ‘switch’ off? Am I crazy because I’d prefer to spend time with my fictional characters than deal with visiting family? Am I crazy because I doubt every single word I write, even the suckers that I thought were brilliant the previous day?

Yep. Loco.

How to get through it?

Support.

My wife destroys each chapter draft, it leaves me punch drunk and bereft of confidence. In that moment I want nothing more than to divorce her and find someone else who can stroke my … ego!

But the sh*t gets fixed, we disagree on the results. And away we go again. I’m sure I’m not Robinson Crusoe here when I say that some of us congregate around the fickle fires of publishing blogs hoping we'll learn the secret to publication and thankful to discover that we occupy a higher place than other writers yet distraught that we will never match up to many more.

You’re crazy… embrace it.

BTW, Hemingway aimed a shotgun at his crazed agitator … his brain … “Am I crazy?” No doubt about it, Papa, crazy like a coconut.

pia said...

I moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I have many friends and all my immediate family lives close by, to a small city in South Carolina.

If I never find traditional success I will still live in a country like setting four blocks from the ocean.

Though once the Manhattan apartment market started falling my friends and family thought I was frighteningly sane. I still think it was the single craziest thing I did in my quest to have a book published and am in shock everyday. In a good way.

I don't have ten thousand master writing classes available to me. I'm forced to look inward for critiquing and use my blogging friends who I have found to be as honest as New Yorkers. Just nicer in their use of language

Chris Bates said...

Oh, I forgot my 'Am I crazy?' cure.

I go to a bookstore, any bricks and mortar bookstore (it doesn't work online for me), and I take it all in.

It's one of the only places I truly feel like I belong.

That's all the confirmation I need, right there.

Robena Grant said...

I hit that wall some time ago and thought I would quit writing forever. It didn't happen.

How I got beyond the crazies was to spend time looking objectively at my early work. From analyzing five manuscripts I recognized my growth as a writer in both a qualitative and a quantitative way. Only two were worth keeping.

I set new monthly, quarterly, yearly, and five yearly goals.

Then I started a new story.

bethanyintexas said...

I get family and friends to encourage me. To remind me why I'm doing what I'm doing. And I remind myself that I've already decided that I'm probably crazy, but it's okay.

Then I also remind myself that I don't ever want to ask myself that "What if I had tried to publish?" question ever again. That I'm just going to work hard and hope for the best.

Liana Brooks said...

Writing is the part of my life that doesn't make me ask, "Am I crazy?"

My life is insane, I know that. I've adjusted to that fact. Writing is my outlet. It's my Me Time. It's where I can find some quiet.

I'm not writing to be published as my only goal. I'm writing to write, and looking at publishing as a long term experiment I'd like to try. If I don't get published I'm not going to curl up in the fetal position with my hopes and dreams crushed. That's reserved for my children actually starting WWIII or failing to pass the boards for my doctorate.

Am I crazy?

Yeah, probably. But I'm okay with that now. :o)

PV Lundqvist said...

Passion. If I don't 'have to' tell a story, life, family, work, doubt, the four Horsemen of Another-thing-to-do would overwhelm me.

That's why I could never write to catch a fad or fancy, I have to write for me. I need to see it finished.

abc said...

I tried writing screenplays for a few years (in my twenties) and decided I was crazy and gave up and moved on. Perhaps I'll do the same with fiction writing, but I haven't tried hard enough yet (and truth be told I didn't with screenplays either--I just really didn't want to be another wannabe screenwriter. Too depressing). YA is what I thought I would do since 8th grade so I finally decided to give it a try. If after 10, 000 hours there is no payday, well, I'll always have my blog. And, like, Kiersten, M&Ms. I prefer the peanut butter variety.

Sarah said...

I read this true story of this man who wove baskets each day and b/c he couldn't get them to market, he destroyed the baskets at the end of each day and started over the next day (K. Norris). Publication can't be the only goal; creating for the sake of creating must exist too. My story is my basket that I'm not sure will survive at the end of the day.

Eva Ulian said...

I Twitter, and drown my sorrows with fellow Twitterers- or facebook pals

AndrewDugas said...

Talk about a no brainer! NOT WRITING results in a worse craziness, so really, writing is the lesser of two evils.

Jen said...

I just keep on keepin on. I may be crazy, but I'm hoping that sooner or later, someone will appreciate my particular brand of crazy enough to publish me anyway. And if they don't, well...at least I've tried my best to live my dream.

That said, I will admit that I have an incredibly supportive spouse and extended family. They don't think that what I'm doing is stupid, or a waste of time, or just a "hobby" (meant in a detrimental way). They may be as deluded as I am LOL, but they believe in me. That makes all the difference.

It also helps to get really postive feedback from fellow writers, which helps prop me up when I start thinking I have no talent, no skill, and no business trying to get published.

Alpha Otter said...

I'm head-long into writing my first novel (on the second draft, wrote the first draft over the course of a couple years) and sometimes the "Am-I-Crazies" do eat at me. Should I keep doing this, or should I invest my time in something else? The story itself continually lures me back to the keyboard. I'm completely in love with the story I'm writing, and I'm eager to tell it in a way that will do it justice. That helps me not get impatient or rush the work. Even though I've never been published, and even though the publishing world may use my manuscript to decorate their offices with crudely folded origami animals, I can't wait to finish the novel. I dream about getting published, of course, but I'm equally as excited about reading the final version of the story and seeing it all come alive before my eyes the way it should. So I keep writing.

My Inconvenient Body said...

I have found justifications other than publication for my hours spent writing (and yet publication is still very nice and all)

T. Anne said...

I'm masochistic that way.

RebeccaRose said...

I take a writing workshop, I read a book on editing, I take a small brake to get perspective. What is life if you can't follow your dream.

Thomas Burchfield said...

AndrewDugas is right for me: not writing is not much of an alternative, though I get my share of the Crazies (and am feeling them now). It's what I do best in my life and so I keep doing it. (Though I expend my talent in other directions, such as my Red Room web page, where, this week, I satirize the "pork barrel spending" controversy . . . and boy ain't that a lame segue.

Ken said...

Rockin' post, Nathan.

Here's what works for me -- I remind myself that success at just about anything invariably requires two things: hard work & sacrifice.

What makes it hard for writers is the solo nature of it.

In my work life, I make video games, which takes tons of hard work and sacrifice from my whole team -- but we're all doing it together, so we (usually) don't spend much time wondering if we're all collectively crazy. (We are, btw).

With my writing, there's a lot more opportunity (say those hours before the sun comes up...) to question my sanity.

Outside validation helps, naturally. Got a great agent last year, which is cool.

Now I just wonder if HE was crazy for taking me on ;-)

Ken

lora96 said...

Your timing is impeccable. Just this morning I was trolling the internet for agents to query. Reading bio after bio of too-pretty women in statement jewelry and men posed in alternately sporty or mug-shot stances, stating that "[NAME] is interested in high-minded, upscale literary fiction and thrilling crime novels" (neither of which I am attempting to sell), I experienced a near-frantic episode of Am-I-Crazies. The answer, sadly, yes. I am probably pixilated to attempt this, but I am also determined.

Jeffrey said...

Nathan,

Your guest blogger, the editor Victoria Mixon (www.victoriamixon.com) blogged the other day about reasons to write. She asked was it for love or money?

I’ll answer your question the same way as I answered hers. I told her that I’d married for love, and believed I had it. But I ended up divorced anyway. I’d worked hard for money, and frequently did well at it. But I ended up broke. And ever since I was a teenager (before, during and after both love and money) I ignored my urge to write.

One day the love ran out; and the money ran out on a different day. But I am sure, no matter what, I’ll never run out of words.

So for me now, in this part of my life, I ain’t writing for love, and I ain’t writing for money. I’m writing because I have to write. I can’t stop it, and I don’t want to stop it. I just want to be as good at it as I possibly can.
Maybe I’m ‘crazy,’ now I like this ‘crazy’ much better!

lora96 said...

I also use eating and distraction to stave off fears of encroaching madness--I make a killer cheesecake, and I am currently level 60 on Mafia Wars. If that ain't a time-sucking distraction, I don't know what is.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

1. I critique for other writers.
2. I try to lift their spirits.
3. I run #wordathon on twitter. (At least I know I'm not the only one.)

AM Riley said...

Once a month there's a "two-for" sale at the corner liquor store. I stock up.

nah.

I don't cope. I whine, freak out, argue with my dogs, obsessively blog and generally drive everyone around me crazy. Occassionally I corner someone and make them listen to my plot problems.

I AM crazy. There's no question about it.

PurpleClover said...

So Nathan is caught up, wrote a "You Tell Me" post which he's notorious for commenting seldom within, AND isn't reading the guest blog emails which the winner has to be chosen by Friday (indicating he'll do them in the evening). This can mean several things, but I'm going to take a stab and read between the lines (cause that is what I do) and say he's working on a gigantor deal! Major major major deal. Big bucks. Happy Happy Happy major deal with big bucks.

And that is how I procrastinate and avoid the "Am-I-Crazies"...but that probably just proves how crazy I really am. Well here's to hoping Nathan's working on a gigantor deal right now!

Writeaholic said...

I don't think I'm crazy but my family does -- mostly my father, who thinks that it's simple -- you write a novel and send it to a publisher and voila -- it's published!

I spent a good half-hour the other day disabusing him of this misapprehension, outlining the whole process from first draft to revision to search for agents, to polishing a query and sample chapters, to submitting said query, to rejection, to resubmission and hopefully, an offer of representation, and then a sale at the end of the long line. I'm still at the search for an agent and polishing query stage. Sigh.

Steph Damore said...

A couple of you guys have said how important "finding balance in life" is.

I'm not good at that. At all.

I have an obsessive personality. When I want to write, I write. Or I obsess about wanting to write until I can.

It's not just writing either. It's whatever my brain is focused on at the time - applying to PhD programs, balancing my check book, reading a book. I think I'm very selfish in this way. I don't like it when others dictate how I should spend my time.

And family members wonder why my husband and I don't have children?

SM Blooding said...

There are some GREAT comments in here! Um, me? Uh, I...I've been informed that I wear my rose colored glasses and that I'm too optimistic and that I'm insane...well, there's more. I'll stop there.

Really, though, this is who I am. I have all these voices in my head, scenes that no one else sees. If I don't write, I am a VERY cranky (others have called me MUCH worse) woman. My boss will even ENFORCE a mandatory lunch hour so that I CAN write.

*shrug* I hope I'll get published some day, but if I don't...my kids can sell them when I'm dead. There's always that.

Lori Benton said...

I'm unpublished. I've completed three novels, am about to start another. Facing the challenge of new historical research, knowing how hard this is going to be, I've been dealing a lot lately with the "Am-I-Crazies." I know it'll pass. Before too long I'll have a day when something totally unplanned and unexpected but So Perfectly Right will make it from my brain to the screen, and floating along on that high I'll look out at the rest of the non-writing world and wonder "Are-They-Crazy?"

sally said...

Crazy? Of course I'm crazy. It's the only way to be. The trick is to convince others that THEY are the crazy ones.

I've noticed that non-writers seem to have somewhat of an 'oooo...you're a writer?!?' thing, so that's enough reinforcement for me. I'm happy to go about my insanity while others think I'm completely contructive.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Yeah. I'm crazy. I am well past the denial stage. =)

R Elland said...

I keep writing for the same reason I buy at least one lottery ticket a week.
If I don't write the book I KNOW I won't be published. And I do want to be published some day. Will it happen?
I don't know. But I certainly won't be if I don't make the effort to work at my writing, work to improve, and continue.
(Of course there are times I think that I'll win the lottery sooner, but that's when I bear down and push forward with my writing.)

Anna C. Morrison said...

I try to stop writing, but the characters won't allow that. They will let me rest, but then I'm nudged to complete their stories whether or not they ever see another person's eyes. I don't really have a choice. I agree that chocolate does help. And coffee.

Tom Bradley Jr. said...

Being prone to crises of confidence when writing (as in, Yes, I AM crazy for doing this), I realize that what I am doing provides an outlet for the voices in my head. That helps, as does plenty of beer.

Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy said...

I would have to say today the answer to the "Am I Crazy" question would be yes. Being as it is 105 degrees here in Seattle and six months ago I chose to leave my nice air conditioned corporate job to write in my less than nice non-a/c house.

Victoria Mixon said...

I become a Writing Mummy and spend a day wondering which limb is going to fall off next.

http://victoriamixon.com/2009/07/10/returning-from-the-dead/

Then I pick myself up and go back to running with the chipmunks.

http://victoriamixon.com/2009/07/13/running-with-the-chipmunks/

Hope this helps!

Victoria

Firefly said...

I never talk to my mother about my work.

Or my sister....

Or pretty much any family member...

Wendy said...

I'm just so glad to find out it's not just me. Well, phew!

I deal with it by reminding myself that plenty of other Mum's/friends/family members have things they do just for themselves that take up huge amounts of their time and there's no reason I should feel bad for having something that means so much to me. I'm lucky.

I write because I feel bad if I don't and I tell stories that I really want to read. It's a huge gift to myself to be able to immerse myself in this world with these wonderful people and watch them evolve and change as I work on the story and improve it. It's way too much fun to let guilt and fear get in the way.

KC Neal said...

I'm sure this will happen to me at some point... but then again, maybe not. When I'm doing something I truly enjoy, for the pure fun of it, there's no need to wonder if it's a valid use of my time and energy. :)

Christy Corp-Minamiji said...

The question in my head is less often "am I crazy," (that one was answered long ago)but more typically "who am I to even try this." I need to be cautious when reading articles or posts by or about struggling MFAs. 20 years ago, I sensibly stepped off of the creative writing path and into the muck and mire (literally) of veterinary medicine. Now, I struggle with the feeling that I turned my back on the writing world, and am unworthy for readmission.

The problem is that for me, as for so many of those that have commented here, I must write. I spent years ignoring my tendency to narrate the world around me, and avoiding even a pen and notebook. Guys, I'm here to tell you, it's not worth the pain. Writing may be time-sucking, exhausting, and ego-crushing, but dodging it kills the soul.

My poor little gestating novel is so mutilated at this point (second re-write, endless drafts) that the notion of querying is a warm, fuzzy dream, but it drags me back to the computer daily. Sometimes its louder than my kids.

If my characters refuse to behave,or if the insecure mutterings get to loud, I put them all in "time-out" and go for a run.

Laurie said...

I tell myself there are worse hobbies. I could veg out in front of the TV or play video games. Instead I am happy creating a whole world. I never ask myself whether it's crazy to knit, so I try not to ask myself if I'm crazy to write.

Great post, Nathan! I think every unpublished writer grapples with this question.

Daphne said...

How about Tarot cards or Gypsies? Those are a heck of a lot more entertaining than worrying about publication. The way I figure, I love to write, will always write, and if I get published, then that's going to be the hot sauce on my burrito! (Hmmm...must be dinner time)

ryan field said...

Blogs like this one help. When you see other people doing the same thing you're doing, you don't feel as crazy anymore.

Jen C said...

Hmmm. I guess since I've always been crazy, writing doesn't feel all that different to normal. You know, in the way that some people might think reading the dictionary is crazy, whereas I think it's just a cracking good read. ;)

Plus, everyone I know is very supportive of me and my writing, so I don't get the "what the heck are you bothering with that for?" vibe from anyone. I think my friends and family would be more concerned if I started acting normally. Are there un-insane asylums, where people go to get denormalised? That's where they'd send me.

I'm rambling, aren't I? D'oh.

Genella deGrey said...

I write because I'm crazy.
LOL
G.

susiej said...

Whenever I think it may be best to move on- clean the house, drag out the forgotten running shoes, have lunch with a friend I haven't seen for a while- I do all that and even go to bed on time. And after a few head clearing days, the characters start talking again, the scene begs to be rewritten. And I start anew.

Botanist said...

I keep reminding myself what a milestone it was just to have completed a novel in the first place! It's amazing how many people say "You've written a book? Cool!" no matter that it's not published.

Plus, I've left my heroine surrounded by seriously pissed-off bigwigs after her first venture and I can't really leave her like that, can I?

Jil said...

When I was a child I would go to bed, burrow under the covers and conjure up a daydream until I fell asleep and sank into real dreams. I never sleep without dreaming.

Now,when I write, it's like being under those covers; safe in my own world and walking in other moccasins.Instead of Crazies I am inclined to suffer from the Guilts. Am I selfish to spend hours each day in another life when there is so much I should be doing in this one? Only one success would surely prove to "Them" that what I do has worth.

'Til then I forget my guilt by continuing to hide under my computerized covers.

Adam Heine said...

I once again evaluate if I am spending an appropriate amount of time on my "real" responsibilities. Assured of that, I write some more.

Terry said...

Toast and tea.

Amy Cochran said...

I've not had to deal with the "Am I crazies" where writing is concerned. To be honest, I wish I had more time to spend on my novel. I often just don't have it. As the President of a greyhound adoption group with thirty-five dog kennel, a pack of my own, plus wildlife rehabilitation; my time is extremely limited. Right now, we are in "on season" with wildlife rehab and the adoption group is on fire as well. As a result, writing is a passion that serves as my escape. My volunteers are pushing me to finish my novel and have even stepped up their volunteerism to help me achieve this goal. Still, all my time seems to go elsewhere.

Reba said...

I have one friend who not only reads my raw work, she demands more. So I figure if I never publish a thing, I will at least have made two people happy in the process. After that, I figure my belief I will get published is a fine delusion and therefore worthy of feeding.

verification: padst - the motion thy cat makest as it doth tread the boards.

Imagyst said...

I always get that, especially when I attempt to talk to normal people about my stories....

but then I remember that I'm writing because there's several voices inside me that need to be written just so they're real, and there is one very, very, (obsessed) reader that I'm writing for. Me.

I write because I need to know how the story ends. And because maybe, someday, some one else will want to know how it ends too. That usually kills the crazies.

If not... I threaten to sacrifice a character so they'll leave me alone.

Mystery Robin said...

Have people read a page or a chapter.

Let my husband take a look at it and tell my I have talent.

Send my critique partner a chapter.

Enter a contest.

Post at critique circle.

Then remind myself that I'll never know for sure till I finish and submit to agents.

And keep first thing first so I haven't sacrificed anything I shouldn't have.

Dara said...

Family support. It's especially helpful when my younger sister (and my best friend, besides my husband) is a writer too, and we can support one another by sharing our triumphs and our difficulties.

And we both know that even if we don't get published, we at least have each other's books to read :)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

amen to what Christina said! Denial! I simply could not believe that what I was writing would not one day see publication. Still, the thought of starting other novels, revising, finishing them, just so that maybe they could be read by my posterity brought a lump to my throat.

I remember vowing that I would never stop submitting until someone accepted it...but deep down there was this feeling like, "But if no one accepts it...maybe it's because it's not any good."

That thought brought about despair. To think I'd pursued this dream with no return, that perhaps I really had no talent as a writer at all--because if I did, someone would want me--that was terrible. I wondered for how long I'd submit my manuscript before giving up. And I wondered how I'd give up. Because a writer can't simply cease to write.

So. Denial. That's the only way to deal with it.

Lucy said...

The voices in my head won't let me quit. ;-)

Seriously, I have a couple of inspirational quotes of poetry that I have posted where I can read them every day. My favorite seems to be anonymous: I cannot find the author.

"Work on with patience, though thy toil be slow, Yet day by day thy edifice shall grow.

"Believe in God – in thine own self believe - All thou hast desired thou shalt achieve."

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