Friday, January 17, 2014

RELAX! And enjoy being a writer

Ellen Coatney is a YA writer from the Chicago area, although she currently attends Carroll University outside of Milwaukee. Ellen has been writing since childhood and also enjoys baking, traveling, and binge-watching "Psych."

Hi, everyone! I’m excited to join Go Teen Writers today because, until recently, I was a teen writer myself. (I even won one of the GTW first-line contests a couple of years ago!) So, in writing this post, I am confronted with the question, what would I have wanted to know during my teen writing years? Now, looking back on middle school and high school, my answer is…RELAX! I spent my teenage years writing two novels, researching agents, reading industry blogs, and worrying about my future as a writer. All of these activities proved extremely helpful—except the worrying. Instead of wasting my energy on anxiety, I should’ve tried to enjoy the process more. After all, being a writer is entirely about the process, not the result.

By the time I turned 18, I was having a life crisis, as melodramatic as that sounds. It seemed that my writing, researching, and planning wasn’t getting me anywhere, and I was about to start college. Under the (mistaken) impression that college is where people get their lives together, I decided it was time to let go of my childhood ambition of publishing a novel and choose a more “practical” career path. Just as I decided to give up, a couple of incredible things happened. First, I was awarded a full scholarship to attend a writing conference five minutes from my house. Next, at that conference, the first chapter of one of my novels ended up in the hands of Amanda Luedeke, literary agent extraordinaire. The final incredible occurrence? She loved it. So I went from giving up on my future as a writer to working with an inspiring, thoughtful, and hilarious agent. If I could go back, I would tell myself to stop worrying so much. Show up, give it your best, and things will happen or they won’t. You’ll end up a New York Times best seller, or you won’t. Either way, you will be happy doing what you love.

Now I’m curious to hear from you guys! Have you experienced a writer crisis like mine? What did you do to move past your doubts and keep moving forward?

30 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. I really need to remember to enjoy the process.

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    1. Glad I could help! Just keep at it and try to have fun along the way. :)

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  2. Hi! Thanks for this post Ellen! I haven't really had a crisis yet but I'm sure it will happen at one time or another.
    -Sam

    Visit my blog at:
    www.youngwriterscafe.wordpress.com

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    1. There are always going to be bumps in the road ahead. Just try to stay focused on what you love, you know? Thanks for reading!

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  3. It's such a joy having you on the blog, Ellen! I was so happy to meet you in Chicago.

    I had a similar situation happen, where I had planned to work toward publication until I had kids and then put it on hold until they were older. Then when my first born was 1-week old, I had an out-of-the-blue email from a literary agent who I'd met at a conference three months before that. So I wound up signing with an agent and a publishing house all within the first six months of my daughter's life. Life is funny like that :)

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    1. Thanks for having me! I really enjoyed meeting you as well! It's a little crazy how life works out sometimes. Just gotta roll with it!

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  4. I am teaching myself to relax. And I've been getting better at that than I was about 6 months ago. I was focusing on the fact that I NEEDED to get published and this, my WIP, wasn't publishing material. (Obviously it won't be publishing material on first draft, but I'm a perfectionist..) Thank you for this post - a good reminder for me and I'm sure lots of other people. :) I do enjoy writing, very much so. But when it stresses me out - deep breath - I need to tell myself to relax and write because I enjoy it. :) Thanks, Ellen. :)

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    1. Hey, Emma! I know what you mean. Something that helps me relax as well is keeping a journal. That way, I have a place where I can write with zero pressure. I don't ever have to worry about whether or not someone else will like it or publish it. It helps me get back in touch with why I love to write.

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  5. Wow, thanks, Ellen. I'm always telling myself NOT TO WORRY about it. This helps a ton! Thank you Ellen!!

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Just try to remember that writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Every little step counts!

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  6. I always need the reminder to relax. I'm one of those people who gets and idea and runs with it. But I run with too many ideas and end up completely overwhelmed and exhausted. Patience is a wonderful virtue.

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    1. I can relate to that! I am always trying to practice a little patience. Doesn't always work out, but it's the effort that counts!

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  7. I'm always doing that. I have three ideas I've been working so far. One in my head and two on paper. I need to just work on one at a time. :P But it's so hard when great ideas just pop up.

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    1. Sorry! ;P Finishing that thought.
      Then I freak out, 'Oh I need to get this done and that, I can't give up on that idea, and this one needs to be started!' I have to remind myself 'Chill Brookie. It's not the end of the world, you don't HAVE to get that done in a certain amount of time.'

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    2. Hi, Brooke! Sometimes I have tons of ideas and I don't know which to write first, and other times, I'm completely stuck. It helps to keep a little notebook around, so when you have a great idea, you can jot it down for when you need some inspiration. :)

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    3. Oh thanks!! I try to do that, but I get sooo excited about it I can hardly wait!! I need to just stick with one at a time though.

      Great post!!

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    4. Thanks for reading! Good luck with your future writing! :)

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  8. Thanks so much! I do find myself in need of this reminder every so often. I'm not letting publishing bother me, because I'm not even sure I want that stress ever, much less now, but there are totally times where I'm staring at the document thinking, "What am I doing here? Ugh, I NEED to get this done" when really...uh...no I don't! I'm in this for fun! Yeah, I need to work on things whether I feel like it or not--no waiting forever for "inspiration"--but I shouldn't be freaking out about it. :)

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    1. That's great that you are giving yourself some time to have fun with writing before you jump into trying to get published! There is a fine line to walk between letting yourself slack off and pushing yourself too hard. It gets a little easier to navigate with practice. :)

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  9. I don't find myself worrying to much about finishing and future. I just get wrapped up in my story and the is what I live I think like characters act like my characters and talk like them. I become them and when I have several characters I loose track of them. I also start writing the sequal. Then something will inspire me and I start writing a story off of that too. Don't get me wrong I love it! But o have to realize that if I don't prioritize and organize I get lost and my stories mix. Sometimes it turns out awesome but other times it just is a jumbled up mess! I think about getting the book written then I focus on figuring out the publisher and things like that. I do tell people about it and get the word out. But that isn't my Maine focus! ;)

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    1. Hey Owyn! Part of learning to enjoy the process of writing is figuring out what your process is! Everyone does things a little differently, so now is the time to try out different organization techniques and see which ones work for you. I mentioned in a comment above that having a notebook for ideas can help you keep track of your thoughts for a sequel or more characters. That way, you can go back later and work with those ideas, but don't lose sight of what you're currently working on. Maybe that's one tactic you can try!

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    2. Thanks! I read that part send I am making one or two ;) up now! I found this post extremity helpful!! I am so thankful their are people out their willing to share their faults to help others. We need slot more people like that in our world. Overtime I crime across another Persian like that I can't help feeling executed inside. Because I know that's one more person trying to make this world a way better place!

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    3. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! Good luck with your writing!

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  10. Congrats on being agented, Ellen!! That's amazing!! I had a sort of similar experience. Except I had a lot of people tell me my book was too odd, didn't fit, wouldn't work. I had been querying it, no luck, for aaaages. So I decided to shelve it and work on something else. It was REALLY devastating...and then, I got requested and eventually signed with an agent! Funny how that works, eh? But congrats again!

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    1. Congratulations!

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    2. Thank you, and congratulations to you too! I know lots of writers who started their careers with a big, fat rejection. But instead of letting that hold them back, they took what they learned and made themselves better. As much as it hurts, having someone turn you down can sometimes be even more helpful than if they accepted you. Keep up the awesome work!

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  11. Force myself to write:) or read. Also whenever I'm depressed I write poetry.

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    1. Hello, Keturah! It's awesome that you know what works for you! Learning how to keep your spirits up when writing gets you down is half the battle. :)

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  12. Thanks for the post. I sometimes feel like I don't write "well enough" for someone who wants to get published someday. I really just need to relax and write as well as I can. (How else can I write anyway?) Thanks again.

    http://teensliveforjesus.blogspot.ru

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    1. Thanks for reading! Don't forget that NO ONE starts off writing well enough to be published. Every one of your favorite authors started off just like the rest of us--doing the best they can with the skills they have. Keep reading and keep polishing your writing!

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