Saturday, April 29, 2017

When your life goes off the rails

All too often (because never is the ideal) a client will share news of devastating developments in their personal life. A death. A divorce. Illness. A child in dire straits.

Sometimes that curve ball from Life hits them square on the Muse.

Sometimes the client can say "I just can't write."
Sometimes they can't

Sometimes writing through pain is the only thing that will save you.
Sometimes it isn't.

It's ok to stop writing.
I can renegotiate deadlines.
Life happens to all of us and mostly I just want to make sure you're going to come out on the other end of this. Or your kid is.

If you're querying and something dire happens, it's OK to write to the agents who've requested your full and say "Yanno, Life has thrown me a curve ball and right now I need to spend time getting up and dusting myself off." Sometimes you can't share the details. Sometimes writing the details down is too painful to even think about. That's ok. Just tell me you're in dire straits. I've been there. We've all been there.

All agents you want to work with will reply "I'm really sorry you're having a tough time. Get back in touch when you can. You're in my thoughts."

All agents you want to cross off your list will say something else.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Would that we were all, companionate, understanding and patient.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm not really sure if my word usage and phasing is quite correct on my comment above, but it just sounded to literary.
Literary R us, right?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Good to know. Life loves its little curve balls. And like 2Ns says, would that we were all so patient and understanding.

OT- did our Queen find a bar at Malice? I heard rumors the conference was at a barless hotel. Why is that even allowed?

Amy Johnson said...

Wow, that's very nice. And nice to know. Plus what 2Ns said.

Hope everyone has a great Saturday!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I don't know if it's because of little Pearl (the emaciated horse we recently took in) or if it's because of some things going on in my own life - both wonderful and not so wonderful. Or if... just because...I don't know, but this made me teary-eyed.

nightsmusic said...

Melanie, *hugs* to you. Sometimes, it's everything all at once.

I don't know how to not turn this on me, but I think the comment is apropo. I find when my life is sucky, all the anger/hurt/pain/what-have-you comes through in my story and the tone of the whole thing changes. Usually for the worst. No one would want to read it since I don't write that tone of story. Janet's advice that sometimes, not writing when things are not good in your life hits home for me. We're all striving to publish, but once there, most of us aren't automatons who can crank out two or three books a year regardless of our circumstances.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I think it's good for your career if those involved in your career have some understanding if your life experiences a severe plot twist. I once had something happen in my life that put me out of commission for a good six months. I couldn't even get on the Internet, much less write fiction. My plot twist was so severe it completely knocked the music out of me. Yes, I did have to back out of some professional commitments; luckily, it was before I'd committed to a contract, so no harm, no foul.

I needed that time to heal.

Eventually, I was able to get back into the game, once I was able to hold my own. By freeing myself from all commitments, I was able to focus my energy on getting back to normal.

Trying to force someone to do something--especially something creative--when their music is completely gone will guarantee inferior product. I can't think of anyone who'd want that.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Just yesterday, I was spinning my wheels in my story. I've read a lot these past couple of months, needing the escapism, needing humor. And I want to get back to revising and editing the story. I think I've re-evaluated it all I can.

Melanie: ((Hug))

Yes. What 2Ns says.

Donnaeve said...

Ditto 2N's.

Melanie, as you know, your little girl Pearl, (I just LOVE that name) tugs at my heart and I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your updates on her. I can see how reading this would make you teary eyed. You are one tough, yet gentle soul.

I've written through my company going bankrupt, the chaotic years following it, an unknown future, my father's death, and the sale of my childhood home.

For me, it's my escape. That said, if tomorrow comes and I find myself knocked askew by an unexpected event, I know for a fact, those who are directly involved with me on this publishing journey would completely understand, and I would be given the time needed.

CynthiaMc said...

When Daddy died I wrote all the time -usually up in the magnolia tree in our backyard or down at the pier watching the sun set over Mobile Bay. I was twelve.

When Mom had Alzheimer's I wrote about Daddy. I was in my twenties then.

I won a writing contest with Starlight Walks with Daddy - about the nightly stargazing walks he and I took when we walked my dog and doing those later with my children when they were the same age (8 & 9).

I won another writing contest about bringing my newborn daughter to see Mom in the nursing home. Mom hadn't been able to talk in a long time but when the baby cried Mom grabbed the baby bottle and fed her. My sister and I both cried. It wasn't the miracle we wanted, but it was our miracle.

Sometimes writing heals. Sometimes it burns. But it always leaves you with new power, new word choices, new understanding, a deeper layer to your soul. When you are ready the words will come and they will be deeper and more powerful and ultimately healing.

Amy Johnson said...

Cynthia, I can see why you won the contests. Beautiful.

Elissa M said...

I find myself hoping there is no particular reason Janet wrote this particular post at this particular time.

For some reason, I can deal with my own troubles (one way or another) but thinking other people's slings and arrows makes me crumble.

Colin Smith said...

As Janet said, any agent/publisher worth their salt will give the writer the time they need to work through life's tornadoes. I hope this would be basic human compassion, but at the very least it's good business sense.

Elise: did our Queen find a bar at Malice?. Hmmm... I'm tempted to do a song parody... the only thing stopping me is I don't know if many people know the original of the song I have in mind. :)

Panda in Chief said...

Sooner or later, something momentously bad happens to everyone. It's a good reminder to us that we want to work with an agent who gets that sometimes we need to retreat under the covers to process those events. And also to us that sometimes these things can happen to our agents as well.
We're all human after all. Even sharks are.

Happy caturday, everyone.

BJ Muntain said...

Life's thrown me so many curve balls, I'm permanently dizzy.

All I can offer everyone else is (((hugs))).

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin Is the conference held in a Town Called Malice? That would explain the missing Pub.

Memories of my time in London...

Lennon Faris said...

"I find myself hoping there is no particular reason Janet wrote this particular post at this particular time."

Elissa, I was thinking the same thing.

Cynthia - beautifully said! all of it.

Janet, I love your compassion.

Susan Bonifant said...

Startling, lovely, and telling. Thank you Janet Reid.

RosannaM said...

Wishing compassion was the default position of all people, but from firsthand experience, knowing it is not.

Hugs to all who need one today. (Melanie)

Megan V said...

Life throws so many hurdles in our paths, it can be hard to jump over all of them. We are defined by whether we help our fellows limp to the finish or watch them limp off to the sidelines.

Hugs to everyone today.

I'm going to go get all snuffly in my morning cocoa.

The Queen's post today says it all. And that's the kind of agent I'd love to have someday.

Joseph S. said...

We all react differently to dire events, I guess. As Sammy Allred (of the Geezinslaw Brothers fame) said, when he got divorced, he drank for three months to drown his sorrows. When Willie Nelson got divorced, he wrote a top 40 song.

DLM said...

This is a good, instructive post, and I'm grateful for it. But the main thought in my head is to feel for those whose troubles led Janet to have to write this. And those whose troubles are now.

Steve Stubbs said...

Wow. If it is any consolation, I feel as if my whole life has been a curve ball with a boomerang built in for extended service. Every time I think the thing is gone, here it comes again. It is the dun that keeps on dunning.

I hope things are going well for you and that you are not suffering from any of life's vicissitudes. Also that you are enjoying the Domestic Malice get together.

Casey Karp said...

To use Joe's referents, I'm more Sammy than Willie. Not that I drink, but I sure wasn't writing anything, much less best-selling words after Dad died. (His birthday was earlier this week. I had a cookie and wrote 1500+ words in his honor.)

All different, all human.

Hugs to all.

Craig F said...

Yes, if you made it past twelve or so, something has blindsided you on some idle Tuesday afternoon.

Sometimes writing can help exorcise those demons. Sometimes, also, writing can cut too close to the bone of the situation and create a worse situation. There is only one way to find out. Try to write.

The big question, though, is how do you ask an agent if they are compassionate about you as a writer or just compassionate about the money you will make?

Joseph S. said...

Casey - When my dad died, I could not concentrate enough to read a newspaper for nearly three months, but I spent all day walking around his yard the day before his funeral writing a memorial for him. There was a standing ovation in the church when I finished reading it.

Similarly when my cousin's eldest son (18 years old) died in a one truck accident and I couldn't make the funeral, I spent a week (in my house, at the library, in my church's chapel) writing something - part poem part something else. I felt so useless when all I had were words to write, but my cousin thought it was the most beautiful thing she's ever read. It may not be the best thing I'll ever write, but it was probably the most important.

Casey Karp said...

I hear that, Joe. Writing obituaries and tributes for memorials is one of, if not the absolute, most difficult. I got through it for Dad by constantly reminding myself that the real memorial is the lives he touched, both as a doctor and as an author. And the true tribute is the people who showed up for the service.

And yeah, to bring this back to where it started, I sure wouldn't want an agent who didn't understand my need to circle the wagons for a while. In that vein, our publisher--Dad's long-time publisher--handled it beautifully. They kept things moving, but were very gracious about working through the inevitable delays at our end.

roadkills-r-us said...

This community- from Janet through the newest newbies- continues to amaze me. I agree with or can relate to pretty much everything said so far. I especially want to chime in with Amy that it's easy to see how Cynthia won those contests. Such writing! And she's not alone.
I've written eulogies, stories for babies, and everything in between. I agonized for a couple of days over a letter to a loved one who needed to hear some hard truth wrapped in tender love. They disowned me. But two years later they came back and the relationship started healing and grew stronger than it had been in years. The letter was far from the only reason for that, but had I been sloppy in my communication, the restoration might never have happened.
20+ years ago a motorcycle wreck got in the way of a technical book deal's schedule. The publisher was very gracious. It's easy to say they should have been, but I have encountered people who would have said, "Sorry, but there is no exemption in the contract for broken bones and massive pain meds, so meet the deadline or default." Which is sad, mainly for them.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Geez... I want to say something about each and every thing that each and every one of you wrote.

Joseph, Cynthia, Oh, my heart. Donna, I love you, but you already know that. Fairly certain I love you all. So I'm just going in for a group hug. We'll snuggle Janet in the middle.

A good and lovely day here at the sanctuary. Made better by getting in the house and reading this blog. Time for a yummy dark beer.

Amy Johnson said...

Ooohhh, a group hug. Yay! Thanks, Melanie! I'm so thankful I get to be a part of this group. Thank you, Ms. Janet Reid! And Melanie, I keep thinking and praying about your little filly--hope things are looking up for her.

Unknown said...

What a lovely way to end the day!Thank you all. Kathy

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The kindness here, the depth of caring, and the importance of understanding is an example, for me, that during these difficult and confusing times the shark's underwater grotto is the place to be.

So what's with this writing thing?

Anonymous said...

I got a wee bit teary-eyed as I read this as well. Had to stop and think about why. You all have heard more than enough from me recently, but I realized it has to do with how truly rare it is in a business setting to find this kind of sentiment. Don't ever underestimate the power of kindness and compassion. Even a little bit will go a very long way for the person who needs it, especially the person who claims they're just fine.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kdjames, what you said times ten.

AJ Blythe said...

I'm with Melanie and second a group hug. Love being at the Reef.