Running, Writing, and Perseverance

As a kid, I never liked running, but in high school, I somehow found myself on the cross country team. My best friend had joined, and I wanted to keep in shape for wrestling, so I figured, “Why not?”

I was not just bad at cross country, I was terrible. Epicly terrible. I came in last place almost every race. Once, the coaches had to start another race before I’d finished the course. That’s right, I held up hundreds of athletes because I was the slowest runner ever. Picture a geriatric tortoise.

But I stuck with it. I did cross country for three years, and I finished every race.

Writing is a lot like cross country, at least for me. I plod along. I finish things. When it turns out that I’m not last, I celebrate. I’ve experienced runner’s high (once) and writing has something like it–that feeling of totally flowing, as if I’m saying exactly what I want to say.

Back in my cross country days, I was jogging along when someone on the sidelines pointed and laughed. (Literally.) I can’t blame them. Here I was, slogging through a race, and it’s entirely possibly this person was walking faster than me. Seriously, I was that slow. But I thought to myself, “At least I’m running.”

When things don’t go my way, when my stories get rejected, or it seems like I’ll never write anything very good, I think the same thing. I tell myself, “At least I’m writing,” because even last place is better than not being in the race at all.

I feel like I should say something here about perseverance. That’s common writing advice. “Just persevere.” It’s not so useful on its own. I mean, it’s kind of obvious. If you want to get good at a thing, you have to work hard at that thing.

But it’s easy to underestimate the power plodding along, of working at something continuously, frequently, and with the intent to get better. I think what perserverance really means is that if you keep plodding along, eventually you’ll get somewhere, even if it’s not quite where you expected to end up.

Achievement Unlocked: First Review

Over at Short Science Fiction Review, Jon Cronshaw posted a nifty review of “Windows.”

FOGcon panel--The Best Advice I Never Got

Here are my notes from a super useful panel on writing. The wonderful panelists (Kyle Aisteach, Effie Seiberg, Cassie Alexander, Vylar Kaftan, and Katharine Kerr) were kind enough to share their wisdom about writing, life, and the business side of things.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a transcript. Lots of stuff is paraphrased, and everything is filtered through my brain, so no promises about accuracy.

  1. Be kind to yourself
  2. You don’t write fiction with the rational parts of your brain
  3. Everyone has days like that. (You know, the bad days.) But try not to have weeks or months like that
  4. On social media, it looks like everyone is doing well. We don’t always see the failures that others have, only our own.
  5. When in doubt, take editors at their word
  6. Sometimes there’s advice to not give up on a piece. You don’t have to give up, but you can postpone and write something else
  7. There is no such thing as making it
  8. You can work hard and still not do well
  9. You can’t control the business side of things or what other people think of your writing, but you can control you relationship to your writing
  10. Just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s good (and visa versa)
  11. No story is for everybody
  12. Remember Yog’s Law. Money should flow to the writer. (Beware of shady contests and other scams.)
  13. Make choices as if you’ll become a Hugo grandmaster
  14. For book contracts, it can be useful to have a contracts lawyer look at it.
  15. For short story contracts, you need a reversion clause.
  16. Don’t be so eager to sell that you fall prey to a scam or sell to a shady venue
  17. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a sale if you need to
  18. It’s necessary to have moral support as a writer
  19. Writing often gets good when you stop thinking about craft and just tell your story
  20. Your process can change
  21. If you get stuck, try writing just one sentence. Then after a few days of that, try one paragraph. Then one page.
  22. When possible, be honest with yourself, and filter all writing tips through your own situation. Do what works for you.
  23. Your first draft can be bad

FOGcon

I went to FOGcon for the first time this year. What a lovely local convention with lots of interesting panels on writing, science, and speculative literature. (Great environment for thinking up new story ideas.) In addition, I did my first (non-school) in-person writing workshop. If I have time, I’ll post some of my notes about panels.

Windows Published at Escape Pod

“Windows” is up at Escape Pod for Artemis Rising II.

After just three years, most of Gurt’s downtown was nearly unrecognizable. Roldan Street boasted a new tea shop, and the roads had been repaved with greenish eco-tar. Even the old sign at Marta’s Bakery, which had been shaped like a pink cupcake, was replaced with sleek blue lettering.

Score another one for the prophetic soup.

The episode is wonderfully narrated by Andrea Richardson–her reading makes the story come alive. I enjoyed the comments of guest host Kate Baker, who discusses the need for Artemis Rising, and has some nifty things to say about my story, too.

Where did the idea for this story come from? I started writing without an outline, and all sorts of things found their way in–anthropology, archives, holograms. But mostly, I wanted to write about prophetic soup.