On Revision: What do you do when you’ve laid a bad egg?

This is the fourth post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” —Ernest Hemingway

If there’s one quote that incites my writer’s guilt complex, it’s this idea that writing is rewriting.

(Or so we’re told.) Most of us know that a rough draft is just that—rough, not to be seen by other eyes until it’s been cleaned up. No one ever stops at the rough draft, or even the “first draft”. As young writers, we’re told that the best way to become a better writer—aside from just writing more, every day if possible—is to keep revising our own material.

It’s no secret that I hate revisions.

I hate them with a fiery passion, mostly because I’ve never figured out how to successfully revise without wanting to light myself on fire in the process. Revising signals Depression Brain to lump on a healthy dose of Self-Doubt in the extreme. Once I reach that state, I’m not motivated to work on the story whatsoever. I usually ignore it for a couple of days, which only makes me feel more guilty for not writing, before I admit that I’m just not feeling the story anymore.

I’ve done this process of halfway revising, only to ultimately give up, more times than I can count. Each time, I’m stunted for weeks or even months afterward. Each time, I feel more and more like a fake writer. After all, if I was a Real Writer, I’d be able to revise my own stories, right?

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I “rescued” this book from being sent back to the publisher and I’m so glad I did.

Then I read Mark Edmundson’s Why Write, a long-form essay in which he discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing. For the first time in my life, I read someone who countered the idea that revision is absolutely, always necessary. There are times, Edmundson argues, when the best thing to do with a piece of writing is let it go.

Sometimes the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is simply to walk away from the nest. Get gone. Throw the darned thing out and start something new. You can advance by leaping from endeavor to endeavor, as well as by trying to repair the broken-down model that’s on blocks in the driveway.

When I first read this passage, I’m pretty sure tears came to my eyes. For the first time, I felt completely and totally okay with who I was as a writer—a person who needed to let go and move forward.

The fact of the matter is, revision is an important skill to have as a writer. Nothing comes out perfect the first time, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Revision is a skill I do want to acquire, eventually.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge my relative age as a writer. I talk like I’ve been writing for 15 years, and I have, but that’s small potatoes compared to most successful, bestselling authors. I have a long ways to go before I’m writing at that level. I have decades ahead of me when it comes to growing as a writer.

The best way for me to grow as a writer isn’t necessarily as simple as I once thought.

Sure, I could invest years of my life in an attempt to revise the same few novels I’ve had under my belt so far. Or, alternatively, I could let go and see what comes next.

Maybe there isn’t anything shameful about having trunk novels; maybe they’re just sign posts along the way of my growth as a writer. Maybe it’s true that any writing is a good thing as long as it’s moving me forward. Maybe my trunk novels don’t have to define who I will become, but rather can represent a small part of who I was at one point in time.

Maybe the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is let it go.

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How do you feel about revisions? Got any tricks to share? Want to be writing buddies? Let’s chat in the comments!

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how did I “become” a writer?

This is the first post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, allow me to explain. I haven’t always been writing, but I’ve been a writer as long as I can think back.

It started when I was about six years old. I’d just grasped reading, really grasped it. The world was my oyster, and I started off with a series called The Boxcar Children. I must’ve read about 20 of those books, but I re-read the first one so many times that the binding of the cheap paperback started to crumble.* So, in my six-year-old brain, I thought, why don’t I write it down in a notebook, that way it’ll be like I wrote the story and then I can carry it with me even when this book falls apart?

My older brother caught me copying The Boxcar Children and what followed was an important lesson in the meaning of plagiarism and how real writers write their own stories. But from then on, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up: I wanted to be a writer.

*We’ve all been there, right? Right? *crickets*

I had always been an imaginative child.

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I’ve kept journals since the age of 13 & I’ve never really stopped.

Whether because my brother was so much older than me, and therefore not interested in playing all the time, or because I had a lot of trouble falling asleep at night, I was constantly telling myself far-fetched stories to make myself feel less alone. I’d imagine a world not so different from mine as to be unrecognizable, where my alter-ego was the most popular girl in school and all the boys were fighting over her.*

By the time I reached my teens, I’d started writing down some of these stories, which got both more and less far-fetched. What started as a screenplay-style, plot-less narration of my elvish alter-ego hanging around with the characters from The Lord of the Rings inside the long hallway of my brain soon morphed into real-world stories of myself and my friends as 20-somethings, getting drunk and dating hot famous people.**

My friends in real life were willing participants in this little game of writing. They’d throw out some ideas, and I’d draft outlandish (and unrealistic) sex scenes during math class on scraps of notebook paper that I carried folded up in a wad inside my purse.***

At the same time, I was going through undiagnosed depression, which was only manageable because when I wasn’t writing fiction, I was obsessively journaling my ever-repetitive thoughts about how frustrated and lonely I was.

*because for some reason this was my main fantasy: being popular with a super-hot boyfriend. Keep in mind, at this point, I didn’t know I was also attracted to girls, because that wasn’t A Thing.
**despite the 10-year age gap…because that’s not creepy, right?
***ever since high school, it’s very rare for me to go anywhere without something to write on.

Finally, in high school, I started—and eventually completed—my very first novel.

This story was the culmination of both my depression and my wishful fantasies. It follows a bitter, invisible, bookish girl as she finds first friendship and then love: the two things I craved more than anything else at that age. I had plans for a sequel, in which the main character gets shipped off to boarding school.* I kid you not, I had plans for about four books, one for each of the main character’s years of high school, that included multiple (borderline emotionally abusive) relationships and best frenemies.**

Completing a real, solid draft of this novel was hands-down the biggest accomplishment of my high school career. I vividly remember how I felt the day I drove to the office store to print and bind my very first manuscript. It cost me upwards of $60, but it was worth it to physically feel the weight of my own efforts in my hands. I knew then that writing was what I was meant to do. I could feel it in my bones.

*because for some unknown reason, being sent off to boarding school was my ultimate dream. Which is…odd.
**Now that I think about it, I have no idea why I was morbidly fascinated with emotionally abusive relationships at this age, especially considering I hadn’t even been in one (yet). I literally don’t know where I saw this behavior. Maybe it was a manifestation of what Depression Brain told me I deserved? I feel a post coming on…

What does becoming a writer really mean?

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I got this tattoo as a reminder of who I am & what I’m here to do.

It’s something I asked myself as I sat down to write this post. Did I become a writer when I finished that first manuscript? Or am I still not a real writer because I haven’t successfully finished editing a novel? Did I become a writer in 2014 when I queried 75+ literary agents, most of whom didn’t even bother to send me so much as a form rejection? Or did I become a writer that day I fell so in love with The Boxcar Children that I wanted to write it all down?

I don’t think becoming a writer has anything to do with publication, or how many WordPress followers I have, or if I can successfully self-edit my novels. I think I was born a writer—or at least, I was born to become one when I learned how to string words together, one at a time.

But I also think I’m always becoming as a writer. I may or may not be working on a project, but I’m still a writer. Writing is the only way I know to come to terms with myself, my life, my struggles, my choices. When I don’t know what to do about a situation, I still turn to the page first to sort out what I think.

Even when I don’t have a WIP, I’m still a writer. It’s in my blood.

If you’re a writer, what was the foundational moment when you knew you wanted to write? Do you still have your first completed stories? What do you think it means to become a writer? Let’s share in the comments!

#Mental Health Monday | Depression, A Herstory

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Hello, and welcome to my very first #MentalHealthMonday post! This is a weekly (or however often, honestly) discussion I discovered through one of my favorite book bloggers, Wendy @ what the log had to say. On my old blog, I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk more honestly about my mental health in a way that I don’t feel comfortable or safe doing in real life. I hope to do several of these posts in the coming months. I figured I should start by talking a little bit about my hisherstory of depression, and how it’s affected my life so far.

I have been dealing with clinical depression for the past 11 years, give or take. I first noticed depression around my junior or senior year of high school. I was going through a bit of a rough time socially; not only was I always slightly on the outside with the majority of my peers, but at that time, one of my best friends had begun to drift away from me for reasons I couldn’t discern. I had always been pretty introspective, but the vacuum left by my closest friend meant I turned inward a lot more.

While my voracious journaling helped me to keep my head on straight, it also meant that I was dwelling a lot more on my emotions than was perhaps healthy. I became extremely melancholy and lost all interest in normal activities. I remember coming home from school, plugging into my iPod’s endless stream of sad music, and crying until I fell asleep. Eventually, my parents caught onto what was happening, and I was able to get help. I got a prescription for Lexapro from the family doctor and I started seeing a therapist in the early spring of my senior year of high school.

Since then, I have been in and out of therapy about five times, and I’ve been on and off medication about as many times. I am fortunate, in that I have relatively mild to moderate depression that mostly gets bad in the winter and fades around springtime. I tend to get a lot better and go off meds/therapy for a while, only to get hit with the brunt of my depression in the fall. Depression makes me feel like I’m incapable of handling even the most basic of tasks until I slowly build myself back up again. Still, I have access to resources when I truly need them, as well as a family that supports and encourages me along my path to growth as a person. Compared to a lot of people who struggle with depression, I am extremely privileged. I recognize this more and more as the years go on.

Currently, I’m on a pretty low dose of Zoloft, which keeps my mood stable and my emotions manageable, but I’m not currently seeing a therapist since I don’t have health insurance. I started doing regular yoga about two years ago, and this past fall I added in a daily meditation practice to keep myself grounded. I feel blessed to have reached this level of stability, but, like any good depressive, I know that my next downswing could be right around the corner. And this, to me, is the hardest part of living with depression: even my good months are somewhat clouded by the fear that it’s all temporary, that I will always be someone living with depression, even when I’m living in recovery. Which is why I refer to myself as a “depression warrior”—no matter how I’m doing in this moment, my mental health is always something I have to fight for. I am fortunate in that I have the tools to fight for myself and I know now that I’m worth it.

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Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? Feel free to share with me below, or reach out to me via email if that feels safer. Either way, let’s support each other!

xoxo,
Lady aka Christine

who am i, and what am i blogging for?

img_0196New Year’s has come and gone, but I’m still left trying to sort out what I want for my life this year. While other pieces fall into place naturally, this blog is the one thing I’m slightly unsure of.

I’ve never managed to have a clear direction when it comes to keeping a blog. In college, I used Tumblr to record random thoughts and save other people’s posts to act as a reference point for what I was going through at the time. After college, that slowly faded away as I threw myself into working and writing. It was only when I found myself unemployed and, quite frankly, a bit bored, that I took up more serious blogging in the spring of 2017. While some of you might remember me as The Story Salve, that blog faded out of existence pretty quickly when constraints on my time made blogging feel more like an obligation than a hobby.

Ultimately, that’s what I want to avoid, starting now. Yes, I want to post consistently, if not incessantly. And yes, I want to maintain a relatively singular focus—on books and writing, with a dash of mental health discussions. I want to stay organized so that I don’t fall behind and end up throwing up slap-dash posts (like this one, tbh). I want to write the kind of posts that you, whoever you are, actually care to read. It’s just that I don’t want to sacrifice who I am to please other people.

What am I blogging for? I’m blogging to create a space that accurately reflects who I am and what I care about most. I want to share what I’m reading, offer others a place to find unique and hopefully diverse reading material to add to their own TBRs. I want to talk about my writing process in a way that’s honest, and not just a reflection of how I think I should be as a writer. I want a space where I can write openly about the complex realities of living with depression, even when I’m mostly doing okay. And I want a space where others feel safe and inspired to share their stories with me. I want to connect with other people who have similar interests and an array of life experiences that might better inform my own perspective. I want to share, and I want to learn to listen. 

Join me, if you wish. I can’t promise it will be smooth sailing, but perhaps we can offer each other something.