Quick-Tip Tuesday: Taking Stock and Soldiering On


David B. Coe/ D.B. JacksonIt’s been a hard fall, at the end of a tough year. At times like these, when we mourn lost friends, or deal with fears and unexpected disappointments of any sort, it seems that even sitting down to write a page or two is more than we can manage.

On occasion, we here at MW urge you to take a day or two away from writing to enjoy life, to immerse yourself in the pleasures of family and friends, of beloved hobbies, of the simple joys of taking a walk, or reading a book. But at other times, writing can actually be our escape. The world isn’t always a friendly place; real life just sucks now and then. So write. Dive into your worlds, your characters, your storylines. Draw upon the emotions evoked by the real world, but live in those places you’ve created. It helps. Or rather, it helps me; maybe it will help you, too.

Another thing that helps me is stopping a moment to take stock of those things that make writing such a comfort and joy. In other words,  I make a list of things for which I’m thankful, which seems appropriate this time of year. My list includes the usual: my family, who support me, and love me, and give meaning to everything I do; my colleagues, like Faith and Misty and John, who inspire me and share their experiences with me, and are sometimes there simply to laugh or lament with me; my imagination, which always gives me somewhere new to go, someone new to meet, some new story to tell; this business, which I hate and love in turns, and which always spurs me on, either with the encouragement of a success, or the challenge of a setback; my readers, without whom I would have no career; my writing group, which is peopled with artists I respect and enjoy.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I recommend taking the time to draft a list yourself. It can be an illuminating exercise. Almost invariably when I make such a list I come away encouraged. It’s not that things are always going great — far from it — but I usually find that things are better than I thought, which is no small thing.

This time of year I also start to think of goals for the coming year. Now let me be clear: 2016 isn’t over. The publishing industry tends to go on a sort of hiatus between Thanksgiving and Christmas, reinforcing the (accurate) perception that publishing is glacially slow. But as an artist, I work through to the end of the year, taking off just a few days for Thanksgiving and perhaps a week for Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year’s. There is plenty of time left to get stuff done before the end of the calendar year, which is good, because I have a lot to finish in this time.

But I am also already looking to next year. I have goals in mind, some abstract, and some more concrete (I need to edit for re-release my Winds of the Forelands series, I need to write a Thieftaker novella and put it together with a collection of Ethan Kaille short stories, I need to write the next book in my new project, which, I hope, will sell early in 2017. Setting goals, by necessity, involves taking stock of where I am now and what my longer term ambitions might be. And this, again, is an exercise that I find informative and even comforting.

The point of all these activities — writing to escape, making a list of things for which I’m thankful, developing goals for the coming year — is the same: to keep me focused on my creative life. As I said at the outset, this has been a hard year, and the last month or so has been brutal. It would be so easy to give up, to set writing aside for a while. Because when we write, by necessity we access emotion, and that’s not a place I particularly want to go right now.

To which my inner voice says, “Too fucking bad.” Emotion informs art, and art is what I do. It hurts a little more at the moment. So what? Given the shit I do to my characters, I really have no right to complain. Given the shit that other people in the real world have to deal with, this is nothing. So I write. I make myself acknowledge all my blessings. I force myself to look forward, to plan, to dream. And I soldier on. You should, too.

Keep writing. The world needs creativity, now more than ever.


5 comments to Quick-Tip Tuesday: Taking Stock and Soldiering On

  • Amy Bauer

    Thanks, David. It’s been a tough year.

  • The world needs creativity, now more than ever.

    I couldn’t agree more. I think I should print this out and tape it to my monitor.

  • Good advice, David. There’s tough and then there’s tough. I was diagnosed with non-Hogkins lymphoma in July and will undergo my sixth chemo treatment this coming Monday. There were days I didn’t have the energy to sit at my computer, but when I was able to do so, being able to focus on my writing projects helped me feel like myself instead of a victim or a patient. I’ve also been more focused, recognizing time is a precious commodity, and to the extent I can I want to make use of the time I have to do the things that matter the most. My best wishes to the entire MW community for the remainder of 2016 and for a healthy and writerly (-; 2017.

  • Yes, Amy, it really has. Hoping for better in 2017.

    Thanks, Misty.

    Xman, I’m so sorry to hear that. My brother received the same diagnosis, also in July, and has just finished his sixth chemo treatment. He’s exhausted and feels rotten, but we’re hoping the treatments did what they were supposed to. And I hope the same for you and wish you a speedy and complete recovery. That you can write at all is amazing. You have my admiration, and all my best wishes.

  • Best wishes to your brother, David. If he wants to compare notes, sometimes that helps. He can contact me via my website (petergpollak.com).