Pushing past doubt, anger, and frustration
Finding acceptance in meditation and writing. Plus, TONS of writing resources!
*For writing news and resources, scroll down.*
I want the amazing things!
The other day I read Glennon Doyle’s memoir/self-help book Untamed, and though it contained many delightful anecdotes and metaphors, there was one part that made me irrationally angry. Glennon described going into her closet for ten minutes a day and trying to do nothing but breathe. The way she tells it, it wasn’t long before this ten-minute meditation practice helped her find an “inner knowing” deep within herself. And now, whenever she’s uncertain what to do in life, she just taps into her inner knowing and boom — it gives her a nudge in the right direction.
Must be f*#@ing nice!!
I’m always reading about people who start meditating and then find enlightenment, or connect to a spiritual power, or become happier and more peaceful, or tap into some deep inner knowing and write a freaking bestselling book about it.
Heck, in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, fictional Henry Sugar’s meditation practice gives him magical powers. (In fact, it was that story that led to my early teenage interest in mediation...)
I once went to a yoga ashram for a weekend on a Groupon (yes, really), and one of the monks gave me a little baggie of sacred ash. “Place a dot of this on your third eye then meditate for an hour each night,” she told me. “And amazing things will happen.”
Well, I tried. I’ve been meditating off and on for years (with and without the sacred ash), but the only thing that happens to me is my butt goes numb.
I want the amazing things! Why can’t I have the amazing things?
I know, I know, I’m doing it wrong…
I’ve been working through this free online mindfulness course, which includes a daily meditation practice, and one of the ideas it emphasizes is to let go of your expectations. Sit for meditation and expect literally nothing out of it except for the practice of gently bringing your mind, every time it strays, back to your breath.
So the only way for something amazing to happen is to let go of my expectation that something amazing will happen. Have I got that right?
Sometimes, as I’m sitting on the floor going, “oops, I’m thinking again, back to the breath,” I wonder, what’s the point of this? Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t expect it was going to be good for me in some way. I don’t need to develop magical powers or start communing with my spirit team (although that’d be cool!), but I’d like to get something out of it.
But the message seems to be this: meditation works best when you let go of any expectations about outcome and choose to do it anyway.
Hey, that’s a lot like writing!
Two years ago I had just sent my 50th query letter for my 8th completed manuscript. I’d really thought, by the age of forty, I’d have a published book. Or at least an agent. But I had neither. And I was not feeling good about it.
“You need to let go of the idea of getting traditionally published,” my husband told me. He said this lightly, as if he wasn’t telling me to simply toss away my biggest life dream. “You need to accept that you may never get published and find a way to be happy with writing anyway.”
“I can’t accept that!” I said. I was on the verge of tears. “It’s the goal I’ve been striving for my entire life. I don’t want to accept it might never happen. What would I even be doing with my life if that were the case?”
But later I realized: dammit, he was right.
It’s the unfortunate truth of writers and creatives everywhere: We have to make peace with the fact that certain outcomes — getting an agent, a book deal, a good review, a place on the bestseller list — are out of our control. We have to accept that we may never reach our publishing goal(s) and choose to write anyway. And not only that, choose to continue striving for a goal we’ve accepted we may never reach. It’s total double-think. It’s the balancing act of the creative life.
We have to sit down each day at our writing desk and do the hard work, recognizing that the “amazing things” may never happen for us.
Like meditation, writing tends to work best when you let go of any expectations about outcome and choose to do it anyway.
Pushing past the doubt and frustration
I’m exactly halfway through the online mindfulness course. Maybe this is why I’m losing steam and giving in to anger and frustration.
It’s very similar to feelings I have when I’m in the middle of writing a novel. I start to feel unsure and doubt myself. In the past, this was when I’d give up and start a new project, thinking it’d be easier this time (it never was).
It’s a huge step as a writer when you learn to push past your doubts and frustrations and keep going, to let go of expectations and finish a manuscript anyway. I’ve done this with my writing, so maybe I can do the same with meditation.
Like with writing, I need to accept that nothing amazing may come from meditation and choose to do it anyway. Not only that but choose to enjoy it — enjoy it for what it is and not for the imagined awesome outcomes. Like with writing, accept what’s in my control and what’s not.
Free your mind!
It can be very freeing when you accept that certain things are out of your control. Then you focus on what IS in your control, like writing the best manuscript you can, reading as much as you can, being open to constructive feedback.
Enjoy your writing process for what it is in the moment. Enjoy the daily journey instead of desperately wishing you had already reached your destination.
For me, I can try to enjoy sitting and doing nothing for twenty minutes. Enjoy the attempt at taking a break from the constant chatter of my monkey mind. Even if that’s all it ever is, isn’t that good for me? Maybe not it’s not super amazing, but it’s something.
One thing I keep coming back to in the mindfulness course is the idea of sitting with things as they are. Not trying to change or fix anything. Not obsessing about getting somewhere else. Just saying, “here I am, and maybe it’s not where I ultimately want to be, but I’m okay with that. I’m going to accept where I am right now.” I’m going to write and I’m going to breathe and I’m going to enjoy it for what it is in this very moment.
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Writing News & Resources
For All Writers:
#RevPit #10Queries is coming THIS FRIDAY October 13! 80 authors will win free feedback on their query letter and first 5 pages You do NOT need a completed ms to enter!
Write Anyway is a free summit, October 16-19, for writers struggling with obstacles and procrastination.
Check out this interesting IG thread on why it’s so “hard” to get published these days from Carly Watters.
Ready Chapter 1 is offering fiction contests and agent critiques, now through November 12.
The Manuscript Academy is offering a 3-Day online workshop: Unputdownable: Write a Book Agents Can’t Stop Thinking About. The event is October 24-26, and all materials will be available for 30 days for replay.
One Story is acceptation applications for the Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship through October 18th! Apply to be considered for the year-long mentorship on the craft of fiction writing with One Story.
Nanowrimo is offering a variety of virtual events to help you prep for National Novel Writing Month (November).
The Yale Review is now accepting pitches on a rolling basis. Seeking diverse, sharp, intelligent voices on a wide range of subjects, from literature, art, history, and politics to film, television, music, & more.
Good Story Companyis a five-month program for Novel and Picture Book writers, and applications are due by October 15.
The folks at Cheshire Novel Prize host a FREE group on their private app called Writers Space where you can talk about writing, ask for BETA readers, and connect with other writers.
Have you been working and reworking the beginning of your novel but can’t seem to push past a certain point? Then you should attend my Finish Your Novel 1-Day Workshop on Dec. 2 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.
Poets & Writers is offering Mapping the Maze, an online workshop for poets who have developed their craft and are ready to make a concrete plan for getting their work published. Begins November 3.
Check out the Chestnut Review for stubborn artists. Their submissions are always open and they pay $120/piece. They promise to respond in 30 days, which is HUGE in the lit mag space. Free submissions in most genres and free issues online, plus paid feedback options. They also offer workshops and international retreats. Sounds pretty amazing to me.
Check out my list of writing and publishing resources — my very favorite books, websites, and podcasts on writing, publishing, and the creative life.
Thinking about self-publishing? This detailed guide tells you all the steps you need to take: How to Self-Publish a Book: A Guide for Aspiring Authors.
For KidLit Writers:
YALL Fest, the free Young Adult Book Festival in Charleston Nov 10-11 is looking awesome this year!
Check out Literary Rambles for information on kidlit agents and agent interviews.
The Highlight's Foundation is offering the Whole Novel Workshop: a life-changing retreat with amazing faculty members for those with a full novel manuscript they want to workshop. In-person all genres November 5-10
From Bitsy Kemper’s blog: over 100 publishers accepting unsolicited picture book manuscripts. (Updated June 2023)
Check out this incredible list of upcoming events for KidLit writers!
For Querying Writers:
Agent Eric Smith is offering a 2-hour query letter writing webinar with a lengthy Q&A portion on November 2.
Pitch contests are starting to move off of Twitter, though some remain there (for now). These events can sometimes feel like a bunch of authors screaming into the void, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. After all, I found my agent through a Twitter pitch party. I am now an official success story. So mark your calendar for these upcoming pitch parties.
#PitDark, October 26 on Twitter (“X”): For writers of “dark literature” such as horror, thriller, mystery, dark fantasy, etc.
Find a long list of example query letters on Quite the Query.
Every Friday, Operation Awesome offers one free query critique through their #QueryFriday contest.
Every month I will chose one subscriber for a FREE submission package critique. Send me your query letter and the first two pages of your manuscript, and, if you’re the winner of the month, I will send you back in-depth feedback on both. Interested in receiving a critique? Fill out the form here.
Writing Conferences & Events:
The Writing Day Workshop “How to Get Published” Conferences will held both online and in person this year. I attended one of these conferences in person a few years ago, and I thought it was fantastic. I can’t vouch for the virtual version, but there are some benefits: recorded classes, no travel expenses, attend in your comfy pants. Plus, sign up for pitch sessions with agents for $29 a piece. Check out the upcoming conferences:
Writers Digest offers loads of virtual conferences on a variety of publishing and writing craft topics.
YALL Fest, the free Young Adult Book Festival in Charleston Nov 10-11 is looking awesome this year!
The Hampton Roads Writers Conference will be held in Virginia Beach November 9-11.
AWP 2024 will be held in Kansas City February 7-10 2024, and early bird registration and community scholarship applications are now open!
FREE Virtual Conference from The Writer’s Workout is coming March 2024 -- sign up now to stay in the loop!
Hold the date for the Washington Writers Conference, being held in Bethesda, MD May 3-4, 2024.
For more writing conferences, check out this list or this list of 19 Writing Conferences for Emerging and Established Writers.