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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Clouds Lifting

   
Author Topic: Clouds Lifting
Osiris
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I don't know why I'm posting this, only that I really feel the need to do it. Maybe it's my way of processing the past couple of months, and wanting to share the thing that got me out of the writing dumps in the hopes that if anyone else around here is silently suffering, it might help.

Starting about two months ago, my writing productivity took a nose-dive. I went from someone who spends on average two hours a day writing to virtually no writing at all.

I'm no stranger to depression, in-fact I know that every year when the winter rolls around, I'm going to be getting the doldrums. Last year, however, I was able to plod through and keep writing.

This year has been different, and just yesterday I figured it out. I was reading Dean Wesley Smith's chapters about the rewriting myth, and it really resonated with me. For the past two weeks, I'd been doggedly trying to rewrite my HM story with the belief that if it got an HM, it'd just take a little more work to make it publishable.

Now, here's looking at you, Brad Torgerson. I scrolled down to read the comments, and found that what Brad described as the time that nearly killed his writing, was nearly verbatim what I'd gone through in the past two months.

At that moment, I decided to stop rewriting everything that I'd written to a polished state and focus only on new works. I found that ideas for new stories began pouring in again, so much so that I had to note them down for fear of losing them.

It feels so great that even the general depression and cycles of negative thoughts have left me, replaced instead by the flow of creative ideas.

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Jeff Ambrose
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I had the same experience as Brad. In fact, the myth of the necessity of rewriting nearly killed my as a writer altogether. I'd just grow so frustrated with it I'd quit, give up.

Only when I stopped rewriting did I find the joy of writing. Just follow Heinlein's rules, and you'll be good to go.

One more thing -- EVERY WRITER IS DIFFERENT!

Some writers will rewrite, others won't. But here's what I found when I stopped rewriting: By focusing on new work, I gained a deep sense of story faster than I ever thought, which makes me think that even if you're a rewriter, you have grow into it. You're not going to learn to rewrite by reading books on revision. You're going to learn to rewrite by writing and reading a lot and gaining that experiential knowledge of the craft.

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Robert Nowall
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I've veered from first-draft-mailed-out-as-is to nitpickety-editing-doesyourchewingumloseitsflavor-revision over the course of my failed writing career, and I can't say it's made much difference one way or another. I like the things I write...but I liked the things I wrote then, even if I don't think they're particularly good now.

Ask me again in ten years, by which time I should have moved on to some other combination of writing-and-revision.

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extrinsic
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The clouds come and go here. The recent time they lifted was from discovering how to productively revise and applying that to draft writing in the first place and from realizing when the timely time is for what type of revising to do when.

I'd been frustrated by revisions for some time, not knowing what to do or if anything would do, making trivial heuristic adjustments that strengthened nothing.

Then I spent an in-depth time studying revision practices of others' writing. What they did, didn't, or wouldn't do, what they did do that strengthened or weakened their writing. What was still missing or superfluous or over- or underwrought. What felt like it worked or didn't work and dissecting why. The tough part at first was figuring out what was pressing on me hunch-wise and then what the hunch meant and what I might do about it if it came up in my writing or advise a writer about if asked.

The hunches came down to craft and voice elements and attributes: plot, setting, character, event, theme, and voice's manifold particulars, and how I as audience felt they were or weren't working.

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redux
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quote:
Originally posted by Osiris:
I'm no stranger to depression, in-fact I know that every year when the winter rolls around, I'm going to be getting the doldrums.

On a marginally relevant note, have you ever considered buying a SAD light therapy lamp? I too start feeling run down and dispirited during the winter months. Short winter days hit me especially hard since I grew up in South Florida and now live in Alberta, Canada (the things we do for love!). I've found that using a light therapy lamp has made a HUGE difference in improving my mood - it helps me feel more alert and invigorated and not so melancholy when the sun sets at around 4:30 pm.
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Osiris
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Redux, a lot of people have been mentioning it to me, and yes, I'm definitely thinking about it. The fact that it has made a difference for you is encouraging. Is there a model that you would recommend?

Interesting that you mention South Florida. My ethnic lineage harkens from the same latitude as Florida. My father also suffers from SAD, and it has led me to believe that there may be a genetic predisposition for people used to lots of sunlight to experience SAD when they are far from the equator.

I've tried SSRIs for the past few weeks, but I felt that they were making me feel disconnected and interfering with my creative brain. I wonder if this is typical for writers.

The times I've felt best are actually right after my weekly ultimate frisbee games, and there is a lot of evidence that exercise combats depression as well, so I'm thinking that combination of regular exercise and a SAD light might be an effective treatment plan. Do they make models that can work off a car's cigarette lighter? I commute to work very early in the morning and would like to plug the light in to my car, so long as it wouldn't interfere with driving safely.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Mr. Undead Fertility God...I don't know how common it is for writers in particular, but my partner has been on SSRI's off and on for years and they generally suck for him especially at anything but the lowest doses. And I have known some other creative types who mentioned antidepressants (in a non specific way) tended to interfere with that creativity.

They work great for some folks but overall I think they are overrated.


quote:
This year has been different, and just yesterday I figured it out. I was reading Dean Wesley Smith's chapters about the rewriting myth, and it really resonated with me. For the past two weeks, I'd been doggedly trying to rewrite my HM story with the belief that if it got an HM, it'd just take a little more work to make it publishable.
I think I detect two sources of your trouble here. One and most important, the idea that there is any such thing as "unpublishable." I don't really think there is. Case in point, I just sold a story from nearly 3 years ago that has a good 20something rejections...it's all about finding the right fit. Which brings me to the second thing...WOTF isn't some sort of universal litmus test. I have read many a wonderful story from fellow writers of great skill that didn't even manage an HM from them...its basically just down the preferences of the other KDW and whoever's on the judges panels that year. Get that story out and circulating and sooner or later, it'll find a home.
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redux
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Osiris -

This is the one I own. There seems to be a lot of brands out there. The key is to buy one that is at least a 10,000 lux light box.

I'm not sure if they sell smaller light boxes with a cigarette lighter adapter. I personally think it wouldn't be that good of an idea to even use one in a car since the light is quite bright and could interfere with driving.

The "dose" is usually around 15-30 minutes. Unless you're pressed for time in the mornings, you can easily sit in front of the light while you eat breakfast and have your morning coffee or tea.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Tea! By all that's...tea-like.
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Osiris
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@Merlion, yes, I agree with you, it all really boils down to an editors subjective opinion. I think I need to stick to Heinlen's rules, and just submit submit submit until someone buys it. I'd had this idea that I should hold out for pro publication, but I think that is flawed. Why let a story collect dust, never to be read by anyone?

@redux, it looks like that model is well reviewed. Does it work equally well if you use it in the afternoon? The morning is difficult for me because I get up very early and have a long commute, so don't spend much time at home. I thought it might be a good idea to use it while I'm working at my computer when I get home from work in the afternoons.

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redux
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My understanding is that the light works because it helps re-calibrate one's circadian rhythm. This means that optimal use is to use it when you first wake up in the morning (simulating dawn) and, if needed, again in the evening (simulating sunset). I often forgo the evening "dose."

I guess you could only do an afternoon dose but I am not sure if that would affect your sleep pattern. Perhaps you could look into a dawn simulator/sunrise alarm clock?

Here's a good explanatory article from the Mayo Clinic. I was quite surprised to see a list of side-effects. I have experienced none except for positive benefits.

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LDWriter2
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Revising seems to be one of those things we decide on our own. Many writers do over revise, even though there a couple of pros who revise a lot. I've read Dean's ideas on the subject for years and most of what he says is logical.

As I just stated on another thread, I seem to be one who needs some revising. Even though I like most of my stories, revised or not, my most successful writing has had no more than four, usually three or less, revisions. The one story that sold I think had one or two, no more than three for sure.

So when I get into this discussion I advise to do very few revisions if any. Dean belonged to a writing group once but even then he never revised a story, he would take the critiques of one story and apply them to the next story.

I would find that very hard to do and as I said I seem to need a little revising. {I wonder how many here would agree with that [Smile] *


As to the SAD lamps. I've known people with that problem in winter but it doesn't affect me. I can get depressed any time of the year [Smile] -- actually hardly at all and usually-but not always- dealing with two things --my writing and lack of progress is one of them.

But My father-in-Law may have one of those lamps. He keeps it on his desk off to the side and he usually has it on. I'm not sure if it is one and he has never mentioned needing one but it certainly look like ones I've seen.

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Osiris
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Redux, I think I found the device for me. Thanks for spurring me on to this.

[URL= http://www.amazon.com/Philips-goLITE-BLU-Therapy-Device/dp/B001I45XL8/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1324039635&sr=1-1]GoLite Blue[/URL]

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RoxyL
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Osiris, man, do I hear you on both counts. I'm so glad you found something to get you out of the rewriting morass.

As far as the SAD, besides the light, I've found that a high dose of vitamin D3 (1-3k)really helps, too. It's what your skin naturally produces in sunlight anyway. I find if I use it consistently through the winter months, it staves off the worst of the blues.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Merlion, yes, I agree with you, it all really boils down to an editors subjective opinion. I think I need to stick to Heinlen's rules, and just submit submit submit until someone buys it.
I think some revision is a necessary thing...for out-and-out errors if nothing else but it is my belief the trouble lies not in revising or not, but in that whole "it's not good enough" thing. Once you know what you want the story to be, make it that or as close as you can get, then leave it. It's never going to be "good enough" for everyone.

Myself, I usually finish a piece, send it out for crits and then do a round of tweaking based on those crits. Then sometimes I may enter it in the Polish Challenge on Liberty Hall later (or the "ready for market" thing we used to have here) for another round (although I've often already submitted it some before that.) But 2 or 3 sets of revisions is the most I generally put a piece through. Of course, I also tend to write with the intention of getting it "right" (for me) the first time.


quote:
I'd had this idea that I should hold out for pro publication, but I think that is flawed. Why let a story collect dust, never to be read by anyone?
Yep, I fully understand shooting for the top first, but the idea of refusing to submit a story that's been rejected by every appropriate pro market to anything else utterly incomprehensible, simply because there is no reason not too. There are plenty of semi pros and even other markets whose readerships rival those of the pro pubs (given that honestly all short fiction venues have relatively small readerships these days.)
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LDWriter2
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One thing about pro markets is that if you do run out wait a while. A few more will show up... IGMS is one example. It's been a couple of years but they are still fairly new compared to many.
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Merlion-Emrys
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Or you can just start submitting that particular story to semi-pros and wait a probably shorter while for your next story that can do the rounds of the pros.

If you write consistently, their will always be more stories.

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Osiris
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Thanks guys for all your comments.

@Roxy, thanks for the tip re: Vitamin D3, I'll see if it is in the multivitamin I take. I don't know if Fish Oil has any effect, but I sense I feel better when I use fish oil, too.

I think the key for me is to always keep every finished story out their circulating the markets, so I'd rather start sending to semi-pro then wait for another pro market that may or may not emerge.

Out of curiosity, do you folks always submit to any market that matches the general genre and word count limit? So many magazines suggest readers read the magazines before submitting, but I doubt that everyone reads every magazine they submit to. I follow 3-4 venues, and can't imagine limiting myself to only 3 or 4 venues per story.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Out of curiosity, do you folks always submit to any market that matches the general genre and word count limit?
Yep. Honestly I tend to play pretty fast and loose with all that sort of thing, as far as guidelines and especially as regards genre. As you know, I write a pretty broad spectrum of stuff and especially a lot of my darker work could be "horror" or "dark fantasy" so I submit most of that stuff to any market that takes horror or fantasy and doesn't expressly forbid "dark." I've also submitted some of my "rusty" stories to some science-fiction only markets, even though I don't really consider them sci-fi.
A lot of markets these days have quite broad guidelines anyway and even some that put forth some sort of particular theme often do so in a rather nebulous way...
There are only a couple, like Beneath Ceaseless Skies that have highly specific guidelines, which I do follow precisely.


quote:
So many magazines suggest readers read the magazines before submitting, but I doubt that everyone reads every magazine they submit to. I follow 3-4 venues, and can't imagine limiting myself to only 3 or 4 venues per story.
I should probably read the market more than I do...I don't really "follow" any venues...its more like occasional reading spasms.
Interestingly, I think every story I've sold has gone to a market I'd never read previously.

Honestly, I think that concept is a little overrated, again because it all comes down to editor opinion. Unless you really, really read intensively in a market and do a highly in-depth analysis, how are you really going to know what quality(ies) caused those stories to be bought?
Even if you do do that, you still won't really know.

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extrinsic
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I find a magnesium supplement helpful as well as D and C supplements and multivitamin, multimineral supplements. Several of my medications deplete water soluble nutrients, especially nutrients influencing mood.

I follow many digests, subscribe to a few. I feel it's essential to appreciate a digest's objective parameters, like word count and thematic deviations from their submission guidelines, more so, though, for appreciating their creative slant so I know the audience.

Used to be fairly straightfoward to keep up with the markets without cluttering up my coffee table with an unmanageable flood of digests and the costs. Grazing newsstand magazine racks was a popular pastime. Declining if not extinct newsstands left me adrift in the '90s. The Internet that did in newsstands, though, has picked up the slack and come surging foward in recent years. Takes a little creative prospecting, but it's worth the candle. Frankly, if a digest doesn't offer full sample content, I wonder if they've got their heads on straight. Partial teasers annoy me and will more likely put me off a digest altogether, let alone submitting to them.

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