So many things I want to include in this post and wondering how to get them all squeezed in within an appropriate word count. I’m currently sitting on a completed manuscript that I (only by sheer determination) was able to finish editing in time for this week.
The week of all weeks.
Potty Training week. If you followed me when I did this with Cori… you know there were literally tears flowing daily… from me, from her … it was horrible. Diem is proving MUCH more open to the idea of not sitting in her own filth all day long. So fingers crossed.
I got my tried and true chart made (very sophisticated) along with star-shaped stickers for successful squats, my Clorox wipes (because shit doesn’t work that quick), blankets for sitting/playing/living since all children who are not house trained don’t get to sit on the couch. I don’t want my brand new Homegoods rug pee’d on. There are also princess panties-a-plenty and bribes. Because I’m not above it.
The husband is out of town and if I’m ever going to have the patience to do it…it’s now. Looking at the weather… I probably should have does this NEXT week considering it is calling for rain… but I already emotionally prepared for Monday to be Day 1 and I had to stand by that. Day 2 is so far so good… so please send positive potty vibes our way! Alternately, if that rain screws up my half marathon training next week, I’ll use it as a good mark in my “mother of the year” speech I’ll be giving one day because I FINALLY had a good run this morning and I don’t want to be set back. Again.
Now – onto other things.
For one, I learned a lot this week about limits. I thought I had done a lot of soul searching before and throughout this whole writing process because as simple as “being a writer” sounds… it takes true confidence in yourself to put it all out there and be willing to accept what the universe… and people, give back and knowing what you will absorb and what you will block out.
A good friend of mine used the word “humility” when describing people and their convictions and that conversation just spoke to my soul.
This fellow mama and I have known each other for many years and have watched from the sidelines as we each navigated life as awkward teenagers to where we are now and all the good and bad in between. We have gone down entirely different paths and have VASTLY different beliefs however I truly enjoy learning about this person. I find her trust in herself and her family and her ability to share her highs and lows with such grace and humor incredibly inspiring.
But let’s go back to the the idea of limitations.
I feel that I’ve been offered some situations this week that only reminded me of the limitations that I set for myself all those months ago. Years now if we are counting way back when my first book was just a twinkle in my eye. When it comes to writing, to raising children, or just LIFE – we have to set boundaries for ourselves. I, for one, am a sensitive person… we have talked about this. Well, I have… you’ve read along and are probably tired of hearing about my soft heart and easy tears, but whatever…
Along this journey, I have had to teach myself what the difference is between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Constructive may sting all the same, but it’s helpful when you take a beat to really mull it over. It will make you stronger, happier and more self-assured in whatever it is you’re doing. The MAJOR part of this as well… is that you WANT it. You specifically seek it out.
Now, destructive … that’s the tricky one. People will always want to put their 2 cents in to whatever it is you do. Destructive criticism will make you upset and rightfully so because it was unwanted and often unwarranted and almost always soaked with ill intent. It is grown with jealously or insecurities from the person or persons giving it and you will notice that these “helpful gestures” are served cold. You can FEEL the difference and you don’t have to allow them to dump their shit on you.
Whatever it is you are doing. If you are a mother on her last drop of Pinot, or a writer who is struggling with that ONE word that just won’t come or a potential career move or an entrepreneur on the cusp of something so great that you can’t even make it out quite yet… just hold on to that confidence that you had when you began. Keep that lighthearted love of what it is you do and do not let the world harden it. Set those boundaries for yourself and do not allow anyone or anything to be destructive in your life and in your family or business.
With that said – Here is the CONSTRUCTIVE advice I was given from my wonderful editor who I was lucky enough to rope in for my second novel. These are the top things I noticed that I (apparently) need to be conscious of and think they were valuable enough to share in case any of you other writers out there need help and can’t quite afford it yet (because good editors are hella pricey).
- Make sure to always offer a clear transition between scenes and be sure to set the following scene properly. WE may know what the hell is going on and where/when everything happened, but your reader won’t. Keeping them grounded in each scene and flowing seamlessly into the next will (hopefully) allow them to stay with your character, eager to know more.
- If you are having your chapters set in a specific point-of-view… Make sure you stick to ONE person. If your chapter is from John Doe’s POV… then that means we shouldn’t know what Jane is thinking or feeling… it’s his perspective. Also, keep your tense steady throughout. If it’s past, keep it there. If you’re giving a flashback, make it clear for consistency.
- Make sure your dialogue is realistic – try saying it out loud (as awkward as that sounds) because I, for one, did not realize how corny some shit was until I said it… and no… nobody talks like that.
- Show not tell -don’t get too wrapped up in telling them about a person’s experience with something. Give a scene in it – let the reader really connect and FEEL it – it will give more weight in the story than just telling them.
I have also found a LOT of help in using my beta readers. Having other eyes on your work really helps you to catch things you otherwise wouldn’t on your own. You will read your work SO many times that the words blend together and your eyes and brain fill in blanks that others won’t. They can also pose questions in places that open up a whole new idea or scene to strengthen your story! It’s actually a pretty fun process and not as scary as you’d think!
In sum, in whatever you do, set boundaries for yourself. Emotionally, physically, mentally – however and wherever you know they’re necessary and do not feel guilty for them because it’s healthy and will allow you to get through stressful times with a bit more patience and grace. You will always be faced with other people’s hangups and it’s not your responsibility to work that out for them… empathy is a beautiful thing but learning your own limits and knowing when to speak up and when to just smile and walk away says more about your character.