Scattering Seeds

Okay, here’s the scenario: You’ve been writing a while, right? You have a story you’re passionate about and you’ve been devoting your spare time to writing, editing, and generally educating yourself on what it takes to create a great novel, one that might get published one day.

You think you might benefit from some outside advice, maybe network with other writers, so you join a writers group. Now you’re getting to know people. They’ve read your stuff and like your writing. Would you mind reading their stuff? They’d really like your opinion. This would mean taking time away from your writing, but it’s only fair. They read your stuff, right?

You learn that in order to get published, it helps to have a platform, get your name out there, so you start blogging. And your blog is growing a following. People like what you have to say. Sure, it’s taking time from working on your novel, but the way you see it, you’re planting seeds, hoping something will grow. You never know who might read your blog. Maybe it will lead to something.

And it does. A fellow blogger likes what you’re doing and invites you to guest blog on her site twice a month. It turns out, she has a huge following. This would be great exposure for you, so you agree. Add it to your list of writing tasks. You’re planting seeds, hoping to see something grow one day.

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Then one of your writing buddies informs you that he’s starting a site featuring book reviews. It’s a paid gig. Not much, but it’s a writing credit. Something to fill in the blanks in your query letter. You sign on.

Someone at work hears you’re a writer and asks you to submit an article with him. It’s not a done deal, but it’s a possibility. He’s providing an introduction to the publication’s editor. A great contact, so you go for it. More seeds hit the ground.

Okay, you with me? Now, here’s the thing with the seed-planting metaphor. Planting seeds, the way a gardener plants seeds, is a very prescribed process. The seeds go in the right soil at just the right depth, and at just the right temperature, and exposed to just the right amount of sunlight and water. If the conditions are right, as they are for a seasoned gardener, it’s not long before flowers blossom.

The writing scenario described above isn’t really planting seeds, is it? It’s more like scattering seeds; flinging seeds around and hoping that one hits the dirt and gets lodged just deep enough so that the right combination light and moisture and heat will cause the seed to germinate.

It’s rare, but that kind of thing does happen, like in my scenario. But is the growth leading in the direction you want to go? Is the kind of plant life that’s coming out of the ground what you want to reap?

There’s nothing wrong with networking with other writers, getting your name out there, or earning publishing credits. Yet for those with “day jobs,” time devoted to writing is limited. Look at the pie chart of your time. How big a slice of that pie represents your writing time? Now how much of that slice are you devoting to writing your manuscript?

At some point, you have to reassess. It’s okay to say no to the guy who wants you to read his stuff. If your blog is taking too much time, scale back. If someone asks you to write an article on a topic that doesn’t interest you, just say no.

What story inspires your passion? Are you writing it?

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine’s Author Blog.

_________________________________________________________ Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.  URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com tumblr_inline_msw15rad8T1qz4rgp

Non-attachment

I am forever trying to determine the magic formula for setting my personal energy for writing success. You write the book, edit it so it’s the best it can be, research agents and send it out. Then what? Start writing the next one, sure. But what is the best method of anticipation as you wait to hear back from agents and editors? How does one stay neutral without being pessimistic? How does one visualize success without risking disappointment?

I recently had the opportunity to interview Tracy Weber, author of Murder Strikes a Pose: A Downward Dog Mystery. Tracy, a yoga studio owner and a voracious reader of “cozy mysteries” (a sub-genre of the Mystery genre), set out to write her own series of novels based on a protagonist who (not surprisingly) owns her own yoga studio.

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After writing her very first novel, not only did she find a literary agent, in less than two weeks of her agent sending out her manuscript, she managed to get a three-book deal. Yes, you’ll want to tear your hair out when you hear that. Clearly, Tracy is an outstanding manifester. As a yoga instructor and habitual meditator, I felt she might have insights into setting the energy for success. During the interview, I asked her how she sets her energy for success.

After a moment’s reflection, she said, “The yoga sutras talk about the persevering practice in yoga.  And persevering practice in yoga has several components. One is that it’s something that you do over and over again, over a long period of time, with energy and enthusiasm, that is geared toward your personal growth, without interruption, and without attachment to results.” [The emphasis mine.]  “And so,” she added, “I suppose, when I look back at it, what it was was me trying to manifest that non-attachment.”

I’m going to list those things again, because they’re so important: 1) Something that you do over and over again, 2) over a long period of time, 3) with energy and enthusiasm, 4) that is geared toward your personal growth, 5) without interruption, and (most importantly) 6) without attachment to results.

Her answer is like Joseph Campbell’s follow your bliss but articulated more precisely. Let’s face it, writing takes a lot of effort. Countless hours in front of the computer, writing, editing, querying agents and editors. And in the end, we want all that time to pay off with fame, fortune, at the very least with an audience for our work.

What Tracy is saying is that the payoff is the process itself. The payoff comes during all those little moments of creation, whether it’s writing the first draft, getting that paragraph just right, or crafting a query letter that incapsulates the essence of your work.

Think about it. What if the joy of writing could be solely about the page in front of you and nothing else? What would it take for you to let all the rest of it go? By that I’m not saying not to do all the things along the path of authordom. But what if you resolved that being a successful author was not, in the end, what mattered most?

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine’s Author Blog.

_________________________________________________________ Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.  URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com tumblr_inline_msw15rad8T1qz4rgp

Going the Distance

Even back in college, when I started my first novel-length project, I was visualizing for success. Back then I liked to visualize to inspiring music. One of my favorites was a song called “Going the Distance” from the Rocky soundtrack. The sense of triumph at the song’s climax never failed to get my adrenaline going and I felt that the sense of visceral emotion would combine with the mental movie I was playing in my mind to make what I was imagining a reality.

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If you know the song, it starts off with a sense of struggle, like the dark moment in a story before the climactic success. So, being a writer, I tried to create my mental movie to match the music. In my mind’s eye, I saw me typing away at my computer day after day, superimposed with the image of pages and pages of written material rolling out of my dot matrix printer.

This happened a long time ago, if you haven’t already guessed.

These mental pictures were juxtaposed with me going to the mailbox day after day and getting rejection letters from agents. This went on until the music bursts into a sense of triumph, one minute and thirty-one seconds into the piece. This is where I imagined the moment I get the acceptance letter and I begin jumping up and down in my front hallway, adrenaline pumping through me at the emotion of my success.

It only occurred to me years later as those rejection letters came in, one after the next, that I had manifested just what I had visualized. Eventually, the triumph I had mentally mapped out did happen, several novels later, and the sense of triumph I felt was much the same as I imagined. (Although I didn’t actually jump up and down. I was in a shopping mall when the call came in.)

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have received those rejection letters had I not visualized them, but maybe I wouldn’t have received as many as I did. There is no way to know. However, I’d advise you, when you are visualizing for you own success, maybe don’t put any struggle in there, even if it does “fit with the music.”

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy

Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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