The Confessions of a Wanna-Publish-A-Book-Aholic

19 May

 By June Hur

~~~

Writing is great fun +  fiery ambition to get published = writing is as addicting as a drug.

When at school, or at work, or preparing dinner for your family, if you obsess about getting published, like me, you will always be itching to write. Give me spare time and I will rush off to my laptop to work on my story. However, by and by, I have come to realize that this obsession over writing and publishing makes many (not all) writers neglect two major aspects to life: 

Socializing: When I first began university, I realized that I had precious little leisure time, as the rest of my hours would be devoted to studying, researching and writing essays. While I always had fun when hanging out with friends, I worried that it was wasting my time. I began to think: What do I gain from talking to my friend about the guy she likes? Shouldn’t I be working on my revisions so I could start querying? Because I wanted to get published so badly. So then I started to be picky with who I spent my time with. I would mainly socialize with writers and English majors. I was turning into a selfish snob, a Wanna-Publish-A-Book-Aholic. Therefore, much of the time, when given the choice, I opted to write instead.

However, while going through the emails exchanged between myself and my critique partner, in search of a critique she’d made about my manuscript that I needed to incorporate, I came across a different pointer that gave me pause. She wrote that my dialogues waxed and waned. I began to wonder—what makes people write good dialogues? Why do I have so much trouble writing them? I thought and thought, and the answer hit me in the face. The answer was so obvious I felt sort of stupid. I realized how crucial it was for writers to socialize not only with writers and English majors, but with a variety of people. Not everyone in my book will be talking about how to get published, or how awesome Jane Austen is.

I learned that we need to appreciate humans for being humans. If we manage to tap into another’s life, we will always come across an inspiring story. Life, in itself, is inspiring. Every individual is a walking masterpiece. Open them up, read them, and their life’s story will be breath-taking, as if their story had been written by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Bronte, Dickens, Hemmingway—you name it. With this mindset, talking to people who don’t even share common interests with you, who will not further your career to become a published writer, becomes very interesting. And knowing different people, experiencing life through their words, adds so much more depth to your own writing.

A few years ago I was chatting with author Scott Carter after class (who has recently published his debut novel, BLIND LUCK) and asked him what his advice would be to aspiring authors. His answer was: Unplug your ears. Look around you and you’ll find that many people have earphones on, plugging themselves out from reality’s noise, isolating themselves in their imaginary world inspired by the music. Don’t get me wrong, listening to music is great. But we it’s so important to listen to the world around us, to the conversations surrounding us, because what our unplugged ears might hear will offer us so much insight into life.

My point is: Try not to isolate yourself in any manner for too long. Of course, it is important for writers to have their alone time, their thinking and writing and imagining time; but a balance is needed.

Health: I have heard several stories from writers about how they forgot to eat and exercise because they were too busy writing. I am one of them. A few months ago, when an agent requested my full manuscript, I was just in the middle of making a humungous revision. So excited to send it off to her as soon as I could, I spent a week revising from early in the morning until very late in the night. I skipped dinner, sometimes I skipped lunch, and sometimes I ate nothing at all but a piece of toast. That round of revision slightly screwed up my health and it took a few days to recover.

Health is the one thing my parents put a lot of emphasis on its importance. I don’t live with them, which makes it even more difficult for me to remember that I need to eat, because I forget while in the process of writing. Whenever I am on the phone with them they’re always asking me about my health. One of the phrases my mom always uses is: You want to write a great story? Well, June, you need to be alive and healthy for you to write at all.

Furthermore, I know people who will stay at home all day, writing, like myself, and when stuck in a writer’s block, remain sitting for hours staring at their computer screen. Not healthy. The best way to get over your writers block, I believe, is not to brainstorm on a piece of paper. It is to put your story on hold and go outside for a long, long walk. Exercising your body is like exercising your brain. Likewise, a fit body means a fit brain.

According to an article written by Vanessa Richardson, exercising reduces stress and leads to better cognitive functioning. It is stress that sometimes leads to writer’s block—the stress of not knowing what to write. And then it is always when you aren’t trying to write, when you’re not under that pressure, like when you’re in bed trying to sleep, that all these great ideas floods in. Stress, at least for me, is one of the main obstacles that hinder me from tapping into my imagination.

Therefore, when you haven’t stepped out of the house and you fall into a writer’s block, it means it’s time to go outside and get some fresh air into your brain. Then you can return home and take out your notebook and brainstorm all you want.

Summary: You might not be the extreme example of a hermit-writer, who coops herself up in her apartment, staring at the computer with blood-shot eyes, holding a beer bottle in one hand, a cigarette in another. But when you start having the mindset where you think it’s more important to write than to go for a jog, or that it’s more important to write than to be out in the world, then you need to pause and rearrange your priorities.   

~~~~~~~ 

June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the response of an agent who requested her full manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

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29 Responses to “The Confessions of a Wanna-Publish-A-Book-Aholic”

  1. Glaiza May 19, 2010 at 8:01 AM #

    Amazing post 🙂 I love being unplugged and listening to the world. I guess different perspectives fascinate me lol. I completely agree with people being their own masterpieces.

    Oh and the non eating/sleeping thing applies to me when I’m reading a really good book. It’s worse when the sequel is lying next to me.

    • Susan May 19, 2010 at 10:37 AM #

      The same happens to me! I lose so much sleep when I’m reading a book.

      And I hadn’t even thought of the plugging in stuff. I’m totally a perpetrator of that – I’m always putting in my headphones when I’m walking around campus or on the bus. I have started taking walks more recently, and I’ve determined it really does help clear my head. Great post!

    • Savannah J. Foley May 19, 2010 at 8:47 PM #

      Sleep is definitely a thing of major suckage when you’re really enjoying yourself.

    • Vanessa May 19, 2010 at 10:02 PM #

      I stay up till I’m struggling to keep my eyes open when I’m reading a good book!!! And even then, I try to stay awake to keep reading!!

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 7:55 PM #

      Ah, books! I think I can read for a whole day without eating when I pick up a good book. They suck you right into the story that you forget the grumbling of your stomach

  2. Angela May 19, 2010 at 8:10 AM #

    I completely agree with your post.

    It`s only been recently that I`ve spent more time socializing and hanging out with my friends. I took up dancing and kickboxing, and I feel so good whenever I exercise.

    I think I learn a lot when I just go out there, socialize, and have fun. For example, I learn how to defend myself in kickboxing, which I guess will come in handy if I ever write a story about a girl who is fending off a rapier or a stalker or something. lol

    And then dancing helped me learn about my body. When I first started, I was frustrated about how I couldn`t do isolation, which in dancing means to move a single body part opposed to an entire body movement. It felt as if I didn`t have complete control over my body, but I had fun learning how to become better and learn certain moves.

    But yeah, socializing is fun. Gossiping with a female friend may seem useless, but I think it will help out someday. =D

    • Savannah J. Foley May 19, 2010 at 8:49 PM #

      Defending herself from a rapier? Lol, a rapier is a type of sword; I think you meant rapist? 😉

      That’s a really good point about learning control over a single body part. I’m not a dancer AT ALL but it’s a point of personal pride with me to be able to control certain parts of my body. I’m really obsessed with making individual muscles move, lol!

      • Angela May 20, 2010 at 5:09 PM #

        Arrrghhh. I hate forgetting words. T_T That happens when you`ve spent the last four years barely using English.

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 7:57 PM #

      I used to think a rapist WAS a rapier. Long ago, when I was a young historical romance writer, about 12 yrs old, I’d write something like this: The Duke took out his rapist and ran it through his opponent

  3. Victoria Dixon May 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM #

    Which is why I just decided to go to my writer’s group this morning instead of staying at home. LOL Thanks, June!

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 7:58 PM #

      Good to hear! This means I accomplished my goal with this article 🙂

  4. Rowenna May 19, 2010 at 9:21 AM #

    Such a great post–you’re completely right. And I think there’s a time for everything, too–there are some days when I feel like I need to be around people, and others where I’m more energized by spending time by myself. And while it might be ok to once in a while delve 100% into a project, like you did with your revisions, it can’t happen all the time or even often without compromising your health (and sanity, another aspect of health!).

    I actually consider working out to fall under writing time–I just use an elliptical or treadmill, so I zone out, listen to music, and think about problems with my story. They often hash themselves out while I’m not trying too hard! It’s writing in my head while I clock some health benefits 🙂

    • Kat Zhang May 19, 2010 at 10:52 AM #

      I get so much plot and character hashing out done with running or swimming, too!

    • Savannah J. Foley May 19, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

      I’m glad you can think about your story when you’re working out… all I can think about is how much I want to STOP!

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 7:59 PM #

      Good point Rowenna. I guess for us writers even working out IS writing time. Because I do get the best ideas when taking a longgg stroll

  5. Julie Eshbaugh May 19, 2010 at 9:36 AM #

    Hey June! GREAT post! I really needed to hear this right now. I’ve become so obsessed with my project that I’ve been dropping the ball with a lot of other things. Thanks for reminding me that even writers have to stay grounded in the real world! 🙂

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 8:01 PM #

      I hear you! And you must be even more busy since you’re a mother. My critique partner, a mother of two kids, only gets to write for a few hours a day because she has to pack lunch, drive kids to school, do house work, dirve kids home, prepare dinner, spend time with them….. Mom writers are truly admireable

  6. Savannah J. Foley May 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM #

    June, this post was so amazing and inspiring! It’s hard to hear that writers need to socialize because I’m not a socializer by nature; I have exactly one friend here in Alabama, lol. But you’re absolutely right; how can we get inspired and learn about human nature if we’re not out there experiencing it?

    Again, excellent job!

    • Gabriela da Silva May 19, 2010 at 6:32 PM #

      For most of my life, I only had one friend in Mexico! Most were from the USA, Canada, some from Europe. I started getting along with other English lit. majors in college, and they opened my world…

      …and it exploded into a really strange place full of gay pop bands and soap opera starlets. I’ve stopped understanding it, seriously, but I’m betting I can write awesome latino dramas now.

      • Kat Zhang May 19, 2010 at 6:50 PM #

        When a lot of one’s practice of auditory and spoken spanish comes from telenovelas, one turns out kinda weird

        Source: personal experience. ;P

      • Savannah J. Foley May 19, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

        Haha, my closest friends right now are in LTWF. The terrible thing about internet friends is that it costs SO much to go and visit them!

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 8:02 PM #

      I was a bit iffy about confessing that bit, about my being somewhat of a hermit :/ It’s not something to be proud about. But I’m glad that it’s inspired you!

  7. Lua May 19, 2010 at 12:04 PM #

    Great post June and two very important points! I have no idea why having a social life and trying to become a published writer is such a difficult act to balance but it is!
    When I’m out there with my friends, I feel like I’m wasting my time when I should be in my room writing or reading. But when I’m writing I feel like I should have more social experiences so I can write better- and I do miss my friends.
    I guess we’ll always have to watch and try to maintain that balance!

    • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 8:03 PM #

      It seems we humans can never be satisfied with the present!!!

  8. Gabriela da Silva May 19, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

    I’m mostly guilty of the not exercising bit. I franfly can’t think of anything more boring than going to the gym – running endless minutes on the treadmill, the stepmaster, all those machines. They look like torture instruments and some of them are even named after torture instruments, I kid you not.

    (There’s one machine called “The stocks.” Just ask)

    But I’ve forced myself to exercise, my body needs it. Not (only) to look pretty and fit, exercise helps digestion, relaxes people, and it will eventually make menopause less horrible.

    And that’s something that matters to me. Sure, there’s a long way to go before it hits, but I see my aunts suffering and think, No thanks. My granma worked out everyday of her life – she didn’t notice menopause at all. Time to follow the good example.

    And I’ve managed to make gym slightly less boring by thinking of my writing while I’m at it, too! So I can feed the addiction at any rate!

    • Angela May 19, 2010 at 5:00 PM #

      Walking on treadmills? D: That`s so boring, and I know what you mean when you say that they look like torture instruments.

      I`d rather do a sport or an activity that I`ve always wanted to try. Those are way more fun, especially if you get to interact with other people.

      • Gabriela da Silva May 19, 2010 at 6:27 PM #

        Hahahah, I know! I’ve tried a few, but it turns out my left knee will pretty much die if I practise any martial arts, and all the other disciplines need physical resistance… which the teachers told me to gain by doing treadmill 😛

        As soon as I can take it, though, I’ll definitely try something more groupal.

        • junebugger May 20, 2010 at 8:04 PM #

          Treadmill is VERY boring, I agree with you. I think joining a sport team is the best way to exercise! ….I should speak for myself. I have countless opportunities to join a team for beginningers (haha) here at my university, but am so…lazy.

  9. Spanish Language Books June 3, 2010 at 8:42 AM #

    Writing is great fun + fiery ambition to get published = writing is as addicting as a drug…this is so true..Writing is just a great thing to do and I really enjoy doing so as well.

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