Imposter Syndrome, A Snarly Dog

Imposter Syndrome is a Snarly Dog. I decided it was time to write about this, after mentoring one of my author friends on Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt. I realized this is something we don’t talk about enough. If we did, writers would not view it as unique or unexpected when it happens to them.

Mention Imposter Syndrome in a room full of authors and ask them to raise their hands if they have ever encountered it and you will see almost every hand go up. It is as common as typing THE END. Think about that for a minute. Let this sink in – Imposter Syndrome is so common to writers, that almost everyone has experienced it at one time or another. I don’t know any authors who haven’t experienced it and it’s been ten years since my first novel was published and I’ve been in author circles for over twenty years. Imposter Syndrome is universal and seems to be part of the author’s journey.

I like to picture these doubts as snarling dogs, because that’s what they do. They ask the question who do you think you are? And it’s always with that snarl.

download

I like to say Imposter Syndrome is a big snarly dog and you have to go all out alpha on it to show it who the alpha is.

Imposter Syndrome is a form of self-doubt and is fear based. Fear of being judged as an author, fear of having your book judged, fear of being found wanting, fear of someone saying – who do you think you are to write that book? You may experience one of these or another from the same snarling dog family.

You may experience this snarly dog with your first book or your twentieth. When writing, you may experience it halfway through, in those moments when you think the good pages you wrote yesterday which you thought were such good pages now totally suck and the whole book totally sucks so much you’d like to shred it, burn it or delete it. That one is a very nasty snarly dog. You can’t let it win. You may experience a snarly dog after hitting the bestseller lists multiple times; with readers saying they love your books. Some writers experience it on book release day and don’t feel like celebrating, because that snarly dog is winning. You may experience it when being asked to read from your work or when asked to speak or to be in an interview or on a panel. So, what can you do about a snarly dog?

First, know they can pop up at any time and be ready to face one. Acknowledge it and face it. No hiding in your house, or cancelling or destroying pages. No posting all over social media, wallowing in it and being a victim of it. Tell an author friend or mentor privately if you need to talk about it, but then face that snarly dog.

Imposter Syndrome is a big snarly dog and you have to go all alpha on it to show it who the alpha is. Your words and your voice and your stories have value. When it snarls, say out loud, “I am (your full name) and my words have value. My book has value and people want to read it.”

There is power in “I am” statements. Great power.

download (1)

Now go write your awesome books, never let the snarly dogs win, and boost and encourage your fellow creative friends. I’m fine with you quoting me and hope this article helps.

To learn more about Debra Parmley and her books, or for her writing classes check out:

Website www.debraparmley.com

Facebook personal https://www.facebook.com/debra.parmley.7

Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/authordebraparmley/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/debraparmley/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/debraparmley/

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-parmley

Writing Blog https://beautifuldaytraveler.wordpress.com/

Debra’s poems on https://ko-fi.com/debraparmley

 

Adapting and Adjusting is an Author’s Life: Mine Might be Titled “Survivor”

If there was one skill set or one set of tools I would recommend every author carry in their author tool box, it is the ability to adapt and adjust.

I would go so far as to say it is the one set of tools every person needs to survive and to succeed in life. I am blessed to have acquired these abilities or skills and very thankful for them.

If there is one constant in the author world today, or in our modern world today, it is that things change and they often change fast and unexpectedly.

IMG_2970

As an author I’ve survived more things than I can count. I’ll attempt to list the major ones.

I’ve survived many rejection letters, and competing for a publishing contract with a major publishing house (Dorchester Publishing) during the American Title II contest. Similar to American Idol, readers voted online and each month two authors were kicked off the island. During that contest, my husband flatlined for three minutes. They were to put a stint in (a simple surgery they said) and he reacted to the dye. I nearly lost him. Three minutes is a long time to flatline. Seeing him on total life support in the operating room (the Dr took me inside without having me gown or wash my hands – the first shock of that before seeing him – and then the nurse saying ‘You can touch him if you want to’) shook my world. Split it in two.

My world split into the before, and the after. When this happened during the contest and my focus moved to sitting by his side in the hospital, instead of asking for votes, my writing world shifted. I had made it to the second round of the contest but was soon “voted off the island.” With all the other authors pushing for votes, I suspect I had very little chance of winning at that point. The before and after of my life pushed my writing career into the background. When life happens we do what we have to do.

This period of time in my life is part sharp focus and part blur. Somewhere during that time I obtained an agent who had been enthusiastically pursing several of us who were competing. Three of us signed with him.

The agent sold my book to Samhain and I survived receiving “the call” for the sale of my first book, while looking at the letter on my desk which would sever the contract with my agent. The list of reasons to split from him had grown too long to ignore. I later learned from my editor that she had never received the last chapter of the book. They bought A Desperate Journey though it was missing the last chapter. They must have liked my writing enough to take a chance on me. I’m still surprised by that. This experience made me gun shy of agents and I didn’t pitch my books to any others. It’s true that no agent is better than a bad agent. The least they can do is submit the full manuscript for you.

I then survived what I call the editor revolving door, as I was passed to five different editors at that house and the house sitting on two of my books before being orphaned at my publishing house. Being orphaned is hard because you no longer have an advocate in house and communications slow til you don’t know what is going on at your publishing house. With no agent, I also had no advocate anywhere. I was going it alone and that is no easy road.

I’ve survived firing two PR people, one after my father passed after eight months on hospice. They had done nothing to promote my new book launch. My new book came out, it was release day, and there was no promo beyond what could be done that day at the last minute after my frantic messages.  When I asked where my promo was, I was told my PR person had left the company. She’d left and no one had told me. Though the company tried to make it up to me, the lack of promo did hurt sales. I decided no PR company was better than one who didn’t do what you paid them for. Once again I was going it alone.

I survived being with five publishing houses, juggling deadlines. Not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket so as not to be orphaned with no books coming out again, I tried writing for too many houses. It was a lot to keep up with. It also meant I had many different kinds of stories out there and would not be branding with just one type of romance. I could write what I wanted, and at one house was able to sell on proposal. My publisher said she would publish anything I wrote. That was a far cry from being turned down more than once at my first house as editors revolved. I was riding the roller coaster author life up and down. I learned to adapt and adjust quickly and to write fast to meet deadlines. I often met them by missing sleep. (Not something I advise doing as it will affect your health.)  I was proud of never missing a deadline, a carry over from working at the Collierville Herald newspaper.

Of those five presses, three are no longer in business and one discontinued the line I was writing in. In some cases I was never paid my royalties. I never received my advance from the first house. Though the royalties covered that advance, so it’s not like they robbed me, the advance would have helped.

I’ve survived internet trolls and bad reviews, slings and arrows, things people fling at you when they want to pull you down. I refuse to be pulled down and focus on staying up and staying positive.

Through it all, I survive. Beyond that I am determined to thrive. To succeed. To do what I love and to share my stories with the world. I write because I love to write and I love stories. I protect my writing with a ferocity few realize and which has even surprised my husband at times.

Recent news reminded me it was time to adapt and adjust again. And that is exactly how I see it. Kindle Worlds is closing. We just got the word this week and my email came while I was in the hospital with pancreatitis. Boy, talk about timing. I had three more books scheduled to come out in two different Kindle Worlds. This affects my writing and publishing schedule for 2018. It affects my today and my tomorrow. The next book was to be out in June. I’m now readjusting my planner and turning to work on a different story.

This is what authors must do if we are not only to survive, but to thrive. Not just on a financial level but on an emotional level as well, for our happiness as writers.

Happiness is important and life is short.

Minutes matter.

How much time do you spend on the negative curve that has just been thrown your way?

Change can propel you to better things or it can bog you down. Don’t let it. Adapt and adjust as quickly as you can. The past is the past and needs to remain there. You are in charge of your tomorrows. Make them good ones.

Today I am working on book three which will be in this box set, tying my first two westerns together. Tying them together and wrapping up the past into the future where good things can and will happen. Desperate, Dangerous and Deadly: A Western Collection containing A Desperate Journey, Dangerous Ties, and Deadly Adversaries. Look for it soon.

DDDBundle_Web72

Sometimes you just have to write a monster… or bake one

Sometimes you just have to write a monster … or bake one.

Did you know I have a story with a monster in it? I have one story where a monster appears. Vague Directions has a shape shifting monster. A hamster. Yes that’s right. A hamster. Sometimes my imagination surprises even me. I was writing and a shape shifting hamster monster appeared and went after the heroine. Sometimes when you are writing, thinking you are writing a certain kind of story something will pop up and insist it be written. This is how I ended up with a monster in the short story.

Writing students will often hear me say, you must write things out of you. If something wants to be written, then you must write it. Otherwise it will nag at you while you are trying to write. So, write those monsters out when they pop up. Get them out an onto the page. Then you can go on and write something else. It is best not to bottle things, monsters especially.

We are celebrating everything monsters this month on my social media.

I love cookies and monster cookies especially. The pic above is of the monster brownies I baked last week. I just had to make them. Halloween holiday foods are so much fun and I have two boards on my Pinterest page to collect the pics.

Add Monster Cookie Recipes or Food Recipes in  Author Debra Parmley’s Facebook Page. : https://www.facebook.com/debra.parmley.7

We will then add them here: https://www.pinterest.com/debraparmley/monster-cookies/ & https://www.pinterest.com/debraparmley/monster-foods/

 

Calculating Pages and Word Counts

How long is your book? My first book had to meet a 100,000 words goal to be submitted back in 2007. (Picture of me with my first book A Desperate Journey by Monica Parks Photography.) Much has changed since then but figuring your word count has not.

For the length of your book here is a guide to page counts and word counts.

How many pages have you written today? Keep writing!

How close to finishing your book are you? Keep writing!
The industry average is 250 words per page (pages of course vary with more dialog or more narrative)

Pages              Words
50                   12,500
100                 25,000
150                 37,500
200                 50,000
250                 67,500
300                 75,000
320                 80,000
350                 87,500

If you wrote 7 pages a day in 50 days you’d have 50,000 words. You can do it!
How fast do you write? How many pages a day can you get in? This chart may help you to estimate how soon you can be done with your book and reach the goal of your page count for the book.
Now get going! How many pages can you write today?

 

 

My new radio show Book Lights – Shining a Light on Good Books!

I have a new job working for Circle of Seven: Readers Entertainment and a new radio show!

Book Lights – Shining a Light on Good Books!

BookLightsLogo

Every Tuesday night at 8:30 eastern, 7:30 central, 5:30 Pacific I am live on the air interviewing authors and chatting about their books. The interviews are taped and turned into a podcast later that evening after the live show winds down.

Here are the interviews I have done so far! Enjoy!

Interview with Sheila English:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/circle-of-seven/2016/05/04/book-lights-with-debra-parmley-presents-sheila-english

Interview with Lydia Michaels:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/circle-of-seven/2016/04/27/book-lights-with-debra-parmley-presents-lydia-michaels

Interview with Sharon Sayla:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/circle-of-seven/2016/04/13/book-lights-with-debra-parmley-presents-sharon-sala

Interview with Ariel Burns:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/circle-of-seven/2016/04/06/book-lights-with-debra-parmley-presents-arial-burnz

 

On Drive, Writing and Achieving Goals

I have drive. When it come to my books, my writing career, I have drive.

My husband calls it tunnel vision and perhaps it could be called that too, because when I am that focused on the goal, it is an extreme focus which fades things in the periphery of my vision. But whatever one chooses to call it,  it have it and when I am that focused I will not be redirected elsewhere, by anyone, even in the most extreme circumstances. I call it drive.

debra_and_friends_3_20090828_1040220591

I have drive. This has allowed me to achieve what I have achieved in my writing career so far to this date. No matter what has happened to me and to my books I keep pushing forward. Set backs happen. I have to get up, dust myself off and start again. I have to adapt and adjust. This is not to say I have not had those nights when it seemed impossible to get up and do it again and to start over. This is not to say I have not had nights when I cried bitter tears of frustration and sadness and loss and felt like giving up. I have had such dark nights and gotten through them, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of a friend. But I have gotten through them. I get up, dust myself off and I begin again. Because I have drive.

When students who are serious about their writing ask me what it takes to get published (usually they mean with a publisher not self publishing which nearly anyone can do these days if they apply themselves) I tell them the things they must know to get published and I teach them the skills and pass along the information they will need to achieve that. But that drive, that is the one thing I cannot give them or teach them. Drive comes from within. I can motivate. I can ask them how bad do they want it. I can ask them any number of questions which will motivate them, but it still has to come from within. They need that inner fire. That drive.

Drive accepts no excuses. It does not care what is going in in your life. It does not care if you are tired. It does not care about anything other than achieving that goal. Drive is unstoppable, unrelenting, ruthless. If you have ever once tasted drive within yourself you will know this will be true. You will understand what I am speaking of.

I have drive. Sometimes this means I drive myself too hard, too fast and for too long. I am often too hard on myself. Often this means I will crash and crash hard. Just last night I had such a crash. I had been driving myself too hard, living on fours hours of sleep, pushing hard to get books out with rights reversions back from three publishers and many books to get out under my new publishing company/private label and an all day book event yesterday where I needed to have books ready to sign. I had been pushing myself hard for about a month, and pushing the month before, not as hard but pushing. So when I came home from the book event last night I crashed and crashed hard. I slept for twelve hours straight. Then I got up and four hours later napped for an hour. I had reached a point of exhaustion and my body said, enough.

This is what drive can do. So when you have it to the degree that I have, it is important to learn to manage it, to control it. To find some sort of balance between allowing that drive to fill you to the point where you push on through to your goals and between reigning it in so you can rest and recharge and be ready to push on through the next day. Often when I have a set back in my writing career, after the dark night of drying those tears, I get back up with a fierce sort of drive which pushes me hard. It is my way of fighting back against the twists of fate the publishing life throws at me. It is that fierce determination which doesn’t listen. It is the dark side of drive or tunnel vision because it does not listen.

What follows a crash and burn with me is a quiet, a silence. A time of evaluation. Of assessment and of looking all around and listening. The drive is sated then, quiet. Not gone, just quiet and still enough that it waits until I need it again.

Drive is something that allows us to achieve our goals and sometimes achieve things we had never dreamed of. I believe it is a necessary part of achieving a successful writing career and of achieving any sort of dream. I am thankful to have it and would not want to be any other way than I am. Writing is not a hobby for me. Never has been and never will be. I have the drive which will take me there. The part I must learn is to balance that drive and to live a more healthy lifestyle. That is the challenge that I see. Typing these words my next thought is, challenge, now you have set the challenge. And this… this is the beginning of setting any sort of goal for which you will need drive.

Oh yes. I have this drive. It just needs some direction, a goal to point it to.

I have drive.

Writing During Difficult Times

Writing during difficult times can be a blessing but it can also create stress. I experienced this during 2014 when my father was on hospice for eight months and then in June when he passed. This was a time when I put into practice much of what I teach my writing students.

To write is to release words we carry inside of us. Thoughts and emotions but also the words themselves. Words that we do not speak or write will lodge in the body. So it can be cathartic to write about the difficult times. This is why it can feel so good to write in a journal.

It can also be cathartic to block everything about your current reality and escape to your fictional world for a while. The tricky part is that stress can make it hard to focus on that fictional world.

So how do we move through difficult times when we want to be writing? How do we navigate a writing life when the river currents have shifted and nothing is as it was?

First, you must always take care of yourself. You come first and the writing second.
If you need to take time off then do so. If you need help, then ask for it. You might not want to write. You might not want to get up in the morning. You might feel you are the only one in the world with this problem. You might feel that no one understands. But the fact is, this is a common problem. It’s just that not many writers talk about it. We tend to go into our writing caves and remain silent. This I believe is a mistake.

Take time off from the pressure to write and don’t be hard on yourself about it. Do what you must do. You are allowed a long lunch break during these times. You are allowed a vacation. Taking a break does not mean you have failed any more than taking a vacation from a day job means you are not doing a good job. Be kinder toward yourself, not hard on yourself. Remember that you are more important than the writing. The writing will be there when you return. Your life matters and your health and happiness matter. Without you, your writings would never exist.

This is not the time to disappear into your writers cave like some mysterious author who never communicates what is going on with anyone. If you have an editor, an agent, a publicist, or anyone else that you work with to produce or promote your writing, let them know what is going on. You might be surprised how supportive they can be.

Come to the page and write something, anything. Getting the words out will help you to move through whatever you are dealing with. The something you write may not be the story you’ve been working on. It may be the thing which is bothering you today. Sometimes we need to get those words out first, before we can move on to working on that story. But write something. Five minutes a day. Set the egg timer. It may seem like an insurmountable task making yourself sit there for five minutes to write, but once you manage it, you might be surprised at the feelings of relief you will have. Give yourself small manageable goals so you can succeed instead of tackling a long project which could leave you with a feeling of failure.

It is okay to write something you never intend anyone to read. You are doing this first for yourself. Whether anyone will read it is a secondary issue. Your task is to get those words out. It is okay to write something and then delete it later. It is okay to put it into a drawer and not look at it for a year.

It is okay to only write for that five minutes a day when you are used to writing pages and pages. It is okay if you cannot produce as many pages as you are used to. You may be tired, you may be distracted, you may have interruptions you would not normally allow. Avoid putting pressure on yourself about your writing.

Are you full of emotion? If so, good. Let that flow out onto the page. If you are working on fiction or poetry let it flow into your work. Emotions are one of the ways we connect with our readers.

Allow your writing to bring you joy. Everyone goes through difficult times at some point in their lives. But you have been blessed with the urge to write and it’s there for a reason. Your writing is something that will always be yours. You take it with you wherever you go and you can write through anything if you teach yourself how. Let your writing give back to you as you give to it.

Writing through difficult times has taught me so much. I am thankful for those lessons, just as I am thankful to be nearing the end of these current difficulties. I am thankful to know that just as I have moved through this trying period of my life, I could move through the next if need be and emerge stronger and wiser on the other side. I will emerge stronger, wiser and ready to write.

A Writing Exercise – Dedicated to My Father

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I treated myself to a Writing and Yoga Workshop taught by Valentine Leonard at Delta Groove Yoga in Memphis. It’s been a long time since I took a writing workshop. Usually I am busy writing my novels, short stories and poetry and teaching and coaching my writing students. So this was a nice treat for me, to be on the other side of teaching and to be a student once again.

One of the exercises given was to make two lists, one of places we knew well and the other of things we no longer did. Then we were to match the unlikely ones together, to pick one and to write about it. From those lists I chose my fathers house and escorting  travelers overseas.

This is what I wrote:

I no longer escort travelers overseas on long trips to my father’s house.

He is on hospice now and mostly sleeps. So I would not have time now for travelers who need escorts because they don’t know how to get their passport or what to pack and who have never stepped beyond the borders of their own country.

I used to have so much time and patience for so many people and never minded helping. They simply needed someone to go beyond pointing the way and saying this is how you do it.

Sometimes a person just needs another hand to hold and for them to say come on, it’s going to be okay. I wonder who is holding my fathers hand now and if he will be escorted in a group to the other side. He does not seem afraid, merely confused. Perhaps this is why he is lingering so long.

It’s harder to be the watcher when you are used to escorting people. I have no road map for where he must go. I do not know these border crossings. I can only stand on the shoreline waving goodbye and sending my love.

For me, this is a journey of sitting when I am used to being in movement. I should not complain. He is the one confined to a bed, never going outside to breathe the fresh air. No wonder he sleeps so much. I would sleep too if my gaze could not reach up to touch the sky. I would close my eyes and travel in my mind. Perhaps this is what he is doing. It is impossible for me to know.

Perhaps he is waiting on a slow VISA to the place he has never gone before. I hope and pray his passage is smooth, his escort kind and firm of hand. I hope his new country welcomes him like a long lost son and celebrates his coming home.

Dedicated to John (Jack) Bishop

Oct. 15, 1933 to June 20, 2014

 

Threading the Web – Your Creativity is Always Intact

Your Creativity is always in intact. If you are not writing or creating in some way, that does not mean your creativity is broken or has gone away.

Creativity can exist in the midst of chaos of all sorts, illness, war, famine, fear of death…

Just ask any writer who has lived through any of these circumstances and who has written about it, often written during the events. There are famous diaries and other written works which fall into this category and I’ll bet you can even name a few.

I once wrote while in the midst of food poisoning. Food poisoning from an egg roll I’d purchased at a mall food court. I wrote about the experience while I was in it, which is why I know such things can be done. It is the thought of can’t which gets in the way. Clear that off and believe you can.

The piece I wrote, was it a piece I would let you, or anyone else read? No. I tore it up the following week and did away with it.

So, why do this? Why write something if I was just going to tear it up later anyway?

Sometimes we need to write our way through things as a way of processing them, to release what is inside of us so it doesn’t live there any more.

Sometimes we need to write simply to keep our writing muscles flexible and strong.

5 minutes a day is all it takes to keep your writing muscles from hardening up and becoming immobile. In all my writing classes I give timed writing exercises and the 5 minute timed writings are a core part of the program.

Everyone has five minutes to give to the things that are important to them. No excuses. Go on now and set that egg timer, or set your alarm on your phone. Write something, anything. What will you write about today?

 

Threading the Web – Where To Begin – Deciding on Your Point of View

Where do I begin? – My students often ask this question.

One way to begin is to start with the point of view from where you are now. Begin with where you are standing. What do you see?

Last week the cherry blossom trees in my yard came into bloom. Something new to catch my attention, drawing my eye to the beauty there. Creative inspiration could have led me to write a poem about this tree. I stood for a long time taking it in, allowing the visual to speak to me.

Image

Often journal entries will begin this way. Simply what are you seeing now? Where are you standing? At what angle do you view the scene? Now let’s change things. What happens if you move just a bit closer, changing the angle? This changes the emphasis. What draws the eye? What pulls focus?

Image

Now let’s change the view again. Move closer in. Look for the details. Look beneath. Look up. What changes? What calls to you now?

Image

How close can you get? What do you see now? What details emerge? How does this differ from the first scene?

Often we approach our writing from the same viewing point. What would happen if you changed that, moved about to see from a different angle, from a different point of view, through a different story person’s eyes?

Spring is here. Take up your pen and paper and go out and play. See if you can discover something new today.

Tomorrow the view will be different. Subtle changes will appear, blossoms will fall upon the ground, new green leaves will appear. Tomorrow when I come to the page, the view will be different, I will be different. Like a snapshot freezing a moment in time, the pages I write will never be duplicated again. All the more reason then to come to the page, to capture if I can, this perfect moment.

Love and light,

Debra