Rejection Sucks

And I’m not going to give you some saccharine-sweet truism about how every time your piece gets rejected is another step toward it being accepted. Yeah, you can learn from rejection, when the rejector actually gives you some criticism. But, rejection still sucks.

And it’s a kind of suck that you don’t really get used to.

You can experience rejection in all manner of ways in every aspect of your life, and yet, whenever it happens, you can’t help but feel disappointed.

It’s something that you’re told to expect as a writer. And you will get it. It can take many forms, too, not just rejection from publishers. Rejection from readers hurts just as much, even more so. And don’t get me started on critics.

Rejection in all its forms, whether it’s “We won’t publish this,” “We won’t read it,” “We don’t like what we read,” or, “What we read really sucks, and here’s all the reasons you should never read Ainsel’s stuff again,” hurts.

It’s also a part of being a writer, because even when you’re on top of the world like J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter series, you’ll end up the scorn of your former fans, like J.K. Rowling with tweeting weird things she never included in the canon about her characters.

You can let rejection tear you down. You can let it stop you. And I can see why you would want to. More than once a week, I wonder if I should keep writing. So I get it. But, may I suggest an alternative?

Acceptance.

There’s a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy out there called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It’s got a pretty zen feel to it, arguing that the problem isn’t that we have thoughts and feelings that make us unhappy, but rather, that we fuse with them.

Think of fusion like this: Let’s say you take a fashion risk and wear a shirt you wouldn’t normally do. Someone, apropos of nothing, tells you that your shirt is hideous. Maybe it’s a shirt you like. Maybe you spent a lot of money on it. Whatever, you start thinking, “I have a horrible sense of style. I should never have worn this shirt.”

You’re embarrassed and disappointed, and you decide not to try any new styles.

You have fused with your thought. You have taken the thoughts “I have a horrible sense of style” and attached your identity to it.

What ACT argues is that the thought “I have a horrible sense of style” is just a thought. It has no real meaning. Is it true? According to ACT, doesn’t matter if it is. The question is, Is this thought helpful? If it’s not helpful, you need to defuse from the thought.

When it comes to writing, it’s really easy to “fuse” with your negative thoughts. It’s really easy to see that you’re not the next Stephen King, and think that you’re a terrible writer. “I’m a terrible writer,” is just a thought. It has no real truth to it, and you don’t have to fuse with it.

Similarly, when your short story or novel or poem or piece of artwork is rejected, it’s really easy to fuse with that and feel that you were rejected.

So, what do you do?

There are plenty of exercises that help, but I prefer the following:

When I noticed I’m having a harmful thought, and that I am fusing with that thought, I stop and say to myself, “I notice that I am having the thought that I have a horrible sense of style. I want to thank you, Mind, because I know you are trying to help.”

Usually that’s enough to distance myself from the thought.

And when I experience an authorial rejection, I find myself saying “I notice that I am having the thought that I’m not a good writer. I want to thank you, Brain, because I know you are trying to help.”

“I notice that I am having the thought that I could only write twenty words today and that I will never get published. I want to thank you, Brain, because I know that you are trying to help.”

“I notice that I am having the thought that because my story was rejected by a publisher that I am never going to be a real author. I want to thank you, Brain, because I know that you are trying to help.”

You see, your brain regularly throws out random thoughts to try to identify dangers. Is that a snake in the weeds? Is that a tiger by the water? And that’s great when you’re actually surrounded by danger. But when you’re surrounded by office settings and research notes, it can make you feel pretty trapped.

ACT argues that you will always have these negative thoughts. The point is to accept that you have them, allow them to pass, and move on with you life.

The next part is commitment. While you can get a “values worksheet” to help you write out all your values, let’s assume that you’re visiting this blog because you want to write, so writing is a value for you. So, you commit to writing.

When that niggling feeling comes that you want to quit writing because of the rejection, you ask yourself “Does quitting writing help me live a value-driven life, when writing is one of my values?”

That answer should be self-evident.

So, rejection.

1) Accept rejection will happen.

It just will. The most popular authors still experience rejection. They still have readers refuse to read their writing, publishers refuse to publish it, and critics calling it garbage. Accept that it will happen.

2) Learn what you can from the rejection.

Maybe the publisher will tell you why they rejected the piece “the viewpoint keeps shifting,” “there’s nothing at stake for the character,” or “this is a cooking magazine, please stop sending us your Star Trek slash.”

Take the advice that is helpful.

3) Learn that some rejection will not be helpful.

My mother loves me, and she believes I am a very good writer. She, however, likes neither fantasy nor horror. She will never regularly read anything I write because I insist on writing in genres she just doesn’t like. It’s a form of rejection. It’s not a form that will help me learn anything.

And sometimes you just get a form letter saying something about how this just doesn’t fit them at this time and they wish you the best in the future, feel free to submit again!

That’s going to be a lot of the rejection you experience. Learning to decipher which is helpful and which isn’t will help you going forward.

4) Write

That’s it. Commit to writing and write. Take a deep breath, recognize when you’re fusing with a thought that you shouldn’t, and move on. 

But, Ainsel, how do I write when I’m so miserable over a rejection that I feel like my world is caving in?

Start at the beginning. First, if rejection makes you so miserable that you feel like the apocalypse has landed on your doorstep, that means that you are fusing with the rejection. You are thinking you’re a terrible writer who will never be published, and you need to work a bit on your self-awareness and re-examine that. 

Take a deep breath, take ten, notice that you’re having these thoughts, and let them pass.

Then, well, let your imagination run for a bit. Maybe do some daily writing prompts to prime the pump. Maybe read through your ASeOWME IDEAS! folder to remind yourself that you are a good writer. Maybe toy with a pet project for a day or two. I have a comic I play with (not that I can draw to bring it to life, but I can still use it to inspire me) in my darkest times.

Then get back to your project and write.

And just keep writing.

The Blackwells – Calling Upon Friends

The scent of lilac drifted into the foyer from the front door. Ynaselle paused as she pulled on her white lace gloves. She closed her eyes and inhaled.

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” Ulesse asked beside her. She was holding up Ynaselle’s veil.

Ynaselle smiled at the maid and nodded. “It is. A lovely spring day.” She tilted her head slightly as she examined the veil, then lifted her chin and started out the door. “No veil today, I think.”

The sunlight glowed warmly on her face and dappled the sidewalk beneath her feet as she walked. Ynaselle always looked forward to spring days like this in Heliohart. Heliohart might turn icy in winter, but in spring, there was no better place to be.

“Yuven Blackwell!” a voice called.

Ynaselle paused to see Master Trisrel seated on an open porch. Her garden was so thick with blooming shrubbery and flowers that the porch seemed to float on a bed of flowers. That was no surprise. Master Trisrel was the fourth child of a wealthy perfume merchant and had inherited the house. Her wife was a florist and had planted the garden that was the envy of the entire street.

She was an older elf. Her gray hair had gone steel gray and her eyes had grown darker with age, but she maintained her proud and regal air.

Ynaselle smiled and kissed her fingertips at Master Trisrel. “Good morning,” she said. “Do I find you well this morning?”

“Indeed, you do, Yuven Blackwell,” Master Trisrel said. “I had heard your father took ill. How does he fare?”

“Much better, thank you. He’ll be back at court soon,” Ynaselle replied.

“Excellent, excellent.” Master Trisrel rested her chin on her knuckles and examined Ynaselle. “I had worried about your family after your mother’s death. I’m glad to see you looking so well.”

Ynaselle bowed her head slightly. “Thank you.”

“Come sit with me, child.”

Ynaselle glanced at the timepiece on the inside of wrist and smirked. She could be a bit naughty and sit with her old friend for a time. She climbed the stairs and took a seat next to Master Trisrel. She poured Ynaselle a cup of dandelion tea sweetened with strawberries and placed a tart made of exceptionally delicate pastry popular among urbane elves.

“I’ve got something I’d like to show you, Yna.”

“Oh?” Ynaselle sipped her tea politely.

With a conspiratorial grin, Master Trisrel pulled a small cone-shaped pot from a pocket and placed it in Ynaselle’s hand. Ynaselle opened it and found a musky, pale yellow paste and smirked. “My father received some of this at Court. It’s dybla. Lianthorn was passing it out.”

“Yes, well, I’m not part of the Court. I wasn’t important enough to get any. I’ve had to call in and give out quite a few favors to get what little I’ve gotten.”

Ynaselle frowned and shut the amber jar. “Why is it so important to you, Veyrin?”

Master Trisrel laughed loudly. “It’s illegal to sell dybla, but it’s invaluable in perfume manufacture. There’s not a better binder in the world. Without it, perfume hardly keeps its scent, but with it, a perfume can last for decades, and the scent stays on your skin for hours. We perfumers have been trying to find an alternative ever since it was banned.” She shrugged, waving her hand in a forlorn way, then clenched her fist and grinned. “With what little I’ve managed to get, I can corner the market.”

Ynaselle opened the jar and looked at the substance again, frowning at it in confusion. “Why is it illegal?”

“The Phrangene Drought. The plant dybla is made from requires a great deal of water to grow, and during the drought, Faydark made it illegal to buy or sell so Myracine wouldn’t use its limited reserves for dybla rather than its own citizens. It’s not in any official history book, but Myracine allowed hundreds to die before dybla was made illegal. I suppose that Faydark just hasn’t bothered to change the law.”

“Veyrin, will you get in trouble for having this?”

“Potentially. But it’s worth the risk, Yna, trust me.”

“Why not just grow dybla yourself?”

Veyrin laughed, very nearly derisively. There was some bitterness there. “I would love to. We all would. And if there’s a botanist or perfumer out there who has managed to do it, that would be a world-changer. No, it only grows in Myracine. Dybla grown outside that region, its resin crumbles. It won’t hold a scent, and it rots. That’s if they can get the shrub to grow at all.

“There’s something in Myracine that allows it to grow there. No alchemist or chemist has figured out what. It’s something in the soil, I think.” She chuckled again and shook her head. “Perhaps there’s some old magic at work there, something so old we’ve all forgotten.”

“It would have to be very old for elves to forget.”

Veryin patted Ynaselle’s hand, then squeezed. “Perhaps so, child.” Then her smiled broadened and she sat back in her chair. “I shall give you some of the perfume I develop. It will be my gift to you.”

“I couldn’t accept something so valuable!”

“Nonsense. You’re a lord’s child, you receive valuable things every day, I’m certain. No, take it as a token of our friendship. Or, better yet, think of it as my way of trying to tempt you into being my apprentice again.”

Ynaselle sighed. It was a tempting offer. She liked Veryin, she liked her bold and frank attitude, her determination and strong will. In many ways, she aspired to be more like Veyrin. Still, she wasn’t certain perfumery was where her heart lay. “I shouldn’t want to do something where I must break the law,” Ynaselle said.

“Then you shouldn’t want to do anything at all. Oh, don’t pretend to be scandalized. You are a very naïve child if you think the world isn’t run by shadowy deals and illegal acts. If your father hasn’t taught you that, he’s done you a great disservice. No, you’ll always be high enough in society that you shall always have to navigate bribes and espionage and all that. The best way to treat the law is something you break so long as keeping it doesn’t hurt you. And if you’re wealthy enough, getting caught shouldn’t cause too much fuss. The sooner you learn that, the better.”

“That is an awfully cynical way of viewing the world.”

“Perhaps. I should prefer it not to be so, I think. But, you must always ask yourself, ‘Who does this hurt? Who does this benefit?’ Laws aren’t written to make the world better, but to keep it pacified and under control, and so long as we have them, that is how it shall be.”

Ynaselle held up the jar of dybla. “This was outlawed to help the people of Myracine.”

Veyrin took the jar and placed it into her pocket. When she smiled, she showed teeth. “That was a side benefit. Since it only grows in Myracine, Myracine was becoming too powerful to stay in line, and Faydark knew it was becoming a threat. Faydark made the law to cut Myracine off at the knee. Economically, Myracine was nearly ruined, and it hasn’t recovered since.

“Consider, child,” Veyrin continued, even as Ynaselle stared forlornly into her tea, “why does the second child of every prince go to Faydark? The Prince of the Emperor? Oh, it’s our tradition, just as it is our tradition that the first child is the Prince of the Blood and the third is the Prince of the Spirit, but why did it become tradition? Because the emperor wanted wards to ensure that no principality would ever turn against it. So long as the emperor had the princes’ children, it had hostages.

“Heliohart is one of the only courts that doesn’t use this practice in its own court. In nearly every other Court in the Empire, the second children of lords are taken by the prince, so that the prince can know their lords won’t step out of line. In nearly any other court, Vithian would be taken into the prince’s household as a hostage, and you would have to be a priest. That’s not because Heliohart is somehow kinder; Prince Heliohart has his own methods of making sure his lords don’t rise up.”

Veyrin sipped her tea and squeezed Ynaselle’s hand. “Listen to me, I sound like a revolutionary. I shan’t be surprise should you have me arrested. Oh, no, dear, I’m teasing, I know you wouldn’t.”

Veyrin kissed Ynaselle’s cheek and smiled. “Come back this evening, won’t you? Larunia should love to see you again. We’ve missed you since you’ve kept yourself in Blackwell.”

Ynaselle kissed Veyrin back and stood. “I have missed you both as well. I shall come back this evening, I promise. But, I must go. I have a few errands to run today.”

Master Veyrin Trisrel waved at Ynaselle as Ynaselle made her way further down the sidewalk. Ynaselle climbed the crystal stairs that encircled a large, white-barked sycamore tree. Her thoughts crowded in her head, fighting for her attention. They tumbled about so she couldn’t focus on any one of them.

Was she naive?

© Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Get that Word Count

Daily word counts are a pretty standard goal for lots of authors. Me, I’ve been aiming for 2,000 (and failing for the most part) for quite some time. That’s Stephen King’s purported word count. Ernest Hemingway had a much more modest 500. Anne Rice has the more ambitious 3,000, whereas Michael Crichton claims the extreme 10,000.

As I said, I would be satisfied with 2,000, but no matter how long I stare at the blank screen, I often fail to hit that limit. Or, sometimes, with work and other obligations, it’s just impossible (one reason plenty of writers use a weekly rather than a daily word count).

Writer’s Block. Our ancient nemesis. It affects the best of us. Consider Franz Kafka.

Maybe you’ve heard of him. He’s written some pretty classic stuff like The Metamorphosis, Amerika, and The Trial. Pretty famous guy, too. Apparently, though, he hit that writer’s block pretty regularly. Here are some of his diary entries:

  • JANUARY 20, 1915: The end of writing. When will it take me up again?
  • JANUARY 29, 1915: Again tried to write, virtually useless.
  • JANUARY 30, 1915: The old incapacity. Interrupted my writing for barely ten days and already cast out. Once again prodigious efforts stand before me. You have to dive down, as it were, and sink more rapidly than that which sinks in advance of you.

I feel it. In my soul.

So, how do you get that old word count? Here are some tips I have:

Outline

Lots of writers “pantsers.” They prefer to sit in front of a page and just write whatever comes. There may be some vague plans, some scene or event they want to get to, some character they want to get to know, but ultimately, they’re just seeing what happens.

And that can be fine, but…

The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I hit 50,000 words and then had completely no idea what to do. I had been pantsing the whole thing. I knew I liked these characters, this scene, and a basic idea of what scenario I wanted to play out, but what I didn’t have was an end. I got to a place where my ideas had played out, and I had no idea where to go from there. How was I supposed to end this thing?

Outlining could have helped.

Outlines are guidelines, and you can do it in different ways. It could be a list of scenes, a series of plot points, or a group of plot points one has to hit at some point. It can be a bare list or a huge plan of every scene that will take place.

Aside from helping figure out the basic arc of the story and giving you a chance to foresee plot holes, the outline gives you something else: it tells you where to go next.

When the word count hasn’t been hit, you’ve got a guide for where you can punch out a few more.

Pants It

I just said outlining helps with word counts, but, pantsing can to.

Before I write an outline, I pants a bunch of scenes. Those scenes may never get used, they may be from well before or well after the story taking place, or they could exist anywhere within the story’s timeline. The point is to get to know the characters and they world they like in. It’s also a great way to generate new ideas for a story that may have grown stale or too stiff.

Pantsing is a great way to exercise your writing muscles, too, as it lets you play in ways you might not were you dedicating those words and paragraphs to a particular story.

And, frankly, even if you end up deleting the words entirely, I still think it counts toward a word count goal. Any writing is the practice you need to become a better writer.

Try a Different Project

This, you gotta be careful with.

I love knitting. And I’ve been knitting this one octopus for damn near a year now. And it’s a pretty cool looking octopus, but I am just. so. tired of this thing.

I’ve interrupted this octopus to do other things. Sew a quilt. Cross stitch. Crochet. Paint. I have put this octopus aside so many times, I’ve probably 6 months of progress on it. I could have been done already, but I just. Couldn’t.

Writing can be like that. Sometimes I don’t want to work on The Blackwells. I stare at the outline I’ve got, I stare at the file of it, and I find myself just. Ugh.

And then I don’t hit my word count.

Sometimes (and I do mean, please be careful), you just need a break. In those instances, I have a couple other pieces I’m working on. A short story I want to publish here, maybe, or working on my NaNoWriMo plan.

It allows me to keep in the habit of writing when I’ve just gotten tired of the story I’m working on. Look, even the best meals gets boring if it’s the only thing you eat everyday.

I think this only works if you’re willing to put deadlines on yourself. For The Blackwells, if I haven’t got a scene to post by Monday, I don’t let myself play with another story.

Use Your Awesome Stuff Folder

I’m completely behind having a physical or digital Awesome Stuff Folder. It’s your little cauldron of inspiration. It’s your reminder that you’re a good writer. It’s a great compilation that reminds you that you love writing.

Those scenes you wrote while you were pantsing? Throw them in here if you aren’t going to use them. When you have writer’s block for your story, go back and re-read them. It’ll get you excited again or give you new ideas.

Finished your recent WIP and need to start something else? What else is the Awesome Stuff Folder for.

Just can’t keep going on with the story you’re working on? Awesome Stuff Folder has some stuff for you, too.

Keep an Awesome Stuff Folder.

Edit

Generally, once you finish a first draft, you should let it sit for a while before you start editing it. You gotta take a step back from it, so that you can look at it again with fresh eyes.

And that’s fine.

But let’s say you wrote WIP A six weeks ago, and now you’ve finished WIP B. What do you do?

You gotta edit at some point.

So, start editing WIP A. If it’s 10,000 words and you count 2,000 a day, divide it up over 5 days, and call it good for your word count.

Editing is as much a part of writing as just writing. Use editing toward your word count. You have my permission, and encouragement.

Conclusion

Word counts can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. We all have to measure our progress somehow, and word counts are a great place to start.

The above tips should help you punch out that word count when you’re hitting writer’s block. Use them up as much as you need.

Good luck, my lovelies, and just keep writing.

© Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Blackwells – Dr. Prognes’s Diagnosis

Ynaselle and Othorion sat together on the chaise, together creating a cloud of anxiety. Ynaselle clutched a handkerchief in one hand and clasped Othorion’s knee with the other. Othorion picked at his gloves, working them off and then pulling them back on. Periodically, he’d touch Ynaselle’s hand, offer a nervous smile, and then go back to picking that the fingers of his gloves. Vithian stood oddly stoic at the window, saying nothing. For the first time in Vithian’s life, he was silent.

Jaonos would have welcomed his prattle. It would have covered up the sound of Myrdin and Ulesse’s footsteps in Flinar’s bedroom. Jaonos heard the occasional snippet of muffled voices that floated down the stairs, but he couldn’t make out the words. He glared at Vithian, a headache starting at his temples. He purposefully unclenched his teeth, then unconsciously clenched them again.

Jaonos shifted uncomfortably in his chair, leaning closer in his chair so he could hear what was being said better. Ynaselle caught his gaze for a moment, but Jaonos scowled and looked away, resenting the concern in her eyes.

They all held their breath as they heard the upstairs door open and shut again. It had done so several times as Myrdin and Ulesse entered and exited the room, but this time, the sound of footsteps descending the stairs filled the void. When Myrdin appeared in the doorway, he wore a weary smile.

None of the siblings voiced their questions. Each watched Myrdin, unmoving, anticipating, fearing the worst.

Myrdin took a deep breath and stepped into the room. “Fear not, it’s nothing too serious,” Myrdin began, and Jaonos heard each of his siblings let go of their breath. Jaonos sat back in his chair, still wary.

“Your father had a fainting spell. When he fell, he struck his head. He’ll have a bit of a knot for a while, but he’ll recover,” Myrdin continued.

“Will he be all right?” Othorion asked. He had finally stopped picking at his gloves, but he held his right glove in his left gloved hand, squeezing tightly enough to crack the leather.

“He ought not go out for the next few days, I think. He’s still recovering from his illness this past winter. He overexerted himself with his visits to Court and the ball last night. A few days of peace and quiet will see him well again.”

“Should we go back to Pheasant’s Cross?” Ynaselle asked. Her voice was thin and tense, as if she were still a child. She always sounded like a child when she was frightened.

Jaonos frowned when he saw Myrdin bite the inside of his lip. It was a habit Jaonos had noticed many times in the past. He did it unconsciously when he was nervous or uncertain. Or when he was lying.

“No,” Myrdin said after a short hesitation. “Not yet. He’s not well enough to travel yet. Besides, I still think being the such a, shall we say, familiar place as Blackwell, well, I don’t think that will help his recovery, either. No, it’s best he stays here, in Heliohart, for now.

“Besides, I’ll be by every day. And Ulesse is an excellent nurse. He’ll be up and about before you know it.”

Othorion and Ynaselle murmured their relief, but Jaonos had noticed that hesitation and he had seen Myrdin’s nervous tick, and he was certain there was more that he needed to know. He watched Myrdin with a suspicious scowl, and when their gaze met, Myrdin looked away.

“May we go see him?” Vithian asked from behind Jaonos, causing him to jump. He had forgotten Vithian was still behind him.

“Of course,” Myrdin said, motioning toward the stairs. “He’s breakfasting now. I’m sure he’ll want to tell you all that you’re worrying yourselves too much.”

Vithian and Othorion hurried up the stairs. Ynaselle paused long enough to thank Myrdin before following them. Only Jaonos remained, and he continued to scowl at Myrdin.

This time when their gaze met, Myrdin didn’t look away, but he allowed his professional mask to fall away. There wasn’t weary but patient professional interest anymore. Now there was genuine concern.

“Jaonos,” Myrdin began, but said nothing else. Instead, he held his hands in front of him, as if he were offering up something that he had no words for.

“What aren’t you telling us, Myrdin?” Jaonos asked. He hadn’t meant his tone to be as harsh as it was, but he made no attempt to soften the effect.

Myrdin winced and took a seat in front of Jaonos. He scrubbed his face with his hands and sighed deeply. “He’s more ill than I thought. This past winter, well, it was just mourning. Your mother had passed away, it was only natural that he would be weaker for it.

“Now, I fear, it’s much worse than that.”

Jaonos leaned forward and beckoned Myrdin closer. “Tell me, Myrdin.”

Myrdin took Jaonos’s hand, turned it over, traced his long, pale fingers over Jaonos’s palm. “It’s his heart, Jaonos. His heart is so much weaker than it was. Your father’s health has never been particularly vigorous. Perhaps if I had pushed you all to come to Heliohart for the winter, it might have been better, but…”

“But?” Jaonos pushed. He reached toward Myrdin with his other hand, his fingertips gently tracing the plane of Myrdin’s cheek. He knew Myrdin loved Flinar as his own family. He could see a dark cloud over Myrdin’s gold eyes, a sense of failure.

Myrdin took another deep breath and shook his head. He was clearly struggling. “He could rally. He could live for many more years to come, but he’s never going to be truly well again. Your mother’s death has just taken too great a toll on his health. However,” he continued before Jaonos could ask, “I’m not certain he will rally.”

“What should we do?”

“Keep him comfortable. Avoid putting too much stress on him. Allow him to convalesce without interference.” Myrdin closed his eyes briefly and once more bit the inside of his lip. “I’ve done everything I can to help him recover, but he’s… simply never going to be as well as he was when your mother was alive.”

Jaonos felt something harden in his stomach. There was more Myrdin wasn’t telling him, and this time, Jaonos was afraid of what it might be. Normally, he would leave it at that. Normally, he would do whatever he could to avoid discomfort. Normally, he would squeeze Myrdin’s hand, smile obliviously, and go to his father’s room and tease him for fainting until Ynaselle shooed him away.

Jaonos fought that urge. Instead, he said, “I think you’re trying very gently to prepare for-“ there wasn’t a good euphemism for his father’s death, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually speak the words lest he invite it. Instead, he said, “-for taking over as Lord Blackwell.”

This time, Myrdin kissed Jaonos’s palm and when he met Jaonos’s gaze, his expression was filled with sympathy. “It is something you will need to prepare for. And, I fear, sooner rather than later.”

There were words Jaonos wanted to say. Both he and Myrdin knew what was at stake when Jaonos became Lord Blackwell. They both knew the expectations that would fall on Jaonos’s shoulders, and what would be expected of his marriage. Jaonos knew that Myrdin wanted to marry, and he hoped that Myrdin understood why he was so reticent. It had been a discussion Myrdin had tried to have, but Jaonos had always, he now realized, avoided having.

For a moment, Jaonos thought of explaining himself, of confessing that while he loved Myrdin, he couldn’t marry him. If Jaonos didn’t take a woman as his spouse, then Ynaselle would have to be his Lady of the Chamber and bare children for him, and he couldn’t bring himself to trap his sister like that. Myrdin had to know that that would have to happen. Perhaps, Jaonos thought, that was why Myrdin never pushed too hard.

A sudden rush of guilt at his own selfishness pierced into Jaonos’s heart, and he pulled away. His father was very ill, dying perhaps. Jaonos, perhaps for the first time, realized how selfish he had always been.

Jaonos stood. He leaned over Myrdin and gave him a cavalier smile. He tilted Myrdin’s chin up and kissed him before saying, “Myrdin, you think too little of your healing ability.”

He couldn’t say anything else, lest he betray his own feelings, so he simply walked upstairs to join his siblings, leaving Myrdin alone in the sitting room.

© Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Inspiration, Motivation, Dedication

I was once on a fitness forum in which someone posed the question “How do you get the motivation to run every day?”

I love giving advice, and I like running, so I started typing.

Try as I might, though, I was having a hard time expressing my experience, because it went something like this: I would get a sudden desire to do it, and so I would do it for a while until such a morning came that I really, really didn’t want to go but I forced myself to do it anyway.

The former was motivation, but the latter was something else.

Finally, I wrote something like this:

“You’ve probably been motivated to change a million times, but after a month, a week, a day, it disappears. Dedication is what keeps you going after the motivation disappears. It’s the part that looks at your urge to stay in bed instead of running and says, ‘Staying in bed doesn’t help me reach my goals, so I will get out of bed and run.’”

Writing adds another element: inspiration.

There are plenty of times in my life that I have been inspired to write. Suddenly, the muse is upon me, and I can pump out thousands of words. I once was so inspired that I wrote out more than 6,000 words in one sitting on a story I wasn’t even working.

And, Blessed Saint Francis de Sales, it’s wonderful when that happens. But, the muse is a fickle master, and trying to guide the flow of her inspiration is more likely to dam the river than direct it. Relying on inspiration to make your writing career is like waiting for dinner to fly into your mouth. Or, as Confucius probably never actually said, “He who waits for a roast duck to fly into his mouth will starve.”

Of course, connected and disconnected at the same time, I will get the motivation to write. I will decide that I will hit that 2,000 word count daily or die trying. A few days go by when I am successful, and then, just as suddenly, I’m staring at a blank computer screen and hating every word I have to punch out just to get to my goal. And those words are not good words. Not good words at all.

If you really want to write – or run or learn a new language or climb mountains – what you need to cultivate isn’t inspiration or motivation, although those will be incomparable tools you can use. What you really need, the gas that will power your writing engine, is dedication. It’s the dedication to sit down and write every day.

Dedication is the part of you that says, “I see that I don’t want to write today, but sitting here playing Stardew Valley isn’t going to help me finish my novel.”

Inspiration makes you love writing, motivation makes you want to write, but dedication is what makes you write.

How to cultivate inspiration

I’ve mentioned my Awesome Ideas folder, and frankly, I think it’s an invaluable tool. I love going through stuff I’ve written – maybe some purple prose, maybe a scene that doesn’t belong anywhere – and think “ah, yes, I am a writer.”

I have a tumblr account (yes, I’m on that hellsite) that I use to help accumulate and curate inspiration. Pictures, writing prompts, bits of historical facts. I tag them all so that I can sort back through them later. This account is a sort of digital Awesome Ideas folder.

Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter can all be great tools where you can accumulate inspiration. Quotes, writing prompts, pictures, just ideas that people share, you can save things that make you feel excited about writing. Use those tools.

If you see a picture in a magazine that gives you an idea, cut it out and put it in an inspiration box. If you see a quote that enthuses you, copy and paste it into a doc. If you read a story that fills you’re shriveled little writer’s heart with joy and light, link that shit and re-read it.

I have digital and physical Awesome Ideas folders, and I happily use them both. You can even create different Awesome Ideas folders for different novels. I once found myself watching Howl’s Moving Castle nearly every day because it inspired me to write a story I was once working on. When it comes to The Blackwells, watching BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries usually does the trick.

And if there’s ever a time when I just can’t bring myself to work on whatever main project I’m writing, I fiddle through my Awesome Ideas folders to find something else that inspires me, just to prime the pump.

Get into the habit of reviewing things that inspire you. The more you do, the more inspired you’ll get by just about anything.

Inspiration is a spark – you need it before you can start the engine of dedication. Learn to turn your shriveled little writer’s heart into a flint.

How to cultivate motivation

Motivation is, I admit, very similar to inspiration. But, I think it goes a bit like this:

When I see art someone has posted somewhere, or I read a good book, or I spot a quote that makes my mind race with ideas, that’s inspiration. When I want to start putting those words down on paper, that’s motivation. Inspiration makes you want to think; motivation makes you want to act.

Motivation is hype. Motivation is seeing people on Twitter gearing up for NaNoWriMo and wanting to be part of it. Motivation is seeing the advice “put aside fifteen minutes a day to write” and you put an alarm in your phone for tomorrow.

Cultivating motivation is a little harder than inspiration, because it can be the flipside of de-motivation.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard some story or advice that I supposed to me motivating only to feel utterly demotivated.

Sometimes, seeing that someone you knew growing up has published a book, you can feel pretty deflated. Sometimes, seeing that Michael Crichton writes 10,000 words a day makes you want to throw your laptop out the window. Sometimes, seeing some true book that you know is nowhere as good as your writing (I won’t name names) is getting published just makes you feel like none of this is worth it anymore.

Things that should be motivating can become de-motivating pretty quickly if you’re in the wrong state of mind for it. So, what do you do?

Time for some brain-training.

The first you think need to do is be aware. Be aware of what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. When you notice that hearing “500 words a day is a reasonable goal” but all you can think is “I can’t even get 500 words a day out, I’ll never be a writer,” you need to stop. Call it out. Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that I will never be a writer.” Name your thoughts and feelings.

You need to be aware what you’re thinking and feeling, and you need to spell those thoughts and feelings out to yourself.

Once you’ve done that, you can then remind yourself that it’s just a thought, not reality. You didn’t get psychic all of a sudden. Let yourself feel that feeling, recognize it is just a feeling, and then let it pass.

Now, spite can be a decent motivator, but it isn’t the only one, and probably not the healthiest. Lots of things should motivate you. Inspiration can motivate you! But, frankly, the idea of writing should motivate you.

My best advice: when you see something about writing, remind yourself “I want to write.” Just say it to yourself. Out loud. “I want to write.” Keep your brain thinking that.

Idiot from high school is published? “I want to write.”

Inspiration strikes? “I want to write.”

Read an article about writing? “I want to write.”

How to cultivate dedication

You can have inspiration without motivation – that’s daydreaming. You can have motivation without inspiration – that’s writer’s block. Writing, though, writing takes dedication.

Dedication is looking at the endless void of a white page and punching something out anyway.

I can’t give you much in the way of pretty quotes for this section, but I can give you some tips to help you out. Because, really, this is the brass tacks of it. This is where we want to be.

1. Create a writing environment.

I don’t mean a room filled with your inspiration. I mean, create a separate space and time that is  your “writing space and time.” Don’t just sit in front of your tv or at your kitchen table. There needs to be something in the environment that tells your mind “now is writing.”

Changing into specific “exercise clothes” can help remind your brain that “now is exercising.” Sitting at a dinner table creates a different feeling in you than plopping in front of the tv with a hot pocket. You need an environment that helps flip that switch, too. It can still be on the sofa or at the kitchen table. But something needs to be a cue that says “this is different, this is writing.”

It could be a set of clothes, a piece of music you play, or just a chair you don’t normally sit in. It just has to be different.

2. Get rid of distractions

Don’t watch TV, don’t have Youtube playing in the background, don’t keep social media open in a different tab. You need to focus.

When you are struggling, you’re brain is going to try to find something else to do. It’s not interested in what you’re writing, so it wants to pay attention to something else.

Don’t let it.

Take a deep breath, take a drink of water (or tea or coffee, or something stiffer; as the saying goes, write drunk, edit sober), and then say to yourself, “This is writing time, and I want to write.”

George R.R. Martin writes in a DOS word program to write. And hell if that isn’t a distraction-less way of writing.

3. Try different tricks

I had read somewhere that white was too intimidating of a color, and that you should try turning the page green instead. And I did. And I do.

Someone else pointed out that using Comic Sans as a font makes it less intimidating. And if that works for you, great.

There’s that one program that will delete everything you write if you don’t keep typing, and if that starts your engine, go for it.

Experiment. Play around. See what works for you, and once you find it, abuse it maliciously.

4. Aim for time first, than word count

Back to running, there are multiple “Couch to 5k” programs out there to help you get up and running that 3.1 miles. Funny thing is, you don’t start with distance. You measure and extend the time you spend running. Once you can run for half an hour, then you start working on distance.

NaNoWriMo makes you think word count is all that matters, but I gotta say, focusing on time first is a better way to start. Set aside 15 minutes or half an hour a day. That is the time where you will sit in your writing environment without distraction using whatever tricks you like until that time is up. Even if all you’re doing is staring at a blank screen for the whole time.

Word count is great if you can get a reliable word count out, but sometimes you just can’t get it out. Aiming for a goal you can never hit is just training yourself to fail. But, all of us can set a time limit and wait for an alarm, so start there. Once you see that you can reliably punch out 500 words in that time, only then can you aim for a word count.

Conclusion

So, there you have it: inspiration, motivation, dedication. You need all three, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cultivate all three. Whatever you do, though, just keep writing.

© Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Blackwells – The Morning After

The morning light glittered off the crystal carafe as Vithian poured Othorion the sweet mint tea. Ulesse had set a lovely table for the family’s breakfast in the garden. Bowls overflowed with apricots and cherries. Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries were layered with thick cream next to diamond-cut mangos. The scent of roasted hare and cold ham mingled with the hyacinth, peony, and primrose scattered around them. There was a salad of dandelion greens, spring onions, and kale and roasted asparagus, artichokes, fiddlehads, and fennel. The air was cool in their mother’s garden, which bloomed gloriously.

It was a spread that neither Vithian nor Othorion were used to anymore. Postulants often didn’t eat breakfast, and sailors had hardtack or gruel and, if they’re fortunate, salted beef, and a lemon or lime just to fend off scurvy. Returning home was a treat for the two.

“I think Ulesse missed us,” Othorion said, helping himself to another serving of berries and cream.

“This is the work of Firma, I’m certain,” Vithian replied. “I think he’s happy to have so many to cook for again.”

Othorion chuckled. “If he needs more to do, he’s welcome on the Aurora.”

“I don’t know if we even have a cook at the sequester.”

Vithian sat back in his chair, sipping his tea as he looked over the garden. It had been their mother’s favorite place in Heliohart, and Vithian couldn’t blame her. It was so cleverly planted that it bloomed throughout the year, filled with soft touches and sweet scents and bright colors. There were many places to hide, to be alone, and each of the siblings had their favorite spot. Vithian’s was under a shade maple, its red-leafed boughs nearly touching the mossy ground beneath it. Vithian could cuddle beneath it amongst the ferns for hours, just to be alone. Vithian smirked to himself – he didn’t hide away often. He preferred to be around people.

“How did you enjoy last night?” Vithian asked Othorion.

“Oh, very well. It was a lovely ball, wasn’t it?”

“Hmm,” Vithian said, watching his brother. “It was an interesting one, anyway. You had a favorite, I think.”

A blush colored Othorion’s cheeks briefly, and he shook his head. “No, I assure you. I very much enjoyed all my dance partners last night.”

“Partners? Othorion, did you dance with anyone other than Yuven Vetsian?”

“Of course, I did!”

The brothers kept each other’s gaze for a few heartbeats before Othorion broke into a grin and shook his head. “I suppose I favored Merioleth, didn’t I?”

“Jaonos and I were wondering if the date had been set for your wedding.”

Othorion threw his napkin at Vithian, and the two laughed.

“You two are awfully loud first thing in the morning,” Jaonos said as he and Ynaselle joined their brothers. Jaonos wore an irritable expression and slumped down in the chair to Vithian’s left. Vithian could guess he was hungover, which Vithian found impressive since alcohol was only served after a nearly half hour toast given by members of both the Heliohart and Passerine families to the newly affianced.

Ynaselle, on the other hand, was pale. Her eyes were red and puffy, and Vithian could see faint lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth. She offered him a weak smile, though, as she took a seat across from Jaonos.

“We were just celebrating Othorion’s new engagement,” Vithian said as he poured tea for Jaonos and Ynaselle.

“Hmm, well, she is a pretty girl,” Jaonos said into his cup.

“I like her,” Ynaselle said. “I’m determined to make her a friend of mine. I’m going to have her and all the Tarnyns over to dinner.”

“Oh, lovely,” Jaonos said, and Vithian wasn’t certain whether that was sarcasm or not.

“I shouldn’t mind knowing them all better,” Othorion said.

“Well, most of them,” Vithian added for him and the two exchanged glances. Vithian knew that Othorion wasn’t going to say that.

Ynaselle sighed, her hands hovering over the bowl of berries and cream. “I don’t understand Nithnael. I don’t remember her being so… so cold when we were children.”

“You don’t?” Othorion asked.

“Was she like that in Treserra?”

Othorion took a deep breath and sat back in his chair. His gaze moved upward toward the canopy of leaves above them as he thought. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. “She thought very highly of herself, still does, from what I can tell. She was always pretty and intelligent, but she struck me as being… resentful.”

“Resentful?”

“At her own position in life. Yna, she was so cruel to you. Don’t you remember? Remember when we were learning ink painting? She kept trying to correct everything you did until you gave it up altogether. She never gave you a compliment – she just kept trying to insult you. Oh, she was polite about it, but she resented you were a Lord’s child and she wasn’t.”

Ynaselle frowned to herself. She tucked a lock of dark hair behind her pointed ear, still staring down at her own plate. “I suppose so,” she finally admitted.

“A social climber,” Jaonos said and shrugged. “In the position to do it, I suppose.”

“But, Alennia is such a lovely girl,” Ynaselle said. “She’s terribly shy. She shouldn’t have any friends at all if her family didn’t drag her out into society.”

“Invite them all over,” Vithian said. “It should still be a pleasant evening, anyway.”

Jaonos chuckled to himself, then placed his glass back on the table, put his head in his hands, and laughed out loud. Vithian, Othorion, and Ynaselle all glanced at each other, trying to think of the joke.

“What’s so funny, Jaonos?” Vithian asked.

“I was just thinking,” Jaonos said, waving his hand in front of his face, “how funny it would be should Othorion actually marry Yuven Vetisan.”

“Jaonos!” Ynaselle gasped.

“Oh, I don’t mean that!” Jaonos replied. “It’d be quite the scandal, though. Who are the Vetsians, after all? Poor farmers, Lady Erro tells me. When Master Tarnyn married, there was uproar that he should marry someone so far below him. And should our dear little Othorion, so dutiful and conscientious, marry her sister! A Blackwell! Marry a poor farmer!” Jaonos laughed again. “The thought of Othorion as part of such a scandal, any scandal!”

Othorion’s face had grown a deep red as Jaonos spoke. Ynaselle squeezed his hand, but Othorion pulled his hand away.

“I don’t think father would approve of the connection,” Vithian admitted.

“Father? Lady Erro would have a fit!” Jaonos replied. “She’s been wanting to marry us all off since we were children, and if Othorion, of all of us, were to sabotage her plans by marrying a poor farmer! Thory, you must! For me, you must marry that girl!”

Ynaselle reached over the table to slap Jaonos’s hand. “That’s enough, Jaonos.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t approve of the connection, either,” Othorion said, the floridity draining from his face as he regained his composure, but he didn’t meet anyone’s gaze. “I’m still just a lieutenant, and I haven’t even known her for a day.”

“Well, for myself, I think she’s charming,” Vithian said. He leaned his chin against his hand and watched Ynaselle. “You’re peaky this morning, Yna. And you left very early last evening. Are you well?”

“I’m well,” Ynaselle said, but Vithian noticed that how very interested she was in arranging her greens on her plate. “Father was tired last night and wanted to come home after greeting Prince Heliohart.”

“Hmm,” Jaonos said. They all knew that Ynaselle had wanted to avoid the younger Lieranym Bryravyn, but even Jaonos wouldn’t tease her about it. “He did seem tired last night. Actually,” Jaonos sat up and glanced up to their father’s bedroom window, “it’s not like him to still be in bed this late. Do you suppose he’s all right?”

Vithian stood immediately. “I’ll check on him.”

The door slid shut behind Vithian with a whisper, shutting out the birdsong that had made the garden feel so lively and cheerful. Inside, the air was oppressive. Vithian touched the lamp at the base of the stairs to brighten the passageway, but it only sent eerie shadows scattering across the flower like rats fleeing from rising water. The house was silent, unmoving, as if it had been filled with a deadening miasma. Vithian was suddenly reminded of an old elven superstition: an elf who dies without wind or light on their face would be trapped in the body forever so that all that remained was an angry spirit once the body rotted away.

Vithian shook his head, trying to shake the sudden fear that gripped him. Still, as he placed his hand on the bannister, he hesitated.

Their mother’s death had been sudden and unexpected. Perhaps it would have been better for their father had it not been so, but the shock had rocked the family to its core. The previous winter had been an anxious one, as their father fell ill. More than once, they feared they would lose him as well.

“Damn you, Vithian,” he said to himself. He forced his leaden legs and heavy feet to climb the stairs.

The upper floor was even more silent than the floor below, if that were possible. He could hear the maid Ulesse moving in her room on the third floor, but he heard nothing from the family’s bedrooms.

The floor creaked as Vithian stepped toward Flinar’s bedroom door. As a child, Vithian had thought his parents had made the floor creak so that they would know if any of their children attempted to sneak out of their rooms. Vithian pressed his ear to the door, but he heard nothing.

“He wouldn’t let me bring him breakfast.”

Vithian jumped and whirled about to see Ulesse leaning over the railing from the stairs leading up to the third floor. He took a deep breath. “Thank you, Ulesse.”

“He wouldn’t even let me open the door. Is everything all right?”

“I’m certain everything’s fine. Go about your work.”

Ulesse didn’t move from where she stood, though, so Vithian turned away from her and knocked on the door. He waited, but there was no answer.

“He’s not answering,” Ulesse whispered from the stairs.

Vithian knocked again. “Father, we’re all down for breakfast, won’t you join us?”

Once more there was silence from the room.

“Shall I get the key?” Ulesse asked.

“Enough, Ulesse.” He was growing more nervous. In all his life, he never remembered his father sleeping in.

He cleared his throat and knocked again. “Father, I’m coming in.” He tried the handle to find it was unlocked. Vithian hesitated, his heart leaping up to his throat.

Swallowing, he pushed the door open. He was surprised to see the room was bright and clean, as if completely untouched. Vithian stepped into the room, frowning to himself.

If the study was the darkest room of the house, the main bedroom was the brightest. It was almost completely white, save for the many flowering plants their mother had grown in the large windows. The large bed was built with a light icewood and veiled in white lace. It was made, as if it had never been slept in.

Confused, Vithian stepped further into the room. “Father?” he called. Vithian knew that Flinar Blackwell would never make his own bed. Had he even been in his bed at all? “Where in the world did you go?”

Ulesse gasped from the doorway, and Vithian jumped. “What?” Vithian snapped.

Ulesse pointed, and Vithian turned. The bed wasn’t made. It was completely unmade. The bedclothes had been pulled off entirely. Vithian stepped in further. He could see his father’s foot just visible from behind the bed.

Vithian felt the world spin, but ran to his father’s side, who was laying on the floor beside his bed, still tangled in his bedclothes. His father’s face was gray and pale. Vithian knelt beside Flinar and touched his hand, then drew back shaking his head. His flesh was cool and clammy.

“Is he dead?” Ulesse asked from the doorway. She was already crying.

As a postulant, Vithian knew that he would be called to preside over the dead. He would see no end of corpses. He would be asked to say final rites, to hold hands, to ease the process of death. And he would say funerary prayers. He wouldn’t let his father go without the rites he was due. Vithian leaned closer, placing Flinar’s hands on his chest. He leaned in to kiss his father’s forehead, but leapt back, nearly falling over himself.

He felt his father’s breath. Flinar was still alive.

“Ulesse!” he snapped. “Fetch Dr. Prognes!” Vithian pulled the blankets from Flinar’s legs and lifted them, hoping to improve the blood flow. Still, the clamminess of his skin unnerved Vithian.

Ulesse was still sobbing.

“Ulesse, now!” Vithian shouted. “Get Dr. Prognes, or he may yet die!”

© Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ainsel Greenwood and AinselGreenwood.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Vacation

So I went on vacation last week. It was great fun, got to spend a lot of time with my sister, but I didn’t have any internet connection.

Turns out, when you save all your writing on The Cloud, you can’t access them without an internet connection.

I don’t have anything to post this week because I didn’t have anything written last week so rather than take the week I went on vacation off, I’m taking this week off.

Yep.