Keeping Up With the Joneses

I had the good fortune of starting my speculative fiction writing journey in the company of a group of talented writers (hat tip to the Roaring Writers) who were being mentored by established professionals I greatly admire.

This has mostly been a good thing.

In the rush to catch myself up to the standards of the rest of the group, I made leaps and bounds improvements in my writing over a short period of time. Hard work played a key role, but I owe much of the improvement to my involvement with the Roaring Writers and our mentors. The overall learning experience has been fantastic.

There has been a drawback all of my own making, however, to being in such fine company. Our mentors are talented, professional writers. Some in the Roaring Writers are much further along in their writing career than others of us. It’s been pretty easy to get down on myself for not finishing my book and for failing to publish quickly enough.

I keep getting distracted by anthology submission calls, trying to think up plot ideas good enough to get past editors I know are going to get hundreds of submissions for a few spots. I end up mired in a downward spiral of – I could do this, but it has to be perfect. Meanwhile my novel languishes unattended.

One of my fellow Roaring Writers once said that they couldn’t work on two different projects at the same time because they couldn’t write in two different voices at once. The projects would meld together. I put those words from my mind because it’s necessary for a professional writer to be working on multiple projects at the same time – work in progress, short stories, editing in various stages, marketing, etc. But this past week in exasperation, I complained to another of the group about my inability to bounce between projects and they confessed to the same struggle.

Perhaps this is a stage that many writers go through. Learning the craft is difficult enough. Expecting multitasking perfection at the same time is probably an unrealistic expectation.

It’s time to stop chasing others who are further along in their careers, improve my writing, and concentrate solely on the book. Once I get this story out of my head, I hope I’ll be able to better create different voices and different plots. Maybe I’ll write a string of short stories and build up my repertoire and skill at changing voices. Maybe I’ll start another book. I need to do what works for me and not chase what’s working for others.

I have to stop viewing my inability to multitask like those who’ve been writing professionally for years as failure. It’s just part of my learning curve.

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