Monsters, Bears, Caves, and Other Scary Stuff.

A writer friend recently asked (when we were kvetching and moaning via email,) “What were we thinking when we decided to write that very first book?”

I answered, “That it would be fun.”

Her question stayed with me, and I nudged it with my bare toes. Why wasn’t this fun anymore? The question jumped to life like a quivering half-dead cockroach, and that gave me the creeps. Could I leave it on the floor, injured and gasping for breath? Nope, I had to go back and either stomp on it, pick it up with a tissue, and flush it, or breathe life back into it. (Not the cockroach silly, the question.)

So, I dwelled on the question for a while. Twelve years ago I started my first novel full of enthusiasm, good humor, and little knowledge of the craft of writing. It was fun. For years I stayed in my cave, occasionally offering a sample to the contest gods and publishing houses only to feel the sting of rejection.

The cave…where stuff happens.

My cave was the place I ran to when the going got tough, or the rejections seemed nasty. I wrestled many a bear in that cave. But, I was a runaway writer, and as long as I stayed in the cave I was literally and figuratively in the dark. I could kid myself that I was a writer, and there was nobody about to dispute that. I controlled my world. Then 2012 loomed on the horizon, and I knew I had to discover once and for all if I could write. If the answer was absolutely not, then I needed to switch gears. Maybe I could spend the next twelve years learning how to paint? There’s an idea!

I took a giant leap and sent the first manuscript in a romantic suspense series to a publisher. The response was positive. Soon I was glued to the computer chair doing copyedits. Excitement filled me. This was fun! Then there were revisions pages required on a second book. The pressures from this chosen vocation roiled in my stomach, threatening to wreak havoc on my nerves and spew acid onto my computer. It wasn’t the edits. I enjoyed working with my editor, and I liked making the books better. But little questions started nudging at me. What if my book tanks? What if I make no sales? Well, that won’t happen, I mean Mum will buy one. ; )

After much wallowing in the dark, I realized I’d come a long distance. I’d learned craft, social media, marketing, promotion, and creating a website and blog. And yet, cover art, book buzz, interviews, blog spots, reviews, all rode through my dreams like monsters with fangs and drooling mouths. I knew I suffered from fear of the unknown, so I opened the shutters and lit up my cave.

The fun cave.

We have no control over any of those things. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. And as the stranger with the bushy mustache in The Big Lebowski said: “Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes…well, he eats you.” He was a cowboy and I’m sure he spoke of bears, although he was sitting at a bar in a bowling alley. Either way, bring on the bears, the bars, and the monsters, ’cause this journey is gonna be what it’s gonna be. And it’s gonna be fun.

What about you? Are you a writer? Are you published? Do you still get nervous with every submission or review? Are you scared of the monsters? Have the monsters eaten up all of your fun? Talk to me!


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18 Responses to Monsters, Bears, Caves, and Other Scary Stuff.

  1. Hi Robena,
    This writing business is fun in the big picture sense. The Journey, as you described so beautifully. Every emotion possible gets tossed into the salad of success, and success isn’t measured by money. No way, no how. In this biz it’s measured by knowledge, ah-ha moments, new friends, author support systems, words on paper and finally words on a printed or e-book page FOR SALE!

    Wishing you many sales. I am so looking forward to your first book in lo these many years. Two weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel, and as of Friday, with a new proposal to one of my editors being well received and moving up the chain of command, I’m excited all over again. So I guess another ingredient we need to add to that salad is the element of surprise. Staying flexible is always good, too.

    In another month I may be asking that same question again – Whatever were we thinking when we wrote that very first book? Or the tenth or the twentieth? (Finished my 20th in early August)

  2. robena grant says:

    Congratulations on finishing your 20th book. THAT is awesome!

    What you’ve said is so true. We often think the measure of success is the books sold. But I think the true measure of success might be writing “the end” even if nobody ever gets to read the story.

    Thanks for sharing. And for asking the initial question that sparked this blog. : )

  3. Janie Emaus says:

    My first book just came out. I got my first royalty payment yesterday. And let’s just say I won’t be quitting my bookkeeping job at the moment. But it’s all worth it.

    • robena grant says:

      Yes. The income is something we are not privy to as a rule. We always think everyone else has it so much better. Truth is, we need another income to be a writer, and writing is a full time job. : )

  4. This may come as a huge shock, (ha!), but I’m a hyper-nervous freak about all of it … submissions, contracts, contests, edits. Thanks for the blog, because I found it reassuring to know even someone who finaled in the GH grapples with the doubt monster.

    • robena grant says:

      Yeah, well…Sam, about that GH thing, I still question if perhaps it wasn’t a big mistake. : )
      I don’t know if it ever gets any easier. I know multi-published authors who still worry about this stuff even though they have a gazillion fans.

  5. Maria Powers says:

    I love writing. It makes me a happier person when I am doing it regularly. But, my favorite part of writing is whatever I am not currently doing. If I am writing new words, then I love edits. If I am editing, then I love writing new words. I do always, even in the middle of it, love writing the first three chapters. I love a blank page. I know that makes me weird. I just love that pregnant, anything is possible, pause. It ends as soon as you start the story, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    I understand why Snoopy rarely (possibly never) gets beyond that first sentence.

    • robena grant says:

      Ha ha. Yep, poor old Snoopy.

      Writing is such a strange thing. When we safely put our thoughts on paper it’s fine. Knowing people (strangers) are going to read our stuff is frightening. So why do we do it? Maybe it’s so we can look the monster in the eye? ; )

  6. I call myself a writer but you certainly couldn’t prove it by any words getting written lately.

  7. Marge says:

    Life should always be a challenge and you are certainly being challenged now and it is good !!!

  8. Roz Lee says:

    There are some ‘chores’ involved with writing that I don’t enjoy, but I always enjoy the telling the story part of my job. And, yes,I always obsess over the possibility that no one will like what I’ve written/created. We all want our children to be popular and loved, but the reality is, everyone has an opinion, and they won’t always agree with mine.

    Thanks for an insightful look at what we do. Back to wresting bears…or maybe I’ll just go to a bar!

  9. Julie says:

    I have written for as long as I can remember. I don’t have the need for being professionally published now that I’ve figured out I can’t plot. But my blog does what it needs to do. I have other talents, which dovetail nicely with my wee spot on the interwebz. So, I’m very happy with the current situation.

    On the other hand, dealing with learning disabilities (and in the past few years menopause!) does make the editing and daily proofreading QUITE a challenge!

    (Can totally relate to the cave analogy. And the cockroach imagery was BOLD as hell, so well done. Creepy, but that makes it good.)

  10. robena grant says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Julie. Yep, the editing side of things is scary because we don’t see our own mistakes. But we have to have fun with our writing to keep doing it, and you do that. : )

  11. londonmabel says:

    Hmm. I’ve got some writer’s block these days, which is unusual for me (and probably related to my life tanking.) So the struggle is just to write. Focus on one step at a time.

    • robena grant says:

      Yep, I’ve been there, London. While a lot of people say you have to push through it and just write to get words, any words, on the page, that doesn’t work for me.
      Instead, I have to do other things like take what I call “think walks” or long drives in the car where I become my own captive audience, or make a collage, or go on field trips to people watch. For me it isn’t about sitting in the chair to write, it’s about unthawing frozen thoughts. Because with every story I write I find one spot where everything freezes.
      Hope your life gets stabilized soon. It’s hard to go through big changes and uncertainty. The words will come back. : )