Snowball Theory (Part One) – The Tainted Glass

Well, I’ve returned to the blog. It feels like putting on your favorite pair of pants again, after growing fat and complacent for a while. My writing has sort of felt like that too – over the past year, as I’ve sat down to write, it feels like I’m stuffing myself into something that doesn’t fit. There was no way I could button my writing pants for quite a while there. You see, the past 19 months have been a whirlwind of projects, exhaustion, shadows, and self-reflection. There’s a bit of bad mixed in with a lot of good, swirling together like a drop of ink in a glass of water. The bad starts out concentrated and slowly, over time, it spreads, thinning itself until the entire glass is tinted and tainted. Sometimes, if I don’t remind myself of how negativity works, I’ll look back on a year and see a murky, shadowy wasteland. That’s not the truth. Life is great, truly. However, my brain continually chooses to remind me of the negative. It’s the failures I focus on. And, as a writer, there are failures aplenty I willingly throw myself at. Hell, I became an officially paid and published author this year! How could things be bad? They aren’t, but I still remember things through ink-tinged lenses.

My time away from blogging has been, in part, time well spent. The biggest distraction to my writing was finishing my basement. By that I mean, transforming a space that was nothing more than cement walls and floors into a fully-functional living space complete with two bedrooms (one being used as my new creative space), a laundry room, gorgeous bathroom, and huge living/gaming room. How’s that for productivity? The project took over a year. Why so long? Just look at my tagline on this site. I am a Collector of Hobbies after all. I taught myself how to do everything. I taught myself framing, electrical, plumbing, tiling, and a dozen other skills needed to build out an entire floor of my house. That’s all well and grand, but it totally ruined me as a writer for the entire period of time. It also hurt me as a father, husband, and employee. It wasn’t the act of building that hurt me though – it was what I chose to focus on. I chose to go to bed at night mad at myself for not writing a blog post. I’ve closed so many calendar reminders for upcoming scheduled blog posts that I’ve grown numb to it. I don’t even know what post I’m supposed to be writing at this point. Just. Click. Close. I chose other projects over writing and, at the time, didn’t understand how that could be okay.

The bi-product of those efforts was me spending a year completely exhausted and writing very little. I’ve still been engaged in the process of writing, but I question the quality of most of it. My efforts have been focused more on supporting my author friends such as William L. Munn, Richie Franklin, KM Alexander, Alan Bahr, Scott Drakeford, Michael Ripplinger, JRushing, and Lauren Sapala – there are many others I’m forgetting to mention as well.

But the drop of ink has already swirled amongst these efforts. I focus on the negative instead of the positive. For example, Lauren released her first novel, Between the Shadow and Lo, and hot damn it’s amazing. At least what I’ve read of it is. Seriously, the writing is candid and raw. It’s like I’ve known Lauren forever, and understand the lurking Lo from a previous life. But (and here comes the inky stain), I haven’t finished the book yet. How can I claim to support my author friends if I don’t actually read the stuff they produce? I haven’t left a review anywhere. Hell, I haven’t even sent Lauren the email I’ve had drafted for months. We’ve been in communication for several years, yet I couldn’t send her a congratulations card. That’s me, the failure.

The focus of these failures feed into the intention of this post. Negativity spreads relentlessly and without intent. It just spreads. Everywhere. Quickly, and from a series of very small things compounding with each other, the entire glass is tinted – a black hue tainting the purity of the water. And nothing I’ve mentioned above has been a big issue. It’s a bunch of tiny things. What’s the merit of putting up a blog post when weighed against doubling the living space of my house and significantly increasing its value? It’s insignificant. I haven’t finished Lauren’s book. I think (and hope) she knows I still love her. It isn’t anything personal directed towards her. It sure as hell isn’t because of her writing – she’s crazy talented. It’s all me.

And I have a story of how I’ve let all of my amazingly talented writer friends down. Each one sticking to the previous failures, gaining mass and momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill. And the really hard thing is how easily this rolling snowball feeds into my insecurities and my struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It’s real. It sucks.

I’ve spent this time away watching friends blossom in the industries they love.  Alan has Kickstarted about a thousand incredible RPGs, worked with powerhouse game designers, and quickly emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the RPG industry. William dove into the RPG industry and has worked on several excellent projects as a designer and writer. Scott secured a deal with Tor on his trilogy starting with IRE. KM completed a draft of the ginormous manuscript for Coal Belly and is in the depths of editing as we speak, as well as blogging on really important issues. Richie finished Defector and it was set to be published at the beginning of 2017 – unfortunately, the publisher closed its doors a month before release. Michael wrote, and is now in the third round of edits for, Tomorrow’s Shepherd, the second book in his fantastic Verdant Revival trilogy. JRushing just received news that he won Second Place in the 2017 Short Story Challenge on TheWoolf.org – it’s an incredible piece on the complexities of healing, and the willingness to do so.

And that’s the shadow I’ve been living in for the past year. It’s immense. It’s spectacular. It’s been the most painful excitement imaginable. I love these people, truly. I love the work they’re creating. And yet, I measure myself against their success. It’s equal parts inspiration and soul-crushing defeat. I’ve “come up” with several of these amazing, talented writers. The difference is, I have very little to show for it. Sure, I’ve won several heats in the NYCMidnight Short Story and Flash Fiction challenges, but never the entire contest. I’ve been in the trenches fighting for the emergence of a new genre in SF/F called Game Lit – it’s a broader, more inclusive version of LitRPG – but even that devolved into a dumpster fire in the end. I’ve come across ideas for a few new series to write, including a GameLit series and a YA Urban Fantasy series. However, neither can be said to be past the stages of conceptualization and exploratory writing at this point. The point? I haven’t been creating. I’ve just been watching, lurking behind a bush, staring with fierce green eyes of envy, as my writing group has moved on.

This isn’t intended as a woe-is-me post though. It’s intended to be a learn-from-me post. It’s intended to show you how quickly one negative can snowball into a dozen, creating an overwhelming sense of failure, self-doubt, and despair. Don’t worry though, my lovely readers, my next post will focus on the good things, and how little victories can have the same effect. It’ll focus on how we intentionally plan for the little victories – how we can trick ourselves into productivity. I promise, it’ll be worth the read. Until then, click the Follow button over there on the right sidebar and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

This is Part One of a three part series on Snowball Theory and how it affects my writing productivity. I believe most authors could benefit from some of the ideas within this and the following articles, so please stay tuned.

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2 Responses

  1. I absolutely love your description of getting back into writing as putting on that old pair of pants…you remember them fondly, but a year later, they don’t seem to fit quite right…

    I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome as well, which has stopped me from actually publishing anything. I don’t have a community of writers, I’ve never written and edited a full novel, and I barely know my form – so who do I think I am to call myself a writer?

    It’s helpful to read posts by other authors, and this post was really inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Drew Gerken

      You are so welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and offer your insight and experiences. Imposter syndrome is a tough one to beat, so I’ve had to shift my perception away from what other writers are doing and refocus on what am I doing to further my craft. If you are putting words on the page, expressing yourself, and bringing characters to life that would not exist otherwise, then you ARE a writer. The validation or reward that comes from publishing something isn’t the only way to earn the author badge. It took me forever to accept that. If nothing else, I believe you are a writer – and I believe in the stories you have to tell.

Please, let me know what you think.

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