Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Darker Side of Writing

Theresa Milstein writes about writing teaching and life at Theresa’s Tales

She’s visiting to get the word out about her short story “My Moment”, which is included in From Stage Door Shadows and looks at the darker side of show business. Today she tackles the darker side of writing.
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Thanks for having me on your blog, Lynda.


 Writing takes mental stamina.

I’m not saying it’s the hardest job. It's certainly not harder than working in the heat, lifting heavy objects, or dealing in customer service.

But we do a lot of upfront work with no feedback. So, some days we’re like, “That’s brilliant! Did that just come out of MY head?” We sit in our seats a little straighter, knowing that this is THE book.

Panster or plotter, when we’re done, there’s all this tidying up to do. Sure, there are some rough spots, but we’ve done it all with no help. We’re AWESOME! And when we tell our writer friends on Twitter and Facebook, they bask us in the glow of congratulations.

Yeah, that’s the best.

But, even with those nice virtual pats on the back, this part of the journey has mostly been walked alone. Now it’s time to pass our precious, perfect papers to persons with more distance to peruse our papers with a pen.

Gulp.

When we receive our feedback, we’re tempted to argue. But we don’t because someone has been nice enough to tear our works of art into tatters take their time to make us better writers. There might be rants, pints spoonfuls of ice cream consumed, and bottles glasses of red wine gulped.

We sit on the critique. While we do, some of those comments, though painful, make sense. Yeah, why did I think it was a good idea to kill off the only romantic interest in chapter one of my romance novel?

Other suggestions might not sit so well with us. No, I don’t think my YA protagonist should be seven years old because it would be cute if she had the IQ of 2500 and had to skip a bunch of grades to have all these teen experiences.

Then we hunker down and fix the worst piece of drivel since… there is no since. I’m a hack. Why am I wasting my time? Why did I waste anyone’s time in the hopes they could suggest a way out to fix this mess. I’m pathetic. the manuscript until it shines like my eyes filled with tears.

And we repeat this process until it sparkles.

Yeah, this could take a while.

Then it’s time to write the query a million few times, research agents, and hit send…

…only to receive rejections in return.

Ingrates.

But there’s always hope that one person reads our query and pages and requests the rest and loves the book and signs you on and shops your manuscript and gets a bunch of offers and there’s a bidding war and they give you cruise-ship-fulls of money and the book winds up on the NYT Bestseller List and sells more copies than that big hot mess novel everyone is raving about…

Whew.

It could happen.

Hope for more, prepare for less, and be happy with anything in between.

Good luck!


Writers, how do you maintain mental stamina?


Want to add From Stage Door Shadows to your list?
Goodreads

Purchase info:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
The Book Depository
eMergent Publishing

On the emergent site, the book is $19.99 and the ebook formats are $4.95.


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140 comments:

  1. Sometimes when things get difficult, I remind myself it is part of the journey.

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  2. Hi Ms Lynda, how are you? Have you heard of conversation writing? Would you please give me links of writer who does that in case you know a few names? Thank you :)

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    1. Farida, I've never heard of conversation writing.

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    2. Hi Farida, do you mean writing dialogue or writing like you talk? Here's a quick link I found: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/conversational-writing-tips.html

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  3. writing really needs a considerable stamina.Its easy to think but equally difficult to put in way that could make others to feel.

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    1. Arooj, how to put emotion into readers is no easy feat! It's easy to make a character cry, but does the reader cry?

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  4. By being young. Staying up all night writing papers really takes its toll on a person's body.

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    1. DWei, well, I can't go back in time and write! But I guess I'm younger now than I will be later. ; )

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  5. I maintain by keeping it all in perspective.
    Congratulations again, Theresa!

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  6. LOL! Theresa, you did a great job addressing this with humorous bend. I wish I could say I put together a manuscript that sparkled as a first draft...but then I would be lying!

    As for maintaining mental stamina, I honestly don't know. It's just a day by day deal for me. I love writing and just have way too many characters screaming in my head so I have to keep going :-)

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    1. Angela, glad you enjoyed the post. None of us have sparking first drafts unfortunately! Yes, those characters don't let us rest, do they?

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  7. Great job Theresa. You hit the note perfectly. Thank you Lydia.

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  8. Yes, writing is a marathon and not a sprint for most people. Fortunately for me, love of the written word keeps me going. :))

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    1. L.G. Smith, what a perfectly literary way to put it!

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  9. LOL I smiled all the way through this. It's good to read that we aren't alone in our frustrations. Writing isn't easy at all and to keep going sometimes makes us crazy, But we do!

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    1. Terri, happy to make you smile. Knowing we're not alone helps a lot.

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  10. ah, yes, no immediate feedback is the bane of our existence :( Even in my job, of a book translator, that is what we hate most....

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    1. DEZMOND, good point. That's why I love having an on-line presence. It makes it easy for me to get feedback sooner than before I blogged and found a writing community on Facebook. But for that first draft, we go at it alone.

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    2. And no immediate feedback means yet another reason to have patience... not one of my fortes ;)
      But I totally agree with Theresa that the writing community makes it easier.

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  11. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger!! :-)

    Yay for lovely Theresa!! Take care
    x

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    1. Old Kitty, ha! Glad we're not dead yet.

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  12. It's great to see Theresa here! It is nice to know that we all struggle sometimes. Encourages me to press ahead!

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    1. Karen, I feel the same way. If I thought it was just me, I don't know how I would've kept going.

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  13. This was awesome! And so funny. You speak for me!!! Did ya know you did that?? *wink* This truly tells it the way it is for all of us, my friend. There are days when I say, "Where do I come off thinking I can write??" But I have to keep on keepin' on. Cruise ships full of money?? *light bulb* Oo la la! ;-)

    Congrads again, oh pal of mine! You're gonna be famous.

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    1. Robyn, all my writing encouragement is for you. I have to return the favor!

      We all feel like frauds. We're a very insecure community!

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    2. I agree with Robyn. You're going to be famous, Theresa :)

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  14. excellent guest post, theresa!
    i get away from the editing, take a break, write a short story or read, then my brain is fresh to keep trudging thru! thanks for the motivation!

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    1. Tara, I like your method. I've been trying to do little pieces when my brain needs a break from a bigger piece. It's made all the difference!

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  15. Ah, Theresa, you certainly capture the angst of it all so beautifully! How do I keep the stamina? I go for a walk or work in the garden or clean house, and then I just go back at it with fresh eyes. But it does take such a l-o-o-o-o-ng time to get from first draft to finished, doesn't it!

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    1. Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina, yes, it does. It seems to take me a year from first lines to sparkles--sometimes longer.

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  16. OMG you're hiding in my office and spying on my life aren't you? Especially the wine gulping part.

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  17. Congrats again, Theresa. Yes, writing and editing put us through the wringer, but the rewards are worth it.

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    1. J.L. Campbell, Robyn (above) said something about cruise ships full of money. Coming to port any day now...

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  18. Lynda, I realized you have the "Reply" button, so I deleted my earlier blanket comment to other commenters. I'll just leave this earlier part of it here:
    I'm awake in America now (at 7:41 am)! It's Columbus Day, so no work. I got to sleep in. Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

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    1. Anytime, Theresa!
      And I've just woken up--which is, according to your comment time stamp, four hours later hehehe.
      Happy Columbus Day!!

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  19. I'm obsessed with writing. I don;t do it enough. So stamina isn;t a problem with me. Not writing enough is my problem.

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    1. Stephen, I had the same problem from October 2009 until January 2012. I wound up mostly doing my writing in the summer. I had to create a writing group I had to be accountable to in order to light some fire under me. I hope you find something that works for you.

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  20. Congratuations, Theresa. Your wit, your insight, and your humor never fail to uplift my spirit as a writer. And of course, we both love alliteration! Thanks for the great guest, Lynda!

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    1. Victoria, thank you! Yes, alliteration is the best. A friend was thinking of changing the name of her blog. Since her first and last name are already alliterative, I was "helping'" her with an impressively alliterative title!

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  21. So true Theresa. I could relate to it all except for the part about getting an agent and hitting the New York Times bestseller list. Can so relate to all the feelings and thoughts. But we must persist if we want to be successful. Thanks for the great guest post.

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    1. Natalie, thank you. I'd be happy if I could make a decent living as a writer. Anything above that would be incredible. Now to find that agent...

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  22. Great to meet you, Theresa! Thanks for hosting, Lynda.

    After years of writing, I've learned to let things go. Rejections sting, but not as bad as in the beginning. I take and learn from them now, just as I do with critiques.

    It's part of the process. I usually sit down and write to ward off any doubt or fears that may creep in.

    Keeping the fears at bay, keeps me writing everyday. Gee, I didn't mean to rhyme that...lol!

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    1. Loree Huebner, I agree with you about rejections stinging less over time. Thanks for sharing your methods. Like the rhyme!

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  23. Hey, Theresa, nice to see you on Lyn's blog. Congrats on the short story in From Stage Door Shadows! I had to chuckle over the lined-thru parts here. :)

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    1. Carol, glad you got a laugh. Sometimes I worry I'm the only one laughing!

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  24. Can we just fast forward to the bidding wars? That would be perfect for me!

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  25. I haven't finished my novel yet but I usually read a lot in between writing. Blog posts like these pushing writer encouragement usually keeps my juices flowing.

    I have never queried before and am a little mortified of the process but I'm sure once I do it a few times, I will get "used" to it...maybe...

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    1. Melissa, good luck when you get there. It's not that bad. Mostly.

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  26. I keep a journal of all the wonderful moments that have come along [and now I keep my fan mail] and when I need to, I take them out and read them over. It keeps me going and reminds me why I do this.

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    1. M Pax, that's a very good idea. Ooo, fan mail...

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  27. LOL! Nicely put, Theresa. Rejections suck, but I think they're less painful when you get used to them. I mean, not everyone is looking for your stellar work, because their lists are filled.

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    1. Crystal, good to keep in mind. "It's not you, it's me."

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  28. Theresa, If anyone is qualified to discuss stamina it is you my dear girl. And I'd say that in front of the classroom has got to be a good way to learn it too! Good luck with your story!

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    1. KarenG, thanks. Six years certainly takes stamina.

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  29. I don't have mental stamina as a writer. I'm too impatient and want things to happen right away. Great post, Theresa! :)

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    1. Livia, it's hard to be patient, so I don't blame you. Thanks!

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  30. Even though the journey from manuscript to manuscript isn't necessarily shorter, I feel like I'm better at handling the pitfalls of writing. I'm glad to have had my experiences and a perseverant nature.

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    1. Medeia, it does get easier the more we write. I'm glad you've persevered too.

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  31. You've captured the journey so well. Wonderful to know you're not the only one. I've tried to stop writing, I can't.

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    1. Yolanda, thank you! We're all on this roller coaster.

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  32. Excellent post, Theresa! There are so many highs and so many lows on this journey - but it's still a fun ride!

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    1. Jemi, I just used the roller coaster comparison above before reading your comment. So I agree with you! Thanks!

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  33. I need discipline! We have our home on the market and that's okay, except I'm spending way too much time cleaning house. It's taking up most of my morning. It's not like we slobs. There's just him and me. Actually, he's the messy one!

    Okay, I digest. But I need to win the lottery so I can leave the house and go to the writing office where nobody knows my name or my number!

    Hi, Lynda & Theresa!

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    1. Joylene, preparing a house for selling/moving is so stressful and such a time-taker. Good luck!

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  34. Yes, huge success could happen and it would be nice. In the meantime I guess we writers of fiction can bask in the satisfaction of being little gods of our own created worlds in which we are in control--or supposedly so.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Arlee, ha, yes, I am the god to my poor characters! Well put!

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  35. I love Lee's comment - "being little gos of our own creative worlds" - that's probably good enough. :)

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    1. Tonja, there is some satisfaction in that, isn't there?

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  36. As Jemi says, it's a fun ride. There's always something exciting to wake up to every day - our stories. Great post Theresa and Lynda.

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    1. Denise, thank you. I do love waking up with the possibilities of what I'll write that day.

      Happy birthday!

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  37. Hi, over from the link.

    Maintaining mental stamina for me is always best practiced with scores of notepads, my lappy on, and some soft music playing in the background. Oh, did I mention a magnum of wine?

    Good insight and spot on.

    Cheers.

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    1. Jeremy, thanks for clicking the link. I like your writing methods!

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  38. Great post. I love the idea of writing until our prose sparkles... I'll be watching out for that in my writing from now on! :-)

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    1. Annalisa, when you need to wear sunglasses, you know you're done!

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  39. How do I maintain my mental stamina? Wine. and chocolate. :)

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  40. Lynda, wow, you have one popular blog! I've spent the first day responding to comments. Today, I plan to visit all these commenters' bloggers. I'm going to be busy!

    Thanks again for hosting me.

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    1. lol, yeah, I'll admit as this blog grows in popularity it's a time challenge to visit everyone every week, but I love a challenge and it's certainly worth it. I've met so many fantastic people through this blog :)

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  41. I love it! So so true, Theresa!

    It's not draining like physical labor, but on the mental and emotional side, it's exhausting. Sometimes I think that's much harder than being physically tired. :)

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    1. Pk Hrezo, I agree. My husband would ask me why I was tired and I'd say, "I wrote for four hours." He didn't get it.

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  42. Sometimes when things get too dark I remind myself that there will be light at the end of this writing/looking for publication journey.

    Thanks Teresa for this wonderful post.

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    1. Rachna, you're right. Every word we write gets us closer to that goal.

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  43. Such a good post! Stamina is so important, but so is mental breaks sometimes--funny that they can go hand in hand :)

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    1. Meradeth, yes, we need little breaks to maintain our stamina!

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  44. shew, Theresa, you are SO right about the mental stamina. It's HARD. But at the same time, those virtual pats on the back and when readers give us feedback and "get" our work, oh, man. That makes it ALL worth it. :o) Best! <3

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    1. LTM, I agree. I don't have an agent, but I've receives some pretty sweet compliments from critique partners.

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  45. Hey there

    I'm convinced that writing is good for our minds. :)

    It takes a lot to put a novel together, and keep it together.

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    1. LR, it's definitely mental exercise, keeping us fit. When I first wrote and found out how much I needed to keep track of, I thought I'd never be able to do it. Now I'm a master juggler! Plot, dialogue, character developement, and so on ---bring it ON!

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  46. Sometimes, polishing our words into something worthwhile seems about as hopeless and frustrating as trying to turn coal into diamonds with a kids' chemistry set. Yet still, we hope, and still, we try. Because we must. I keep going because I love it, and quitting simply isn't an option. But like Alex, I keep it in perspective, too, and have a "que sera" attitude.

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    1. Susan, ha, yes! I've written some pretty bad coal. Now to create that elusive diamond!

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  47. What a great surprise to see you here, Theresa! I'm wondering if you've been inside my head - I'm pretty sure I've had identical thoughts :)

    Hi, Lynda!

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    1. Carol, you're not the first person to acuse me of that! I guess us unique writers are all the same.

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  48. Fantastic post! Writing is a mental roller coaster. It's hard, but thankfully not customer service! All we can do is just keep writing. It helps to fortify yourself with supportive people and chocolate too.

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    1. Christine, you're the second person to mention chocolate. For me, it's coffee!

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  49. You nailed a writer's ups and downs perfectly, Theresa. Congrats on "My Moments" being published in Stage Door Shadows! You're on a roll!

    Lynda, how are you doing? Thank you for featuring Theresa today!

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  50. Fantastic guest post! I'm still chuckling about the "We sit on the critique. While we do, some of those comments, though painful, make sense. Yeah, why did I think it was a good idea to kill off the only romantic interest in chapter one of my romance novel?"

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    1. Cherie, glad you got a laugh. I was going for the absurd, but I've done a few pretty lame rookie mistakes (wake up, 1st day of school, look in the mirror, dream sequence...).

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  51. I agree. It does take a lot of mental stamina to do what we do. Each one star review I have received has been like a punch to the gut (I've received three). Some I even questioned: did you actually read my book? But for all of those there are some glowing ones. I guess in a way, we are all tied to others for the validation of our lives. And while we wait, we must fortify our minds for the impending success or failure.

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    1. MIchael, I'm sure 1-star reviews are hard to take. I don't know if I could avoid reading my reviews, once I have a book out, but I sure would be healthier if I avoided them. Concentrate on the good ones, Michael.

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  52. Great line: "Hope for more, prepare for less, and be happy with anything in between. "
    I think it is my love of writing that usually pushes me through the tough times.

    Congratulations on "My Moments" being published, Theresa!

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    1. Cynthia, thank you! Yes, I love writing too.

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  53. Fantastic guest post, Theresa and Lynda! Writing is hard and mental stamina is so necessary. Loved your quip about getting feedbacks! Have to remember that!

    Thanks Lynda!

    Nas

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    1. Romance Book Haven, glad you enjoyed the post!

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  54. Awesome post, Theresa! It's always nice to know I'm not the only one that feels this way...

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  55. I don't know how I maintain my stamina. I love to write, of course, and I think that helps a lot. :)

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    1. Shallee, just keep writing is probably the best advice.

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  56. Theresa, great guest post!

    I think stamina is mental.

    Jai

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    1. Jai, thanks! I guess even physical stamina has a mental component!

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  57. I can't wait to read Theresa's story. She is an amazing writer! I know this to be a fact!!!

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  58. What I love most about writing is that you can start fresh every single day. Rejection - just hit fast forward and keep going.

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    1. Leslie, so true. Each day brings with it new opportunities to write. We move on.

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  59. The perfect post and we can all relate to it! :o) Ranting and ice cream become a must if you start taking your writing serious enough. HUGE congrats, Theresa, on your short story! <3

    Thanks for hosting, Lynda! Good to see you!!!!

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    1. Jackee, thank you very much. I guess I take my writing super seriously!

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  60. Hi Lynda and Theresa .. sounds so sensible .. life is like that anyway ..

    "Hope for more, prepare for less, and be happy with anything in between."

    So wise - just not getting depressed about life as a whole .. Hilary

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    1. Hillary, thanks for your comment. It's how I keep from getting depressed.

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  61. Hello Lynda, Milstein has a very humourous way of describing her efforts, making it enjoyable to read. What the dickens is a spoonful of ice cream? Aren't you supposed to fill the bowl up, then add the toppings before finishing with whipped cream? Oh wait I digress, sorry. Very nice post Lyn, Theresa is quite talented.

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    1. Spoonfuls is a polite way of saying exactly as you described ;)

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    2. Anthony, I like your version of how to eat ice cream better.

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  62. Lynda! So happy to see Theresa on here :) Theresa, I love this post. So inspiring. And you're right about the mental discipline a writer must have. I love your line: hope for more, expect less and be happy for everything in between:)

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Nutschell, thank you. I'd add we need to believe in our story and ourselves.

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  63. Congratulations, Theresa! I guess I just maintain stamina by remembering that I do this because I love it, published or not.

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    1. Susan, I love it too, though it's harder to remember that after critiques and rejections...

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  64. Great job, Theresa! Congrats! For me, it's all about perspective. Too much sunshine is as bad as too much rain.

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    1. Kittie, thank you! Nice way to look at it.

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  65. So true, Theresa. I always feel that a writer needs to be strong enough to scrap together the shreds of manuscript, take a few dozen antacids and think about it before she begins any revision. Thanks for the tips.

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    1. Victoria, ha! I like the antacid suggestion.

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  66. Once again, thank you to everyone who left a comment and supported Theresa! You're all awesome!!

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    1. Lynda, once again, thanks for hosting me!

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