Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March On

“All around me are familiar faces

Worn out places, worn out faces

Bright and early for the daily races

Going nowhere, going nowhere”

- Orzabal; Roland. Song “Mad World” Gary Jules

In yesterday’s post, I hinted that I’d been going through a rough time. Even on the best days, I’m always plagued with self-doubt, which I constantly fight against. Last week, I was in pretty good spirits because my Miss Snark's First Victim dialogue entry received all positive comments* and my blog audience continued to grow. In addition, I have the best followers and commenters. My husband has been impressed with my blog progress, so he said he wanted to take me out to dinner on Saturday night. All good, right?

Saturday, based on Jackee and Susan’s posts**, I entered a query contest with my sparkling new query (Thanks, Jackee). Writer’s Digest had a first two-hundred-word contest for the same agent (see link on top of page), so I entered that on Sunday. This agent would have my query and beginning of manuscript. Since Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent contest gave me some invaluable feedback for improvement, I was happy with what I was sending. Yeah, things were looking up. (You see where this is going, don’t you?)

On Saturday night, while my husband and I were waiting for my table, my lack of career came up. He said something to the effect of that because of his support, I had the luxury (my word) of not being forced to do something else. He wasn’t trying to be mean, but my internal reaction speaks to my insecurities. And I know it’s true – without him I’d be working for an insurance company, which is my only other area of expertise. I was employed full-time at a car insurance company for three years, and then part-time during graduate school for another five. Of course, I’ve been out of the business for as long as I was in it, which would count against me.

When I was full-time, before I got into graduate school, I dreaded going to my job. I logged in long hours and got no real job satisfaction. But that’s life – there has to be a person to perform every job there is to do. Why should I be special and get to do my dream job? Every Saturday night I’d get a pang because it was the last night where I wouldn’t have to work the next day until Friday came again. I don’t even get that feeling as a substitute teacher until Sunday night, so I must’ve been really miserable.

On Sunday, I should've known that something was amiss when I sat on the toilet seat and it cracked. My husband said it was already breaking but still. Then my husband and the kids left to snowboard at Pat's Peak for the school’s yearly trip. Since I hate the cold and thought I was going to die the few times I skied as an adult, I always skip the trip. I didn’t have the car, and the weather was rainy and chilly, so I stayed home, planning to get a mountain’s worth of chores accomplished. And I did: editing, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and laundry. But because I have too many weekdays like this, by mid-afternoon I was bored.

Then came Monday morning. The alarm sounded at 5:25am, which was painful since I’d gotten only five hours of sleep. My inbox had a rejection for the query contest waiting to greet me. This meant I wasn’t winning the word contest either. Added to the Amazon contest rejection that came on Saturday afternoon, which I’d barely given a thought to, now I was thinking about everything.

I was wasting my time. Why did I think I could actually be a writer? I had spent the last nearly four years fooling myself and was a poser writer. Writing hasn’t saved me from subbing. Subbing hadn’t led me to a teaching job. Worse was that I applied for a job as a building substitute last week and even sent a separate e-mail to the principal, whom I knew and had heard… you guessed it… nothing. (Oh yeah, and the roof has been an ongoing saga since Friday.)

It didn’t help that I had no job on Monday, which meant that my life now resembled the film "Groundhog Day". A second day to just focus on writing should’ve been a gift, but I had not a scrap of creativity or a bit of motivation. I decided to have a pity party for one instead.

I did accomplish some things, but nothing writing-related. (I’ve written a half-a-million words at this point, so why bother writing or editing any more?) When I was running errands, my allergies hit me, making me wonder if even the air was against me. Only in the last year have my sniffles plagued me almost year-round. What was the universe trying to tell me? I drove in the car, listening to “Mad World”, which did nothing to lift my spirits.

The funny thing was that on that day, many posts on the blogs I follow varied from introspective to depressing. Was it because it was March first? For me, this March is a tough month. I’m less than two weeks away from my one-year anniversary of subbing. That thought made me go from feeling like a poser to feeling like a loser. Then the last Friday in February meant it was one month until the dreaded Big Birthday. Remember that post ****when I mentioned that I wanted something happen by then? By Monday morning, I knew that NOTHING was going to happen except that I’d be older.

Old Kitty had a fun post**** where she put a link to see which Jane Austen character I’d be. Of course, I wound up being the older sister, Elinor Dashwood, who feels deeply, but behaves practically. In my quest to get out of my comfort zone, had I really changed?

KarenG wrote two excellent posts***** about mid-point turnarounds for a character in our books. Now that I was nearing that big birthday, was I at my mid-point in life? Was there some realization or turnaround for me? If I were writing the story of my life, where would I be in the story?

Of course, life is not a book. While books may have happy endings, real life does not. We all die at the end and that’s pretty depressing, even if we’ve been blessed with a fulfilling life. And books end with some unanswered questions, while death is pretty much the end (Unless you count a possible afterlife, which would make for an interesting sequel).

So, on Monday, I vowed not to write a post because it would’ve been whiny, boring, and self-serving (As if blogs aren’t self-serving enough). (I apologize if this post turned out to be whiny.) I’d like to say that I had some epiphany that would form the rest of my actions, but I did not. I do what I always do – thinking of the impoverished, the disasters in the world (i.e.: recent earthquakes), and try to be grateful about all of the things that are going right in my life. When I do this, it keeps me from deep, dark depression. For now, that’s enough. I haven’t quit yet.

What do you do to survive the rough patches?

(Please note that the pictures are from a contest to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Go to:

Talkin’ Heads (My entry):

** Jackee and Susan’s blogs:

*** Previous post:

**** Old Kitty’s post with Jane Austen link:

***** Karen G’s posts:


  1. Oh man, I so feel you. As an aspiring writer who left behind full-time work that always curled my stomach come Sunday morning (that's when my blues set-in) - I am practically your twin.

    You have to do the impossible. You have to reach back and remember the other times you have felt this way. You have to look back and you have to try and remember that this will pass.

    And then you have to start writing. Entering all these contests is a great way to inject some verve into your writing world but you need to find something else for now - at least until your wounds heal a bit.

    I have a couple ideas for you:

    1. Take yourself on a date. Get your notebook or computer and head to the bar of your favorite restaurant. Order an expensive glass of wine and scribble.

    2. Go to reading or lecture. Bring your notebook.

    3. Similar to #1, but a bit more traditional. Take yourself to the loveliest cafe that you know of. Spend a little extra time on yourself before you go (e.g. where your favorite jeans). Order a huge, frothy, delicious, caffeinated something and write.

    When one is in these funks, sometimes you gotta fake it 'til you make it. Meaning, even if none of these ideas are appealing, you gotta just get out there.

  2. Thank you for being being honest and sharing how you're feeling. I've been feeling the same way, but for different reasons; it's good to know I'm not alone.

    I try to do what you do when I'm depressed(look at how lucky I am to have great people in my life, maintain perspective about how much worse it could be), but sometimes you just have to go through it - be present with how you're feeling instead of pushing it down, so that you can have perspective!

    Lately, I'll volunteer because it takes the focus off of me and selfishly makes me feel good to help others. I read, spend too much time on facebook, go to the movie theater, reach out to someone I love or will clean (it strangely helps me quiet my mind). Since my marriage ended I've also tried to do something I've never done before or thought I'd do (trapeze class) which can make feel confident, present and proud.

    I've seen a lot of changes in you, since you began writing and have been so inspired by you. Your writing just gets better and better, you continue to push
    yourself, you've reached out to other writers, attended conferences and are bravely submitting your work when it may or may not be accepted. You do this because you're a writer - it's who you are whether or not you've reached certain goals yet - just like you're an extraordinary teacher to your kids and the hundreds of kids you've taught whether or not you have your own room yet.

    I continue to be inspired by your example to work harder in my own life to really put myself out there for the things I truly love doing, but am afraid to do. Thank you for sharing this:)

  3. Goodness, there must be something in the air. Maybe it is a March thing, because I told myself that 2010 will be a Great Year. My mantra? Focus on the moment, family, making a nice meal and a nice sunny day. Sounds easy. Sometimes it is.

  4. Rebecca, those are some great ideas. I have a hard time indulging myself because guilt sets in. Maybe I have to give myself a break. I certainly don't have a rough life, but when we want to be validated for something that's important to us, it's hard to get past that part that isn't coming together. Thanks for the comment, twin.

    Kathleen, thanks for the encouragement. I think it's great that you're volunteering. Helping others is a good way to get out of the "Woe is me" mode. It scares me a little that I'm an example - you make want to look elsewhere. : )

    Lynda, if I didn't have so many links already, I was going to list the Monday blog posts that were riddled with angst. I like your mantra, which is doable. We reach for the stars, but the simple things in life are pretty good too. And I've seen your recipe blog, so the better for your family.

  5. It's hard, I know! (Believe me... even if I do have a good writing day, all of those other doubts creep back in at the end of it... You're 36! You don't have a job! What if you never make any money writing! blah blah blah).

    Even so, writing makes me happy. Happier than when I made money and could trot down to the high street shops and buy whatever my little heart desired. You can't measure success by external criteria (although that's easier said than done). Do what you do for you.

  6. I completely understand where you're coming from, Theresa. Maybe it's March, maybe it's winter or maybe it's a bad Saturday. They stink. Rejection is never inspiring, but I agree with Rebecca--sometimes we have to fake it until we make it.

    The good thing is that you KNOW what you want to do. That may not seem like a lot right now, but there are so many people who have no idea what their passion in life is and just wander around working towards nothing. You have a direction, you know what you want. So, keep going for it!

  7. Marsha Moore, you're right - I keep at it because writing makes me happy, even though it torments me sometimes. Last night, my husband told me to separate the writing from the publishing (Which is the same advice Miss Snark's First Victim gives in her ebook), but it's easier said than done.

    Tiffany, it's true. At least I know what I want. Now on to making it happen. I hope.

  8. "I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer" Doris Lessing

    Theresa Milstein!!!

    Happy birthday!!!


    You writer you!!! You are such a writer really and truly!

    I really feel writers or anyone writerly inclined will feel rejections and dejections a million times deeper and will be in a funk about it a thousand times more profoundly than most. I really do believe that. Each "failure" feels like the world has ended and the why on earth am I doing this again why can't I just give up and be happy with my lot type of introspection comes so much more to the fore.

    It really does help to let rip and to vent - that's why I love blogs and emails and writerly online forums because writing is such a lonely, isolating thing and sometimes you do need like minded people instantly even if it is over the ether - but you do need to expel all your doubts sometimes to those who would understand.

    I can only say that we're all here for you and that we really understand. I also know that from the deepest darkest space a writer can find him or herself they also find this amazing strength to carry on writing because writing is breathing. It is oxygen. It is life - we chose to do this and it's inseparable now from what we are. We can only pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and yes, start all over again. But this time be darned better than the last. Read what has been submitted and rejected and rip it apart and re-start again and again and again.

    Make that writing sparkle! Polish it up again and again and again until you can see not only your reflection but the colour of your eyes in it!


    You can do this Theresa Milstein. You really, really, really can. And there WILL be other opportunities and a home for all your wonderful stories.

    Take care

  9. Old Kitty, no birthday wishes yet! I have a few weeks to go. Hanging on to the edge of that 9, but I'm losing grip.

    You're right. I need to just keep writing and dismantling and polishing until it's sparkly. Writers need to write, so if I get bogged down under every setback, I'm missing the point. Besides, my husband just reminded me that I'm nowhere near the 10,000 hours I need to log in to be an expert.

    Less time whining, and more time writing!

  10. You are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. We all feel like that at times. So many questions mull around my head it makes me dizzy. Why do I bother? I'm not good enough. Who would read my book? ... Need I go on!

    All us writers are in the same boat. Hang in there :)

  11. Theresa,

    I noticed the first of March blues in blog land. I also noticed how many were saying they had bad colds! Do we catch viruses through the internet or something lol?

    One thing to always remember is that it's not always about money. Sure your husband is earning the paycheck, most of it anyway, but you are also contributing something valuable to your home and family. I'm sure if you had your husband and kids write a list of all the ways they see how you give to the family, the list would be very, very long.

  12. Wendy, I hear you! I glad that I'm not alone and that you're all so kind to reach out and remind me. Thanks!

    Karen G, it's funny that you mention the colds. I got one two weeks ago and the cough is still lingering (I sound like I have consumption). And I have noticed that there are a few others with colds in the blogosphere. (Feel better, Old Kitty.)

    I know I contribute, but when it's not financial, it feels less important here. It's a sore spot with me. I should make a list. Thanks!

  13. Oh, girl. I'm sorry you're having a rough time. You know, I almost wrote a post about the futility of so many of us trying to be writers. We can't all be the Mozarts, the Bachs, Brahms, but we do it cuz we love it. We love stories and we love words.

    I'm glad you have a supportive husband and just keep plugging at it. We're here to help each other up. I'm impressed you submitted to those contests. They're SO competetive and subjective. Just because you weren't picked DOES NOT you shouldn't write. Different people like different things. I like the quote KarenG has on her sidebar on her blog. It says to write to please ourselves instead of everybody. I'm sure you do that.

  14. Thanks for the support, M. Gray. I agree that we can't all be Mozarts. I'll keep writing as long as I enjoy it, and see where it takes me.

  15. I could have written this post. I mean I could have, if I was as good a writer. Contest rejections are horrible things, dismissive and cruel while trying to be encouraging and thoughtful. But you have to keep sending out your work. You.Have.To.

    I went to a workshop once and Karen Joy Fowler, an author, brought with her (she led the workshop) a massive binder of rejection letters. I'm not kidding you it was like an encyclopedia or a phone book it was so freaking big. She's probably the wikipedia of rejection letters. But she's famous now, so whatever to them. She just kept going.

    Is this helping? I feel like I'm not helping. But anyway, I was in a job I hated. HATED. Oh god, I used to treat myself to the handicapped bathroom sometimes. TREAT myself. Like it was so bad, that that was my only true joy, to escape to a large industrial bathroom stall. It matters. Happiness matters. You will find success. It may take a bit longer, but you'll find it.

  16. Theresa,

    You are selling yourself short. You are a wonderful writer! Keep your eye on the prize and be patient sweet lady. I know you are going to get there! Why go back to something you hated doing??? Yuck!

  17. Stop being so hard on yourself. People are reading and enjoying your writing. Now that's a giant accomplishment.

  18. It's almost spring! Hopefully that will lift all our spirits. I'm a stay-at-home mom with absolutely no income at all. I lead a bible study which takes two mornings a week, but it doesn't contribute to our family's finances. But when I look around at the families around me with two working parents, I realize what an amazing gift our family has. It's not just that I can devote time to my writing (an awesome blessing as well, to be sure), but I can be home to have a snack and maybe play a game with my kids after school, they can spend their summers at home rather than at endless camps or summer school or day care, I put a home cooked dinner on the table every night, we almost always have home baked cookies in the cookie jar, and I think eveyone in general is less stressed. Even though you sub, you still probably have more time at home than you did with your insurance job, and you probably have summers off. These are great benefits to your family.

  19. Having read your writing, I hope you already know that I think you have what it takes to rock this publishing gig. You are telented and have a way, especially, with dialogue. Keep writing (because you probably can't stop anyway).

    And... HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are not 40, you are twenty-twenty. Which is a pretty fun place to be, I hear.

    When I'm in that dark place of self-doubt I think back to how I grimly promised myself that if I was going to fail, I was going to fail spectacularly, not crawl into some hole of give-up. How about we make a pact that as writing buddies, we'll both fail big or succeed with dignity? Sound good?


  20. Remember what I said about turning 40? You are the baby of that decade, starting out fresh. You've got all that life ahead of you. Don't dwell on the past or the negatives. They're too heavy to carry around. Think of the positives and write about the positives. You have a wonderful family, you're a brilliant writer and you are teaching future generations your knowledge. If it's any consulation, I broke my toilet seat too!! hehe Be happy Chick XX

  21. Tara it is helpful to know that there are successful writers who have a pile of rejections. I saw Laurie Halse Anderson give a talk and she had an impressive stack as well. Thanks for the compliment about my writing.

    I'm sorry you had suck a horrible job that you sought solace in a bathroom stall. It's good not to be doing that anymore, I'm sure.

    Thanks, VKT. Right now teaching and getting published seem like unattainable goals. It's crazy that teaching in the subject I'm certified in is like that right now. I can see myself writing, teaching, or both. I can't imagine working in insurance again!

    Thanks, Sheila. The fact that people are reading and commenting on my blog means a lot.

    Susan, I agree that much about being home is a gift. The good thing about teaching is that I wouldn't be stuck with camps and some of the juggling and expenses that regular jobs require. My husband has told me the same thing. If it weren't a question of us needing a bigger place, then I wouldn't feel so bad.

  22. Jackee, first let me say IT'S NOT MY BIRTHDAY! yet. Two twenties, I like that. When I get carded, I think (with glee) that I'm almost two twenty-ones.

    Okay, a pact. We won't be so hard on ourselves and we'll keep writing and being writing buddies. Thanks!

    Niki, you made me laugh. I'll worry only if I break another toilet cover. Thanks for the inspirational words.

  23. Theresa, I am so sorry that you are going through a tough time. I know Monday was the blues day. I think with the change of seasons, a new month --people start to re evaluate things. You keep writing--don't stop. I have learned to take the bad and turn it into good. I know it doesn't help when you are in the funk of the bad but things will turn around. Thanks for visiting my site and keep writing :)I will be checking back. You will get there!

  24. Thanks, Christine. You were one of the Monday blues writers too. I like your blog, so I'll check back too.