The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

JordanA Writer's Guide to Persistence, Guest Blogs

Hi friends! We are in the official countdown to the publication of A Writer’s Guide to Persistence (which is available for pre-order). I’m told that copies may be available as soon as April 15th (a welcome respite from tax day)! In the process, I’ll be bringing you stories of persistence from a variety of writers. At the end of each post is a question you can answer to win a free copy of one of my books, including Persistence.

Today’s guest post is by Lillian Ann Slugocki

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Last year, I knew I was finished as a writer. I couldn’t even be bothered to write in my journal. I had nothing to say, because I didn’t have a voice anymore. And what’s more, I just didn’t care. I needed to admit that my career was over. It was fun while it lasted. But it was time to grow up.

This year, I can barely keep up with the demands of my writing career:

I’m finishing the final edits on a novella, How to Travel with Your Demons, which will be published by Spuyten Duyvil Press in late 2015/early 2016.  I’m sending images and ideas to my book designer, and my agent is looking over the contract. In the meantime, I’m working with a fantastic editor at The Nervous Breakdown on my second essay, “The Bodhisattva.” I have work upcoming in The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, THE FEM Literary Magazine,  Non-Binary Review, and was recently published in Deep Water Literary Journal. And this is just the second month of the year.

How did this happen?

Even though I wasn’t writing, I was submitting. Despite the negative self-talk (see above), it was relatively easy to polish unpublished work I had in my archives, and send it off. Most Lit Mags use Submittable, so it’s criminally easy– once you’ve setup your profile and created a gravatar.  This was my process; on Saturday or Sunday night, bored out of my mind with TV crime dramas, depressed, and scrolling through Facebook,  I’d see a call for submissions. If I knew I had something that might fit, and I knew the mag, I’d spend about an hour editing a piece from my archives. I’d transfer it to a Word file, and send it off. I didn’t even keep a record because I knew Submittable does that for me.

Some of this archived work was five or six years old.  I found that I had a unique perspective on it– it had been so long that it seemed as if the piece had been written by a stranger.  It was always so clear what needed to be done; cut that phrase, smooth that transition, make the analogy clearer, revise the ending, delete adjectives, use active not passive voice. I also might change the title, or fix the order of the paragraphs. The point here is that it was easy. Almost effortless. So I did it. And mostly forgot about it.

Seven, eight months later– out of all the places I had submitted to, many were accepted. Some were a complete surprise.  I’d scoot over to Submittable, click on the link, and think: I hardly remember doing that!  The rising tide of acceptances inspired me to get moving again, take chances again, and most of all, build a consistent writing practice again.  I also found that after having been away from it for almost a year, I had a different focus, personal essays, as opposed to fiction.  I found that I could take the same narrative structure, the same imagery, the same passion, and tell a story about my life– and not hide it inside of a “story.”  This has been revelatory, but, more importantly, it has been fun.

I’m back to my goal of 4k words a week in a journal I keep on google docs.  I don’t aim for anything, but the word count. I don’t care if any of it makes sense.  For me, being a writer is like being a runner, and I tell my students this. Keep writing to stay in shape.  I learned this from reading The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Allen Sillitoe:

“You should think about nobody and go your own way, not on a course marked out for you by people holding mugs of water and bottles of iodine in case you fall and cut yourself so that they can pick you up – even if you want to stay where you are – and get you moving again.” 

Read her essay Two View of Apartment 210 at The Nervous Breakdown

YOUR QUESTION TO WIN:

Lillian posed an open ended question. Her favorite answer will win a copy of A Writer’s Guide to Persistence:

Q:  If you find yourself circling around the same story over and over again– should you walk away from it, because you fear you are repeating yourself, or embrace it?

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Lillian Ann Slugocki has created a body of work on women and female sexuality, including The Erotica Project, co-authored with Erin Cressida Wilson, produced Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre with productions in London, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as award winning series on National Public Radio and WBAI. She’s also been published by Seal Press, Cleis Press, Heinemann Press, Newtown Press, Spuyten Duyvil Press, as well as Bloom/The Millions, Salon, Beatrice, THE FEM Literary Magazine, HerKind/Vida, Deep Water Literary Journal, and The Nervous Breakdown.  Upcoming work in The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, and Non Binary Review. Her novella, “How to Travel with Your Demons,” will be published by Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2015. MA from NYU.

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If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Night Oracle, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and, Forged in Grace.

The Second Annual Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson happens at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 1-3, 2015.

Photo, “Running into the Future” by Hartwig HKD, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.

JordanThe Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer