But on top of that I drink WAY too much coffee. Five cups of (fully caffeinated) coffee is an average day for me.
I know it’s excessive so I’ve cut back on the amount of sugar and creamer I put into my coffee by about 75%.
Speed Walking While Story Thinking
I bought a cheap treadmill from Walmart and every morning the first thing I do is speed walk on it for 45 minutes while I think about my story.
I’ve found that even 20 minutes if I’m running late does wonders for activating the brain.
Then I sit down to write and if I’m having a good day I may not get up out of my chair for another 5 hours, but normally I hit a block about every hour, so I’ll go for a short walk around the block while again thinking about the story.
I Worry About How I’ll Make a Living as a Writer
Depression and a lack of balance at times, are my biggest emotional challenges.
I’m not clinically depressed per say, but I have times when the self-doubt is so rampant I have a hard time focusing on my work.
I worry a lot about how I’ll make a living as a writer. I love it, but so far it’s only made me enough money for a nice dinner.
I worry that people won’t like the book I’m currently working on because the themes aren’t deep enough or the characters not well developed. It’s crippling, this fear of failure, which is odd considering I don’t have much to fail from.
Fear of Failure Can Be So Crippling
I try to remind myself that things will work out.
I often play this game of “What’s the worst that can happen?” Answers: No one will read my book; people will read my book but hate it; people will compare this book to the last one and be disappointed; I’ll never make a dime writing.
And then I look at those answers and think, if that’s the worst that can happen then I’m going pretty good!
Fear of failure can be so crippling, but if we understand that failure is just another obstacle we have to get past then it’s easier to set it aside and continue working on story.
Sometimes I listen to classical music to help drown out the noises of self-doubt and I’m not sure why this is, but really sad melodramatic tunes always help me.
What if the Story I’m Working On Isn’t Good Enough?
Finishing my first book [was my darkest moment].
Well not initially. Initially it was great, but after all the marketing and promoting of the book was done and I realized how much work I had ahead of me for the next book, I became really discouraged.
I love to write, but all of sudden I felt this pressure to write something super literary (a style that has never suited me) and I became afraid that the story I’m working on wasn’t good enough. That I might somehow disappoint my friends and family who had been so supportive of me.
But then one day I just decided that I wasn’t going to worry about it. I was just going to write the worst draft ever and see what came of it.
As it turned out, the draft wasn’t amazing, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of the first draft I’d written of my first book. I gave myself permission to write a terrible draft. One that no one beside me would ever see.
The one thing that has kept me strong throughout this writing process is encouragement from readers.
Total strangers have left beautiful reviews of my first book, Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, and sent me messages on Twitter or via e-mail telling me how much they enjoyed the book.
Above all else, I have to say those words of encouragement have kept me going when self-doubt could’ve easily pushed me to pursue an easier path.
Advice for a Young Writer: Difficulty Builds Character
I would tell them that difficulty builds character and the more challenges and obstacles they have to face in life, the more fodder they’ll have for their stories.
My Twitter feed is actually full of inspirational and motivational tweets meant to help writers keep writing.
Most of us write at night after we’ve completed our family duties and come from a full-time day job, and it is exhausting, I mean truly exhausting to have to try and sustain both, but we do it because we love it.
And if you’re going to take writing seriously, you can’t be upset about how much work it is and how exhausted you are by the time you fall asleep. Embrace it as part of the journey and eventually, if you stick with it long enough you’ll find your equilibrium.
* * *
Jamie Jo Hoang is the author of Blue Sun, Yellow Sky. Her driver’s license says she lives in Los Angeles, but she tries to escape to foreign lands as often as possible. She is a writer, thinker, explorer, lover of tea, certified advanced diver, and never far from an ocean. Her debut novel was named one of the Best Books of 2015, by Kirkus Reviews and won a silver medal at the Independent Publishers Awards. To learn more about her and her work, please see her website, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Blue Sun, Yellow Sky: Hailed as “One of the best technical painters of our time” by an L.A. Times critic, 27-year-old Aubrey Johnson is finally gaining traction with her work. But as she weaves through what should be a celebration of her art, a single nagging echo of her doctor’s words refuses to stay silent—there is no cure. In less than eight weeks Aubrey is going blind.
Traveling on a one-way ticket around the world with childhood friend Jeff Anderson, Aubrey is in complete denial. But a blindfolded game of tasting foreign foods in China jolts her into confronting the reality of her situation. So begins her quest.
In this adult coming-of-age story, Aubrey struggles to make sense of her crippling diagnosis. But on her journey she finds a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes fragmented and complex, but always with relentless truth. Available at Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.