Toxic People–How Do We Get Them Out of Our Lives?

Humans are creatures of habit. We like to park in the same parking spot every day, be it at work, school, the shopping mall. We buy the same seat locations for movies. We use the same person at the salon.

It’s the same thing for the people we interact with. We all have that friend from elementary school, we brag we’ve been married for 10+ years, we’re still in touch with college professors, even though you’ve been graduated for twenty years. We latch on to people, and we can’t let go.

But what if that person we meet at our coffee klatch, or writing group, or your daughter’s best friend’s mother, what if that person you thought to be a good friend . . . isn’t?

You know the one I’m talking about, even if you don’t want to admit it. That friend who never has anything nice to say about your work. That friend who can’t compliment you unless it compliments her. That friend who can’t do anything nice for anyone unless she benefits from it as well, in some way. That person who promised you she would do something and never does, though she’s full of apologies.

That kind of behavior can sneak up on you, and maybe it takes years. And maybe that person is so fully ensconced in your life that booting them to the curb seems . . . maybe a little too dramatic. I mean, after all, it’s not really harmful they treat you that way. Is it? If they hurt your feelings, that’s not on them, it’s on you for being too sensitive. Because she did do that one thing for you a few months back, though it was a couple weeks too late, and you didn’t need it by then, but she made the effort, right?

Friendship-quotes-Bad-Friend-Quotes-Picture-Quotes
http://pinit.top/quotes/friendship-quotes-bad-friend-quotes-picture-quotes-3/

Maybe you’re part of a group, and others can’t see her for what she is, and if you extricate yourself from the group, you won’t just be rid of her, but you’ll lose a couple of good friends.

And maybe, this is what will always be in the back of your mind, WHAT IF SHE TREATS OTHERS BETTER THAN SHE TREATS YOU.  That this isn’t just her personality, but something personal she thinks and feels toward you? She kicks you, and you come back for more because that one thing was a fluke, and she’ll never do it again. Only, she does. But they are small things, a back-handed compliment, a comment that doesn’t quite sit well with you, but maybe you’re touchy because you’ve had a bad day, and you keep brushing them off.

The thing is, you’re not imagining this stuff. It’s how that person is really treating you. Once you can face it, once you can fully understand that it is HER and not YOU, you need to figure out what to do about it. This “friendship” has probably been years in the making, and you just realized after one too many pretty insults that you can’t take it anymore. But she’s a major stakeholder in your life now. You talk all the time. Your kids have playdates. Maybe your husband is best friends with yours. These are real-life examples, but I’ve been burned by people I’ve met online. Sometimes dumping someone in real-life is easier than online. You stop answering texts, you stop going on double dates. If it’s your daughter’s best friend’s mother, think of it as a favor to your daughter. How is your daughter’s friend going to grow up with a catty woman like that for a mom?

No, online is a bit different because I’m swimming in an aquarium of writers (sometimes there are sharks in there!), where everyone knows everyone else, and cutting someone out of your life means not knowing what they are doing anymore. Professionally. You don’t want to miss what they are going to do next, what kind of contacts they make. Because not only could something they know help you, it could elevate your career to the next level. And this isn’t a joke. Networking is important. It’s important in any career–it’s why all industries have conferences, retreats, etc. So this isn’t in your head, and it’s okay to have FEAR OF MISSING OUT when you think of cutting someone out of your life.

But honestly, how much of a career will you have if you are not taking care of your mental health? Being a writer is hard enough as it is without having to suit up in armor every time you jump online.

Here are a couple tips to help you sweep out that pesky person who just cannot be nice.

  1. Shake things up in your real life first. Park in a different parking spot at work. Take the kids to school using a different route. Try a new restaurant. Doing small things like this can alter your brain’s neuropathways, and you can teach yourself that change isn’t bad. Especially change you instigate yourself. Studies show that you can handle change better when you start it. I’m not saying dump her before she can dump you, but disentangling yourself from that kind of friendship may be easier on you if you do it, rather than if she does it a few months or years down the road. Other ideas: Take your evening walk in the morning. Walk it backward. Not backward backward, you could hurt yourself! But from finish to start. If you take road trips with your sister and always head east, go west. This is good for your writer’s brain. You’ll discover more, engage more with your surroundings.
  2. If you truly do fear for your professional career, take matters into your own hands. Book a writer’s conference, follow a few more influencers and leaders in the writing community, add another publishing podcast to your playlist. If you can fill the hole not talking to your “friend” anymore will create, it won’t be so hard to say goodbye.
  3. Make new friends. Twitter has a gazillion users, start talking to some of them! Start a book club on Facebook, or start an online writer’s group that will share promo sites, inexpensive cover designers, editors that will swap work with you. Whatever you think you are going to miss from your friend, there are others who know just as much or more than she does.
  4. You do have people in your life that mean more to you than she does, so cultivate those relationships. Maybe you haven’t spoken to your old walking buddy in some time, or that coworker you used to like to hang out in the breakroom with, but she got a new job and you haven’t spoken with her since she left.

Fear of missing out is a real thing, but it’s still just in your head. It comes from being chosen last during gym class at school, or your friends ganging up on your on the playground. It comes from people flocking around a writer who just got an agent, and you feel left out in the cold. No one wants to be excluded. But the fact is, no one puts all their problems online–you only know the shiny parts, what they choose to display. Insecurity, jealousy, and fear are probably three of the main reasons your “friend” treats you the way she does. That’s not an excuse but a reason. Maybe she has a serious case of writer’s block, and she hasn’t written for months, or maybe sales weren’t what she thought they’d be during release week, and she’s jealous of your KU page reads. It could be anything. But the fact is, you don’t have to put up with it.

You don’t need to burn bridges or start tweeting or posting derogatory things about her. Or tweeting subliminal tweets about how good friends should behave. You don’t even need to unfollow (on Twitter) or block. Facebook makes it easy to stay friends with someone but not see their posts anymore. Unlike her author page. You can be a grownup about it; just stop engaging. Because you and she are both part of a community, and there’s no point in slinging mud. Be civil. Chances are she may not notice. Chances are she has a lot of friends and a few weeks of distancing yourself may just do the trick because she’s friends with a lot of different people.

Probably the biggest piece of advice I have for you is this: social media is good for networking, for getting to know people, for learning the tools of your craft and business, but overall, social media doesn’t sell books. If you’re in it to sell books, you need to write more and find ads and promo sites that work for you. Networking can help you do that, but that’s all it has to offer. Social media can be a support or a distraction, but it won’t skyrocket you to bestseller status. Only you can do that, in front of your laptop–writing.

Do you have other tips to help ignore or get rid of toxic people in your life? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

 

Self-Care and the Healthy Writer

health is not valued

I’ve let myself go, and not in a good way. Not like I’ve decided to stop worrying about things I can’t change, or that poor review, or what someone thinks of me.

No, I used to run, not from my personal demons or bills, but literally–10k, 5k races, I even ran a half-marathon. I used to love it, the accomplishment, the exhilaration, the sheer pleasure of being outside. Just me and the squirrels.

That changed when I found writing. For a while, I did both. I wrote, went to work, I went on runs. But slowly, as writing became more and more important to me, running became less and less and soon I stopped altogether.

Since I’ve stopped, I’ve fallen into a routine: get up, get the kids to school. Then I settle in to write for three or four hours. I take a shower after that, do chores, pick up the kids from school, then make dinner. The evenings are spent online chatting with friends, maybe watching some Netflix. Maybe writing if I’m really into a scene. Then I go to bed. I can usually write about 10,000 words a week, maybe more if I don’t have to labor over every word, if I know what I need to write ahead of time.

Nice work if you can get it.

There are only so many hours in the day–everyone knows this. Especially the writer who only puts down 100 words before having to do something else.

Who has time for exercise?

When I was writing and running, when, for those few months before one passion overtook the other, I used my running time to plot books. I would listen to music, or if it was early in the morning, I would run in silence and think about my characters, what trouble I could create for them while I effortlessly ran my six mile route through a pretty city park near my apartment.

These days, in a time where families need two incomes to make it work, and you have little kids watching TV all the time and the noise stresses you out, or you listen to a book while you make dinner because you don’t have time to read, we don’t think a lot about self-care, exercise, even eating right. We do what we have to do to get through the day with our sanity intact.

The other morning, tired, after dropping the kids at school, I crawled back into bed with my cat and let my mind drift. I thought about where I was with my book, the people giving me a hard time on Twitter, what I did last week. I dozed, let my thoughts drift for a couple hours while my cat’s head rested on my arm.

We don’t do this very often for a lot of reasons: guilt, thinking it’s a waste of time, knowing chores could be done, words could be written, but we should.

Creativity is hard work. Writing is emotionally draining, maybe physically, too, if we deal with carpal tunnel, eye strain, or back pain. Many writers deal with anxiety or depression, especially if they are querying and waiting for news.

I’ve started walking–I can’t jump back into running just yet. Nothing abandons you faster than stamina, but I’ve promised to lace up my shoes, get some air, get my blood flowing, my heart pumping.

I used to listen to podcasts, but I’m going to try to walk maybe every other time in silence, let my mind drift. Think about plots, notice how the sun sparkles on the snow, take time to breathe. Let my characters speak to me.

calm mind

If you are drained, strained, stressed, you’ll have nothing for the page.

I’ve let myself go, and in the process, I’ve gained weight, and every year my bad cholesterol numbers go up along with my BMI. But not only have I lost some of my health, I’ve lost the peace running gave me.

Self-care is important, and how you do it is up to you. Sit outside and listen to the neighborhood dog barking, read that book, go to coffee with a friend.

Breathe.

Fill your creativity well.

Take care of yourself.

Because you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health. The Healthy Writer

To encourage you to become a healthy writer, I’m giving away two paperback copies of this book by the fabulous Dr. Euan Lawson and Joanna PennThe Healthy Writer: Reduce your pain, improve your health, and build a writing career for the long term. She’s a wonderful part of the indie community, and we’re lucky to have her as a professional role model. (I did not get any kick-backs for giving away her book–I bought the paperbacks myself on Amazon.)

Spring is coming! Get out there!

Click here to enter the drawing!

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How Do You Feel When You Get Your Work Back From Your Editor?

As a writer, putting your work out there is difficult. It’s probably the number one reason writers don’t publish: they are afraid of people seeing their work. And not only seeing their work, but judging it. I’m editing Summer Secrets right now. My editor (I feel like such a professional writer when I say that!) sent me back my novellas, and over the past week, I’ve slowly been putting in the revisions she suggested and fixing the mistakes she found.

You would think that I would be ecstatic that my novellas are so much closer to publication, and don’t get me wrong, I am. But you know how I really feel when I go through all her comments and suggestions?  Shame. Embarrassment. Sadness. Fear.

Shame

The definition of shame from Merriam-Webster is:

shame definition

When I go through my editor’s comments (and let me be clear, these are all my feelings, not caused by my editor. My editor is a professional, in that she is kind, supportive, and in no way hurtful or disrespectful in regards to me and my work) I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed I made the mistakes I made. I’m a writer, aren’t I? I can’t see for myself I used the same word five times in two sentences? I can’t see for myself my two main characters have names that are similar and therefore yes, a reader may mix them up, and why couldn’t I choose different names, for crying out loud?  In the definition above, 1a mentions shortcomings.  Uh. Yeah. Nothing makes you feel like you are less than a writer than when all your mistakes are highlighted and accentuated with a comment. Definition 3a mentions regret. Yep. I have a ton of regret in that, why didn’t I find all these mistakes before I passed on my work to someone?

Embarrassment

Embarrassment goes hand in hand with shame. I’m embarrassed I sent her my work with so much wrong with it. I’m embarrassed I didn’t try harder.  Never mind how many times I read through them, never mind that I used Grammarly, then read them again. Never mind I spent money on printing them out to edit a paper copy. I didn’t try hard enough to make them mistake-free. That’s my inner critic talking, my irrational, unrealistic inner critic. Because any writer knows how impossible it is to catch all your own mistakes.

embarrassed

But it’s how I feel when my eyes slide away from a highlighted paragraph and the comments telling me what’s wrong with it and possible ways to fix it.  My cheeks heat up, I have to swallow hard, and I have to force myself to just get on with it.

Sadness

Sadness is probably the weakest feeling I have when I edit, but it’s still there. I get sad that my editor had to work so hard, I get sad when I feel like I could have tried harder. I get sad when I think there are better writers out there than me. Sadness waltzes with self-doubt in my heart when I see how many comments she made in my document. But you know what else I get sad about? Thinking about not writing anymore. That makes me sad, too.

Fear

fear of writing

When I searched “fear in writing” I found this lovely drawing on Lynette Noni’s blog post. I have a lot of fears about my writing, and yes, they come out when I’m editing. I fear I’m not a good writer. I fear I’ll never sell any books. I fear I’ll never be able to make a career out of my writing. After all, I can’t be a good writer if my editor finds all these things wrong with my book, right? And I want to be a good writer so I can sell books, so people can say, “Wow, that was probably one of the most emotional, heart-wrenching books I have ever read.”  We all want to be writers who touch someone in some way with our work.

But What Else . . .

But you know what else I feel when I edit? I feel joy. I feel happy when my editor says she enjoyed a setting description or how I nailed how a character feels with show and not tell.  I get excited when she tells me she loved an intimate moment between two characters, and a “More please!” in the comment section. I get excited when she congratulates me on proper grammar.

I’ll feel pride when I hold my published books in my hands, when my friends, family, and co-workers congratulate me on being tenacious, of having a dream and working toward it.

The act of writing and publishing is no doubt an emotional roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, you’re thrown sideways and completely head over heels. But the trick, and oh my, is it a trick, is to keep fighting. To not let those negative feelings overwhelm you, to let them win. Surround yourself with friends who know what you’re going through, who will support you, and not let you give up.

If I have any advice from going through the editing process, it’s to keep your mind open and learn. Learn from what your editor is telling you. S/he’s on your side. Your editor wants to you to put out your best work, and that undoubtedly is your goal too, which is why you hired one. Don’t take their advice and suggestions as hurtful criticism, (unless it is, then you need a new editor) take their feedback and turn it into a positive learning moment. I’ve learned a lot going through my editor’s feedback.

I took a break from editing to quickly write up this post. I’d come to a paragraph where her advice was hard to swallow. I see it, I understand it, I agree with it, but there again, those feelings come up. Why didn’t I see this? Why did I send my work to her this way? What is so wrong with me I couldn’t fix this on my own?

Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with you, either. We’re all human, and doing the best we can.

For more articles about fear in writing, look here:

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/10-ways-to-harness-fear-and-fuel-your-writing

http://www.prolificliving.com/overcome-fear-of-writing/