Wednesday, June 25, 2014

9 WOW Wednesday: Don't Lose Yourself by Paula Stokes

Paula Stokes is the kind of author who can do it all. Under her pseudenom Fiona Paul, she writes historical YA novels set in Rennaisance Venice. And under her real name she is a writing machine! With The Art of Lainey out this past May 2014, Paula has 5 more books coming out in the next few years and they all sound fantastic. Based on how amazing her Secrets of The Eternal Rose series and Lainey were, there is no doubt in my mind that Paula is going to take the YA world in a storm.

Don't Lose Yourself by Paula Stokes

I spent a fair amount of time writing stories and poems throughout high school and college, but it wasn’t until I went to a conference and a couple of industry people told me I was “good enough” to get published that I really got hooked. Now I have four books out (three writing under a pen name) and another five on the way. Plus a novella. Plus I’ve been thinking about going hybrid, or writing an adult book, or doing a collaboration with a friend. Or all three. Yeah, these days I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to writing.

No big deal, right? There are way worse things to be addicted to. Except that writing will eat your whole soul, if you let it. It will consume you from the inside out. Your writing highs will become the best moments of your life. Your rejections will become your crushing lows. And then, without even realizing it, you might lose the ability to separate yourself from your work.

Let me remind you of a few things:

There was joy in your life before there was writing. I don’t care if you started cranking out stories at age five, right after you started reading. Chances are you did a lot of other things too. High school me didn’t just write—she worked, played tennis, went to concerts, went to parties, made questionable romantic choices, and somehow managed to get all her homework done too. Present day me is still struggling to find work-life balance.

There is joy in your life besides writing. If you’re one of those writers who has achieved work-life balance either because you’re able to set boundaries or you have kids/a spouse who set them for you, this might feel like a no-brainer. But I’ve spent the past couple of years treating writing like an Olympic sport. No time for dating, no time for hobbies, no time for TV, skimping on sleep and exercise to crank out a few more pages. I don’t regret this because now I’m at the place where I want to be, but I’m fighting the urge to set the bar higher and get sucked back under. Why stop at two books a year if I can go for three? Maybe because two books a year is enough work to keep me feeling productive and happy, but three books would require me to sacrifice all of my free time. I know this. Logically I know this, but there is still this drive to write more, more, MORE. I have to physically pull myself away sometimes and go outside in order to remember there are other things I want to do besides write.

No matter what, you are not a failure. Writing failure, like writing success, is very subjective. I would argue that a book isn’t a failure just because it doesn’t get an agent or editor or big sales numbers or starred reviews. But if for whatever reason you decide one of your books has “failed”, that does not mean YOU have failed. If you wrote a book and you did your absolute best and you hung in there through all the revisions and never just gave up and were like “Whatever. I don’t care anymore” then how can you possibly be a failure? That’s like saying an architect who designs a safe, sturdy house that burns down in a forest fire is a failure. It’s hard to even think about this, but as writers we have very little control over the success of our books. Publishing is terrifying like that—authors can give 110% effort and write excellent books and promote the heck out of them, and they still might not sell. Control the things you can and stop taking the blame for the things you can’t.

In fact, you are already a success. None of this post is meant to dissuade you from committing completely to your writing. I still treat it like an Olympic sport. I “train” when I don’t feel like it. I pride myself on my accomplishments. If I have a “bad performance” I try to learn from it and do better. Once I achieve a goal, I aim for a new one. But one of the major things I’m trying to do differently is to acknowledge the successes that happen along the way. If you’ve published a book, gotten an agent, gotten a personal rejection, gotten a form rejection, finished writing a book, or even just seriously committed to the idea of finishing a book someday, that’s HUGE. All of those are things most people—even people who want to be writers—haven’t done. You shouldn’t just sweep them under the rug because you haven’t accomplished your major goal of bestsellerdom or whatever.

You are not your books. Sure, you probably put some of yourself into your books so they’re partly you. But it’s like some math class I dropped out of in college where p -> q is not equal to q -> p. At most, your books are a tiny subset of you, a whole person. Don’t let writing overshadow all the other parts of you. Don’t get confused and think that a negative review or rejection of your book is a negative review or rejection of YOU. You are not your books. You are not your reviews. You are not your sales numbers. You are not your rejections.

Don’t forget to live. I know what it’s like to want it so badly that the rest of the world just fades into the background. I know what it’s like to be in the mindset of “I will never be happy until I am published.” But take it from me, once you meet that first “I will never be happy until” goal, your brain will just make new, harder goals. And it will never stop, and you will never be happy, unless you can escape that mind frame long enough to remember there are all sorts of other things already making you happy! Everyone has a different threshold for how much they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of becoming (and staying!) a published author, but no matter where you fall, don’t forget to live a little along the way.

I’m going to end this by quoting a movie that came out when I was way too young to get it. Yeah, this will date me, but what can I say? Some advice is timeless:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
--Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986

About The Author

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. In addition to writing, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

About The Book

Soccer-star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work!  But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. Okay, like, this post made me all teary. SO true. We as writers are people, with lives (or we SHOULD have lives aside from our writing). We are not our books. Great reminder! Best wishes for your cute-sounding book!!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I have an addictive personality and I constantly struggle with getting completely overtaken by my writing. Glad the post resonated. *Team Andrea Brown Lit fist-bump* :-)

  2. Thanks for a very honest and inspiring post. The Art of Lainey sounds like a terrific book. I will be looking for it.

    1. Thanks for reading! Best of luck in your own writing and non-writing endeavors.

  3. My biggest time suck has yet to be writing----it's social media! How are aspiring authors supposed to do all the things with social media that is emphatically suggested yet still have time to write and live? Trying to figure it out here...

    1. You want my suggestions?

      You do the social media that is honestly fun to you. If NONE of it is fun, just maintain a website (once you have sold a book--no need to do so before then) and maybe start up a twitter as an easy way to interact with bloggers, readers, and other writers. I don't tumbl or instagram and I only toy with Pinterest occasionally, and I don't feel bad at all. I love twitter so that's mainly what I do :)

      No online platform is better than a bad online platform. If it feels like drudgery to you, it'll show in your posts and that's no good.

  4. It can be very easy to slid into a writing focus that hems out the rest of things in life. This is a great reminder to treat writing as a marathon, not a dash, and live, live, write and live some more. :-)

    1. Thanks. I was lucky enough to get an FB message back from Libba Bray, about 5 years ago, before I ever got a book deal when I messaged her about how much I loved GOING BOVINE. "Happy writing, and happy human being-ing" she ended her message with. I bet she had no idea how her words would stay with me. I thought of that message a lot as I wrote this.

  5. I think I need to frame that "Don't forget to live" paragraph. Thanks for all these wise words.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)