Wednesday, January 11, 2017

0 Healing the Writer’s Soul

We're pleased to welcome Chandler Baker, author of TEEN HYDE, to the blog today as she discusses how to heal the writer's soul.

"I treated myself in other less machine-like ways, too. I realized that being “on deadline” wasn’t going to be a special occasion and I could no longer treat it like I was cramming for the last final of my law school career."


It’s been exactly a year since I declared to my husband that I was “soul-tired” from writing. My debut novel and my second had come out within six months of each other and I had just finished writing the next two, Teen Hyde (the book coming out now) before my first child was born, and This Is Not The End (my next standalone), just after my daughter’s birth. I had been through edits on Teen Hyde with my fabulous editor. They had gone smoothly and I was so proud of the book, but I was tired. Not physically. It didn’t even feel like I was tired mentally. I just felt emptied out creatively from producing so much so quickly. I was hollowed. Exhausted. Deep, deep in my writerly bones.


A rest would have been one excellent solution and, please, might I suggest that when time permits, allow yourself a vacation! We writers give ourselves very, very few vacation days it seems. But, of course, in this instance, I had a series schedule to attend to, another book in the High School Horror series yet to write and edits on my standalone and…and…

"So the problem was this: how to pursue a work of the heart with my whole heart when it was too exhausted to stand let alone run another marathon?"


Confession: I have always been practical in my writing and publishing life, not prone to characters “speaking to me” or “letting the story take me where it will.” Most of this attitude has been, I think, a way of protecting myself against criticism, particularly before I was published. I didn’t want friends or family to think I had strange delusions of grandeur about myself as an artist. Yuck, how mortifying. People would talk about me behind my back at dinner parties and whatnot (Okay so some delusions of grandeur if I thought anyone cared enough to discuss, but alas.) It was easier and seemed more reasonable to pursue art as a career if I approached it with the most objective, methodological terms possible. But I realized that by the end of 2015, I was starting to feel like a book-making machine. Writing wasn’t filling my soul; it was eating away at it.

"So, I decided to throw caution to the wind and embrace the cheesy. (Put that on a sweatshirt, please!)"


 Perhaps that isn’t a fair word—cheesy—but for this writer, even the word “artist” when applied to myself felt…self-indulgent, embarrassing and, yes, cheesy.


But my critique partner and I set off on a journey. We took three months to follow the Artists’ Way program, something that requires free-writing, self-reflective exercises and a lot of considering oneself an artist. It was tough! I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read plenty of other books by writers about writing. And eventually I stopped seeing myself as a book-making machine and starting seeing myself as an artist with a vision and an aesthetic that mattered.


And I treated myself in other less machine-like ways, too. I realized that being “on deadline” wasn’t going to be a special occasion and I could no longer treat it like I was cramming for the last final of my law school career. Being on deadline had become a way of life (and I’m so lucky for that, might I add), so I needed to start integrating the life part of my life back into the publishing part.


Typically, exercise had been the first to go when I was buckling down to turn in a book. Writing and my office job are both incredibly sedentary and it’s absolutely not healthy to skip movement for days on end. But it felt like a luxury that, time-wise, I simply couldn’t afford. I’m happy to say that for the most part I’ve changed that. I don’t feel guilty for exercising even if I am days away from having to turn in a draft. Because guess what? I’m almost always days or weeks a way from turning in something or other. I try to feel less guilty about spending time with friends, spending time with family, not watching the clock on social outings to make sure I guard my writing time. I try to forgive myself if I’m just too tired to write that day.

"I’m happy to report that I’ve since written two more books and my soul isn’t tired. It’s creatively inspired and I look forward to working (almost) every day."  


Here are some culprits that I do find still creeping in and trying to exhaust my spirit: writing after 10 PM, guilt over use of social media, guilt over lack of social media use, and occasionally word count goals…


But that’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for, right?

ABOUT THE BOOK


Teen Hyde
by Chandler Baker
Hardcover
Feiwel & FriendsReleased 1/10/2017

High school meets classic horror in this YA contemporary twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Head Cheerleader Cassidy Hyde’s life should have been perfect. But it really, really wasn’t, and she’s about ready to give up and disappear. Until, the first time she takes Sunshine. This new experimental drug makes Cassidy feel like the perfect, golden girl once again. A little memory loss seems like a small price to pay to get her life back . . . at least until boys start to go missing . . . boys that Cassidy NEVER wanted to think of again . . .

Thus begins Chandler Baker's second twisty-turny retelling of a familiar tale, once again set in the town of Hollow Pines, Texas, where high school is truly horrifying.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Chandler Baker got her start ghostwriting novels for teens and tweens, including installments in a book series that has sold more than 1 million copies. 

She grew up in Florida, went to college at the University of Pennsylvania and studied law at the University of Texas. She now lives in Austin with her husband. Although she loves spinning tales with a touch of horror, she is a much bigger scaredy-cat than her stories would lead you to believe. 


Chandler is the author of ALIVE, TEEN FRANKENSTEIN and TEEN HYDE.



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