Friday, May 12, 2023

Reflections of Life, Part 3 by Karen S. Wiesner


Reflections of  Life, Part 3

by Karen S. Wiesner

In looking back over the course of my life as an author who's looking forward to becoming an artist in retirement, I've learned to slow down and reflect on the past, savor the present, and look forward to the future. Interspersed through these ruminations, I'll include some of my own most apropos sketches.

In Part 2, I discussed what it took to bring about change in the crash and burn lifestyle that dominated most of my adult life. On a daily basis, I began to sense the gentle nudge that led to the restructuring and reallocating of my energy and ease in juggling multiple projects at once. However, I can't move forward with this reflective essay without adding that the years of COVID hell were strong contributors to what truly seemed like the mighty falling and the dwindling effectiveness of my previously relished Super Powers. Like many other authors who struggled to produce anything salable during those aghast (in this context, an odd but fitting word) years, I produced next to nothing until at last light again penetrated the emotional void of my blackest period of existence. I saw distinct changes in my writing, from the quantity I was capable of producing right on down to the quality of the material. Some of these changes were for the better, others most certainly for the worse.

Ultimately, I came to the point where the only way to cope with my drastically altered form was to say "It is what it is", and move forward the best way I could. I had to learn to accept the new me, which most days seemed like a weaker, pitifully lessened, shell of myself. What came next was the aftermath of battles fought and lessons learned.

Copyright Karen Wiesner
Karen Wiesner Sketch: Innocence Light and Dark

I went through the projects I'd once upon a time fully anticipated completing during my lifetime and evaluated whether I would or even could complete them after all. I started with the ones I'd already faced issues with in attempting to outline. In the course of my career, I'd realized that if I could finish an outline for a story, I would be able to write the book to my satisfaction. The first step was to remove those uncertain projects from the "To Be" list. A huge chunk of wannabe books fell by the wayside in this endeavor. On the plus side, I was able to finish within the next year two of the four series I had left to complete.

I also started gathering backup against having to endure further revision nightmares. I wanted to ensure as far as I possibly could that the body of material I submitted to the publisher I intended to keep for the rest of my career was as solid and flawless as I could make it. Over the years before my crisis, I'd begun to forsake critique partners for two very distinct reasons. The first reason is practicality. Simply put, I wrote too much and too fast to ask any critique partner or even a whole team of them to do so much for me. I think a crew, each member taking on a full-time job with handling even just a few of my books at a time, would have been required through most of my career. I did have a variety of critique partners, most of the time more than one, all put on different projects, but eventually it became harder to find ones I really trusted and believed were equal to the task. (I apologize if that sounds conceited, but…yeah, being practical, that was the way things stood.)

My second reason for not having critique partners for every single project was exactly what you may have guessed from that last paragraph: I got big-headed enough to assume in those later years before my crisis that I didn't need any helping making the majority of my books better and stronger. I thought I could do it completely on my own. Live and learn, but I have now found one single reliable critique partner that I'd worked with on and off in the past. I trusted her implicitly then, and even more so now that I find my once honed and sharp editorial skills becoming a bit more lax than even I'm comfortable with. Since my output has also been diminishing rapidly in these crisis years, I hoped I wouldn't overwhelm her with critique projects. I admit I definitely would have done that if not for the fact that the pipeline of my book releases has become hopelessly clogged during this time, stopping almost altogether in the course of the last five years as my only publisher has taken to renovating her entire backlist of books with new cover designs, fresh formatting, and updated promotion.

Next week I'll go over other strategies I implemented to restructure my life to bring better balance.

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

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