Writers: What to do when you’re feeling blue

Without trying to make us sound like martyrs, writers, like many artists, live with angst. There is angst in working daily to artistically express one’s inner thoughts, feelings and conflicts, share them with others, and then be judged after the work is complete. It is this same angst that can often drag us down the rabbit hole into a sadness that only artists can understand.

Maybe reviewers are particularly cruel today. Maybe your agent has exhausted all of his connections for your latest work. Or your editor has decided that the requested changes you’ve made over the course of months aren’t working. It could even be that you are just tired of the grind; tired of trying to please others with the work you create; tired of spending time and energy writing, marketing, falling down, getting back up.

Hey. You are not alone. We have all been there. Some of us are there right now.

It can be especially difficult for a writer, since writing is mostly a solitary act. We are alone a LOT. Abnormally so. We sit in front of our laptop or notebook and we create by ourselves, hoping that our words will somehow string together in a way that pleases us, and ultimately, others.

But the most prolific writers have a drive deep within to keep going, even if the hill is always up, the self-doubt is always looming, and the crash is often paralyzing.

So what can a writer do to avoid that crash and burn? Here are a few things that may help you on the days when you are so close to quitting, you can smell it, feel it, taste it, and smother your skin with it:

1. Give yourself a mantra, write it out, and hang it up in your writing space. I have two:
This book ain’t gonna write itself and Butt in chair. The first mantra I use after my husband and I have our coffee clutch Monday through Thursday. We chat about what we are going to do with our day (he is a designer) and then I say, “Okay, babe. This book ain’t gonna write itself.” We kiss one another and head off to our creative spaces (his is a shop, mine is an office). Once in my writing space, I put my “butt in chair” and get writing. Period. No excuses. Even if the writing sucks. Even if my characters are acting particularly stubborn.

2. Speaking of excuses…procrastination is not just a time waster and a companion to our fears, but it can also lead to crippling sadness. The second you get to your writing space, you have made a commitment to yourself, your characters, and your story, so TURN OFF EVERYTHING EXCEPT YOUR WORK. This includes, but is not limited to Facebook, Twitter, cell phone, Amazon, Goodreads, Instagram, newsfeeds, and anything else that distracts you from YOUR WORK. Sometimes writers tell me they feel angst at not having written enough words or pages in a sitting. Upon further probing, I find out that they have been spending most of their time on the Internet. And if you tell me that you have to do marketing, well, that is not writing. And while we all need to do marketing, do it at a different time than your actual writing. Don’t complain you didn’t have time to write when you stared at fifteen Youtube videos of cute kittens and Crock pot recipes. You are only hurting your writing, and therefore yourself. Make a solid schedule and stick to it religiously. What could make a person sadder than knowing they had a golden opportunity to create, and they threw it away in favor of mindless drivel?

3. This may sound counter-productive, but hear me out: Go ahead. Be sad. Wallow in self-pity. I’m serious about this. Allow yourself a certain amount of time to dwell on the negative. Say, five minutes, or twenty. Set your alarm if you have to. Pretend it is part of your creative process. Then get off your ass and move forward. Cry into your pillow but then get out of bed. You do not have the right to do nothing all day. That is where the downward spiral begins. Nip it quickly. Negativity wants you to be sad. Let it visit for a moment, and then tell it to eff-off.

4. Need others to feel your pain? Since misery really does enjoy company, find writers’ groups, either online or locally, that you can share these feelings with. Find a creative friend/entrepreneur and meet for coffee once a week. Listen to him vent, and then vent as well. Sometimes knowing you are not alone can make all the difference. And sharing angst can lead to sharing ideas, which can sometimes lead to real breakthroughs.

5. Remind yourself, even if you have to write it down, the blessings you have compared to other folks in the world. If you are reading this blog, then you are probably in the top .05 percent of the world in healthcare, education, safety, housing, financial means, food, transportation and so on. You probably have freedoms unheard of in many countries today. Chances are you are living in a world that has possibilities; a world where you get to choose what your life will be like tomorrow. So as cliché as it is, count your blessings. Thank the universe for all that you have. And mean it.

6. I did not make up this saying, and although it sounds corny, here it is: “When it gets too quiet, make some noise.” In other words, when you haven’t heard from your agent in months, or it seems as though your editor has taken your book on an extended holiday, or reviews have seemed to hit a brick wall, make something happen. Locate new reviewers and send them emails. Send a friendly email to your agent. Respond to your editor’s posts on Twitter. In my opinion, proactivity is the antitheses of reactivity. Because energy begets energy (just ask any physicist) you need to stir the pot to get things going. It may take some time, but believe in the magic of it. DO SOMETHING and THINGS WILL HAPPEN. I promise. I cannot tell you the timeframe, and I cannot tell you how. Just trust that it will.

7. “The best way to get even with others is to succeed.” Some may disagree on this point, but I don’t care as it works for me. I have had friends, acquaintances, family members, and even strangers try to knock what I do. Luckily for me, this is a rare occurrence. But some writers care so deeply about what their social connections have to say about their writing that they allow the words to dictate what happens next. Look, some people are jealous that you have a talent they may not have. Others say things without thinking. Still others are just jerks. So, aside from getting rid of the jerks in your life, take every negative comment and turn it around. If someone says, “It must be nice to write all day,” tell them, “Yes. It is. Thank you for acknowledging that I’m a serious writer.” If someone says, “I don’t like the kinds of books you write,” just tell them, “Oh, that’s okay. I write for a specific audience and the reviews are stellar.” And if someone says, “You probably don’t sell too many books because there is so much competition, huh?” To which you can reply, “Actually, it’s just the opposite! I’m thrilled that my books are selling really well. I guess I’ve found my niche!” Remember to smile, make your eyes sparkle, and say it like you mean it. If you start telling others how well you are doing, they will pass it along, and you will feel empowered. It’s a win-win!

8. Read your positive reviews, complimentary rejection letters, or any correspondence that lifts you up. Cut out the best parts. Hang them up. Make a collage. I have had over 100 rejections over the course of 20 years and 13 novels. But there are only certain words I take to heart: “Elegant writing.” “Incredible characterization.” “Unique plot line.” “Beautiful metaphors.” “Send me more of her work.” And you know how those blurbs on the backs of books all sound so amazing? Well, go online and read the entire review. Most pro reviewers offer both positive and negative remarks. But does the writer put the whole review on the book or in their social media? Of course not. “The book, although a bit sappy in places, will appeal to women across the globe.” Here’s what you will find on the book: “Will appeal to women across the globe.” You see? So re-read all your positive remarks or display them in your writing space. It is one of the nicest things a writer can do for him/herself.

9. And finally, do something from time to time that makes you happy aside from writing. I am burned out right now. I have been working on requested changes on a YA for my agent. It has taken me a year. Yes, a whole year. On top of that, I am marketing my new Adult book that just came out, including intense book touring, getting ready to re-work another YA, and getting ready to prep another Adult for self-publication in late 2018. If I make it. And did I mention I have a job? I tutor four nights a week. So. I try to do things from time to time that completely take me away from anything that has to do with reading or writing. I go antiquing. Work on my 1910 house. Take walks around the river. See a play. Take a short road trip with the hubby. Enjoy a Yoga class. Getting away from your writing is just as important as writing, because we all need to recharge. And you will find that after a bit of relaxation, when you get back to your story (don’t worry, your characters will still be there!) you may even see your writing with a fresh eye and a happier attitude.

So, that is my take on things.

What do you do to stop the crash and burn? What are some tricks that help you continue, even when you aren’t sure what tomorrow will bring? If you have advice for other writers, I’d appreciate the share. After all, we are all in this together.



Maggie’s Dream: Historical Fiction with a Dreamy Twist

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul…”  ~ Carl Jung

When I first set out to write the novel Maggie’s Dream, my plan was to create a story that solely regarded Post WWII feminism, and the independence women craved but could not acquire.

You see, when America’s soldiers (the ones who survived and were capable of working) came storming home after the war, women, who had worked hard in the factories and other necessary jobs for months, even years, were suddenly thrust back into their pre-WWII roles. Women who had made their marks as riveters, mechanics, managers, engineers, ambulance drivers, etc, many of whom were thrilled to be an integral part of the workforce, were ordered to go back to their ovens, vacuums, and furniture polish. They were jolted out of their happily discovered livelihoods with expediency to get henna rinses and hairdos, polished nails, real stockings, high heels, all while suppressing the angst that the independence they suddenly found a penchant for was no longer to be theirs; was no longer a right. The boys were coming home. They would need to get back to their old jobs. They would expect women to prepare home and hearth for the grand homecoming. It was time to dust off the cook books and revamp sex drives. Time for wives to greet hubbies at the door with curly hair, rosy cheeks, and a martini in hand. Time for singles to doll up and inspect the surge of incoming men for a husband.

While it is true that many women were relieved to give up their posts at the daily grind, their metal lunch boxes filled with SPAM sandwiches and their underappreciated paychecks, others were not. As a matter of fact, most women enjoyed working in jobs different from the usual female professions as secretaries, nurses, or teachers. Not that those jobs didn’t offer a place for women, but for those who were single, childless, unhappily married, or for those who wanted more than what had been offered to them for so long, working for a cause greater than themselves offered a glimpse of what could be. Many were thrilled to don overalls and hardhats, work victory gardens, head up can drives. Women were relied on, looked up to, and utilized in a way that their sex had never seen before.

I pored over countless letters and diaries from the Rosies who had collectively kept the United States from collapsing under its own weight during WWII. The pride in their words, in their hearts, transcended the pages upon which they wrote. I could feel what they were feeling, to finally be a part of a “man’s world.”

But when the war ended, and the confetti from the victory parades was swept away, so too was the feeling of female independence.

Women not only suffered a strange and incurable feeling of displacement, but many married gals fell into the throes of depression. And most of these women suffered in silence.  After all, what woman would complain about being taken care of by her husband? How could a woman who had a new dishwasher, the latest pumps, and a shiny Dodge in the driveway possibly complain?

Short answer: She could not.

Thus started the influx of psychoanalysis. Women needed a place to vent their suppressed feelings, and psychiatrists/psychoanalysts were quick to prescribe a cure, often in the form of tranquilizers.

Maggie’s Dream took on a life of its own shortly after I began writing it, which is somewhat common when working on a novel. The research took me to places I had no idea existed in the human condition of the era. I worked hard to make Maggie’s desire to be independent remain the crux of the story, while allowing the fantastical elements to seep through organically.

The outcome is an adult fairy tale combining post-WWII feminism, psychotherapy, the world of dreams, and Carl Jung’s theory of collective consciousness. Don’t worry! Though sitting on the line between commercial and literary, the novel is not high-brow.

I hope you enjoy the book. Let me know what you think, and tell me your own Rosie stories if you have any. Ask an older female relative what she went through during WWII and the years following. Perhaps she will offer a story that will make you see the struggle for independence from a new perspective!

Thieves Among Artists

I did not plan on writing this blog today, but, sadly, I have no choice but to stop in the middle of my busy day and share this with all of my writer/artist friends.

I often do a Google search on my name: Leslie Tall Manning. I do it for kicks, to see how many pages on which my name lands, and sometimes I do it on days when I feel down about my writing career and need an egotistical boost. So there I was, happy to see I’d made the first seven pages of Google’s search, when something caught my eye.  “Free GAGA PDF Download.” I did a double take just before my stomach fell to the floor. Someone was giving away one of my novels for free? Then I found one for my second book: “Free Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town PDF.” I don’t have to tell you, my dear writer friend, why I was torn between punching a wall and sobbing like a baby.

No one works harder or more diligently than some writers. I am one of them. For seventeen years I have attacked the computer keys four days a week, four hours a day. For years my agent has been pounding the pavement to get my books (13 count) into the hands of top publishers. For three years of self-publishing I have worn the hundred or so hats that self-pubbers wear, from the editing bonnet to the marketing cap. To suddenly see my books, in PDF no less, being offered illegally for free is something I hope you never have to go through.

So. I went to the site in question. Not really a site exactly, it is owned by Google, and is called a Fusion Table. This is sort of like Google Docs, where people can share information. “Share.” The word of the decade.

I found a copyright infringement form through Google and filled it out (my name, URL in question, etc) only to receive a one-sentence explanation that the URL had either been taken down or was no longer in use. I found this strange, since there it still sat in Google’s search queue.

Still not feeling convinced that the site was defunct, I dug deeper. This digging took place on my tablet instead of my laptop, since tablets cannot support viruses, and I wasn’t sure where the link-clicking would lead me. These days, you never know.

One click led me to a page that offered three buttons: “Sign up Now,” “Download” and “Free Trial.” Or something like that. I clicked on the download button, since I wanted to see if my book came up. That click led me to another page that told me if I filled in the blanks, I could receive a free shopping trip at JC Penney. The ads along the right side of the site were Russian. Hmmmmm….  At the bottom, there was a JC Penney disclaimer that said Penney was not affiliated with the site. I filled in the first blank, asking for my name. This led me to another page, where the blank asked my age. I lied and clicked. The next page asked me how many times I shopped per week. I laughed out loud while clicking on “10 plus times per week.” This led me to another page asking for my email address. I put in an old one that I hardly ever use, and the site told me that was incorrect and would not let me move forward. Well, that’s where I planned to stop anyway. I am pretty sure the following pages would ask about my credit card number, my bank account, my social security number…

Look. I am pretty sure this is not a place that actually gives away free PDF’s of my books. I am pretty sure it is a phishing scam where the final page suddenly informs you your computer has been compromised, or simply takes your personal information for their email lists, or credit cards, or whatever.

Do they actually have PDF files of my books? I cannot answer that question.  On the first page they show that GAGA was given over 4,000 5-star reviews. Wow. Really? Well, if that were true, I guess I’d be thrilled that so many people love the book, even if they had received it for free.

If the site is real, and if I’d gone further and discovered that the book was being given away for free, what would I do?

Honestly, I have no idea. The Internet is an entity in and of itself. It is like a machine. It does not have a moral compass.

What did I learn? I have become much more diligent as the gatekeeper of my work. And you should, too. I now get Google alerts every time my name, or my books, or the word Free attached to my books enters the Google stream. These alerts come into my Gmail box, so I will receive them as soon as they occur. IF they occur. And hopefully they won’t.

Before I sign off, I must add this tidbit, not to upset you or make you paranoid, but to remind you that knowledge is power: Recently, I have stumbled across a few articles about authors whose works were not only taken, but were re-titled, re-authored, and uploaded to Amazon. Very very scary. To work so freaking hard, and then have someone steal and reap the benefits of our hard work. It is shameful and disgusting. Don’t even get me started on what I would do to the person who has the gall to absorb another’s work as their own.

Let’s keep an eye on one another. We writers need to stick together. If you see something fishy (or, phishy) tell the author. If you feel your work has been plagiarized or stolen outright, do something about it. Tell Google. Tell Youtube. Tell Amazon. Tell all of your Facebook and Twitter friends. Tell the whole freaking world. Book aggregates can only do so much to protect your work. It is up to you to be the overlord because no one will ever love your work the way you do.

I’d love comments on this one if you have the time…




How I Help Authors…and You Should, Too.

It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy writing, marketing, publishing, book-signing, tutoring, office decorating, and trying hard to ignore the political firestorms, that I’ve hardly had a chance to breathe. The lapse certainly is not because I have nothing to say!

So. Here I am. Finally putting on electronic paper what has been rolling around in my head for a while now: I want to brag a little. Not about my own writing. I’m sick of doing that. But I want to tell you why I go out of my way to shake my pompoms for other writers. Writers I know. Writers who are my friends.

Yes, it is true, I am one of those rare authors who does not feel competitive with my writer friends. Our stories are different. Our styles are nothing alike. Our goals are as varied as our characters. There is always a competitive undercurrent that will forever flow beneath my writing, as there are thousands of writers hoping to achieve the same things I am. But those are people I do not know. They are only known to me by their titles splayed out in banners across Goodreads, or flashing at the bottom of Amazon. When it comes to writers I know, the ones who are close to me, who have read my work, commented on my writing, dropped pieces of grammar advice, followed me on Facebook, came to a book signing, or left a review, I give them the world. Even if they haven’t done any of these things, I feel honored to help them out.

What I mean is, every single author friend who has written a book and asked me to read it, I have obliged. I have also left a review, though not in my real name, for various reasons. But the authors know my reviewer nom de plume. Sometimes the book is stellar. Sometimes mediocre. Sometimes it actually sucks. In the case of the latter, do I tell them my honest opinion if the book is already out there? No way. If they ask my advice before they hit the “publish” button? Then I am all in. But if a writer friend has worked tirelessly to tell a story, has perhaps done years of research, paid to get it edited, made the rounds with a critique group, then who the hell am I to tell them what I think? Who am I to discourage them from continuing on with their journey? My writing has become stronger over the last 20 years of writing. How could it not? So my friends’ works will get stronger, too. I am confident of that.

Writers need to stick together, not ignore one another.

We have a lot of BnB’s in our Civil War town, and a few years ago, my husband and I befriended a woman who owned one. All of the BnB owners work together, either through advertising or by offering a competitor’s address when their own rooms are full. You see, they don’t see this as competition. They see it as helping one another out. Everyone does this. Because what goes around comes around. If a town is known for one BnB, it could draw some tourists. But if it is known for having a dozen? Well, it has established a great reputation. All the BnB’s have always been on board with this idea. Except for this one proprietor. She saw all the other BnB’s as evil back stabbers who were only looking out for themselves. She did not recommend them, nor did she ever get to know the owners. Guess what happened? She rarely kept her rooms full. She ended up flying solo instead of with the flock. And she got shot out of the sky while the other birds flew to safety. Eventually, she sold the house and moved away, perhaps thinking she was leaving behind a band of enemies. Somehow she saw this potential support as a threat.

I’m no psychologist, so I could be wrong about her. But I am using this analogy to show that lying in bed together and sharing a big blanket is way more advantageous than one person getting the bed and blankie, and everyone else sleeping on the floor, shivering, cast out.

Look, it doesn’t require much to do what I do. To pick up a friend’s book and read it. Even if it is boring, or you didn’t like the ending, or it is simply not your “genre” (which is a bullshit excuse as far as I’m concerned…after all how many of us only watch one type of movie, or one type of television show, or listen to only one type of music?), read it anyway. You’re a grownup. You’re not a twelve-year-old boy forced to read Dickens, or a seventeen-year-old girl doing a book report on the pig’s head in Lord of the Flies. So get over it. Read your friends’ works. Maybe offer a little encouragement, a little nicey nice. You aren’t their editor or their agent. You aren’t scouting Amazon for your production company in Hollyweird. You are reading what someone took the time to write. So do it. He or she is your friend. Be theirs, too. You will not be forgotten. And that could come in handy at some point during your own writing career.

You also may find a sweet little gem from time to time.

: )









Where will you be when the (book contract!!) call comes in?

Leslie Tall Manning

Fifteen years ago, just after I married, someone handed me Nicholas Sparks’ first book, The Notebook.  I knew it was a romance, and I was a new bride, so I read it.  At the time, I had just finished writing my second novel.  I did not have an agent yet, and like so many writers, I wrote and breathed with the belief that I would soon publish.  I made it a habit to peruse the acknowledgements page of every book I read, since I’d heard that was a great way to find an agent, plus I enjoy seeing who inspires writers.  Sure enough, Nick (I can call him that because he’s a neighbor) thanked his agent, his editor, and so on, just like many other authors who want to express their gratitude.  Then he mentioned something that has stuck with me through the years.  He was talking about specific…

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