Wednesday 5 October 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Writing is my oxygen. Music is my carbon dioxide.

This month for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group post, I'm going to talk about insecurities stemmed from juggling two areas of interest: writing and music.

I haven't done any since finishing revisions on my second novel, Bitter Like Orange Peel. Nor have I really felt like it for more than a fleeting moment where my fingers went a little jelly-like and summoned a squeak of their own, "Stop using us for work. We need to be creative!" But it wasn't long before I was working my butt off again, and ignoring their little pleas for pleasure. I can't NOT work. Things are really tough for us right now and I'm so scared of not being able to find the time to write again. I feel like I'm lacking oxygen. Writing is my oxygen. (And music is my carbon dioxide, but I'll get to that in a minute).

But I can't just SIT DOWN AND WRITE. I need a few days of peace to prepare my brain, and then I need weeks of dedicated time to write at least a few chapters that are worth reading. I'm not one of those people who can sit down and tap out the first draft of a novel in two months by allocating myself two hours of every day to do so. For me it takes time and brain space. A lot of it. Probably about a year's worth. So I'm panicking. I pretty much have about a year left until I plan to have my second book out, which means I need to have the third one ready by then. I'd better get cracking! I'm so afraid I'll never get it written and end up being one of those authors with a 20-year break between releases. I'm not a fan of that (despite my most favorite author being one of them--ha!) And you know why I'm afraid this is might be a huge possibility? Because of the music ...

I love writing and performing music. In my home. In the studio. On stage? I'm not so sure. It really freaks me out. I can't see myself going the whole hog with music. It's just not one of my ambitions, you know, to be a rock star? That's why I say music is my carbon dioxide, because breathing it in and breathing it out again seems to be enough for me. I get my fix and all is good.

But the release of my debut album which accompanies my debut novel, String Bridge, is hitting the media here in Athens next month. So far I've been told that it's being written up as "album of the week" in the most widely used Internet source of entertainment news here in Athens, and as "album of the month" in a print music magazine, this coming November. I've been advised to get a band together, in order to play some live shows. A band. Wow. Not only am I a very shy performer, and not only does the idea of doing live shows twist my stomach into knots, but what is going to happen if my music really begins to take off? How could I possibly say no to pursuing it? And will all my spare time, which I would normally use to write, be invested in band rehearsal and song-writing? What will happen to my novel writing? Can I juggle both and produce novels and music to the quality my perfectionist self desires?

Can I really be a one-man band?


  1. This post reminds me of that section in The Bell Jar, where the main character sees herself in a fig tree, and on the end of the branches she sees different things she wants to do. Great post, it's so difficult to know what to do for the best, but I'm sure you'll find the balance.

    Congrats on the media coverage of your music!

  2. That's awesome, Jessica! I mean, if you're to have a quandary, that's a good one to have. It means you're successful in both the things you adore. You can always take a year off of writing to tour with your band... and wow! What a major inspiration that'd be to write more stories! You can even write here and there while you tour. Either way, it'll really open your creativity.
    How exciting!

  3. Sounds exciting! Definitly go for it. You can promote your books too!

  4. This is a real tough one, and all I can say right now is focus on the positive - that you have the skills to do all this, that you're healthy and young, and it's a heck of a creative challenge.

    And by the way, once I've had a few drinks in me, I play a really mean tambourine. I'm willing to fly over and audition if needed.

  5. One art form will always complement the other. You should pursue both dreams with all your heart. If life gives you a gift, then yeah, why not? Congratulations on your success. I fully understand about not having enough time to write or do anything else you'd like to do. All I can tell you is the pieces will eventually fall together. You will find your middle ground. Hang in there. It won't be 20 years or else you wouldn't having this intense internal monologue. :)

  6. Sounds like you have an awsome opportunity, but it would be better to wait to release the next book than to crank-out crap to meet a deadline. I'd gladly play bass for you if I wasn't on the other side of the planet :(. Would you need a full bnd, or just another musician to flesh it out a little?

  7. I know exactly what you're going through. With my cd coming out, I (feel like) I've lost my talents/drive as a writer. But I know it will come back--for you too!

  8. You are so awesome. Your music really is incredible.

    I think great novels take more than a few months to write. Or at least I hope they do, because I'm still writing mine two years later.

  9. This is such a wonderful post! And that fear - oh no! What if I'm actually successful?? - is a very familiar one to me. In fact, I have to *fight* through that fear on a regular basis. Because of course you can't say no to the success - it's what part of you wholeheartedly wants! But there's always the fear of the price. For me, it's the price of my family - will I lose those precious moments of their childhood, will I neglect them in some important way that I don't even see, if success takes me on a whirlwind dance?

    I've just recently learned how to fight that fear with action - small steps every day to keep the things that are most important front-and-center. Maybe that would work with your writing. A bit of journaling (not even THE STORY) every day, to remind yourself that you are a writer. That you won't lose it. :)

    p.s. fantastic congrats on the acclaims for your music!

  10. You wrote a great piece. I think you have your head where it needs to be for you and go for it. Its not always easy but in the end it's so worth it. Hang in there. We all are in your corner!

  11. Seems like the best of both worlds to me. Although you'd be writing music, your muse still has a place create. Enjoy the journey and don't worry about the destination. Life has a way of working things out. Congrats on your success. Best of luck.

  12. Whoa, Jessica, slow down. It hasn't happened yet and when it does, you will have choices.

    In the mean time, congrats on all your success!

  13. I think you can do it all! Maybe the music will keep you inspired on the days you can't write or when you're waiting on editors and publishers. I'm sure you will find a way to balance the two. I hope you do share both your gifts with the world. You are so talented! Take care...:)

  14. You will do great! (Plus, that's really cool.) I've heard there are many shy performers in the business, it just takes a little getting out there to do it. And I really think you will be fantastic. ;)

  15. Yes you can! You will be awesome! (And I can't wait to read your new book.)

  16. Best of luck to you, Jessica, in all your pursuits!

    Like you, I have my hands in many different jars and am always wondering if I'm pursuing the right one at the right time. All I can do is breathe, take things a step at a time, and concentrate on whatever task is at hand for the moment.

    It's not easy, and sometimes I wish I had only one passion. But I'm multifaceted and I'm begining to understand and embrace that!

    You'll do just fine!

  17. Hi Jessica .. sounds like a great time ahead .. and once the music career has settled down - you'll find time to write = I am sure. You have both talents within you .. just Alex' Insecure Writers Group - heavens it only happens on Wednesdays!! Go for it ..

    and today you're meeting another blogger .. boy - have fun the two of you ..

    Just write as Susan KQ says .. just keep on putting those few words down .. memory joggers .. cheers: Good Luck with the band and much joy and happiness .. Hilary

  18. My thoughts are that you should give the band a shot. I mean, worse come to worse, you can always quit those plans. Starting the band doesn't mean you HAVE to do the band forever. if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
    And i can pump out a draft in 2 hours a day for 2-3 months. BUT, like you, i need a lot of brain planning and storming before i even set my fingers on the keyboard. I'm really jonesing for some brain time right now...

  19. I can feel your panic. I would be there with you if life served such a thing up for me. I understand about being shy, believe me. You man want to invest in a voice command option for your computer and get a small one or iPad or something. Then between your music you could speak instead of write your book. Don't know if that makes sense to you.
    Good luck.
    N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

  20. I can so relate to this post! I have to have a lot of brain space. Family doesn't get it. I have a ton of art clutter all around me, but can't relax and begin till I know if college bound son is bringing home a gathering. I need space, time to think things through. I do think you can make it work, but it has to revolve around your life, your schedule. A few gigs, but not a tour.
    Follow through with your first love and let music bridge the gap, only when you want. I mean a few
    performances would elevate the sales of your first love. They are joined at the hip~ I have a similar creative process. Be true to your voice, what it is you want~xo

  21. I think you needn't worry about having gaps between books. You're in a great position where your music and your writing compliment each other, so if you're worried about juggling them, why not combine them and do a concept album (with accompanying novelisation later on?)

    As for the band thing, I agree that's both a pretty scary but also tremendously awesome thing for you. If the opportunity comes, then go for it. You know we've got your back :)

  22. That's a cool metaphor in the heading of your post.

    I bet you can be a one-woman band >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  23. This brings to mind the old saying, "careful what you wish for, you might get it"...

  24. Wow, such an accomplished young woman! I am a creative person, too. Not just in my writing, but also in my career as an architect and interior designer. If you're the creative type, you just can't hold it in.

    But your insecurities and mine are kind of on opposing ends. I have all the time in
    the world, but can't get the idea to materialize into a solid plot. I'm working on it though.

    Anyway, I found you through Alex Cavanaugh. I'm a member of his IWSG, as well. As Alex suggested, I'm jumping around to unfamiliar blogs hoping to make new connections. My face is now gracing your army of followers. I'd love for you to come by my place sometime!

    Congrats on the book and the album!

  25. Wow. Difficult questions, but wonderful opportunities. I believe you can make anything work with patience and persistence--good luck, Jessica! :-)

  26. I think you could do both! There's down time for traveling and between gigs.
    But the choice to pursue either must be your own.

  27. Congrats on the album! I can't wait for my copy. Your creative muse keeps busy, doesn't she? I think when the moment comes to make a decision, you'll know which direction to go. Just keep yourself open to all possibilities.

  28. I have the same problem. Mt blog has a four-pronged approach: science stuff, writing, promoting, and miscellaneous. I do all four because I can't just be a one-hit wonder. Great post!

  29. Wow, you sound busy! People have multi-careers all the time...why can't you?

  30. I hate to say it, but Bell Jar came to my mind too Jessica. I feel for you, for the angst. Darn! To be so talented but having such a huge fear barrier to push through. You'll need to put all that adrenalin to good use when your album comes out. When you put yourself out there you can no longer hide in your comfy little cocoon. You have these gifts that the world wants to share with you, but you're still permitted to have a Greta Garbo moment (Leeevvvee me alonnneee!)

    So, matey, bite the golden bullet!


  31. "I haven't done any writing since the revision of my second novel...." AMAZING that you juggle both music and writing. I juggle my time between floundering and storytelling. So... no advice here. Congratulations on your creative endeavors!

  32. I can relate to this. I've always struggled with a tug-of-war between my writing and my art. I find it hard to concentrate on both at the same time so one falls behind while I pursue the other.

  33. And, you can "What if" yourself to death. You have a great combination of talents. They seem to compliment each other. Go with the one that is pulling the strongest, but don't completely ignore the other. You can't do it all at once, so give yourself some grace.
    I also shine in both music and writing. I teach piano and play, but I don't write songs. I write stories and articles.

  34. It sounds like you have difficult decisions to make. You are obviously very talented & you have opportunities. I would suggest slowing down and just enjoying your options as they come. It is wonderful to do what you love.

    I have never been very good at taking advice.

    How exciting, congratulations on your debut album. You have a lot going for you

  35. whoa. Your writing portion was exactly me. Exactly where we are, and exactly how I'm feeling. I can't not bring in the cizzash right now, but I can't just sit down and write like that. I have to have space and time. It sux. That's why we've got to get these trains a'rolling... Hang in there~ <3

  36. Writing IS like oxygen.

    I'm sure it is scary to get out there and perform. But I bet you're a natural performer.

  37. You can do it Jessica! We're all rooting for you :-)


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris