Putting Yourself Out There

I like to think I’ve become immune to that jittery feeling that comes with putting myself out there. I’m learning, though, that there is no way to truly weather the feelings that come about when you’re pushing yourself to your limits.

Pushing yourself to the limits might seem like a bit of an extreme notion, but I think it’s the aptest way to describe the act of pouring your heart out to the world in your writing (or in simply showing up and being vulnerable) with no foreknowledge of the outcome. It’s a bit like betting on a horse race—you don’t know if you’re going to win, but you put all your faith in one horse anyway.

Sometimes it pays off—that’s the beauty in putting yourself out there. It could turn out fantastically. Sometimes, though, putting yourself out there scalds you, and doing so over and over again can seem a bit like the saying goes—fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

But part of being a creative—and part of being a human, it seems—is putting yourself out there over and over again, even if you end up with burns all over and only a few good outcomes from the experience. All it takes is one good outcome for magic to happen, after all.

Just because it’s necessary, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I’ve been experiencing that not-so-easiness on a grand scale for the past year. Right now, I’m sitting at 40 rejections on the romance manuscript I started querying last summer.

Despite the rejections (with a few requests that have gone nowhere, fast), I am continuing to put myself out there and submit some more! I’m currently preparing my submission materials to send the same manuscript that has been rejected forty times over straight to one of my dream publishers for an open call period they are having.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there—I even get a little jittery feeling in my stomach before I hit send on this very newsletter whenever I finally get around to publishing it—but I keep doing it.

I keep putting myself out there because I know that there’s no other way to do this writing thing.

In order for that magic to happen, I have to try.

So I’ll re-edit my query letter for yet another publisher or another agent. I’ll log into Submittable and send off another short story to yet another literary magazine all while doing my best to ignore the long list of submissions that are now in the “Declined” tab. I’ll keep sending podcast interview requests for borrowed solace: the podcast into the void, knowing that some people will simply ghost me.

Being a writer or creative of any sort means that you’ll constantly need to tell yourself to keep going. You’ll constantly need to work up the courage to submit and brace yourself for the potential rejection in your inbox.

But it also means that one day, you’ll get the one acceptance that matters. It means that one day, all of your rejections will be irrelevant because one blessed person finally decided to say yes.

So if you won’t give up, I won’t. We’ll see this thing through to the end and keep putting ourselves out there.

Because the best way to count yourself out of the game is to not even try.

Previously published in noteworthy.

Writing During the Pandemic: A Series (III)

The Second Half—Frenzied Writing

I have always written like the “stars will shatter tomorrow.” But now—I write until my eyelids cannot stay up. I’ve slept on my laptop before. By telling you this, I want to let you know that I understand. I feel the crush in my chest and need to keep my fingers pressed and moving constantly. Everything is for publication and everything…

That mind numbing listing happens often to me. It becomes a swirl of what I have to do or what I could do or what I want to do. I am learning slowly to do one thing that I want to do—that is writing for myself. Maybe journaling or experimenting with form. Something that is not “required” or that has a strict deadline. I meet my deadlines and sometimes I’m early. I keep three calendars—today, this week, this month. So far, this is helping me focus and slow down. My product is better too. 

What do I suggest to slow down?

First, don’t blame yourself. Don’t praise yourself too much either. We all need to cope. But be gentle and let yourself know that you are trying something new. Not scary. Not invasive. Just a slight change.

Pick three things off your list. If you complete them or don’t—praise yourself. You did what you could do.

Take a class or workshop. This goes for everyone on the writing spectrum! It focuses you. You feel accomplished. It takes a small amount of time in comparison with the ‘to-do’ list of doom.

Get out in nature. That’s really an activity for every writer. Get sun, get something green around you. Write down five things you feel or see—maybe touch? A poem can be entirely about the touch of a fern and how it caressed your cheek.

Above all else—never blame yourself for not writing. You are writing every second you exist. You have dreams, see interactions and people, see animals, gossip…that counts! Give yourself credit whether you are speeding up or slowing down or maintaining. This road of life we are on is long—let’s write about it.

| This is part three of a series. If you missed the previous parts, you can find part one here and part two here |

Writing During the Pandemic: A Series (II)

If You Feel Sluggish or Don’t Write at All

First, stop berating yourself. Don’t keep saying “I want to.” “I should…” “I am bad…” “I am not a writer…” Hush that creature on your shoulder whispering nonsense. You are a writer because you know words. Are you watching Hulu and Netflix? Good for you! 

Try this exercise next time you are watching a film or movie. Make it fun though. Don’t obsess.

1. Ask a question. What is the plot? Is there something that I could use?

2. Characters. How do they feel real or do they?

3. Story arc. Is there one?

This is informal. As the plot moves along and the two new love interests enter just note that he is wearing jeans and she is wearing red pumps that most people would tip over in—and how does that change the interaction?

See! Netflix to the rescue! You are writing. Could you create a few sentences where your characters interact like that?

Do you like word games?

They count. Everything from apps to word finds. Anything that makes words move. I use word magnets and lead a group. Every day I post a new set for everyone to try their hand at a poem or short story. It seems childish—but once you add in fun—the sluggishness starts leaving and the creature stops whispering.

What if tragedy occurred?

If someone died, you might feel numb or in shock. This is natural. We can go between the two states and have everything in between. If you feel numb—write NUMB. On the page, it will blink back at you. Then maybe Hurt? Anger? Who is next? All valid and scary questions. Write them down. Every feeling is valid. Don’t judge. If you must have structure, time yourself and run with it page after page. Dump out your emotion. Don’t worry about if it’s publishable. Truthfully, some of my best work comes from pain and emotional dumping. It’s authentic. That’s what our audience wants. That’s what we crave.

| Stay tuned for part three of this series next week! |

Writing During the Pandemic: A Series

During the pandemic can you scale how active your writing has been? In my writing circles, they answer 1 if they are lucky and not -10 and 11 if they seem to have fallen into a frenzied pattern. I fall into the latter category—I write and submit like I’m on fire. Most of my friends struggle to put a pen to the page or to type a paragraph. No response to the stress we are living is wrong. I want to make that clear.


If you want to jump-start your routine—I’m not going to say “sit and look at the page for twenty minutes…” That’s a waste of time. Color your feelings on the page instead. It would do much more for your writing than staring and hating yourself. If you color your name blue and the river blue—is there a connection? Is that a spark of at least a sentence? I am blue and the water is blue because I am of the river. Not too bad for scribbling.

What if you are like me and you can’t slow down? You have to get out every project, every poem, your novel and memoir because… it might be too late? You might die? Someone has died? I use writing as a coping mechanism right now. My cousin died of Covid before there were vaccines and my motto is to write like the stars will shatter tomorrow. I feel like I don’t have time—so I write. I do not want to say that writing is bad—but sometimes—I at least have to reflect and realize why I am writing. If I don’t have a deadline for 3 am in the morning, why am I writing at 2 am? I am learning the art of slowing down. I have my long ‘to-do’ list—but then I have my ‘today’ list. I try to keep only three writing-related things on it. If I have an event or am teaching that may count as two. I might add a submission. I do my best to journal and get my feelings out though.

Write like the stars will shatter tomorrow…

So—now what? In this series, we are going to look at the spectrum of writer responses. I will focus on the two extremes, but for those that find themselves in the middle, you get the benefit of all of the suggestions.

| Stay tuned for parts two and three of this series in the coming weeks! |

Writing About Love

Do you write about love? With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, love is on a lot of people’s minds. Love also shows up in much of what we writers tend to write about! Of course, that’s more obvious if you write romance, or if you write about a romantic relationship at some point in your writing, but even if you don’t write with romance in mind, most stories feature love in some way. Whether it’s brotherly love, unrequited love, friendship love, lost love, or twisted love, love tends to come through in our writing.

With this in mind, and Valentine’s Day right around the corner, take some inspiration from this post to write about love. Take inspiration from the imagery of a beautiful rose contrasted by a wilting rose to write about love. Or take inspiration from your life to write about love. Take a topic about love that’s been blasted from the headlines and turn it on its head.

Oh–and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Into the Querying Trenches

Something we don’t always talk about here at borrowed solace is querying. While we are all (including you, reading this) writers and often quite familiar with the painstaking process of submitting to journals (we try to make it as painless and simple as possible here, I promise) not everyone has jumped into what many writers refer to as the querying trenches.

If the phrase, “querying trenches” automatically brings images of fighting in the trenches of a big battle to mind, that’s because it’s an apt comparison. While obviously nowhere near what it is like to truly fight in a battle (and much less gruesome), querying is to writers what the trenches are to soldiers. It’s a long, frustrating, and difficult slog to the finish line, with a lot of waiting, anxiety, and unfruitful returns.

What is querying?

For those who are unfamiliar, querying is when writers who have written a complete book (at least for fiction) or a book proposal (for nonfiction) start the long process of reaching out to literary agents in hopes of getting representation. With a literary agent, a writer’s work can be submitted to traditional publishing houses and (hopefully) accepted and published.

Why go through querying?

If it’s so bad, why do authors even go through querying? The answer is simple: to be traditionally published. While not every writer wants to be traditionally published (some choose the self-publishing route or simply stick to short stories and poems in literary journals), you really can’t be traditionally published without querying literary agents.

Most, if not all, of the traditional big five publishers (which could soon become big four and includes Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) require a literary agent in order to submit. So in order to even have a chance at traditional publishing through one of the big five or their imprints, you need a literary agent.

What, exactly, does it mean to go into the query trenches?

So now that you know what querying is and why writers do it, let’s go into a bit more about the actual process of querying.

To query, you need a query letter. This letter is a one-page summary of your book that you are querying written in the form of a letter to an agent and includes biographical information about the author and stats about the book. Writing a query letter itself can be challenging, and it can truly make or break your querying experience (which is terrifying and what makes querying so hard.)

Armed with your query letter, and the first few chapters of your book, writers who are ready to query head into the trenches. This means finding literary agents who are interested in the type of book you’ve written online, following their submissions guidelines (much like the submissions guidelines we have here at borrowed solace), and sending along both your query letter and any other requested materials.

And then waiting.

Waiting is the hard part, and it’s made more difficult by the fact that the publishing industry as a whole right now is experiencing an immense amount of backlog and overwhelm due to staffing shortages, supply chain issues, and burnout. Just like with the rest of the world, COVID has taken its toll on the publishing industry, including all those involved in the querying process.

What’s so bad about querying?

Nothing. And everything. Querying is necessary to get your book published. It is the primary way to start the process of one day seeing your book on the shelves of your local Barnes & Noble. But it’s also a very tedious process, full of rejection.

May writers query close to a hundred agents with no success. Or find success early on that ultimately results in even more waiting (or even ghosting from agents, which is truly painful to experience as a writer–trust me, I’ve been there.)

Querying is a painstaking process that takes a lot of patience, resilience, and re-writing to survive. For many, though, all of this works out in the long run and results in a published book at the end of the years-long querying and publishing journey.

Are you querying?

I’m curious, are you in the query trenches? I dove into the querying process in mid-2021, and I’m still living in the trenches. While not exactly the same as submitting to literary journals, which I’ve also done my fair share of over the years, querying is similarly difficult.

If you’re querying, how’s it going? If you’re preparing to query, how’s it going? I want to know! Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or if you are unfamiliar with querying, or simply a ways away from venturing into the trenches yourself, comment what questions or concerns you have about the process.

Let’s support each other through this convoluted, messy process known as querying!

Experiencing Poetry

In one of my poetry circles, one of the members who has been writing poetry for years decided that she couldn’t read, or more importantly “understand” poetry. This, I felt, was a crime of nature and a direct result of how poetry is taught.

I believe that poetry is meant to be felt like A.S.M.R. (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) and create tingles and taps of syllables that cascade from the scalp to the shoulder, and then tickle the hip. I know a good line when I feel a “click,” both with my mind and with my body’s response. 

Consider how you feel or understand poetry. We are taught to analyze this piece of metaphor or to declare this poem uses assonance, and then… if you fit them together it really becomes a formula. Does that make poetry fun? Vibrant? Do you feel it in your bones and chest? I argue that writing and reading poetry doesn’t have to be a formula.

I write and read poetry as if I am listening to music or hearing a book read aloud. I experience poetry—that’s the key difference. Experiencing versus analyzing.  If you write to experience a poem or to have your reader experience your poem, there are all sorts of accidental blessings. That assonance comes out and so does that metaphor—but there is love and pleasure. Your reader will be able to tell the difference. And when you read, you will be able to tell the difference.

My friend in the poetry circle decided to give up on meaning. She has decided to let poetry flow from her and into her. Poetry is in her body and her sound in her marrow. She felt the syllables with her heartbeat. She is much happier, wiser, and her poetry does not seem forced. Instead, her poetry feels authentic. I can experience the voices and feel both the movement and the meaning. I can feel those ASMR lines and let the rhythm carry me away. 

You’re Not As Far Behind as You Think You Are

Sometimes it feels like becoming a successful writer is a race to the finish line, but remember: you are the tortoise, not the hare.

Some days I feel like it takes all I can do to not fall behind on everything. It’s hard enough to go through the day to day — work, food, pets, bills, exercise, grocery shopping, errand running, sleeping, paying side hustle, non-paying side hustle (is it still a side-hustle, then?), editing, reading — you know, the usual list of a million things, give or take, that we all have rattling around in our brains.

I find when I have one of those days — days where I am working non-stop on x, y, or z and feel uber-productive before I turn to look at the clock and see how behind I am — I get caught up in feeling like I’m never going to get to where I want to be. I still have a,b,c,d, and the rest of the alphabet to get through. Why is getting to the end of the list taking so dang long?

Days like this make it particularly hard to not to get too far into my head. I can easily start to feel bad that I am so busy surviving that there is no room for creating. Sometimes I look at writers and creatives I admire and the astonishing number of things they have coming up — events, workshops, signings, releases, publications — and think to myself how on earth do they do it all? This goes for both agented full-time writers and unagented little writers like me who are trying to publish while stumbling now and then trying to build their list of writing credits.

Writing is hard. Life is hard. And we all have to deal with at least one of those things, even if you’re not a writer. So, there’s that.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. Writing is hard. That’s why so many people don’t do it. That’s why so many people give up and move on to something else. Yes, I have my day job which is one of the most un-writerly things I do day to day where I do math and create spreadsheets and update websites and maintain databases of complicated information and deal with state regulations. It’s hard, too, but in a different way. Yet a lot more people have jobs like mine than write, and I’m not giving up on the writing side of my life. At least not any time soon.

When you’re feeling as if you’ve fallen behind, remember that you’re actually ahead. You’re ahead of a lot of people who will never even try writing, and ahead of people who gave it a fair shot and still thought it was too hard. You’re right where you should be, not behind. Not for your personal writing journey and your ultimate destination.

So don’t get overwhelmed, tackle one thing at a time on that mile-long to-do list. And remember that writing is hard — if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Previously published on Medium


As with every writer, we like our habits, our certain ways and order. According to psychology studies, we are habitual animals to begin with. Habits are what keep us normal. Every writing ritual will be different from writer to writer, but that is what makes us different in our writing process from others. Our writing process is our own due to the habits we develop to write.

For my writing ritual, which I would like to share is doing a lot of different things and at random, but it is always the same things.

Here is my list: I keep a creative journal, but mostly filled with judgment on I see and the universe’s wisdom I hear.

  • I write a loooooot to prompts, usually to images of worlds I would love to live in
  • Reseaaarch a toooooon–you can never be too prepared.
  • Write different scenes of my book: I go from linear to circular all the time when writing. Linear writing is writing the book chronologically and straight through. Circular writing is moving from one chapter to a different chapter and not writing the story in order—writing and coloring in the lines isn’t always fun
  • Go for a hike or for a walk by the river, nature brings back the magic my pixie dust needs
  • Collaborate writing a poem or exquisite corpse with someone—gather other sentences to steal from other writers (there doesn’t have to be shame in that)
  • Read a book/poem/flash story—studying others always helps
  • Do a draft—get them creative juices flowing! Magic is more magical when there is more imagination 
  • Brainstorm alone or with a friend, two brains are truly better than one
  • Sit my butt in a chair and force myself to write no matter what! But writer’s block usually defeats me when I go head-to-head
  • Clean or garden–there is something about dirt and roots that transfers the worlds magic back into my hands
  • Sit down at an actual typewriter and bleed to the muses…which usually ends in shambles and with the keys getting stuck and the paper crumpled

Write in the comments below, I want to know and learn what your ritual is…

How do You Edit?

I am in the middle of furiously editing my novel manuscript, so editing is on my brain lately. As many writers will attest (me included!) editing is not always fun. I wouldn’t say it’s the bane of my existence exactly, but there are some days it comes pretty close.

As I have struggled through editing these past several weeks, I’ve been wondering how everyone does it. There seem to be a million different ways to edit, and that’s because, of course, there are a million different writers out there! Some writers have rough rough drafts, some writers have clean rough drafts. Some love getting into the nitty gritty of syntax, sentence structure, and grammar right away, whereas others put it off until the last minute or hire out someone else to take on line edits. There’s so much variation in how we, as writers, edit out stories, and so I’m curious: how do you edit?

Don’t worry, I’m not asking the question without planning to reciprocate and explain my own process so far. Here’s how I edit:

Read Everything

Much of my time so far has been taken up simply by re-reading all the words I wrote. It’s more time consuming than you would think, especially with a full-length novel draft. I’ve been going word by word (yes, all 70,000 something of them) and sentence by sentence, noticing where I let myself get too long winded (I’ve learned that my wordiness is my downfall) or where I didn’t make clear who I was writing about. Only after I work on making my prose less jumbly can I dive into the details of characterization and plot–at least, that’s how editing goes for me.

Identify Potholes

Here in Colorado, we have a lot of potholes. A lot of potholes. When you’re driving down the street, humming along to your favorite song and keeping an eye on traffic, sometimes it’s easy to miss the crater in the middle of your lane. And when you hit that crater, causing the steering wheel to jerk beyond your control momentarily, you send a little prayer up to heaven that your tire didn’t just spring a leak (at least, that’s what I do!)

When you’re writing your first draft, you’re often in a similar state of mind–typing happily away when you hit a good writing streak, paying attention to which words to use and the right punctuation for dialogue. Inevitably, you’re going to miss the potholes in your story. I know I did! As I’ve been going back through and reading everything, I’ve noticed the small spots in the story where I need to fill in some gaps, and I’ve also noticed the gaping holes in the road of my story where I changed someone’s name half way through or forgot a character was supposed to be dead less than a year, not more than three. You’re mind can get distracted when writing that first draft, so go back through and fill in those potholes so your future reader has a much smoother ride.

Figure Out What’s Lacking

I decided to use a new web-based software for my editing, Fictionary, this go around, and it’s helped me identify some parts of my writing that were lacking. The way the program is set up allows for you to note different sensory details, objects, and character motivations in every scene and chapter. While it’s not always the most intuitive in picking these things out (it is computer-based software, after all) I’ve found some of the questions it asks as I weed through each scene to be very helpful. I’ve learned that I don’t mention scent very often in my descriptions, something that I am aiming to focus on as I edit. On the flip side, I often use touch to describe things, which is something Fictionary doesn’t pick out as a particular thing to note. Either way, I’ve found it helpful to think through scenes in terms of what is and isn’t there. It’s helped me appreciate the things I am good at in drafting each scene, and strengthen my writing by picking out what’s missing again and again.

Now It’s Your Turn

Now that you’ve heard a little bit about my editing process so far, I want to hear from you! What are you currently editing? What’s the process been like for you so far as you make your way through this tedious process? And finally, what tips do you have to share? Although editing is still not my favorite thing in the world to do on a nice evening after work, I’m learning the value of it even more with a full-length manuscript, and I’m eager to hear your take.