Tuesday, February 27, 2024

On Kindness and the Lenses We Work Through

It's one week from the publication of my fourth book, A Different Kind of Brave

cover of Lee Wind's YA novel "A Different Kind of Brave"

It's my gay teen love letter to James Bond movies, and a book packed with so many of the story things I loved as a teen—secret identities, cool gadgets, exotic cars, high-stakes adventure, and something I never got as teen: a gay love story. Starring two gay teens. Surrounded by a diverse cast of Queer and allied friends.

My book recently got a couple of really nice trade reviews, and that external validation felt so powerful it scared me. I joked that the starred review was like telling my imposter syndrome to go sit in the corner and shut up. 

I joked about it, but then found myself thinking about how negative self-talk isn't something I've completely gotten past.

That, and being on the cusp of this YA novel coming out and finally reaching readers has me thinking a lot about my author journey. After all, I started writing for kids and teens in earnest back in 2004, and this is my first traditionally published YA novel, coming out March 5, 2024. 

The math is easy (that's twenty years). The lessons feel more hard-won.

So, with the vision that it might be helpful to share, some thoughts:

We writers (and other creatives) are not always kind to ourselves.

We drive ourselves to produce (write every day!), ignoring the wisdom of the seasons: you cannot only harvest. You need to let crops lay dormant (winter), germinate (spring), grow (summer), and only then can you harvest (fall.) Plants and trees don't skip the resting time of winter, and we skip rest at our peril. That's also called "burnout."

The real world is on fire (as the news constantly tells us), and we are tasked by the publishing industry and ourselves with "rising above the noise" to somehow help our book stand out amid millions of other books. Like our book's box office opening week is the most important thing about it (ooh--you wrote a best-seller?) rather than remembering that the impact of one book on one heart is how the world actually changes. That impact is also what truly makes a book sell, through that age-old chesnut: "word of mouth."

Maybe most insidiously, we often view our work with the wrong lens. Most writers and other creatives have multiple lenses we work though, including:

1) The creative lens, when you're researching and crafting something new: I'm an artist!

2) The editorial lens, when you apply your critical eye to evaluate feedback and revise. It's not everything I wanted it to be, but I can make it better.

3) The critic lens, when you beat yourself up about what you didn't accomplish, and occasionally feel okay about what you wrote. This is the home of my "imposter syndrome," which I have to keep reminding has been told to go sit in a corner and be quiet...

Drafting with your creative lens, and the editorial lens intrudes? That makes writing painful and slow. Insert tortured artist cliche here.

Drafting with your creative lens, and the critic lens gets in the way? Hello writer's block.

So I'm trying to learn. To not demand I produce every day. To allow myself the grace of seasons to my creativity. To do my bit to get the word out, and trust that if I created the best book I can, it will reach readers for whom it's important and meaningful. To use the right lens at the right time. And most of all, to be kind to myself on this adventure.

I hope you will be kind to yourself on your creative journey, too...

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

p.s.: You can learn more about my books at my website here: leewind.org

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