Alchemy. Otherwise Known As “A Life.”

Fire She-Ra Avatar

I’m alive. Or (rather) I’m focused and am very productive. I feel like I’ve neglected to mention that there’s a bevy of intangible things every writer needs in order to have a foundation to stand on. Confidence in yourself and your work is only a small part of the equation, because it’s not an all or nothing scenario. What you need is something much grander than that — boundaries. Those invisible lines in the sand where you say: “I’m not going to waste time on that.” Or, sometimes more importantly: “I’m not going to bother spending the emotional energy on ‘X'” whatever “X” happens to be.

To get to that point, to not be desperate for every publisher’s/editor’s whim, we need support in some shape or form. Or, to be more blunt, a life. There, I said it. And, I’ll say it again. We need to have a life. Spending all your vested interest in an online persona or book sales or mentions or bad mojo or whatever is not healthy for you or your work. I’ve heard *all* the excuses before. I can’t. I have to. I can’t. Years ago, I was that way. And you know what I did? Dealt with my own b.s. to get here, and here is exactly where I want to be. I have relapses. I had one not too long ago, but I’m out of it now. And I never, ever plan on ever being “there” again.

Now, normally I’m of the “to each his own” mind. Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar, but I also believe in something else – moderation. Balance. Being healthy. Not pouring all your efforts into “x” and forgetting that you’re human. Yet, are we really doing that? Try going offline unannounced for a couple of weeks. Find out how many people think something’s wrong just because you weren’t on Facebook. It might surprise you.

For writers, I think being an alchemist for your own life is crucial because of our need to relate to characters and unravel plots. By alchemist, I mean that I feel you choose what you want in it, what you’ll mix together, and how you’ll react to those things. I know I need to be happy and excited to create. By “happy” I don’t mean that’s the only time I create, but I know that being an emotional wreck dealing with drama is so time-consuming and dramatic it negatively effects my work. I deal with problems when they come up for that reason. If there’s something I can’t resolve and it’s damaging to me and mine? I let it go. Not always easy, and I’m not perfect in that regard, but that’s where a support group comes into play.

You can’t get an immersive experience (e.g. sight, sound, touch, feel, smell) from the internet. You can get some visuals and sound from a movie, sure, but even then it’s not the same as walking down the street and just observing life. That little old lady next door. Your neighbor’s dog. The crotchety guy down the street. Talk to strangers. (Yes, even the dog counts.) Get to know these people. Listen to their stories. Study their faces. Learn how to be a good friend. Be inspired by their humanity and buffer yourself against a couple of windbags dying to get your attention for advertising dollars.

Out in the brick-and-mortar world, this is where stories are born — even genre ones. I’m talking about real people, real emotions, and real events. That concert you’ve been dying to go to. That volunteer gig you’ve been thinking about but can’t seem to find the time. That hobby you’ve been putting off that all your friends are asking you to do.

Do these things. Do them, because no amount of opinions or friends or cat pictures online will ever make you happy. You can think that it will, and no doubt there’s some people that feel this way, but here’s what this comes down to (and why I’m sooooooooo opinionated about this): you are not just a writer. You, my friend and fellow author, are an effing GOD. You create; others consume. Gambling on what shoulda/coulda/woulda isn’t going to pay the bills, help you achieve your goals, or make your dreams come true. If you’re happy with that? Then good on you. I’m not. Good on me.

I learned this many years ago: you cannot create if you are always consuming. The internet isn’t just a distraction tool, it requires your attention, but there are other tools that do the same thing. I write. Well and badly. Revise and toss. Submit and table. I don’t read, I study the books I pick up. While I can enjoy a film, I think about it’s structure and what I can do to apply that first physically, then internally, to my own work. I make jewelry now, sometimes I cook, and I’m definitely making Art. I have a few consumption things that I do (video games) but I have to do those in moderation. I’ve ingrained these habits into my lifestyle because I want to make things other people will enjoy. To do that, I have to study the form, and there’s no better way to do that then to see what’s already out there.

Recently, though, I’ve been reminded of something else and that “something” is motivating me. A concept that’s so very important, incredibly simple, and so hard to remember: Creativity is limitless. It doesn’t judge, it’s always there, and it’s accessible. Our humanity, however, is finite.

So no, I don’t respond to every flame war and I’ve stopped sharing inflammatory posts or buying into political commentary, too. I’m limiting my connectivity and tested out my productivity using two versus one monitor. I’ve stopped gambling on what I can’t control, ditched the paraphernalia, and am focusing on what I can – getting back to fundamentals, establishing boundaries, and paying attention to what matters to me so I can have a great life in addition to my work.

All the rest? All the things I don’t know about and have no idea exist? That’s part of your story. And, if so, I want to hear about it next time we meet face-to-face.

    Mood: Gold
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Mercury
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Air
    In My Ears: Water
    Game Last Played: Brimstone
    Movie Last Viewed: Silver
    Latest Artistic Project: Copper
    Latest Release: Fire
One Response to Alchemy. Otherwise Known As “A Life.”
  1. Gary

    Thanks for the insight. As ever, I keep learning that this is a journey.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

Back to Top