Backing Away From the Cliffs of Insanity

By Beth K. Vogt

Any Princess Bride aficionados reading this today? If so, when I drop the phrase, “The Cliffs of Insanity,” you’ll instantly envision the harrowing cliffs scaled by Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Princess Buttercup – with thanks to Fezzik – and then later climbed by The Dread Pirate Roberts.

If you’re not familiar with The Princess Bride – Gasp! – you may have read “The Cliffs of Insanity” and thought, “Oh yeah. I’m a writer. I’ve spent some time perched on the edge of those cliffs.”

I get it. Being a writer is crazy-making.

  • You bet your life on maybes, dependent on the kindness of others. Agents, editors, publishers, reviewers. And, really, their decisions determining your success have nothing to do with kindness. Publishing is business, bay-bee.
  • You balance your hopes on the seesaw of contradictions. Write your passion vs. write what the market wants. Traditional publishing vs. indie. Which do you choose?
  • You hear – and listen to – voices. There’s no ignoring the imaginary characters in your head that tell you what they’re going to do. Meanwhile, there are ever-present voices real world voices. Your boss. Your spouse. Your kids. Your friends. All demand you focus on the here and now. 
  • You face unending professional challenges. The changing world of publishing. Waiting and waiting for the longed-for yes. Accepting rejections. The mixture of joy and jealousy when a friend earns “the call.” 

The craziest part? You chose this life. You’re committed to this insanity, a.k.a. “the dream.” Here are a few suggestions for managing the madness:

  • Pick your mentors wisely. Writers like Poe and Hemingway battled the writing craziness by indulging in mind-altering escapes. Look elsewhere for your role models. I admire my mentors for their faith and life choices, not just their writing skills. And if you’re farther along the writing road than other writers – and you always are! – mentor to someone else.
  • Don’t let all your dreams be based on maybes. I have limited control over my success as a writer. There is more to my life than writing. I’m pursuing other dreams with both short and long-term goals.
  • Choose between your passion and writing for the market. Or not. Maybe you’ll be the lucky author who hits the market when your passions collide with what “they” want. (Romantic-Amish-Vampire-Time-Travel-Steampunk-with-a-moral, anyone?)
  • Jump off the seesaw. The whole “balancing the writing world with the real world” challenge? I may never master that. Sometimes my mind seems to be inhabited by shrieking eels, all screaming, “If only my husband, my kids, my friends would leave me alone, I could accomplish the more important goals!” That’s when I know it’s time to shut down my computer, walk away from what I’m writing, and reconnect with family.
  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling – the good and the bad. If a wide range of emotions is good for our fictional characters, why are they bad for us? Sometimes we’re conflicted: over-the-moon-happy for our friend who landed a contract and also disappointed we’re not the one signing on the dotted line. That’s reality. I’ve found the best way to battle jealousy is to purposely celebrate someone else’s success. Write them a note or post a “So happy for you” message on Facebook.
How do you back away from the Cliffs of Insanity? (And do you know what cliffs were featured in The Princess Bride?)

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Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love.  She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.