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December 14, 2012
Kick Back & Be Inspired
With that in mind, enjoy some motivation this weekend. Bookmark your favorites and come back to them regularly.
- Zig Ziglar’s Timeless Guide to Motivation includes five of Zig Ziglar’s most well known motivational ideas. Learning and applying these five principles could turn your life and career around.
- Achieve Your Writing Dreams: Sound Appealing? delivers an interesting insight. ”If I was ever going to get any GOOD assignments, I had to give them to myself,” says the author. Aha moment!
- Be Productive! 2 Hard and Soft Methods for Beating Procrastination admits that writers are different. Some need to deal with procrastination from an inner “softer” place. Other writers need outer organizational tips and tricks.
- Trust in Your Ability to Tell a Story will bolster your confidence to tell your story. You’ve got what it takes!
April 11, 2012
Motivation can be fleeting, but real commitment is here to stay.
The WHY Behind Committment
Commitments come in different sizes. I am committed to big things (my marriage, children, and grandchildren) and I’m committed to smaller things (paying the bills on time, and brushing my teeth.)
Other things I do when I’m “motivated” (like spruce up the guest room when company is coming, or buy new shoes for some social event). But I don’t like to decorate or shop, so unless I’m motivated by something outside myself, I don’t do those two things. But I pay bills and babysit grandkids, no matter what else is going on in my life.
Commitments occur when something is truly gut level important to us. Some things I’ve always been committed to (e.g. my family and paying my bills). I would hate to be a bad mother or a deadbeat. Other things started off as “sometimes activities,” based on whether or not I felt motivated (e.g. cutting out junk food and eating vegetables); they only moved to the “committed” category when I encountered various health issues that demanded a change. It was amazing to me how my waffling attitude became committed overnight.
Reasons to Commit
What about our writing? As an ICL student and early writer, I was motivated! I loved the writing, being published, being paid, seeing bylines, you name it. I was excited by it all. During the single parenting years, the writing became a commitment. (Meeting deadlines was non-negotiable; it meant having food on the table.)
But the kids are all adults now, and my writing income isn’t required to keep a roof over our heads. I wonder if that’s why, in recent years, the writing commitment has slipped back into the “I need to feel motivated to write” category. Whatever the reason, I do NOT like it. I am determined to move my writing back to the committed side.
Some commitments come naturally to me (like with God, my family, and my country). Some commitments I make when I really want something (like giving up sugar and caffeine because I wanted my health back). I know that commitment is a choice. Is it just a matter of choosing to be committed? Is it the old Nike slogan, “Just do it!” [I sure hope not. I am sick of that route.]
Check Out the Obstacles
I think part of my problem is the shifting publishing scene. I love some of the new options, but some of it I really don’t. My old writing life, the one I was committed to for years, no longer exists. Publishing has changed that much, especially with all the marketing that has shifted to the writer’s shoulders, even if you’re published by a traditional publisher.
I think part of the problem has been re-defining what writing now means to me—and describing a writing life that I could truly commit to. What would it have to look like? What would the writing experience need to include (and exclude) for me to re-make a whole-hearted commitment to it? Each of us needs to answer that question for ourselves, and it will be different for each writer.
I DO know that I’m tired of the almost constant need to re-motivate myself. It takes a lot of time and writing energy. When I’m finally motivated to write some days, I’ve had a lot of fun. But I’ve used up my writing time. I’ve journaled (or done writing prompts and exercises) so long that there is little time left.
Of course, one sure-fire way of making yourself committed is to take on so many writing projects that the deadlines force you to write. Been there, done that—and I’m tired of writing with a gun to my head. There must be another way.
Steps to Committing
After doing a lot of reading and talking to some very committed writers, I discovered that they had at least four common traits. None of them required constant motivation to write. They were simply committed to it.
So…here are some steps that appear to be requirements if you want to make a commitment to your writing:
1. You must see your writing commitment as important. For some reason, we often find it easier to commit to things for other people. I think that’s why my middle years of writing were easier commitment-wise. I wasn’t just selfishly doing something I wanted to do. I was doing it to feed and clothe the kids. It moved the writing into a category of “things you do, whether you feel like it or not.” The same goes for health changes made in recent years. For some reason, I couldn’t see that taking personal time to get healthy (exercise, sleep enough, eat right) was that important—until I couldn’t keep up with my grandbabies. We’re so good at making commitments to others. It’s time to set necessary boundaries and make a commitment to yourself. You must see your writing as important, whether or not it directly benefits others at this time.
2. You must be careful about what you commit to. You will shoot yourself in the foot if you commit to the wrong things (or too much of the right things). I used to cringe when I received a new student whose goal was publishing his/her first novel with a traditional publisher within months. Equally difficult goals include output goals like writing 4,000 words every day. Few writers can keep that up day after day. You will find it easier to commit to goals like “I will write every day for a minimum of one hour” or “I will query five editors/agents each week until I get a request for my manuscript.” These goals are both more realistic and things under your own control. (And if you manage to do even more on any given day, you feel super successful!) You must choose your commitments carefully.
3. Committed people learn about what they want to do. They don’t just set goals or have wishes, then hope for the best. They take steps to learn all they can, and they apply that knowledge. They learn what they need to do to maximize their chances for success. Athletes learn how to build muscle and endurance, and what foods make the best fuel. Moms continually learn about child development, what makes a healthy diet for kids, and how to educate them. And committed writers are always learning about their craft and their markets, through books, classes, workshops and critique groups. You must outline your own personal learning program.
4. Committed people plan for success. “They plan to work, and they work the plan,” as the saying goes. Success doesn’t just happen, and committed people know this. They are very intentional about what they do. Athletes lay out work clothes the night before and plan nutritious menus. Moms continually incorporate learning activities into daily routines, always looking for those “teachable moments.” And (among other things) committed writers organize their desks and writing materials the night before, get off-line, and then get a decent night’s sleep so they can be alert in the morning. Another old saying is, “A fail to plan is planning to fail.” It’s that important. You must think ahead and design rituals that set you up for writing success.
In summary, committed writers who don’t rely on constant motivational “recharging” appear to follow these “rules”:
- You must see your writing as important, whether or not it directly benefits others at this time.
- You must choose your commitments carefully.
- You must outline your own personal learning program.
- You must think ahead and design rituals that set you up for writing success.
And then, after all this, committed writers “just do it!”
April 4, 2012
Motivation simply doesn’t last forever. Sometimes it is gone before the morning is out. We writers try hard to stay motivated so we can meet our writing goals.
However, when motivation starts to fizzle out, you need rock solid commitment to keep you moving ahead on your writing goals.
Same or Different?
Sometimes we use the words “motivated” and “committed” interchangeably. We say “I’m motivated to write today” and “I’m committed to write today.” Even so, the words aren’t the same. Being motivated to write today can help you meet your daily quota of words or pages. Being committed to your writing will get the book finished.
Motivation involves getting yourself to do things because you feel like it. Commitment will cause you to do things even when you don’t feel like it. Getting that novel written—developing your writing career—will only happen if you have commitment that keeps you moving through the motivational lapses.
Motivation is Big Business
Motivation happens at writing conferences, writing workshops, and when we start new classes. That’s why we read blogs and writing books about the emotional life of writers. There are motivational websites, and you can hire a motivational writing coach. Don’t get me wrong. All of these can be wonderful. If only the motivation lasted!
Commitment, on the other hand, is about doing what is needed no matter what. (Picture being up with the teething baby in the middle of the night. You don’t feel eagerly motivated to get out of your warm bed, but you’re committed to that little darling.) You need to develop that kind of commitment for your writing. (“But how?” you’re asking. We’ll get to that in a bit.)
Fluctuating Motivation is Normal
Undeniably, a shot of motivation makes the commitment to your writing easier. It’s great to write down dreams and goals. But unless you commit to those goals, your chances aren’t very good that you’ll reach them. You’ll only write when you feel motivated or inspired.
Remember: motivation is always temporary. It will fluctuate, ebb and flow, come and go. Do NOT be alarmed by this. It happens to all writers throughout their writing careers. And there are just too many things that can poke holes in your motivation. Physical aches and pains, emotional upheaval in an important relationship, or mental worries can puncture your motivation like a popped balloon.
Instead, focus on strengthening your commitment, whether you are motivated on any particular day or not.
Defining Our Terms
If we want to have a writing career, if we want to finish a book, we need to find ways to move our writing life from the “motivated to write” side of the ledger to the “committed to write” side. So…how do we do that?
Maybe the answer—or part of it—lies in the definitions. Motivate means to “stimulate toward action or give incentive to.” Things that might stimulate you to write would include having lunch with another writer or reading a published novel that inspires you to do likewise.
Commitment, according to the dictionary, means several things: a pledge, an obligation, a promise; something that restricts one’s freedom of action, and official consignment of a person to a mental hospital. (That last definition is reserved for the worst writing days.) It says that a commitment implies responsibility (something that takes up time or energy), loyalty (devotion or dedication to a cause or relationship), and is a previously planned engagement (a planned arrangement or activity that cannot be avoided.)
I think this definition is a good measuring stick. Using this definition, here are some possible signs of a committed writer:
• Have you made a promise to yourself to write as close to daily as possible?
• Have you placed non-negotiable restrictions on your freedom in order to write? (e.g. less TV, no Internet in the mornings)
• Have you given up time and energy to write? (Do you have a weekly pages or hours quota?)
• Do you make definite writing plans that cannot be changed? (Do you write at your scheduled time despite phone calls, invitations to lunch, or the continual call of the refrigerator?)
A committed writer writes most every day in some form, whether she feels well or feels like writing. A motivated writer writes when she feels excited and inspired. Maybe that’s why contract deadlines work so well for most people. Whether you “feel” like writing or not (motivation), you get the work done (commitment to fulfilling the contract).
The Olden Days
While motivational seminars and books aren’t new, they have become big business in our day. Previous generations seemed to rely more on commitment. My grandparents on both sides were farmers. I can’t imagine any of them hiring a motivational coach for doing their jobs, taking care of their families, or sticking with their spouses. They had hard lives too. Commitment was more of a given in previous generations. I believe we can develop that mind-set for our writing.
The Bible describes three different pictures of commitment:
• A soldier who fights every battle until he has won the war
• An athlete who keeps running till he crosses the finish line and wins the prize
• A farmer who continues to weed, cultivate and water until a crop is ready to harvest
In each case, the individual is rewarded by winning the “prize” or reaching the goal.
Conversely, motivated individuals might look like this:
• A soldier who fights when he feels brave, but not otherwise, and ends up losing
• An athlete who runs until tired, and then quits
• A farmer who stops work in the field, lets weeds take over, and harvests no crop
In each case, there is no real fruit for all the effort made.
[Next time I will finish this article. It was way too long for one blog post. Next time we’ll talk about how to go from being an occasionally motivated writer to a committed writer.]
December 14, 2011
[First read Part 1 of the series called "Writing in Flow to Make Writing Fun."]
The first key that Susan K. Perry mentions in Writing in Flow is this: have a reason to write. I’m going to break this into two parts.
First: The Reason to Write in Flow
For me, the reason to write “in flow” is that I enjoy the writing so much more! I can force myself to write, but it’s not much fun. A majority of the writers interviewed by this author had learned how to control their flow experience. They had learned what they needed to do in order to slip into this “timeless” flow state where the writing is so pleasurable.
If you can figure out how to enter the flow state more predictably, you’ll enjoy your writing much more. Thus you’re more likely to write more and produce more.
The “flow theory” states that you enter a flow state when the following requirements are in place:
- You have a clear goal and will get some sort of feedback (even if it something like tracking word count).
- You sense that your skill level is fairly well suited to the challenge of your writing (neither so easy that it’s boring, nor so far above your skill level that you feel anxious.)
- You are intensely focused on what you’re doing.
- You lose awareness of yourself and almost feel a part of your story.
- Your sense of time shifts, with time seeming to slow or stop.
- The writing experience becomes its own reward; you enjoy the writing itself.
Doesn’t that kind of absorbed, trance-like writing sound like fun? That’s an experience I’d want to repeat on a daily basis!
Second: Your Reason for Writing
In Part 1, I talked about a few reasons for writing, and why writing only for money or fame or to impress someone won’t help you get into flow. “A point often missed by novice writers,” says Perry, “is that by zeroing in on one or more of the right reasons–for you–you’re more likely to find the one that will help you enter flow and keep writing in spite of frustration and rejection. You must feel strongly motivated to get fully absorbed in the writing, if flow is to follow.”
Remember, your reasons for writing are your own! Jot the following question in your journal: “So why do I write?” Then take plenty of time to answer it.
Write down all the TRUE reasons you write. No one ever needs to see this. You might write because you have an insatiable curiosity about the world or the private lives of people. You might have had a disturbing childhood that left you with many questions, and you write for the answers. Maybe you write because you need someone to listen. Maybe you believe you have the answers to XXXX and you need to share your wisdom with the world.
This doesn’t mean find a critique group. To write in flow, you need to train yourself to listen to yourself. Popular novelist Elmore Leonard said, “I say my sentences inside my head until they chime with some kind of turning fork.” Other writers read their work aloud to find the rough spots. [I'd be rich today if I had a nickle for every student who told me that they knew something was wrong with the ending--or plot twist, or motive--but they were hoping I wouldn't think so. I thought so.] Pay attention to that inner writer, especially during revisions, that gives you the feedback that “something is off here.”
Please note, however, that paying attention to your inner feedback does NOT mean encouraging those critical inner voices that tend to harshly judge your writing. Nor do you want to entertain thoughts at this time of what some editor will think of your idea. This kind of feedback will keep you from finding that relaxed flow state.
In order to make flow possible, you have to find a way to feel both competent (not overly anxious) and keep your interest high (not bored). Many writers don’t outline because they don’t want to write a story they already know. It’s boring to them, and they lose interest. On the other hand, some writers (like me) like outlines because without them, the anxiety level rises to the point that they’re blocked. Everyone is different. There is no right or wrong here, but you must find for yourself the right combination of subject matter and planning for your stage of career.
When I started writing thirty years ago, I couldn’t feel that my writing skill “was fairly well suited to the challenge” unless plots were outlined, character sketches were detailed, and I knew the ending clearly. I needed that much planning for the anxiety level to come down far enough that the writing was fun. It was many years before I was comfortable enough to write without a greatly detailed outline. However, other writers are bored with “cranking out stories” where they won’t be surprised along the way.
What About Rewards?
I’ve had to plan rewards plenty of times for getting through a piece of writing. It was either writing I didn’t want to do, but it would pay some bills, or writing that felt too far “above me” in difficulty. But if you want to write “in flow,” in that timeless sense of joy, you will need to find reward in the writing itself.
If it’s boring, work to make the plot more interesting, more surprising, deeper. Make something happen in the story that fulfills a wish of your own! If your story is causing you so much anxiety, stop and figure out why. If you haven’t done enough planning or research to feel comfortable, do that first. (You can do that part in flow too!)
How to Use Key #1
Some practical ways to find your reason to write include:
- Reflect on why you want to write in general, or why you want to write this particular project.
- Keep your ideas to yourself instead of talking about them; write them out first.
- Define success for yourself. (Learning to write regularly and enjoy it is my idea of success!)
Next time we’ll address Key #2: thinking like a writer! Keep the long-term goal in mind: writing more and enjoying it!
December 9, 2011
However, you need to take periodic breaks. And this weekend when you do, check out the articles below for motivation, information, and a couple of important warnings.
Keys to More Success
- It’s not your imagination. Sitting is Killing You–and this graphic is startling. Read the graphic to the bottom–and then you might want to stand up and be counted!
- Are you running out of steam on your assignments, your short stories, or your book (or any of your goals)? If so, try Motivation Refueled: 12 Ways to Find It if You Lose it Along the Way
- Want to know what some of those promises made by self-publishers really mean? Check this out: SELF-PUBLISHERS AND PIRANHAS
- The Difference Between Trying and Doing is a good reminder to all of us who are replacing “writing” with “trying to write.” We might want to re-think how we view this.
Give Me a Hand
If you’ve found helpful articles and blog posts recently that you think other writers would love to read, please leave a comment below and share it. (That includes if you wrote it yourself!) The more we can encourage each other, the better!
August 12, 2011
Like 89% of new writers today, I started writing with my heart set on publishing fiction. And like 84% of today’s aspiring writers, my first published work was nonfiction (Institute assignments, in fact).
While most of my forty published books have been middle-grade fiction, I got my foot in the publishing door with nonfiction. My Atheneum editor said that she took a chance on my “slush pile” novel because I’d had stories and articles (mostly articles) published in children’s magazines.
What a Goldmine!
How I wish I’d had Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children back then! (See the impressive blurb about the mother-daughter writing team at the end. They really know their stuff.) Being a mom with babies when I started writing (and no Internet then for research), I relied on personal experiences about my kids to break into print.
I especially loved the chapters in Anatomy of Nonfiction on brainstorming ideas, finding the heart and voice of story, and handling the how-to genre. A wannabe fiction writer will especially enjoy the chapters on using storytelling techniques to write nonfiction.
Why learn to write effective nonfiction if you only want to publish fiction? Because there are eight nonfiction markets for every one fiction market. Or, to put it another way, you’re eight times more likely to be published as a nonfiction writer than you are as a writer of fiction.
(Author credentials: Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas are masters of the true story. Facklam, an instructor at the Institute for 12 years, has written 43 nonfiction books. Thomas, also an instructor, has written 17. A mother-daughter team, they pooled the secrets of their success to write Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children-the only step-by-step guide to the mind, soul, heart, and inner workings of children’s nonfiction you’ll ever need to get published. As instructors, they know what you’ve learned about children’s writing. As authors, they know exactly what you need now to get published.)
April 29, 2011
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” ~~Henry David Thoreau
Have you given yourself permission to really work? To invest the necessary time and energy you know it will take to achieve your writing dream?
Until you can answer “yes” to the following three things, your commitment to writing will always be a struggle. [The list of three things is courtesy of Vinita Hampton Wright's book, The Soul Tells a Story, which I've expanded with my own thoughts.]
You must say “yes” to the work, the process, and the dream.
Are you able to say “yes” to whatever work you feel called to do? It might be writing humor for young moms, writing insurance information so that the common man can understand it, writing fantasy novels, or writing screenplays. (Or all of the above!)
You’re not called to be rich or famous, although that might be nice. You’re just saying “yes” (daily, if possible) to sitting down and doing the work. (As in the B.U.T. technique: Bottom in Chair.) You don’t worry about the eventual outcome or what others think of your idea. You’re not committing to a set number of hours every day–just that you will show up at the page regularly and do the work.
Saying “yes” to the writing process means you will accept the fact that writing gets messy. It’s not a process that goes from A to B to C like a dot-to-dot picture. The process is often murky as bits of ideas appear and then you shift them around. The shifting and changing is constant as you revise and (hopefully) as you continue to learn.
You can rarely see the end clearly from the beginning-even if you’re an outliner like I am. Plots can veer off into parts unknown. Characters want to behave in unexpected ways. The theme you start with doesn’t match the theme you end up writing about-what the story was really about, but you didn’t know it in the beginning.
Accept that the process will be gradual and full of failures or setbacks that will teach you about storytelling. You don’t have to do it all now–and you never have to do it perfectly.
Last, you must say “yes” to the dream. Are you willing to take some risks? Are you willing to shift things around in your life so that the creation of your novel or play is possible? Can you let go of some of your volunteer work or hobbies or even paid writing in order to pursue your dream? Yes, it’s a gamble. Most things in life worth having are.
Are you willing to aim really high–without guarantees that it will all pay off in the end? Are you willing to grow and learn and be stretched? To do so, you must say “yes” to the dream.
The work. The process. The dream.
Think about each separate part of the writing commitment. And when you’re ready, say a whole-hearted, no holds barred, no looking back, unequivocal YES!
February 21, 2011
(Bear with me–today is nothing but shameless self-promotion! The Table of Contents with sample chapters is at the bottom.)
If you liked
then you’ll love
You won’t actually find bandages or medicine in More Writer’s First Aid. But in 48 short chapters, you will find cures for dealing with disappointment and jealousy, writing despite physical and emotional pain, banishing procrastination once and for all, and combining writing with parenting (from infancy to adulthood.) “We’re all in this together” has been Kristi’s constant reminder to readers of her first book and her blog. (Read sample chapters below in the Contents.)
Kristi has had nearly 40 books published in 30 years of writing, taught writing for the Institute of Children’s Literature for more than 25 years, and has guided, mentored and taught hundreds of aspiring writers (both as an instructor and blogger for more than 55,000 subscribers.) “I started writing on an Iowa farm, very isolated, with no Internet and no other writers around,” Kristi says. “It’s not about how talented you are–and it’s not who you know–that gets you published. Most often the published writers are simply those writers who refused to quit. I can help you persevere until you publish.”
In addition to the uplifting encouragement you found in Kristi’s first book for writers, More Writer’s First Aid e-book includes:
- eight more articles (48 versus 40) to inspire you [See Contents below]
- a new “family matters” section on combining writing with parenting children from birth to adulthood
- advice on current time management issues like e-mail and information overload
- portability for today’s modern reader–keep it handy on your computer’s desktop
- live links within the chapters leading to referenced books, classes, websites, and authors
Only $12.95 (pdf) requires Adobe Acrobat
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE (immediate direct download)
“More Writer’s First Aid should be within easy reach on every writer’s desktop,” says published author Patricia Curtis Pfitsch. “Kristi’s insight and advice guide us around the subtle traps of our 21st century life that can derail even the most talented writer’s dreams.”
“Author Kristi Holl knows what counts and what works when it comes to ‘getting the writing done!’ She not only provides action steps but she is also sensitive to a writer’s emotions, family obligations, and personal challenges,” says Karen O’Connor. “Written in a conversational style as though she is sitting across from you over a cup of tea, Holl encourages all writers to honor themselves as artists and to live in a place of mindfulness–taking our lives and our writing one day at time. I’m inspired and know you will be too.”
Only $12.95 (pdf) requires Adobe Acrobat
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE (immediate direct download)
“Whether you’re a starting-out writer or well down the published road, you’ll find a ton of value in Kristi Holl’s book,” says published author Sherryl Clark. “Her wisdom, born of long experience as a writer, is like a guiding light. This is the book you need for good and bad writing days!”
I ENJOYING THE WRITING LIFE—EVERY DAY!
Honoring the Writing Process
Dealing with Disappointment
Striving for Contentment
Breaking the Procrastination Cycle
How Tight Is Your Bow?
Joining a Work in Progress
Writing through Physical Pain
Mentors or Tormentors?
Mindful or Multi-Tasker?
II WRITING HABITS THAT HELP YOU
Change: Making It Stick
Counting the Cost
Focus: the Power of Scheduling
Getting the Writing Done
Undo It Yourself
Timing is Everything
E-mail: the Hidden Enemy
Finding Time: Pruning before Prioritizing
Procrastination: Have You Tried An Unschedule?
The Power of Writing Things Down
III A WRITER’S EMOTIONS
Write What You Love
Facing Your Creative Fears
Stages of Writing
Sorting Out the Voices
Conquering the Green-Eyed Monster
Give Up Your Perpetual Maybe
Dealing with Rejections and Setbacks
Writing after Major Losses
Get Your Fear Shot!
IV FAMILY MATTERS
Set Boundaries to Write More
Creativity and Noise: Do They Mix?
Hats Off to Mom Writers
Writers: Always Working
Busy—or Crazy Busy?
Writing through Relationship Struggles
Combining Babies, Bylines and School-Age Children
Writing during the Teen and Early Adult Years
Running on Parallel Tracks
Cherish the Commonplace
February 14, 2011
For the last two weeks, I’ve bombarded you with long posts on how to make changes in your writing life–and make them last.
Today I’ll give you a breather and show you some of the treasures I found.
- Feeling overwhelmed as a writer? Read Jordan Rosenfeld’s How to Talk Yourself Off the Ledge of Creative Despair and you’ll feel better!
- Back-to-Work Blues for Writers: Solutions is for writers who also work outside the home–and some practical realities and help in carving out that crucial time to feel like a “real writer” again.
- Ever wonder about Launching a Virtual Book Tour? For some great tips, read both Part 1 and Part 2.
- And don’t overlook this gem about The Missing Link–NaNoEdMo. This writer needs a month of enthusiasm generated about editing the rambling novel from NaNoWriMo. Guess what? There IS such a month. See NaNoEdMo and sign up for editing your novel in March. Just two weeks away!
Sit back and enjoy!
January 26, 2011
Typically, my writing students are excited two times: at the very beginning of the writing course and again at the end (because they are graduating and/or being published.)
Book writers are also excited at the beginning of a project (when their idea and characters are new) and at the end (when the final draft is complete or it’s sold.)
But the middle? Middles can be miserable.
Part of the Package
Last year I had two writers in the same week, both talented and one already published, write to me to say that they were no longer excited about writing because it had become difficult. “This is harder than I thought it would be” is something I frequently hear. The new writer usually wants me to explain how to make it easy again, how to take the work out of the writing.
I think this comes from a real misconception about writing. Writing is like having a good relationship with someone. It’s exciting when you first meet, it’s satisfying after years of sharing experiences and working through the conflicts, but the middle is a mixture of joy and tests (or obstacles.) Frequently it’s not fun! It’s just part of the package–and it’s the same with writing.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
A quote from Never Give Up! says it well:
“Between the beginning and the end, every situation or pursuit has a ‘middle’–and the middle is where we often face our greatest challenges, hurdles, roadblocks, obstacles, detours, and tests. People who are easily led by their emotions rarely finish what they start. They give up when the project is no longer exciting and all they see in front of them is hard work.”
Just a While Longer
If you’re on the verge of quitting writing, I would encourage you to give it a bit longer. Face the challenges and be determined to overcome them. Find ways to make the middles fun! They can be every bit as rewarding as beginnings and endings–it just takes more work. Don’t be satisfied with “just trying” something, but see it through to the end. At least 90% of the time, you’ll be so glad you did.
I know there are rare instances where the only wise thing to do is to give up (on a career choice, a relationship, or a story). That choice is the exception to the rule though. Don’t be quick to quit writing just because it stops being fun for a while.
Best Predictor of Success
Many new writers will ask me, “Do you think I have what it takes to succeed as a writer?” I used to believe that I could tell within a couple of lessons with students. I have found over the years that I was wrong. Too often the students I had earmarked for long and happy writing careers quit because it grew difficult, and they were used to instant and easy success.
On the other hand, students who were mediocre at the beginning have gone on to publish well! I have a shelf of student books to prove it. They studied, they learned, they took courses and got critiqued if necessary. They submitted and endured rejection slips–but they persevered. And I’m proud to say that their books are impacting the world of children in very positive ways.
ALL writers have trouble sticking it out during those “miserable middles.” Do you have any mental tricks or words of wisdom that work for you at such times? If so, please share!Newer Posts »