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April 8, 2011
We don’t like to talk about quitting or giving up on our dreams. But let’s be honest. Will every wannabe writer eventually land big contracts, snag a well-known NY agent, and be sent on ten-city book tours? No.
Maybe your dreams are more modest, but you’ve worked at breaking into publishing for years. Should you continue the struggle? For how long? How do you know when to quit?
Asking the Wrong Question
I came across an excellent discussion from a blog post that is several years old, but the advice is timeless. Called “When to Quit,” it’s a lengthy article by Scott Young on this subject. I hope you’ll read it to the end.
One factor the article said to consider was how you feel on a day-to-day basis as you pursue your dream. How is the process affecting your life, your character, your growth? “So if you are pursuing your dream and you don’t think you are going to make it, the question of whether or not to quit doesn’t depend on your chance of success. The real question is whether pursuing this dream is causing you to grow. Does this path fill you with passion and enthusiasm? Do you feel alive?”
You may not agree with all his views, but I guarantee that the article will make you think–even if you have no intention of quitting. It might lead you to make a course correction however. And it will make you evaluate why you’re pursuing your particular dream–and that’s always a good thing!
If you have a minute, give me your reactions to the ideas in his article.
December 13, 2010
[Writing goes in cycles. I am tempted to quit every few years! This weekend when I was particularly frustrated with a revision that isn't going well, I went back through my blog and found this. It helped me--and maybe it's worth repeating for you too. This is from several years ago...]
Yesterday I dragged myself to the computer, bone weary, body aching, and tired of my writing project. The last few weeks I’d increased my writing hours a lot to meet my (self-imposed) deadline.
I imagine part of it was not feeling well, but yesterday I looked at the almost complete project and thought, What’s the use? This actually stinks. I bet I’ve wasted the last six months on this.
I couldn’t make myself get to work. So I did what most good writers do when they want to look like they’re working, but they’re not: I checked email.
Rescuing My Writing Day
The life of a freelance writer can be very frustrating at times. There are so many things to do and not enough time to do them all. Or – the writing seems to be going nowhere and you just can’t make yourself sit down and write. You work and work, seemingly to no avail.
So you begin to wonder – What’s the point? Am I really getting anywhere? But know this. If you’re starting to feel frustrated because you think you’ve been working WAY too hard for the few results all this work has produced, you’re on the verge (even though it may feel more like you’re “on the edge”). You’re on the verge of creating some powerful momentum.
Stick with it… So many people give up, just when they are on the verge of great success. Just when they start to feel really frustrated. Just when they feel nothing is going the way they want it to. If that’s how you’re feeling right now – celebrate! You’re on the verge of wonderful, great things! You’re on the verge of creating that powerful momentum that will move your writing career ahead to an entirely NEW and exciting level!
Today, relax and let go of that frustration, knowing you’re on the verge of great things. Try it!
I urge you to sign up today for Suzanne’s daily kick in the writing pants, “The Morning Nudge.” You’ll be glad you did!
October 1, 2010
Two weeks ago I was supposed to meet with six writers at an SCBWI conference to discuss manuscripts I had critiqued for them. I was unable to be at the conference, so I mailed their manuscripts and did phone conferences instead.
(FYI: I missed the conference for the best of reasons. My middle daughter flew home that weekend from her third long deployment in Iraq. We went to Phoenix to meet her plane. Hallelujah!)
The Things We Say!
Anyway, listening to the writers during the conference calls, I was struck vividly by the differences in their words. Some sounded like they could write “Murphy’s Laws for Writers”: everything was negative, they just “knew” that they wouldn’t sell anything anymore, “everyone” said you couldn’t publish unless you were a “big name,” etc.
On the other hand, about half were the most positive people I’d talked to in a long time. They knew the economy was challenging right now, but they were buckling down, writing more, and finding unusual markets for their work. They found silver linings for the dark clouds, sounded a lot happier, and were sure enjoying their writing more.
Surprisingly, each group had newbie writers AND much published writers. That wasn’t a factor in the attitudes. Then what was?
Power Thoughts for Writers
I think I found the answer when I started reading Joyce Meyer’s new book called Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind. (I highly recommend it.) I’ve done many past posts on retraining your brain, but I’m going to push it again. What we allow ourselves to think and believe is critical.
On Wednesday I asked you to leave a note about how the 100-Day Challenge was coming along, and I got some great responses (see below). I think they’re terrific examples of changing the thoughts-feelings-behavior cycle. Thanks to each of you who left a comment and shared great ideas.
Writers Who Are Changing
These comments came in Wednesday–you’ll find them encouraging in your “bit by bit” changes. I know I did! Each one had to start by changing her thinking.
- Deanna: I’m on the way. Determined my goals, strengths, and obstacles. Created a timeline worksheet and a master task list. Posted the “Seven Essential Habits” near my desk. Completed a couple of twenty-minute tasks. Now to stick with it! [Wow! KH]
- Ally M: Here’s my update. I’ve got a long list and my large goals/projects aren’t too clear but my list is getting done. I’ve only listed items which take no more than 30 minutes to do. If I do find a listed item that takes longer I cross it off my list & break it down into smaller pieces. I plan to work on my goals/projects this weekend. [I had to do the same "second breakdown" myself. KH]
- Vijaya: Yes, every day I am able to work on my novel. I missed a couple of days because I was mucho sick, but that’s life. At least the kids and pets were taken care of and they are far more important than any novel. [Very true! KH]
- Andrea: I’ve been keeping a daily record for my fifteen minutes of daily writing. The first day I wrote “Wrote, time not measured, too many interruptions from children,” can you hear my lack of enthusiasm? As I continued to give it my best shot I wrote things like ‘I think I wrote,’ to ‘starting to adjust to writing in a busy and loud environment,’ to ‘getting lots done.’ [What a change in your thought patterns! Great! KH] The comment I recorded that really showed progress was the one that said, “Wow. Not so much writers block, everything is advancing faster, the quality and quantity is remarkable and I can focus while my children make the legs of my chair a May-pole!” I have not lost anything from sparing fifteen minutes (or so) each day, I have gained – in fact, I gained more than I thought I ever would! [Fantastic! KH]
- Yvette: “Every day can be a successful day.” Yeah. I’m totally going to print that out in three-inch letters and wallpaper the wall beside my desk with that phrase! (Can’t hurt for the rest of my family to be reminded either!) As far as my challenge, if I can finish a scene, I’m successful. If I keep going and finish a *chapter*, I’m golden! So far, so good. [Wallpaper the wall--love it! KH]
- Laura: So far I’m loving “chunking down” in the 100-day challenge. Instead of putting big tasks on my to-do list like “research X” or “edit Y” I write “research X for 30 minutes”. I now feel like I’ve accomplished my goal for the day because I’m not writing down a big goal that takes a lot of time to complete as a daily task. [Yes! We have ways of discouraging ourselves--this turns it all around! KH]
- Trudy: Kristi, how do you make short enough tasks to do in only 20 minutes? I struggle with this, because I’m too much of a perfectionist, I guess. I like to complete a task, not feel like I’ve left it undone. [I struggle with this too! KH] For example, my task was to find a market for a particular devotion. By the time I check out the market guide, find some fits, look online for more information, and rule out some markets, I was well over the time and able to add to my task list. Do I need to narrow down my tasks even more or am I just slow? [You're not any slower than I am. Yesterday finding two markets for a book manuscript and addressing envelopes, etc. took me two hours-or six of my 20-min slots. I guess we could give ourselves a BIG REWARD on those days! Want to do chocolate and a chick flick with me? KH]
- PatriciaW: 100-Day Challenge – Wrote 1200 words last night. Planned for 20 min; wrote for 45. Tends to happen that way. But I’m planning on the 20 min, 5 nights a week to finish my wip by January. Then multiple 20 min intervals on weekends to work on freelance stuff. I’m enjoying this part. A little hung up on the “hidden assets” though. [Great progress, Patricia! Sometimes it takes a writer friend to know your hidden assets, I've found. KH]
- Beth Mac: That’s so true. Large is overwhelming. Small consistencies are better. I love SparkPeople, by the way. Thanks to their bite-sized exercises on Youtube, my jeans now fit much better after two months of small consistencies. A war is won in the small battles, I think. [Beth, truer words were never spoken! KH]
THANK YOU to all who shared by the time I wrote this post. I love surrounding myself with such positive, encouraging writers!
August 20, 2010
If a friend from your critique group told you ”I just can’t get started on my story today,” what would you say? “Get moving, you lazy do-nothing wannabe!” I hope not!
If your writing friend bemoans receiving another rejection, do you say, “Well, what did you expect? Your novel stinks!”?
I would hope not. Most of us are better friends than that…except to ourselves.
Your Own Best Friend
Listen to how you talk to yourself. When you procrastinate, do you beat yourself up? Do you call yourself names? And to paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” Does it spur you on to do your best writing–or to give up and eat a pint of ice cream?
When you receive a rejection, do you downgrade your writing? Do you tell yourself that publishing is just a pipe dream, that it’s for others but not for you?
Do you say things to yourself that you would NEVER say to a writer friend?
Time to STOP!
Learn to tell yourself the truth–but with kindness. Be a mirror that reflects back understanding. If you got off course, gently encourage yourself back on the writing path you want to travel.
- You’re so lazy that you’ll never get anything written and published.
- No editor or agent will ever read your novel, much less publish it!
- You only have friends on Facebook because they don’t really know you.
Say this instead:
- You may have trouble getting started because you’re afraid of something. Try journaling to get to the bottom of it.
- You may (or may not) find an editor who loves your novel–but you’ll never know if you don’t keep sending it out. Let’s try one more time.
- Many people in your real life know you and love you. Make a list. Be thankful for each person on the list.
Be That Good Friend
The next time you stall or hit a rough spot in your work, talk to yourself like a true friend would. Be kind, be understanding, give some praise, and encourage yourself to try again.
You can be your own best friend.