Showing posts with label Success. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Success. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Wait Well: Get Out Your Pom-Poms

Confession: I don't always wait well. When I was a kid and I had to wait for something, I would just make a paper calendar with elaborately doodled pages and mark off the days until the SUPER EXCITING THING arrived. But give me a wait without a specified end date, and waiting well quickly turns into waiting cranky. I don't think anyone has ever died from waiting, but dang it if it doesn't feel like a real possibility some days.

Ask a writer what it's like to write a book and you'll get all sorts of answers. It's fun...it's challenging...it's fulfilling...it's exciting. And it's all those things. It's an amazing experience in which we sit at our computers and populate the blank page with words, bringing to life the vibrant world inside our heads as our characters whisper their stories in our ears.

...

Yeah, mostly it's this:


But honestly, I think the hardest part of writing comes once the book is finished, because if there's one thing all writers can agree on, it's that pursuing a career in the book world involves a whole lot of w-a-i-t-i-n-g. In fact, if I were to make a pie chart to illustrate life after writing a book, it would look something like this:


(If my agent is reading this, I promise that "write next book" slice is a lot bigger than it looks.) 😉

And the waiting comes with every stage of the journey. First you wait for agents to reply to your queries, then you wait for them to read your manuscript. Then you countdown the hours until THE CALL, and the moment you can officially announce I HAVE AN AGENT! And once you've waited for your agent to finish reading your revisions, guess what?

YOU WAIT SOME MORE!

Because once you're on sub, then you're waiting on replies from editors and eventually, if you're lucky enough to get a publishing deal, there's more announcements to wait for and more edits to complete, the countdown to publication day, and by then, you've hopefully finished another book and get to start the entire process all over again.


So, how does one survive? How do we wait well and not end up a hot mess, clutching our manuscripts and begging PLEASE JUST LIKE THESE WORDS I WROTE while consuming an entire pint of triple chocolate cookie dough ice cream? "Write the next book" is the suggestion I hear most often (for good reason). And of course, there's always the distraction of that never ending pile of books waiting to be read. But I've found that one of the best (and most fun) survival techniques is cheering on my fellow authors.


A great way to stop focusing on your own wait is to support someone else in theirs. And let's face it. It's super easy to fall into the comparison trap in this business. No matter where we're at in our own journey, there will always be someone who reaches the next stage ahead of us. What better way to beat down the green-eyed monster of jealousy than by celebrating others' success? (Something I need to remember not just in writing, but in life.)

I'm fortunate enough to have a great group of writing friends, both locally and online (looking at you, Pitch Wars 2015 crew) and they've been incredible examples of what it means to wait well and root for one another. My time in the waiting trenches would be ten times harder if not for their camaraderie. The writing world is such an incredible community precisely because of the support we lend each other, so...

Obsessively checking your email? Send an encouraging note to a friend who's in the midst of a first draft. Are the aisles of Barnes and Noble silently mocking you with their rows of bestsellers? Offer to CP or beta read for a fellow writer who desperately wants to be on those shelves, too. Procrastinating on social media? Retweet that deal announcement, blog post, or book trailer. 

While you're waiting for your own time of celebration to arrive, LET THAT CONFETTI FLY.


And, hey, a little retail therapy never hurts, right?


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Own It

Last week someone said to me, "So you're an author?" It threw me for a second because most people who ask about this ask if I'm a writer. I'd never had someone ask me if I was an author. I mustered up all the courage I owned and forced a hesitant-yet-hopefully-confident "yeah" through my lips. Then I promptly chickened out and backtracked. "Well, I haven't published a book yet. Right now I'm in the process of trying to get an agent for my children's book." My gaze darted to the door where I was sure the writing police were about to burst through, ticket for false identification in hand. I squeaked out a quick defense of my earlier affirmation: "But I have had some short stories published in a few magazines!" So much for confidence.

After having conversations with other writers and reading blog posts and Twitter feed comments, I've come to realize I'm not the only one who has a hard time labeling who I am as a writer. In fact, there seems to be a trend--a pattern to the words we use to describe ourselves, depending on our level of confidence and/or perceived accomplishments.

When we first venture into the writing world we tend to define ourselves as "aspiring writers". This is the newbie level. We walk by the exclusive Writer's Club and we can see the bright lights and smell the freshly published books and hear whispers of 5-star reviews. We cast longing glances toward the line of people waiting to get through the door and say to ourselves, "Someday..."

Fast forward a few short stories and a couple of NaNoWriMos later, and we get brave, drop the "aspiring" and move up to just "writer". Writing is something we love doing, and we do it often enough to be (somewhat) comfortable allowing ourselves the title. At last we feel like we've reached a high enough word count and taken enough classes or read enough craft books to sneak to the back of the line. But then panic sets in because suddenly there's a rumor cascading down the queue that only authors are allowed through the door and you don't know if you're an author yet and you can only shuffle closer and closer to the door with anxious pulse and sweating hands and hope your name's on the bouncer's ultra secret clip board because who really knows where the point is that you cross the threshold from "writer" to "author" and who makes that decision anyway? And the closer you get to the door, the more you convince yourself that you should just step out of the line and wait until your name graces the cover of a book inside a real Barnes and Noble and you can bring it along as proof that you really are what you consider yourself to be deep down inside.

*deep breath and...exhale*

Here's the reality: There's no difference between being a writer and being an author. Merriam-Webster's definition of author is this:
1 :one that originates or creates
2 : the writer of a literary work 
By definition, you are the author of anything you have written. Therefore, I am an author. And I'm hoping the more I repeat that to myself, the easier it will be to simply answer, "yes" the next time someone asks. (So if you see me mumbling to myself, don't worry, it's just a confidence building exercise.)

Now some of you may hesitate to even go so far as to call yourself a writer, much less an author. As if you have to be published (aka getting paid) in order to lay claim to that title. But I say, NAY! I became a mother the moment my first child entered the world. I don't have to put in 10 quality years of child rearing, or wait until my daughter successfully graduates from college in order to earn the title of Mom. (And last time I checked, I'm not getting a paycheck.) The moment you wrote down that first idea, that first line--the moment you birthed your story--you became a writer.

Own it.

Because the bouncer isn't there to check if someone else put you on the list. He's there to see if you'll put yourself on the list. He's there to ask one question.

Are you a writer? Are you an author?

Whether or not you get in is entirely up to you.
  


Check out these great posts for more encouragement on owning your writer/author label:

Don’t Eat the Butt–Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career #1 - Kristen Lamb (one of my favorite bloggers)

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf



Friday, July 12, 2013

On Unicorns, Rainbows, and Rest


I came across this photo in my Facebook feed last week (courtesy of The Institute of Children's Literature), and I couldn't help but breath a giant sigh of relief. Which was immediately followed by a torrent of doubt. But so many other people say you have to work through it. Write every day even if it sucks. Write yourself out of writer's block! Don't stop, no matter what!

For weeks I felt like I was beating my head against a wall with my current work-in-progress. I just couldn't seem to get back to that beautiful place of writerly bliss. You know, the place where I sit down and look at the blank screen and suddenly the story begins to flow effortlessly and the words stack up as my fingers fly across the keyboard like a unicorn galloping across a rainbow on the wings of inspiration.

Okay, in reality maybe there's not quite so many rainbows and unicorns, but you get what I'm saying.

I was forcing myself to write, waffling between two ideas--both with potential--but coming out with exactly what the above quote describes: uninspired dreck. The more I wrote, the more frustrated I became, and the more I fell into an "I love you but I don't like you right now" relationship with both of my stories. So, with few other options and still feeling like I was breaking some sort of set-in-stone, thou-shalt-not-stop-writing rule, I took the above advice and stepped away. I didn't touch my laptop for several days in a row, worked on other creative projects that didn't involve writing, and curled up for some much needed reading therapy. I cleared the clutter from my word-mired mind and made room for inspiration to return from its vacation.

And it did.

After a week, I began to feel the itch to take up my pen. And as of today, I finally have a solid outline for my book and am ready to press forward. 

Also, my house is freakishly clean.

I learned a couple things from this little exercise. One: At some point I think you have to release yourself from the notion that there's a perfect formula for anything. Otherwise, you'll waste valuable time trying to follow other people's strategies. Everyone's process is different, and that's okay. Maybe your path to inspiration looks like plowing forward now and straightening your plot lines later. Maybe it looks like taking a long walk or watching your favorite comedy. Maybe it looks like closing the laptop (or notebook) and only writing to jot down notes as they come to you. Whatever works for you, go forth and do without guilt.

Two: I think it's important to remember there's a difference between quitting and resting. Quitting is a result of fear. Resting is a result of movement. It's a natural and necessary part of the cycle: work, recharge, work, recharge. 

No matter what your strategy is for getting unstuck, I think it would benefit all of us to give ourselves permission to rest. You can't go forever without burning out. Just because you take a break, doesn't mean you're giving up--it means you're filling up. And that's not just okay, it's good.

What about you? What strategy works for you when it comes to tackling creative block? What refills your cup of inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Milestones and Hope

I reached a new milestone in my writing career this week--I sent out my very first book query! *SQUEEE!* My book has officially left the nest to try and find its place in the world. It was a lot more nerve-wracking than I anticipated and I definitely felt some nervous jitters as I hit send. But that was nothing compared to the excitement I felt when the confirmation email popped up in my inbox.

My first ten pages are sitting in an agent's inbox right now. Whoa.

Now comes 6-8 weeks of waiting. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. Not because I have a hard time being patient, but because I have a really hard time being optimistic. I'm much more of a realist when it comes to things like this. Part of me wants to believe my manuscript can and will be accepted by my number-one agency/agent pick on my first try. But the other part of me thinks, if it took sixty queries for a book like The Help to find success, who am I to think I'll find success right off the bat? Plus, there's this feeling that--besides it being statistically unlikely--it wouldn't be fair. After all, so many amazing authors have had to work incredibly hard to land an agent. Who am I to hope I could nail it on a first try? And isn't it better not to hope for too much, so I won't be disappointed if things don't work out?

But despite all of that, I hope. This time, optimism seems to have taken hold of me. I really, truly hope that this particular agent will choose to represent me. Sure, it might not happen. And that's cool. I'll find another potential agent, send another query, and hope some more. Because I realized something as I waffled between optimism and my perception of reality. Even though it may seem like I'm hoping for too much, what point is there in trying if you don't hope for--and even anticipate--success? If all you hope for and expect is failure, your dream is going to have a super sad existence. And dreams aren't meant to be super sad, pessimistic creatures. It goes against their very nature.

So...make your dream happy. Feed it some hope.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Appreciating Platforms

A couple weeks ago at writers' group, we started talking about the recent trend of publishers and agents wanting authors to have an established platform. Several people in the group were less than excited about this fact, feeling overwhelmed at just the thought of trying to juggle writing, blogging, websites, and social media accounts, all at the same time. I totally get it. It takes a lot of balance. There are times when I start to feel overloaded, and it's not like I have a huge following to interact with. But at the same time, I understand the value of this idea because I appreciate it, not just as a writer, but as a reader.

The easiest way for me to explain this is to share with you some of my favorite people to follow, and why: 

I'm lucky enough to have a few signed copies of Erin's novels on my bookshelf, thanks to contests and promotions on her Facebook page and blog. Not only is she a phenomenal writer, but she's the most kind and open author I've ever had the privilege of interacting with online. She's constantly engaging in conversations with her fans, asking and answering questions, and passing on encouragement to those of us who aspire to be as successful as she is. Her blog posts are always inspiring, honest, and real. I don't think you could find a better example of how an author platform should be used.

Jon's book START (see my review here) is all about figuring out your dream and turning it into a reality. What better topic for aspiring writers? Not only does Jon offer lots of encouraging and inspiring tweets and posts, but he's also hilarious. From comedic observations of every day life, to TV and sports commentary, to his knack for finding extremely awkward Pinterest posts, it's impossible to follow Jon and not laugh out loud at least once a day. 
  
Tony DiTerlizzi (@TonyDiTerlizzi) 
If you follow author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll get to see a constant gallery of his sketches. I love seeing his process when it comes to creating the beautiful images for The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Search for Wondla. He's also replied to several of my tweets, sometimes answering questions, and other times simply thanking me for a compliment. It's awesome to get an inside look into his books and their stunning artwork.
  
Ksenia Anske (@kseniaanske/kseniaanske.com) 
There are so many reasons I love following this woman. Blogger and up-and-coming author, she delights in interacting with her followers. Every day you'll find her answering questions, giving pep talks, celebrating victories, and generally boosting moral in the Twitter writing community. Do you need someone in your corner who will push you to write, write, write and never give up? Follow her. She has an incredible work ethic and is a great example of what it means to be dedicated to writing. And not in an intimidating "I'm so much better than you, you could never compare" manner, but in an uber-inspiring "You can do it, too!" sort of way.

I could add so many more...Bob Goff, Isaac Marion, Don Miller, Becca Rose, Kristin Lamb...the list goes on. 

Inspiration, encouragement, support, humor, writing tips, a glimpse into the lives of my favorite authors...all because of  their Twitter/Facebook/blog. All because they take the time to interact with me--the reader, the follower, the fan. I think if you can experience the excitement that comes with interaction like this, the idea of being able to provide the same for your own followers will seem a little less stressful and a lot more fun.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Off With Its Head

Last Sunday my pastor asked us the question "What is intimidating you?" It was an interesting question, going a bit beyond "what are you afraid of?" By the time I was in the car headed home, I knew my answer. I told my husband I thought I had my answer figured out and that it seemed a little weird to me. But when I told him what it was he just nodded and said "Yeah" in this emphatic, no-you're-not-crazy-that-makes-total-sense, kind of way. (If I haven't mentioned it before, I'll say it now: I LOVE my husband. He's awesome.).

What intimidates me? One word: Success.

Once I'd figured it out, I jotted down why. Here's what I wrote: Because if you're successful, people will expect more of you. The voice of intimidation tells me, "You did it once, but can you really do it again?" What happens if I can't meet others'--or my own--expectations?

I just finished writing my first children's book. When I finished writing it, I was super excited to move onto the next project. It was going to be great; I'd figured out a method that works well for me, I knew what I was doing now, right? But as soon as I started planning my next novel, Intimidation came on the scene. It started reminding me that each project is different and this might not go as smoothly as the last story. Who was I to think I could ever become a full time writer? Don't I realize how hard that dream will be to accomplish? What if I run out of ideas? Are you sure that plot isn't a bit too complicated? And on and on, twisting facts and turning them into half truths that left me feeling powerless and weak.

In his sermon, my pastor used Goliath as his illustration for the character of Intimidation. He presented the idea that Goliath wasn't really there to fight. He was there to Intimidate--to cause the Israelites to run away or be frozen with inaction, ensuring they wouldn't reach their goal of victory. And frozen they were, until David came on scene.

The more I think about it, the more I've realized Intimidation is playing the same game with me. This last week, despite understanding what I was up against, I started listening to its voice. I ran to other manuscripts, trying to find a different story that would be easier to write. I froze, and essentially ended up with writer's block, feeling so stressed and anxious about my plot that I stopped working on it altogether. I allowed intimidation to overwhelm me. I let it dismantle the effective writing routine I had gotten into. And it sucked the life and the passion right out of me.

But I know I can't let it win. So I fought back. In his book START, Jon Acuff talks about answering the exaggerated lies of fear with truth. I sat down and organized all my hastily scrawled story notes that have been laying around in notebooks and on scraps of paper and filed them by title. You think I'm going to run out of ideas, Intimidation? I've got eight different book ideas that I've written down over the last three years. Think my ideas are horrible, that I'll never figure out my plot? Take a look at the original notes for my now finished book. They're a mess. They're horribly written. But look what came out of it. Think I can't handle the hard road ahead? Look at what I've already accomplished. I can--and I will--do it again. I went back and re-read the beginnings of my in-progress manuscripts and fell in love all over again with the one I had planned to work on in the first place.

Bit by bit, the drive and the energy and the passion has returned. The voice of intimidation may still be there, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to it. When Goliath shows up, I'm going to bring David to his house. I may have to slay Intimidation and cut it's ugly head off over and over again. But that's okay. Because I have a dream worth fighting for.

What about you? What is intimidating you right now? What steps have you taken to silence the negative voices in your own life? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Sum Total}

So often we hear words involving "daily" in a negative context. The daily grind. Day in and day out. Day after day. It's like these phrases are trying to convince us our daily lives are boring and meaningless. But it's our daily lives that lead to our future. It's like that old saying, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." But I like this saying better.

(Created with A Beautiful Mess app - read about it in my latest Small Things post)

Friday, May 17, 2013

START by Jon Acuff

I've been following Jon Acuff's blog Stuff Christians Like for a while now, and if there's one person I can count on to bring humor to my Twitter and Instagram feed, it's him. In his NYT Bestseller START Jon brings his wit and wisdom together to create a phenomenal book about leaving average behind and traversing the path to awesome. 

One look at the cover, and you know this book is going to be great. Punch fear in the face? Do work that matters? Flip the awesome switch? Let's do this.

Jon begins with his signature humor before launching into a detailed road map of the 5 stages every successful life goes through: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding. He tells us what to expect in each stage, how to find victory and avoid pitfalls, and gives light bulb worthy advice on determining what finish line we hope to reach. He encourages and instructs, all while constantly nailing home the truth that age/experience level/money doesn't matter--you just have to start.

What Love Does did for my heart, START did for my dream. I closed this book inspired to continue to chase my dream and empowered with the tools I needed to do just that. Jon's writing has a way of drawing you in, making you feel like you're having a one-on-one conversation in his living room. He holds nothing back, opening himself up and sharing his great--and not so great--moments, all of which he uses to illustrate what he's learned in his own journey toward awesome. And there's a whole lot of awesome in these pages. Want to know how to silence the schizophrenic voices of fear? How to make time for your passions, ignore the critics, master your craft, and live life with an exclamation point instead of a question mark? Want to learn all that without being bored to death by a dry self-help manual? Read this book.

Whether your dreams seem too far gone to be realized, or you've already started down the road to awesome and are actively pursuing your passion, there's a vast amount of wisdom, motivation, and encouragement to be found here. Pick up this book and give yourself the chance you deserve. START will not only light a fire under your dream, it will give you the fuel to keep it burning.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Continue}

I love this quote by Winston Churchill. As a writer, you quickly learn to try, try again. If you want to succeed, you can't be discouraged to the point of defeat each time you get a rejection letter, or when your plot has holes in it, or when your story isn't flowing as smoothly as it was yesterday. And now that I've finished my first book, I'm discovering how easy it is to fall prey to insecurity even after success. Can I really do it again? I have to battle the voices of fear and doubt and keep going. Whatever your passion, don't let failures, mistakes, or temporary setbacks cause you to give up. And when you reach one goal, celebrate it and set your sights on the next one. It's all part of the learning process. Continue.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scrivener (Or How to Make Your Life Easier)

This week I completed the final (for now) draft of my first children's novel and sent it off to some beta-readers for feedback. Though the idea and inspiration for this book came to me over three years ago, it was only six months ago that I actually sat down and began writing it. I was able to get a first draft finished in only 30 days, thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - which I will wax eloquent about later in the year as November draws closer. For now, click the link to learn more). But one of the biggest things that has made my writing and editing life so much easier, and helped me to keep up the pace without getting burned out and frustrated with the 50,000+ words sitting in front of me, is this amazing writing software called Scrivener, by the folks over at Literature and Latte.

I'm not kidding. It's amazing. It's phenomenal. I ask every single writer I come into contact with what software they use, and if they're not using Scrivener, I tell them all about how amazing and phenomenal it is.

If I were to detail all the great things you can do in Scrivener, the sheer size of this post would have you discreetly backing away without making eye contact. So I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet and focus on the top reasons why I love it, and how it has changed the way I write.

3 Things I love about Scrivener: Index Cards, Folders and Pages.

You see that? There on the left sidebar? Those are all the things you can get to IN ONE SCREEN. Gone are the days of having a million windows open in order to look at all your research photos, character profiles, chapters, scenes, and all the other stuff you have to constantly refer to as you're writing.

The Index Cards: There is a handy little index card attached to each folder. I used these to jot down the plot points I wanted to hit in each chapter. Not only can you add text to these, but you can label them (Idea, Character Notes, Chapter, etc.) and mark their status (First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, or a custom status for those who need to note they're on the Eleventy-First Draft). If you're like me and need an outline in order to make sensible progress, but hate having to create said outline, these provide the perfect middle ground between pantsing and planning.

Folders & Pages: Each folder is a chapter. Contained in those folders are your pages for that chapter. Why is this awesome? You can keep multiple drafts of one chapter--on their own separate pages--inside the folder. You can keep your scenes separate--especially nice when you're changing POV's. But the best part about this: No more scrolling through a manuscript that is page after page after page of text! I want to edit chapter 16? Click on chapter 16's folder. BAM! (Let me tell you, it is so much easier to edit when your manuscript is cut up into nice bite-sized chunks and you can face 2,000 words at a time instead of having the whole 50,000 in your face, laughing maniacally over how long it's going to take you to fix everything you did wrong in the first draft.)

These are just the top three things I love about Scrivener. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the wonders contained therein. There's the compiling settings, which make it super easy to make your manuscript submission ready. The trash can, which removes the files and folders you select for deletion, but keeps them in the little can in case you realize, in a moment of panic, that what you thought was rubbish was actually brilliant. And oh, the wonders of full-screen mode.

And you don't have to be a novel writer to love this program. It has templates for scripts, research papers, short stories--you name it, if it needs to be written, it can be done in Scrivener.

At $40 for the Windows version and $45 for the Mac, this software will make your life easier without being hard on your wallet. You can even download a free trial before you commit. So pry yourself away from my totally awesome blog and go here to check it out.

Monday, March 18, 2013