The last couple months I have given myself a free pass. I’ve scribbled little notes in journals, written blog posts, but spent no time on any particular writing project, other than to send out query letters. I told myself that until my 50 queries ran their course, I would take a break. Well, 43 queries later, it’s time to write again. I have 7 more to send, and, yes, I will, but I also need to start something new.
It’s interesting where the end of a project leaves you. 43 rejections piled up on top of me. The ones that bugged me most were from the agents who asked for more. The others I could brush aside, but those who read more, really thought about my work, and then still said no, hurt. I get it. I expected it, but it still shook my writing confidence. Every writer wants to think the first book he or she writes will be successful. You write and edit and revise for a year or more, feel like a superstar for actually finishing, and then think maybe you really did it.
However, the reality is that good writing takes time, practice, repetition, and more than anything else, proliferation. I think this pyramid sums up the reality for most writers:
So, here I am, with a manuscript that most likely needs something, no idea what to do with it, tired of thinking about it. The solution, move on for now. I’m going to send those last 7 queries to meet my goal, (and because, of course, a little ounce of hope still exists that maybe I’m one of those authors who makes it after an inordinate number of queries…). I will come back to it again, either to revise or self-publish. I just need a little distance with some more writing under my belt until then.
This realization in itself is an accomplishment. Last weekend I felt completely stuck in what to do next. Over our family dinner on Sunday night, my relatives encouraged me to just keep writing. A journalist friend suggested I write and submit some articles to pad my resume. My husband bought Ruby Sparks for us to watch which made me smile because it captured so many little feelings of being a writer. My aunt and uncle bought me a copy of The Art of War for Writers, the inscription on the front right page telling me not to stop.
Alright, universe, you’ve made your point. Time to move forward. But then, I spent the past week agonizing over how to move forward: an article, my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel, something new altogether. Then, I realized it doesn’t matter. I should just write whatever sounds like fun. After all, as much as I’d love to be paid to write, I still have growth ahead of me, so I might as well enjoy whatever is next instead of trying to predict which project is most likely to bring me success.
Thankfully, the first third of the Art of War for Writers has also helped me regain this perspective. Sometimes, as writers, we need to hear the same advice again and again, or slightly differently. My favorite takeaways so far:
- Don’t obsess over numbers or reviews. This was geared more toward published writers, but sometimes I waste time analyzing my WordPress and Facebook stats. Write instead.
- Create a “writing improvement program” with: 1. Passages you love from other writers, 2. A compilation of the outside critique you receive, 3. Areas of focus and notes on how to improve.
- Set a weekly word quota. Mine is now 3,000 words. Any words count, including blogs, but the hope is that at least half end up in projects. If I write 3,000 words a week, no matter what, then I’ll write 156,000 words a year, which darn well better include a book. Definitely an achievable goal.
More to come on all of this, but for now, I am just happy my motivation to keep writing has returned, thanks in large part to all of the wonderfully supportive people in my life.
If you write, I’d love to hear more inspiration– favorite books on writing, quotes, routines, tips for staying focused. What keeps you typing?
I sometimes toy with the idea of actually writing a novel, but truth is, I don’t feel like there is a whole story inside waiting to get out right now. My reaction in the past was to stop writing. My blog has helped me to develop the discipline of writing for practice, writing for pleasure, and a writing discipline. Once in a while a snippet of something good comes along and I jot it down. Maybe, just maybe it will be stitched together with other snippets and give birth to a whole story. Keep up the discipline and let the ideas flow.
I bet you do have a whole story! I didn’t think I did either, but I kept pushing through and it came together. Thanks for sharing your experience, I love to hear how writing is for others. 🙂
Write! Write! Write! You have wonderful support all around you. I am not a writer, but I think writing is practice and a process and difficult I am sure. Glad you are reinspired. You have a lot to say.
Thanks for the encouragement Nicole!
Writing is an incurable malady. We won’t survive it, but we can only hope to get better and better, and that our work becomes contagious.