Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams

The "False Alarms" from the movie Labyrinth.

The “False Alarms” from the movie Labyrinth.

If you’re a writer, then you have a dream. You also have a lot of work ahead. I heard an interesting quote this morning from Joyce Meyers. There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. That hit home for me.

After having been around the block a few times, I can say I’ve met both types of writers. Some writers have all these ideas and generally a stack of unfinished work to show for it. They aren’t willing to dig in when it gets hard, when the “fair-weather friends” fall away. On the other side, we have those who write, but are afraid to dream. They’re terrified to dare ask if they could be great.

To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers. Starting is easy. There are a lot of people to cheer us on, but watch what happens when the heat turns up? Most fall away. To be successful, we must remain focused so we can remain standing at the end (often alone).

Win, lose, or draw, if we finish? We’ve still won.

WANA, Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, WANA International, how to be successful writer

Image via Marie Loughin WANA Commons

The Beauty of Finished “Failures”

Many of you who’ve followed my blog any length of time know I like to pick on my first novel. It’s now chained in the garage and keeps burglars away. I thought it was going to be an instant runaway success, and my largest concern?

Learning the craft? *giggles* You guys are funny.

Becoming a professional? *clutches sides*

No, my largest concern was how to handle all the agents that surely would be fighting over this “masterpiece.” Time, experience and failure gave me a solid pop on the snoot and a hard dose of reality.

Now, I could have cried that I failed and staggered back to the corporate job I loathed, but I didn’t. Call me an eternal optimist, but I took my lumps then searched for the success in the ashes of my greatest “failure.”

Sure, I’d written a book so bad it was banned by the Hague Convention as torture, but, for the first time in my life?

I FINISHED something. 

Yes, the book was an unfixable mess, but it was a big first step in an entirely new direction.

Warnings to Those Who Want to Be Finishers

When you lock on your dream, you must be centered in what you want and who you are. One of my favorite scenes from the movie Labyrinth is when Hoggle is guiding Sarah out of a jam (the oubliette) and they head down a passage with talking stone faces saying things like, You’re going the wrong way! Turn Back! Soon, it will be too late!

Hoggle tells Sarah to ignore them, that they are false alarms put there to scare people heading the right direction.

False Alarms Abound

We just finished the second WANACon and it was FABULOUS. Words cannot describe the experience. It is SO surreal to be in a class and having fun from home, in jammies while learning from top experts…in the company of other writers from all over the world. We had attendees from Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the entire continental US, all in the same virtual classroom.

I cannot tell you how many people told me a conference like WANACon was impossible. I’ve had people quit with no notice. I’ve had contractors take money and then disappear.

But by grace and support from the WANAs? I’m still here :D.

I can guarantee you that, every time I attempt to do anything BIG (teach a class, publish a book, host a worldwide digital conference), about two weeks before go-time? All hell breaks loose.

You’re going the wrong way!

You don’t know what you’re doing!

You’re going to FAIL!

Focus on the Goal

Those voices (or e-mails or blog comments) will always be there. Often people are projecting their own fears or insecurities on to us, and that’s normal. We’re wise to give others permission to be afraid without personalizing it. If I handed you a plate of rotting meat to ingest, you DO have the option of saying, “No, thanks.”

Know who you are and what you want and focus on that. Focus on the people who still believe in you (because we CANNOT be successful alone—*waves to Jay Donovan, Jamie Gold, all the WANA volunteers and the wonderful speakers and attendees*).

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 6.12.56 AM

Be Accountable, Not a Doormat

Criticism will always come to those attempting anything remarkable. In fact, the only way to completely avoid criticism is to never attempt anything interesting. Criticism isn’t always bad. It can help us grow and learn where we need to come up higher. Often, those who criticize aren’t very skilled at it, so don’t expect it to come with a bouquet of flowers.

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

But, we do need to sift through the hurtful stuff for the gold. People want answers, not excuses. It is perfectly okay to not know everything. And, guess what? It’s okay to be learning, to not be perfect.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “Thanks for the feedback and I will make sure to work on this.” If you can do something to fix or help fix the problem, go ahead, but sometimes? It’s too late, and all that is left to say is, “I’m learning. I will do better next time. Thanks for pointing out la la la.”

Doormats and Drama Queens Rarely Succeed

We have to remain grounded in where we’re going and what we want. There will ALWAYS be people to point out where we fall short, because criticism is easy. Acknowledge it, work on it, but remind yourself that there are areas you DO shine.

Doormats take everything to heart and, as a result, just lay there and collect dirt. We DO need to take action when possible, even if that action is as simple as vowing to do better the next time.

Be proactive, not reactive. Drama Queens are reactive. They plunge ahead with rash emotional decisions (often to their own demise). Take time to calm down, then press forward. No decision is better than bad emotional decisions.

Dreams, Like Pregnancy, Require LABOR and THEN Birth

Men? You’ll just have to use your imagination here. I can attest that when I first got pregnant, it was awesome. I glowed. I got to have fun shopping for all kinds of cutesy baby things. By month TEN?

KILL…ME…NOW.

The Spawn had to be evicted, even though he’d already ordered his Ikea futon and digital streaming cable. He liked the Mexican food he regularly ordered being delivered instantly and had no intentions of changing the plan.

Mommy?

Mommy was DYING. I couldn’t sit, or sleep or think (I could only run to pee every three minutes). I hurt everywhere and I didn’t care what they had to do if I could just get THAT STUBBORN BABY out into the world.

And it would have been great if they’d invented a Newborn Transporter System, but they HADN’T. So I had 98 hours of induced LABOR. By the time Spawn came into this world, I looked like I’d gone a round or two with Mike Tyson.

The Spawn after "eviction."

The Spawn after “eviction.”

But it was ALL worth it. Once you have that baby (or dream), it’s funny how soon you forget the pain. You forget the fear, the doubt, the thoughts of Okay, exactly HOW is that baby going to get from IN HERE to OUT THERE?

But, remember, babies aren’t born Day Three. We get nine or even ten months to adjust and take on more struggles (like not being able to see your feet). Same with a book or even an on-line writing conference. Take it a step at a time. Breathe. Focus on the “baby” and do your part.

Ahhhh, what pain?

Ahhhh, what pain?

In the end? You get no sleep and to change diapers revisions and all the tough steps to publication. But if you press, you gain the joy of holding that dream in your hand and knowing you toughed it out.

No one can take that away.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a hard time finishing? Do you fall prey to self-doubt? Outside criticism? Do you have to watch letting outsiders discourage you? Did you finally hold your finished book in your hand and forget all the trauma?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Announcements: There are a handful of people waiting on their 5-Page revisions. My goal is to have those finished by tomorrow. Between a stomach flu and WANACon, I am running behind and I didn’t have enough brain power to do your pages justice. I’d rather be a little late than return junk. I want to give your work 1000%. I am also FRIED from working all weekend, so I will announce September’s contest winner on WEDNESDAY. Yes, Kristen IS human.

 

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  1. #1 by johncoyote on October 7, 2013 - 11:12 am

    Thank you for the amazing advice. People who tried to do great things are left with memories of a life reaching for goals and dreams. They know they did their best.

  2. #2 by Scott on October 7, 2013 - 11:19 am

    Let’s see: hard time finishing? Yes. Self-doubt? That’s a HUGE yes. Feeling revived from this post? YES! I like the reminders about finishing. I try to remind myself that Nicolas Sparks had finished three books (if I recall the story rightly) before being published. I may THINK I deserve the birth without the labor but that’s just not how the world always works. I want to write a story people will pick up again and again. So, as you say, time to dig in my heels and put in the work for that dream!

  3. #3 by designingdeb on October 7, 2013 - 11:20 am

    Your timing is impeccable! Just the kick in the rear end that I needed today. Love your blog posts. I don’t always read them (the whole rest of the world demanding attention with silly things like work) but when I do they make me smile, squirm (facing truths and all that) and get back to work. Thanks!

  4. #4 by June Finnigan on October 7, 2013 - 11:20 am

    Ciao Kristen, Now we have heard this all before…but it’s the way you tell it that makes such a huge difference. I had best get on with that second novel then and wait to hear from you, just in case you want to digest the beginning of my first!

    • #5 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 7, 2013 - 11:25 am

      I never get tired of hearing it. Great comments like these are what keep ME pressing :D.

  5. #6 by TamrahJo on October 7, 2013 - 11:22 am

    Anytime I start to doubt, fall prey to perfectionism or am tempted to ‘turn back’ as the False alarms say to, I blog about it and my WordPress community never fails to get me back on track….
    :)

  6. #7 by June Finnigan on October 7, 2013 - 11:22 am

    Reblogged this on Junefinnigan's Weblog and commented:
    Very good advice for all my writing friends! Heard it all before? Not the way Kristen tells it……

  7. #8 by June Finnigan on October 7, 2013 - 11:23 am

    Reblogged this on Junefinnigan's Weblog and commented:
    Very good advice for all my writing friends! Heard it all before? Not the way Kristen tells it……

  8. #9 by lisenminetti on October 7, 2013 - 11:23 am

    I know from experience that I doubt myself EVERY TIME I get a rejection letter. In fact yesterday I got one that was so positive I had to share it with my mother immediately – the irony is thick when I am excited over a positive rejection letter. But I love to write so I keep doing it. And after years of saying I was going to write a book someday, I HAVE WRITTEN A FREAKING BOOK! And no one can take that away from me!

  9. #10 by brookeyt on October 7, 2013 - 11:26 am

    I realllly needed to read this today. I just quit my job and my unedited novel has been laying around ready to be completed. Now that I have the time, I also don’t have an excuse. Thanks for the motivation!

    • #11 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 7, 2013 - 12:16 pm

      Go you! Keep plugged in with the WANAs for encouragement either at WANATribe or #MyWANA on Twitter.

  10. #12 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on October 7, 2013 - 11:26 am

    I hate self-doubt. My critique partners keep telling me to finish what I now call the !@#$% novel because they love my character and I make them laugh. Your post helped me get back to it.

  11. #13 by Julie Christine on October 7, 2013 - 11:27 am

    Crikey. This is timely. I blogged this morning about the critiques I received last week–the first eyes on my manuscript since I embarked on this journey over a year ago. After the initial agony of tearing off the Band-Aid, it’s not so bad. My story is cleaner for the feedback and I am reminded not just that I have a lot to learn, but which areas I need to zero in on.

    You wrote: “Criticism will always come to those attempting anything remarkable. In fact, the only way to completely avoid criticism is to never attempt anything interesting. Criticism isn’t always bad. It can help us grow and learn where we need to come up higher. Often, those who criticize aren’t very skilled at it, so don’t expect it to come with a bouquet of flowers.”

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  12. #14 by Cindy Sample on October 7, 2013 - 11:27 am

    I love this post! I started my writing journey in 2002 and just released the third book in my series 11 years later. The knowledge we learn and the strength we can achieve from what I call the pothole-filled-path to publication makes the end result even more rewarding. Plus we have great stories of rejection to share with the rest of the world. Thanks again for another motivational post, Kristen.

  13. #15 by Elke Feuer on October 7, 2013 - 11:32 am

    Great post, Kristen! This was just what I needed to hear today. I just organized my first book fair to promote local authors. WOW! What an experience! That’s all I have to say about that. :-)

  14. #16 by Melissa Lewicki on October 7, 2013 - 11:33 am

    I was having trouble sticking to it and finishing UNTIL I joined a tribe at WANA called An Hour a Day. The members of that tribe keep me accountable and very entertained. You may not know it, but we have a club house, a jukebox and a squad of Marines out beyond the bar area. And, of course, we have a naughty step for those that feel they have not kept to their pledge of an hour a day.

  15. #17 by symplysilent on October 7, 2013 - 11:48 am

    Kristen – Am I the only one who comes to a point where I not only don’t care about my characters any more, but loath them? My heart wants to write a one page ending, with all of them getting jobs at Burger King! My friend nags me almost as much as my characters do. Finish finish finish. Maybe I should move to Scandinavia. I will never tell her she is right, that I must write. Thank you.

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 7, 2013 - 12:15 pm

      Oh, Honey, I feel for you. When Rise of the Machines was going through professional edits, I’d read and re-read SO many times I hated my own book. I didn’t want to see it ever again. But then, you give birth and “Awwwww, isn’t it ADORABLE?” :D

  16. #19 by Christina Hawthorne on October 7, 2013 - 11:51 am

    A werewolf tribunal could never heap the criticism upon my writing that I have inflicted in years past. That has always been the monster I need to lay to rest and it is the monster I AM placing in its grave. It has needlessly stolen too much of my time already and no longer has a place in my life.
    WANACon was great…many thanks. It has already paid dividends. :D

  17. #20 by Lanette Kauten on October 7, 2013 - 11:53 am

    It’s funny that you made the metaphor of birthing a baby to describe writing a book. My debut is to be published this month, and the listing is going up on Amazon this week. Last night, I had a horrible case on insomnia, and I’m one of those people that as soon at 10 o’clock rolls around, I have checked out. Yet, it was 1 a.m. before I finally went to sleep. My husband asked what was wrong, and I told him it felt like I had drunk a liter of coffee before going to bed. Then an analogy hit me. The day before a woman goes into labor, she gets a burst of energy and cleans the whole house. (Not me; I got a burst of energy and had a very strong desire to work out on the punching bag.) This week my first novel is about to be unleashed on the world… I mean birthed, hence, the sudden burst of energy at bedtime.

  18. #21 by Laura Sidsworth on October 7, 2013 - 11:58 am

    Thank you SO much for this article! The sign-post I needed to see today! I’m in the process of readying a children’s book for publication…& then read somewhere that most writers don’t get past book two…so thought HAH! I will just thwart that right there with getting two ready right off the bat! Uh-huh…I now have/had double the stage fright…& double the doubts…but luckily have started reading posts such as yours….& finally, wisely, set the other aside…and am getting focused on getting ready for the delivery. I SO wanted to do attend your convention, but current costs/work load did not permit for this. I am sad I missed it! So happy for you that it was a success, & look forward to the next one!

  19. #22 by Ruth Hartman Berge on October 7, 2013 - 12:00 pm

    Great article! It definitely takes persistence and perhaps a little hearing problem to get to the finish line. I’ve got some terrific supporters, but there are false alarms in my life, too!

  20. #23 by Arphaxad on October 7, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    This is a “can’t miss” article that needs to be read. Highly recommended reading for everyone. Thank you Kristen Lamb for sharing.

  21. #24 by donnajeanmcdunn on October 7, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Hey Kristen, I really loved this post. It struck home for me, not that I haven’t finished a couple of books, but the fact people tend to always think if you have one book published, you should be making tons of money. When that doesn’t happen right away, they walk away shaking their heads. At first I would try to explain that it usually takes more than one to get noticed and sometimes it’s several. My first book was published May 8, 2013 and so far I’ve sold 9 copies, it’s an e-book only right now, but next year the paper version will be produced and book 2 and 3 will be published. After everyone received their share, I was rewarded with $13.75, not much, but it’s a start. Everyone starts somewhere, right?

  22. #25 by donnajeanmcdunn on October 7, 2013 - 12:28 pm

    I almost forgot, I also reblogged your post, I hope you don’t mind!

  23. #26 by donnajeanmcdunn on October 7, 2013 - 12:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Donna Jean McDunn and commented:
    I found this post from Kristen Lamb to be very inspiring and helpful for writers, but also for anyone who knows and supports a writer.

  24. #27 by writerreese on October 7, 2013 - 12:33 pm

    I love this post, Yoda. It’s really something I needed to read, especially after I get a round of edits back. (That being said, my editor is amazing, supportive, and decidedly un-mean.) Also, The Spawn is damn adorable. And please tell me not really 98 hours of labor. Because that’s just insane.

    • #28 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 7, 2013 - 1:28 pm

      I’ve blocked it out. I was brought in and induced three times (which means they give you drugs that put you in labor) and those were about 20-some-odd hours a piece. Then they nearly gave up and gave me a c-section, but I kept on for another 8 hours. It was…yeah. Spawn is definitely my child. STUBBORN.

  25. #29 by Katie Cross on October 7, 2013 - 12:33 pm

    Gosh, writing a book is like having a baby. I feel like I’m stuck in the last week of the first trimester. Still nauseated, miserable, unable to figure out if it’s worth it and constantly wondering- Is this over yet?

    Just kidding. Kind of. Thanks for the upbeat post today!

  26. #30 by Gena on October 7, 2013 - 12:34 pm

    Thanks for this encouraging message.

  27. #31 by Lisa Orchard on October 7, 2013 - 12:37 pm

    Great post Kristen. I’m working on a manuscript that I absolutely love and I’m trying to decide if I should go the self-publishing, agent, or small press routes. :)

  28. #32 by conniecockrell on October 7, 2013 - 12:37 pm

    It’s not just other people giving false alarms. That little voice in my head is always trying to get me to drop this whole writer thing. Ha! I just ignore that little voice.

  29. #33 by Dennis Langley on October 7, 2013 - 12:57 pm

    As always, you say the right thing at the right time. I can’t help but get motivated when reading your posts. I appreciate the regular kick to the backside you provide.

  30. #34 by janellensgreen on October 7, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    Kristen – I love this. It reminds me of Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book.” Read it if you haven’t. http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16069

    My writing goal in 2013 was to finish a story and submit it to a contest/journal and reward myself by joining AWP. I have finished, and I joined my local and state writing associations, and when I finish my current short story, I will join AWP. It is through my local writer’s group I found your blog. Setting rewards for yourself and smaller goals helps. Thanks!

  31. #35 by Denise McGee on October 7, 2013 - 1:05 pm

    Wow, Kristen, there are times when your blog hits me right where I live. This is one of those times. I managed to finish my first book but fear of not being able to duplicate that feat has the second one stalled.

    Now I know I just need to keep pushing and eventually that baby will come out. :)

  32. #36 by Shermie Rayne on October 7, 2013 - 1:13 pm

    I’m new to your blog, and really enjoy it! I’m gonna attempt to re-blog this piece–it is incredibly encouraging to say the least. I gotta say, your last installment on writing horror was poignant and precise. I reread this line a few times, “Fear is the beating heart of conflict…” Thanks!

  33. #37 by Shermie Rayne on October 7, 2013 - 1:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Shermie Rayne writes… and commented:
    What encouraging writing words of wisdom to read on such a gloomy Monday !

  34. #38 by sharonhughson on October 7, 2013 - 1:41 pm

    Wise words, Jedi Master Kristen. If I don’t doubt or fear, I start worrying that I’m on the wrong path. Really. If no “false alarms” are sounding, then I’m going in the wrong direction. I loved your Labyrinth reference.
    I am my own worst enemy.
    WANACon was indeed packed full of too much information to ingest (and none of it rotten meat, thank you very much). I’m glad you didn’t give in to the naysayers about an online conference.

  35. #39 by Nora on October 7, 2013 - 1:50 pm

    Writing my novel is like a pregnancy; only my preggers took 9 months, not the years (on and off) I’ve been working on the book. Funny thing is, something has lit a fire under my butt (or writing hand) and I’ve been WRITING! And getting chapters critiqued and editing, and re-editing, etc, etc. So, maybe this year, I’ll finally be finished with it. Just in time to get a real editor to tear it apart and keep the good stuff in or make me re-write the bad stuff into good. Oh, and my pregnancy? She just got her learner’s permit. Yikes!

  36. #40 by Shea Ford on October 7, 2013 - 2:08 pm

    Kristen, the 4th picture down on today’s post, that was me last Thursday. I told my hubby, “Look PajamaCon is free! I want to do it! Can you take care of the boys?” He sighed and said, “Yeah, ok.” But I got the time wrong. Somehow I thought it started at 8 eastern. *head desk* By the time I realized my mistake, it was already over. I hope you do the free one again, because until I start making “real” money with my books, I can’t spend extra money on conferences. Even if they are online.

    Loved the reference to the Labyrinth’s false alarms. I’ve got a lot of those in my life. “You have no power over me!”

    And The Spawn is the cutest! :D

  37. #41 by Susan A. Royal on October 7, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    I never truly felt as though I’d begun on the road to becoming a writer until I finished my first book. I don’t know that I’ll ever achieve the dream of being the kind of writer I want to be, but what a trip it’s been. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

  38. #42 by Alison Doherty on October 7, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    Really good advice. I’ve been working on my first novel full time for about 6 months and am having a hard time finishing (I just keep wanting to write new drafts and make it better). I’ve made a commitment to be finished within the next two months and I’m hoping to stick with that, because good, bad, or ugly it’s time to move on to a new project. We’ll see.

  39. #43 by stephaniehurt on October 7, 2013 - 2:24 pm

    Thanks Kristen… I needed this little push or shall I say this huge shove :) When I started writing I had my doubts and expectations. I’ve learned to use my critics as learning points. Some of them I just throw into infinity and beyond, while others that offer constructive critism I use for good. I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone, so I try to please myself and hope that works for everyone else. When I receive a bad review I try to take it apart and use the good points as helping tools. Also I do the same with my good reviews. Some days I do push myself, but others it just flows out like a fountain. I do enjoy your wit and great advice. Thanks so much.

  40. #44 by Lynne St. James on October 7, 2013 - 2:31 pm

    Kristen, great post as always, but this one hit a little closer to home than most. It is so easy to let doubt overtake our dreams, and even with three books published I still have them at times. This is a great reminder of what we should be focused on instead!

  41. #45 by markneu on October 7, 2013 - 2:45 pm

    My first novel, which I started over a decade ago, never got finished. The second one was finished and self-pubbed two years ago. (Yay me!) The third novel is finished and with my editor friend but while it is there I realized the second one which I billed as a YA is really an MG. It is much too long for an MG so I am splitting it into two books. I know it is what’s best for the book but it hurts to go back to what I thought was finished and work on it again.
    To abuse your birth analogy – what if after the marathon birthing process was over the doc looked at you and said “He’s not done yet, we’re going to pop him back in there for another week or so.”

  42. #46 by saralitchfield on October 7, 2013 - 2:56 pm

    I always feel like you’re talking right to me. I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo so I can actually finish something!!! I’ve fished my big dreams from the back of the sock drawer and now I’ve started writing, it’s time to stop starting and starting again… It’s time to finish something! And talking about WANACon, the best last-minute decision I’ve ever made – there’s not enough room here to say thank you. Well actually there is – THANK YOU. But I’ve also written a post on ‘Why I Went To WANACon’ – http://rightinkonthewall.wordpress.com/ – If you aren’t sure whether to go to the next WANACon – please read. Sara

    • #47 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 7, 2013 - 6:44 pm

      Thanks for the lovely post! I reposted on our WANA International fan page :D.

  43. #48 by Amy on October 7, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    Oh, I think you stole my labor story. ;) I love reading your posts, they refresh me and send me running for my notebook. Thank you for the kick in the pants.

  44. #49 by Suzi Sandoval on October 7, 2013 - 4:19 pm

    Great encouragement. Thanks for the article. I’m dreamer that works but doesn’t finish. There is so much stuff in my head I’m off balance. It’s been more than 10 months and I can’t evict the spawn that grows bigger each day in my head. It’s blogs like yours that spur me on.

  45. #50 by Elizabeth Fais on October 7, 2013 - 5:03 pm

    Awesome reminders, as usual. Thank you!

  46. #51 by Leanne on October 7, 2013 - 5:26 pm

    Your words hit home today Kristen. I’m 80% through my very first manuscript which has been a hard book to write, it’s angsty and emotional and due to this, made me doubt myself and whether or not writing such a emotionally charged book was a good idea. Just reading about how you openly admit that your first book wasn’t a masterpiece gave me a lift to press on, regardless.
    Thank you!

  47. #52 by Daphne Shadows on October 7, 2013 - 6:00 pm

    I’m working on my second book (the first and its queries was my reality check O.o) and I’m going through a really crappy part of life. I have to worry about having food and a place to live along with my family all the time. Plus writing a novel? It’s taken a lot longer than I would have liked and I’ve finally finished the second rough draft (because I now consider that first rough draft my long version of “plotting” *cringe*) and am almost done with my first-over critique. I’m loving it and I feel like I’m making real progress. I can recognize where the plot holes are, which scenes don’t have a purpose, what characters need more life to make them real, etc.
    BUT, people keep asking me, “Is it done yet?” I’ve been working on it for a year now. I know that’s not how long it would’ve taken if I wasn’t in survival mode in my life right now, but I still feel discouraged every time someone asks me that.
    SO thank you for your post. Even stubborn people need reminders. :)

  48. #53 by trishbarcatta on October 7, 2013 - 6:24 pm

    Hello, I am new to your blog and I found this article to be most helpful. I was one of those that did not finish. I finally finished my first draft of my very first script recently. I am at the stage of trying to get it looked at and getting the feedback I need. Hopefully I won’t have to throw it out and start again. :)

  49. #54 by Jess on October 7, 2013 - 9:26 pm

    This really hit home. I’ve been struggling to finish my first full-length novel for months. Work, family, stress – any excuse to put off completing the book. I need to buckle down and just finish. Your blog made me realize what I’ve been doing, so now I won’t have an excuse. Thank you!

  50. #55 by derekrempfer on October 7, 2013 - 10:16 pm

    Perfect. And the metaphor extends beyond the birthing, doesn’t it? We love our little children. We’ve done what we could, given the world our best, and then watched our little darlings get beat up and swallowed. Good parents that we are, our instinct is to protect, explain, defend, and fight all our baby’s battles. Stepping back and letting our kids stand on their own and fight their battles is our greatest challenge. And it sucks. Right?

  51. #56 by Elle Carter Neal on October 7, 2013 - 11:34 pm

    I started writing my current WIP when I discovered I was pregnant with my second child. I dropped everything else and decided I was going to accomplish something before the birth and I successfully finished the first draft just in time. It meant I could go into my babymoon without that restless feeling. Now my daughter is nearly two, but I’m still labouring on her ink-twin (doing a major rewrite now on my editor’s advice). It does feel a bit like this baby is never going to come out. Breathe. Breathe. Push.

  52. #57 by Sinistra Inksteyne on October 8, 2013 - 12:06 am

    This year I’ve finally started to persevere with things in order to finish them, instead of giving them a lick and a promise and going on to something more shiny and new. My current perseverances have been on the back burner for eight to eighteen years apiece.
    Maybe I’ve finally developed some character!

  53. #58 by John Muccillo (@johnmuccillo) on October 8, 2013 - 12:14 am

    My Mom always told me, “If you wanna know what it’s like to have a baby, just imagine what it would be like to s%?t a watermelon.” Jeez, I only just woke up after passing out at the thought of 98 of your earth-hours in labor – now you say you had three twenty-hour warm-ups? You already ARE a diamond. LUV your fearless humour and all the + energy. Thanks Kristen.

  54. #59 by Brian Branche on October 8, 2013 - 4:09 am

    Life is not risk free.
    We have to discover who we are, feel the pain or getting our fingers burnt. We have to discover our faults or land up blaming others for what fail to see in our self.
    Of the many human qualities knowledge, which has to be learnt over and over again can become intellectual lacking empathy. Without compassion we fail to appreciate the art of loving. “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.” “Love isn’t something natural, like singing it has to be learnt. It requires practice and discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

  55. #60 by springinkerl on October 8, 2013 - 4:45 am

    Sound advice, but true for about every job, occupation or hobby, not only for writers.

  56. #61 by Sophie Kersey on October 8, 2013 - 6:16 am

    When I was in my 20s, I left my good job, parted temporarily from my fiance and went to Hong Kong to follow my dream of living and working abroad. I had no job there and no home. Many people were horrified, and convinced themselves and others that I was making a terrible mistake. Others became wistful – I think I reminded them of dreams they had had but never followed. Needless to say, it was the best move I ever made and led to the most exciting time of my life so far. People’s reactions say more about them than about the course you are taking. We’re all responsible for our own dreams and no one else’s!

    • #62 by Gry Ranfelt on October 8, 2013 - 12:46 pm

      In Story Engineering Characters are parted into three dimensions; demeanor, background and then action. Notice how demeanor and background can be the same for two people, but the ACTIONS are different. Sort of like how both Voldemort and Harry grew up without parents and being outside but ACTED differently.
      Anyway, what’s Hong Kong like? :D Have you learned chinese??

  57. #63 by myselfishdream on October 8, 2013 - 7:40 am

    I enjoyed reading that! My blog name says it all..I’m following MY dream and lots of people think it’s selfish – oh the criticism (and not much of it is constructive is as unbound as an ocean. Criticism can be a positive thing but often it’s not.

  58. #64 by andrewknighton on October 8, 2013 - 8:48 am

    I really like your point about being accountable but not a doormat. There’s a very difficult balance in listening but not assuming that others might be right – it’s hard not to either roll over or knuckle down for a siege, to treat criticism not as an attack but as an opportunity.

  59. #65 by melorajohnson on October 8, 2013 - 10:30 am

    Love this post. Just finishing is a great goal. I finished a draft of one book years ago. I sent it out and then it went in a drawer. Now, I’ve finished one draft of a new book. Since then I’ve learned a whole lot about craft. (I really think that is something that may never stop. I may keep coming to realizations and self awareness about my writing for the rest of my life. Let’s hope so.) I’m on to a second version of that book. Re-writing and editing may take some time but this book will see the light of day, one way or another.

    • #66 by Gry Ranfelt on October 8, 2013 - 12:44 pm

      Seems we’re at the same place, you and I :)
      There really is a lot of craft to learn. Do you also sometimes feel like there’s so much to take in that you have to take some time off and say “no” to new knowledge because you have to imbed the previously acquired knowledge first?

      • #67 by melorajohnson on October 8, 2013 - 1:06 pm

        With my schedule as a full time mom and librarian, I can only get small bits of new knowledge at a time, so there’s a built in lag between learning spurts. I think that I then try to assimilate it in my writing and spend some time using it. It can take me days or more to fully grasp a lesson. I’ve always been good at understanding a concept but then it takes me time to figure out how to apply it, had big trouble in high school math with that.

        • #68 by Gry Ranfelt on October 9, 2013 - 12:32 am

          Haha, yeah, that’s the trouble :D I had a spurt where I read like four craft books in one go. My mind was boggling.

  60. #69 by rookswriter on October 8, 2013 - 11:27 am

    Reblogged this on The Literal Loudmouth.

  61. #70 by bakeritalia on October 8, 2013 - 12:33 pm

    Fab advise, I think I really needed to read this, I’m glad it got re-blogged by one of the blogs I follow. Thank you!

  62. #71 by Gry Ranfelt on October 8, 2013 - 12:43 pm

    I JUST finished revisions of my time loop book and sent it to beta readers :D Lots of male readers, actually, so I’m a bit self conscious. I’m hoping it’s not too touchy-touchy, which I fear it is. Oh well, I just hope I don’t scare them away for next time xD
    Thank you for a wonderful WANACon, and thank you for pressing ahead and setting an example!

  63. #72 by riversofeden1 on October 8, 2013 - 3:55 pm

    This was so encouraging. I struggled with procrastination for so long. I put so much aside and made wonderful lists to do but often nothing got done because of insecurity. Now I just go for it and the perfectionist in me is dying and I am sooooo glad. This post helps me to keep going forward for me, if nothing else. Loved it.

  64. #73 by J'nell on October 8, 2013 - 4:48 pm

    I remember patting myself on the back when I finished my first MS. Proud for finishing of course, but more because of how awesome and gripping it was. Several months and many online writing courses later, I pulled it out and couldn’t believe how naive I was to relegate to the world of Shakespeare and Austin. Sigh. A few finished books later, I now only celebrate when I type THE END at long last!

  65. #74 by Karen Lauria Corum on October 8, 2013 - 6:25 pm

    The day I wrote The End on my first MS felt like winning the lottery and giving birth all at the same time. Because you’re so right Kristen, making it to the finish line was more of a success story than anything. Whenever I’m feeling down or doubtful, I remember that I did it once and I can do it again. Even if that MS never does get published, it stands as a testament to the fact that I didn’t give up. It’s my own personal cheerleader rooting me on when no one else might be.

  66. #75 by honestlymodest on October 8, 2013 - 8:39 pm

    Thank you so much for posting! I have bits and pieces of a novel written now, and I’m pretty sure it’s fear that’s holding me back from finishing! Thank you for writing about this

  67. #76 by Diana Beebe on October 8, 2013 - 9:23 pm

    Labor. Yeah.

    WANACon was wonderful. I learned so many things that my head is still reeling, and I haven’t had the time to watch the recordings of the sessions that I missed yet. Your perseverance is inspirational.

  68. #77 by Sherri on October 9, 2013 - 5:08 am

    Hello Kristin. Well, having just typed a long comment, the entire thing just disappeared so here goes again. Donna Jean (who is a wonderful encouragement to me in my writing) reblogged this on her site which is how I found you.
    Thank you so much for this brilliant, hard-hitting and very inspirational post. As a late-bloomer to full time writing attempting my first book (which, btw, I have carried inside me for the past 32 years, so it is about time I birthed this monster) I realise that because I am a perfectionist I am in great danger of sabotaging myself and allowing my fear of rejection, critiscism and worse, ridicule, to completely flatten me. Reading your words here have given me the kick in the rear I need to press on and get back to basics. Which is, to plough ahead, not give up and keep writing. And hold on to my dream.
    Interestingly, my next post is about ‘the dream’, having been inspired by something I read recently, so it is perfect timing to be able to link back to your post when I do so. I know that my readers will be as inspired by it as I have been :-)

  69. #78 by pamelacreese on October 9, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    I always have late term babies (one 11 months, one 10 months 3 weeks) so I find your analogy particularly hits home. And your little one was DEF worth the wait! What a cutie!
    My biggest roadblock…as always…is me. My self-doubt. My fear of never being quite ‘good enough’. But I finish what I start…babies AND books.
    I’ve worked hard for this dream of publication. I won’t give up.

  70. #79 by Matthew Randall on October 9, 2013 - 8:48 pm

    Thanks for this post. The sentiment behind ‘good enough this time, do better next time’ bears repeating.

    ***thinks, if only I’d said that to my wife during her labor … maybe not***

    I tend to be a poor finisher. I get overwhelmed by needing to tie all the loose ends together. I also get carried away planning … which makes me a poor starter, too!

    The only way I make any progress is to make a rough plan and then pretty much ignore it and work through little pieces, bit-by-bit. Its my stealth-bellycreep approach to project management (my boss thinks its a hoot).

  71. #80 by adstarrling on October 10, 2013 - 5:44 pm

    Great and timely post. Thank you for this! :D

    I’m afraid I don’t have a garage, so can’t chain that first novel in it to scare the burglars away. On the other hand, I could chain it to the car to stop the drunk idiots who keep trying to rip my wing mirror off (uncouth louts!).

    When I started writing seriously again in 2006, with the aim of making this a full time career, I was a naive optimist. Although I ‘gave’ myself 6-10 years to achieve this target, with 2012 being the first year I would sit down and reassess the situation, I always hoped it would happen sooner. Like within 2 years. Yes, naive optimist to the extreme. By 2012, I had written 3 novels and queried agents and publishers with the first two in the UK, US, and Canada. I got plenty of positive feedback, two interested agents, and two interested publishers. But it never went anywhere.

    Having been reading peripherally about self-publishing since 2006, and having initially thought it was ALL just vanity publishing, the advent of POD, the ebook, the growing professional and financially viable self-publishing industry, made me do a 180 on that topic. After much deliberation and research, I took the plunge in summer 2012 and self-published.

    I’m proud of what I’ve achieved since then, proud of the professional products I’ve delivered so far (I’m lucky in that I could afford to hire two editors, formatters, a proofreader, a book cover designer, and a website designer), and absolutely flabbergasted and amazed by HOW much I’ve learned in the last year. And there is still so much to learn in this ever changing industry. I’ve been humbled by the feedback I’ve received, have learned from my reviews, be they 5 stars or 1-2 stars, and have improved as a writer (so the fans tell me anyway!)

    My messages to anyone starting out in this career: (in addition to all the great advice above!)
    1. You DO NOT know it all and you will continue to learn and be amazed by this business until you’re old and grey!
    2. Finish the damn book and write the next one. Write fast and write well, but DON’T let your perfectionist nature stop you from finishing the thing (I’m talking to my inner voice here! You hear that, you anally retentive purist?!)
    3. Hire good editors and betareaders.
    4. Learn from your mistakes.
    5. Keep growing as a writer: to stagnate is to fail.
    6. Be professional and treat this like a business if you want to make a living out of it.

  72. #81 by Self-Seller on October 13, 2013 - 9:47 pm

    This article really motivates me to finish what I have started. Thank you for the great article. It is very well written and a great read!

  73. #82 by artsylikeme on October 18, 2013 - 2:15 pm

    Your points can apply to any form of creativity and are so true. I’m a champion of starting projects, not so reliable at making it to the finish line. In fact, I decided to start a blog to hold myself accountable to my newest venture that I plan to see through. Love your ideas.

  74. #83 by skinnyuz2b on October 26, 2013 - 6:02 am

    I’ve been every bad thing you wrote about, but not for toooo long. My first block busting novel is hidden in the back of a file cabinet. Write about what I know? Ha! I wrote about two middle grade boys, despite not setting foot in a school for over twenty years. Those blind publishers failed to recognize my genius. Their loss, the reading public’s gain.
    I’ve been writing my latest novel on my blog, a collection of stories grouped into chapters. One step at a time. Positive feedback and fullfillment keep me going.

  75. #84 by Candace on November 3, 2013 - 9:39 am

    Great post! So much to deconstruct … first off, I love the Joyce Meyers quote … I think she is very inspiring and practical. Also, the Kristen Lamb quote about perfectionists versus finishers. And finally, the 9-10 months that follows impregnation.

  76. #85 by Stans Songs on March 5, 2014 - 5:54 am

    Loved his article, and it was like a “wake up call” for me in one sense

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