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.
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*).
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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 novel, or 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.