FINDING THE JOY
As writers we have to make progress without supervision or the constant oversight of a group. We look forward to the final payoff, but meanwhile, the task at hand requires us to chip away at the job on our own. It’s so much easier to do that if we love what we’re doing. If we can get excited about our story, it can make the solitary task of writing pleasurable. If we can find the joy in what was once a hobby or a dream, that pleasure can make the task more palatable. Many years “Find the Joy” is at the top of my goal list. Joy in my relationship with God, joy in my marriage and family, joy in the tasks I perform, and joy in my writing.
Writers are creative people, a breed of our own. Contrary to stereotype, we creative types are not flakey free spirits or unsocial. We are problem solvers and fact gatherers. We analyze plots and people and people’s motivations. We plan how to build stories and settings and worlds.
Even the most impulsive seat-of-the-pants writers need discipline to accomplish their goals. Creativity takes logical thinking, preparation, endurance and a lot of self-control and discipline.
There is so much more than creativity involved with being a writer. The creativity itself is something huge and rare. It’s that mysterious quality that makes people ask us, “Where do you get your ideas?” when that’s something we don’t really stop to think about.
But there is more than creativity. Just listen to the questions of those new to this arena. They ask about formatting manuscripts, they ask about agents. “How do I submit? Who do I submit to? If I publish myself, how do I promote books?” It’s no small learning curve. There is the skill of the craft one has to master. The Writing With Emotion Tension & Confict parts. I don’t know if anyone ever feels as though they have it all pulled together as far as writing skills are concerned. There will always be books to be read and tips to discover and processes to change. We’re always evolving, growing, learning.
We have to be experts at using a computer, knowing the intricacies of our Word processing programs, and learning everything the actual physical part of writing entails, like software programs, websites, fiddling with printers and Wi-Fi—toss in malware and updates. And just because you learn something once doesn’t mean you have the skill in the bag. The process will change. There will be newer versions of computers and software. Technology will improve. When we’re having computer or software issues, it’s pretty difficult to find the joy.
Research is another major part of your job as a writer. Research is time consuming. Sometimes frustrating. Sometimes so engaging or fascinating we have to call a halt to write the book.
There is always networking to be done. The writer who does this job in a vacuum is rare. I don’t know one, although sometimes I wish I was one. Some genres lend themselves more to face-to-face contact and schmoozing than others, but if you want to know anything about the business, the editors, the rapidly changing face of publishing, the industry professionals, or even other authors, you have to be proactive. There are publisher sites and contests and editor blogs and agent blogs and market updates, all important if you can weed through enough to know which is beneficial. Someone looking in on us would be surprised to learn how much more than an imagination it takes to be a writer.
If you’re independently publishing, you have to relearn everything you knew about formatting a manuscript. You have to learn about .html conversion. You have to find designers and outlets and track sales, then keep track to figure taxes on income.
The arena in which we work requires us to have a wealth of knowledge in many different areas. Social media is a huge part of being a writer and online portals could be another full-time job. Marketing can be overwhelming. And even though we’re mired in an ocean of book promotions, authors and readers, we can still feel very much alone. And somebody will always be doing it better – and with more skill or flair or natural poise and style. We can’t compare ourselves to others. If we do, we’re in big trouble.
I’m here to tell you, “You’re not alone.”
Here’s where self-discipline serves us well. We have choices and combinations of choices when it comes to feeling inadequate about where we’re at.
Wanting the same thing another person has isn’t wrong. It’s natural. We don’t wish we had it instead of them. We can be happy for them, be proud of them, admire them. We have to acknowledge all of our feelings and make plans to reach similar goals. Acknowledging how hard a person worked for their achievement makes all the difference, but sometimes we see all that and let our inadequacies get in the way.
There was a time when Romantic Times/Booklovers magazine was the end all–be all–the Who’s Who of romance authors and readers. Often reading through those ads and the interviews and the lists of books made me feel like I was lagging behind. Like everyone was more prolific and made more money and was—well, more successful. I unsubscribed and bought an issue only occasionally. That publication and organization is gone now. I’m still here writing.
The point is, we have the option to pull back from anything that is making us feel bad about ourselves—anything that is sucking the joy from our day or the process of writing. We can’t be ostriches in this fast-paced business, but we can dial it down. Some people can handle it all, and if you can, more power to you. But we don’t have to do it all. That is an impossible expectation we place on ourselves.
So, don’t compare yourself, but do develop good role models. We won’t imitate a role model’s every move, but when we see how well their method is working, we can apply the same techniques. We might see a pattern of work ethic that’s panning out for another writer, so it can’t hurt to try something new that might improve our routine. I know there are a lot of writers who could share how they kept their commitment to their goals and made sacrifices to accomplish them.
What I want to make sure you know is that there are legitimate roadblocks. There are valid reasons for getting behind or missing the mark. Life happens. In a big way. In unexpected ways. Emotion tension and conflict is what we give our characters. It makes for a compelling story. It isn’t, however, always conducive to writing.
I’ve gone through situations where writing was a catharsis. I dealt with the circumstance on one hand, while on the other and I shut out the world and wrote. I’ve also gone through situations where writing a book was the last thing I could think about, even if I wanted to.
If you become overwhelmed by a life circumstance, give yourself permission to take a break. If you need kindness and patience, be kind to yourself; be patient with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Ask for help when you need help.
If you do get derailed, give yourself permission to re-evaluate. Then set new goals. It’s always a good idea to revisit goals. If you’re on track, well and good—have a party. If you’re behind, don’t beat yourself up. You get a do-over. One mistake or failure isn’t a reason to throw in the towel. Neither are two—or three. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from rejections. Or from a book that didn’t sell as well as hoped. Or from a promotion flop. You look back at those numbers and have to say, “That sucked,” and move on. We can’t be great at everything all the time. We have to be realistic. We’re not perfect
Motivation to reach our goals has to come from within. When we’re working toward a goal that comes from the desires of our hearts, we are naturally inspired and compelled to do our best. Direction and satisfaction come from working toward those things we believe in. Completing a book is gratifying.
Congratulate and give yourself credit for every accomplishment. Celebrate small steps as well as large. Take a good look at the people you admire and choose some qualities and habits from a role model (or more than one) as you move forward this year. If you don’t already, find someone to be accountable to and report your goals and achievements.
And never ever compare yourself to anyone, because you’re special just the way you are. You have the ability to dream a dream no one else can. You’re going to write the books only you can write. Most importantly, take time in every day to find the joy.
Write Smart, Write Happy
Writing is a vulnerable occupation; it is both personal and intimate. The act of writing, cycles of revision, and the confusing publishing industry can shatter a writer’s confidence, leaving you feeling like an imposter, overcome with rejection. Survival–and success–requires commitment, honesty, courage, resilience, sacrifice, and miles and miles of heart.
You have everything you need as a writer–it lies within, in the form of consistency and self-confidence. With Write Smart, Write Happy, best-selling author Cheryl St.John will help you unlock your skills, guiding you to overcome every hesitation, obstacle, form of writer’s block, and procrastination habit you have. Within these pages, you’ll learn to:
· Organize your writing life by using a planner, scheduling your yearly goals, and acknowledging career plans.
· Sharpen your saw by recharging your creativity, developing positive motivation, and creating healthy writing habits.
· Affirm your beliefs by overcoming self-doubt, learning to use affirmations, and altering your thinking.
· Conquer remaining fears by releasing tendencies towards perfectionism and establishing strategies for habitual success.
Written with a no-nonsense attitude, St.John’s “advice from the trenches” will help you take an introspective look at your own writing habits and life. Through examples and inspiration from writers who struggled with–and overcame–rejection and reservations, discover the path towards writing smarter and happier today.