I Dare You To Move

Most writers don’t fail, they give up.

That’s the single biggest problem we face on the long run, letting the workload or the industry or social media or [whatever] get to us and push us off the road.

That can happen for a variety of reasons, maybe we’re burnt out, maybe we’ve got pressing “real life” obligations, maybe all our manuscripts to date really suck, maybe maybe maybe for a thousand different reasons. But deep down, when we get off track and screech into a halt, it only happens for one single reason — we gave up.

A very important quality of successful, professional writers is perseverance, and it bears repeating since more writers get lost along the way than actually get anywhere. What perseverance really means is to stick to our guns come hell or high water, to get back at the wheel after every break, to keep going even if we find ourselves on a detour, and get right back on track. As long as we don’t give up on ourselves and our dream, nothing external, no amount of opposition and dismay, no amount of hard work and obstacles can keep us from eventually reaching our goal.

And what a wild roadtrip we’ll have to tell stories of!

Keep your head high, however deep the waters. Keep believing and working for it, however hard it may be at the time.

Don’t give up on your story

Every story idea is a good idea, even if the concept and premise that’s grown out of it may not be suited to you at the time. Don’t trash the seed just because one of the sprouts grew crooked.

Maybe your initial story idea gets you stuck halfway through the development process. Don’t give up on it. Let it simmer for a while, but then get it back out, brainstorm, talk it over with other writers, draw maps, sketches, throw around scene cards, plaster your ceiling with post-its. Get your gears working again. Worst case, you come up with a better idea.

Don’t give up on your work

You’ve been writing for a year, or two, or five, and are getting tired. Novels are long term commitments, they take a lot of time and gray matter, a lot of sweat and blood to get done. When time seems to dilate before you and the road looks endless, just remember you have more meat to it than you had a month ago, even if it’s just 500 words, and next month you’ll have even more, and before long you’ll have a finished novel!

Finish the draft — finish the rewrite — birth that baby, it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done!

And if you’re a short story writer,

Don’t give up on the courtship

Querying a novel to agents, or short stories to paying markets, is much like courting the high school beauty queen when you’re just the janitor’s kid wiping floors for a buck a day. You can feel like a total looser and piss into your shoes every time you stand up to the challenge, but you have to try, you have to persevere — you’re going to be rewarded and it will mean the world if you’ve earned it.

Don’t give up on the courtship of publication, that’s the only sure way to get lost in the crowd. Maybe you’re not going to get the beauty queen, but some honest girl, somewhere along the way, will see your true heart and love you for it.

 

And on the bottom line of all these trite metaphors, just cut the self-pity and trust yourself, believe in your dream, suck it the damn up and keep going. Even just to spite the nay-sayers, if “realizing your potential” no longer cuts it for you.

Work for it, sweat for it, grind your teeth for it, and your work will stand for you when you need it most.

I dare you to move forward.


13 Replies to “I Dare You To Move”

  1. Most important of all… Don’t give up on learning.

    Writing is not like bricklaying or carpentry, where you go through an apprenticeship and one day become a tradesman or tradeswoman. There is no graduation. There’s always more to learn. Look to grow as a writer. Learn from others, learn from what they do well and where they fall short.

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    1. Absolutely! That’s indeed the most important aspect of life as a writer — the learning process never ends, and it never ceases to add new skills to one’s kit.

      Thanks for the important addition, Peter!

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  2. Very motivating, Vero! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    Perseverance may be the most important quality a writer can have (along with a set of thick skin and a big ol’ cup of humility). I received thirty some odd rejections before I made my first sale. If I’d given up after the first one, or the first ten, or the first thirty, I’d have missed out on some of the most rewarding experiences behind the desk I’ve ever experienced. Some of the stories I’m most proud of came with a huge stack of R’s on my desk. Not to mention the sales I’ve made were part of that pool of stories racking the rejections up.

    And there’s nothing odd or different about me. That’s just the nature of the business, and as you pointed out, it’s pretty much the same for short story sales and agent queries. It’s all about not giving up. Keep sending! Never stop!

    Here’s an interesting stat for you. I use an awesome website called Duotrope to help research and track my short story submissions. Right now, on the submission tracker page, there is a message that says, “Congratulations! Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.” Sounds great, right? What an ego boost! Do you want to know what my acceptance ratio is?

    3.8%

    How about them apples? If that doesn’t tell you that rejection is to be expected, accepted, and stepped over like the fallen corpses of enemies on the field of battle, I don’t know what will! 😉

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    1. You’re so right, James, it’s exactly the nature of the business! And those are amazing stats — congrats on selling above average, and OMG that’s the rate?! No wonder so many give up along the way…

      Thank you so much for sharing that, it’s incredibly motivating. Thank you!

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  3. I didn’t fail this summer, but I did give up for awhile. I just couldn’t do everything and please everyone. So I stopped. I couldn’t hear anything. Not even my own voice.

    Burn-out, a manuscript that hit a wall, work overload, family disruptions and obligations. Yup. Pretty much everything you wrote about in your post.

    I gave up (gave in?) for about two months. I tossed around ideas in my head. Eventually I made the decision that some things needed to be cut out to make room for what I really want in my life. Some things needed to be chopped so that I can reshape my life. That’s just the way of it.

    I don’t know if I’ll go back to my last WIP. I haven’t decided. But I have started a short story – which is a whole new experience since I’ve never really written a short story – and THAT’s exciting. It might only be an exercise… Either way, I’m writing again.

    I believe it’s okay to stop and evaluate where you are during any process – whether it’s writing, or painting, or rebuilding a car, or working with a team at work, etc. Actually, more than okay. It’s vital. If you don’t stop, you might not take the time to understand you’re not going in the right direction. I wasn’t going in the right direction.

    The trouble starts when you don’t get going again. At least that’s my experience.

    Thoughtful post, Vero! Thanks!

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    1. It’s okay to stop and evaluate, in fact, like you said, it’s sometimes necessary and inevitable — and absolutely vital. Nothing’s more important than being at peace with yourself and what you want from life, no amount of expectations (self-imposed or otherwise) should keep us from looking deep into our own cup.

      Taking time off is important, as long as you’re clear about your goals, and return to them once you’re replenished. If the goals change, that’s okay too, as long as there is a will to fight for them. 🙂

      Good luck, Tracy! And thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Another great post, Vero. I won’t claim to never have my down moments, but I always remember to take pride in each accomplishment – whether it be hitting a word count goal or writing a blog post. Maybe I’ll never get published, but that doesn’t need to kill my joy of writing and feelings of pride when people tell me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written.

    I do agree with you that a big part of succeeding in this industry is perseverance.

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! It’s such an insidious thing, the creeping in of self-doubt and disillusionment, especially after querying begins or the self-pubbed book is out for people to tear. But as long as writing still is fun, and every new project is tackled with refreshed enthusiasm, it’s no one’s and nothing’s right to take that feeling of pride and joy away from us. 🙂

      Thanks a lot for stopping by to comment!

      Like

  5. This goes hand-in-hand with my own post today – about creativity and the flow of water. Great stuff.

    I have a half-finished manuscript that hasn’t seen the light of day since 2007. I might have to dust it off and see what I can do with it.

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  6. Another fantastic post, Vero!

    It’s so true. Anyone can be a writer but there’s a reason that only a small percentage ever see their work in “print.” Writers write. That’s all there is to it. You haven’t failed unless you stop doing that (i.e. working towards whatever your goal is).

    Like

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