Have you been ignoring your work in progress for the last few weeks for any number of really good reasons? I’m here to tell you that you are not alone; but it’s time to suck it up, buttercup, and get the work done. And while I’m focusing on writers here, this is also true for anyone in the arts who has a dream.
It’s the end of April, and the first quarter of the year is over. Hey, writer. Yeah, you. How are you doing on that latest book of yours? Are you writing at all, or have you burned out? Where are you in your goals that you set up in January? In other words (here’s that dreaded question), how’s the writing going? Or is it going at all?
You are what you consistently do. If you want to call yourself a writer, then look to what you do every day. If writing isn’t on that list, then maybe you aren’t a writer.
Before you get mad or defensive, take a good hard look at your schedule. If you say you don’t have time to write, then take note of how much TV you watch, how many hours you tend to family members by doing things they can do themselves, or how many hours of Candy Crush Saga or Farmville or Bejeweled that you play in a single day. If you turn even half that time into writing time, then not only can you call yourself a writer, but you may actually finish that book that’s been lurking on your hard drive, taunting you. Once you finish it, you can edit it. Once it’s edited, you can submit it (or begin the self-publishing process). Rinse and repeat.
The truth is, those who want to write, write. There is no other answer. So if you aren’t writing, the only person you have to look to for answers is yourself. Why? What’s holding you back?
For many people, it’s doubt. Doubt that you can be any good as a writer. Doubt that anyone will want to read what you write. Doubt that success on any scale is possible for you. But you know what? If you don’t write, then success as a writer ISN’T possible because you don’t have a product for people to read. SLAY THE DOUBT DRAGON. He’s not your friend. The only way to do that? Sit your ass down and write. Every day. No matter what, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.
For others, it’s stress. You’re worried that your next book won’t measure up to your last book. Or that your editor won’t give you the next three-book contract. Or maybe, it’s been ten years and you haven’t made your first sale yet and you don’t know how much more energy you can put into a career that doesn’t seem to be paying you back either emotionally or monetarily. What then?
Take a break.
Sometimes, a break from writing is just as important as a break from your Day Job. Instead of feeling guilty that you aren’t writing, which can make you resentful, give yourself a day or two off each week. If you haven’t set writing goals (okay, I’ll write for the next fifteen minutes or, I just need a hundred words today), then try that, too. But most of all, be good to yourself.
The writing life is one of discipline. Without it, your books won’t get written and therefore, your words can’t inspire others. If you have the guts to be disciplined about your writing, then you’ll get the work done.
The writing life is one of bravery. You’ve finished the book, edited it, and now comes the time to send it out into the world. Whether it’s a publisher or a contest or putting it up Amazon by yourself, getting your book out there for others to read and judge is an act of bravery, no matter which way you look at it.
The writing life is yours to claim. There’s no secret handshake, no formula, no Blue Light Special at K-Mart that will show you the way. The only thing you need in order to be a writer is to write. Write consistently. Write diligently. Write bravely.
So. What’s your TODAY goal for your writing/creative endeavor? I’d love to know! (Mine is getting 500 words done before my head hits the pillow tonight.)
This article was first published in the Los Angeles Romance Authors monthly newsletter, the LARA CONFIDENTIAL, in August of 2013.