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Staying Strong

There are certain things in life that I realize I will never understand. Corporate auditing; veganism; the Neti Pot. It will just never happen. And that’s okay–honestly it is. It’s a fact that I’ve accepted, and I’m ready to move forward with my life.

Now that that’s taken care of.

If there is one thing that I still do not understand—but that I am actively trying to gain a better understanding of—it is how you, as writers, keep your focus, keep your drive. How do you do it? When you enter the revision process and realize that certain things do not work and you will need to cut characters or scenes you’ve painstakingly developed and come to adore; When you feel as though the query process has you running around in circles—between the rules, the do’s, the don’ts, the waiting, the wondering; When you come across someone who has multiple agents vying for their attention after submitting their first novel, yet you’ve been in it for what feels like forever; And don’t even get me started on the amount of rejection that can potentially hit one inbox.

I’m just not sure I could do it, quite frankly.

So I wanted to turn it over to you as I have in the past, and ask: What do you do to keep your head in the game? What do you do when you get that feeling that maybe it’s time to give up?

22 Responses to Staying Strong

  1. Julie Musil says:

    Why, it’s very kind of you to ask! For me, it’s all about community. When I’m feeling frustrated or low, all I have to do is send an S.O.S. to my writer buddies and we’ll be laughing in five minutes. Plus, watching others succeed encourages and motivates me.

  2. Josin says:

    Giving up writing is no more an option than giving up air. Writers breathe the written word. The rat-a-tat-tat of keys is our pulse; to stop filling blank spaces with new worlds and new people would be to stop our own hearts.

  3. Sometimes I give in to the despair and feel awful for a little while. Then I tell myself to get it together and go back to work. If I’m starting to wonder if I want to give up for good, I think about what that would really, truly mean. The idea of never writing anything again is unpleasant enough that I end up working harder.

    Following blogs of published authors and people in the industry really helps keep me going. And interaction with other people who are also struggling along the writing path makes me see that I’m not alone and my experience is not unique. Everyone else has the same doubts and gets just as discouraged. If they can work through it, there’s no reason I can’t.

  4. I read blog entries on how to make agents want you bad, whine to my husband that I’ll never get an agent and I’ll never be published and all my writing sucks. Then, I have a glass of wine, watch Law & Order re-runs and start all over again.

  5. Sometimes, it’s really hard if I’m being honest. Sometimes, when nothing seems to go my way or it seems I’ll never jump that hurdle towards publication, a part of me wants to just throw in the towel and give up. But then I revisit my manuscript and remember why I wrote it in the first place, why I believe in it, and why I ache to continue writing about my protagonist’s journey. There’s just this pull — this unbelievably amazing tie to my characters — that keeps me going strong, even when I feel like giving up the most.

    For me, that’s what writing is all about — the characters I’ve come to love and know just as well as I know myself. If it weren’t for them, I would’ve given up a long time ago.

  6. It’s not easy, but even when I’m so discouraged all I want to do is cry & scream & stomp my feet, I just think about my dream, of being published. I have many dreams for my kids, for myself & my husband, but only one that is solely for me and that is seeing my novel through to publication. Failure isn’t not getting published, it’s giving up on the dream. As we’ve all seen in the last few days with the pursuit & death of Osama bin Laden, perseverance is the key.

    Never, ever give up!

    And when I do feel like giving up, I call my best friend & writing soul mate. She always sees me through the hard times.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A sense that my book and writing are worthy. And as for editing, yeah, major edits are painful. But then you go in and write new, amazing stuff. And maybe, you tell yourself, another book will be perfect for the stuff you left out. Or so you like to think, or hope or . . . Speaking of Hope. Pandora’s box, when opened, released all the evils into the world leaving only one to help us cope: Hope. Some might opine it is the most evil of all. That and a feeling deep down that in the end all the pain and hard work, the editing, rewriting and moments of doubt, will give way to that book with your name on it, your words there for all to finally read. It is my fervent and abiding hope that this shall come to pass. And that,when all is tallied, is what sustains me.

  8. Tamara says:

    One of the things I tell myself and I truly believe (hey, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it) is that if one person out there gets as much out of your story as you’ve gotten out of some of the stories you’ve read, than it’s worth it. In fact, if you don’t write that story, you’re doing the world a huge disservice.

  9. I haven’t started querying yet, so I can only speak for the writing process, but for me, I feel lazy and dissatisfied if I leave something unfinished. Even if finishing the draft or doing the revisions is painful, I have to complete the project or I feel even more unfulfilled. I’ve also found that with each new project, it’s easier to maintain some emotional detachment so it’s not as difficult to cut scenes or characters. Yes, I’m still very invested in them, but can eliminate them if necessary in many cases. There are still some scenes I feel very strongly about, but perhaps I’m fortunate that my books tend to center around two or three people, so I don’t have to cut characters too often, and when I do, I can usually just combine them with another.

  10. I keep a picture of my daughter on my make-up counter in my bathroom with a fortune cookie slip tucked at the bottom of the frame that reads “Through greater effort and hard work a precious dream comes true.” When I feel like giving up, I think about my daughter and how I need to show her what hard work and following your dreams looks like. If I give up, what am I teaching her? It always keeps me going.

  11. Jami Gold says:

    In my head, my story is always deeper than I can express on the page. Every revision is an opportunity to use my new skills to get it closer to that ideal. That quest is what drives me through the revision process.

    Rejections don’t matter to me (really!), because I know that I have so many stories in my head one of them will eventually succeed. I won’t have failed unless I give up.

  12. Donna Hole says:

    Nope; not always easy. But, it is a dream. How do you give up on that?

    Stephanie; do you have any career or personal dreams you haven’t given up on? You need not answer, its just a thought.

    Everyone has a dream that they sit around the family/friends table and spout off about. Some people are actively trying to accomplish those dreams, no matter how far out of reach. Others make excuses why they don’t try.

    When I don’t submit to an agent b/c I’ve read the profiles, followed their blogs, learned all I think I need to and decided they’d reject me and so don’t click that send button; its an excuse, like any other. I recognize it, accept it.

    A writer has publishing dreams. A lonely person has dating dreams. A poor person has perfect employment dreams. My personal opinion is that every person in the universe has a dream-something. You, Stephanie, can relate to us authors b/c you have something just as compelling in your life to relate to. Exactly; no. Conceptually; absolutely.

    So my rhetorical questions to you are: do you have something in YOUR life that you dream of accomplishing. Have you achieved all your goals and now wonder how to top them. If you have achieved all you ever hoped for in your personal and professional life, what comes next. Do you get some enjoyment in the challenge of failure and the subsequent need to improve. (rhetorical questions; the lack of ? marks is intentional)

    Dreams keep boredom at bay. Accomplishing one step and looking forward to the next phase keeps the dream alive. Progress gives hope . .

    Your belief in, and admiration of, the authors and the writing process is what keeps ME plugging on. Somebody out there will be a right fit for me; and someone out there will be a right fit for you, and the partnership will be worth the wait.

    Well, just saying. You sparked some deep thinking in my Steph.

    ………dhole

  13. Naomi Canale says:

    What a great post. For me personally, I always think back to Laurie Halse Anderson advice, “Your first draft is only 15% of the work.” Also I jump in with the hopes of, well I’m writing every day so I know it’ll get better with each day. And happiness is key to rejection for me. My family is what matters most and they keep me sane and smiling, a lot! :)

  14. I usually go ahead and give up. Declare defeat. Binge on Little Debbie snack cakes and fall asleep naked on the cold, hard floor of my kitchen, quietly weeping.

    I’m usually back at the keyboard the next day. Can’t stay away.

    Writer.

  15. Hi.

    Quote: “…I will never understand. Corporate auditing;”
    LOL, well I could help with that, as a former corporate auditor :D. But I don’t think it will be interesting; only to auditors it is, it’s in their blood because an auditor gets contaminated. 😀

    I think that any production needs persistence, either it is a book or a painting or an airplane or a new gadget. All products can be rejected, but if they’re good eventually they will appeal to consumers.
    Every producer (with the exception of big shots companies, that applies also to big shots authors) will go through the process of rejection from the market.

    But if the product is good and the producer is persistent, then the market will eventually accept it and/or crave it. 😀

    Thank you for the interesting post

  16. Sheila Hurst says:

    It’s something probably most writers have to do, even if it makes us a little insane at times. But then I think I would be even more insane if I didn’t write. When I have given up, it’s been for short time periods and then phrases or paragraphs will start jumping into my head and I have to write them down.

    I always try to remember that the failure isn’t in writing something and being rejected, the failure is in not writing at all.

  17. Nancy Parish says:

    When I find myself getting frustrated with writing or the query process etc, this quote helps me get back on track.

    “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” — Jacob August Riis

    -NAP

  18. PW Creighton says:

    It can be very difficult to keep to the path with so many things that can hinder or deter you. I’ve found that as you mature as a writer you learn more and more about the industry. You no longer take things so personally. You know you’re meant to write when everything keeps guiding you towards various writing outlets. When the story consumes you so that you need to get it out, there’s not much choice. Sure there are speed bumps but it’s a journey not a destination.

  19. Joelle says:

    Well, first you have to become a vegan and get a neti pot, and then it will all make sense (corporate auditing is the odd one out).

    Actually, the editing is the fun bit, so that part, even cutting stuff I love is not a problem. But the business side of writing can be a real drag (it can also be pretty dang cool!). I think the real trick is to have a life outside of writing. And a good support network.

  20. I set small goals for myself – 10 new pages by 4:00 p.m., or 25 pages revised before I can get up from the chair. If you look at just the small goal in front of you, and not at the giant mountain of work you have to accomplish in the next 30 days, it’s completely doable and it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. I also consider revisions a form of bulletproofing. It’s my editor’s job to point out the holes in the dyke, and it’s my job to fix them so that the story holds water by the time it heads to print. Writing is WAY more about problem solving than most people realize.

    As for querying – well, to all of you out there feeling defeated or discouraged today; I quieried 119 other agents, (who all said no) before I got to Mr. McCarthy who finally said yes. Hang. In. There!

    • Barb Riley says:

      Good idea Victoria!!! I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of revisions I’m facing, and to think that I’m just focusing on one tiny piece at a time for a short period of time each day would probably make me feel a ton better and get me past my current staring-at-the-screen-frozen-with-horror-at-impending-edits phase. : )

  21. April says:

    I figured out a long time ago that I’m project oriented. It doesn’t matter if its a floral design, painting and staining, gardening, cooking or cleaning house, I even turned quitting smoking into a project and it worked. I just had to be careful that when the project was over I couldn’t go back to smoking. So with that I usually finish what I start. When I think I’m walking away something usually catches my eye and brings me back to it, or that paragraph that was mentioned earlier pops in my head and I have to stop what I’m doing and go write it down.

    As for cutting. I save a junk page where I copy and paste the things I deleted. That way if its good, its not lost. When I’m a little more objective, I go through it to see if that piece might be used somewhere else. Possibly my next book? Usually, I find that it is repetitive and I did a much better job communicating it somewhere else in the work.

    As for a professional coming through and telling me I need to do this and I need to do that, is something I have yet to experience. I too wonder if I will come out of it all bruised and battered and sulk about it.

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