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It’s conference time again, folks. And for me this is a benchmark-time-of-year. It’s when I assess the goals I made last year, and set new ones. You know…

  • Land “the” uber-agent
  • Lasso a ten-figure book deal
  • Out sell the Harry Potter series, by A LOT
  • Win the Pulitzer
  • Dance with the Stars (Hugh Jackman or Keanu Reeves, of course)

OK, I’m being a tad facetious. But that’s because this topic is usually charged with emotion. Whether we admit it or not, deep down we all want to succeed.

“Hitch your wagon to a star.” That’s what my dad always said. And he was right. If you don’t dare to dream big, you’ll never reach those heights.

Setting goals is good. But what happens when we got to a conference and meet up with writers we haven’t seen since the previous year’s conference, and they’ve landed “the” uber-agent, lassoed an umpteen-figure book deal, and are sharing the stage with J. K. Rowling on Friday night?

As I see it, we have two choices…

  1. Succumb to the Ogre of Envy and plummet into the Dungeon of Despair.
  2. Be inspired, recognizing their success as proof that our goals are attainable.

Hear me out…

Door #1: Follow the Ogre of Envy

Sure. It’s tempting to take the easy route and throw ourselves a Personal Pity Party. But before plunging to our doom, let’s look at what this option robs us of. Hanging out with the Ogre of Envy is the quickest way NOT to accomplish our goals. Nothing stunts motivation and creativity more than buying into negativity. What’s behind this door can only hold us back. Not to mention that if we stay in the dungeon long enough, we’ll end up looking like the ogre.

Not a good look on anyone. Just sayin’.

Door #2: Be Inspired

This choice may seem hard at first, but using the accomplishments of others as proof that our goals are possible is the only real way to win. The down low on this must do is … it’s the quickest way to be successful AND be happy along the way.

It’s no secret that inspiration opens the doors of possibility and potential. It helps too, if we to take “time” out of the (success) equation. How fast we get to the next milestone isn’t as important as accomplishing the goal to the best of our ability. Always remember: Measuring our progress against others stifles inspiration, and is a sure-fire shortcut to a permanent stay in the ogre’s dungeon. Don’t do it!

Staying Inspired

Being inspired for a few days or weeks is one thing. Staying inspired over the long haul can take serious determination. But it’s always worth the effort. In fact, it’s the best investment you can make in your writing.

One thing that’s worked for me is following authors whose work I admire on Twitter and reading their blogs. Invariably I learn the story behind their journey to publication, and see the truth in the saying: “There is no such thing as an overnight success.”

Ally Carter, author of the Gallagher Girl series, posted a wonderful letter on her blog recently, a letter to herself as a “baby author” circa 2004. It’s a wonderful piece filled with wisdom and inspiration for any writer, no matter where you are on your journey.

Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series, is another inspiration for me. Her web site has a page of frequently asked questions. There, she states that she queried agents for three years straight before landing her agent, and it was another year before she signed her first book contract. On a live Goodreads interview, Meg said she worked at a day-job for ten years before quitting to write full-time. Watch the interview by clicking these links:

When all else fails …

I read a quote from our 16th President that I have pasted on my wall:

Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing. –Abraham Lincoln

What do you do to stay inspired in your writing?

Inquiring minds want to know!