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…
- Succumb to the Ogre of Envy and plummet into the Dungeon of Despair.
- 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!
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!
Paulina Czarnecki said:
Great advice. 🙂 A quote I like actually comes from a Pitbull rap… “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them at least you’re on top of the world.” One of the better things Pitbull has said. 😀
Elizabeth Fais said:
I like that quote! “On top of the world” is a great place to be, even if you don’t grab the star. 😀
Ellen Gregory said:
I think you nail it with “take time out of the success equation”. Everybody’s journey is different — even though it can be hard to keep plugging away without any reward. The longer it takes, the more resolute one needs to be.
This choice — envy versus inspiration — is certainly one every creative type faces on the path to achieving dreams. I know I struggle with it — and oscillate wildly 🙂 But you make good points!
Elizabeth Fais said:
It’s only human to feel that pang of envy when someone else succeeds in a way you’ve been struggling toward. The choice we have is to not to latch onto that feeling, to instead be happy for the other person and let their example fuel our resolution to keep going. What goes around, comes around. And being happy for others, brings happiness back. And it’s the positive that keeps me going. You are so right. Everyone’s journey is different.
I think you really have hit some important points here. My writing is more academic, but the same sort of idea applies. When you see that someone else has written about the idea you wanted to write about, it is natural to think you’ve been “scooped” and feel bad. But, after that initial reaction, I always feel a bit of relief, “Oh, good–someone else took care of that idea; now I can go off and pursue all the other great ideas that are out there.” There are always new opportunities, and using other writers’ successes as a boost for your own is a wonderfully positive way to get through the world. Thanks for putting this out there!
Elizabeth Fais said:
You hit the nail on the head. There is “enough” for everyone. Enough creative ideas, enough success, enough whatever. And supporting and being happy for each other’s successes opens the doors for “more”. It’s funny how that works. It’s like a law of nature or something. 🙂