Monday, December 13, 2010

Persistence: Hurdling the Obstacles

Persistence is the thing that truly defines your success. It's also one of the most challenging virtues to follow. Most successful writers I know have come toe to toe with a few hurdles and chose to jump them rather than turn back. Can you imagine some of your favorite authors just deciding to quit because figuring out a way to move ahead was too....hard? So then, why would you consider it?

Recognizing your challenges is your first step toward success.

Here are three of the most common hurdles you'll face in your writer's life and how to get over them.

Hurdle 1: Lack of Confidence

Maybe I'm just not that good is what you'll most likely say right before you give up writing for good, this time. You've written and re-written your work, sent it out, had it rejected, meanwhile months, maybe a year (or more) go by and you're still unagented and unpublished. Welcome to the writer's life, my dears! Sometimes it takes months and years for any real success to flow toward you despite your best efforts. If you've read last week's post with Monica Drake (bestselling author of Clown Girl), you know it takes more than talent to get a book published; it takes the wisdom to pull back your novel/proposal from circulation if it needs more work and the willingness to just keep sending it out no matter the rejections that may come your way - rejection is just part of the writer's landscape.

So if it's really an issue of not being that good, THEN GET GOOD! You've got time! You don't need an MFA to write compelling fiction and you don't need a mega following to write a great nonfiction book proposal (although it will help you attract the attention of a publisher), but you DO need a solid understanding of how to write saleable fiction or nonfiction by doing the following: READ the competition; WRITE as much as you can; RESEARCH what you don't know; CONNECT with other writers; REPEAT. Even after you've found success, repeat.

Hurdle No. 2: Life Unravels
Well, you write what you know and sometimes that page is full of drama. Sometimes it gets the better of you. What I've learned so far is that drama doesn't stop happening, you just have to deal with it and make the best choices you can to move ever forward. When the drama happens, and I mean big drama...heartbreak, illness, death, family upheaval...resist the urge to forever hang up your pen. Give yourself the space you need to process whatever is going on, whatever you're feeling, then come back to your writing. It would be such a shame to give up something you love so much because of a drama overdose. Just give yourself time. More importantly, get the help you need. Time and the right support will get you through the rough spots.

For the minor dramas, remember, sometimes it's your own action or reaction that puts you in that yuk place. If you find yourself always saying Life isn't fair! take a step back and really see what's going on with your life picture. What could you do differently for a more favorable outcome? The world isn't out to get you, so it's not the world's fault. And sure, stuff does happen to you that's not of your making, but you can either react negatively and really wallow in self loathing or toss yuk to the side, look to your horizon and keep pushing forward. It's your choice.

Hurdle No. 3: Fear

Fear puts the brakes on progress quicker than anything clever I can think to write here. Fear of rejection, ridicule, fame, success, loss of creative control (when it comes to mainstream publishing), will stop many writers from moving their work forward when it's finished...and some will never finish, rather they'll keep revising, editing their work to death because they're afraid of the next step. That next step is an event with an unknown result and that's scary territory for many writers. Some of you don't even know it's fear that's keeping you back. You just think it's good old procrastination.

The first thing you can do is recognize your fear and realize this feeling is your response to the possibility of you moving out of your comfort zone, where it's nice and cozy. Then realize progress is growth. You've done a heck of a lot of growing to get to this point, right? Why stop now? Even when you're selling loads of books, you're still going to be pushing yourself to the next level, the next zone because you're progressing, getting better. It's ok to enjoy where you are right now, but be ready to move out when you've outgrown your digs...and look forward to your success!

If you're afraid of failing, of just not getting it right, head to the biography section of your local bookseller or library and start reading the life stories of some of our greatest achievers. You'll see their lives were fraught with failure. Then you'll read about their sweet successes after what seems to be a lifetime of hard knocks. The difference between them and the "failed" writer? They didn't give up! Nothing new here, writers, but it seems to need repeating.

Most successes are a result of trial and error. Do you love writing enough that you will persevere through the rejection, life's greatest dramas, the fear of the unknown? Will you do what it takes to become a better writer? Will you keep your eye on the horizon? Don't quit. Don't give up. Keep moving forward, whatever it takes. Persist!

* I should note, not every writer's life is fraught with rejection and drama. This blog post is intended to help those who have yet to remove the obstacles that have thus far remained in their path.

Your Action: Pinpoint the issue that's keeping you from moving forward. Study it from every angle, put a name on it, get nose to nose with it. Commit to yourself that you're going to address this issue and move forward with your work. The New Year is coming, in the Western world. Time for fresh starts. What will yours look like?

Have a powerful, fruitful, creative week, writers!



  1. The best advice, such as this wonderful post, always ring of common sense. Why is it that common sense is so elusive?

  2. This is another great post, Erin! Definitely things every writer should hear. I'm cross-posting and putting a link on Facebook! Thanks again!

  3. Thanks, Lee and Jill. More often than not, you know the just need to listen.


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