On January 8th, 2019, I sat down to write. Writing, while always an on and off part of my life since my first short stories in fourth grade, had increasingly been feeling more like a calling than a hobby.
I had a few hours to myself at home, which was practically unheard of at the beginning of 2019. Between a busy family and teenager’s schedules, alone time was not something that I often got back then.
I’d planned to spend my evening (that glorious promise of an evening alone with no interruptions) working on a manuscript that I’d started during the summer of 2018. I’d worked on the project on and off since then, halfheartedly adding words during NaNoWriMo 2018 (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place each November), but was losing direction and steam quickly, especially with the other demands of work, momming, and life in general cropping up all the time. I’d barely begun to whisper to myself that I could, in fact, name myself a writer, and I was excited to fill my evening with words.
Yet when I found myself in front of a blank document on my computer, I felt nothing but inadequate. I’d come home from an especially long day at work, and my creative energies felt tapped. I was worried about the weather, because it was freezing rain and my still-somewhat-unexperienced 18 year-old driver had to drive home after work. So even though I’d been looking forward to creative time alone, I couldn’t get into the zone. I gave up, and turned my thoughts to what it takes to be a writer.
I didn’t really know much about the publishing process at the time, so I decided to spend some time digging in, learning about what seemed magical and mysterious at the same time. Almost immediately, I found myself in yet another state of overwhelm. What was a query letter as opposed to a book proposal? How do I go about building a platform? You mean they won’t even look at me unless I have at least 10,000 followers?
While on other days this sense of overwhelm might send me into tears, on this particular January 8th, I didn’t cry. Instead, I allowed a sense of discouragement to permeate my being. This writing gig? It’s hard, and I was in the middle of a hard place, drowning in discouragement and too much information. I felt like this was one particular dream that would always be out of reach.
In the years since that January night, I’ve learned so much more about the process of writing and what it takes to be a writer. I’ve joined some writing associations, and have spent time with fellow writers, digging deep into serving my readers, writing query letters, the editing process, and so much more. And while it’s definitely overwhelming at times, I’ve learned the wisdom of how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
I’ve grown as a writer as well, allowing my “book babies” to be picked apart by writer friends and critique partners, and while it’s not easy, it’s shown me strengths and weaknesses in my writing, and given me the confidence to keep showing up to this writing life.
This year, I have one, big, overarching goal for my writing life: to continue to grow and learn in creativity and the business of writing. What does that look like in practice? Here are a few action steps I’m taking this quarter:
I am working hard and diligently on finishing editing my current manuscript. Editing, in some ways, is even harder than writing the first draft. And it requires a lot more creative energy and brain power. I find that blocking time to work on edits away from distractions is the best option for me, so I’m scheduling “chunk time” to make this happen on a weekly basis. Weekly
I continue to send out a monthly newsletter with insights on curating our own legacy, fun tips or friends to follow, and the occasional short story or poem. Monthly
Attend a writing conference to learn from industry professionals and writers who are ahead of me on the publication journey. Quarterly
I try to read at least one “craft” or writing business book each quarter. My first pick for 2023 is “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue” by James Scott Bell. I’m looking forward to learning more about this part of the writing craft, especially as I edit my current manuscript. Quarterly
In the coming months, I’ll be making a decision on how to proceed with my current manuscript, which will potentially require more research, more stretching, and definitely more learning. If you are a praying person, I covet your prayers as I move ahead with this project.
If you have goals and dreams that feel overwhelming at times, I hope you are encouraged by this post. I still get overwhelmed at times by the many facets of what it takes to write and publish a book in the age of social media, traditional and self publishing, and instant access to information. But the action steps that I’ve put in place over the years have helped me understand the process a lot more. And once the mystery is taken out of it, it’s a lot less discouraging. I’d love to hear what action steps you are taking this month!
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