I’m an unpublished writer. There’s no pay, no glory other than the occasional contest final or win, and there’s no one beating down the door to read my novels (except for my critique partners). But I write. I get sit down in front of a computer screen and type away for hours with no end in sight. I write my stories, submit them to contests, query them to agents and editors, win or lose contests, get rejected. But I persist. I persist despite life happening all around me. I know other writers who persist as well despite the odds.
We are an exceptional breed.
Kelly Stone said that there are research studies performed on writers: we’re motivated high achievers according to the researchers. I say we’re delusional, masochistic, optimistic dreamers. And I believe we’re not the only subset of people, the ones who write and FINISH books, who persist despite the odds.
This blog isn’t just for writers. It is for anyone who wants to accomplish something and has to do so in a vacuum. Or a mini vacuum. You can be a student, an artist, a decorator, a mother (last of the unsung heroes in my opinion), a cancer patient fighting to live and go on–the list goes on.
What makes you move? What wakes you up in the morning and gets you to do what it is you have to do despite the odds?
I’d like to know. Meanwhile, I’d like to share what is working for me as a writer because I think it can apply to any profession, any pursuit of excellence, and any situation that requires focus and stamina.
Once a week, I plan to share how I motivate myself. Why? Because I grew up in a household where I wasn’t encouraged to succeed. If anything, I was encouraged to fail (but that’s a women’s fiction story that I really think would bore most readers–who hasn’t got some dysfunction in their lives, right?). But I managed to put myself through modeling school, get my GED/High school equivalency certificate, study for the SATs on my own and score over 1100 back in the day, go to college and graduate with a 4.0 and at the top of the Dean’s List.
No one did this for me. No one cheered for me. Years later a mom of a friend said to me, “You really did accomplish a lot and you should be very proud.” I appreciate her words so much because up until then I had really just had the attitude that the job had to be done so I did it.
Apparently I am an exception to the rule.
I want to make YOU an exception to the rule.
If you’re a writer, a painter, a mother, a student, a (fill in the blank), then it’s time to embrace your dream and go for it.
Here’s the first tip: make time to perform your duty/seek out your golden grail.
In other words, don’t just talk about doing this wonderful thing you are about to do. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who say to me they are also “going to write a book” when they learn I am an unpublished writer. I can’t tell you how many of them want me to write their love story of pain and loss and victory or just loss. But they’re just talking. They’re not doing.
You can’t do what you want to do if you are only talking about doing it.
You must sit down and do it.
How? You say you don’t have huge chunks of time to do this thing you want to do? I strike down this opposition. You have a half an hour? You have time.
You’d be amazed how much you can accomplish in just half an hour.
Try it. Schedule half an hour a day at least five days a week to perform your thing that you want to do. Or to prepare to do that thing that you want to do. Half an hour. That’s thirty minutes away from Facebook, surfing the Internet (which is how you found this blog), or emailing videos to friends.
You want to go to medical school but haven’t applied? Apply!! You want to paint a picture, but don’t know how? Call a craft store and find out if they have classes. You want to learn to cook like the amazing Julia Child? Take a class, buy the book, start cooking. You want to write (I know you are out there reading this), close down the web server and turn on your word processor. Don’t have a story? An idea? Start writing. You’d be amazed at how quickly the universe opens up for you and sends you a story.
There are no excuses allowed in my world. If I can write through a father-in-law dying of cancer, a husband having hip replacement surgery, health problems and more, then you can do what it is you have to do. When my husband had his hip replacement, I didn’t even force myself to write a half an hour. I told myself to write “every day.” Yes, there were days that I only wrote a sentence or a paragraph, but there were also days where I wrote pages and pages.
I wrote. I finished the book.
What do you want to do? Do you have half an hour to do it? Do you have more than half an hour? Go for it. What is the worst thing that can happen? You fail? You flop? Your writing never gets published? So what? At least you can say you gave it an effort. You’re success is truly in the effort given to the project. All the rest of it? The As, the certificates, the money, the fame (yeah, let’s dream about it), the careers–they’re byproducts of our efforts.
My daughter’s middle school principal told her eighth grade graduating class that their group was the first group he’d seen come through his doors in over seven years that had so much potential. They did. He wasn’t just saying these words year after year. All the teachers, the counselors and the parents knew this group was special. Something was in the water that year. This group was by far one of the most empathetic, giving and supportive wave of students they had walking through the doors. I have my theories about why. They were in the 2nd grade during 9/11 in the DC area. They were in the 3rd grade during the sniper attacks and had to rely on adults to protect them. They had no recess for 6 weeks, they had to practice shelter in place in case of biological warfare attacks. They had to trust their teachers and each other and other parents. They developed a level of empathy in young people I have yet to witness again.
They developed some strong empathy and bonds. And they are a unique group. I know I will many of them become stellar adults in this crazy world we live in today.
But here is what else this principal said. He said “potential without perseverence and persistence is pointless.” Now is the time when you must ask yourself what you are willing to do to get the job done. Develop your potential. Grow. Learn. Apply. Do. You cannot just be a lump of clay. You must become the vessel that hold the water that nourishes the thirsty.
Work for it. Develop your talents. Strive to win.