Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The road to Major Success

It's no secret that I'm not the most confident person, especially with my writing. I go through days/weeks/months where I ask myself what I'm doing, and if I'm just wasting my time chasing a dream that can never be reached, like a donkey chases a carrot on a string. Yesterday was one of those days, I spent the entire day in a slump. I was working on one specific scene that was hard to write, and even harder to edit. (Yes, I'm getting to the point where edits are hard and I don't think I like them anymore. You can laugh.) That, combined with other things, made me shut down. I slammed the lid to my laptop closed and declared myself done for the day, even though I had never really started.

Today started with the same dread that yesterday had. I took my time getting ready this morning. Made the bed extra tight. Went to WalMart. Made lunch. I did everything I could to not write, because I felt like a failure. I look around and see people who are farther along in the writing process than I am, or have recently become agented, or sold books to publishing houses. It's depressing to think that you're being left behind, that you wave at everyone who passes you on the road to Major Success and you're still stuck at the beginning. I tell myself not to think this way, but it's so difficult not to. It's part of who we are, to compare ourselves to others.

I got back from lunch and saw that my husband had sent me a link to this quote:

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through." - Ira Glass

Reading this was exactly what I needed to hear. It's good to see that it's normal self doubts. It's normal to think your work sucks. It's normal to be stressed. It's also normal to quit. Like I said earlier, it's hard for me to see everyone else around me on the road to Major Success while I'm forever stuck at the beginning. But I know I'm not alone. There are thousands of people doing the same thing I am now. Writing. Or trying to, anyway. There are also thousands of people who say, "Yeah I want to write a book," but never do. Wanting to write a book and actually writing a book are two completely different things. While I've only finished one full manuscript, it makes me giddy to think that I fall in the latter category. I may never write another book in my life (though I hope that isn't the case), but to know that I finished one puts me ahead of a lot of other people in the world.

I have a major fear when it comes to my writing. I've let very few people read it so far because I'm scared. I'm scared of failure, I'm scared of rejection, and I'm scared that I'm wasting my time. Then I tell myself, how can doing something you love be wasting your time? How can bettering yourself and honing a craft be wasting your time? Writing isn't always a tangible art, like painting or pottery. But I have to tell myself it is a form of art, and by doing it every day I'll only get better and better.

So a note both to myself and to everyone else out there working on their first (or hundredth) manuscript. Don't quit. Quitting is the easy way out. If everyone quits, then the written word simply dissolves into nothing. Yes you may wave at your friends on the road to Major Success as they pass you, but it probably won't always be that way. The only thing hindering you from joining them is YOU. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep walking. Even if you have to walk the road alone.


  1. I finished my first novel at 18; even THEN I felt behind since I had friends who had written several by that age, and a writer was all I wanted to be. It was all so scary, so easy to make excuses, that it took me five years to write another one or submit the first one anywhere. It is a hard thing to do, so much quiet laboring without knowing where it will go.

  2. Thank you. I really needed to read that today. I'm in the process of writing my first novel and I really wonder what I'm doing sometimes.

  3. That Ira Glass quote is from this video:


    I first discovered this when I really needed it, and watch it everyone once in a while. I like that the message is optimistic, yet realistic. I've been in a real slump in the last couple days, too, and hearing that quote again was really helpful. I'm in a situation where I have to forge ahead after being rejected and realizing my master plan isn't going to happen like I thought it would. I know quitting isn't a possibility, but I still feel really down sometimes, and full of self-doubt. Just have to remind myself that, if I keep working, eventually something great will happen. If I quit, nothing will ever happen, which is worse than rejection.

  4. This is just what I needed today! Sometimes I just feel like I should just quit all the challenging stressful things in my life, but that wouldn't really help anything. Quitting is worse than trying, which is something I often have to tell myself. Keep writing Stephanie!

    Mint Tea and A Good Book

  5. Ahhh, you're a legend! I'm going through this SO often right now x

  6. I believe in you. I also believe that writing is your passion so I know you will keep writing and one day you will be published.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. I really, really needed to read it!

  8. "I look around and see people who are farther along in the writing process than I am, or have recently become agented, or sold books to publishing houses. It's depressing to think that you're being left behind, that you wave at everyone who passes you on the road to Major Success and you're still stuck at the beginning."

    I feel like this every day, constantly swimming in self doubt. Sorry you go through it, yet glad to see I'm not nearly the only one. I have confidence in us though! We can do it!!

  9. Girl, you have a keeper!!

    You are strong, smart and gosh darn it you're pretty. You can write and it will get better. We have faith in you.