In a previous YourVoices post of mine you read about my decision to follow a dream.
"I want to write a book," I shared. And six months later, I did just that. I finished my first ever manuscript, coming in at a little over 340 pages long last month. Phew! But I am not celebrating and have millions of insecurities and doubts…. Why?
Below are a few lessons I have learned on my writing journey:
1. I like to be good at things but I need to know I’m good to venture forward.
Maybe this determination stems from volleyball. In the sixth grade my best friend invited me over to “bump” a volleyball. Pretty soon she and I were passing the ball 40, 50, 60 times back and forth. Before then, I had never touched a volleyball but something inside me fell in love. I made the team in seventh grade and earned the title of MVP in high school. I kept getting better the more I practiced and involved myself. Before I knew it I had a volleyball scholarship when I graduated high school. I even made it to the NCAA Final Four my senior year in college. And then, just like volleyball started, competitive volleyball was over. There was nothing more beyond college that really counted. No NBA, no WNBA, no MLB and no NHL…not even the minors…just recreational leagues and non-officiated tournaments. I would be playing solely for the love of the game.
But just like there are no guarantees for a future in volleyball, there are no promises my book is going to get published. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But I didn’t throw my body on hard volleyball courts digging up balls for nearly twenty years of my life because I knew I was going to play in the Olympics someday. I did it because I genuinely loved the sport. I was eager to get better and was open to learning. And I need to remember that when going after my writing dream. I’m doing this for me and for the love of writing. Nothing more.
2. There is no failure in trying
I read this quote somewhere and have it posted above my desk at work. I have accomplished something huge. Hello, I finished writing 345 pages – the most I have ever typed in my life, but I am unable to let myself enjoy this accomplishment. Why? Maybe because deep down I know I still have so much work ahead of me and I'm not there yet. My next step: editing and revising the entire manuscript. I need to make sure everything flows since starting with chapter one back in May. It’s October now and there have been a lot of interruptions since. The difference between editing 50 pages versus 300 is considerable. And unfortunately there aren’t enough “free” hours in the day to devote to revising all day long. So I start doubting. Am I good enough to do this? Do I have what it takes? Can I be patient enough?
I have two choices: One, I can keep trying and do as much as I can. Two, I can give in. The difference: if I keep trying, there will always be a chance of success.
3. It pays to be nice
I caught up with an old high school friend of mine one day via Facebook. He lives out in Hollywood now and has just received news his very first screenplay is becoming a movie (yeah)! Granted he writes horror films, I knew he would understand how I was feeling about my doubts. He has written a few full and half manuscripts and over 17 screenplays. This is his first big break. He told me he wanted to help me. He wanted to see my dream through.
Why would he want to give me the time of day? His answer: I was nice to him in high school.
I wrote: Luke, I’m spinning out of control. I don’t know how much more I can take. All my free time is going towards this book. But is my writing worthy enough? Will this go somewhere? Am I wasting my time? What he wrote back was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I wanted to share parts of his advice in case any of you self-doubters happen to be in the same boat right now.
First off-- MBA, PHD, freakin' billionaire's son.... no one is "guaranteed" anything, ever. There are only two lifetime guarantees....
1) You were born
2) You will die
Rock solid guarantees. The rest of life is 85% timing, 10% luck, and 5% hard work. I think you've just birthed your first serious undertaking: and like a newborn, it's new, vulnerable, a little stinky, and has A LOT of growing to do... and you're suddenly having doubts about being a new mother. But a mother doesn't abandon her child. And you can't abandon your baby. You've got to now spend time with it, nurturing and shaping it so it can grow up and have the best chance of success out in the world.
The words were exactly what I needed to hear. You never know when you’ll run into someone from your past again. I think it's that timing statistic...with that said, always be on your best behavior!
4. Social Networking is therapeutic and helpful
When I first signed on to Twitter to follow some of my favorite celebrities, I was confused. I didn’t get the point. But now, Twitter is my go-to networking tool. Not only do I get to find out what restaurants in Minneapolis
have the best happy hour specials, but I have been able to become a member of a women's writers critique group all because of my tweets. I share my writing struggles and by doing so I gain followers. Pretty soon a hopeful writer from Brazil asked me if I would participate in a writing group she was starting. Soon our critique group was formed. Two of the women in our group have already published books and have been through the entire process start to finish. So you can imagine how much input they have. We spend every week taking turns proofing one to three chapters of each other’s manuscripts and offering suggestions and edits. This group has opened doors for me and has taught me so much about the writing world.
5. Dreams are meant to be shared
This leaves me with a closing thought…what if I had continued to keep my dream to myself like I had been doing for years? What would have happened? The answer: nothing. Nobody was ever holding me accountable, and I wasn't doing a very good job. What I do know is the more I share, the more I chase after my dream. And that feels good.
Do you have any advice for when the going gets tough?