The Journey to Publication, Writing

Personal Cheerleaders

You’d have to be a fool not to recognize that life is full of ups and downs – it’s so well-known, it’s practically cliché. Writing is the same way. Sometimes you’re hot, following your muse, an idea, whatever it is and writing up a storm. And other times, well, those other times you wonder if you’re just a hack, a pretender, you were a fool to ever think you could write, etc, etc.

Just like the rest of life, the ups and downs of writing are an emotional rollercoaster that leads you where it will, how it will. It’s up to you to find ways to deal with the down portions, and not give up. Something I find useful are personal cheerleaders.

Who are these people? They can be a lot of people, but in a truly low point, they’re your heroes who provide perspective, cheer, and hope. Think about when you were at a low point in life. How did you get out of it? Who was there? Who did you turn to for comfort? Maybe it’s your mom. Maybe it’s a friend or spouse. They are your personal cheerleader. Use them to help you feel better – they’ll want to help!

I have a very dear friend who isn’t a writer, and in many ways has a very different life than me. It’s been some time since she even looked at my writing, and she currently lives over a 1000km away. But she’s always there to lend a kind word, to offer suggestions I might not have thought of, or simply commiserate whether via email or phone. A conversation with her always makes me feel energized and more alive somehow, and I always hope in some small way I can return the favor.

Can’t think of a cheerleader of your own? I’m sure you do have your own cheer squad, you only need to recognize them. Or, even if you have a veritable platoon, it never hurts to store up resources. So, where can you find your very own cheerleaders?

  • Look close to home first. Literally or figuratively, what I mean is look for those who cheer you up whenever you’re down anyway. Again, this may be family or friends. They may be identified by the fact that just talking to them energizes you or can make your day.
  • Look a bit further out. Maybe there’s someone you don’t contact frequently, possibly an acquaintance or co-worker, but like the familial cheerleaders, this person makes you feel good when you talk to them. Maybe you should think about recruiting them, or just making time for coffee and a chat, even an email.
  • Look professionally. Especially for writers, this may be someone who you’re in contact with professionally who helps provide perspective. Maybe it’s not just your work that’s slow in selling, but the market. If there are problems, how can they be solved, and what directions should you look to? Instead of pointless negativity, get to work with constructive criticism.
  • Look to your elders. Perspective often helps us all, and who better to provide it than someone who’s been there, done that. For writers, this may not necessarily be someone who’s older than you in years, but merely in experience of the market. Chances are good they – or someone they know – has been where you are, and they can help provide perspective about what’s really worth worrying about, and what’s just a typical writer mini-meltdown.
  • Look abroad. Finally, look a bit further abroad for cheerleaders. The internet has made this much easier for many of us – especially those who aren’t in major urban centers. Find like-minded folks or join writers groups online, especially those with a on focus encouragement and positivity. Sometimes a quick post to them gets floods of positive energy back, even from hundreds of miles away.

So, found your cheerleader yet? Keep looking until you do – these folks are priceless. Please, tell me about your cheerleader, how you found them, or why you need to keep looking.

The Journey to Publication

Staying Positive and Persevering: Goal-setting for a New Year (Part 1)

Another year has come and gone, which happens faster and faster all the time it seems. As you reflect back on 2010, on what you’ve accomplished and what goals you want to set for 2011, it can be easy to get mired in what you haven’t done / seen / accomplished rather than on what you have.

I’m here to help avoid all that nonsense in a two-part blog on reflecting back on the past year, and getting ready for the new one.

All right. First off, where are those resolutions you set way back last January? Did you write them down? Here’s a basic in any kind of goal-setting: write your goals down. Sure, some folks suggest you need to share your goals with others, be open about it, perhaps post publically, etc, etc. I don’t go that far. I just figure it helps if you write them down (more reliable than your memory too – and far less selective).  That way, you have something you can actually look back on. So, look back at those old resolutions / goals. Gleefully check off any you have achieved – yay for you! Here’s the dangerous part: it can be really easy to see lots you haven’t achieved just yet. There are some which quite possibly still can’t be checked off, even if they’ve been there more than one year. Let those pass for the moment, and try not to let it eat you up – we’ll get back to them, I promise.

Okay, so you’ve checked off all that you’ve achieved, had a bit of a celebration if you’ve checked off plenty. Congrats! Now it’s time to test your memory – and your positive attitude. Now you need to consider: what have I accomplished this year which isn’t on the list? For example, did you set the goal to complete one entirely new manuscript this year, but you actually wrote two? Just because they weren’t on the original list doesn’t mean they’re not important. Look over those additional accomplishments and add them onto your list, giving yourself a few more “checkmarks” for achievement (and a bit more celebration – yay!).

I know. Staying positive at this point can be hard (just like thinking of what you’ve achieved when you can only see what you haven’t). There are still those special goals which remain unattained. Take heart. Have you made steps towards them? Was it possibly too big of a goal for just this year, or dependent on many more factors than you can control yourself? If this is still an important goal for you, can you think of what possibly held you back? And in just the same objective light, what has brought you forward from where you were last year? What steps towards achieving the larger goal have you achieved? How many new words have you written this year? Have you made contacts which will help you next year? Have you learned new marketing or writing strategies which could help you market your writing and your author brand? What do you know and have you done that brings you closer to your end or larger goals than you were last year?

Finally, pull back and consider the year and your goals objectively – as though you were someone else, either stranger or friend. Did you achieve every goal? Maybe not. But were there some great achievements? Have you made progress towards long-term goals? If it’s not good enough, why? Who says? How could things have been different? It’s very easy to say “I should have done this, this, and this” but at the time, were there other more pressing concerns? Are there legitimate reasons for why goals weren’t achieved? How will things be different next year? What different steps can you take? What goals could you set and achieve?

Enough reflection on the past year. It’s over, it’s done. Accept “it is as it is” without rancor or guilt, be proud of what you have accomplished, and move on. It’s a new year already – a new year full of possibility. Next week: setting goals for next year.