Merry Christmas to all!
Less than a week away now, and I can’t wait to see Mr 4 and Mr 6 opening their presents (Mr 6 always reads the card first), running around with their cousins, jumping in the pool, and then my favourite bit – when they crash out at the end of the day and we all get some rest.
Christmas is busy. Whether with a family or not, it’s usually a period in which we don’t get much time to actually write. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excuse not to take the chances we do get, but it’s an acknowledgement that if maybe we don’t do as much as we would like – that’s ok.
Becausevmost writers I know – even the really successful ones – have an almost complete inability to cut themselves any slack. No matter what they do, they feel they could have done more, or done something better.
I get it. I do the same. As much as I love seeing my kids bursting with joy this time of year, I almost instinctively go back to the mindset of ‘Another year gone, and nothing published. I didn’t even submit. Am I even a writer? What a waste of a year”. Unfortunately, I know I’m not alone in these kinds of thoughts.
Maybe you feel you’ve had a good year, and maybe all your hard work has paid off and you do have a deal, or a published book, or an agent. Congratulations if this is the case! Its a tough business, and you’ve had a major success. Enjoy it!
If you haven’t though, it can be a horrible feeling to spiral around the list of things not achieved. The problem is that the list in non-exhaustive. No matter how ridiculous, there will always be more to add to that list, from not submitted to haven’t flown a helicopter, climbed Mt Everest (or even Mt Coolum), or run a marathon. The list of things we haven’t done is infinately long, and it does nothing for our mental health, our self worth, or our confidence as writers to focus on it.
So the longwinded point of all this is to encourage you to do the opposite. Make a list of what you have done. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Did you get ANY words down? Did you edit a manuscript and manage to cull some words (sometimes harder than increasing the word count)?
Did you meet another writer? Did you encourage another writer?
This is by no means exhaustive. But even if the only thing you did was think of the most basic idea, it’s a step forward. You cannot delete an idea, you cannot erase experience. It is still a step forward. All you need it to keep going, and success WILL eventually follow.
As an example, here’s my list;
- Joined a new writers group, Words@Play (if you’re on the Sunshine Coast, come check it out at Foxy’s!)
- Started Master of Letters
- Became an Aurealis judge
- Finished a first draft of Bardling (working title)
- Saw Mr 6 go from tears because ‘he didn’t have an imagination’ to a class award for creativity
- Joined Twitter and got involved with with the writing community
- Started (another) website
- Made people cry (with a short story – not just randomly making them cry)
- Entered three short story competitions.
Nothing on this list is overly difficult or amazing. Nothing guarentees success or validates any level of skill. I didn’t win anything and some could be seen as self indulgent. Number 5 isn’t even my achievement. But reading that makes me feel pretty good about my year. Maybe I didn’t get a kick-ass agent, or a bestseller, or the instant fame that would allow me write full time (that’s the dream), but I did experience these small positives that I can build on, and they are infinately better that trashing myself because of what I haven’t done.
Also, by adopting a positive mindset, I am encouraged to keep going. Maybe I didn’t submit this year. But by continuing forward, I give myself a much greater chance of doing so next year, rather than talking myself into giving up.
The other thing about a positive mindset is that it can be contagious. Not everyone can simply change their perspective at the drop of a hat. As a community, these are people we need to remain positive for. I’m not an expert in this field, but I do believe that provided it’s tempered with empathy and understanding, a positive outlook can spread like wildfire, and can only be beneficial to the community as a whole.
Merry Christmas for next week.