Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pity Party = Fail.

Okay, by way of many blog hops I bring you the best thing I've seen in a long time.
"The time between when you are no longer a beginner but you are not yet in the business is the hardest ... and one of the biggest frustrations is: no one can tell you how long this phase will last."
-Sara Zarr

I feel like one of these people.
(because that quote reads out to me like a freaky-accurate fortune cookie)
(and because I want to scream something like YES! or AMEN! or YOU SAID IT SISTER!...only she's not my sister at all....soooo *crickets churping*  <-- potential awkward moment)
After I read this quote (by the fabulous Sara Zarr) via Candy Gourlay at Notes from the Slushpile,
something changed. I'd highly recommend the post that goes along with it to every single writer out there. (Click on keyword: slushpile above to read the full article or wait and there will be another link later at the end of this post)

A couple days ago, I got really frustrated with myself. Why couldn't I organize my time better? Why can't I be a better writer? Why is this taking. so. freaking. long? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? I had a very quiet and very sad attempt at a pity party. It was neither fun, nor hoppin'. One absolute thought came from this moment and it was ugly.

"I'm never going to be any good."

"Whoa!" I said to myself. "How about you pull out that binder you keep in your desk of the first copy of your manuscript. How about that you little moper?"
Mean Me shakes head.
"Pull. It. Out."
I pull it out and start reading...then laughing and then crying. Geez, it was atrocious and I thought it was good. I have changed and I have gotten better. The problem with thinking what I did, is "good" is an undefinable term. I could think the same thing when I've published 50 books and none have gotten "Harry Potter" recognition. Our goal shouldn't be "to be good." It should be "to get better."

Imagine if I thought instead: "I'm never going to make any progress." Then I know there's something wrong with my method. That's something I can fix. No matter what you like to do, you're going to be making progress if you keep working at it. As soon as I start looking at my "old stuff" I could see the change.  
Change = Progress = Success. 

I might be a little (or a lot) frustrated that I'm taking longer than I thought I would, but that doesn't mean I'm a hamster in a wheel. Back to the awesome quote at the beginning of the post: "The time between when you are no longer a beginner but you are not yet in the business is the hardest ... and one of the biggest frustrations is: no one can tell you how long this phase will last." No one can say how long this phase is going to last. That is sooo true. So why am I being so impatient with myself? *shrug* The answer: I shouldn't be.

Here's my challenge for you: Pull out your oldest thing and compare it to what you're working on now. Look for the progress you've made and then pat yourself on the back (total future teacher moment here). Now tell yourself good job. That's right. Now read the rest of that blog post here, and pull yourself out of your pity party. No one likes a pity party, it's like being told it's your turn to clean the toilet without a pair of gloves and only a toothbrush. Yeah, go have fun with that.

Does the quote "speak" to you? Have you been having a pity party? Is it over yet?  Let me know in the comments!

Note: Did not mean for this to sound preachy and my deepest apologies if it did.


Amie B said...

oh bethany - this post totally hit home with me! i'm definitely "getting better" and that IS GOOD! but i keep waiting for that magic moment when i go from beginning writer to published author. i'm afraid i'll be stuck in the "in-between" for eternity....

Carolyn V. said...

Totally! I feel like I'm right there at that point. I just wish things would hurry along, but they take time. Stinkin' time!

Jennifer said...

I had my pity party for months last year, and it wasn't just about writing. Now that I'm back to working on my WIP, I know I'm getting better but I still laugh at how hokey some of my writing is. I think the key for me is to keep learning. As long as I am learning new tips and applying those to my current project (and filing them away for the next one) I feel somewhat successful. No, I'm not a beginner, but I'm no where near pub ready yet, either. I have to strive to better myself, and that's good enough for now.

Meredith said...

I totally have pity party moments--thank you so much for this post! I need to focus on getting better, because I know I am. Thanks for the inspiration!

Bethany Robison said...

Very cool quote, thanks to linking to that post. I have a friend who went to SCBWI NY, I'll have to ask her about it. We were supposed to have our meeting tonight... but... um... Blizzaster 2011 closed all the roads.

Also, excellent point about looking at old stuff to see growth, and how getting better is the whole point. That is so true, and so easy to forget.

Julie said...

I love to go back and read my old stuff to see how much I've improved. It really helps! But I think what helps the most is that my family used to encourage me to go forth with my writing because they thought I was 'good' back when I reeeeaaaallly wasn't.
For them to have that faith in me means a lot.
Thanks for the post!

Aubrie said...

You are a great writer! You can send me the newest version of your novel if you want! I have time to re read it!

Stephanie said...

I don't think anyone will ever stop growing and learning....even after you get that publishing contract, you keep learning. Keep making your work better.

I've had bad days...really bad days...and I did throw myself a pity party. But I managed to get back to it...renewed energy and drive. I was determined to make it better.

Only the ones who give up never succeed.

Patti said...

This is funny, because I was having a pity party last night, but Stephanie's right, the ones who give up never succeed.

Carla said...

I do this sometimes...I still remember when I wondered why I didn't even get a rejection letter...and then I read the manuscript and cringe! Yes, at the time I thought it was good too! Nice post!


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I heart you so much right now! I'm sure you've noticed from my posts lately that I've been feeling a bit like that myself. Thanks for the perspective, Bethany!

buddeshepherd said...

Just think, if you were to give up your writing you might end up being a grumpy old (almost old) farmer like myself...

AA said...

you're a great writer...and all writers go through this point. F Scott Fitzgerald was one of the most criticized authors of all time yet he was able to create "the great gatsby" (one of my favorite books of all time), which is now a great classic.
everyone gets through that...but i think the adversities and the struggles an author feels is the only way they can improve.
keep writing!


p.s: THANK YOU SO MUCH for helping me on the layout.
thank youuuuu!

Stacy Henrie said...

Such a great post! That quote really resonated with me and where I am in my journey. Thanks for sharing this, Bethany, and for the reminder to look at the progress made even while we wait (and wait and wait) for the visible success.