Last weekend I attended a writers conference. My favorite class was not about the writing craft, or marketing, or platforms, or press releases, etc. It was called,
“I’ve achieved my dreams, so why am I so miserable?”
It was very opportune for me, and kind of changed my way of thinking. The reason is because I sat in this advanced class where so many people on many different levels in the writing and publishing journey, had many of the same feelings as I.
I’ve decided that the finish line of being an author or artist or musician is not actually a finish line, but a horizon that we chase.
The instructor gave each one of us a balloon and a marker. (By the way, my anticipation of balloons popping, made me sit on the edge of my seat. I used to work at a flower shop and would cringe whenever I had to blow up balloons. The inevitable popped balloon would scare the crap outta me!) Anyway, she made each one of us write expectations that were never met or failed perceptions.
Here were some of the shared answers from mostly published authors:
No awards, no recognition, hard to get reviews, bad reviews, no support from family, people telling them to stop and get a real job, marketing, dismal book sales, poor contracts, over-saturated market, not another book contract after their book sold with a big publisher, etc. Oh, the list went on and on and the balloons became graffitied with words and I sunk in my chair, not caring if all the balloons popped at once.
We spent half the class discussing each of these so called notions. The authors opened up and there was no pride, no competition — only people.
The instructor compared the creative journey to a roller coaster. But because I am a mountain climber, I want to compare it to peaks and valleys.
We don’t strap our butts into a cart with wheels and go for a loopty-loop ride — we work, we climb, we hike.
It’s always an uphill battle. Sometimes through mud, forging rivers, and bouldering on hands and knees. But we keep moving against the voice that says it’s too hard. When we finally fight through and reach the summit, the clouds part and the view opens before us.
Now, here… here you are faced with a decision. Before you stands endless more mountains. Some, from this vista, seem small. But some summits are taller than the one that just about did you in.
YOU ARE HERE
(Photo found on theultralinx.com)
What do you do?
Do you sink to your knees in defeat? Or do you enjoy the view?
I can honestly say that while climbing actual physical mountains, rain or shine, I have smiled throughout the entire journey and when I reach the summit, I want to continue to the next.
Why is it that my metaphor is so hard when it comes to writing?
I feel like I have summited a mountain by getting my debut novel published and a novella coming out within the next couple weeks. Now, the view before me seems daunting and it changed. I didn’t want it to change. I seriously thought the years of revising, the editing, and the critique was the hard part. But for me and many other authors, it is all the issues that were written upon the balloons that I listed above.
The thing is, the journey of writing is worth it to me. I am learning to enjoy this next process and I had to let so many things go.
Here are a few things that I’ve realized and have helped me.
** Get rid of the illusion of perfection and failure. Listening to all of the other authors made me realize that we all have these same thoughts no matter what summit or valley you are standing on.
** Tell your muse to come at a better time. I used to write whenever the muse attacked me, even if it meant time away from family. Now, I am more strict when I will listen to it. I ask myself if I am doing something or with people that are more important than my itchy fingers. Because in reality, nothing is more important than relationships with those that I love.
** Get rid of crisis management and stick to a schedule. I have to relearn this over and over again. I promise, a schedule works for a writer, and depending on how much time you can and want to give it, it can morph with your responsibilities and demands of everyday life.
** Balance. This changes all of the time. For example, last month I was knee deep in soccer practices, football practices, book deadlines, jobs, music lessons, etc. It was almost hard to breath. This month sports are over, deadlines are past, and now I have more time to spend on writing. It is the give and take, the moving things around, while still maintaining control.
** Don’t compare. That was what I learned most from sitting in the room with the other authors. I think comparing makes us depressed and frustrated at our own horizons and views that we should be enjoying. The thing we need to realize is that everyone is standing someplace different than you on their climb to the summit or their descent to the valley.
At the end of the class the instructor had us all pop our balloons. Everything we wrote on those balloons are illusions. The reality is YOU ARE HERE, in this ever changing journey, so enjoy it.
Have a good day,