There are many lessons to be learned with writing. So many trials and tribulations only the school of hard knocks can teach you. Writing is work. It’s also a complete joy, but that doesn’t discount the challenges it brings.
I consistently made a particular mistake for about 19 years. I’ve only truly righted this wrong in the past twelve months. Are you making this same error, too?
You must celebrate the small victories along the way.
Don’t groan and stop reading. This is a small change, with HUGE benefits. It could be the very trick to transform your writing. For the longest time, my definition of success was too narrow:
- Find an agent.
- Publish my novel.
Since 1995, I’ve had literary representation from exactly two agents and my debut novel is being published just this year. Three victories in 7,300 days didn’t leave much room for happiness. Sure, completing books, winning contests and getting paid to write magazine articles were great, and of course I felt proud of them.
However, they were not my ultimate prize of being a published novelist, so they somehow fell short. This limited vision left me with endless disappointment and frustration. It was like emotional anorexia.
You must honor your small steps. Don’t torture yourself unnecessarily like me. Find happiness in the process itself — the humble, but honorable act of putting words onto a page. Don’t be so all or nothing. Either you’re kicking ass and taking names, or you suck.
That’s perfectionism, which is another mask for Fear. It’s abusive and kills creativity.
If you’re doing this, too, please stop. Get a major attitude adjustment. Of course, strive for excellence, but also praise yourself for any movement forward:
You finished that poem. Celebrate!
You pitched a guest post to a major blog. Celebrate!
You’re still lost in plotting your novel, but you’re sticking with it. Celebrate!
Change your mindset. Focus on what your are accomplishing, not on what you are not. There are so many more small moments than big achievements. Savor them.
Inexpensive (or Free) Ways to Celebrate
- Meet a friend for coffee.
- Buy a book.
- Get a pedicure (Don’t be afraid, guys. You’ll love it).
- Buy a new notebook.
- Visit the bookstore to see where your book will some day sit (this is one of my faves).
- Guilt-free time to read, watch TV, surf the internet. Write some more.
- Take a nap.
- Buy another ink cartridge and ream of paper.
- Take a nice stroll somewhere beautiful.
- Sit and enjoy the sunset (or sunrise).
- Buy a new scented candle.
- Buy a new box of pens.
- Drink a smoothie, hot tea, etc.
- Call or email a friend to catch up.
- Journal about how proud you are of yourself.
- Indulge a little — chocolate, wine, etc.
There is nothing earth shattering about any of these activities. You’ve probably done most of these before. The point is to be intentional with honoring yourself. Yes, you’ve been to the coffee shop countless times, but you’re buying this drink because you’ve taken another step in making your dreams come true. It makes it more special, even if no one realizes it but you.
How often should you celebrate? It’s up to you, but once a week to once a month is both reasonable and doable. The bigger the accomplishment – the bigger the celebration.
Years ago, when a friend sold her first novel, she and her husband went out to eat every night for a month (that’s an exaggeration, but she did take a nice, long victory lap). It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, just treat yourself in ways you enjoy and that encourage you to keep going. That said…
Mudpie Writing’s 1st Birthday!
What a difference a year makes!
Twelve months ago, I was still very much a broken writer. My literary agent had quit the biz just months earlier before we tried to sell my novel. Publicly, I put on a brave face, but privately I cried in my Oreos.
Then, I had an epiphany. I’d learned a lot over the past 20 years about the craft, the creative process and publishing. I wanted to start a blog to save others from the mistakes and frustrations I’d suffered along the way. I wanted to build a community where we could battle our creative monsters together. I wanted to connect with other writers and to feel less alone.
Those thoughts gave me hope. It gave my past struggles a deeper purpose.
Mudpie Writing was born on April 14, 2014.
Instead of feeling proud that day, I felt nauseous. I wondered…what the hell have I done? How will I ever find folks who want to talk writing with me?
As I pondered those questions, my phone pinged that evening as I cooked my family dinner.
MPW had its first email — Meet your new subscriber!
I still have no idea how Angela from Ohio found me, but I’m forever grateful.
One year later, we are a 1,000 members strong. In internet terms, it’s nothing, but to me, it’s definitely something.
My Free Gift to You
My weekly critique group will toast Mudpie Writing with Godiva chocolate, but I also want to include you in my joy and to say thanks. Some of you have seen this on my website, but most have not and I want you all to utilize it more.
Visit The Whinery.
The Whinery is a fun way to blow off steam when you’re frustrated with your writing. It’s fast, it’s free and best of all, it works. The Whinery is a private process that helps you push beyond the negativity, then get back to work. I created it just for you (go there to see what I mean).
Remember, The Whinery is open 24 hours a day. (Side note, I know I need to figure out how to take down the Landing Page so once you’ve signed up for MPW, you can access my website anytime. Until then, type marcymckay.com/whinery to get there). Better yet, bookmark it on your computer.
I hope you enjoy The Whinery. Thank you again for making Mudpie Writing so special.