Who’s Going to Stop You?

Real talk, guys: writing is hard. Finishing a WIP is hard. Editing is hard. And even if drafting is a breeze for some of us, chiseling the masterpiece into perfect detail can be a Herculian challenge that leaves even the most stalwart writer weeping into his or her coffee/tea/beverage of choice.

Sometimes, I want to give up. And I guess in the past I always have, because I have an entire flashdrive full of WIPs anywhere from, I’d say, 40%-90% complete and ready to be sent to agents. But something always stops me from reaching that 100% I so desperately desire.

I’ve finally realized that that pesky “something” is a little fiend called ME.

Since I’ve decided to be transparent, I figure I might as well go all the way. See, I have this tendency to get about halfway through a WIP, whether a standalone or series, and that’s about the point where I realize it has some pretty glaring errors. This is usually a result of learning more about my craft as time goes on. Once I hit that slump of a halfway point, my default reaction is that – rather than trying to fix what’s wrong with the current WIP based on what I’ve learned – I rush the project, shelve it, and decide not to work on it again. Instead, I move on to writing the next thing with all my newly-accumulated knowledge, telling myself that this time, I’ll write the perfect draft. Then I get halfway through it and, oh, oops, there’s a new lesson…better start something new and incorporate it there…

Rinse. Repeat.

I am sabotaging myself.

I once heard the saying that “The only thing that separates writers from authors is that the authors didn’t give up.” How true is that? Each day, a writer has a choice: keep working through the valleys, or abandon the project. Persevere, or start on something else. Sometimes the answer is an easy, resounding “YES!” Other times it’s a groaned “I guess” through a mouthful of double-espresso as we tiredly, distractedly clack out a hundred torturous words for the day. And sometimes, we really want to say “No. I’m done.” Sometimes we are done, and that project goes away and collects dust on our hard drive, never to be given the time of day again.

The entire writing process is daunting. Staring at the next blank page ready to be filled with words can be completely overwhelming at times. The editing process often seems like an endless road, and even when you’re past that…there’s the querying, and the waiting, and the letdowns, and the polishing, and the trying-again. Publication (if you go the traditional route) resonates like an unattainable dream withheld for only the select few “lucky ones”. And there’s always a hoard of “well-meaning” people ready to reinforce that reality, in case you forget it and start to have stars in your eyes.

But here’s the thing. Those people can’t stop you. I mean, sure, maybe they could tie your hands behind your back and lock you away from your computer. But come on, guys, we’re all writers here…we know that would be more of a temporary inconvenience than a true deterrent. When it comes down to it, the only thing that can actually stop us from succeeding as published authors is ourselves.

That’s what truly stops us: when we give in to our doubts. When we decide it’s too hard. When we no longer push through the difficult parts. When let fear’s harsh cry drown out the glorious whisper of that dream that started us down that road in the first place.

Today, I encourage you to never stop yourself.

You may have to fight harder for publication than some other writers do. You may have to wade through a sea of rejection letters and corrections before your draft is picked up by an agent or a publisher. You may even have to resort to indie or self-publishing. That’s okay. Don’t look around at other writers’ journeys and wonder why they can’t be yours. The only road you can walk is your own, and you have to decide every day whether you’ll continue on it, potholes and all, or stray from the path. But the only thing that can ultimately stop you is yourself…and, really, how powerful is that? If you decide to persevere no matter what comes in your way, you will succeed. It may take time, it may take heaps more effort than you envisioned, it may mean sacrificing sleep and social functions and Netflix binges…but someday, if you choose not to give up no matter what, you will achieve your dream.

This week, I encourage you not to give up. Don’t let anyone else’s negativity or their horror stories about publishing bring you down. Hang in there and keep chasing…and decide every day that you will not let anyone or anything stop your dream.

And by “anyone or anything”…I mean you.

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