Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 on my run this week, when my headphones switched from the flute trills of McCarney and Wing’s Live and Let Die to the raucous sound of Immigrant Song (Zeppelin), I was hit with both a rush of endorphins and a revelation about writing.
Or maybe it was the beginnings of heat stroke (this IS summer in Phoenix, after all).
My answer? I haven’t.
Because somewhere after doing Ironman Arizona last November I did something unpleasant to my arm and can’t swim until I can find someone willing to figure it out and fix it. I am months into that journey, getting nowhere fast. It’s hard to do triathlons without that swim part of the race.
Uhm- so how is that like writing, again? Exactly?
Well, I’m getting there. Historically, every time I got injured (and there have been more times than I care to discuss), I didn’t sign-up for more races. I’d sit around and wait for the doctor, then the physical therapist, or surgery. Why waste money on non-refundable race entries, when I didn’t know if I could race again?
The cycle has repeated itself often enough, that for a long time, I stopped signing up at all.
Because I complained that I’d just get out, start training again, then get hurt again. A non-ending cycle. Depressing, at best. I stopped believing I could do anything.
I realized this past week that even after finishing an Ironman race last year- a huge accomplishment for me- that I fell quickly back into the self-doubt mode with a single set-back.
And THIS is where it fits into writing.
An athlete (even a weekend warrior like me) in no small part identifies their lives, sometimes their whole being, with their sport. When forced to rest for weeks or months due to injury, it can impact their psychology, including depression, poor sleep, lack of motivation, and feelings of isolation.
THIS is the same as writers that have spent countless months, and sometimes years, creating a manuscript, to be faced over and over with rejection from agents. Many writers focus only on that one active manuscript: querying, waiting, getting rejection, querying again. The rejections hit hard, over and over. Writers can feel isolated, depressed. Worse- they may see posts from other writers getting contracts for representation. Depressing!
They don’t sign-up for that next “race” (conferences, pitch events, or starting the next manuscript). Isolation and depression can set in.
I’ve posted (here) about a recent study I conducted on negative social media in the writing community. It’s easy to get lost in the “I’ll never get published” and “I suck as a writer” posts. It’s easy to start embracing the negative rhetoric as if it, somehow, defines you, as a writer.
Unless you let it.
Writing is a business. Sure, it comes from our inner artist, our deepest feelings, our imaginations. And because of that, our business requires of us to essentially bare our souls, only to risk public exposure and all that comes with it. But in the end, it is a business. Get your manuscript polished, edited, polished again. Get the critique partners. Get the queries out. Get into pitch contests. Keep that cycle going. And while that’s going on….
Start your next project. Pick out a goal. Find your next race.
- Will you be doing NaNoWrimo? Well, start trying to get together your thoughts on what your genre is, what is your “What if?” (Lisa Cron’s Story Genius is an awesome resource! I’m using it to fix my last MS).
- Are you going to target PitchWars 2018, 2019? Put down a timeline between now and then.
- Going to a conference to pitch in person? Start practicing, honing your pitch. Tape yourself, listen, and fix the pitch yeah- it IS embarrassing the first several times, but you’ll get over it).
Just DO something other than sit back and worry, fret, complain about rejections. Sure, vent. We are all here to help each other vent and share the frustration of this rough path we have chosen for our art. Let the writing community help you get back on your feet. But then roll up your sleeves and dedicate yourself to the NEXT target.
Me? I am signing up tonight for my next race. I’ll figure out something without any swimming. And I am starting to outline my next manuscript, because my existing MS has had a few passes, including one very close call that was ultimately rejected. I have vented about it. Opined about what I need to do to fix the MS.
And now….I need to move on.
Find my next race.
What will be your next race?