Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Make the Commitment

Isn't this a beautiful picture? It's by Caroline Bochud and it makes me long to grab my notebook, my dog, my hat, and travel to a nice, calming spot by the river. Or a still lake. Maybe in Italy. Or England. I'll take either.

One thing I like about this painting is that this lady looks committed to whatever it is she's writing.

And even though it's not the most direct correlation to what I want to talk about - commitment - it works.

If you're struggling on the road to publication, I want you to ask yourself a question: are you committed to your writing?

It's a hard question for some. It was a hard question for me for many years. Why?

Because while I was in love with the idea of writing, while I devoured writing books and talked about writing on message boards, etc., and read lots and lots of "finding time to write" articles, I wasn't really writing a whole lot. Oh, I churned out a novel and edited and reedited it over the course of (gulp) five years. I wrote a few short stories that got published. But it wasn't a nose-to-the-grindstone, Larry the Cable guy "get 'er done" type commitment. It was half-hearted. It was "I'll write... when I have time...when I have the energy...when the kids are all in bed...when I feel like it...when I earn the graduate degree in a few months...when I get a fulltime job."

Sound familiar? Sure it does. We've all had those thoughts at one time or another. But have they gotten in the way of "getting it done?" Now, if "getting it done" is finishing a novel or short story and putting it away in your desk drawer while you start another one, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you're a writer, you write. It doesn't necessarily mean that you get published or even want to get published. The process of writing may be enough for you and I completely understand - there is a magic to writing that is hard to describe.

But... for all those writers out there whose ultimate goal is to be published, you have to have a commitment to the writing, to "getting it done."

Two years ago, before I started my current job, I was stuck. I was working on a novel, the same novel that I'd been working on for years - ever since the birth of my child - and I had revised it over and over again. I refused to let it go until it was perfect. Well, after several rounds of sending it off to the agents - of requests for fulls, requests for revisions, it ultimately got rejected. And thanks largely to the butt-kicking of my dear friend Rene, I put it away and worked to finish my next novel.

But there was something different this time. I completed that novel in a year. Compared to the last novel, it was like writing with lightning. What was it that made this time different?

I finally committed to "getting it done." I didn't want to endlessly polish one manuscript forever and ever, I didn't want to just write and put my stuff in a drawer - I wanted to be published. I still want to be published. That is my ultimate goal. And that decision, the decision to commit, changed my writing life.

I don't make excuses any more. I don't endlessly patrol the internet for articles on how to beat procrastination and writer's block (even though those are both completely valid topics that I have experienced numerous times), I don't belong to message boards where I find myself involved in flame wars instead of writing, and I cut out the stuff in my life that took away from my writing.

Will I ever be published in novel-length fiction? I am confident of it. And my confidence has only grown in the past two years.

I made the commitment and it takes a lot of hard work and tough love on myself to keep that commitment. But it's what I want. It's what I've wanted ever since I was a sixth-grader typing madly on my mother's manual typewriter on lined notebook paper. Will it all be flowers and chocolate once I'm published? I'm pretty sure it won't. But I still want it. And that's why I've made the commitment to it.

What about you?


  1. Boy, you really are on a roll with the good posts.

    My commitment wavers as you know. How many times do I tell you I've quit writing? Then boom, I'm back at it. I'd like to be more committed and less reliant on motivation.

    You typed on notebook paper? My mom would have choked me if I put notebook paper in her typewriter.

  2. Since 2006 I've become fully committed too - the weirdest change I'm noticing is that although my ultimate goal is still to be published, I'm not as desperate.

    I've now become committed to the whole writing process, rather than just the end result - I know that one day I'll get there, but not until the time is *right* for me. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy every minute of the writing process.

    Sue :-)

  3. Rene - Motivation is the kicker. And believe me, there are days I succumb to the pull of the couch and a good book over the writing.

    Sue - exactly. Enjoy the writing process and wait when that time is "right" for you - it's different for us all. You have the right attitude, girl!!! :)

  4. Melissa, this is a powerful post, and just the kick I needed to shift into high gear. Thank you for this exceptionally timely reminder. I'm off to write.


  5. Amy - I'm so glad it was helpful! Sometimes I need to reaffirm my commitment to myself and my blog is the perfect place to do that - nice and public! ;-)

  6. Yep, this was me for a while. My big issue was that if it didn't sound like Jane Austen as it rolled off my pen, I thought I was horrible and would throw it out. The concept of rewriting didn't occur to me, I guess! Then, after I had my (2nd) daughter I resolved to get a novel done that year no matter what! The rewrites are taking a little longer than I'd like, but I've resolved to actually plan out the plot of the next novel beforehand. ;)

    I really feel like last year I made the jump from wannabe writer to actual writer, even though I'm not published yet. :)

  7. THIS was an excellent post. The whole make a commitment to your writing. I've really done that the last few years. It does make a big difference. No, I'm not published yet. But I'm committed to really REALLY trying. Not just walk the walk and talk the talk. Great post.

  8. Robin - It's making those small goals - like resolving to get a novel finished after your daughter was born - that help keep us committed. And yes - you're still a writer even though you're not yet published. IMO, you don't need to be published to be validated as a writer. :-)

    Kacey - It does make a difference, doesn't it? When we make that commitment, things change - priorities change, the way we look at life changes, and our writing definitely changes. :-)

  9. One piece of advice I've always held onto was from me mate, Shirley. She said get the synopsis and the first 3 chapters polished until they shine and get the partial out working while you start the next brand new project (this is because I have so many ideas at once). Then, she said, if someone asks for a full, you work on that, polish it till it shines, send it off, and pick up something else while you wait. And so on. Not brilliant for someone who needs to finish one job before starting the next, but a good way to see what's of interest out there and what people would be interested in considering.

  10. I'm committed. Which is why I'm actually considering cutting my blogging/commenting down to once a week. Or twice at the most. We've so many outside things going on right now that I can't drop, so I think the blogosphere is going to have to be it - that way I can seriously work on my writing. Hopefully once we're in the house, I'll be able to blog more frequently again.

  11. I've always wanted to be a writer, to be published, but I can't honestly say I was dedicated and committed to my writing until about 4-5 years ago when I made the decision to give it top priority. Since then, I've never looked back and I've never been happier.

  12. Diane - if that system works for you, all the better! I find that I have to have to at least be editing the rest of the manuscript while I start working on the next novel.

    Tess - Blogging can be another time waster, that's for sure, but since I've cut out lots of other things, it's the one thing I decided that I can stick with and it won't cut into my writing time. I usually don't blog on the weekends and that helps me considerably.

    Kelly - Once you make that commitment, it just makes everything fall into place, doesn't it? :-)

  13. Another way to ask it is "how badly do you want this?"

    I simply have no time anymore for people who make excuses about why they don't write.

    You either are a writer and you WRITE or you're not writing, and therefore not a writer.

  14. Melissa, great post again. You are on a roll!

    I think it's important to keep in mind that (1) writing and (2) publishing (including marketing and promotion) are two completely different processes. Writers write, it's as simple as that. With that commitment, we can all have a great writing life, before we sell, in between sales, whatever else is going on.

  15. Great post, Melissa! I absolutely agree.

    Goals are crucial for me. I need that motivation and accountability. When I get discouraged, I just remind myself why I write. It's for me. Publication is a goal, but it's not the reason I sit down every morning and tap away at the keyboard.

    Thanks for the motivation!

  16. Devon - Yes, that's another way to look at it. I think over the years, I didn't want it badly enough. Now I definitely do. :)

    Betty - Absolutely. The writing process and the publishing process are two different worlds. But focusing on the writing process is the most important, IMO.

    Anissa - YES. Writing is for me, too. Even if I never get published, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

  17. Fabulous post Melissa! You are absolutely right. In the past year, I've cut down on blogging, surfing, and trying too hard to be perfect and returned to the joy of writing.. which is why I ever started in the first place - the joy of it!

  18. Nienke - I'm so glad you rediscovered the joy of writing! It tends to get lost in the whole eagerness to get published, I think. :)

  19. Thanks for sharing, Melissa. I took a long time struggling to make the commitment as well, but now that I have, I feel so much more hopeful about being published.

  20. Meretta - I'm glad you made the commitment. I struggled for awhile, too. Maybe it's just the path some of us need to take.

  21. I think many people also flounder because of a lack of confidence, not realising we all suffer from that same lack of confidence. Or a rejection puts them off and they curl up like a snail and hide away, unwilling to be poked again. Man I have been poked big time ;)

    LOL. Great post Melissa. I think if a writer commits, it also makes it easier for family and friends to take them more seriously.

  22. Toni - You're right. Lack of confidence is a big issue in writing and we ALL suffer from it. :-)


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