QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Power of "I Can"

Courtesy of sundstrom
Writing professionally can often be a daunting task. It isn't enough to have an incredible idea, you have to be able to pull it off too. And learning how to pull it off well enough to create a story strong enough to stand on its own can take years.

And then there's the time that you have to invest. Time to write. Time to revise. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. Rinse and repeat. The number of people who would like to have written a novel far exceed the number of people who have written. Discipline can be a very hard thing--especially when there's no guarantee that you'll ever receive anything from the story you've written beyond the satisfaction of having started at the beginning and gone on until you got to the end.

And that's just the writing part.

To write professionally, you also have to be willing to take care of the business end. Part of that is keeping current with the market and trends by reading. Another part is the need to keep improving. You can do this multiple ways: conferences (both in person and online), taking classes, having a crit group, beta reading, studying from books on writing, spending time analyzing the writing from the books you read as well as the books you write. 

And then there's the part of business where you have to put yourself out there. This can be through social networking (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, Tumblr, etc.), library readings, signings, professional presentations (school visits, etc.), and touring. 

That's a lot to juggle, and it's no wonder that writers, as a whole, can sometimes be a little . . . unbalanced.

So what do you do when you look at the mountain ahead of you?

It's a long road. There are only a few guard rails, and you're not sure you brought enough food and water. In fact, you're almost positive you didn't bring enough supplies, because when you signed up for the hike, you had no idea how long and hard the trail would be. (And everyone's trail has it's own difficulties, whether we see them or not.)

What do you do when Doubt starts to seep into your skin, making everything heavier, harder?

Because Doubt is one of the companions you can count on showing up during this hike. It's always there, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet, whispering in your ear. It asks you if you really think you can do this in that sweet, solicitious way that makes it clear that it doesn't believe you can. It reminds you of all the ways you've failed in the past, and are likely to fail in the future. It asks you what the point is, since you're never going to be good enough, and people probably won't read you anyway. (And it never fails to point out the epirical evidence staring at you in the form of rejections from agents and editors. But the thing to remember is that you have those rejections because you're doing something to attain your dream. People who don't get rejected, haven't really tried.)

So what do you do when the desire to create is a tiny flame in the center of your being, but all of this rests heavy on your shoulders?

This is where the power of "I can" comes in. 

So often, we writers obsess over the things we have no control over. We can't control whether an agent will like our query or our novel. We can't control whether a publisher will pick us up. We can't control how many copies a bookstore will purchase. And we can't control how many people will buy our books.

But there are some things we can do.

We can continue to improve. We can cultivate humility while we learn--this will be very helpful when we succeed and when we read our reviews. We can help others along the way. We can polish and shine our manuscripts until they glow.

We can take that first step.

Everyone's journey is different, because no one writes in exactly the same way. Sometimes, in order to take that first step, we have to forget about the summit of the mountain and focus on the "I can" in front of us. I can sit down and write today. (A goal usually helps--either time or word count.) I can sit down and write tomorrow. That's something you can repeat until you get all the way to the end. 

And then it's time for a different step. I can sit down and revise today. It may only be a page, but that's one page closer to a polished manuscript than you began with when you woke up.

It's so easy to get bogged down in all the ways Things Could Go Wrong and I Could Fail to Succeed, that I think sometimes we forget what we should be focusing on is the "I can's" of our journey.

Sometimes it will be all you can do to get 250 words written, but don't ever underappreciate what you did there, because it all adds up. Take enough tiny steps, and you'll be scaling that mountain before you realize it.

Is the way easy? Sometimes. Is it hard? Sometimes. But so long as you keep moving, you'll make it eventually. The top of the mountain may not be what you thought it was, and it may not be what you envisioned when you first began your journey, but it will be your mountaintop. A victory in its own right.

What are some of your "I can's"?

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. 


Kathy Collier said...

You nailed it on "I can" and certainly everyone who writes can relate to all you have written here. Sometimes life gets in the way and the writing time lessens, but the thought process of writing never leaves the back burners of the mind. You never know what the outcome is going to be when your finished, but the journey to end is a great accomplishment. The experience, the effort, the choice to write and learn all you can along the way is the key to success. Never never say I can't because you can is my motto. Thanks for the reminder and good luck to all those out there on the writer's journey to success.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post. The same applies for marketing, which can be so overwhelming when looking at it as a whole. Today I CAN write a blog post and go comment on others blogs. See I'm doing it right now. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post! I have several I Cans:

I can get BIC for fifteen minutes every day.

I can relax and let each story unfold. If the story came to me in the first place, I have the ability to tell it. The way to do that is to start by believing the story and to continue to believe in it until it's done.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post - always good to be reminded. I've been watching "Finding Sarah" on OWN and Dr. Phil was telling Fergie pretty much the same thing. The messages we tell ourselves are so important. Yes, I can do it. Thank you.

Melissa said...

My fear is always the same. How do I know if I'm good enough? How do I know this isn't a huge waste of time? It's hard to keep the negative thoughts out, especially when they're so convincing.

Taffy said...

Another good post, Danyelle!
I CAN take time to enjoy the journey, not rushing to meet some self-imposed deadline because I want the project done.