Surprises Of The Writing Life

The writing journey is filled with a strange dichotomy of emotions. We reach one summit, suck in a deep, satisfied breath, and gaze at the beautiful view before us. Then the next moment, we hit a dip in the road, tumble into a backward fall, and cringe at the pain.

Although life is filled with the "two steps forward, one step back" principle, the writing life seems especially characterized by the back-and-forth mix.

There are so many high places: discovering a new plot twist, getting positive feedback from a crit partner, bringing a chapter to a satisfying completion, having an agent ask for a partial.

But we fall into just as many low places: hitting a research snag, missing a plot thread, getting the hundredth rejection letter, failing a word count goal.

No matter where we're at on the writing journey, we ALL have highs and lows. Getting an agent doesn't smooth out the trail, and achieving a book contract certainly doesn't either. In fact, I've noticed lately my emotions are swinging into higher highs and lower lows.

This week I'd like to delve deeper into the range of emotions I've experienced lately--both the thrills and insecurities. . .

Today, however, I wanted to share about another emotion--something I've encountered more and more lately. That emotion is surprise.

Last weekend, I treated my family to a special celebration trip to Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Park. Back in the spring when I was working on my Genesis Contest entries, I promised my children I'd take them on a get-away if I ever got a book contract.

I was delighted to finally fulfill that promise. We spent three days living in our swim suits, riding intertube slides, and splashing in warm pools.

One of the best parts of the water park was an enormous bucket at the pinnacle of all of the slides. Water continuously poured into the bucket and every twenty minutes or so a bell would ring to signal that the water level was nearing the top. Then, when it was completely full, the bucket would tip, spilling gallons and gallons of water on anyone below. (In the picture above, my son is waiting in that spot!)

For those getting the dump, the emotion was always the same: surprise. Even when they purposefully positioned themselves under the bucket, they'd jump back and gasp as the water splashed against their skin.

Surprise. Even when we're expecting certain aspects of the writing journey, we often jump back and gasp in surprise when we're splashed--splashes of unexpected friendships and buckets of warm encouragement. We may even prepare ourselves for rejection, but it never fails to sting when it hits us.

Lately, the biggest deluge of surprise for me has been the work load. Even though I expected my contract would bring more responsibility and work, I'm still finding myself gulping for air and spluttering out the mouthful of water I've swallowed.

Can a contracted author really work part time at a writing career? I'm not sure. It's getting harder for me to keep the hours to a minimum. Perhaps part of the challenge is in my personality--embracing everything I do with a one hundred and ten percent gusto.

On the other hand, more is expected of the modern writer than the actual writing, including the ever-growing need to market our books and ourselves as authors. I'm still trying to figure out how to best handle all of the new challenges.

Has anything about the writing journey taken you by surprise, even if you thought it wouldn't? Please share!

P.S. If you're interested in writing contests, head over to Seekerville where I'm guest posting today about my contest success story.


  1. Thanks for the link. I'll head on over. I hadn't thought about surprise being a part of the journey. But you are right. It is. :)

  2. That I'd be writing so much in the third-person (mostly omniscient, some limited) POV, but it's what many markets I have submitted to or hope to crack prefer.

  3. I've been surprised at how incredibly difficult it is to make myself sit down and write...or edit. I've been procrastinating lately and wonder if it is fear or just laziness. I remember someone telling me they wished they knew beforehand how hard the writing life was. They said they might not have ever started had they known. Hhhhmmmm...surely not! :)

  4. As always, I love this post. I can always resonate with what you write.

    I'm surprised quite often. Like getting an agent. That definitely surprised me!

    Workload...oh, it's a scary thing. especially since I already have a full time job. I can easily jump into the bucket of worry, fretting over if there will possibly be enough time. But I find God meets me every day and gives me just the right amount of time I need to get done what needs getting done.

    Happy Monday! LOVED your post on Seekerville!

  5. My daughter and son-in-law and grandson went there a few months ago! I saw pictures and it looked so fun!!
    As to the workload, I worry about that should I get a job!

  6. Hey, Jody! I ask myself all the time if I'll be able to handle a part-time job and writing resonsibilities. At the moment, I do okay, but real agent/publisher deadlines might be quite challenging!

    I'm glad you and your family had a wonderful get-away trip!

  7. I think at this point of my writing "career" I'm totally ready for a surprise... but alas... you saw my post on waiting today:-)

    I think that's what's harder with writing. You really have NO clue when the bucket's gonna drop. You don't know how far back in line you are, you don't know when store is gonna open for you.

    But God knows. And we're to be content with that.

    I'm learning that "happy" and "content" are two different things lately.

  8. Oh man, I can't even imagine your workload. Wow.

    As for surprises, I've been surprised by my mental WIP block. I've never really believed in writer's block and I don't still, but boy am I feeling it. I know that it's really probably because I'm trying to make things perfect when there's no such thing, and the fear of writing imperfection is absolutely freezing me.

    Not sure how to move past that... though prayer is probably a smart idea. LOL

    You sound like you had an awesome time at the park! :-)

  9. I just encountered an ugly bout of insecurity that snuck up from behind. Blech! Tunneling to find the light.

    Your journey is such an authentic account. Thanks for that.
    ~ Wendy

  10. "Surprise! You're a winner! We loved your story!" Those words are my biggest surprise and welcomed one!

  11. I am consistently surprised by the fact that there are more stories inside of me. I am always surprised that I can write even when I'm tired or depressed or overwhelmed. If I sit down for even a second, my mind is writing. I am surprised and grateful for it everyday. As usual your post is thoughtful and on target. I can NOT WAIT to buy your books Jody!

  12. I think the greatest surprise, for me, was the query process. For many years, I didn't even consider that aspect of writing. I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. I never considered anything beyond the initial writing. Boy, was I surprised at all the aspects of the query process - the work, the effort, the angst, the waiting, and everything. Who knew?

    Well, I guess I would have known had I researched it a bit earlier, but I wasn't at that point yet. : )


  13. COOL photo! Off to read your other post... no real surprises for me yet!

  14. Love this post! I can totally relate to the high, low, high, low. I'm a pretty mood-swingy person anyway, so the writing life suits me.

  15. Jody, I'm glad you had family time to celebrate!!!

    Surprise for me is how long this act 1 of the journey is taking me. God is forever growing my patience and perseverence levels.

  16. What are some contests coming up? Do you have links to them? Thanks!

  17. Shelby, I would highly suggest heading over to the Seekerville blog. They have awesome links to contests. That's where I first learned about them.

  18. I think the greatest surprise for me is how calm I am about the submission process. I'm anticipatory (is that a word?!) but not biting my fingernails. Maybe hearing every one else's doses of reality has helped me prep for my own. LOL But I'm just enjoying the whole process. The dreaming, the writing, the editing, the submitting, the waiting, and the learning!

  19. I took the kids there a couple years ago. They loved it!! Glad you could spend some time with your family there.

    I think I'm surprised with all the people I've met. Everyone is so wonderful. Can't wait to read the rest of your blogs this week.

  20. I always wondered how a new author can sign a contract with a certain deadline without knowing how long it will take "her" to write the new novel while editing and reworking the first, plotting the third, and marketing "her" name. I imagine "she" must have to guess or just go with the norm, but what if "she" can't keep up? Kind of scary.

    Lynnette Labelle

  21. I was surprised at the loneliness I feel most of the time. My hubby is at work all day, my friends all go to office jobs with other folks around and I'm alone, waiting for the words to come. It's hard, but oh so rewarding.

  22. Jody, the writing life certainly keeps us in suspense, that's for sure. I wonder if there's a writer in existence who can truly sit back and feel that they've arrived. There's always a new challenge waiting around the bend. And today's publishing climate really does seem to be bringing more challenges than ever. I have heard from more writers and authors who are pulling back their efforts because they just don't feel they're cut out for the new climate. I think that's sad; we're going to lose a lot of wonderful writers. I hope those who were truly meant to be in this world will stick with it, including you. I LOVED the image of the bucket filling and spilling onto delighted water-lovers underneath. Thanks for that, and it must have felt so awesome to have known the reason you were there was to celebrate success!

  23. Jody, the absolute JOY of having the Holy Spirit guide me with plot twists and dialogue has blown me away.

    I always thought of the Counselor as giving "holy" type advice, but if asked, He breathes LIFE into MY WORK!!!!


    Thanks for an incredible blog.

  24. So many things about this process surprise me, both good and bad. I am currently surprised at how hard rewriting can be. I thought I could just jump in a change a few things and be done. Not so!

  25. Hey, Jody!

    Yeah, writing can be full of surprises! I think discovering the blog community and the reading about building a platform/marketing was the biggest surprise for me. I thought I could just sit in my ivory tower, create, and never leave. It was overwhelming until I decided to take it one step at a time.

    And there's nothing like the awesome surprise of finding your getting published, whether in book form, article, poetry, or short story.

    I'm glad y'all got to get away and have fun! Sounds like a great Thanksgiving!

  26. Jody, I love this post. You brought to life the surprise we all feel, no matter what stage we're at. And, as always, I so appreciate what you share from your own personal journey.

    And welcome home! So glad your family had a great time.

  27. Giving 110% is how I live as well. It's a challenge to tackle everything, but I know you can do it. :) I love surprises for the most part. Hopefully you have more good surprises than bad!

  28. I agree with you about surprises. Something that continually surprises me is that there's always something else. Once you accomplish one thing or hit that spot when you think you're done, you hardly have time to relish it before you have to move on. It's often a challenge to enjoy those small victories in writing but I'm trying to work toward it nonetheless.

  29. I like your promise to take your children on a getaway. We joke with our daughter that "when Mom becomes a bestselling author" we are going to buy a farm. :-) HA! More like a single chicken.

  30. This was great Jody. I'm glad you had a fun little vacation. (It sounds like you needed it!) I've been surprised by how difficult it's been to write this book. I think I'm doubting my writing ability more now than I did a year ago, even though I feel like I've improved so much and I have an agent and great writer friends who give me constant encouragement. Writing a novel is hard. I'm wondering if it will ever get easier.

  31. Thanks Jody. I like your concept of the higher the highs, the lower the lows.
    One surprise for me is how many drafts is actually takes me to get a novel to a certain level of quality. I'm glad I didn't know that when I started writing. And, I love the revision/rewriting process. I think it's challenging no matter where you are in the publication process. You can feel overwhelmed at any stage.

  32. Do you live in MI? I used to live in Battle Creek and was in Mason for Thanksgiving.

    Small world!

  33. Caroline,
    As a matter of fact, I DO live in Michigan! We went to the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. Was awesome!

  34. A woman who mentored me for years would say to me, "Remember: although you may be surprised, God isn't. He was expecting it. He's ready."

    That has been such comfort to me through the years. (I don't like surprises much.)

  35. Writing is no easy task. I constantly feel as if I am drowning in a pool of never-ending words. Especially the editing process. I didn't expect the editign to be so tedious, it was a real surprise for me.

    Your post was very easy to relate to and it's nice to see that other writers out there are not alone in our imagination madness.

  36. I think you hit it on the head. Writing is not easy and I've been thinking about that lately since I work part time. How will I keep up with everything if I sell my book.

    I love when after so much effort words come together, but then I always wonder why couldn't I have thought of that sentence 20 tries ago.

  37. As a homeschooling mom of four and a busy wife I so look forward to that challenge. Am I naive or what? Maybe, but it's my hearts desire to write as well as all my other responsibilites. I'm just certain the Lord put that desire on my heart. Each time I ask him to take it away if it's not from him, it gets stronger. Jody, I cannot wait until the day I can commiserate with you! *sigh* Off to do the laundry and daydream ;)

  38. Looks like you guys had such a super time. I am nervous of the unknown surprises awaiting me. Always wanting to be a planner and "in control" at times it's hard. :O)

    Hope to see you over at my new blog home

  39. I think my biggest surprise has been how much writing has taken over my life. I've always written -- journalling, poetry, occasional short stories and regular articles for magazines -- but when I started writing novels I moved into "my zone". I love the noveling process and can't wait to get to my desk each day to bury myself in the story. I could so easily become a writing hermit it's scary!

  40. My niece and nephew love Great Wolf Lodge.

    Thanks for this post, there are a lot of highs and lows, and its nice to know I'm not the only one who experiences them.

  41. Hi Jody -

    Thanks for not only giving us facts about your writing journey, but also the emotional side.

    Head knowledge and experience are two different things. It's a picture of a lion versus seeing a live one at a safari park or zoo.

    As a writer, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get published.

    Susan :)

  42. Truthfully, I'm convinced that should I ever get a book deal I have to quit my day job! It doesn't feel possible to manage both, I struggle now to the point of having a fit.

    Jody, I always glean so much from your posts. I wait to have the most quiet part of my day to relish in your insight. Thanks for always being a blessing.

  43. Oh, this post scares me a little bit. You mean, it doesn't get easier? Crud.

    I'm not being sarcastic or joking .. I had always thought it would be easier once on a publishing schedule. Why did I think that? Geeze.

  44. 110% gusto should work. Breathing in your lesson of the day.

  45. You're right about the peaks and valleys in the writing life.

    I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how helpful and encouraging the writing community is.

  46. Like you, Jody, I'm flabbergasted by the highs and lows. I had a long stretch of real highs. I started writing in January and was agented by August of that same year. Then, a huge nosedive. I'm still nosediving, but I'm hanging on.

    Have a great Monday night!

  47. My dream said that once I had a book deal it would be easy street. Not true? crap! Seriously, I can't wait. But I don't work well under pressure. Guess I'd better get to work on that lousy trait today, huh?

    What fun to think about when I'm wearing your shoes. I have told my family the same thing about when I'm offered a book deal. They're really rootin' for me too. :) Go figure.

    But how do you balance home-school and the journey? It gets harder when you get the deal. Yet so exciting. :) I can't wait Jody. *grin*

  48. Robyn,
    That is a great question! How do I balance homeschooling and a writing career? When I figure that out, I'll be doing good! Seriously, it's tough! I was hoping my older kids were getting old enough to work a little more independently, but I'm dealing with a lot of their chattering during "work" time, especially when I'm distracted like I was for a little while today when I was sending my rewrites back to my editor! It is truly exciting, but daunting all at the same time!

  49. The surprise of my life came just a few weeks ago. A famous artist offered to do the artwork in my book, and help me publish it, wow!

  50. I think what surprised me is the vast knowledge about writing and the industry that I didn't have at first, but has grown with each written essay, manuscript, query, blog visit, you name it. It seems an industry where there's something to learn, or some wisdom to gain, each and every day.

  51. Yes, I've been surprised by how much peripheral work there is in building a platform. I thought writing was simply that: writing. The "paperwork" required to get your writing published is overwhelming at times.

    Thanks for asking!

    Audience of ONE

  52. I love that you identified surprise as one of the big feelings about your writing life. Everything about this journey surprises me, starting with how much I love being here. The sting of rejection letters has been a surprise, because I thought I was prepared. The wonderful support of this community. And of course the never-ending surprise of what happens when I open my heart onto a page.

  53. What has taken me by surprise is the plots of my book. No matter where I think they are headed, they always take their own twists, leaving me typing as fast as I can in order to keep up.


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