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Three Attitudes That Can Help in the Quest for Publication

What I Learned About Life & Writing From . . . Pies

My thirteen year old son was learning how to make pies. I must confess, I'm completely inept at pie-making—especially when it comes to the crust. By the time I finish rolling out the dough, I usually end up with something that looks like a misshaped piece of Swiss cheese.

So, as my son experimented with a chocolate fudge pie, I certainly wasn’t the one to give him expert advice. I pulled out the recipe, made sure he knew where the ingredients were, and left for my day of writing at the library (leaving his pie-making endeavors under the supervision of my equally pie-challenged husband).

When I got home later, two finished pies sat on the counter. It didn’t matter that chocolate was smudged on cabinet doors or that flour caked the floor. I was proud of my son for tackling such a big challenge and completing the task.

I bit into a piece of pie after dinner and savored the smooth fudgy taste. But as I chewed, another stronger flavor soon overpowered everything else. Salt.

“How much salt did you use,” I asked casually, trying not to grimace.

“One teaspoon, just like the recipe called for,” he said, shoveling forkfuls into his mouth in typical 13-year-old-boy fashion, blissfully unconcerned that his pie was more salty than sweet.

“Do you think you accidentally used a tablespoon?”

He stopped, his fork poised mid-air. Then he grinned. “Ooops.”

Getting the right ingredients is important—especially if we're aiming for success. And in our writing, having the right ingredients is critical too—not only in our stories, but also in our attitudes. When I look at the characteristics that have helped me most in my quest for publication, here are the top three:

1. Humility

A teachable spirit. The willingness to learn. The humbleness to admit we have room to improve. If we hold on to our stories and words too tightly, if we aren’t willing to see where we’ve gone wrong, if we think that our creativity reigns superior, then it’s possible we’ll miss out on success. There are very few of us who are truly born with writerly genius. The vast majority of us have to learn to write the hard way. Those of us who are open to correction and who are willing to learn from our mistakes are the ones who will come out further ahead.

2. Endurance

We need to have a long term vision and consciously decide we’re in this for the long haul. It’s not a sprint. It’s a grueling marathon. Writer’s who don’t have incredible perseverance, patience, and self-discipline won’t last the distance. But those who put their heads down, grit their teeth, and keep going, they’ll be stronger for it. Yes, writing can be fun and bring us joy, but during the time when it’s not, we keep going anyway.

3. Resilience

We’re going to face obstacles that sock us in the gut, knock us to the ground, and squeeze the air from our lungs. It could be the daily frustration of trying to find writing time amidst the busy chaos of real life. Or it could be the brutal critique we receive on a beloved manuscript. We can’t let the discouragements and difficulties flatten us forever. Those who hope to succeed have to peel themselves off the ground, brush off the dirt, and keep writing.

If we want a slice of the publication pie, we have to stir in the right ingredients. We need to have a balanced combination of all the above characteristics. If we’re missing one, but too heavy on another, we may lose out on the chance to taste the sweetness of publication.

Are you cultivating the kinds of attitudes that will lead to publication? Do you have enough humility, endurance, and resilience? What other characteristics have helped you to succeed?

44 comments:

  1. I need to work on my endurance and not have "give up" attitude. :O)

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  2. I love this story, Jody. It reminds me of the time I baked a cheesecake for my husband and forgot to put sugar into the filling. Yeah, big oops. This vignette is so appropriate, though in the point you're making. Every trait I can think of that has served me well falls under one of these three. For me, the connection with other writers and getting that valuable feedback is crucial. While not always easy, it's important to be able to accept that feedback with an open heart and mind. This humility only helps us grow in the long run. Without the wonderful support of fellow writers, I don't know where I would be.

    Have a terrific weekend!
    Marissa

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  3. Three great qualities to have, not just in writing, but life. I'm learning all about endurance. This isn't a sprint. Most definitely a marathon.

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  4. Perfect timing for me this morning. My resislance took a beating with a critique:0 and made me wonder if I just wasted my time writing what I did!

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  5. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Probably b/c I believe in these three so much.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. Jody, Great detailing of important qualities for the developing writer. They'll also be needed after publication.
    Remember, no matter how many books you've had published, the next one is never guaranteed. Thanks for reminding all of us.

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  7. I think every day I get tested in those three areas just being a parent, never mind a writer. :)

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  8. What a perfect post, Jody. And so true.

    Your son's story reminds me of the story my mom likes to tell EVERYONE any time the subject of my cooking comes up - the time i forgot to put eggs in the brownies I made. The result was not something edible.

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  9. Great post that I needed to read this morning. Right now I need endurance. Too many things distracting me and I've been allowing it because I've felt discouraged lately about writing. But thanks to your encouraging post, I'm feeling rejuvenated and back on track!

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  10. Terrific post, Jody! (As always!) I agree you definitely need those three things to succeed. Stocking the kitchen with chocolate doesn't hurt, either! ;)

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  11. After reading these qualities I've decided my mother would make a great author! Or maybe I've made it as far as I have because I've learned some of these things from her. I like that idea. Since my mom is one of the most wonderful people I know, it's nice to think there might be some of her in me!!

    Thanks for your post.

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  12. Oddly enough, longterm writing must be about much more than publication.

    It's about living a life and writing from that life. Part of that life includes expecting resistance to arise, in many forms. The life includes learning from others: the writer is always a student. Always. And the life means that we must replenish and restore our souls -- perhaps with techniques and attention to it which bewilder friends and family. We must know ourselves, know how we fight and how we surrender, how we stumble and how we prevail.

    It's a rich life. But it's about so much more than being published. The great irony lies in the fact that when we grasp this and make it our own, becoming published is only a matter of time.

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  13. Thanks, Jody. Those are three qualities for all humans no matter what they are undertaking. I love your distinction between resilience and endurance!!

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  14. Love this post. I think those three things are paramount. And I'm with you--I love to cook, but still haven't mastered pie crust, lol.

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  15. Nice post. When I was twelve I once put a cup of salt in a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I've never forgotten that error. At least his pie was edible, right?

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  16. T. Anne, a whole cup of salt in a batch of cookies would be VERY unforgettable! :-) Let's put it this way about my son's pie--HE ate it without complaint and so it didn't go to waste. But it wasn't a favorite for the rest of us!

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  17. I always love your analogies, Jody. They paint such a vivid picture and open our minds to introspection. Well done! (does this make me teachable? I hope so.) :)

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  18. Oops! Love it!
    I’m trying to cultivate those quality everyday to make them stronger.

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  19. Kids in the kitchen are always an adventure, right Jody? My daughter in law just learned to make blueberry pies and the crust was soooo good!

    I wholeheartedly agree with your characteristics. I would only add a willingness to help others, which, by the way, you do so well.

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  20. Great story!!

    I have a Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook that includes her favorite gingerbread recipe. There is a story with the recipe that says when Laura's daughter, Rose, made the gingerbread by herself for the first time, she used cayenne pepper instead of ginger! She gave a piece to the pastor who had come for a visit. He dutifully ate a piece.

    She didn't realize until later, when she ate the gingerbread with her family, why the minister had declined a second helping!

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  21. It was unforgettable. And you know what? It is easily an analogy for so many other mistakes I've made in my life as well. Like those cookies, I've never forgot those either. Thank God each day is a fresh start!

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  22. Hi Jody, this post should be a daily reminder for us writers that we need to practice H.E.R (Humility, Endurance and Resilience) to reach the Road to Publishing. Even if we slip in one of the three, our task becomes difficult.

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  23. I love this post! You listed three of the main ingredients in the recipe for success in writing as well as in life. And you did it using such a great analogy.

    Kudos to your son for attempting something new. He exemplifies another great trait: courage.

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  24. Ah yes, resilence and confidence are two major ones for me.

    Loved the pie story. My daughter has done the same with cookies before, using baking soda instead of baking powder. Big difference. She's the baker and I'm the make it from scratch cook. (Hugs)Indigo

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  25. Ooh, I LOVE to make and EAT pies but have done less of the crimping and rolling since I discovered FRESH MARKET berry pies...

    What a great teachable moment for your son.
    You go, girl!

    Belssings,
    Patti

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  26. Great way to link the concepts. I'm so impressed your son wanted to bake. Good for him!

    I think perspective is good to have to. Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting to be published NOW that I miss the fact whatever is happening is for a reason. I'm always less stressed when I put my career into context.

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  27. My son's a baker too, so I can picture the scene vividly...including the mess. Thanks for pointing out that the path to publication isn't a mysterious secret known only to a few, but a methodical process that requires the right combination of "ingredients."

    BTW...I love your new blog!

    Happy writing!

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  28. Funny, I wrote a blog post about my journey to publication entitled, "Endurance." ;) The other two are essential as well. Great advice! Thanks!

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  29. OH, I think you NAILED it!! I always enjoy your posts!! Great tips, wonderful reminders, truly gems! Thank you!

    PS I have a wonderful crust recipe for your next pie. One that is delish, and so easy! :o)

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  30. Hi Jody, I just finished listening to your interview with Felice Gerwitz that was posted on Monday (8/16), and wanted to check out your website/blog. I homeschool my 14 yr old daughter (just started 9th grade this week) who is/wants to be a writer and so we'll be checking out lots of info about writing etc. during her high school years. I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog! I also plan to connect with you on facebook :-)

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  31. Great article--especially for writer's trying to break into the publishing world!

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  32. I love this, thanks. I'm just thankful to be in the game!

    Your son sounds adorable!

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  33. 3 great qualities, but I particularly like humility. The openness to change, to be flexible, to be willing to work hard and not think I know everything there is to know. It's always great to go back and relearn the basics.

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  34. It's nice to know that if we use too much salt in our writing, we can take it out...

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  35. Wonderful post, as usual! Those three traits are important for success in any aspect of life.

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  36. I've just "discovered" you from Barbara Parentini, and loved this post, Jody. I agree with Angie that these are all wonderful life-coping attitudes too! As I was looking around your site, I also appreciated the list of books that have helped other writers. My writing is all non-fiction, but I see may titles that I'm looking forward to exploring.

    Elizabeth Cottrell
    Heartspoken.com

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  37. Great post, Jody. I believe resilience is one of the most important qualities we can have, not only in writing, but also in life.

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  38. Right on! I need to work on all three of those... very cool about your son. :-)

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  39. I love this post. The longer I write and the more I learn about the process and the industry, the more I realise how important it is to be internally driven. Writers who succeed are generally writers who didn't give up. And humility is so important. Thanks so much!

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  40. What a great story about your son! And I love how you turned it into a writing lesson - which you have such amazing facility for.

    I read your list with an inner smile as I prepare to step onto the next leg of my writing journey - a complete rewrite of my story - having traveled through all three things on your list.

    I would also add faith to the list. The belief that whatever story we're telling needs to be told.

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  41. I really thick "crust" will help you make a winning writer pie too. :)

    Love the header photo!

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  42. Loved the story of your son making a pie. Sweet!

    Humility, endurance and resilience are wonderful tips on how authors should act. If you've been working at it long enough you recognize those traits are very necessary.

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  43. I love how your son is wanting to learn in the kitchen.

    We can’t let the discouragements and difficulties flatten us forever. Those who hope to succeed have to peel themselves off the ground, brush off the dirt, and keep writing.

    The words above are so true. I had my 'I can't write' hat on today. An email came from someone who was reading my ms, and they said. Take the hat off, you are a writer. You just need another pair of eyes. It made me smile and was so encouraging. I brushed off the dirt and strove forward.

    Gosh, I have to go and find chocolate fudge you have tempted me!

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