Friday, January 14, 2011
Recently, a number of writer friends have either landed agents or acquired book contracts. As I evaluated these friends, one common ingredient I noticed among them is their consistency in their writing and social media endeavors.
What is consistency? The definition of the word “consistent” by Merriam-Webster is: regularity or steady continuity.
In other words, someone is classified as consistent when they regularly and steadily continue to work no matter what else is going on around them, even when they feel like giving up, and especially when the initial newness and fun has worn off.
My son got a Wii Fit for Christmas. The first week after he got it, he “exercised” with the game every spare moment he had. He was sore but had a lot of fun. However, as the days wore on, he began to do it less. And I couldn’t help wondering, would he eventually get tired of it and stop altogether?
Many writers start out full of energy and zeal. But as the weeks and months pass, they begin to write less, and eventually they’re sporadic and perhaps even stop. The same is true of social media—particularly blogging. I’ve seen many writers jump into blogging with enthusiasm, work hard at gaining a following, only to slowly lose momentum, until they’re irregular or hardly blogging at all.
For those writing with the end goal of publication, consistency is an essential ingredient. But why is it so hard for many of us to remain consistent with writing or blogging? There could be any number of reasons: busyness of life, discouragement, waning passion, etc. In fact, the very culture we live in breeds inconsistency—we’re taught to expect quick results, and so we become impatient when we don’t experience immediate gratification.
Perhaps the better question to ask is this: What can help a person develop the quality of being consistent? As I look at the lives of people I know who exhibit consistency, here’s what I see:
1. Long term vision: Seeing beyond the present. Looking to the future. Knowing that the choices of today effect the success of tomorrow.
2. Deep inner convictions: Having a certainty of one’s calling, gifts, talents. Believing strongly in the rightness of what one is doing.
3. Strong self-discipline: Making conscious decisions and sticking to them. Committing not only to the task, but also to seeing it to completion.
4. Realistic pacing: Determining one’s ability and speed, and setting realistic goals accordingly.
5. Passion: Enjoying the process of putting words together, weaving stories, and sharing with others through the written word.
All of the ingredients above working together help a person develop consistency. It’s really hard for a person to be consistent when they’re missing one. For example, I may have long term vision, but if I lack self-discipline, then I’ll likely be sporadic. And if I have only passion, but am missing realistic pacing, I could end up burning out.
My list of ingredients for consistency may not be perfect or complete, but I think it’s a good place for us to start. We can begin by examining our weaknesses and asking ourselves a few questions:
• Are we striving after immediate results? Or have we gained a long term vision for our writing careers? Where do we see ourselves in a year, two years, or five?
• Do we waver with our commitment to our writing? Or do we know that it’s something we need to be doing, even at the sacrifice of other things in our lives?
• Are we relying on whim or feelings for determining our writing schedules? Or are we making conscious decisions and plans?
• Are we comparing ourselves to others and trying to keep up? Or are we deciding what works best for our unique schedules?
• Are we truly in love with writing for the sake of writing? Would we do it anyway, even we never receive any accolades?
Agents and publishers are looking for writers who display consistency too. Agent Wendy Lawton (of Books & Such Literary Agency), in a recent post about what she’s looking for in potential clients, said this: “I also look for a writer who is realistic and prepared for the long-haul. . . knowing that they are going to have to pay their dues, possibly with very little return in terms of attention and money for the first few years . . . Writing is like any other business, the commitment needs to be there.”
We need to cultivate consistency in all areas of our writing careers—in our daily writing habits, editing, marketing strategies, and our use of social media.
In what areas do you struggle to be consistent? Do you agree that it’s a key quality in reaching publication? Or do you think there are other qualities that are more critical?
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