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Why Are So Many Writers In Such a Hurry?

My youngest son will be celebrating his eighth birthday at the end of August. For the last several weeks, he’s been getting impatient for that big occasion.

One day a couple of weeks ago, he asked, “Mom, how many days are there until my birthday?”

Knowing how excited children get at the thought of receiving presents and cake and a special meal, I indulged my little guy. We pulled out the calendar and counted off the days.

I wasn’t too surprised when I got the same question a couple of hours later, especially when I noticed the Lego magazines strewn across the floor. But after about the third or fourth time my son asked, “How long until my birthday?” I knew he needed a lesson on patience.

So, I scooted next to him on the couch, wrapped my arm around him, and said, “Honey, I know you’re really excited about your birthday, but if you keep thinking about it and wishing it were already here, then you’ll miss out on enjoying the rest of the summer.”

I reminded him that while his birthday would be fun, it also signified the closing of summer and the beginning of the next school year. I urged him not to become so anxious for the future that he forgot to savor the delightful, carefree days of summer.

Sometimes we as writers get so focused on the future—what we’d like to see happen next in our writing careers—that we miss the enjoyment of being right where we’re at. We look ahead and we think we’ll be happier if only we get an agent, or if only we have a book contract, or if only we make a bestseller list, or if only we make triple figures.

We fantasize about the satisfaction we’ll finally have once we reach that next point in our careers. But in the process of looking forward, we sometimes forget to truly enjoy the present. And we forget that once we do reach a milestone, we’ll be satisfied for a day or two. But once the newness wears off, a different set of responsibilities will stretch endlessly before us (much like my son celebrating his birthday but then starting school not long after).

I urge all of us (myself included) to not wish away the present because we get so focused on what we hope will come in the future. And I add an extra caution for newer writers. With the ease of self-publishing, it’s all too tempting to rush the process of publication, to think that getting your first book out there will make you happy.

I like what author Bob Mayer said in a recent article, “If I were an unpublished author, would I self-publish?” As a former best-selling author for traditional publishers, he’s now been self e-publishing for the past two years and doing very well at it, selling over 1,100 ebooks a day.

I really respect Bob’s balanced approach. Here’s what he said: “The problem right now is too many writers are putting their first manuscript up and spending 75% of their time trying to promote as they try to write their second book. The focus isn’t on the writing, it’s on the selling.”

He goes on to suggest waiting until completing three books before taking the next steps forward, focusing first on learning the craft of writing before jumping into publication and promotion.

In other words, we don’t need to rush the process. We don’t need to race forward, getting ahead of ourselves, and fostering discontent for where we’re at.

After all, what’s the rush? Why do we need to be in such a hurry to reach that next point in our careers? When we focus too much on what we’re missing, the discontentment often clouds the simple joys and pleasures that come from the creative process of writing. And we lose out on the satisfaction of each step of our unique journey.

The big birthday celebration will happen . . . eventually. And with enough patience and hard work, so will those big career moments.

In the meantime, we can’t forget to savor the present.

What about you? Have you ever tried to rush your writing career? Or are you learning to savor the journey?

P.S. Don't forget to stop by The Doctor's Lady Trailer Contest! Watch the trailer and win prizes! The deadline for the contest is Sunday at 10 pm (Eastern Time).

54 comments:

  1. Beautiful, beautiful thoughts and advice. I've been enjoying my writing journey so much more since I've begun blogging, actually. Sitting down and talking with other writers about the process, reading funny stories about people who are in the same place at me, not just successful authors looking back--it really feels like this is the adventure.

    I dream to publish, but the other day I told my husband, "You know what? For the first time in my life, I feel like writing is enough. If this never "became" anything else, I would still be happy.

    That is worth so much. Thanks for sharing! Your kid has a great mom :)

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  2. Wonderful thoughts. I think when I first started, I was like this. Now, yes, I still want it, but in my mind I have to earn it. I have to learn the craft.
    Thanks.

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  3. I really like Bob Mayer's approach to self publishing, and I agree with him. We all learn more over writing several manuscripts.

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  4. Great advice, Jody. I must reign myself in sometimes. As an Aries, patience doesn't come in the standard model of me!

    Thanks for the great post and I hope your son has a great birthday, but enjoys his summer first!

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  6. If there's one thing I've learned as a writer, I'm not in charge of how fast (or slow) time moves. Even if you self-pub, you are not in charge of how quickly success happens--or doesn't.
    Thinking about it (thanks to your excellent blog post), I realize writing has forced me, er, taught me to slow down. To wait. To be impatiently patient at times.
    I am learning to savor all aspects of the journey--even the waiting. If nothing else, I've met some wonderful friends along the way. That is a true blessing.

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  7. Wow, thanks for the advice. People have been telling me a lot lately to "enjoy the journey." Thanks for the reminder that the journey is something to enjoy and savor, not rush through.

    I think it's good for writers to have goals. Maybe I just have a goal oriented personality, but I need something to keep myself challenged. That said, our writing goals shouldn't be obsessively consuming, just something we use to keep ourselves on track and better our writing.

    Enjoy your weekend, everyone! :)

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  8. Goodmorning, everyone! I'm enjoying all of your thoughts this morning!

    Great point, Naomi. We still need personal writing goals. Since we're essentially self-employed and our own bosses, we have to set our own career plans and goals. If we don't, no one else will. But, that said, I think we also need to make sure we're learning the craft, working on honing our skills, and being realistic about where we're at. For me, that means not wishing away the present because I want to be a Karen Kingsbury or JK Rowlings right now! I have to remind myself that it takes time to grow a readership and to enjoy being where I'm at in my writing career.

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  9. Wonderful thoughts and advice. I especially like the idea of completing several books before e publishing and promoting.

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  10. My hubs and I were laying in bed several months ago talking about my writing. This was right before I got the call from Rachelle about a two-book deal with Waterbrook Multnomah. And he said, "Don't you think, twenty years from now, you'll look back at this time in your career and smile at how good it was then? How simple?"

    His point was that at that moment, right then, it wasn't complicated. I was a girl who was writing b/c of a passion to tell stories and the future was so mysterious. So unknown. So filled with potential. Sure, I was waiting. But I didn't have pressures and deadlines and marketing all the other stuff that comes with a contract.

    It's sort of like when Ryan and I first got married. We lived in a teeny tiny house - about the size of a garage. I was still in college. He was working construction. And we dreamed about the future. About starting a family. Moving into a house with more than one bedroom and a bathroom that wasn't in the basement (with centipedes), but I look back on that time in our marriage with such fondness.

    I wouldn't trade that time for the world. Just like I wouldn't trade the pre-contract days for the world. Just like I wouldn't trade this time right now for the world.

    But in the same breath, hindsight is a beautiful thing. And not a luxury everybody has. I think it's easier for somebody with a book deal or a book published to encourage others to enjoy the present. It was much harder at the time - when I didn't have an agent or a book deal. To really take that advice to heart.

    Kind of like when I REALLY wanted to get married and my stepmom said, "Don't be in such a hurry." It was easy for her to say. She was married. ;)

    Great discussion starter, Jody!

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  11. Not only am I impatient for publication, but I also forget to focus on my family and spend too much time writing. Thanks for the gentle reminder to keep things in perspective. The birthday party will happen eventually!

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  12. Jody, Excellent points. Let me propose an addendum: Don't be in such a hurry to get your manuscript "out there" that you fail to polish it enough. It's trite but true, you only have one chance to make a first impression, and this is especially true with agents and editors. There's no going back, revising it, and resubmitting it to them--they've moved on, and expect you to, as well.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  13. Great word, Jody. So many times early on in my career I wanted to rush things. I'm so glad the Lord kept giving me rejections until I was ready--not just my writing but my spiritual life, my emotions, my family life. I'm so glad I had time to hone my craft but also to build and enjoy relationships with other writers and writing professionals.

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  14. I guess I'm trying to rush the publication process because at the moment I am making $0 for all the hard work I'm putting into my writing. I'm not suggesting that writing is exactly a lucrative career, but it would be nice to make a little bit from selling a short story to offset the costs of submission.

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  15. This is a great reminder to us. At first I wanted to just get my book written and published, but as I am working through revisions I feel like taking a bit of time first to really make my story strong is much more important at the moment. I am even enjoying strengthening it. It is nice to fantasize about the future, but being hasty may keep the future from happening.

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  16. Hi Jody! It seems to me that part of the blame goes to our culture, which encourages the quick fix, the fast move-on to the next step. But you're so right that in chasing that next elusive thing, even if we catch it, the satisfaction won't last long. And we may end up feeling empty if this pattern continues and we don't truly enjoy today, just as your son may not appreciate his toys for long, because some other attractive thing will be around the corner. It's so important that we pause...and savor. To me, that's what summer is for. It is a time to pause and change things up and to not be in such a hurry. And I'm fortunate right now to actually realize that. It's brought a sense of true peace to my heart. What a great subject! I also bookmarked your last post, even though I didn't comment. Have a super weekend!

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  17. *sigh* I need to be reminded of this so much. I'm like that with most aspects of life, really, but particularly in my writing: "I just want the book contract NOW!"

    I've got to wait and do it right...not fast.

    Thanks, Jody; great post, as always.

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  18. Same wave, lady!

    I wrote a post about this over at the Alley yesterday and Keli Gwyn interviewed me for her blog (Aug. 1) asking what I've learned. Part of my answer was about not rushing.

    Same wave.
    ~ Wendy

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  19. Wow! I've loved reading all these comments. I used to feel more rushed on this journey and then I realized that even if I got an agent or a publishers interest, I'd be sending in not-my-best work and then what's the point? I don't want to force everything. If it's meant to be, God will make it happen (along with my fair share of hard work) and if it's not meant to be...I'm okay with that. Waiting isn't too bad...:)

    Katie, Oh! - centipedes are the worst! They were all over the place when we bought our home. Nothing gives me the heebie jeebies like those long-legged bugs!

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  20. Thanks, Jody. I needed this reminder today. I often consider how much has gone on in my head and my heart regarding my characters from the inception of my first draft (written during NaNo last November) through today. And over the months I've had so many amazing insights into my characters...I just know these "relationships" (not sure what the word is, but yes, I feel as though I have relationships with my characters) couldn't have been rushed, and remembering that has helped me to appreciate this stage of the novel journey.

    After all, what fun would it be if I were to sit down and write my manuscript all in one shot and rush off to try and sell it just so I could see it published? One of the greatest joys I've experienced is reflecting on what I've learned about life through writing—and rewriting—my characters and their stories.

    Thought-provoking post today. Thanks. :)

    Barb

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  21. Just wanted to jump into the discussion here and say, WOW! Great thoughts today, everyone!

    Katie, I have to comment on something you said, "I think it's easier for somebody with a book deal or a book published to encourage others to enjoy the present."

    My thoughts--Katie, you're probably right. Although, with every book I write, I can't help but stop and wonder "is this good enough?" I think early on, that question always stopped me from rushing and motivated me to really do everything I could to pursue learning about the craft of fiction. I was always hesitant about sending my books out there. And to some degree, I still am.

    As Roxane mentioned, the culture seems to breed impatience and rushing. But if we ask ourselves, "Is this really good enough?" Then perhaps we can slow down, just enjoy the creative process, and make sure we're doing our best to put quality work out there.

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  22. Not sure if I am trying to rush it or if I am just eager to move to the next phase but unsure how to proceed. Thanks for the good post, though. I will try to enjoy the present :)

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  23. I agree that part of the rush is the instant gratification of our society. We are getting more and more used to things being easy.

    Bob's post is something I remind myself of whenever I think I want to jump in and self-publish. I want the book to be as good as possible, and I want to try for an agent or small house. The rush, in my mind, is my eagerness for validation, for approval. And to bring some kind of $ in for my writing. I have to remind myself that with hard work, those things will come.

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  24. Great post, Jody - and definitely true. Now I'm having somewhat of the opposite problem.

    I'm closer to my years-long goal of being ready to query agents than I've ever been before, have been writing and editing my little heart out for months, and just made a huge breakthrough that has made me so much more confident, so much more in love with my story... that I love where I'm at! I'm almost hesitant to finish and move on to the next stage.

    And I think that's something to be wary of, as well. There's been a lot of talk about writers who are paralyzed by fear of failure, fear of success, just downright fear. Writers who never hit the "send" button for fear of crossing the last hurdle that makes it "real".

    I don't want to be one of those, but ironically, with the finish line in sight, I'm content to slow my pace and enjoy the view.

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  25. I was definitely like this when I first started. In fact, I only just slowed down and realized I needed to just spend lots and lots of time wrtiing and learning. I don't know what made me think I NEED to get published NOW. THIS SECOND or my time will pass! Thankfully, I've grown past that stage! :0) I love the learning the craft books you have on the sidebar. Thanks for the post and the suggested literature! Christy

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  26. My husband just gave me this same talk this morning. Somehow we have the feeling that we have to do it all, especially as women. We save the day, we take care of our families, we have careers, we do the housework, pay bills, and on and on. Sometimes we need a reminder to stop and smell the roses.

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  27. Great post, and just the right advice I needed to hear today!

    It's so easy to get impatient, or fall into the trap of comparing where you're at in your own journey to those of other writers. Often times I feel like I'm in this silent panic to write as much as I can, as fast as I can, so I can get published as soon as I can. Yet there's usually no need for all that added pressure, which as you said just fosters discontent, and I think makes the writing process more stressful than it needs to be. That being said, it's still a challenge to apply a more patient mentality!

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  28. Loving the post and the comments! I really appreciate all the online writer and author friends I've made. They're so encouraging and they make this journey much more fun than going at it alone! :)

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  29. Savoring is kind of like trying to chew every bite of a delicious meal at least 20 times. Very hard to do.

    Who hasn't rushed a bit? It's the passion that gets the adrenaline going and makes us want to be further down the road than we are. But I'm learning there's no quick way to get there--kind of like losing weight. You get there how you can (not necessarily by the same path as others) when you get there. Just gotta keep working hard and moving forward.

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  30. Rick brought up another great point--sort of the opposite extreme of rushing which is being paralyzed with fear (or doubt), and not doing anything. I think one of the solutions to that is getting involved in a critique group. That allows you to see where you're at compared with other writers, get some valuable feedback, and in the process hopefully make some new friends.

    As Patricia W. said, we have to keep working hard and moving forward. But "moving" doesn't necessarily have to be at breakneck speed! :-)

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  31. Fabulous post! It helped me realize how much I have gotten focused on the next. It has made it hard for me to focus on the writing I'm doing now and enjoy it. I think I'll start working on that today. :)

    Thank you!

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  32. It drives me crazy when well-meaning friends and family ask me, "When are you going to publish your manuscript?" I am working on books 2 and 3, trying to become a good writer and I get tired of answering. Now I just smile and say, "When I'm ready."

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  33. I really needed to hear this ... both for my writing and for the other parts of my life. Thank you for this post, Jody!

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  34. One moment not to rush is the querying process. As in, don't query every agent you're interested in at once. Some may respond with rejections that include advice you may want to incorporate in your ms or your query letter, and if you've already carpet-bombed the industry, you're stuck. This happened to me. An agent said I'd started my novel in the wrong place and gave me a very good suggestion. I took it, queried a new batch of agents, and voila, an offer. And book deal soon after! Slow and steady wins the race, I guess.

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  35. Super advice. I do dream of being published, but I also relish the freedom of obscurity so I can experiment with different genres and grow in my craft.

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  36. I want to savor the journey. I started out rushing through the process and realized I wasn't giving my readers my best writings. Now I'm enjoying the process of building my platform and getting my manuscript edited. The "social media" moves at such a fast pace, you start to believe you need to also move that fast.
    I thank God I am quickly learning to be intentional and stay engaged in the moment that is before me.

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  37. What a great post! I agree wholeheartedly and while it can be a struggle to stay in the moment it helps when you LOVE what you're doing. Thanks Jody!

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  38. Were you inside my head today? I get impatient all the time...mostly impatient with myself. But you're right, we must savor the present as we look toward the future. Thanks for the reminder.

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  39. What a great way to think. I love how you encourage your son to enjoy the NOW instead of looking to the future. As for the e-publishing part. I've seen too many people doing that lately, and after reading their stuff I can kind of tell that they're just not ready. They will likely spend more time trying to sell their books than honing the craft. I love the advice of writing at least 3 books (and trying to query them) before going that route. There's wisdom there.

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  40. So true,in writing and in life. As an author, last spring I purposely told myself I would slow down, write at my own pace, and just start to enjoy the process again. The publishing process can be really stressful, so I wanted to get back to the joy of writing, and this summer, that joy has really started to bloom again.

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  41. Loved this post and the comments! It's good to know I'm a great company of fellow impatients. I have no idea why I'd want to rush through something I love...and it's a good reminder to slow down and savor life. Because when I do, that's when the best writing comes.

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  42. Wow, Jody. This post is a keeper, for sure. Thank you for this reminder.

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  43. Remember that survey you gave about why people don't leave comments? I'm changing my answer. You are too popular and thus inaccessible. :)

    On this topic though, I had to comment because my ENTIRE writing career (all of 2 years) has been wrapped around getting that ONE manuscript done and getting that magical agent and book deal. I've found myself working so hard on building my online platform that I'm neglecting my writing and getting stressed out that I'll never get it done. In other words, you're right. I need to slow down and enjoy the process.

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  44. Love this perspective. What a gift to relax and enjoy this season and this day God's granted through His grace and mercy. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

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  45. Had to jump in here and answer Rebekah's comment and say, OH NO! I don't want people to think I'm inaccessible! My desire is to be personable and relatable (although due to busyness that may not always happen the way I'd like!). I'm really just another writer on this journey along with everyone else! :-)

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  46. Hi Jody,
    I'm so happy that I found your blog; it's jam-packed with great information and your generosity to share that information is equally impressive. I am a "soon-to-be" published author of a very different (interactive) children's series. I'm attempting to "gracefully" stumble my way through this marketing maze. I had no idea that I had anything more to do than find a publisher! My blog is the story of that journey that took me over a DECADE (the condensed version!)of searching for a publisher (www.gmlmseries.wordpress.com). I'd like to think that the above process allowed me to master the art of "slowing down", but truthfully, it's still an ongoing process. Hopefully my blog will give inspiration to the many others on that journey who have lost hope when they know they are meant to be published. You are my role model in the art of unconditional giving and I fully intend to "pay it forward" as you have done here. I have subscribed to your blog and will refer others to you. Great Karma! I can't wait to read your book.
    In Love and Light,
    Patricia
    www.TheGrandMasterLittleMasterSeries.com
    www.gmlmseries.wordpress.com

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  47. Today's comments are almost as valuable as your post that inspired them!

    Part of my dilemma is like Rick's, a kind of paralysis caused by enjoying the writing process more than what I know needs to come next. After each novel and reading numerous books on the craft, I'm never totally satisfied with the current project. I revise and rewrite and move on, only to repeat the process. After #4 you'd think I'd be ready for the querying, but the rare times I've ventured out there have made me step back again, still convinced my mss need more work. ::sigh:: Good thing I really DO love the writing part.

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  48. I needed to hear this right now. I guess I can be like a little kid sometimes! Thanks Jody.

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  49. Oh, Jody, this is spot on! Absolutely. I can remember wishing away the years as I homeschooled my three children....thinking I would be "so old" when they are gone that my time would be over. Now, they are 25 and 21 (twins) and I have NOTHING BUT TIME!!!! At the time I am grateful that the Holy Spirit kept me in check, reminding me that raising a strong family is a NOW job...right now...not a job I could ever do again. God's timing is NOT our time. We have to remember that! Blessings on your writing, Janell

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  50. Hi everyone! :-)

    Janell, thank you for sharing your perspective! It's always so good to hear the thoughts of someone who has a little bit more life-experience and wisdom! Thank you!

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  51. Excellent post and so very true! I am guilty of this, more time than I care to mention, lol.

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  52. You are right, as writers we must take our time.

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