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Know Your Own Writing Journey & Go at Your Own Pace

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I was driving my son to guitar lessons and racing to get him there on time. I got behind a car that was going less than 25 mph in a 40 zone (of course).

“Can you go any slower?” I called.

The car seemed to slow down even more (if that were possible), almost as if the driver had heard me.

My son smirked the way only 14-year-olds can.

My lead foot started to go into convulsions from having to let up on the gas pedal. “Come on,” I whined. “Can’t you see we’re in a hurry?”

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to realize that I tackle most things in life with drive, speed, and determination. And apparently, those traits carry over into getting my son to guitar lessons.

Once I finally maneuvered around the snail-paced car, I glanced in my review mirror. And as I quickly put distance between myself and the slow driver, I couldn’t keep from noticing the woman’s serene expression.

She was obviously enjoying her ver-ry slo-ow ride. She didn’t mind crawling along and didn’t appear to be noticing the other cars (like mine) that were zipping past her.

As I thought about the incident, I was reminded that just because I like going fast, doesn’t mean everyone else will. Some people are perfectly content to mosey along.

We’re all moving at different paces and that’s okay—in life and in writing. We don’t all have to go at FAST. In fact, sometimes I wonder if those of us who are zipping along have a more difficult time with having patience, savoring life, and being content.

I admit, I fall into the trap of envying those ahead of me on the road, seeing how fast they’re going, watching all that’s happening to them, and wishing I was driving right alongside them. It’s so easy to look around at what everyone else is doing and think I need to be doing more, need to be moving quicker in order to keep in the race.

And sometimes, perhaps I even make others feel like they’re not doing enough, that they should be keeping up with what I’m doing, that they’re too far behind. While I would never do this intentionally, I’m sure that does happen occasionally. (And if I’ve ever made you feel that way, I sincerely apologize!)

Is the writing journey really a race? Do we all have to be running as hard as we can after publication and success? Or do we need to settle into a pace that is uniquely ours?

Just because some writers can write 1000 words in an hour, doesn’t mean I have to. Just because some writers can pump out multiple books in one year, doesn’t mean I have to. Just because some writers blog every day doesn’t mean I have to.

The point is our lives and our writing journeys are each unique.

I can’t spend my time trying to keep up with other authors with all their marketing efforts, with how many books they’re writing, and all of the other things they’re doing.

And others can’t think that they need to keep up with all that I’m doing.

We each have to take the time to figure out our own writing journeys and what works for us in our unique situations.

One of the things that has helped me keep my writing journey in perspective is that I’ve written out the various steps of my path to publication. Incidentally, when we speak with book groups or organizations, we’ll likely need to write out our journey anyway. Just last week I spoke to a women’s group and gave a 45-minute power point presentation, which included sharing about my writing journey.

I highly recommend taking the time to write down what sparked our interest in writing, who or what influenced us most, along with all the setbacks and accomplishments that have led to where we’re at today. Readers will want to know.

Aside from having a succinct, well-written and entertaining description of our writing journey to share with readers, when we take the time to examine where we’ve been and where we are now, it helps remind us just how unique we are.

Don’t let others determine YOUR pace. You decide whether you need to go at a crawl, baby steps, a pleasant stroll, or a sprint. The pace isn’t as important as much as the fact that we don’t stop moving forward. When we keep up our momentum no matter how fast or slow, we’ll get where we want to go eventually.

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~Cicero

So what about you? Are you trying too hard to keep up with those around you instead of going at the pace that works best for you?

38 comments:

  1. Pretty sure I’m running. I cut into the woods every now and again. I hear it’s where the wild things are.

    Somehow I still bump into those chugging along, speeding along, and cruising with the windows down.

    It’s a wild route I’m on. But it’s mine and I love it.

    One of my favorite posts of yours here today, Jody!
    ~ Wendy

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  2. Okay, I have to admit it - I am a slow driver! I read this and laughed, half wondering if it was me in front of you going way under the speed limit... It sometimes gets tempting to try to keep up up with the other cars, or in writing to try to keep pace with those around me, but that's not who God created me to be. Slow and steady wins the race for me (even if it does agitate a few wonderful people along the way... sorry!) I really appreciate this post; thanks, Jody!

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  3. Depends on the day, lol. Sometimes I like to drive at a "casual" pace, others I have to keep motivated to get there on time.

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  4. Jody, you've hit a nerve with me. When I first began writing, I was content to work at my own pace (most of the time). After the publication of my first novel, the pace quickened (writing, editing, marketing, etc.). And now the social media remind me daily that someone has finished a novel, someone has signed a contract, someone... You get the picture. I have to constantly remind myself that I can't keep up with them, but instead have to move ahead at my own pace. Thanks for the great post. I think I'll print it and hang it above my computer.

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  5. Goodmorning, everyone! The comparison game is one we all get sucked into from time to time, isn't it!

    Richard, I think you've brought up a great point. With the increased visibility the internet gives us, it's all the easier to compare our progress to what everyone else is doing and think we need to speed up or slow down. I have to constantly remind myself too, that I have to do what works for me!

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  6. I think this is a great reminder, Jody. It's so easy to get sucked into the comparison game and then become discontent with yourself, plus green with jealousy at others milestones, instead of rejoicing with them. Since we're all unique as individuals, why would we try to copy what works for someone else? Thanks for this food for thought. :)

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  7. It's hard to not compare as you struggle to get someone to please notice and like your writing. I'm discovering that those that are published are not necessarily more talented but they send more things in and don't let the rejections stop them. Patience, steady work, and believing in yourself will get you there. Right?

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  8. Love this post, Jody! As an aspiring author with 3 young children at home, I fight the comparison battle daily-sometimes hourly. Reminding myself that this time with my children is short usually works. But then I see where someone I thought I was "ahead of" has signed with an agent or has signed a contract...and I feel left behind and wonder if I'm not doing enough. Thanks for this great perspective!

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  9. Great post, Jody, full of wisdom.

    As my debut novel gets closer to being released, I found myself feeling more and more stressed as I thought of all the things I "needed" to do. The pressure was preventing me from enjoying the process. Once I saw this, I stepped back, took a few deep breaths, and resolved to embrace the experience instead of letting the seemingly unrelenting demands rob me of my joy.

    I had to return control of my life--and my release--to the Author writing my story, the One who knows all the plot points and wants to see my character arc continue. Once again I surrendered my writing and my book to the Lord, causing the needle on my stressometer to drop significantly.

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  10. Fabulous post as always, Jody!

    I agree w/Richard above. We're constantly bombarded with "I cranked out 10,000 words today" on various social media circuits, and the tendency to self-compare is tempting.

    The bottom line for me is that if I know I'm doing my personal best and living up to the standard I've set for myself, I tend to be a happy camper. (As writers, we well know those times when we could be pushing ourselves a little faster.)

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  11. I love this post Jody! It's a good reminder that we're all on our own individual journeys. Personally, I fit into the "mosey" category. Not in everything but definitely in my writing. Whenever I feel the urge to compare myself with other writers I have to remind myself that at this stage of my life, what I'm doing now is the best I can do...and somehow that's enough for me. One day though, I hope to be zipping along with the rest of you! :)

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  12. How did you know that pace setting is the question I've been asking myself lately?
    Perfect timing...thanks so much!
    I'm starting to discover more of what works for me. I can 'give 'er' for an hour then need a break, then go again. Right now, I'm not the fastest writer, but I'm definitely more focussed and know my pace better than I ever did before. So thanks so much for your words of wisdom :-)

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  13. Your voice shines through this post, Jody. I can picture you telling me this story face to face.

    I definitely have to remind myself that I am who I am, and I can only go at my own pace. I agree with what Richard says above. It's so difficult when the internet is telling you need to do "this" and "that" and people are getting deals and finishing books every second of the day. It seems so fast paced when you look at it that way, but too slow when you look at your own life.

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  14. This hits home for me, because I often feel as if I'm not doing enough fast enough. But then I remind myself that I'm living life and enjoying my family along the way, and that should be enough :D

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  15. Great post. I think the pacing issue is so valid, especially since the inception of social media. We all feel like we have to go a million miles at once to get all the writing done, keep up with twitter, blogging, FB and everything else.

    I know I see some writers pound out book after book after book, and I don't know how they do it. I go at my own speed, but I appreciate post like these that serve as a reminder that not everything has to be done at breakneck speed...just the speed that works for me :)

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  16. This is perfect! So absolutely true. I'm definitely a fast person, too, but there are times when you for whatever reason have to go slow, and I think it's important to remember that that's okay.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  17. Great perspective, Jody.

    A few years back, I was in a hurry and fell and broke my right wrist. I also tore my thumb ligament in the fall. Surgery was necessary. The experience woke me up. I now apply what I've learned to whatever path I take in my life - don't rush.

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  18. Yep, like Richard, this post hit home.

    It's weird. I've been passing through a very odd time in my writing journey.

    I think, naturally, I tend to be a fast writer. But this past year or so I've had to slow down for various reasons. When I see a tweet about somebody finishing another novel, fear strikes. I get paranoid that I'm not doing everything I'm supposed to be doing.

    Great reminder, Jody. That we all walk different paths and we all have different strides. And sometimes, our strides change in different seasons. What matters is that we keep moving forward.

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  19. Timely post for me. I keep feeling behind and that I need to somehow hurry up or I'll miss out on ... something.

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  20. I'm pretty content going at my own pace, doing what's right for me, but from time to time, I let a bit of something creep in (jealousy?) that makes me anxious to be further ahead, and frustrated that I'm not "there" yet. Thanks for the reminder to just carry on doin' my thing. ;)

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  21. So true, Jody. As I look at your life, I see so many things I admire, related to your determination, discipline, and drive. And yet, I know that I wouldn't really want to go at that pace. Your pace would probably kill me, and mine would bore you to death!:-)

    Thankfully, God created each of us for our own unique purpose, and we don't have to emulate anyone else except Him!

    Thanks for a great reminder on being content to be ourselves!

    ~ Betsy

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  22. YES!! And it isn't easy. I rushed out a YA novel in 30 days (NaNoWriMo) and that just isn't the way to go.

    Never. Again.

    I rushed into this business of writing and began to hurt, physically.

    After some chiropractic care, I have learned to SLOW DOWN and truly enjoy the writing experience.

    I archived the YA novel and started over. Now I am thoroughly enjoying writing again.

    Ahhh. Much better to go at my own pace.

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  23. This is exactly what I needed to hear, Jody. I love how God does that...uses other people to tell us something. I've had at least three people in the last week (this post is the third) tell me to SLOW DOWN. That I don't HAVE to achieve EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. I tend to be very goal-oriented...and I want results...NOW. This is not good when that drive distracts me from other things, like my relationship with God and my marriage.

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  24. Great advice. The writing journey is different for all of us, so why shouldn't our pace be set to that same journey. (Hugs)Indigo

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  25. Had a conversation with a friend about this just today. I tend to try and keep up with writer Jones, even if his/her circumstances are completely different than mine. Such a silly, ineffective game we play. :)

    Thanks for the reminder to just be me. Work hard ... but be me.

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  26. Thanks for a great post, Jody. As others have said, I was content going at a pace I felt worked best for me until I got on FB and Twitter and started reading what everyone else was doing. I have to remind myself on a regular basis to keep my eyes on God and allow Him to direct my path as opposed to falling victim to an unending comparison game.

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  27. What a wonderful post. It's so important for us to remember that our journey is unique and we can set our own pace. My pace is much, much slower than many others, which I put down to being a deep thinker and thus I take a long time to make decisions (among many other reasons). I've let myself set my own pace more recently, and it's wonderfully refreshing! :-)

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  28. Thanks for these wonderful words, Jody! It's not so much that I'm trying to keep up with those around me. It's more to the point that I'm trying to keep up with my own expectations and what God's laid on my heart to accomplish. Then I realize that's the key. If He's given me the task, He'll give me the time to complete it - and enjoy it along the way. Thanks again for this refreshing stop!

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  29. Thanks for this blog! It validated my deciding to take a year off from writing after publishing 5 books in 6 years. I was beginning to feel guilty doing this, but it makes me realize that if this is right for me, it is okay. And I will quit feeling guilty.
    Thanks again.

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  30. I used to. Then I became frustrated and stopped writing altogether. I can now say that I write at my own pace whether that be a few words a day or more--it doesn't matter. I might never catch up with other writers I know but I will once again love what I do.

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  31. Thanks, Jody. This was one of those posts I needed to read and internalize. Enjoy your ride!

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  32. So true! Sometimes creativity can get tainted if it becomes a race and not a journey.

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  33. I think for me, I'm just looking for consistency. Sometimes I'm sprinting, and sometimes I'm slowing down. I just wish I could more pleasantly control when and why I'm doing one or the other!

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  34. I tried the running thing but I ran out of breath. Especially at 7 months prego. So ...we're going for a steady stroll (my DH is pushing me in a cart). It's working well ;)

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  35. A powerful post for any person. With 3 little ones at home, I feel like I'm constantly moving at a snails pace when it comes to writing, but I wouldn't change the years I have with them for anything and somehow, by God's grace, it all gets done!

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  36. Great perspective! Thanks for the reminder to try to find our own pace. Still searching after 5 years! I love the connections through social networking and have agreed/made peace with myself to spend 1/3 of my time on social networking, spend the other 1/3 of my time on writing, then the final third on business end of writing and husband's bookkeeping, bills, etc. And try to quit early enough to quiet my brain, ready for sleep.

    The trick for me is to strengthen the discipline to stop one task and move on to the other in a timely basis. As writers, we do no favors to ourselves to add time stress to our overflowing plate. We need that isolated space reserved for our minds to enter that special place.

    A temporary solution for me was to rent an off season low fee B&B room (not overnight) two days a week. It worked well, but I still believe (tho never mastered it) to keep life my stories without a resurrection process each time, I need to think about them/work on them every day.

    Thanks, Jody. Writing this comment made me think through things again!

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  37. Hi Marion,

    I like the idea of renting a B&B for some more intensive concentrated writing retreats! I'll have to keep that in mind for the future! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

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  38. I used to try and keep up with others, but the pace was killing me and it seemed like I was going in circles. I'm starting to drive like that car in front of you, slooow and I'm actually enjoying the ride, though I do hate those red lights! :)

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