A Writer’s Poison: Waiting for Success

Hello, friends– it’s Kate. I had a realization just now, and I’m wondering how many of you have had a similar one, because it just made me sit up a little straighter.

I have goals. I want to sign with a great agent and get a good book deal and be able to eventually live off my writing income alone (yes, I know that’s rare). I want to improve my writing craft and be not just good, but as good as I can be. I want people to remember my stories because they made them think or made them feel.

Those goals are so big, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get there. And I might not– they wouldn’t be good goals if they were things I could easily do. I’m working toward those goals, and I’m learning. I’m an editor with Month9Books and a freelance editor. I teach half-time. Of course, I write and I blog here and over at YA Stands. I attempt to have a life off the computer, too. Each of these things gives me plenty to do for fifteen hours each day.

But I’m also doing a lot of waiting. I’m waiting for the day I reach one of those big goals, and I don’t really think that’s a good thing.

Developing skill takes time. The publishing world takes a lot of patience, sometimes. Writing definitely takes time. I went into this knowing it would be harder, take longer, and be more uncertain than I figured. But all this waiting? It’s the worst part. (Anyone with me there?) I’m not sitting around with idle hands, believe me. But I still feel the waiting. When my mind skips to my inbox and there’s nothing new, when I glance at the word count on my WIP and see it’s barely moved even though I’ve been working on it all afternoon, and even worse, when there is a new email and it’s not the news I want, I feel the waiting.

Being patient is a good thing. Having my expectations set in the right place and having to work for what I want is a good thing. But this kind of waiting is too much to handle along with the uncertainty, hard work, and stress of being a professional writer.

What prompted me to start writing this post was the realization that I shouldn’t be waiting.

And you shouldn’t be, either. I give you permission to stop waiting. In fact, I really think you should stop right now.

All this waiting is a result of my attention being set so far away. When everything I do is a stepping stone to such enormous, far-off goals, the here and now loses some of its shine.

My goals will still be my goals. If I don’t have a plan and somewhat impossible ambitions, I don’t feel like myself. If anything, I now have more goals, because instead of focusing so far off, I’m focusing on what’s right in front of me. My goals now include finishing editing an incredibly fun MS for a very talented author (almost there!), finishing the last half of John Green’s PAPER TOWNS, hitting 60,000 words in my WIP (just broke 50,000 today!), and enjoying a bachelorette party and wedding I have for a friend this weekend.

I don’t have to wait anymore. I can close my email (for an hour or so, anyway). I can stop Twitter-stalking people I want emails from. I may want big things to happen faster, but waiting on them every day wears me down too much.

When I have daily and weekly goals, and I focus on those, success happens. I don’t need to wait for my five-year plan to unfold in order for me to succeed. I meet a goal and I succeed and I improve when I turn in edits on time, when I finish reading a good book and come away with a sliver of something to use in my own writing, when I finish a page in my work in progress and like the words I put down. That’s success.

Don’t be content to wait on your goals. Break those five-year, big-dream goals down into smaller ones you can focus on and succeed at this week. Focus on those, and don’t get worn down by the immense task of becoming a professional writer– or whatever it is you want to be or do. Because if I keep succeeding at what I set out to do today and tomorrow and this week, I’m going to improve and I’m going to make progress toward those bigger goals.

Celebrate reaching those stepping stones. Give them the focus they deserve. Each one is it’s own success, and we shouldn’t be waiting so much for the next thing and the next day. If I turn my motivation and determination to what’s right in front of me, I’ll become a better writer.

And that, more than all those other things, is success.

What are your goals for this week? What success have you had lately?

8 thoughts on “A Writer’s Poison: Waiting for Success

  1. Pingback: What is your daily writing goal? | Wander Pierce

  2. Thank you for this. I’m suffering from ‘the waiting’ as well. I live my life, I go to work. But every time I open my inbox and see a rejection (or worse and more common, nothing!), it becomes oppressive and makes the same goals and ideals I have as you seem impossible to attain. Thank you for sharing things and seeing that I’m not alone in my thoughts! I’ll try and focus on smaller but hopefully easily reachable goals! Keep up the good fight!

  3. Thank you, Kate. I needed that. I’ve been wallowing in discouragement and half-heartedly writing because I have two novels that have been on the internet for two years. I haven’t made enough money from them to buy a week’s worth of groceries. But I’m going to get back to business and make some progress today. Tomorrow. I’ll do the same. Thanks.
    Aleta Kay

  4. Pingback: A Writer’s Poison: Waiting for Success | Lizzy Charles

  5. It really does help to break larger goals down into more manageable ones. At least I can say I carried that habit over from planning for the classroom. I know I’m impatient in setting and achieving my goals, so it’s always nice when posts like this come along at just the right time.

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