Hello, friends! Long time no write. Sometimes I can rationalize being late on my blog posts… Well, I only committed to twice a month, and even though it’s been two weeks it’s not technically the middle of the month yet… Ahem, not this time. It’s been three weeks and it’s definitely not July 15th.
But sometimes life happens, and it was CRAZY around here last week. Do you ever have those weeks where everything occurs at the same time? Kids’ activities, dentist and doctor appointments, the pool pump fails (aka green pool), the car needs an oil change, three days of jury duty. That was my life last week. Needless to say, squeezing in writing time was a real stretch.
I did have one highlight, though, and that was learning (after the fact, because of course I missed the live stream) my entry in the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/ Suspense won first place in the inspirational category. I was thrilled, but it got me thinking about the nature of achievements and how we celebrate them. In my case, I missed the awards ceremony (no in-person celebrating) and I found out via Twitter. I told my family and retweeted the announcement, but that was about it. Even retweeting it felt awkward, because who wants to be that writer? The one who’s always bragging about their accomplishments?
Can we share with others and celebrate without bragging? Is it better to keep our accomplishments to ourselves? Or maybe move on without even acknowledging them?
Today, I’ve got three reasons for why you should take the time to celebrate every accomplishment on your writing journey.
Writing is a hard business. Even if you’re “just” a hobby writer. Many people who say they want to write a book never even start. You’re way ahead of the curve if you finish your first draft, let alone usher a book all the way to publication. And that road is often fraught with self-doubt, failure, and frustration. I have yet to meet a writer (published or not) who hasn’t wrestled with these issues on some level.
None of us is perfect, and we can’t create anything perfect, either. We live every day in that tension between what we imagine and what we can actually produce. Thankfully, we can rewrite, revise, edit, and swap work to get others’ feedback. But it’s a long, arduous process, and the end result will still NOT BE PERFECT. Gasp. (Perfectionists, it’s okay if you need a minute to scream.)
Probably the most painful part is, somebody else will be more than happy to tell you all the ways your book isn’t perfect. After it’s published, of course. That’s where reviews come in handy. No matter how awesome your book is, somebody won’t like it, and they’ll be sure to let you know.
This, my friends, is the unfortunate reality of creating. And since we’re determined to do it anyway, we need all the encouragement and motivation we can get. That means celebrating every victory, every achievement, every ah-ha moment as they come.
Because those moments come too–when your ending snaps into place, or you suddenly see what makes that character tick, or you figure out what was bothering you about that one scene AND how to fix it. Or you finish your first draft. Or your fifth. Or your critique partner loves that bit of dialogue you love, too. Or you final in a contest. Or you get an agent. Or you find your book in the library.
We desperately need those moments to keep going. Not only for the initial feeling of exhilaration, but because they stick with us when the tough times come. If you’ve taken the time to celebrate and remember, those successes, both big and small, will be like road markers when you’re lost in a mire of self-doubt.
2. Including Your Tribe
When I first started writing, I kept it to myself. Because, you know, writing is such a sketchy activity it should be done in a closet. Not quite. Truth was, I was so worried about failing, I didn’t think anybody should know until I could prove I was decent at it.
But writing is too hard to be a solitary endeavor. We need the support of our family and friends, and we need to find people in the writing community who can commiserate and celebrate with us. Unless you’re stuck with an awful family and have chosen your friends unwisely, odds are good they WANT to support you in your writing.
Remember that old Simon & Garfunkel song? I am a rock, I am an island… And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries… Sorry, but no. We’re not rocks. (Last time I checked, anyway.) We need people in our corner. People who will cheer us on no matter what, and people who can understand and empathize with what we’re experiencing.
Your family and writing tribe can’t be there for you if you don’t tell them what’s happening. Letting others know about a goal you’ve reached, or something you’ve accomplished, isn’t bragging if you’re doing it for the right reasons. If your only purpose is to make yourself look good, then no. But if you’re letting your tribe know so they can celebrate with you, then go for it.
As Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” No one can do either if they don’t know.
3. Savoring the Journey
Writing is a journey, not a destination. For every goal you reach, there’s always another one farther along to attain. If the finish line is the only reason you’re writing, you’ll miss out on all the best parts.
According to the CliftonStrengths assessment I took a couple of weeks ago, one of my strengths is “Achiever.” Basically, people with this strength are driven to complete tasks and derive a sense of satisfaction from doing so. On the downside, that sense of satisfaction is quick to vanish. Then the achiever needs to accomplish something else to feel like their day has been worthwhile. This description resonated with me so well–often I think of my “reward” for achieving a goal as the chance to move on to the next one.
In some ways, my tendency to downplay achievements is like taking a road trip and never looking out the window. Or refusing to stop at that rest area with the free orange juice and ten-foot shark. Or ignoring the World-Famous Mystery Spot at mile marker 357. (Okay, maybe you should ignore that one.) Who wants to miss out on all the fascinating adventures along the way?
It won’t kill me to take a break for ten minutes to celebrate an accomplishment. Maybe that means a quick Tweet or Facebook post to let friends know I finished editing a tough chapter. Or maybe it means telling my kids, “Hey, remember that contest Mom entered? I actually won!” I’ve heard of other writers who track their progress with sticker charts. It might sound like a trip back to first grade, but if it motivates and encourages them, I say, go for it!
When I was writing my Master’s thesis, I worked full time also. I’d do my research and writing in the evenings and on weekends, often so exhausted I dreaded the sight of my laptop. Finally, I came up with a reward system that both motivated me and helped me celebrate little milestones along the way. For every fifty minutes of work, I’d “earn” ten minutes of time to read whatever I wanted. That combination of rest, something to look forward to, and a way to celebrate helped push me through to the finished product.
Last of all, any journey is easier to savor if you cultivate a heart of gratitude. That includes taking the time to honor the good that has come our way and being thankful for what we’ve been able to achieve. I recognize my talents as a gift from God and the good that comes from them as His blessing. Part of showing my thankfulness is celebrating what He’s done in my life.
What about you? Do you celebrate your successes? What are your favorite rewards? Feel free to leave a comment and share!
Image credit: Pixabay.com, CC0 license.