Yesterday we talked about how important it is to learn to take a hit. We grow, get tougher, get stronger, and we learn where we’re weak. Sometimes those weaknesses are what keep us from moving forward professionally, so it’s good to find them and strengthen them.
We have to learn to take hits because the world is full of petty, nasty people who will go for the TKO. We might even be related to more than a few.
I’ve written over 512 blogs over the past four years. Let’s say my blogs are 1,000 words long (which is on the low end for anyone who’s followed me for very long, :D). That’s over a half a million words just in blogs. This doesn’t count my books or guest blogs.
I blog for my city and am a featured blogger for SocialIn (with completely different content). My blogs reach hundreds of thousands of people in 26 major cities. Though I’ve easily written close to a million words in just blogs, I still have people infer I’m not a “real” expert/writer. Likely always will, too. Goes with the territory *shrugs*
And $20? It will happen to you, too.
Prepare for the:
“Well, you’re not a real writer because you didn’t traditionally publish.”
“Oh, you aren’t a best-seller so you aren’t a real writer.'”
“You haven’t made the NYT List, so who are you?”
“You don’t yet make your living writing full-time, so you’re not a real writer.”
Okay you win. You’re better than me. Um, I’ve got writing to do *checks watch*. Fun chatting, though :).
Roll with the punches and press on. Keep pressing and those people can just eat your dust later ;)…which leads me to today’s lesson.
Why we need to learn to toughen up is this—thick skin is vital for us to keep pressing even when we’re bloody, wounded or discouraged. Being a career writer isn’t a sprint. It’s a mega-marathon-mountain-climbing-Iron-Man. Many writers will fail not because of lack of talent, rather lack of staying power.
Appreciate that Training Often Involves “Other” Activities
Join a boxing gym and just expect to do a lot of jumping rope, running, sprinting, bag work, and you’ll get hit with a medicine ball…a lot.
Yet, at no time during my tenure “boxing” was I ever attacked by a jump rope or a medicine ball. Those “other activities” weren’t actual fighting, but they trained fighters for the endurance necessary to win in the ring.
Winning is frequently tied to staying power. Writing is no exception. Your mind, fingers and muse strengthen with focus, time, training and pain.
We’ll do a lot of things (I.e. blogging) that might not directly have anything to do with writing fiction…but it trains us to 1) meet self-imposed deadlines 2) build an audience with our writing voice 3) hook early 4) ENDURE.
I blogged for almost two years before I passed 50 hits a day. I blogged even when it felt like no one was listening, because I viewed it as part of my author training. Even if no one EVER listened, I was a better, faster, cleaner, more disciplined writer and I was investing in the long-term.
New Writers are Vulnerable
A boxer who’s been in the game for ten years, has a wall of title belts, has already been through the fire and gotten outside validation? It’s easier for that guy to jump in the ring. There’s a psychological advantage this guy earned with blood, time and pain.
For the newbies? Everyone thinks we’re nuts. They forget that even that title champ was a once a green pea tripping over the jump rope, too.
Becoming a writer is easy. Staying a writer is another matter entirely.
The beginning is a delicate time. It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember this:
Every NYTBSA, every Pulitzer-winner, every literary legend was once just an unpaid amateur with a dream, too.
Learn to keep going no matter what, and you cannot imagine the edge you’ll have in this profession (ANY profession).
Keep training. Keep blogging. Keep writing books, even bad books. Keep reading. Keep studying. Learn from everyone you can. It’s how we grow. How we learn. We can’t learn from the sidelines. We need to get into the fray even when we know it’s going to hurt because that’s what gives us staying power. And, as the great coach Vince Lombardi said, Quitters never win and winners never quit ;).
Have you dealt with nasty people who tried to undermine your dream? What activities do you use to train as a writer-artist? What area do you need help? Where do you feel you’re weak? What’s your plan for strengthening that area? What activities do you think might help writers with endurance training?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
So, let’s see if I got this right….
Don’t give up….don’t give up…don’t give up….
Seriously. Every morning I look forward to reading your posts. You encourage me to keep on fighting. *Pow*
The biggest part of “winning” in the writing game is psychological. We can have all the talent and skill in the world, but of we lack psychological strength? Won’t matter. Writing, like most things, is largely mental. Happy to inspire you :D.
You are amazing! Thank you for the inspiration to keep going. I’m knee deep in editing right now, not my favorite part of the writing process.
As a trained boxer, I love the whole boxing take on this. This post I really n eeded to hear today, even if I tell myself this same thing everyday.
Thanks, Kristen, for all of this useful advice. I look forward to your inspirations, and appreciate the help it is giving me as I keep up my blog and write my novel.
I recently started writing NF articles for a magazine and a few local newspapers. It’s not the fictional genre that my novel is in but, it is writing under deadlines. It takes away from some time I would normally devote to my WIP. However, it gives me a break from the WIP without breaking my writing routine. I really like this series of posts.
Ah, Kristen. As usual, your timing is impeccable! Thank you so much. I needed this today.
I think the staying power is crucial. I know there have been times I wanted to give up, but I realize that I need to write more and get more books out there. In this business, it’s difficult to know where to invest money in promotion and/or how to get your name out to readers. The more I’ve investigated into the industry and have received advice from some successful writers at Colorado Romance Writers, it’s writing books. Your blog is always so write on. I am planning to go to the conference in Colorado to see you and can’t wait to hear you speak. Also, plan on buying one of your books. Rock on!
Thanks for encouraging newbies not to throw in the towel. In this age of instant gratification it’s a good reminder that you must go the distance if you want to succeed.
Your advice today and yesterday are so right on. Thanks so much.
Thanks for the pep-talk, coach 😀
Your my hero. Love to read your posts because they are always poking me in the right direction…my chair for a little BIC time.
Awww, thanks, William. Just keep pressing. Keep training. Keep moving forward. Most days it will feel like one step forward and 20 steps back, but keep your head down. Ignore all numbers but the ones that count…like word count ;). Ignore the blog hits and the Amazon rankings and just keep pushing.
My favorite was an ‘encouraging’ comment from a ‘friend.’ “I’m sure one day you’ll be a good enough writer to be published in hard cover. I’ll read you then.” You do not want to know what authors she reads now, because they are in hard cover.
Kristen, I’m glad you’ve had such stellar success with your blog(s) and career. I love your blog so much. Keeps me going.
Girlfriend, did I need this post. Yes, the putdowns come fast and hard, and sometimes, from other smug writers. Oh, the sting you feel! How you grit your teeth and say, “I gotta punch past this.” Develop rhino skin, as James Scott Bell says.
As far as staying in the arena… yesterday, Golden Heart winners (placers) were announced and my name was not among them, for the third year in a row. I started that same old “compare-compare-and-despair” routine. It seems some people just “wish” success and their fairy godmother taps them once with her wand – and poof – success happens. Meanwhile, I wrestle with paralyzing doubt – and even feeling I deserve success.
”Million Dollar Baby” is one of my favorite movies, and I always imagine myself as her, that waitress having to eat table scraps and train-train-train as everyone else flaunts the prize-winning belt.
So I take heart and share this with others who were disappointed, too. I’d heard a couple of bestselling authors couldn’t get anywhere with RWA contests, and when they stopped entering them, they had success. An author friend said they once took an opening from a bestselling novel, entered it into a RWA chapter contest and it was blasted / torn apart by judges.
So maybe that’s what some of us have to do, is reassess our patterns (entering contests) realizing it’s not the path for us. It’s not where we need to train. Contests have worked for a few of my friends and I wish them the best. Contests however have been corrosive for my career.
Ergo, I must train in another ring. I will continue to study the Masters – great writers like Gillian Flynn, Dennis Lehane, Thomas Harris, Stephen King, and the host of wonderful romance writers – Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Laura Kinsale, Linda Howard, Francine Rivers, so many. And I will continue to take solace in your marvelous blog… keeps me from whining… keeps me motivated. Onward, upward!
I’d like to hear more about how you blogged for more than 2 years before you had more than 50 hits a day! What was it like and how did it finally get rolling? 🙂 I’ve been thinking about starting a blog/website soon but wondered how to get anyone to read the damn thing!
I just started one, less than a month ago. So far my high has been 348 hits, low of 6, and average hovering at 45. Tweeting has been a huge factor in this, I think.
I mentioned to another commenter that I have a new book coming out soon and it will teach you how to blog. The two years trained my character. THAT is one of the most essential parts of this business. We have to keep going even when there is no outside support. It also inspired me to create the WANA movement. WE ARE NOT ALONE. We need to hear that because often we feel very alone. We all struggle. We all begin as newbies. The key to blogging is consistency, the type of content, understanding how search engines work and how to gain their favor and, frankly, NOT GIVING UP. One day you hit the tipping point, but u can’t if you quit.
Thank you, your advice over the past year has helped tremendously. Blogging will be the next big step!
Absolutely, never give up! I heard Brandilyn Collins speak a couple of weeks ago, it took her 10 years to get her first book published, traditionally. My friend, Theresa Ragan, it took her 18 years. She couldn’t get a publisher all that time, but she kept writing, kept getting better. Then one day she decided to self-publish and sold over 300,000 books in 18 months.
I’ve been at it for 4 years, have tried to learn something new about self-publishing, marketing, and writing everyday, and am now able to say I can support myself from my writing.
The sky is the limit! Just don’t give up.
I ADORE Theresa. I was privileged enough to meet her and hang out with her in Idaho. She is a super neat lady and a true inspiration.
Your posts are always spot on. Thanks for the encouragement for us Newbies.
I really needed to hear your words today. And your blog numbers for the first two years encouraged me. I’ve only been blogging for almost a year and have 100 to 130 followers each week. Yea me! My problem is, I needed to hear these words years ago, when I threw that first manuscript in the drawer. But I’ve heard you now. Loud and clear. No more drawers. No more quitting. Just writing. Thanks, Kristen. I’m passing your posts on boxing to my teen edit group and to my big folks group too.
Well-timed and much appreciated, Kristen. As a writer a mere two years in, these types of posts always go a long way to reminding me, “I AM NOT ALONE.”
The analogy to boxing was a creative way to inspire us to keep slugging with our craft. We have to keep writing, learning and improving. It is at times daunting to keep up one’s morale, but there are always those snippets of positive feedback that inspire us to continue to evolve. I am enjoying your blogs, they keep me thinking.
This is so encouraging, Kristen. I think we all feel this way as writers and need to know how important it is to persevere. Thank you!
Reblogged this on Follow the Blog and commented:
Kristen Lamb inspires writers to continue to develop and perfect our skills. Her boxing analogy is a good one.
Hi Kristen I was a boxer for twenty years, and the only thing I got out of it was pain, a little bit of money and a lot of back stabbing. I have been trying to be a writer for a couple of years, and I think it is quite a hard thing to learn. I must say though I do enjoy it. I wish I could find a book or someone that I could get the fix from. I have written a few articles, but I dont think they are good enough, so im on my way with writing fiction. Lets hope aye. Thanks for the emails Gary Jones
I’m in that early blogging boat right now. I was thinking exactly what you said about it. Just do it anyway. It’s good writing exercise. My biggest challenge is coming up with topics to blog about.
As much as I love him and hate to say it, my hubby is my biggest challenge to my endurance. I want very much to go to conferences and writers meetings, but I’ll never hear the end of it from him. I’m very happy that I at least have your blogs to read for inspiration. So I’ll just get on with my “hobby” now…
Kirsten promotes on-line conferences and there are several on-line groups for writers so you would not have to travel. On ideas for blog topics, make a list of what you think is very important – issues from local to world. I read YAHOO! News when I need to get away from writing on my fictional works. Sometimes after reading the articles I get ideas on another novel or topic to write about.
Thanks Daniel 😀 Yeah I very much wanted to the last on-line conference, but either I have to wait until both our boys are old enough for school, or I make it big with one of my book ideas. (catch 22 on that, right?) lol. I’m a stay at home mom and my hubby tends to think that all I do all day is focus on my writing instead of the boys, despite the fact that our 4 yo has the highest assesment scores in his preschool class… Ok, anyway.
Thanks for the suggestions about blog topics. 😀 I’ll give it a try.
There are Internet websites that are interactive for Little Ones. I wanted to make one. I am too busy writing novels. Highlights for Children and Cricket Magazine websites could help. Cricket has age groups so your kids could grow with it.
As a psychologist, I’d have to say that necessary characteristic of perseverance is found in some of us but not in all of us. I’ve known a couple of extremely talented people put their writing to one side when it became a bit too difficult and that’s sad. (Then, we all know those with perseverance but no talent…but they, too, can work away at learning the skills.)
Can one develop perseverance? The lucky ones are persistent about their goals from day one (just ask their mothers) but, just like training for the ring, anyone can grit their teeth and keep going if the goal is firmly visualised.
It comes down to knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and thus being able to identify your own particular vulnerabilities.
Thank you, Tannis. I need Samwise and Frodo to refresh me on perseverance. Mine ebbs and flows. I’ve seen it way too many times, those with a ton of talent, but can’t take the humiliating rejection, versus those who have less talent but more determination… guess who comes out ahead?
This is the best blog for writers, not only do I delight in Kristen’s observations, but in the commenters as well.
I have plenty of self-confidence, and I really do not think of it as a problem. What slows me down is the story does not fall into places as I try to write on a WIP. Sometimes I add to another chapter, but I have to walk around or get fresh air and talk it out loud before I can usually finish the chapter, which I am working on. It helps to jot things on paper or dictate it on the voice recorder of a cell phone. But I am constantly doing something to finish the WIP or many WIPs.
Thank you. This was just what I needed to hear today.
thank you so much! i love reading this blog, i find it very informative even if i don’t always agree with some of the tactics (mostly cause i’m just one of those bleeding heart writers 😉 ). i agree, though… i will always keep writing, no matter what anybody says, no matter how many rejections i get. i’m a writer, through and through, and i always have been. the technicalities may sometimes go over my head, but it’s something i’m working on- and i’m thankful to have found somebody who can help with all of that, without being undermining to my craft or my choices. you’re a wonderful teacher! (also, i’m doing that whole “keep writing (publishing!) books, even bad books” thing… i gave away many of my texts through kindle these last few days, and it’s been a success. more than i could have hoped for, but it’s because i first found your blog a few weeks ago, and your words are always encouraging! 😀
One of the reasons I like you, Kristen, is that you keep it real. Regarding today’s blog, as the Marines like to say: “Oorah!”
Reblogged this on literalstarvingartist and commented:
another great blog by ms Lamb (we are not alone)… i love this one especially because you may not think you’re doing anything in your writing, maybe just scribbling words or blogging here and there, but that’s what it is. it’s training!
Confidence and Endurance while getting hit in the face and stomach, I am glad that I decided on writing for my old age pension plan. With the NOR/SOU KOR tension, Social Security might not exist spent on unnecessary military spending since nobody is buying into the war on terrorism. Go back to nukes spending.
My mother teaches productive trees and I would include rice. Trees are usually grown for shade and to cool things. I will include preventing tornados and cutting it down added to the winter freeze from Canada reaching San Diego and southern Texas.
If you are going to grow trees, you should grow trees, which you can harvest fruits, like coconuts and mangos and jackfruit and avocados.
My mother taught me how to grow pineapples. I was told it does not grow in our municipality. We import pineapples from Hawaii and some can grow the fruit in northern and southern areas of the Philippines with more rain.
After the first year I learned that it dried up locally so I planted it on the side of the house and where it could have shade during the dry seasons. One summer, I harvested 18 pineapples. I have six growing and we already ate one. Since I started writing on novels full-time several years ago, I am not planting vegetation for a future, as much.
But I look at writing novels the same way as growing productive plants.
It takes about ten years for a coconut tree to be able to harvest a coconut. With one tree you will be able to harvest a coconut almost every three to four months for the next 30 years. You have coco lumber when the coconut tree cannot produce coconuts.
I am prepared to write my novels now even if it takes ten years or more to harvest to live on.
I think the person that needs the most convincing is myself. Sometimes I lose it – just sweep it all away with one thought: “What the hell am I doing? When am I going to grow up?” But I never do. Somehow my fingers end up back at the keyboard and I realize that there isn’t anything else I’m suited for. I am lucky to have close family that supports me and extended family that can at least file my antics under the title “she’s a writer” and shrug their shoulders.
I feel bad for people that think you can’t be a writer if you’re not published. They don’t really understand the drive. They have no idea what it’s like to do something every day because you want to and you have to and you love it and you hate it. It isn’t something you can easily explain to a person that thinks “you know all the words, how hard can it be to write them down?” I stopped trying. Now I just stare at them until they get uncomfortable.
Ah, but you don’t know all the words, at least not at first. I know I never do.
No matter how long you write or how successful you are, there’s always going to be people telling you that you need to get a real job. That’s just how it is. All you can do is ignore them and keep producing and building an audience. (Ah, and creating your own version of success to achieve doesn’t hurt either. :))
This post was a knock out!
Thanks, Ron 😀 ((HUGS))
WOW, what a powerful post. I’m printing it out and posting it on a bulletin board so I can read it again on days when I need to just keep going!
There’s a wonderful sense of hope in this post, and it’s much appreciated. 🙂
I am actually writing a post on accepting my suckiness. Because for a while I was all clenched up. Because I felt like I had to win at blogging. And then I realized, I just have to surrender to this feeling. Because there is no winning. I HATE that whole Freshly Pressed thing. Why do they do that do us? Make us crave external validation even MORE than we already do? I’m all done with that now. I think I’ve got my mojo back. For now. 🙂
Hi Kristen, your article covers quite a few things that I’ll be writing about in my blog over the next few weeks/months, but I love how you’ve related it all to boxing. I played field hockey alot growing up, perhaps I can relate some of my posts to crazy girls running around a paddock with sticks in their hands… Great hook on the end too. I’ve really been enjoying your posts and wondering what sort of things I can do as giveaways. As a yet to be traditionally published (and therefore not a real writer lol) I have a bit of a challenge on my hands. Maybe I could give away lessons on how to fall & roll to avoid being hit by a hockey stick or how to get up and keep going when you’ve just had the stuffing knocked out of you… Thanks for the entertaining, educational and inspiring words. Regards, Patricia
In the ebb and flow of a creative life sometimes I seem to flounder in the tide; I get tired and discouraged. This is such a time for me. I’ve done a long, difficult revision and realize I need to do one more run through. I despair. Your post was a medicine ball in the stomach moment. Just the medicine I needed to suck it up and keep swimming. 🙂 Thanks, Kristen.
Whenever I have periods when it’s hard to get the writing going I do 10 minutes of stream-of-consciousness. I save all of them so I also have them as a sort of diary for the future. They help a lot.
It was, at first, discouraging to begin my writing group. I remember being really impressed with the first text I read and I arrived and as the others ripped it to pieces I felt almost as if it was my own text that was being brutally murdered, since I had approved of it.
Now I’ve grown a lot since then. I love this analogy, probably one of your best ones yet.
Thank you for posting this.
One of the things that’s worried me for the past few months has been the traffic on my blog. I keep writing and experimenting with ways to get people to read, but my daily hits are still less than I’d like them to be. So you have no idea how much of a relief it was to read this. Especially one line in particular:
“I blogged for almost two years before I passed 50 hits a day. I blogged even when it felt like no one was listening, because I viewed it as part of my author training. Even if no one EVER listened, I was a better, faster, cleaner, more disciplined writer and I was investing in the long-term.”
That’s exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!
Fantastic post! Sorry for being so late about the comment, especially when your post arrived just at the perfect time. 🙂 Just what I needed to hear.