There’s a lot of hope involved in being a writer.
Also, a lot of uncertainty. It’s important to be ambitious for your work, to have big dreams. I have always loved the idea that a person’s heartfelt desire to do something means that the ability to achieve that thing also exists within them. (But then one only has to watch an episode of X Factor to become swiftly disabused of that notion.)
So, how to progress with your writing without feeling as though the power to fulfill your dreams lies in someone else’s hands?
A long time ago I learned a useful trick for turning what can feel like a helpless wanting into action. And it’s really incredibly simple:
Write down your creative dreams. They might be, “I want to finish this novel” or “I want to get published” or, “I want a literary agent” or “I want to be the next JK Rowling.” (You might as well get used to hearing her name, since every time you mention you are a writer, someone will ask you if you want to be the next JK Rowling. I have no idea who people used to reference before Harry Potter. Answers on a postcard please.)
Anyway, you get the gist.
Now, all of these dreams are wonderful. The only thing is, except for the first one, THEY ARE COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. Which can be a little crazy-inducing. And even the first one is a little wishy-washy. But there’s a simple trick you can use.
Just turn all of your wishes into actions.
So, “I want to finish my novel” becomes “I am going to work on my novel for three hours every week”. “I want to get published” would turn into: “I am going to finish my novel in the next six months, and then send it out to my beta readers.”
“I want a literary agent,” becomes: “I am going to send out fifteen queries in the next four weeks and, if they get rejected, I am going to send out fifteen more.”
“I want to be the next J K Rowking” could translate into: “I am going to pursue my unique story ideas and find a way of bringing them to the world.”
Notice that “wants” are replaced by “going tos”. There’s a huge power shift there. Wanting makes us feel passive and powerless; taking action sees us following steps, all of which are all completely within our control.
This way, when you find yourself thinking, “I really want to finish that novel” you are duty bound to ask yourself whether you stuck to those three hours a week, and if not, do you really want to finish that novel? Because if you really wanted to, wouldn’t you have done what was required? (Oh yeah, being a writer is also about trying to be horribly honest with yourself.)
To achieve your writing goals, you’ll need passion and patience and determination and faith, by the bucketload. But when you start to doubt – and you will, it is only natural – getting back to those action steps will soothe you. It will remind you that you have a plan. That you are moving forwards. That you are not waiting for the world to give you what you want, you are taking steady, determined steps towards seizing it for yourself.
Because, in the end, there are no certainties except this – no-one can stop you from creating your art, except you.
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