One thing you learn right away in the literary field is that a writer is a writer, is a writer, etc. Whether we write poetry, short stories, fiction or non, fantasy or thrillers, we have the same goals, aspirations, dreams, and troubles.
Today’s guest post is brought to you by Gideon Stevens, a Twitter pal of mine and author of Writing Non-Fiction: the Five Step Method. He discusses a thought that can cross a reader’s mind on any given day, giving up, and what we can do to prevent it.
Thanks for the guest post, Gideon! What’s the matter with plaid?
Are You Ready to Give Up?
We’ve all been there, right? Nothing seems to be working, you’re not seeing any progress, and everyone, including you, has lost faith that you can do it. Maybe it’s time to give up.
Okay, maybe it is. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Maybe you’re going in the wrong direction. Maybe your dream is not realistic. Maybe you’ve changed your mind, or you now see clearly how much effort is required, and you’re not willing to make a sacrifice that large. That’s okay. You gave it a shot, and you’ve learned from the experience. Maybe it’s time to move on. I’ll bet those grapes were sour anyway.
Or maybe – just maybe – you’re having a bad day. Maybe you still want it as much as you ever did, and you’re just feeling hopeless right now. So before you give up:
Ten Things to do Before You Give Up On Your Dreams
1. Put the gun down.
I’m being dramatic, but I’m serious too. If things have gotten that bad – if you’ve written the note, loaded the bullet, and are about to give up on everything – please stop. Put the gun down. Call 911 now. No problem is ever solved by ending your life. I read once about the small handful of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. They all said pretty much the same thing:
“As I was falling, I realized that I did not have any problems that I could not solve, except for one – and that was that I had just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge!”
On a far less serious note, perhaps the “gun” in question is the “delete” key. You’ve been working on your blog forever, and so far the only readers you have are your mom and your cat, and your mom stopped reading two weeks ago. Your finger hovers over the delete key. The thoughts going through your head are all negative. “I’ll never get more readers. No one is going to buy my book. I’m not good enough, smart enough, cute enough,” and so on.
When you’re being overwhelmed by negative thoughts, it is not a good time to make a decision, especially one that is irrevocable. Put the gun down. Turn the computer off. Walk away.
2. Have lunch.
Remember HALT. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Ask yourself if you’re feeling one of those. Emotions are delicate things, and can be influenced by outside forces. Take a nap, and you may wake up with renewed determination.
3. Call someone.
Get on the phone with a friend. Tell them up front “I need your help. I’m feeling like this just isn’t ever going to work and I need you to be my cheerleader. Tell me I can do it. Tell me not to give up.” They will. You’ll feel better. They might even tell you something that will help.
4. Do something else for a while.
Look, you’re a smart person, and smart people crave novelty. You might just need a break. Don’t delete anything, just start something new. Work at that for a little while, then come back to your main project.
5. Reconsider the goal.
If you’re about to give up, maybe your goal is unrealistic. Shooting for the stars is wonderful, as long as you’re not overwhelmed. If you’re not seeing progress, try setting TINY goals. I want to sell ONE copy of my book. Reaching that goal, set the next goal: I want to sell another copy, this time to someone who is not a relative or friend. Setting a small goal can keep you going, and if you keep going long enough, one day you’ll look up and find that you’ve arrived.
6. Solve just one problem.
You want to sell a bazillion copies of your novel. So far you’ve sold ten. Time to give up? No, time to find out what the problem is. Maybe it’s marketing, maybe no one’s even heard of your book. Then solve that problem. Maybe the price is too high. Maybe it needs an editor. Find out what’s holding you back, then concentrate on getting past that one obstacle. Don’t worry, there’ll be another obstacle after that one.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” One, two, three – okay, everybody. The part they leave out: a lot more steps have to follow that first one. Try to stand back and gain some perspective. Instead of looking at how far you have left to go and feeling hopeless, take a look at how far you’ve come and feel proud.
7. Take it one day at a time.
My reaction to this has always been: Is there another option? If I’m in a hurry, can I take it two days at a time? No, you can’t. You want a thousand followers on Twitter? You get them one at a time. Want to write a book? Page at a time. Almost every worthwhile accomplishment is incremental. Realize that you might be only ONE day away from the beginning of your success. All the work you’ve done so far might be about to pay off, but if you give up today, you’ll never know what happens tomorrow.
8. Start over.
Take what you’ve learned. Give up on THIS ATTEMPT. If you’re drawing a picture on a piece of paper, there’s only so many times you can erase a line before you rub a hole in the sheet. But that doesn’t mean you give up on drawing a picture. It means you tear that sheet off, crumple it, toss it in the basket (2 points if you make it), and you start over with a fresh sheet of paper. You will learn, you will get better. If you keep trying, you will either succeed or you will not. If you give up, you will not.
9. Look behind you.
See all those people who have not made it as far as you have. You are their hero. Look at what went right. It’s easy to get caught up on what’s not working the way you hoped. Your book isn’t selling? Okay, put that aside for a moment, and look at what went right.
You wrote a book. That puts you ahead of millions of people who want to write a book but never get it done. It got published. Hundreds of thousands of people who actually wrote a book never got it published, not even by themselves. Someone bought a copy. Thousands of people never sell a single copy. Forget about yourself for a moment, and help someone else. Maybe you haven’t made it yet, but you’ve made it THIS FAR. Lots of people look at you as a success. Help them get to where you are, and you will likely overcome your temporary angst.
10. Look in front of you.
See all those people who have made it further than you. Pick the most famous author you like. At some time, he or she was where you are now. Not published, no sales, whatever. How did they get from where you are to where they are? They kept going. It isn’t magic, they’re just people. Maybe they have more talent, but maybe not. Maybe they just never gave up. Take a look at Kirkus, for example. He’s bald, he’s kinda funny looking, he wears plaid shirts for crying out loud! If he can become a best-selling author, how hard can it be? (Ducks and runs for cover.)
11. (Bonus!) Finally, remember this advice given by Dr. John in 1974:
A Quitter Never Wins And A Winner Don’t Never Quit
Learn more about Gideon Stevens by checking out his blog, Book Design and Composition where you can find great information about eBooks, marketing, and publishing. You can also find him here on Twitter, or on his Amazon author page here.