Wednesday, March 31, 2010

3 Characteristics that Help in Pursuit of Publication

Author Judy Hedlund posted this on her blog.

My daughter sat at the piano and plunked at the keys. “Mom, I already know all my songs. Can I stop practicing today?”

I looked at her timer. “You still have ten minutes left.”

“But I don’t have anything else to practice.”

I cocked my head at her and gave her my you-know-what-I’m-going-to-say look.

She sighed. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

“Exactly.” I smiled. “Practice ahead. Take initiative. Surprise your piano teacher by learning a new song she didn’t assign you.”

In the last post, we talked about reaching for our dreams. To start, we have to believe in ourselves. But it’s not enough just to want something and have confidence that we can attain it. We also have to work for it. Really hard.

My daughter may never become a concert pianist, but when I teach her to work hard in her piano practicing, I’m equipping her with the lifelong philosophy that if she wants to accomplish something, then she has to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

In the wake of the Winter Olympics, I talked with my children about this very philosophy. I asked them how hard they thought each Olympic athlete had to train to even make it into the Olympics, the hours, months, and even years, most of those athletes devoted to become as good as they are.

We need to dream big and believe in ourselves. But if we have Olympic-size dreams, then we have to give it Olympic-size effort. Here are three characteristics that have helped me:

1. Diligence: I made a diligence poster for my children that outlines the definition: Work that is done hard, thoroughly, steadily, and carefully. In our modern culture, diligence is often a forgotten word. But if we can learn to cultivate daily habits of approaching our writing time with diligence, we'll have a much easier time reaching our dreams.

2. Determination: The dictionary defines determination as "the act of deciding definitely and firmly." I think of it as making up our minds to stick to the task and see it through to completion. Maybe that means we'll finish the book instead of stopping halfway. Perhaps it means we keep querying even after rejection. We decide what we're going to do, and we don't stop until it's done.

3. Drive: Not everyone has a Type A personality, but we can all still strive to excel. Instead of letting the competition scare us, we let it sharpen us. Instead of being satisfied with status quo, we shove ourselves to the next level. We sweat, cry, and ache with the pain of reaching high, always attempting to pour more into each story we write.

No Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal without putting forth incredible effort. As writers, we shouldn’t expect to reach the ultimate gold of publication without the same kind of dedication to our craft and stories.

I spent years fiercely chasing my writing dreams. And today, even with publication in my grasp, I still work long hours and push myself to be diligent, determined, and driven.

Believe in ourselves, but also expect much from ourselves.

Dream big, but work fiercely.