Thursday, June 2, 2011

Redefining expectations

So, it's been an interesting week.  I found myself lost in a fog of confusion and self-doubt.  Thoughts like this have run through my head:

Why am I doing this?  This is a waste of time.  I have nothing to show after ten months of solid effort - shouldn't I just give up? 

And then there were these thoughts:

I'm not gaining traction in any area, so maybe I'm not meant to do this.  I look around me and see _____ (insert any one of several names here) being successful, yet everything I try fails.  Again, am I fooling myself?  Maybe I'm not supposed to be writing.  Because, if I were, wouldn't I have more success (followers on my blog, responses to queries, paid freelance gigs - these things signify success to me)?

Then one day during my down time (read: kids' nap time) I hear the Holy Spirit whisper: "finish the movie you started last night."  Instead of writing? I think to myself.  Okay.

I had put in National Treasure the night before in an attempt to help me sleep (but let's be honest - I love all things historical and fiction, and Nicolas Cage movies make me happy).  I hadn't made it far, so I settled down during nap time to try again.

The part that stuck out?  Here it is, an exchange between Riley and Ben Gates (I'm paraphrasing here):

Riley: "It's not that it shouldn't be done; it's that it can't be done.  Here, let me prove it to you."  (After which Riley explains all the reasons their task would be impossible.)

Ben responds: "Did you know that Thomas Edison tried and failed 2,000 times to invent the thin-wire filament that would power the incandescent light bulb?  And when asked about this he said, 'I didn't fail.  I learned 2,000 ways not to build a lightbulb.'"

I didn't fail.  I learned....

Success and failure.  And through it all, the attempt.  Or, more aptly, the attempts.  And you learn.  The attempts are how you learn.

I'm revamping my writing plan this week.  After wading through the fog I found some clarity:
  • Focus on your novel
  • Keep pitching freelance ideas
  • Don't give up
I'm going to set aside my children's books and screenplay - for now.  I'm going to stop researching conferences and writer's communities - for now.  I'm going to quit worrying about online opportunities and other creative ways to break into writing more immediately.  Instead, I'm going to follow my three bullet points, remember Edison's words, and try not to get discouraged.

Out of that resolution came further clarity: the novel I thought I was close to finishing is nowhere near being done.  I'm currently in Part III of what I thought was a three-part novel.  It will be a five-part novel.  I have a lot more writing to do.

I had originally planned to make the novel a part of a series.  Now I'm going to let the other books lie and focus on finishing this one well.  If other books come later, then they come.  And I'm not going to worry about how long it's taking, how much effort I'm putting into something for a very uncertain promise of potential return.  When the fear thoughts start to enter my head, I'll think of Jane Austen, who only finished six novels in her career.  And I won't give up.  I won't give up.  By God's grace, I won't give up.


  1. I think you're an excellent writer. That's why I keep coming back. Run with perseverence. The race is marked out for you!

  2. Thank you so much Stacy!!!! A few words of encouragement go a LONG way. :)

  3. It sounds like you really have clarity, Jenny. You've stepped back and taken such a wise view of things.

    And you're right. Don't give up! We write to learn. And we write to grow, and to be obedient to what's He's called us to. Thanks for sharing this, Jenny.

  4. Sounds like a great and reasonable plan.