Friday, September 8, 2017

Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career

Your book on a shelf. Somewhere (a bookstore, a friend's house, a library), somehow (hopefully not one involving bribery). That, ultimately, is every writer's goal. We have a story to tell and we want to tell it. Now. Right now.

But life gets busy. School is hard, but we're pretty sure we need it because that's what people keep saying, so we go to school and keep our stories in the back of our minds. Work is annoying, but eating is kind of nice, so we head off to work while dreaming of our notebooks and word documents. Family is important and a social life is (presumably) necessary, so we take time out for that, too.

What happens to our story? It gets pushed to the side. An overwhelming feeling arises: I need to write it. I need to write it NOW. 

But we're never quite able to write as much as we want...or when we want to. And, so, we feel like failures. Like we're not doing enough.

Have you ever felt this way?

Well, here's the thing:

You shouldn't.
Take Your Time: Why You Shouldn't Feel the Need to Rush Your Writing Career
I look around me and see so many writers rushing after publication: They need it, and they need it now. I get it, because I often feel exactly the same way.

But you know what else I see? Authors publishing stories prematurely, then crawling under their desk in shame when they realize that they just blew their shot at a first impression. Writers spending sweat and tears querying only to receive rejection after rejection because agents or publishers don't want a rushed book.

And I see something else, too: Writers looking over their shoulders, seeing other authors and thinking, "They wrote that book in 6 months! I've been working on mine for years. I must suck."

It's not a good mindset, guys. I'm not completely sure where it came from, but I do know that it needs to stop.

Maybe the mindset comes from our fast-paced society. In which case: This same fast-paced style birthed cheese-in-a-can (because who has time to cut cheese?). Do you really want your book to be the equivalent of Cheez Whiz? I thought not.

Maybe it's a need for instant gratification. Well, I have news for you: It's never going to be enough. You publish one thing quickly? Great. The excitement will last a while, but then you'll find yourself needing more. And then you'll be off again, chasing after some unachievable feeling and invariably trip on something, spill your coffee all over yourself, then topple into a bookshelf and be buried alive. Not fun.

Maybe it's a desire for money or fame. Errrr. No. This is terrible motivation for writing a book. Or doing anything else, really.

Whatever the reason for this frantic need to publish, it's absurd.

This is not a race. You write your story. Yours. You take as much or as little time as you need to make it into something complete and beautiful and worthy of pride.

Don't look at what other people are doing: They're not you. They have different goals and writing styles and story lengths. To compare your writing career with another person is stupid.
Don't do it.

Don't look at what you haven't accomplished yet. Instead, look at what you have accomplished so far. Yes, this applies even if you've only written a paragraph. Look at that paragraph! It's yours and you wrote it. You picked the words, you put them in that order. Those specific words have never been in that specific order ever before, so be proud of what you've created.

Don't look at how long it's taking you. Look at where it is taking you. Are you learning new skills? Discovering new ideas? Then your writing has already taken you to a new, better place. It is already worthwhile. You don't need immediate publication to prove that you are spending your time wisely.

Never feel bad for taking a long time on a story. You'll finish someday.

Never feel bad for not having published yet. Your book will be on somebody's shelf someday.

All you need is time. Not any specific, set amount. Just time. That's all. Maybe a lot, maybe a little. Nobody can tell for sure, which is why you shouldn't feel the need to rush. Because what are you rushing for, anyway? What imaginary deadline are you chasing? If it's killing your story or your soul, then throw it out the window. You don't need it.

What you do need is the willingness to work hard, the heart to keep pushing forward, and the patience to keep yourself from butchering your story in an attempt to earn the title of "author" or "author of multiple books." (Okay, that last one isn't really a title, but we're all just going to go with it, okay? Thanks).

Oh, and you may need a little bit of chocolate. Okay. Maybe a lot of chocolate.

But the point is: Don't rush this. There's no scenario where rushing your writing will turn out well. But there are hundreds where working at your own pace will pay off.

What do you think? Can you relax now? Can you stop killing yourself to get your book off and published and instead focus on the act of creation? I hope so.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

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19 comments:

  1. Hannah, thank you so much. This was exactly what I needed to hear right now. I've been working on my story for three and a half years and still haven't completed a definitive plot outline. It's easy to despair when I think about how far I have to go. Thank you for reminding me that it is worth taking a lot of time to create a quality piece of work. This is a good reminder for life in general, too. Your posts always inspire me!

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    1. This comment made my smile, Carmen. Thank you! I've been working on my current book on and off for the last 5 years, so I applaud you and your 3.5-year-WIP. Keep up the amazing work! You'll have an amazing story on your hands someday.

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  2. Thanks, I really needed this! Sometimes I have heard people say that if I don't pursue publishing now I'll never do it, but I know I'm not ready for it yet. I guess I'll just keep writing at my slow and steady pace (while eating chocolate ) and try and get published when I'm ready. ☺

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    1. Knowing when you are or aren't ready to take the publication step is huge. Good for you! Slow and steady + chocolate is always a good choice. =D Cheering you on!

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  3. So true. Enjoy the journey, because you'll only travel this road once. Even if you're going to publish your second (or third or tenth) book, the journey is never the same.

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  4. Oh I really needed this. I've been working on my current book for five(?) years now. I still love it, but it's easy to get discouraged. Thank you for the post :)

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    1. I feel ya. It's so easy to lose sight of why we started this crazy journey. 5 years is an awesome commitment to make, so I hope you're proud. Keep up the amazing work!

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  5. Alright this inspired me, I'm gonna start writing! (A+ Merlin GIF by the way. I like how it's more of a "You know better than that!" slap rather than a full-out slap.)

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    1. Oh my gosh! YAY! This makes me so excited. Cheering you on!

      Also: I love that gif, too. =D

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    2. Thank you! I'm so excited! :D

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  6. Thanks so much for this, Hannah - it came at a perfect time. (:

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    1. Wow. I am so pleased to hear this. Thank you for commenting, Zane!

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  7. Excellent post, and something I needed to hear right now. I know I often feel like a slow writer and wish I could go faster, but at the same time, I know if I did, my work wouldn't be as good.

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    1. I'm so glad this post hit the spot for you, Rachel! I write slowly, too. Let's be slow, awesome writers together. =D

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  8. Cheez Whiz is delicious and comes in a happy color that doesn't appear in nature. I'm probably in the minority here, but I'd love it if someone compared my writing to Cheez Whiz.

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    1. Hahaha! This is hilarious. Here's to your writing being as amazing as Cheez Whiz, then. =D

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  9. I'll just drop this here: my grandma was 74 when she self-published a collection ofher Southwest Finnish dialect short stories. There's a mix of true and fictitious, stuff like for example, a funny story about fly-swatting,a true (albeit exaggerated) story of the time I butted in on a conversation between granny and a local politician, and a made-up story about how granny sat on "stone for the envious" (a local tourist gimmick) to envy those who can use words, and a dead songwriter showed up, listened to her tell him about her envy for those like him, then asked she give him the stone so he can sit down to envy how she lives and he doesn't. It's illustrated by my cousin, one of the most talented artists I know. Granny has since sold all the copies of that book, made another, sold (almost) all of those as well, and she's preparing a third for release before this Christmas.

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    1. That is such a cool story, Serenity! Thank you so much for sharing. Is there somewhere I can find these stories? They sound fascinating. Give your granny a high five from me. She sounds amazing. =D

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