This Topic is inspired by my husband, who—just today—confirmed his receipt of a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois.
In May of 2006, my husband started graduate school at U of I. The decision to start was not an easy one to make. He’d never enjoyed school; sitting at a desk made him twitchy. He preferred working outside. But he also knew his Bachelor’s in Biology wouldn’t ensure the type of good permanent job he sought. He wanted to support me and our son, who was only nine months old at the time.
We knew he’d be busy during grad school. We knew money would be tight. We knew all the sacrifices involved … and the eventual rewards. We decided that the advantages of a Master’s degree would outweigh the sacrifices needed to obtain it.
It was even harder than we’d imagined. Due to circumstances beyond his control, his pursuit of the degree took three years instead of two. His research project suffered numerous setbacks. He fought for every word of his thesis. Meeting the final deadline came down to the wire. In short, we haven’t felt completely stress-free in over three years.
But now he is graduating from U of I. He’ll receive his Master’s degree. He’s achieving a goal, a goal he focused on every day since May of 2006. He never took his eyes off that goal.
We could all learn a lesson from such perseverance.
As writers, one of our biggest enemies is time. We don’t have time to write. We don’t have time to read and improve our craft. We don’t have time to network.
But that’s not exactly true, is it? We have time until the day we die. What we really lack is patience and dedication. My husband worked for three years to get his Master’s. Are you willing to spend three years to become a published author?
Motivation plays a large role, of course. My husband was motivated by outer forces: college guidelines, his committee, his desire to support his family, etc. If you’re an unpublished writer, you’re not yet motivated by an editor. You have no deadline to meet, no readers to please. Maybe your friends and family are encouraging you … maybe not. In the end, it all comes down to YOU. That novel won’t get finished unless YOU decide to do it.
If you’re wondering, “How can I possibly motivate myself? I feel like a failure/fraud/amateur?” The answer: you trick your brain.
Five Ways to Persevere:
1. Pick one goal and frame it. We all have multiple goals. Choose the one that is currently most vital. You might progress from “Finish my novel” to “Revise my novel” to “Find an agent” to “Sell my book.” But don’t waste brain power looking ahead to those future goals. For now, write your one main goal and hang it up where you’ll see it everyday. Chisel it into your brain. You’ll want to achieve that goal for the pure pleasure of ripping down the stupid sign.
2. Form your own fan club. Production is so much easier when you’re not the sole employee. Hire Ask your friends and family to be your cheerleaders. Have them send subliminal messages to your brain. Believe me, you’ll need all the help you can get.
3. Patience is a virtue. Resign yourself to the fact that achieving this goal will take a lot of time and a lot of work. Make no delusions. Brain responds to trickery, not to repeated lies.
4. We are creatures of habit. If you write at the same time everyday, brain will stop arguing with you. Brain craves the habit and itches to complete it. Schedule a different time for reading, and maybe one day of the week for networking/learning/researching.
5. Practice makes almost perfect. Don’t rush to achieve all your goals immediately. One of the biggest mistakes is querying agents as soon as the first draft is finished. What happened to the second draft, or the third, or the fourth? Make your first impression count—don’t query until the story is as perfect as you can make it (with the help of critique partners and test readers). Slow and steady wins the race … and I’ll stop listing cliches now.
Find what works for you and stick with it. And yes, you will face setbacks and adversities. Expect them. Embrace them. Conquer them. Your victory will be that much sweeter.
Now it’s your turn to persevere. Tell me your current goal and how you plan to achieve it! Good luck!!