Stepping Up to Find Success in Your Writing Journey
Last (college) semester, Gold Medalist ice skater Scott Hamilton presented a nationwide college broadcast for students to hear his thoughts on being successful. His talk was based on his new book, Finish First: Winning Changes Everything, released earlier this year.
I’ve always respected Hamilton for what he’s achieved and what he’s overcome, though I never realized how “sunny” he is.
While watching his presentation at the college where I teach, his message inspired me and made me want a copy of this must-read book. To be clear, I’m not an affiliate so I don’t get a residual if you buy it.
As I sat and listened to him talk, I thought about my life as a writer and editor, and then it occurred to me that you might benefit hearing about some of his thoughts.
Hamilton, of course, is a Gold Medalist and World Champion figure skater, but he’s also a husband, father, cancer-survivor, motivational speaker, devout Christian, fundraiser for cancer research and an eternal optimist. His nonprofit, Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, focuses on “changing the future of cancer.”
During his presentation, Hamilton said that we need to think about what comes next as we push forward. By his estimation, he’s fallen 41,600 times. That’s a lot of falls! I’m glad it wasn’t me. But this is what’s most important: he got up 41,600 times – the “what comes next”: getting back up every time and trying again.
Hamilton says many people are afraid of moving forward, but that everyone has the opportunity for victory.
The book, which aims to help others understand and pursue their opportunities, introduces 11 concepts for finishing first, and the motivator shared three of these in his presentation:
Show up with intention every day
Commit to the process
Hamilton, a natural storyteller, uses his own experiences to support his message. One of those was his effort to master compulsory figures, which he hated. He practiced four hours a day, despite his personal loathing of them, but the time and effort led to the Gold Medal.
The odds were against him, but he kept showing up every day with intention. That’s what we have to do as writers. Writing is a lonely process and discouragement pushes many people out of the game.
So how do we, as writers, put Hamilton’s philosophies into action?
1. Showing up with intention every day –
With busy lives, careers, families, etc., writing often takes a backseat. If we let that happen, our dream begins to die. For most writers, it is an impossibility to write every day, unless they are writing for a living. Even in those cases, I would suggest giving yourself “breathing space” to allow your subconscious to do heavy lifting for you.
Small actions provide opportunities to touch your project in some way every day.
Steps to Take:
Review your journal notes
Write a new journal entry about your story
Jot down ideas on an index card or scrap paper
Consider what your character would do next while you are washing the dishes or mowing the lawn
Do a 10-minute fast write about some aspect of your story
The act of these minor activities will keep you involved with your story until you return to the actual writing. These, however, are not meant to be a substitute for writing.
Small actions provide opportunities to touch your project in some way every day. Stay committed to yourself, your story and your dream. Show up every day. Embrace your failures and what they can teach you. Life is about facing forward.
2. Committing to the process –
Commit to yourself and your project that you will stay with it until the end. Don’t abandon your project when you are discouraged. Remember your commitment and keep moving forward, even if in small increments.
This commitment also sometimes requires that you have to forego other activities with friends and families. Obviously, you can’t shut yourself away and ditch all family gatherings, so you have to decide where to draw the line in your life. But make sure friends and family understand that your writing time is important to you.
I remember missing a Fourth of July holiday cookout because I was writing the ending to my first novel, (which has remained safely hidden in a deep folder in my computer. First novels can be that way but not always.) Finishing my novel was totally worth missing the fellowship and food of the cookout. Writing requires sacrifice sometimes.
You will discover moments like this too.
Steps to Take:
Set a deadline to finish your story, make it realistic and follow it
Set a daily word count (this works for me with projects) and stick to it
Tell a trusted friend to keep you accountable
Write yourself a commitment statement, print it out and posted somewhere near where you write to keep yourself focused
3. Embracing Failure –
Give yourself permission to write imperfectly, particularly on first draft. Even those of you who are perfectionists. You can fix it during the next writing session as a means of re-entering and engaging with your story.
Remember the number of falls Hamilton endured and how many times he got up. Writing is like this too. And some days our writing is much better than it is on other days. Accept this as part of the process, and you’ll be a lot happier for it.
My aforementioned first novel had representation from a bogus “agent” for a period of time, until I discovered the subterfuge. The bigger problem that I also had to discover on my own is that the novel Stunk! I loved story line, but I didn’t know how to execute my ideas. The characters still live in my head (writers know what I mean; I’m not schizophrenic), even though the story will never come to light.
Though the novel died a painful death in my heart, it taught me so much about writing. And it showed me that I could complete a full-length project. I wasn’t just a starter-stopper. Use your failures to fuel you.
Looking at failure through another lens, our “lessons learned” teach us what we can accomplish and how to keep moving toward our goals.
Steps to Take:
Think of a time you’ve failed on a project (doesn’t have to be writing)
Write a few thoughts about the situation
Make a list, even if it’s short, of what you learned from the experience
Use that list to write a brief statement of how you can overcome difficulties with your current writing project
Scott Hamilton’s positive message reminds us to stay focused to realize our dreams. Finish First. Don’t give up on your dreams.
By the way, for Kindle readers, Amazon has the e-edition on sale for $1.99 through the holiday. I can’t wait to start reading mine.
Think of one step you can do today to push your project forward and leave a comment below. Please feel free to forward to this post.
Bonny is a writing coach and project development editor. If you’d like to see how she can help you, email her at bonny dot millard AT gmail dot com and ask for a complimentary Project Discovery Call to learn more.