Sunday, August 16, 2009

Persistence--What You Learn When Your Book Is Finally Published

This week my long-awaited (to me, at least) novel will be published. I began writing it nine years ago while vacationing at a lakeside cabin with friends. To acknowledge the hard work it took, today I listed my activities of persistence--what it took to finish it.

1. I hired two coaches
2. I went to five series of writing classes
3. I enrolled in two years of an MFA program
4. I joined three writers' groups
5. I wrote every day for many months
6. I found a great weekly writing partner

All this helped. But in the end, it got finished--and published--because of one small writing exercise, which I'll explain below.

Belief and Persistence
I've worked with thousands of book writers. Many finish their books. Some don't. They are sometimes very talented writers with great stories to tell. Stopping mid-process puzzled me. But as I worked with more writers, I learned how persistence shapes creative work. How book writers need to keep going, even when the going is very tough.

I learned to value persistence and a healthy belief in oneself and one's creative expression. Unless you love your writing, who will? This isn't to say you are ego-driven. You acknowledge what's not working as well as what is. But to constantly doubt, that's dangerous. That will lead to endless revising, endless questioning, and not holding your published book in your hands.

This week's writing exercise is a list. It's a belief-boosting exercise that a fellow MFA student once gave me. We'd just left our morning workshopping session and I was beyond discouraged about my novel (the one that's being published this week).

"I'll never finish this," I said. I was quite certain. "I'm not meant to. I don't have it in me."

"Nonsense," she said. (I love people who use this word.) "You'll finish and you'll publish. It's a good story. It just needs your love."

She told me to go back to my dorm room and start a list of anything I liked about the book so far. Keep the ongoing list in my writing notebook. Add to it, look at it as a reminder. Like a Valentine card to my emerging creative work, it would help me remember to love it.

Here's what I wrote that day:
Molly (the main character)
Zoe (her best friend)
when they first meet at the Boat House (the local dive)
Chad's glasses
the still life painting
how Molly felt driving the motorboat that morning
the lake at sunrise

This exercise reversed my discouragement. I went back to work. I regained my persistence and belief. Since that day, I added to my list as I learned more about my book and fell in love with it again.

Start a list about your writing. What do you especially love about it, believe in? What gives you the persistence to keep going?

If you'd like to join me in celebrating my novel, please consider visiting today. They're offering a special pre-release price of $10.17 plus shipping. Hard to beat. Click here to read Molly and Zoe's story.