The other morning as I went for a run, I had to battle gusty winds that would, later in the day, cancel certain flights to the East Coast. Although I ran along a fairly flat surface, it felt like I was running uphill. It was also the day after I’d participated in a 10K race, and my legs were still burning. Despite my determination to push on, the winds got the better of me. After 1.5 km, I did a U-turn and headed home, feeling somewhat defeated.
The day, however, wasn’t all doom and gloom. The short run had me pumped, and once I was showered and dressed, I sat down at my desk to write. October 31, 2017 was my self-imposed deadline to complete the rewrite of a novel-length manuscript, and momentum was on my side. By the time I broke for lunch, the rewrite was done. The journey felt at times long and lonely, but I had finished something. And that felt good. Amazing, actually.
But not running as far as I’d wanted, finishing the rewrite … these are teachable moments along my artistic journey. I try to keep myself open to such lessons in the hope that they will guide me in the future, help me to move confidently in the direction of my dreams. I’m reminded that not all days go smoothly, or have a natural ebb and flow. Some days (I like to believe it’s most days, really), writing seems easy and everything flows. Other days spiral out of control — procrastination reigns, life interrupts and I feel stuck, like I’m going nowhere fast.
To keep the momentum moving forward, this is what I do:
Write Daily: No matter where I find myself in the world — Vancouver, London, Mainz, at home — I make time to write. Sometimes it’s an hour, other times it’s only twenty minutes. But I write. And writing daily keeps me current.
Don’t Take “No” for an Answer: Every artist knows that rejection is part of the process. As a writer, I’ve learned the importance of persistence. Sometimes I’ve had to submit a piece of writing many, many, many times before it was accepted for publication. But I believed in the work, in the story, so I became even more determined to find the story or essay a home with each rejection letter I received. I don’t let rejection overwhelm me. I let rejection be a muse.
Finish Something: Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by so many ideas that it’s tempting to toss aside the current work-in-progress and plunge straight into a new idea. What I’ve learned to do is keep notes on new ideas and keep them for a rainy day. Finishing something — a novel, a short story, a blog post — feels good. The completed project offers reassurance, when doubt lingers large and heavy, that I am in fact on the right path. I’m reminded that I have heeded the call of what it is I feel compelled to do in life. Finishing something reinforces — in the face of rejection and the resulting doubt about my talent that may manifest — the artist in me. The finished novel or short story says, loud and clear, “I’m an artist, hear me roar!”
Godsends: It’s important for me to be surrounded by people who support and encourage me. I call these friends my godsends, spread out across North America and Europe, who are friends to me and my writing. Godsends send an e-mail or call to say how proud they are of me. They reach out to me (without asking) at a time when I need encouragement the most. They are, as Julia Cameron puts it, a “believing mirror” whose support is constant.
Believe: I believe in myself and my talent as an artist. I believe that I can do great things, that I will succeed. And that belief holds me accountable, sends me daily to the page.
These five things help to set me up for success. And that’s why I take to heart the words of Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Have you finished something lately? How did that make you feel? Do you have “believing mirrors” in your life? When was the last time one of them reached out to you when you needed encouragement the most? Do you believe in yourself? Are you doing the one thing you think you cannot do? Let me know in the comments section below.