Friday, January 12, 2007

I’d Quit If I Could Just Stay Quit!

by Heather Horrocks

I, like some of the other blogger ladies, am grateful my personal soap opera of 2006 is past.

Though I didn’t have eleven funerals, four were enough, especially since the first was for my father, who moved in, became ill, had hospice, and passed away--and then we had to deal with his unfortunately-not-yet-ex-wife because, since she was still legally his wife, she was able to get a restraining order to keep us from burying him. Luckily, we’d felt inspired to plan the burial for early in the morning, so we still had a beautiful military-honors grave side ceremony (before the casket was loaded back in the hearse). The funeral director told us that when they drive back to the funeral home, the joke is that the guys at the mortuary will ask how it went, and the driver will reply, "Well, we’re not coming back with the body, so it must have gone okay," and that he wouldn’t be able to say that this time. So at the other three funerals I went to, each time I saw the hearse at the grave side, I have remembered his words. It’s been almost long enough that I can laugh over them, but not quite. (Maybe it’s because I don’t feel well today and I’m already a little emotional about dropping my old laptop and destroying the A drive.)

Ah, yes, destroying the A drive and possibly the new battery. That brings us to the point of today’s blog. Why don’t we just quit writing? (Or quit going for any dream of our own personal choosing?) When things get really tough, why do we keep going?

I have to admit it. I dropped my laptop a few days ago, and broke a plastic piece on the new battery (new as in hubby and boys ordered it on eBay and I had only used it twice!) so the battery no longer hooks in. But, as a friend pointed out, perhaps it could be taped in. And, with tape in place, it still worked! So I wrote and polished two new scenes yesterday on my laptop. Yippee! Horray for me! And then I went to copy them onto a diskette to transfer them to my desktop, print, and email them to my critique group. Oops, except that the drop on its head also caused some friction between my laptop and the removable A drive, and they apparently are no longer on friendly speaking terms ("I used to know an A drive, once, but you don’t look like any A drive I used to know. I don’t fraternize with unknown A drives, so you just move on out of here, buddy.")

So, because I didn’t feel well and because I’d just written two scenes that may or may not ever get transferred anywhere and because this business is just plain hard, I quit.

Yup, you heard me write . . . ur, I mean, right. No more writing.

Whew, what a relief! I’ll be able to get enough sleep at night! I’ll have time to watch a DVD now and then, maybe even read a book. Hey, I know, I’ll go take a nice leisurely bath, something I haven’t seen in the nearly 15 years I’ve been writing (I want to point out that I do shower regularly : ). Think of all the things I can get done if I quit writing! Maybe I’ll start doing crafts again. Yeah, and meeting friends for lunch!

This time my quitting period lasted about a full minute and a half. Which is good, because I have more scenes to write today, if I’m going to get this next romantic comedy done when the publisher wants to see it.

Years ago, when I was just beginning, I would quit for months at a time. But, funny thing (or perhaps not so funny), I could never stay quit. There was something inside me that kept nagging, nagging, shut up will ya?!? nagging at me that there are books I need to write.
Usually these moments of quitting come after a big disappointment (like dropping a laptop--or getting an especially ugly rejection letter--OUCH!).

But I want to remind all of us--myself included--that if we can just keep going through the hard times, through the discouragements, through the disappointments, we will reach our goals. Some of us have reached some of them already, but are waiting for more. Some of you are just beginning and haven’t reached any (though I think deciding to go for your dream is a pretty good place to start).

And how are we going to reach our goals? The elephant method. The one-bite-at-a-time way. Baby steps. Remember in the movie What About Bob? where the psychologist has written a book about baby steps? Well, it was funny in the movie, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Baby steps to our dream. And sometimes it’s two baby steps forward and three back (and those are the times we want to quit).

My critique partner and I have been baby stepping for the past year--and we’ve upped our productivity greatly. (On a side note, I only quit writing once last year -- hey, and only once this year, too, though this year isn’t even two weeks old : )

So I want to suggest that, instead of focusing on the disappointments (because if you’re going for a dream, no matter what the actual dream, there will be disappointments aplenty) and ‘dark side’ and focus on the steps you can take to get there.

Since I’m a writer, I’m going to give a writing example, but if you’re going for another dream, just put in the appropriate steps. Don’t think you have time to get an entire book written this year? Can’t ‘find’ a big enough chunk to write your scenes?

A tangent here -- one of my favorite questions is when non-writers ask me how I ‘find’ time to write. Ah-hahahaha. When I was younger, I’d answer, "Oh, I find some time between 10 and 2:00," meaning 10 at night until 2 in the morning. Now I have to be much wiser and actually get my writing done in the daytime hours, as I’m in bed before 10:00. But I still can’t ‘find’ those hours. I have to get out my net and hunt them down.

Back to ‘finding’ a big chunk of time. Ponder this . . . If you were to write every day, Monday through Friday, for only 15 minutes (I’m assuming you can ‘find’ 15 minutes a day--if not, you really need to get a life!) a day, you could probably write one crappy page a day. At least one paragraph.

Another tangent here -- you only ‘need’ big chunks of time when you write so seldom that you have to spend an hour getting back into the story -- but if you’re in it every day, even for a few minutes, those few moments can be spent entirely on writing a new page.

Back to that paragraph or page a day. Let’s say you write for 15-30 minutes a day (my experience, especially when I was starting out, is that it’s the sitting down and starting that’s hard, and if I do that for 15 minutes, I would almost always write for 30 or more) and you write one page. One very crappy, puke-green-dreck of a page. A page that needs polishing. But you’re not going to worry about polishing right now. Just write the page. And tomorrow write another bad one. And the next day --well, you get my drift.

By the end of the year, another 50 weeks from now, even if you take 2 weeks off for illness and/or vacation time, you’ll have written 5 pages a week for 48 weeks and have 240 pages to show for it. Did you hear what I just said? 240 pages!!! Wow! That’s almost an entire book! Sure, you’ll still need to revise it, but when was the last time you wrote an entire first draft book in a year? Or even a year and a half? In just 15-30 minutes a day, five days a week? (Um, how many pages did you get written last year, anyway, while you waited for those big chunks of time?)

So, there you have it. Baby steps add up big. It’s the tortoise versus the hare all over again. I used to be a hare, making huge pushes (I even completed the entire first draft of a novel in four days of a book-in-a-week challenge -- but then took a long time to get back to it and finish revising it). The tortoise was babysteppin’ and got to the finish line first. That green-shelled dude had the right idea. Babysteppin’.

So I encourage all of us to start babysteppin’. Let’s choose our baby steps and start taking them. Then, as our Heavenly Father is looking down, He will think we are as preciously cute as we think our children and grandchildren are when they take those first unsteady steps--"Oh, look how precious she is!" And, if we fall (or drop our laptop and break both the battery and the A drive at the same time), He reaches down and helps us back up, just like we help our teeny toddlers back up and help them get back on their feet.

I don’t know about you, but I feel impressed to write. That’s why I can’t quit. Ever. (Well, not for more than a few minutes at a time, anyway.) And so if our Heavenly Father sent us here to write, if that’s a big reason why we came and even part of our ‘mission’ here on earth, then isn’t it about time we got on with what we said we’d do?

So today just think about baby steps. Over the weekend, ponder them. And then, next Monday, take one. A little teensy unsteady baby step toward your dream!

Oh, you are so precious! Smile, and take another one! You’re on your way to your dream and, almost before you know it, you’ll be there.

And, hopefully, you’ll only quit once or twice along the way.

6 comments:

  1. Heather - I just love your enthusiasm, even for quitting a minute a half - Sounds like 2006 was challenging, but then it seems something always comes along. Loved your piece. Rene

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  2. Okay, Heather, you've inspired me. LOL~

    I'm one of those writers who likes to stay up all night, when it's quite, and write. I can write an entire chapter in one night, when inspired.

    But this past year has been so stressful, I can't seem to have any thoughts -- but my problems --no room for imagination.

    That's why I decided to use my Christmas money and take your online class. I needed a good shot in the rump -- to jump start my imagination again.

    I may not be able to stay up nights anymore (have to find a job), but with your help, I may be able to baby step my way back to writing!

    Thanks, Debbie

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  3. This was a great piece, Heather. I love your passion.

    I remember when your father died and you had the prickly aftermath with the not-yet-ex. I thought then, and was reminded while reading your blogoffering,what marvelous fodder this is. There will come a time--maybe years hence--when you will use it deliciously. I can't wait to read it.

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  4. Heather:
    I am just like you in that there is something always nagging me to write. Nagging, nagging, nagging. So I never will say "quit", just "put on hold for a while".
    Great post. Keep on writing!!
    Valerie

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  5. Unfortunately, when things in my life get overwhelming, I don't even say "I quit," I just do. Thanks for the inspiration to keep on with it.

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  6. Sometimes I start to say "I quit" and discover I didn't even get started! Thanks for sharing your passion and encouraging us along the way.

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