How To Be A Successful Writer

November is a month I look forward to all year. Not only is my birthday in November, but NaNoWriMo is too!

I am a huge advocate for NaNoWriMo, especially for aspiring writers. The community and encouragement during the entire month is incredible, and it gives so many amateur authors the motivation to really push themselves beyond their normal limits and prove to themselves that they have what it takes!

Being an author is an extremely independent journey. While there are people in your life who care about your writing, no one can help you do it. There are people who will encourage you, but no one can make you do it. The true motivation and drive has to come from you, the writer.

And for that reason, many writers never find the success they seek, whether it is publishing a novel or even simply finishing a rough draft. We can be so used to outside factors motivating us – get a job to pay the bills, clean the house because guests are coming, eat food because you are hungry – but writing is so personal that outside factors rarely motivate the same way, unless you have incredible willpower.

This hurtle was easier for me than most, I think. I have the superpower of Ultimate Self-Motivation. In college, while everyone else was staying up late the night before to complete projects, I had been done for days, and was managing to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. I have never been much of a procrastinator, so that helped too. Maybe it was the way I was raised, or just part of my personality, but having an strong willpower and discipline is something I am very, very thankful for.

But easier doesn’t mean the same thing as easy. I still have to push myself to write every day, even though I see myself as a full-time writer. There are lots of distractions, whether is social or domestic distractions, or even professional ones like meetings, managing a website and social media, or taking classes. I still have to push passed those distractions and write.

Not only are there distractions, there are these things called feelings that humans sometimes have. Some days, and I am grateful for these days, I feel really proactive and happy and it is easy to sit down and write, write, write. I’m having one of those days today, and I am very thankful. Other days (about a third of my days currently), I’m apathetic, depressed. The past weighs heavy, the future looms ominous, all of it compounding into the present. Those days, it is very hard to write. It is hard to do anything.

But I can’t let those feelings stop me. I can’t let the anxiety or depression control me. Sometimes, I only write a couple hundred words on those days, but I write. I have to write. Sometimes, I feel much better afterwards – whether it’s the satisfaction of accomplishment, or having written something I feel really proud of. Other times, especially with my current project, I don’t feel better. I still feel crappy.

I think this brings me to my point. Writing is an end to a means for me. It is something I have to do. I was born to tell stories, and truly great stories have great power.

When I write, there is a story that I am telling the reader, yes, but there is also a story I am telling myself. It’s a story about myself in so many ways. As I write, I really see myself moving foward and growing, not even primarily as an artist, but as a person. I see myself being able to let go of the things of this world that hold me back and be who I believe God created me to be. To be a storyteller like He is. To be a child playing in the sandbox, as Ted Dekker says.

When I write, I have hope. Hope that life goes on, and I will be able to keep moving forward. Hope that transformation can happen, and is happening. I am becoming more and more like my Creator through every trial, just as my character is learning to ovecome her own lies through every challenge.

It’s not even about finishing a project. (Although I am an achievement hunter, so finishing projects is really important to me.) The simple act of writing everyday is my end goal. It all builds up together into something I can share, but finishing a manuscript, getting another book published, or even finding an agent isn’t how I define being a successful writer.

And that’s what I think NaNoWriMo has really helped me to see over the years. It was the first big push I needed to see that writing is one day at a time.

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a story. The best stories take time, and every moment is valuable in building to that final, climatic scene actually means something. That’s how you can be a successful writing, by writing every day, pushing past distractions and feelings to do what you were born to do. At least, that’s what it is for me.

Anyway, that is enough musing for today. I have a story to write.

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