What’s stopping you…really…?


“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about. ~ Alan Ball, American Beauty

I was talking to a writer buddy (whom I’ve never officially met) last night about a few blogfests and magazine contests coming up soon, and I asked her if she was going to enter this one particular contest that pays some miniscule amount ($25) for first place.  The short story would also appear in the e-zine in February 2012.  She said, “Nah, I’m no good at the type of stories they’re looking for.”

I said, “What?  You can’t write a 2500 word uplifting, yet tragic story?  Come on.  We all have events in our lives that seem like they’re going really, really well and end up in tragedy.  Look at the stories that came out of 9-11.”

“Oh, it’s not my style.  I write goth mysteries.”

Now this is coming from the same person who told me last summer she couldn’t learn to water ski because she was 47 years old and those sorts of sports are best left to the young.  She also forfeited a bunch of money she paid to go to a Writer Conference because the thought of standing before the agent she wanted to see and pitching her novel literally made her sick.  It made me sick thinking she threw away $800.00 on an event she didn’t attend.  The thing is, this gal is a fantastic author.  She’s got it going on. There’s only one thing standing in her way…

Herself.

I even told her so.  I mean, we all get down.  We all question our abilities at times.  Sometimes we get so depressed and downtrodden and discouraged, especially when the rejections come, but we have to keep pushing. We have to keep going and not take ‘No’ for an answer.

This sweet girl got rather terse with me.  She asked if I’d ever pitched to an agent before in person.  When I said, “No,” she kindly told me to not pass judgment because I didn’t know what it felt like to have my insides turned outside and my soul revealed to a complete stranger while standing naked in a rainstorm without an umbrella, and the ground I’m standing on is flooding and there are no freaking boats.  Not even a life raft.

I chuckled and said, “In that case, I’d take a deep breath, stop talking and swim.”

The conversation went on, no feelings hurt.  Toward the end of the call, she sighed and said “I wonder if I’ll ever get published.  There’s not a lot of publishers out there who accept goth mysteries.”  So I asked her if she’d consider dystopian, YA urban fantasy.  “Nah, I can’t write Young Adult.  It’s too hard.”

“What about romance or cyberpunk?  Fantasy?”

“Nah.  Too cheesy, no following and fantasy is dumb.”

And so it went on until the phone call ended.  Excuses, excuses, excuses.  I e-mailed her afterwards and asked I could discuss our phone call in my blog today and she said yes, as long as I didn’t mention her name, soooo…..

I’m going to tell her what I tell my kids:  Miss Goth Mystery, you’re a wonderful writer.  You are a wonderful storyteller and you have talent.  I have enjoyed everything I’ve ever beta read of yours, but stop making excuses.  Life is not about performing a set of routine events.  It’s about living.  It’s about taking risks.  It’s about testing yourself, your abilities.  It’s about striving to be more, to be better than you are.  It’s about setting goals and taking yourself to the next level.  It’s about stepping out of the safe little box you’ve built around yourself and testing the waters.  Yes, it may feel like you’re drowning.  Yes, you may take three steps forward and get pushed twenty back.  Yes, there are going to be times you want to bang your head on the wall and scream “Why!!!”  But if you don’t take the chance, then you’ll always be sitting in your comfortable little box saying “I wonder…”

Stop wondering!  Get your butt up, challenge yourself, and do it!  Learn to ski or sky dive if you want and if goth mysteries aren’t working for you, try your hand at chick lit, young adult or fantasy.  You may find out you love it but how are you ever going to know if you don’t try?  Go to the conferences if you can afford them, and bring your own life raft to the pitch session.  If nothing else, it’ll be a conversation starter and ice breaker.  Remember, the only one holding you back from life’s rewards is you.  Go for it, and shine.  You owe it to yourself.

(Time to follow my own advice) 🙂

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.  ~Alan Alda

Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.  ~ Dr. Alexis Carrel

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7 thoughts on “What’s stopping you…really…?

  1. OMgosh, I would be completely terrified to pitch in person. I don’t know why, they’re just people and I believe in my story, but the thought makes me shake in my boots.

    I did pitch online once (with a pre-submitted query) during a live blog and the agent said in front of everyone listening, that my query was awful and she couldn’t get past the first line. Pass. I was mortified because there were over 70 people on that live blog who saw my name on their screen as the agent was reading through the queries. Now I laugh about it. I most definitely learned something from it. My query sucked and I needed to re-think it. I’m glad I did because my revised query drummed up interest by a publisher and a request for a full ms. They suggested changes and a re-submit, so I’m in the throws of a re-write. I owe it all to a fantastic agent on a blog that said my query sucked. I will be indebted to her forever.

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  2. Jenn, this is a great post, and I think all writers need a kick like this once in a while. We all get to the point where we question ourslelves… especially when we get near the finish line. We get scared. (wink) I know the thought of pitching to an agent terrifies me, too. When I was faced with it, I nearly wet my pants for days. Belief in yourself is hard sometimes, but we need to believe in our work, and what it can become.

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  3. You’re right, challenges are good for everyone. And I had to laugh about the vampires and werewolves from another world. This is exactly what I did and my novel did get picked up by a publisher. In this case I was able to challenge myself “and” stay true to what I love. In the end everything boils down to trying to keep a balance.

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  4. Interesting topic. I’m a fifty- year-old woman who loves to read and write vampire/werewolf romance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people on peer-critique sites tell me how well I write– if only I would write about something they consider to be of a higher level than paranormal romance. I used to get depressed, disillusioned, and considered that maybe I did need to change my focus, try a new genre and see if I could gain any respect. Then the proverbial frying pan hit me over the head and I had a “What the hell” moment. I like vampires! I like werewolves! I like SF, fantasy, and sometimes a good hot-between-the-sheets romance. Why should I change just because people outside the genre don’t have any respect for it? We need to have faith in ourselves and our work, get out there for others to read. Yes, it is hard to face agents in person. The tongue does tend to tie itself in a knot. But we can do it. My advice, for what it’s worth, only change genres if you really want to, if you want a challenge for challenge sake. If we change what we love because we’re afraid, then I’m not so sure about it being the right decision– the writing will probably suffer. We all face fear when pitching our work, but it only takes that one right person at the right time and place to get your foot in the door. I read goth too. I can’t be the only one out there who does. It’s a popular genre. If the writing is good, the story unique, I’ll buy it.

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    1. Denna, I do have to agree with you on the point about sticking to what you love and keep going with it. I’m with you. I write young adult fantasy. That’s my love, that’s what I’m good at. It’s what I enjoy. I still like to challenge myself and move into other areas occasionally to see if I can do it.

      The point I was trying to make is that while we love certain genres and we like to write certain genres, we should always try to challenge ourselves. If you like writing about werewolves in earthy surroundings, step outside the comfort zone. Have your werewolves kidnapped and taken to another planet overrun with necromancing cheetahmonkeys who partake in orgies forced upon them by the sun god. (okay, maybe a bit much but you get the idea). It doesn’t have to be something you want to sell, but it will be a challenge to you and your writing, and it might be fun. So many of us lock ourselves into one genre, one theme, and we can’t stray from that because we’re ‘uncomfortable’ doing anything else.. I believe pushing yourself into the ‘uncomfortable zone’, even for a brief moment can cure writer’s block, and fears. We all have our niche we like to write in. Can you see Stephen King writing Chick Lit or James Patterson writing zombie stories?LOL! All I’m saying is keep writing what you love, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and not just in writing but in all aspects of life. What you find might just surprise you.

      Thanks for weighing in. I loved your comments.

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