Thursday, July 5, 2012

In Over My Head

Lauri Meyers
Trying something new...
heading for the drink. 

This year has been full of firsts.  First query letter.  First blog post.  First submission.  First interview.   First book review.   First critique.  First tweet.   First rejection.  Most of the time I have been in over my head.

Luckily I have started every new job in over my head.  I had a really pervasive habit of saying "That sounds challenging, and I am underqualified.  I am in!"  I have swallowed enough salt water to fill a killer whale enclosure.   As a result of all these years of dog paddling, I have learned the most growth occurs in the midst of challenge. 

Here are my coping mechanisms to stay afloat:

Gather data.  I can't wrap my mind around where to start until I have some background information.  This has annoyed most people I have worked with.  But I have to do it.  I study.  I research.  I ask questions.   If I am lucky, I find some numbers, because I love numbers (nerd alert).  

Set deadlines.  Even if they are artificial, deadlines help drive action.  Be specific about deadlines.  Try lots of little deadlines to get to a big goal.  So think "complete the fight scene by August 1" rather than "write novel by December 1." 

Procrastinate the deadlines.  Amazing things can happen at the last minute when the pressure is on.  If the motivation isn't there, then wait until the alarm sounds and get it done.  But then ask why you procrastinated - were you scared?  Did you dislike the topic?  What prevented you from getting the assignment done without the rush?

Trick yourself.  Clearly you have no idea what you are doing so you can't just sit down and write an article.  But maybe you can handle the title or the opening line or the ending...whoops, you just wrote the whole thing.   I am very gullible, so this may only work for me.

Think like a rubber band; be resilient.  When you are doing something you have never done before, you can't expect to avoid mistakes.  They are going to happen.  Accept this fact and keep going.  You won't get anywhere if you break with every mistake.

Celebrate the little successes.   I still respond like a first grader to a gold star.  I like to use green highlighting on my plan for completing a task and a little hot pink when an exceptional milestone has been reached.  Throw in a tiny happy dance, and I am motivated to tackle the next challenge! 

The jobs I hated the most are also the ones I would do again because the growth was so exponential.  It would have taken 5 years in a less challenging job to grow as much as I did in 1 year.   I hope I will be able to say the same about this writing journey.  Right now I can only gurgle, because I'm drinking from the fire hose.

How do you stay afloat in your writing career?  


  1. I'm not sure how I'm staying afloat, but it sure helps reading that I'm not the only one!

    1. I thought we just had to write, but gosh there is a lot more to this!

  2. Love your website. I am your newest follower, and invite you to join my blog as well.

  3. Yesterday, I presented my second Book Talk. Here's what I have learned about my rule of "threes." The first two times you do anything is a learning experience. By the third time, you get better at it. This works for phone calls, meetings, presentations and all sorts of experiences. When I need to make phone calls to research something new, I do two phone calls which are less important than the third phone call because I know that by the third time, I'll be much better at asking the correct questions.

    Now, it's time to schedule my third book talk!

    1. I love that lesson of the rule of 3s. I like the element that you have to stick with something, even if it didn't go well, so you can get better at it. And I like the practical advice if you have a huge interview coming up, to try to schedule a few practice ones first. Thanks Gail!


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