We set up our themes (or try to) ahead of time here at Mysteristas. And when November’s theme, non-writing people who have inspired us, was decided upon, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about for my first post.
(No joke. It’s September 22 and I’m writing November’s post.)
See, when I was in college, I met Amy. She and I were writers, then co-editors, for the Sports department of our college newspaper. We spent many, many sleepless nights in the basement of the student activities center cobbling together layouts (this was back when we had to print our copy on a laser printer, cut it to fit with an Exacto knife, and glue it to the page), typing and proofing stories, eventually writing columns when we got to the editorial stages of our careers, and reading stories from our staff writers. And eating pizza. And chicken wings. And drinking Coke. It was awesome.
Anyway, as these things go, Amy and I lost touch after graduation. Oh, I had a vague notion of what she was doing based on updates in the alumni paper, but we didn’t talk. Not until our 15-year reunion. That’s when I learned she’d taken up endurance sports – think marathons and triathlons.
I was a little stunned. In college, Amy and I were sports fiends – but spectators, not participants. At the reception dinner, she told me her story. She’d started with distance cycling – because she liked it. Then she did running, starting with 5ks and worked her way up to marathons.
And then she wanted to do triathlons. But she didn’t swim. But she wanted to do a triathlon. So she learned to swim.
Through the process, she said, she learned something, something that has stuck with me since she said it and I’ve repeated to myself often since that night.
Amazing things happen when you show up.
It’s been said that writing is a lonely pursuit. We authors spend a lot of time in our own heads. And when we send our beloved characters out into the wild, whether through self-publishing, or to an independent editor, or via an agent query, well, we tend to freak out. Insecure Writer Syndrome, a friend calls it – the crushing sense that we have zero clue as to what we’re doing and we’ll never be able to write anything that isn’t dreck ever again, if it fact we ever wrote non-dreck to start with.
If you’re a writer, you might be nodding at this point. Lots of very successful authors feel this way.
However, and here’s the important part, we keep doing it. We write a new story, create new characters. We send out that 534th agent query. Hope springs eternal.
In other words, we keep showing up.
And if we’re lucky, one day, the agent (or the publisher) says yes, we get a grateful email from a reader, somebody says “Wow I really enjoyed that.” And all the angst, at least temporarily, melts away. And then it comes back, of course, because that’s part of the game. Amy told me once she feels like she has to throw up before every race. Every. Single. Race. And of course she’s awesome. That doesn’t stop her from wanting to puke. And puking doesn’t keep her from showing up.
You hear it all the time: Persistent, hard-working people come out on top over the merely talented to don’t invest the effort. Keep putting words on the page. Keep showing up.
A lot of my non-writing friends don’t get my IWS. Amy does. When I email her to say, “I sent my manuscript to an editor and I think I want to throw up,” she knows exactly what I mean. And I love her for it.
So if anybody ever asks me, “What’s the one thing you would tell a new writer?” it would be, amazing things happen when you show up. Keep doing it, no matter what happens. That’s my #1 lesson.
And thanks, Amy, for teaching it to me.