Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Writers on Parade

In these days when friends are finaling in the Big Dance of Romance--The Golden Heart and Rita contests--it is easy to get discouraged if you are not among them. While it is wonderful to feel their excitement, to know they deserve their success, and to hope they win the prize, it is easy to take a step back and believe you are not ready for center stage.

But don't you dare.

Everyone who has ever been published has been in your waiting-room shoes. You just need to be clear about what it is you are waiting for.

Are you waiting for a contest result, an editor's reply to a query, and/or an agent's response? Why the bleep not?

Are you in this parade or are you content to sit on your plastic lounge chair and absorb someone else's excitement? Are you waiting for the Parade Marshall to recognize your talent from afar and come beg you to climb up beside him on the convertible?
Come on. Take off the shades man. No one is watching you. They are watching the parade.

So, if you need motivation, sign up to enter a float. If you're not ready, send off a query to add a bit of pressure. Embarrass the bleep out of yourself and ask some writer friends to read your story. If you have read it too much to see the flaws, ask someone else to look for them.

What everyone else is doing, where they are in their careers, does not matter to yours. I'll tell you a little secret: If you are watching the parade you are not in it. If you are in it, you're not watching it.

So, what do you see? Right now, what are you thinking about? Your writing or theirs?

Still content to sit at the side and watch the writers on parade? That's alright. I am going to need some folks to wave to.

Ainsley, who is ordering crepe paper online instead of leaving the computer to go shopping. I'll be on the LOUD float.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Horseshoes and Cigars

Nothing beats reaching a goal. Nothing.

I have personally been hiding one goal in my back pocket--yes, yes, a tight squeeze, I know--and that has been to get a query sent off to a particular agent. This past weekend I got it done.

However, this goal was not on my list of things to do. It must have been tired of the lack of air and crawled out of the aforementioned pocket before making its way up onto my desk and staring me down.

No, my goal this weekend was to email a contest entry for which I had already mailed the entry fee. (That's the best way to make sure you enter; pay first. Talk about a deadline. Nothing speaks to me like a possibly wasted buck 'er two.)

Long story short, I turned this great way of self-deadlining into motivation to reach my big goal:
Even though my proposal wasn't perfect enough, it was close. Therefore, while I waited for an answer to a query, I could make it perfect. Automatic motivation.
My full ms isn't good enough, but while I wait for a reply on my proposal, I can make it good enough. Automatic motivation.

So, I will no longer put off those queries until I have my full ms polished. Doing that only gives me an excuse to wait for someday.

"Close, but no cigar"? Bull! This is horseshoes. CLOSE COUNTS.

(If you enjoy this blog, pass it on to a writer near you.)

Ainsley, in motivation mode, baby!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pass the Gas?

For those of you who are old enough to have memorized M*A*S*H*, let me remind you of the episode when a young injured soldier continuously tries to take his own life. Exasperated, Col. Potter pretends to give up fighting with him and offers his aid instead, cranking up the tank and forcing the gas mask back in the man's face. The young man is so surprised he starts fighting back and after a few intense moments, Potter says something to the effect of, "There, you see? You don't really want to die after all. Now keep fighting to live."

I told you that to tell you this:

The other day I had the opportunity to play the role of Col. Potter. I have a friend--we'll call her Cathie--who was a bit fed up with some ticky-tacky technicalities and casually mentioned she might just throw in the towel. After gasping at the thought, I sent a reply pointing out just how easy it would be to leave the dream behind and move on to another. I told her she had my support either way.

Then I waited.

And while I waited, I thought, "There is no way I will ever give this up. I will never even type such a blasphemy."

But then what did I DO?

Next to nothing.

THAT is the problem. Doing nothing IS giving up!

Let me say that again.

Doing nothing IS giving up. Not writing anything today is giving up. Well, I won't do it, I tell you.

My anonymous friend, Cathie, said she won't be giving up either.

So, my goal--and I encourage those of you who occupy this same boat to join me---is for this coming week to do less giving up. Much less nothing and much more something, and in our world, that means writing.

So don't pass me the gas, thank you. I've had my wake up call and I'm fighting back.

Ainsley MacQueen, a writer today.