Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
Does it even matter?
How many times have I asked that question as a writer?
Early on it was doubts that the story would ever be good enough to get published. When I pushed myself to stay up late, to get to my word count goal, there the question was. Does it even matter?
Then as I researched agents and publishers, as I labored over query letters and synopses. Does it even matter?
I ask the question as a published writer too. When I'm smarting from a review that I stumbled upon. Does it even matter? When I read the beautiful prose of an author I love, and I feel that bite of envy. Does it even matter? Or as I research details like the creek that runs through Redwood High School in Visalia, California. Does it even matter?
A month or two ago, I was in my office feeling stressed, grumpy, and fed up with writing. I decided it didn't matter, and wandered over to Ann Voskamp's blog, where I'm pretty sure she stores most the answers to life's dilemmas. I read something over there that I've been thinking about ever since, though it wasn't an Ann original. Instead, it was Michael Phelps.
In her beautiful Sanity Manifesto post, Ann said this in a list of tips for keeping her sanity in a crazy, full-of-distractions world:
6. Stay in the pool
Michael Phelps said it in an interview: “You’ve just got to stay in the pool longer than others.”
Set the timer. Get in the pool. Stay in the pool. Do your work. Don’t get distracted. Don’t flit from one thing to another and back.
Don’t get out of the pool, don’t leave your work, until the timer goes. The way to win is to stay in the pool.
And as I contemplated that concept it occurred to me, That's how it happened for me so early. I stayed in the pool.
I'm not even close to being the Michael Phelps of the writing world, so don't read this as me saying that. But I was published much younger than many writers are, and I think it's because of all the time I "spent in the pool" during high school and after. While I eventually put aside every story I wrote as a teen writer, and while I've abandoned a lot since then, working on those stories still mattered, because it was still time in the pool.
It's summer time for many of you (or at least close) and I know many of you have some great goals for the coming months. I'm all for living life and enjoying time off (I'm headed out on a vacation now, actually) but I know upon reflection how much I benefited from pushing through the does it - this story, this detail, this sentence - even matter? moments.
Since I read that article by Ann Voskamp, I've become a lot better about keeping writing time for writing, not for browsing Pinterest or the clearance site on Old Navy. I still ask does it even matter? but I remind myself of what Michael Phelps said about staying in the pool, and I talk myself into sticking with that problematic scene or inconvenient plot line.
What about you? Some details (siblings, limited computer time) are out of our control, but are there ways you think you could be better about using your time well and focusing?
And if you're interested in winning a copy of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, there's a bit of time left in the giveaway over at Writing 4 Two, so stop by there to get entered.