A few winters ago I went on a hike up a canyon near my house. We’d had a blizzard the night before and I couldn’t resist trekking into fresh snow. You can see a few pictures of my hike that day here.
As soon I as I stepped out of the car, the familiar voices started up in my head. You've probably heard them before. They whisper things like:
For me, these voices have the most power in the first thirty minutes of a hike. The voices will tell you it's not really giving up if you've only just started. And since you've only invested a small portion of your time and energy, turning around is easy to do.
Sometimes the voices may speak truth. Perhaps you are not fully prepared. Perhaps the way is too difficult. You should always begin journeys with care and thoughtfulness.
But mostly the voices lie. And in the first thirty minutes, you are the most vulnerable to their deception.
Once I've left my car far behind, and the valley is spread out in my view, I find I can talk back to the voices.
Then I will go as far as I can.
I've walked through worse.
Yes, I can.
If I make it past the first thirty minutes, I usually make it to my goal. I see through the voices' lies, I've invested significant time and energy, and I plow my way to the top.
I've discovered a similar truth in writing. When you begin a new story, the voices are quick to speak up.
Again, most of the time the voices lie, but it's easy to stop when you've just begun. It's easy to tell yourself that the story isn't as compelling as you first thought. You haven't invested the time, so it is a simple matter to close the document and move on to something else. Or perhaps give up altogether.
Don't believe the voices.
Lower your shoulders, pick a good pace, and plunge ahead. Write the first thirty pages. Or fifty. Whatever it takes. Ignore the voices and just move forward. Perhaps on page thirty-one, you can start to respond to those nagging doubts.
I'm getting to know them.
Maybe not, but tonight I'll reach three thousand.
I will do this.
Ignore the voices until you've written thirty pages. Invest the time and effort that your story both deserves and demands. You'll find the next hundred pages will unfold.
One last thing. When hiking, I've found that at the base of the trail there are dozens of footsteps. The farther you go, the thinner the tracks as one by one, those who have gone before turn around and head back. Eventually, there is an exhilarating moment when you see the last set of tracks come to an end. You look to the trail ahead and see nothing but unbroken snow.
In writing, it's not good to compare yourself to others. There are far too many variables. But sometimes I like to compare what I'm doing now with what I've done in the past. Maybe first the goal is to just finish a short story. Then it's to writing something longer. Maybe you want to place in a contest, and then come in first. Then you may tackle a lofty goal such as finishing a novel, submitting it, and getting good feedback. Then that happy day comes when you sign a contract, and see one of your books on the shelf.
If you ignore the voices, sometimes you can go farther than you ever thought possible. All you have to do is tackle the first thirty.
* * * * *
Jill here. Do you hear voices like this in your head? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Also, we're going to give away a copy of Marion's book Almost Super. Here's a little info about it:
Perfect for fans of Pixar's The Incredibles, Almost Super is a fresh, funny middle grade adventure about two brothers in a family of superheroes who must find a way to be heroic despite receiving powers that are total duds. Filled with humor, heart, and just the right kind of heroics, Almost Super is a winning story that will satisfy would-be heroes and regular kids alike.
Everyone over the age of twelve in the Bailey family gets a superpower. No one knows why, and no one questions it. All the Baileys know is that it's their duty to protect the world from the evil, supervillainous Johnson family. *shake fists*
But when Rafter Bailey and his brother Benny get their superpowers, they're, well . . . super-lame. Rafter can strike matches on polyester, and Benny can turn his innie belly button into an outie. Along with Rafter's algebra class nemesis, Juanita Johnson, Rafter and Benny realize that what they thought they knew about superheroes and supervillains may be all wrong. And it's up to the three of them to put asides their differences and make things right. They may not have great powers, but together, they're almost super.
If you like to read middle grade books, have a sibling that does, or are writing this genre and want to take a peek at your competition, enter to win a copy of Almost Super on the Rafflecopter widget below.