Three things no one ever told me about success.

 Note: This is one of two posts I wrote last month for the Boise Novel Orchard blog. Because I've picked up a few more followers since then (Hi, guys! *waves*), I thought I'd repost them here. Enjoy!

Like a lot of you, when I decided to get serious about writing, I started dreaming. Publication, awards, recognition, success.

But success is a tricky beast, as difficult to catch and hold as vapor. And there are three things about it that I didn’t know.

1.)  Success takes time

Writing is such a personal thing. Especially when you’re first starting out, everything you write feels so true and deep and precious. You want to argue when people point out weak points, want to believe that this thing you’ve poured your soul into is wonderful.

But the fact is, writing, like any other art, requires practice. You probably won’t play a concerto in your first month of piano lessons, and most people can’t draw a portrait the first time they pick up a pen. It takes time. In fact, studies show that you have to put 10,000 hours of work into an art or discipline before you achieve mastery.

But patience and time are not the only things that success requires.

2.)  Success requires a day-by-day commitment

By time and practice I don’t mean rewriting your first book over and over and over. You have to write something new. New words on a regular basis are the best way of improving as a writer. You can always take what you learn and apply it to your older work.

One thing I learned when I started blogging was the importance of consistency. You can’t build a good blog without posting regularly. Exercise is the same way; a long exercise session once a week is not as effective as smaller ones throughout the week.

Perhaps you work better in long stretches. That’s okay, everyone is different. But whatever you do, keep it consistent.

It’s hard to be persistent though, when you feel you aren’t getting anywhere. And that’s where my biggest lesson came in.

3.)  Success is something only you can define

Here’s the thing about success. It’s always the place you want to get to next, always the step right past where you are. The unpublished writer wants to be published. The small-press author wants to be published by a bigger house. The unagented writer wants an agent, the agented writer wants a book deal. Most writers would love to write full-time and still be able to pay bills.

There’s always something more to want.

What does that mean? It means that if you measure your success as a writer by those things, you will always fall short. Goals are good, don’t get me wrong. But you have to be able to appreciate your achievements for what they are without getting discouraged.

This is the most important thing I’ve learned about success. To quote the immortal John Candy in Cool Runnings, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.”

Have you learned anything lately about writing and success?

Monday News: Update on the Nook project.

As many of you know, over the last couple of months, I have been trying to lose a little weight on the recommendation of my doctor. My husband has promised me this if I succeed.

Ooo.  Ahhhh.

So far things are moving along okay, I'm between twelve and fifteen pounds lighter depending on which scale I'm using. But I'm running into a few problems.

1.) Pants.

I now have no pants that fit properly, with the exception of my work pants. Evey pair of jeans I own fits great for a few hours right after washing, and then sags in that unattractive I-see-London-I-see-France sort of way. 

2.) Sugar Intolerance.

The more weight I lose, the less my body can handle sugar. I gave in and had The Doughnut Which Shall Not Be Named yesterday, and five minutes later I felt like I'd been beaten by a baseball bat.  (This is probably a good thing in general, but it was a pain-in-the-neck at the time)

3.) Mental and Social Fog.

So far the pattern is drop a few pounds, then plateau for a week, then drop a few pounds, then plateau.  Which is fine, except every time I'm in the first part, my ability to deal with people or remember things takes a direct hit. So if you ever wonder why you haven't seen me around for a day or two, that's probably the reason.

Anyone else tried to lose a significant amount of weight before? Did these things happen to you?

An apology.

Wow, I totally missed Saterday's post yesterday!  Sorry, everyone! See, my husband kidnapped me unexpectedly and I wasn't on the computer all day.

I offer you this hug in apology.

Regular scheduled posting will resume on Monday.  Sorry again!

Cool thing of the week!

This has been floating around the Interwebs for a couple of weeks, and the more I see it the more I love it.

(And not just the sentiment, but the way it's done. Amazing.)

Any thoughts?

Monday Snippits: Things that make me happy.

Last month, I got the Happy 101 award from Jason at the Nocturnal Writing Journal. I didn't see the award for a couple of weeks, and then after I found it, it got lost in the shuffle.

However, I do like this award and appreciate it, so here it is, just a little late.

Now I'm supposed to tell you ten things that make me happy and choose five other people for this award. And since I'm a multi-tasker, you get a link list!  (not all mine, I promise) Here we go...

Ten Things That Make Me Happy.

1. My blog readers! (seriously, you are all full of awesome)

2. My new workstation

3. The six days of vacation I just had

4. Fainting goats

5. Awesome songs like this one. Or this one. Or this one...

6. Cute baby animals

7. Reading lots of books, all the time. And also writing them.

8. Scaring people with randomness

9. Funny stories about customer service.

10. And last but not certainly not least, my husband.

Now for the five who get the award.

Beth Revis, who might be the happiest person I know right now.

Helen over at Straight from Hel, because she needs more questions to answer. *evil giggle*

Winne at Opera Buffo, who's always awesome.

Joanne at Whole Latte Life, because her lovely pictures make lots of people happy.

And Weronika, who made me happy with her generous query critique project a couple of weeks ago, and who has lots of good stuff to say about publishing.

How about you? What makes you happy this week?

Secret Project Revealed!

As many of you know, a couple of weeks ago I did a Secret Project of Awesome and told you I had to test it out before telling you what it was.

The time has come.  Behold!

EDIT: Okay, maybe not quite 'behold'. The photo apparently wasn't loading for a good part of today. It is fixed now however. (I think) *crosses fingers*

My new standing workstation!

Now you might be thinking what my mom said when she saw this:  "Why on earth would you want to STAND UP at the computer?!?"

I'm so glad you asked.

It was really more of a mental progression than anything else. It began with a writer named Paul Greci, and his fascinating treadmill desk.  (You'll have to scroll down to see the picture.)

Then a month or so later, I saw Scott Westerfeld's  new standing workstation on Twitter. "Standing is the new sitting!" he declared.

Suddenly the Internet was littered with stories of writers who had back problems, neck issues, repetitive motion strain. I couldn't go anywhere without tripping over them. And I was having problems of my own.

My previous computer set-up was a small writing desk and a folding metal chair. The angles were awkward, the space was cramped, and there was just no way I could keep from hunching over.  I couldn't afford to upgrade to an ergonomic chair, and a new computer desk would be not only expensive, but too big for the room.

I would have bought a treadmill, but again, we're broke.

So one day, I'd had enough. In a fit of inspiration I tore apart our computer room, pulled a bookshelf from the bedroom and stuck the desk in a closet. Two days later, I had a fully functioning standing workstation that cost me exactly ten dollars--the price of a new power strip/extension cord.

It is awesome.

Because the monitor is almost exactly eye level, I can do things like stretch while catching up on my Google reader. My posture is better, I'm forced to take more breaks than I did before, and best of all, standing up cuts down immensely on aimless Internet surfing.

There are a couple of suggestions I would make to anyone doing this.

1.) Make sure to have a rug in front of the computer, and try to wear comfortable shoes. Otherwise your feet can get tired and sore.

2.) It's VERY helpful to have a laptop or spouse's computer to sit at in times of emergency, when you have to check email but just can't stand up another minute. It's also helpful to have a comfy chair nearby for breaks.

3.) The set-up takes a little getting used to. I've gotten to the point where I can do all of my Internet stuff--emails, blogs, research--on this computer without any trouble. But I'm still working on getting used to doing rewrites standing up.  (First drafts are always done on my Dana, so that's not an issue.)

It's a bit like exercise, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you feel.

Any questions? Comments? Snide remarks? :)

Monday Snippits

1. Something's very odd here. I spent one day of my vacation doing nothing and the next two-and-a-half days cleaning house. I can't seem to sit still or slow myself down.  If this keeps up, I may have to tie myself to the couch to get any relaxation time in.  Sigh.

2. On the other hand, thanks to Netflix instant play, I'm rediscovering all my favorite old shows. Murder She Wrote, Simon and Simon, Magnum PI, even--dare I say it--Knight Rider. This makes me an unqualified nerd, I know. But the shows are so much fun, I can't bring myself to care.

3. To go along with my fainting-goat post, I dug up this picture for you.

Here's looking at you, kid!

This is why I shouldn't own a goat...

*falls off couch laughing*  If I had these goats, I swear I would scare them ALL THE TIME. And then probably get arrested or sued or something. 

Do you want more goats?

Although I'm not sure whose funnier in this video, the goats or the reporters. Har.

Going off the grid.

I have a confession: Sometimes, I forget that I'm an introvert.

See, I love people. LOVE them. People fascinate me. And because I'm so fascinated by people, I forget that the company of people is not my natural habitat. 

And so, like a scuba diver who forgets about their air tank, I swim and I look and I explore until I run out of air.

Which brings me to where I am now. Out of air, and out of emotional energy.

Fortunately for me, my vacation starts on Thursday! (Hooray!) So in the interests of both my day job, and my writing, I'm taking a people break. This means very little Internet and large quantities of alone time. It also means I won't be about my usual cyber-haunts.

So if you comment on a post and I don't respond, or you wonder why you haven't seen me on Twitter lately, that's why. I'm going off the grid, starting Thursday.*

See you later!

*the blog will still be posting, I just might not be around to answer comments.

Snippit play-along!

So Amy and Tess decided to post a bit of their works-in-progress last week, and since I'm a suggestible person, I decided to join them.

Here you go!

I turn my back on the game and pick my way through the wet grass. The water soaks my fur, and the lawn is cold and slimy on my stomach. This better be worth it.

On the edge of the curb, I stop. I hadn't realized as a human how wide roads are. This one’s like a river, a flat expanse of gray, dark with rain. Sam sits in the middle, his head tilted back, and I wonder if he’s drinking the rain.

Sam looks at me, his eyes yellow and round in the gray of the day. "Come on, Becca. I want to show you something."

I hesitate. The edge of the curb seems very high, and the trickle of water at its base is more than enough to wet my paws. What if a car came? I’m not nearly fast enough to avoid it.

"Here," Sam springs across the road and picks me up in his mouth.

"Hey!" I protest, as he carries me to the middle of the street. "Is this safe? I don't think this is a good idea."

"Relax, love," Sam says. "I'll keep watch and I can get you away before a car even appears. But I want to show you something."

I try to relax, though the asphalt is rough under my paws, and the road seems wide and hostile. "What do you want to show me?" I ask.

"Look up," Sam says, his eyes on the street around us. "Go on, I'll keep an eye out. Just look up."

I look up.

The first thing I notice is the rain on my face, warm and soft like a benediction. Then I see the drops, coming straight at me as if the entire great, wide sky is reaching down, falling past me, as if I'm moving forward through something I can't understand. It's mesmerizing.

"You see it, Becca?" Sam asks. "You see how it falls?"

And for a moment, I do. The world spins on its axis like a great, beautiful carousel. I feel weightless, exuberant, like the little girl I used to be, paper crown and all. If I had arms, I would reach them out, if I could twirl, I would. The moment is perfect, clear as a prism.

And just as fragile.

Beside me, Sam tenses, and I come back to earth with a thump, as he spins around and grabs me by the scruff of the neck. With three great bounds we're back on the curb, just as I hear the growl of a car engine. Before I can even catch my breath, the great mass of metal and rubber hurls past us with a flattening roar.

My sense of connection, of euphoria evaporates, and I'm just a cold, wet, kitten shivering on the sidewalk.

Monday Snippits

1. I'm running about an hour behind today because I slept in. Because I had a nightmare.  To be more specific, because I was having a nightmare and wanted to make it end okay before I woke up.

Am I the only person who does this?

2. My father, who passed onto me the bookworm gene, got a Kindle in January. Since then he regularly calls me to compare book count for the year. (Yes, we are competing over books. Because we're just THAT NERDY.)

As of now, he's winning.  But not for long!  I just started my yearly Agatha Christie kick, and I can read an Agatha Christie book in a DAY!  Take that, Dad! :-P

3. Speaking of e-readers, my husband has promised me a Nook if I lose my doctor-recommended 22 pounds. This leads to some interesting mental conversations.

ME: (at church, where there are free doughnuts) I want an apple fritter!

MY BETTER SELF: But you're cutting back on sugar, remember?

ME: But I want an apple fritter!  *pouts*

MY BETTER SELF: Would you rather have an apple fritter, or a Nook?

ME: (sputtering) But...but... Dang.

I have no idea where I'm at in the process, since I don't own a scale, but my clothes are definitely looser. Yah for motivation!

How's your week starting out?
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.