Stepping Stones

by limebirdkate

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a novelist. I didn’t give much thought to how I’d get there or how long it would take me. All I had in my head was that I would write a story and publish it.

Dreams are easy like that.

In reality, most of us average people actually have to work at something to make it even halfway decent. Success doesn’t happen because you want it bad enough. There are steps that need to be taken, lessons to be learned, disappointments to shoulder, dues that need to be paid.

The other day Beth posted a video celebrating 50,000 views on Limebird Writers. I wondered if in her dream of creating Limebird Writers she thought about the little steps she’d have to take to make Limebird a success. In her vision as she sat in the park, did she prepare for the milestone of 50,000 views? Was she surprised at the path Limebird took? (Yes, B, I want to know.)

I consider myself a planner, but in my dream to become a novelist I didn’t prepare myself for the small steps or the detours along the way. I mean, somewhere a little voice probably warned me this wasn’t going to be easy. But I know for sure that I didn’t ever imagine all the writing courses and conferences and seminars I’d take. I didn’t think I’d be publishing a short story first. I didn’t think I’d be a freelance editor/writing coach. I didn’t think I’d be teaching creative writing to kids.

But I sure thought I would have published my first novel by now.

When I was 20, I turned down a job offer as a copyeditor for a magazine because the job sounded “boring.” I didn’t make the connection that the job would give me an experience that would help me in the future. I was too set on my end-goal—to be a fiction writer—that I didn’t want to waste my “valuable” time editing someone else’s work.

A few years later, my writing aspirations didn’t pan out as I’d planned. I pretty much “crashed and burned” and quit writing.

I know now that I crashed and burned because I didn’t prepare myself for surprises and detours—those stepping stones. My mistake was setting my sights on one goal and one route toward that goal. Instead, I needed to recognize the process involved. I needed to realize that all worthy quests are not one straight path from point A to point B.

Worthy quests branch out, they encourage exploration, they offer challenges. They are chock-full of stepping stones, opportunities to learn and grow. Worthy quests may take us on detours, but if we embrace these seemingly inconsequential moments we will eventually arrive at our destinations.

And we’ll be thriving.

What are some of the stepping stones you’ve taken on your quest to be an author?

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61 Responses to “Stepping Stones”

  1. This is a great post Kate, something we can probably all relate to. None of us, for instance, could have foreseen the huge part that blogging would play in our lives, and our development as writers. As we’ve spoken about on you own personal blog, and on others, blogging can become all-consuming if we’re not careful, but it is nevertheless a wonderful developmental tool for building skills, for support, and for networking.

    I’ve tended to dip in and out of writing aspirations over the years. Whilst it was always bubbling away as something I’d like to do, I would say it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to focus on it fully as being something I really want to do, and have properly been working towards it.

    • Sometimes our goals are like that–not fully developed enough to actually strategize for. I appreciate the blogging as it helped strengthen my resolve to continue with the writing. When I see how many other people are in a similar boat, I realize that I need to keep trying. We all need to keep trying, for that matter.

  2. what a fab post! I am on the verge of releasing (and self-publishing!) my debut novel. If you asked me this time last year that I’d be releasing a book in 12 months’ time I would’ve laughed in your face (to say it literally).

    I’ve always wanted to be famous – in some way, shape or form (whether it’d be a singer, a TV presenter, etc – but never on Big Brother for example) and, when I heard somewhere about doing NaNoWriMo. So I gave it a shot. I failed to meet the month deadline (well, I do have a life!) but managed to do the whole novel by Christmas. After a few minor edits (as it’s mostly a semi-autobiograhy with a story written into it) and getting into contact with my muse, I am now more ready and more confident than ever to get people to know about my AS; despite all of my struggles in life.

    The hard slog now is actually promoting my book! 🙂 Bring. It. On!

    • Hi Juliette, congrats on your debut novel–that’s fantastic. Wow, you must be so proud. I have participated in NaNo also, and you’re right, life can really put a damper on that word count. But good for you for continuing on until it was done, regardless. So many people quit altogether.

      Good luck with your publishing and promotion endeavors! 🙂

  3. So true, Kate, so true. I realized after I went to my first writing conference that I had much more work to do; much more to learn about the publishing industry and writing in general. When I went to my second writing conference, things started to make more sense. By my third, I realized that publishing a novel was like a game: strategic, paying dues, networking. Now I’m headed to my fourth this October. I’m a volunteer, helping newbies!

    Every single writer I’ve met, every class I’ve taken, every word I’ve changed has helped me get to this point… and I’m not there yet. But I keep plodding on.

    Best wishes as you pursue your dream.

    • Hi Anne–

      I never realized how much work was involved either. I mean, look at how many books get published, how can it be so hard? 😉 Yes, publishing is like a game–good analogy.

      That will be fun for you, to help out at a conference. Do you get any special treats for volunteering? Like a free 50-page critique on your WIP?

      Thanks for your encouragement. Same to you!

  4. First of all, congratulations on your 50,000 views – it is fantastic. Secondly, as I read this, I empathised so much with what you said, I was nodding along all the time I was reading it. I never imagined I would be dressing up and writing from The Laboratory as Loony Literature – I still can’t figure out how that happened, it’s definitely got something to do with Mary Shelley. If someone would have told me that even two years ago, I would have thought that they had had one too many – drinks, I mean. I think that in the beginning, we all create a world of how a writer writes and lives and it is only when we get into the real world of the writer that we really start to make our sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful journey. I wish you every success in your future as a writer.

    • Hey loony,
      Yes, this is exactly what I’m referring to–how we wind up doing things we never imagine just to achieve our goals. I love how you really get into your story, I don’t know anyone who does that and I think it takes a lot of guts and creativity. Plus you’re having fun, I can tell. And that’s what this whole quest is supposed to be. Fun.

      I wish you success, too. 🙂

      • Thank you so much, what a lovely thing to say. Yes, I am having a great deal of fun; it’s something nice to get my son involved in as well – he wants to write and act so he’s seeing the reality of what goes into it all. As I’m typing this, I’ve thought of something – we are saying now how we didn’t imagine ourselves doing certain things because of writing, yet we don’t really know what else we will end up doing in the name of our art – oh dear – I think I had better close my eyes and hold on tight.

      • How true, we really don’t know. A vision could go in any direction, I suppose.

        Haha, yes, you better be careful the next time you go sightseeing and taking tours of old buildings. 😉

  5. Things started differently for me since I never intended to be a writer, even though I always did well in my classes. So when the Muse blindsided me in 2009, I wasn’t prepared.

    But being an archaeologist entails writing—lots of it. And I have the advantage of having had great writing teachers. So my grammar and structure are good, even when the subject matter is mundane. However, those skills are applied to research and technical writing, which makes for boring reading when enjoyment is your goal.

    So I’ve had to pull from those old memories of high school and college English courses and rediscover my creative side. I’m still learning, as you well know! 🙂 But the years of academic writing helped me realize how long a process writing can be and how much editing is often involved. I still wish it could go faster, but I understand that it can’t. The works aren’t ready without a lot of mistakes and learning from them.

    Congrats again on the 50,000 views! 🙂

    • JM, you’re a great example of discovering your love for writing and going for it. Maybe the fact it wasn’t a dream has a hand in that. And you’re right, having a strong background in writing (no matter what kind of writing) helps a lot. I have heard from people who desperately want to write a book but they struggle over simple sentence structure, grammar, punctuation–and it is such a problem they have to abandon the book. It’s too bad.

      I wish it would go faster, too. However, I have to admit that the length of time has allowed me a lot of opportunity to grow and learn. Can’t beat that.

  6. Great thought provoker, Kate! When I was in secondary school we were encouraged to consider several career paths. Consider what we’d like to do and what we’re good at. I would have liked to have been a full time author, but I had a knack with computers so my stepping stones led me to write software instead of fiction for the best part of 20 years since, simply because it was easier to get a better paying, more secure job. But the fiction kept calling me. But those initial fears about the writing career were confirmed on the first day of a fiction writing course I did in 2004. After our mandatory introductions to the rest of the class, the instructor kindly informed us that we won’t make any money from writing fiction. But by all means, try. And then began some short stories and the novel…

    • Hi Richard, your teachers in secondary school were smart. I think I missed out on that encouragement of stretching my wings and trying anything that looks interesting. I wonder what else I might have tried had I been given that kind of a nudge. Not that I would have listened, of course, as my younger years were spent being stubborn. 🙂

      Oh goodness, what a thing for your instructor to say! Nothing like putting a damper on a classroom full of writers. I’m glad that you at least decided to give it a go!

  7. For me it was when I worked for a weekly newspaper. The pay was lousy and the hours were long, but it was one of the smartest career decisions I ever made.

    There I learned how to crank out fast, polished copy on just about every subject under the sun. The job also instilled in me a writing discipline I had never possessed before and an eager willingness to try new things and meet new people.

    It was also a job that forced me to quickly put my failures behind me. There was another issue coming out; I didn’t have the luxury to dwell.

    I wrote a blog post about my time at the paper. Take a peek if you wish: http://mikeallegra.com/2012/06/24/paper-trained/

    • I think you hit the nail on the head–usually it is the grunt jobs that teach us the most, where we grow the most. Another reason why we need to take advantage of opportunities that on the surface isn’t exactly what we’re looking to do. Thanks for the link, I’ll be sure to check it out.

  8. I fall into one of your categories, the ones who don’t pursue writing books and such because they don’t know enough about proofreading, punctuation and grammar. I’m learning every day though, and I can’t see myself ever shutting the door completely.
    Wonderful post, everyone should go read the short story, it’s awesome!

    • Hey Neeks, I’m glad that you won’t shut the door completely despite the setbacks. You’re a wonderful storyteller, and all of those obstacles are really mere inconveniences. You can definitely plow through all of that.

      Aww, thanks for the kind words. You’re really sweet. 🙂

  9. I’ve devoted energy that I feel like I don’t have to my novel. That’s my big stone. Overcoming the sadness, the depression, no energy, and working on what I desire.

  10. I recognized my ability as a writer while still in high school — through college, and for a couple of years as a pastor, I wrote regularly. But the idea for a novel, which came to me in 1975, has now become old hat for some, and new thought for others — I certainly can’t claim it now. I had the Tow the Iceberg idea when I was fifteen — I envisioned it being towed to New York, or SanFrancisco, and a great public uprising when a few tried to control the resource. Why didn’t I start then — too scared, I guess. I am searching my mind and our future for a new idea now, but nothing will ever match that one.

    • Hi Judith, I think that it’s wonderful that you were so self-aware during your teen years. So many kids don’t know what they are capable of doing at that age, and they miss out on a lot of great opportunities.

      Yes, fear has an annoying habit of getting in the way of our goals, doesn’t it.

      I’m sure as long as you keep searching for a new idea, one will come to you. Don’t give up. 🙂

  11. I’ve grown up in a small town, and it’s definitely formulated my worldview as a writer. The life long friendships, the comfortable dismal humdrum of the same places, activities, and town where everyone knows everyone and wishes they didn’t, where the same quiet routine happens day in and day out, year after year. I think telling a story for most writers is a way of exploring a world in their head that they’ve got one foot in and one foot out of. It’s a half-truth that for me feels like therapy. Our characters are a combination of our own personality traits and those of others we know, or the kind of people we’re interested in trying to understand. My main character is in his last year of high school, and feels a tremendous sense of drifting uncertainty–something I know is directly tied to my own current state of mind after finishing college and trying to figure out what being a “successful adult” means.

    • Hi ameryblaine, I hear a lot about how our characters are reflections of us in one way or another. I like how you describe the problem for your character, “drifting uncertainty.” That says a lot in just two words.

      You’re right, telling a story is like exploring the world, or our ideas of the world, and it’s amazing what we come up with once we get going.

      Thanks for commenting.

  12. So true that the path is rarely a straight one. I’ve had many different detours, but I never look at them as wrong choices. Instead I see them as years of experience that got me to where I am now and gave me the material and knowledge I need to write about different topics.

    • Hi Carrie,
      I love your positive attitude. Really, we should be looking at detours, not as wrong turns, but as a new, unexpected experience.

      I’m sure that my detour offered me the time I needed to develop my inner self in order to become a “public” writer. To give me the confidence to write and share it with others. And, similar to what you say about material and knowledge, my detour gave me lots of fodder to write about. 😉

  13. I didn’t realize that it was this complicated. I underestimated the length and breadth of the path. I had always written in my spare time. Little did I know it took more than a few hours here and there.

    • Hi Kate,

      Yes, that realization was like a lightning strike on my heart. It was as if I woke up one morning and suddenly realized I was nowhere near my goals like I had envisioned. It’s moments like those that make or break us, I think. Luckily, you and I are still working hard. 🙂

  14. This is a difficult realization for anyone to make about anything, I think – artist, scientist, entrepreneur – but an important one. I guess, for a lucky some, the path is focused and without diverging legs. For most of us, though, I have to believe we wind our way through a larger forest (because I refuse to consider myself “lost”).

    I haven’t always wanted to write, but I’ve always loved making up and telling stories. (My big sister influenced me a lot, there; she was my first teacher/coach/playmate as well as confidante/co-conspirator.) At middle and high school, I wanted to go into acting/dance (with a briefly-entertained notion of being a stunt performer). But it wasn’t until university that I discovered technical theatre. From there, it was playwriting and screenwriting, which led to (slightly) more formality in my storytelling skills. It wasn’t until long after I was out of school, though, that my real learning began, and I started to understand what I enjoyed about stories, what I wanted to read/see/hear, and that realization led to what stories I wanted to tell.

    I like to think life’s little adventures give us perspective and help us grow, even if they don’t get us to our destination straightaway. With apologies to Neil Gaiman, here, when he put words into the mouth of Doctor Who’s TARDIS: [Life] doesn’t always take us where we want to go, but it does take us where we need to go. 🙂

    • Hey Mayumi,
      Yes, I know a few of those people who always knew what they wanted to be and what it would take to get there, and then just did the deed. I cannot compare myself to people like that, and I don’t anymore. But I used to.

      Sounds like your path was a great one of learning and gaining experience and growing. It seems like no matter what direction you went, you got a lot out of everything that came your way. That’s a wonderful way to be.

      Love your last line–very true.

  15. Too numerous to articulate. I didn’t even switch on to he creative aspect of writing until 51 months ago. Sometimes life takes us in directions unexpected, but maybe… it fills us with other experiences we later use as flavouring for our writes.

    • Hi Nelle,
      Absolutely–and it is so important that we look at it from that perspective. No matter what the detour, we are learning something. And for writers, that’s nothing less than great material.

  16. Wise words Kate! I don’t think I’ve been focused enough on writing. I’ve taken a detour with teacher certification and grad school, but I believe my path will give me the means to spend more time writing in the future, but it will take a couple years to get there. We shall see.

    My favorite part of this post and words to remember:
    I know now that I crashed and burned because I didn’t prepare myself for surprises and detours—those stepping stones. My mistake was setting my sights on one goal and one route toward that goal. Instead, I needed to recognize the process involved. I needed to realize that all worthy quests are not one straight path from point A to point B.

    Worthy quests branch out, they encourage exploration, they offer challenges. They are chock-full of stepping stones, opportunities to learn and grow. Worthy quests may take us on detours, but if we embrace these seemingly inconsequential moments we will eventually arrive at our destinations.

    • Hi buddhafulkat,

      Well, if we’re going to take a detour I think teacher certification and grad school are worth the change in direction. 🙂 One of my detours was bartending, haha.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Look forward to seeing what you do with your writing as you press on. 🙂

  17. I think this is one of the best parts of the blogging community. You get to find out that other writers are doing the same things, having the same issues and encountering the same barriers. It makes me feel like I can do this and will do this if I keep working hard and keep the dream alive. So much support and encouragement so that you can take the detours and understand how they can help you realise your dream. The only trouble is finding the balance between writing and blogging. I have deja vu all of a sudden 🙂

    • Hi Pete,

      I love blogging for these reasons, too. I feel much more secure in knowing that we all carry similar doubts and fears and thoughts. And it is nice to see how other people manage their tough times, we don’t feel so alone.

      Haha, good one, Pete. Yeah, that darn balance between writing and blogging–wonder if anyone’s posted about that recently? We could get some good advice. 😉

  18. Wonderful post Kate (great name too!!). So many of us wanted to be writers when we were young, and look what has happened. Blogging leads to so many other things, and setting the goal of publishing a daily blog sets the discipline of daily writing. It fits with my analogy, ‘How do we eat an elephant?’ – ‘One mouthful at a time!’.

    • Hey Kate (awesome name, I agree),

      Love that analogy, quite fitting for how we take on the new face of writing a book and publishing and marketing. If I think about the entire process at once, I will keel over.

      I am grateful for the blogging, because even though it has become a bigger part of my daily schedule than I anticipated, it has led me to some wonderful people and advice and support.

      Thanks for swinging by.

  19. This is a really fine bit to put before all of us, Kate, and to be taken to heart. In the early days of writing and trying to get something published– no harm was done by submitting–and being accepted–by a holiday anthology collection that only paid ‘one contributor copy.’ Writing 1100-word business articles for a local magazine that paid only $25.00 for said article didn’t kill me–it put my writing out on a nationally-viewed web site. Developing a freelancing reputation first can only help down the line when the novel *somehow/possibly/hopefully/magically* finds its way “out.”

    I continue to enjoy and appreciate your blog posts.

    All best to you.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Great comment.

      Writing has taken on a lot of new meanings in this day and age, and I think we are writing a lot more than we realized we would have to–just to get our names/faces out there. As you say in the early days, we got paid for articles (generally speaking), and now we are writing them for free as a marketing/platform tool.

      Freelancing has been a wonderful help. Not what I envisioned I’d be doing 20 years ago. Freelancing is one more aspect to my writing career that I once scoffed at, but now I embrace and appreciate daily! A detour that actually wasn’t that much of a detour as it has taught me more than I thought it would.

      Thanks for your lovely compliment. Have a wonderful day.

  20. Here, here. Great post. This may sound strange but one stepping stone for me was accepting that writing was relaxing and something I truly enjoyed doing.

    • Actually, I think that is most definitely a stepping stone. Too many writers approach writing as a force to be reckoned with. I also think that our writing suffers when we don’t feel the enjoyment.

  21. Thought I’d replied to this, obviously not! Sorry love! Great post, I love hearing people’s journeys on their writing paths. Oh no, I didn’t think ahead with Limebird, I just set it up and hoped for the best. I would say the stepping stones mainly have been the writers on the team who make it a success, I just put everything together. Without them, it would fall apart. x

    • Het B, no problem! Okay, that’s what I wanted to know. I love hearing about other writers’ journeys also. Some are impulsive and some not so much.

      Aww, thanks. I feel like we all work great as a team, and our dedication plus your savvy leadership is what makes Limebird a success. 🙂

  22. I think my stepping stones were the learning opportunities — to realize that I sometimes might have to make my goals more realistic, to learn to accept some failures, to accept that my writing career might take a different path than I envisioned, and to finally be a peace with all of it. =)

    • Hi Nancy,

      That’s great. I think that makes a lot of sense. To be at peace with your journey is a huge stepping stone. There are several authors I have heard about who are disappointed at their lack of success or that their journey didn’t pan out the way they wanted. They’re not happy, even though they’re published.

      I’m glad you’re not one of them. 🙂

  23. Being wrong over and over again. It’s rather humbling. 🙂 I’m used to being smart and getting the hang of things quickly. Writing is a series of serious blows to my self concept and I have to keep coming back from them.

    • Hey Kourtney, you’re right. Writing, for many of us, doesn’t come quickly or easily. That can be a surprising blow for those people who are generally fast learners. I’m glad, though, that you keep bouncing back and trying again. 🙂

  24. INSPIRING. ENLIGHTENING.MOTIVATING.

    The first words kept me going. And I loved this statements “all worthy quests are not one straight path from point A to point B. Worthy quests may take us on detours, but if we embrace these seemingly inconsequential moments we will eventually arrive at our destinations. And we’ll be thriving.” ❤

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. The art or craft of writing takes time. As long as we’re prepared to devote time, then we will succeed. I hope that you enjoy your writing. 🙂

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