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Monday, July 16, 2012

WSG 17: Stamina

Writer's Survival Guide 17: Stamina

When I hear the word stamina, I think of the movie Rocky and the famous training montage. The image of Rocky (in his super cool sweatsuit!) pumping his fists on the top of the stairs sums it up for me.

Rocky Balboa
Photo by scottdwelch

Of course, as a writer, I'm not pushing my body to its limits. Instead, I'm pushing my shedule, my time constraints, and my mental capacity to its limits. Sometimes I'm pushing my family's sanity too!

I haven't been shy about what a strange year this has been for me. At the beginning of July, we moved! We're remodeling--yes, it's going well, thank you!--and we're signing our kids up for new schools, new activities, and trying to make new friends. We have a lot of "new" this year, and sometimes that's a great thing. We certainly miss our "old," but so far the new has been fabulous.

With all the new, though, comes insecurity and shedule disruptions. I purposely took the last two weeks off of all writing activities to concentrate on unpacking, painting, and dealing with the moving responsibilities. Let me tell you, taking time off does not feel very good. I've been absent from blogs for the last few months, and I miss everyone. Plus, my annual goals have slipped, and one of my goals will have to be postponed until next year.

There are a lot of things I'm not proud of this year. I've had many, many bouts of emotional weakness over the last six months, but 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) assures us, "'But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" I believe it. As my outer life has changed, my inner life steadies me. That's the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's easy to get lost in our own abilities. When things are going well, we pat ourselves on the back. After all, we worked hard to get where we're at. When things slip away, we wonder what we did wrong--how can we make it right?

But these are illusions too.

We really don't have as much control over everything as we think we do.

I believe writers have control over the following:

- How often we write
- How seriously we take the craft of writing
- How many words we put on the page
- How many books we write in a year
- What types of books/stories we write
- How much marketing/promo we (even as unpublished writers) are willing to do
- If we want to self-publish or try the traditional route
- What tools we decide to use for our writing

We don't have control over these factors:

- How many people will buy our books, regardless of how they're published
- If going the traditional route, when or what agent/editor will sign us
- How well our books are received
- If a genre is hot or cold
- If our personal life twists and disrupts our equilibrium
- How well our marketing/promo efforts succeed

In order to have stamina, we have to continue working on the things in our control and not worry about the others.

I believe writers should set a weekly schedule with a clear goal at the end. We should keep up with the latest publishing news as best we can. We need to be kind to ourselves when life gets messy. We have to prioritize our writing.

Athletes get to the top of their game by sustained effort. They take few days off. They push their bodies to the limit. They have a clear goal feeding their practice.

Writers are not guaranteed a NY Times Bestseller spot if we "work hard." But by treating our writing like an elite athletic event, we gain confidence, we launch our skills higher, and we position ourselves to accept any opportunities that come our way.

With sustained effort, we build stamina. Stamina builds confidence. Confidence produces grit for the days we don't think we can do it.

Stamina keeps us from quitting when life gets rough.

How do you build stamina?

Have a fantastic Monday!

My old charter e-mail addy didn't make the move. If you need to contact me, please use either jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com or jrkemer(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thanks!

30 comments:

  1. LOve that you honor the Holy Spirit. Couldn't get through life without. You are a strong woman, stronger than you know.

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    1. Em: Thank you--I don't feel all that strong right now, so I appreciate your kind words. Thank you. :)

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  2. I think it's also important to recognize that sometimes life is going to throw curveballs at you, and you are going to have to choose to let the writing go, as you have done for a while this summer. I know I lose courage and stamina when I feel like I've failed myself by not reaching my goals, until I look back and realize that the REASON I didn't reach those goals was because, oh look, there was that friend in crisis who called every day and I used my writing time to talk to her, or Carl had to unexpectedly work overtime for three weeks in a row and I needed to be both Mummy and Daddy for a little while, or even that the weather has been perfect for berrying so everything else gets tossed aside for a day or so while we harvest!

    These days, I'm all about finding the rhythm in life and accepting the beauty in the imbalances, and that is what gives me my stamina to endure.

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    1. So true. And I never want writing to become so inflexible that I ignore the other important things in life. Helping our friends, spending extra time with our kids during tough times--all those things are very important. Great point!

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  3. Sometimes, we don't think we're making progress, especially if we're moving slower than we'd like. But it's just like with running: we add on a tiny bit every time we run, and eventually, we're running for miles. That looked impossible at first, but it's the little work by little work that makes it possible.

    Good luck with your remodeling!!

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    1. Good point, Lindsay. I tend to look forward and forget the progress I've made. :) Thanks!

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  4. How do you build stamina? One day at a time.

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  5. This is really good stuff, Jill. Writing DOES take stamina...I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes when I tell people I write and then get a "Oh, isn't that sweet, how fun for you!" response. It IS fun but it's also a ton of hard work.

    God, encouraging family members and friends, little goals met and milestones along the way...they all build up my stamina. Sometimes I reach out to a writing friend or two and actually ask for encouragement...because I know I need it.

    I think the whole thing takes a certain amount of stubborn-ness too...a sort of "dig my heels in, I will keep going even if I have to rip my book apart and start over" mentality. :)

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    1. I love that you included the support aspect. Having a support system definitely helps build stamina! It does! And I'm so with you on the stubborn-ness. I am the exact same way!

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  6. Glad to see you back today! I think you nailed it and I couldn't have said it any better. We control what we can and let God's grace suffice for all the other crap that comes along.

    And I agree with Tagg. Being stubborn sure does help a writer out at times!

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    1. You--stubborn? No! Ha! I agree! I can dig in with powerful claws with the best of 'em!

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  8. Great post, Jill.

    We must stay conditioned.

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    1. What a great way to put it, Loree. We MUST stay conditioned--right!

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  9. Glad to hear things are going well! I've missed seeing you around :) This is a great post! It's good for us to remember that there are certain things we can and can't control, and there's no point in wasting time going things the opposite way.

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    1. I miss being around. :) I often forget how many things really aren't in my control! Why stress about them? :)

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  10. The concept of stamina is so important. I take the summers off (sorta) from writing and when I start again in the fall I notice how much harder it is. My brain is all flabby and out of shape!

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    1. I can relate. I go into part-time-mode in the summer. But, with my life, full-time in the summer just wouldn't work. It makes me appreciate my blessings, especially in the time department!

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  11. I applaud your accomplishments in spite of all of life's changes. I am able to get stamina just by getting back on the horse every time I fall off. And also, one of my favorite words is "tenacity." Now if only I would get some. Seriously, I do keep trying. That's all I can do.

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    1. Isn't tenacity the key? It's like Dory from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming; just keep swimming!"

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  12. With running you build stamina slowly, but sometimes I think with writing you need to just plunge into it and try to get as much done as possible. I find when I take breaks, I lose the flow. Good luck with all the new stuff.

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    1. I don't like to take long breaks either. More than a week, and I'm toast. It takes me a long time to get back into it!

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  13. My year has gone by with very few goals accomplished! Stamina for me right now is just starting again even though I feel very behind. It is knowing you can always move forward since time does not move backward!

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    1. Lynn, high five! I'm right there with you. Some years are more challenging than others. It's moving forward that counts--great point!

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  14. Oh girl, this is SUCH a good post and I'm so glad I hopped over to read. I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to blog about something similar on Monday. I'll link here when I do!

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    1. Thanks, Katie, that means a lot to me! I can't wait to read your post!

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  15. Jill, I wish I felt empowered by what you said, but I only felt guilt for NOT feeling I have control over the things you site as things we can control-


    How often we write
    - How seriously we take the craft of writing

    Even if it makes you a crazy, flustered jerk, Jill?

    - How many words we put on the page
    No Comment.

    - How many books we write in a year

    ONLY you can write in a "Assembly Line" fashion. Some of us can't. We tried, really did, but just can't, and that's why "The next book" argument isn't always valid or relevant.

    - What types of books/stories we write

    If what you love can't sell, you're left to experiment in the dark.

    - How much marketing/promo we (even as unpublished writers) are willing to do

    No Comment.


    - If we want to self-publish or try the traditional route
    Unless you have the money, traditional publishing is still the only option for professional results.

    - What tools we decide to use for our writing
    Unless tools we need cost more than we can afford. Period.

    Sorry if I read you wrong, but this has been a hard year for me, 2012 has so far been my saddest year, instead of my best year, and years 2009-2011 weren't so hot either. As much

    A lot of people told me to take a break from it all, but you and others who replied here say it's not a smart idea, how can you be kinder to yourself without taking a break, and are there EVER times when you NEED a break? No matter what the consequence to your writing?

    Take care,
    Taurean

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  16. Oh, Taurean, I can feel your raw hurt, and I'm so sorry that I have added to your pain. You're right. The things I consider in my control are different than the ones you consider in your control.

    You've been honest about the struggles you've had these last years, and I wish I knew what to say. Everything that comes to mind feels like an empty platitude. But I can tell you this--my heart reaches to you. I want good things for you. I don't know what the best move for you to make is (and I hope you will trust your instincts to do what feels best for you), but I want your life to be happy and filled with blessings.

    Most of all, I want you to know that I care. Writing is not the most important thing in my world. My faith, my family, and my friends will always rank higher than my writing. But I love writing, and that's why I share these posts. I want to encourage others, including you.

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    1. Thanks. I wasn't criticizing you for what you said, and I'm truly glad you and others in your corner found your solace of what works for you, I just wish I felt the same.

      You remind me of my old writers group, they would find many of your insights very key for them.

      I guess this is harder for me because unlike you, or those in my old critique group (I had to leave when I could no longer keep up with the tight critique schedule, and honestly, my critiquing skills were weaker than they are now, despite doing the best I could with them)I don't have other meaningful aspects to my life outside reading and writing.

      That's why it's so troubling to struggle with writing and enjoy what reading was before I started writing fiction, it's one of the few things that's (SUPPOSED) to be in my control.

      My family's just distant, maybe not violent or abusive, but distant, and I just try to live with it. As much as I appreciate my online pals, it doesn't replace in-person relationships, and when you live in a city where just going to buy groceries is an "Odyssey" in adversity in and of itself, being a non-driver in a car-reliant world isn't easy, and especially when public transportation is nonexistent.

      Thanks for caring, Jill. I just wish more than anything I had happier news to report.

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