The moment(s) to celebrate
When you write to publish, the impulse might be to celebrate the moment of publication. That’s certainly the moment your family and friends celebrate because they can SEE your writing in print or online. Tangible evidence that all those months of mysteriousnous when you said you were “working” finally has something to show for it. Hooray!
So why does that celebration feel so anti-climactic? Why, when everyone around you is exuberant about such tangible “proof” of your “success,” do you feel so deflated and unimpressed? What’s wrong with you? Why is the predominant feeling…meh?
Perhaps you have been celebrating the wrong moment(s).
As writers, we work constantly, even when we aren’t sitting in front of our computers or with journals on laps, writing until our fingers cramp. The truth is, the moment of publication is inevitable if you’ve done all of the work necessary to get to that point. In other words, it’s less of a surprise and more like an earned result. You did the work, you got accepted, you waited however many weeks or months, and now you see your words on the page or screen. Certainly there is a sense of satisfaction in that accomplishment, but the celebration moments have actually come much earlier and you may have missed them. Let’s correct that.
Here are some moments worth celebrating during the writing process:
1. The moment the idea clicks. You’ve been mulling an idea over for awhile, but nothing about it seems right. So you keep thinking and dreaming and journaling and mulling. And one day you’re on the treadmill or watching TV or playing with the cat and WHAM! Seemingly out of nowhere (but not really because mulling), your idea gels and you see a clear path – how to start, how to develop, what to include, how to end. It’s all there, laid out in your mind’s eye like a roadmap and all you have to do is follow it. Time to celebrate! Take yourself out to dinner and enjoy a good wine. Or make a date with yourself at the spa or your favorite park or coffee shop. Not to work. Just something you can do to mark the moment and celebrate your success at this stage. It’s a very important step because without the click moment, you will never be published. So take some time to celebrate right now.
2. The moment you offer your work to your writing group for feedback. This is a scary step and requires great faith and courage. You have worked intimately with your story, the characters, the places, and the ideas for days, weeks, months. You have mulled and mentally debated, struggled and made massive changes. You’ve killed your darlings, brought them back from the dead, made them zombies, and finally relegated the words that don’t work to the dustbin. And now you’re taking that first difficult step of letting others see your efforts. And they will criticize it, point out all the problems and inconsistencies, and the elements that work, but could be stronger. Celebrate this moment and your willingness to share your work in order to make it better. Lots of writers never do this – and those writers are not published. This is a worthy moment to celebrate. Do something different from your first celebration, but make sure it’s something that you will really enjoy and that doesn’t involve any work at all.
3. The moment you finish. This is a milestone worth celebrating because it is only made possible by your time, imagination, and mental and emotional effort. Be sure you get to this point. You must revise, but don’t revise the piece to death. Don’t kill the initial passion and energy that your first draft held. Part of the challenge in being a writer is having the ability to recognize the moment that you are done. The moment that the piece is finished and ready to be submitted. When you get here, you should absolutely celebrate it! Do something nice for yourself and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
4. The moment you submit. This moment quickly follows the moment you finish – or it should. I know too many writers who become stalled between finishing and submitting – they never make it to this stage because of fear, low confidence, whatever terrible things that writers say to themselves. That has to stop. You’ve done the work. You’ve earned the right to submit that work for consideration. If you can gather the nerve to pull the trigger and hit “send” on a submission to an editor, celebrate that moment. You have made it farther than many people who want to be published writers. You’ve made it past the proverbial Black Gate. Celebrate! I suggest a good craft brew. Or some Chilean wine. 🙂
5. The moment your work is accepted for publication. From the time you first submit your finished piece to a publication (or five) to the time you are accepted may be a long slog. It also may require you to return to the work and revise some more. Especially if you get some good feedback with your rejection letters (that “Golden Ticket” rejection I talk about here). So it may be a year or more until you get that acceptance email. Hence, once your work IS accepted and you know that now it is only a matter of copy-editing, page-proofing, and waiting until the inevitable, celebrate. THIS is the biggest celebratory moment for me. Having your work accepted is the pinnacle. The rest is just details. So make this a good celebration. Have a barbecue with friends. Have a breakfast date with friends. Shout it from the rooftops and Facebook. This is a big deal. This is the moment. Make it a good one. 🙂