Seven Deadly Sins for Writers: #2 – SLOTH
An amazing thing happened last Tuesday. A representative from Random House showed up at my home to offer me a publishing contract. I hadn’t written a single query, composed one proposal, or even researched publishing companies. She said one of their editors came across my blog the week before and simply fell in love with my writing. They could not wait to get me signed on before someone else snatched me up.
If you are having a hard time believing that, I don’t blame you. It’s not true. Sadly, this is just a fantasy. My slothful side dreams of writing success to come knocking at my door. In the window of reality, it doesn’t really work that way.
Getting published is hard work. I suppose there may be some exceptional stories out there, but, for us regular folk, the blood, sweat, and tears must flow.
Here’s the truth:
I’ve been researching publishers, writing queries, and submitting children’s stories since the summer of 2012. I have a half-finished Christian nonfiction book I hope to begin submitting to publishers eventually. I have a lot of editing and rewrites to do on that before it’s anywhere near ready. Plus, the proposal process for nonfiction looks daunting.
I have gotten some freelance work. There are several clients for whom I have regularly completed projects. However, these few are the result of dozens and dozens of applications and registrations on writers’ sites.
I say again – this writing stuff is a lot of work.
As I have begun to more seriously pursue my writing goals, I have discovered this second deadly sin to be quite the obstacle. I have also discovered a three-step process to overcome it. (and it’s alliterated, so it must be good.)
I’m lazy. I just want to write. I want it to be easy. This should be fun, right? My passion is writing, not work. I want to simply write what I want and then sit back and wait for my amazing talent to surface one day and sell itself.
I have unrealistic expectations of how things should be – expectations motivated by sloth. I don’t want to have to do all the leg work necessary to actually publish anything.
I procrastinate. I have a lot of ideas that I have not fleshed out. I have started stories and never finished them. I continue to put off the hard part of actually completing a thought.
There. I admitted it. Sloth has a residence in my heart.
Now that I have admitted its existence I can begin to battle it.
As a whole, our goals can seem impossible to reach. Take the nonfiction book I am writing as an example. The task seems so daunting I don’t even want to try to tackle any of it. Or, publishing a children’s book. Or publishing anything. As I’ve been in this process, I repeatedly hear stories of how long it has taken other writers to get something in print, or become established. The tales include hundreds of rejections, years of waiting, and so on. Somehow, the point of those stories is supposed to be encouragement to not give up. What I hear is: I have years and years of rejection after rejection to look forward to. How motivating. Thanks.
This is not what my slothful side wants to hear. I want it to be easier than that. Maybe it will be. We’ll see what God has planned for me. In the meantime…I need to act. Do the research. Send the query letters. Submit poetry to websites. Actually sit down and do the editing certain pieces need.
But there’s so much to do!
In order to make these tasks less intimidating, we can create smaller goals. Don’t think about the three dozen steps you will have to take before your book might get published. Focus on the first step. Break it down. Be satisfied with doing a little, today. Set aside just fifteen minutes. Get started. Stop procrastinating. It’s ok if you don’t finish the whole job right now. At least get the ball rolling. Maybe that means writing for seven minutes in the morning and seven again at night. Maybe it’s researching one publisher this week. Maybe it’s posting on your blog each week instead of once every month or so.
Whatever the goal, we should make it realistic. It may seem small, but it’s a start in the fight against sloth. As we see victory in these little goals, we can move forward with bigger ones. Keep moving!
Announce your sloth. It’s not enough to admit it to myself. I need to bring others in to help me with this battle. Hey you guys! Sloth here! Help me stay on track, please!
It may not seem like a very powerful tool, but accountability works. If you have shared with others what you plan to do, and ask them to hold you accountable, you are simply more likely to do it. You are answering to someone other than yourself. This is very motivating. It is especially good to tell these accountability peeps that they should not accept any excuses. Lay it out there for them. This is my plan – remind me, nag me, beat me with a rubber hose – whatever it takes – don’t let me stray, procrastinate, slip into slothful slumber.
I have made it a goal to submit at least one piece of writing per week. This may be publishing a blog post, or submitting a children’s story to a publisher, or finding an online Christian magazine to submit a devotional to, or a poetry site to send a poem to – just get something out there!
I have asked several of my friends to hold me accountable on this goal. As I type this I am thinking of two friends whom I will see tomorrow. They will ask me if I’ve met my writing goals for this week, and I want to be able to say yes. I have not submitted anything yet this week. This fact spurred me to sit down and finally finish this post that I started a couple weeks ago. (Please take a moment here to appreciate with me the irony of having difficulty finishing a post on sloth.) Knowing they are going to ask me about it when I see them helped me overcome my laziness and procrastination.
If you struggle with sloth too, get some accountability. It could be just one person, or a group of people. Choose wisely though. If you pick someone more slothful than you, they may be too lazy to hold you accountable.
Up next: Deadly Sin #3 – ENVY – if I’m not too jealous to write it.