Here’s what happened. With the holidays compressed this year and the craziness that ensued, the featured author originally scheduled for this month cried uncle (Boy, can I relate to THAT) and will be joining us in 2014 instead.
So I sat pondering who I could
coerce invite to be our featured author on such short notice. Then it dawned on me that, well, I am an author. I could write a featured author post.
There was just one small problem with that idea. I’m not an expert on writing picture books.
“WHAT?!?” you gasp. “But you’re the LEADER of 12 x 12! You got an agent and had three books published this year. Plus had your next one crowdfunded!”
Guilty as charged on all counts. But here’s the thing. I started 12 x 12 two years ago, not because I was an expert on writing picture books or motivating others to write. I started the challenge for the exact opposite reason — because I needed motivation to write and wanted to learn more about the craft of writing picture books. I needed the accountability, the education, the community. I still do.
Here are just a few things I haven’t yet accomplished. I haven’t mastered the art of writing a character-driven picture book with a strong narrative arc. My agent hasn’t taken any of my manuscripts out on “official” submission. I haven’t sold a book to a large, traditional publisher. I haven’t seen my book on a shelf in a bookstore or done a signing in one.
In many ways, I still consider myself at the very beginning. As I suppose many of you do too.
So why am I still talking to you? Because I do consider myself an expert in one thing, and that is to KEEP. GOING.
We all hear the advice to “never give up” and “be persistent.” It’s good advice, but it’s so… BIG. “Never give up” sometimes seems nebulous when you are mired in a moment so disheartening you can barely breathe. “Keep going,” on the other hand, means to take one more step in the direction of your dream. Just one. The logical next step. Maybe that step is to stop crying. Maybe it’s to put a manuscript away for a while. Maybe it’s to revise that sentence one more time. Maybe it’s to refrain from sending an emotional response to that agent who rejected you. Whatever the step, taking it will make the others come easier. It’s tactical to keep going. It’s possible to keep going.
- Write a draft so putrid even burning it won’t rid your nose of the stench? Decide not to throw it away because no writing is ever wasted. Keep Going.
- Have one of your manuscripts shredded by a professional – at a conference or in a critique? Give yourself space before making any decisions. Keep Going.
- Just get a rejection from your dream agent? Get your next submission ready. Keep Going.
- Have your agent tell you that your umpteenth revision of your favorite story still isn’t working? Revise again or start something new. Keep Going.
- Somebody told you to write your story in prose instead of rhyme, or in third person instead of first person? Try it. See how it goes. Keep Going.
- Find yourself feeling jealous of someone who’s recently enjoyed the type of success you dream of and then hate yourself for feeling that way? Allow the feelings. Get over them. Keep Going.
- Divorce, death or illness in the family or some other seemingly insurmountable personal problem that gets in the way of your writing? Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Take tiny, baby steps. But Keep Going.
- Receive a scathing review of one of your books? Stop reading reviews. Keep Going.
- Become immobilized by fear, such that you’re convinced you’ll never be able to make a living from your writing and will be forced to live in a cardboard box under a bridge and eat cat food for the rest of your foreshortened life? Visualize yourself as a huge success instead. Keep Going.
Wherever you are in your writing journey, if you keep going, I promise success will find you. Or rather, the success that is already within you will become visible to everyone else. You will enjoy and bask in that success, but at the same time you’ll find it’s not permanent or a panacea. You’ll probably find yourself facing some of the same demons as before PLUS new ones.
Writing picture books is not so much a career as a calling (but PLEASE don’t interpret that as meaning we shouldn’t get paid for it!!!). If we are called to write for children, we’re lucky because our reward is in the work just as much as the outcome. Which is fantastic, because that means we get to…
P.S. I found myself quite pleased that I
procrastinated postponed writing this post just long enough that it’s landing on the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice. Here in the U.S., we will have our shortest, darkest day of our year while our friends in the Southern Hemisphere will enjoy the longest, lightest day of theirs. It seems a fitting metaphor.
We experience solstices in our writing careers too. Long, light, happy days eclipsed by dark, cold, miserable days. And vice versa. No matter which solstice we find ourselves in, we must … you guessed it … Keep Going. Fortunately, in a community such as 12 x 12, we are all at varying stages of solstices, so we lift up those experiencing dark times and celebrate those enjoying light times. This balance makes it possible for us ALL, myself included, to keep going!
P.P.S. I am pleased to announce that I am giving a FREE Little GOLDen Book membership for 2014 to one lucky winner this month in the hopes it will help that person to keep going. 🙂 So finish strong folks! Get that last draft written. Revise one of your earlier drafts. Get yourselves in position for a phenomenal 2014!!
Julie Hedlund is a Children’s author. She’s had two books published as interactive storybook apps for the iPad by Little Bahalia Publishing — A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS. A print version of TROOP was released in fall 2013.
Julie is the creator of Julie Hedlund’s Template for Storybook App Proposals and the founder and host of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge, with more than 500 members. She is a monthly contributor on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books children’s literature podcast, a PAL member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and a contributing editor on the subject of 21st Century Publishing for Children’s Book Insider (CBI). She has been a speaker at SCBWI, O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing, and other industry events.Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Creativity, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Author, Giveaway, Goals, Julie Hedlund, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing