I Kept Going

I Kept Going

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.ย 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.

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…

Keep Going.

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 toย one lucky winner this month in the hopes it will help that person to keep going. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 Childrenโ€™s author. Sheโ€™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 Hedlundโ€™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 Davisโ€™ Brain Burps About Books childrenโ€™s literature podcast, a PAL member of the Society of Childrenโ€™s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and a contributing editor on the subject of 21st Century Publishing for Childrenโ€™s Book Insider (CBI). She has been a speaker at SCBWI, Oโ€™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: , , , , , , , ,



  1. Your perfect post “Keep Going” comes just in time for that solstice rebound. Thanks for your words of wisdom, Julie. You light up more lives than you know!!

  2. I truly believe this is the best Featured Author post I’ve read all year, Julie. It is exactly what I needed to hear in several areas of my life. I confess that the tears began drizzling down my cheeks at the line “maybe that step is to stop crying” because yes, that is definitely a step I go through when I tell myself, “okay, time to move forward” after some disappointment.

    I, for one, will keep going, and having decided that 2014 will be a year of moving forward, this advice is perfect timing. And there’s still time to write a draft for December, and at least have a couple of drafts to show for this year!

    Thank you, Julie, for this post and for all you do.

  3. Wonderful post! I should tape “keep going” to the side of my computer.

  4. I love this whole post, Julie. Being a writer can be lonely and disheartening but having a community like this one and a cheerleader like you to tell us to KEEP ON GOING is so important. Thanks for all you’ve done!

  5. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a fledgling, unpublished writer to learn is not to give up, not to quit, but to ‘Keep Going.’ To do anything less is to claim a lack of ability, a lack of belief in oneself, a lack of true desire. Thanks Julie for reaffirming the importance of simply doing and doing some more while ignoring anything that causes us to not keep going.

  6. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. I certainly can relate! I’m tired of the rejections and the endless revisions. Thank you for lifting my spirits today. Am dealing with a serious family life issue right now, so I am vulnerable too. Although your words brought tears to my eyes, they also reminded me that I always keep going! Thank you for what you do! Have a wonderful holiday with your family!

  7. There is no better advice than “keep going”! No matter how many times I hear it, I need to hear it again. And your example truly inspires me because you have taken unconventional routes and have remained strong and determined no matter how obstacles life threw at you. I have experienced nearly all of the things you’ve listed (well, not the dream agent part because I’ve yet to meet/read about anyone whom I want for an agent ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and I will repeat after you, “I will keep going!”

    Have a wonderful Christmas and see you in 2014, Julie!

  8. Perfect post as we re-evaluate the year and make plans for the new one.

  9. Thank you, Julie. That was such a perfect post with such a great message. Keep Going. Okay, okay! Nice to know we’re all in the same proverbial boat. Let’s keep going. I’m ready to sign up again! Wahoo! Thank you so much for 12X12 and you and everything you do! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Oh my, this post brought tears.. I have to agree with Sylvia on this. Without this 12×12 community and YOU, dear Julie, I would not have kept GOING. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you do. 2014 is going to be,full of twists and turns for me I think, but I have this wonderful community and You to help me KEEP GOING! All the best for 2014, Julie and have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones.

  11. Julie, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve had an incredibly exciting week with my book coming out, and a signing and yet. Yet, I’ve gotten rejections this week also. I found myself thinking: ” is this going to be my only book? Are any of my other stories going to get out into the world?” I just need to keep going and know that if I keep going it will happen. Persistence and hard work is key. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Thank you for keeping going and for inspiring the rest of us to do so, too!

  13. Oh my gosh, this was one of the best “advice” pieces I’ve read. Keep going. So simple, so poetic and so perfect. What an amazing post to end the year on. So excited for 2014!

  14. Wonderful post. It can be hard to keep going at times. This came just when I really needed it ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I needed this today. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is the perfect advice for writers, in this high [contract, excellent revisions, positive feedback on a story] and low [rejection, rejection, rejection] filled business of picture book writing. Thank you Julie!! Happy 2013 everyone! It’s been a fantastic year.

  16. Thanks for your encouragement and your example. And especially for 12 x 12!

  17. Can’t wait to share this one, my dear. The Creativity Cafe is going to eat this up for dessert! Congratulations on a stunning year. Happy holidays and warm wishes for an even-more stunning 2014. So glad and grateful for you…

  18. thank you Julie!!! love the encouragement to keep going ๐Ÿ™‚ how will you select a winner for a 2014 membership ? is there a rafflecopter ?

  19. thank you Julie!!! love the encouragement to keep going ๐Ÿ™‚ how will you select a winner for a 2014 membership ? is there a rafflecopter ?

  20. This is an incredible post. The message is simple but one that I think we all need to hear as often as possible – I vow to keep going as long as my hand can hold a pencil! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you.

  21. Wonderful advice! I would do well to reread this several times throughout the year!

  22. Excellent post, Julie! Honest and encouraging. Love it!

  23. JULIE…For all you have done for all of us…thank you! For all that you have done for yourself this year…congratulations!

    My favorite line of this post: ‘The success that is already within you will become visible for everyone to see!’ My favorite take-away: KEEP GOING!

    Looking forward to 2014 and another exciting year of 12×12!

  24. Oh, Julie! I {heart} this post. I think sticking with it is so much more important than talent and you have a large helping of BOTH. Your determination and hard work is an inspiration! Thank you so much for this and so much more! 2014 is going to rock!

  25. Julie, awesome post.
    I love all your suggestions on how to keep going in specific situations.
    I agree with Vivian on her favorite line;
    I love one from a Brett Dennen song:

    “You are a secret,
    waiting to be found out.
    Soon you’ll be what everyone
    is taking about.”

    Good work and happy holidays!

  26. Thank you Julie! I too needed to hear your advice! I loved 12 x 12 this year for the great info and especially for the camaraderie! You rock!

  27. I so love this post, julie! Love your vulnerability and honesty. You are an inspiration. Although I didn’t land an agent yet, I feel I have grown and am sooooo close. I will polish new manuscripts and keep going!

  28. Thanks for this pep talk! I needed to hear it. I hope you and your kids have a wonderful Christmas!

  29. Love it, pal! And there is nobody better suited to give this months featured author post than you! Merry Christmas! *waving madly*

  30. Thanks Julie, so glad you featured yourself, very fitting as you ‘cheered’ us on through the year! Congratulations on a successful year and am looking forward to ‘keep on going’ with 12×12 next year!

  31. Absolutely exactly what i needed to hear Julie. thank you. p.s….i won that contest. i was crowned emerging writer of the year ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This writing life is so full of peaks and valleys (mostly valleys) and I needed to hear those words: Keep going. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Wonderful, wonderful advice, Julie. Writing is hard work and you can’t get the work done unless you keep going.

  34. Thanks for the encouragement, Julie. Early in 2013 I had to drop out of 12 x 12 for health reasons, but I’ve done my best to “keep going” with my writing and I’m now ready to jump back into the new season of 12 x12. Really looking forward to it! Have a wonderful holiday!

  35. Julie, this is exactly the type of post I needed this month. Just the thing to bring me out of my current writing valley.
    Thank you for this mantra. The work you do, and the time you’ve taken, to bring this community together is astounding. A great reminder to be kind to ourselves AND keep going! ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’s funny that progress isn’t always (or usually) straight progression in a forward direction, but a side to side/forwards ad backwards dance we get to do throughout life. While we’e dancing it’s easy to think we’re not getting anywhere. But one day we look back, like you just did, and reflect on how far we’ve come. A beautiful thing. Thank you!

  36. Thanks, julie!
    The above comments sum things up nicely. I’m grateful for your words and all you’ve done to help us keep going!

  37. You really are a fearless leader. And whenever you doubt it, just fake your way through to the believing phase!

  38. Keep going. I’m going right into the new year, and I’m going with all of you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Awesome post to round up the year, Julie! Thanks for everything and congrats on all your accomplishments this year.

  40. Like the Little Red Engine I plan to KEEP ON GOING. Thank you, for the wonderful family I have found within the 12 x 12 community. I have learned, shared, embraced, enthused, enjoyed and explored with a fine bunch of friends. XX Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, your family and OUR family of 12 x 12. ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. HUZZAH!!! Well said! I love the motivation! ๐Ÿ˜€

  42. I’m glad you Keep Going Julie! Great motto for the new year too. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  43. Kathy Cornell Berman

    Great post Julie! Straight from your heart to ours. My mantra for 2014–Keep Going!

  44. Wonderful words of wisdom – “keep going” – so simple but so true! 12×12 has helped me to keep going. Thanks, Julie!

  45. Oh how I love this post! This is a post from the heart. It is so genuine and I appreciate this post so much. This has to be the new 12 x 12 rallying cry or mantra…KEEP GOING! 12 x 12’ers, KEEP GOING!

  46. Here’s to KEEP GOING…just so long as I go in the right direction! ;~)

    Donna L Martin

  47. I’m so glad that I read this the day before New Year’s Eve. I needed a reminder that there’s only one thing I’ve gotta do…I’ve got KEEP GOING to get there! This was a wonderful first year in 12 X 12, and I’m grateful for every minute of it. Thank you, Julie! :0)

  48. Hi Julie, Thank you so much for your encouraging post. It has been a very motivational and fun year participating in your 12×12 program. I learned a lot just by feeling like I needed to complete something new each month. I wish you the best in your career and thanks for all your efforts to keep other writers – like me – going!

  49. This was a most difficult month to “keep going” (I lost my mom three weeks ago), but I am managing to revise the works I excitedly told my mom about back when I was creating them. My first picture book comes out in Spring of 2015. My mom didn’t get to see it, but she shared in the joy of knowing I was going to be a published author. Everything we do starts with those baby steps you mentioned. As long as those steps keep moving forward, we will continue traveling down the road that leads to success!

  50. I loved this post, Julie. It’s so encouraging and so true. Thanks for a great year at 12 x 12!

  51. Julie – just when I stopped — I put the pen down and walked away……I read your post.
    All I can say is – – THANK YOU

  52. Thanks, Julie! I will just keep swimming…I mean writing! Sorry…hard not to think of Dory! Thank you for your consistent encouragement! You are an amazing support and leader!

  53. love the post!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you Julie ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. Thanks Julie for the great year! “Keep going!” OK-that’s a must!

  55. Thanks Julie for the motivating post.

  56. As I read this post, I found myself singing Dory’s “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. This is one time when I hope that song sticks in my head. Thanks, Julie!

  57. That’s, Julie, for this post and all that you bring to the table for all of us!

  58. I love your advice to just “keep going,” no matter what. There are days when I realy need to remember this!

    ~Rebecca Fyfe

  59. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for the great advice!

  60. Might be hard – but need to Keep Going. So true.

  61. Wonderful post, Julie. Thank you so much for the 12 x 12 experience. It’s been an amazing year of learning and growing and now a fitting reminder to keep going. All the best and blessing for the new year.

  62. Thank you, Julie! Just keep going. I can do that!

  63. Julie, Thank you so much for bringing us all together and keeping me motivated at a time when I thought that I was too busy with life to be a writer. KEEP GOING is already scribbled on a note card and tacked up near my other words of inspiration. Happy New Year!

  64. I so love this post, and have now printed out KEEP GOING and hung it over my desk. I’ve loved the 12X12 group and blog, and I’ve used it as a jumping off point for the new year! Here’s to a 2014 of fabulous manuscripts and success for all of us!

  65. So good to know that even you, Julie Hedlund, feel the need to “keep going”! Thanks so much for ALL your encouragement during 12×12. I’m looking forward to a new inspirational year with the group!

  66. Such a great post, I love this group of 12×12’ers and I am looking forward being with everyone again in 2014! Happy New Year!

  67. This is the perfect post for this time of year. It is so easy to get discouraged, get lazy and get distracted! Thanks for helping me renew my perspective.

  68. Thank you for the inspirational post and the inspiration throughout this past year to write so many new drafts and revise many others. Happy 2014!

  69. I’m afraid that I sound like an echo to everyone else who has commented this morning but…I totally agree with Julie and I appreciate her reminder that we must just keep going–whether feeling inspired or not. And, taking stock of what we’ve accomplished can make all the difference. I always think I’ve done so little because there’s so much more on my to-do list. But, in making my what-I’ve-done list this morning, I see that I’ve accomplished more than I originally thought. And making the list gave me a nice boost. Happy New Year and best wishes for all good things in 2014 to all 12x12ers.

  70. Thanks for another terrific year, and more inspiring advice Julie! I can honestly say I am writing so much more now that I a 12x12er! I revised 6 drafts and wrote 6 new PBs.

  71. Thank you, Julie, for a fantastic year–new manuscripts, revisions of old ones, and even new book contracts! Wishing you the best in 2014!

  72. Great post Julie! Just what I needed this week. Just Keep Going. Just Keep Going. That’s what we do we go, go. (Dory singing in your head now? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  73. I’m so glad I found 12 x 12 last January, so thankful for the amazing community of writers I’ve met this past year, so blessed to be among you. Like Dory says in Finding Nemo…just keep swimming! Thanks, Julie! Ann Magee

  74. My new year’s resolution: to write something (anything) every day. Thank you, Julie, for your persistence, in your own writing, for starting 12×12 and for keeping it going! Can’t wait for 2014’s challenge.

  75. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of th 12 x12 challenge of 2013 and look forward to ‘keeping on going’ with my new and old manuscripts in 2014, thanks Julie!

  76. There are so, so many highs and lows that come along with this choice to write. Thank you for a post that reminds me that I’m not alone in all these crazy, up-and-down feelings that come along with that choice!

  77. I am going to “keep going.” To be honest, every time I have ever got to the point of throwing in the towel, at the last minute, something just snaps and I get this surge of inspiration and motivation to keep going, never give up and then something beautiful happens. So yes, I am going to keep going! Thank you for being so supportive this year!

  78. “Keep Going” is exactly what 12×12 did for me this year! Always moving forward with the next ms. took the edge off the post-submission waiting & rejection, and made me realize how productive I can be as a writer. As the holidays approached I let myself off the hook for the first time this year and told myself it was ok if I didn’t ‘win’ the challenge, but after Christmas, and with your post, I felt like I still had time, and remembered my goal from February of finishing my literary nonfic biography this year. I JUST finished it, with 3 hours to spare! I did it, I did it! Woo-hoo! Thanks for a fantastic writing year and wonderful 12×12 experience, Julie! I’m glad you capped it all off with yourself as the featured author!

  79. This is a great post. Thank you for starting 12×12 and helping others keep going. Doing 12×12 really kept me going this year. I faced some challenges and obstacles in my writing life this year but the having a goal like 12x kept me motivated. In addition I was inspired by some of the agents to explore different subjects and learn more about nonfiction and biography picture books. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do to keep us all going.

  80. Julie….reading this on the first day of the new year. On a day when I woke up discouraged that I DIDN’T get a 12×12 draft in December, didn’t write a monthly-write-off story at Writer’s Retreat for MY OWN prompt this month, haven’t posted on my blog, haven’t kept up with the writer community, and basically just wondering…should I keep doing this???
    THANKS, dear Julie, for your timely encouragement.

  81. Thanks, Julie. That was uplifting and advice that I needed to hear for the new year. I like the solstice metaphor!

  82. Thanks for everything this year Julie! Looking forward to next year!

  83. Wonderful and inspiring post, Julie!!

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