Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Go for the Throat


I hope to avoid making this post either corny or bittersweet, but please forgive me if I'm able to avoid neither perfectly.  What I want to do today is simply this: to encourage you to look your dreams and your goals in the eye and then go for their throat.

As someone with an overly complex philosophical and theological outlook, I try not to live with regrets.  Except when I'm suffering from exhaustion or general malaise, I usually manage that pretty well.  But while I do not regret the choices I've made in my life, I can still encourage others to make different choices.  Rather than wallow in memoirs and rambling advice, let me boil down my thoughts for today to points and examples:

If you're young, so what?  I know some impressive, productive young people who are involved in writing, such as Tiffany Cole and Golden Eagle, and some who are not much older than them such as Misha Gericke.  These writers are energetic and enthusiastic, and I hope every day that they manage to keep up being aggressive.  I know when I was in junior high, high school, and even college I often thought to myself, "But who's going to publish a guy who's only ___ years old?"  Don't think that way.  Just write well.  If your writing makes your age irrelevant then, well, your age is irrelevant.

Don't procrastinate.  I've written hundreds of short stories.  I've probably submitted about a dozen of them.  There are dozens more, at least, that are worthy of submission.  And most of the ones that have been rejected have only been rejected once -- and are certainly worthy of re-submission.  But for much of my writing life I've had this habit of lazy planning.  Ugh, I need to find a way to print this, and then I need to get stamps and mail it.  Oh, and I need to make a SASE.  I'll get to that this weekend.  Or, um, next weekend.  Or maybe the weekend after.  Or... perhaps... never.

Perfection is a goal, not an expectation.  So don't wait until you've written something perfect to start submitting.  Write something good.  Write something of quality.  But it's trap to try and wait until you've perfected the craft of writing or until you feel like there's nothing left to improve about a story.  No one perfects the craft of writing, and there is always something left to improve about a story.

Health is not irrelevant.  Your emotional, physical, and social health are important for your functioning as a productive, creative being.  Do not neglect them, even in favor of pursuing of your dream, because when they suffer, your pursuit will suffer, too.

Take the time while you have it.  This is a hard one for most people to respond to, because everyone  feels busy and you always feel like you have pressures to meet.  And you are busy -- and you do have pressures.  But life rarely gets simpler between the ages of sixteen and thirty-mumble, and it doesn't look like it gets simpler by forty-mumble or fifty-mumble either.  Find ways to maximize the time you have now, because a year from now, you're probably going to have more and more complicated pressures for your time than what you have now.

Be smarter than me.  Writing and getting published are challenging enough without creating your own obstacles.  So don't do it.



  1. I agree! I fortunate to be able to write full time now, while I'm still in my thirties. I don't want to waste time. I don't like regrets but I don't try to make excuses. Great post.

  2. Nice post, Nevets. These are important things to say and repeat!

  3. Good heavens. What happened to my long comment? Hmmm. Let me see if I can remember what I said.

    Great advice Nevets, although maybe the question who'd publish an author as old as me is more appropriate! :) And my biggest struggle is to always remember that perfectionism is great to aim for (sets high personal standards) but ultimately impossible to reach.
    Judy (South Africa)

  4. Great advice. I would have loved to know what I know now when I was young. But at least I know it now. There is no time like the present.

  5. I hear you loud and clear on "Don't procrastinate". Been there, done that a gazillion times. Then a good friend who is a black-belt in karate told me her practice maxim: "Seven times down, eight times up." For my submissions, it was more like "700 times down", but still, one day I got up 701 times, and stayed up.

    Hang in there, all!
    -Alex MacKenzie

  6. @Alex - You're welcome!

    @Clarissa - Yeah, no excuses. I've just made choices and done things that in retrospect I might not ought to have.

    @Domey - Why is it that so often the things that we need to hear are also the things that we need to hear again? As opposed to the things we never need have heard which we seem unable to forget...

    @Judy - Yes! I think it actually goes sort of along with Domey's post on LitLab today. I want to aim high, but I know I won't get that there in purely linear way and can only do it by compounding. So no single effort at this stage in my life needs to be as near to perfect as I may hope.

    @Matthew - Loving the new name. And it's true: I can't be a better 16 year-old now than I was then. But I can be a better thirty-mumble year-old in just a moment than I am right now.

    @Alex - Thanks for the martial arts analogy. You know those click with me! :)

  7. Thanks for the shout out! :)

    Thank you for the great advice as well.

  8. great post C.N. it is hard enough without placing your own hurtles in the way.

  9. "Ugh, I need to find a way to print this, and then I need to get stamps and mail it. Oh, and I need to make a SASE."

    LOL! I have never submitted stories by putting them in an envelope with a stamp on. If it weren´t for online opportunities, I wouldn´t have ANYTHING out there yet. So one way of compensating for bad health is using the online possibilities that makes life that little bit easier.

  10. Nevets, I've found that trying to perfect something I wrote is an utter exercise in insanity and so... no more. So long as I'm happy with it to a certain extent, I pronounce it "Complete." As for taking the time and taking care of myself, well, I've learned that when I don't do that I'm the one who suffers most.

    A great reminder, your post!


  11. Thanks for this post. It seems I need the constant reminder that "Perfection is a goal, not an expectation!"

    When I was younger, I didn't have a notion about goals--writing was just something I did, though I have always had a strong sense of the relevance of 'my emotional, physical, and social health being important for functioning as a productive, creative being.' Just the same, finding that balance has always been a challenge...

    ...and I can sure vouch for life getting busier after fifty-mumble...

  12. I'm lazy about submitting too. Then I almost forget who I sent what to.

    I like deadlines - I need them to remind me to keep going on.


  13. "Perfection is a goal, not an expectation." Amen! :)

  14. "Don't create your own obstacles." YES. This, exactly.

  15. Great, inspirational post, CN. You're right on the money~ :o) <3

  16. Sorry for the double comment- but I wanted to let you know I just received my anthology book and read your story- It was a great read- I was caught from start to end- great job!

  17. Great post, Nick! I especially like the point about being healthy. I took a class about that at the conference I just went to, and it struck me in a lot of ways. Since then I've been exercising, and it has been wonderful for every aspect of my life, especially writing.

  18. @G'Eagle - You're welcome on both counts!

    @Summer - And yet we do it so often, don't we?

    @Dorte - Yeah, the on-line stuff has made it much easier, but a lot of the magazines and journals I submit to still don't do accept things that way.

    @Nevine - Sounds like you've got the right attitude about it!

    @Bridget - Perfection not not being an expectation is something I have to remind myself about all the time. And finding the balance is something I have yet to master.

    @Donna - Yes, I love me some deadlines!

    @Samantha - :-D

    @Jennifer - So hard to avoid sometimes, though...

    @Leigh - Thanks! :)

  19. @Summer - No worries! Comment as often as you like! lol Especially if you're going to say nice things about my story. ;) Thank you so much!

  20. @Michelle - It's amazing what a difference it makes. I've been trying to figure out how to make exercise fit better into a life where I'm on-call with the ambulance two to three nights a week and for work most evenings and a little on Saturday afternoon. I'm sure there's a way...

  21. If I can do it, so can you. I promise. :)

  22. So where did you manage to carve out the time? :)

  23. Right now I use the Wii if my daughter is home. This is a challenge since she likes to "help." If she's at school (only 3 days a week in the mornings), I slap on the shoes and go for an actual walk. This will end when she's out of school. At that time my hubby will go to work later and he can stay at home with her early in the morning while I go for a walk. This all cuts into my writing time, of course, but it's giving me more energy, which actually makes my writing time more productive.

  24. Yeah, if I get back to having writing time, I will gladly cut into it because I think you're right about that works out.

    Right now, I have work, eating, one to two hours of spending time with my wife, and about six hours of sleep/ish.

    If I can figure out how to shower safely when I'm on call with the ambulance or how to do work while I'm exercising, then I'll be set. :)

  25. A Couple of thoughts..

    In my "writing" industry there is a saying: " Software isn't released, it's abandoned." this justnpoints to the concept that in any creative, for-profit endeavor, there comes a time when you let go and publish.

    Also, since I'm getting nothing but fatter, I've developed a new work ha it. Whenever there is a document to be read. (I usually have plenty), that reading is done at a leisurely 1.4 miles per hour on a treadmill. It gets me moving. Ut keeps me from stinking. Adapt to suit your own ned a.

  26. Re. perfection, one of my favourite quotes is "A man's reach must be beyond his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" (Browning)

    As for procrastination, that reallyy does go with the territory. I reckon that if you don't procastinate, then you're not a proper writer. And that's why we're all blogging, isn't it? Well, isnt' it?

  27. @Li'l Bro - I like the saying. It grates against every perfectionist nerve in my body, but there's a professional pragmatism about it that is pretty valuable. And while the shifts in my job have taken me away from most opportunities I would have to read lengthy documents, I might be able to adapt that principle. hmmm.

    @Frances - I like the quote. I don't like admitting that blogging = procrastinating.


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