I think it’s important to take note of—and to celebrate—the little victories*. Including those in your writing life.
(*The ones that mean something to you, I mean. I’m not always a big fan of participation trophies, especially for kids. Not that participation isn’t a good thing—it’s usually the best thing—but kids generally know the score. Literally as well as figuratively. I remember when our youngest was in a “no score” beginner basketball program. The theory: the kids play, they have fun, no one keeps score, and they’re all happy when it’s over. The reality: they all keep score on their own, and it freaking matters to them. Once after a game I told him, “Good game!” and he looked at me like I was an idiot. “What are you talking about? We lost, eighteen to eight!” **Storms off to retrieve his juice box and Lunchable**)
But when you have a real victory—no matter how small—I think it’s good to commemorate it.
When our oldest was a cub scout they had a little pinewood car derby. The kids all started with identical blocks of pine and they carved, sanded, assembled, weighted, tuned, and painted their cars. Other than discussing the importance of aerodynamics and reducing friction (he was a science guy even back then), I mostly just made sure he could use a power sander without hurting himself then let him get to it. He was pretty meticulous about the whole friction thing and on the night of the derby—after an hour of thrilling elimination rounds—he took first place. He was super excited about winning. Afterward, I was expecting some sort of trophy or plaque or whatever (these things always have trophies) but there weren’t any. On the way home I could tell my son was a little disappointed, but he didn’t say anything about it. So I went out the next day and got him one. Nothing fancy—just a basic little trophy with a race car on top and the words “First Place” on it.
I didn’t get it so he would have bragging rights or anything (bragging wasn’t really in his personality, regardless). I got it because I think it’s good psychology to commemorate the little victories we occasionally have. It’s also nice to have a tangible reminder of the occurrence, so that afterwards when you look at it, all the good, fun, validating feelings you had at the time come back to you, reminding you… Yeah, I did that!
In the writing world, these sorts of things come along all-too-infrequently. Even for the successful writer, a new book deal or a new release or hitting list or winning a big award doesn’t happen every day. Or even every year. And for those of us still upward bound on the ladder (i.e. virtually all of us) they happen even less often. So celebrate them.
You don’t have to wait until the final end-goal is accomplished, either. You should celebrate the steps along the way. These may even be more important to recognize, because they’re the type of accomplishments that don’t usually garner outside kudos. (No one’s going to buy you an ice cream because a well-respected agent requested the first three chapters of your manuscript. So do it yourself.)
Some little-recognized-yet-important milestones that warrant a celebration…
You finish the first draft of a manuscript. (I told a writing friend once that I’d finished a first draft—he was basically a wise old cowboy type—and he said, “I’d think that might make a man want to open a can of beer.”)
You finish all your revisions/edits/polishing and—for the first time—you think it’s finally submittal-ready. (This is a big one, as the most important precursor to publication is a strong, finished manuscript.)
You do all your research and make a first-round list of agent candidates who represent works like yours, then you write/revise/polish your query letter and send it to them. (Oh yeah! Beer me! I put hope in the mail!)
After a number of rejections, you get a request for a partial. (Yay! Someone’s reading! This calls for chocolate!)
After even more rejections, you get a request for a full. (Yes! More hope! We press send and get ourselves a mocha!)
I’m not going to follow this all the way to, You hit list, win a Pulitzer, and get your own imprint… all within the same month. Not just because those things don’t really happen outside of the movies, but because that’s precisely my point: if we wait until “The Big Win” to celebrate, most of us are going to be waiting a long time without commemorating all the incremental victories along the way.
So don’t wait. Start now. Look for interim accomplishments that are steps along your path and give yourself a pat on the back for making that next step.
The events certainly don’t need to be tied to the specific path of publication, either. If they further your writing knowledge, skills, or talents in any way, they’re candidates for celebration.
Take a class on any aspect of writing? Celebrate!
Teach a class on any aspect of writing? Celebrate!
Present at a school, library, or writer’s group? Celebrate!
Publish an article in a magazine? Celebrate!
Write a piece for someone’s blog or podcast? Celebrate!
Interview someone for a magazine, blog, or podcast? Celebrate!
Get interviewed by a magazine, blog, or podcast? Celebrate!
Self-publish your book? You’re a hero—celebrate five times! (Because you’ve just been an author, editor, art director, publicist, and sales manager!)
Along with everything else, it’s good psychology. There’s nothing like a little positive reinforcement to keep us going. (And if you’re in need of external recognition, this can also serve to tip off your friends. “What’s up with all the wine and chocolates?” “Oh, that…?” *looks down shyly* “…I just finished final revisions on my contemp romance.”)
So yeah, recognizing and celebrating those steps along the way can give us the motivation we need to keep going along a path that is otherwise filled with way more rejection than acceptance. And besides, who doesn’t need more wine and chocolate in their life?
This is where I write about things that are of interest to me and which I think may be of interest to you. I’m assuming most of you are here due to an interest in reading, writing, editing, publishing, etc., so that’s the primary focus.