Saturday, July 10, 2010

High Bar vs. Low Bar

"Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one's levels of aspiration and expectation." - Jack Nicklaus

I play silly games with myself. When a new e-mail arrives regarding a submission, I'm equal parts terrified and excited. Before opening it, I tell myself it's a rejection. If I'm wrong, then I'll be super excited. If I'm right, then I can remind myself how smart I am. See? So silly.

It's a matter of expectations. Some people say it's important to set the bar high for ourselves. Others feel it's best to set a series of ascending bars, ones we can more easily reach.

I don't know if I've set the bar too high or too low. All I know is that I'm plugging along, satisfied with my successes--even if they're small. It seems to me that writers, like gymnasts, sometimes need the low bars to propel us to the high bars.

What do you think? What guided you in deciding how high to set your bar?

53 comments:

  1. I love your analogy to a gymnast. I guess I'm the person climbing the staircase. I can't see how high it goes, but I just keep on climbing. lol

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  2. Writing is definitely a journey. I'd never try to leap to that high bar from the get-go. There's too much to learn about technique, and style, and effort, by building up through that series of lower bars first.

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  3. Well, I feel the same way as you do. Sometimes my bar is too low, lately I've been setting it higher and hopefully it will work:)

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  4. Mary, Joanne and Terri, thanks for your comments. I like "climbing the staircase." Let's see where it leads!

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  5. Oh Julie you always have such great insights. I think you need both. I think you need the high bar or you'll never get close to it. But you need some smaller bars to pull yourself up on the way.

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  6. I like this analogy. I think sometimes I set the bar *too* high by not being realistic. I'm learning to just set some achievable daily writing goals and it helps me feel like I'm not such a loser. Ha.

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  7. Karen, I think that's an excellent plan!

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  8. This is so true! I do the same thing with my submission-related emails. *grin*

    I realized a long time ago that my goal isn't to get published, but to win awards ... to have my grandchildren read my books as required reading in school. LOL. Lofty dream, right? But that's what dreams are supposed to be -- lofty. And if I aim high, I should get somewhere eventually. At least, that's the rationale. :) I'll let you know in about fifty years if it worked.

    Amy

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  9. Amy, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when you look back at what you've accomplished!

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  10. I keep switching back and forth! Haha, I love what you tell yourself before you open e-mails. I do the exact same thing for the same reason! Great post and blog :) I'm excited to follow you!

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  11. Saumya, welcome! Isn't it funny, the silly games we play with ourselves?

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  12. I love the high bar--it's always more fun and satisfying to stretch and reach it. Hope you're having a good weekend!

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  13. Kris, it is fun when we stretch, right? Great point.

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  14. i've become cynical enough to expect little, hence, am rarely disappointed

    of course, one always HOPES for better....

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  15. Laughingwolf, I laughed when I read your comment, because that's why I play those games with myself!

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  16. Gymnastics is a great analogy. I'm always hoping to perform a fantastic flip, but often land less than perfectly. One of these days...

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  17. Theresa, here's hoping that each of us eventually sticks our landing!

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  18. well, since there are like millions of writers around the world, when you score even a small success in such a huge competition it really is a big victory for you and you should be proud of all the small steps you make while going up :)

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  19. Dezmond, that is such an excellent way of looking at it! Thanks.

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  20. I would do the opposite...trying to force the universe to my way of thinking by chanting "acceptance acceptance acceptance" before opening that email.

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  21. I like this post. i think I set my bar pretty high, then my husband gently lowers it for me, haha :)

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  22. Vicki, maybe I should adopt that practice instead. But then I'd feel defeated if it's not!

    Nomes, maybe it's our hubby's duty to keep us grounded? No?

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  23. I get overwhelmed when I look at the big picture, so I tend to focus on only the very next thing. So, I guess that means I like the stair step approach.

    I love the gymnastics analogy! :)

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  24. Jemi, I'm with you. I like achieving small goals, as it builds confidence.

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  25. Most importantly, you need to be comfortable with who you are. (*said like I take my own advice*) Belief is 99% of the battle. I really believe that. ";-)

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  26. salarsen, belief IS a huge part of what we do. Why else torture ourselves through the waiting game? And don't worry about taking your own advice. We all look out for each other, and I appreciate your comment.

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  27. laughingwolf, amazing how we're all so similar, huh? It's nice to chat about this stuff with other writers!

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  28. I played the same sort of game with myself when I was at the querying stage. I never expected good news....that way, if it was good news, I'd be pleasantly surprised... and if it was a rejection, I had already prepared myself. Looking back, it seems like a glass half empty approach, which isn't usually me, but I think it's a good way to brush off the sting of potential rejections (which are pretty much inevitable in this industry).

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  29. Sometimes I start out thinking, "ho-hum, better do this one way or another," but in the end I know I'm working as hard as I can to write the best I'm capable of (of course I'm never satisfied and then I'll read someone else's writing and think: "Why can't I write like that?"! I don't think you should set any bar just keep on climbing. Through my life's experience I've always been amazed at how much we can achieve. We all have so much potential.

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  30. Amy, it does seem glass half full, and yet it does help with the sting a bit. Maybe I feel more prepared that way.

    Leigh, you're so right. We are capable of so much, and climbing up and up is a great way to approach what we do.

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  31. Julie, me, too! I tend to not take any of the submitting I do too terribly seriously, which sounds bad. But I feel like if something happens, then great. If not, I'm enjoying the ride, too. A little piece of me hopes for the best, but most of me just enjoys writing, meeting all the other fabulous writer peeps out there, and soaking up the journey.

    Marissa

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  32. Great post! My bar is only that I write the tightest, most compelling, BEST MS I can - as Elizabeth Gilbert said in that wonderful TED presentation: "I only promised I'd write." The rest isn't up to us :D

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  33. Marissa, the journey is definitely part of the joy, no doubt about it. If we're not enjoying the journey, then what's the point? Thanks for visiting.

    Zoe, it sounds like your bar is just right! I love that quote, "I only promised I'd write." That takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

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  34. Hi Julie,
    What a great post. I think I would was the inexperienced gymnast who came in thinking I could leap for the high bar because it looked like fun. Only when I slipped did I discover that I needed skills and practice. Took a bit of time to recover from the bumps and bruises, but along the way I learned patience.

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  35. Mary C, I guess that's the way we learn best: falling, getting back up, and learning from the experience!

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  36. My goals keep changing, but ultimately, I set a high bar. I want to be a successful, published author. To me, success means making some $, having some fans, seeing my book on shelves.
    My first goal was completing a book (done), the second was finding an agent (done), and my next goal is having the book published.
    Stay tuned.

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  37. Anita, that is all such awesome news. I'm sure your next goal will be achieved very soon!

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  38. I set 'em high. It's just in my nature to do so. Some feel this is ego, but I don't think they get the whole picture. Successful people don't just stumble there. They reach. Ya know?

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  39. My goal is to finsh...thats it. One step at a time for each work. I keep that going in my head and the rest is my need to write. I just need to.

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  40. Hi Julie, I loved the gymnast analogy. Sometimes I set the bar too high, at other times its too low. I am trying to find a perfect balance.

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  41. Hey Julie - funny post. Actually, I work a lot like you. when I am querying, I expect every single e-mail that comes in to be a rejection. That way, if it's something good, it completely brightens my day! Sad, but true:-)

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  42. J. Kaye, that isn't ego, that's confidence! I love that, and wish I had a bit more of it.

    Nicole, finishing is a worthy goal. We can't submit it if we don't finish, right? Good luck.

    Rachna, balance is a tricky, elusive little bugger. We all just try to do our best.

    Margg, ahhh, satisfied. What a great way of putting it!

    Lindsay, I'm normally not a pessimist, but assuming it's a rejection seems to take the bite out of it. Nice to know I'm not the only one who handles them this way!

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  43. Interesting question. I'm not sure I know how to answer. I just try to do the best I know how to do. I hope I've set the bar just right, but I guess I'll have to learn that as I go along.

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  44. Great topic and I love the way you've approached it! I try to expect rejection. But that little glimmer of hope is pretty darn tenacious. Instead, I'm learning to focus on what I've learned since I sent that manuscript or query. As long as I know I am working on the craft, I can remain confident that success is still within my control and achievable. Now all I have to do is hope for luck and patience.

    Martina

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  45. Martina, it's like we wear a shield, trying to deflect any bad news! You're right, it's so important to just keep on improving, no matter what.

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  46. That's not silly, that's brilliant! I'm going to start doing that. I set my bar in the stars, but I also allow myself many bars in between to help me reach that high. ;-)

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  47. Heather, it's like bracing myself. So goofy! I like the bars in between approach, so we feel some accomplishment along the way.

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  48. So true. And I think it is nice to achieve a couple of lower expectations, to keep you going till you reach where you actually want to go.

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  49. Rayna, that's my thought as well. It's nice to see some goals accomplished, while still shooting for the stars!

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