Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keep Going

I have a promising idea for a nonfiction project. Last week I checked out a stack of books from my library and dug in to the research. Once I began, I felt overwhelmed by the mass quantity of information. In frustration, I considered the unthinkable: quitting.

Sunday at church, the message included two powerful words. Keep going. I needed to hear that. I'm not afraid of hard work, but sometimes I let doubts creep in about my ability to handle certain things. I know I'm capable of this project, I just need to focus.

Yesterday I pushed through that wall. I dove in to the research with gusto. I narrowed my focus, and my vision is taking shape. How will it turn out? I don't know. But there's one thing I'm sure of: I'm not quitting.

Let's face it--some ideas are worth pursuing, and others are quit-worthy. Have you ever felt like quitting a project, but it turned out to be great? Or have you ever started a project, but decided it was quit-worthy?

photo credit: photobucket

55 comments:

  1. great post.

    i am so stuck in the middle now with my WIP. I've had a break from it (completed it at Easter). And, am about to go back for a complete re-write, but I have so many doubts about it.

    I've decided to hit it hard for a month, and if it's still not coming together, maybe it's time to move on :)

    Doubt is so easy to believe in and it creeps up. Good luck with all your research :)

    xx

    And thanks for the encouraging post/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can almost hear Dory from the movie Finding Nemo singing, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." We need that inspiration from time to time. I'm intrigued by your new project. I had a new book idea come to me unexpectedly yesterday that was very unlike what I have considered writing in the past. I'll use your post for motivation! Thanks Julie :)

    Marissa

    ReplyDelete
  3. You go girl!

    I have quit many projects, but usually not because of the work involved. Usually it falls out of favor for whatever reason. Maybe I learn something early on that makes it unworkable, or maybe it leads me to a better idea.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I often feel this way when designing a project for school. I start with such enthusiasm and then wonder what I got myself into. Of course you can't quit when you have students expecting to do something, so that keeps me going.

    With my writing, I'm more often tempted to switch to a newer, shinier idea when the writing gets tough. I'm learning to stick it out though.

    Your first paragraph reminded me of Anne Lamott's wonderful advice. Just take it bird by bird.

    Good luck. Your post has me excited for your project,

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know those feelings of overwhelm and doubt! :o) But as the great Elana Johnson says, you can do hard things. LOL!

    Keep going, Julie, you can do it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats on pursuing your idea! What I like about a nf project, too, is that the proposal that it requires really helps to sharpen the focus and intent of the book, both the writing of it and the audience. It almost seems a much more structured method than a fiction project. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is exactly the post I needed today. I've been trying to wrestle my WIP into submission for the better part of two days and it's still not "there". Of course the doubt has crept in. It always hits you when you're already at your most vulnerable. But as soon as my tea is ready, I'm going to get back to it today. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. One of life's truths is that there will always be walls. The important part is pushing through them! Glad to hear that you did!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Those are crucial decisions to make! Sometimes finishing isn't that worthy & it's better to shelve something for later. And we're the only ones to make that decision for ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Julie, I can completely relate. Today I'm teetering at that point with my WiP where I feel like I don't have anything more to give. I have this awesome critique partner who's trying to push me to the next level, but I don't know *how* to get there. Does that make any sense? I have to keep reminding myself, this writing journey is like a marathon. I have to keep working at it little by little and push through.... Whew! It's tough, though!

    Thanks for the encouraging post today!

    Amy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nomes, good luck with your revisions. Maybe you'll fall in love with your wip all over again.

    Marissa, I'm replaying Dory in my mind right now! That's funny. That's cool that you had an unusual idea. Maybe that's 'the one.'

    Vicki, there are definitely ideas that aren't worth our time and effort. Hopefully we learn that sooner than later, but it's all a part of the learning process.

    Mary C, thanks for your kind comment. Yes, pushing through the wall takes determination, but we can do it!

    Jackee, thanks for the extra push!

    Joanne, you're right. As I dig deeper in to this research, it helps to form a plan. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting closer.

    Julie, good luck with your wip. It's tough when doubt creeps in, but I know you'll show that wip who's boss!

    j.m., thanks for the encouragement. Pushing through the wall definitely made me feel stronger, not weaker.

    KarenG, it is a crucial decision, that's for sure. Hopefully it's the right one!

    Thanks everyone for stopping by.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Amy, would a long walk or job do the trick? A day at the beach? Maybe that would help you mind wander in the right direction. You'll get there, I'm positive.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Julie, Julie, Julie.. you should know better than be tempted to give up my friend! Honestly, what am I going to do with you. If you give up then I might just throw in the towel and we can't have that on your conscience now can we?? Because, you know, it's all about me. He he.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lisa, never quitting on the writing...just wondered about quitting the project! But I'm not quitting that either, because I think it's worthy. Don't worry, I won't quit, so you can't quit!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Keep going and I'm sure you'll make it through that project. I always tell my kids, you may not be able to do some things, in the end, but you can always try!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Janel, thanks for that reminder. I tell my kids the same thing...why don't I listen to myself?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I haven't found a project that's quit-worthy yet. Sure, some may never be published, but it all gives me experience and makes me a better writer.

    And good for you! Way to push through it. Research CAN be frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Janet, that's a great point. It's all experience, which helps us grow.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks Julie. I'm in the same mode right now, "keep going" is an easy mantra to cling to!

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's easy to get lost in the overwhelming beginning of the project. Now that you've narrowed your focus (which is sometimes SO hard to do!) it should flow so much easier. Good luck with it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, I really felt like my last project was GOING NOWHERE. So I sent out a few queries before it was finished (to know whether to finish it or not) and I got some bites on it. So I finished it because of that and ended up selling it to Avalon Books. Who knew? :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Julie, good luck with your project. It sounds like you are focused and inspired.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I almost quit my latest project until a friend gave me a good kick in the butt...just what I needed. Good luck with your project!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Julie - Believe it or not, someone once told me to "Keep Going" when I was young and very burned out at work. Long story short, I was at a cocktail party after hours and was contemplating quitting my job because it was so stressful. I ended up talking to an a much older gentleman -- almost elderly -- who told me he once had dreams that he thought could never be fulfilled but he could never find it in his heart to quit. Little did I know at the time, but I was speaking with Ernie Banks -- one of the best Chicago Cubs players of all times, not to mention their first black player. He signed an autograph for me (on notebook paper, all I had at the time) that said "To Lindsay -- Keep Going" Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. I ended up sticking out the rough patch and gaining the best work experience I could have imagined, probably thanks to his words. Thanks for applying them to writing - this was a fantastic post.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I felt this way about my novel. This is my third rewrite of it and I may have let it go if it were not for some great friends, including my blogger ones! Intuition goes a long way; but sometimes, our choices can really surprise us!

    ReplyDelete
  26. That has to be my mantra, I'm afraid. I'm just about to edit my fourth children's book and I'm sagging a bit! Hugs..

    ReplyDelete
  27. Julie, there's been times I've been close to tears because I just can't fix my writing. I know somethings wrong, but I can't identify what it is. It's okay to have a break and come back with fresh eyes, but sometimes you have to keep going. No quitting. It's likely I'll only write 3 or 4 books, because I'm a healer who writes, not a writer who heals. Kudos to you guys.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Great post. To know when to quit, and when not to, that must be one of the signs of true wisdom. And I am pretty sure I haven't attained it yet :-(

    ReplyDelete
  29. I am taking an online course and the more I learn the more overwhelmed I've become in the process thinking why didn't I learn all this before I wrote the book!! Glad to read that you are pushing through. We always feel better after we do.

    ReplyDelete
  30. hey I have an award for you over at my blog!

    ReplyDelete
  31. here is the link of where you can hear me sing.
    http://www.reverbnation.com/#/melissanielsen

    ReplyDelete
  32. well, even when some projects turn bad you always learn something during the process. That's the key - to look upon all experiences both bad and good ones as a way to learn and improve.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm glad you made it through the rough patch. It's all overwhelming when it's a big mass in front of you. The book "Bird by Bird" by A. Lamott has a story of how she got the title. Her brother had to do a project on birds, and was overwhelmed. His father said something like, just do it bird by bird.

    When I was in graduate school, a few research assignments were daunting. I wanted to quit plenty of times.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Everyone, thanks for your kind comments. Is this community great, or what? It's nice to know we can all relate to the frustrating AND the awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  35. WOW! SO glad I found you today, and all just for the "price" of an interview with Jennifer!

    So far, haven't given up an idea. It's nice to run 'em by agent Natasha, market savvy thing that she is. But I do have one she's shaking her head at. Stubborn thing hasn't gone away yet...
    Hope we can be bloggites. Would love to have you visit www.pattilacy.com/blog

    This is a great place for sharing, I can just tell. Do not stop.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Patti, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm clicking over to your blog right now!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi there!

    Shortstorybook.net is organizing a short story writing contest.

    We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

    “Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check - http://bit.ly/short-story-contest-2010

    Happy writing!

    ReplyDelete
  38. reberto, I tweeted your contest. It sounds like fun!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Julie..I think we are on the same wavelength. Was going to blog about this some time next week.
    Many times I have felt that my current WIP is something I should just not bother to write, but like you I get messages from different sources 'To Keep Striving', and 'Not Give Up'.
    Maybe someone up there wants us to continue on this path and not become quitters.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Rachna, so true! And the book I'm reading, Plot & Structure, reminds us that all the weaknesses in our wips can be smoothed out in revision! More about that on Saturday.

    ReplyDelete
  41. My answer is both. I hate to give up on anything, but I have found a couple of projects that just didn't really have what it took to go the distance. Choosing which to continue with and which to drop is so hard.

    ReplyDelete
  42. C.Lee, it is tough, isn't it? Passion for a subject is a good indicator, but even that can lag when things get tricky.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I have a "Junkyard" where I place things I write that do not fit anywhere or seem like thet are going nowhere fast. If I need to plug a gap down the road, then I can visit the junkyard and "pick a piece" and plug it in. So what may seem like junk now can be quite valuable and time saving at a later date.

    Stephen Tremp

    ReplyDelete
  44. Stephen, what a practical tip! I like that...the junkyard. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  45. A stack of research would definitely be enough to make me want to quit a project. I'm one of those rare writers who can't stand research. But I know it's necessary, so I've learned to live with it. I'm glad you decided to keep going and feel good about your decision. Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Only every single MS I work on! It's hard to keep motivated when you hit the middle and it's not so shiny anymore. *sigh* It's part of the pain of being a writer. You don't love every inch but it's always worth it when you look back and see all the miles you've come.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Yes. A few years ago I hand wrote a draft that I was in love with, but stopped 2/3 into it. I felt so stuck, but I do want to return to it.

    I just emailed you. You won my contest!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Susan, T. Anne and Medeia, thanks for your thoughts on the matter. Nice to know we're not alone!

    ReplyDelete
  49. I wrote a children's book for 7-9 year olds two years ago. At the beginning, I was really enthusiastic about the idea. But once the story was half way through, I realised it just wasn't working. Normally, if I feel this way, I put it to one side, have a think about it and if I still feel the same way in a week or so, it's time to pack it in and start a new project!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Some people have a hard time quitting something and moving on. They stick with the same project, constantly fixing it, but never realizing it's not going to get better. Then there are those who challenge themselves to do better, who don't give up, who know in the end it's going to work out. And it does.

    You sound like the second person, Julie.

    Yes, I've abandoned projects I like, but question the marketability of it. They still hold a special place in my heart. :)

    ReplyDelete
  51. Olive, that's a good way to look at it. If you set it aside and you're still interested, it must have merit. I'm curious if you ever went back to that story.

    Stina, these ideas do become little babies of ours, and it's hard to let go.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Until this year when I began my 365 Days of Novel Writing adventure, I'd given up. It wasn't that I became overwhelmed. I think I just grew bored. This has been the first year I've stayed on track. I'm not at the stage where I can look back and say each project was great, but sticking with each has build a sturdier foundation for me to stand on.

    ReplyDelete
  53. LOL! "...has built..."

    I probably should reread my comments before clicking that button, but I never do.

    ReplyDelete
  54. J. Kaye, sticking with it is half the battle! You're doing such a great job with your adventure.

    ReplyDelete