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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Milestones

My day started at the DMV. Kiddo #3 is now the proud owner of his driver's learners permit. He's driven twice today without event, and I managed to stay (mostly) calm through the whole experience. Today's his birthday, and tonight he umps his first official game.

Lots of milestones in the life of my Stephen, shown here celebrating his birthday with the biggest ice cream cone made at the self-serve station at the restaurant where we celebrated. We know it's the biggest because the waitress said so and took his picture.

As a mom it is easy for me to track and celebrate my children's milestones.

As a writer pursuing publication, paying attention to milestones is crucial. In a career where your deepest places, poured onto the page, get rejected based on cold, hard numbers, it's difficult to be vulnerable over and over--to keep hoping and believing and working. Even after that first published article or book, you're going to face disappointment and rejection. Which is why I believe it's important to celebrate those milestones.

Where ever you are in the writing journey, you've crossed a milestone. For most of us the first big milestone is writing something. The second is finding the courage to share it with someone else, and the third is walking into that critique group, writer's conference, or writer's group for the first time.

A huge milestone for me was actually saying to someone, "I'm a writer." I couldn't say that sentence for a long time.

When I typed the last page of my first novel, I crossed one of those I-can-never-turn-back kind of milestones. My family and I celebrated with a video and pizza. We had another celebration when I rewrote the book. Celebrating the milestones not only helped me stop and recognize progress, it helped my family see that I was serious about writing and reaching goals. In return, they began to show me respect as a writer instead of winking at my "hobby."

I still remember the glory of my first published piece, and the delight of receiving my first check as a writer. I think it was only $20, but it meant something because I'd crossed a milestone.

Rejection letters are milestones, too. They initiate us into the real world of writing where we have to weather the hard knocks with the rest of the crazies who write for publication. Those are important crossing points--and that's why you'll get chocolate if you come to HIS Writers and let us know about your latest rejection letter. It's not that we celebrate disappointment. We embrace the process, and then we celebrate our ability to survive it.

Here's a challenge for you: Take a few minutes to assess your personal personal writing milestones. Consider making a time-line. Put a sticker or happy face on each date when you crossed a milestone. Next to your markers write little notes about the importance of that milestone. You may want to also put specific prayers, promptings, Scriptures, and promises the Lord gives you about your journey.

Hang your time-line above your computer. Next time you feel like you're not making progress, look up to that tangible reminder of your journey. Acknowledge the courageous forward movement you've made.

Then be brave and tackle another milestone.

Could you do one more thing? Take a minute to comment on this blog and share some of your most treasured (or recent) milestones. I'd like to celebrate with you!

10 comments:

Kelly said...

I like what you wrote Paula, I think one of my biggest milestones was actually finishing my novel. It's funny though, everytime I think it's done, God shows me something else, or I have to fix something. Even if I ever see it in print, I'm sure I'll still find something. I think each part of the journey is a milestone. I've grown so much since the start of it as a writer that I think that in its self is a milestone. As long as I keep learning I'll reach the milestones God has for me and I'm okay with that.

Kathy Kovach... said...

I like the thought of looking forward to each milestone, and then the next, and then the next. At times I don't feel grateful for being a published author. I accomplished that with the smaller Heartsongs, and now I'm beginning to yearn for that larger trade novel. This subject has helped me to see that it's okay to keep pressing forward.

And congratulate Stephen for me! He's on the road to many milestones to come.

Sandi Rog said...

I love the thought of our rejection letters being milestones. What a positive way of looking at that!

My latest milestone was finishing the edits on my novel YAHSHUA'S BRIDGE which will release this Fall. It's the second book after THE MASTER'S WALL in my Iron and the Stone series. This was an especially big milestone because I wasn't sure I'd make it through the edits after I was diagnosed with cancer. It still seems unreal when I type out that word "cancer." But God carried me through and I got them done. Whew!

Thank you, Paula, for such a lovely post. And congratulations on your son's milestone!

Genevra said...

I love your idea of making a milestone time line. I still haven't been able to say I am a writer when I'm asked what "I do" but I know I have come a long way from the first moment I stepped into my very first writing conference. I would love to be in the "finished novel writers club but until then I know that every success and rejection I have received has molded me into the writer God desires me to be.

Kathy said...

Good thoughts, Paula. I'm guilty, too, of minimizing my calling as a writer. Milestones for me: buying a mug at my first writers conference that says "Writer" on it. I use it when I'm working on a story. Another milestone was deciding to get involved with writers in Colorado (and that's been a HUGE encouragement and wonderful help. Thank you, Lord!!). I stretched myself this spring to apply for a clinic at CCWC (I'm in and I think the clinic will be yet another milestone.) Because many writers are a little reclusive and introverted (I'm being nice here - LOL), it's easy for us to hide our work under a basket. I'm learning that milestones don't happen when I hide my writing. We need those milestones to keep us growing and moving. Thanks for the article, Paula!

Donna Schlachter said...

Great insights into the writing life and life in general, Paula. One writing milestone I remember is the day I said I could not stop writing no matter how many rejections I got because "it" was in there and had to come out. I've since learned the "it" is the story, and there are many stories, all beginning with a broken vessel of some kind that is touched by the Potter's hand and made useful. Yes, it is true -- most of our authentic writing is autobiographical, as Cec Murphey said at the retreat.

Jill Hups said...

Never thought of my writing having any milestones outside of being "done." But it does. Every step I take toward where God wants me and my writing to be is a milestone. I need to remember that. Thanks!!

Paula said...

Kelly~It's amazing how many rewrites those novels take. I once heard an editor say that he thought a novel wasn't truly ready until rewritten 7 times! I just started a whole new approach LAST WEEK on my novel originally TEN YEARS ago!

Kathy K.~The rest of us enjoy your publishing milestones. They're a big deal! ;-)(And I know you enjoy them, too.) But I'm excited about you moving forward into larger works. You are a gifted author with a lot to say.

Sandi~OH my! Hallelujahs and Praise the LORD!! And kudos to YOU. I'm amazed at all you've accomplished in the midst of such trying circumstances. Glad to know the next novel is on its way. Loved the Master's Wall.

Paula said...

Genevra~YOU ARE A WRITER. If you make that time line, I'd love to hear about your process. I bet when you take the time to acknowledge every milestone, it'll be easier to believe you are a writer. Here's the thing, gotta celebrate it ALL. It's not just the completed novel, it's every step along the way of becoming and overcoming! Just walking into a writer's group, as you know, is a major milestone!! I about died the first time I went to what has now been my crit group for the last 8 or 10 years because the safe older woman who invited me announced her resignation that day. She was turning it over to the very scary Kathy Kovach, who I'd never met! What a gift from God to have met one of my very best friends that way.

Kathy B. What an incredible mug!

Paula said...

Kathy B~ The rest of my thoughts got cut off. LOVE the whole coffee cup thing, but beyond that, LOVE it that you are a part of us. I feel such a kindred spirit with you and know God has good plans. Can't wait to enjoy the clinic with you!

Donna S~ How I love you! What you wrote reminds me of a story Madeleine L'Engle told about getting an awful rejection on her 40th birthday. She stomped around her office, shutting it down, refusing to endure another decade of rejections. She was DONE--until she realized that the whole time she was quitting she was writing a story in her head about a writer who wanted to give up. She sat right down and got back to work! Writing in the face of rejection is such a defining experience.

Precious Jill~You're so busy following God and working hard that I do think you forget the huge milestones you've crossed--including the one when you actually decided you WANTED to do this, when for so long you just did it in obedience without seeing desire. Can't wait to celebrate many more milestones with you.

 
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