David Morrel on What Writers Want

I had the opportunity to hear best-selling author David Morrel (also known as “Rambo’s Daddy”) speak this past weekend–at Genre Fest, a joint event sponsored by the Colorado Authors League, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. His topic?

Writing the Best-Selling Novel

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from his talk–how-to tips, maybe, or the traits of best-sellers. And indeed, he spent the first half of the session talking about ways to “game the system” and become a best-seller. (Hint: find a niche that doesn’t already have authors who dominate that genre, or copy the latest best-selling success story. He didn’t advise these strategies, just pointed out that they’d worked for some authors.)

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Top Ways to Notice and Celebrate Success

Do YOU Remember to Celebrate Success?


Image: Helga Weber/Flickr Creative Commons

This past week, this blog has turned out to have a celebration theme. I think this is because I recently realized how bad I am at celebrating–as evidenced by the fact that I just had my first book published and nearly didn’t stop long enough to notice it.

Voyagers in Space_Reading A-Z Level S Leveled Book

I know, you’re probably wondering how I could possibly fail to notice when my first book came out? It was a combination of factors. I wrote the book for a subscription-based service that provides leveled reading material for classrooms–so although the book was very professionally produced, 1) it will only be available in PDF format, and 2) it will only be available to people subscribing to the Reading A-Z program.

Still. Five years ago, getting a book published–no matter the format–would have sent me over the moon. It was definitely worth a bit of celebrating!

Fortunately, I noticed what was happening. It made me wonder, though: how often does this happen? How often do I get so caught up in the next goal or project, or just the day-to-day busy-ness of life, that I miss celebrating success along the way?

And am I the only one who does this? I doubt it! Humans have the ability to become inured to the good things in our life, a process called hedonic adaptation.

In other words, it’s perfectly normal to reach a much-anticipated goal–only to have the thrill of reaching it fade as you turn your eyes to the next milestone.

Ways to Celebrate

So what’s a writer to do? Have no fear–here are four tried-and-true strategies to help you notice your forward motion along the way: 

  1. Record your goals. What are you trying to accomplish as a writer? Write it down, big or small, and post it on your wall. With a destination in sight, you’ll have an easier time knowing when you’ve “made it”–and knowing when to celebrate the accomplishment.
  2. Keep a progress log. Did you ever see a child’s height marked on a wall? Each year, the line moves upward, over time recording growth to adulthood. If you interact with that same child on a daily basis, though, it would be nearly impossible to see any height change. In the same way, it’s far easier to see your growth and progress when you record each milestone along the way.I started keeping a handwritten progress log in one of the sections of my Arc notebook, and it’s helped me see forward movement in my current WIP. Very encouraging, since some days it feels like I’m making no progress at all!
  3. Practice gratitude. Did you know that repeated research shows that spending as little as five minutes a day keeping a gratitude journal has a measurable positive effect on happiness and life satisfaction? Gratitude is a skill that can be learned, and by applying it to your writing life, you will improve your ability to notice the positives (such as what you’ve accomplished) as well as the negatives (such as what you haven’t finished yet).
  4. Savor success. Noticing when you reach a milestone on your creative path, however, is only the first step: you also need to stop and enjoy the success. In her book, The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher  Sonja Lyubomirsky lists savoring life’s positive experiences as one of the key “Happiness Activities” that can enhance happiness–and potentially thwart hedonistic adaptation.

Celebration: it sounds like such a simple, fun thing to do, and yet it can be easy to forget! Do you remember to celebrate milestones in your creative journey? What strategies do YOU use?

Please share in the comments!

Mindfulness for the Writer

My post on mindfulness and its applications to the writer’s life is posted on The Wild Writers site this week! Here’s an excerpt:

By Cheryl Reifsnyder

Lately, I’ve begun a practice of mindfulness meditation. I didn’t do it for the sake of writing, either, except in the general sense that when I’m healthier, happier, and less stressed, I’m better able to write. (Yes, it’s sad, but that’s how my mind works: I might not pursue healthy habits for the sake of being healthy, but in the name of writing, now, that’s another story….) I’m not talking about a religious practice here, but the type of meditation taught by the Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. If you aren’t familiar with mindfulness meditation, I’d encourage you to read more about it, since research shows that the practice helps people combat stress and depression, cope with chronic pain and stressful situations, lower anxiety, and other useful stuff.

But as a writerly-minded person, I was particularly delighted to discover that mindfulness meditation has a number of benefits that apply directly to my writing life:

  1. It helps me to put other stresses aside when I sit down to write, so I can focus on the work at hand.
  2. It provides me with practice observing my physical and emotional reactions, giving me first-hand “research” to help create characters with rich and believable inner lives.

Click here to read more on The Wild Writers!