Contemporary Romance Writer: How Do I Achieve Success as a Writer?

Some days the writing road is lined with ledges.

Ledges perfect to climb up and then stand and ponder the “why” of my existence in the writing universe.

And yes, these ledges are ideal to throw myself off of when my hopes are dashed, my dreams seem nothing more than taunting specters, and my efforts seem … wasted.

(I need to add music to this blog so I can cue the appropriate background music, don’tcha think?)

I’ve often said that as a writer I need to have the hide of an armadillo. Impenetrable. Insensitive. And yet, too often I feel like a naked mole rat: oh-so-exposed to whatever reactions people have to my writing.

2012 should be an over-the-moon thrilling year for me. My debut contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here (Howard Books) comes out in May. Talk about a dream come true!

And yet there are times that 2012 feels like a nightmare waiting to play across the days and nights of my life for 366 days.

I know I need to toughen up — to be an armadillo. Things like reviews or Klout or how many Twitter followers I have or how many Amazon5 star ratings I get (or don’t get) shouldn’t determine whether I climb back up on a ledge.

Or jump off.

I’ve talked about this with other writers and with several of my mentors. Earlier this week, I confessed a few days of ledge-sitting to one of my mentors, author Susan May Warren. She listened, reassuring me that I could do this (“this” being write book #2.)

She also said I needed to wear blinders. Once again, she was speaking figuratively. (I hope.) Avoiding the ledges requires focus. Not on others’ opinions. Or others’ successes. Not even on myself. She reminded me to rest in the knowledge of who I am. He who created me is also the One who enables me to write.

As another mentor, author Rachel Hauck, shared in an email:

This is part of the writer’s life — gaining confidence from book to book. But you’re trying to figure out how to do this in your own strength. This is God’s deal, Beth. Either He’s called you or not. He will confirm the work of your hands (Psalm 90:17)

You know the funny thing? I’m learning I’m not the main factor in my success.

In Your Words: I’d love to hear your thoughts on achieving success — in the writing world or any other area of your life.

Two other writing friends blogged about related topics this week. Author Katie Ganshert wrote about The Ultimate Goal and author Jody Hedlund wrote about the inevitable identity crisis that occurs after publication.

 

 

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31 Comments

  1. December 15, 2011, 6:48 am   /  Reply

    I love the photo and the very sound advice and insights that apply to many life situations beyond writing. Thanks for commenting on the Hedlund blog, too, which I just went and read. I don’t know how you find time to write wise well-crafted posts consistently and commend you. Your ledge immediately reminded me of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (studied in college years ago) and his conclusion that re. life or faith we have only 3 logical choices: atheism, suicide, or the leap to faith. That seems pertinent here–I know where you will land and am sending prayers your way.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 7:42 am   /  Reply

      Dee,
      You are such an encouragement to me!
      Thanks for sharing the Kierkegaard perspective!

  2. December 15, 2011, 6:48 am   /  Reply

    Wow, there definitely is a theme going this week! And God’s using it to affect my heart.

    For the past few months, I’ve been uber focused on finishing my first draft of my first novel. It felt so good to do it…and now, I have to edit it. Ugh. I have to dig through and throw out the garbage and rewrite and rewrite until I get something good. But criticism–even constructive–can be difficult to take. It’s hard to be vulnerable, to put my work out there, especially when I’ve never done this before (write a novel). I just feel so inadequate, and my immediate response is to run and hide, to do something I KNOW I can be successful at.

    But in my experience, the things really worth doing–that really satisfy my soul–are the things that are difficult. And if I can keep my eyes focused on the One who gave me the desire and the talent to do this in the first place, then I think I’ll be OK. It’s much easier to fall when, like Peter, we take our eyes off of the Lord and focus instead on the waves threatening to swallow us.

    And for what it’s worth, I can’t WAIT to buy your book and post an amazing review about it. ;)

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 7:45 am   /  Reply

      Lindsay,
      Thank you for the encouragement! :)
      That said, I encourage you to buy a pair of blinders and a nice padded seat for the times the ledge beckons.
      And I am here to listen!

      • December 15, 2011, 8:07 am   /  Reply

        Thank you! I appreciate it more than you know. :)

    • December 15, 2011, 8:38 am   /  Reply

      “And if I can keep my eyes focused on the One who gave me the desire and the talent to do this in the first place, then I think I’ll be OK.”

      Amen, that’s good stuff, Lindsay. :-)

  3. December 15, 2011, 6:50 am   /  Reply

    Thanks for pulling back the curtain and letting us take a peak at the reality of writing. I wish you luck at jumping off the ledge into your next book. I look forward to reading your book in May.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 7:45 am   /  Reply

      Thanks, Stacy!

  4. December 15, 2011, 6:51 am   /  Reply

    Oops. I mean peek. I must have Pikes Peak on the brain this morning.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 7:46 am   /  Reply

      And “peak” was almost a double entendre don’t you think? ;)

  5. Jeanne T
    December 15, 2011, 7:09 am   /  Reply

    Such humbling truths, eh? It’s hard to comprehend that my success isn’t all up to or about me. I’m learning that in whatever I set my hand to success will only come as I lean into the Lord as I walk through the process. Those things He’s called me to do, He’s also equipped me to complete–with His help of course. :) Thanks for sharing your struggles along with your victories here.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 7:46 am   /  Reply

      Jeanne,
      As you said, just sharing what I’m learning … and learning from others as I go along.

  6. December 15, 2011, 7:53 am   /  Reply

    I sorely needed to read your words today. Seems like I’m on your ledge with you, pondering the ‘why of my existence in the writing world’. And I truly know it’s not up to me, but sometimes…anyway, thank you very much for an encouraging post and reminder!
    And, I know you can do it! Can’t wait for your book to come out!

    • December 15, 2011, 10:42 am   /  Reply

      Pat, I’ll sit on a ledge with you any day! And we can go buy a pair of blinders together, how about that? ;)

  7. December 15, 2011, 8:33 am   /  Reply

    Oh Beth! What a great heart opener. I read both Jody’s and Katie’s posts and there is a theme running here. But a good theme. There is more to what we do then write and publish books. God has a vision for our writing. I know it.

    • December 15, 2011, 10:43 am   /  Reply

      Jodi, I am so glad you read Katie’s and Jodi’s posts too. I appreciate their insights so much!

  8. December 15, 2011, 8:44 am   /  Reply

    Beth, I think the world of you as a person and writer. I’m so looking forward to watching God use your life in greater ways in 2012. And fiction, who’d have thunk it? :) Yes, that was on purpose. It’s fun knowing you’ve crossed over. You hear voices. Big smile.

    Just for the record, God has already used your life to bless mine for many years!! Your faith in me has kept me writing despite my issues.

    I love you.
    Tiffany

    • December 15, 2011, 10:44 am   /  Reply

      Tiffany,
      Your words brought a smile to my face.
      And God has used your encouragement in my life so often … and I know we’ve got each other’s backs, don’t we?

  9. December 15, 2011, 8:56 am   /  Reply

    Oh, Beth. Good to know I’m not the only one who knows she needs an armadillo hide. I’m just too darn sensitive and know the minute I get a nasty review I’ll be a puddle of snot and falling off the Lindor white chocolate wagon. I love all 3 bits of wisdom: Wear blinders, remember it’s God’s deal, and I’m not the main factor in my success. Or in Cami’s words: This gig don’t revolve around self-absorbed me. You remind me what I often say when others need encouragement (but forget to tell moi) that writing (or any talent) is God-given, and he will provide because the gift is for Him. Like Abraham with his precious son Isaac in the wilderness: God provided the ram for the horrendous task required of Abraham. He will provide you what you need to complete this precious assignment.

    I tell friends who want to become published to put a sticky note above their computer screen that says, “You have a God-given gift. If you need help, just ask.” Now to add to that, “It’s not about you, chica. This is His gig. And don’t forget, little one, God has a pretty thick skin.”

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post as usual, and the encouragement, O Wise & Witty One. Love how you use that gift. :-) <3

    • December 15, 2011, 10:46 am   /  Reply

      Coming down off the ledge, peeling back the armadillo skin and hugging your words close, my friend. :)
      So glad we crossed paths on the writing road –and now we’re linked, arm in arm.

  10. December 15, 2011, 9:17 am   /  Reply

    Beth, how I empathize with your message today. I suffered a debilitating case of Second Book Syndrome earlier this year. I felt sure what I was writing was drivel or dreck or downright disgusting. My tremendously supportive hubby and awesome CPs held my hand as I teetered on The Ledge. In time I realize there was no way to deal with SBS other than to go through it, so I wrote the story, such as it was, sure it was terrible. And I prayed, surrendering my efforts and the outcome to the Lord.

    Guess what? He’s faithful and omnipresent, coming alongside me in my down times. No surprise there, huh? :-)

    I wrote, but I wasn’t alone. The Lord plopped Himself beside me on The Ledge, ready to stay the course, and imbued me with renewed enthusiasm, energy, and ideas. Gradually my confidence returned–in baby steps, mind–and when I looked up one day, I discovered I was no longer languishing at the edge of The Ledge. Sure, it loomed in the distance, but somehow as I kept my focus on the story, I’d been transported to a new place, a better place. Did I still feel the fears at times? Sure. But I wrote anyway, and the Lord honored my efforts. I finished the story, have performed my self-edits, and will be sending it to my CPs soon.

    When I delved into the finished story, sure it stank and eager to seek ways to improve it, I had a pleasant surprise. It was much better than I’d thought. Oh, I could claim creative brilliance, but that would be a laugh. I know the real reasons. One is that my talent didn’t leave me; only my confidence did. The other more important reason is that I tapped into The Source of my creativity and inspiration. I invited The Lord to be my partner on my writing journey at the outset some six years ago, and He’s been there for me all along. With Him beside me I can do this–even face The Ledge–because He’s there with me, upholding and uplifting me and blowing my mind with His goodness, guidance, generosity, and abundant love.

    Sorry to write a novella, Beth, but you tapped into something that’s been on my heart.

    • December 15, 2011, 10:48 am   /  Reply

      Keli,
      When you talk, er write, I listen.
      Love the wisdom of your words: My talent didn’t leave me, only my confidence did.
      I’m gonna remember that!

  11. December 15, 2011, 9:49 am   /  Reply

    I find that anxiety and even fear arise whenever I’m stepping out on my own power. I didn’t use to understand that, and even as I continued on with my plans, I’d ask God to bless them. Now, I know when I begin to have those unsettled whisperings inside, to pull back and turn whatever it is I’m doing, planning, thinking about to God. Just let go and give Him the reins. Works out much better. I find peace even if the ride is no less bumpy.

    Love those words from Rachel, “This is God’s deal.” Something to remember.

    Looking forward to your release in May.

    • December 15, 2011, 10:49 am   /  Reply

      Patricia,
      Thanks for your wisdom and insight on avoiding the ledge. :)

  12. December 15, 2011, 11:06 am   /  Reply

    Beth,
    Thank you so much for your honesty. It’s always reassuring to hear other writers voice similar fears or insecurities to ones I’ve had. I’m also thankful for the reminder that as those called of God to do what we’re doing, we need to stay focused on Him, trusting Him to accomplish His purposes through our writing.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 12:39 pm   /  Reply

      I’m thankful you were encouraged, Teri!
      Others’ honesty has helped me in so many ways. I want to do the same for others.

  13. December 15, 2011, 2:45 pm   /  Reply

    Oh, to release it from our hands completely. So scary yet so exhilarating. Thanks for these words, Beth.

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 4:41 pm   /  Reply

      Releasing it … I’m finding it’s an ongoing choice.

  14. Rachel Hauck
    December 15, 2011, 7:05 pm   /  Reply

    You have one of the main keys down to being a writer. Transparency! Great inspiration!

    Rachel

    • Beth Vogt
      December 15, 2011, 8:19 pm   /  Reply

      And thank you, Rachel, for keeping me from leaping off the ledge (virtual and otherwise.)

  15. December 16, 2011, 5:40 pm   /  Reply

    Loved reading this. Sounds like we all go through the same things. I’m glad I’m not alone. And I’m SUPER glad to be debuting with you!

    Thanks for the link to my post!

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