by Jenny Hansen
In case no one ever told you this... You are a writer, and you are also a badass. Yes, you. The hard-working, dream-chasing reader of this writing blog.
You have a dream, and you care enough about that dream to chase it down. Enough to get up early or stay up late to write, to put your butt in that chair day after day. Enough to take the time to learn what you need to know to write the best stories you can.
You are the brave soul who is mastering the writing equation:
Dream Chasing + Hard Work = Writer + Badass
These last few years, I've entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. Partly for the usual reasons -- it's fun, it makes me stretch as a wrier, etc. -- and partly because it makes me feel like a badass.
Here's how the contest works:
This round, I was assigned the following story elements:
Every year it is a slap-dash careening ride to The End but the big-picture story requirements are familiar.
Every year when I do this competition, I think of what Neil Gaiman says about writing.
(Gaiman urges you to think of your writing like dandelion seeds.)
"Dozens will go out into the world, but for every five failures that float on the wind, perhaps one will find some success. The more you send out, the more success you will have. The more types of things you try, the greater the chance of finding that success."
I think of the NYC contest as a way of floating my dandelion seeds and expanding my craft, all at the same time. Plus, even if I don't win the money, I have the work.
Every year when I see the thousands of writers who show up for this competition, I'm amazed at their fortitude, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. A bunch of badasses hang out in those forums.
Plotter, pantser, plantser, story quilter, or outliner...none of that really matters as long as you get a story done. I am a firm believer that even though no two writers have the same process, we all have the power to get to The End.
There are four qualities possessed by almost every writer that are, in my humble opinion, more important than good writing craft.
It's nearly impossible to be a successful writer without the qualities above. Let's break them down...
We hope our story comes out great.
We hope someone will buy it.
We hope readers will like it.
The writing craft and our own discipline to get the story down are the only things we can control in this crazy writing life. Everything except the work is beyond our control.
And yet we sit down to write. We submit our writing to agents and editors who often reject us. We keep going in the face of rejection.
Hope is hard. Hope is brave. Writers who hang onto their hope long enough to achieve their dreams are badasses.
I encourage you to stockpile your stores of hope, so you have plenty available when you need it.
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”— Raymond Lindquist
Every writer must have the courage to embrace the unknown. Story after story, we jump in and stumble our way through the maze of a story. We meet new characters, try new genres, embark on a whole new research journey.
That's a lot of unknowns we face. Some of my writer friends see that quality as insanity or stupidity. I see it as flat out guts and courage.
We face the blank page, the unknown, and the fear that we suck. Then we send our work to others for honest feedback.
We are astonishing.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”— Mary Anne Radmacher
Call of the Wild author, Jack London, received 950 rejections before someone bought the book. Our own Laura Drake has 400+ rejections under her belt. Bestselling author Debbie Macomber had an agent stand in front of her, tap the manuscript Debbie had submitted for her to critique and advise that she "throw it away."
These are three writers that we've heard of because they didn't give up in the face of adversity. Plus they did the work, and learned how to write a great story.
I always try to remember: it only takes one 'yes' to open the door to opportunity wide enough for me to squeeze on through.
4. Blind Faith
This last one is the real reason I think writers are the bravest superheroes on the planet. The sheer courage of diving into the unknown with every new story, and persevering until that story is told? Of believing that story will be told? That takes a massive amount of hope, discipline, and blind faith.
Especially for the pantsers. They sit down knowing a character or two, possibly a setting or a few plot points. Then they spin a story, line by line and chapter by chapter. At least the plotters get the chance to mentally immerse themselves in their story before they get started.
If you haven't congratulated yourself for your badassery lately, I hope you take a moment now.
Seriously, y'all. I've said it before, the sheer act of taking that leap of blind faith and showing up for your writing, day after day, year after year, is an incredible act of courage and will.
These four qualities that save us -- hope, courage, perseverance and blind faith -- are also often a heavy burden to bear. To me, this is why writing stories is so damn exciting, and so damn scary. You just never know how long it's going to take or how it's going to turn out...and you do it anyway.
You wonderful badass, you.
Do you agree or disagree? What part of the writing scares you the most, or requires more blind faith. Please share with us down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Facebook at JennyHansenAuthor or at Writers In The Storm.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
To me, the scariest part is the feeling of being exposed to others and being judged by them. Agents who reject your work. Awards you don't win. People who don't like your book. "Lists" that other authors get on, but you don't. The challenge is to develop a thick skin and become resilient, keeping that belief in your work alive, while remaining open to critique so you can continue to grow. The dance between the confidence you need to put yourself out there, and the fear of over-confidence. It is hard, hard, hard.
It sure is. One thing that has helped is for me to realize that I have no control over most of those things - the lists, the awards, the agents. I've got nothing but the story, the Craft and my writing pals. It's a crazy career we've chosen. 🙂
This is lovely, Jenny, and so positive and encouraging. Thanks for posting!
Awwww, thanks Tiffany. I figure I needed a place to point every time one of my writer pals needs the "You are a Badass" pep talk. Now I have it. 🙂
Hope is in such short supply in our lives today. Dedicating some of that hope to our writer-selves is essential...for so many reasons. And inspiring hope with our stories for others is equally essential...for so many reasons. Thanks for your message, Jenny!
I agree, Chris, that hope is a scarce precious commodity in these times. Positivity, generosity, hope and kindness brighten the outlook for me. The more of that stuff that goes around, the more hope floats to the people who need it.
Thank you for this awesomely positive post, Jenny. It's helpful to know that great writers have dealt with so many rejections. It's easy be become discouraged. Not everyone will like my work, but that's okay.
Developing that thick skin is a work in progress, but necessary.
It is SO easy to get discouraged. It's much harder to keep up your hope. But we're badasses - we can do it. RAWR!
Jenny, what a pick-me-up! I'm channeling my inner Sarah Conner now. Thanks, lady.
*beats up villains*
Hee hee hee
I would add a fifth thing that every writer needs, Jenny - a close-knit group of writer friends to lift you up or kick your butt as needed to get you motivated and keep you moving!
Oh yes, those things are definitely a massive help. Writing pals are THE BEST.
I AM a badass - just didn't expect to have it noticed. I will acknowledge owing a lot to your blog in my learning phase - so thanks again!
We noticed, Alicia! And thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂
You are a big help for a lot of people.
I think giving up Impostor Syndrome is a professional step.
It doesn't mean you don't doubt yourself - that's part of the game - but it does mean you manage yourself, and don't waste too much energy on worrying when you could be working it out instead.
All my writing problems have been worked out - in writing. And I expect it to continue. It takes me a while when the brain won't cooperate, but after doing it umptyfrat times, you can assume you'll do it again. Until something finally goes, and the brain is no longer usable.
So true, Jenny! Writers fall down and get back up again over and over--until one day we find we're upright for the duration. Just try to knock me down now! Thanks for the fun post. 🙂
"Just try to knock me down now!" <-- I love this attitude, Colleen. Preach it!
You ARE a badass, and thank you for reminding me that I am too. It just so happens that my word for the year is Fearless, I think there's some badassery involved in fearless...at least that's the goal. But maybe next year I'll make my word Badass! Thanks for the inspiration, Jenny!
You are so welcome, Tari. Fearless is a fantastic word, and so is Badass. Thank you for all your inspiration. I appreciate it tremendously.
Dear Jenny-- I knew you were writing to ME, that you actually know ME, when I read your three sentences beginning with "You have a dream," and ending with "to write the best stories you can."
Thank you for pointing out the Hope, Courage, Perseverance and Blind Faith it takes. Terrific encouragement!
Thanks for making my day, Patricia! I am so glad that we spoke right to YOU. 🙂
A most awesome blog. So needed for this writer today.
Thanks, Rebecca. Everyone needs a pep talk sometimes, and yours have always helped me. 🙂
The scariest part comes after you write/type "The End."
Got another rejection TODAY! I'm not exactly celebrating, but I am planning the next query and writing the next story and revising and meeting deadlines and telling myself it's not all in vain.
And most importantly, thank you for reminding me that I'm a fighter!
Jenny, I'm late to the party, but what a great post! Thank you. I love the quotes.
Finally read this post! Love it soooo much. This sentence, in particular, stuck with me: "I am a firm believer that even though no two writers have the same process, we all have the power to get to The End." I'm hopeful that my process includes Took Months Off for Health Reasons and still reached the end! ~smile~ Keep encouraging me, WITS!