Why it’s OK to be bad at something new

I hate the term “overnight success”, don’t you? It’s never accurate, in fact statistically speaking, it takes around ten years for most of those people we deem “successful” to reach the point in their careers of being touted as an overnight success in the media.

That’s crazy, right? To have worked your arse off for a decade, grown your skills, built your brand and earned your success – only for it to be immediately reduced and belittled by the press who call it “overnight”, as though you hadn’t been killing it for years before you became a household name.

It not only completely disparages all the hard work of the successful individual, it also gives a completely false impression of achieving goals and getting recognition to those of us still reaching for that unreachable star. The concept of an overnight success can cause us to give up before we make it, because we start to believe that if it was meant for us – or worse, if we were “good enough” – then surely we would have made it by now?

But that just isn’t the case. If you want something, and you’re willing to work HARD for it, then there’s every chance you can achieve it. I’m obviously speaking from a place of privilege (as a white woman from a nuclear family with a parent who went to university before me), and I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s, but I want to believe that anyone can be who they want to be and do what they want to do. I want to live in a world where that is true, and I will fight alongside anyone who is working towards their big goal, whatever that may be.

How to be OK with sucking at something new

  1. Remember, there’s no such thing as an “overnight success”. Keep trying, keep aiming for your goal and don’t give up.
  2. Read more biographies and autobiographies about people you admire – you’ll soon realise they faced many of the same struggles as you on their journey towards success.
  3. Find your tribe – look for the people and groups online who are also working towards your same goal, open up to them and they’ll reassure you that the process is the same for every newbie (and hopefully they’ll encourage you to keep trying!).
  4. Get OK with being vulnerable. Share your attempts, admit when you fail – somebody somewhere is so inspired by you and your progress. Do it for the old you, the one who dared to dream and didn’t quite believe they could do it. You’re doing it!
  5. Remind yourself that you might fail one hundred times, but it only takes one time for you to succeed. Every single person who ever succeeded started as a beginner, overcame challenges, learned from failures, and eventually achieved their goal. One day, that person will be you.

Try, fail, try again, fail better

I have failed many, many times in my life. I’ve never hit 50k words during NaNoWriMo, I entered Pitch Wars with my first manuscript and didn’t get in, I queried around 40 agents and got some pleasant responses but not even a single full request. I kept writing, kept rewriting, kept sharing my journey here on my blog and on Instagram with the incredible writing and reading community over there, and just over a year ago I made the bold decision to self publish. And I haven’t looked back.

I certainly haven’t achieved my version of overnight success yet, but that’s all part of the thrill. Where do you go once you’re considered “successful”? I guess it becomes a game of maintaining it and living to everyone else’s expectations of you, and that’s just not as much fun to me.

Keep trying, dear reader. Never stop trying.

Lyndsey

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Caring for plot bunnies – Author Toolbox

For the first Author Toolbox Blog Hop, created by Raimey Gallant, I thought I’d talk about something we have all done battle with at some point in our writing lives – plot bunnies.

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We’re well into week three of Camp Nano, and I’m just under halfway to my goal of 35k words of draft two for The Fair Queen. So, naturally, I’m being besieged by plot bunnies.

Now, the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a big project is to not let the plot bunnies distract you from your work. You might be losing momentum, struggling to stay motivated and finding your current work-in-progress boring – we’ve all been there! But, writing isn’t all about the shiny and new sparks of inspiration, sometimes it’s about hard work.

That said, what do you do when a brilliant idea pops into your head whilst you’re busy working on something else, or not in a position to sit down and start writing?

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Make a note

If you’re a smart and sensible writer and human being, you will have one of two things within reach at all times – a notepad or a mobile device. If not, grab any stationary surface and inscribing implement (your sleeping cat’s back and an electric razor are not recommended).

Write it down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 300 word synopsis or a single phrase, write that idea down right now. You will not remember it when you come to sit down and write later, I can almost guarantee it. How many times have you been to the supermarket and thought “I won’t make a list, I know what we need”, and come home with everything but the one thing you went for? It’s not just me. Write that line of dialogue/character name/plot twist/cover design idea down.

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Make it legible

Hands up if your handwriting is terrible? Some of you are probably thinking “I’m a writer, my handwriting is carefully crafted calligraphy, how very dare you”. Well, I’m not one of you, and I’m sure I’m not alone. There have been many times when I’ve come to read my own handwritten notes, usually quickly scribbled, and had no clue whatsoever what they said. Don’t let this be you, do not waste your beautiful plot bunnies by scrawling your notes in chicken scratch that not even an FBI handwriting expert could decipher.

Write in all caps if that helps you to read it later, draw a picture if it’s easier than describing your mental image. Just make sure you will know what the hell you were talking about later.

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Proper care and feeding of plot bunnies

It goes without saying that you should keep track of all your notes, use a separate page or document for each project or for ideas that have no specific purpose as of yet. This will help when it comes to raising your plot bunnies into fully grown WIP rabbits (I just made that up, can you tell?).

If you’re between projects, or need a break after completing a first draft or round of edits, then now’s the time to whip out your notes and get turning those plot bunnies into fully-formed ideas. Lay out all your notebooks and open your phone or laptop to your document of notes (I use OneNote on my phone, it syncs to my laptop so I never lose any ideas). Now start trying to connect words and phrases together to make a story concept.

Maybe you’ve scribbled down a couple of great character names, pop them into Google and see where they originate from, which era they suit best, and what characteristics they are associated with.

If you’re a visual person and have a collection of photos saved in your phone why not mine these for potential locations, architectural details and scene prompts? Then, see which of these might fit together with your other ideas. Maybe you’ve got a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a plaza in southern Spain from that holiday three years ago, an elaborate fountain from a Turkish bath, and a dress you’ve always dreamed of buying – could you combine these ideas to create a scene, or even an entire story?

If you take care of your plot bunnies, they’ll take care of you by providing endless inspiration for new writing projects.

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Hunting those wiley wabbits

Not sure how to get started collecting plot bunnies? It’s really simple, you just need to make it a habit to write down any little sparks of inspiration you get throughout the day. Carry a notepad and pen, even if you always have your phone on you – for some just the action of handwriting a note can set the muse free.

When you’re out and about, take notice of the little details around you and take a quick photo or jot down a word or two. Listen in on other people’s conversations (subtly, don’t be that guy) and write down any turns of phrase you like or find interesting, record accents you want to use or even steal plot points from real people’s lives. You’ll be amazed at the places inspiration can spring from if you just open your eyes and ears and pay attention.

And there you have it, you’ll be farming an entire herd of plot bunnies in no time, and you’ll never struggle for something to write about. What are your tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of all your ideas? Give me your advice in the comments, I’d love to hear how other people do it!

Lyndsey

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Caring for plot bunnies Lyndsey's Book Blog