Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Give Yourself a Break!

I don't know about you, but I jumped headfirst into the waters of my first manuscript and didn't come to the surface for, oh, like six months.

Then I realized I had a family who wanted me to feed them and talk to them.

But then the pressures of succeeding pressed in again, and I had to keep writing, keep editing, to prove to myself that I could do it. I could get an agent. I could get a contract.

I pushed through the exhaustion, the doubts, and the prose I'd drafted with one goal in mind. Get published.

Last summer I came one step closer to that goal when I landed an agent. And praise the Lord, my agent understands how difficult my current phase of life as a stay-at-home mom with two young children. But not all writers find themselves in such a flexible situation.

I've recently talked to friends who are unagented who are facing the doubts and the pressures. They keep hearing that they should meet a certain word-count quota or they're placing self-imposed pressure to get to the next step. In all these interactions, one thing keeps coming to mind.


Yes, I'm shouting those words. You see, in this pre-agented/pre-published stage of your writing career, this is one time when YOU get to choose your deadlines. You get to soak in all you can, to write for the pure joy of it, without time pressure or content expectations.

Obviously if your ultimate goal is to get published, you want to craft a story that will be publishable. And sure, plenty of people recommend sticking to a regular writing schedule.

But I'm here today to take the pressure off of you. If you have a family who needs you, throw the writing schedule to the wind for a while. If you're facing a tough emotional struggle, write something to soothe your hurts rather than pumping out drivel that you don't feel.

This is one time you are free to write whatever you want, whenever you want. So embrace it! And enjoy the moment. Because once you're published, you can never go back.

What sort of pressures do you place on yourself or your writing journey? Do you find yourself anxious to make it to the next step of your career? How often do you slow down and just enjoy where you're at?

*Water photo by Koratmember /
**Odometer photo by Arvind Balaraman /

Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her personal blog at:


Beth K. Vogt said...

You are a wise, wise woman, Sarah.
I think no matter where we are on the writing road, there are times we need to slow down and enjoy where we are at.
This is one of the reasons we need relationships with both other writers and with non-writers. People who understand what we do -- and people who will pull us away from our stories.
Both are good.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Yes, Sarah, I'm really learning this. When I first started my writing journey last year, I thought, "I have to achieve such-and-such by THIS point in time." I established all these goals for myself...and then I felt frantic with all the what ifs. I'm learning to have a plan but not be devastated if I don't achieve it all the time. I'm learning to just enjoy the ride.

Julia M. Reffner said...

YES, YES!! Great advice, Sarah. A great reminder to me today that its the journey not the destination. The helpful thing about preschoolers is they won't allow you to let your writing take over too much...without creating a disaster that is :)

Unknown said...

Fabulous advice that I've had to learn to take to heart when my college schedule goes crazy and writing sits on the sidelines!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

This is a smart post, Sarah. It's hard to think like that when you're on the unagented, unpublished end, but it's so worth it. I've been working toward this goal of publication for over ten years and part of that is because I took breaks here and there (and had three kids), but it was worth it. Now I just have to keep reminding myself that I need to continue enjoying each step along the way.

Keli Gwyn said...

What a wise woman you are, Sarah. Enjoying each stage of the journey is important as is accepting our situations and limitations.

Casey said...

Oh this post was for me today! I tend to be a perfectionist--confession I AM a perfectionist and while I tend to work better under deadline, I've also had to learn when to scale back, because life demands it. Right now I feel super yucky and it's KILLING me that I need to go rest instead of getting some work done. But I know I'll feel better if I go rest. I agree with everyone else, wise post, Sarah!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Beth - Great point! Non-writers definitely help us know when to step away from the laptop (like my daughter who's sitting in my lap at the moment). ;)

Lindsay - I've so been there! And I still am, depending on the day, LOL. It's a constant challenge for all of us, isn't it?

Julia - You're so right about preschoolers. Oy vey, don't I know all about that! :)

Rachelle - Oh wow, you're juggling a lot! Sounds like you're approaching it wisely and pacing yourself. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Cindy - It's a daily reminder for us all, isn't it? And I know God will reward your faithfulness and patience. You're an excellent writer...It's just a matter of time. :)

Keli - The acceptance part is probably the hardest part, isn't it? But once we conquer it, we're free to enjoy so much more.

Casey - From one perfectionist to another, I totally understand that need to keep going. But rest up! It sounds like you need it today. :)

Joanne Sher said...

Soooo true. Love this, Sarah.

AND I wanted to congratulate the alley cats on making Writers Digest editor Robert Lee Brewer's top 39 blogs for writers. SOO excited for you guys (

Angie Dicken said...

Thank you, Sarah! I keep reminding myself about the deadline bit, and then taking a big breath and slowing down....I spent last night watching my baby play...lying on the floor doing absolutely nothing but watch her play. It was difficult, but I know I will remember that a lot more than my editing session for Genesis. :)
Thanks Joanne! What an honor to be part of the Alley with such an awesome group of women and supporters!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Joanne - Thank you! We were pretty astounded and excited to see the news. :)

Angie - I know all about struggling to take a break and enjoy the kiddos. I've actually started adding my kids to my daily to-do list. I know that might sound weird, but it helps ensure I've spent focused time with each of them every day.

Unknown said...

Wow, this post could not have come at a better time for me, personally! I'm actually seeing physical consequences of stress lately, so I needed it. I've got some big goals and dreams, and while it's great to work hard, learn self-discipline and be determined, it's not great to go all obsessive before even landing an agent or contract. Okay, it's probably not good to go all obsessive even after. :)

Rambling. What I'm trying to say is thank you for the oh-so-timely reminder. I needed it. And now, I'm off to slow down and enjoy... :)

Stacy Henrie said...

This is clearly a lesson I haven't mastered yet because God keeps sending it my way. :) Just the other day, a stranger reminded me to enjoy this time. Great post!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Melissa - Our bodies are good at telling us when to slow down, aren't they? The biggest challenge for me is listening, lol.

Stacy - I hear that advice a lot too. Now to actually live it out, right? :)

Pepper said...

Loved this, Sarah.
And it was SENT BY GOD to me!!

Thank you