In the last month or so, I have found myself in some difficult situations that involve various levels of mediocrity. Let me explain, I have many creative friends, with great ideas. They write books, make movies, and organize events. God bless them, for the hard work they put in, but unfortunately, in their latest go round, the results were mediocre at best. I find this incredibly frustrating, because I am guilty of doing the same thing. For me, I know my most mediocre work is the result of two things: fear and laziness.
Yup, awhile back I wrote a post on the topics of “procrastination” and “doubt” and how one feeds the other. Now it’s clear to me that we’re bumping it up a notch. The fear of: you name it — not being good enough, perfect enough, clever enough, or of not being special — will always exist, it comes with the job. These fears are hard to face, and it is so much easier to simply put your head in the sand, and opt for a nice slice of denial. And denial leads to laziness. “Oh, it’s good enough, I’ll make a few tweaks, and really it will be just fine.” Um. No. Sorry it won’t. “No, really, it’s a little rough around the edges, but no one will notice.” Ah, yeah, we do notice, and it’s still not good. It still needs more work.
Yes, no one wants to hear that last statement: It needs more work. No one wants to receive a rejection letter from an agent, no one wants to see zero sales for their self-published book, no one wants to see people walk out of their movie. But I’ve been seeing a lot of it lately and I felt I had to say something.
This was re-iterated for me at the Spellbinders Writers Conference, Jeff Kleinman, of Folio Literary Management said that 90% of the query letters he receives are from writers who pitch their books too early. And if you polled an number of literary agents you would get the same response. You may be tired of hearing this statistic, but it’s still the norm.
And for writers, I can’t blame them, I’ve done it myself. You think you really did it this time, it’s your best work, it’s taken you hours of and hours of writing, revising, re-thinking. But it’s still not good enough. It still doesn’t measure up and deep down you know that. You know it’s not ready, but you go ahead anyway. You want recognition for all of that hard work, I mean that’s why we write or create art in the first place, so we can be read and seen by an audience who appreciates us. But don’t burden your audience with something that isn’t ready. And I’m one of the laziest people I know, I’m also an attention whore (if I weren’t I wouldn’t have created this blog) and I want the world to love my work, but I know I need to earn that love and respect by owning the hard work that goes into making it the best, owning the hard work it takes to keep improving my skill set.
I know, I can hear you already, but don’t get angry with me, simply because I’m telling you the truth. If you are a writer, it’s because you love good writing, and you know good writing when you read it. When you read your current WIP is it as good as one of your favorite books? Is it as good as maybe the first book that your favorite author wrote?
This site is called “Social Alchemy” for a reason, I pose these questions to you, as I posed them to myself first. If I’m going to make my world a better place, through how I interact with you, through my writing, through my coaching other writers, if I want the world to be filled with less mediocrity, then I have to raise the standards for myself. I can’t ask any of you to try to change, unless I’m willing to do it myself first.
That’s why I am grateful for the opportunity to make big changes in my own life. I am a true believer that once you come to a new inner realization, you must also make an outer manifestation of this change. A few months ago most of us witness the Olympic Games, and were thrilled and awed by the discipline, dedication, and commitment made by those athletes. There was a commercial that ran during the broadcast, outlining some of the sacrifices many athletes made on the road to the Olympics. One line struck me very deeply: “I have not ordered dessert in two years.”
And wouldn’t you know it, I found myself in the grocery store looking at a display of books and I saw, “Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson who blogs at marksdailyapple.com The gist of his message is that cavemen did not eat grains, especially processed grains and sugar. And during the last several months I’ve been coming across this message in various forms. Having dear friends with severe gluten allergies, other friends tackling Type 2 Diabetes. I am about 30 pounds overweight and I know its the carbs and the sweets that have been my downfall.
So, as of today, I am giving up both. Is this going to make me a better writer? I have no clue, although much of the literature suggests giving up processed foods will help with brain function. But it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make in an effort to improve my health, my work and my life. I’ve gone off sugar before and know it’s beneficial, but I always caved into my cravings. This program promises that by eating high quality fats (butter, coconut milk, olives, olive oil) that the cravings will diminish.
But honestly, this is my testament to not accepting mediocre food into my body, and not producing mediocre art. Will I succeed? Will I fail? Who knows. But I know I need to start, to make a big change. I’m not expecting any of you to go along with me. I’m just hoping that maybe I might nudge you in the right direction. To move past denial, to kick laziness to the curb and to do your best work. Stay tuned. I won’t be giving you boring statistics on starting weight, measurements, and all of that. But I ask you to come back and see if the writing gets any better.
And I do want to hear from all of you, any one else looking down the barrel of Big Change? Anyone else wanting to break out of their normal pattern of eating, thinking, working? Please feel free to be part of the conversation, and as always, thank you ever so much for stopping by.
Great post! I know I’m always eager to get my work out into the world, sometimes when it’s not ready. It’s good to hold ourselves to high standards of living, eating, and creativity.
I’ve been telling myself I’ll give up sugar someday for a long time. I’m usually pretty good at saying no to fried foods, but sugar is my biggest weakness. I’d really like to cut back, but it is literally an addiction. I did manage to accidentally get myself un-addicted to chocolate. I didn’t eat it for two weeks while I was sick, and I don’t crave it anymore. So maybe the same would be true with other sugary treats.
Hi Alana, as it turns out, dark chocolate, with not too much sugar, is on my list of things that I can have every now and then. What I like about this approach is that if you eat right 80% of the time, with a treat every now and then, it will still work. Good luck and it’s so nice to see you back in the bloggy-sphere.
You know, your post may have given me the kick in the pants I needed to make some drastic changes in my own writing plan. Thanks for shaking things up and sharing it with the Wana crew!
Hi Jess, I’m so glad you found this helpful, and best of luck to you in your endeavor to shake things up. The wonderful thing about WANA’s is that you really are not alone in this, we are all here to cheer each other on, and in my case, to offer the occasional kick in the pants.
You should join us over at WANAFit. They’ve kept me accountable for giving up wine. No wine for the last month. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then I added the calories and….yeah. Excellence is a lifestyle. It’s a habit. We confront where we are weak and dive in. Jay helped me learn how to use the WANA web site and event Espresso. It was scary and overwhelming at first, but now it’s a breeze and I feel better having faced an area of weakness. Fabulous blog and we are pulling for you!
Hey WANA Mamma! Thanks so much for the visit. Hitting WANAfit was next on my todo list… are you psychic too!! I loved your post on “killing darlings” I do think we are on the same page in that we need to up our game on so many levels. Thanks for all your love and support!
No WINE??? Holy hell. That would be harder than sugar for me…
Hi Rachel, kudos on putting your foot down here. I am one of the least patient people, so I hear you.
About the food thing. Last Feb., in a fit of desperation, I went on the Paleo diet. Results? As of now I have about 25 lbs off, high cholesterol well back in the normal range, blood pressure perfect, and best of all, my belly has been full constantly. Seems like I’m always eating. Sweets? fresh fruit gives me all the sweet I want. Yep, Dark Chocolate is on the good list.
Might be worth a look. It was hard, I eat whenever, never hungry nor feeling deprived. It was almost too easy.
Okay, end of pitch. hehehe Good luck with kicking the sugar.
Hi Pru, I’m so glad to hear of your great results! Strangely enough, I’ve actually started taking baby steps with this approach last week, and yesterday I had a salad, and damned if I didn’t taste the natural sugars in the lettuce! I’m already feeling “cleaner” and better. Thanks for the encouragement!
Um, if your not careful, your going to be more than a coach, but a literary agent. That’s the kind of pitch I would want from my agent. lol. As for the sugar, I’ve found all fruit smoothies reduce my sweet tooth by 80% to 90%. I just can’t eat ‘sweets’ once I’ve had a smoothie a few times a week. At $9.95 for a huge back of frozen ‘fresh’ fruit from Costco, it’s yummy, healthy and affordable. Great blog. bravo.
Hey Raghu! Thanks so much for stopping by. Funny, but I would never eat fruit because it was too sweet! But the oreos??? No problem. I’m a big smoothie fan from way back, and they are coming back on the list.
There are two kinds of writers- Those who write because they love good writing and those who write because they have to. They have something to say. Some writers are more talented than others. The great ones are those who both talented and have something to say.
Should the less talented writers not bother? I don’t think so. Mediocrity has it’s place. Just doing it (writing, performing, directing etc, etc.) can eventually lead to great work. We learn as we go along. Practice makes perfect…hopefully. Mediocrity can inspire others. Their ideas lead to other ideas. Look what it has done for you? Your decision to cut out sugar and to write this blog.
Cutting back on sugar to make us better writers sounds like a good idea. For a while it will feel like suffering for one’s art, but then later, after the toxins are flushed from one’s body, clearer head and a healthier body will support greater work. I will be cheering you on, Rachel. Keep us informed of your journey. Your decision to do this is an inspiration to me!
Hi Terri, thank you so much for taking the time to visit and for your comment. I’ve struggled with the whole idea of just getting it out there, and know many people who do, and sometimes seeing a bad movie can inspire you to write a better one. And I believe everyone has talent, (and trust me EVERYONE has something to say) the problem is craft. It takes a long time to master craft techniques, to really understand them, and then apply them in your work. That’s what no one wants to hear. It’s not that your idea is not cleaver or creative, it’s that you haven’t mastered the skills you need to express it in a really satisfying way for your audience. Thanks again, Terri. and I’m really looking forward to the next Playbuilders (http://www.playbuilders.org/) project.
Hey Rachel, you and me both. yay someone to suffer…I mean progress with. LOL
I don’t eat sugar and haven’t for 30+ years but the grains…hmmm i’m in week 3 and feel pretty good – my energy is amazing.
Hi Louise, I just scarfed down a salad, with broiled zucchini, sauteed green beans with a bit of chiken… no roll or bread in sight! or do I feel the need for a dessert. Now I’m off to board meeting, still full of energy at four in the afternoon, when I am usually ready to be a couch potato. Let’s do this!
You go Rachel! Inspiring post, and since I’ve been working on losing weight and eating healthier myself, it helps to read about someone else who is going through the same thing. Thank you! 🙂
Wow, I so needed to hear that. I thought my novel was ready, but as I’ve been looking through it this last week and getting feedback, I know it’s not. It’s a little disheartening, but I want to put out the highest quality I can, so I’m going to whip it into shape. Speaking of which, I could use a little whipping into shape myself — as in putting down the French fries. I’ve gotten off track there too. Thanks, Rachel!
Hi Julie, I’m so glad you found this helpful. I know how you feel! It is so discouraging after putting in all that hard work, to see that no, it really needs MORE WORK. But I can honestly tell you, once you are willing to “own” that and dig in to make it better, you will be rewarded — new scenes will emerge, the dialog gets better, the stakes get higher — and you will be so grateful for the experience. And those fries… yes, I miss them, but it’s not the end of the world. (and I really started giving up sugar last week, and so far I’ve lost three pounds).
Holy cowbell, 3 pounds already?? Good for you, Rachel! I love this post (even though I’m late to the party) ~ it’s hard to look honestly at the areas in our life where we want to be AMAZING and realize we have to work harder to get there.
I’m in that area myself. I just hired a book coach to help me be accountable for the next few months. Between that and a few sessions with the therapist, I ought to break through to the other side of this memoir.
All we can do is our best, eh?
Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for stopping by. You bring up another really great point, which is that we also need to be realistic about asking for help. Part of the reason I announced this to the world is now all my friends know what I’m trying to accomplish and I’ve received so many encouraging words. I do help your book coach and therapist give you the guidance and feedback that you need. Kristen says We Are Not Alone, I like to add: We Are All In This Together.
Hi Rachel! I am cheering you on as you fight to get fit. You can do it gal! I am so into eating good food. I haven’t eaten sugar in years. I use stevia for a sweetener and organic foods as much as I can find. Balance is such a key thing here. And Louise is right. Watch the grains, they turn into sugar. I have a tendency to partake of the grain. I’m also trying to eat more raw foods which digest better in our system. I can imagine all the wonderful fresh locally grown Hawaiian fruits and veggies that are available to you. Enjoy! 🙂