Peace and The Great Myth of Falling Behind

I was at a writing conference a few years ago, and being a first-time author, I took in every recommendation the top-tier writer’s and editors suggested. During the last day of the conference, I had the opportunity to pitch my story to roughly 60 literary agents in a speed dating format—authors were allocated three minutes per agent to sell their stories. Man was I prepared. I had my elevator speech ready, a well-thought out hook, a pitch sheet that followed all the published guidelines, a polished website, an Instagram account, a Facebook page, and was blogging once a week. All the boxes I knew of were checked and I was so thrilled. While waiting in the cues, I practiced my tag line in my head and when it was my turn to sit opposite the first agent, I successfully gave my pitch. I’ll never forget what he said next.

“You’re only blogging once a week? That won’t get you anywhere. You need to be posting useful content everyday otherwise you will never build an audience. How many followers do you have on social media?” Before I could answer, he went on to say, “Not nearly enough, I’m guessing, due to your lackluster posting habits.” When the three-minute buzzer went off, I stood and walked away feeling that despite my efforts and preparation, I was way behind.

Once back at home, I regrouped and doubled my efforts. I divided time between daily story writing and editing, newsletters, Facebook and Instagram posts, blogging, speaking engagements and even spent an entire weekend to write a summer blog series to increase my online following, in the spirit of “catching up.” I was frazzled and tired, but at least I wasn’t behind, right?

It wasn’t very long before the steady stream of creative energy I’d always enjoyed, waned. My daily story writing became challenging, and instead of being focused and energized during my favorite part of the process—developing my heroes and creating their story world— I found myself staring at blank pages. I figured this was just a lull in creative flow and it would pass.

Weeks went by, but instead of getting better, my writing lulls worsened to the point where I started dreading the time I used to love. Luckily the pilot part of my brain intervened, and jetted into problem solving mode.

After making a detailed list of how I was budgeting my creative mojo, I realized that I’d been lured into setting impossible and unrealistic goals. Yes, I had noble intentions, but I failed to ask a few important questions. First, where is this place I was sprinting to get to and second, who was I trying to catch up to?

Once I answered, honestly answered, these questions, I realized how narrow and out of balance my current game plan seemed, and how I was exhausting my creative energy chasing the likes of there’s-only-a-single-path-to-literary-success ghost.

Is it important to post on social media? Of course. Is it necessary to reach out and build a following for your writing platform? Absolutely. But not at the expense of the passion that drives your creative flow.

Currently, I post on social media Monday through Friday and blog every other week. While in the middle of writing a new story, I limit speaking engagements, suspend newsletter issues, and put my flying on hold. Once my story goes into editing, then I use the spare time to focus on marketing and researching the next story idea, getting up in the air and giving my creative tank the opportunity to refill and even expand. The blank page days are rare and the giddiness I feel in anticipation of writing has returned tenfold. I’m not behind, I’m floating in the current of my inherent creative flow.

E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Makers/Coming Soon: The Surge
I am enough, I do enough, I’m on my own path, there’s no need to compare.
I’m exactly where I need to be.
aka The Glamorous Wife

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