How to Move to the Next Stage in Your Creative Career Sooner

by | Creating | 10 comments

“Our job in life is not to be successful, but to be faithful.” — Billy Graham

Image courtesy of wiangya at

Image courtesy of wiangya at

You have a dream or calling. You have failures and too few successes. You harbor resistance and discouragement. You ask yourself, “Will I ever be a __________?”

My question was: Will I ever be an author?” Instead of God dropping at my feet everything I needed to succeed, He grew me in several stages. Most likely, you’re in the right stage now. But if you understand how stages work, perhaps you could move to the next stage sooner than you think.

All Stages Have Steps in Common

Image courtesy of samuiblue at

Image courtesy of samuiblue at

1. You have an image of what success should look like.

2. You try something. Let’s call it Something Now.

3. You get lazy when Something Now gets hard or doesn’t succeed.

4. You feel guilty for procrastinating and try a modification of Something Now: Something Else.

5. You get better at Something Else and enjoy a success.

6. You notice different facets of Something Else and have the urge to know more.

7. You think, “Now, I’m on the fast track!”

Image courtesy of hin255 at

Image courtesy of hin255 at

8. You look ahead and see what experts say is a necessity for success: Necessity. You think:

a. Necessity requires way too much work.

b. Doing Necessity takes all the fun out of the art.

c. I’m good enough at Necessity.

9. You become proficient at Something Else, but you’re not moving forward.

10. You think, “Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this work.”

11. You reconsider Necessity, grudgingly or hopefully.

12. You learn more about Necessity and begin to embrace it.

13. Bam! You’re in the next stage.

The next stage works similarly to the last stage. A caution: If you jump to a Necessity two or more stages ahead, you may become overwhelmed and experience a setback. After I attended a marketing session as a novice writer, I stopped writing for a short time.

Example: My Stage 3

Image courtesy of anankkml at

Image courtesy of anankkml at

Before Stage 3, I stacked up partial, bad manuscripts. Then, I self-published two books of short stories. I had some non-monetary success. So I finished Novel 1, an inspirational historical romance, and secured an agent. The novel was rejected. That’s when I entered Stage 3.

  • I pictured a novel on a bookstore shelf with my name on it. So, I switched to the inspirational romantic suspense genre.
  • Novel 2’s rejection letter said the idea was good but my writing was substandard.
  • Although I’d just retired to write fulltime, I redecorated our house.Remodel
  • Finally, I listened to my guilt and wrote Novel 3.
  • I improved my grammar, sentence structure, and other “surface” writing.
  • I received better scores on contest submissions than for the prior two novels.
  • I was on my way!
  • Novel 3’s rejection letter said the idea was good, but the balance among the spiritual, suspense, and romance elements was lacking.
  • On an author email loop, experienced authors mentioned classes and books on plot and characterization. Studying these seemed overwhelming and no fun. I would simply try harder.
  • Novel 4’s rejection letter was a repeat of Novel 3’s. I struggled to rise above my doubts about God’s calling on my life.
  • We moved away to a remote community. I read writing craft books and went to conferences and workshops. I wrote and reworked the plot and the characters of Novel 5, an inspirational romance.
  • Bam! I moved to Stage 4, where I received a contract on Novel 5, Calculated Risk.

In Stage 4 I started Novel 6. With novel 5 coming out, I grudgingly no longer resisted learning social media and marketing.

What is the activity in the next stage of your creative career that you’re resisting?

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  1. Donna B. Snow

    Great post! Seems I hover in many of those stages…small successes, but not enough time to pursue what it takes to get further. As God leads me…

  2. Zoe M. McCarthy

    “As God leads you…” is always best, Donna. :0)

  3. Jane Foard Thompson

    It’s been a long journey! Now I’m determined and working hard, but it seems like everything conspires to keep me from moving forward (like my laptop hard drive crashed, containing the only copies of the perfect photos my husband took for my first blog post). But I’m at that place now where I won’t give up. It’s good to know the journey is an important part of the process. Thanks!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thank you, Jane, for reblogging this post.

  4. Sandra Ardoin

    Enjoyed it, Zoe. It seems the keys to taking the next step are perseverance and being willing to learn.

  5. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Sandra, you summed it up nicely. Thanks.

  6. Anita

    What a great post. Thanks, Zoe. I saw myself in everyone of those stages. I’m still struggling with social media and marketing, but I’ll get there. Blessings, Anita

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Anita, your attitude is the one we need, especially about social media and marketing. We’ll get there. I think stages are within stages as well. That’s helping me in my approach to social media and marketing.

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