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

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

Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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?

4 Ways to Free Yourself from Procrastination in Your Creative Endeavors

“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” –Victor Kiam

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We don’t plan to procrastinate. We want to fulfill our obligations and move forward. But too often we don’t.

Let’s face it. Procrastination is a weird kind of selfishness, because it robs others and us of benefits and joy.

Fear is often the root of procrastination. What are we so afraid of?

  • Fear the work isn’t the right thing to do
  • Fear the work will be overwhelming
  • Fear we don’t know how to do the work right
  • Fear we’ll abandon the work

If these fears muck up our minds, we need to do something about what we allow in our thoughts. 

4 Ways to Free Yourself from Procrastination

mp900398793.jpg1. Prevention. Take a half hour and list:

  • what you like to do,
  • what you’re good at,
  • what you believe in,
  • what challenges you in a good way, and
  • what you’re called to do.

For help, see 4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance. Let’s call this list your Character Manifesto. Be honest.

Remember, work ends up on our plates because we say yes to someone’s request or our eyes light up at some work that looks interesting, noble, or lucrative. So, stop before committing to anything and ask yourself: Does my Character Manifesto support this job? If it doesn’t, it’s likely not the right thing to do. So, say no thank you, or think and pray about it before committing.

You’re less likely to procrastinate on work associated with items on your Character Manifesto.

id-10055355.jpg2. Planning. Once you’ve committed to a wise number of right projects, you can prevent them from looming. Even if you dislike planning, you can jot down what projects are due in the next few months. And under each project, what tasks need to be accomplished. Then decide what tasks you need to get done next week.

I can’t stress this enough: assign a sufficient block of time for each task. You already know your most likely interruptions, so wisely plan that block of time around them. Then forget about all tasks except the one assigned for the current block of time.

You know all tasks have been assigned a block of your time, so you can relax and actually look forward to and enjoy your next task.

mp900442329.jpg3. Permission. Now that you’ve assigned sufficient time on your schedule for the right jobs, you need to address niggling thoughts you may fail at doing them right.

Train your thinking. Give yourself permission to ask for help when needed. That’s so smart. To view the task as an adventure. That’s so fun. To realize failure can be a great learning experience for the next attempt. That’s so freeing.

Who better to do the task than you: it fits your Character Manifesto, you’ll get needed help, and you’ll look forward to hindsight if your adventure turns out different than planned.

mp900401598.jpg4. Accountability. You’ve scheduled the right jobs and have given yourself permission to enjoy the work and accept the outcomes. Yet, you fear disappointing people if you get bogged down in other things and fail to finish projects.

Turn your fear into constructive action. Create or join an accountability group that has no investments in your projects.

Your accountability partners have little concern about the success of your projects. They expect you to complete what you determined were the right things to do. Your weekly reports to your group should show them you planned well and worked as planned.

Members can help you look at your pressures and problems more objectively and make suggestions to get you back on track. Plus, they’ll cheer you on.

Having accountability partners helps you to plan well and do what you planned to do.

What works for you to give procrastination the boot?

 

4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance

“We know that … perseverance [produces] character; and character, hope.” —Romans 5:3-4

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Our character is what gains others’ trust. Perseverance is the mettle of our character. But persevering can be harsh.

It doesn’t have to be. Persevering is hard work, but through our choices we can embrace it.

4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance

sweep.jpg1. Choose to do what you love. My daughter-in-law emailed me that my almost 3-year-old grandson helped Daddy shovel snow. He helped for 1½ hours and didn’t want to stop.

I know children. I know they beg to help with a project and after ten minutes find ways to slink away. So I asked my husband what made our grandson shovel snow with Daddy for 1½ hours. John said, “Because he loves it.”

Immediately, I recalled my grandson finding the Swiffer Sweeper in our pantry and running it over our hardwood floors for long periods. At the LEGO KidsFest Virginia, he was the only child getting in line over and over to roll the rug sweeper over spilled LEGOs.

Even an almost 3-year-old can persevere at what he loves to do.

snail-worker.jpg2. Choose to do what you believe in. During my actuarial career, my director gave me free reign to implement an idea I had (2 Ways You Know Your Activity Is a Success). Then our division reorganized. One of my staff and I reported to a different director. The new director promised the idea was a priority; however, he constantly pulled us to other projects. I believed the idea was the right thing to do for the company. I worked on the project whenever I could and had resources available, which wasn’t often.

After one year, another reorganization returned me to my prior director. She gave me four people to make my idea happen. But then we received resistance from another division vital to the project’s success. Because I believed in the idea, I designed a way to gain their trust that helped them. After a year, we were up and running. The project improved our company’s position. After I retired, the director of the resisting area offered me a consultant position to implement the idea at a sister company. I chose to write stories and novels.

I persevered because I believed the idea was right for the company.

 

MP9001749473. Choose to do what challenges you. In a college math class, the professor assigned one problem for homework. My three roommates worked on the problem for a short time and left for dinner. Not me. I knew I could figure it out.

It was one of those marbles problems. I worked on it all evening until my roommates killed the lights. I reluctantly climbed into my top bunk bed. My mind kept working the problem. Finally, I crawled down from bed, grabbed the papers with my scrawled attempts, and went into the hall. At some wee hour, it dawned on me the solution wasn’t a single answer but a set of cases.

When the professor asked who’d solved the problem, two raised our hands. I waved mine so enthusiastically, he chose me to put it up on the blackboard.

I persevered (and became a math major) because I wanted the challenge.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Choose what you’re called to do. For me, I believe God has called me into relationship with Him and to write. I’ve labored at writing off and on for forty years. Twelve years ago through much prayer, I wrote and self-published two books (5 Reasons I Don’t Care I Lost Money Self-publishing).

Since I signed with an agent, I’ve written five novels. I’ve received my share of rejection letters. I’ve even asked God to remove my desire to write if it wasn’t what He’d have me do. Giving up writing doesn’t seem an option. Recently, I signed a contract for the fifth book I completed.

I persevered because writing is what God laid on my heart.

What helps you persevere in what you do?