Looking Up the Ladder

Nearly five years ago, a debilitating back injury shifted my focus and changed the trajectory of my life. The whole story of my transition from injured runner to aspiring writer is one I still marvel at today. You can read about it HERE. Though it was a painful and difficult time for me, there was an unexpected silver lining.

As a result of that injury, I got back into writing again. I am working on becoming a published novelist. Since I’ve published extensively on my own online platforms, other people’s online platforms, and a print magazine, I consider myself an author.

Now I’m climbing the ladder to the next level.

It’s been nearly two years since I started my first novel and nearly three years since I came up with the idea. After fiddling around for about eighteen months, I got serious this spring and summer and wrote about 30K words, bringing me up to just over 60K.

I’m stuck in the mud right now because I did not outline my novel (never again). Instead, I was a “pantser”, writing by the seat of my pants without having the end in mind. Because of this, it’s a bit of a wandering mess right now. However, that’s what editing is for.

My professional editor friend advised me to press on. She told me to get the manuscript done, then go back and make changes. She’s written some of her own books and edits for a living, so she knows. Another writer friend advised me the same way. Don’t get distracted–get it done. Then the work of editing will begin. I’ll slice and dice the thing to ribbons in order to improve it once I finish a messy first draft.

Ever so slowly, I am heeding the advice of my friends to press on and complete the work instead of circling back now and trying to overhaul it. I’m reading books on creativity and listening to writing podcasts too. I need to fill my toolbox with the wisdom of others if I hope to succeed. In short:

Learn from those who are where you want to be.

The advice of experienced people who have walked the road from first draft to published product have wisdom to offer. As someone hoping to forge a path to success, it would be folly to ignore them and succumb to discouragement. They’ve navigated the route already and want to help me avoid undue aggravation.

Instead of looking at successful people and feeling discouraged that I am far from my goals, I like to “look up the ladder” instead. Each of us must start on the bottom rung, climbing (and stumbling) our way up. Our ascent may be quick at times. Other times, it may be fraught with obstacles and failures.

Returning to the ladder and looking up invigorates me. It shows me what is possible when you persist. I was listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast a few weeks ago when her guest was Emily Kimelman. Kimelman’s story of her writing journey was inspiring, right down to the detail of living full-time in an Airstream. This is my exact dream–writing from an Airstream.

I’ll admit, I briefly indulged in envy at hearing about Kimelman’s life, which in many ways mirrors the dreams I have for my own. But I quickly redirected, thinking that such a life is possible for me too after hearing her story. Even though I am way down here on the low part of the ladder.

Gleaning wisdom and practical advice from those who are in the know is part of my own writing journey. Their knowledge becomes my own. What to do, what to avoid, what to look for–all things I can learn by looking up the ladder at others who are ahead of me on the road to their goals.

In thinking about your own goals, seek out people you know or people you research who have achieved the things you’d like to. Draw on their wisdom and experiences to help inform your own strategy and actions. While you will still have your own unique journey, you’ll also have encouragement and sound advice.

The best part? You will someday have someone looking up the ladder at you. Share your hard-earned experiences with them. Listen to their dreams and frustrations. Be a patient ear and remember where you came from. It’s a wonderful cycle to be a part of.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.

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