I’ve been working with my daughter to adopt a growth mindset for over a year now. Rather than banning the words “I can’t,” I encouraged her to add the word YET whenever I noticed something was challenging for her. (Examples: This word is hard; I can’t say it YET. I can’t button my sweater YET.) Adding the word yet is an act of courage. It shows something is a work in progress. It says, I’m haven’t arrived, but I’m going to keep trying. Why have a defeatist attitude when you can have a positive one?
Whenever I think of the word yet, Michael Bublé’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” plays in my head. While Bublé’s song is about someone who is looking for love, it reminds me that everything you want will eventually happen.
I think of myself as a glass half-full kind of person. However, by the end of last year, I found myself frustrated with part of my writing life. I came clean about it in November when I admitted being stuck. I got back to my fiction writing, but I was less than pleased with my efforts for two reasons:
- I haven’t been able to devote the kind of time I’d like to devote to picture book writing.
- I have to prioritize when and how often I work on my picture book writing. When I was doing my best work, I was writing or revising my manuscripts daily. However, I wasn’t devoting enough time to writing Craft Moves, my forthcoming professional book. I want to meet my July 15th deadline to my Stenhouse editor so I scaled back my work on my picture book writing in September. Further, there haven’t been enough hours in the day, since I’ve been prepping for several staff development workshops I’m leading this winter. Finally, I have four other jobs that need my time and attention: mother, wife, daughter, and friend.
- I haven’t received any interest from the agents I queried during the summer and fall of 2014.
- I thought I was over the rejections I received from the manuscript I sent out last year. In December, during a Google Hangout with my writing critique group*, I realized I wasn’t. Perhaps it’s because I think that particular picture book’s manuscript is really good. (My kind critique group members, who worked tirelessly to help me hone it, agree.)
Recently, I watched a Headspace video about effort that I related to my struggle as a writer.
After I watched this video, I started thinking more about writing than meditation. I began to ask myself: How can I try to enjoy my life as a writer? I realized that enjoying the writing I was doing might be more important than getting published. Early last week, I read an article about writing goals on Throwing Up Words, which made me realize I need to do the following things — stat:
- I need to work on my picture book writing daily. Writing picture books can’t be a reward after I finish my professional writing, consulting work, blog posts, etc. Instead, I need to work on my manuscripts daily, not just a few days a week, if I’m going to hone my craft and feel fulfilled as a writer.
- I must allow myself to write more cruddy first drafts. Often I wait until I get things just-right in my head before I put them on paper. No more! If Anne Lammott says it’s okay to write sh*tty first drafts, then it’s okay.
- I need to change my perspective. Instead of saying, “I will sell at least one manuscript to an agent this year,” I need to say, “I will write three good picture book manuscripts this year.” While I’d like both to be true, setting an attainable goal seems like a healthier way to think help me enjoy my writing life.
I also realized if I make a better effort to enjoy the journey towards publication, then the timeline isn’t as important. (In 2013, I promised myself I’d have a picture book published by the time I turn 40. Seeing as 40 is getting closer, I nixed my arbitrary deadline last month since I realized it was ridiculous!) Eventually, it will happen. If I stick with writing picture books, which I love to do, then someday I will publish one (or two or three). I just haven’t published one yet.
I’ll close with some words from Professor Ruth Chang, who wrote “Resolving to Create a New You” in this past Sunday’s New York Times. I think her words are relevant for me and for anyone who is looking to live by one little word this year.
So in this new year, let’s not do the same old, same old; let’s not resolve to work harder at being the selves that we already are. Instead, let’s resolve to make ourselves into the selves that we can commit to being.
I’d love to know:
- How do you use the word YET to help you work toward long-term goals?
- What’s your One Little Word will you live by this year?
*Speaking of my writing critique group, I want to take a moment to thank them publicly. Catherine Flynn, Julie Burchstead, and Melanie Meehan have supported me as a writer for the past seven months. Their candid comments and e-mails with writing nudges have helped me so much. (Margaret Simon recently joined our group and I’m sure she’ll help me grow as a writer too!) These women hold me accountable as a writer since they expect me to not only show up for them, but to have something to present every other Sunday. Thank you for keeping me going and for reminding me I haven’t gotten there yet.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).