Monday, July 28, 2014

The anchors that weigh us down...and how to break free of them

Anchors. We all have them. They can be both physical and mental. Some are so invisible that we don't realize how much they're holding us back. Or even that they're there at all, until they decide to put themselves front and and center. Sort of like this:

In cleaning out my office today, I was faced with an anchor that was both physical and mental--the hefty filing case filled with drafts of the first book I ever wrote. It took up almost the entire bottom half of my bookshelf. 

I love this book with my whole heart. I truly do. But seeing it there, heavy, and sagging, reminded me of how much it weighed down my writing career for a number of years. 

Like many beginning writers, I thought that book was going to be my be all and say all. That if I put the necessary work into it, someone would snatch it up eventually. And because I worked on it for so long, I didn't put much energy into anything else (including honing my craft). 

Of course I queried it too soon, and got a ton of rejections (and surprisingly, some partials). But I still clung to it, even after I realized the idea wasn't marketable, the story structure was too scattered, and most importantly, that the main character didn't jump off the page. 

And finally, last year--at long last, I commanded--"to the trunk with thee." It may come back out eventually, but I've set my energies in other directions. And I'm much happier for it.

I was also reminded of this recently on Janet Reid's blog, when someone asked whether bidding on a critique on their manuscript would hurt their chances with their "dream agent." (And while we're at it, yay Pens for Paws!). In the comments, I said, "Sometimes it's difficult for us writers to remember that the sun doesn't rise and set around one book. But making connections and fostering learning opportunities is always money well spent."

Anchors come in all shapes and sizes. Lingering self-doubt. Low self-perception. A marketing strategy that didn't work. A person from the past who causes you to regress into someone you aren't anymore. A panda bear gnawing your leg. A squirrel grabbing you by the nuts.

And yes, some anchors can be difficult to let go of. But if they hold us down long enough, we'll start to drown. (Not that anchors actually drown things, but they'll definitely keep us stuck in one place).

We have to drop them and figure out what the next course of action is. And remember the bright future that lays ahead. Writing that next book. Or trying a new marketing strategy. Or, if you've lost an agent (or editor), dusting yourself off and moving forward (and writing that next book). 

I posted this video on my blog a few years back, but I think it still applies: 

So now to you. What are your anchors, and how have you broken free of them?


  1. Thanks for the reminder. Moving forward....

  2. No problem, Linda...chugging along over here too...

  3. Yes, so true. I wrote a book recently that I thought was "the one" but after getting reject after reject I realized it has to be trunked along with a couple of others. I loved writing it and someday I might take it out again and revise it but I'm onto new stories. It's difficult to let go but sometimes you have to in order to move on. Thanks!

  4. I recently unshelved my first ms. I so hope it isn't an anchor. I try to be realistic, I think the idea is good, but I know the mc needs work. Character arc? Who needs that? I've decided at a minimum, this will be a good exercise, evaluating a hopefully real improvement in writing skills. If more than minimum, maybe it will catch someone's attention. If so, it will be due to my wonderful critique group as much as an hoped for writing skill on my part!
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  5. I did the same thing with my first MS a few years ago, but it was "to the shredder with thee". BOY was it a weight off my shoulders!!! I will definitely go back to it evenutally, but not having it stare at me all of the time allowed those creative juices to flow again! :)

  6. GSMarlene, go for it! If you feel the creative juices flowing, and you still enjoy the project, by all means. What I've done in that sort of stage is also generate a couple hundred new words a week too--just to keep the writing muscle taut. Good luck!

  7. "To the shredder with thee." Awesome. You are much braver than I, Miss Jessica!


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