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You Still Have to Lift

My barista and I have an ongoing conversation. Every morning, we pick up where we left off the day before, talking about writing while she pulls espresso shots. While she’s never tried to write a book, she told me one day that she’s often thought about doing NaNoWriMo, and we discussed how getting through the very first first draft is often the greatest challenge. "If I keep telling myself I'll do it one day, maybe that'll work," she joked. I shrugged. "Hey, positive thought is an important part of the process. You have to believe you're going to do it, right?" "True," she said. "But sometimes I think that's the problem."

My barista and I have an ongoing conversation. Every morning, we pick up where we left off the day before, talking about writing while she pulls espresso shots. While she’s never tried to write a book, she told me one day that she’s often thought about doing NaNoWriMo, and we discussed how getting through the very first first draft is often the greatest challenge.

"If I keep telling myself I'll do it one day, maybe that'll work," she joked.

I shrugged. "Hey, positive thought is an important part of the process. You have to believe you're going to do it, right?"

"True," she said. "But sometimes I think that's the problem."

I-heart-band-novel-cover
michelle-schusterman-author-writer

Column by Michelle Schusterman, who writes books for kids, screenplays for a
TV/film production company, and music for anyone who’d buy a “groove matters”
bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and
chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). The first two books in her MG series
I HEART BAND (Penguin/Grosset) were released Janurary 9, 2014.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

She grinned. "When I was little, I had this sleepover party. One of the girls said that if one of us lay flat on the floor, and the rest of us put just two fingers underneath her, it was possible for us to lift her off the ground with just those fingers."

"So one girl lay on the floor and the rest of us sat around her and slid our fingers between her and the floor," she continued. "And we all just sat there, focusing, like she was going to magically levitate. The girl who told us about this in the first place starting laughing. 'But you have to actually try to lift her!' she said. 'You still have to lift!'"

(Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

I'm a big believer in positive thought. I have a hard time writing when my head is in a particularly negative place. And I really do feel like I have to believe I'm going to reach my goals if it's going to happen. Back in 2007 when I first decided I wanted to write fiction, I kept a little piece of paper that said I will be a published author in my pocket every single day. It was sort of a reaffirmation thing, a reminder that this wasn't just something I wanted, it was something I was going to do.

And that's all well and good, but that conversation with my barista made me realize something. That little piece of paper isn't the reason I'm a published author. The reason is because I wrote a book. And another. And another. I queried agents, I went on submission, I went through years of rejection. I kept writing. I did the lifting.

Chances are pretty good you know someone who's said "Oh, I always wanted to write a book." There are tons of people out there who want to be authors, who maybe even feel confident that it will happen for them some day, because they've got an idea for a story. But they'll never sit down to write that story. It’ll always just be an idea.

Positive thought is so important. But at some point, you still have to lift.

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

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