Seeing how far you’ve come …

[This blog post first appeared on LearnHowToWriteANovel.com in April 2018]

When you’re driving, there is one thing you do that really helps you navigate the way ahead. And to do it, it involves looking back.

It’s when you look in the rearview mirror.

That little mirror gives you a glimpse into where you’ve come from, what’s behind you, or what you might be coming up that you’ll need to deal with.

And when you’re on a journey, it can show you how far you’ve come.

I decided on Day 1 of my fiction writing journey that I was going to deliberately look in the rearview mirror periodically to see how far I’d come. That the journey ahead was so daunting that it would be good to stay grounded in the progress I’d made. (You see, my fiction writing journey piles thousands of miles on top of the usual roadblocks of agent emails, publisher proposals and elevator pitches at conferences. I’m in Australia. My marketplace is in America.)

As writers, we take knocks all the time, and those cracks in our armor can allow the doubt to seep in. Taking a moment to look back and see how far you’ve come is one way to brush off that doubt, pick yourself up and keep going. It’s worked for me.

So in the past few years my occasional glances in the rearview mirror have proven useful when:

  • I’d submitted to a competition but not progressed very far. It was daunting to take that feedback on board, and disappointing to be out of the running, but instead of feeling “I can’t write” it helped me realize that as much as I had a ways to go, I had come a ways already.
  • I had received a knockback from someone in the industry. Those rejections felt soul-crushing at the time, but a look in the rearview mirror a little later revealed it wasn’t the right opportunity.
  • I hit a roadblock in my story. That extra time needed to sort out that plot point or troublesome character felt like a problem at time, but in the rearview mirror it was clear it needed time to percolate properly.

I have just signed a deal with HarperCollins Christian Publishing for my debut novel.

Now while that’s super exciting, it’s also daunting in the amount of work that’s still to be done in the lead-up to the launch of The Baggage Handler in March 2019.

I will continue to sneak a look in the rearview mirror if and when I get a negative review, or sales aren’t going as I thought they might, or when I present ideas for the next book. And it will show me just how far I’ve come. That’s something to be thankful for.

So I would encourage you to occasionally look at where you’ve come from. Writing is hard, as evidenced in the number of people who tell me they’ll write a book one day but never do. Sneaking a look in the rearview mirror to see how far you’ve come might help keep you going for just that little bit longer, and help you navigate the way ahead.

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