Dangerous Curves Ahead

You hear a lot in writing circles in regards to the pursuit of publication—just persevere. Keep at it. You’ll get there.

DangerousCurvesI heard this a lot when I was going for my ultimate job in nursing. I really wanted to be a flight nurse. After I got the required experience, I began the application process—something like seven interviews later I still didn’t have a flight nursing position.

I’ve spent lots of time theorizing why and I still would love to do this job, but in my heart I think it’s not going to happen. It’s just not God’s will for my life no matter how much I desire it.

It may not be popular to talk about quitting the pursuit of publicaton on a writing blog. But then ER nurses rarely do what’s popular—we do what’s necessary. I was pursuing flight nursing when I was supposed to be serving God writing. Maybe you’re pursuing publication when God has another dream for your life that will impact people more than what you’re pursuing right now.

But just how do you know? I’ve been obsessed with learning God’s will. I often say I wish I’d wake up with a gold note card on my pillow with the answer, but it is never that easy.

TheDipAll truth is God’s truth no matter who writes it. Isn’t that an amazing statement? I think I found some of God’s truth in a little (literally—it’s seventy-six half-size pages) book called The Dip by Seth Godin.

In the beginning, he makes some pretty profound statements. The phrase all of us learned, “Quitters never win and winners never quit,” is profoundly wrong. Godin says winners quit all the time.

“They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

The trouble is telling the difference. The dip refers to the process of learning when you’re taking on a new project you’re excited about—like novel writing. The dip is that moment you wonder why you started to write the book. You don’t think you can pull it off. You’ll never finish it.

If you can push through these moments of the learning process, then extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

But, Godin states, the opposite is also true. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny minority with the guts to quit early and focus their efforts on something new.

Again—it’s telling the difference.

To help, Godin discusses three curves.

1. The Dip: The valley of learning. Successful people don’t just ride out the dip. They lean into it. Push harder—changing the rules as they go. Part of knowing you’re on the right path is that you do get small amounts of positive reinforcement along the way. You final in a contest but maybe don’t win it all. You get positive comments from an agent and/or editor.

2. The Cul-de-Sac: This is where you work and work and nothing much changes. For me in my nursing career—I have never gotten any promotion I ever applied for—in twenty years! Honestly, you would think I was the worst nurse ever. I’m actually a very strong nurse but something has kept me stuck. If that hadn’t happened I would have never pursued publication where the doors opened much easier for me. But perhaps this is the pursuit of publication for you. You’re in the cul-de-sac.

3. The Cliff: It’s a situation you can’t quit until you fall off and the whole thing falls apart. The example Seth gives here is cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are highly addicting, but you do get a good feeling even though it’s detrimental to you—which, in the case of smoking, could be lung cancer and then death.

Godin hypothesizes that The Cliff and The Cul-de-Sac both lead to failure and it’s best to quit these pursuits early and move on to the thing you’d be successful at. That thing for which going through the dip would be worth it.

I would never tell anyone to stop writing—ever. Writing is a creative outlet that soothes the soul and spirit. It can ease tension, stress and frustration because spilled words on the page is cathartic. But—the pursuit of publication is a whole other animal. It takes time, money, resources, and sleep.

And perhaps God is calling you to do something else.

What dream have you had where you’ve persevered through the dip and had great success? On the flip side—is there something you’re pursuing that perhaps you are considering quitting and why? Good things to think through.

All italics are quotes from Seth’s book. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
This blog first appeared at Seekerville. I hope you’ll check it out!

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6 thoughts on “Dangerous Curves Ahead

  1. I have been caught in this whirlwind of career choices ever since I graduated, 3 years ago.. I have applied to countless jobs but haven’t gotten very far. After the second year, I took upon writing this novel I’d been nursing for a while.
    And suddenly, I found a meaning. I’m now working on my 2nd draft and have everything crossed that when the time comes, publication will come easier than all those unanswered CVs. Maybe that is what I am supposed to do…
    Thank for sharing your thoughts on this book. I might have to buy it. 🙂

  2. Jordyn, this is an inspiring post—really it is!!! And a very important point. No one wants to waste time on things they were not meant to do. That’s why it’s so important to invite God into the decision-making process—always! However, sometimes he calls us to a pursuit even though His goal is different from ours. For instance, you write medically oriented novels. Would you have done that or done it as well had you not had the desire to become a nurse? Though the career didn’t go where you wanted it to, the training serves your current goal. God is using that! I was a Sociology undergrad and a Counseling grad-student. I used these degrees for a couple of years as intended, but have not made either a long-term career. However, I am infinitely glad for my counselor training as a mom, and use both my Sociology and Psychology training in the development of my characters. Sometimes I think these pursuits were wasted time, but I know giving them to God, He will make use of that time.
    The writing journey is like that. We may have a goal for publication. God may have a goal for connections or experience or personal development that will lead to a whole new avocation all together. The important thing is to be listening to Him all the way, and be prepared to turn away from the expected path when He tells us to.

    • Connie,

      You make very good points here. Definitely, God has used my career in nursing and my medical background in my novels. It’s hard to think about what my writing life would have looked like if I’d never been a nurse.

      Sometimes it’s hard for me not to consider myself a failure in nursing because I didn’t reach my ultimate goal but what you’ve written is something I always need to remind myself.

      God wastes nothing.

      Thank you.

  3. Jordyn, I love the distinction you make between writing and the pursuit of publication. I share that same idea with the people I teach in writer’s workshops. I encourage them to write because it’s a creative practice, but publication is a business, so they need to be informed about the industry if they want to become a part of it.

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