Sunday, July 29, 2007

Celebrating the Steps

by Tawny Weber

We've Bandita's have had a lot to celebrate lately. Golden Heart wins & finals, Contest successes, and the big whohoooo's -- Sales!

I'm going to guess there have been celebrations for those biggies. I used to go out to dinner and have a margarita for every contest win, I kept all my certificates from finals and scrapbooked them (as well as my GH ribbons for each final, along with a picture of the big screen), and not only did I have a huge family celebration when I sold (complete with a trip to Build A Bear Workshop... really!) I had a fun party to celebrate my debut. I'm all about the celebrations.

But what about those steps, those events that aren't exactly champagne and roses worthy (and really... aren't they???)? The finishing a manuscript - whether it's your first or tenth? Contest finals, editor or agent requests? Getting a good review, hearing from readers, sending in a proposal? Each of these are steps on the path to success. But sometimes these steps are easy to ignore, to shrug off.

I think part of it, at least for me, ends up being my avid goal setting. Yes, the little steps count, but I'm always eyeing that goal - the next sale, the next review, the next event. But a year or so ago, right after I'd sold, a very smart lady in my local chapter asked me what I'd done to celebrate my last unpublished contest final. I shrugged and replied, nothing. I'd finaled before, I was more excited about the sale. She pointed out that the finals, the little steps, all helped me reach that sale, and that I should be celebrating every single step.

She's right. Whether it's writing, raising kids, our education... anything. All the big moments are made up of the little steps.

So - how about you? What are your biggies and how do you celebrate the little steps toward achieving them?


Caren Crane said...

Tawny, this is interesting. I figured out long ago that I come from a long line of people who really don't celebrate life's victories enough. I've tried to do better with my kids, but with mixed results.

The mixed results come from my reluctance to cross the line into gross displays, such as limousines in the elementary car pool line for someone's 10th birthday (we had this happen so often the school had to ban them!). Or, limousines and updos for the 8th grade dance (also happens). We even had dads hiring limos to take their (insert age here) daughter to the Girl Scout Father/Daughter dance. It's insane!

So, my husband and I never wanted our children to expect a huge fanfare or think that was acceptable. When my son graduated high school, my family and my mom and stepdad had a nice dinner with his girlfriend and her family at a nice restaurant. Then we went home. No trips to Cancun or family cruises or whatever mania other families were doing.

All the years of hoopla have left a bad taste in my mouth. *g* But we do go to dinner when I finish a manuscript or get a request for a full. And I'm sure there will be a series of dinners with different groups of friends and family when I sell. I tend not to celebrate contest finals, but I think I'll start (if I enter any more, ever *g*).

You're right, Tawny, we should make a bigger deal of things--even in a small way. I'll have to think about that. If it's more than baking a cake, I tend to flounder!

Anonymous said...

Great post Tawny! My CP and I were talking about this the other day, and we were noting that the hard thing about writing is that you're constantly moving the bar higher on yourself, so it's easy to forget to celebrate the successes as they come. The first time I finaled in a contest it was a HUGE deal. Now, I forget which contests I've entered, and am pleased, but rarely celebrate, if I final.

My nonchalance about my successes drives my husband crazy. He definitely wants to celebrate milestones, like when I got an agent, or signed my first short story contract. But I've always got my eyes on another prize (I want to sell a book, darn it!). He tells me that when I do sell, I won't even want to celebrate then, because I'll be wanting to see my sell-through numbers and setting my sights on getting on a bestseller list. (snort)

But I am not advocating this way of thinking!! It's incredibly important to celebrate along the way and I need to pay more attention to that. Not just for me, but for all those people who support me in this crazy writing game.

Thanks for reminding me to stop and smell the roses, Tawny! Maybe I will have that sundae tonight afterall! :-)

Tawny said...

Kirsten -get two cherries on that Sundae... you deserve them!

But, I'm like you - after the prize is always in mind, and as soon as I earn one, I shoot for a higher one. My first year in RWA, my goal was to get my PRO pin, then it was to win contests, then it was to get an agent (always with the underlying goal of selling). Like you, after awhile the contest calls telling me I won shifted from screams of OMGOMGOMG happy dances to OH, COOL, THANKS. My editor even mentioned that I didn't scream when I sold (I still haven't told her she woke me from a dead sleep, screaming just doesn't happen before my brain is in gear) so when she called to tell me my Blaze had hit the number one slot for its month... boy did I scream.

And celebrate. Not major--no limo's Caren *g*--but I had drinks with friends.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

The first time I finaled in a contest, was the Harlequin Intrigue. My husband woke me, (I'd worked the night before), and asked me if I'd entered a contest in Nebraska. Nebraska? No....but I opened the envelope and OMG. The next thing he knew I was jumping up and down screaming and smacking him on the shoulder. I was one of 3 finalists. I knew I'd won cash of some sort. I figured I was third place.

I had to have a notarized statement saying the work was original and a bio and a picture. All returned to the contest organizers within 10 days! Ten days? I had to get my hair done, etc.

Then the letter came saying I'd won. I'd won the whole blooming contest out of 700 entrants! I'd won $1000! OMG! More jumping up and down, hubby stood a few feet away this time. Calling the friends. More screaming.

The next day my critique partners and I started a new tradition, which has carried over to a few other local friends. We meet at the local Cozymels for Margaritas and appetizers. We spend all afternoon celebrating the sell or a big win. When Sandy Blair sold the first Kilt book. There we were! When Jo Davis sold her firefighter series. There we were!

I'd like to say I celebrate every contest final with at least jumping up and down and screaming...okay, the GH finals last year achieved that level of celebration, but I know when I sale, (NOTE I said WHEN), I'll be at Cozymels with a Margarita in hand.

Funny thing is, a group of writer friends were sitting around the bar at Nationals, (aren't we always?), and someone said they'd just finished their first manuscript. I asked, "Wasn't it great to type THE END?" She, along with several people, looked at me like I was crazy. I asked, "Don't you guys write THE END?" They all said no, that they were just happy it was done.

When I finish a book, I type THE END. Then I pull out a bottle of wine and toast a major accomplishment.

We have to remember. Thousands of people start books, few finish them. When we do, we've accomplished something. Always type THE END

Tawny said...

OMG Caren - limo's really? Wow... too crazy. How do they appreciate the REALLY big things then. I just can't imagine...

When our daughter graduated hs, we had a party. Nothing major, but had a nice dinner here at the house after the ceremony and a BBQ for the family who'd come to town to participate the next day. But... we have a lot of parties anyway LOL, so it was a good excuse.

I totally agree with what you're saying. Sometimes the celebration is as simple as a happy dance or a big hug. Or bake a cake!

Tawny said...

Suz said "We have to remember. Thousands of people start books, few finish them. When we do, we've accomplished something. Always type THE END"


Its symbolic, if nothing else. Its empowering and exciting and fabulous.

I love how you celebrate. Not only are you acknowlinging all the great points, you're doing it with friends! People who really get it :-) YAY!!!!!

jo robertson said...

Good topic, Tawny. I think we writers are especially vulnerable to NOT celebrating the benchmarks along our roads to success because we're always aiming for the big prize of publication.

I remember beginning three or four books and stopping about half-way through each one. I'd gotten stalled, gotten bored, or just plain gotten lazy -- translate life interferring. Finally, I told myself I'd FINISH a decent manuscript, and when I did -- viola -- it won the Golden Heart.

I like to celebrate my tiny successes with a fully-loaded and properly chilled PEPSI in a champagne glass!!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Tawny, this is a great topic! It's nice to have a traditional way of celebrating life's victories. My husband's way better at this than I am. When I tell him good news, he always comes home with flowers.

Now me, on the other hand...well, y'all are going to think I'm a complete weirdo (uh, because I am?) but when good things happen I generally burst into tears. Yup, I totally lose it. It's happened every time I've typed "The End" and every time I've received a phone call telling me I've finalled in a contest. The contest coordinator is usually left shaking her head, LOL.

And when bad things happen I'm inclined to tough it out and turn it into a celebration of sorts. Last week I got a really depressing rejection, so I took myself out to lunch and ordered a glass of excellent champagne. Twisted, right? *g*

I think it's my way of saying "Ha ha, you can't hurt me. I'll show you!" It might not be a very grown-up reaction but it works for me. ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

I'm loving all these responses. Thanks for asking the question, Tawny, and also for pointing out that we have to enjoy the journey. My very dear friend and critique partner Annie West who writes for Harlequin Presents and I made a deal in the very dark days when we thought we'd never sell, not in a million years. Whenever one of us sells a book, she has to take the other one out for a really snazzy lunch. And that's what we do - so far we've had a lovely time exploring the wonderful restaurants around Sydney Harbour so if any of you come to visit, you know I've got great places to take you ;-)

Trish Milburn said...

One of the biggest prezzies to myself for milestones is dinner out or at least nice takeout. That's because cooking isn't one of my favorite things to do. And for big milestones, my cps and I get together for lunch. We're doing that this week sometime to celebrate my GH win, Annie's RITA win and my sale. We may eat everything in the place!

Joan said...

I squeal!!

That may not sound like a particularly celebratory thing to do but inside that high pitched noise is a swirling vortex of happiness, pride, awe, neurosis (are they sure they meant MY mss?) and general excitement.

Today I'm celebrating a final in PASIC'S Book of Your Heart contest. (As is Bandita Kirsten for YA) My chapter had an "extra" rose at the meeting yesterday and gave it to me.

I've been looking at the one, overbloomed flower stuck in a AquaFina bottle ever since yesterday. And every time I do, my heart swells with satisfaction.

And yes, Suz I type THE END everytime.....

Caren Crane said...

Congratulations Joan and Kirsten! Contest finals are still nice, but I do have to remind myself they are a big deal. I hate to think I've become a bit jaded, but I'm afraid I have. I enjoy the celebrations, but I always expect more of myself.

Kirsten, yes, that bar gets raised all the time, doesn't it? I do have great friends who insist we go out and celebrate everything. Of course, their "things" are making the NYT and new contracts, etc. So, it can be bittersweet at times. I always am thrilled for them, but can't help wondering when it will be my turn.

And Tawny, I may hire a limo to drive me around while I drink champagne one of these days. Maybe I'll have them drive me to KY so Joan can squeal. *g*

Joan said...

LOL, Caren!

I would too! I'd squeal when you were driven up and if you share your champagne, I'll do an Irish step dance in celebration (followed quickly by Ibuprofen and traction)


Keira Soleore said...

Banditas, I'd typed in an unusually witty, clever response yesterday, and I see today that it vanished into the ether. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be wittier and cleverer by far tomorrow. :)

You've got to make sure that Caren gets to ride a limo while swilling champagne to your annual Bandita dinner out at RWA SF.

Suz, heh heh! on the WHEN you SELL. I jumped down one of the bandita's throat (Inara's?) because she said "if" a few days ago.

It's wonderful to see y'all talk about celebrating your successes, large and small. Every few days, there's something cool happening to one of you. What a talented group! Do remember though to mention all your successes here, too, so that we can holler and shout and dance, too, (while Keira keeps on hoping for candid camera shots).

Caren, a huge WOW and a deep bow to your mom. She's amazing. I followed the link from your name to your blog and saw your very cool orange outfit. What a yummy color!!

Christine Wells said...

I'll be celebrating the release of my first book with a launch at Rosemary's Romance Books, which should be great fun, but I tend not to celebrate the small steps. I don't think I even celebrated when I sold, really. We tend to be fairly low-key in my family, which perhaps is not such a good thing. As Caren has said, you need to strike a good balance. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Tawny!

Cher Gorman said...

Hi All,

Hi Joan! (waving)

I must admit I usually don't celebrate. My idea of celebrating is to work that much harder. Even now I'm working on revisions of a ms for BLAZE. Brenda really likes the story and seems to be invested in it but I haven't really celebrated that either. I'm just focused on working and trying to do what she's asked of me in the revision letter. I didn't even celebrate my first e-book contract. I was very excited of course especially after writing for 18 years but I just got right back to work.

My daughter LOVES celebrations so we celebrate her successes for sure.

Hope everyone is having a good day,

Cher Gorman

Beth Andrews said...

So far my celebrations have been small. We had take-out to celebrate my GH win (I didn't want to leave the house *g*) and after I finish a book, the whole family goes out to eat.

But, having said that, I do still try and celebrate each success SOME way even if it's renting a movie and watching it guilt free once I've reached my page count goal for the day :-)

Suzanne Ferrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassondra said...

Wow Tawny!

What a great insight. And I don't. I always say, "well, if only I could _____" Fill in the blank with the larger goal.

And what a shame. It belittles the small goals that I reach on the way.

Thank you for the reminder! My critique partners scream and yell for me and with me, but I don't give myself much slack. (smacks own hand). Something about my background I guess--we, like Caren, don't do a lot of celebrating. Sometimes when small stuff happens I don't even mention it. And what is life if you don't enjoy the process?!

Time for a shift in attitude! Life is made up of the little moments.