Better Writing through Pressure

This past weekend I was so fortunate to get to attend the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference.  Let me first say the conference is listed as one of the best by Writer’s Digest for a reason.  Informative presentations, friendly people and surprising opportunities made this conference an amazing experience.

Early on in the conference, I had an a-ha moment.  One of those moments that make me say “A-ha! Now I get it!”  Surprisingly, it wasn’t about writing, story structure, or character development (although I had lots of those, too.)  No, it was about pressure.

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Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary.When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.  Tommy Lasorda

I signed up for a read and critique session and happened to draw Leis Pederson, who is an Associate Editor at Berkley books.  On Friday, I was so tense about reading my first page to an editor who could make a difference in my life the muscles in my shoulders felt like rocks.  All of a sudden, I realized that most of the pressure I was feeling originated from myself.  My expectations, my plans, my goals.

I wish I could say what exactly triggered my a-ha moment, but I can’t.  It just became so clear that, until I have externally imposed writer-ly deadlines, it’s all coming from me.

There is no such thing as talent.  There is pressure.  Alfred Adler

Pressure is good to have.  I am a firm believer in goal setting because of the pressure inherent in writing down a goal, and creating a plan to attain it.

Pushing yourself to meet that goal, no matter the cost, is not good.

There were people crying at the conference because their pitch sessions didn’t go as they hoped.  I was a nervous wreck because I was placing so much importance on the possibilities that might occur at the conference.  There has to be a balance.  As much as I want to be a success at writing, and would love to have a big enough of a writing career to be able to write books for a living, it is not life and death.

No pressure, no diamonds. Thomas Carlyle

Mr. Lightman/freedigitalphotos

Pressure is a necessary component to success.  If we wait around for things to happen for us, they most likely never will.  One of the speakers I went to, Linda Rohrbough, said “Prepare for success.  You can fail without any effort at all.”  Pressure to succeed is what moves us forward.

Pressure is there to inspire us and make us do our best and achieve our dreams.  Pressure can also stress us out, and create anxiety about the future.  Whether pressure is a positive force or a negative force in our life depends upon our perspective.  The decision is ours.

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29 responses to “Better Writing through Pressure

  1. Hey Lara,

    Amen!

    Pressure can determine what happens – but only if WE let it 🙂 Great post, and it sounds like you had a great time 🙂

  2. JUST the words and advice I wanted to hear, Laura.

    I used to think I worked best on a deadline. I do. To some extent. But, when it comes to a project the length of a novel, I found that I wrote more each day when I was gainfully employed. I had an externally imposed time-frame in which to write.

    Couple that with the fact that I wrote my first two novels when I was in the blissful state of unconcious ignorance. I didn’t know what I didn’t know so I wrote with abandon. Were those novels perfect? Well, if I ignore the stereotypical villain, lack of character arcs, murky turning points, and linear plot, they were perfect.

    I am now back to writing with abandon–with internally imposed and externally monitored write forward goals. This time I take a clear character arcs, turning points and plot twists to the party. What I had to let go of was my need to make each sentence, paragraph and page perfect before moving on to the next. I had to let go of perfection and write forward at a steady pace. I had to relearn to have fun and write with abandon.

    • I love “internally imposed and externally monitored.” That sounds so nice and balanced. I’m glad you were able to find the fun in writing again. I think we can take the fun out of pretty much anything when we heap on the expectations. 🙂

  3. Pressure is good, as long as it doesn’t make us sick. And a little push from friends does me good. I did a pitch once, and I was a little nervous going into it, but didn’t shed a tear or a thought afterward. I have this writers’ conference on my calendar – throughout now and next year – to remind me I need to put the $$ away for it! Write Forward!

  4. Great post, Lara, and timely for me. We do misapply meaning to words, and our attitude reflects how we interpret, or misinterpret, those meanings in our behaviour. Recently, listening to Tony Robbins, I picked up another: Stress, says Robbins, is just another word for fear.

    • And it’s so true! The quote by Tommy Lasorda hit me in my stomach (not trying to be cliched) but it really gave me pause. All of my worry and concern comes from being afraid I’ll fail. I periodically need to step back and remind myself that it really isn’t life and death even if I don’t ever succeed as a writer.

  5. Great post, Lara! I hadn’t thought of pressure quite like that but you make a good point about diamonds. I guess the trick is just enough of the right kind of pressure. 😀

  6. Loved the quotes. You’re so right, it’s all about perspective and feelings about why we write.

  7. Very cool! I just saw another blogger who shared positive feedback about this conference. First I’m jealous you were in Seattle! I really liked that city and the seafood is amazing. Second, I’m jealous of all the writers you no doubt hobnobbed with! I’m headed to the DFW conference in Dallas next month and hope to have as many Ah-ha moments there.

    It’s funny, I had this same thought rolling through my head the last 2 nights before bed. I am my own worst enemy with the pressure thing. Hope this realization sticks with you for awhile and you can use it to make up a new improved mantra to push you forward! If you like, you can borrow the one Pam Hawley and I use: “I’ve got a glowstick and I’m not afraid to use it!” LOL

    • Loving the mantra! I actually was in Colorado Springs, but I’ll be looking into the Seattle one, now! I am super-jealous of you guys going to DFW. That’s all I can say. Jealous. With a capital J.

  8. We missed you last week, Lara. The word pressure reminds of my college years. Pressure is kind of like “crunch time,” the time to get serious and get stuff done. It’s amazing what we can do when our backs are against the wall. Isn’t it funny how a ten page college paper can seem like an insurmountable task until there are only a few days left until the deadline?

    • Thanks, Gary. Life seems to have fast forwarded since about two weeks ago. Now I have a somewhat externally imposed deadline with getting my novel ship-shape and I am seriously hoping since my back is firmly against the wall that I’ll accomplish it all! Come on pressure, let’s go for the gold (or diamonds, as the case may be!)

  9. What great insight! I love that bit of advice to “prepare for success.” We are given what we can handle, right? 😉

    • To continue with the thought of being given what we can handle, if we can’t handle it, it’s better to let it go, I think. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, or the whole experience is a learning experience, rather than the gateway to a pinnacle moment. A lot of my stress comes from trying to control my life, which never works out well!

  10. Beautiful post, Lara. We are often our own worst slavedrivers bu it’s good to keep the pressure level tolerable. Too much stress and for too long is not good for creativity.

    I hope your reading went well. The Pikes Peak Conference sounds really great.

  11. You’ve given me an ah ha moment 🙂

  12. Sorry, I’m late, Lara. So glad you had a great experience at the conference! Excellent post! We are our own worst enemies! I love Gloria’s expression, too…writing with abandon–with internally imposed and externally monitored write forward goals. That will be my mantra!

  13. No worries, Marcia. Thanks for the support!

  14. I like your insights… definitely good to go-with-the-flow, as hard as that can be sometimes.

  15. Oops .. sorry, I replied in the wrong spot!

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