Monday, June 08, 2015

Riding the Writing Roller Coaster

Posted by Michelle Griep for author Brenda S. Anderson
Are you brave enough to ride the writerly rails?

I love roller coasters. The faster, the higher, the better! My husband and I have raised three kids who enjoy coasters even more than I do. As someone who’s been writing seriously for the last ten-plus years, I’ve come to see that the writing life is much like a roller coaster ride, and it’s taught me several lessons:

Getting on the coaster can be the scariest part of the journey:

You’re waiting in the winding queue, watching and listening to the coaster crank up that first hill, climbing 200 feet into the air, then it screams down the hill into a giant loop. Just looking at the speeding car makes your heart beat faster.

I’ve been a writer all my life, but it wasn’t until ten years ago that I made the conscious decision to strap into the writing ride. Before then, I had tons of lame excuses: it wasn’t worth my time, people would think I’m lazy, no one would ever read my stories. In other words, I was afraid. Those fears didn’t disappear once I decided to write, but they no longer hindered me.

We don’t ride alone.

Half the fun of going to amusement parks is going with friends and family. Who wants to ride alone?

Authors quickly learn that writing is not a solitary venture. When I read a book, I always read the dedication and the acknowledgements, proving the author wasn’t alone on this ride. I’m very blessed to have family and friends who’ve supported this writing journey from the beginning. My family are my loudest cheerleaders, and it’s with their encouragement that I keep going.

Coaster rides are filled with valleys, peaks, curves, and dark tunnels.

And so is the writing life. Authors don’t remain still on this journey, nor do we follow a straight line. Top of the track moments are followed by plunges to the bottom. One day you get a request from an editor for your book proposal, then the next, you receive their rejection email. One minute three agents are looking at you, and you’re certain you know the path you’re going with your writing, and the next moment, the agents have all turned away and you’re curving in a new direction. Many writing moments are dark and bleak, and we convince ourselves that we’ll never be published, then suddenly we’re burst into the light with a contest win. It’s certainly not a boring ride!

The ride might seem out of control, but it’s not.

You’re speeding down that first seemingly bottomless hill, then suddenly you’re rocketing upward and through a corkscrew. It’s a miracle the car stays on the track and you remain buckled in. At least it feels like a miracle, when in reality the ride is under complete control and you’re very safe.

Many times during this past ten years, I’ve felt that this journey was completely out of control. Sometimes it seemed like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, things didn’t go as I wanted or expected. It’s during those times that I remind myself that God has the 3D blueprints for this writing journey. He knows where it’s going, and He knows all about those twists and valleys. But He also knows where the ride will end up. It’s my job to be obedient to Him, to keep riding this coaster, and let Him worry about the unexpected.

No two rides are alike.

Valleyfair, Minnesota’s largest amusement park, has seven roller coaster rides, from a kiddie coaster to a coaster that reaches heights of 207 feet and speeds of 74 mph. No two rides in the park, no two seats on the same coaster, will give you the same experience.

Often as writers, it’s tempting to look around and compare our writing ride to others’. One friend has never received a rejection, while another has over 100. One friend is an award-winning bestseller, while the next struggles to sell any books. What we have to remember is that our journey is unique and it’s not going to be the same as the person beside us. Maybe our book isn’t a bestseller, but if our words impact one life, isn’t that worth it?

Enjoy the ride!

No one buckles into a coaster expecting to be bored. You’re on the ride to have fun!

Same goes for the writing ride. Chances are you’re spending 30, 40, 50+ hours per week writing or doing writing-related tasks. I can’t imagine spending that much time doing something that’s drudgery. So strap yourself in front of your keyboard, put on a smile, and write!

And one last little tidbit …

If the ride is no longer fun, it’s okay to take a break or even get on a new ride!

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She resides in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 27 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.


Debbie Verhoeven is not your typical woman.
  • She sacrificed a counseling career to be a full-time mother 
  • She’d rather pound a nail than round steak 
  • Oprah? No way! Give her ESPN any day 
  • Nothing could be more stressful than scrapbooking 
Nothing, except a distressing diagnosis, a husband who is pulling away, and two older brothers who refuse to get along

When the counselor is caught in the middle, when she needs to be strong for those around her, who is left to be strong for her?


Nicole said...

Good post, Bren. Fast and furious in the writing world and amusement parks. Well done, girl.

Brenda Anderson said...

Thanks, Nicole!

Richard Mabry said...

Oh, but the words that really caught my attention--especially today--were these: If the ride is no longer fun, it’s okay to take a break or even get on a new ride!
Sometimes, despite the exhilaration of the ride, we're burned out. I had colleagues when I was practicing medicine who reached this stage. Now, I'm surprised (though I shouldn't be) to see fellow writers feeling this way. Thanks for putting it all in perspective.

Steph said...

You described my writing journey perfectly here, Brenda! I laugh now when I think of how I started off on my writing journey, thinking, "I write a book, a publisher prints it, and many, many readers purchase it and read it and love it." Easy peasy, no problems, a smooth ride for sure! NOT!

Brenda Anderson said...

So true, Richard--writer burn out is very real. We're constantly encouraged to persevere, to keep pressing on, and that takes tons of energy. And no one wants to be labeled a quitter. But for our sanity, we all need to take a break now and then or even go in an entirely new direction.

Brenda Anderson said...

Steph, that smooth ride sounds like Utopia, doesn't it? But where would the fun be if the writing journey followed a smooth and straight road? :)