Here’s the thing with weight-training, with all exercise, actually:
You start out on an exercise program. You have an image in your mind of what you want to look like, the reward you want to reap. You step into the gym or onto the track encouraged, hopeful, ready to work. You know it’ll be hard, but so what? You’re committed, you’re locked on, let’s do this.
And you start. And it’s hard, just like you expected.
But here’s what you didn’t expect: You don’t improve. Your muscles don’t grow, the fat doesn’t come off, your blood pressure and resting heart rate don’t change.
How long was this supposed to take, anyway? The latest issue of Muscle & Fitness clearly says that if I follow this workout, I should start seeing results in two weeks! Three weeks roll by, then four. Why am I bothering? Where’s the return on my investment? I am spending time I could be using on writing, or cooking, or cleaning my apartment. I’m too busy to be doing all this work for no results.
And there’s the temptation, the resistance: Quit. Because the Return-on-Investment isn’t worth it. Sure, you were willing to work hard, but you’d be a fool to work hard for NOTHING.
Writing is *exactly* the same way. You pour hours, days, years of your life into project after project. Short stories, novels, networking, keeping up on the news. And what for? All you ever get are rejections. You can’t even swear that the manuscript you just finished is any better than the ones you were turning out three years ago. Yeah, maybe you get a personal rejection or a heartfelt, complimentary email from an agent, but it still equals ZERO, right?
You live in your body every day, you see it in the mirror all the time. It’s hard to see the minute changes that happening at a glacial, but steady pace.
But the people around you are noticing. They’re not going to come running up to you shouting, “Wow! Are you losing weight!?” Because talking about another person’s body is a social faux pas. And your body may be different. Maybe the magazine workout article said it would take two weeks to see results, but for you it takes six months. You STILL see the results, eventually.
But only if you keep going.
The same is true of your writing. I pushed and sweat for nearly fifteen years without a book deal, then, suddenly, I got one. If you’d asked me a week before it happened, I would have told you that I had no confidence in it ever happening, that I wasn’t sure that my current work was all that much better than my old stuff. I couldn’t see myself getting better.
But as with exercise, I *was* getting better. Those years laid the baseline that took me over the top. The difference between success or failure at your goals is usually the final quarter-second. You are building a fifty mile high mountain under the sea. You won’t see a shred of it until the summit breaks the surface.
But you have to believe it’s there. You have to believe it’s working.
Otherwise you quit, and then you lose.
Nobody stands still if they’re truly trying. Your pace maybe slower than you’d like, but you’re improving.
So shut up and keep going.