The Blog Chain came around so fast to me this time I nearly missed it. ;) I'm second in line this time, the first to address Amanda's question:
What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?
For a theme song for this post, let's use Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over."
I've been writing fiction since graduate school, though I wasn't really committed to it until about 1996. I've completed five novels (though only one of them I queried extensively) started and abandoned a couple more, and worked on various short stories (including some about the Beatles), some finished, some not. I've invested countless hours in reading, writing, editing/revising, and critiquing. To make time to write, I've cut out most TV and seldom go to movies, so I'm way out of touch with popular culture. After all this, I still haven't sold a novel, my main goal. So what keeps me going?
By this point in my life, writing is as much a part of me as one of my limbs. To give it up would be to lose a precious part of myself, something that keeps me going when the rest of my life is frustrating. While I want to connect to other people through my writing, it's still important for me to do it for me. One thing that I do get encouragement from is the feeling that I'm still learning and trying new techniques. I mentioned before that I only queried one of the five novels I finished. The first novel I ever wrote is no longer accessible, two of the other novels were sequels (so they couldn't stand alone), and the final one is my current project, which is getting very close to becoming query-worthy. I've learned a lot from the many writing blogs out there, and I think it shows in this draft. While working on sequels and Beatles fan fiction has delayed my writing career, I learned a lot from them. Besides, the Beatles stories evolved into my current project, so they were a roundabout way of getting there.
I think writing really has to be considered a journey, not just a means to an end. As Robert M. Pirsig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, "When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do, it's a hollow victory." Writing can't be just about stoking your ego, because your ego will definitely get bruised along the way. If you want to be a writer, you have to do it because you enjoy the process, and you have to be willing to keep going even when you want to stop. It's a lot easier to walk away from writing than it is an unfulfilling job or a marriage gone sour; perhaps that's why we writers spend so much time encouraging each other.
With that, I'll send you over to Eric for his take on this question.