What To Do When It's Your Turn
What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I participated in the Your Turn Challenge, a week-long daily blogging challenge, last week before I read What To Do When It’s Your Turn(and it’s always your turn). Whether or not Seth intended it, the conclusions I came to in answer to or response to the prompts and questions asked of us during the challenge are straight out of this book.

Mr. Seth Godin, I think you may have written this book for me. Here are a few of the lines that spoke directly to my psyche, my heart, my self:

“Liberate yourself from the need to be right.

Not everything has to be okay.

Change hurts. Do it anyway.

Embrace the fear of freedom, deciding to determine your own path, this is the work of a grownup, of someone who can identify what truly matters.

Do what you should do. Your mood will follow.”

It’s hard to tell if this is a self-help book, a business development book, or something completely new.

Whatever it is, it spoke to me in ways I needed to hear today. So thank you for that, Mr. Godin.

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Day 7: What are you taking with you from this Challenge?

What I’m taking from the Your Turn Challenge is that … nothing is ever easy. Even if it’s something that you know in your heart of hearts that you want… getting to it will have its challenges. You have to commit to the goal, and make sacrifices. You have to do the hard thing, which means taking time away from all the other distractions that life has to offer, in order to do what needs to be done to reach your goal.

There’s no such thing as “if I had time…” because, really, if it’s important you will make time. You will prioritize and find the time and space you need to write those words, edit those pages, review the critique you received…

It’s not easy, no. But it’s worth it. Seeing your dreams fulfilled, honing the muscle, the skill you need to take you to the next level… it’s worth the time, worth the pain… it’s worth it.

How about you? What are you doing today to reach your noveling goals? Writing prompts? 15 minutes a day? Changing your reading list?

Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

Let me tell you a quick story. A year ago I was not a runner. Well, just barely. I had just completed my first ever 5k! And that was a lot of distance for me.

See, I have never been a super active person. I’ve just relied on a good metabolism to keep me “in shape”. Then, one day in 2013 I felt a shift. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, I knew that if I didn’t get up and do something about it, I was going to die in the zombie apocalypse.

So slowly, in fits and starts, I began to run. At first it was frustrating and hard to do. But I rallied my running buddies around me and with their support I started training for my first 5k. Then for my first 12k, and then for my first half-marathon (running next week!!).

If I had hopped off the couch and tried to run 13 miles, I never would have succeeded. The zombies would have eaten me or I would have died of a heart attack or an aggressive case of the shin splints. But by knowing my overall goal, to get active, and giving myself milestone goals along the way, I’m now able to easily (if slowly) run 12 miles! Who would have thought?

The same thing applies to your writing life. You can’t just jump off the couch and write a novel… well, not a good one, anyway. It takes training, commitment, and support. Carve out time, just a little at first, then more and more as you get practiced letting the words flow through your fingers onto the keyboard. Find writing buddies to support you, to cheer you on, to push you from behind when you’re exhausted an about to break.

When you look back a year from now, will you be surprised, like I was, at how far you have come?

Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

Imagine this: You’ve had an idea for a great novel forever. It’s creative, it’s compelling, and when you pitch it to your friends they seem to love the idea. You’re no stranger to writing, and nowadays there are so many different support networks out there that can help you get your novel written, so you think “Hey, why not? Let’s write this thing!”

So you sit down at your computer and you bang out a first draft, or part of a first draft, or some pages, and then… nothing… Maybe you’ve written yourself into a plot hole a mile wide… maybe you just can’t think of what should come next… maybe you find it’s more rewarding to outline and map out your story, but when you go to write it your fingers freeze and you find yourself unable to get the words out in the order you want them in.

Every writer gets stuck once in a while. Whether it’s because you’re just not sure how to fix a plot problem, or you’re too scared that you’re going to mess up your brilliant idea… we’ve all been there. Fixing the problem is easier, and harder, than you might think.

Here are some quick steps to help you get unstuck:

  1. Change focus. If you keep focusing on the problem at hand, you’re likely to bind yourself up in it. Stop. Breathe. And look somewhere else first.
  2. Keep writing! Just because you’re changing focus doesn’t mean you should stop writing. Just pick something else to work on for a little while. A short project, something to break up the block, to give you something else to think about for a little while.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up. If the solution isn’t coming right away, don’t give yourself a hard time. Wait for it. It’ll present itself.
  4. Keep writing! I know I know, I already said that, but it’s so important. Do daily writing prompts. Post on your blog. Whatever it takes, keep words flowing from your fingers, even if it’s only for 15 minutes every day. Working on these smaller, less significant pieces will help oil the machine, and it will free up your mind to focus on your main manuscript without all the added pressure of “OMG I’m writing a novel and it has to be the best thing ever!”
  5. When the solution finally hits you, dive back in with gusto! This goes without saying. But relish the joy that writing brings you. And, if it doesn’t bring you joy, maybe consider doing something else!
What do you do when you’re stuck?

Day 4: Teach us something that you do well.

Ok ok ok… If I’ve learned one thing today it’s that I procrastinate well. But I don’t have to teach you how to do that, do I?

I do NOT enjoy claiming to do things well. I feel like when I do that I open myself up to looking like a royal jackass.

 But… posting for Your Turn Challenge is important to me… and because I recognize that and because I want to honor my truth and my desire, and because I know that Seth is right and if I don’t post I’ve already failed… and because yesterday I told you that failing by NOT taking a risk is worse than taking a risk and failing… I post today.

If there’s one thing I do well, it’s call myself onto the carpet when it really matters. And this matters. Having a voice, not letting anyone silence us, much less letting the voices in our head have control and tell us we’re worthless… it matters.

And so this is what I teach you today, writers. Even when it hurts, write. Especially when it hurts, write. What you get from those sessions, what you give to the world, is a truly great gift.

Now I just hope I can follow my own example.

Day 3: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.

The first two days of the Your Turn Challenge were simple for me. I was excited and motivated to write, to share my thoughts again, to be part of a conversation.

Day three is somewhat more of a challenge. I think what can be improved … is my own willingness to take risks, to fail grandly and greatly by doing. And so this post is for me first. If it speaks to you, as well, then I am glad.

In the Your Turn Challenge, you can fail by NOT doing. If you don’t post, you fail. But something about that seems so sad and counter-productive. Not posting, not acting, not speaking, these things are easy and safe. But in order to succeed, we must actively fail, we must choose a path and be wrong sometimes.

This is true for any writer who wants to share her thoughts with the world. You fail most when you fail to act. Someone will always be around to tell you that you “did it wrong,” or that your idea is flawed, or that you used “your” incorrectly. Even worse, people will outright disagree with you and may even prove you made a mistake.

To be a writer means to take that risk, to put yourself out into the world, to choose to have a voice, even if you may have to admit you’re wrong later, or put out a revised version of your manuscript that cleans up spelling errors and takes into account new information you hadn’t considered before you published.

Will you fail or will you succeed? You won’t know until you try.

Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you

For my second entry in the Your Turn Challenge I’d like to talk to you about resistance.

Most of the people I work with, people that are in a creative industry, face resistance every day. Here are some examples: Our ideas are too “out there” for a mainstream audience; they’ll never amount to much. (Who will ever even read that novel?) We should just get a real job and stop pretending that what we do is worth someone’s hard earned money. (Why would someone pay to read anything that you write?) Someone else does it better, has more experience, does it cheaper, does it quicker, etc. (You’re self-published? Oh.)

Add that to the voice in your head telling you that you’re an impostor, that it’s only a matter of time before people discover the truth and tell everyone else… and that’s some pretty strong resistance to the idea that you can achieve your dreams.

But what I’d like to propose is that those frustrating, depressing thoughts that make you want to give up… they’re not resisting you, you’re resisting them. The pressure you feel as you talk yourself into sitting down to write again today is a direct result of you not taking that bullshit, you refusing to believe the people who want you to quit. By not giving up, YOU are resisting, pushing through, pushing back against all of the naysayers. They’re just standing there. You’re the one in motion.

Don’t listen to the bad talk and the people who tell you you can’t do what you have set out to do. If you don’t know something that you need to know, learn it. Find someone who does know and who will help you. Surround yourself with cheerleaders and people who will help you solve the practical problems rather than just pointing out that they exist. If you don’t know anyone else who will support you, e-mail me! I would love to cheer you on to your dreams.

Be the resistance. Fight back. Make your art. Tell your story. Find your voice.

Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

I’m participating in the Your Turn Challenge of Seth Godin’s because… because for the longest time whenever I blog I feel like all I’m doing is reaching out into the void, that no one is listening. And feeling that way made it harder and harder for me to post, to feel like I have anything to say to anyone… but by silencing myself I was feeding into the insecurity I already had. No one was paying attention because I wasn’t doing anything!

I am a freelance editor. I help burgeoning authors find their voice, sculpt their stories to share with others, release their ideas into the universe that is waiting to hear what they have to say. I’m participating in the Your Turn Challenge as a way of doing the same thing for myself. I’ll be posting every day for the next week, writing based off of the launch pad questions on the site. I hope to find my voice at the end of it, and remind myself of what I have to offer the world.