Savoring Every Step: The Happy Road to Writing Success

Savor: To appreciate fully; enjoy or relish. (verb)

Before I finished the first draft of my first novel, I envisioned celebrating its completion. So once I’d typed the last sentence and wiped a few happy tears, I plotted something new—a “novel-tea” party with artist friends. We chatted about our progress, goals and dreams, ate my mom’s awesome Indian food and made crafty “things” based on our projects. I knew I still had significant work to do, but as many of you know, reaching ‘the end’ on a manuscript is no simple feat. I wanted to dance around in the glee of what doing so represented, including what could happen next. Sharing that glee with others and celebrating their work magnified it—such a treat!

As I look back at some the cool things that have happened in the year-and-a-half since, from signing with my agent to finishing a major revision I’m stoked about, I can’t help but wonder if savoring every step is, well…vital. So I did a bit of investigating, and guess what. Savoring is practically a super power! And even cooler than I’d thought. ;)

Savoring may not be as important as working our butts off, sitting down to the proverbial grunt work, but it is important. And research shows that it not only makes for a more enjoyable experience, but boosts our chance of success.

Psychologist and researcher Fred B. Bryant has studied the art of savoring for decades. In his book, Savoring, A New Model of Positive Experience, he says we can savor in three time frames: reminiscing, enjoying the present and anticipating the future. Apparently most of us have a far easier time savoring the past than the present and future. (We’re more likely to get excited about a book launch, for example, than revising or starting our next.)

If we don’t embrace what lies ahead, we’re less likely to move forward. Savoring the past, present and future, on the other hand, breeds success. (I’m not talking about financial success, though that can be a sweet reward.)  Savoring also promotes happiness, which is associated with everything from boosted creativity and physical health to attractiveness. Awesome, right???

Five Ways to Savor More (& Boost Our Chance of Success)

1. Focus on the positive. We writers can be tough on ourselves. (No, seriously! ;)) While it’s natural to want to push ourselves, hoping for more and better, viewing pages as half empty instead of full won’t help much. Rather than think or complain about the words and pages you didn’t write this week, consider the words and pages you did. When you feel Grumpy Smurf, make like Sunshine Smurf: ponder the good stuff. (Trust me, there’s lots.)

2. Don’t fixate on “the numbers.” From blog stats and word counts to Klout scores and book sales, the modern world makes it way too easy to obsess over our numeric rank. But they are just numbers. I’d personally rather write an awesome quality page than five flat ones (not that the flat aren’t beneficial ;)). I’d also rather have quality connections with writers and readers than thousands of “hits” that mean little. Numbers can be useful tools, if we keep them in perspective and focus more on what really counts.

3. Recognize and celebrate. When you reach a milestone, whether it be committing yourself to writing or completing your first or five-hundreth draft, savor it—on purpose. One of the best ways to do so, says Bryant, is by savoring with others. Chat about your success, including the future coolness it’ll bring, with friends. Share it on on your blog or Facebook. Or take a more private route by purchasing a new outfit, playing hooky from work or spending an afternoon at the spa.

4. Hang on to reminders. Why do you write? What accomplishments are you proud of so far? What are you striving toward next? Keeping visible reminders—meaningful photos, positive reviews, awards—nearby can help keep us on-track, while keeping our inner-naysayers at bay.

5. Congratulate yourself. This is a tough one, but Bryant recommends self-congratulations as an ultra-useful tool. And don’t worry. Unless you are a narcissist, morphing into an egomaniac is highly unlikely. ;) Storing positive feelings about achievement, he says, strengthens our abilities to savor and cheer ourselves up in the future. Even short, silent praise works—i.e., in our heads or typed into a journal. To balance any “braggy” feelings out, follow self-congratulations with gratitude—another useful savoring tool.

How do you savor your successes? What step are you most stoked about lately? 

Leave a comment

69 Comments

  1. Love the advice, particularly about numbers. I was never a big word count person. That is to say, when I started writing I didn’t hold a daily goal over my head. I know that works for some, but for me, it was more about putting my butt in the chair and just writing. If I wrote 200 or 2000 words, either was an accomplishment. Both are progress. Sometimes those 200 are perfect, while those 2000 need so much work, by the end of editing they will be 200 anyway. :)

    Reply
  2. Words of wisdom : ) I savor by sitting in the sun, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath. Then I go on a walkabout with friends : )

    Reply
  3. I don’t know much about reaching the end of a manuscript but I know the end of a painting used to give me much angst! :)

    Savoring the steps is a must or you will lose sight of why you are doing it in the first place! :) Is it not the fuel that drives us? Savoring the future, I kind of have thought about it but maybe not in the same frame since reading your words.

    Five great points. Thanks for the excellent ideas!!! Have a great weekend.

    Reply
    • I can relate to that. Feeling bummed out after my first fiction—a short film script—got picked up was the mental lightbulb that said, “You’re a writer! Keep writing.” ;) Thanks for the encouraging note, BoJo!

      Reply
  4. Great post, August. It’s important to celebrate all the milestones in life, big or small. I tend to downplay my accomplishments, including signing my first book contract. Thankfully my best friend gave me a slap over the head and we went out to celebrate. I’ve been busting my butt to hit 20K this week because I want to get the first draft close to being finished before my daughter’s last day of school, and I’ve been feeling guilty for dragging today. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate what I’ve accomplished!

    Reply
    • Aw… No more butt slapping! (ha) I bet you’ve had a hugely productive work week, regardless of how many words ended up on the page. I’m so happy to hear that you have supportive friends reminding you to celebrate.

      Reply
  5. This is something I’m not very good at, particularly when it comes to my writing. I’m all too quick to jump into the next thing, whether it’s revision, promotion, or the next book, without stopping to savor what I’ve accomplished. I also have to remind myself that it’s the actual writing I enjoy, and savor that as well. Something I think I might try as a celebratory reward after finishing my next first draft is to take a day off just to read and/or play computer games. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • I love your idea of taking a day off between accomplishments, Jennette. I’ve been guilty of skipping those breaks, too… When ever I make the effort, the rewards are pretty awesome. :)

      Reply
  6. Great post. I think I’m a big savorer. (Is that even a word?) Let’s assume so and if not, I’ll savor that fact that I just made up my very own word. haha! Anyway, I love to savor memories. Like Susan, I often savor the present with some sunshine on my face and deep breath of gratitude. And I especially love to savor the future with my dreams. The one thing I don’t do often enough is celebrate the milestones. Must change this!

    Reply
  7. This is great advice! If I was obsessed with numbers, I would post in Stubleupon. Those are mainly clicks anyway… I think you hit on a great point. I would add that if we don’t savor what we are doing, then what is the point of doing it? :)

    Reply
    • Great point, Susie. I’ve heard that StumbleUpon can boost hits like crazy, but I’ve also heard that it doesn’t boost comments or quality connections—the important ones. ;)

      Reply
  8. Marc Schuster

     /  May 18, 2012

    Great advice all around. #2 is my favorite, and also the one I have to keep reminding myself. I think numbers are seductive because they appear to be concrete. X number of hits. Y number of words per day. But what do those numbers really meaning? Ultimately, nothing if you’re not enjoying the process! Thanks for this post!

    Reply
    • Great point, Marc. Seeing numbers climb can be fun, but at the end of the day, they’re just numbers. I prefer words myself. ;)

      Reply
  9. Focusing on numbers makes me miserable, August, so lately I’ve stopped worrying about numbers and am focusing on what counts: showing up, making progress, being in the moment. I’m not one for celebrating my accomplishments either, and have been working on changing that, too. I love your idea of surrounding ourselves with reminders. Right now, I have nature sounds playing in the background, which is reminding me that I love to be outside with just the birds and bunnies for company.

    Thanks so much for such a great post!

    Reply
  10. As one of those Type A people who is always focused on producing but never savoring the results, this post was timely for me. I need to put less emphasis on the finished goal and savor the small successes that get me there. Great insight!

    Reply
    • Glad you found it helpful, Crubin! Sometimes we need to invest the over-achiever mentality into celebrating and enjoying…knowing that we deserve it, and more good will come.

      Reply
  11. August, this is so very relevant this week in my life. Thank you. Some people don’t get the writing world and they only see book in bookstore as the accomplishment. It’s a miserable way to approach writing. I celebrate every success and every goal met. My crit partner and I talk about each query, each rejection, each contest, each revision. These are all things to celebrate. I love the idea of savouring things. And finding the right people to savour your writing successes with is key.

    I look at the numbers but they aren’t the main indicator of my success. They are just an easy way to quantify a goal. :)

    Reply
    • I hear you, Kourtney. When I was acting and had a big audition, I knew my job was to do my best then move on. If I landed the role, it was frosting. The same applies to writing and other artistic careers. Any “rejection” we get is one ‘no’ toward a ‘yes,’—hopefully a bigger, better (more suited to our work) one. Regardless, we keep writing and loving it. :)

      Reply
  12. I loved the points you made :)

    I’ve never been a word count person. I’d rather get it close to right the first time and reach a small word count than have to re-write it five or six times but have a high output. I write much better if I take the time to go slowly. (This was actually one of the biggest problems Lisa and I had co-writing because she’s very much about just getting something down on the page and fixing it later, but that’s not my optimal working style. My stress level skyrockets, and the writing experience becomes very unenjoyable for me.)

    My husband and I are making a point of trying to celebrate each small step along the road. I’m a very goal-oriented person, so I tend to never celebrate anything, even the big successes, because my eyes are always focused on the next step, the next goal. I need to slow down and savor more :)

    Reply
    • It’s amazing how different we can be work style-wise, right? Sounds like you’ve learned some useful, positive ways to move forward. That’s what matters. :) Having a supportive hubby’s gotta help, too. Celebrations seems to come easier when we share them.

      Reply
  13. mgmillerbooks

     /  May 18, 2012

    Most awesome post today. #2 is my favorite as well. One should never short-change the satisfaction of their present, be it a page or even a sentence written. IMO, it’s all about the journey and what we learn along the way.

    Reply
  14. I savor EVERY step of writing my novels, the before, the during, and the after. But having been through a nearly life-ending experience, I savor having the opportunity to get up every day and do all of that. :)

    Reply
    • No wonder you’re such a prolific writer! (Okay, one reason. ;)) Authoring twenty-plus books and NOT savoring the process would be a shame.

      Reply
  15. The concept of “savoring the future” is brilliant, August! I follow #1– I’m very Pollyanna-ish regarding minor accomplishments, but I don’t usually celebrate milestones.
    As I stated in my #row80 goals, writing keeps me sane. We need to savor our small triumphs. Your advice will definitely help me and many other authors :-)

    Reply
  16. This post ties in to your blog title, so I know it’s a topic you’ve been pondering for a long time, August. Congrats, btw, on signing with an agent and finishing that revision. I excel at ignoring numbers but am not good at celebrating accomplishments. I still have to learn to savor the storm and the calm afterwards.

    Reply
    • Very perceptive, Patricia! ;) I have been pondering the topic for some time, even before I had this career path to savor. Thanks so much for the kudos and support. I hope your next step brings lots of calmness and celebration.

      Reply
  17. Wise words, as always, August, sometimes it *is* so easy to get wrapped up in numbers, when we should be focusing on words :)

    Reply
  18. Congrats on getting to the end, August. And great tips, I fancy that spa lol.

    Reply
  19. Thanks for the reminder to savor the present. As a humor writer, sometimes I’m too eager to move on to the next punch line!

    Reply
  20. I don’t know that I stop to do this enough. Savor…hmm…yes. Thanks, August, for the great tips.

    Reply
  21. Thank you August!

    Reply
  22. Your usual awesomesauce post, Miss August. I am a words per day person when I’m writing – it’s too easy for me to get distracted and not get anything done. and for me, the quality doesn’t seem to vary much, so BICHOK until a number of words are on the page.

    I can celebrate my successes for about 5 minutes and then I start to discount it. and tend to minimize it. But i’m trying to work on that and celebrate the steps I complete. at the time.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Louise! You are total awesomesauce in my book. ;) Glad you’ve found a system that works for you, and that you’re aware of your tendency to minimize and discount your fabulous work. If you’d ever like help celebrating, say the word!

      Reply
  23. Up here in Canada we savour too (the “u” in it stands for “you”). You have summed up the process perfectly. Thanks for putting all that good advice into a package we can keep in our pocket!

    Reply
  24. Stacy S. Jensen

     /  May 18, 2012

    Congrats on the major revisions. I celebrate the steps I complete. I never know what tomorrow might bring. So, I’m going to enjoy my moments today!

    Reply
    • So true, Stacy. I have a plaque from my grandma that says “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift.” :) Thanks for the support!

      Reply
  25. Fabulous post, August! An important message for all writers to remember, myself included. Congratulations on your accomplishment!

    Reply
  26. mgedwards

     /  May 19, 2012

    You’re won the Versatile Blogger Award, August! Congratulations! With great honor comes great responsibility. Of course you know I love reading your posts. You are a fabulous (and inspirational) writer.
    http://worldadventurers.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/i-received-the-versatile-blogger-award/

    Reply
  27. I love all the advice here! Especially #2. Too many people consider themselves a success dependent on what someone else thinks of them. Every step of the way is an achievement and meant to be celebrated! Having said that, the next time I’m feeling down, I’ll come back here and read your post again. It’s full of all kinds of positive awesomeness.

    By the way, I love your novel-tea idea. ;)

    Reply
  28. I need to save this post and remind myself of these tips every time I stress about social media. It’s all about meeting other writers and readers, making connections. Unfortunately, it’s all to easy to get bogged down under the social media avalanche sometimes. :)

    Reply
  29. Another GREAT blog post August. I therefore nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. If you will accept this award, please go to my Site and follow the instructions.

    http://raaniyork.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/beautiful-blogger-award/

    I really think this blog is worth the nomination!
    Congratulations

    Reply
  30. I just love reading your posts! They are so down to earth and offer such grounding, helpful advice. Thank you August! I let myself indulge in speculations about ‘when my book sells big’ too. It helps keep me motivated, but it also helps me keep things in perspective. I enjoy the daydreams, but I use them to get my butt back in the chair and writing, too. “Just thinking about it isn’t getting it done!” I tell myself. Great work, August!

    Reply
  31. Hello August!
    Thank you so much for this lovely post. I’m writing my first novel, and have also recently started a blog about books, and your advice and guidance were invaluable to me. It’s so important to appreciate ourselves if we are going to write anything good.

    Loved your blog! following you now…
    Please do visit my blog, and if you like it please follow!

    Reply
  32. Good Tips. Not so much for blog but I guess I can use them for the work. At times it gets less appreciative & # 1,3 & 5 are great way to remain motivated! :)

    Reply
  33. I can’t wait to savor. My son’s bar mitzvah has slowed me down. No, stopped me in my tracks – and, unfortunately, I can’t do both right now. I have to give him all my energy. Only 33 days to go! And then back to my WIP. I can’t wait to say, “When I finished my first novel…”

    Reply
    • In no time, partner, you’ll be calling me up and we’ll be doing a Happy Dance!
      August: fantastic post, hun. You nailed it like a field goal kicker blasting the pigskin through the uprights from 50 yards out!! LOL!! Too much coffee!

      Reply
  34. I absolutely agree that savoring and celebrating are key to keeping your momentum and success going in writing. It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives or how much is left to be done. If we stop, take a moment to bask in our own glory for finishing (or starting) the step we’re on, it makes this life more livable and the work more enjoyable.

    Reply
  35. What a great post August! I’m so use to hearing that there’s always work to be done and we shouldn’t get carried away about the small things, that its refreshing to hear someone actually say that we should savour the small successes and that it contributes positively to our well-being!
    Like you, finishing my first draft was a great achievement for me personally. BF and I went out to celebrate with a glass of wine! :D

    Reply
  36. Atfirst I congratulate you for winning Versatile Bloggers Award… Secondly accept my regards. And third I loved your blogging, respect to your blogs.. specially this one… Pranjal

    Reply
  37. Appreciating what you have is a great, GREAT way to savor the the present, and in turn it may lead to appreciating the past and the future. Here’s my story of NOT savoring the good thing I had: http://nyparrot.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/hello-world-2/
    The more I appreciate what I have – the more things to appreciate I receive!

    Reply
  38. Finishing my book has left me with the sweetest taste in my mouth, August.
    Great post – again!

    Reply
  1. Happy road | Info007cleanin
  2. Blog Treasures 5~26 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,616 other followers

%d bloggers like this: