Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Authors and Athletes Have More In Common Than You Might Think with Guest Sherri Shackelford

Hello, everyone! Sherri Shackelford here and let me tell you -- posting on Seekerville is always an honor. The lovely ladies here gave me a platform before I had a book contract, and I am eternally grateful for their faith in my meager skills. I posted a parody interview waaayyy back in June of 2011. At the time, I was frantically polishing up a requested manuscript for Harlequin Love Inspired Historical. I received ‘the call’ less than two months after my Seekerville post. My journey had begun four years previously, when I decided on a whim that I wanted to try my hand at writing a book.

I’m SO glad I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Mastering a craft is difficult. No one picks up a tennis racket for the first time and expects to play at Wimbledon. No one brandishes a golf club and expects to join the PGA tournament. Yet, for some odd reason, many people believe their first book should be a bestseller. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule….but…

The other 99.9999999% of authors will have at least one manuscript hidden in a file cabinet (real or cyber). Why? Because mastering a craft is difficult. Stupid difficult. Years and years and years of difficult.

It’s easy to get discouraged by the amount of time it takes. When that happens, I remind myself that all learning follows certain inherent patterns. (Remember Psych 101?) Even mastering the skill of writing falls along the lines of these established stages:

I   Unconsciously Incompetent
II  Consciously Incompetent
III Consciously Competent
IV Unconsciously Competent  

In Phase I, you've written the beginning of a story. Usually about three chapters. And you LOVE your writing. The words are fabulous. Your best friend loves your work. Your mom thinks you're a genius. You ARE a genius.

This stage is Unconsciously Incompetent.

You’re still an amateur, but you don't know you’re an amateur.  You don’t know because you haven’t placed your work before an impartial audience yet.

Every artist was first an amateur. Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Phase II, you receive your first critique, and it's devastating. Maybe you entered a contest and your scores were abysmal. Maybe you queried an editor and received a form-letter rejection. You realize you're not a genius. In fact, you have a lot to learn. You’re demoralized.

This stage is Consciously Incompetent.

You are an amateur. You have discovered your limitations. And the realization is overwhelming. 

This stage can be difficult to breakthrough (see video below).

It’s okay, you’re not alone. That’s why forums like Seekerville are so important. Having a support group of fellow authors is invaluable.

Phase III offers some hope. Finally!

If you make it through the YEARS (yes, that's plural) of learning, rejection, doubt, heartache, pain and more learning, you will finally recognize glimpses of excellence in your work. It's still raw. But not as bad as it used to be. You've identified your weaknesses and learned how to exploit your strengths. You have a little success.

For authors seeking traditional publication, encouragements appear: Agents reply to your emails with requests for more chapters. Editors use words like 'promising' and 'revise and resubmit.' This is when the phone rings with a New York area code flashing on the caller ID-- and you don't whether to scream or cry.  

You are Consciously Competent.  You can write a story that sells, but it's hard work.

Somewhere during this stage there’s a good chance you’ll hit a sophomore slump. (I know, right? The good news just keeps coming.)  Actually, the sophomore slump can be a couple of different things. The slump can be an extended period of time between a first contract and a second contract. Or the slump can refer to a lukewarm reception of a second book after a big splash with a debut novel.

Whether the slump lasts seven years, seventeen months, or seven minutes—this time can be agonizing. There is good news. Years of struggle will have prepared you for this setback. By now you realize there is no greater balm than working. So you keep working. And you keep learning.

(I had my own slump. I waited a year and a half before receiving a multi-book contract. You never know what’s around the corner!)

Consciously Competent is a stage of growth. Not fast growth, but a finer-tuned, more subtle growth. (I like to believe I’m in the consciously competent stage – which can be incredibly frustrating because the progress is gradual. I can do some decent work, but I’m painfully aware of how far I still have to go.)

Like Ira Glass said in the video: We get into this business because we have good taste. And because we have good taste, we realize the limitations of our own work.

In Phase IV, you reach the first level of mastery: Unconscious Competence.

You've contracted 30 or 40 books and sold a couple-hundred-thousand copies, if not millions, you've seen the market ebb and flow. You know how to ride the waves.

I've met these people. They're awesome. And they're the best teachers. If you’re extremely lucky, they make wonderful mentors. 

That doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels,

 (Remember the analogy of the athlete? Serena Williams is at the top of her game, but we still don’t expect her to win EVERY point.)

Success is never still. Success is either expanding or contracting. Our careers are in perpetual motion.

Writing wouldn’t be writing without the procrastination and the excuses. It’s the challenge of overcoming our worst selves when sitting down at a blank page that defines who we are. Paul Jun

Don’t give up because it’s hard.

Of course it’s hard.

Learning a skill is a process. Mastering a skill takes time. When we hear that a professional athlete spends hours a day practicing, we admire them. We should have the same admiration for individuals who work in creative fields.

Writing is never wasted. Practice is never wasted.

Sometimes the journey looks and feels like failure: Agents back out of representation, publishers fold, contracts are revoked. It’s frustrating. Use that fabulous imagination and envision yourself as a keynote speaker, regaling your audience with your tumultuous rise to the top…

Don’t feel bad because you have five manuscripts hidden away that will never see the light of day. Be proud! Serena Williams certainly doesn’t feel bad because she practiced so much.
You know what else Serena Williams has? A coach.

You have to be able to accept criticism to learn. As a friend once said, “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but don’t be a rapist either.” If you’ve been knocking at the door for a while, step back, reassess, get a professional evaluation of your work, and then move forward. In other words, find a good coach, and then listen to that coach. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.

Self-publishing doesn’t bypass this journey. There are no shortcuts.

It will take you less time and less effort to do it the difficult way than it will to buy and try and discard all the shortcuts. Seth Godin

Life has a way of forcing us back to the beginning when we attempt to shortcut the process.

Most overnight successes take years of practice. Authors and athletes spend a lot of time out of the spotlight, toiling away in solitude, to become overnight successes.

I was 40 years old before I became an overnight success, and I'd been publishing for 20 years. Mary Karr

God has brought you to this journey for a reason. Respect the journey He has devised for you.

The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook stage. It's like believing in dreams in the morning
.  Erica Jong

 (And don’t forget the power of friends and chocolate!)

Looking back on your own journey, what is the one piece of advice you wish you could have given yourself when you started out?


 A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.

Look for The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family from Harlequin Love Inspired Historical in February of 2014. Available now, Winning the Widow’s Heart.

Email at sherri@sherrishackelford.com or visit sherrishackelford.com.

Sherri has a very special giveaway for a Seeker visitor who comments today- $10 amazon gift card and a pre-order of her February 2014 release, The Marshal's Ready-Made Family- two items to one winner.  Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. I've traveled the journey, so I hear your words.

    Thanks for sharing, Sherri. You told it like it is!

    The coffee pot's ready.

  2. Wow, lots of great advice! I like the stages of competence- it applies to so many things :)

  3. Good morning Sherri. I loved your post this morning. I wish I had read something like this many years ago. The video was great too...quite inspiring. Years ago (junior high) I began to write but unfortunately,by high school something was said (I've blocked it out as I can't remember) that caused me to put my writing away. My mom even bought me a Writer's Digest Course through the mail and it sat and gathered dust. Years later I started writing poetry and became good enough that a professor told me I should compile some of my work and submit them for publication...easy for him to say. I am now a Senior Citizen (just barely) and the desire to write is burning so very bright within me that I just have to write. I feel like a total beginner because that is what I am. But everyone starts somewhere. :)

    Thank you again for the inspiring post.

    Would love to be in your giveaway drawing.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  4. Thanks for this great post! I've just started writing and have no idea where it is going, but I'm enjoying it as it wherever it may lead. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated! Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks for the chance to win!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  5. I needed this today. I am going through my line by line revisions on paper before I hit the send button on my requested manuscript.

    Feeling incredibly consciously incompetent. So glad to know it is part of the journey.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Peace, Julie

  6. Oh, and definitely put me in the drawing.

  7. Great post, m'friend!

    I think I'll order a combination plate for myself, helpings of both stage 3 and 4. :) Each bite equals a little more learning to fill my writer's belly.

    Gee. You use sports, I use food. Imagine that. *snort*

    Now I want chocolate.

  8. Loved your post here, Sherri, and boy did I need to hear it.

    "God has brought you to this journey for a reason. Respect the journey He has devised for you."

    Yesterday, I struggled in my thoughts all day, comparing my journey to that of a couple writer friends. So wrong. I need to remember the journey God has devised for me is the perfect one for ME.

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing, Sherri.

  9. We put, Sherri.

    I'm somewhere between consciously incompetent and consciously competent. I've seen some encouraging words from editors but haven't hit the big one. Still have a way to go on my skills, but hopefully moving in the right direction.

    It's always encouraging to know I'm not alone.

    Thanks Sherri.

  10. Thanks for a great post, Sherri! Congrats on your upcoming release!

  11. Welcome, Sherrie!iv've watched that video TWiCE now! Spot on!!!!

  12. Good morning, SHERRI! Wonderful analogy of a writer to an athlete!

    There's so much that goes on behind the scenes before you see that athlete on your TV screen in front of the Olympic judges. Necessary training. Growing awareness of the required skills and how to apply them, then practicing, practicing, practicing until they excel at them. Sometimes literal blood, sweat and tears. All the beginning stages are so vital (and of course we all dream of someday reaching FOUR!). I think that's one downside to the ease of epubbing now--I'm seeing writers in Phase One excitedly launching out into epubbing prematurely when with just a little more patience, a little more practice and they'd hit the epub world with a BANG rather than a whimper.

    Excellent, encouraging post, Sherri!

  13. Helen--Good morning! I'm ready for that coffee.

    Heidi--The stages definitely apply to so many things. From tying your shoes to playing an instrument.

    Cindy--Everyone starts at the beginning, there's no way around it :) Hang on to that desire and keep writing!

  14. I'm still on the journey.

    Recent comments from a contest judge has me looking at my current story differently. She has become one of my "coaches" and she doesn't even know it.

    I appreciate the pep talk you've given us this morning. Thanks.

    I'd love to be entered in your contest. Beautiful book cover!

  15. Sally- Congratulations on starting your journey! Though writing can be difficult and incredibly frustration, the rewards are even sweeter.

    Julie--I can't speak for anybody else but I feel like a fraud 90% of the time. Congratulations on sending off those line edits!!!!!

    *lizzie--Good Morning! I think anyone who knows me finds the sports analogies incredibly ironic ;) And I do so love your cookin'!


    I have NEVER seen the process distilled SO well as you have done here today. This should be required reading for ALL writers, published and non, because you have NAILED IT TO THE WALL ... and me along with it!!

    You said: "Success is never still. Success is either expanding or contracting. Our careers are in perpetual motion."

    Oh, very true!! The old "you're only as good as your last book" syndrome! :)

    You asked: "Looking back on your own journey, what is the one piece of advice you wish you could have given yourself when you started out?" Oh that's easy:

    Don't ever forget, Julie -- it's ALL about Jesus!!!

    How I wish I’d known what an emotional roller-coaster it was going to be AFTER I got published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, right? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why 2 Corinthians ll:3 is the prayer of my heart: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

    But as clear as that message might have been at the onset of my career, I still found myself running in circles like that proverbial hamster on his wheel. Until ... I finally, FINALLY got it!

    Running in circles can be exhausting, but SOOO worth it when it brings you full-circle to God!!


  17. Jeanne--I think most of us at one time or another fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Here's what I try to remember: I don't really know that person's journey. I only see it from the outside and there are probably many layers I CANNOT see--you know?? Even if something looks easy from the outside, that may not be the whole story.

    Not that I ever want anyone to struggle, but I think some struggle is inevitable in this business.

    Connie--You're at amazing time in your career! I can't wait to hear about all your future successes :)

  18. Amy, Good morning! Thanks for stopping by.

    Tina, Thank you for having me on Seekerville even though I was way more trouble than I'm worth!

    Glynna--everything you say is so spot on. It was Tina or Ruthy, I can't remember which, who made a comment that inspired this post. (I wish I could have found the exact quote.)

    Anyway, the comment said something very similar. That some writers are now launching their careers when their writing is good, instead of waiting until their writing is great. The old system sort of forced us to wait. There's nothing wrong with honing your craft!

  19. Jackie, Contests can be incredibly helpful for feedback. It's figuring out how to sort the wheat from the chaff that's hard.

    It sounds like you found someone whose words really rang true for you. That's awesome!!

  20. Hi SHERRI and welcome to Seekerville. It is always such a pleasure to see the growth and success of our friends. We love it.

    You really did "nail the process" as JULIE said. Great going. I think its important to understand that getting the call isn't the end result. Its a step to another round of blood, sweat and tears. And joy also. smile

    Thanks for sharing. Have a fun day.

  21. Julie, you gave me the chills! Thank you so much for the kind praise.

    I loved, loved, loved your advice. I only wish I had said it so well myself ;)

    That is definitely 'keeper' advice for writers in every stage of their careers!!

  22. Sherri, welcome back! We love having you!

    This is such a fantastic, motivational post. Excellent stuff! You know, I think nothing is worse than the consciously incompetent stage. So painful and LONG. But thank goodness for critique partners and editors! :)

    But I just really, REALLY want to get to the unconsciously competent stage! I so wish there was a shortcut.

  23. Cindy W, I'm so glad you've found your desire to write again!

  24. Julie, yay!! you'll have to let us know when you hit send!

  25. Jeanne T, you're so right. If we compare our journeys to others', we'll drive ourselves crazy.

  26. Sherri, this is an amazing post--thank you!!! Such important reminders that mastery takes practice and lots of it.

    The one piece of advice I wish I could have given myself? Actually, for me, it's more a matter of being glad for what I DIDN'T know. If anyone had told me when I first seriously began writing for publication that it would be 25 long years before I sold my first novel, I'm not sure I could have kept going.

  27. I needed this. . .thank you. And I love that picture about quotes--and a tree. Ha!

    Please enter me.

  28. Okay, this is why I hate using my iPhone to post. Words run together. They need a fat fingers app.

    Sherri, dear, tell us about your next release.

    And are you hiding the chocolate croissants over there?

  29. Spent lots of years trying to peek out of the 'Consciously Incompetent'
    May never get there but I'm having fun trying. Thanks for a great post Sherri

  30. Thank you, Sandra! <> Who knew? Well, obviously not me :) I love that Seekerville gives pre-published authors a forum.

    Missy, You're so right--critique partners and editors are invaluable :) Sometimes just for a shoulder to cry on...

    Myra--you reminded me of a quote from Kate Gosselin--Someone asked her what advice she'd give her ten-year-younger self and she said: I wouldn't say anything. It would scare her to death!

    I love your books--so glad you stuck with the journey :)

  31. You know what this reminds me of Sherri?
    I used to coach softball.
    I told my little girls, I coached the really little ones and I was probably the worst coach ever, my main goal was to try to get them to all have fun and to keep them from crying.
    Playing ball was a far distant priority and I suspect anyone watching us could tell.

    But I used to tell them, "The very best major league baseball player is a champion if he bats .300. That means he hits one ball out of every ten he gets pitched to him. That means he misses SEVEN of them and that makes him a champiion. So get up there and take a swing and if you miss, don't let it make you feel bad because even the best of the best miss a lot of pitches."

    And then I'd give them suckers and offer to take them swimming if they wouldn't cry.

  32. PS I'm not sure that has a thing to do with your post but it made me thing of the learning process and in a psychological free association way in my muddled mind it made sense so............. you're welcome.
    Thanks for being on Seekerville. :)

  33. PSS I knew it was coming soon but ... IT IS HERE!!!



    YAY TINA!!!!

  34. Hi Sherri!

    I love this post, and the reminder that this whole thing is a process. We should always be learning, going two steps forward/one step back, striving to learn the next skill. And the only way to do that is to keep writing, right?

    But it's so hard to do that when you are in that consciously incompetent stage. Sometimes I wish I could stay blissfully unaware of my incompetence, but that wouldn't get me anywhere, would it?

    I'm with you - so thankful for places like Seekerville where we are gently reminded that we really do need to know what we're doing and need to put the time in to make it happen :)

    Congratulations on your new release and your coming one, too! You are one busy lady!

  35. Thanks for the heads-up Mary! I bought mine, too!!!

  36. Courtney, Isn't that quote funny? One of my friends gave me that and it still makes me laugh!

    Cindy, I think I may have been optimistic in my own assessment. I'm probably consciously incompetent than consciously competent!

  37. Mary, today is one of those days I just want to have fun and not cry, whether or not I hit the ball. :-)

    Julie, I've always had the philosophy that I'm only as good as my "next" book. I had an editor that kept asking for a book just like a previous one, and I couldn't do that. You are so spot on about keeping Jesus first. :-)

    Sherri, I'm thankful no one sees my behind-the-scenes struggles. Hair and makeup are not a requirement for writing good books. :-)

    Seriously Sherri, this is wonderful advice and wisdom. You are one of the hardest working writers I know. You've put in the leg work and earned every measure of your success. There are no short cuts in this business, and there is no such thing as sitting on your laurels.

    My thoughts on what I wish I'd known when I started have changed through the years. At one time I would have said, "Be prepared because not everyone will be happy for you when you succeed." Or "Don't compare yourself to others." Both still true. At another time I would have said, "Believe in yourself, because there will be times when no one else does." Still true. But where I'm at today, I'll say, "Life throws us curve balls. Don't get down on yourself for missing a few hits. Be kind to yourself, seek out supportive writer friends because nobody gets you like they do, and just keep moving forward. Some books are more difficult than others. The process won't always be the same. Your talent doesn't leave you in the tough times. It's there, waiting for you to place your fingers on the keyboard and move on."

  38. What a great post! My son was a star runner in high school and college and now coaches college track, so I can identify with the athlete part (even though I don't have an athletic bone in my body).

    I think the best advice I got was to just forget all the rules while writing the first draft and just let the story flow. Then remember the rules during editing and revisions. I'd complained to a published friend about having to remember to stay in POV, use strong verbs, not use adverbs, use all the senses, et cetera, and her reply was the advice above. Best words I ever heard. Evah!

  39. Thank you, Tina! I'm really excited about my next book. It takes place ten years after Winning the Widow's Heart and features a character from that book--JoBeth McCoy.

    I had a wonderful time finding a hero worthy of Jo. Throw together a town marshal with a shadowed past, his orphaned niece, and a tomboy who has given up on love and what do you get: The Marshal's Ready-Made Family.

    The next book in the series is due September 3rd...let's just say I'm a little busy this week :)

    For the 3rd book, we revisit one of the Elder brothers. (The hero from the first book was an Elder) Our intrepid hero is stuck in No Man's Land with eight-hundred head of longhorn cattle, no crew, and four orphaned girls and their lovely guardian. Our hero doesn't think a bunch of girls can lead a cattle drive--and our heroine is bent on proving him wrong!

  40. That's incredibly relevant, Mary! Isn't there something about Babe Ruth having the most home-runs because he had the most strike outs? (You can tell what a sporty person I am!) Not.

    Jan, so true! I miss not knowing what I didn't know :)

    Cheryl, all good advice! I remember the 'you have to believe in yourself when no one else will' the best. It definitely helped me make a decision. My first book had gotten turned back from SYTYCW, but I felt it was good and I pitched it again. Second time was a charm!

  41. Sherri, love having you in Seekerville. I'm so proud of your successes and the respect you give to the not-so-successful attempts. We all go through it, no?

    I love your stages of competency. I can't say I"ve hit Stage IV yet, but the light is definitely shining on III. I'm praying someday the words will flow effortlessly, the active voice will trump the passive, and my sense of sequencing will naturally fall into place...

    Until then, I'll keep camping in Seekerville and enjoying the wisdom of the company.

    Congrats on your Feb 2014 release!

  42. and before Vince (or someone!) can comment on my awesome math skilz
    This sentence is wrong:

    That means he hits one ball out of every ten he gets pitched to him. That means he misses SEVEN of them and that makes him a champiion

    It shouls read:

    That means he hits THREE ball[s] out of every ten he gets pitched to him. That means he misses SEVEN of them and that makes him a champiion

  43. Cheryl St. John, what I think I've accepted is that we just CAN'T have known what we didn't know.

    Does that make sense?

    When we look back and want to smack ourselves in the forehead for whatever boneheaded thing we did, well, how could we know what we didn't know? HUH???

    I heard people say..."Well, everybody knows...."

    And I think, "No they don't...that learning curve is filled with people behind me."

    I used to once in a while on the ACFW loop, answer a question for someone and they'd say, "I know this is a dumb question."

    And I'd say, "No, please don't say that. This is a joyous moment for me because finally there is a question I can answer. I'm so glad you asked, because it means I have inched a tiny bit forward on the learning curve and I am THRILLED to help you."

    (that was usually about how to make that stupid black line go away that you get when you type three ### then hit return, that was about all I knew at one point)

  44. Hi, Sherri.

    I guess I'm getting to Conscious Competence. I've received the Revise and Resubmit letter (though actually doing everything still didn't get me published). Glad to know that there is a name for all of this. :-)

  45. Sherri,
    Your post hit home with me today. I could so relate to the various stages. Yes, I thought that first manuscript would sell! And the second, third...by the fourth, I realized I still had a lot to learn.

    And I continue to learn and struggle with the competency/lack of competency issue. The thorn in my side, no doubt.

    Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.

    Advice? Keep working, keep moving forward and always BELIEVE in yourself and in your work.

  46. SEPTEMBER THIRD DEADLINE. Pass the Redbull!!!!!!

  47. I'm trying to think of good advice.

    What could I have done to speed up that stinking ten year process to getting published?

    Surely there's something.

    Met Cheryl St. John earlier?

    Avoided one of my less useful agents?

    Had Al Gore invent the internet and get it hooked up in my house a few years earlier?

    Gotten a clue?

    Had a couple less children? (they were a major distraction but I'm crazy fond of them!)

  48. Thank you Sherri, for a wonderful post! Very, very encouraging for those of us still in our tents on unpubbed island.

    One good thing about the twenty-year-overnight-success thing is that writing, and learning about writing is so much fun, twenty years fly by!!

    Please put my name in the give-away pot. :-)

  49. Well, I love that video.... and I loved that you noted how self-publishing doesn't bypass the journey to strength....

    At least it shouldn't.

    I remember years back reading a woman's book and thinking, "All she needed was one more edit after someone says "this is extraneous, this is off your arc, this is unneeded, this is fluff" one more edit and this could be EXCELLENT...

    But I also knew if I said this, that woman would be very angry and I learned a valuable lesson that day...

    Not everyone is suited for that final edit. And that's okay.


    To maintain my vow of silence. ;)

  50. Just had "The Rosetti Curse" painlessly downloaded to my Kindle device!!!!

    SO PSYCHED!!!!!

    Oh, was this supposed to be a SECRET, TINA????????

    Blame Connealy. Really. I had no idea!!!! :)

    And now back to Sherri's excellent and wonderful post!!!!

  51. I'm taking a couple of hours off for my day job! Love all the comments and advice.

    Mary C: Meet Cheryl St.John earlier.

    I got lucky in that! I met her at my very first club meeting and the rest, as they say, is history...(she might have skipped that meeting had she known!)

  52. p.s. the video is great. No one will ever improve their writing without writing. It sounds simple, but it's not. I didn't even know I had a voice until I had several books published and my editor mentioned my voice. I have a what? Well, what was it then, because I sure didn't know.

  53. Thank you Sherri---EXCELLENT post (and one I certainly need!).

    I especially like your statements:
    God has brought you to this journey for a reason.
    Respect the journey He has devised for you.

    WOW!! I wrote that down and now have it by my computer as a constant reminder.

    Congrats on your writing success, and thank you again for sharing your wisdom with us today. (Please enter me in your drawing!)

    ALSO, please enjoy the Georgia Peach cobbler I brought today--just baked it and it's nice and warm (lots of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top).

    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  54. Patty Jo, Georgia Peach Cobbler? Still Warm?

    That sounds so good I am cyber eating it right now, it is lightly salted with my tears of joy.

    Also, I've got the little honey bear you gave me in my kitchen window and I think of you every time I see it. :)

  55. I want peach cobbler.

    I want to be Patti Jo's neighbor. I fell in love with her voice!!!! when we had the RWA videos courtesy of Mary Curry!!!! How could anyone not love Patti Jo's voice?????

  56. I love Cheryl St. John

    I'm just sayin' that for all the world to see.

    And I loved when the video talked about VOLUME and it had nothing to do with "sound"...



    Write, write, write.

    Where have I heard that before????

    (Big Cheesy Irish Yankee Grin!!!!)

  57. Thank you for today's post. I found so much truth in it. I too hope that friends and chocolate will help me leave Phase 2 and get to Phase 3. Especially the chocolate. Especially if it's dark chocolate. Especially if.... Seriously, though, thank you for the words. Since I'm at the library to write, though, I better end this comment and return to writing so I can become consciously competent sometime this decade. Thanks (and please enter me in the drawing as well).

  58. Friends and chocolate go a long, long way!

  59. What a wonderful post! So much GREAT advice to anyone who writes but also to anyone who does ANYTHING! We all think we have wonderful ideas that will change the world, but when we sit down and think it out, we realize there is much more to life than just stating an idea. I loved the concept used of unconscious incompetency, conscious incompetency, unconscious competency, & conscious competency--the four steps. I think I am before any of those steps--more like walking in a daze and sometimes writing some thoughts down, and sometimes not...however, I think I'm creeping towards step 1. LOL It is great having so many who are on this journey in various steps of the way, and I look forward to learning from all of you.

    I would love to be in the contest--please add my name.

  60. Ahh I am definitly consciously incompetent. It is nice to know that you can get beyond that stage. If you work. Like most authors I have a manuscript that will never see the light of day that I wrote when I was twelve. As I say it's great for a twelve year old but bad for a adult.
    But the best writing challenge I got was in English 101 where I was forced to push hard to polish my writing to get a good grade. I had to spend hours editing, I had help from my Grandma who's published over 40 books, to make it as perfect as possible.
    Sometimes a great story has to be edited till it is A+ as opposed to just B or even C. It is just so hard to realize that you book isn't either worthless or perfect. And to ruthlessly get rid of the bad stuff.
    But as Julie says we need to remember God is the one who gives us affirmation. Most of us will never be New York Times Best Sellers but we can all influence people for God. That's the most important thing:)

  61. I think Jon and Vicki... one or the other or BOTH are quite wise!

    Vicki, those steps are so true, and it's kind of like the "baby" steps in What About Bob.... or treading the ricepaper in Kung Fu. You don't know how clumsy you are until you've moved beyond it most times... But you're where you need to be... surrounded by those walking the same path.

    With chocolate and friends. :)

  62. Sherri, I am just a reader, but found your post very interesting.
    About the journey....applies to all of us, Huh!?! lol
    We moved to the "country" 4 yrs. ago, and sometimes I am not sure of my journey?!! lol
    Please count me in for your giveaways...I have lots of time to read!
    jackie.smith [at]dishmail[dot]net

  63. SHERRI -- I love the sound of your story with the cattle drive. Sounds sort of Duke Wayne-ish -- with a twist!!! :)

    Let's see...advice to the self I was when starting out. 1) FINISH something. 2) Then move on and finish something else!

  64. Marilyn--that inner editor can be a real downer! You're so smart to let the words flow. (There's usually way better than we think they're gonna be.)

    Audra, thank you for giving the opportunity to be here! I'm loving all the advice in the comments.

    Walt, I think you're the hardest working man in the business. I see your name on a lotta contest wins. When your time hits, you're going to skyrocket!

  65. Slightly off topic but DOES ANYBODY KNOW HOW THAT VIDEO IS MADE I've seen those jumping around letters and sentences before on videos and I've tried to figure out how to do that and there just HAS to be a program and I WANT IT!!!!!!!!

  66. And I love that sign about Life (and here's a picture of a tree) that's so hilarious and so stinking true. All those meaningful signs. I see them in stores and think,"That sign is so sweet and I'm embarrassed to put something so meaningful on my wall."

  67. Debby--I so admire your work! Keep moving forward...I'm going to pin that on my note board.

    Mary H. -- Keep us posted on all your successes! I see good things in your future :)

    Patti Jo -- I admit it--sometimes I wanted God to give me the journey with the lottery win and the incredible talent! I'm learning to respect this one too..

  68. Love you back, Ruthy & Seekerville!

  69. What an encouraging post!! Love all of it...and the comments are full of great advice too. I think I'd keep telling myself (and do tell myself) "Just write. Even when you don't feel like. Even when you think you have lost every ounce of creativity. Even when you don't know what to say. Even when you are too tired to make sense or too sleepy to get your fingertips on the right keys. Just write, write, write. Make the time...and write."

  70. Tanya--Chocolates is the answer to so many questions. And I admire your dedication! Keep writing.

    Loving the peach cobbler...

    Vicki--Think how many people never discover their dreams! You're already a step ahead...

  71. Elizabeth--what a great attitude. And isn't Julie amazing?!

    Jackie--I sometimes dream of moving to the country...but I think it's more romanticized in my head :)

    Glynna--You're so right! I think 3/4 of the battle is just having the steadfast focus to FINISH a book!

  72. Mary--my friend got me that inspirational wall hanging and I proudly display it! Because, hey, there's a picture of a tree...

    Kav--Cheryl St.John has often said: Just because it feels like you're writing a bad book doesn't mean you're actually writing a bad book :)
    You're right--write, write, write.

  73. Thanks for the really sound advice

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

  74. Love the post, Sherri. Been there and done a lot of it, and/or had it happen, but am still slogging through the journey LOL.

  75. Sherri,
    Finally had time to view the video! Oh my gosh! Fantastic!

    Yes, Mary C, I loved the typed words as well...but the message was even better and spot on.

    I remember reading a book on art that said a true artist sees the work in her head and the actual product always falls short. Always.

    Sherri, love the quotes you shared today. All worth keeping and reflecting on as we move from stage to stage. In fact, your entire blog is a keeper.

    Bravo! Excellente! Fantastico! Magnifico!


  76. Sherri wrote:
    "Cheryl St.John has often said: Just because it feels like you're writing a bad book doesn't mean you're actually writing a bad book."

    Can we trust Cheryl on this? :)

  77. Sherri-- this post was fabulous! You made me laugh all the way through, while nodding my head and saying, "Oh yes! I totally know what she's talking about!" ;) Thank you--so fabulous! I'd love to be entered to win!

  78. Great post, Sherri! As you say, there are no shortcuts, and writing fiction is a life-long learning experience. When it's going well, it's the Best Job Ever, but when it's not, a person just wants to crawl under the bed and hide there (which is a bad plan because that won't get anything written).

  79. I know about going into a room and forgetting why I went in there. Please enter me in your giveaway. I've played tennis before. I don't know the rules but I hit the ball and ran around the court. Tennis is good exercise and I think it burns more than 400 calories in an hour.

  80. Debby-Cheryl is totally trustworthy!!!

    Amber--thank you!

    Ann--I'm really in the mood to hide right now :)

    Michelle--I feel your pain!

  81. I think I'm at the cocsiously incompetent phase. The comparison to sports really helps me. It took me a good while to hone my athletic skills, so, duh, honing my writing skills will take time and practice as well. Somehow that really hit home for me. Epiphany.


  82. Er... that was supposed to be consciously. Blasted fat fingers on tablet keyboard...

  83. MARY
    On your off topic question. It's a video editing program and would take you lots of time - trust me. It's in my stable of graphics programs. I know how to do that flipping text around stuff (have to do it for work at times). If you really want to learn, I can help.

  84. Sherri, this is a wonderful post -- so clearly expressed. I appreciate the honesty, the encouragement, and the humor. One of the biggest surprises for me has been the power of self-doubt and how it can freeze me in the writing process. If that happens again, I am immediately revisiting that Ira Glass video :-)

    Just added Winning the Widow's Heart to my iBooks earlier today. Love that cover.

    Nancy C

  85. DebH, you're amazing.

    How's your fil?

    Continuing to pray!

  86. Deb--you're amazing!

    PS, I love those epiphanies :)

    Nancy--Winning against our doubts is, quite possibly, the hardest part!It's amazing how we can sabotage ourselves.

  87. DebH, if you say it would take me a lot of time then, considering my techno skillz, it would take me a MILLENIUM!!!!

    So let's just pretend I never mentioned it.


  88. I did look up animated text and it kept insisting on making them GLITTERY!!!!!!!

    STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

  89. Great post, Sherri!

    I'm with you, Julie Steele- It's nice to to know it's part of the writing journey to feel unsure. Just have to keep going! and respect the journey.

    Would love to be in this drawing.

  90. CHERYL ST. JOHN SAID: "Julie, I've always had the philosophy that I'm only as good as my "next" book. I had an editor that kept asking for a book just like a previous one, and I couldn't do that. You are so spot on about keeping Jesus first. :-)"

    LOL ... I wish somebody would ask me to write a book like the previous one ... maybe I'd have less red ink that way. :|

    It's SO easy in this biz to focus on ourselves and our talent and success rather than Jesus because that's how we are measured -- awards, book sales, reviews. But what a deep, dark hole that is, and the sooner an author figures that out, the better. I'm slow on the uptake -- took me five years, but I finally got it and I ain't going back!! :)


  91. SHERRI SAID: 'Julie, you gave me the chills!"

    LOL ... my husband tells me that all the time, but I'm not sure it's a good thing when he says it ... ;)


  92. Just to have more confidence & to stand up for what I believe in.

  93. Julie--I think everyone feels like a fraud at one time or another!

    Mary--Very wise words!!

  94. Great post, Sherri! I'm not a writer, but I love to read. I would love to win your book. Thank you for sharing your talent with us!
    Barbara Thompson

  95. Nice article! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  96. Sherri,
    I'm so glad I stopped by Seekerville today - will add this blog to my collection of 'things to remember' when I'm discouraged about my journey.

  97. Barbara, Wendy & Rachel--Thanks for stopping by! Seekerville is such a great resource for readers & writers.