Yeah, yeah, I’m a rebel. I couldn’t think of anything on the topic of No Limits—besides the opposite. Because I’m contrary like that.
So if this turns all Negative Nelly on you, I blame it on Tina.
So, why is ‘No Limits’ bad for you?
#1 - No Limits=Bad Physical Habits
Successful writing takes a lot of time in the chair. If you’re not in a chair more than most anybody in the world, you’re probably not writing enough. But that means we’ve got a problem fitness-wise, bodies need to be active. If you sit and do all your writing responsibilities without limits, you’ll be in trouble.
And if you don’t believe me, would you believe people at Harvard? Too much sitting linked to an early death.
And of course if we don’t limit the chocolate/sweets intake while we’re sitting in that chair infusing emotion into fake people…
You need to set yourself some physical limits. Get up!
#2 - No Limits=Bad Mental Habits
If we aren’t careful with how we spend our time in that wannabe electric chair we write in, we can also gain some bad habits of the mind. Social media marketing can suck you into a black hole of wasted time.
Without time limits, unimportant things can spiral out of control. Our brain needs direction, otherwise it’s going to take the easy way out. Writing is difficult, but liking things on social media is easy. Or perhaps you find editing, reediting, and fiddling with words much easy than writing, or maybe writing that scene in your head for your next book feels easier than fixing that scene your critique partner didn’t buy.
Don’t let your brain get lazy, limit the time sucking activities and get to work on the hard stuff.
#3 - No Limits=Failure
How’s that saying go? ‘If you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll be among the stars?’
Nonsense. In a regular spaceship going 17,600 mph, it would take 165,000 years to get to the nearest star. (I’m not counting the sun since that’s not what the saying means if anyone wants to get technical on me.)
Not to mention that if you shoot for the moon and miss, you essentially failed. Big Fat F for you!
If you believe you have no limits, one day you may be really disappointed to realize you’ve gotten nowhere. Narrow down your targets, then aim, shoot, and move toward the ones that matter most.
#4 - No Limits=Potential Untrustworthiness
Deadlines are Limits. You can’t get rid of them. Even in self-publishing, if you hit that preorder option on Amazon, you’ve got yourself a limit on how much time you can spend on a project.
Ignoring deadlines will not gain you favor in the eyes of publishing professionals. The more times you fail to make your deadlines, the likelihood a publisher will give the next contract to someone else who can be trusted rises.
Constantly pushing back promised release dates will not gain you the favor of readers awaiting your promised book. And the longer it takes you to get out the next book, the likelihood your readers will find another author to patronize goes up.
#5 - No Limits=Exhaustion
I’m not good at this one either. When people ask me how I get everything I’ve got going done, I like to joke that when I had my first baby, I got used to being sleep deprived and just went with it.
Those deadlines can kill you if you don’t set up your time properly.
This is why I’d suggest that no one try to get their first book published until you have a handful of books under your belt. I doubt you sat down with that first book every day and pounded out words systematically. You likely stopped and started while chasing the elusive muse. Hopefully while you wrote that first one, you realized you needed to learn/increase your knowledge of craft and story, then rewrote or moved to the next book with your newly acquired skill set.
So how can you know how fast you can produce a book? The more books you write, the more familiar you are with your writing process. If you’re put under contract with that first book, how confident will you be to say, “Sure, I can turn in a quality book in 8 months”?
You do have limits. Producing a good book in a few short weeks can be possible for some, but are you sure you can do it if you’ve never been limited by time before? You may end up one very, very exhausted writer trying to make that first deadline.
#6 - No Limits=Panic
Practice your limits. When I was writing my first book, I listened to a few published authors and noted that most were writing a book while editing and marketing. So I decided to start then and there by practicing having 4 projects going at once. I was plotting/brainstorming one book, while writing another, while editing another, while working on my marketing platform all at the same time. Could I do it? How long did I need for each task?
I’m very thankful I started doing that early. I don’t think I’d be capable keeping up with my current publishing schedule as well as I am if I hadn’t practiced, because frankly, the publishing schedule is even more demanding than what I demanded of myself. I could have easily become an emotional wreck, sitting in a corner, sucking my thumb with the amount of work expected of me.
My acquiring editor cares about me, sure, but the publishing machine doesn’t hand me exemptions just because I homeschool with three children at home.
I’ve had to drop a lot of things—a lot of good things—from my schedule, like television (though I’m not sure anyone can convince me that’s good anymore), church choir, a particular homeschool curriculum that was too time consuming for me, crafting hobbies, etc. because I indeed have limits. If I thought my capabilities had no limits and tried to do everything, I’d end up in the loony bin.
#7 - No Limits=Unable to handle criticism well
If you believe you can do it all, you’ll be ill-equipped to cope when someone very publically claims you failed. Very few writers are going to put out an award-winning piece on their first try. And even if it is award-winning, some people will still hate it. Actually, my first piece was award-winning (And still free as an ebook!), but it wasn’t beloved by all….
If you don’t realize people’s reading preferences will limit what they enjoy, those one star Amazon reviews can feel like a deflating sucker punch to the gut.
Or you might think you can address ALL. THE. PROBLEMS. in negative reviews in your next book. However if you start fixing everything reviewers hate, you’ll likely lose your voice, your intent, your unique niche in the genre because you’re trying to make everyone happy. Limit yourself to making your target audience happy, not everyone in the world.
Appeasing all of my one star reviewers would be completely impossible, especially since some of them claim that I did the opposite of what another reviewer claims. If pleasing people is high on your list of character attributes, trying to do so writing fiction will likely make you feel like the biggest loser ever.
However, if you realize you have limits, you can focus on the right bits of criticism and focus on one at a time.
Do you hate draggy books and you get a lot of comments that your book drags in the middle? Then on the next book, focus on whittling down that middle. Whittle until it hurts. Then whittle some more. Let it sit and when you return to read it after some time spent away, if the book still works, you can thank your reviewers.
Do people criticize you for being all angsty and letting the romantic tension drive them crazy until the end of the book, but YOU sadistically like it when a book has you in agony with the “will they or won’t they” question? Check if anyone else likes that angst, and if they do, FORGET THOSE CRITICIZERS. They’re not your target audience—you and those 5 star reviewers who liked that about your book are.
#8 - No Limits=Unrealistic Expectations
Do I dare say that if you don’t recognize the limit of the talent you possess, you could waste a lot of time and money on that sky-high goal you’re doomed not to hit?
I can work on dancing all I want—and I will get better—but if I believed that with hard work and determination I could become a world class champion swing dancer, I’m going to waste a lot of time and money. (I found out that I do not have the talent of rhythm when I was required to clap and sing at the same time in show choir, the only possible way for me to do so was to sing while mindlessly mimicking the person clapping next to me. Otherwise, I’d have turned our uptempo version of the Magnificat into the MagnifiCAN’T.)
If you want to write, do so! Have fun! Grow! I don’t even believe you need a lofty calling to write and seek publication. If you want to write, do it.
But if you’re expecting to write something about a snail and produce a poem like Oliver Wendell Holmes’s, The Chambered Nautilus, but your poetry talent is more suited for a piece like Shel Silverstein’s, Warning, you’re going to be disappointed that you never get appointed as Poet Laureate. Or if you’d rather be Silverstein, but your talent lies in intricate poetics like Holmes, then you’ll be disappointed when no middle schoolers ask for your autograph.
Don’t go through life disappointed about your limits, work with them, take advantage of them, grow within them, and if you happen to conquer one, rejoice!
Use limits to your advantage and become the best kind of writer you can be!
Melissa Jagears limits herself to homeschooling, writing, editing, bookkeeping, and keeping the house clean enough that Hazmat suits aren’t required to enter her house. She, however, needs to get out of her chair more often, eat less sweets, and really try to stop writing long before 4 am.....but well, she’s a bit overweight and exhausted at the moment for a reason. You can find her online at melissajagears.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Here newest book is A Bride at Last, which was written while caring for a newborn—do you know how limiting those are to productivity???? And the next one for up for preorder is with our very own Seeker, Mary Connealy, With This Ring?
Seekerville is giving away an ecopy of the winner's choice of one of Melissa's Unexpected Brides series books. Just let her know how you feel about #nolimits VS #limits in today's comments.
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