Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

If You Stop Writing Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Editor’s Note: This a guest post from Chad R. Allen, a writer, speaker, editor, and creativity coach. Chad serves as an editorial director for Baker Publishing Group, a major trade book publisher. Connect with him on Twitter and his blog.

When I was younger I played the trombone, but I didn’t really get it. I had friends who got it. You could tell orchestral music did something for them.

If You Stop Writing Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Photo Credit: MarkyBon via Compfight cc

I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. Perhaps that’s why I was always just a mediocre trombone player. I hated practicing my scales; that I remember.

Listening for the music

But as I get older I’m starting to understand it more. I hear moments in orchestral and chamber music now that make me tear up. It’s not just sound, it’s music, and I’m beginning to hear it.

So many different elements — the different timbres of the instruments, the volume, the tempo, the underlying feel — they all come together to fill the air. When orchestral music is performed well, it can transport me to a different world.

That’s how it is with books too.

When I work with an author, I’m listening for the music. I listen for flow, consistency, engagement, fit, voice, rhythm, tempo. I listen for a theme.

Sometimes a manuscript comes to me with only a partially formed idea of the finished piece. As I read, I’m trying to hear what the manuscript wants to become.

The symphonic moment

When I give feedback to authors, I comment on things like understandability or appropriateness for the audience or verbosity.

I tell the author to consider telling a story here or deleting those two paragraphs. Try the word “audacious” not “auspicious” there, I might say.

But the real magic happens when an author and I walk our way into an overall conception for the book. I call it the “symphonic moment” — that moment when we hear the music.

Sometimes, in fact often, when we hear it we realize it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. But usually the tune is so compelling, we have to try. Even if things don’t come together in just the way we want, the book is still so much better than it would have been.

Every once in a while the music comes through loud and clear, and we both have to sit back and take it in. These are the moments that keep me coming into the office.

How to hear it

You might wonder, where’s my symphonic moment? How do I get in on this? Here’s the thing:

You’ll never experience it if you give up. It is only when we writers keep writing that we have a chance of hearing the music. [Tweet that]

Writers: keep listening.

Sometimes, you won’t hear it until the rough draft is complete. It certainly won’t happen if you don’t put in the time. Your work will be worth it in the end, so please keep on writing.

You can do this, and we need you to do it.

I put together a resource kit especially for Jeff Goins readers, just because I love Jeff (and you!) so much. Visit this special page, enter your email address, and I’ll send some items I’ve prepared specially for you. Here’s what you’ll get:

  • A new infographic on how to come up with a great book concept. I recently collaborated with an artist to design this. It unveils a process for brainstorming and refining your ideas so you’ll know exactly what book concept you should pursue.
  • A video tutorial in which I talk through the infographic and help you apply it to your situation.

Get it all here.

What do you need right now to keep yourself on the writing journey? Share in the comments.

About Chad R. Allen

Chad R. Allen (@chadrallen) is a writer, speaker, editor, entrepreneur, and writing coach. Author of Do Your Art, Chad is on a mission to empower creatives to do their best work. He serves as editorial director for Baker Books, where he has worked for over fifteen years. He blogs at www.chadrallen.com.

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  • Fiona Tarr

    I want to keep writing. It’s the editing that is driving me nuts. Just when I think it’s nailed down. Someone better at it than me finds another error. Grrrr.

    • I read a great post about why we don’t find the typos. It really freed me up. Not to make mistakes, I will make mistakes. But to see that no matter how well we edit, there will still be mistakes there. Our minds know what we want to say and sometimes we read over the errors as if they’re not there.

      • Fiona Tarr

        Do you use a professional editor then? I am not sure I can afford the investment? I have had friends and a librarian edit my work but still there are errors? How does an average edit really effect the sale of our work, especially in fiction?

        • Being part of a writing group online has provided me with others who share work and advice. I have also been fortunate to have my articles and Bible Studies published and through the years I can see some of the changes. Taking Jeff’s Tribe Writers course really improved my writing, Fiona.

          • Fiona Tarr

            Tribe writers is on my list as soon as I free up a little time. Hopefully next year. Thanks for all the info. I would still like to know if professional editing is the make or break of a novel’s success.

    • Welcome to bring a writer. 😉

      • Fiona Tarr

        Thanks Jeff. How important is a professional edit really? If your story is fabulous, is that enough or does editing really make or break a book?

  • Love the idea and the encouragement here, Chad. Jeff, Thanks for allowing Chad to share his experience. You guys are awesome.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Mike! That encouragement goes both ways!

  • As I began your post I felt drawn into what you were saying. I heard the orchestra tuning up. Really nice. But then it felt like you left. Maybe what you did was create a desire for more of your writing, not sure. Thank you for your post.

  • Miriam Gunn

    Jeff, I have been following you blog for the last month or so. I want to say THANK YOU for all the variety and wonderful resources. I feel like you are becoming the writing friend I have needed to encourage me on toward better and greater things. When I spend time with your posts and interviews, I find myself getting excited to write. I appreciate you!

  • I love to write. And I need to write. Life keeps getting in the way, and I really have no support on the homefront so I’ve been feeling quite frustrated lately and haven’t put in the time and am feeling like I should give up. Okay, now that I got that out… 🙂 Thank you for this post, Chad, Jeff. You have no idea how much it meant to me.

    • Chad R. Allen

      I’m so glad. Don’t give up!!

  • Jeralyn Lash-Sands

    What I need to keep myself on my writing journey is one thing and one thing only: Less Distraction!

  • Thanks Chad, I completely agree…and I’ve been working on those symphonic moments myself. I’ve had some posts recently that just didn’t seem to come together. They worked in my brain, but not on paper. So I wanted to scrap them. But just a few days later, I worked on them again and the difficult parts started to flow, the transitions became smoother and I eliminated stumbling phrases. This writing thing definitely takes work, and I for one am happy that I kept at it. Can’t wait to check out your resources! Thanks!

    • Chad R. Allen

      The editorial value of a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold! Thanks, Lisa, and congrats again on recently launching downshiftology.com.

  • Thanks Jeff. Love your generous hearts and passion for fellow writers. Thanks Chad for this wonderful post. Always thrilled by your content. Excited to have you speak at our upcoming conference in November. https://www.ignitingsoulsconference.com/speakers/

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Kary! Can’t wait to speak at Igniting Souls.

  • Lucas Boulderguard

    What do I need right now to keep on the writing journey? That’s a good question. How long do let the car spin out in the mud before you call a tow truck? If everything happens for a reason, maybe you were meant to get stuck in the mud. Maybe there’s something in the woods that you need to see, or maybe there’s someone in the nearby town that you need to meet. Maybe the road’s not what you thought that it was, and destinations are arbitrarily determined.

    At age 6, I sat down at the kitchen table with some sheets of paper and crayons. I drew the pictures and wrote the words to a book that I stiched together with my mother’s yarn. THE MAGIC CHRISTMAS TREE. Everyone was so impressed that I did that, and I felt good. As the youngest of three sons, it meant that I finally got to be good at something. For my third grade English class, I wrote a story about people who survived a plane crash on a remote island. My teacher read it for the entire class. Something similar happened in the eigth grade when I wrote an essay on the first gulf war. My teacher sent copies of it to troops stationed in Iraq. But by college I was studying Pavlov’s salivating dog, and the little white mice in labratories who keep coming back to the nicotine until they were dead.

    I began to wonder if writing wasn’t some infinite quest for validation on my part. Was I only writing because I sucked at sports and didn’t have the math skills to be a doctor? I began to see writing as a gigantic ego orgy, because really what writers are saying is that they have something so important to say that everyone should read it. Do I really have something that needs said? That hasn’t been said before?

    The are over 9,000 people in just one of my online writer’s groups and nearly a quarter of a million people take part in NANOWRIMO every year. That’s a lot of content. Now with self-publishing there’s an infinite sea of self-indulgent unedited crap inundating the market. Sometimes I began to see myself as a carpenter ant, carrying food back to my colony, but with so many ants there’s very little food. Why am I still doing this? Maybe for the same reasons I could stop masturbating in high school. Because it felt good and I didn’t have enough self-esteem for a real girlfriend. Do I really have something to say that hasn’t been said already? With the glut of content that’s already out there, do I really have a voice? Or maybe I should just record videos of a goat running into my balls and post them on Youtube. I can always get noticed that way.

  • What do I need right now to keep myself on the writing journey? Encouragement. Last night I told myself I was giving up. This morning I told myself I would give it all I’ve got until the end of the year, then I’d give up. I guess your email popped into my inbox at just the right time. I’ll be listening for the music and hopefully I’ll hear melodic sounds before the end of the year! 🙂

    • Chad R. Allen

      Yes! Keep on keeping on!

  • I have quit so many times. But the next day I’m back at it. Chugging alog on the keys. CHOO CHOO!! Great post. Thanks Chad. Thanks Jeff. I haven’t been by lately. Been in my writing cave.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Good to see you here, Robyn!

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    A deadline works wonders for me. 😉

    • Chad R. Allen

      Good point! That’s why we include one in all our contracts! But there’s no reason we can’t make contracts with ourselves too.

  • Accountability–people who check in from time-to-time to see how you’re doing. It’s always easier to do something together rather than alone.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Steve, amen! There are a lot of different ways to do this. My advice: don’t go it alone.

  • LuAnn Braley

    A little less chaos and a low-power cattle prod?

    • Chad R. Allen

      Ha! That might do it!!

  • Vicki Cato

    Reminds me of playing the piano as a child. I never wanted to practice.

    • Chad R. Allen

      That was me!

  • I like the orchestra metaphor you’ve used. I have found myself nodding while reading your post. It really is true that “sometimes, you won’t hear it until the rough draft is complete.” In rare moments, though, a flash of inspiration has given me a whole symphony from the start to finish of a draft. When that happens, music reverberates from the page. Pity it is so hard to recapture. I have days when I want to quit, but I hope I won’t. I like chamber music around me. Great post.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Karen!

  • ourstoriesgodsglory

    Wonderful encouraging post. Had to share it! Thank you!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Many thanks for doing so!

  • I love this post on so many levels. First, because I’ve been writing off and on for a number of years. I need to commit to writing on a regular basis, though! Plus, I play violin, so I can totally relate to the music metaphor you used. 🙂

    • Chad R. Allen

      Glad it worked for you, Natalie, and thanks for saying so.

  • Lisa Van Engen

    Thank you. It’s the encouragement to not quit… that whisper that the hours polishing words mean something in the end. That your words could make a difference.

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’er welcome, Lisa, and thanks for taking the time to comment so faithfully!

  • Exactly what I needed this morning. Took me 5 years to publish my first book. It’s doing great on Amazon. Now comes the task of writing the next one and I feel spent. The thrill of the last book, with it’s adventure, characters and climactic structure, has made the outline of the next book seem drab. I know the music is there, I’ve just not heard it yet. This statement rigs true for me, “Sometimes, you won’t hear it until the rough draft is complete.”

    • Chad R. Allen

      Yeah, going from the high of getting a book out there to the, well, the not-quite-so-high of starting a new one can be tough. But lean into it. There’s a cycle to all this. Stick with it.

  • Thiago Toste

    Great post!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Thiago!

  • Chad, I don’t know how to appropriately convey what this post means to me. It signifies the hope that things could turn around,and fresh lungs full of air to push on once more. No value can be laid on hope. Thanks. 🙂

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thank YOU! I’m saying this post to myself as much as anybody, so I appreciate the encouragement. Godspeed!

  • Very motivating indeed. Keep up Chad

  • “What do you need right now to keep yourself on the writing journey? ”

    I think for me, it’s a belief that my goals are attainable, and that pursuing this dream isn’t just a collosal waste of time. Jeff says things like “The world needs your words” and while I want that to be true, there’s a part of me that has a hard time believing it.

  • Wow, Awesome Chad! What a great analogy and reason to “keep writing.” Jeff’s story has been an inspiration to me in this area as well. Thanks!

  • Toni Adwell

    I love when different artistic expressions can cross paths to make something as motivating and wonderfully written as this. 🙂 What do I need right now to keep myself on the writing journey? To re-prioritize certain aspects of my life. I’m doing well in keeping up with my blog, (which I thought for sure would have died an agonizing death by now), but I need to shuffle a few things and start writing my novel.

  • melanieamoore

    I want to keep writing, but my struggle is whether to keep blogging. Writing feels like creativity and art, but blogging is starting to feel like I’m screaming “Look at me! Look at me!” in the middle of a noisy airport terminal.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Melanie, I hear you. I guess I’d want to question the line between writing and blogging. I sometimes think of them as uber distinct from each other. I think of writing as art and blogging as something less than that, but it need not be so. Some of the most creative and inspiring content I’ve ever read has been in blog posts. I hope this helps.

    • Some days blogging does seem pointless. I feel like you do – who is listening??? But once you have your book done you at least have some platform from which to sell.

      One week I started what was going to be a short post and youtube video combo and it turned into a 29-page booklet. I never saw it coming. It is not the fiction novel I wanted. It is non-fiction. But hey, I think I will go the e-book route and try to sell it as booklet for $0.99. Why not? I took 4 weeks of very hard work and I enjoyed it. it was spontaneous.

      Keep blogging and something might happen! I blog on subjects I like to explore
      and that could be used in fiction or nonfiction later. If I need any one of the
      concepts, I already have a researched article I can use that is there for the
      splicing. I have lots of articles I have not published yet.

      Either Jeff Goins or Chad Allen said consistency is more important than
      frequency. I decided from the beginning to only post once every week and half!

      That is going to the extreme, but personally I end up unsubscribing from most people that post every day. There are too many days they don’t say much and it wastes my time or they are selling too hard. The light posting schedule gives me time for my job, cleaning the house and cooking food! Plus, I love to read. I don’t want to give that up.

      Don’t give up the fight!