Every summer my family spends a week at the beach. My favorite activity is a daily walk along the shore looking for heart-shaped rocks, crinoids, and sea glass. This year, it struck me how much a beach walk is like the writing process. Generally, I like to take these walks alone, meandering slowly one way, sun at my back, looking for treasures. Sometimes I find a piece or two, but when I turn and walk the other way with the sun at my face—in literally a new light—I make discoveries I had missed the first time.
This is an entirely different experience when my kids come along. My eight-year-old is a particularly skillful sea-glass hunter. Observing her reminds me of my writing goal-word for the year: FOCUS. When she is looking for sea glass, that’s all that’s on her mind, and she finds piece after piece after piece. In my writing, I am also more successful when I can focus on a single task.
My kids are competitive sea glass hunters, practically pushing me out of the way in order to get the first view of the path of rocks along the shore. At first I felt a drive to compete with them, but that left me frustrated and unsuccessful. If I let them go on ahead, inevitably there would be a piece or two or three that they, in their haste, had walked past. When I took my time and didn’t compare my success—or lack of—with theirs, I was more successful.
Our last beach trip inspired me to take a few months away from querying agents to hone my picture book writing skills, to FOCUS. In the meantime, I’ve been watching other people rush ahead of me: finding agents, making book deals, and getting published. And that's OK. Since taking time to look at my goals in a new light, my writing has improved, and I am ready to take the next steps.
Although getting published is a slow business, the process can be fulfilling in its own right. It’s like taking step after step along the beach, feeling like I’ve gone nowhere, then looking back to see a remarkable distance from the starting point. Similar to filling a bucket with sea glass and heart rocks that mark a successful hunt, the steps I have taken with my writing have produced a bucket of promising stories that, with patience, will one day be real books.