Avoiding the Exits

Forge ahead.

Before I get too deeply into today’s topic, I should mention that I will be spending a large chunk of this summer in Viet Nam, from June 17-June 29. I will be leading 4 students from my college to and from Viet Nam, and working with the Global Education Network as the students undertake service learning. I’m not sure what the nature of our service will be yet. I will also be spending a little time in Singapore undergoing orientation.

Yup. Pretty excited on this end. Now what I need is a short course in Vietnamese, something like Vietnamese through osmosis or something.


Yesterday was a pretty rewarding day. I had an hour long reading, and I kept everyone entertained with the WiP. I am moving along toward the beta send out. I feel like I’ve come a long way on the road to completing this novel.

As a writer, it is SO tempting to be diverted from the road you are on. Lots of writers take lots of turn-offs and slip roads on the road to completing a longer journey. At the end of my road would be publication of my book via traditional means. What sorts of alternative routes have tempted me so far?

Exit to Shorter Completion Time: I see a lot of friends writing short stories, and I see those short stories getting done, sent out and published. It’s not that it takes less skill to write a short, but it does take less time. Sometimes, traveling a shorter road is really tempting.

Exit to Avoid Revision: By not giving ourselves the time and ability to look at our work and revise, we try to race to the end of the publishing road, but we end up taking a detour through this exit.

Exit to Multiple Writing Projects: Ever start a project, and get excited by another project? Yeah. Or tell yourself you could work on a couple of things at the same time? Yeah… I will be doing a novella contest here soon, and the deadline is December 10th,but I won’t be starting until I’ve got this project done.

Exit to Interruption: It happens, but you can lose momentum. Like when my computer blew up this summer.

Exit to Things that Seem Like Writing, but aren’t Actually Writing: Taking this exit is fine if you make sure you get back on the main road. This can be things like editing a magazine, reading slush, going to conventions, writing in your blog (!). All can be good, fun things, and they can teach you loads, but what if you’re doing them, and you’re not writing? Can’t get the novel done if you’re not writing.

Exit to Ego: The belief that publishing has nothing to offer you, for whatever reason. It can be a good reason, such as wanting to be an entrepreneur in writing, or it can be a different reason, like how publishers wouldn’t recognize a good book if it bit them in various body parts.

Exit to Burnout: The rejections get to you, and that makes you decide to stop getting them by no longer submitting.

Exit to Doubt: You wibble and wobble about whether you should do this or not.

Exit to Depression/Despair: Writing makes you feel bad enough that you don’t do it.

Exit to Perfection: At first, this just seems like an extension in the road, but it really leads to a nasty quagmire of never finishing.

Exit to Not Now: Sometimes we do have legitimate reasons to not write. Still doesn’t mean we’re writing.

Exit to Impatience: I’ve taken this exit a lot myself. You know, WTF publishing? You move with the speed of a broken snail!

The Exit that Is Close but Isn’t There: Yeah, I know all the fast food joints on this exit. 🙂

I’m sure you can think of more exits than the ones I’ve listed here.


It is difficult to traverse a road on the way to completing something creative. There’s backtracking and exiting, and people pass you buy. You envy the faster, slicker cars as you move forward in your practical Subaru, and you shudder at the wrecks left on the side of the road, hoping that won’t be you. And you keep going, slow, and steady, until you reach your destination.

Not like a broken snail. Like a tortoise that wins races and doesn’t dope. And if you get off on one of the exits, because you don’t like the road, okay. But if you want to take this road, realize that a slow and steady pace, not fast, not immediate, not emotional, serves you well. You’ll also get good mileage.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.