I’m from the South, and we Southerners love colloquial expressions. They’re fun, and they often put important life-changing maxims into humorous (and memorable) bite-sized statements. And one of my favorites is: It’s time to fish or cut bait!
To be honest, this expression has been my mantra more than once in my writing career. It simply means to stop hesitating and move forward instead of giving up and settling for the status quo.
Make a Decision
Who wants to cut the bait instead of being the fisherman? Not me! And I don’t think you do either. (Okay, so we usually bait our hooks with worms, instead of cutting bait. I'm pretty sure you still understand what I mean.) Anyway...we have to make a conscious decision to move out of our comfort zones and put ourselves ‘out there’ with our writing. This can mean having the courage to hit the Send button on a submission or query email or actually pushing that letter to the publishing company or agent through the mail slot at the post office.
For example, I specifically remember the day I had completed an article about Herbert Hoover. I was getting ready to submit it by email to a history magazine that accepted unsolicited manuscripts and was gearing up for an issue about the Great Depression. My finger hovered over the Send button for several long seconds. Was the piece good enough? Would the editor take one look at my feeble effort and laugh? I contemplated forgetting the whole thing. Then I said to myself, “It’s time to fish or cut bait!” I sent the email.
The result? I sold the article, and it was the first of many sales to this magazine.
This also happened with my first book proposal submission. I hesitated and second-guessed myself, but then I remembered my ultimate goal of publication. What did I have to lose?
So, again, I said to myself, “It’s time to fish or cut bait.”
The result? A book contract.
Of course, rejections are still a big part of my writing life, BUT I would’ve had no successes at all if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone and submitted my work—even when it was hard and a bit unnerving at time.
How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
1. Be prepared.
Put time and effort into learning the craft of writing. Have others critique and review your work. Take classes. Read books. Write, write, write. If you have taken this important step, you’re ready to move forward, and your chances of publication are much higher.
2. Keep your goals in the front of your mind.
If you want something bad enough, you must be willing to take risks and be a bit vulnerable. It takes courage to put your work in the public eye, but worrying about what others think is irrelevant. These are YOUR goals, and anything is better than staying in the same place if you truly want to make progress.
3. Know you might be rejected…at first.
There’s always the chance your work might be rejected at first, but that’s okay. Expect it, but don’t despair. Work on improving your craft and keep submitting. As Wayne Gretzky, the legendary hockey player, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
The path to publication requires you to learn as you go. Just don’t give up! What one editor rejects might be just what the next editor is looking for.
4. Just do it!
Remember the famous Nike ad! Go ahead and just do it! Take a deep breath and press the Send button, mail the envelope, or make the phone call. What do you have to lose? If you fail, you fail. But what if you succeed? You’ll never know if you don’t give it a shot!
Stepping outside your comfort zone to submit your writing takes courage and determination. But if you want to join the club of published writers, sooner or later you must take that first step. Why not make it sooner rather than later?
It’s time to fish or cut bait!
P.S. Let me know if you land the big one!