Before and….still Before?

We’ve all seen those advertisements on TV, in magazines and newspapers – miraculous transformations of some type or another. Weight loss, hair growth, muscle toning, tanning from a bottle, an endless parade of promises so rarely kept. Each one with the obligatory before and after shots. I swear that the pictures in some of those weight loss ads have been purposely reversed, with the after actually taken when the subject was slim & trim, and the before following months of constant gorging.  My question is this...at what point do they really become after?  I mean, if somebody lost 50 pounds with a miracle diet, couldn't they have been successful at 45?  40?

We as writers are striving for our own form of metamorphosis, from fledgling writer to published author. All you need to do is scroll down through your Google Reader or take a stroll through our blogging community to see numerous before pictures. When one of our comrades achieves the dream by landing an agent, their blog will sometimes undergo a face-lift to reflect their new stature, but most of the time it remains the same and we simply view it differently.  The after picture forms in our own mind.

Each one of us realizes the reality...that there are no miracle transformations. Regardless of what you see advertised, it takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication to reach that after picture. There is no book, web-seminar, on-line class, or conference that will turn you from a novice to novelist overnight. All that educational material can help, no doubt, but you have to do the work! Sure there are exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions, and they are few and far between. The majority of published writers churn out ream after ream of unrealized material before traction takes hold and they lurch forward to the next step.

The cameraman won’t be looking for my after snapshot anytime soon, but I’m also not the same writer I was when that image slowly developed on my before picture. I’ve wrote, and studied, wrote, and listened, wrote, and edited, wrote, and revised, wrote, and critiqued, wrote, and read, until my eyes have gone cross. When they do eventually take that after picture and hold it up beside the before, I’m going to laugh.  Signing an agent might someday be the event that warrants a picture, but the transformation will have occurred much earlier.

I am so much more than …before.  How about you?

57 comments

  1. Well, my weight has gone up, but my MS word count has gone down :-)

    Great post. I totally agree. We grow as writers, and even if we achieve publishing, we will continue to grow with each MS we write. There is no 'after.'

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  2. I am so much more than before.

    I'm taking that and pinning it up on my bulletin board.

    I'm trying to get my blog to where it would be if I was published. I'm trying to instill the dream before it happens. Who was it that said, Live the life you want now. I figure I'll give it a shot.

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  3. I am the here and now...a work in progress, no before and no after. I am what I am and that's all that I am...toot toot! Now as far as the weight goes, well......

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  4. My before writing picture had less grey, less wrinkles and less joy...So I guess my after picture may not look as nice, but it feels pretty good.

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  5. I can see the stages. Most of the changes are internal, subtle, or intangible, so no after picture.

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  6. I love this! I think I've come a long way from my 'before' picture too. I've learned so much in the year and a half (I think) I've been looking into this whole publishing thing. I'm excited to see what the 'after' picture will look like :)

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  7. I'm a work-in-progress, in my writing, in my life. Looking forward with anticipation of things to come, and looking back with a surge of pride for the progress I've made, are occasional moments of reflection for me.

    It's funny, this seems especially pertinent tonight,as I slipped the last of the old photos out of the trunk and into their new binder. Looking back has been wonderful and insightful. For some reason, it takes an old photo to remind me how good it was "back then." Because "back then" we were always looking forward -- to having our second child, to moving to the States, to Christian's new career...

    I want to live in the moment. Be present in my life right now, and in my writing, too. Sometimes, when I look forward for too long in a stretch, I loose the joy of the process.

    Here's to being the best we can be today, the surest way to a successful future!

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  8. I'm already one sort of after. I am to the point where I actually feel like a writer. An unpublished one (if I don't count my blog) but a writer nonetheless. I will be another after once I finish a complete draft of one of my MS's. And again once I get it polished. And sent out. And then published. I am a constant work of progress. My after picture will keep updating and never mind the before.

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  9. This is an excellent post. I've never really thought about that before. Just in the time I've been blogging and reading and doing beta work I've changed as a writer. I look now from my first novel that is collecting dust to the fifth one I am just starting and I can see immense changes. In so many aspects of our lives we can look and see that we have grown and changed. I think I keep thinking my 'after' is when I am published and holding my book in my hand. But I should probably appreciate the smaller things more and then I might see the real accomplishments.

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  10. I'm like Christi. My weight has gone up but I'd have to say my writing follows that trend. Just moving gets me to the after. But, is there an after, or only just a right now?
    Thoughts to ponder. Great post!

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  11. I love what Nicole said, and agree 100%.

    Here's to being the best we can be TODAY. :)

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  12. What a great post - and the message in it. I don't know what my after picture would look like, I'm not sure I'd ever feel that I've reached my full potential.

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  13. There was a before picture!?! Everything is before or after, and in that way it's black and white. I am where I am today, and I'm cool with that. Tommorow I will grow, or I might take a step back and learn one of those super important life lessons. I don't, it hasn't happened yet. So I live in the gray and take life as it comes as much as possible. Do I dream? Yes. Do I live in the now? Yes. Transformation comes in many forms, and it will only happen as fast as it does. It's like Demetri Martin said "I have a time machine in my living room. It goes forward at a regular speed. So really it's just a cardboard box." And I kinda dig that :) Nice post, gave me something to chew on.

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  14. Before and after pictures can be scary, but they do tell a story. I've learned a great deal on my path to publication. And one of the greatest lessons was there's always more to learn. You're never finished. But isn't that great?

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  15. Oh, I so agree with this! It's funny how we view people who are agented differently (even if we knew them before the fact.) I strive to already be that person, in hopes that I won't have as much growing to do after. I'm sure that didn't make sense. LOL. Oh well. It did in my head :)

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  16. I agree!! I thought it would be fun to look at something I wrote about a year ago and when I did... LOL... oh man, was it funny! I think I've grown. And thank God I never showed anyone that piece. They would probably still be laughing at me.

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  17. Yes, this is sooooo true! You definitely have to put the time and effort in if you want to get to that "after" shot. I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle stages. Not quite as green as when I first started, but I still have a long way to go.

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  18. So you're saying that maybe we should get our photos done now before we start to look older. Actually, that's not a bad idea. :D

    If my current wip was to be published, my blog wouldn't change. My posts are still popular, and my blog design is perfect for the book. But don't you think the picture of a heart drawn in the sand with the wave eating at it is perfect for a book called LOST IN A HEARTBEAT? Especially when the book is partially about swimming, and takes place near a lake. ;)

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  19. You bring up such an excellent point! Thanks for the wonderful post :-)

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  20. This is the great duality of writerly thought: look back and we've come so far; look forward and we still have so far to go.

    As you so succinctly point out, remembering those two facts helps us stay focused and on track.

    Great post!

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  21. Great point! There's so much work between "before" and "after", but we all think it's some magic *poof* from unpublished to published. I get better everyday (mostly), and that's what I try to feel proud of.

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  22. Those before and after shots are a crock.

    I am definitely a work in progress. When I think back to where I was even 5 years ago, I've made huge strides! And if I go back further 10 or 20 years then I don't feel like the same person at all. Whether the changes are for the better or worse remains to be seen.

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  23. Great analogy! I feel like I've come such a long way in the last year too. i might not have the credentials yet but every query and every new ms or new editing session brings me closer.

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  24. There's never a final "after," I'm happy to say. That's the nice thing about an infinitely challenging profession.

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  25. Well said! It's all these little pieces of information we collect that change us as writers. And it's true, the transformation is slow, but I think that's the sign of true transformation. We don't lose weight or grow our hair out overnight either (although I wish we did!)

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  26. I agree 100% DL. I also think the important thing is that as novice writers we continue to grow and evolve and never dream of shortcuts! Okay we can dream ...

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  27. Even now I'm looking through the ms I've left alone for a few months and Holy Before Picture, Batman. We learn as we read, as we write, as we research. How many times will I think I'm ready for the after picture, only to be wrong? Maybe after the book is out? Haha. I'm thinking I'll be too ecstatic to care at that point.
    Excellent post, DL.

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  28. Terrific message in this post! I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished since before and I'm only expecting bigger and better things in the after!

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  29. I agree with your post. I think we need to happy about each accomplishment along the way. There is no before and after, there is a then and now and soon-to.

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  30. I think I'm still closer to the before than the after, but the journey has been wonderful thus far.

    I have learned a lot and the more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know. ;)

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  31. I'm much more now than I was before I started writing. I'm still shy, but not quite as much. I proved it when I was able to talk to some of my favorite authors at a convention I went to. Before writing, I wouldn't have gotten near them.

    Writing has changed me, no doubt about it!

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  32. I only look back to see how to make tomorrow better.

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  33. Jaleh ~ Excellent point. Our after is a series of steps, not a destination.

    Erica ~ I live in the gray. I love that!


    JP ~ A state of flux ...this is a writers life.

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  34. Lorel ~ That's a common theme I'm hearing in my comments...if you take care of the day to day improvements the rest will take care of itself.

    Rosslyn ~ Spoken from one who would know! Thank you!

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  35. I'm hoping my before and after shot will look exactly the same, because in essence, I hope I will be.
    :)

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  36. Lydia ~ When you become published people will see you differently, even though you vow to remain the same person. The question then becomes whether or not you'll change to meet their perceptions. It may be harder than you imagine.

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  37. Wow, great post really! I have also grown, and this post made me realize that. It made me smile! =)
    Thanks!

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  38. Clara ~ I'm glad I provided you a smile today! It helps to remind our self of how much we've grown even though we may not have achieved our goals yet. :)

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  39. It's funny, I was just discussing this with a friend of mine. It's strange how our image of a person changes when they land the agent or the book deal. Their content remains pretty much the same, but we perceive them differently, flock more readily to their blogs, become more supportive. When, it seems to me, the ones who are fledgling and fighting and struggling to get there need our support just as much. We shouldn't wait until the after picture to say, "You've done well, guy." Because the fact is, you've been doing well all along AND you will continue to improve and do well. Maybe we need to not have the after picture as much as we need a running series of pictures. I'm now confusing myself with this analogy.

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  40. I loved this post! And the only thing that will change about my blog once I'm published is my name. :)

    I've learned so much in only a few short months, mainly from all these wonderful blogs I've read, so each day is sort of an "after" picture of me.

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  41. Great post! And so encouraging. Even before that big transforming event, I'm a different writer today than I was ten years ago, a year ago, or even last week. Well said!

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  42. I love your new look, Don! I feel wild and free over here. :) Have a great weekend!

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  43. I so agree with this post...I believe BEFORE we as writers get to that "Big Day" the change happens in our minds...somewhere in the learning process it happens...and it's that moment of change that helps us get discovered.

    Hawk

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  44. Amanda ~ The thing is that once you are published, it's not you who will change, its the bloggers around you who will see you differently. They won't be able to help it...its human nature. Just be ready for that.

    Thank you contributing to the dialogue!

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  45. Great post! I'm enjoying every step of the journey, even the stumbles.

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  46. The life before me is much briefer than the years past. I can't think about the future and what it will bring. I have to focus on one day at a time. But writing keeps me going as I keep taking care of my disabled daughter.

    I'm here because you just signed into my blog as a follower. Glad you did so I could come over and find YOU. I will be back.

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  47. Interesting post.


    I am my before, and my during, and my after. To my mind, the transition between the parts of my life are not glaringly obvious befores and afters. Usually, there's a slow slide to get from one me to another me.

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  48. Great analogy! I think the difference is that we can pause and appreciate all the moments in between. After all isn't it the path as much as the destination?

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  49. Wow. DL, your blog looks fantastic! Congrats on the new look.

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  50. There's been quite a few "before's" and "afters" along the way for me. When is the final one? Do you ever really get your final "After" shot?

    My before shot was: "before I wrote the book." Then, before I learned about word count. Before I edited for the hundredth time. Before I had a working manuscript. Before I rewrote my working manuscript.

    At some point I will have other before's and other afters--but the work is never really done is it?

    What I want to see is six months after the "After" shot. Are they back where they were before? Somewhere further along the road to after? Or still walking the line in between?

    It's all subjective...isn't it? haha...I'm starting to confuse myself. I'm going to go enjoy the journey now.

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  51. Lisa ~ We tend to focus on the destination because that is why we're on this journey, but sometimes its good to just sit back and enjoy the view.

    Callie ~ I agree...rather than two pictures representing before and after...I envision it more like a series of snapshots along the way. The difference between each snapshot would probably appear miniscule to me and you, but the change is there.

    And the change is subjective...almost always more dramatic to those watching us.

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  52. So true.
    So much has changes over the years as I have learned to hine the craft and figure out some things about queries, etc.
    My writing group has really made a difference. You learn so much from other writers!

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  53. * changed
    * hone
    Hahah! SOrry, have a kid in my lap!

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  54. You know, I never thought about how new authors, with a publishing contract freshly under their belts, *do* get a face lift. Professional author pix, new website design... Maybe we should all post our before and after author pix!

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  55. Jo ~ I'm chuckling as I picture you sitting at the keyboard with a child on your lap. :) I didn't really gain traction until I joined a writers group as well.

    K.M. ~ Done! And I'll also shamelessly admit to taking a picture in Barnes & Noble of the space on the bookshelf where I future novel will rest. :)

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  56. When I write something I know I will be able to write it better later, that is how confident I am about my continued improvement. The only way this will not be so is if I stop or slow down my writing volume. I know I am not at my best now and I think I shall never feel like I am at my best. I hope to continue feeling that way. No before and then after for me. I don't want to feel comfortable with a future "after". I just want a continued betterment of me and my writing till I can not write any longer. Can ya tell I like the journey? At least the journey can be a guaranteed good thing. Success might not be.

    And nice to join ya!

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