Last week I started a new series that I am calling Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.
Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*
Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.
This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this new series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. In short, Don’t Eat the Butt. Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the literary puffer butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.
Without further ado…
Don’t Eat the Butt Lesson #2
Lie: I will take my writing more seriously when others (friends, family, the FedEx guy) take me seriously.
Many of us, when we begin as writers, won’t even call ourselves writers because we don’t yet have a finished manuscript, an agent, a publisher. See DETB Lesson #1. When we are new, often we look to outsiders to give us validation and to take our careers seriously…so that we can, too.
Okay, on what planet does this make ANY sense?
Hey, I’ve been there. I recall years ago when I first started out, I let EVERYONE interrupt me. When I had time slotted out for writing, all the sudden my mother needed me to take her for errands, my brother needed someone to watch his kids so he could go to Lowes, my friends needed someone to help them write a resume. And everyone expected me to just drop what I was doing and help…because it wasn’t like I was doing anything anyway, right?
Hold that thought. Notice how no one takes us seriously as writers until they need someone to write their resume for free? Then we get, “Oh, well I need your help because you’re a writer.”
So here my entire family would just assume that I wasn’t doing anything and would line up to take their share of my time and energy…but why wouldn’t they? Instead of putting down boundaries, I would comply and do whatever and then whine and moan that no one took me seriously.
Why would they? I didn’t even take myself seriously.
I had to shift my thinking in order to change the behavior of others. If I didn’t view my writing as a legitimate profession, I would continue to let others walk all over me because I had set out a Welcome mat. If I was a doctor or an accountant, no one would think of showing up at my office and dropping off their kids for me to watch, would they? No. So why were others doing it to me?
One of my favorite books is T. Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and I believe there are a lot of principles in this book that can help writers tremendously. Ecker asserts that many people are poor or middle class not so much because of outside circumstances, but rather because of internal beliefs. Ecker asserts that if we don’t learn to think in the same ways as rich people do, this will keep us trapped in our social class unless we change.
We can get trapped into thinking that we will make different choices once we have more money, but we never get more money because we continue poverty thinking. This is especially evident when one pays attention to winners of the lottery. Those who were impoverished before hitting the jackpot very often soon return to poverty despite being handed a windfall of money. Why? Because they didn’t change the poverty thinking so they continued poverty habits.
Now one can easily substitute “successful writer” for “wealthy entrepreneur” and see why many of us will remain trapped unless we can shift how we view ourselves and our work. If we don’t think like successful authors, we can never become successful authors. And one key to being successful is to understand that the feeling must come from the doing, not the other way around. Do FIRST, then the feelings will come.
Instead of: When people take me seriously, then I will be better at boundaries.
We need: I am enforcing these boundaries so that people will understand I am serious.
We cannot wait for others to validate us before we get serious about boundaries, word count, output, marketing, etc. That is opposite thinking.
It is when we put down boundaries and then enforce them that others go, “Oh, wow. She really is doing this writing thing.” By enforcing boundaries and taking on the habits of a professional writer (writing so many words a day five days a week….no matter what) THAT is when we will shift how we view ourselves and this new profession. In shifting how we view ourselves, we will inevitably shift how others view us as well.
Act like a professional and others will treat us like a professional.
Our internal vision must shift first in order to change our outside reality. The internal locus of focus is the only one we really control anyway. As long as our locus of focus is external (people and circumstances), nothing will change and even if it does change, the change will not be for very long. Getting validation from the outside is like being strapped to a roller-coaster and makes a lousy foundation for a career.
Change begins with us. We cannot believe that we will set boundaries once we are successful, because we will NEVER be successful until we set boundaries.
Eventually I had to stand up to my family. I don’t like confrontation, but loving confrontation is part of all healthy relationships. When my mother wanted me to go out and shop all afternoon on her day off? I would say, “Mom, I know you are used to me being able to hang out with you any time, but I have work to do. But, tell you what. I can call you once I have my 2,000 words, and then I can have more fun with you because my work will be off my plate.”
It won’t be easy at first, but the more we confront in love, the better we get at it and do it enough? And friends and family will call and say things like, “I know you are busy writing, but can you get some time to go shopping with me?” Once we shift how we view ourselves, others will fall in step. And if they don’t? Well, that is a lesson for another day .
So what are your thoughts? Opinions?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!