Archive for category The Writer’s Life

Author Despair—What To Do When You Feel Like All Is Lost

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

We have all heard the saying, The truth shall set you free. But what many people may not realize is the truth doesn’t set us free from others. It sets us free from ourselves.

Like our characters, we are often blinded by our own lies and since we aren’t facing the truth and admitting it, we can make no forward progress. Growth, change, and victory are all impossible.

This said, there are some dark places all writers go, but since we are ashamed to feel these things, we rarely fess up to feeling them and so they remain in the dark. Thus we remain in the dark and sink ever deeper.

It reminds me of that scene from¬†The Neverending Story. We can become like Artax the horse—admit you cried TOOūüėõ .

We sink deeper and deeper and deeper never realizing we’re doing it to ourselves.

What I’d like to do today is to tell you, “You are not alone.” I feel this stuff too.

I’m Not Jealous

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If you are taking this writing thing at ALL seriously, you are going to feel jealousy. There is nothing wrong with this. When it is wrong is when we fail to recognize it and inadvertently begin feeding it.

Maybe you’ve been at this writing thing for many years and that newbie you encouraged to attend your writing group landed a sweet book deal her first try. Sure, there can come a point where you are genuinely happy for her, but that will only come after the initial gut punch of¬†Her? Really? Why not me?

Last month I entered the James Patterson contest. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I did it. I think I have a kickass treatment for my next book. But I do admit, when one of my friends and most passionate followers made the cut and I didn’t? I did NOT feel like yelling SQUEEEE! And throwing her a party at first. There was the beat of‚Ķ.

But…but…but what about meeeeeeee?

Since I’ve been around longer than most, I’ve learned to recognize jealousy when I feel it, take a few moments to experience the emotion‚Ķbut then move through it. I tackle jealousy pretty much like I tackle everything else.

Head on.

I took the pins out of the voodoo doll I’d crafted in her likeness and then messaged her a truly heartfelt congratulations. And seriously it only took a couple minutes talking with her to become¬†excited for her. I began to question why I was dumb enough to be jealous at all.

***Though word on the street is her writing DOES suck but she worships Satan so he gives her the big breaksūüėõ .

Yes, some writers will get that break because they have worked very hard and have great talent. We all hope to be that writer (or be that again since often our career rests on many breaks, not just one biggie).

But, we also have to be honest. The writing business is subjective and a lot also relies on timing and luck. We can’t treat it like a pure meritocracy because often it isn’t. Believing that this profession is fair is just going to make us cray-cray.

There is going to be that friend who hit the right algorithm that day and his blog went viral or his books sold a bazillion copies because he happened to write the first ferret romance novel and suddenly there was an international ferret scandal and now racy rodents are trending.

And be happy for him because, hell all of us wouldn’t mind some of that magic tossed our way.

I’m Tired

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What’s up? Oh, I’m just tired.

This is a HUGE lie and one that I’ve been guilty of more times than I would like to admit. See, in our culture, often other people don’t really want to hear the truth. So? We lie. Then we lie enough it eventually becomes our truth. It’s not “socially acceptable” to say:

I’m discouraged.

I’m angry.

I’m despairing.

So we say we are “tired.”

All writers hit these sour notes. Trust me. You new writers out there? I get it. I wrote my first novel, thought all I needed was an agent and within the year,¬†month week I’d have a movie deal. Since I had no idea how the industry worked, I was ill-prepared. Oh, I’d heard the stories of authors who’d been rejected for years, but that was not going to be ME.

*hair flip*

In fact, my first conference? I was worried about talking to more than one agent because…

Could we still be friends when I had to choose between them for who would represent my novel?

Yeah, seriously wish I were joking.

When reality came crashing down that I was so dumb I wasn’t even aware HOW dumb I was? It was tough. Looking at that¬†really loooooong¬†road ahead? When I had to face the hard truth that maybe I wasn’t any good. Maybe I wouldn’t make it. Maybe, after all, I simply didn’t have what it took?

It was hard.

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If you make it past this newbie phase, you’re likely going to hit¬†The Dip¬†(which is that giant span of suck before our breakthrough).

It is the first book that bombs. It is the royalty check that’s just big enough to supersize a Happy Meal. It’s the blog that is seeming to go nowhere. It’s the first one-star review.

Instead of admitting that we are scared or frustrated or disillusioned?

Well, I have just not been writing because I am really tired.

Of course that is only half of the sentence.

Well, I have just not been writing because I am really tired of not mattering.

Well, I have just not been writing because I am really tired of being stuck.

Well, I have just not been writing because I am really tired of seeing friends outpace me.

And so we sink deeper and deeper.

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Name It And CLAIM It

Back to where we began. For anything to change, we need to be honest. Maybe we are avoiding going to a workshop because we feel like a failure. We are being unrealistic with how long this process takes and so we feel like we are a hack and fooling ourselves. We might be embarrassed. Or we are jealous.

Maybe we are dragging around chugging caffeine because we are “tired” but the reason 20 cups of coffee hasn’t made a dent is we aren’t tired at all. We’re deeply discouraged.

Until we get honest with what is truly going on? We can’t make a plan to get past what we are failing to even acknowledge.

We have to name it to really feel it so we can then move past it.

In the end? Give yourself permission to be fragile. All this is human and best of all? It’s temporary. It is absolutely OKAY to feel jealous, jaded, discouraged, angry‚Ķwe just can’t camp thereūüėČ . We ALL feel it. Lately, I seriously misplaced my mojo. I think it is under that pile of laundry I need to do.

*weeps*

What are your thoughts? Have you been in a slump that has just felt like The Swamp of Sadness?¬†ARTAX NO!¬†Is your writing suffering because you can’t focus? Are you in the Why the Hell Do I Try?¬†phase? Have you recently felt sucker punched because a friend or colleague surpassed you?¬†What about meeeeee?

It’s all good. We are friends here. And if you have felt all this stuff and moved through it? What are your tips?

Btw, I have two classes below that are AWESOME for busting past slumps. The antagonist class is fantastic for fixing a WIP that is going nowhere and the business class on how to use FREE? If sales are stuck, check this class out and maybe I can help you jackhammer through that roadblock.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Upcoming Classes!

Back by popular demand!¬†Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term ‚Äúantagonist‚ÄĚ can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Beyond craft and to the business of our business?

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE!¬†As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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106 Comments

The Writer’s Journey—Staying the Course From Newbie to Master

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Some of you may or may not know that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is unique in that there are only FOUR colored belts (blue, purple, brown, black) and new practitioners are a white belt for roughly a year an a half before they can test for blue. I just earned my blue belt last Thursday. This is no small feat, seeing as how I am the ONLY female in a dojo of males much larger and most far younger than I am.

My first fight as a blue and SERIOUSLY? I get TYLER?

My first fight as a blue and SERIOUSLY? I get TYLER?

The parallels for BJJ and writing are profound though. In the beginning it really doesn’t seem all that difficult. Yeah, you just grab that leg, pull that knee, sure! Got it. Then? Once you get on the mats?

*head explodes*

The more you learn, the more you come to know how much you don’t know.

One would think I’d feel more skilled and capable with each class, but I don’t. Quite the opposite. As I peel back the layers and nuance? All I can see is how far I have to go.

Back to writing.

The mark of a pro is they make whatever we want to do look easy. From running a business to playing guitar to wicked cool Kung Fu moves, masters rarely seem to even break a sweat. Same with authors. With the pros? The story flows, pulls us in, and appears seamless and effortless.

As we take off for the holidays to rest and relax and ponder over what we’ve achieved in 2015, what we hope to still achieve in 2016, I want to close out the year with this elucidation regarding the process so that you have no surprises‚Ķ.

Many of us decided to become writers because we grew up loving books. Because good storytellers are masters of what they do, we can easily fall into a misguided notion that “writing is easy.” Granted there are a rare few exceptions, but most of us will go through three acts (stages) in this career if we stick it through.

Act One—The Neophyte

This is when we are brand new. We’ve never read a craft book and the words flow. We never run out of words to put on a page because we are like a kid banging away on a piano having fun and making up “music.” We aren’t held back or hindered by any structure or rules and we have amazing energy and passion.

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Woodleywonderworks Flikr Creative Commons

But then we go to our first critique and hear words like “POV” and “narrative structure.” We learn that maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do and that we need to do some training. We also finally understand why so many famous authors drank‚Ķa lot.

Act Two—The Apprentice

The Apprentice Phase comes next. This is where we might read craft books, take classes, go to conferences and listen to lectures. During the early parts of this phase, books likely will no longer be fun. Neither will movies. In fact, most of your family will likely ban you from “Movie Night.” Everything now becomes part of our training. We no longer look at stories the same way.

The apprentice phase is tough, and for many of us, it takes the all the fun out of writing. The apprentice phase is our Act II. It’s the looooongest, but filled with the most growth and change. It’s the span of suck before the breakthrough.

I’ve studied other forms of martial arts, but I am relatively new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Right now I am in the span of SUUUUUCK. When I started as a neophyte, I “seemed” to do better because I just muscled my way around on the ground and being naturally strong? It worked‚Ķagainst an equally green opponent.

But it also wore me out and gave me more than a fair share of injuries. I had to learn technique. Technique looks awesome when Professor does it. It looks easy on theYouTube videos.

When I do it? Eh…not pretty and NOT easy.

But I am improving. As a beginning white belt, the upper belts just instantly laid waste to me. They had me in a choke or an arm bar in less than a minute. I made all kinds of stupid and reckless mistakes. I worked too hard. I used up too much energy. I used muscle power instead of brain power.

I had to learn to relax and breathe, which is counterintuitive when a 260 pound guy is smashing you. I had to instead, learn to use my small size, my speed, and my crazy flexibility. I had to learn to THINK. Now? I’m not winning my rounds, but I rarely ever lose and I fight some pretty big opponents who far outclass me. And YES, it is frustrating. There are times I’ve had to walk off the mat so they can’t see me cry. But, I have to give myself permission to be learning.

Same in writing. This gig is tough. There is a good damn reason not everyone can do what WE DO.

 

Many new writers will shy away from craft books because they fear “rules” will ruin their creativity. Truth is? They will totally ruin your creativity, but only for a little whileūüėČ . It isn’t permanent.

Eventually we realize that rules were made to be broken. BUT, the difference between the artist and the hack is that the artist knows the rules and thus HOW to break them and WHY and WHEN. We start to see rules as tools.

In fact, one thing we do in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is we grapple blindfolded. The trick is to not get fixated visually, but to be able to flex and move in response to the opponent. THAT is how sensitive you want to become. Same in writing. We want to become so immersed that we can do this stuff blindfolded. We instinctively¬†feel¬†what needs to happen where without having to say “Oh, this is a scene, and this is a sequel.”

As we move through The Apprentice Phase and we train ourselves to execute all these moves together—POV, structure, conflict, tension, setting, description, dialogue, plot arc, character arc—it eventually becomes easier. In fact, a good sign we are at the latter part of the apprentice phase is when the rules become so ingrained we rarely think about them.

We just fight write.

We’ve read so much fiction, watched (and studied) so many movies, read so many craft books, heard so many lectures, and¬†practiced so much writing¬†that all the “rules” are now becoming instinct and, by feel, we are starting to know where and how to bend, break or ignore them.

Like anything, there is NO substitute for DOING. Watching Holly Holmes videos is a good idea for understanding ground-fighting, but it can’t take the place of mat time. Reading, taking classes, studying cannot replace writing crap until we don’t write crap.

At the end of the apprentice phase, writing is now starting to become fun again, much like it was in the beginning when we were banging away on the piano keyboard. Like the fighter who instinctively knows to arm bar an opponent without conscious thought, we now find more and more of the “right” words and timing without bursting brain cells.

The trick is sticking it through the apprentice phase long enough to engrain the fundamentals into the subconscious.

Master

This is where we all want to be. In fact, we all want this on Day One, but sadly, I believe this Day One Master is reserved for only a handful of literary savants. Mastery is when we return to that childlike beginning. We write with abandon and joy and, since the elements of fiction are now part of our DNA, our literary marrow, what we produce isn’t the off-key clanging of a neophyte, it’s actually a real story worth reading. Granted, it isn’t all kittens and rainbows. Masters have a lot of pressure to be perpetual geniuses.

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Portrait by Yosuf Karsh via Wikimedia Creative Commons

I believe most of us, if we stick to this long enough, will always be vacillating between the Advanced Apprentice Phase and the Mastery Phase. If we choose to try a totally new genre, we might even be back to Neophyte (though this will pass more quickly than the first time).

We have to to keep growing. The best writers still pick up craft books, refresh themselves in certain areas, read other authors they enjoy and admire to see if they can grow in some new area. Masters seek to always add new and fresh elements to the fiction.

The key to doing well in this business is to:

1. Embrace¬†the Day of Small Beginnings—Starting is often the hardest part. Enjoy being new. Enjoy that feeling because you will reconnect with it later because you¬†recognize it.

2. Understand We All Have an Apprentice Phase—We will all be Early, Intermediate, then Advanced Apprentices. How quickly we move through these will be dictated by dedication, hard work and, to a degree, natural talent.

3. No One Begins as a Master and Few Remain Permanent Masters—Every NYTBSA was once a newbie, too. When we understand this career has a process, it’s easier to lighten up and give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to not know everything. Many writers get discouraged and give up too soon because they don’t understand there is a process, and they believe they should be “Masters” right away.

Hey, I did.

We need to give ourselves permission to grow. If we love and respect our craft, we will always be learning, so we will continue to dip back into “Apprentice” to refine our art even further.

Does this make you feel better to know this career has a process? Are you in the Act II span of suck and getting weary? It is okay, REALLY! It’s natural. What are you doing to remain focused? Which part has you the most discouraged? Write with the abandon of the Neophyte then edit with the eyes of an Advanced Apprentice or MasterūüėČ .

I love hearing from you!

Just as a warning, I may blog between now and the new year. I am working on this “resting” thing, but then I do miss y’all. Alex also has some more amazing posts but I am saving those for the new year. They are too good to miss. Make SURE you sign up for my upcoming classes!

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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47 Comments

Do You Have TRUE GRIT? If Not, 7 Ways To Get It

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In my tenure in this profession it is sad how many truly talented writers I’ve seen who never made it. The reason? Talent is useless without mental toughness. It takes true grit to make it in this business.

Too many writers are simply not going to make it because they don’t have the sticking power. And while this is an easy observation to make, I am here to do more than point out the obvious. I’m here to give some practical ways to improve psychological toughness, get better at being disciplined, and eat goals and deadlines for breakfast (they have ZERO calories, btw).

Relax and enjoy the holidays. Refueling is vital. Bookmark this. Let it soak in and then be ready to act come January 1st. These tips work for anything you want to accomplish, btw.

So…

Seven Tips for True Grit

One—Set Goals

No really and don’t roll your eyes at meūüėõ . Set them. I know you hear this all the time but it’s true. Write them down and make them real. How can you map a course if you don’t know were you are going?

When I was in sales we had a saying, Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

If you have a goal to eventually replace that day job with being a full-time writer? Write it down and then plan your escape. Studies have shown that we’re far more likely to reach goals once we have¬†written them down and that isn’t shocking.

To write them down we have to name them, claim them and define them. We take them out of the “nebulous gray.” It is far easier to reach for concrete benchmarks than existentialism.

Forget Realistic—Realistic is For Wimps

Most of us underestimate what we can accomplish. When you write your goal, rewrite it just a little bigger. What’s the worse that can happen? You accomplish¬†more than you thought you could?

 

Years ago I did this. I wrote down, In 2011 I am going to get an agent. Then I crossed it out and wrote In 2011 I am going to sign with one of the best agents in NYC.

See, we never know what is going to happen or what chain of events might open what door. In early 2011, I wrote a little book called¬†Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer.¬†I was still an unknown and this was also during the days that most people were unconvinced social media was fundamental shift in global civilization we all NOW know it to be.

When I wrote the book, I needed blurbs, so I made up a Hail Mary List. These were authors who I loved, who were SO BIG I doubted my e-mail would ever even get through.

On that¬†Hail Mary List was NYTBSA James Rollins. Not only did I get through, he’d actually¬†read¬† my first book¬†We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and was MY FAN *falls over dead*. He asked if it would be okay of he sent my book to HIS agent‚Ķwho later that year signed me (who happened to be one of THE biggest agents in NYC). I not only got a blurb¬†and a friend,¬†I got an agent.

What if I’d limited my goal?

Visualize Process NOT Fantasy

A critical mistake I made when I first decided to become a writer was I spent far too much time “visualizing” the success. In my head I dreamed of sales, wealth, book tours and being able to travel the world to research and people lined out the door to meet me and seeing stacks of displays of my books.

Nothing per se wrong with that but just that is fantasy and can be unhealthy.

To reach any big dream, we must fall in love with the process. 

I am up almost every morning at 4:15 a.m. That seriously sucked in the beginning. I had to learn to fall in love with it. Blogging? SUCKED for the first 2 years. It was so hard week after week, month after month writing thousands of words to entertain CheapXanaxANDYoungCoeds.com.

But I knew I was honing my skills. I was learning to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I was training myself to eat deadlines for breakfast. I was training out my perfectionism that held onto things instead of shipping. I was opening myself to public criticism, gaining fans, feedback and thicker skin.

Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Through a lot of really humbling lessons, I had to fall in love with all of it, not just the fantasy of what “one day” might be. Writers’ groups are all filled with people who never have pages to read, who never finish what they start. They don’t blog, don’t build a platform, but all have dreams that HBO will be replacing Game of Thrones with their series.

Nothing wrong with that goal, btw. Just don’t¬†leave it¬†at that. Do the WORK.

To the Pain—Set Accountability¬†

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In the New Year we all have goals. Maybe you want to finish the novel by a certain day or query by a certain day or publish by a certain day. I love pleasure but pain is good for the soul. Put some stakes on it. Go purchase something you really want. Preferably something a close friend (ideally a mean friend) also wants.

Maybe it is a $50 gift card. Maybe a new gaming system, spa package, or 90 minute massage. Whatever.

Put it in the pot and then, if you make your goal by the date it’s yours, if not? It goes to your accountability partner. Yes, rewards and treats are all fabulous but they are a tad too easy.

Often we are far more motivated when it will cost us something. The more it costs us, the more motivated we are to accomplish said goal.

So if a loved one gives you a fat gift card for Christmas, maybe throw that in the Goal Pot and take a gamble for a greater ROI. Use that $100 Amazon card for cool stuff you want to reward yourself with, but also as fuel to finish all revisions by February 15thūüėČ .

Ditch Negative People, Whiners & Complainers

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Seriously. You wouldn’t let someone bring their dog in your house and let it crap on your floor, would you? ¬†Yes, if someone brings a pet over and¬†once in a while there is an oops? OKAY. But that is very different than someone bringing over their dog and using your living room as a kennel floor.

So why let people crap non-stop in your head? Sorry for the gross image but that’s what that is. Whining and complaining do nothing but increase stress levels which shrinks the size of the hippocampus leading to us being progressively more stupid.

Yes, science has proven that hanging out with whiners makes us stupid.

Everyone has a bad day and that isn’t what I’m talking about. Give them 60 seconds and then enough. Start talking about solutions. People who are chronically negative or addicted to whining? Bye.

I’ve learned to determine the ASKHOLES in my life and get rid of them. You know what an askhole is? That is a person who is always in a crisis, who always needs advice and after they have derailed your life and gotten your advice? Does whatever the hell stupid thing they are going to do anyway‚Ķoften leading to the next crisis that you WARNED them would happen.

Turn them loose.

Surround Yourself With Accountability & Excellence

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

We are who we hang around. Character is contagious. When I was new as a writer I didn’t understand how important this was. I thought I could fight the inertia of mediocrity with sheer willpower. I also thought that if I was part of a group of people who¬†said they wanted to be writers, well then they wanted to be writers. Right?

No.

Actions speak louder than words.

Writers write. Not all critique groups and writing groups are good for you. If you want to join a writing group, look to how many people in the group are published, multi-published, awarded, writing full-time, blogging, etc. If it’s just a bunch of people who meet and have coffee and talk about writing? Your time is better spent at home writing. Hanging out with that garbage is like hanging around radioactive material and thinking you are fine.

NO.

Negativity and mediocrity are invisible particles that punch your will and your dreams full of tiny holes until they collapse and die. Yes, you can try to ward it off and buffer from it but the best course of action? Stop growing strawberries writing dreams at Chernobyl crappy writing groups.

One of the things I’ve worked hard to do is to make myself available on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Back in November during Nanowrimo I introduced writing sprints in the Main Room IM field.

I rallied everyone at 8:45 a.m. CST and we did as many as 5 sprints. 30 minutes per sprint. Write as much as you could. Report back the numbers. Then we took a break and came back at 3:30 p.m. CST and did more sprints.

Everyone who participated finished Nano. I finished in 16 days WITH the flu while blogging.

Once Nano ended, I changed the plan. We now still meet every morning at 8:45 a.m. CST and we do what I call Blackouts. 40 minutes to do as much work as you can then report back to the group what you accomplished.

Writers now get to see MY operational tempo, since I’m almost always leading the team. We do as many as five Blackouts before lunchtime. Then, we rally back at 3:30 after I get Spawn for more Blackouts. I generally do about 3 more.

Writers get to see what I accomplish in that 40 minute block. What is my word count? How much did I get edited? How many Blackout sessions did it take to get my blog written and posted?

This doesn’t mean people need to copy me, but I tell you, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY when social media peeled back the curtain and I started seeing how authors I admired worked and got so much accomplished.

Also, this current system offers accountability and makes all of us push harder. There is a level of healthy competition and since we are a TEAM, it is far harder for me to say, “Eh, I think I will take today off.”

Up Your Operational Tempo

Believe it or not, I am not the strongest member of my team, merely the best looking #ITSACURSE. There are writers on our Blackout Team who blow ME away. Always look to surround yourself with people stronger than yourself and don’t buy your own excuses.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

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You may not be able to do this on your own. You may lack the discipline so come over to W.A.N.A.Tribe and join out Blackouts. Sometimes, you need guidance from a pro. Take one of the classes listed below. Or, feel free to e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com. I do consulting for social media, blogging and branding, but I also can help with your books. Instead of wasting another year revising or rewriting, a small investment in time with me might save you months or years of work.

This job is never easy, but it is always AWESOME.

What are your thoughts? Do you see some suggestions here that might improve your odds of reaching your goals? Do you try to go it alone too much? Do you give negative people too much permission to crap in your life? Do you think you might go a tad too easy on yourself? I hope to see y’all over at W.A.N.A. Tribe! No excuses this year that you have no system of supportūüėõ .

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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51 Comments

Being the Best—What it Takes to Be a Rainmaker

Image via Pamela Poole W.A.N.A. Creative Commons

Image via Pamela Poole W.A.N.A. Creative Commons

We are headed into the holiday season and it is time for friends and fun and food and revelry. But, it’s also a time for reflection. Maybe to think about what went right, what went wrong, what could go better. What do we want to accomplish in 2016? I’m a serious go-getter. I think I have three settings.

GO.

GO FASTER.

UNCONSCIOUS.

I like to believe I am the person who gets things done, but I wasn’t always this person. When I started out writing, I think I was more in love with the “idea” of being a successful author than the actual work involved. I wrote when I felt like it. I needed outside approval and validation. I wasted all kinds of brain power wondering if I was a “real writer.”

Yeah *hides head in shame*.

Anyway, I hit a major turning point years later and that is a story for another time. Truth was? The answers had been there all along. I’d just¬†forgotten the truth or didn’t really want to hear it. The answer was actually from my sales days.

I needed to return to being a rainmaker.

Rainmaker? Yes, rainmaker.

Rainmaker is a term that we used when I was in sales.

WHAT is a Rainmaker?

The rainmaker is the person who gets $#!@ done no matter what. Call him a 1%er, call her a cleaner a cooler a closer. Call this person whatever you will, but I dig rainmaker.

This is the person many of us want to be because the rainmaker is the stuff of legends.

Rainmakers come in all forms. It is the teacher who refuses to believe that a kid cannot learn, who adjusts her teaching style relentlessly until she can break through. It is the waiter who remembers all his customers names and what they order. It’s the athlete, the C.E.O., the small business owner, the S.E.A.L. , the entrepreneur, parent, the author, the artist.

But regardless of profession, all rainmakers share some common traits.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will probably see yourself in the following list because this blog attracts a certain type of reader. Rainmakers and Those Who Are Unusually Attractive. So, if you are NOT a rainmaker, then you will have to coast on your looks.

Sorry.

Today I am going to list some of the character traits of the rainmaker. Some you may possess naturally. Others you might have to work on. I do. We are always a work in progress.

The holidays are coming…but so is 2016. Rainmakers make it rain and we need to make some preparations for 2016. Winter is coming.

Sorry. Been watching Game of Thrones. Couldn’t resistūüėÄ .

Anyway, what makes a rainmaker? What are some areas we have to watch? Work on? How can we improve?

Rainmakers Have a Dark Side

My opinion? To be a good writer, we must have a dark side. For fiction, we need this dark side to be able to see into the blacker natures of humanity and make them real. If we don’t possess our own dark side to peer into and reference, we’re left with a cheap imitation. All characters are, in essence, a slice of who we are‚Ķwhich is probably why it freaks normal people out to be around us.

Normal people (I am told) do not sit at a Thanksgiving dinner with family and wonder how many ways one could hide a body.

Even those authors who don’t deal in body counts, one must be able to draw from the corrupted aspects of the soul—avarice, jealousy, hate, lust, pride—or?

Meh.

The blacker our black, the brighter our white.

The dark side is not inherently “bad” and it doesn’t have to be “immoral.” We are not going to become the best at what we do by waiting for permission and playing by the rules. Think about it. We are taught from the time we are small to stand in line and be polite and wait our turn and ask for permission and sit down and accept when the answer is no.

But let’s explore that…

J.K. Rowling became a billionaire and revolutionized YA after being told that young boys wouldn’t read. Anne Rice almost single-handedly invented the vampire genre after being repeatedly told no one cared about stories from a monster’s POV. The Martian¬†just opened at $50.1 MILLION in China and crossed $500 MILLION globally¬†. That movie was based off Andy Wier’s¬†self-published book The Martian.

Thing is, our dark side understands there is no “right” path so it doesn’t bother taking a survey and could care less about approval or consensus.

Rainmakers understand they have a dark side and listen to its council. They do not, however, let it in the driver’s seat.

Obsession

If you are a rainmaker others probably refer to you as being “obsessed” as if that is a bad thing. Likely that is a character trait you possess all the time. Rainmakers have a hard time resting. In fact, give us a spa day to relax and it better come with a Xanax or five. We have no OFF button. And before you argue, tell me you go to that beach vacation‚Ķwith NO book. No pen for jotting ideas.

No *GASP* laptop.

Rainmakers of the writing world are always on. Literally. I wake up at 4:15. I check social media while I get caffeine (for my writing platform). I then put in an audio book on the way to the gym. While I work out I listen to music while I think of all things writing. If I am watching T.V. I am busting apart the dialogue, the plot, the setting. If I am listening to music, I am conjuring a scene. I cannot go stand in line at a freaking STARBUCKS without eavesdropping and hoping to mine some killer dialogue and don’t you judge me because you do it too.

I guarantee most of you reading this need a 12 Step Program for your book habit. Creatives often go from writing to drawing to painting to sewing to knitting to playing an instrument. We can only relax from ONE obsession by switching to a different obsession.

Uh huh. You…are…busted.

Obsession is what makes us the best at what we do. In 2016 make plans to channel this obsession productively.

Rainmakers are sled dogs. And I know I am mixing metaphors but y’all are smart and can roll with it. If you have ever owned a working dog like a sled dog, what happens if you do not let that dog pull a sled? It will dig a hole to CHINA in your back yard.

Rainmakers are working dogs of the human world. Our sled is the writing. This is why I encourage creative hobbies that all serve the writing. Audiobooks, reading, watching series and busting them apart feeds the obsession…but it also serves the goal. This allows us to be rainmakers because we are not diffusing this superhuman energy.

Relentless

Rainmakers do not give up. We get up and we go again and again and again. This one is hard, and if we are going to fail this is the one where we can be weakest.

But, true rainmakers appreciate that life can be a beating and that fair is a weather condition (and we get up eventually). When everyone else is whining we are working. We have pit bull tenacity to figure things out. To be a rainmaker at anything, we must be relentless. Being relentless is awesome. But also remember to be wise. If my goal is to drive from Texas to California and I get on I-20 East? GOOD FREAKING LUCK. Turn AROUND, dumb@$$.

As I like to say, persistence is noble, but persistence looks a lot like stupid. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. Saves time.

What are some ways we can develop those raw killer instincts that make us good at what we do?

Become Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Years ago I was on the swim team and when we trained for speed, the coach made us swim laps wearing a full set of sweats. It felt like I weighed a thousand pounds trying to slog lap after lap in that freezing pool in waterlogged sweats. But when those sweats came off? I was like greased lightning.

One of the reasons I recommend blogging and teach authors how to do it in my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, is blogging trains us to get out of our comfort zone. Not only are we pushing ourselves mentally, psychically, and professionally, but the sheer word count is grueling.

It is incredible training, especially for the new author.

If we look at some of the most awarded and prolific writers of the last two centuries, many of them were journalists (and blogging is actually a modern form of journalism). A journalist can’t wait until the kids are in bed to write about the four-alarm fire. A journalist can’t wait for a visit from the muse to detail the bombing in the train station. A journalist can’t wait until her family offers emotional validation to take time to write the article due on the editor’s desk.

A journalist is there. Present and in the ZONE when sirens are wailing and bombs are dropping. A journalist learns to drown out the world and ramp up instantly.

A journalist eats deadlines for breakfast.

By blogging, we are training those writing muscles. We are learning to ship. We are learning to meet self-imposed deadlines. We are learning how to cultivate an audience and how to handle public criticism. Trust me. Trolls are great training for bad reviews. I once got a bad review because someone bought my book by mistake.

I wish I were kidding.

 

Again, embrace pain. Push yourself.

If you are comfortable writing 500 words a day. Double it. 1000? Double it again. Never be comfortable.

Comfort=DEATH

If social media freaks you out? Good. We can only be as strong as our greatest weakness. Own it. Face it. Look to your team to help you. Yes we have to build a brand and a platform but only foolish people do it alone. Tempus fugit. Social media is social. If we are going it alone we completely missed the point.

Get training. Get a copy of my book and make a plan to rock and roll for 2016.

Do what scares you. Rainmakers know nothing great happens in the comfort zone.

Reframe

The key to being successful is reframing how we see our world. Some see failure? Rainmakers see lessons.

Pressure bursts pipes, but it also makes diamonds.

The heat can burn us away, but it can also fire out all the impurities, leaving only what it purest and fine.

I challenge all of you as you enjoy the last of your year to reflect and think over this. If you are reading this blog, you are likely of rainmaker stock since slackers gravitate to blogs with titles like How to Be a Millionaire Blogging Once a Year or Who Needs a Finished Novel to be RICH? 

Enjoy the holiday season and use it to refuel. I am always honored to serve you and looking forward to 2016 because baby, we are gonna make it RAIN!ūüėČ

What are your thoughts? Are you obsessive? Do you have to be careful about your dark side? Do you see that the very darkness that trips you up is also what makes you really good at what you do? Do you freak out friends and family with the way your mind works? Are you obsessive? Do you find that if you are not focused on your writing that you can get depressed, angry or self-destructive? Are you shy about being a rainmaker? In a world where everyone gets awards for trying or “showing up”, maybe you feel guilty for wanting to be the best at what you do? You are relentlessly competing against yourself?

What are your thoughts? I LOVE hearing from you!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

I will announce NOVEMBER’S WINNER NEXT TIME since I took a holiday and need time to tally.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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54 Comments

You Know You’re A Writer When‚Ķ.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 4.30.54 PM

So, I am gearing up for Nanowrimo and (of course) Hubby decides to get the flu because he is plotting against me ¬†and secretly doesn’t want me to succeed¬† it is cold and flu season and this stuff just happens.

Poor thing.

Anyway, this means I was up all night long and have yet to go to sleep, but I did find a way to amuse myself between 1 and 4 a.m. before the fun hallucinations kicked in.

I found‚ĶTHIS! Yeah, yeah, some of you have heard it before but it still cracks ME up and since I am here to amuse myself most of the time?¬†Pthththththth. Haters gonna hate.¬†Usually I do just fine blogging and writing in November, but just in case y’all don’t hear from me for a bit…

I figured I’d share since we all can use a good laugh before the¬†real fun¬†begins. And believe it or not, there are some people who have NOT heard my jokes. I know! Right? We should totally cure that. TODAY!

 

Anyway!

We writers are different *eye twitches* for sure, but the world would be SO boring without us. Am I the only person who watches Discovery ID and critiques the killers?

You are putting the body THERE? Do you just WANT to go to prison? Why did you STAB them? Helllooo? Blood spatter? LOO-Min-OL? Moron.

I think it’s a writer thing. So, since today I am staring at the “White Screen of I SUCK and Why Did I Want to Be a WRITER?”, we are just going to roll with it…

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve learned that regular people are cute, and no longer get offended with this conversation.

Regular Person: What do you do?

Writer: I’m a writer.

Regular Person: No, I mean, what’s your¬†real job?

You’ve come to understand that writers are a lot like unicorns. Everyone knows about them, they’ve simply never seen a REAL ONE.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

The NSA, CIA and FBI no longer bother with you. Likely, they know you by name and now outsource to the creepy ice cream truck to just make a few passes and check to make sure you’re still at your computer.

author

As an extra bonus, the next time the NSA passes by in the panel van? Go out and ask them for a job application and maybe even a reference if you want bonus smart@$$ points.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Kind strangers hand you cash and sandwiches and offer to pray for you. Apparently you’re regularly mistaken for a homeless person because you haven’t bathed or changed clothes in weeks and are wandering around shouting at the air.

…aaaand, you are just doing Nanowrimo.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You hate texting because it takes too long to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You know what’s the best time of year to dispose of a body to confuse TOD and that seriously creeps out your friends and family.

And you know what TOD stands for and that creeps them out even more.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re on such a roll with the WIP that you’ve forgotten a “real” world exists (including laundry). You’re down to wearing your husband’s socks and he’s either going commando or is forced to wear that thong given to him on his 40th birthday as a joke gift. The kids? Hell, they went feral a week ago.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 8.19.39 PM

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You take a break from writing to go to the store and, on the way, begin untangling a plot problem. You finally realize you’re in the next state and have no idea how you got there. But good news is, you now know which poison is best to kill off the character modeled after that cheerleader who bullied you through high school. It’s the poison that will make her fat and wrinkly before she dies slowly from terminal acne.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You have NO CLUE what to do in case of a flood, a fire or a natural disaster, but you are actually looking forward to the collapse of civilization because you are pretty sure you will make an AWESOME Warlord.

 

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You appreciate that if Febreeze is good enough for the couch, why not hose the kids? Hey, you spent extra for the anti-microbial one. It kills germs *rolls eyes*. Now your tot smells like a Hawaiian Breeze and his cooties can’t hurt others. You should get a freaking MEDAL for this kind of creativity.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve been diagnosed with Tourette’s, Multiple-Personality Disorder or both. It’s tough to explain you were simply working out dialogue when strapped to a gurney. But the upside is when they sedate you, it’s the only vacation you’ve had in months and insurance might even cover it. SCORE!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

People believe you are a shy introvert, but you just can’t bring yourself to tell them that your imaginary friends are simply WAY more interesting.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

A casket washes up in a Houston flood and while normal people are upset how tragic it is, you are wondering if there is GOLD inside. Or missing drug money.

Or if they open open it, could they unwittingly unleash the ZOMBIE PLAGUE?

Or what if it is the WRONG BODY? And it was all to cover up a mob leader faking his own DEATH?

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You realize you are a horrible human being for getting so excited for that last one because NOW YOU HAVE A NEW STORY IDEA FOR NANO YOU SICK, SICK SOULLESS PERSON!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

“Recycling” is using the same jerks from real life in a new story. We can kill them AGAIN!ūüėÄ

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re no longer invited to family events because they can’t take the incessant correction of their grammar.

Chickens are done, people are FINISHED.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re automatically safe from any episode of¬†Hoarders¬†because when you get enough books? Others naturally assume you’re a LIBRARY. Hey, maybe you can apply for government funding. Scratch that. Then, you’d have to let people¬†borrow¬†your books.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You willingly suffer frostbite hiding in a Costco freezer eavesdropping a couple’s fight, because dialogue that epic is worth a losing pinkie toe. Your coffee table’s already tried to assassinate it 342 times anyway.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve been mistaken for Gollum multiple times, because strangers found you in a dark corner whispering¬†“My precious‚Ķ.”¬†and it was just you and your Kindle.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You plow over the entire Kardashian family, because OMG DEAN KOONTZ!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Your idea of fun is reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, talking to your friends at the Coroner’s office or reading/writing Amazon reviews of the Bic Pen for Her¬†or the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Speaking of the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, you actually bought one, not only to support the greatest comedic writing in human history, but also to screw with the TSA. Can you get it through airport security without a full-body search? Hide it near your shoulders and FREE NECK MASSAGE!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve made it onto the Mormon and Jehova’s Witness DO NOT CALL LIST because you will only promise to convert with purchase of YOUR BOOKS (and favorable 5-star reviews).

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Every time some overblown Third World dictator threatens to destabilize the world, all you can think is, “Pfft. Amateur.”

You Know You’re a Writer When…

It’s not a question of IF you will add your OWN to the comments‚Ķbut WHEN‚ĶūüėÄ

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

Also, please swing by my funny Jiu Jitsu post over at Dojo Diva. Get additional suck-up points brownie points and additional chances to win my contest (fewer comments means less competition and those comments are judged separately). I am blogging for my home dojo and your support will help the blog gain traction.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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109 Comments

Is Perfectionism Killing Your Writing Career?

Image via Amber West WANA Commons

Image via Amber West WANA Commons

As y’all know, Spawn is in Kindergarden and now we have this lovely new experience called, “Helping with Homework.” Hubby, God love him, is new at this “being a Dad and helping with homework” stuff and has his own learning curve.¬†He was at the kitchen table helping Spawn write out letters while I did laundry and cooked dinner. After a while, though, I noticed this homework thing was taking a really‚ĶI mean¬†really long time.

Finally, I told Hubby I’d take over while he went and got a shower and when I looked at Spawn’s work, I immediately knew what was going so sideways.

Spawn wasn’t (yet) being graded on how well he wrote the letters. He simply had to DO them.

Hubby was trying to be a good dad so he was making Spawn erase “mistakes” and do the letter over. And, YES, the kid had a lot of nice looking Es but it was taking¬†forever.¬†

What Hubby didn’t appreciate being new to this “teaching thing” was that Spawn’s just started learning to write and he is strengthening the fine muscles in his fingers and hands.¬†His writing WILL look that bad for now. It’s no shock to the teacher. And, if his writing doesn’t improve? HA! Doctor!

Anyway, when I took over, Spawn wrote a letter and it was, of course, wonky and too small and off-center, but when he went to erase it, I stopped him and said the words I wish I would have learned MANY years ago:

“Perfect is the enemy of the good. Just keep going.”

Because he left his “mistakes” he then had a way of gauging the letters that followed and as he went, I noticed that his writing got better. Instead of being paralyzed that his writing wasn’t perfect, he was able to move forward. So long as it was legible?

Eh, close enough for government work.

Okay, so all was well and good and then the next day I get an e-mail I’d been waiting for. A year and a half ago, I wrote a mystery novel, but then I got seriously ill with Shingles. Shopping this novel just derailed, but now that I was healthy again? I was ready to get this sucker GONE.

Since we all suck at being honest about our own work, I begged an agent friend of mine to read it and give me a professional opinion. It wasn’t a genre she repped or even especially liked, but she is a rockstar who loves me and I trusted her to deliver the hard truth.

Kristen, don’t quit your day job. Stick to editing.

I sent her my novel about a week and a half earlier and of course had been hovering over my e-mail like a vulture over a baked roadkill.

*hits refresh 920th time*

When I open the e-mail, there is the news I’d been waiting for. My novel was solid and firmly in the submission phase.

Yay, OMG! OMG! Wait….*brakes screech*

Oh crap. I have to write a query letter.

I haven’t had to write a query letter for fiction since the Bush Administration. So there I am, uber-blogger-writing-expert-extraordinaire googling¬†How to Write a Query¬†*hangs head in shame*.

WHY?

Because self-doubt descended on me like a teenage boy on a pizza. I help with query letters ALL THE TIME. I can write them for other people in about ten minutes. Suddenly, when I had to do it for MY book? It would have been easier to perform brain surgery remotely from space using a Clapper and a vegetable peeler.

Because if I have an opportunity to over think and overcomplicate something simple? SIGN ME UP!

So there I was writing all these idiotic versions of my query.

My writing style can be compared to the works of Janet Evanovich and…

and…

and…

…and the BIBLE because my words were inspired by ANGELS.

Kill. Me. Now.

After the 78th version of this query? I am done. Put a fork in me.

I felt all smart and virtuous telling Spawn to just keep moving, to not get fixated on perfection, but what was I doing?

No agent is asking for a perfect query letter. They want an interesting query letter.

We writers have to be really really careful about worshipping perfection, and I think fiction can be far more vulnerable because it is far more subjective. There comes a time when we simply have to SHIP. Just let it go. Time to move on to something new. We could edit forever. This applies to blogs, books, query letters and eyeliner.

The world does not reward perfect books, it rewards finished books.

 

Maybe it is time to let go of that first novel you’ve been working on for the last year three years six years. You know what? Maybe it just sucks and that is okay.

My first novel seriously sucked. Heck, my first novel was being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists until it was banned by the Geneva Convention.

I’ll tell you where the bomb is, just not another chapter of that BOOOOOK!

These days my first novel is in the garage because it pees on the rugs and chews on the furniture.

But remember Spawn and his homework? What was the objective? Finish the letters. It never said to make them super pretty and perfect.

Same with becoming a writer and the first novel.

Very often, our first novel is a learning curve. Just like Spawn is developing his fine writing muscles, we are tooūüėČ .

The first novel is our first attempt to do something most mere mortals can’t. Can we sit and finish a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words?

Or, in my case? 178,000 words.

Gimme a break! I was NEW!ūüėõ

Yes, I was¬†that writer. The one the agents talk about? It’s me. I am the “Alligator-in-the-Sewer” of the publishing world. I am real. I really queried a 178,000 word novel that was all genres and written for everyone to love and that would make an awesome movie and I already had started the screenplay. Did I mention merchandising?

But what I didn’t understand was that novel wasn’t meant to be queried or even published. It had already served it’s purpose and it took me a long time and way too many fruitless revisions to understand that. One of the best lessons I have learned in my career is to simply let go.

Shop it ship it or kill it but move forward.

Write the first book and move on. Write another and another. Sure, the first one might suck, but each one will suck a little less. We learn by doing. Writers only improve by writing MORE.

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

If we hope to be successful at this writing thing, we must master two diametrically opposite skills—latching on and letting go. We can’t finish if we don’t sink in our claws, but we also can’t finish if we fail to ever let go.

Virtually every long-term successful author didn’t make it with ONE novel. We make a good living at writing by writing MANY novels. But, if we don’t get good at shipping? Odds are we will never be able to write full-time. So breathe and just move forward. It gets easier.

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself too concerned with being perfect? Do you think you allow perfectionism to feed you procrastination? Are you still trying to “fix” that first novel and haven’t let go? Do you have trouble moving forward?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

August’s WINNER is lonestarjake88. Please send your 20 pages (2500 words) to kristen at wana intl dot com in a WORD document. Double-spaced and one-inch margins and CONGRATULATIONS!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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84 Comments

Is “Motivation” Useless? Are “Opportunities” Overrated?

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I hear all the time that “motivational stuff” is crap, that cheerleading is useless, that all those books and speeches are there simply to take our money. What is success? Well, I don’t believe that success is worth giving up everything. Life and love are more important than being the best. And, to an extent I will agree.

Motivational Stuff is Crap

I don’t know about you guys, but I love The Container Store. Every year I set my New Year’s Resolution and it always‚Ķalways includes this phrase. “Be more organized.” This morning I was hunting for the cat food. I’d apparently hidden it from myself. In the bottom of my pantry I spotted one of those white-board weekly organizers‚Ķstill in the WRAP.

*hides head in shame*

Exactly how well is that weekly organizer working for me tucked in the back of a¬†pantry? Yes, The Container Store really does exist simply to take my money. They aren’t going to do a home visit and make sure I actually hung that calendar on my WALL. It is not their responsibility to make sure I applied that product for its intended purpose.

Same with motivational stuff.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Thing is, motivation alone is useless. Motivation is like food. If I buy a bunch of organic veggies and leave them in the fridge to die a slow, lonely death, they do zilch nada for my health and energy levels. Yet, my health and energy levels will suffer without them. I have to make the effort to ingest this fuel so my body can put it to use.

If I don’t feed my body it gets sick and weak and could eventually die. So then how effective will I be if I never feed my¬†spirit?

Motivation is fantastic, but it is worthless unless applied. It is potential energy that we must convert into kinetic energy.

The Mind and Will are POWERFUL

If motivation wasn’t powerful, then why do we remember Ghandi, Churchill, Kennedy, and Vince Lombardi?

I love crime shows and after you watch a few thousand episodes of¬†Law & Order or¬†Hannibal¬†or whatever, they kind of all blend together. But, there was one episode of¬†Criminal Minds that affected me deeply. It actually wasn’t the goriest or the most gruesome of the killers. In comparison to some of the crime scenes from¬†Hannibal? It paled.

Why did it disturb me so much?

I have looked for which episode it was and can’t find it, so here goes.

The team is discovering victims who clearly were abducted and held captive, but there is no clear reason why they are dead. They simply are.

What the team uncovers is the killer abducts a victim and holds them. Day after day they are fed, given what they need to survive (physically) and the killer brings in the one thing that keeps them hoping. In one case, it is a young mother. He wheels in a TV with video of her children as they are growing up without her. Day after day she sees the one thing that keeps her pressing.

Then, he stops. He continues to bring food and water, but no more footage of her children.

Without hope, the woman simply one day rolls over and dies.

When the team captures the killer and gets his backstory, he talks about being a boy and running across a young woman who’d fallen into a well on their property. She is treading water and screaming for help. He bent over and reached out a hand to help her and her face lit up. Then? He pulls his hand back and simply watches her. The moment she realizes she has no hope of being saved, her eyes change and she lets go and lets herself float down and die.

It was that look, that moment he craved. The moment in his vicim’s eyes when they gave up. When hope simply evaporated and there was no WHY to carry on. He managed to kill all his victims without ever laying a hand on them.

Though I saw this episode at least eight years ago, I still remember it. And it still freaks me out.

Granted, this is an extreme dramatization, but is it? We have all kinds of stories about people who survived POW camps, concentration camps, disasters, etc. who shouldn’t have. Why did they? They kept hoping. The mind and will were far more powerful and able to go beyond the limits of the physical body.

Success is Personal and It WILL Cost Us

When I talk about success, I am using very broad strokes. Success has to be defined by US. I actually have no interest in being a billionaire. Granted, it would be fantastic if it happened, but I am unwilling to have money at the expense of people and relationships. People are my WHY, not money. Success to me is then measured in those around me, not necessarily my bank account.

But that is ME.

Success of any kind has a price. To be a “successful” mother, I have to sacrifice. It is way easier for me to let The Spawn go feral and forage off chips for breakfast. It takes time to make him a healthy meal. It takes time to watch documentaries with him and teach him to swim and help teach his Jiu Jitsu class. But, I am sacrificing to invest in him. In our relationship and in his future.

A great marriage will cost us. A clean house, a tidy yard, a balanced bank account, a trim waist, etc.

If we want to be “successful” at this writing thing, the bare minimum requirement for “being a successful writer” is words written down‚Ķwhich will cost us time we could be spending watching¬†Criminal Minds¬†ūüėÄ .

No One Else Can Define It 

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

First, I will say we have to take the wheel. What my success looks like and what YOURS look like are vastly different things. For years, I allowed others to define my success. I spent years reaching for outside approval that never came.

If you read last post, I told y’all I was a high school drop out twice over. I worked my tail off to win an Air Force Scholarship to become a doctor and I did. Why did I do it? After years of being a disappointment to all those around me, I wanted my grandparents to finally say they were proud of me.

When I came home to tell my grandparents the news I’d won, my grandmother’s first words were, “Well, they must have been short on their quota for women.”

*Kristen dies more than a little inside*

Later, I graduated from TCU with a degree in International Relations. Actually, it was Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. You know, one of those easy fluff degreesūüėČ .

I did this hoping they’d be proud. Ehhh, no.

Then, I landed a premium job in sales hoping they’d be proud. Nope.

Then I got into law school. Nope.

Finally? I gave up trying to make others give me that atta’ girl and did what I loved. I became a writer. All those years I was reaching for dreams that weren’t mine, I was sick and miserable because I had the wrong WHY. When I finally went after MY dream, eventually I no longer cared if they were proud of me or not.

Definitions are Personal and Ever-Changing

When we read motivational stories or watch videos or movies, it is easy to feel like a loser. But, we all start where we are. When I was a baby writer, I remember thinking, Wow, if I could write 500 words a day, then I will have made it. Now, I write a thousand words before breakfast, but that took YEARS and YEARS.

But if I’d started with a goal of 2-3,000 words a day? If I’d beaten myself up because I only wrote 500? I would have given up a long time ago.

When was smacked with Shingles last year, my definition of a “successful day” had to change if I was ever going to get better. And I would love to say that I didn’t cry and whine and complain and throw tantrums. I did. Shingles involved month after month of pain piled on pain piled on even more pain.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 1.01.35 PM

Actually this is a pic after it was a LOT better….

I hated everyone. I hated myself, my family and probably hated kittens and puppies, too. If Zig Ziglar had visited me? I might have just punched him in the face. It was hard to admit that “success” during that time, might have just involved getting out of bed and wearing a bra (the Shingles were all down my ribs).

But eventually we must adjust what is a “win” or our mind will devour us.

Of course, now that I am in remission from Shingles, I need to adjust. Wearing a bra is a noble goal, but I kinda should be past thatūüėČ .

No One Else Can DO It

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

We have to do the work. We have to define what we want and why we want it. Then we have to do the work. There is a lot of talk about giving others the right opportunity. I used to believe in that, but now? Not so much.

I was president of a writing group for years. They complained the reason they didn’t attend was the meeting place, so I got us a nice meeting space. None of them showed. Then, these folks griped that they couldn’t attend because we met at an inconvenient time, so I managed to find a¬†second meeting space on Saturday mornings for those who couldn’t make a weekday evening.

Again, none of them showed. The handful of complainers who did sporadically attend never wrote anything.

Members complained when I recommended craft books. Was I suggesting they didn’t know how to WRITE? Most refused to go to conferences or take classes. They groused about the speakers. They didn’t have time to write the novel, but they had plenty of time to craft long e-mails complaining about some new thing I wasn’t doing for them.

Week after week, year after year, I showed and tried to add more “opportunities” to no avail. Finally, I learned a tough lesson I hadn’t wanted to believe.¬†Talk is cheap.¬†Though being part of that group was painful, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I thought I’d overcome my addiction to approval when I told my family to “Pound sand” and became a writer.

Ah, but did I?

Nope, I’d simply shifted my addiction from my family to a local writing group. I was still just as addicted to people pleasing and I needed others to “approve” of me and my dreams.

I had to learn that I could not expect average people to be extraordinary. Also, I could no longer hide behind their lack of approval as an excuse of not moving forward. I had to leave them behind and risk failing alone. I could not hand them enough opportunities and definitely could not motivate them into success.

Motivation is the fuel for the soul, but we have to light the spark and WE have to take charge of using and directing that for forward momentum. Like approval, motivation is wonderful, but not entirely necessary. Sometimes, we simply have to dig deep and keep going even when there is no outward sign we are doing anything right.

Writing is NOT an Easy Job

We don’t clock in and clock out. We don’t have a boss looking over our shoulders who will send us to Writer Jail if we don’t make word count. No one will discipline us if we don’t take any Continuing Education. Most of what we DO, others don’t see (or even value). This is a very unique profession that probably requires us take care of our Spirit Self more than other jobs.

Take time for yourself. Feed your spirit, but then put that fuel to work. Just like craft books do us NO good collecting dust on a shelf, motivation is similarly useless if not put into action. Opportunities are meaningless if we ignore them.

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself falling into approval addiction or people pleasing? Do you have to revisit your goals because you’ve let others do too much influencing when it comes to what “success” looks like? Do you rely too much on motivation? Heck, I am guilty. Do you forget that your mind and will need nourishing too?

I love hearing from you!

Quick Announcement: 

Due to popular demand, THIS SATURDAY¬†I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

Again, I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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