Posts Tagged the writing life
Setbacks. We all have them and, strangely, they like to cluster together and dog pile us at once. The trick to setbacks is to adjust our perspective of what happened and use them to to make us stronger, wiser and grittier.
You might not believe me, but instant success is not always good for us. There is something about the process of learning and doing and failing and starting again and again even when we want to give up that is healthy. In fact it is vital for any kind of long-term achievement.
I know because I’ve encountered my share of people who were promoted too soon, beyond the scope of their abilities and far past the strength of their character. And it ended badly every…single…time.
Growth is a Process
All human growth is a process. It has steps. We skip steps at our own peril. Everything we are doing is training for something bigger. If we get the promotion too soon? We are going to be ill-prepared for the dream.
And this is what I want you guys to keep in mind when you face setbacks.
There are all kinds of stories of folks who won the lottery who then ended up bankrupt. Stories of athletes or musicians or actors who got promoted too fast too soon before their skills and character could develop. We even have writers who by some fluke, saw vast success with a book only to never be able to duplicate that lightning in a bottle.
Don’t get me wrong, this is sort of like the whole “Money can’t buy happiness” line. I sure would love my chance to test that theory 😉 . And instant success? Would love me some of THAT. But since instant fame and fortune are not the norm, and since I assume most of you have no desire to be flash-in-the-pan-successes…
We must learn GRIT.
Today I want to talk about the three most common types of setbacks and what they can teach us if we are open to the lesson.
Setback #1—The Judas Kiss
E tu, Brute?
I’m pretty sure anyone who’s lived longer than a few years has been through a betrayal. And not just any betrayal. The one you never saw coming.
Writers are emotional creatures. Our art springs from our heart and if our heart just got rammed through a Vit-A-Mix? It’s really hard to focus. Maybe it was a writing partner who bailed halfway through the novel you were co-authoring together. Maybe someone in your personal life took major advantage of you and you’re reeling from it. Maybe you got majorly screwed over at work.
Thing is? It happens. And it is never ever pretty.
I’ve been through my fair share of betrayals, but guess what? We can cry and whine and feel sorry for ourselves or we can use it. I just absolutely love the song “Fighter” by Christina Aguilara regarding betrayal:
‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter
Humans are flawed. Many come with baggage (and not just carry-on). The only way to avoid ever being hurt is to isolate ourselves, but then we are deprived of the many wonderful people out there who can and will make excellent friends and partners.
The same fire that will boil out the users is the same fire that will also reveal the gold around us.
If I hadn’t been through four other crappy writing partners who totally flaked? I would never have found my current gem, Cait.
So yeah, just expect that knife in the back. As you get older and wiser it does happen less frequently and hopefully we will get to a point it never happens. But the blunt truth is risk and reward are related and so it can still happen to the wisest among us.
Just expect it, plan for it and learn to roll with it.
Setback #2—You Just Aren’t Ready
Most of us have been there as writers. We have worked and worked and edited and polished and we think THIS! THIS is the book that will make it…only to realize we still have no idea what the hell we are doing.
Before the digital age, becoming published was a very slow, private, and painful process. Most aspiring writers remained just that.
The process of querying and being rejected and rejected and rejected…and rejected again weeded out those who were not truly committed. It forced us to get better, to go to conferences, to take classes and try again and again.
Thus, by the time we actually were published (if we made it that far) the book was actually pretty decent. Granted there is no accounting for taste (so I am not claiming everything NY published was better than unicorn tears), but when we compare the books published 15 years ago against this modern era where publishing is instant and no gatekeepers are required?
Vastly different quality.
And before anyone shouts me down, I am an indie. I love many indie books and think some of the best writers of our time are not traditionally published. But we ALL have seen the books that probably should have had more work before being offered for sale 😉 .
Here’s the deal. Some writers still are not ready even once “published.” Maybe we need to write more books to become better storytellers. Maybe we write great books but we just do not have a platform/brand that can drive sales.
Hey, my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media was an excellent book. It was groundbreaking and desperately needed. But, my first royalty check was good for a dinner at Chili’s. I didn’t have a solid platform yet. I hadn’t built my brand enough.
In short? I wasn’t ready. And the reason I mention this is, what if I had gotten discouraged and given up? What if I hadn’t just faced this setback for what it was? I needed to grow.
Sometimes we need outside help to see if we are ready and where and how to grow. My mentors did it for me and now I pay it forward to you guys.
This is why I am offering my favorite class Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages. Instead of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, sometimes those outside professional eyes can help us work smarter, not harder. I am offering two upgrades where you get me ripping through your pages to help you get better. I am a master at taking out little darlings 😉 …
Setback #3—Burning Bridges
Ah, the burning bridges
Now there are two types of burning bridge situations. In one? We hold the box of matches. Maybe this is when we decided to quit the day job to write full time. We are in control of said bridge burning.
But then there is the other scenario.
This is where you go over the bridge to maybe pick up some nibbles for the family and stretch your legs…and you come back to your bridge ablaze with no way home.
I’ve been here, too. This might be the job loss you weren’t expecting, or a death or an illness. In my case, I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy thereby ending my career in corporate sales. I had no choice but to sink or swim. Only after I’d lost everything was I willing to dare to pursue my childhood dream.
I mean, why not? I had nothing left to lose.
I would love to say I was always that evolved when I faced this, but I wasn’t. I spent a year crying and in depression that I was a failure. Bemoaning my lost career and whining so much I couldn’t even stand myself.
It wasn’t until I quit crying over my burned bridge that I could harness the freedom it gave me. I had no way back and nothing left to lose. It made me much braver than I ever would have been with some kind of a safety net in place.
And trust me, this is probably THE most terrifying of all the setbacks, but we have to make a choice. There is no un-burning the bridge, so the only thing we can control is our attitude. So cry, call a prayer hotline, gripe in my comments and get it all out…then dig in. Sometimes the only way out is through.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a betrayal SO bad you thought you wouldn’t make it? Did it make you better? What did you learn. Do you struggle with knowing if you are ready? Have you ever attempted something too soon? What did you learn? Have you ever had a bridge blow up on you? I want to hear your stories!
And remember next week at W.A.N.A., we are starting that Master’s Class series with Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg so make sure to get your spot!
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, 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).
SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!!
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!
NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.
OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…
Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107
How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017
It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017
Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017
Individual Classes with MOI!
Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017
Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017
Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 2017
NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017
Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages $40 March 18th, 2017
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
I confess. I am normally uptight, controlling and neurotic but after the recent death of my grandmother who raised me? Where I might have been a
five seven twelve, I was suddenly a fifty (on a scale of ten). I felt flung to the winds and adrift. I was out of control and that is not a feeling I enjoy.
Monday, I was really tired so I wasn’t up to taking Spawn to summer camp where he normally goes for a few hours so Mommy can work.
And so it begins….
Kids have a really honest and refreshing way of getting right to the point.
For instance. Recently we went out to dinner at a nice Mediterranean restaurant. I stand up and Spawn (Age 6) suddenly looks up at me aghast as if he is seeing me for the first time and loudly proclaims.
“Mommy! Your boobs are HUGE!”
Thanks kid, just thanks.
And the table of men nearby had to be scraped off the floor laughing.
Unlike friends and family, kids don’t sugar coat anything and we are wise to listen. Additionally beyond what children say, it is what they DO that can give us the most to learn.
Back to being too lazy to take Spawn to camp. I am busy uploading my guest post and trying to dig out of the mountain of emails that were left unchecked while I lay in bed for a week.
My left eye already had a permanent twitch from the piles of laundry to do, the stacks of dishes and all the work that lay ahead. I was super busy self-flagellating about how I was such a royal jerk for not getting edits back to students yet and how I was a selfish jerk for taking a week and a half to get my head on straight after my grandmother’s death.
Selfish Kristen! Horrible Kristen!
Spawn? What better time to decide to build a FORT? And right next to where Mommy is working so she can enjoy it!
At this point in time I was all right. Writing professionally is akin to being a war correspondent, especially for anyone with small kids and pets. No big deal. I am cool. I got this. I survived the Blueberry Yogurt Fiasco of 2014 and the Projectile Vomit Debacle of 2015. I’ve blogged while sustaining heavy NERF fire.
I totally got this.
Spawn THEN decides he is lonely in his fort and wants Johnny Cat in there with him.
At first he is wrestling with the cat (over my computer—where else?). I stop and say…
“You cannot force a cat to go anywhere. Let me get you a cat trap (pictured above). Set this baby inside and you will have a cat in less than 3 minutes.” Proof I am a genius (pictured below).
I keep writing and this fort just starts to grow…
And OH DEAR GOD IT IS THE BORG!
RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED….
By noon I am pretty much pushed out of my work area because I didn’t want to be assimilated along with two nursing pillows, Thanksgiving pumpkin decorations and pretty much every worldly possession Spawn has.
My OCD is going wild by now (actually my CDO because why is this NOT in alphabetical order as it should be?).
I’ve always been transparent with you guys because I want you to know that you are not alone. Most of us struggle. We beat ourselves up that we are not good enough that we should be trying harder, that we should be doing more. When we do write, we are our own worst critics and can edit the magic right out of a story with our insecurity.
Every level has its insecurities and challenges. When we are new, we feel guilty for writing because we aren’t yet “real” writers and so we are totally selfish jerks for writing because it isn’t as if we are published *rolls eyes*.
But how do we ever become successfully published unless we write a BOOK? Then once we do publish the pressure only grows. Now we need more books and this book didn’t do as well as that book and OH GOD! I HIT #1…but can I ever do it again? Am I a one-hit wonder?
Am I Tarzan Boy Writer?
I have a bad habit of setting myself up to fail no matter what I do. If I spend a day cleaning the house, then I suck because I didn’t get any writing done. If I write, then I am a terrible housekeeper. If I hire a cleaning service, then I am being wasteful with money.
Hey I warned y’all I was a neurotic in the beginning 😛 .
Then Spawn comes along with this fort. My first instincts are to beat myself up because the house is a mess. But the sheer joy he is having building this thing is infectious. I am a fixer and a problem solver (I.e. the Cat Traps) and have no idea how my own mother didn’t murder me as a child.
When I was four I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two packages of typing paper—regular and legal size. So what did I do? I created art and went door to door selling. Five cents for the regular, ten cents for the legal and a dollar for the stack and a promise to never bother you
again until the next time.
And in all the stress of being an adult I’d forgotten this. This thing called fun. Fun is not neat and tidy. Fun is chaotic. No fun IS chaos.
As the Spawn Fort was growing I just kept telling myself that he only is a little boy once. In a few years he will be off with friends and Mommy may no longer be his best friend and I will miss the Tinker Toys underfoot. I will miss the mess. I will crave this chaos.
Spawn Fort 1.0 was a structural disaster (because I refused to butt in) and was reclaimed by nature overnight. Spawn was distressed, but fortunately, Mommy was an expert fort builder in her day and after he asked for my help?
I bring you….
Spawn Fort 2.0—A.K.A. SUPER FORT
Super Fort is three times the size with a nice padded sleeping area and several storage lockers (under chairs) for NERF weapons. It has two “secret” entrances and more head room. Additionally, one cannot have intruders thinking they can just pillage whatever they like from your fort while you are away, so Spawn Fort 2.0 is equipped with a state of the art Storm Trooper Security System. It won’t hit anyone so you don’t have to worry about being sued, but the warning shots will at least scare them away.
Want to see a little boy explode with joy? Show him how to build a proper fort and think to guard it with a Storm Trooper.
So Spawn is happy and then he kinda freaks out that it isn’t finished. We forgot the cat traps!
Me: Honey, Super Fort IS a cat trap…
To date every stitch of furniture including a lamp/table has been assimilated into Super Fort….which now sports a Hot Wheels racetrack that leads to the fireplace and I am strangely okay with that. One of my writer friends said it best in a Facebook comment….
One day…all the forts built by childhood will be but dust in a memory. Your reaction is the only way that memory is fairy dust.
~ Michael Gray
And he was right. The grandmother who raised me, the one I lost? All that is left of her is the fairy dust of blanket forts and coloring books and a million Barbie shoes and I miss her very, very much.
In the end? Embrace fun. Embrace some chaos and for the love of all that is chocolate cut yourself some slack and lighten the hell up! (So y’all know, I am yelling that at myself).
What are your thoughts? Are you a control freak too? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you set yourself up to fail no matter what? Do you maybe need to create some fairy dust?
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).
Check out NEW classes below!
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
We are doing ANOTHER round of Battle of the First Pages!!! August 5th
The first time we did this we had some tech issues doing this new format and we’ve since worked those out, but for now I am still keeping the price low ($25) until we get this streamlined to my tastes.
LIMITED SEATS. This is an open workshop where each person will submit his or her first page of the manuscript for critique. I will read the page aloud and “gong” where I would have stopped reading and explain why. This is an interactive workshop designed to see what works or what doesn’t. Are you ready to test your page in the fire?
Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th
The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.
Your First Five Pages Gold Level
This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.
Your First Five Pages Platinum Level
This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist August 19th
All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” 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.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold
This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.
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.