Hi, campers — Anne here. In the interests of opening up this forum to a broad array of perspectives on the writing life, I have blandished the eternally fabulous Jordan Rosenfeld into sharing her thoughts on creating a successful writing career. In the months to come, I am hoping to cajole other successful writers into giving us their insights, but since Jordan has been gracious enough to give in to my begging first, let’s give her a great big round of applause!
Take it away, Jordan!
Guest blogger: Jordan Rosenfeld
First, I want to say that I am honored to be allowed to part the curtains of Anne Mini’s tough but savvy wisdom to blog for a few days here. What Im here to offer you is one part writing advice, one part cheerleading and one part good-old California cosmic wisdom. That means you are free to take it with as big a grain of salt as you like, but I will wager that if you stay open to this kind of thinking, the way you approach submitting/publishing/agent-hunting and writing will change.
Let me also make it clear that I am a writer. A working writer, who freelances for a living, and a fiction writer represented by a literary agent who has been through the gauntlet myself, so I know from where I speak. I have two books coming out next year, the first, Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers & Other Inspired Souls, with Rebecca Lawton is the one I’m mainly drawing from for these posts. The second, Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, from Writer’s Digest Books, also offers practical advice, and clinches my place in the canon of Know-it-Alls.
I am going to begin by betting you something. This is not the kind of bet where one of us has something material to lose or gain, so if that’s what you came looking for you little gambler, Vegas is calling you instead. Here it is:
I will bet that when it comes to your writing and its future success or failure, you have given very little attention to the kinds of thoughts that roughhouse and carom through your brain in any given day. Wait, forget day — try every second or even nanosecond. Now, out of the trazillion thoughts that barrage your neurotransmitters daily, you will catch one from time to time with your little thought net and hold it up to the light and notice the what has just taken up territory in your gray matter. It might look something like this: “Why am I getting all these rejections? I must suck.”
Now, the likelihood of you “sucking” is probably not all that high, and since writing is a craft and the business of writing can be learned, the odds are actually in your favor for not sucking. Yet in that moment that you give your attention and belief to the thought “I probably suck and therefore I will never publish and will wind up a spinster in obscurity…” (okay, so that was one of mine), you make a little bit of that thought true for yourself. You bequeath a part of your attitude and energy and self-esteem to it, and make it possible for similar thoughts to gain entry into your consciousness. Some of us actually hitch little train-cars of similar negative thoughts to the back of that one and take an all out cross-country tour of self-doubt and despair until we are ready to put our heads through our laptops. Not much of a recipe for success.
Now, likewise, there are days where a light and beautiful thought makes its way to the surface and you skim it in your little golden thought net from the green-blue scum trying to weigh it down in the pool of your mind. It might look something like this: “I might actually publish a novel!” or “I am talented and deserve to be represented by a literary agent” (okay, nobody deserves that; it’s a necessity).
So now I ask you, what happens when you hold up that golden thought, the one that shimmers so brightly that it obscures all other thoughts? Does your whole being radiate goodness and light and can-do joy, or do you turn into a hunchbacked beast and lumber away from it screaming, “My eyes, my bleeding eyes!”?
These are just two examples I’m talking about here. What about the chorus of “I suck” and “I deserve” that regularly pass through you? Are you aware of them? Well if you have a destination or a desire in mind for yourself as a writer (and the fact that you’re here at Anne’s blog means you do), then you’ll want to start paying attention to them RIGHT AWAY because they’re shaping the way your life and especially your writing life is unfolding.
How’s this for a revolutionary idea: your thoughts are more responsible for the way things are, or are not, than your parents will ever be.
The reason for this is that thoughts are plugged directly into your feeling generator. Once your attention is on a thought, your little chemicals begin churning and pretty quickly you feel “bad” or “good” about what you’re thinking (in simplistic terms). And here’s one of those moments where you can heft that grain (or boulder) of salt I mentioned up to your shoulder. Your feelings attract your life. Feelings reflect and mirror the stuff of your life, for better or for worse. Do you ever feel you’re on a “roll” either negative or positive? When you’re feeling despairing about writing do you notice it’s impossible to place a submission? When you write something hot and fabulous, have you ever found that the powerful good energy of that allows other great opportunities into your life? Well start looking! (Let me insert a little sidebar here: There is not, nor will there ever be in any of my posts any “blame” on anyone for feeling bad or discouraged or fed up, so don’t get scared!)
So what can you do about these negative thoughts and their bearing on your writing life?
1. You can begin by taking an inventory, either literally on paper or from an observational standpoint during any given day. This inventory can be distilled into two categories: thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself (“I am terrible at writing plot”)and your writing and, yes, you know where I’m going with this, thoughts that make you feel good about yourself/your writing (“I can read a really well-plotted novel and learn how to do it!”).
2. Then, I want you to make a list of the top five desires you have for your writing life. Perhaps you desire to be a bestselling published novelist, or simply to have your short stories accepted in literary journals that are not published at Kinko’s copies and distributed under the windshield wipers of people’s cars. Whether big or small, keep that list nearby and notice when you look at each desire which kinds of thoughts arise, those of the “I deserve,” or “I suck” variety.
Try this inventory for a day or few. See which kind of thoughts you have more of in general, and which you have more of in relation to your desires. Then stick around, because when I blog again on Thursday the 17th, I will ask you to do something with what you’ve noticed and how this relates to what you desire.
Now, I don’t want to sound as if I’m in any way detracting from what Anne has so diligently worked to point out to you; to be published requires talent, skill, observation, adhering to guidelines and knowing what sells. It’s no small task. But trust me when I say that if you begin a day saying, “This is so hard, I will never get there,” versus, “I’m going to find out exactly what I have to do to be published,” and you do this daily, you WILL rise above.
If you allow me to shamelessly hawk my own online class, please visit the Creating Space site to sign up for the first of many online classes, beginning September 9th (4 weeks, $125). And as always, my ongoing thoughts on the writing life may be found on my blog.
Jordan E. Rosenfeld