Well, if you weathered my first post, by now you’re saying to yourself, “Woo! I think I might steer clear of that wacky California for awhile.” OR, maybe you’re leaning a little bit toward: “Well, I have been rather down on myself about this whole getting published process; maybe I could use a little positive adjustment…”
No matter which category you fall into, I dare you to consider today’s post and play with the “games” I’ve got for you.
Last time we met I asked you to take an inventory of the kinds of thoughts you have about your writing life and to see if they tended to fall more into the “I deserve” or “I suck” category.
So did you? And what did you find?
Most of us will find that even when we think we’re being positive — “I really, really want to be published!” — what we don’t realize is that we’re focusing on the lack of being published. Imagine walking around and saying to people all day, “I’m not happily married! I’m not expressing myself creatively! I’m not rich!”
With the exception of a few robustly exhibitionist types, I’m guessing you wouldn’t point out to people what you are not, and what you don’t have. Yet this is what you do to yourself when you focus on wanting something rather than treating that desire as something you intend to have… no matter what.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting; it’s human for one, and a default setting for many of us. Wanting is the way in which you make clear to yourself what is missing from your picture of your life. But if you even considered that I might not be totally full of crap when I said two days ago that your feelings are like a big magnetic generator that attracts your life to you, then you’ll be one baby step closer to changing how you think.
So… the inventory I asked you to take was simply a snapshot, a way to get you to notice how you regard yourself and your writing life. Were you shocked to find that you had less, or more, confidence in yourself than you thought? Were you pretty resigned to the fact that a little dull hope is all you’re ever going to muster? Fair enough. You took your pulse, and now you have a diagnosis. Joyful or flatlined or somewhere in between.
Now, I asked you to write down your top five desires — “But wait, Jordan, didn’t you just say that wanting was not such a hot plan?” — I did, that’s why I called these “desires.” It’s a good word, desire, isn’t it? It’s lush and bold and sexy. It makes you purr or pant. Desires are things that make you feel damn good when you think about having them. Like publishing that novel. Or like just getting the thing formatted properly (many of my desires are incredibly practical).
So put down that manuscript you’re itching to send off for a minute. Or that messy revision that’s making your brain hurt. Before you go hurtling yourself into action, take a minute to think about how you’d like the end result of your desire to pan out.
Write down your desires again.
I desire to be a bestselling novelist.
I desire to publish just one short story before I die.
I desire to have women weeping over my words and showering me in praise
Whatever they are, write them down on a clean sheet of paper. Then go through them and where you have the word desire, scratch it out and replace it with a new word or phrase. Rather than desire try, “I intend,” or “I plan to” or “I will” or “I firmly and positively know that…”
Then rewrite your sentences.
I know, one part of you wants to say that this is below your intelligence. You have three degrees for goodness sake, or attended six trazillion writer’s workshops, or were born into a family of linguists. What the heck can changing a word in a sentence do for your mood much less future? Keep an open mind.
Now, look at that list and choose the one that burns most powerfully into your longing. The one that makes you shiver or ache or get heartburn when you think of it REALLY happening to you.
From here, you are going to make two lists.
List number one will have 20 numbered slots. You will come up with 20 reasons why you want this to come to fruition. Why is a powerful question when applied to this burning desire/intention/plan. Why? I mean, really, why?
And your answers need not make Saints feel incompetent. You can wish for success because it will make your enemies burn with jealousy, or because it will vindicate you to all those nay-sayers in your family who just didn’t believe… asking why forces you to widen the possibilities, and jack up the feeling meter to “yeah baby!”
We’ll deal with the results when I post next!
Finally, one more task; this one is not an overnighter: Choose just one author whose career you would like to have. Make it a side goal to find out as much as you can about how and why they became successful. Google them, read interviews, read all their books, scan their acknowledgements and find out what happened along the way. I will bet you that somewhere in the path they started to change the way they thought about themselves.
I’ll share mine. I would like to have a career like the bestselling commercial author Jodi Picoult, who writes tightly plotted, emotionally intricate novels that have an uncanny ability to hit the top ten bestseller list without fail. The woman has written more than 13 novels and has, from all appearances, a very good life.
I have thought about her, and read her, for the past six months. About one year ago, after writing a bang-up pitch letter, I scored my first assignment for Writer’s Digest Magazine. Surely you’ve heard of it. It’s a magazine that gets thousands of pitches each month and rarely takes on new freelance writers because of it. But I was SO SURE about my idea that I never once stopped to think about that in the process.
Well, I knew a good thing when it came my way, so after my first successful assignment, I kept on working with the editor I had established contact with, pitching her regular ideas. I had written for local publications for a long time, but I was ready to become a national, heck, even a household name (My desires run extra-large). I do a daily writing/visualization exercise to keep my focus on the feeling that I am already successful, and have added in how much I fully intend to have a career just like Jodi Picoult’s.
Well, lo and behold, not one year after writing for WD, and before my first article had actually run in print yet (they have a lengthy lead time), I was asked to be a contributing editor to the magazine, getting steady work and having my name featured in the masthead. Pretty cool, eh?
The October issue just hit the stands and guess who is one of just 12 contributing editors? Jodi Picoult. In fact, my name comes right after hers in the line-up. You tell me that’s coincidence. I’ll keep envisioning a career that looks a heck of a lot like hers; we already have one thing in common.
If you will allow me to shamelessly hawk my own online class, please visit my teaching site to sign up for the first of many online Creating Space classes, beginning September 9th (4 weeks, $125).