100% Is a Cinch!

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”

(Ken Blanchard, author of the best seller The One Minute Manager) 

Without a 100% commitment to anything, you spend so much time (and energy!) every day deciding whether or not to keep the commitment. If you’re truly interested in writing–but not 100% committed–you probably fight with yourself nearly every day over whether or not to stick to your writing disciplines.

I fought that for more than twenty years. Long enough! It was high time the writing and marketing (necessary these days if you want to have a writing career) became absolute non-negotiables.

No Matter What?

What if we lived the rest of our lives the way we live our writing life? Instead of the “should I write today, or shouldn’t I write?” daily hassle, we’d be fighting nearly everything! But we don’t. We make 100% decisions all the time. Examples:

  • I never pass a bank or gas station and fight with myself about whether to pull in and rob them. I don’t steal. Ever. And I don’t intend to. So I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about it.
  • I don’t agonize over spending money I don’t have. I hate debt–always have. I don’t take on payments, and I don’t intend to. So I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about it.
  • I don’t agonize over whether to brush my teeth after I eat breakfast. I don’t want my teeth to rot. Ever. And I don’t waste time and energy thinking about it.

Make That 100% Commitment

We all have things we’ve made 100% commitments to: exercise programs, drinking water, tucking our kids into bed every night, not swearing, getting to bed by eleven, praying…you name it. Isn’t it time we made our writing commitments 100% too?

And you know the kicker? Studies have proven that it’s actually far easier to keep a 100% commitment than a partial commitment.

Try it and see for yourself!

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How NOT To Be Taken Seriously

If you take yourself seriously, you will be taken seriously.

A common complaint among new writers is that friends and family members don’t take them–or their writing–seriously.

I tell them–truthfully–that the main thing they need to do is convince themselves that they are serious about their writing. Others will pick up on that attitude and start giving them the respect they crave.

Do You Need An Attitude Fix?

If you’re a self-employed, freelance writer, you’re in business. You’re creative–true. But you’re still in business if you want to make income from your writing. And often it is poor business attitudes that keep others from taking you seriously. Do an attitude check with the list below.

Are you harboring these unhelpful attitudes?

1) The “I’ll work when I please” attitudeMost of us are drawn to self-employed writing because we like the idea of being our own bosses. We can work when (and if) we so choose. But if you take this attitude to mean you can meet deadlines if nothing else comes up, you’ll never be taken seriously. It’s one thing to let an editor know you won’t be able to meet a deadline because you’re in the hospital and both arms are in traction. It’s quite another to miss a deadline because you’re hand crafting mini pinatas for your daughter’s birthday party.

2) The “I don’t have the money to be professional” attitudeYou have to invest money to make money, say the experts. For example, if you’re advertising your resume-writing business with a brochure, get a good printer or have them professionally done. During the early years, I never had a publisher willing to foot the bill for flyers or bookmarks or other advertising. It came out of my pocket. [This is where I differ from the experts though. I didn't put anything on a credit card. I have a horrible fear of debt.] Since the family needed my book advances to live on, I would do “extras” to get whatever money I needed to run my office: an extra speech, an extra workshop, an extra critique. And when the “extra” money ran out, I stopped. Perhaps if I had been willing to put things on credit or had more expendable income, I could have increased book sales faster. I don’t know. But I do think you have to spend some  money to get established, even if it’s just for paper and ink. [That was me--I already had my husband's old college typewriter.]

3) The “I can’t charge more” attitudeSad, but true. People tend to value what they pay for. Dogs that people pay big bucks for are treated so much better than free dogs from the pound. While you may choose to write or speak for free very early in your career, don’t let that period last long. [The only free stuff I used to do were talks at my children's schools as my parental/community contribution. I never wrote for free that I can remember. Even now, if I critique for free, it's because I'm trading with a writer friend who is giving me a free critique also.]

Early in my career I complained to another (more experienced) writer that I didn’t appreciate some of the disrespectful treatment I got at certain schools. Her reply? “Triple your speaking fee. You work too cheap. They’ll value you more.” With much fear and trembling, I did it. She was right too! I got more speaking invitations after that! When schools said they couldn’t afford me, I sympathized about hard times and sent back a list of suggestions about how they might raise the money. [I kept a list of money-making activities other schools had used--bake sales, t-shirt sales, "slave" auctions, sharing the fee with another school, grant writing--and then sent the ideas to people who wanted a freebie or a cheapie.] I tried to be helpful–short of doing a free or cheap school visit. You’ll be treated more professionally if people have to invest in order to enjoy your services.

4) The “I do a lot of things” attitudeWhen starting out, it’s tempting to dabble in a lot of things, hoping at least one of them will work out. You might write greeting card verse, design websites for other writers, and run a resume service. Or you might want to be a novelist, but you split your time among writing guest blog posts, creating crossword puzzles, entering writing contests, and working on your novel. To be taken seriously, you’ll probably need to decide what you want to do most and then give it 100% of your time and energy (even if 100% of your available time is just one hour per day.)

Be Professional

The next time you get the feeling that people aren’t taking your writing seriously, do an attitude check on yourself. Are you taking yourself seriously?

Start there, and fix that–and I guarantee that others will take their cue from you.

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Surrendering to the Call

The post below was written almost four years ago, when I was struggling with this question. I was pleased to see that I no longer struggle with it. In fact, after a full surrender, things shifted for me in a wonderful way. Not only do I have as many contracts as I can handle, I’m having a chance to write the kind of books I have always loved to read. What made the difference in four years? Read below, and you’ll see…

Do you believe you are called to write? Or do you suspect you are?

If that’s true, why aren’t you pursuing your calling?

Food for Thought

This weekend I started reading Callings by Gregg Levoy, the author of a very practical book for writers called This Business of Writing. In Callings, he said some thought-provoking things that gave me pause.

I started writing thirty years ago, and until six months ago, there were many reasons why I couldn’t give my all-out devotion to writing: a full-time day job of teaching, raising four children, multiple jobs in the church and community, serious health problems and surgeries, etc. But last fall I retired from teaching, my children are grown, and I can decide how much I babysit grandchildren and how much volunteer work I do. It’s a time I’ve been anticipating for three decades.

So…am I pursuing my writer’s calling with full devotion? I want to. I dream about it. I can almost taste it sometimes. But do I do it? No.

Why?

I’m not sure, but these quotes from Callings are helping me ask the right questions. Maybe these ideas will help you too.

  • “Although we have the choice not to follow  a call, if we do not do so,..we’ll feel alienated from ourselves, listless and frustrated, and fitful with boredom, the common  cold of the soul. Life will feel so penetratingly dull and pointless that we may become angry, and turn the anger inward against ourselves (one definition of depression).”
  • “Generally, people won’t pursue their callings until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so.”
  • “Perhaps the main reason that we ignore calls is that we instinctively know the price they’ll exact.”
  • “All calls lead to some sacrifice because even just one choice closes the door on another, and some calls lead to much sacrifice, which may feel anything but blissful.”
  • “At some level we need to devote everything, our whole selves. A part-time effort, a sorta-kinda commitment, an untested promise, won’t  suffice. You must know that you mean business, that you’re going to jump into it up to your eye sockets and not turn back at the last minute.”

Will the Rubber Meet the Road Now?

I’ve had thirty years of (by necessity) a “part-time effort” and “an untested promise.” Now that I have the time and could choose to do so, will I “jump into it up to [my] eye sockets”?

Is the pain of not doing so finally more than the fear of trying? Yes, I think so.

How about you?

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My Writing Life in Pictures

This is my story the past few weeks…

I’m writing every day, many hours per day.

I’m reading and researching every day.

I have several contracts to fulfill, which is pleasant.

(Story continues below…)

 

 

This is me most evenings.

A darkened room, five minutes of reading for fun, and then blessed sleep.

(Story continues below…)

 

 

 

 

I have learned the difference finally.

I’m not busy on social media.

But I’m producing thousands of words these days.

I’m just missing three things.

(Story finishes below.)

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The Writing Life: Stopping “Unintentional Acceleration Syndrome”

Have you ever had the experience of driving a car which suddenly–and for no apparent reason–accelerates? Applying the brakes has no effect.

It sometimes happens with certain defects in cars, and while the driver can see the accident about to happen, he is powerless to do anything about it.

Symptoms of Acceleration Syndrome

Many writers feel like their lives have the same “defect.” Symptoms can include lethargy, tiredness after a full night’s sleep, depression or free-floating anxiety without a specific cause, and spaciness. A writer with an unintentional accelerated pace of life has precious little time for the reflection and quiet “head space” needed for creating.

Does the description of this syndrome sound familiar to you?

The ever increasing pace of life is called the “acceleration syndrome,” and it is causing a global epidemic of hurry sickness. One of the symptoms is the dizzying speed at which we live and the amount of living we are forcing into our lives…Many “solutions” offered, such as time management and learning to delegate and prioritize, are having the opposite effect. They are actually increasing the pace of life, creating a time squeeze in which we are encouraged to cram even more into an hour. They only aggravate the problem we are supposed to be addressing.

What’s a writer to do?

It’s covered in one of the “dirty dozen” chapters that Caroline Leaf talks about in her book Who Switched Off My Brain (the chapter called “Toxic Schedules.”) There’s also a one-minute video segment you can watch on the topic. I highly recommend all her books. They have helped me tremendously  with “detoxing” over the past two years.

Unlike the driver of a car stuck in unintentional acceleration, you CAN do something about your speeded-up life. And if you want to enjoy your writing life, you will probably need to. 

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