Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Success

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jeremy Schultz
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jeremy Schultz

Our culture has been infected with a disease of distortion, what I’m calling “End-of-the-Rainbow-Thinking.” We can all be guilty of this. We see the mega-best-selling-indie, the New York Times best-selling author, the successful small business, the guy with the big house or the family who lives debt-free and we scope-lock on the end result as if this “success” POOF! erupted from the ether.

Reality television superstars, fluke mega-advances for first-time authors, and lottery-winners only reinforce this Get-Successful-Quick-With-No-Effort-On-Our-Part mindset.

The Kardashian Konundrum

A couple days ago, I was checking out at the grocery store and there is an entire issue of a magazine devoted to Kim Kardashian. Why? What has she contributed other than fodder for the gossip mill? Yet, these are the role models that, whether we like it or not, can infect how we view ourselves, our goals and what we seek to accomplish.

We must be mindful to separate junk food “entertainment” from reality.

America in particular has transformed from a culture that once valued hard work and apprenticeship, to one that elevates the ego, the individual, the “self-made”. Yet, serendipity aside, those who’ve experienced authentic success didn’t uncover some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

They worked and they worked hard. They worked harder, failed and learned to work smarter.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Value the Apprenticeship

Before the Industrial Revolution, skilled labor was very different and had been for centuries. One began studying as an Apprentice under a Master, then, upon reaching a certain benchmark, graduated to Journeyman. After years of skilled practice, a Journeyman might eventually reach the level of Master.

These days, we all have this mistaken notion that we are natural “Masters” on Day One. I can’t speak for any of you, but I know I was this way. I didn’t need craft classes *snort*. I knew how to write a novel. I made all As in English, duh. My biggest concern with my first novel was all the agents who would be fighting over it.

You can laugh at me. I do.

Mastery Myopia

But why I want to bring this up is that, if we believe we should be Masters from the get-go, we risk being less open to feedback, and even potential mentors. Growth is stifled and our gift suffers. We can get discouraged when we haven’t reached a certain benchmark because we are completely unaware that the benchmark was utterly unrealistic to begin with.

For instance, I opened WANA International a year and a half ago. I was a baby CEO. I had people on my team who up and quit because, after six weeks of being “open” we weren’t bazillionaires taking the world by storm. If I hadn’t had my tail end handed to me on a platter by my experiences as a writer, I would have probably bailed, too.

Setbacks are normal. Stalling is normal. Failure is a good thing.

Failure keeps us humble and often opens up better or more efficient ways of doing things. Humility and a realistic perspective liberates us to ask for help, to be open to being teachable. Failures emancipate us from the responsibility of having to “know everything.”

It’s Okay to Be Growing

A year-and-a-half later? I am still growing. I am no longer a Baby CEO. I’m a Toddler CEO well on my way to being fully potty-trained :D. But last week, I was being particularly hard on myself and I stopped. WHY? I’m still relatively NEW.

This isn’t permission to be lax, foolish, lazy, but it is permission to remember I’m learning. I’m learning by doing and sometimes FAILING. I’m reading stacks of business books penned by those who did this “business thing” better (books that make me want to hurl myself into traffic, btw).

When we aren’t grounded in the reality of what it takes to be successful, we’re vulnerable to barbs from the outside world, because, remember…many of them have fantastical thinking, too.

How many people have you met who have a “great idea” for a super-duper-successful story? They believe the only thing separating them from JK Rowling is writing a book. Many outsiders have a similar belief that command of our native tongue naturally qualifies us to be rockstar best-selling authors.

It’s one of the largest causes for the push-back we experience as authors. If our first time to bat book isn’t a home-run runaway best-seller then we’re “failures.”

Again, End-of-the-Rainbow-Thinking.

The Callouses Behind the Curtain

Most of the world sees only the “finished project” or the “outcome of a dream.” It’s the Ooooooh, ahhhhhhh sparkly stuff they see.

What they DON’T see are all the small steps, calloused hands, and hardened resolve led to that place. They aren’t conscious that any success (financial, personal, professional) is merely the final product, a cumulation of tiny “right decisions” and a series of tough lessons from “wrong decisions.”

They see the beautiful “house” not rebar, concrete, pipes, sheetrock, bricks, nails, blood, and smashed thumbs.

People don’t see when we choose to write instead of going to the mall. They don’t see us up until two in the morning to make a deadline even when we KNOW the toddler will be awake in four hours. They don’t see the rejections, the missteps, the @$$chewings because we made a bad choice. Outsiders don’t see the tens of thousands of words cut away, unusable, the hours and creative blood they represent.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Outsiders don’t see the sacrifice and they won’t appreciate the sacrifice because they weren’t willing to sacrifice, themselves. If they’ve never been through the fire, how can they see it or even value it?

In a world of $100,000 millionaires and instant-credit, the outside world has forgotten. And we can’t control how they think, but we can control how WE think. Every time you choose to write instead of watching TV, count it a victory. Every time you write when you don’t feel like it or research something that is tedious but important, VICTORY!

Every time you stick to the novel you are revising instead of flittering off to a newer “shinier” idea? You’re one step closer to being the professional you’re destined to become. So, lighten up.

Allow room to grow, to fail, to get up and work harder and smarter. You’ll get there. Likely the world will hail you an “instant success” and then you can wink my way because we know better ;).

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced push-back because you weren’t an instant Stephen King or JK Rowling? Are friends and family some of your toughest adversaries? Are you your worst critic? Do you need to learn to give yourself grace? Hey, I did and still do.

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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

WANACon now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. Just a note: A LOT of major authors sacrificed time for no or little pay to pay it forward and offer an affordable and easily accessible conference for those who need one and WANA is extremely grateful to have them.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

For those who are total newbies, I am running a Writer’s Guide to Social Media Class TONIGHT for $39 5-7 EST (NYC time). Use WANA15 for 15% off. We will cover the major platforms, what they do, and which ones might be right for you and your brand.

I am also holding ACHOO!! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral 5-6:30 EST (NYC time). This class is $49 and, again, use WANA15 for 15% off. Not all content is created equal. This class helps you understand how to understand how search engines work, how to gain favor, and how to create content that will give you traction. Feel like you are blogging to the ether? This class can help.

Image via Mark Smith Flikr Creative Commons
Image via Mark Smith Flikr Creative Commons

I’d like to blame it all on Jay’s roast, but having time away, true downtime, allowed me to do some thinking (which is generally dangerous and has a wide blast radius). For any of you who’ve done any yard work, you know that for a vine to bear fruit, for a rose bush to produce more flowers, for a tree to grow taller, it needs to be pruned.

One of the key ways we grow in our careers (or even as people) is to be pruned. Pruning hurts. It sucks. It takes away all the pretty fluff we thought was “progress” and renders us naked and vulnerable. After pruning, we might not look like a lot to others, but inside and beneath, great things are happening. Our roots (commitment) dig deeper so we can stand taller.

Image via Keith Williamson Flikr Commons.
Image via Keith Williamson Flikr Commons.

The first step to being pruned is honestly and critically looking at where we are weak. I know there are all kinds of experts who say, “Only focus on your strengths. Don’t work on your weaknesses. You can’t be good at everything,” and that is true to a degree.

But…

On some stuff? We need to become experts.

When I first started writing fiction, my dialogue was fabulous, my prose lovely and my characters all adorable…but I could not wrap my head around the antagonist and plotting, thus wasn’t generating true dramatic tension.

Okay, I was playing Literary Barbies.

This was a critical node that would undermine everything I wrote. So I read every book available about plotting and tore apart every book I read and every movie I watched until I had it nailed. But I had to admit my weakness (pruning) to grow stronger.

Practice does make perfect, if it is intelligent practice.  If practice isn’t guided, it can just create a crap load of bad habits we’ll just have to fix later. Just ask anyone whose worked five minutes with a golf pro. Swinging the club incorrectly a thousand times doesn’t improve our game. It creates tendonitis, back problems, and eventually we get a lot of chigger bites from hunting for golf balls off in the rough.

Image via CompanyGolfLessons Flikr Creative Commons
Image via CompanyGolfLessons Flikr Creative Commons

Ah, but to know where to gain expertise, we need to know and admit our weaknesses and flaws.

Back to pruning. We love to look at our flowers, the stuff we’ve done well. Ah, it’s so pretty. I think I’ll call her “Tiffany.” It’s hard to admit where we fall short or are outright failing.

This is one of the reasons rest is so vital (and has been an area where I’ve been failing a lot). We can’t live off caffeine and adrenaline (Who knew?). And if we are always knee-deep in the mess, we lack perspective. Pulling away allows us a new vantage point and permits our brains to calm down long enough to really “see.”

Know there is a difference between fixing weaknesses and fixating on them.

I launched WANA International about a year ago. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I wanted a way to reach more writers and offer affordable classes. I also wanted a way to highlight what I believed was emerging talent and use my platform to boost theirs.

Launching a business (publishing a book) requires risk and often we don’t know what we don’t know. More often, we figure it out when it goes BOOM. The learning curve of being a baby CEO has been steep and I am still learning.

My CEO photo.
My CEO photo.

I have been pruned…a LOT.

I’ve had to fire people I adored, who I really wanted to succeed. I’ve tried technology that sucked and formats of classes that just didn’t work out. Put out classes no one signed up for.

To succeed, we need to take risks and I will warn you ahead of time that a lion’s share of the risks we take (especially early on) will be mistakes. But some will turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done, too.

I took a risk on Lisa Hall-Wilson and Marcy Kennedy and they have become shining WANA diamonds. But for every person who works out, there are fifty who haven’t. The ones who didn’t? That’s pruning. Each “failure” took me down a notch to learn to be better at diamond-spotting. Still working on it.

Sometimes ideas are just coal.
Sometimes ideas are just coal.

I took a risk helping Piper Bayard with her disaster book, Firelands, which has become a best-seller. But for every Piper, there have been a hundred writers who didn’t want to face the ugly and do the hard stuff. Some just faded away, gave up, and some have been all-out cataclysms (for more read Plagiarism and Terrell Mims–A Chronic Case of Epic Stupid).

Major pruning *head desk*.

Terrell (and others) taught me that talk is cheap. Pay attention to what people do and what they say. Are they congruent? Does the person have character? Are they focused? What is the person’s work ethic? Are they willing to do the hard stuff?

But where would I be if I’d just sat and cried I was bad at business and a failure and terrible at judging people?

Fix, don’t fixate.

Pruning isn’t Personal

I suppose part of the reason it’s tough to have a Kristen Lamb roast is that I serve roasted Lamb daily on this blog :D.

After my vacation, I have a teensy-tiny list of like one small thing…okay a long…okay a looooooong, looooong, like longer than my arm list of stuff I am committed to working on now that I’m home.

For instance, there are areas of business I just don’t understand as well as I need to in order to be an effective CEO. Does this mean I need to get a degree in business and be a new Jack Welch? No.

But I do need to study, to understand stuff well enough to know who to delegate what to and then how to hold said person accountable. I need to know enough to ask the right questions and understand if I am getting the right answers….or even if I need better answers.

Yes, work on your strengths. Writing is my strength and I train it daily. But, as writers, we are also small-business owners. We need to know the business side of our business or we waste time, energy, money and can even get fleeced.

And you will likely screw up. It’s okay. We learn by making mistakes. Too many people expect to write the perfect book the first time out, or hire the right web person day one, or make every business decision perfectly, but that isn’t how life works.

We Can’t Avoid Pruning—Indecision IS a Decision

I actually had to fire someone I cared about because this person would not take risks. This person needed validation from twenty people that every decision was perfect, and if one person said change the plan, this person changed the entire plan. We cannot live life by committee. Not and stay sane, at least.

This person was afraid of being pruned, didn’t want to lose the pretty flowers. But no pruning? No growth.

My advice? Get out there. Get dirty. Take risks. Yes, failure and mistakes will come, but they prune us so we can bear more fruit and better fruit.

What are your thoughts? Are you like and bracing for a new round of pruning? Does pruning scare you? Have you been pruned and have the fruit to show for it?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENT: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

I will announce July’s winner when I’ve had a chance to unpack.

 

Last week in What’s the Problem with FREE!? we talked about how giving away FREE! downloads of our books can actually do more harm than good. I also gave an example of the software company that refused to offer anything for FREE! back in the dot.com boom in the 90s when all the competition was handing out goodies left and right. When every other dot.com was giving away golf shirts, trips, goodies and software for FREE! this company stood firm and offered nothing…for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, this company gave away FREE! stuff. They just didn’t give it away for free ;).

Free! is Best When It Isn’t Free

I read J.A. Konrath’s  and Bob Mayer’s blogs because both of them provide a lot of valuable insight for the writing professional. At first it might seem that Konrath and Mayer and I would disagree, that we would be at odds. Why? Because Konrath and Mayer will be the first to give us writers a digital kick in our digital @$$ to get off Twitter and Facebook to write more books. They make no bones about telling writers to get back to work and WRITE! Me, being a Social Media Expert Jedi, should be aghast.

What? How can you tell writers to get their tuchus off Twitter? Twitter is the best thing since Gummy Bears! And Facebook? What are you communists in league with SOPA to keep writers from sharing that video with the dancing squirrel?

Actually, I agree with Konrath and Mayer and it is one of the reasons WANA methods look VERY different from most social media approaches. See, I am not here to make you guys social media experts. I am here merely to help you use this tool called social media in the most time-effective way, because the best thing you can do to become a successful author or even a brand is to write more books. Write as many books as you can! Good books.

Write! Write like the wind! This is true for ALL authors—traditional, indie and self-pubbed. The more books we have for sale the greater our odds of success. And don’t think I am telling people to churn out crap just to have more books. There is nothing further from the truth. In fact, I dedicate every Monday on this blog to help y’all grow to be better and better writers. But few things can help our writing abilities like…um, writing.

Rocket science, right?

I just taught an on-line class about branding. I had all kinds of questions about Google Ads, Goodreads, Pinterest, blog tours, etc. to sell books and brand. My answer? Don’t become an expert at social media, become an expert at writing good books. Social media is a means not an end. The one critical ingredient to ALL author brands? BOOKS. GOOD BOOKS. The more, the better. Successful authors are not judged on the quality of their fan page. They are judged by the quality of their books.

Okay, you guys got the point. WRITE!

Yes, sometimes it might seem that I am beating a dead horse, but this is really critical. Konrath and Mayer had a distinctive advantage when they decided to self-publish. If, for no other reason? They had a lot of good books to offer. Why does this matter? Well, for today’s purposes, it has to do with FREE!

FREE! has More Power the More Titles We Have to Offer

FREE! is what can hook a long-term commitment. We can give a teaser to gain passion and loyalty. Yet, we can only do this if we have more than one title for sale. A potential customer (reader) sees that we have more than one book for sale. Ah, but one is FREE! This makes a reader a bit more excited since now…

FREE! is in Context of NOT-FREE!

Value is relative. If readers go to a site and an author has her one and only manuscript up to give-away, we might bite for the FREE! download. But, when we go to an author page and there are ten titles for sale, all for 4.99, yet one is FREE!, naturally we feel better about our decision to bite on the FREE!. Also, because this pricing was given in context, as humans, we will place more value on the download so we are more likely to read this one FIRST.

This is one of the reasons that authors like Konrath, Mayer and Eisler have done so well. Not only were they offering vetted titles, but they offered a lot of them, thus their product (the book) could be judged in context. John Locke, the successful self-published author, didn’t have vetted titles, but he did offer A LOT of them. Thus, those who liked Locke’s FREE! book now had a whole list of other his titles for sale.

FREE! is only valued when consumers believe it costs us (the giver) something.

Go back to the example I gave last week. I have a half a dozen magnet calendars I got for FREE! in my junk drawer. Does any of this make me want to do business with any of these real estate agents? No…because in my mind it really didn’t cost them anything. But what about the agent who sent me a $100 Lowes gift card? (Our agent sent us this after we closed on our house). That man will have my loyalty FOREVER, because he gave something that cost him, even though I know he made money off the sale of our house. He didn’t have to send $100 gift card. He could have sent us a calendar and a thank you note like my mom’s realtor did to her. But he didn’t and he now has a customer for LIFE.

This is why multiple books for sale help the impact of FREE! Since we have other titles for sale at a higher price, then it is perceived (by the consumer) that we are taking a loss when we offer something for FREE! This creates the reciprocity that is critical for driving sales. Reciprocity is very often negated when an author gives away her one and only manuscript for FREE!

FREE! is Most Effective When We Maintain Our Negotiating Power

If all we have is one book…then we give it away, the power has just completely shifted over to the reader. We are completely at the mercy that he or she will be compelled to talk about our book. Since we have no other titles for sale, we have nothing else to gain, other than maybe some ranking on Amazon. But even then, that only worked well when everyone wasn’t giving stuff away for FREE! We are in a position of weakness, of need. Not the best place to earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

FREE! is Most Powerful as a Part of a Quid Pro Quo

I’m not, per se against giving away books for FREE!, but I do think that there are smarter ways to go about doing this. As I stated earlier, FREE is best when it isn’t FREE!

In fact, FREE! can actually be a wonderful tool to get customers to spend MORE money…but the clincher is we have to have more than one book to offer.

Since it would be almost irresponsible for me NOT to mention Amazon at some point during this discussion, we will use them as an example. A while back Amazon.com started offering FREE! shipping on orders over a certain amount.

Thus, a person who purchased a book for $14.95 might pay an extra $3.95 for shipping. In total, the customer would be out less than $20. But, if they bought another book for a total of $29.95…they would get their shipping for FREE! Many people probably didn’t even want or need the second book, but the power of FREE! proved just too much to resist. And obviously this tactic works because Amazon still offers FREE! shipping when we consumers jump through various hoops (all of which are, of course, profitable for Amazon).

This is why it is critical to write more and more and more books, especially if you are self-published, because then you can use FREE! to its maximum advantage.

Bundled is Better

A good way to gain more sales traction? Bundling.  Buy two books for $4.99 and get a FREE! download of another short story, novel, whatever. This kind of FREE! makes readers very happy. Consumers are then lured to put out money to get the FREE! I happen to be very blessed to be part of Who Dares Wins Publishing and they do these types of deals regularly and it is a win-win for authors and readers.

FREE! Needs a Perceived Value

FREE! doesn’t have to be in the form of books or downloads. Heck, offer FREE! shipping on orders over a certain amount. Why reinvent the wheel? Copy what works, and, if Amazon has done this successfully, then so can we. Yet, again, this only works when we have more than one title for sale.

My Biggest Gripe About FREE!

I think writers, especially self-published writers, get overly fascinated with marketing, and the allure of FREE! only makes this worse. I see far too many writers uploading that ONE manuscript and then spending every spare waking moment, promoting that one book to the point of being viewed as spam. They tweet with every imaginable hashtag, “Come get my book for FREE! FREE NOW! A book for FREE!” ….and after the 40th time we get this tweet, we are willing to pay the writer to stop tweeting.

They remind me of gamblers chasing their losses. Because ONE DAY they had X number of downloads, they are back at the track trying to make that number appear again. If we run around handing our one and only manuscript for FREE! then what good does it gain us? I am sure there is some good that can come from it, but not the real game-changing benefit that I want all of you to enjoy.

If we study the success stories, especially in indie publishing, the winners always had multiple titles—J.A. Konrath, Bob Mayer, John Locke, Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, etc. So Mayer and Konrath are correct—write, then write some more. Less tweeting and more writing.

When we have more than one book to sell, FREE! becomes a pricing strategy, not a desperate cry for attention.

Yes, I am the social media expert for writers, because I will be honest enough to tell you guys that the point to all this tweeting and blogging and FBing is to drive enough book sales that we can lose the day job and do what we love. We can’t do this with one book. The odds of this are about the same as getting mugged and hit by lightning on the same day. If we are spending too much time on social media, then we aren’t writing more books. Thus, social media is no longer a powerful advantage…and neither is FREE!

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? What are your experiences with FREE!? Any thoughts, suggestions? Recipes for killer chocolate martinis?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great book.

Winner’s Circle

Winner of last week’s 5-Page Critique is Tahlia Newland. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Ginger Club is the winner of last month’s 15 page critique. Please send your 3750 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Congratulations!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether is a WONDERFUL resource for the best information in this industry.

Joe Konrath’s blog is another wonderful resource.

Colin Falconer had an AWESOME blog Historical or Fiction?

Friesen Press has a great post that I need to print and STUDY, Take the Busyness out of Business.

The real way to build a social network by Reid Hoffman over at CNN Money

The Big Reasons Indie Authors aren’t Taken Seriously at Huffington Post

Red Pen of Domm, Why Blog Hits Don’t Matter Though I don’t agree 100% we actually agree on a lot. We can have 10 zillion hits and they are all bots or random clicks. Quality trumps quantity and I agree.

This blog is dedicated to helping writers holistically. We are more than robots sitting at a desk pounding out word count. We have hopes, dreams, fears, bad habits and baggage. Monday is dedicated to helping you guys with craft. Wednesdays is to help you build your platforms. Fridays are my choice, but I like to dedicate these blogs to helping writers with life skills. If we want to be successful authors, we have to be good at time-management, stress-management, setting goals, facing fear, etc.

I always have people asking me how I have the energy to get so much done.  I am not where I need to be, but I can say that I am not where I used to be and that is great news. I still struggle with organization and time-management, but I do feel I have some lessons I can pass on that might help some of you reading.

Three Lessons of Confession

Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It

One of the first things that offered me a new sense of empowerment was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.

This was almost ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.

Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.

It was a really bad habit to get into.

So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help.  I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.

My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”

I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I would like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”

“What is it, then?”

“I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”

“What?”

“I’m heartbroken.”

By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time. I had lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.

How could I? I was only sick or tired.

But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.

This simple lesson was the first major step to a more productive life. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.

From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”

It was scary, and still is. Naming my emotions has opened me up to possible confrontation. I suck at confrontation. It’s easier to just take a nap because I’m “tired.” I would love to tell you guys that I have been perfect in applying this. I haven’t. But, with practice, I am getting better and better.

When I hear myself saying, “Oh I don’t feel well” or “I’m just tired” I stop and ask the hard questions. What am I really feeling? What can I do to change things?

We are more healthy and productive when we focus on what we can control then refuse to worry about things we can’t. The trick is to cast our care but keep our responsibility. Too many people cast their responsibility and then keep their care.

Stop worrying about not having enough money. Focus on where we can minimize waste and save.

Stop worrying about the future of publishing. Focus on that 1000 words a day.

Stop worrying about whether our platform will be successful long-term. Focus on forging relationships.

Confess the Real Problem

One thing I have learned is that we will never get a handle on time-management until we confess the real problem.

Oh I just cannot find the time to write.

Possible translations:

I am terrified of failure.

I don’t deserve success.

I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start.

There is a problem in my story and I don’t want to admit I don’t know the answer to fixing it.

Whenever we start hearing ourselves make excuses, we need to stop and peel back the layers. What are we afraid of?

If we won’t get to the real problem, we cannot recruit help. Recently I found myself saying I didn’t have time to work on my fiction. I stopped myself and asked the tough question.

Kristen, what are you afraid of?

When I got real honest? I was afraid to delegate, and I was afraid of not being in control. I grew up taking care of everything. If I didn’t do it, it didn’t get done.

Guess what? Life is different now. I have capable people dying to help me. I needed to let them, but I was too afraid of being out of control.

The problem was that I had to make a choice. I could control everything and do everything…and not have any time left for my fiction. OR I could step into my fear, face it, and take a chance that I might actually free up some time.

So, I made a list of all the things that were eating my time and I—GASP—delegated. And guess what? Not only did my world NOT blow up *round of applause* but the person I asked for help actually did a BETTER job than I ever could (Thanks, Ingrid).

But the lesson I hope you guys get is that I needed to first admit the REAL problem. How can we climb over an obstacle we won’t admit is there?

Confess Your Brilliant Future

Did you know that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie? That is why we need to watch what we say. It has been scientifically proven that we believe our own voice more than any other.

What are you saying about you? Your future? Is it positive?

When I was growing up my grandmother had this saying every time I screwed up, “Kristen, you just can’t stand prosperity.” Now do I think my grandmother sat up all night thinking of ways to make my life miserable? No. To her it was just a comment. Just words. Didn’t mean anything.

But, I recall years later being plagued with problem after problem and one day, I finally heard what I was saying to myself. Every time I made a mistake I said, “Kristen, you just can’t stand prosperity.”

What was my subconscious hearing…then believing?

When I learned to make positive confessions, my life began to change.

I can’t wait to be one of those writers who busts out 4000 words a day.

I still have room to grow, but I am more organized than I used to be. Every day I get better and better.

I know that persistence prevails when all else fails. Baby steps count.

The mind is a powerful thing, and we are wise to get our mind on our side. Now don’t misunderstand. We can’t think happy thoughts and that be enough. We also have to put in some sweat equity. But, we must be ever vigilant to guard our mental and spiritual state. We are not just physical creatures.

Hard work paired with negative thinking is counter-productive. Our will is pulling the opposite direction of our work. Our will and our work are most powerful when they pull in the same direction toward the same objective.

Our will and our work must pull the same direction for forward momentum.

We cannot let our feelings rule. We rule our feelings. Every day we are wise to say aloud that we are blessed, grateful, happy, joyful…even if we don’t feel it at the time. Our body and emotions will catch up with time and practice.

If we keep saying, I’m tired, I don’t feel well, I don’t have time,  I’ll never have time to write, what future are we deciding for ourselves?

In the end, these three simple confessions have made a HUGE difference in my life.

1. Name the real emotion. It is okay to be hurt, angry, disappointed, or frustrated. If we leave the real emotion untended it is putting a Band-Aid on a boil.

2. Name the real problem. We can’t make a plan or ask for help if we avoid the hard stuff. Everything is doable if broken into smaller, manageable bites. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.

3. Claim a positive future. Yes, we must work hard. But we will get more mileage for our efforts if our will and our work are both on the same team.

What are some setbacks you guys have had? How did you tackle obstacles? What would be your advice? What still gives you trouble and why? What self-talk have you caught yourself saying, but hadn’t noticed before? Does your family or close network affect you negatively? What have you done to counter that negativity?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books

Today I am starting a new series that I am calling Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. In all seriousness, I like to think. In fact I think a lot and probably far too much. I wonder about the first person who ate an oyster. Was it a dare? Someone lose a bet? What about mushrooms? There are 100,000 known species of mushrooms, yet only 2,000 are edible. How do we know this? Someone had to eat the bad shrooms then pass that knowledge down for posterity. But seriously, who volunteers for this kind of stuff?

But the most fascinating culinary assassin, in my POV, is the puffer fish. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*

Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.

This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this new series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. In short, Don’t Eat the Butt. Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the literary puffer butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.

Without further ado…

Lie #1 I’m not a real writer until I have a finished manuscript, landed an agent, am traditionally published, am selling books, have spent my retirement funds earning an MFA in Creative Writing.

This is crap and don’t buy it. What yahoo decided that we aren’t real writers until we meet some silly outside standard of validation? On what plane of existence does this make ANY professional sense? We are writers the second we decide to take this career decision seriously. And screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. There is no try, only do. We don’t try to get out of a chair. We either stand or we sit.

Think of it this way. As writers we are entrepreneurs (refer to this post). Do entrepreneurs use the term aspiring? I am an aspiring restaurant owner. Oh, I am an aspiring landscaper. I am aspiring housekeeper.

NO!

If I want a house-cleaning business, the second I gather all of my cleaning supplies and a vacuum together in the back of my SUV and print off some business cards, I am a house-cleaning business. Even before my very first client. In fact, I cannot land my first client until I first call myself a business. Who is going to let me into their house wielding a toilet brush if I approach them with, “Hi, I am an aspiring housekeeper. I am still learning the best ways to get rid of soap scum, but maybe you can hire me even though I am not, per se a real housekeeper.“?

Again….no.

If we want to own a restaurant, the second we take out a small business loan, we are restaurant owners, even before we have served the first hot meal to our first customer.

The title is not something we earn it is who we are. Our title defines our level of commitment. No other entrepreneurial profession waits for success or outside validation before they feel comfortable using a professional title. A dog-walker doesn’t wait. Neither does a gardener, a contractor, a party planner, florist, cake decorator, or a carpet cleaner.

We are writers, which means we are artists and entertainers. We are in the service industry. Yet we treat being a writer as if we are a doctor or a lawyer and need some outside professional certification before we can hang up a shingle.

Guess what? Comedians are comedians the second they put together a skit and find the courage to stand up in front of a crowd and invite criticism. Now, he or she may not be a talented  or successful comedian, but that boils down to the quality of the content and the level of commitment to try again and again as long as it takes. Same with actors and artists and…yeah, WRITERS.

Many of you have invested thousands of dollars in computer equipment, conferences, workshops, books and reference materials. You’ve invested hundreds of hours of time writing, yet still refuse to use the title of writer. Would a caterer who’d spent thousands on a Viking stove and oven, fancy cooking tools and ingredients wait until she’d landed a huge wedding party to call herself a real caterer?

Why Writers Fear the Title

When we decide to use the professional title writer, it is a sign to others that we are no longer hobbyists. Others will expect a certain work ethic to go with our title. If someone uses the title “Landscaper” we generally expect this person owns some yard tools and that he actually mows yards more than once a month. I feel many writers fear using a professional title because we invite a new level of accountability. We fear failure and so we hedge with euphemisms like “aspiring author” so that we can goof off and write when the fancy strikes.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work. ~Stephen King

Writers are professionals who treat their writing as if it is their first, second or even a third job. They have a solid work ethic and they know that they have to ante up and take the consequences for better or for worse. They are mature and no longer playing Literary Barbies with their characters.

Excellence begins with honesty.

We cannot ever be successful until we risk failure. And sure there are always going to be @ssclowns that will tell you that you are a poseur fake. But, when we rest our future on the validation of outsiders, we jeopardize genuine success. There is ALWAYS going to be a jerk to tell us we aren’t good enough.

There are people who believe I am not a real writer because I am not traditionally published. My answer? *shrugs* Can’t please everyone. Another example?

I have been working with Piper Bayard for almost two years. She has dedicated at least 30 hours a week to blogging, social media platform building and writing a novel. She finally got the green light to shop her finished 110,000 word manuscript. Yet, there are people who would claim she is not yet a “real writer” because she hasn’t landed an agent, landed a publishing deal, hit a best-seller list, gone yodeling while drunk on Jaegermeister.

Okay, Piper probably has done the yodeling thing.

Yet, here’s my point. Piper will tell you that the only reason she ever accomplished the successful blog, sound platform and AMAZING manuscript was that early on she made a decision to claim her professional title. She called herself a writer. From that point on her attitudes, habits and priorities changed to reflect the life of a professional.

So today, I shout, Don’t eat the butt! If we don’t take ourselves seriously, who will? Instead of nitpicking over who can call themselves writer or author let’s just refer to the Editor’s Mantra…Show, Don’t Tell. Actions speak louder than words or titles. So claim your title…then get to work ;).

And let other people quibble over who can call themselves what and when. We have books to write.

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Fears? What keeps you from claiming the professional title?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Happy writing!