Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Editor, editors, writing, publishing
Actually, it’s you. Love, the Editor.

Harsh, I know. Alas, sometimes tough love is necessary for the greater good. Cait Reynolds here today, and what I’m about to reveal is the secret heart’s cry of pretty much every freelance editor (at least the ones that don’t just run manuscripts through Grammarly).

Having worked as a freelance editor for many years, I’ve seen it all from the articulate and amazing, to the works of pure WTH?

I’ve also been given ARCs of books that are ‘professionally edited,’ but are appallingly full of typos, grammatical errors, and trite characters and plots.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

I’m not necessarily blaming the editors in these cases. I get it. Sometimes, a work is simply so awful that we would have to completely rewrite it just to get it into passable shape. And, for a fraction of a penny per word, it isn’t worth it.

While there are definitely things editors can do to start helping to correct and cure this epidemic of literary mediocrity, there are things that writers need to do as well. That’s what I’m going to focus on today.

An editor hates…

1. When writers think they don’t have to do at least one or two rounds of their own editing before sending us a manuscript.

I’m not just talking about proofreading for commas (though, that’s another thing coming up). Everyone is in such a rush these days to get their work up on Amazon as fast as they can. So many authors finish up a “manuscript,” hit save, and then email it to their editor without a second thought….or a second look.

Let me throw out this hypothetical situation. Say we were sending this manuscript to an editor at Harper Collins or Penguin. Would we hit save and then send it off without combing through every line?

Or, would we let the manuscript sit for a week or two, giving our brain time and distance so we can go back at it with fresh eyes? Would we read through it critically, looking for (and correcting!) everything from typos and inconsistencies to doughy dialogue and plot holes? Would we repeat this process at least once if not twice more?

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

We probably would because we know the editor is probably hard-to-please with extremely high expectations about the degree of polish in any work they receive.

So why is sending a manuscript to a freelance editor any different? It shouldn’t be.

Freelance editors aren’t entirely innocent in this, either. We take on work instead of asking for a sample to see what the manuscript is like and then refusing to work on it until the author has gone back and cleaned it up. But, Amazon KDP has both exacerbated and preyed on authors’ fear of rejection to create a murky industry that cycles off of accepting mediocrity as a norm.

I digress.

2. When authors shop around for the cheapest editing services instead of the best editing services.

Editing is one of those things in life where we really do get what we pay for.

Professional freelance editors with experience and training beyond “I love reading,” and “I’m a writer, too,” are pretty rare commodities these days. If we are lucky enough to be taken on by one of these editorial unicorns, we should expect to pay the going rate for unicorns.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Many authors don’t want to go that route because it would mean having to save up money and probably publish fewer books. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because not every idea will make a good book.

Also, like cheese, wine, and wisdom, good ideas and stories need time to mature. We need time to noodle and daydream, to experience those moments of sudden inspiration while doing the dishes or walking the dog.

Instead, far too many authors slap down 60,000 words for whatever idea pops into their heads and then rush on to the next idea. Because if we’re not putting out three books a month, we’re gonna get tossed off the KDP Hamster Wheel of Death.

Producing books in volume means paying for production with an eye to getting volume-discounted services.

The average going rate for editors who provide services to these authors is about $240 for two rounds of editing on a 60,000-word manuscript.

Let’s say that an average editing effort takes 20 hours. That’s $12/hr (before self-employment taxes). It’s only our aversion to fryolators that keeps us from going to work at McDonald’s.

I’m not even going to talk about how authors will pay $500-$800 for a custom cover design but want that $200 editing job to cover concept editing, line editing, and proofreading. It’s enough to turn an editor into a jumper. Or cover designer because screw this $h!t.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

An editor gets stabby when…

3. All an author does is accept track changes and sends the manuscript back for round two.

Yes, I have received manuscripts back like this. It’s like the author just ignored all conceptual, content, and craft comments I painstakingly made. This is frustrating because it makes editing incredibly tedious. More than that, it’s disheartening.

When a writer ignores editorial guidance, he or she is also turning down the opportunity to become better at the craft of writing. A good editor doesn’t just catch typos and minor inconsistencies. A skilled editor can identify a writer’s strengths and weaknesses and teach the writer to enhance the first and correct the second.

I’m not sure why writers are so often dismissive of editorial suggestions. Is it because they are in such a rush to get the book out (I see you, KDP Hamster Wheel of Death) that they simply don’t have the time to do a proper editing job?

Or, could it be that they don’t want to take on the daunting task of tearing apart a completed manuscript and painstakingly reworking and rewriting it? Maybe it’s because they’re afraid that trying to improve their writing would imply they’re not that good to start with and probably would never be able to get a traditional publishing contract.

Ignoring editorial guidance is also disrespectful. Let’s go back to that Harper Collins example. How inclined would we be to ignore an editor from Harper Collins who returned our manuscript with suggestions for not only reworking a good third of the book to tighten the plot, but also for learning to be more succinct yet vivid with our descriptions (meaning we need to go page-by-page on our own and make changes)?

So, why ignore guidance and suggestions just because an editor is freelance?

4. There are stupid grammar and usage mistakes in a manuscript.

Seriously. While I get that there are some fine points with grammar that we all fumble with from time-to-time, there is absolutely NO excuse for using the wrong word or using a word incorrectly.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Words are a writer’s business, like medicine is a doctor’s business. How much would we trust a doctor who glanced at a fractured tibia and said, “Uh, seems like you broke your leg thingy.”

How about a list of cringe-inducing usage mistakes I see every single day in manuscripts and self-published books?

  • Conscious/conscience
  • Weary/wary
  • Disdain/distain
  • Wondering/wandering
  • Past time/pastime
  • Shuttered/shuddered
  • Chocked/choked
  • Peak/pique/peek
  • Lossed (not even a word)/lost
  • Passed/past
  • Lead/led

Are some of these typos or bleary brain slip-ups? Maybe, but frankly, these should be caught and corrected long before an editor ever sees the manuscript. However, when the wrong word is used consistently, that tells me the writer doesn’t actually know the meaning.

Even worse, when I see incorrect usage that has made it into the final book, I’m ninety-nine percent sure the editor doesn’t know what he or she is doing…or committed seppuku halfway through the editing process.

In terms of grammar, I get that we all have different levels of training. However, just like we don’t want a broken-leg-thingy doctor, I don’t want to see writers who don’t know and don’t bother to learn the most basic rules of language.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Personally, I like the Oxford English Dictionaries’ online grammar reference.

And finally, an editor really, really hates…

 5. When we can tell all a writer really wants is the look-at-me-I-published-a-book participation trophy.

The National Association of Recovering Freelancers* put out a study that said four out of five freelance editors suffer a nervous breakdown due to the near-lethal combination of shoddy writing, shoddier story conceptualization and development, and repeated exposure to bad grammar.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

*I totally made up the National Association of Recovering Freelancers, but now that I think of it, I really like the acronym, N.A.R.F. Very ‘Pinky and the Brain.’

What drives freelance editors to give it all up? Why do they consider it more productive to search Pinterest compulsively for DIY seashell crafting than to edit a manuscript?

Part of it is the money. It’s also the soul-dulling tedium of slogging through clunky prose, bad grammar, and tired tropes (at $0.004 to $0.006 per word). Most of all, it’s nihilistic realization that so many writers care more about seeing their name on Amazon than whether their readers are getting the best possible story they could write.

Without the Amazon KDP platform, almost none of these writers would ever stand a chance with literary agents and traditional publishers. While the pre-KDP era was far from perfect, repeated rejection had one MAJOR benefit: either the writing got better, or it was never inflicted on the unsuspecting public.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

It was the publishing industry’s equivalent of telling the broken-leg-thingy doctor to either go back to school or consider a different career like professional Zamboni driving.

See? Not all gatekeeping is a bad thing. But, freelance editors now have all the work and none of the power, and the reading public is the worse for it.

Harsh but hopeful?

The fact that you are here and reading this blog gives me hope. It means you actually care about becoming a better storyteller and craftsman. It isn’t that freelance editors want to see perfection right off the bat. We merely long to see progress.

Freelance editors do this because we love the written word. We are unflaggingly idealistic, optimistic, and altruistic…until we’re not.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

If you or someone you love is a freelance editor who is showing signs of stress (common signs and symptoms include wild-eyed staring at the screen, increased consumption of alcohol/caffeine, and muttering, “Alas, poor literature, we hardly knew ye!”), N.A.R.F. recommends the following treatment options:

  • Vitamin D. Take your freelance editor outside and reassure them that the light will not actually burn;
  • Laugh therapy. Expose your freelance editor to a minimum of three minutes of cat videos twice a day;
  • Calm panic attacks. Repeating “All is right with Strunk and White,” in a low, soothing voice will help ease anxiety;
  • Homeopathic literature. Provide your freelance editor with Pulitzer Prize- or Mann Booker Prize-winning books. A selection of classic literature will also work in an emergency;
  • Career development. Gently suggest that your freelance editor consider a different career…

Perhaps something in cover design?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for 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).

Upcoming Classes!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 22, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Remember Moonlighting? Dave and Maddie were the hottest thing ever…and then they kissed…and it was still kinda hot…and then they really got together and settled down to blissful domesticated bickering. And…we all stopped watching.

Because it was boring.

Remember the X-Files? The lucullan feast of smoldering restraint that was Mulder and Scully? Chris Carter refused to give the fans what they wanted with a kiss at the series end, and while fans gnashed their teeth, it was a kind of pro forma gnashing because we were still interested and could still dream about what might happen.

While the episode-based storytelling of television allows romance to be the B-plot (and only when it feels like it), novels are different. Whether we are writing squeaky clean romance or too-much-wasabi-level-hot erotica, we are always dealing with the same basic principle of THE TEASE.

And for all that romance gets a bad rap and is scorned as being ‘easy’ to write, sustaining the delicious, rippling tension and fizzing chemistry between characters is one of the hardest techniques to master. This class can help you (literally) keep the romance alive well past the 80,000-word mark and beyond!

Topics covered in this class include:

  • ‘So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want’: recognizing what the reader wants, what the reader really wants but doesn’t know, and what the reader needs;
  • How to Flirt with the Reader: giving an inch but taking a mile when it comes to sweet/romantic/sexy moments;
  • Clean and Mean: putting the spark in sweet romance and fanning the flame without risking the brimstone;
  • Down and Dirty: putting the emotion in erotica so every encounter leaves the reader panting for more…for more than one reason;
  • The Speed Dating Trap: how to balance interest, interaction, and attraction without falling for the trap of insta-love (just add fate/pheromones/booze);
  • Making it Last: how to chart a course for romance and pace it so it lasts…all book long…
  • So much more!…

A free recording of the class is included in the purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Saturday, June 23, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

There’s something dashingly defiant and alluring about a proper young lady who throws caution (and often her petticoats) to the wind and picks up a sword to fight for what she believes in.

Whether it’s Eowyn from Lord of the Rings or Elizabeth (Badass) Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we all love that moment when a woman rises up to prove she’s more than society ever expected her to be.

Yet the market today is flooded with fantasy and historical that carry more trope baggage than Marie Antoinette for a long weekend at the Petit Trianon (sheep not included).

In fantasy, there are girls raised in servitude who suddenly discover their magical powers and royal heritage and must (really quickly) learn to wield swords and spells in order to save the kingdom.

Historical often isn’t much better, taking naive nineteen year-olds and turning them into near-legendary brigands, highwaymen, and pirates within the space of a few months.

Lack of believability, lack of character depth and arc, and lack of world-building/historical knowledge are the three major pitfalls when creating Ye Olde Action Heroine.

Luckily, this class will give writers a map with all literary here-be-hippogriffs clearly marked. Whether your gal is besieged by dragons, in a castle under siege, or in a castle under siege by dragons, this class can help!

This class will cover:

  • En Garde! Choosing her weapons wisely;
  • Ye Olde Fight Club: getting real about time & training;
  • Why, How, and When: how to realistically get her on the path from baking to badassery;
  • Hard Knocks: how to use failure and lack of skill mastery to create compelling character arcs;
  • The Joan of Arc trap: how to avoid creating miracles and martyrs (unless you really mean it);
  • The Pirate Bride: defining femininity in fantasy and historical in order ‘rebel’ against it;
  • Consequences: what are the short- and long-term consequences of flouting convention?
  • World Building & Re-Building: getting fantasy and historical settings right for your characters;
  • And so much more…

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Saturday, June 23, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Female characters have evolved from ‘damsel in distress’ to the ‘hardcore badass.’ Problem is, fictional females escaped one boring mold only to end up in another even MORE boring mold.

But with lipgloss AND karate!

Strong female characters fascinate audiences on the page and on the screen. From Atomic Blonde to Wonder Woman, Special Agent Scully to Dr. Laura Isles, women can exude power and danger in a variety of ways.

Sadly, the badass female has devolved into a tired trope with the depth of a puddle.

This class is to challenge the concept of the dangerous woman as protagonist and antagonist. Creating a powerful woman involves more than handing her weapons, a black belt, and a terminal case of RBF (Resting B$#@% Face).

    • Expanding ‘who’ the dangerous woman IS;
    • Still waters run DEEP;
    • Broadening backstory;
    • Motives matter;
    • The ‘Tomb Raider’ effect;
    • Combat, weapons, tactics;
    • Expanding her ‘arsenal’;
    • Generating authentic dramatic action/tension;
    • Making the dangerous dame ‘likable’;
    • AND MORE…

As an author, competitive shooter, and former combatives instructor, there are few characters I LOVE more than a kickass female action hero. Conversely, fewer things vex me more than the tired cookie-cutter female action hero trope. Women can be powerful in a myriad of ways, beyond hand-to-hand combat and shooting everyone in the FACE.

This said, while we’ll explore a wide variety of powerful women, if you long to write that female action hero, this class will (hopefully) make sure you do her justice.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Can’t seem to choose between pirate princesses and bulletproof Barbies? We don’t blame you…and, you don’t have to!

With the Dangerous Dames BUNDLE, get both classes and SAVE MONEY.

Purchased separately, each class is $45. Go for BOTH and get $90 of instruction for ONLY $75. You also get to spend a HUGE part of the day with ME (Kristen Lamb) and my partner in crime Cait Reynolds.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Date: Saturday, June 23, 2018

Price: $75.00 USD 

PRINCESS PRODIGY: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EST

BULLETPROOF BARBIE: 2:00-4:00 p.m. EST

*Recordings of both classes included with purchase.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

 

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Our culture trains us to be ‘nice.’ No is a two-letter ‘four-letter word.’ Boundaries are ‘being mean.’ We should all strive to ‘understand, be flexible, and all get along.’  It’s as if there’s no middle ground between jerk and b$#@ versus someone with a healthy sense of boundaries.

Besides *chirpy voice* good deeds add up. If we’re nice to others, they’ll be nice to us! In fact the NICER we are, the better.

*gags*

The problem with this thinking is it’s utter and total bull sprinkles. It’s propaganda for the takers to groom eager givers, to keep us in line and happy to give more and more…even when its killing us.

Part of how predators (takers) maintain the grift is to fool us into believing that effort and results always have direct correlation.

What they don’t want you or me (or anyone else brave enough to confess to being a sucker) is this: The one-to-one ratio regarding effort and reward only applies in certain areas.

We’re bombarded with the notion that if we work twice as long, we can expect twice the results.

This IS true, just not universally true.

More is Not Always MORE

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Let’s use an example. Say I work twice as long and twice as hard cleaning my house. Yes, my house will be twice as clean. Say, I make a clean spot and work four times, five times, ten times longer and harder to make my house SHINE.

I organize every drawer and closet, touch up ugly dings in the floorboards with leftover paint, and scrub and polish everything in my house that doesn’t move fast enough to evade my Swiffer (I’ve never done this *whistles innocently*) then sure, my home will look AMAZING.

My results will reflect time, effort, and vigor in direct proportion to effort vested.

If, however, I work twice as hard to get people to like me, the more likely my enthusiasm will simply make others run away while mumbling words like ‘needy,’ ‘clingy,’ and ‘stalker.’

Most reasonable folks would agree that taking a shower daily is a good thing. Taking thirty showers a day? This doesn’t make me ‘cleaner,’ it makes me a classic case of OCD and prime candidate for behavioral therapy and psych meds.

But This Isn’t ME

Okay, okay I get it. Some of you are laughing at me right now. Kristen, I don’t take thirty showers a day. I’m lucky take one. I barely have time to call my friends once a month, let alone ten times a day. This just doesn’t apply to me.

Fair point, but bear with me.

See, when I focus the effort-reward correlation on ONE activity, the insanity is far easier to see. No one needs a degree in clinical psychology to discern that mowing our yard twice a day is…well, crazy.

But how many of us overcommit? We say yes to everything and everyone believing the more we DO, the better person we are. The more we are nice to others, the more OTHERS will be nice to us. More NICE expended equals more NICE returned.

Right?

An Example

So I don’t hurt any feelings, I’m going to make up an example I believe many of us ‘nice guys/gals’ can relate to.

Let’s say your boss assigns your colleague a very important task. She’s to host a dinner party for the out-of-town investors your company wants to impress. You’re stoked because you’ve been eagerly looking forward to networking with the movers and shakers in your industry.

Four days before the event, your colleague calls frantic and asks you to help. You say yes, because you’re so nice. You assume maybe she needs help making seating arrangements or folding napkins into swans.

It’s only after you agree to help that your colleague confesses she hasn’t even started.

She’s gonna get fired! Your desperate colleague is in crisis and begs for your help (while ugly-crying). She might say things like:

You’re the type of person who can handle this! Why did Mr. Boss pick me and not you? What will the investors think? How will this impact the company image? I can’t believe I messed up so badly *sobs*.

And you comfort her and agree to help because you’re so incredibly nice. Worse, you’re beyond nice (you’re pathologically nice).

Since this colleague failed to book a venue or hire caterers early enough, you know the bill for something so last-minute will be staggering. It’s fine, though. You can host at your in-law’s large home and do the cooking yourself. Then the company will see how much money you saved them and all you did to pull off—a frigging miracle—an incredible party.

Sure it sucks you had to hire a professional cleaning service to detail your in-law’s home and took three vacation days to cook a gourmet spread that catered to paleo, vegan, and vegetarian preferences (all organic and gluten-free).

But it will all pay off.

Besides, you gave your colleague the receipts so she can make sure you’ll be reimbursed.

Alas, during the dinner party, instead of networking as planned and boosting your career up a few rungs, you’re too busy in the kitchen making sure there are enough clean wine glasses.

Meanwhile, your ‘desperate’ colleague is remarkably at ease. She’s happily chatting away in her new designer dress while you hide…since you smell like a turducken had a one night stand with a Bananas Foster.

As you’re cleaning the red wine stain off your MIL’s cream carpet, you overhear your boss praising your colleague for such ingenuity. She put together a fabulous event, and did so by applying imagination, creativity, delegation and using only half the allotted budget!

*Boss gaping at the receipts she hands him*

Just as you’re contemplating whether your colleague’s body will fit in the trunk of your Honda, she comes and hugs you and tells you how you are the BEST! She couldn’t have done it without you and you’re a magician.

Funny thing, though. If you’re the magician, how is she the one who disappears when the party ends and it’s time to clean up?

Any guesses on who got the promotion?

Hint: She ain’t the one washing dishes.

We’re Called to Be KIND Not NICE

nice, kind, Road House, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and niceAs a writer, I’m particularly picky about words. There are far too many words used as synonyms, when they really aren’t. Kind and nice are my peeves because our culture uses them interchangeably. Yet, kind and nice are NOT the same thing. Not even close.

We’ve likely all heard Nice guys (gals) finish last. But who’s ever heard, Kind guys (gals) finish last?

Ever heard Kill em with niceness? Yeah. Me neither.

What’s the difference?

Nice people are nice. They place everyone and everything as a priority ahead of themselves. When we’re nice, we’re people-pleasers and approval addicts. We seek reward via a proxy, instead of hustling it for ourselves (I.e. Trusting the colleague to make sure credit went where credit was due).

In my made-up example, the nice gal ends up doing the dishes. If she’d been a kind gal, she would have said a loving, but firm NO the second she realized her colleague hadn’t even started planning the party.

The colleague then would either a) be fired b) learn how to make her own magic in four days or c) fallen on her sword and gone to boss and explained the help she needed so everyone received proper credit (and appropriate workload).

But, since nice people get a rep for saying yes, we end up prime targets for users. Users loooove people who can’t set boundaries, because then it’s easier to take all they want and never give back, largely because ‘nice’ people wouldn’t hear of it.

We ‘nice folks’ say dumb crap like, Oh no, it’s fine you damaged my favorite blouse, broke my weed-eater, ‘forgot’ to come help me move (even though I’ve helped you move six times), etc. I understand.

Be Nice…Until It’s Time NOT to Be Nice

The 1989 movie Road House with Patrick Swayze is a brilliant illustration of the difference between kind and nice. Swayze plays Dalton, a professional bouncer and the best in the business. Tilghman, the owner of a sleazy bar in Missouri—The Double Deuce—hires Dalton in a last ditch attempt to clean the place up.

Tilghman is desperate. Everyone is out of control—customers, servers, staff, bouncers, and bartenders. Tilghman, being a ‘nice guy,’ has been unable to rein in the chaos and terror. He’s sunk a lot of money into a place where ‘you have to sweep the eyeballs off the floor at night.’

When Dalton makes an initial visit, it’s clear what’s going so horribly wrong. There are no boundaries or consequences for bad behavior. Some bouncers are more hot-headed than the patrons they throw out the front door. Other bouncers are too timid and allow customers to walk all over them. This then escalates into brawls and a lot of broken glass and blood.

Probably the best part of the movie is when Dalton lectures the bouncers and staff about being ‘nice.’

***Warning. There is brief profanity in this clip.

Dalton understands how important it is to be kind in order to deescalate tension, allow potential troublemakers to save face, and eventually attract the right sort of clientele. A higher quality patron won’t tolerate a bar where the staff is rude and disrespectful.

Yet, in this clip, Dalton brilliantly illustrates the difference between kind and nice.

Kindness is Power

The main difference between nice and kind is nice is a byproduct of weakness, fear, uncertainty, and low self-esteem. Kindness, by contrast, is a byproduct of confidence, peace, and respect for others as well as for oneself.

A kind person sets boundaries, commands respect, and learns when and how to say no. Kind people are comfortable with consequences. While happy to loan out an air compressor, if the borrower breaks it? They buy it or pay for it to be repaired. If they don’t? They lose the privilege of borrowing anything ever again.

Users pull a fast one…once.

No-ing What You’re Worth

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

It’s easy to claim we have dreams and goals. But do we? REALLY? I challenge y’all to check where exactly those dreams and goals sit on the priority list. Lemme guess, they haven’t even made the list.

STOP BEING NICE. Nice people indiscriminately say yes. Problem is, while we’re saying yes to everyone else, we’re constantly telling ourselves no.

Actually, we tell ourselves ‘later’—which is is ancient Aramaic for NEVER #TrueFactIJustMadeUp.

I get the house is a mess, but guess what? It can wait. Science has proven others can figure out how to use a vacuum, even teenagers. Send them a YouTube video, if need be. Hide the car keys in the garage and they’ll clean that sucker OUT.

It is also possible to put words on a page or in a blog…with dirty laundry present in your domicile. Dust will not negatively impact tweets and dingy whites have exhibited no measurable impact on story structure.

We are also—brace for it—under zero obligation to orchestrate/supervise so many play dates and ‘fun’ activities our kids grow up believing ‘Lido Deck’ means ‘Mom’ (or ‘Dad’) in Spanish, and that life is a never-ending Carnival Cruise.

How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change.

So many of us creative people bend more than the karma sutra and…well, that’s perfectly okay! But, if our spouse or kids are forced to make a PBJ instead of enjoying a home-cooked meal, that’s asking too much?

No. It isn’t. So stop feeling guilty.

Feel free to spend all day or all week cleaning that house, baking cookies for the church bake sale, helping your brother-in-law write his resume (which is code for you writing his resume for FREE) and I’ll tell you what to expect. You’ll be lost, hurt, burned out, stressed, and feeling like a failure.

Why? Because none of that ‘other stuff’ endures. A finished novel remains even while clean laundry disappears faster than Tupperware lids cross-bred with men’s socks.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Finished being nice? I confess, I blog on all the stuff I struggle with. I’m a work in progress. I wondered if I might need tattoo removal to get WELCOME off my forehead. Still wonder at times.

Have you put everyone and everything ahead of your dreams and goals? This isn’t only for writers. Have you set aside going to college, getting an advanced degree, taking a vacation, buying underwear without holes because everyone seems to rank higher on the list?

Have you been conditioned to equate boundaries with being ‘mean’ or ‘selfish?’ Ever nearly killed yourself to help a friend, coworker, family member in crisis only to later realize you were completely used?

Been there more than a few times. Sigh.

Yet, I hope this post helps y’all can see you can be strong, powerful AND kind. In fact, *quick plug here* that is a HUGE part of what I’m going to be teaching in my new class Beyond Bulletproof Barbie. Making a woman bitter and mean doesn’t automatically make her stronger.

Oh, and Cait’s teaching Beyond the Princess Prodigy because chronic RBF offers no magical advantage. We can write a kick@$$ warrior with the strength to be imperfect.

Scroll down for our new classes on how to write POWERFUL FEMALES! Get the BUNDLE!

Treat yourself (at least half as well as you do others 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for 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).

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

Last time we talked about this all too common word ‘busy’ and why it makes my left eye twitch. When I was writing this last post, I thought about the common idiomatic phrase we use: He was busy as a bee. I find it odd we’d choose to call bees busy. Bees are not at ALL busy.

Bees act with plan, purpose, vision, intention and have very clear goals wired into their DNA. Unlike humans, bees always know precisely why they are doing what they do day in and day out. Bees are relentless in all they do. Again, unlike humans, bees are aware that flitting flower to flower results in something tangible and essential for their survival.

Sure, when we watch bees buzz from blossom to blossom, they might appear aimless when, in fact they are anything BUT. Those little suckers are on a mission every day with single-minded purpose. Today, we’ll talk about how we can bee all we can bee.

#FunWithPuns

One: Bees Have a Clear Result in Mind

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

Bees operate with a clear result in mind, relentless in everything they do. All their ‘activity’ serves a singular purpose. Granted, bees do have a bit of an advantage. First, I’ve yet to encounter a bee who’d watched a single episode of Game of Thrones or lost time collecting pollen because it got distracted arguing over stupid crap on Facebook.

Bees don’t have Netflix, carpool duty, or kids who play soccer, lacrosse, and take ballet. Bees don’t need to do laundry. They’re able to buzz about in the open ‘nude’ without fear of fines for being tiny winged perverts.

I get that us ‘enlightened’ bee-ings have more ‘stuff’ that gets in the way, clouds our vision, and that can lead to a slow drifting away from our purpose. Yet, I might also challenge all of us to state what our purpose truly IS. One reason we fail to be relentless in what we do, is that we never stopped to even define what we want.

When we fail to state our core GOAL, it’s almost impossible to discern meaningful activity from fruitless distraction. This is why every success book worth reading emphasizes writing out clear and attainable goals. With no defined objective, we end up with mission drift.

Bees are relentless because they can’t afford mission drift.

If they dawdle about in the flowers, stop to buzz smack about the wasp family that moved in, and fail to return with the pollen? They die.

Some might argue that humans won’t die if they don’t fulfill their purpose, but I’d say that isn’t entirely true. Purpose is wired into humans as well. We do die, albeit in a different way. Humans with no purpose can suffer burnout, depression, exhaustion, and crippling neuroses.

If deep down you KNOW you were born to be an author, there is a very real reason your job in that cubicle makes you dread waking up every day.

Two: Bees Possess Enthusiasm for Results

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

Bees are able to get going every day a flower is to be found with an enthusiasm I covet. They’re relentless all day every day largely because they ‘know’ all this work will lead to a tangible (and vital) result. In our modern culture, there’s been an explosion of stress-related illnesses.

In a time where we should be healthier than ever, in many areas we’re sicker than we’ve ever been with illnesses we’ve never encountered.

Granted there are many theories and reasons why stress is taking a major toll on modernized countries, but I believe it’s because the nature of our work has changed.

Anyone who works at a computer knows it seems we’re digging a sand pit every day. We dig and dig and the more we dig, the more ‘sand’ piles in. Emails are relentless. Meetings are relentless. Demands are relentless. Drama is relentless.

We work more hours than ever before, yet rarely do we see tangible RESULTS. Money in and of itself is not enough. Without purpose, without meaningful results, something inside of us withers. Eventually, we drift because we’re unfulfilled. Being relentless has no point.

I’d like to offer these three ‘excursions’ in my life to illustrate.

Syria—Relentless for a Vision

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact
My old neighborhood.

The day after I graduated college I boldly hopped on a plane to Damascus, Syria, eager to use all I’d learned in the university. I had grand plans, a vision, drive and purpose to improve the lives of others. Alas, what began as a dream ended up something vastly different.

I didn’t mind living in a refugee camp, having to trade with the Bedouins, or the time-consuming drudgery of having to buy nearly everything on the black market. The lack of water and showers and prevalence of rats and packs of wild dogs I could endure. Why? Because I had purpose.

Syria undid me because I so badly wanted a far different future than the one I sensed was inevitable. Hard to believe I used to live here 🙁 .

Alas, despite my best efforts, it was impossible to attain meaningful results. Between having to bribe everyone and his uncle to simply keep the place open and miles of red tape, we couldn’t get to WORK. No matter how good our intentions, how relentless we worked…nothing changed.

Within only a few weeks, it became crystal clear why the owners and workers were less-than-inspired to ‘achieve more.’ With any increase in production/profit came an inevitable increase in the amount of the bribe or the number of new ‘officials’ expecting bribes as well.

I arrived a hopeless idealist and left a defeated cynic, deeply grieving the people I felt I’d somehow ‘let down.’ All that work, relentless planning, bartering, bribing and compromise…for nothing.

Mexico—Relentless for Status/Money

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact
Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Scazon

After Syria, I decided I needed a real J-O-B. Again, paper sales. A major part of my territory was in northern Mexico, supplying the maquiladoras. Again, dirty and dangerous work…but great money, company car and an expense account!

I also had the interesting experience of stopping to use a restroom and having a chicken wander into the stall.

Who can put a price tag on THAT?

And Mexico was probably safer than most of the places I had to regularly visit. Since I sold industrial paper, I did business in the roughest areas of Houston, Dallas, El Paso and New Orleans…which I actually didn’t mind at all.

It was company politics that kept me from fulfilling promises to my customers. Deals made with upper management approval…that they later backed out on.

Again, no matter how hard I worked, there were no meaningful results. I was plagued with migraines, constantly caught pneumonia, and eventually couldn’t even drive to the office without having to stop the car and throw up.

A paycheck alone (even a really good one) couldn’t make up for feeling I was working for nothing.

After enough of this? I quit.

Belize—Relentless for…a Sidewalk

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

Belize was the only completely UNPAID work. I volunteered and actually PAID my own money to go help. A contractor had messed up a large expanse of sidewalk in front of the only school in this vastly remote area. Being in the jungle, it rained…a lot. The sidewalks canted inward, meaning the school was constantly flooding.

In Syria and Mexico, I used my schooling, my skills and what I was ‘trained’ to do.

Belize? I was utterly untrained to tear out faulty sidewalks and build better ones. The work was miserable. I thought I’d die from the heat (and I’m a TEXAN). Day after day I toiled in the rain, knee-deep in mud, a machete always nearby (to kill poisonous snakes).

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact
Home Base

When I wasn’t swinging a sledgehammer, I was hauling concrete in buckets, or cutting out and replacing rebar. At the end of every day I was filthy. I was definitely unprepared for the scorpions that rained out of the shower curtain my first night trying to take a shower.

Yet, of all my excursions into dangerous, impoverished places with no modern amenities, Belize remains one of my fondest memories. Why? Because after all that suffering, there was a pristine, perfect sidewalk for the children. My relentless toil paid off in a tangible way.

Like the bee, I could work day after day no matter what because I KNEW it would pay off. There would be something worthwhile to SHOW for my efforts.

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact
A rare moment I was CLEAN (mostly).

Three: Bees Know What Bees Do

To bee or not to bee is never the question…for bees.

Whether we like to admit it or not, much of our identity is forged by what we do. Bees have it easier because they know they are bees and know what bees are meant to do. They work with intention, know their purpose and expect the payoff.

Humans? We tend to go to extremes. We either over think or fail to think at all. In the last post I challenged all of us to ask the crucial questions. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Do I want—whatever—for the right reasons? Have I set myself up to fail? Will this goal/dream fulfill me?

In Syria, I dreamed I’d make a meaningful difference in the lives of those at the paper plant…yet was woefully out of my depth. My failure to respect the sheer enormity of my goal (and my pride) inevitably led to defeat.

In Mexico (sales), I believed money would make me happy. That I could drive thousands of miles, work absurd hours in the most dangerous cities for the right pay.

I’d grown up wearing KMart clothes my Christmas gifts often supplied via Toys for Tots. Yet, when I worked in sales? I wore designer clothes, had a company car, an expense account…and a nervous breakdown.

Belize showed me more of my true self, what actually gave me joy. This trip also revealed why I’d met with so much failure. I’d always known I wanted to be a writer, so why wasn’t I a writer? Money, influence, approval couldn’t make up for my failure to be what I was meant to be.

Bee Brave, Bee Bold, Bee Relentless

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

Our lives end up cluttered, crammed with meaningless activity because we’re failing to own up to and live out our purpose. Lack of purpose (or a distorted purpose) has serious negative psychological effects.

When we work for a paycheck at a job we hate, we mask our spiritual emptiness with distractions (food, drugs, Netflix, volunteering to bake cookies when we hate baking).

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with money or wanting to make money. Yet, those truly driven by money are inherently entrepreneurs. A doctor who builds a successful name and practice and scores a slot on daytime television might be a healer but this person is a healer-entrepreneur.

Business, making money, expanding influence is part of their purpose…which is why they don’t burn out.

Conversely, think of the fine folks who endure years of schooling to become a doctor, only to ship off to Africa to risk their lives to save lives. These doctors know they are healers.

These doctors know who they are, their purpose, and that entrepreneur is not part of who they are. It’s why they’re content to sleep in a hut, not in a mansion. They are happy to drive an ancient rusted Land Rover with a winch instead of the latest luxury Land Rover with GPS and Pandora radio.

Are You a Writer? Then BEE a Writer

relentless, Kristen Lamb, busy, busy as a bee, busy versus productive, time management, humans and purpose, the power of purpose, living with intention, psychology of goals, being relentless for success, lack of purpose and psychological impact

If deep down you know you’re a writer? Write. Confess your GOAL is to write, whether that is poems, blogs, novels, pulp fiction, screenplays, fan fiction, haiku or dirty limericks and WRITE.

Writing is what powers you up, what fulfills your purpose, the goal where you’re most likely to be relentless.

Maybe you’ll never make millions (though we’d all love to), but money isn’t your driving force. Writing is. If today I told you that you’d never make a dime off your writing, would you still write?

If you answered yes, you’re a writer.

Maybe you’ll have to keep that day job forever, BUT if you carve out time to bee what you were meant to bee, what might happen? Suddenly that day job isn’t sheer drudgery because it’s no longer your identity. The day job shifts from tedium to what FUNDS your authentic purpose, the place where you find meaning and fulfillment.

The day job becomes the pollen (money to pay bills) that makes the HONEY (time/resources to write).

Show Me the Honey!

In the end, it’s okay to be busy…like a bee. This takes time, reflection, honesty, trial, error, failure, and courage. As writers, a lot of what we do looks like that bee buzzing around blooms. We read, take classes, watch shows, study dialogue, explore and all ‘busy work’ is necessary to make the honey…and ideally the money 😉 .

***Scroll down for some classes that might help with that.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does the dreaded day job now seem different to you? Are you writing because you love it? Are you not loving it because you’re ‘success’ metric is money? Would changing that metric maybe help you fall back in love with writing? Have you ever felt stuck? Adrift? All out of GO? Were you/are you afraid to BEE you?

We all are! So join the crazy club 😀 .

What are some of the tough questions you’ve been too ‘busy’ to even ask?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for 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).

May’s winner is Stephanie Scott. Please email your 5,000 word WORD doc (12 point font, double-spaced, one-inch margins) to kristen at wana intl dot com.

Upcoming Class!

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds. We need to know our character’s past, their gols, conflicts and motivations…but don’t get crazy 😉 .

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Busy, busy, busy. Aside from ‘parsnip‘ I’m beginning to think my new trigger word is ‘busy.’ A couple posts ago, I took on the insidious lie about us being able to ‘find time’.

There’s this generally accepted delusion that time is something we can find. No, time isn’t lost. We are. We can’t find time, we can only make time.

I bring up this notion of finding time for good reason. We tell ourselves we’d do X, if only we could find the time. Oh, but why can’t we find the time? Because we’ve been so unbelievably…busy.

Busy is an excuse, a copout, and a socially acceptable LIE. When we claim we’re ‘too busy’ we are often lying to others, ourselves or both.

***I am not counting last Friday when all our plumbing backed up into the HOUSE. I really WAS too busy to do my edits.

Yet, most of the times we claim we’re way ‘too busy’ we really aren’t. And, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I do this stuff, too. I’ve simply made it a point to catch myself when I use this word.

The word ‘busy’ is a red flag I’m lying about something…something probably important.

Busy Signal

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Remember in ancient times when people used landlines, before call-waiting? What did we do when we didn’t want to be bothered? We took the phone off the hook so anyone trying to reach us would get a ‘busy’ signal. We used this tactic to keep other people AWAY from us.

Maybe we needed a nap. Perhaps we required quiet uninterrupted time for other more important things like doing bills, studying, enjoying a date, or arguing with a ‘loved’ one 😀 .

We might have been trying to avoid facing someone or something we felt unable to handle. Bill collectors, deadbeat exes, family members with zero concept of boundaries.

Sometimes, we’d hit a limit, and simply couldn’t face life in general. We believed with some calm, quiet and rest we’d somehow rally back, find the answers, or muster the courage. More often than not, though, we wanted to hide.

Maybe just me.

If we look at all the reasons I just listed for ‘taking the phone off the hook’ this can offer incredible insight into our modern version of this evasive maneuver. The I’ve just been so BUSY feint.

We can look at ourselves and others more honestly, which is imperative if we yearn to live intentionally.

It Isn’t That Important

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

As humans, we’re always ranking what is important and what isn’t. The bugger is we do this no matter what. If we let ourselves drift along on auto-pilot, our subconscious (reptile brain) will do our ranking for us.

The problem is our subconscious mind is the part of the brain known to put our keys in the fridge or toss the banana while keeping the peel.

In a nutshell, our subconscious is a smidge flaky.

When Lizard Brain makes a list, it intends to keep us ‘safe.’ If we fail to consciously choose what matters, our lizard brains will do the choosing for us. Lizard brain is wired for survival. This means Lizard GPS is pretty much always the path of least resistance.

This is how we end up prioritizing laundry, dishes, Facebook, etc. ahead of actions that will yield real results. Then, when we’re threadbare and exhausted, all we have to say for our efforts is we’ve been…busy.

Contrast this with making a conscious ranking, and it’s easy to see why we’re so happy to hand the Lizard our keys. If we made a choice to prioritize exercise, quality family time, finishing our novel, cleaning out our garage, we’d be forced to be honest with ourselves and others.

An Example

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Yesterday, I attended my eldest nephew’s high school graduation. I was particularly close with this nephew when he was young. Yet, over time I saw him less and less. Despite invitations, messages and calls, I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my nephew in the past four years (because he lives an HOUR away, not down the block anymore).

His go-to line is, ‘Sorry, Tante. I’ve just been so busy.’

***Tante is German for aunt.

The truth he either is unaware of or afraid to say? I’m a teenager and my girlfriend, school, sports, fishing, etc. is way more fun than hanging out with my middle-aged aunt.

Granted, the truth hurts, but can I really blame him? Um, yeah maybe school, sports, girlfriend and being a teenager slightly higher priority and more fun than driving an hour to hang with the middle-aged auntie 😛 .

Of course, part of me wants to remind him exactly how UN-FUN playing hours of HALO with a six-year-old really was. A six-year-old who hoarded ammo and got me killed no less than fifty times an hour. NO. A hundred!

How burying stuff in the yard and drawing treasure maps for him? Sitting in triple-digit heat for his peewee soccer games?

Yeah…not fun.

But I don’t because MY priorities have nothing to do with HIS. I was older when I chose to rank quality time with a child over whatever I found fun in 2005.

If I can see past the ‘lack of time’ facade because he is ‘so busy’ then I’m not wounded when he isn’t scheduling me in. Why? It isn’t a TIME problem at all. Granted I miss him, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel slighted by him.

Though if he thinks I’m sharing my plasma grenades with him ever again? MISTAKEN 😛 .

Pretty Fictions & Pointy Truths

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety
Meh, your little brother still thinks I am COOL.

Truth frees me to not take this personally. Instead of grieving ‘my nephew ignores me’ *sniff sniff*, it’s simply I’m not high on his list (likely not on it at all). This liberates me from chasing someone who doesn’t rank our relationship on the list of priorities.

***Leaves me more time to work on the younger one who always loved me MORE 😛 .

Seriously, my eldest nephew’s young and maturity hopefully will change his priorities. Make hanging out with me ‘cool’ again.

Overall, the point is that it isn’t personal.

My nephew tells me he’s busy because that’s easier, kinder, more polite than the truth. Control is not love. His priorities don’t have to be the same as mine.

Sure, I could use the guilt card (*cough* Remember HALO?) but then I’m forcing MY way. I’m juking the relational algorithm, which is known as manipulation.

FYI: Nothing good really ever comes out of manipulation.

Why families, friendships, relationships, etc. end up in drama is when we accept ‘busy’ at face value. We try harder because we cling to a lack of time being the core issue instead of the truth…we aren’t a priority.

Remember Dating?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

How I wish I’d have understood all this when I was young. I remember going on a date, believing it went well because he said he’d call tomorrow.

Then days would pass with no call, no plans for another date. If I ran into this person, usually there was some rambling talk about so much work and blah blah blah and being busy.

It wasn’t me AT ALL, just they were BUSY. They would totally call…soon.

No, they had no intention of calling. Some were simply too chicken to say, Was real, was fun, but not real fun. Ghosting me was easier (Reptile move for sure) and ‘busy’ an easy out when forced into confrontation.

For others, ‘busy’ was a solid tactic to keep me hopeful. If the ‘busy’ hook worked, then the guy could always keep me in the wings as a backup. In case the girl he really liked said no to going out, Kristen would be waiting on that call.

As I matured and began to recognize the ‘busy’ feint, I moved on. This kept me from chasing guys who were too chicken or too selfish/greedy to be honest. I finally gained enough confidence (and wisdom) to grasp that, if a guy was really into me, he’d move heaven and earth to MAKE time.

And this is how I met my wonderful husband! Because I stopped filling my time with guys who weren’t that wild about me, I made room for the one guy who was completely crazy about me (and still is 10 years later) 😉 .

Busy is no excuse.

Yet, beyond dating, how many of us invite unnecessary pain by accepting ‘busy’? The boss who is ‘too busy’ to look at your ideas, the friend who is ‘too busy’ to call, the partner who is ‘too busy’ to help?

Deep down we know the truth (but are afraid of it) and this is why we end up defeated, wounded, anxious, neurotic, etc. If we got honest, we might change jobs, change friends, or change habits, but that’s a lot of work and kinda scary.

Okay, a LOT scary.

Willing vs. Unwilling

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Thus far, Lizard has been making the lists. Time to take control. First of all, allowing others to use the ‘busy’ card, gives us a pass on confrontation. Our culture has made confrontation to be some horrible thing to be avoided at all costs. Confrontation has been made synonymous with fighting and anger.

Patently FALSE.

Confrontation really is a matter of willing versus unwilling.

If others are ‘too busy’ then let them be busy. Move on. If things change, and they truly value ‘whatever’ they’ll call. Yet, if they don’t, we’ve already let it go (along with all the feelings of rejection).

So far we’ve talked a lot about others. Now, what about us? When we consciously rank what is a priority and what isn’t, expect pain. We will have to choose the pain of what we want later over the thrill of what’s easy NOW.

Oh, and we’ll need to learn to invoke the NO.

Consciously choosing what is important keeps us out of the spiral of ‘I Suck.’ I don’t have six-pack abs and 12% body fat because I am unwilling to live in a gym and measure all my food. Thus, if I am UNWILLING to do these things, then I need to be okay with my relatively fit but fluffy self.

If I claim I’m WILLING to do all it takes to be a successful author (meaning actually sell books), then the ‘I’m too busy’ to write, take classes, build a platform, etc. doesn’t fly anymore.

Are You Willing?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

My approach to building a brand and platform is not sexy, exciting and doesn’t magically sell a bazillion books overnight. I created a system that worked with what I was willing and UNWILLING to do.

I am WILLING to be patient and invest long-term building relationships. Totally willing to strengthen my writing skills (via blogging and books).

Conversely, I’m unwilling to hustle harder than an multi-level marketer crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m also unwilling to build my platform’s FOUNDATION anywhere I am not fully in control (ergo why I’m a fan of the blog and don’t trust Facebook).

I’m unwilling to automate, because I don’t like spam and am unwilling to serve it to others. I choose not to focus on promotions and ads and marketing because if it means even MORE work?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

In life, I’m willing to be relentless, work hard, and do my best. I’m unwilling to do this at the expense of my integrity, my peace, my family and my friends.

This might mean I won’t have an immaculate home.

*heavy sigh*

But now, instead of whirling down the ‘I Suck’ spiral, I can be more at ease. I’m unwilling to give up choice writing time and make my family a neurotic mess…all to have a Good Housekeeping picture-perfect house.

I’m not lazy or a slob or not trying hard enough and I am certainly NOT too ‘busy.’ I simply have decided what I’m willing and unwilling to pursue. For me? Reading and taking more classes and writing and honing my skills is more important than having a Martha Stewart house or being a 44-year-old fitness model.

So, yoga pants covered in cat fur it is!

In the End

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety
Really? Can I come out then?

Once we face the truth (or fiction) of busy, we can let go of a lot of needless baggage. Life crises aside, generally we aren’t too busy to finish the novel, have buns of steel, or a shabby-chic perfect house if we truly want those things.

We aren’t too busy to call that old friend, we’re simply unwilling to get sucked into drama. We’re now willing to see we were never too busy. We were too sad, afraid, ashamed to face this person we care about is actually toxic.

Obviously the list could go on and on. What I hope to impress on y’all is we all can fall for the ‘busy’ without asking the next question. Are we really too busy, or do we suck at saying no and setting boundaries?

Do we really WANT that promotion, new car, hot body, Pinterest-worthy home, or best-selling book?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

If we stopped and asked the next logical questions, we might realize we don’t want what we claim we do. Not really. And that is okay.

Once we let that go, we can stop the incessant inner narrative that tells us how much we suck. When I hear myself use the ‘busy’ feint, this is a HUGE road flare to stop and evaluate.

Am I ACTUALLY too busy? Or have I let Lizard do too much driving? Am I afraid, tired, failing to set and enforce boundaries, not being honest about what I want and don’t want?

Are there people, problems, hardships I need to confront but can’t because I lack courage, will, wisdom? Am I ‘taking life off the hook’ and giving the ‘busy signal’ to buy time? Is this a warning I need more rest?

It’s okay, we’re all (mostly) human here 😉 .

Frankly, life is too short to be busy.

I don’t know about y’all but who wants THIS headstone?

‘Here Lies Kristen: She Was Busy’

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you see ‘busy’ in a new way? Guilty of taking life off the hook to buy time so you could DEAL? *raises hand here* Have you wasted time chasing people, dreams, goals when a nice long pause might have saved a ton of grief?

Have you taken time to ask what you want and why? And do you really want it?

Does the idea of willing and unwilling help clarify? Maybe we aren’t as lazy, untalented, slow, etc. as we thought? Perhaps, when viewed through a different lens, we aren’t doing all too shabby.

Sure, my house is covered in cat fur, but my kid is fun and loving and kind!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for 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).

May’s winner announced next post!

Upcoming Class

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds. We need to know our character’s past, their gols, conflicts and motivations…but don’t get crazy 😉 .

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

There are SO many reasons why being a professional author is TOUGH. Much of what authors do is counter to human nature. It is NOT natural to sit still and write a 100,000 words. It’s human nature to avoid stress, pain, and trauma, while an author’s job is to inflict as much suffering as possible.

Good writers are death dealers, anguish agents, and pain peddlers (which probably is why we freak ‘normal’ people out). Yet, we know torment is necessary for the greater good. A ‘story’ without seemingly unbeatable odds, terrifying stakes, and white-knuckled tension isn’t a story.

It’s self-indulgent tripe.

The ultimate objective of any author worth their ink cartridges is to create so much pressure we might just give our readers the bends.

Yet, this is not ‘natural.’ It is also not simple. There is nothing about being an author that is easy, and thing is?

Most of us fear we don’t have what it takes.

We’re also terrified to admit this. So what do we do? We become our own worst enemies and self-sabotage. And, since writers generally are smart, we self-sabotage in ways that appear to be REAL work to the untrained eye.

Thus, today, we’re going to discuss some of the clever ways writers self-sabotage. Since I’ve been guilty of ALL of these (because I’m a ridiculous overachiever), I can speak from experience. When it comes to self-sabotage, I would have been top of the class…but didn’t study for the final until the night before.

Self-Sabotage—Give Me Liberty OR Give Me DEATH!

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

This writer longs to be completely FREE! No boundaries, restrictions, or rules. Total liberty. They throw caution to the wind and GO!

In the writing world, we refer to folks who write by the seat of their pants as ‘pantsers.’ Many new writers start out as a pantser, because we are dying to WRITE. We love ALL THE WORDS and want to get them down and on the page. Planning takes TIME! Ruins the spontaneity. Who needs a plot? *rolls eyes*

My story can’t be forced. Plot will reveal itself. Like, it’s totally ORGANIC.

***Know what else is totally organic? Bull$#!t. Just food for thought 😉 .

Anyway, this type of writer might (mistakenly) believe that an outline or anything remotely resembling a structure equals ‘formulaic writing.’ I know, because I claimed that nonsense at one time as well.

Truth was, I wanted to play with my imaginary friends, and learning craft was hard and boring and looked way more like HARD WORK than I was comfortable with.

Also, obviously, I was an ‘exception’ due to my superior, innately born, and gifted-from-angels ‘talent.’ Thus, the rules applied to everyone but me, because *hair flip* I was smarter.

Yep, sure.

All excellent stories have structure, because a story is akin to a living organism. It needs BONES, because guess what had no bones? The Blob. If we want a squishy creature that just keeps getting bigger and bigger by absorbing more characters, descriptions, plot bunnies and adverbs?

Meet BLOB, not BOOK.

If pantsing is your jam, that’s fine. But authors who are excellent pantsers took time to learn and understand how story structure WORKS. Sometimes this is a person who’s read a gazillion books. They’ve read SO many novels, structure is almost ingrained into their marrow.

Perhaps they wrote a crap ton of bad books that fizzled and died. After years of writing utter crap, eventually they didn’t.

These authors are like the self-taught musician who plays by ear.

Problem with this approach is a writer is more likely to give up than be successful. A creative can only endure so many stillborn stories, before we just give up.

Been there.

A person who learns to play a guitar by listening to music and plucking around can possibly be AMAZING. However, classes covering even basics like finger positions and chords can help…a lot. The would-be guitarist will get to making something that sounds like actual ‘music’ far faster.

Thus, the self-sabotage is not the writer’s choice to be a pantser, rather the almost savage reaction to any suggestion regarding learning structure.

Deep down the reason the writer won’t consider a log-line, outline, basic plot points is because of two false beliefs. First, they believe if they ‘succumb’ to *shivers* structure, they therefore lack talent.

Only amateurs need paint-by-numbers. <—me

Secondly, they might also believe they really DON’T have talent/ability. Thus, if they actually read the books and took the classes, they’d have no reason NOT to write amazing stories. <—totally me, too

Fearing authentic failure, the Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death crowd makes certain to always pick the path that leads to ‘something other than them’ being the source of failure. This could be failure to ever finish, or failure to write a book that sells (either to an agent or an audience).

I’m not writing the right genre. The idea wasn’t as good as I thought. Nobody is reading BLAH genre. My book isn’t bad, it’s ‘literary’ and agents/editors/readers just don’t ‘get’ my story.

Whatever.

Any excuse other than to admit fear of not ‘having enough talent.’

Self-Sabotage—The Craft Class JUNKIE

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Knowing Amazon is chock full of ‘novels’—self-indulgent personal fantasy fulfillment tropes with no plot—this writer goes to the OTHER extreme. They hit the books, blogs, classes, conferences and do all the exercises. The Craft Class Junkie is a near relative of the professional college student.

This writer is perfectly okay, so long as their ‘knowledge’ is never actually put to the test. While brilliant regarding theoretical, they cave when it comes to practical application. Writers like this are always exploring various ‘methods.’

In fact, they likely never choose any method, or at least not long enough to finish and see it through. To practice with it until they are skilled.

See, writing is really, really freaking hard. Like the Give Me Liberty or Death group, Craft Junkies believe (again mistakenly) that if they were ‘good’ enough, writing a story would NOT be hard.

Which is total bunk.

Thus, the Craft Junkie might start out with the Snowflake Method, hit the inevitable second act slump, then shelve the story…because you know, snowflakes are flaky and it just wasn’t working. The story really needed this method or that method.

The Write A Novel in a Week By Channeling Your Spirit Animal! Now THAT’S the ticket.

Envision your story squirrel and merely describe what your story squirrel sees in as many words as possible.

The Liberty or Death and the Craft Junkie are two sides of the same coin.

The pantser is at least willing to write…a lot. Even if they have no idea where the hell they’re going, they at least GO. This writer actually NEEDS the craft training.

Conversely the Craft Junkie is incredibly educated, but it’s all theoretical. This author needs actual practice.

Writing is actually a trade/artisan skill which requires training AND loads of practice, practical experience, and yes…failure.

Self-Sabotage—The Background BOSS

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Maybe we wrote some ‘stories’ or ‘novels’ and realized we had a bunch of paper dolls, talking heads, and kept writing ourselves into a corner. Eager to get to writing (with or without an outline) we jumped the gate. We failed to take time to really know and understand our characters.

Thus, we commit to knowing every character intimately from their favorite cereal to the name of their first kitten. We will open every psychological door!

Problem is, we can fall in LOVE with the background.

Backstory is to the novel what crossfit is to sports.

Seems close to the real thing but isn’t. We can self-sabotage with planning and more planning and adding more layers.

Backstory is fun because we have no skin in the game. It isn’t our NOVEL, which will actually test our mettle. It’s the intensive activity that permits a thrill of storytelling without any of the commitment.

Like doing crossfit, I can become extremely fit, which is fantastic if my goal is to simply be super fit.

It is only when I commit to applying this crossfit training to something else (a sport) that my ‘activities’ become more than rolling around large tires and swinging kettlebells. Application is the only place my strength, endurance, and dexterity can truly be measured.

Backstory is CRUCIAL. In fact, Cait is teaching a class on backstory I STRONGLY recommend. But if we aren’t vigilant, it can end up the writer equivalent of dragging around a tractor tire and believing this is progress. Backstory is to help make us the best at writing great novels, not number one at creating character profiles.

Backstory is IN THE PAST

Meaning it’s already happened. The true test of a storyteller is to use the past create an unknown future.

Sure, Fifi has had a bad life, but when presented with a problem that pokes her wounds, HOW DOES SHE DEAL/OR NOT DEAL?

Yet, the Backstory Boss isn’t comfortable going forward because that’s scary, and the past has passed and is safer.

Just as the crossfitter knows she can do cherry-pickers all day, she’s possibly afraid that, if she played field hockey or soccer or started doing roller derby, she might be terrible. Same with the writer who’s self-sabotage manifests in a ton of busy-work.

They’re endlessly tweaking backstories or even trashing perfectly good backstories and starting over…and over.

And over.

There is an insidious addiction to preparation and yet never enough preparation to commit to the ACTUAL GAME. Fear of failure, rejection, success all powers the self-sabotage cycle. #AskMeHowIKnow

Self-Sabotage—The Research Hoarder

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Research MATTERS. Granted, some genres require more research than others. Cupcake Cozy vs. Epic Historical. Totally different levels of research, but might want to know a little about baking even for the cozy.

Trust me, I’m writing a horror set in the Old West. I can affirm that learning how to write historical has been an @$$ beating. I’ve read everything from Mark Twain to St. Augustine, to Goethe. I’ve watched countless documentaries, studied food, weapons, cooking, clothing, idiomatic expressions, medicine, global politics, *taps out*.

Yes, I HAD to research to make dead certain this story could reasonably happen. Granted, it is a Western Horror, but the speculative angle doesn’t give me a free pass on history/research.

As my coauthor (Cait) has lectured me, my characters cannot be riding train cars not yet invented or passing through towns not yet imagined, let alone established.

Yes, ma’am *whimpers and fetches ice pack*

In fact, research is critical for my world-building (I.e. the barber having a corner chair at the saloon pulling teeth while patrons eat and drink nearby).

Yet, there is a fine line between wanting the details to be correct ‘enough’ versus wanting them to be PERFECT. Perfect is the enemy of the finished. We will never write a perfect novel, so don’t try.

Remember the AUDIENCE

Yes, please research. It’s part of our JOB to know and understand the world we’re writing about. We’re also wise to appreciate that readers will gravitate to our novel because they LOVE the subject. It is prudent to appreciate our audience might even be knowledgable.

Thus, if we’re writing a mystery-suspense with a homicide detective as our MC, we BETTER know how that all works, because our AUDIENCE likely does. NOTE: Unless this is OUR professional background, our audience is probably NOT law enforcement (because they can’t watch Miami CSI without suffering an aneurism).

Much like if we write medical mysteries, medical personnel probably NOT our audience because they watched House once, and nearly died…of laughter.

Relax, Already

Sure retired lawyers, detectives, doctors, etc. write stories that even people who share their profession might enjoy…if they enjoy reading about WORK in their free time. But even the pros must take liberties for fiction.

Our audience generally will be people who know the broad strokes of these worlds (the ‘interesting parts’), but know them very, very well. They know about blood transfer, blood spatter, ballistics, Luminol, body lividity, etc.

Suspense, mystery, thriller readers are people who’ve watched so many episodes of Forensic Files they yell at murderers on Dateline the same way men yell at football games.

Seriously? You PAID the hit man with a PERSONAL CHECK under the video cameras at Taco BELL? You deserve the needle.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, the audience will (likely) know who does what job when and where and how. This means we (the authors) should know this stuff, too.

But, in the end, fiction is NOT reality.

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

To paraphrase Hitchcock, ‘Fiction is life with the boring crap taken out.’ Accuracy, to a degree, draws readers into the fictive dream.

Yet, if we were completely accurate, then a murder mystery would be 400,000 pages long and detail excruciating paperwork for warrants, multiple interviews, polygraphs, interrogations, months waiting on DNA, CODIS, filing MORE paperwork, and answering every crackpot tip on the hotline.

Also gotta make sure the unit secretary Brenda Baffleghast’s retirement party is included because, you know…authenticity.

Oh and remember to include the local psychic who saw the murderer’s face burned on her toast!

Research is vital because the better we do this scouring, the easier it is to work seamlessly within our world without interrupting creative flow. The deeper the well to draw from, the richer the story, the more opportunities to create magic.

Beware of paralysis by analysis.

It is OKAY not to know everything…so long as we nail the major stuff.

I cannot have my MC traveling through the Fort Worth Stock Yards in 1860 BECAUSE IT DID NOT EXIST UNTIL 1876. 

This is a major point and something I reasonably should have researched and know while plotting.

Alas, expect some research troll to appear, majorly miffed who will write a detailed two-star review saying crap like, ‘Well, I couldn’t get into the book. The railroad didn’t use the gringle-doffer-doodle-mabobber until 1875 and the author has it in 1874. After that? I was totally thrown out of the story. I mean did the author even TRY?’

Sure did. Just not nearly as hard as you tried to be a total @$$…

At the end of the day…

All these ways of self-sabotage are not in and of themselves BAD or WRONG. It took me starting and never being able to finish 27 ‘novels’ for me to get a clue and maybe read a craft book…or ALL OF THEM. I ended up going to the OTHER extreme and was terrified to WRITE until I knew…EVERYTHING.

I’m not a plotter or pantser, I’m a plotser 😀 .

I have a hard-drive bursting with fantastic backstories I will likely never use. Not to mention I’ve listened to over TWO THOUSAND hours of audio books in less than two years. This is NOT counting time spent reading paper books or e-books on my Kindle, articles, papers….or the books taped behind my toilet.

Suffice to say my ‘research’ might have gone a tad…okay completely off the rails.

But I am much better now…. *drools*

So if you’ve been hiding in any of these self-sabotage safe spaces, it’s okay. The one leaving cookie crumbs? Probably me.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Did you see yourself in any of these ‘profiles’ or maybe…ALL of them? *hangs head* Have any to add? How do you struggle? If you’ve overcome one of these self-sabotaging habits, do you have tips, suggestions, war stories?

And if the BOG OF BACKSTORY is where you get stuck, remember Cait is teaching how to do this well…without needing safety line to make sure you return to your loved ones 🙂 .

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.