It’s Friday! *insert Happy Dance here* What a week! Today I have an amazing opportunity to pass on some wisdom that I hope will change your life as much as it has mine. This blog is dedicated to helping the human writer. Why do I say human? Because we are more than robots sitting in front of a computer pounding out word count. We have fears and hopes and dreams and bad habits. We are all targets of Crappy Excuse Trolls and Procrastination Pixies.
Today, we are going to talk about character. There are a lot of people in the world with the talent to take them straight to the top, but they lack the character to stay there. I hate to admit it, but I was probably one of those people. Writing, for me, has been a journey of developing my character as much as it has been about growing in my craft.
In the not-so-distant past, I was the reigning Queen of Do It Later Land, a sad realm paved with good intentions, nestled between the Post-It Note Mountains. For years, I was better at meddling in the affairs of others than focusing on my own life. Why? I didn’t have the right perspective when it came to my own problems. I dwelled on my failures and mitigated my success. I didn’t have the proper relationship with failure. Instead of looking at my failures as learning experiences, I felt it was proof that I was a loser and nothing good would ever come my way.
I was so negative, I couldn’t take my own company, and I had no clue how I was sabotaging my own success. The more I focused on failure, the more failure came my way. My life was filled with toxic people, and why wouldn’t it be? I was gravitating to people just like me…negative, hopeless, and always living in expectation of failure. I had this horrible belief that, if I never expected anything, I could never be disappointed. Those were dark years, but I thank every day for them. Why? Because I learned to view dark times and dark people differently.
Film develops in a dark room. Character develops in dark places. So today we are going to learn some Attitude Alchemy by changing hardships from loadstones to steps in a golden staircase.
Jerks are Good for Us
I know! Hard to believe. The day I understood this principle was the day my life began to change.
All of us have areas of our character that need to improve; rough edges that, left alone, will always be rough, making it impossible for the best aspects of who we are to shine through. First, how does coal become a diamond? Pressure! Lots of pressure! Even still. Ever seen a diamond dug out of the ground? It isn’t exactly ready to be set in an engagement ring. It looks like a dirty hunk of glass. It needs to be….CUT! What cuts diamonds? Other diamonds…low grade industrial diamonds that will never be good for anything but their ability to be highly abrasive. Jerks are the low grade industrial diamonds that shape the facets of our character. We cannot shine until we are cut, and cut again, and again.
As writers, prepare to deal with a lot of jerks. When we start out, most of us are dirty, rough hunks of glass. For most of you (me included), family will be the first line of industrial diamonds. Yes, they are likely going to roll their eyes and have sarcastic comments. They may even sabotage. We can choose to feel like a victim, or we can believe they are shaping our character. Do we love writing enough to continue? Or are we being a people pleaser who will quit the second someone has something nasty to say? My family’s sarcasm made me a finisher. I had never been one of those before, and that massive flaw in my character had been a huge stumbling block barring the way to genuine success. Hah! My family thought they would stop me, but what did they really do? They polished that flaw out of my character.
When you decide to become a writer, jerks will come out of the woodwork. Join a critique group and there is a quota that every group have one jack@$$. Another layer of industrial diamonds.
BZZZZZZZZZZZTTTTTTTTT Owiiieeeee!!!!! No! Ouch! You’re a writer too! I thought you’d say nice things and be supportive! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!
The first time I read my work for critique, I thought I was going to throw up in my shoes. But I was so proud of what I had written. Even though my family was no longer speaking to me, I finished a novel. It was the first thing I had ever stuck to. I brought it to critique so I could send it to an agent.
There was a published writer who took my pages and threw them in the air and said, “This is crap.” The scent of blood filled the water and the sharks circled.
I got slaughtered.
I gritted my teeth, determined they would not break me. Somehow I made it through the rest of the session then stumbled through the parking lot to my car and cried. I so wanted to run away and give up, but that was what I had always done in the past. I dried my tears and resolved to prove I could write and write well. I refined and read and studied until the pieces I brought were polished perfect. My prose became the strongest in the group.
Once you make it past the critique group, you will have to likely endure the agents. Most will send you a form letter and, if you are lucky, they will even spell your name correctly. It hurts. But again, this process is cutting facets so you can shine brighter. Maybe you need to read more or take more writing classes. Maybe, because of fear, you aren’t writing in a genre you really love, so your voice isn’t developing.
We can take all those “No’s” as proof we are a failure, or we can take that and use it to change… BZZZZZZZZZTTTTTTTTTTTTTT OWWW NOT THAT!!!!! AGHHHHH!!!!
Even when you get published, and probably especially when you get published, there will still be jerks. They will write hateful stuff on your FB page and your blog and even send you nasty e-mails. Candace Havens (who is one of THE most awesome people in the world) showed to a book signing in tears after someone posted a horrible, eviscerating review on Amazon. I have never seen a writer give more effort to teaching new writers than NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer. Bob had a workshop participant act so badly I seriously expected Bob to start speaking in tongues. He handled it with class, but I know he was deeply hurt by a writer he was trying very hard to help.
Jerks are part of life, and they can be a new devil or can bring a new level. The choice is ours.
Jerks can test our commitment level. They can challenge our convictions or even make us angry because they speak a truth we are scared to face. Whenever something makes me angry, I stop and ask why it bothered me. Jerks can teach us how to set effective boundaries. In Kindergarten we get taught to be nice to everyone. It’s a good principle to follow, and most people are respectful. But, being nice doesn’t mean we give carte blanche to people who want to tear through and wreck our lives and be hateful and disrespectful.
Sometimes we have to set boundaries, and that isn’t always pleasant. I had to unfollow someone on FB yesterday. I NEVER have to do that. But, he was bullying me and my friends and kicking sand in their faces. He wrote hateful comments on this blog and even wrote a blog calling me all sorts of ridiculous unfair names. But, he was teaching me a lesson that I have struggled with all my life. When do we stop being polite and put our foot down? Was I going to cave in what I believe, or was I going to water down my humor so he would not be offended? I happen to believe that a sense of humor is the sign of a healthy society (and person). This individual was challenging that belief. Would I compromise?
No. I wouldn’t. And I wasn’t going to permit him to bully me or any of you.
If we want to be NY Times best-selling authors (and many of us do), it stands to reason that we will have to be effective at setting and enforcing boundaries. We will need to be disciplined and committed and believe in our work and ourselves. All those jerks along the way just BZZZZZZZTTTTTTTTTTTTed off all the rough edges.
So the next time someone kicks sand in your face, you can get upset, or just smile and think….BBZZZZZTTTTTTT Boy are you gonna make me shine! It isn’t easy and it isn’t instinctive, but the activities that are contrary to our nature and what we want to do, generally are the best for us.
Lifting weights, eating broccoli or even giving up a movie with friends to make word count are not always the things that we want to do, but they take us a step closer to the big goal. Same with how we handle jerks. We can give in and cry and whine and go tell all our friends how we are picked on, or we can think, A new level or a new devil? I choose another level. Bring it on. The more you grind, the brighter I’ll SHINE! Give it your best!
What are your thoughts? What challenges have made you better? Share your triumphs! We love being encouraged. What have been your greatest trials? Suggestions? Recommendations?
Until next time…..
Give yourself the gift of success so you can ROCK 2011. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.
Man you want to talk about a post being right on time. I’m literally in the midst of focusing on all the negatives and failures that has gone on in my life thus far. Writing is my new career path, yet you can’t help but look at others who are doing so freakin well, the jealous monster is oozing at the mouth. It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this and if I can give any advice about staying encouraged throughout all the jerks you laid out in this post it’s to make sure you’re pity party only lasts 24hours – you need all the energy you can get to get that book done and get your writing career off the ground.
Now if only I can take my own advice right now! LOL
No “ifs.” You can. Most of us might look like we are doing well, but we still are battling dragons and battled a lot of ogres to get to the dragons, LOL. Attitude is everything, so keep focused on the positive, work hard, and know that peristence prevails when all else fails ;).
Thanks so much Kristen! You’re blog helps out a ton! 🙂
I just checked our sales this month at Who Dares Wins Publishing and Kristen’s book, We Are Not Alone is flying off the shelf at Lightning Source, which is Ingram’s Print On Demand outlet. The reality in publishing now is that an author has to be equal parts writer and promoter and her book is a great resource for the latter.
Kristen, this is the greatest analogy of things getting in the way of writing careers. Thank you for this post. You are spot-on! Now I hope I can develop thick enough hide to incorporate this attitude in my writing & submitting.
Kristen, this is a fantastic post! I love the diamond analogy, very clever… and very true. Getting people over rejection and ‘jerk’ hump as you put it, is probably the one thing that keeps many fantastic works from ever being seen. Very impressive, thank you!
Kristen, this blog is memorable because it demonstrates the power of authenticity. And I applaude that vulnerability. You wrote about a journey many of us are on. Thank you for validating that journey, for making it what it is… a process. And yes, we must follow the voice inside that guides us, that takes us where we are meant to be.
Yeah, I was going to go with the “I was born awesome blog,” then heard thunder rumbling and thought better of it, :D. I know it is so easy to get discouraged, especially when it seems to come so easily for others. But the truth is often far different. I wouldn’t change one day of my trials. It allows me to be a blessing to you guys and help know you aren’t alone and to keep going.
Haters are everywhere, often closer to you than anyone on the planet. You’ve got such a great way of explaining things, like a way more attractive version of Forrest Gump’s mama :-). How true that resilience is just as important as writing chops. The greatest teacher I ever had once took a piece I had written and handed back a bloodbath. The sharks have circled me too. Frightening? Sure, but that’s how you learn to swim on your own. Love this site and am really appreciating every word you put down for your readers. Have a super weekend!
I love how you compare it to creating a diamond and how the pressure will just grind our rough edges and make us shine. Really great post!
Right now my failure isn’t with writing. I’m actually doing well in that respect, I was published in December, earned some great reviews, and I’m writing my next book (wrote over four thousand words total the last four days) So I’m in a good writing place.
That being said, I know this isn’t a weight loss blog, but even so, the advice and wisdom in your posts can translate into a wide variety of subjects.
I realized after reading today that my negative attitude toward my weight is toxic. I’ve been fostering ill will, cultivating failure, and encouraging defeat.
I’m aware of these fatal flaws now…thanks to you.
It’s time to think positively…I can do this. I can lose those few extra pounds one day at a time, one bite at a time. Just like writing, a novel is a daunting thing, but breaking its construction down into spoon sized morsals, smaller daily goals, makes the process much less forbidding.
And, though I don’t really have any jerks around, abrasively sanding my edges, I do have plenty of thoughtful jewlers, who instead of chipping away at my surface, buff the rough spots with tender care.
Thank you so much for your wisdom.
Have a great weekend,
Oh I feel you! I am trying to make peace with my thighs. I have always struggled with my weight and I am on the same journey. I have had to watch my words and how I talk about myself. I’ve had to apply these same tactics to getting in the gym and making better choices daily. Baby steps. One step at a time, one day at a time. Keep encouraged!
You are definitely shining now. Beautifully handled.
For me? Law school is the first thing that comes to mind. If you think about it, it makes sense. What group of people is most famous for being abrasive? Besides the cast of Jersey Shore, I mean. While I made a few very good friends there, the majority of the experience makes me think of what McCain told Obama when he was first elected to the Senate. “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” You notice Obama got a dog.
Great job, Kristen.
Thanks for this! I needed it! I loved the part about your critique group. We have ALL been there! Happy Weekend!
I’m nobody’s guru, and I know some people snuffle at the mention of karma, but the longer I live the more true it becomes. There are two karmic laws that come to mind and I appreciate as applicable to this empowering and well written post. (Always love your humor, too.)
The Law of Humility “What you resist, persists for you.” You need what you are resisting otherwise it would not keep coming into your life to be learned about and from. Personalities are a good example. Difficult ones will keep popping up until you handle them differently. Once you handle them differently, they stop becoming a persistent event in your life.
The Law of Mirrors “Whenever there is something wrong, there is something wrong in us.” This one is really applicable when dealing with people and really, really tough to recognize and acknowledge, but the moment you stop and think, “I acted just like this person myself at one time (for whatever reason,) and I know why they are acting this way to me.” It’s opportunity to repair the wrong in yourself and no one else. Once you do, people and situations that represent that place in you that is no longer there will stop appearing.
No, it isn’t easy, but it’s just like the critique group lesson. Take the critique home. Study, practice, and get better at dealing with the people and the next encounter will be much different and much more liberating.
Small steps always. We can’t all jump out of spaceships onto the moon and change the world. Change is life and smaller bites are more digestable. Works with broccoli, too. Small bites.
Thanks, Joy. You always leave the loveliest comments and I totally agree! I can’t wait until your book comes out :D.
I had a couple terrible experiences last year that convinced me to remove a lot of my web presence. In the first, I made a comment on a popular industry blog and was attacked without mercy. The regular readers went after everything, from my writing skills to my home life to my skills as a parent (and they didn’t even know me). I was crushed. These are my peers! I thought. Then I had a troll latch onto my blog and harass me and my commenters to the point I had to take legal action. I closed my blog, hid in my room, and swore off social networking (except Twitter…140 character aren’t too threatening).
But you know what? I miss my blog. My platform is languishing. And I’m letting the mean people win. This post has inspired me to get back on the horse! Thank you so much!
Illigitimi non carobundum In Latin, that means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” It is sad what bullies do, but I am happy this post has inspired you anew :D.
I have, for the first time, sent writing samples off to an editor. With nothing specific requested, I felt like I sent stuff off that one day I’ll look back on and feel foolish about. It’s hard not to make every opportunity THE opportunity and when it doesn’t pan out to be completely discouraged. Thank you for reminding us that rejection is going to come and there will be people who don’t like what we have. I will keep writing regardless. I can say that I am ready to fail, and it is actually not negative thing. For me, it means that I have actually put myself out there, and that is a step in the right direction.
Enjoy your lunch 🙂
Great post Kristen! As a performer, there are always people who love you and your work, as well as those who think the exact opposite and for some reason think it’s their duty to tell you. Recently after one dance performance I had a woman come up specifically to tell me how much she didn’t like my dance, and basically shame on me for doing it. It was bizarre, but a great opportunity to practice dealing with face-to-face negativity. In this case, we chatted, and she ended up talking herself into a complete 180, and telling me she really did like it. Weird.
I think anonymous nastiness is in many ways harder to deal with. This year has already been filled with chances to improve on setting boundaries in my life!
It feels SO GOOD to read this this post and comments right now.
I’m about to leave a toxic environment and even in these last few weeks there has been nothing but drama. I’ve definitely had to take ambien at night.
It’s nice to know that the harshness I faced for over a year is polishing the sore parts of me – that there’s SOME takeaway!
I will be posting something about pain and suffering tonight but this post is just as encouraging (I think mine is the best because I wrote it. ;-))! It’s inevitable that we’ll face jerks. We can choose whether we want to get beat up or if we can rise to the challenge.
It is one thing to know all of this in a conceptual kind of way, but it is empowering to read it (and the comments in response). Look at us – we are ALL craving the ability to toss those negatives out on their ear (even if they come from within us)!
Do you know, I actually used your blog (hope you don’t mind) in giving a pep talk to my hs senior today? He’s discouraged about whether or not he’s going to get into college next year, when all his friends already have early decision acceptances that they’re waving around. It was very timely. Let this make you stronger! Don’t give in!
Of course I don’t mind. That’s what this blog is for. To empower people and let them know they aren’t alone and that the future is always brighter than you believe it to be, :D.
This encouragement was refreshing on a hectic Friday. Being a competitive physique athlete, as well as, a writer, I save my gym training sessions as “dessert” for completing my morning writing projects.
Keep inspiring, Kristen!
Here’s my latest blog, Fitness for the Frantic: http://wp.me/p1gAw0-X
So well said! Thank you – exactly what I needed to hear right now as well 🙂
And somebody gave Bob that much shit in a class? What an idiot. Bob is one of The Best teachers I’ve ever had, hands down, across any of the many subjects I’ve studied. I feel sorry for that person who wasn’t able to participate like a professional genuinely seeking improvement. Hope it didn’t throw the rest of the class for long.
Some people aren’t teachable and too full of their own pride to realize what an opportunity they have. Yeah, it was an on-line class. Bob was honest in a critique and the guy just went postal and sent all kinds of ranting e-mails. I could tell it unsettled Bob, but he handled it with a lot more class than I think I would have LOL.
I should have read this before I had my day, but hey, I’m just glad I didn’t feel so important and busy to not drop by (no, don’t go scurrying through your author lists, I’m still waiting for the call).
As usual, you happened to say some things I needed to hear. Being of a somewhat more vintage generation, I’ve always found it appalling people can be so unkind in emails they wouldn’t say to your face. And they disguise it by saying they are just being honest, and that perhaps I’m a bit thin skinned. I’m proud of my thin skin! I hope never to lose the respectability I was raised with and the sensitivity I’ve developed through years of skinned knees, mistakes and miscalculations. But I never want to hurt someone’s feelings, unless they are about to get run over by a truck. Then I don’t care. And I won’t care about the truck driver either.
Having a difference of opinion, but being gracious and human about it is key here. We can learn a lot from each other, or just turn our back on those you call “toxic” people, because in the end, we aren’t the ones they’ll listen to. I’ve started reminding myself it is “their” problem, and not mine.
So now I can see these people as rough diamonds. I like it. Does fit in with my rose- colored glasses stance on EVERYTHING. I’ll go to my grave believing in opportunity and the miracle of kindness and respect. Being thin skinned helps me celebrate everyone else’s successes too, until I get some of my own.
Thanks, as usual.
I absolutely loved this! Because often (as writers) the bullies are within…
Thanks and thanks for the follow on twitter, too.
I agree Murphy. In the majority of cases our inner voice is the biggest bully we face (BBT – Big Boss Troublemaker) in our life’s story. The real life bullies are minions/gatekeepers sent to see if we’re serious about our heroes journey. We can get past the real life bullies if we’re determined, but that inner voice is always going to be with us. The trick is how to turn that inner voice from foe to friend. It’s not easy, but heroes journeys never are.
Thanks for another great post Kristen. This one was exceptionally inspiring.
My friend gave me this. I think that haters are everywhere and at one point or the other, we have all probably been the target of one. I think that rejection or maybe a fear of it is what keeps many fantastic works from ever being seen. Its not easy, I still battle alot of demons from childhood, having been the target of bullies, it did take on toll on self esteem as a child, teenager and even young adult. However, despite all that, I had just enough spark left in me to go on to college, I was not going to let them take that away from me. It was during those important years that I realized bullies, haters, jerks, etc will always be there, they are always going to be in our path and try to keep us from doing what we want to do. However, we can choose whether we get beat up or jump over obstacles and rise to the challenge. I think bullying can have a serious effect on the victims, I know that it severed my sense of trust, and in some ways how I view the world. I like how you talked about a new devil or new level, and the creation of a diamond and how the pressure will just grind our rough edges and make us shine. Great post.
Haters, haters, everywhere! 2010 was full of haters for me. I allowed them to get me down. Now, I’m focusing on me and not them. For the first time in my life, I’m practicing self-care. I’ve learned to say no and not do things because I feel guilty to say no. I’m pushing aside chores and spending more time on things I enjoy. I get done what needs to be done, but there is a constantly growing to-do list. If I continue to always focus on crossing items off, I will never get to the fun stuff. Now, the fun stuff is part of my to-do list. I always had a bad judgment problem for people who acted selfishly. I was always good, agreeable, etc. I didn’t realize until I took a course on happiness this past fall, there are 2 kinds of selfishness, and only one is the bad kind. Great post!
True words Kristen, and written with obvious experience.
Kristen, I just want to thank you. Somehow, posting on your blog has directed traffic on mine. Thank you again.
A friend sent me this, and to her I send thanks. 🙂
This is timely for us. This week we were targeted with a smears and lies campaign from someone in our own publishing house. Sadly, it was the rare individual who ‘reported’ the ‘scandal’ who bothered to ask US what our side was and decide the truth from a complete picture. Our authors rallied and supported us, because they know our character and values. But it has been hard not to take the truth to the ‘streets’ because it just gives the haters more attention. Because we are a publisher, we are automatically mean and suspect? Well, I also happen to be a mother, a successful wife of 11yrs, a community volunteer. Our company gives monthly profits to our charitiable cause and supports others as well. We treat people fairly, with kindness, and with the respect that they deserve and human beings.
I am a tough chick and you are right, you express it beautifully. This is a lovely reminder. One of my favorite sayings has always been ‘The hardest steel has seen the most fire’. It is about sword making. 🙂 I have a friend with a tat that says,”Ad Astra per Aspera” which means “To the stars through adversity”. I like it. 🙂
I am going to tag this and re-read it when I am feeling battered in person and professional ways. I will ask share it on my Facebook, because I know many who will see themselves here and thank you, if only in their hearts.
Off to buy your book, thank you!
I am so sorry for your troubles, but sadly bullies are everywhere and the sooner we learn how to mitigate the power they hold, the better. Thanks for taking the time to share and I hope you enjoy the book. All the best!
What a wonderful post to read. I’m a little late, but I save all your emails to read later when I have a chance. Your point is something I’ve been learning to do as well. I have a quote over my deak, “Failure can make you bitter or it can make you better.”
I love the way you relate it to making us shine. And I can honestly say there’s nothing about your posts that are offensive in any way. They are the exact opposite, and I applaud your willingness to share and speak plainly with all of us. You do shine! Thanks for reminding the rest of us to do the same.
Thanks. I really appreciate hearing that. It was such a kick in the gut to have someone so enraged over one of my blogs. But, upon deeper investigation, he was just an angry, angry man looking for a victim. Any victim. I am happy his poor behavior offered such great fodder for this message because all of us need to hear it or it is easy to lose hope. Thanks for your reader loyalty. It was actually people like you that kept me grounded (reading your comments) and gave me the courage to stand up for myself. I am just as grateful for readers like you :D.
Kristen, thanks so much for this awesome post. I want everyone to be my friend (if I had an avatar, it would SO be a golden retriever) and like me. Ditto my writing. I have, on occasion, let fear of criticism block my writing entirely.
I resolve to be a warrior, like the women about whom I write, and save my avatar for my family. They’re all crazy about goldens!
And I’m going to keep laughing every time I see a bad review like one I got on Amazon. The woman said my story didn’t even have a plot– “it was just smut scene after smut scene”. Well, it does have a plot, and if she had bothered to read an excerpt, she would have caught onto the heat level pretty quickly! So I had a good laugh with my RWA chapter mates, and felt so much better.
So keep shining, girlfriend, and thanks for reminding us adversity makes us stronger. It cannot break us, we are Warrior Writer Women.
As always, I love reading your blog so keep up the excellent work.
I really wish you would travel to Australia, or do virtual workshops so that I can be involved as I don’t live in the USA.
Thanks for continuing to help people. I bought your book and am only part way through it, but I have found out that although I am an IT professional as well as a writer, there is so much about Social Media that I don’t know and so many mistakes I was making.
Looking forward to more entries.
I’m really amazed with this post!
I’m facing some of these issues right now, and these are keeping me postponing my big goal.
I’m from Brazil and forgive me if my English is not accurate. (I’m not sure about the use of the word “postponing” here).
I’m fighting against myself to not do this anymore. Your article is a bless.
Wow, what a great post, especially the analogy of the diamonds. It’s eerily similar to how I have been explaining the process of personal transformation, except you added the part about “low grade” diamonds being used to cut the high grade diamonds. Man’ that’s powerful.
Thanks for sharing,