Don't Eat the Butt–Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career #2

Last week I started a new series that I am calling Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

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

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

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

Without further ado…

Don’t Eat the Butt Lesson #2

Lie: I will take my writing more seriously when others (friends, family, the FedEx guy) take me seriously.

Many of us, when we begin as writers, won’t even call ourselves writers because we don’t yet have a finished manuscript, an agent, a publisher. See DETB Lesson #1. When we are new, often we look to outsiders to give us validation and to take our careers seriously…so that we can, too.

*scratches head*

Okay, on what planet does this make ANY sense?

Hey, I’ve been there. I recall years ago when I first started out, I let EVERYONE interrupt me. When I had time slotted out for writing, all the sudden my mother needed me to take her for errands, my brother needed someone to watch his kids so he could go to Lowes, my friends needed someone to help them write a resume. And everyone expected me to just drop what I was doing and help…because it wasn’t like I was doing anything anyway, right?

Hold that thought. Notice how no one takes us seriously as writers until they need someone to write their resume for free? Then we get, “Oh, well I need your help because you’re a writer.”

Moving on…

So here my entire family would just assume that I wasn’t doing anything and would line up to take their share of my time and energy…but why wouldn’t they? Instead of putting down boundaries, I would comply and do whatever and then whine and moan that no one took me seriously.

Why would they? I didn’t even take myself seriously.

I had to shift my thinking in order to change the behavior of others. If I didn’t view my writing as a legitimate profession, I would continue to let others walk all over me because I had set out a Welcome mat. If I was a doctor or an accountant, no one would think of showing up at my office and dropping off their kids for me to watch, would they? No. So why were others doing it to me?

One of my favorite books is T. Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and I believe there are a lot of principles in this book that can help writers tremendously. Ecker asserts that many people are poor or middle class not so much because of outside circumstances, but rather because of internal beliefs. Ecker asserts that if we don’t learn to think in the same ways as rich people do, this will keep us trapped in our social class unless we change.

We can get trapped into thinking that we will make different choices once we have more money, but we never get more money because we continue poverty thinking. This is especially evident when one pays attention to winners of the lottery. Those who were impoverished before hitting the jackpot very often soon return to poverty despite being handed a windfall of money. Why? Because they didn’t change the poverty thinking so they continued poverty habits.

Now one can easily substitute “successful writer” for “wealthy entrepreneur” and see why many of us will remain trapped unless we can shift how we view ourselves and our work. If we don’t think like successful authors, we can never become successful authors. And one key to being successful is to understand that the feeling must come from the doing, not the other way around. Do FIRST, then the feelings will come.

Instead of: When people take me seriously, then I will be better at boundaries.

We need: I am enforcing these boundaries so that people will understand I am serious.

We cannot wait for others to validate us before we get serious about boundaries, word count, output, marketing, etc. That is opposite thinking.

It is when we put down boundaries and then enforce them that others go, “Oh, wow. She really is doing this writing thing.” By enforcing boundaries and taking on the habits of a professional writer (writing so many words a day five days a week….no matter what) THAT is when we will shift how we view ourselves and this new profession. In shifting how we view ourselves, we will inevitably shift how others view us as well.

Act like a professional and others will treat us like a professional.

Our internal vision must shift first in order to change our outside reality. The internal locus of focus is the only one we really control anyway. As long as our locus of focus is external (people and circumstances), nothing will change and even if it does change, the change will not be for very long. Getting validation from the outside is like being strapped to a roller-coaster and makes a lousy foundation for a career.

Change begins with us. We cannot believe that we will set boundaries once we are successful, because we will NEVER be successful until we set boundaries.

Eventually I had to stand up to my family. I don’t like confrontation, but loving confrontation is part of all healthy relationships. When my mother wanted me to go out and shop all afternoon on her day off? I would say, “Mom, I know you are used to me being able to hang out with you any time, but I have work to do. But, tell you what. I can call you once I have my 2,000 words, and then I can have more fun with you because my work will be off my plate.”

It won’t be easy at first, but the more we confront in love, the better we get at it and do it enough? And friends and family will call and say things like, “I know you are busy writing, but can you get some time to go shopping with me?” Once we shift how we view ourselves, others will fall in step. And if they don’t? Well, that is a lesson for another day :D.

So what are your thoughts? Opinions?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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

Happy writing!


6 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. I have a similar issue at home. There aren’t boundries. Writing, homework, studying. If my family needs me, they need me now. (Which now includes when they need accounting done.)

  2. This isn’t just good advice for writers, this is good advice for life. Being a doormat is a role that’s too easy to fall into if we are “nice.” Boundaries are healthy and we should all have them for more reason that just to be able to have the time to write.

    But, more to the point, I think you’re 100% correct that we have to take ourselves seriously as writers before anyone else will bother. If we don’t, then we run the risk of making our passion look like nothing more than an idle hobby. If you’re like me, it most definitely is NOT that.

  3. Frig those butt lies! You write your words, la de dum dee dah! (as sung to Barry Manilow’s tune I Write the Songs:”…I write the songs that make the whole world sing…”)

  4. I think you are right. People “sense” if you are taking yourself seriously.
    I vacillated when I first started. My husband was the one who believed in me all along. When I first started blogging he would print out my posts. He later put them in a binder for me. I am so thankful for him.
    Now nothing gets in my way. I think when you have found your passion and it is something you enjoy, it becomes an integral part of daily life.
    Great post!

  5. Love this Kristen, especially the part about the Millionnaire mindset. I’m going to have to read that book! “In shifting how we view ourselves, we will inevitably shift how others view us as well.” Well said, this applies to everything in life – we create our own value.

    On a side note, I have a great pic of a puffer fish I caught fishing in Malaysia. I’ll have to send it to you. I made the fishing instructor let me put it back in the water cos it was way too cute to eat.

    • Kristina on January 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm
    • Reply

    I feel like people wouldn’t step over the same boundaries if one was painting or working on photography, but something about writing makes people feel like it’s OK to interrupt. Maybe because it *looks so ordinary, typing in front of the computer.

    Anyway, good points, thanks!

    1. Agreed.

      Or that it’s easy to assume you’re not doing anything important when they don’t actually KNOW what you’re doing…but because they made that assumption, it doesn’t occur to them to ask.

  6. Very good recommendations above. A writer is someone who writes. No, I don’t mean to sound like Dr. Seuss here, but it’s really a very simple proposition: the more you write, the better of a writer you become. And you damn well had better take yourself seriously if you want to expect anyone else to respect your time (and space) boundaries. My husband and three young children know to tread lightly when my fingers are tapping on the iMac.
    It was very freeing and uplifting to me when I noted on Facebook that I was a writer. It’s taken me years of hard work to feel like I earned that tag. People often ask, “Are you published?” And I always answer, “No, but I will be. My stuff is awesome.” Do I believe it? Yes, usually. I had better believe it. How many lawyers or doctors hesitate when asked if they excel at their profession? And would you hire a lawyer or doctor to look after your interests or help you heal if they didn’t believe in their abilities?

  7. I definitely have problems with this. I am extremely lucky that I have a very supportive husband, who has encouraged me to stay home and write rather than getting a “day-job.” Unfortunately, everyone else seems to view me as a housewife with no kids, so I get the call to go help with everything, or be there for deliveries. Every time I seem to get into a set schedule, someone throws it off.
    I am terrible at saying no. So, I will go wait for a delivery, telling myself that I will just take my computer along, but somehow I am never as productive when out and about as I am at home in my office.
    The funniest part is that all of our family and friends regularly ask about my writing and how it is going. They are amazingly supportive as far as being my cheerleaders–as long as I keep rearranging my schedule when they need it. 🙂

  8. Your family situation is obviously very different than mine. But thanks for the great post and the encouraging words! I think this is one of those things I have to figure out on my own, though. Have a great day, and happy writing!

    1. That sounds terribly self-important, so I’d like to amend that. My family situation is very complicated. I have a bipolar, terminally ill mother who I must take care of daily. I live on a farm where animals are constantly getting into trouble I have to take care of. I babysit two children across the street 3 days a week to pay my bills while I am nursing my Mom. And I have to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry in the house. Plus, I have to see to my dad’s needs, too.

      When my mother calls to interrupt my writing, it’s not a “Let’s go shopping!” call, it’s a “I need to eat before I go into a diabetic coma” or “I need to go to the bathroom but my legs won’t hold me up. Can you get my walker for me?” call. Or the goats have gotten stuck doing something they shouldn’t again. Or the calves need feeding from their bottles (4 calves to bottle feed at one time is difficult work). Or the rabbits are beating each other up and I need to save them from dying. And their literally is no one else to do this work but me.

      Balancing all that plus writing is really difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I know what I do is real work, but we’re talking about trying to place writing over living creatures who could die or be critically injured if I don’t take care of things. Plus, as my mother is bipolar, if I try to act like my writing is more important than her care, she can become suicidal or incredibly angry, both of which are bad for her health.

      Maybe my priorities seem wrong to you, but I must place life over writing. Even as much as I MUST write, in order to live a happy life of my own, my mother’s health supersedes that.

      Does that make sense? Anyway, thanks for the great post and sorry if I sounded all proud and into myself. Hope you have a great day!

      1. Kyla, you didn’t seem proud or full of yourself at all! What an amazing woman you are – I couldn’t manage half of what you do. I’m concerned about you, though, and not because you don’t have time to write, but because of your own well-being. It seems to me that you need breaks from time to time, just for sanity’s sake. Do you have any support at all? Caregivers need care, too. Here’s a link I found that may give you a few ideas you haven’t thought of:

        God Bless,

        1. Oh, thank you! I love the site you suggested, and it definitely applies. It’s funny, but my mom says this stuff all the time: “You need a break.” or “You can’t do all this by yourself and expect to keep going. Someone else needs to take over and give you a break.”

          Frankly, though, I’m an only child, the rest of our family lives in another state, my dad works 8 hour days 5 days a week and only really helps with the farm work when he’s home. He thinks cleaning and cooking are “beneath him” and that he has too much on his plate already to help out with Mom. Besides, he sucks at it. I don’t really know of anyone to help out. But I’ll have to look into something.

          Thanks again for your support! And the great article. I really appreciate your taking the time to encourage me this way. Maybe I can return the favor someday?

          1. (Okay, looks like Kyla and I are having a side conversation on Kristen’s blog; sorry guys – feel free to chat among yourselves 😉 ).

            Hey, Kyla, glad if the link helps even a little bit. Burnout is a serious thing. I’m an only child, too, but no farm and I have parents who have managed to stay fairly healthy (knocking wood here). It sounds like money is tight, too, but if you can possibly squeeze out some for hired help, that would be worth it; also if you’re part of a church community, there are usually volunteers willing to help on a rotating basis (our church does that with home-cooked/delivered dinners for families in medical crisis). You’d be amazed by what a difference an afternoon off each week can make in how you feel. If your area has a senior day center, that’s a big help, too, and some programs have a special bus that goes around and picks them up for free (for families with qualifying income).

            I’m by no means an expert, and have zippo experience in what resources are available in rural areas, but if you’d like to vent some more, feel free to email me: ko221b (at) verizon (dot) net


          2. LOL, no worries.

          3. Let’s see how small we can make this screen, LOL. Thx, Kristen!

      2. Kyla, you made me laugh. You should write a book about your life. You have a very amusing way of portraying a very serious situation.
        Have you ever read a book called “The Egg and I” It’s about a woman with a very complex life like yours and it’s screamingly funny because she has so many parts that others can relate to.
        Write a book on your life–unless you already have 🙂

  9. Oh yes, I had this issue as well and still do (to an extent) from acquaintance. They think since one “works at home” as a writer you can simply pour out those words at will and then goof off the other 23-hours of the day. Yes, I have more flexibility but working at home also poses a second problem–there is no “quitting time” unless you enforce one. On yourself. (that’s my biggest problem these days because there’s always “one more thing” to get done).

    I love lists. Hate deadlines, but the lists help me cope with that. It feels so dang UPLIFTING to cross off (fill in the blank) once it’s done. So all my deadlines go onto the weekly to-do list, and should someone (family, friends, acquaintances) need/want me that poses a conflict with the schedule, I have a clear response–“Love to do (xyz) but will have to get back to you AFTER today’s deadline has been met.” Or conversely, “Love to help you out but my calendar is full. Please ask again but give me more time because my calendar fills up 6-12 months in advance.”

    That also puts folks on notice that this is a “real job” with real expectations/obligations to meet. One doesn’t have to be under contract to create your own to-do list/expectations, either.

    1. Thanks, this is a good idea.

  10. Great post!Two years ago, I used to call my writing “computer work.” Apparently, I thought people would think I was a fake if I called myself a writer. Now I know its important to take that step and not be afraid. It’s easy for me to be “stay at home mom” and not “writer with a deadline.” Once my family realized the difference, they were on board and proved to be incredibly understanding. I had to take that step though, and just say I needed time and I needed help!

  11. Have to admit I let my time be trampled for quite a while but, over the past few months I’ve informed every one in my life sphere that writing time is non-negotiable. House on fire? Tell me so I can grab my netbook and write outside. Bleeding from injuries sustained in a fight with a rabid woodchuck? I’m not an EMT and you know where the Neosporin is. Yeah, its like that and no apologies for the attitude. Thanks, kindly. You know what, now that I also turn off all the phones in my vicinity (because they are guaranteed to ring ONLY during my writing time) I actually get a lot done in a short amount of time and the world returns to its rightful place rotating around the sun.

    Great post, Kristen. Keep em coming 🙂

  12. It’s not only new writers who can rely on outside validation—a “successful” author can as well. I witnessed this…

    An author had released two books through a publishing house. Then, for whatever reason, the house dropped him.
    Hi response, “Oh, they don’t want me. My career is over.”

    I say, “Believe in the power of your words. This is your career don’t let anyone take it from you.”
    You’re never too old or too “successful” to learn this lesson.

  13. I needed this advice – and probably received it – four years ago when I quit my corporate job to be a freelance writer. Amazingly, everything was great for the first 4 months – I even paid my bills and found time to spend with my son.Then, a friend “needed” me to babysit, a family member needed business cards, another friend needed to talk, and my son got head lice! To top it off, I didn’t want to ask any of my friends for help because they had “real” jobs! 🙂 Setting boundaries isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Thanks for the post.

    • Sabrina Alexander on January 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm
    • Reply

    Adults are tough to make fall into line, children are even tougher. I’m still trying to figure out how to get my two year old to play peaceably for an hour or so, but it’ll come in time. Thanks.

  14. I think we’ve all been in this situation (especially mothers), where we consistently put others’ needs ahead of our own. I’m not sure it is a disease that is curable, but only manageable.

    Incidentally, did you mean to write “without further adieu”, as in “without further good-bye”? The phrase was originally “without further ado”, as in “without further dithering/busy work/procrastination”. I usually get your sense of humor, but that didn’t make sense to me. Just wondering.


    1. LOL…homophones, homophones *singing* I need my kneaded biscuits plane. Nah, I just goofed. Will correct.

  15. Kristen,
    I’m pretty lucky that everyone around me has believed in me (or shut up about it, if they don’t).

    I do have a question, only semi-related to this post. I know you too have a lot of writing-related projects. How do you balance them all? I write a humor column, write for Nickelodeon, have guest posts hanging in the air, my own blog (plus once a week on Wordbitches and occasionally on Stuff Kids Write), and my manuscript. And I teach full-time. My approach thus far is to try to keep one or two proverbial balls in the air and let the others role away. Then I chase them later. I write well to deadlines…more external, than internal. I’m semi-successful with this method, but sometimes it takes me a while to unearth the balls that rolled away a few weeks ago.

    Anyways, you don’t have to answer this now, but I’d love to hear your thought someday. Maybe in a post? 🙂

    1. I need to get better at saying no. But I tend to be really ADD so I am good at balancing a lot of things. What I employ is called the Swiss-Cheese approach. I make a list of all the things that MUST get done for the day and then I “snack.” Say, I work an hour on a blog then for the next hour I tend house chores. So I can make the best use of this time, I use speaker phone and maybe call Piper and help her plot or do the next blog interview while I fold (and Piper types). So I am getting writing stuff done while I do dishes and clean.

      This way my house stuff gets done while I do other “writing tasks” verbally. Then once I have done so many chores, I return to my desk. Maybe I go post a lesson on the Yahoo loop and scan for any lost lambs who need immediate help in say, a blogging class. Then, before I go back to writing, I scan #MyWANA for anyone I can RT. If a blog looks interesting I click and leave it minimized until my next break. I look at FB and type a quick message or maybe even post the blog I just found on Twitter. I keep a master list to always keep me focused, but then I just nibble all day until they are gone.

      So you always have your main action items visible.

      Have 3 blogs loaded in queue and ready to post
      Write background for protagonist
      Load on-line lessons 3 & 4
      Sort e-mail
      Write sample chapter for new book

      Finish laundry
      mop floors
      clean kitchen

      Then you just take bites out of all these projects all day long until they are finished. This keeps me from sitting too long, but it also keeps me from doing housework at the expense of my writing. During breaks I can play with The Spawn, get on the Kinect to get my blood going again, or whatever. A lot of people sit and try to do projects until they are fully complete. This works for some people, but creatives tend to be ADD. When I look at my action items I ask, “What is ONE step I can do in less than 10 mins, 30 mins, and hour…that can get me to closer to completion on each of these?”

      Also, I do think we need to lower our standards in some areas and raise them in others. As a professional author, it is critical to have excellent blogs, books and classes. It isn’t however, possible for me to have this standard with my writing and then also have a house that looks like it was decorated by Martha Stuart. I live in yoga pants and a scrunchee. I dress up for church and events outside the home. I no longer have pretty fake nails and I returned to my natural hair color (the darker blonde you see in my pics) because platinum was too high-maintenance.

      I delegate, rely on a team and prioritize. I do a lot of multi-tasking and I work hard…six days a week. But, there is a reason this job isn;t for everyone, LOL. I do read a lot of self-help and success book and am always trying new ways of being effective. This method of just keeping my priorities where I can see them and then snacking at them has worked the best so far.

      Did this help? …or make you want to drink heavily? LOL

      1. This helps me no end! I was sitting here thinking ‘how do I fit in everything and write too?’. This has really helped me work out how to fit every thing in. 🙂 I like to read how writers structure their days but up until now their days seem to involve a variation on ‘sat down and wrote for x hours then editied for z hours’. I just cant do that. For a start, I get bored and lose focus.
        Seeing how you do it feels much closer to my little butterfly brain. Thanks for the inspiration!
        I love this blog and I find it really informative. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your knowledge and hard earned wisdom.

      2. Great question from Leanne and great insight into how you juggle it all, Kristen.

        I love your description of “snacking.” That’s exactly how I go about priorities as well. I have quite the ADD, multi-tasking personality and can’t stay on one thing at a time. I really have to have several things going on at one time.

        Thank you for the candid answer!

        1. It helps (though makes me want to buy *you* a drink). Do you mind if I repost this on wordbitches?

          Sorry I’m so late to the reply-reply. Maybe it’s me who needs a list. Or a master list. Or a master.

          Thanks, K. You rock!

  16. This is so true, Kristen! I agree with Brock that it’s a good life lesson for everyone. Some folks find it harder to establish boundaries than others, though. I’m one of them, but I’m learning. I’ve got that Catholic school guilt that kicks in when I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, or have to say no to others. I especially feel guilty these days, because my volunteering at my youngest child’s school has really dropped off. Now I just go in for special occasions/events where they need a lot of hands to control the chaos. Otherwise, school hours are precious work time, because I’m alone in the house without distractions (and with 3-4 males in the house, there are plenty, LOL).

    I screen my phone calls now, too, because I have a chatty mother who doesn’t know the definition of a quick phone call, bless her heart, and neighbors who see me as the only one on the block who’s home and could I please _______? (fill in the blank). Ah, well, these things have a way of balancing themselves out, right? I tell myself I’ll make it up to everyone later. 😀

    Thanks for the shot of inspiration!

  17. It’s true! Some people continued to call my writing a “hobby” not because they were being “mean” but because either they didn’t understand, or I allowed them to think that way.

    Actually, it wasn’t until my first book came out and I started in on the second that people sat up a bit and took notice of what I really do – so was that because of behavior on my part, or because they thought “hey, she means business . . .” I still remember my husband’s face when I showed him this one particular check (yeah, money walks blah blah for some people) . . not that he wasn’t supportive, but I don’t think he really thought of this as a “career” or “job” but instead “this thing his cute little ole wife does” *pat on head ain’t she cute* – now I feel Respected.

    That’s the thing for me – R.E.S.P.E.C.T. — yeah. I live for that. 😀

  18. Great post. I think all writers fall victim to this syndrome of people not taking their writing time seriously. I often have to just say, “I can’t. I’m writing.” and leave it at that. So often I have felt like I needed to “explain” more, but I realized that only makes it less serious.

  19. This is a very enlightening article. I didn’t realize that my family/friends weren’t taking me seriously because I wasn’t taking me seriously. I’m absolutely going to start creating boundaries for myself as a writer. I linked your article here:

  20. I am now not only a writer, I’m a writer with a recently retired husband who is not used to my not being available whenever he’s home–except, now he’s home most of the time. I’m thinking of putting a sign on my door; writer at work: do not interrupt for anything you would not have expected me to come into your office for.

    I also do the “snacking” from a to-do list thing, but I need to get better at it. Great post.

    To me, the puzzling thing about eating puffer fish is why anyone would eat a fish that cute.

  21. Great post. You’re so right. We have to take our writing seriously before anyone else will.

    I can do the ADD multi-tasking thing when I have to but I just realized over the past few months that I work best with a schedule and targeted goals and priorities are set within that schedule. This was introduced to me by my highly organized successful husband when I was having weeks of feeling like I was chasing my tail.

    However, I can fall back on my old ways and still get things done when something major happens to upset my time framework. The schedule would not work will small children unless you hired a babysitter and not many of us can afford or want to do that. It is something to look forward to though and worth trying.

    I don’t answer the phone during my work time and I’ve told my kids (adults) to leave a message if it’s an emergency. Now I have the best of both worlds, structured time and multi-tasking creative time when I need it.

    I love reading Success books, I’ll check out the one you mentioned. I love to read how others get it all done. Thanks!

    • Marianne on January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm
    • Reply

    My friend Rebecca and I were having this discussion today. We plan vacations around husbands’ work instead of deadlines we may have because ours are self-imposed. I want to get the manuscript finished by February 29th, but my husband just booked a 14 day vacation taking the middle of February off the grid.
    I guess I need to get a babysitter for the little one, but part of me wonders if that will just make it worse…

  22. Hi, my name is Tamara and occasionally I make a meal out of butt.
    I try not to. It’s not like i enjoy butt, but every once in a while I let my own negativity ferment into a huge, steaming pile of the stuff.
    I’m a lucky girl because my family and friends are very supportive, so they never visit bearing butt casserole or chocolate butt cake, but that doesn’t matter. I often negate their kindness by preparing a main course of butt-bourguignon.
    In fact, just the other day I had a hearty helping. And it’s funny, while it’s hot it’s pretty satisfying, but the second that butt gets cold my stomach starts to ache.
    Which probably means I should stay away from butt altogether.
    I’m looking forward to checking out T. Harv Ecker’s book. It sounds like an inspiring read.
    Thank you sooo much for your wisdom. It will definitely help me steer clear of the butt.
    Have a fantastic weekend!

  23. As usual, you kicked butt today Kristen.
    Here’s my problem- the profession I went to school for, spent a lot of money training for, and from which I receive a paycheck is NOT writing.

    Yes, I see myself as a writer and am working diligently to get better, but I am not making money from this job yet. So, when people ask me what I do, I feel a little dishonest saying, “I am a writer”.

    I guess the antidote to this little problem would be to realize that most people really don’t care that much what other people do anyway, and will have forgotten my answer in about five minutes.
    So saying “I’m a writer” just might be a fun way to study people’s reactions.
    What do you think?

    1. I spent 50,000 dollars on an International Relations degree…and I don’t think they had Twitter in mind, LOL. Just claim it. Being a writer is way interesting and they won’t mess with you…cuz then you could make them a character–muah ha ha ha ha.

  24. Kristen I totally agree.

    We have to make ourselves believe we are professional or NO ONE else will.

    Or, better put… IF we do not consider ourselves professional NO ONE else will.

    Redundant maybe, but it never hurts to repeat the important things.


  25. Kristen, I’m serious. You know I am. I am having to work from 10 PM until 2 AM because it is the only time in the day that I can find uninterrupted hours.

    It. Is. Killing. Me.

    As I try to type this, my child is peering over my shoulder.

    I am trying to put myself first, but setting this boundary is really hard.

    Awesome post. For real. What do you do with The Spawn? Inquiring minds need to know.

    1. I learn to write even as he hangs off my leg and wails. Eventually he gives up and finds something else to do. Watch Dog Whisperer, LOL. Calm assertive pack leaders, :D. One thing to do is to make it worth their while to leave you alone. Include the family in the big picture and make them part of the team for success. I stayed at home to be there to rear my nephews while my brother and sis-in-law went to college full time. When they would get to bugging me I would give them a choice. “Okay, I have 2000 words to write. We have the easy way and the hard way. Easy way is that you find something to do to entertain yourselves and I finish quickly. Hard way is that you bug me, I get distracted and it takes me much LONGER to finish…then I have no time to take you guys to the park (or whatever) and I WILL have time to find extra chores for you guys to do since I’m annoyed and I clean when I am irritated. But your choice.” I would set a timer and they were not allowed to disturb me until that timer went off unless there was blood. It takes time but once they realize there are consequences for interrupting (more than Mom yelling) they generally will fall in step.

      Sandra Brown used to tell her kids if they left her alone she would name characters in her book after them.

    2. I have a 2-year-old Spawn myself and a deadline I’m trying to meet with my writing. So far, sleeping earlier (10 p.m.) and waking earlier (5:30, soon to be 5 a.m.) is the only thing I can do to make it work. I put all non-creative work (blog reading, email answering, etc ) on my smartphone and take it on walkaround with me, so I can sneak peeks and read when I can. That way, I’m not as tempted to do it during my writing time (which is pretty much my only time alone in the day)

      now to hit reply before the kid hits esc

  26. Renee, when I was raising five kids and keeping a household running, I learned to write in very small increments. That’s when I first started doing a humorous column for our suburban newspaper, which eventually led to other freelance jobs and eventually to getting some books published and eventually to getting more books published. I remember when my kids were young I thought I would NEVER have time to write, but gosh, once they were growing up I had more and more time. Now I have all the time I want.

    So maybe your time right now is more for the spawn and just a little for you. Instead of 10 to 2am writing, how about 10 to 12? Then you could still get a decent night’s sleep. Just a suggestion.

  27. This is sooooo true. One of my resolutions this year was to dress up and shave every morning like I used to in high-end jewelry sales. I started working more at Starbucks too. Soon as I did that, people started asking me more what I do.

    Business card. Handshake. Answer.

    And suddenly I have way more business than a month ago. She’s right – take your job as serious as if you had a boss.

  28. Thanks for the post and all of the above comments. I find myself writing late at night after a full day of work, but that is generally okay with me as I’ve always done my best creative work well after dark. It’s when I look at my to-do list for my business and realize some of the things on that list can’t wait that writing falls victim to accounting tasks.

    I like the snacking idea, but I don’t focus well in small bites. However do you do it?

  29. I so totally needed to read this today. Now I need to set those boundaries! And I should probably move “writer” a bit closer to the top of the list of things that answer our favorite question: “So what do you do?”

  30. I’m pretty sure there are still a few holdouts in my family (i.e. they won’t think I’m a ‘real’ author until I’m on the NYT Bestsellers list), but they’re babies and losers anyway, so I ignore them. When I started setting boundaries and calling myself a writer amazing things started to happen. I took my writing more serious and ended up with a complete MS. I even had business cards made that say, ‘Writer’. It’s the best thing ever.

  31. Great post, Kristen! This is so true. And each of us has to figure it out for ourselves. Reading about it is good, but then we have to MAKE IT HAPPEN. Now that I’m taking myself seriously, I feel so much better about myself. Little by little, others will get on board, or not. It would be nice, but it’s not necessary. If we need that to happen, then we’re already heading down the wrong road (says one who has taken MANY wrong turns).

  32. I take my writing seriously, which is good in some ways of course.My time is respected, and I generally keep to my goals. However, many of my friends and family get the wrong picture. They think because I wrote a book and won a contest in my first year of writing that I automatically got an agent, had the book published, and that it should be ready to print any day now. I’m thrilled they are so confident in my skills (or would that be naive?), but part of me feels like I’m letting them down when I have to explain that no, I haven’t gotten an agent yet, and no, I don’t know when the book will get picked up. I can’t even begin to mention the possibility of self-publishing, afraid that may cause their heads to explode.

    Did I mislead them by being so serious? Or do I just appreciate their support and confidence, hoping that someday I can prove I deserve their loyalty? (It does make me work even harder, and persevere through writing’s learning curve.)

    Thanks for another great post, Kristen, although at first I was turned off by the eating butt reference. I guess I’m more prudish than I’d thought. 🙂

    • Elena Aitken on January 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm
    • Reply

    Amen, Sista!
    This is so true for me. The minute I started taking it seriously so many things fell into place. Not least of them, my friends and family also taking me seriously and treating writing as the career it was.
    Did everyone fall into line and take it seriously? Nope. In fact, I have ‘friends’ who have yet to acknowledge that I have books out and that I’m actually make a living with my words. I’m not sure what it is they think I do, probably that I sit around watching day time TV. BUT…that’s there stuff. Not mine.
    Some of your family and friends are always going to feel uncomfortable with what you’re doing. Those are the people who are likely not very comfortable with what they themselves are doing. Their stuff…not mine.
    I’m the only one who can set my standards. I chose to set them high.

    As always, fantastic post!

  33. LOL thanks for the chuckle, Kirsten. I am a writer and a very successful artist. There have been times I want to tear my hair out with the traffic that has traipsed through my studio. I even tried putting up a sign that said Office/studio. I put it on the wall above my studio, I put it on the gate outside–all that got was beggars and requests for donations–I’m a business, right? It seemed I couldn’t win. It got a bit better when I became an editor for IFW, but then I got requests to edit all sorts of stuff. Then I hit on a brilliant line that everyone seemed to understand–I really want to help you and I will, but I have a deadline.
    What is it about that word that makes what I do Important?

  34. All my family know I am writing. so I have that covered.

    It was admitting to colleagues that yes, I am writing a book that was the hard part. I’ve done it.

    I am taking my writing very seriously!

    • jo-ann on January 21, 2012 at 6:58 am
    • Reply

    As I work from home in my other profession, and often spend many hours slaving over a hot lap-top, my family are used to seeing that and interpreting it as “work”. As I am self employed, it is a roller-coaster between highs of lots of paid work and lows of nil. Durng the “nil” times, I slave over a hot lap-top on my WIP, (and sometimes sneak a few minutes during the busy work times, too). Writing is virtually indistinguishable from the stuff that draws some dollars in. So they know to tip-toe during the lap-top slaving hours, and to not disturb. I’m not being secretive – in fact, my children are a test audience for my kids’ novels, and I know if a joke has worked or not by their reactions – I’m just saying they’ve been trained.
    Nevertheless, your post brought up an interesting point about pride in one’s work. I’ve mentioned to a few people that I’m working on some creative writing, but do so in an apologetic aren’t-I-a-masochist way. Generally people are positive and say they wish they could write but cant find the time to. I guess if I were more overt about my activity, I might inspire them to find the time!
    And as a writer, inspiring others is one of my motivators!

  35. So nice to hear your methods Kristen. I do the nibble method too and though sometimes I get into trouble for taking time off the kids, I lost loads of weight last year from flitting around. I’m getting much better at juggling it all. Bring it on!

  36. I really needed to hear this. Thank you so much, Kristen. And thanks for the insightful glimpse to how you work and get all the things on your plate done. I’d love to read more of your productivity tips in the future too 🙂

  37. Love the puffer fish! Too cute to be so deliciously poisonous, like the lie.

  38. I’ve taken my writing so seriously, I’ve neglected many other things. Thank God I’m currently living by myself because my house is a wreck and I can’t cater to a guy wanting me to do this and that and taking up my time away from writing. Not all guys are like that, though. Important to be with the right one. Part of writing is creating and maintaining platform online. Managing the ins and outs of marketing and writing is crucial. I’m earning that and having fun on the journey which is important.

    Thanks for the inspiration and wisdom.

    Ciao for now,

  39. My husband SAYS he supports my writing, that he’s proud of me for finishing a novel and planning on moving forward to publication. BUT do I get time to write? No. I am always expected to be the one who helps the kids, breaks up fights, does laundry makes meals, etc etc. it’s annoying.

    I do most of my writing at work during breaks. That’s not really the best way to go about it though I have improved the quality of writing under pressure of timelines 🙂

  40. I love this post. I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it.

    I struggled with this for so long. I teach English, which seems to translate into “Ask me for FREE: tutoring for your child, essay feedback, babysitting during my hard-earned vacations, resume reviews, editing services for articles you drafted once and never looked at again, research into available jobs in our field, etc. etc.” to the outside world. I’ve been teaching for eight years, and it probably took me four years to finally stand up to people and say “No, I’m sorry. I work full-time, and in addition to that, I am a writer. Best of luck to you. Here is a friend who tutors. You will have to pay her, of course, because everyone’s time is worth something.”

    And you know what? I still find myself failing to set boundaries. A colleague I barely know has cornered me multiple times to ask me to edit a 20-page article on a topic outside my field. What did I finally do? I relented. I said “Fine, I will give it a quick read.” And then he sent me the article, and I immediately regretted it. But I only had myself to blame.

    Your post has inspired me to send an email out to this colleague, who after that first read-through, wore me down yet again, and just last week coerced me into saying I’d give it a second read. But no, I’m not going to do it, and I’m going to be frank with him right after I publish this comment.

    Thank you! I feel newly empowered.

    P.S. I’m so excited about your critique offer. I have you on my blogroll, and I’m going to make a new post with a link to your blog and book in it. AND, it’s time I buy your books, isn’t it? Your blog is SO DARN GOOD. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  41. I did it! I sent the email! It feels so good to put my writing first.

    Thank you.

  42. I write, it’s not a hobby. It’s what I do. I don’t do it for anyone else but me. It’s a job that I took on because I can do it. If I don’t get published before I die my benificiaries will have something to try to sell.

  43. Kristen!!!!!

    (That punctuation was, in all seriousness, necessary.)

    First of all, I just linked to your blog — because at the Writer’s Digest Conference, someone asked a speaker a question about what social media they should be using and do they reeeeally need a blog/Twitter/Facebook? As the session ended, I passed her a piece of paper with your blog’s URL on it, and the title of WANA. And then I told her to check you out or flying monkeys would eat her soul.

    That was the gist of it, anyway.

    For the next fifteen minutes, the three women at the table bombarded me with questions about social media. I showed them TweetDeck and the hashtags and told them how they worked, and I told them about you and the work you do with Bob Mayer to help writers with their platforms and scope of influence.

    This morning at a session on platforms, the speaker (Dan Blank) mentioned Bob Mayer and his success at e-publishing and the work he does now with craft books and platform building for writers. I locked eyes with one of the women from yesterday and gave her a mild “Yep” sort of nod.

    Anyhoo — hopefully I proselytized well enough to get us some new WANA-ites! 😀

    1. YAY!!!! The WANA cult is taking over! THANK YOU!

      1. No problem! A bunch of people asked me about blogging and Twitter, and I had a conversation with Dan Blank about you and your work with Bob Mayer. He is a super, super nice guy who was very down-to-earth. He even succeeded in interesting me in the business side of things — analytics, meta data, etc.

        I think that may portend the apocalypse.

        Anyway, it would be awesome if you came next year! I would be happy to write to WD and tell them how generally magical you are and what a great addition you’d make to their speaker line up…:)

    • Rebecca Stanfel on January 22, 2012 at 1:17 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for such an insightful entry. It really hit home. I’m the Rebecca that Marianne mentioned in her comment above. We’re both in your #WANA112 class, and we’re both working on quitting being welcome mats to the world.

    It is SO true that if we act like we’re serious about something, we’ll become serious about it.

    I’d like to share a couple of reflections about this that I think are relevant.

    I was an “aspiring” writer for five years. It didn’t matter that I was writing and publishing dozens of articles that were getting printed in all kinds of newspapers and magazines, or that I co-authored a couple of interesting (at least for me) reference books. Nope, since I was not getting them published in the New Yorker, it didn’t count. Of course, I never queried the New Yorker. I played it safe and submitted my stuff where I knew it would be accepted. All the focus and time I could have devoted to writing a New Yorker-quality piece, I diddled away, being welcome mat to my husband and friends–or anyone or anything that was a distraction “real” enough to merit putting down my pen or turning away from the computer (laundry, a disorganized filing cabinet, the quest to fold a fitted sheet–you know, life’s true challenges). I even knew what I was doing. My husband would tease, “I can tell when you’re on deadline. The house is never cleaner.” In my defense, I thought I had more time. I wasn’t yet 30. I could piddle away my goals for a little while longer, but eventually, I’d get cracking. But for now, I could wait for my life to start.

    Then, when I was 32 and had my first child just three months earlier, I was diagnosed with a rare form of a rare disease called sarcoidosis. Since then, I’ve had 2 medical devices surgically implanted in me and 4 other surgeries necessitated by the disease. I’ve been getting chemotherapy infusions at least once a month for the past 4 years. The most difficult aspect of the illness has been what it’s done to my writing time. When the disease infiltrated my brain, it caused periods of blindness and vertigo so intense I was physically unable to read or write for months at a stretch. The vertigo and blind spells are somewhat better now, but I still have to ration my screen and book time carefully. I’ve had more doctors than I’d like to remember tell me, some nicely and some not so nicely, that my prognosis from the short to the long term is uncertain. In other words, my life isn’t just getting started.

    I’m sharing all this melodrama not for pity. An amazing transformation happened when I had to face that fact that I am mortal. Losing my ability to write has made the process of writing more essential. I’m still a world-class procrastinator, but I’m not settling for small markets or doing the laundry instead of writing. Several years ago, I started a blog called Chronic Town about becoming a new mother at the same time I became chronically ill. I was amazed at the positive response I got to my underlying message: Live the life you have–not the one you want to have, the one you used to have, the one your mother wants for you, the one you expected to have. I even practice what I preach most days. I’ve lost a lot to sickness, but in the process of all the losing, I’ve regained an almost sentimental love of what I have. I cherish the time I am able to write. I wish I had grasped some of this before I got sick. I wish I had rolled up the welcome mat and worked on that New Yorker article. I’d like my WANA112 classmates to write NOW–and not wait for that elusive concept we call tomorrow.

    Thanks for the awesome opportunity of #WANA112. I’ve learned so much already.


    1. Beautiful and I am so honored you are part of the WANA112 class. *hugs*

  44. I liked how you put it “if we don’t learn to think in the same ways as rich people do, this will keep us trapped in our social class unless we change.” Isn’t it really true. How finely said, that until we don’t develop that sense of feeling it will never be earned.

    Also getting serious to ourselves and seeing that major change others will start taking us professionally was a new thought I pondered on. Thanks much for this write up, excellent.

  45. Saying “no” is essential. Educating our peeps and family more so. My husband can talk at dinner about 800 pair cable and what it’s like to put a neighborhood back in phone service. I tell fellow writers in my workshop “Creating a Writer’s Life” to give yourself as much time at the table telling hubby, kids,and mom, what you did as a writer that day. Tell them what it takes to create a character, slog through a rewrite, or put in hours on social media for marketing. Hey, I can glaze over when husband is telling me the mechanics of his day, but I perk up when I see his joy is getting people back in service as quickly as possible. My joy is having discovered the motive of a character. I can talk about that! I can talk about connecting with someone in social media where we can both help each other.

    Education. Owning your writing. As one writer once said to me, “Fake it ’till you make it.” If you don’t feel like a writer, practice being a writer by role playing. If you have what feminists call “scarcity consciousness,” another way of saying you don’t think you deserve what you really want, join an online group like SheWrites, where women help build the mindset and craft of a writer.

    Peeps and family don’t know how hard we work or what in heck we even do! I’d have no appreciation or understanding of how hard my husband works unless he talked about it. We all start at the beginning and work forward, putting our tools in the toolbox along the way.

    And a big THANK YOU for all you do. You are “The Sorceress of Social Media and The Writer’s Goddess of Education.”

    1. That is actually excellent advice. I know many writers fear making family a part of their writing career. They fear rejection and wait to include close networks for “once they have found success.” Yet, without the help, support and understanding of the close networks, success is often much harder to come by.

  46. Fantastic post! I’m linking to this one and the first one in my Tuesday post. I can’t tell you how much I love this!

    1. Your leg is thumping, isn’t it? LOL

  47. So much like “Fake it ’til you make it”, I love it. I’m so glad my friend, Sheila Claydon, pointed me in your direction. I needed this kick in the ‘butt’.

  48. Brilliant. Thank you for posting. Just last week, I stopped doing what I needed to do to help a family with their resume for free because they needed it right away. I just can’t give my time away like that anymore. I have to say no. This blog post couldn’t have come at a better time!

  49. Oops, I meant family member.

  50. Actually, what did serious damage to my writing career (now possibly gone for good) was my girlfriend at the time telling me “You can’t do it.” Later, I realised that it was all pure jealousy because I’m a better writer than she is, and where it would take her a month and a half to write a fairly easy piece, I’d write the same thing in less than a day.

    So, it really is amazing just how much having someone close to you tell you “You can’t do it.” will totally knock you sideways. Having someone close to you being supportive, can and really should give you wings. Having someone close to you being destructive….often tears your wings clean off.

  51. Excellent, as always. I have not set some of these boundries and have experienced many of the problems you outline. It is hard to move from “hobby” to “occupation” when the new occupation is all expense and no income. I agree with you, though, the change must begin in our own minds. Thanks again.

  52. I soooo needed to hear this. Thanks. ; )

  53. Really terrifying looking fish. I love reading through an article that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

  54. Reblogged this on Shanah Davis and commented:
    Another great blog authored by Kristen Lamb! Beginning and established writers would do well to keep an eye on Mrs. Lamb’s Blog. Especially if you’re like me every once in a while and need a new perspective!

  55. “Yet another great blog by Kristen!”
    This is what I say after reading every single blog!

    Question: does the link back count when I use your profile as my “WordPress Author Blog” as a mainstay on my blog?
    I have it set as showing 5 blogs at a time and I just reblogged this one too!
    I’m not stalking you {well, maybe I am ;)} ; I just love your blog and need a good laugh, great writing tips, and a new perspective when I find myself “Eating the Butt.”

    I would love for my name to go in the hat!

    1. It all counts 😀

      1. Great

      2. Great! Thanks!

  1. […] Lamb continues her “Don’t Eat the Butt” series with Lies That Can Poison Our Writing Career #2. Hint: If you are waiting for the approval of someone else to know you are a writer, you’re […]

  2. […] am also reading a book that was recommended by Kristen Lamb on her hilarious blog about writing a couple of weeks ago: Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks. I am happy to report […]

  3. […] Don’t Eat the Butt-Lies That Can Poison Our Writing Career # 2 by Kristen Lamb […]

  4. […] I’m here to make sure y’all have read: writing resources, don’t eat the butt part I, and don’t eat the butt part II (look for this series to continue). Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponDiggEmailLike […]

  5. […] Recently, I posed this question to Kristen Lamb in the comments of her post, “Don’t Eat the Butt: Lies That Can Poison Our Writing Career #2.” […]

  6. […] Therefore, I decided that if I want to be seen as an author, I should act like one.  (Or as Kristen Lamb says in her follow-up post to the one above: “Act like a professional and others will treat us like a […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.