It doesn’t matter what area of life we long to improve, mindset is absolutely critical. Where we set our sights? That’s where we will go. But I get it, life is exhausting. Many of us are still on summer mode, perhaps struggling to get in gear and on a schedule.
The magic has fizzled and our flame has all but gone out. I feel your pain *fist bump* That’s why today we’re gonna dive into the deep and explore three ways to reignite that MOJO! Mojo…you know. Magic, passion, story sorcery?
That thing your kids probably drown in Cheerios and milk over summer vaca OR you put it someplace you’d remember where you put it? Yes, that.
It’s cool. You’ll be all right.
First, an illustration 😀 .
My newest favorite book is The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, and what I like about it is there are 365 mysteries, one for each day of the year.
The Parable of the Straight Path
One of the stories in the book talks about an ancient and powerful king who promised that any man who could make it to his kingdom walking a perfectly straight line would be allowed to marry his daughter (which essentially would put the suitor in line for the crown of this vast and wealthy kingdom).
Key fact to note: The castle could be seen from all around because on top of the highest tower a large flame burned day and night.
Suitor after suitor tried and failed to complete the challenge even though the terrain was a rough, rocky, mountainous mess. They’d get there, but none managed to complete the journey walking a completely straight path.
Then, finally, one man achieved this seemingly impossible goal. The king, awestruck, asked how the young man managed to accomplish such a feat.
The suitor replied, “I set my eyes on that beacon on top of your castle and walked toward that, one foot in front of the other, no matter what.”
See, the other suitors (who failed) took their eyes off the beacon and, instead, paid attention to the paths, the roads, the rocks, the thickets and thorns and hills. They focused on everything but what mattered most…the end goal.
In life, we run into this same scenario all the time. Many reading this blog have a goal of being professional authors who are paid well to do what they love.
But then we see laundry, and housework and bills, and all the KDP drama, and Amazon and the competition and on and on and on. Not only does this make for a formula to get utterly lost, it’s also a recipe to give up because we get overwhelmed.
Thus, today, I want to hand on some lessons I’ve learned through almost two decades of doing some things right, but most things wrong. Smart folks learn from their own mistakes, but wise folks learn from the mistakes of others 😉 .
#1—REMEMBER Talk is Cheap
Oh this one was a toughy for me. Still is. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. We need to be really careful who we allow access into our lives, who we partner with for any kind of a goal. Sure, they may make promises with a silver tongue, but pay close attention to their track record.
I’ve been burned by this one so badly, I practically needed ego debridement. Remove all the damaged singed stuff and hope to heavens it healed.
Folks I delegated important matters to, knowing these people had a history of flaking out or bailing when stuff got hard. Oh, but they promised…
Yeah. Talk is cheap and your time (my time) is valuable.
I have to use this on lecture myself as well, btw. Less talking and more doing. It isn’t real until it’s on paper. Period. We want to set our goals (our MOJO) on fire…not ourselves.
#2—UNDERSTAND Failure is Priceless
Talk might be cheap but failure? Failure is priceless. Failure will teach us a million times more than success ever will. Humans are wired to learn from failure.
Not a single human has ever been born and, on Day One, could run track and quote Shakespeare (or these oddities were born, then promptly flown in black helicopters to Area 51 for study).
We learn by failing. This doesn’t apply only to babies but to all of us at all ages and in all things.
Because when we fail, often this happened because we were reaching for something beyond our current abilities. We were adding weight to the bench press machine beyond what was easy. Trying and failing and going again makes us stronger, smarter, faster and wiser.
No entrepreneur creates a juggernaut business by magically knowing all the right moves. No marriage lasts twenty or fifty or sixty years without mishaps and mistakes and pressing on through the pain.
Failure is the greatest gift we can be given.
It can show us where we are weak, strengthen what is lacking, reveal flawed ideas or tactics and help us learn better ones.
“Failure” can also reveal happy accidents, success we never actually planned in the first place. Check out this post on 10 Products Discovered by Accident, which includes but is not limited to Viagara, coffee, and chocolate chip cookies 😉 .
The odd thing about Western culture is we SAY we value innovation and breaking rules…then we send kids to school to teach them to follow rules, not to question and that failure is bad, mistakes are terrible and to avoid both at all costs. BUNK!
This means there is a lot of loser-indoctrination we need to unwire from our brains.
Fear is not always the enemy. Fear is often a sign we might be onto something…or not. But we won’t know unless we try.
So, go hit it with a stick. See what happens and if you can create a spark, then a fire, then a BLAZE. We fail. Okay, big deal. Dust off. Assess, adapt and try something new.
#3—DIVE Into the Deep
I tend to be a rather fearless (okay stupid) person. I’ve traveled to some of the most dangerous places on the planet, climbed cliffs, jumped out of planes, and even worn stretchy pants with patterns on them *shivers*.
I am not proud of that last one. Thighs like mine with patterns? Warn any epileptics. Just saying.
Anyway, I DO have a phobia of open deep water or Bathophobia. Figures I would get a phobia with a lame name. Pyrophopia? Way sexier.
But seriously. Hang me off the side of an ocean liner in the middle of the Atlantic and I’d confess everything down to the time I shoplifted bubblegum from the drug store when I was three. Heck, I’d confess to stuff I hadn’t even done just to get back on deck.
Aye, I did spake with the Devil and gaveth him cookies and he gaveth me blog ideas…
But why am I so terrified of open water? Lack of control. Who knows what is beneath me? My fairly definitive position at the top of the food chain evaporates. And my swimming skills? Are on par with Frank Horowitz from Accounting’s breakdancing skills.
As we back away from the metaphor we see that most of us are afraid of the deep. We like the shallows.
Shore is close. We have more control. We aren’t fully committed. Problem is, most of the good stuff is going to be out in the deep, the place we are most afraid to go. Where MOST OTHER people are afraid to go.
When it comes to writing (or business or love or family or sports or whatever) we need to go where others are afraid to. Where WE are afraid to because that is where the most growth will happen the fastest.
I guarantee you my swimming skills would vastly and immediately improve if tossed off the side of a Carnival ship. I would definitely be FIRED up to swim so fast Michael Phelps would be eating my wake.
We won’t (can’t) gain new skills, better skills or even mastery in the shallows. We need to go out into the deep because the deep scares us and fires our @$$es UP! Thus, today, I challenge you to define your “deep.”
Years ago, my “deep” was starting a blog. O…M…G. I was petrified.
When I started blogging, I had the skin of a grape and absolutely fell apart at any kind of criticism. Additionally, I had the self-discipline of a possessed chipmunk with a bad crack habit and unlimited access to Pixie Sticks.
Not exactly ingredients for a NYTBSA (which was what I longed to become).
This meant I needed to fire my muse. She was too nice and resembled my grandma who gave me all the candy I wanted and told me to take lots of naps. Instead, I had to hire Samuel L. Jackson who yells at me and is unafraid to make me cry.
Most of all, I had to jump into the deep. The more I blogged, the better my writing. The more haters I got, the tougher my skin (and the more SLJ Muse yelled at me and promised to bust a cap in my @$$). The more I trained, the more disciplined I became, but this never would have happened in the shallows.
So TODAY. Define your DEEP (and maybe hand your muse a pink slip). Then, while you pursue YOUR DEEP remember talk is cheap and failure is priceless. Keep pressing and moving forward with your eyes on the beacon of flame (the goal). And hey, unlike me? You have help, a team.
We are not alone 😀 .
What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with doubt? Distraction? What distracts you most and why? Is it fear you might really do something remarkable? Are you afraid of failure? Have you overcome that fear? What is your deep? Does it have a name? Have you even taken time to ponder what it is?
Do you need to fire your muse? Who would you replace him or her with? Inquiring minds want to know!
I love hearing from you!
For the month of September, 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).
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My DEEP? I’m. Just. Never. Going. To. Be. Good-Enough. Ever.
And what am I not doing? 1)Educating myself 2)Writing from my deepest heart/pain. Yeah – shallow writing, shallow plot, shallow events, shallow the whole way to the end. So my writing is ‘not-bad, okay, needs work’ etc. Sigh. I needed to read your blog this morning – the morning after I analyzed my latest novel for story structure and realized it was a soft mish-mash with a good ending. Back to the beginning.
Oh my gosh I needed this. I loved this post. I too have a fear of “the deep” and putting myself out there. Maybe I need SLJ as my muse too!
This is excellent and needed! Thank you!
Loved hearing that failure is priceless, cause I’ve got four books of it. We all need mojo boosters and your blog is a great one! Many thanks, Kristen.
I have to admit, sometimes I have to break out Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket to knock myself back in line! So I watch some YouTube clips of it. But I start laughing because I had an actual sergeant for a father!
I have written one book, have begun a second, and have plans for three more (so far). I feel fear about each one, so I think maybe I’m on the right track. Mostly that my writing, as it reveals my own insecurities and struggles, will cause others to think that I’m a loser. The fear of vulnerability. Nothing new for authors, right?
So needed this today!!! My deep: self-publishing…establishing a platform.
You bet I’m afraid of the deep. I’ve been told the writing is “nice.” The query was “fun.” Those were the two out of thirty agents who requested the whole ms. But what do I know? Nothing, except it doesn’t work. I still want to fix it but how?
Well not to hawk a class but my Hooked Class is perfect for that. You can get a novel diagnostic from me and I can usually spot what’s going sideways pretty quickly. At least keep you from spinning your wheels and maybe tell you what needs fixing and how to do it.
Very timely! Thank you!
I really, really need to remember that about failure, but as a product of public school and a poor family, it comes hard.
Awesome post and just what I needed today when my muse is vacationing in Djibouti or hanging out with hot dudes in Fiji. I have no idea where she is, but I’m going to hunt her down, get her to work, and get out of this writing slump.
Define your Deep… I’m going to have to chew on that.
I’m with you on the (literal) deep water thing, though. In rough water, I won’t even get out of my width, let alone my depth!
Helpful information as always. Thanks.
I spent years writing for the enjoyment of it. Then, I took a lot of advice to heart, which was to hone my craft of writing. So, I stopped writing and studied and read and studied some more. Now, I’m paralyzed with the fear that anything I wrote I needed to second-guess, that everything I wrote would be wrong, and that it had to now be perfectly written. I never listen to the haters. Instead, I listen to the self – proclaimed masters. I will get through this writers block and come out stronger as you state. I sit at my keyboard, better educated, Much further behind the eight ball than I was when I simply loved to write. I want to love it again.
You need to read this post. https://authorkristenlamb.com/2015/12/the-writers-journey-staying-the-course-from-newbie-to-master/
*chuckle* oh, how deliciously painful, how wickedly nasty, runs the wound of bittersweet irony–for your growth-stages post was the very lecture, the final nail, that I took to heart. It was the road-side sign that guided my writing to the path less traveled. I took the leap of faith and committed my focus to these last two years of apprenticeship. Recognizing the importance of education, I eagerly dove into the deep end. Okay, so I went off the deep end,Flailing, and failing, to keep my head above water–there was so much opinionated education that I couldn’t turn around without slipping in a steaming,heaping load of the stuff.
Meanwhile, blank pages and dwindling sales remain Effectively uninspiring. i do realize that growth oscillates within the three stages you detailed in that post. I do get it–that education enhances the experience, though the period of blissful ignorance was, at least,justified by a trickle of income. My laptop sits idle while my desk suffocates beneath a growing mess of scribbled-on paper and wads of post-its. I must find a way to write through this paralyzing fear of adding just another brick to the wall of content.
We all have that fear no matter how successful. I am blessed to be friends with large brand name authors who we all believe have it made. Yet, they still face that same fear. What if I wrote all the good books in me? What if I fail to meet reader expectations? On and on and on. It’s learning to feel fear, recognize it then press through and take the wheel even when emotion is yelling it wants to drive 😉 .
I’d love to be added to the hat. I read your blog, often. It always makes me think from a different angle, which I think is a good thing. I’ve had thick skin my whole life, but like you, I use it as a learning experience. I hope to never quit learning. After all, knowledge is power.
My deep? Same as J Alfred Prufrock…Do I dare disturb the universe? While simultaneously afraid of living and dying invisibly. How can someone as swirling-leaves-abstract as I am have anything useful to say to people?
Welcome to being a real writer 😀 .
Thanks for this post Kristen. My ‘deep’ is letting other people read my writing, which includes sending my work out. As my ultimate goal is to self-publish, I’m currently taking small steps to get there. I have some beta readers and have started submitting some short stories to competitions. Having a blog has been a great help! I don’t think I could have got this far without it. 😉
Thanks Kristen for an inspiring post. It really helped me today!
Trust me, Honey. Even I have to go back and read this stuff. We all need a good shot in the arm daily to keep pressing. Just honored to serve you guy and hope it blesses you tremendously.
Boy, I don’t even know how to characterize this one. For years I wrote stories without knowing what on earth made a good story. They weren’t very good, but my kids and their cousins seemed to like them well enough, so I kept on writing. And the stories got better. Somewhere around ten stories–and ten years–later, I began taking my writing seriously. I began networking with other writers and taking some writing classes, and two things happened. One: I got better. Two: I developed writing tools and techniques.
So now I’m writing a story and I think I’m doing everything right. Everything I’ve learned. You know. Character development. Conflict. And, hey. I even have an outline. And you know what? I’ve started over three times, and I can’t seem to write this thing. It’s like the flame is on top of a glass mountain, and–no traction. I’m sure that if I ever figure this one out, it will be super, so I’m not giving up, even though there are some days when everything else on my plate seems more important than writing. This post came at just the right time to bolster my determination. Thank you, Kristen! You really hit the mark!
I’m in a similar place, Ginger. Same struggle. Clinging to that gritty determination in the belief that something brighter is just ahead. I’m rooting for you.
Woo-hoo you guys! We spend too much time toiling in obscurity not to share our rough patches when we can. That mountain top isn’t going anywhere.
Thanks for the boost, Gabriella. It’s a help knowing others are facing the same issues. We reach a significantly improved skill level and then the learning curve suddenly shoots up out of sight. I mean, what the heck? Nothing to do but dig in and keep going. We’ve gone too far to turn back.
Thank you, Mary! That means a lot. I’m rooting for you, too.