Permission. This might seem an odd word to discuss when it comes to success, but we need to hash out some dos and don’ts before January 1st. New Year’s resolutions are often more about taking freedoms away instead of permitting new ones. In my opinion, this is why a lot of well-intended changes fail to stick, but that’s for another post 😉 .
I’m a HUGE fan of discipline, though admittedly, I’m definitely a work in progress. I confess that, in my drive to be disciplined, I can become rigid, legalistic, and ridiculously hard on myself if I’m not careful.
The trick (as in most endeavors) is finding balance. Balance is and can only be achieved with granting ourselves the right kinds of permission. These permissions are especially vital if we hope to achieve success as authors.
Permission to Be New
Last post we discussed the writers’ journey from newbie to mastery. This ‘permission to be new’ might seem like an easy one. Do NOT be fooled. This permission might very well be the toughest of all. Why? Because our world has a perception problem.
From a novel, to a movie to an HBO series, the audience is ALWAYS witnessing the final product. They’re enjoying the cumulation of countless hours (or years) of work and the efforts of more than one person.
Even with a novel, audiences don’t stop to think that 99% of authors are not, in fact, publishing their first draft. They also don’t realize that FINAL draft came to fruition with outside assistance (editors & proofreaders).
Yes, there are novelists who claim they publish their first drafts, but (aside perhaps from some anomalous savant) they don’t. Not really. Often this I-only-publish-first-draft-novelist writes an excruciatingly detailed outline which they slash, correct, rearrange, etc. THEN they write the novel. Thus, technically, the outline was draft 1-50.
Also there are writers like Dean Koontz. He writes X amount of pages a day and never revises. But, Koontz wrote a gazillion books using many methods until he was so well-trained he could do this ‘magic.’ Remember, though, that even the great Dean Koontz was once new.
Thus expect the world won’t understand why you’re not richer than J.K. Rowling a month after you finish the first draft of your first novel. They’re outsiders who don’t ‘get’ our craft, that it IS a craft with an actual learning curve like um…learning to play an instrument.
People generally don’t appreciate that even J.K. Rowling was a single mother on welfare rejected by more than a dozen publishers. Even her first (reluctant) publisher actively encouraged her to get a ‘real’ job.
Permission to ‘Suck’
This permission goes hand-in-hand with being new, but permission to ‘suck’ is one we’re wise to keep our entire career. Getting words on the page is the most important part of the job. No ‘great idea’ for a book ever became a New York Times best-seller. I cannot recall any half-finished ‘perfect’ manuscript ever becoming a runaway success, but plenty ‘meh’ finished ones have.
And no, I can’t explain it either. There are more than fifty shades of why audience tastes are vastly unpredictable. Suffice to say, the world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards finishers.
Also, be aware that sometimes we’re not the best judge of our own work. We could be tired, have a hormone out of place, woke up too early to the cat puking on the carpet SIX INCHES FROM TILE and we’re hypercritical. Everything word is dreadful, tedious, and pure tripe. Our characters are one-dimensional tropes and a hamster with a traumatic head injury could’ve concocted a better plot.
Face it. We’re loathsome poseur hacks who don’t deserve access to Word…or even to live.
Um, eat a Snickers and take a nap. Then keep writing and resist the urge to edit. There are GOOD REASONS WHY this is a dangerous time to edit.
Odds are you’ll look back in revisions and realize you were being a drama queen. Imperfection is where the true beauty of story resides.
Even if the WIP does need to be ‘fixed’ you’re more likely to fix it, not SMITE it. You’ll actually edit and revise instead of going all Old Testament burning to ash, poisoning wells, then salting the earth….after characters wiped out by Backspace Death.
Permission to Write
First of all, it is perfectly acceptable to write as a hobby and for fun and not to be paid. I crochet. Additionally, I kind of suck at crocheting, but I enjoy it and it relaxes me. My scarves are pretty enough *shrugs*. I’ve ‘mastered’ ONE stitch in four years. Be assured, you will never see my creations for sale for big bucks or any bucks on Etsy because it’s a hobby.
I don’t desire to crochet products consumers would pay money to wear. This means I can put it off until I feel like crocheting. I also can be more laissez-faire with what the final product looks like, because crocheting is NOT my profession.
If, however, we desire to make a living as an author, then this ‘writing thing’ is our job/profession.
Being an author might be a second or even third job, but it IS a job—a ‘real’ one. Writing isn’t our hobby or our ‘little thing’ and it merits serious priority. Laundry, toilets, and figuring out how to get gummy worms out of the XBox can wait or be delegated.
For more on this, I strongly recommend you read one of my older posts Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers (applies to Nice Guys, too, btw).
Permission to Fail
Show me a person who’s never failed and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything interesting. Afraid to fail? Good, welcome to being human. In my vast experience, only talentless hacks steeped in self-delusion believe all they write is gold.
There’s a balance. Simpering, spineless slackers are as useless as narcissistic, unteachable, know-it-alls. Our goal is to find a happy place in the middle of this bell curve. We should be open to criticism, suggestions and growth while simultaneously being confident and knowledgable enough to know when to stand our ground (lest we end up with a book-by committee).
Humans are wired to learn by failing. Our brains are literally designed to learn by trial and error, which is why I’m adamantly opposed to chastising kids for failing.
I firmly believe our culture’s over fascination with the ‘born genius’ and ‘naturally gifted/talented’ is TOXIC. Kids mistakenly believe if they don’t do whatever ‘perfectly’ the first time or at least super quickly, then there’s something wrong with them. This then carries into adulthood.
Failure shaming, in my POV, generates underachievement (afraid to even try, low self-image) or neurotic perfectionism (hiding oopses, overworking, septic overachievement, terror regarding asking for help). I know because I was reared to be terrified of failing.
This is why as an adult and a MOM, I make sure that failure is embraced and celebrated in our home. Failure is an event, not an identity. I want my son to understand mistakes are stepping stones on the road of progress.
Another reason we’re wise to grant ourselves permission to fail, is a that ‘failure’ isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, failure can actually be a happy accident in disguise.
Two words: Ivory Soap.
Permission to Succeed
To succeed, strangely we must give ourselves permission to win. Bizarre, right? Mmmmmm, not so much.
Fear of failure and fear of success are frequently linked and this paradox could be a blog (or book) on its own. It seems stupid for people to fear success. Yet, many do and for a multitude of reasons. First, humans generally dislike change. Success means massive change. We might feel we are ill-prepared to traverse such unknown territory. We fear what we don’t know and places we’ve never been.
We could also worry that, if we succeed, we might not be able to duplicate whatever it was that brought us ‘success’ in the first place. That we’re a fake, a fraud and never actually ‘earned’ the win.
Perhaps now it’s a tad clearer why fear of success and failure are linked.
There’s another reason many of us fear success, one I haven’t seen discussed much. This manifestation is most common for those brought up in a dysfunctional home/background. We are afraid to be happy and our fear of success is linked to a version of PTSD. Always waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’ so to speak.
For folks who’ve been through trauma, our brains often cannot discern healthy excitement/arousal felt when experiencing success from the anxiety/arousal before ‘the bad thing’ to come. Our brain believes all ‘arousal’ is bad, thus super scary and to be avoided at all costs. This means when we get close to ‘winning’ we might self-sabotage to alleviate the nerve-shredding anxiety.
It takes some retraining of the old gray matter, but it’s worth it. Yes, give permission to succeed. I know I’m not the only one out there who’s self-sabotaged, procrastinated, or up and quit because I was wracked with fear I couldn’t explain. Trust me, I was as mystified as everyone around me until I understood what was causing this behavior.
It’s okay. Being messed up generally makes for better writers 😛 .
What Are Your Thoughts?
As long as I’ve been at this, I still struggle to some degree with all five of these. Permission to write and to succeed are still the biggies. I struggle with guilt that I’m writing when there is so much laundry to do and drawers to sort and on and on. Additionally, I still procrastinate when I might just succeed because I already admitted I’m messed up and that writing is cheaper than therapy 😛
What about you guys? Gonna ‘fess up and be brave? Are you too hard on yourself? Self-sabotage? Petrified of failing? Ashamed of being new? It’s okay, we are all in the same boat here 😀 .
Hey, there are goodies involved for being bold…
I love hearing from you and am not above bribery!
What do you WIN? For the month of DECEMBER, 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).
ALSO, NEW CLASS!
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD (Only $36 with discount)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: January 4th, 2018 7:00 P.M. EST—9:00 P.M. EST
No matter what genre we write, the key to writing unforgettable stories always rests with character. How do we create intriguing characters who hook readers and never let them go? What makes a character unforgettable? How do we write stories that endure?
It is easy to fall into tropes and caricatures if we lack a fundamental understanding of human nature and how this plays out in the dramatic narrative. This class will delve into how to add depth to our characters which will, in turn add, resonance with our plot.
This class will cover:
- Discovering Wounds;
- Understanding Coping Mechanisms;
- How Wounds Collide to Increase Dramatic Tension
- How to Create Dimensional Characters
- Using Character to Plot
***A FREE recording is included with purchase.