What Does Success Look Like? 4 New Viewpoints to Change Your Success Landscape

When you see yourself, your work, or anything else through the lens of fear and failure, you’re not exactly creating a pathway of abundance.

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I have a confession to make: I’ve not been feeling successful lately, especially this past year.

Book sales took a tumble. My novel The Second First Time face-planted out of the gate. I spent this past year trying all kinds of things to revive my sales and attract new readers, only to feel as if I were throwing any ol’ thing against the wall to see what stuck. And nothing was sticking, dammit. I was growing despondent. This whole writing thing wasn’t as fun as it used to be. And yet, every time I asked myself whether I wanted to be doing anything else, the answer was a definite no.

Turns out I’ve been looking at this success thing all wrong.

I’d had a narrow definition of success—make a sustainable living writing novels full-time. That was about it. Oh, and write bestselling novels too.

There’s nothing wrong with that as a goal. And three years ago, I’d achieved that goal. Problem was, when the books stopped selling and my livelihood was in jeopardy, I began to panic. Worse still, I was feeling more and more like a failure.

When you see yourself, your work, or anything else through the lens of fear and failure, you’re not exactly creating a pathway of abundance.

I knew this too, which made it even more frustrating when I couldn’t seem to get out of the loop.

My favorite Wayne Dyer quote is this:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

For starters, I discovered I was looking at what wasn’t there rather than what was—every time I looked at sales totals, all I could see were the thousands of units that used to be on the bottom line. Worse still, I’d looked less at readers and more at numbers. I could only see what I so desperately wanted—to reclaim that success I’d had three years ago, and anything less than that was bad. Worse than bad. It was embarrassing and shameful.

And then I read this game-changing quote:

You are tied to things you do not like. You cannot leave something until you love it.

The epiphany followed:

Rather than trying to enthusiastically expand or reinvent my writing livelihood, I’ve been frantically trying to save it, thus clinging to it for dear life.

If I wanted my situation to change, I needed to not only change the way I looked at it, but also the way I responded to it.

 

So here’s what I’ve been practicing…

1. Letting go.

I’m no longer trying so desperately to reclaim a past status. Now I’m exploring ways to have fun again. By releasing the tight grip, my mental hands are now ready to receive whatever the next thing my writing life has to offer me. I’m now open to ideas not as a way to desperately win followers or convert Likes to sales, but as an opportunity to reinvent my writing life, and reclaim the joy instead of the accolades. And my experience has been that money follows enthusiasm. Especially when you’re tuned into the flow.

 

2. Making peace with where I am now.

I’m no longer looking at my writing career in life in terms of where I was or where I want to be; I’m looking at where I am now, and choosing to bless it with love. I bless every one of my books with love. I bless every book sale with love and give thanks for it, regardless of the numbers. I bless the booksellers with love. I bless every reader with love and every review, positive or negative. I bless my publishers, editors, agent, and all those who played a role in getting my books into the hands of readers. I bless my work-in-progress with love, and am not sweating word counts or how many hours per day or days per week I’m writing (or not writing).

It feels so good to do this because a) it’s easy, and b) it’s tapping into the abundance rather than the lack. Presence rather than absence.

 

3. Seeing success everywhere I turn.

This morning I woke at 6:00 a.m. (if you know me, you know this is a success in and of itself), wrote Morning Pages (see The Artist’s Way), walked 3 ¼ miles on the track at the Y (I’m going to write a future blog post about the effect walking has had on me these past few months), made a delicious breakfast when I came home, spent time with my husband, and spent the afternoon addressing packages for contest prizes to winners and gifts to those who helped spread the word about Big Skye Littleton in the weeks leading up to launch, as well as during and after launch week.

In short, I accomplished quite a bit today, including this blog post. I realized that when I think of success, I think of accomplishment. And so rather than looking for big successes like hitting best-selling lists or trying to recapture the royalties of yesteryear, I’m looking at the seemingly ordinary accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments I take for granted. I published a book! Heck, I’ve published 10 books! In multiple languages! And people other than my family and friends are reading them! And they like them! I wrote today! Maybe not contributing toward a manuscript, but I wrote privately. I wrote a blog post. I jotted down an idea for another book. I read something inspiring.

When you change how you look at success, you find a lot more of it.

 

4. Serving

When I was a teacher, I always sought the best ways to serve students. Throughout the writing process, I’ve thought about how best to serve readers. When I revised my website, I kept readers in mind then as well, especially new readers.

But oddly, when I was trying to attract new readers and raise my royalties, I didn’t think in terms of how I was serving or what I was giving. Instead, I now realize I was too focused on what I would be getting. And that’s not joyful at all.

No wonder nothing was working.

So I’ve made more of a conscious effort to think about ways I may be of service not only to readers, but also to fellow authors, those who help bring my books to fruition, friends, family, and humanity in general. It’s not always in doing, or giving something material, but it includes forms that go beyond gratitude and appreciation.

The very intention to focus on service has come back to me multiplied. Today I went to Office Max. Not two minutes in, an associate offered to assist me. Not only did he help me find what I was looking for, but what I needed was on sale.

Success! And service!

 

The results: After a year of angst and uncertainty, I feel good about where I am. What’s more, I am embracing the possibilities rather than worrying about the unknown. I am embracing the essence of success—a feeling of accomplishment—rather than demanding that it take the form of increased readers and royalties. I am giving more than I am getting. And it all looks pretty damn good. The joy is returning. I feel more like a writer today than I have all year.

Oh, and guess what: sales of The Second First Time are up.

As Wayne Dyer used to say, It’s all green lights from here.

For discussion or reflection: What does success look like to you? If you were to change the way you look at success, how would what you looked at change?

 

wayne dyer quote

Do You Want To Write, Or Do You Have To Write?

When it comes to desire, knowing what you want is key to determining how you will get it. And sometimes, figuring out what you don’t want will better help you know what you do want. You may not know until you’re in the middle of it. That’s OK.

My twin brother is an excellent cook. A long time ago I asked him why he didn’t go to school to become a chef, or work in a restaurant. “Because that would have taken the enjoyment out of it for me.”

Another one of my brothers has a knack for buying a used, somewhat beat up car, fixing it up, and reselling it for a profit. When I asked him why he didn’t do this as a profession, he replied pretty much the same way.

It’s an interesting thing that for some the thing they love to do is best enjoyed when there isn’t so much at stake, like drawing a salary from it or depending on it to pay the bills.

Yet in one of my first posts on this blog, I cited one of my favorite quotes from Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” No matter what I did for work, I always tried to make that my criteria. Was it something I wanted to do? Was it fun? I took jobs that paid less because I knew I’d enjoy the environment or the people or the tasks more. And I quit jobs when they stopped being enjoyable.

Of course, the older I got, the harder it was to maintain this criteria. It was especially difficult, for example, to walk away from my last teaching position that came with a yearly salary, health insurance, and retirement benefits (difficult to get those things on a non-tenure track).

But I wanted to do what I loved. I still loved teaching, but I loved writing novels more.

I wrote about a friend for whom writing her first novel had been a lot of fun. It had since felt like work. I grappled with the same thing last year, when the cart came before the horse or, in this case, the contract came before the manuscripts were written, or in the case of Big Skye Littleton, the idea hadn’t even been conceived yet. It wasn’t a good way for me to work, I’d discovered. Writing then became something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.

And now, when so much is riding on rankings and royalties, I wonder if writing will continue to be something fun, something I enjoy, something I want to do every day. Although I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. Especially not as a job.

By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing for fun, or for your friends, or for yourself and no one else. Even if you’re writing novels. Or screenplays. Or short stories. There’s no rule that says you must publish, must find a way to make it your full-time job, must use it to pay the bills.

There’s also nothing wrong with making writing your full-time gig because you do love it so much.

Or walking away if it stops being fun.

I don’t know if I have a resolution or even a conclusion to this topic. Except to say this: When it comes to desire, knowing what you want is key to determining how you will get it. And sometimes, figuring out what you don’t want will better help you know what you do want. You may not know until you’re in the middle of it. That’s OK.

It’s even more OK to change your mind. Give yourself permission not to be a full-time writer, if you decide that’s what you don’t want. Give yourself permission to be a one-novel author (there are many out there). Give yourself permission to be a hobbyist. Or give yourself permission to do it for as long as you love it, as long as you want to, as long as it’s fun.

As for me… well, I’m still having fun with the writing part of this gig. I think I’ll keep it up a little while longer.

Please Note: From now on I will be posting every Wednesday instead of Tuesdays and Thursdays. I hope you’ll continue to follow us!

 

better to know

What Does it Mean to Be “Well Read”?

I guess what it all comes down to is this—is being well read about quantity or quality?

When I was teaching college writing, I used to assign my students a literacy narrative in which they write about their history with reading and writing. I had written several as a grad student, and when my peers read their narratives out loud, I used to feel self-conscious because I didn’t believe myself to be as well read as they were.

It didn’t stop there. Often times I’d hear colleagues use “well read” as a marker of character. “I wouldn’t put much stock into what he says; he’s not very well read.” Or: “You’d like her. She’s well read.”

My students also had an expectation of me to be well read. To them, “well read” was not only having read all the classic literature in the world, but also having memorized it. Especially Shakespeare. Seriously, you’d be surprised how many of my students were shocked that not only had I not memorized Shakespeare, but I could remember the few plays and/or sonnets of his I had read. In fact, some students had decided me a substandard instructor the moment I told them my bachelor’s degree was not English, but rather psychology, which, trust me, has served me way more and better than an English degree ever would.

For most of my life, I too believed “well read” meant one who had read—and absorbed—a lot of classic literature. Willingly and aptly. When NPR or Publisher’s Weekly or some other bookish media site releases a list called The 100 Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime or something like that, and my Facebook friends proudly boast their numbers: “I’ve read 60 of them!” “72!” “85!” I keep silent because I don’t come close.

So what, and how much, have I read?

It’s a question I’m asked as an author, and I’m always afraid to answer it for fear of being judged. But I’ll try to go out of my comfort zone here.

For starters, I have always been a creature of habit. If I fall in love with a writer (not literally, with the exception of my husband), I’ll read just about everything in his/her canon. As a child, I loved Dr. Seuss. Then Judy Blume. I didn’t only read each of their books once, but repeatedly. Like listening to an album and then letting it play over and over.

As a teenager, I can’t remember reading much of anything, especially whatever was assigned in school (with the exception of The Outsiders; my older sister loved it so much she read it to my twin brother and me, and I was totally stoked when we were finally assigned it in school.). I especially can’t remember liking any reading that was assigned. I was a teenager and a Duranie, so naturally I devoured every magazine that featured the Fab Five: “Simon Tells All!” “A Day in the Life of Jaunty JT!” and so on. I didn’t only look at the pictures (although, come on—it was all about the pictures). I read the articles (probably few of them true), and during this time I wrote Duran Duran fan fiction, not knowing there was a genre by that name. I read a few novels here and there, but none that stick out in my memory.

In my late teens and early 20s, I had lost my way. I was in a rather toxic relationship with someone who abhorred reading, couldn’t be bothered with it, found it lame and unsexy (how wrong he was). As I started to break free from his clutches, it was books that helped me escape—some were of the self-help variety (I recently wrote a post about the most influential one), some nonfiction like All the President’s Men and Barbarians at the Gate because I’d liked the movie adaptations, and eventually I found my way back to novels.

Then, in 1995, I went back to college.

At UMass Dartmouth, I was immersed in academic reading, including novels for classes such as “Comedy and Satire” and “Literature and Society,” essays for “Writing About Popular Culture,” and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning for a psychology paper on existentialism. (Also a book that has left a lasting impression on me.) The reading intensified in grad school—by then I was immersed in Aristotle, rhetorical scholars like Kenneth Burke and David Bartholomae, and a little Noam Chomsky here and there.

At some point I found myself craving “pleasure reading,” and sought more humorous work, including Douglas Adams, Nora Ephron, and David Sedaris. I’d wanted to write more humorous essays, and found them influential.

Reading Stephen King’s On Writing was the game-changer, however; King’s classic advice of “read a lot and write a lot” sunk in. I was astounded when he said he read sixty to seventy books a year. My graduate work prevented me from coming anywhere near that total, but I definitely upped my game. I listened to audiobooks (including the Harry Potter series) in my car, read a little bit before bed, and tried to get through two or three books per summer. I still don’t come close to the sixty-to-seventy total.

So what do I read now?

Anything from books on how to improve productivity or boost your Kindle book sales to a memoir about Cary Grant or Dick Van Dyke to my friends/ fellow authors’ novels to novels that have come highly recommended in Facebook book groups to books on writing craft. I’m not loyal to any one genre, especially not my own. I also read the occasional blog post, political article (although I’ve cut back on those because they anger me too much), or Top Ten list.

And I’m still a creature of habit. I named 2017 A Year of Nora Ephron and (re)read just about everything of hers that I could get my hands on. I enjoy Marian Keyes’ and Jennifer Weiner’s and Sarah Pekkanen’s books. I read screenplays written by Aaron Sorkin and William Goldman. And all of Craig Lancaster’s books, of course. The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter is my favorite, having read it three times, including before it was released. I have standalone favorites: Richard Russo’s Straight Man. Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist. Duran Duran bassist John Taylor’s memoir, In the Pleasure Groove. And more.

And yes, I’ve read a few of the classics. They’re not in a league of their own, as far as I’m concerned. Some I liked and some I didn’t, like anything else I’ve ever read.

As a writer, it’s hard to read anything these days and not be looking at it with a critical eye. All part of the profession. But I love when I read something and think, “God, I wish I’d thought of that.” I also like reading something, putting it down, and thinking, “Well geez, I could do way better than that.” Both instances motivate me need to step up my game. And I don’t ever want to sit back and think I never have to be better than I already am.

So am I well read? I’m sure some will tell me I’m far from. Others will tell me they wish they were as well read as I am. I guess what it all comes down to is this—is being well read about quantity or quality? If it’s the latter, then who is the gatekeeper of that quality?

If you know the answer, tell me later. I’m in the middle of a really good book.

 

Craig's books

 

How To Escape Complacency: 3 Keys to Set You Free

What makes complacency so dangerous is that you don’t realize you’re in it. You’re too busy feeling good. And when the shit hits the fan, your first reaction is panic, then blame.

Back in my early twenties, I’d wanted to be a motivational speaker. I read books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and, because I was also a Knicks fan (hey, I’m a New Yorker, and this was the early-mid-90s), I also read former Knicks coach Pat Riley’s The Winner Within. That was the first time I’d learned the term “complacency” in the context of self-driven success. Says the coach about complacency:

The temptation to slack off starts when you’re feeling good about who you are and what you’ve achieved. After you have spent yourself emotionally and physically to achieve the great dream, it’s so easy to accept the illusion that your struggle has ended. . . .You’ve arrived. And it feels so great to let go of yesterday’s hunger and insecurity. From that enticing moment forward, it gets harder and harder to make sacrifices. . . .While you’re celebrating success, someone is making plans to move up in the world, and you better know it.

Moreover…

A psychology of entitlement is a looming threat. The top spot now belongs to you. You think the wins will be automatic. The rewards will never stop.

But it does stop. And when it does, you crash.

Sadly, this rings all too familiar to me.

In February 2013, my best-selling book Faking It was translated into German and spent three consecutive months at Number One on the German Kindle Store bestseller list. I had made more in one month than my yearly teaching salary.

One year later, my fifth novel, She Has Your Eyes, entered the Top 100 and invigorated my entire backlist, especially Faking It and Ordinary World (She Has Your Eyes completed that trilogy.) I earned out the advance in six weeks and continued to sell thousands of books per month.

That’s when I succumbed to the spell of complacency. What makes complacency so dangerous is that you don’t realize you’re in it. You’re too busy feeling good. And when the shit hits the fan, your first reaction is panic, then blame.

In 2015, I noticed the drop in sales. No big deal, I thought. It will rebound when I release a new title.

Problem was, I didn’t have a new title. I had written a new manuscript the previous year, submitted it to my publisher, and, two months later, they rejected it. Disappointed, I started several new manuscripts, but none of them took root. I didn’t sign a contract for a new book until late 2014—and it wasn’t published until July 2016. That means I went for almost two years without a new title.

Meanwhile, with no new book to capitalize on momentum, sales continued to plummet, especially in 2016.

Still unaware that I was in the throes of complacency, I reacted in typical ways: First, panic. Second, blame.

 Especially when my last title face-planted out of the gate.

Finally, in January of this year, I snapped out of it. The market wasn’t to blame. The industry wasn’t to blame. Amazon wasn’t to blame. My publisher wasn’t to blame.

It was all on me.

 

The antidote to complacency is responsibility.

With my eyes wide open, I took responsibility for the role I played in the reversal of fortune. Despite my efforts, I didn’t have a new book to publish. I didn’t keep up momentum with a mailing list, consistent blog posting, or some other content. I turned a blind eye while my publisher expanded, signed new and upcoming authors, and embraced Kindle Unlimited.

Next, I became proactive.

I looked for ways to retain loyal followers and win new ones. I began following experts in the industry again. I brainstormed new ideas. Rather than resent reader subscriptions like Kindle Unlimited, I looked for ways to either capitalize on them or in spite of them.

I made mistakes along the way. But little by little, I not only found my footing, but also the path.

My most recent release has performed very well, and every day I am attracting new readers and subscribers. Moreover, I’m working on a new manuscript, plus several other projects that I hope will be lucrative.

I still have a long way to go to reach the level of success I’d reached years ago. And I may never get to those heights. But I have clear goals, and with the lessons of complacency firmly etched in my consciousness, I know how to keep myself from falling in the trap again.

If you find yourself in the same place, follow these three steps:

 

1. Take responsibility for your failure to keep moving forward.

Yes, the market changes and stuff happens, but it’s up to you to ride with the tide, keep your eyes and ears open, and, to use a football metaphor, keep moving the chains.

 

2. Get back in the game—now.

Don’t tell yourself it’s too late to start a mailing list, dust off an old manuscript or write a new one, create a podcast, or whatever it is you need to do to get where you need and want to be, where you might have been had you remained vigilant. Don’t be intimidated by how hard you’ll need to work. Just get up and get back in. Make a plan. Try new things. As long as you’re proactive.

 

3. Be vigilant.

You got into this mess because you stopped paying attention and rested on your laurels. So pay attention again. When someone publishes an article about the newest trend in marketing strategies or announces changes in the royalty system or finds a new publisher to hit the competition, perk up. Don’t dismiss it. Talk about it. Keep learning your craft. Keep learning the business. Keep in touch with your peers.

 

In the words of Jed Bartlet, break’s over.

 

Discussion: Have you fallen into the trap of complacency? If so, how will of did you break free of it?

 

complacency graphic copy

21 Affirmations for Writers

“What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.”

As a writer, I’ve been quite fortunate in many aspects.

Seven years ago, I self published a book that went to the top of the Amazon bestseller list, and landed me a contract six months later. Two years after that, I was able to resign my teaching position and become a full-time novelist. And two years ago, I met my literary agent through a chance meeting at a cocktail party.

Life wasn’t always so rosy, especially during my teens and early twenties. My parents’ divorce had really shaken me, and other issues/people tore at my self-esteem. By the time I was 20, I’d dropped out of three different colleges and became involved in an extremely toxic relationship. I floated from job to job and couldn’t decide on a career. Writing was one of the constants in my life, but the belief that had been ingrained in me was that I was never going to make money as a writer. I also didn’t believe I was any good as a novelist.

I wrote in my memoir about how Duran Duran’s song “Ordinary World” became a sort of lighthouse for me. But I didn’t mention the book that had changed the course of my life: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

In the early 90s, I had been working in a salon as a manicurist when one of my clients recommended the book to me. She must have seen that despite my liking my job, I was in a dead end in other ways. I bought the book, and was instantly riveted.

Louise’s message was this:

What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.

 

At the time I had never seen a book like this before. And throughout years of therapy, no one had ever offered such seemingly simple advice: You can change your life if you change your thoughts. And the way to do that was by positive affirmations.

It seemed too far-fetched at first. You mean all I have to say is “I approve of myself” and life will get better?

And yet, that is exactly what happened. Literally.

I started with I approve of myself. This was quite an effort at first, given how low my self-esteem was. I had actually believed that toxic relationship was the best I was ever going to have, that I didn’t deserve better. He used to be so manipulative and controlling that he would actually tell me how to dress and wear my hair.

Little by little, I started to believe the affirmation.

The more I said, “I approve of myself” (it would run through my head like an endless ticker sometimes, the more assertive I became. One day I insisted on wearing what I wanted. He tried to shoot me down by telling me I wasn’t beautiful anymore, said I looked “nasty.”

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I’ve never looked better.” I believed it too. More than that, I knew at that moment that I would be leaving that relationship for bigger and better things.

 

Opportunities and people came into my life that opened me up, raised my self-esteem, and sent me in a positive direction.

I went back to school, and this time came out with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. While in school, I used affirmations to attract a love relationship, and two weeks later I met a man on campus and we dated for several months. The night before an exam, I would send love into the situation. And so on.

Any time I found myself desiring something—a new apartment, to publish a novel, my dream car—I offered affirmations and surrendered the outcome. Things and situations didn’t always work out so perfectly overnight, and sometimes I struggled a great deal, but in some cases the results were even better than anything I’d visualized.

In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I even passed on the affirmation “I approve of myself” to Skye, who needed it as badly as I once had.

 

Louise Hay passed away last week—she was 90 years old—and I was more affected by the news than I’d expected to be.

This past year I’ve been challenged with lower royalties, and a novel (The Second First Time) that launched almost one year ago had been a major commercial disappointment. I also found myself adjusting to married life (not that that was unhappy) and at times I was overwhelmed.

Upon hearing of Louise’s death, I transported back to the first time I had read You Can Heal Your Life. I pulled the book from the shelf—my copy is over 20 years old, and it is well worn (see photos below)—and held it lovingly in my hands. And I wondered: What thoughts had contributed to the situations I’d been finding myself in lately? I’ve spent the last year making a gratitude list every morning, but when was the last time I’d used affirmations like a mantra? When was the last time I’d said “I approve of myself” and meant it?

I began to read the book yet again—each time I read it, I either connect to something in a way I haven’t before, or discover something completely new about myself. I realized that I’d spent much the year blaming others for the novel’s sales failure. I’d also spent a lot of time focusing on thoughts of being overwhelmed rather than trusting that the change was good.

Thus, I wrote new affirmations. I changed my thinking about The Second First Time, and the dip in royalties. I did more than express gratitude.

Sure enough, in the last four days, sales of The Second First Time are the highest they’ve been—they’re nowhere near the bestsellers list (yet!), but seeing the uptick has been so delightful… I’d forgotten how much fun writing and reciting affirmations could be.

 

You know how at the beginning of every episode of The Simpsons, we see Bart writing on the blackboard as punishment of his latest mischief? That’s what I do with my affirmations.

I write them five, ten times in a row (sometimes even more!) followed by repeated recitation of them—but they’re far from punishment.

And so, in honor of Louise, I decided to offer writers some affirmations to try. You can choose one or two of these that you connect with, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this as often as you can.

 

If you’re struggling with writer’s block or are having trouble getting started, try one or two of these affirmations:

 

Divine Intelligence gives me all the ideas I need.

I relax and let life easily and comfortably provide me with everything I need. Writing is for me.

I trust in the writing process and my skills to compose and create.

My creativity is ever flowing. I go with the flow.

I attract the right words, sentences, and paragraphs at the right time.

Writing is a joy. Writing is fun!

 

If you’re struggling with being too self-critical (and what writer hasn’t struggled with that?), try one or two of these affirmations:

 

I approve of myself. (I recommend this one in any or every situation.)

There is plenty of talent and creativity to go around.

I love and accept myself and where I am right now. (Also good for writer’s block.)

I lovingly forgive myself. I am free.

I see with love and understanding. I hold all my experiences up to the light of love.

I recognize my own true worth.

 

If you desire to make writing your career, want to revive your writing career, or are fighting old beliefs that “there’s no money in writing,” try one or two of these affirmations:

 

My unique creative talents and abilities flow through me and are expressed in deeply satisfying ways.

My books attract plenty of readers.

I earn good money doing what satisfies me.

My work is a joy and a pleasure.

I have within me all the ingredients for success.

I establish a new awareness of success and prosperity.

I am worthy of success as a writer, and I accept it now.

I am making good money as a writer.

My good comes from everywhere and everyone.

 

You may feel resistance when you say some of these affirmations. They may even feel like outright lies. Acknowledge and work through those feelings. Remember: “What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.” Continue to say them until they are more than beliefs—they are truth for you.

 

30-Day Activity: Choose one or two affirmations from any or all of these categories, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this for 30 days straight.

The Writer’s Habit “Introduction”: Read It Here for Free!

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based.

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based. I hope it will make you want to read more. You can buy it here. You can also go to elisalorello.com to learn more about me as well as my other books.

TWH 1TWH 2TWH 3TWH 4TWH 5

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4 Ways To Cope With Rejection

One thing is for sure: rejection sucks.

Last week good friend of mine’s manuscript was rejected by a publisher with whom he had past success and got along with exceptionally. In fact, he’d signed with this publisher when they were just beginning as a newbie imprint ready to take on the world.

A manuscript may be rejected for any number of reasons. Aspects of the story or writing may be problematic. Or the story and writing might be great, but the genre doesn’t match the imprint’s mission. Or an editor/agent isn’t confident that the book can sell. And sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste. What one reader loses sleep over might be another reader’s insomnia remedy.

One thing is for sure: rejection sucks. The act sucks. The feeling sucks. The aftermath sucks. Especially when you thought you wrote a sure thing. Especially when you were hopeful or, more than hopeful, longing.

This kind of rejection not only happens with a manuscript, but also with a book. An author may be showered with praise and critical acclaim from editors, marketers, fellow authors, and readers; and yet, the book still manages to commercially tank. Or a slew of scathing reviews file in. I’ve experienced this with one of my own books.

I don’t know of any author who hasn’t experienced some kind of crushing disappointment at some point during their writing career.

So how do we cope? How do we get past the hurt? How do we not internalize it, let it affect our self-esteem and our writing process?

Here are four things that work for me:

 

1. Look for the Positive Aspects

I try to do this with any negative or challenging situation. For example, if I’m stuck in traffic, I find positive aspects in the comfortable car, good music on the stereo, full tank of gas, no snow or ice on the ground, etc. (Of course, some situations are particularly arduous, like the tragic flooding we’re seeing in Houston.) In the context of writing and rejection, it may be difficult to find positive aspects when a manuscript you’ve pored over for weeks, months, even years, has been turned down. But it’s possible, for example, that rather than your story not being right for the publisher, the publisher wasn’t right for your story. Maybe there’s someone else who will not only be able to see its potential, but also know how to capitalize on it. Maybe the rejection has given you an opportunity to develop the writing, collaborate with someone you’ve always wanted to work with, or independently publish.

If I’m really struggling to find positive aspects in the moment, then I’ll usually trust that they will reveal themselves in time. For example, my decision to self-publish my debut novel, Faking It, following the rejection of some fifty agents, was probably the most positive aspect to have come out of the situation. But at the time I wasn’t sure if I was committing writing career suicide or taking a leap of faith.

 

2. Be Like Jed Bartlet

At some point, after the sting subsides (and even before), I ask myself the famous words of The West Wing President Jed Bartlet: “What’s next?”

Asking What’s next? is about being proactive. Are there other agents or editors you can pitch to or query? Is independent publishing an option? Is it best to put the manuscript aside and work on something else in the meantime? (Temporarily setting a manuscript aside isn’t throwing it away or invalidating its worth; it’s just taking a break from it and returning to it at another time with fresh eyes and renewed momentum.) Are there lessons to be learned for why a book failed following its launch? Perhaps a new cover design or marketing strategy is in order?

My husband had written a novel that had been rejected by both his agent and his editor. He put the manuscript away and moved on to a new novel, one that was published and sold well. A good friend of his, however, thought that manuscript was excellent, and would occasionally ask my husband about it, urging him to do something with it.

Years later, my husband opened the file, read the manuscript, and saw what his friend had seen in it. He revised and edited the story, designed a cover, and released the book under his own imprint. Not only has Julep Street been critically acclaimed, its story is also more timely now than it was when my husband had first submitted the manuscript.

The point is, you have options. As a writer, you probably have more options than ever before. Explore each one. If you love your story, if you believe in your book, then you owe it to yourself and your brainchild to leave no stone unturned. What’s next?

 

3. You Are So Much More

As I’d mentioned, at least fifty agents as well as a prominent acquisitions editor had rejected Faking It. Since its publication, approximately 10% of its Amazon customer reviews are 1- and 2-stars. And while each rejection stung, some more than others, it didn’t change the fact that I believed I’d written something good. (In fact, none of the agents or the editor had said the writing was the problem.) Moreover, the poor sales of one of my published titles didn’t change the fact that I’d had exceptional sales of others. It didn’t change the fact that I was a good writer—better than some and not as good as others—or that I loved to write. It didn’t change the fact that readers liked my books. It didn’t change the fact that people liked me.

Because that’s what I believe we internalize most when our writing is rejected: I am not good enough. When I think those thoughts, feel unworthy, I change the thoughts to I am good enough. More importantly, I am more than my manuscript, more than amazon sales rankings, more than other people’s reviews, more than the books I write, more than my career. I am more than a writer. I am so much more.

 

Perhaps the most important way to overcome rejection is this:

 

4. Persevere

Just as I have yet to meet a writer who hasn’t experienced rejection, I also have yet to meet a writer for whom patience, persistence, and perseverance hasn’t paid off. As in life, a writing career is all about ebb and flow. Embrace it. Jump in. And keep swimming. Or, if need be, just float.

 

Note that I am not advocating a just-get-over-it approach. I think rejection needs to be validated and recognized, and that you need to allow yourself to feel the pain of it. Lean into it, if you must. However, you don’t want to wallow in rejection for so long that it paralyzes your ability to keep writing or jeopardizes your self-esteem. If these approaches work for you, put any or all of them into effect as soon as possible.

 

Discussion: As a writer, how have you coped with rejection? Please share in the comments.

 

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