Hey Writing Etc. Subscriber,
I began my grand writing career with stars in my eyes and a song in my heart. It wasn’t long before cold, hard reality started biting my butt.
It’s quite difficult to maintain that rosebud and rainbows attitude once rejections come flying in, checkbooks drain, and feelings of inadequacy flood over you. It’s equally difficult to sell any writing when you’re experiencing difficulties connecting with the person who receives your proposals.
It’s funny how creative ideas evaporate when terror washes through your veins. But those emotions can become part of the creative process. Copywriter, John Carlton, calls this type of writing “Gun to the Head” copywriting. This means that he takes the attitude that if his next project isn’t a success, he’ll starve. His bills won’t get paid. His car will probably be repossessed. It also means that he recommends using tried and true formulas to get the job done. Chuck experimenting. Forget any intuitiveness.
I take the opposite approach.
Rather than continually pour undue pressure upon myself… rather than purchase something I probably don’t need on credit… I’ll go without until I have the cash in hand. I don’t subscribe to the “Gun to the Head” method, nor do I recommend it.
Yeah. I’ve got goals. I even cultivate a few dreams along the way as well. But I don’t do well with the “Gun to the Head” writing style.
I prefer a calm and enjoyable creative life. One that cultivates the creative process 24/7 rather than chokes my thoughts with fear. I’m off track. Please allow me to start at the beginning.
I began writing professionally in 1995. After just graduating Summa Cum Laude from St. Cloud State University, the world was my oyster. I awoke every morning, leaped out of bed, raced to my state of the art 386 Pentium and allowed words to flow from my vivid imagination onto the computer screen.
Everything flowed according to plan until the time came to actually sell the manuscript.
That’s when hard reality started biting.
First, came the complex query process. Then I was hit with the never ending rejection process. After that, I discovered that the text needed a major overhaul. Without notice, my dream life transformed into a daily drudge. But I persevered and somewhere around 2001, I finally landed a publisher.
My troubles were over, right? Far from it. Nobody ever told me that novelists had to promote their own books.
I don’t have any idea who I figured would promote my book for me, but I didn’t figure it would be me. Oprah didn’t call out of the blue to interview me. Time magazine didn’t seem remotely interested in my grand triumph. And People magazine? You guessed it, they didn’t have the mental telepathy skills to know they needed to interview me concerning this huge accomplishment.
So after some severe soul searching (and a few months of absolutely zero sales), I decided I needed to develop a few sales skills. And here’s about the time I got off track.
For the next few years, copywriting and advertising dominated my thoughts. I was determined to earn the wage I believed every educated, hard working writer deserved. And I did very well, thank-you.
Thing is, I felt hollow. I disliked the focus on selling, honing sales skills, and memorizing top secret internet sales strategies. Don’t get me wrong. There’s honor in getting paid what you’re worth. However, when it dominates your “raison d’etre”, you’ve got a problem. That being said, I figure I remained basically off track for more years than I should have.
Everything switched the cold December day when my husband suffered a big-time heart attack. And yeah. It was big. Bad. And quite eye opening. Having faced death square in the face really put things back into perspective for me. Realizing that this life can end in (literally) a heart beat was a real eye opener. That’s the moment I decided to take back my muse, stop focusing on income, and reclaim my imagination.
I also took hold of my mindset.
At the time I really felt disconnected from my muse. After years of developing sales skills, memorizing formulas that would aid in the persuasion process, and spending far too much time with copywriters… I knew I had to make a change. But as I analyzed the situation, I realized that in my zest to earn a living wage, I’d allowed my muse to languish. I think I allowed it to happen because many creative types deal in more than their fair share of fear.
What if readers dislike my latest book?
What if reviewers trash it?
What if people find out I’m a hoax?
What if I don’t earn a living wage?
What if… what if… what if… what if….
If you look closely at every one of those questions, you’ll discover pretty darn fast that you have absolutely, positively, no control over any of them. I once received a mediocre review because the reviewer had a cold; just didn’t feel all that great. More than likely, they probably wouldn’t have “liked” anything they read that day. It was totally out of my control.
One reader can call something you create “awesome” while the next will call you a “hack.” It’s the nature of the biz, folks.
The only aspect of your career you have direct control over is to ensure that you’re always providing your dead level best. Some days, your best soars above the crowd. Sometimes, your best will suck. It’s just the way it goes.
And this is exactly why you should mind your mindset so carefully.
Depending on the the tone of incoming information, you can allow your mind to wander into very dangerous negative territory, or you can merely observe the feedback and treat it as such. Because that’s what the creative life is all about: feedback.
Negative or positive, this feedback merely reflects another person’s opinion.
And believe it or not, some people can set themselves up as experts with nary a wit of expertise in your area, especially when you’re dealing with Internet critics. That being said, you should notice the feedback, alter your course when necessary, but don’t hang your entire career upon the opinion of anyone other than yourself.
See? It’s all about mindset. And if you allow your mindset to soften for even one moment, you can find yourself so off track that you barely recognize where you are when you wake up.
So, how do you keep yourself on track? We’ll chat about that next time. In the mean time…
Onward and upward!
P.S. This was an excerpt from my latest book, Advice to Freelance Writers: Insider Secrets to Effective Shoestring Marketing, Managing a Winning Mindset, and Thriving in Any Economy. We’re talking three volumes of hard core freelance information in one handy download (at a fabulous price to boot). I truly appreciate your incredible support for this project. 🙂
Just click here for details:
Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News – June 15, 2012
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