If You’re Doing This, Knock it Off!

Strong Women

Strong Women

Update: Author Kristen Lamb wrote a kick-ass blog post about this very topic. Need a nudge to take more risks and go for the big thing you really want? If so, check it out here.

Hard to believe women are still doing this, but we are and it’s affecting our success.

In one day, in a private Facebook group with many successful, published authors, I saw the following posts:

“I know it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ve all done, but I just got my first review and I’m so excited!”

 “Granted, the category is really narrow, but I just reached #1 on such-and-such list!”

“This is just a short story, an easy read.”

These achievements are impressive and should stand on their own. No misplaced modesty or qualifiers of any kind!

Each of these statements appeared in a group for women only. You don’t see a lot of this from men.

Study after study shows that men project more confidence, whether or not they have the stuff to back it up. Strangely enough, when you project confidence, success often follows.

In fact, according to this article in The Atlantic, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Even when their performances do not differ in quality.

“Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.”

The article goes on to indicate that regardless of ability, confidence breeds success.

In Submit Like a Man: How Women Writer’s Can be More Successful,  a former literary magazine editor, female, confirms that women publish less in literary journals, largely because of how they do or don’t react to editor feedback.

Yes, the title may rankle, and not all women still have this issue. But in one day, in a supportive, safe, professional group; the apologizing and qualifying were commonplace.

Let’s try something like this instead: “I wrote this. I’m proud of it. Let me know what you think.”

Slip a rubber band on your wrist and if you feel yourself downplaying an accomplishment or apologizing for having an opinion, SNAP! Resist the urge.

If you know you have a problem with confidence, check out Confidence Breeds Success– And it Can Be Taught from Forbes for a start. You might like this post on self-doubt.

Maybe raising awareness will help us all to project more confidence, and in turn increase our own chances for success.

 

 

2 Thoughts on “If You’re Doing This, Knock it Off!

  1. Awesome Suzanne. I’ve been passing around a Ted Talks video on body language with similar findings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc . Thank you for this post, it’ll be there like the rubber band to remind me of the importance of owning my value.

Revisions: Lessons of the Second Draft

Frustrated Writer

Frustrated Writer

In my wildly popular* post “I Wrote A Book, Now What” I shared what happens after typing “The End” on a first draft.

*Wildly popular means read by someone other than my mother and best friend.

Here’s an update on my progress.

Like sex or Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake, the learning curve for writing a novel is something you have to experience for yourself. No writer can convey what the process will be like for you because the process is never the same.

Cheesecake_GodivaChoco

Gratuitous photo of chocolate sex

Similarly, no recounting evokes the mental anguish and befuddlement of the actual undertaking. Hence, most unsuccessful novelists simply shelve their hideous first efforts and move on to the next project, or give up all together.

My bio on Twitter is accurate, I am pear-shaped and pushing 50. I’m determined to improve so I’ve got to face the fear of the second draft on this project. Then and only then, I will decide if the story is worth further effort.

So far, my revision process includes 50 new pages of material and a 30-page handwritten outline of the entire novel as it currently exists.

I needed to know the present world of my characters and show them interacting more before I start them on their journey of transformation. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast. In the new material, my main character is now 10 years younger and childless. Lesson: Generating new material often presents new problems for the writer that have to be resolved throughout the entire draft.

The first draft for a pantser (writing by the “seat of your pants” vs. planning) is like magic. Things just flow out through seemingly no effort of your own. But 290 pages of information is a lot to remember which is why characters end up with different names half way through and you can’t remember who’s related, etc.

writers-block

There was so much for me to learn, I applied and was accepted to a Novel in a Year program. The writing teacher strongly suggested I give outlining a try. Ugh.  Lesson: Outlining at some point in the process is incredibly useful for consistency and as a reference for rewriting.

So how do you do it? A typical day of revision is waking up early, making a cup of tea, stretching in the kitchen and then sitting down at my desk. I open up the word document and reread the previous material from my last session. Then I review my editor’s comments and decide what to tackle for that session. Either I’m adding a new scene, removing a section, correcting errors, etc.

Brainstorming, questioning, making lists of possibilities are all part of my process right now. Will I leave the kids in the story? Did I show enough interaction and conflict or tension between the main character and her husband in the first chapter? How am I going to tie the last chapter of the new material to the old material?

At first I was sure I was lost. I put off sitting down in front of the laptop. I didn’t know how to wrestle the three-inch stack of papers and notes into submission. What kind of an incompetent writer doesn’t know the age of her main character?

writingprocess1-1024x692

What I’ve heard, read and by the grace of the writing gods have come to internalize is that as long as I’m still working at it, learning and trying new things, I’m writing. Lesson: This is my process for this book so it is the right process. The struggle means I’m learning.

If you’re struggling with a first draft of a novel or short story or essay, congratulations. You’re writing.

(All photos via creative commons – click on photo for link)

One Thought on “Revisions: Lessons of the Second Draft

  1. barb armstrong on April 30, 2015 at 7:15 am said:

    Congratulations, you’re writing!!!

To All the Doubters, Disbelievers, and Fraidy-Cats: An Open Letter

cinderella getting dressed

Dear Undecided:

I can tell you you’re a writer, and your bff, mother, or creative writing teacher can tell you you’re a writer. But that doesn’t count for anything. That uncertainty about whether or not writing is the thing or your thing, whether or not you’re really “called” to do it, “driven” to do it, etc., is all the inner gremlin.  It just is. It’s the voice of doubt and fear masquerading as a logical, practical mind-friend helping you not to waste time.

For example: If writing were your thing, you’d wake up with fully formed stories in your brain and bluebirds would remove your nightdress and usher you into your writing sweater. The friendly cat would rub your ankles and nudge you to your gold-plated writing chair where with ink and parchment or blood and rice paper, you would let flow all the fully formed, writerly thoughts that would bring instant fame and gratification.

cinderella getting dressed

Or, if you really had a passion, surely you wouldn’t hem and haw or see and saw or procrastinate or start and stop or leave things unfinished.  Surely, if writing were what you were called to do, you wouldn’t go months and days and weeks and hours without writing and you wouldn’t feel like you had to push yourself or make yourself do it. If you loved it, you would be doing it.

That is all self-doubt, commonly known as the inner critic. By now, your mid-40’s, or your mid-20’s or late 70’s, you know you have a way with words. You’ve impressed enough customers, friends, relatives, etc., by your ability to craft a well-turned phrase or disarm someone with wit. Not knowing if it’s your thing is really just fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that you won’t be good enough. Fear that you’re not far enough along.

Meow

 You have much to say. You have a unique way of saying it. All of your characters will be you at least a little, at least at the beginning. You are protecting your squishy milk-chocolate center with a hard candy coating of “I’m not sure I should be writing.” But you have something to say or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Or, you’ve already written many things but not submitted. Or submitted but haven’t been published. Or published but not by a “real” publisher. Is this you? Moving the measuring stick as soon as you reach it? Or maybe not finishing things. Filing them away in the drawer or on a bad day, in the trash.

It isn’t perfect. It can stand a good edit. It is emotional, evocative, descriptive, intriguing, surprising. Don’t be a chicken. It’s time to do some writing every day or five days a week or one weekend every month or whatever works in your life.

#BAWKBAWK

Most “real” writers aren’t all called to write. They make themselves write. If I’ve read anything consistent in all the different methods of world-famous writers that is it. They force themselves to go to the desk, cafe, kitchen table, etc. No bluebirds drop a quill in their itchy palms then dart out of the way of their brilliance. They commit to skipping The Good Wife until they hit the 750 word mark. They cancel lunch with their friends and keep the bottle of wine chilled until they end that chapter.

OK – I realize now I’m ranting….but I had to call you out on the “not sure” thing. You say it comes and goes. Hmmm – is it possible that it comes when you’re actually writing and goes when you’re actually not? If so, you’re not alone.

 

epiph·a·ny noun -i-ˈpi-fə-nē-

I found that I had all this longing surrounding writing. I wanted to know that I had talent or that I could write or that it was just a pipe dream. So I started keeping a mental accounting of when I felt least fraudulent or most like a writer….and I had an epiphany.

I felt most like a writer not when I saw my name in a magazine, not when my uber-talented sister told me I was brilliant and not when I got a laugh sharing a piece in a workshop.  I felt most like a writer during the act of writing. If I was sitting at my laptop typing or with a notebook and a pen and words were coming out of my fingers – I felt like a writer.

SECRET TO WRITING

Now it’s much less dangerous and we’re less vulnerable when we’re thinking about writing or talking about writing or any of the activities that aren’t really writing. To quote Amy Poehler “The talking about the thing isn’t the thing.The doing of the thing is the thing.”

Don’t wonder or wait for any kind of confirmation that it is your passion. Just do it passionately and you will have your answer. From the outside looking in, I know you haven’t been able to live without it for very long. If that’s not the definition of a calling I don’t know what is.

Thanks for listening. Now go write something. Start here…send me a note.

 

 

3 Thoughts on “To All the Doubters, Disbelievers, and Fraidy-Cats: An Open Letter

  1. Pingback: If You’re Doing This, Knock it Off! | Suzanne M. Brazil

  2. Suzanne – You continue to impress me with your words! I’d say this idea could be applied to a lot more than just writing! Keep up the good work.