Recently I watched a superb TED talk by Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy on how body language shapes who you are. We know much of this instinctively; shoulders hunched imply self-doubt while standing erect with arms crossed indicates dominance. Of course Cuddy’s lecture went into greater detail on how the many forms of nonverbal communication influence our thoughts, feelings—even our physiology.
What does any of this have to do with publishing? Quite a bit, in fact.
Troll through the private Facebook groups for writers and you’ll hear boasting and self-congratulatory fervor, to be sure. But if you listen closely you’ll detect something else. A bashful lurker will pipe up and ask for advice on a novel she can’t find the stamina to complete. Or an author will admit that BookBub has rejected his novel repeatedly and he now questions his talents. You’ll meet the writer who spends all day posting and no time writing, and the scribe who has started seven manuscripts with no clear intention of finishing any of them.
Artists, like everyone else, are masters at self-sabotage. No doubt you’ve experienced the destructive internal dialogue that crashes into your consciousness the moment your plot gains steam or the pages begin to flow.
“I’m just not good enough.”
You are good enough. Keep in mind there is no end game for artists, no pinnacle of mastery you’ll one day reach. We brew inspiration with sweat and tears. We’re dazzled when the work flows and we glimpse something divine, but even as we brush our fingertips across God’s firmament, we must understand we’ll never cradle the stars.
Which brings me back to the niggling doubts sure to derail the heartiest soul: “I’ll never be as talented as Name-Your-Novelist.” “Who am I kidding? No one will ever read this.”
And you’re correct. No one will read your work unless you believe in the unique skill set that first brought you to creativity’s table. Begin now:
Good Goals. Devise concrete, measurable goals like 500 words written per day—or week. What matters is that you achieve your goals despite the other demands on your time. Pie-in-the-sky objectives will only leave you frustrated and less motivated to proceed.
Sweet Rewards. Toss a dollar into a “splurge jar” every time you reach a goal. Write a letter to yourself filled with compliments and the kind of support you wouldn’t hesitate to offer a child. Because that’s the point—there’s a hungering child inside all of us, a sweet, inventive spirit you need on your side if you ever hope inspiration will strike.
Just as Dumb. Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet or at the next writer’s convention you attend. There isn’t a successful novelist working today who hasn’t been down in the dumps, felt stupid because he couldn’t master a new technology fast enough, or considered throwing a manuscript out the window. The only difference between you and the royals topping the bestseller lists? Those successful authors persevered, continued to learn new storytelling techniques and marketing strategies, and never gave up in the face of rejection.
Fake It and You’ll Make It. I love Cuddy’s quote, which speaks to the balance between hubris and humility we all must strike to succeed. “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”
Now sit up straight and get back to work.
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