In the last 24 hours, I got very positive news on the grant application. It made me so happy, and brought me back to a place of confidence. And it got me thinking…
Great writers come from a place of great confidence. The ground beneath their feet is solid, and if it isn’t, they are making it so each step of the way. The story must be told, and there is a deep belief in the story. There is a certain amount of “knowing” that must happen, whether it is conscious or subconscious.
However, confidence can be amorphous. Truly prolific writers give confidence a particular form by writing — they consistently verify their state of confidence through the act of writing. They “ship” and get their work “out there”. Writing coupled with serial affirmations becomes a positive feedback loop, reifying the prolific writer’s confidence.
I was taking a quiz to self-diagnose whether or not I am a “serious writer” (I would link it here, but dope! I closed the window). The quiz has 13 questions, and if you answer ‘Yes’ for all of them, then yes, by God, you are a “serious writer”. Out of the 13 questions, I got 10 of them. Of the ones I did not get, one of them asked whether I was part of a book club, a writer’s circle, or group of some sort. Another one asked whether I published an article, or book chapter, or post once a week. And the last one asked me if I knew what success looks like for ME (this is a ‘Yes”, but it’s a qualified, course-correcting yes – and each time this question is asked, I take the opportunity to answer it, so it is partially a ‘No’). All of these three questions got me thinking — I write so privately and alone, leaving myself so vulnerable to what others may think. And when I do publish, it can be hit or miss. If I published more, I could be more successful, and be less scrappy.
I immediately RSVPd at one of my local writing meetups. I also made a resolution to make a daily “ship” that has to do with furthering my writing goals (to start for the next 7 days: draft of my statement of purpose, PhD application essay 1, essay 2, revise statement of purpose, a post on my work blog, posts on my personal blog, posts on my family blog). These two approaches will help me give form to my own confidence.
Finally, to the million dollar question: Do I know what success means for ME? To answer this, I first think: Success means luxury to write about my chosen genres, positive relationships with editors, co-authors, and my community, writing regularly and getting it out there, and making a living by connecting and conveying ideas on a daily basis. Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t. Guess what? I already HAVE THESE THINGS. This is the part that beguiles me. Why have I been operating from a place of lack of confidence, uncertainty, and VOICELESS. Have you ever felt VOICELESS? That’s literally the feeling I’ve been carrying with me for 5 years. Like the cat got her tongue. Just this sheer inability to stand on my own two feet – or my own words. Hiding behind managers, being “busy”, and so on.
On the point of “making a living” – I want to make more money. Successful writing will bring me more writing opportunities – to the tune of $100,000 / year and lots and lots of time flexibility. Contractor wants to come by on a Tuesday afternoon? Sure! I have to meet my swimming coach from 7:30 – 8:30am? Sure! I want to spend the afternoon cooking for a family dinner? Sure!
So, success to me is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Feeling the fear and writing brilliant copy for work projects, writing compelling presentations, writing essays that move and shake, doing the research I want to do and writing about it in a 100 different ways, making connections and writing about them, meeting people and writing about my meetings. Just doing it. I have a platform, I have a stage.
My personal success statement:
To me, success means that I regularly write feature articles, blog posts, academic articles, book chapters, professional reports. Success is making a plan and doing the work. To me, success comes from a place of deep positivity, the support of my loved ones, self-love, and confidence. Success is work that is well-received, and success is having the right mentors and coaches to help me make it happen. Success is doing great research and communicating it well. Success is telling compelling, clear stories that change the way people see the world.
After this, I quickly went to some blogs and articles that EFFECTIVELY help answer the question of identifying success as a writer:
- The 7 Habits of Writing Success school of thought is: writing, focus, reading, learning, redrafting, professionalism, reflection
- Five Smarter Habits of Great Writers: 1. Write for Others, 2. Write Something Scary Every Day, 3. Finish Shorter Pieces, 4. Test Your Skill by Submitting for Publication, 5. Disregard All Advice
Talent is natural ability. For a writer, it means facility with language and/or skill at storytelling. It includes imagination and as in other fields, it involves being able to suss out one’s own niche. What particular things are you, as a writer good at?
[Response: I am good at interdisciplinary narration. I am good at writing out the story versus telling the story. I am good at descriptive writing. I want to work on impromptu writing and storytelling.]
Knowledge has to do with the mechanics of storytelling, sentences, the way a reader’s mind works and how to get out of that way, and so on. There are a whole string of elements that can be learned about writing. You can find a bunch of them on Chuck Wendig’s website, terribleminds.com. You can learn them by taking a course. You can read books about writing.
[Response: I am good at academic and formulaic writing, but I want to get better at creative writing.]
Experience comes from writing and from reading. Because you need to have been a reader in order to understand both what works generally as well as the way your own mind works in terms of words. You need to write, a lot. I don’t remember the exact number of words or stories he mentioned, but Warren Ellis once told me you have to write so many bad words or stories to get to the good ones. So experience is, in a way, first writing stories that don’t work. It’s like trying to make a map of cool places when you don’t have GPS or Google. You have to walk the streets and make notes. You have to explore.
[Response: Yeah… I need to write more and read more. :)]
Passion is your innate drive to pursue your creative work. It is what Jung talked about when he said that writers had been known to abandon their entire lives in order to write a story. It’s what people mean when they say they ‘have to’ write. It might be that a writer feels she has never been good at anything else. It’s very strong, this passion. It confronts and defeats obstacles. It doesn’t listen to nay-sayers. It’s a river carving its way inland from the ocean of your subconscious. Without it, all the talent and knowledge in the world will not get you there. It’s because of this element that people follow their bliss, pursuing creative work although it means living on the edge financially. Or when they have other demands on them, such as family and responsibility, they continue to pursue their creative work in spite of it not being the easiest or most lucrative thing they could do to make money.
[Response: This is me.]
Twice a day, place your hand on your chest and say out loud “I choose to become a successful writer. I have the attitude of a successful writer.” This is a declaration, not an affirmation.
Carolyn encourages us to consciously visualize the successful writer’s life we want to have in the future in detail, including what we’ll wear, if that’s important to us, what friends we’ll have, where we’ll live, and more. That kind of visualization is important, I think. If we don’t put some thought into what we want, how will we know when we’ve achieved it? She encourages us to go into detail because some of the details are easier to achieve than others. It’s very tough to make the New York Times bestseller list, but it’s not so hard to save up for a splashy cape or dramatic trench coat.
Boiling it down:
Being a successful writer means that I will have a steady stream of writing projects that are guaranteed to result in research publication, successful reports, paid articles, and then some! As a successful writer I will get the time to spend and devote to my family, friends, spiritual, mental, and physical emotional health. As a successful writer, I will make over $100,000 a year as a freelance writer, part-time or full-time research employee, part-time researcher at a research institute, blogger, adjunct and/or assistant professor. As a successful writer, I will also have the time to diversify my sources of income by launching a new business. As a successful writer, I will work out daily, be graceful and beautiful, be well-dressed and on-point, have the time to read, comment, and attend lectures, connect with people in my genre and field, and play an active role in my community. As a successful writer, I will be a successful person — present, active, full of life, graceful, slender, a beautiful mother, wife, employee, friend, daughter, sister, and colleague.
I write daily when I wake up, I blog daily at least once a day, I complete my professional and freelance assignments early and really well.