October 30th, 2017

Staying Positive in a Negative (Writer’s) World

Sue Ward Drake

I recently spoke on a panel at Romance Writers of America national conference on writing disabled characters. I was asked to present because I had previously worked with the conference for permission to have a transcriber at workshops because I’m deaf.

At my recent presentation, an audience member asked if I thought I wrote “inspirational porn.” I’d never heard the expression, but I suppose presenting a disabled person as a ‘normal’ romance heroine with the same sort of worries as any other woman might well be categorized this way. By other people, mind you. After the conference, I realized I’m actually an inspirational junkie, but not because I have trouble hearing. Or maybe that’s why. I don’t know, but I have to face the truth.

Say your goal is to write a book.

You can’t turn around without running into a self-help book on goal setting. In the beginning of the 20th century men like Napoleon Hill wrote inspirational books about success with a focus on becoming rich. There are still plenty of people giving how-to-succeed-in-business books. Now there’s life coaching and SWOT analyses.

What will help you reach your goal?

The number one quality a writer must have is stubbornness. The will to sit yourself down and write every day. The will to keep marching through the muck (which is what failure feels like).

The next is a belief in yourself. Because you’re going to be writing a lot of words before you write something others want to read. If you enter contests there will be plenty of people who will tell you what’s wrong with those words.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard professor, says of her book Confidence: “Confidence isn’t optimism or pessimism…It’s the expectation of a positive outcome.” So how do you develop the confidence to keep moving toward that goal?

I have a folder full of newspaper and magazine clippings dating back to 2000, which means I must have had this in my office because my house was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. A lot of these are about how to be happy (from SELF magazine) but most are about how to achieve goals. I have a whole year of Gail Blanke’s columns for the magazine REAL SIMPLE about motivation, syndicated newspaper articles by Jeff Herring on taking action toward a dream, interviews from the New York Times business section and even the Vows section. One wedding I clipped mentioned the bride who, when she wanted something, would go after it with a “sort of mythological force.” That’s the type of confidence you need to be a writer—or just to live a happy life.

What specific process will help you reach your goal?

Athletes use visualization to win their races. They visualize every turn down the mountain, every  flip at the end of the pool until they’ve reached the finish. Writers can use the process to achieve their goals.

Make a vision board with clippings or photographs of yourself or make one on Pinterest. Write down what you want, even if it’s as simple as finding a place to write. In Henriette Anne Klauser’s Write It Down Make it Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It she describes how she and others have used this method to finalize their dreams by writing down what she wanted step by step and why. She suggests writing about those times when you successfully went after a goal, any goal, big or small. This doesn’t have to be New-York-Times-bestseller-list stuff.

Story board your steps to success. When your confidence hits the skids, write down those defining moments when you went after something because you wanted it more than effort.

Often the most important type of confidence isn’t self-confidence, but that nurtured by others. So find your cheerleaders, your tribe. Don’t have a writing group in your town? Get one long-distance via contacts you made at conferences or through social media.

Reinforce your goals with affirmations every day. Use the word ‘I’ and your name. One of my favorites is about having unlimited creativity, naturally. Another example might be: Because I am a talented author, I easily create my own opportunities. Paul Norris, former CEO of W.R. Grace & Company who also had a handicap said in a New York Times business interview: “Always create situations that will create opportunities in the future, even if you decide not to take them.”

Remember there is an unlimited supply of success, whatever that means to you. Nora Roberts is quoted as saying: “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never get it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” 

How about you, WITS readers? How do you manage to stay positive?

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 Sue Ward Drake grew up in an old house full of dark windows, with a passion for writing, travel and international spy thrillers. Her early literary efforts include submitting a short story to a national magazine at the age of eight and writing a fictional advice column for her high school newspaper.  After a year of study in Spain and a stint living in a farmhouse on a Greek island, a location she used in her first traditionally-published romance, HEAR NO EVIL, she returned to New Orleans where her gradually worsening hearing led to a career as a computer analyst for a bank and a local university.

A survivor of the devastating hurricane Katrina, she currently resides in Nevada with her husband of thirty-eight years. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, swimming, and cooking low-density meals. You can visit Sue on Twitter and find out more about her writing and her books at  www.SueWardDrake.com.  

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