Turning Whine into Gold
By Kathryn Craft, @KCraftWriter
Last year, Janice Gable Bashman and I co-wrote an article for Writer’s Digest Magazine, The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing, that turned out to be quite popular. Apparently sinning resonated with writers (go figure!) who recognized that greed, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, and wrath might be waiting to trip up their creative souls.
But recognizing pitfalls is only half the battle when seeking a fruitful career and a meaningful life. We know what to avoid—but what should we be reaching for?
Many years ago I found great answers within the Toltec wisdom that inspired Don Miguel Ruiz’s 1997 book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.
It’s a little book with a big message. Embracing its wisdom improved all aspects of my life. Today, however, I want to look at what the first tenet has to offer us as writers.
Be impeccable with your word.
Editors love authors who meet their deadlines. (Think about the implied threat here: cross the line and your story is dead.) Doing so shows you are respectful and focused and humble enough to see that publishing is a business concern much larger than your story alone.
Editors, however, will not be the only people to whom you will make commitments. As you take your rightful place within the time-honored lineage of artists who have passed on their knowledge to those who need it, the conferences, community groups, and other writers to whom you’ve made promises will also laud you for honoring your commitments. That said, everyone misjudges from time to time. If you can’t meet an obligation, renegotiate it as soon as possible to preserve your relationships.
Above all else you must act with integrity toward yourself.
Only by keeping your word to yourself can you can be the person you want to be. If you want to be an author, that means showing up at your chosen job so you can pursue your writing goals.
Is this important? We’re creatives after all—if we aren’t in the mood to write today, can’t we switch it up and watch TV instead?
Not if you told yourself you would write. Keeping your word with yourself is the only road to inner peace.
Interestingly, it is also the only road to achievement.
As someone who witnessed her husband’s self-destruction, I know a little something about the stakes here. To ignore this agreement is to introduce dangerous psychic dissonance into your life, which is the result of believing one thing, and doing another.
If you cannot hold yourself to your word and meet your writing goals, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of inner failure.
Think ten years down the road. Who will you be?
a) a family joke
b) an imposter
c) a failure
d) a dreamer
e) a working writer
f) a recorder of truth
g) a go-getter
h) an inspiration
I’ll take “e” through “h,” thank you.
To succeed in writing you must show up and do the work you’ve identified as your life’s mission. Or renegotiate the terms of your commitment, and find a life that you can live with greater integrity.
It’s okay to say that you will journal and learn and doodle for another year or two while your kids are little. It’s okay to say you’re going to work for one hour each day instead of pretending you can churn out an unrealistic word count.
I know for a fact that this sounds a lot simpler than it is. Writing is hard. Finding time to do it is hard. But whining doesn’t get you published. If you are ready to ramp up your career, you will have to raise your expectations, then meet your obligations to self.
I’ll explore the other agreements in future posts. For now, feel free to use the comment section as an opportunity to shout your personal truth to the universe.
What are your current writing and career goals, and how do you intend to keep your word to yourself?
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Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and a second novel due Spring 2015. Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Although a member of The Liars Club, she swears that everything in this bio is true.