Every writer, whether they're starting the journey or standing atop the bestseller lists, feels like a hack at some point. Like an imposter, a phony, a gigantic fakeball loser. It might happen once a month or once an hour. The point is, it will happen.
If Woody Allen is correct and “80% of success is showing up,” the other 20% of a writer's success must be correlated to their stockpile of courage and the strength of their underpants.
[Y'all know about my obsession with the Undie-verse, right?]
I'm sure we're all well-acquainted with the tricks our writer's brain has up its sleeve. The torturous, defeating messages it sends out when we sit our butts down.
And the #1 favorite from the top of the post:
These messages are where those titanium underpants come into play. Your courage and your willingness to make mistakes is what will keep you in that chair, even when you're squirming against whatever doom and failure happen to be chasing through your psyche that day.
Neil Gaiman posted this wish for his readers a few New Year's Eves back:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
Isn't that awesome???
All the great minds of our time embrace mistakes because they embrace learning. They dare to suck, and that's a beautiful thing. That means if we get in the habit of just showing up, we will eventually achieve excellence, right?
If you don't believe me, look at our pal Laura Drake here at Writers In the Storm.
When I first met her, she was clawing her way through her first full-length novel with a cardboard hero and a plot that resembled Swiss cheese. It didn't matter. Because she had tenacity. She had a dream, a strong work ethic and underpants just like those glittery babies up above. (Okay, maybe she wore cotton, but it was strong cotton.)
Laura showed up every day before dawn, facing down that "You Suck" voice because she had a dream. She attended her monthly writing meetings and took every class Margie Lawson offered.
Seven books and several years later, she is about to publish the book of her heart because all that chair time and effort and classes were about this book. THIS was the book she wanted to be good enough to write, because this book is for her sister.
Elizabeth Gilbert's (incredibly amazing) TED talk references these two elusive ideas - the concept of "showing up" and the creative muse.
Gilbert believes the importance of showing up is this:
Whatever creative gorgeousness there is in your universe needs your fingertips to help it into existence. If you don't show up to the page, that beautiful cranky bipolar muse is going to go show up for someone else who is doing the work.
She expressed it this way:
"And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about [writing] is don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.
"If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then Olé! And if not, do your dance anyhow. And Olé! to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it.
"Olé! to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."
Just showing up can be an act of great courage. Even if the only thing coming out of your fingertips is crappy writing and hangnails - especially if that's where you are - showing up is an act of defiance that will pay off. That kind of iron will is what forges successful writers.
Sometimes you have to channel social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, and fake it till you make it.
In fact, at the end of the snippet below she says, "..don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize."
Note: Cuddy's entire TED talk is here, and is worth your twenty minutes to watch (and the two minutes afterward you will spend pretending to be Wonder Woman).
Here's hoping you show up to your writing in 2016, in some cute-but-mighty underpants, in time to catch the gorgeousness and get it to the page. At the very least, I hope you make some incredibly grand mistakes.
Do you make New Year's resolutions? What are they for 2016? What is your greatest writing challenge? And do you have any inspirational quotes to share?
* * * * * *
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Love you, Jen. Thanks for 'getting it' about this book. I never told you that, but you said what was in my heart. That's one of the million things that makes you a diamond in my life.
I'm STILL afraid. Every. F***ing. Morning. I sit down to write, and all that 'suckage' comes up.
Just do it anyway - you may be surprised what you have to say. I know I am.
Hugs to all the incredibly brave writers of the world. You inspire me.
Of course I get it. I too have lost people who are so visceral to my existence, being without them is like learning to speak again. Writing a book for them, and to them, is incredibly difficult and inexpressibly brave. I'm proud of you, girl! You're one of my diamonds too. 🙂
As Nora Roberts said, "I can't fix a blank page." Showing up matters.
Don't make resolutions. Set goals. Resolutions are vague, lofty, and fizzle out the way people stop showing up at the gym by March. Goals are short term, measurable, and small steps. "I will write X words a day, X times a week" is something you can measure. "I will finish my book" is too easy to give up on. And "I will make the NYT Best Seller List" is a dream, not a resolution or a goal.
Great advice, Terry! You're going to love Orly's New Year post!
Terry, I have to tell you...sitting down, opening the document and setting the timer is as far as I can get on the goal setting. The minute I add all those expectations to the mix, it all gets overwhelming. I'm working up to it... 🙂
I'm not convinced by Amy Cuddy's work (although I respect her education, experience, and standing). However, I am convinced by this: :All the great minds of our time embrace mistakes because they embrace learning. They dare to suck…"
This is excellent. If you're afraid to fail, you'll retard your own progress until it's all too late. Instead, we have to learn to overcome our fear of failure and judgement, and push on. This is the only way we can succeed in life. Thanks for a great, thought provoking post!
I hear you, Adrian. I don't know whether standing like Wonder Woman is going to give me confidence, but I do know that there have been many stages of my career where I just had to fake it till I became it. Failure and learning results from that, and it was always valuable.
Thanks for taking time to comment!
Fantastic post! I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Big Magic and so enjoyed listening to the TED talk you provided. Elizabeth's book is a wonderful, powerful read for writers. Full of inspiring wisdom on living a creative life with the simple mantra to just do the work. Great advice for me to take into 2016. Happy New Year!
I didn't know about that book. I've had my head down in my own cave for a while, but I admire her so much. I'll have to pick it up - THANK YOU!
She also has a podcast on the same subject: Big Magic. It's awesome. This was such a serendipitous post for me, thank you for all this wonderfullness. And I do believe I am Wonder Woman when I stand like that!
Who doesn't want to read a book with "Big Magic" and Elizabeth Gilbert on the front? Geesh. Talk about wonderfulness!! Thanks, Amy. Happy New Year to you. 🙂
Thank you. Cheers to the truth!
Happy New Year, Chris!!
Thank you. I needed to read this (and the comments!). I am always inspired and impressed by how the writers I have met (especially via blogging/internet) are so supportive and edifying.
Thank YOU, Sue. You are always one of the commenters who gives me a lift right back. The online writing community is amazing, and I always manage to find some inspiration from my peeps right when I need it the most. Happy New Year to you!!
Aw! Thanks, Jenny. Happy New Year to you, too!
While I don't believe for a nanosecond that Laura was in the "Fake it..." crowd in the early days, I know that she has always been passionate about learning and improving her craft and taking chances with her writing. And I bless her every day for trying to install that brand of fearlessness in me and my writing. 2016 is THE year, Laura!
I too adore her fearlessness, or at least her ability to bully through the fear when it comes. It's inspirational, and I'm so proud of you for donning the titanium this year and GOING FOR IT!! Here's hoping we're pub buddies. 🙂
I need some of them titanium panties! You mean I'm not the only one who sits down and thinks 'why do I bother?'? Jenny, you took my breath away in your response to Laura about losing a loved one: "being without them is like learning to speak again."
LOL, I adore you Debbie. I truly do. (Laura does too, when your team isn't beating the crap out of hers. 🙂 ) But I'm sorry you can relate to that comment - it is so hard to lose someone who is necessary to us. Hugs to you, my friend. And Happy 2016!
Ditto, Jenny! <3 As for Laura . . . tell her I said Roll Tide. 🙂 She'll love it. Happy New Year and may the Muse be with ya!
Thanks, Jenny! This came at exactly the right moment for me. I'm in crunch time with a deadline of TOMORROW! I've procrastinated for 2 hours.. not writing. All the inadequacies and fear has had me frozen.
So, NOW I'm gonna just do it! Thanks for hitting my defrost button.
You are so welcome, Debbie! And thanks for making my whole day. That's the goal of articles like these, to help spur on my fellow writing peeps. You're gonna nail that deadline. 🙂
GOOOOoooooo Debbie! Don't make me put on my too-tight cheerleading skirt - no one wants to see that. Go Write!
This is absolutely perfect here at the end of the year when some of us grow weary as we mix so many personal duties with our choice to make our books awesome. Sometimes it gets a bit daunting, so we need this little shot of inspiration.
Oh boy, do I ever understand the end of the year weariness! The holidays make me want to grab my Linus blankie and whine for my mama. I think they have that affect on most of us.
Enjoy your New Year and re-set your writing meter to tackle the page in January. You've got this.
[…] talk. Stand like Wonder Woman. And if you need more inspiration for the New Year, take a gander at my post over at Writers In the Storm today. […]
I really, really, really love this. It is exactly what I needed to hear.
And I find it interesting that I have read 2 blog posts from my favorite blogs today that each used a Neil Gaiman quote -- and not the same one. The other was on A Year of Living Kindly; you can see it here (at the end of Donna's article, just as you did with your NG quote): http://ayearoflivingkindly.com/2015/12/30/what-comes-next-yolk-welcomes-2016/
I'm delighted to hear it, Tim! And thanks for sharing Donna's post - I love her Neil Gaiman quote too. 🙂
Thank you for this beautiful post. My first novel sucked. Then my second one did. Then my third one. My forth one is actually something I think someone might publish and the one I'm writing now...someone might want to actually read it. And all because I keep trying because I know at my very core that only if I don't try will I fail.
I hope you all have a wonderful and above all safe new year...safe but not boring.
Little Miss W, GOOD FOR YOU. To write and finish, even when you think your novel sucks is an act of such bravery. I'm so impressed with you!! You keep going girl. Greatness only happens with practice, and it sounds like you are well on your way to it.
Good. For. You. Seriously...
Excellent inspiration for the New Year. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. "
So glad you quoted Eleanor, Sheila - she's one of my heroes. In a world where women did 'women's work', and prettiness was prized over everything, she said, 'Okay, fine', and set about changing the world. Sigh. The fortitude.
I agree. She is a great inspiration to women. Thank you so much for stopping by the Cow Pasture and taking the time to comment. The best to you in 2016.
I have more "I can't do this" moments than I care to confess. But the best things I've done are to learn more craft, connect with encouraging writers (who quickly became friends), and just keep going. Thanks for more great rah-rah advice here!
Ah, Julie, you're the perfect 'fake it' example, because you make it look effortless on the outside! So happy to have finally met you in 2015!
I'm with Laura - you really do make it look easy. But I know that it isn't, and your work ethic is beautiful. I know it will be hard to top 2015 on the awesome scale for you, but I'll bet you do it. 🙂
This post came at a good time for me. Introspection and wondering why I try so hard and if it's worth it. I'm on my fourth book, hopefully to be contracted, soon. I look back at my first book and I have learned so much from the "mistakes" I believe I made. I admire all you younger writers and I can only wish for a News Years Resolution of being 25 years younger. It' not going to happen so I just have to writer faster and better, and learn from all the talented writers I come across. And yes, it's hard to lose a loved one, but I'd like to think we'll meet them again in another world and/or we'll create something fantastic about them.
All of you are a fantastic group. Happy New Year.
Sandra, I'm so happy to hear it! And who cares if you're not 25 years younger. All of us have today. And today is pretty rockin'. 🙂
I so needed to hear this. Thank you for sharing these thoughts which will inspire and fortify me this year. I'm going to bookmark this and read it over and over.
I plan to come back here myself, Rose. These are the kinds of lessons I need to pound into my head some days. 🙂 (Okay, MANY days.)
See, this is why I subscribe to WITS. This is why I look forward to opening up my email. Maybe a little late for this post. But needless to say,, I want to thank you Jenny Hansen. Most days I doubt that anyone will enjoy what I write and wonder why I continue to torment myself. It's a very strange feeling for sure. And yet, I don't want to give up. I just need to put my big girl undies on and keep moving forward. Thanks for the motivation. 🙂
You're welcome for the motivation, Karen. And we ALL feel that way. Often. Don't despair, just keep writing your stories. 🙂
[…] Read More: 3 Essential Writing Lessons for 2016 | Writers In The Storm […]
Loved this post! in fact, I’m sharing it with a number of special people. We often doubt ourselves and our abilities, but I have always said, we’re stronger and smarter than we think. “Fake it till you make it.” Wise words and thank you for sharing.
Thanks, Sheila! I hope all those special people appreciate it. We sure adore our community here at WITS, and we're happy to share any wise words that come our way.
You’re welcome. I’ve found sharing something that moves me, teaches me something new, or simply reaffirms is an important part of blogging and connecting with others.
You’re welcome. Sharing information from others is an important part of blogging. Whenever I read a post that is so inspiring, teaches me something new, or simply reaffirms, I want to share it with my readers. It’s the least I can do. Thanks again for a great post and stopping by the Cow Pasture.
You might not know it, but I am ALL about the cowbell. Happy to visit your pasture. 🙂
Glad to hear it. Please drop by anytime. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I really needed to hear this today, Jenny. Thank you for posting this article. Fake it til you become it... brought me to tears. So, I'm putting on my big girl undies and showing up to work! 😀
Elise, she brought me to tears, watching that video. Fake it til you become it has become my new guiding principle. 🙂
You're rocking those undies, girl!!!
Love so much about this, Jenny. Working on my 2nd book now and I'm a psychological wreck about it (my 1st was pubbed this fall, and now the doubts/push to do better are all screwing with my brain!)--thanks for the super positive kick in the pants!
Leah, I don't know how I missed replying to your comment, but GOOD FOR YOU. Everyone swears Book #2 is harder than #1. You've got your dreams within your grasp now, so you are afraid to lose. And you have to write this one faster than the other.
It's hard, but you can do it. I know you can. 🙂