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?

 *     *     *     *    *

 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.  

39 responses to “Staying Positive in a Negative (Writer’s) World”

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Susan, I have the stubbornness down (just ask Alpha Dog)! Belief in myself were wings I had to make on the way down. Still struggle with that one....

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      "wings I had to make on the way down" <-- Heh. I love that, Laura. When my belief in myself wanes, I remember how much my mom believed in me and I borrow some of hers. Or I call you. 🙂

      • Everyone has self-doubts, but if you believe in your dream you can get there, or someplace similar. Another door, and all that. Keeping the faith takes constant affirmation. Rita Rainville, who was a chapter of Orange County RWA (before your time, maybe) used to talk about affirmations. I repeat them on the treadmill at the gym because I can't use an iPod.
        If I were doing NaNoWriMo next month I'd repeat this every day before I sat down to write: "I, Sue, am a talented and creative writer. I easily resolve any plot problems!"
        You get the drift. 🙂

    • Hey Laura. Stubborness counts A LOT, but I find I have to careful not to stubborn-ize negative beliefs. Like, ahem, I can't plot.

      • In general, stubborness might only get you a stool in the corner rather than keeping you on the straight and narrow. Don't forget belief in yourself. I find if I can just repeat/read/affirm postivity I will build that belief.

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        If it makes you feel better, Sue, the only one here at WITS who actually plots is Julie. She's amazeballs.

  2. Thanks, Susan! Some days it's hard to believe there's a positive outcome down the road, but we must believe it somewhere down deep because we keep writing and keep submitting. Great article! And I want to hear about low density cooking!

  3. Susan, love this topic. I'm one of these people who practice gratitude. Every night when I go to bed, I fall asleep listing, in my mind, the things I was grateful for that day. In the morning when I get up, I list, in my mind again, the things I'm grateful I get to work toward or accomplish for that day. Helps keep me in a positive frame of mind.

    • Thanks, Maggie. I've never tried using gratitudes. I probably should, though I am grateful every single day to be retired now. I can see how the practice would make you happier, but I'm afraid it would lead to complacency. At least for me. Low-density works, too. (!) Seriously, diet has a lot to do with attitude.

    • Laura Drake says:

      I love that, Maggie! Trying it!

  4. A Vision Board, hmmm...I've asked several writers what their Pinterest Project Inspiration Boards look like--I don't mean the generic one where I collect memes and articles. No one's shared yet, though.

    Now I'm contemplating an actual bulletin board.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I believe Laura has one or two or ten of those. I'll bet she'd love to chat about it.

    • Vision boards are like...if I can see it I can do it. What will make the New York Times list look like? Klauser's book is amazing in this respect. She gives examples of people who have written down their dreams and achieved them.
      Say, you are looking for an apartment. You write down all the aspects of that living space you want (wall to wall windows, allows dogs, close to coffee shops, whatever) and then keep your ears open.
      When I decided to stay on a Greek island, I wanted to continue to write--and not just in a journal (always kept a travel journal). I found a little farmhouse and that same day I was walking the main village street and met some guy I knew was an American and asked him if he knew where I could get a typewriting. Turns out he was leaving and would sell me his for $25. You do have to make yourself receptive to opportunities, I believe.

      • Obviously, I haven't had coffee. Correction: ...where I could get a TYPEWRITER.

      • So far no one has mentioned defining moments. Take something you want to achieve like selling trilogy to a New York publisher. So you look back at the accomplishments you're especially proud of and paragraph the goal. "If I can sell freelance copywriting services on the basis of my poetry, I can convince the editor to ask for a proposal."
        "If I can travel by myself to Greece at the age of 20, I can figure out this conference without being intimidated." Etc.

    • Bulletin boards would work. Unless you live in a small house.

  5. Excellent post, Sue! I agree. Stubbornness is so important. After a beta reader gave me her honest opinion on a story, I wanted to throw the MS. in the fireplace. (I miss the days of printed out manuscripts. Dramatic gestures aren't nearly so satisfying with an iPad.)
    I had to set it aside for a week or two, and even then it's only stubbornness that's getting me through the revisions. Well, that and chocolate.

  6. So true on missing the drama these days, LOL. Stubborness takes up a huge percentage of resilience. Good luck on the revisions, but always go with inner vision.

  7. As you point out Sue, we always have a choice - buckle down and persevere with grit and determination (stubbornness) or not. I also believe that when I'm not optimistic about my writing or much of anything else, it's a sign to take a short break (maybe a day or possibly two) while reminding myself that 'this too shall pass'.

  8. You're right, Judith, but I try not to think about the grit and determination to the exclusion of a more positive reward. LOL. I believe that you can always be working toward your goal even when you're cleaning the refrigerator or something else. I strive to at least take a baby step every day toward my goal. That helps me keep focused.

  9. Fae Rowen says:

    In my "other" career, everyone agrees that perseverance is the most important characteristic of a successful mathematician. I like that word better than stubborn, although, I must admit to both. Thanks for a great motivational Monday message, Sue!

    • Thanks, Fae. Yes. Perseverance addresses the process perfectly. "Successful mathematician" huh? Hats off to you. I was a pattern person and became a programmer.

  10. Julie Glover says:

    I've been struggling with this one lately: "The number one quality a writer must have is stubbornness.... The will to keep marching through the muck." I'm not struggling with belief in myself, but more a strong doubt that someone else will actually pay to read my stuff! And the feeling of how long until that happens?!!! But I think you're absolutely right. I keep telling myself that it would be a crying shame to quit when success is right around the corner, and given how long it really does take to make it in this business (average about 10 years, I think), stubbornness is an especially important quality!

    Thanks so much for the reminder! Love this post.

  11. 10 years? I thought it was a million words. Suffice it to say: Write a heck of a lot. LOL.
    I struggle with all the things you are going through. Why focus on those questions? Are there even any answers? I think success comes from a sort of tunnel vision. Putting on blinders. And what else would I be doing with my time?
    Shopping? Spending money?

    But yes! we all want that recognition, and this will sound platitude-ly, but do what you love. I am currently in the manuscript proofing stage, struggling with that love part.

  12. Thanks to Writers in the Storm for giving me a soap box. 🙂

  13. […] Being a writer can be a frustrating career. Ginger Moran shows that knowing what kind of writer you are can stave off frustration, while Sue Ward Drake discusses staying positive in a negative writer’s world. […]


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