Kristen Lamb writes in her blog about self-sabotage. I found many things in this post that sound awfully familiar to me and I’m grateful Kristen made me realize what I’m doing and that this isn’t healthy for me and my writing. Thank you very much Kristen.
There are SO many reasons why being a professional author is TOUGH. Much of what authors do is counter to human nature. It is NOT natural to sit still and write a 100,000 words. It’s human nature to avoid stress, pain, and trauma, while an author’s job is to inflict as much suffering as possible.
Good writers are death dealers, anguish agents, and pain peddlers (which probably is why we freak ‘normal’ people out). Yet, we know torment is necessary for the greater good. A ‘story’ without seemingly unbeatable odds, terrifying stakes, and white-knuckled tension isn’t a story.
It’s self-indulgent tripe.
The ultimate objective of any author worth their ink cartridges is to create so much pressure we might just give our readers the bends.
Yet, this is not ‘natural.’ It is also not simple. There is nothing about being an author that is easy, and thing is?
Most of us fear we don’t have what it takes.
We’re also terrified to admit this. So what do we do? We become our own worst enemies and self-sabotage. And, since writers generally are smart, we self-sabotage in ways that appear to be REAL work to the untrained eye.
Thus, today, we’re going to discuss some of the clever ways writers self-sabotage. Since I’ve been guilty of ALL of these (because I’m a ridiculous overachiever), I can speak from experience. When it comes to self-sabotage, I would have been top of the class…but didn’t study for the final until the night before.
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Read the advice Kristen Lamb has on writing a better story. Thank you very much for all your efforts, Kristen!
Last time, I brought up a subject I never believed would warrant discussing—cockygate. I wish this was the first time a writer did something epically misguided to gain advantage. Some drama to sell their ‘story.’ But, I’ve been around too long. Seen too much.
Yes, I was there for the BIG BANG (dot.com implosion). I also witnessed Web 2.0 shoot out of the dying Web 1.0’s ribcage then skitter up into the vents.
Where did it GO? What is it up to? What does it WANT?
As early as 2004, I projected the digital tsunami that was going to obliterate the world as we knew it.
Why is ‘Age of Aquarius’ suddenly stuck in my head?
Anyway, it began with Napster and Tower Records, then Kodak, blah blah and starting in 2006 I began blogging and predicting the next industry to fall…and the next…and even how and roughly when it would happen. All along I insisted publishing and writers needed to be prepared because we were also in its path.
Over the course my first years as a ‘social media/branding expert’ (an occupation widely regarded as a made-up job like ‘unicorn groomer’) I noted a trend.
Pretty much every year, new and evolved ‘bright idea fairies’ (BIFs) hatched with frightening regularity. This trend continues because shortcuts are tempting. Um…cockygate.
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Read what Kristen Lamb has to say about Writer’s Platforms.
A platform offers major advantage when it comes to selling books. Before social media, non-fiction authors had an edge. These authors already had an existing audience by the time their books were ready for sale.
Novelists, conversely, found themselves relying on a lot of pure luck, prayer, and alignment of the stars. The fiction author had little to no control regarding the business side of their business. The only way to build a platform was to not completely FAIL with book one.
Non-fiction authors, however, were not nearly as vulnerable because they had ways to cultivate a following ahead of time. Those ways also permitted them to KEEP growing the platform even bigger as they continued to publish more works.
For instance, if one happened to be an expert of some sort, it was far easier to build an audience interested in your topic. Therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, personal trainers, business owners, etc. obviously could begin with their ‘job’ (I.e. a private practice). Then these experts progressively expanded their platforms in a logical fashion.
They might broaden to speaking engagements, guest appearances on television and/or radio, serve as ‘experts’, and maybe even fold in lectures and seminars. With every expansion, the NF author added more numbers to their ‘platform.’
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Another excellently educating and humorous blog post by Kristen Lamb. You’re the best Kristen!
Being a writer is the best job in the world, aside from those fortunate enough to be paid to pet kittens or sample new ice cream flavors. But is writing a REAL job? This question has set fire to the entire psychiatric community. Okay, most of them…the ones in my head *turns off fire alarms*.
Many in our modern culture don’t believe writing qualifies as a legitimate occupation. An unusual percentage of ‘average’ citizens firmly maintain that being a writer is NOT a real job. These same individuals, however, collectively spend billions of dollars and most of their free time enjoying entertainment (created by writers).
Cleaning Teeth= ‘Real’ Job
Writing= Goofing Off
Thus far, those interviewed have yet to note the irony of their assertions (or looked up definition of irony). Since being a writer is not a ‘real job,’ then this leads us to the next most reasonable conclusion. Writing, in truth, may be a mental condition. I have written about the 13 Ways Writers Are Mistaken for Serial Killers.
So there IS that…
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Kristen Lamb informs us about the Real Odds of Author Success. In many ways this blog post made me think – and overthink. But no matter how much thinking, I’m still going to write. I’m convinced I won’t be the only one. This is an educational and fascinating blog post. Thank you Kristen.
Many new writers have a passionate dream of being a full-time, well-paid, maybe even famous author…until we see the odds of reaching those dreams. Then? All our enthusiasm and optimism suddenly leaks out *farting sound of deflating balloon* leaving space for doubt, anxiety, and defeatism.
Granted, odds of author success will be different depending on the dream, what our idea of ‘success’ happens to be. The odds of ‘being published’ today are far better than when I started out, but ‘being published’ is no longer the single largest challenge we face.
If we want to replace the day job with being a full-time author–whether that is on a self-published, indie, legacy, or hybrid track—we have some tough work and tougher decisions ahead. I do have good news, though. While our mind can be our greatest enemy, it can also be our greatest ally.
Perception dictates reality.
This means we need to get our head in the game and make certain we’re framing our goals in a way that increases our odds of realizing our dreams.
Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors? Sure. But, in my eighteen years of experience, I’ve found that’s actually quite rare.
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Kristen Lamb teaches us about Character building. Thanks so much for this lesson, Kristen. I’m still working on that.
I put in a lot of work and study when it comes to honing my writing skills. This means I’m always searching for ways to become a stronger author and craft teacher. Want to get better at anything? Look to those who are the best at what they do and pay close attention.
This said, wanting to deepen my understanding of drama, I enrolled in David Mamet’s on-line course for Dramatic Writing (which has been superlative). In one of the lessons, Mamet said something that challenged my thinking regarding characters.
I won’t directly relay what his assertion was because it’s very much a class worth taking, and I’d hate to spoil it for anyone. Regardless, his commentary regarding character creation made me extremely uncomfortable.
At first, I balked. Big time. Challenging ideas do that.
I thought, Yes, well Mamet’s referring to stage and screen. With written fiction we have narrative. Actors don’t possess this.
Which IS true, yet Mamet’s unconventional opinion stopped me long enough to give his angle some serious consideration. Did his assessment relate to our sort of fiction?
Written form stories hold some major advantages, the largest of those being internal narration. The audience knows what’s going on in the head of the character (or can believe they know).
On stage or screen, it’s up to the actors’ abilities to accurately portray the internal, which is a tough order. It’s also why if a book is made into a movie, watch the movie first.
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Author Kristen Lamb writes about conflict and why it’s important for our stories. Thank you very much Kristen. I’m learning so much reading your blog and I’m convinced I’m not the only one.
Conflict is the core ingredient required for story. It is the magical elixir with the raw power to transform a story we think we’ve heard a million times before into something wholly unique and mesmerizing. FYI, there are no new stories, only new ways of telling the same stories. Just getting that out of the way.
A Thousand Acres is basically King Lear on an Iowa farm, and Avatar is Pocahontas in Space. I could give a zillion more examples but won’t.
In fairness, this makes our job simpler. We really don’t want to create a story no one has ever heard before. Not only because it’s pretty much impossible to do in the first place, but it’s also highly risky even if we managed to pull it off. Why?
Because the story ‘never before told’ cannot possibly resonate emotionally. Humans have no emotional touchpoint for something they’ve never experienced…ever.
Resonance is Critical
Love gone wrong? Betrayal? Messed up family? Righting wrongs of the past? Clearing one’s name from being falsely accused? Rebuilding after a loss? Finally earning approval, love, or acceptance? Impacts of abuse or addiction?
This stuff we get.
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