Thursday, January 18, 2007

Debra: That's affirmative.

(Trust me on the title of this blog and seemingly contradictory "no" symbol. I'll get these two together. Eventually.)

Being a writer is a lot like standing around in your underwear during the spring and waiting for people to tell you what's wrong with your winter body. ::shudder::

Putting yourself, your words, your ideas "out there" that first time takes tremendous courage. Or a lovely naive belief that the only truth you'll hear will be the yummy ooh's and ah's of the folks reading your perfect prose.


What? Oh! Sorry! I drifted off into a daydream filled with ooh's and ah's and nary a no. But I digress. Let me get back to my point.

As a career, writing will pretty much kick naive's butt into shape every time. Truth hurts; so you have to train for it. Writers , even multi-published, love-my-career authors still have to deal with rejection and revision and the awful truths that begin with-- "Well... "

We all know that nothing good ever comes after the word "well." Seriously, has anyone ever heard Ed McMahon say, "Well... you've won Publisher's Clearing House."

No. He says, "Well... you lost. You won't be back on Star Search."

Any writer on earth will tell you that the dreaded "Well... " is never a good start to a conversation with your editor. I thought I'd share my favorite rejection and favorite revision conversation with you.

This was my rejection on a proposal from my editor of many books back when she was with Bantam.

"Well, it's a good story. It's just not Debra Dixon enough."
My response: "Are you saying you'd buy this story from someone else?"
Her: "Yeah. Probably."
Me: "But not from me."
Her: "No. You can do better."

I am not kidding you. True story.

Now for my favorite revision request. This is something a friend said when trying to describe what it feels like when her editor calls to talk to her about a new book. "Well, we love the book. It's one of your best cosy mysteries ever. But do you think you could make it into a Christmas story about a shark?"

Sometimes writers think we have to be nuts to be in this business. Sure, there are many wonderful things about this gig, but you have to deal with clinical dissection of your creative soul. You have to figure out how to get past that, how to keep the good and turn the negative into something that pushes you forward instead of holding you back.

One of the tricks to doing that is affirmation. Yep, that whole mind-body-spirit mumbo jumbo hooha, positive thinking nonsense. Turns out it's not so much nonsense as sense.

If you're not familiar with affirmations, they are short, personal mantras that remind you of things you forget, things that are valuable and important to your happiness and success.

"My story, my voice is energized by new viewpoints."

"I plot in unexpected ways."

"I am creatively original in everything I do."

"Writing is a joy and more fun than a corporate job."

"Nora will get tired of writing eventually."

Oh, wait, that last one shouldn't be on the list. My bad. But you get the point.

Some friends of mine have these affirmations:

"Writing feeds my soul."
"The journey is as important as the destination."
"I write quickly and love what I'm writing."

If you've never tried affirmations to reprogram your brain and flip on your "Can Do" switch. Give it a try. Tape them to your computer and start every day with a quick mental reminder of what you can accomplish and how you are special. If you need examples of affirmations for different areas of your life try: Personal Affirmations

Anyone got any favorite affirmations, rejections or revision stories?


lois greiman said...

Affirmations: I use the one about Nora, too. It's got to be true eventually.

But generally, when editors/agents/reviews start a conversation with the dreaded, "Well..." I begin to chant, "I love my job. I love my job. Where else could I sit around in my underwear and tell lies all day?" Not while selling galoshes at Sears. And that's pretty much what I'm qualified for, so here I be--telling lies in my underwear. :)

Good to have you with us, Christie.

Cindy Gerard said...

Affirmations: I like yours much better than mine, Deb. Mine lean more toward: you suck, you're a hack, whatever made you think you could write? :o( Anybody else hear THOSE chants in their head when nearing deadline and wondering why you ever thought this was a good story idea?
The truth is, we all face those negativity demons and affirmations really do help. A friend sent this one to me. It's one of my favorite: "I was not created to fail; I was created to succeed. Success is a part of who I am and a part of everything about me."
Thanks, Deb, for reminding me about the power of positive thinking.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- LOL! "Where else could I sit around in my underwear and tell lies all day?" Love it.

Cindy-- Yes, we all sometimes let negative thoughts and the "helpful" comments of others invade our brain. I love "I was created to succeed." Think I'm going to steal that one.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ah, Lois, I used to cringe when Tami Hoag would use that line about telling lies all day. But I think she said she sat around in her pajamas. So now besides envisioning Tami writing wonderful stuff in her tailored satin pj's, (seriously, when have we seen Tami looking any way but sharp and chic?) I'm stuck with this image the lovely Lois whaling away at the computer dressed in her matching set of Angels by Victoria. Damn, I would have to imagine the Angels. Now I'm seeing Lois on the runway doing the model walk through the mist, big majestic wings. At the end of the runway she sits down at the 'puter and adds a passionate kiss to the WIP.

It's about the glamour. Right, Betina? Because amour is at the heart of it all. That's amore.

My new mantra: I don't have to do it for love. I will get paid for lying in my underwear.

Okay, I'm feeling totally inadequate now.

RaeAnne said...

I'm stealing all these! I love them.

My favorite: No one else in the world can tell this story the way I can.

I'd like to say repeating that a dozen times a day helps keep all those writing demons at bay but while I'm a good liar, I'm not a great one!


lois greiman said...

Okay, I have a new one. "Destined for greatness. But pacing myself." Saw that one on a t-shirt. Just about snatched it off the guy's back. Wouldn't he have been surprised?

Christie Ridgway said...

I have an affirmations notebook...that I haven't looked at in a while. Thanks for reminding me.

When I'm using it, I take a few minutes and write out my affirmations over and over on a page.

Here's a couple:

I have everything I need to get everything I want.

This new book is coming to me easily and effortlessly.

As far as rejection stories, I had an appointment with an agent at a conference a couple of months before I sold my first book. She told me to my face, "I'm not interested in representing you, but if you find someone who is, give me a call. I might change my mind."

Yeah, like, for sure.

Debra Dixon said...

Kathleen-- Oh, ditto on Tami. She's irritatingly stylish!

Raeanne-- "No one else in the world can tell this story the way I can." That's an important one. We forget too often that *we* bring something special to the story, even if it's a beloved classic retelling like a Cinderella story.

Christie-- You know, I've never had an affirmations notebook but that's a great idea. I'm also stealing, "I have everything I need to get everything I want." That one speaks to me on so many levels. it's empowering, hopeful, postive. Just a great affirmation.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Most frustrating revision request: A few years back my agent and editor were both in agreement that my next proposal should not include Indians. Contemporary cowboys and ranchers were doing really well, and I do know my cowboys. So my proposal for THE LAST TRUE COWBOY was sans Indians. Now, my contracts used to be set up so I could turn in half the ms and get another part of the advance (I really liked that)and some feedback. I got a call from my editor, who said everything was great except for one small thing, and she put her boss on the phone, who said, (you know where this is going) "Love the book, but where are the Indians?" It wasn't a major deal to make the hero part Indian--didn't change the story. She wanted the readers to feel like they were getting "a real Kathleen Eagle."

Heck, I've been honest with my readers. The only time the "real" Kathleen Eagle has been able to say she had Indian blood in her was when she was pregnant.

Debra Dixon said...

Kathy-- ROFL! <<"Love the book, but where are the Indians?">> I've heard you say this before but it so descriptive of the craziness of publishing.

Susan Kay Law said...

Deb, YOU do affirmations? Hmm. I may have to rethink this.

Everytime I attempt affirmations, I end up giggling at myself. Of course, perhaps you have to chose ones in the realm of possibility. "I am as beautiful as Kate Winslet" somehow doesn't seem to do the trick.

However, since you, who are one of the few romance writers I might put in the "even more practical than me" category, do them, I may have to give it another shot.

Susie, who has also heard the "great, but doesn't sound like a Susan Kay Law" book line.

Debra Dixon said...

Susie-- Yep, I do 'em. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm doing it. Like when staring at a stack of work on my desk I try not to think, "Holy Crap, Batman. This sucks." Instead I brace myself with a simple, "I can be productive today."

Affirmations just help me get my head screwed on straight.

Christie Ridgway said...

Susie: You can use affirmations to quiet the giggles or the inner critic kind of like a meditation "ohm." You can chant an affirmation to yourself if you can't sleep instead of letting worrisome thoughts take you elsewhere. When I do that, I usually drone myself off into sleep.

Loralee said...

Y'all are the best for reminding me what positive thinking can accomplish.
I have a Pearl S. Buck quote by my computer that reads "What really breaks a heart is taking away its dream." Beneath it is my own - "Ain't nobody gonna take away my dream!"

BTW, Kathleen, THE LAST TRUE COWBOY is one of my keeper books that I re-read when I need to remember what love and commitment is all about.