Note: I’m leaving tomorrow for the ROmantic TImes Convention in Chicago, so I’m posting Craft Thursday early. Next week, we’ll return to our regular posting schedule.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation over coffee with a writer friend. I’d been talking about this dress I saw and loved, but admitted I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. She looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve got to own that shit.”
Since that conversation, her words have been loitering in my mind. I’ve been wondering if I’m doing enough owning of the shit in general. Sometimes I avoid making decisions about my career because it’s scary to take control. Sometimes I let the things I don’t control overwhelm me and use them as an excuse not to see after the things I do and should control.
I’m not trying to give you the impression that I am paralyzed. Far from it. I am generally a pretty ambitious, outspoken chick. But like everyone I have moments of insecurity and doubt.
I used to have these moments a lot when I was trying to find out if I had the chops to be a published author. Somehow, I managed to overcome those doubts and keep at it until someone said yes. I’m not sure why it happened for me and not someone else, but I think owning my role in the process was a big part of it.
“I’d write a novel if I had the time.”
“I should write today but I have to take the kids to soccer practice.”
“I could write on my day off, but I’m tired.”
Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you’ve got yourself an ownership problem.
The hard truth: No one is going to knock on your door and hand you a book contract. No one is going to spot you in the mall and say, “Hey! You look like you might be an amazing writer. I’m going to write you this check for a million dollars in case you ever get around to writing that book.”
NO ONE OWES YOU A CAREER.
You own how much effort you put into writing. You own how much you seek out critique. You own how often you submit. You own that shit, friend.
It’s scary to admit that. Terrifying to accept that you might declare your desire and never achieve it and that it might be your own fault if you don’t. Ownership means you don’t blame anyone else if you don’t get there. Ownership says, I might fail, I might succeed, but, damn it, I’m going to do everything in my power to TRY.
So what exactly does owning it look like?
A. Own that writing is a priority. Even if you have to give up watching The Voice or My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding. Even if it means getting up an hour early or going to bed an hour late or writing during lunch or your kids’s soccer practice. The minute you make it a priority, you will find time you didn’t even know you were wasting.
B. Own that you are a novice, and that the only way to improve is to practice your craft.
C. Own that seeking out critique is one of the most effective ways to improve your skills. Only showing work to people guaranteed to say nice things is a form of avoidance.
D. Own that rejections are not personal. It only takes one yes. Are you going to give up before you get it?
E. Own that the struggle of aspiring to be an author is part of the training for being a professional. You think a few form rejections are hard? How in the hell are you going to handle hundreds of complete strangers giving your work one star online? Or having a person call you out in public because they feel betrayed by a decision you made for one of their favorite characters? Or having your integrity challenged on a blog because someone took exception to something in one of your stories? Don’t rush through the training. You’ll be so much more prepared if you allow your scaly, defensive skin to grow first.
F. Own that you chose this path. No one foisted this dream on you. You might fail, you might succeed. But guaranteed you will learn things about yourself on this quest, and that, my friends, is the true treasure.
G. Own that you get to define success. I’ve said before that if being rich and famous is the definition of success, 95% of all authors are complete failures. Don’t doom yourself to fail. Redefine success for yourself. Did you write today? Success! Are you improving with each story you write? Success!
How about you guys? How do you own it?