Jaye Wells

Craft Thursday: Own It

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?

14 Thoughts on “Craft Thursday: Own It

  1. Great post, and so true.

    Whenever I find myself wandering or whining “I don’t feeeel like it” I think about a quote I heard once:

    “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

    Remembering what my goal is and why I want it is the best way to get back to work, even on the days when my excuses are the most creative.

  2. Guilty as charged! I am not unique and thus just getting the work done is the biggest challenge. Too many excuses and not enough just writing shit down. I am still in this struggle and you’re right that the bottom line is this process is all about self discovery. Facing my desire to write has forced to face some of my deepest fears and needless to say they have been surprising. I know how to fail, I’m pretty good at it…but succeeding scares the pants off me. Almost every time I’ve written something, worked on it, gotten notes, worked on it some more and then gotten a “This is really good now”…I suddenly panic and stop writing. Yeah. Lame. Working on it.

  3. Wow Jaye! This was just the kick in the pants that I needed. Awesome post and thanks for the reminder. Now I need to get to owning my shit.

  4. JayeWells on April 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm said:

    Nathaniel, I love that quote. We writers are excellent at creating excuses, aren’t we?

    Miss Bliss, fear of success is a real thing and quite common among this crowd. We don’t talk much in the biz about how much writing fiction is really about discovering our own internal landscapes. It’s scary as hell sometimes. It might also explain the stereotype of the drunk, the drug addict, the unstable writer. Ignorance is bliss, right?

  5. JayeWells on April 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm said:

    Thanks, Katy and Stephanie. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes.

  6. Great post, Jaye!

    While I still fight with the “owning my writing schedule shit” I have one great big advantage on my side. Being rejected or anyone telling me I can’t do something tends to tweak my stubborn streak. That alone will make me keep writing, keep submitting and even self pubbing some of my work.

  7. Jaye, you are so right. Really great post and very motivating. I started my very first day of full-time authorship today. Working for me instead of the man is intimidating, but by damn, I’m going to own this shit!
    Have fun at RT!

  8. Yes! This!

    I’ve been reading Philip Pullman’s “Clockwork” to my niece and nephew. It’s an amazing story – but he also has these pop-out boxes that discuss certain aspects of the story. One of them sums up what you’re talking about so beautifully:

    “You don’t win races by wishing, you win them by running faster than everyone else. And to do that you have to train hard and strive your utmost, and sometimes even that isn’t enough, because another runner just might be more talented than you are. Here’s the truth: if you want something, you CAN have it, but only if you want everything that goes with it, including all the hard work and the despair, and only if you’re willing to risk failure.”

  9. Hi Jaye,
    Thanks. You kicked my muse out of bed and back to work.

  10. JayeWells on April 10, 2012 at 6:26 am said:

    Suzanne, I’ve recently revamped my own writing schedule. I set a low daily goal–1500. It’s enough to feel like I’ve accomplished something but not high enough that I am intimidated. Basically it’s a sweet spot that I can’t justify not doing. I also don’t allow myself to say, oh, I wrote 3000 word yesterday so I don’t have to do my 1500 today. I figure this way I have word in the bank so when something comes up I won’t panic.

    Jennifer, best of luck with the full time thing! It’s a scary step.

    Anna, yes! That quote is it exactly. Thanks for sharing it.

    Sandy, muses can be such lazy bitches, can’t they?

  11. This is just the sort of nudge I needed this week. All the work, the time, the sweat pays off. Stuff is really coming together.

    And then those fears lurking deep inside surface. I’m doing my best to keep writing.

  12. Hi Jaye,
    Thank you for the timely post! Great advice I need to go put to use now! 🙂

  13. Andrew McQueen on April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm said:

    Epic Realness! 😀 I can relate to this!

Post Navigation