Tag Archives: motivation

No Guts, No Glory

I came across this blog post, and I want all my followers to read it. It’s titled, “Stop Sabotaging Your Own Success,” and it was just what I needed to read today.  I can imagine returning to it often to keep me focused.

I particularly like the answer to the question: how do we define ourselves? We are not just the sum of what we have done so far, but also who we aspire to be. We must not sell ourselves short, or stop before we have begun.

Failure is not (usually) fatal, and really, despite the saying, no one died from embarrassment. Going for it is so much more exciting than not trying.



Filed under Life, Publishing, writing

One Step

This is a great message. I’ve implemented it many times, but I seem to need to hear it on a regular basis.

One Step. It’s all it takes to begin to change your life. You have to follow it with another step, and then another, but it’s a law of physics: Bodies in motion tend to remain in motion. Once you take the first step–at anything–taking the next one is easier.

A little less than a year ago I took the first step of contacting a cover artist and an editor. Now I’m preparing my third manuscript for publication and having a blast.

A saying has been running through my head a lot lately:  “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve already got.” Otherwise stated: “The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Take a step. Do something different. Enjoy.



Filed under Life

My Decision to Self-Publish — The Emotional Component

I had half a post written and then scrapped it. It’s hard to write about being nervous. We do it to our characters all the time, but we don’t want to admit to it personally, except mabe to our closest friends. I think occasionally we ought to, just so others know they’re not alone.  Most of the blogs and books I’ve read about self-publishing focus on the changing face of tradpub and why that makes going indie a good choice for many. It worked for me.  I finally took in enough positive information that it outweighed the fear.

What fear?  The fear that I’d do it wrong, whatever that is. The fear that even with a professionally covered, edited, and formatted book, I’ll still only sell twenty copies to my friends and family. What if, despite the postitive feedback I’ve gotten from multiply published authors and professional editors, the readers don’t like it? What if, despite all evidence to the contrary, my stuff stinks on ice?  If I self-publish, everyone will know that I can’t really write. 

Irrational? Yes. Fear often is.

I don’t fear that anymore. It could still happen, but I don’t fear it.  But it took me a while to get there.  What helped?  Reading lots. Talking with people who’d already done it, and hadn’t died. Doing it simultaneously with a friend. A supportive and encouraging spouse. Recognizing that I was happy and excited about self-publishing. (Physiologically, anxiety and excitement are pretty much identical — it’s all in how you interpret events.)

What else held me back? Inertia. It’s hard to change trajectory even when the old path isn’t getting you where you want to go. Is it crazy to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results?  The funny thing is, sometimes the results are different. After collecting my share of rejections, I sold one of my novels, Veiled Mirror,  to a small press. Getting that external validation gave me that extra bit of confidence to go out on my own.

I know that every self-publishing effort isn’t a success story. My sales may be far less than I hope.  But not to try is to surely fail.

The funny thing is, now that I’m moving forward, I wish I’d started a year ago.


Filed under writing

Mental Habits that Support Success

I like to draw upon helpful ideas wherever I find them.  Here are three good ones from Isabel De Los Rios.

1.        I start each and every morning with a gratitude list.  This is non-negotiable.  It takes me no more than 3 minutes and it changes my spirits for the entire day.  How’s setting aside 3-5 minutes for a joyous rest of the day?  Worth it, right?   I write “I am so grateful for…” and then just write, write and write.  For me that list always includes my family, my health and my work.  I wouldn’t start any day without this.

I like doing this because it’s so easy to lose sight of what we already have achieved when we’re focused on working toward what we want.

2.       I go to sleep each night playing my personal mind movie in my head as I go to sleep.  What is a personal mind movie?  Basically, it’s you imagining yourself looking, feeling and doing whatever it is you would do if you achieved your … goals.…  This approach helps me to fall asleep happy and is much better than lying there thinking about all the things I have to do the next day or harping on stressful events.  I sleep so much better at night like this.

I’ve heard of some writers creating their own book covers (even before self-publishing was a viable alternative to traditional publishing) so they could visualize their future success.  You could also imagine yourself receiving a desired award, write potential reviews, or design bestseller lists with your book on top.  This may sound silly, but athletes use these visualization techniques all the time.

3.       Only talk to yourself as you would a small child….  Would you tell your children all day long that they were never going to achieve their goals, that they should stop trying or that they shouldn’t even try in the first place?  No, I sure hope you wouldn’t.  You would encourage them, give them hope, and tell them that anything is possible with hard work.  Treat yourself, in your own mind, the way you would want to speak to your children or better yet, the way you would want others to speak to your children or speak to you.

This last one is something I was thinking about just last week.  I’m not a big fan of new-age talk, but I do think it’s true that deep down our emotions (which motivate our actions) are often those of the children we once were.  It makes sense to nurture that inner child.  As Isabel observes, we’d never speak to a flesh and blood person the way we often talk to ourselves.

I’ve caught myself thinking in a vague, wordless way, “You haven’t succeeded in the past, and you won’t this time either.”  Where the hell did that load of malarkey come from?  The vagueness is the red-flag. When I stop and put this message into words so I can examine it, I recognize it for the lie it is.  I have, in fact, succeeded in the very areas I’m so critical of myself.

Even if you haven’t yet attained your “big” goal, that doesn’t invalidate what you have achieved.  Don’t let vague, unexamined, false messages stop you from moving toward your success.  Do set short-term, measurable goals on your way to “success,” however you define it.  Do examine, if you’re not making progress, what behaviors are getting in your way.

And when you do succeed, as you will, don’t expect it to solve all your problems.  You set yourself up for disappointment when you do.  (I didn’t really succeed because getting published/losing weight didn’t change my life.) Many of the issues you want your success to solve for you will still be there.  You’ll still have to deal with them.  That doesn’t mean success isn’t worth reaching for.  It is.  Just recognize what it is, and isn’t.  It’s a measurable acheivment to build your next success upon.  It’s not a panacea.

Now get out there.  Be grateful.  Visualize your success. Be kind.  And get to work.


Filed under Life, writing

Who Are You? Really?

One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Decisions, Decisions by Randy W. Green, PhD. There are two main premises to the book.  The first is that we have trouble making decisions because we have listened too much to external input and are out of touch with our internal guidance systems.  Green proposes that the main reason we are dissatisfied, that many of us self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and food is because we have submitted our will to those who want us to make choices that fit society rather than our own needs.

The second basic premise is that we approach the decision making process from one of two biases.  Either we feel strong, capable, and excited, and see the world as full of possibility, or we focus on the limitations and problems that exist — often because we have listened too much to, and incorporated the voices of those who taught us we should do what they wanted us to do.  What we focus on we tend to get more of, so by focusing on limitations, we continue the work of the voices and box ourselves in even more.

I see a resonance in this idea with two books I’ve referenced here before.  Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Work Week wants us to choose our path based on what excites us.  He says that should determine our priorities.

The other book is Healthy at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD.  Bacon’s argument is that diets of every stripe (external control) have failed to produce consistent weight loss, and that the only healthy approach to food is to understand nutrition and to listen to our internal cues.

So obviously, in order to be true to ourselves, we have to learn to recognize our internal voices.  Many of us have very successfully integrated our parents’, teachers’ and other gurus’ dictums.  “Don’t touch that!  You don’t know where it’s been!”  “Work now, play later.”  “You’ll never make a living at that.”  “Clean your plate.”   Society largely works because we’re using similar guidebooks.  It’s hard to know if a particular belief is our own or one that someone else engraved on our brains (though Green says our body’s posture is a dead giveaway).

I haven’t finished Decisions, Decisions yet.  Maybe Green will tell his readers how to find that authentic voice that’s been gradually buried under “shoulds” and “ought-to’s” for decades.  But what it comes down to, for all of us in every context, is the question:  Who are you?  Really?

I remember reading (source unknown) that we can’t really know who we are outside of the context of how we interact with our environment.  It’s our relationships that define us.  Who we are is an accumulation of what we’ve done, just as who we’ll be tomorrow is the result of what we do today.  You can decide to do all sorts of things, but until you act (interact with the world) by at least telling someone what you’ve decided, that decision is only potential.  It’s unrealized.

So, is there a unique person within us that is separate from the collection of things we’ve done and said over the course of our lives?  There are people who have made huge course corrections, who have chosen to pull themselves back from lives dominated by addiction and executed that decision, so there must be, I think.  They didn’t do it just because someone told them to.


Filed under Life

What Are You Waiting For? An Invitation?

I’ve been reading a lot of motivational books about thinking and acting outside the little boxes we build for ourselves lately.  It’s a subject that interests me because I have my own little boxes, and because I agreed to give a talk about The 4-Hour Work Week to my local Romance Writers of America chapter last Saturday.  (It went pretty well, if I do say so myself.)  I like 4HWW a lot, but I kept finding other books by people with slightly different perspectives, so I just kept reading and assimilating info.

One quote I came across made me get back to the gym today.  “The lights will never be green all at the same time.”  I have a bunch of things I need to get done this week.  As Ferris recommends, I’ve set myself a short deadline for some significant projects, so I could have made a good case for not having time to work out.  I could just wait until next week….

But the lights will never be green all at the same time.  Next week there will something else that urgently “needs” my attention more.  Here’s another quote from 4HWW:  “Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”

I decided my health was more important and went to the gym.

I have believed for a long time that people find time for what’s important to them.  It’s just that sometimes we need a wake-up call to jolt us out of sleepwalking.  We get into routines of behavior and thought and forget that we once wanted something more than what we’re doing now.

So wake up!  No one will give you permission (or an invitation) to pursue your dreams.  What excites you?  Go for it!  Don’t wait.

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Be All You Can Be

Yes, this used to be the Army’s slogan a decade or so ago.  It’s a good message, nevertheless.  (I’m an Air Force brat, myself.)

I came across this quote from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inaugural speech the other day as I was excavating my desk.  Whether you believe in God or not, it has a powerful message that in many ways resonates with the essence of the books I’ve been reading lately:  Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Work Week, and Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone
and as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.


Filed under Life

What Motivates You?

My husband sent me this link to a YouTube video the other day and I thought it was so interesting that I promptly sent it out to a few friends.  But I kept thinking about it and it’s implications for writing careers, and so I’m recommending you take a look at it too.

It’s pretty clear from this video that money is not what motivates writers.  Janni Lee Simner agrees.  She says the money she earns is nice, but the reason she writes is so she can tell the stories she wants to tell and have people read them.  On the other hand, my friend Mike Stackpole is supporting himself with his writing, and he’s said more than once that when writers think about their business plan, profit should be a guiding principle.  But even Mike isn’t motivated solely by money.  He could be earning a steady paycheck working for someone else, but he loves what he’s doing.

Why else would we be doing this?  Only a tiny percentage of traditionally published authors are able to support themselves writing, and an even tinier percentage of independently published authors earn a significant secondary income.

I think the video has it right. Self-direction, mastery, and purpose are what truly motivates writers.   We’ve known that in our hearts for some time, and now we have studies that confirm it. Some may start out hoping for fame and fortune, but when they’re slow in coming, most of them don’t last.  Every writer that sticks with it wants to inform and/or entertain, by sharing their own unique stories.  That’s our self-directed purpose. It’s what drives us to keep getting better, to develop mastery of our craft despite the challenge of acquiring those skills, in an industry that doles out rewards at a fairly slow pace.

This has interesting implications.  In the traditional paradigm, editors must buy books that not only are good, but ones they (and the marketing department) believe will be broadly appealing.  They have to sell enough copies to justify spending money on advances and production.  It’s fortunate for them that it’s not necessary for the books to earn out those advances to make a profit, since only 10% – 15% do.  If they could figure out which ones those are in advance, they’d buy only those books, and only writers appealing to the broadest audience would be published.

Unfortunately, this is a kind of censorship and can have an effect on an author’s ability to self-determine what he writes if he wants to be published by the big six.  Publishing should have standards, and they do have to make a profit.  They’re running a business, after all.  But an unpleasant consequence to trying to find only the books that will sell well is a trend towards homogenization of what is published.

Fortunately, many small presses have arisen to fill in these niches, and independent-publishing imposes no restrictions whatsoever.  It’s an equalizer.  It allows complete self-direction.  Anyone can do it.  It does, however, leave authors vulnerable to their egos and impatience.  Without an editor to say, “This can be improved,”  it’s all too tempting for a self-publishing writer to rush their work into the public eye.  Only someone dedicated to attaining mastery of her craft has a chance at avoiding this trap. (Which is not to say you should revise ad infinitum, always doubting the quality of your work.  Even traditionally published authors look back at their first published books and see their deficiencies.  Just don’t be in such a rush to publish that you don’t do your due diligence.)

The studies cited in the video aren’t trying to say that money doesn’t matter at all.  It is a motivator, but apparently the best use of it is for companies to pay enough so that it ceases to be an issue and allows people to focus on the work.  How much money is that?  Enough to meet basic needs like food and shelter?  That much, plus enough to have a few luxuries?  Everybody’s bar is going to be a little different, but according to the studies, offering a high monetary incentive (as perceived by the individual) has a negative effect on performance.

For most of us seeking publication, that’s not much of a risk. 🙂


Filed under Life, writing

Wednesday Review: Who Dares Wins by Bob Mayer

Who Dares Wins by Bob Mayer is a self-help book based on the author’s experiences as a Green Beret and author of thirty-eight books.  It’s focus is on becoming confident so that fear is not the emotion that determines your behavior.

Mayer breaks down his philosophy/process into three groups of three tools: Wins –What (the goal), Why, Where (the environment); Who — Character (understanding yourself), Change, Courage; Dares — Communication, Command, Complete.

Mayer encourages the reader to define success for themselves.  Like many other books of this sort, the author recommends setting and prioritizing goals, then breaking them down into subordinate, manageable sub-goals.  What fewer books do however, is that he then has the reader define their intent, or the “Why” of their goal.  By understanding this, the reader can then revise the goal as necessary to better achieve what she most wants.

Understanding oneself is crucial to this process of defining goals and understanding the obstacles we each put in our own way.  Mayer references an abbreviation of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test.  I’m already familiar with this tool, but I could see the benefit of him spending a little more wordage on this.  He also talks about how certain strengths can indicate hidden needs and character flaws.  All of this is in pursuit of helping the reader become aware of blind spots that can trip us up.  It’s all too easy to start a new course of action only to find oneself derailed despite the best of intentions. His goal is to help the reader avoid that outcome.

Mayer cut this book in half, deliberately simplifying to make his message easier to digest.  I think he succeeded in that.  For my taste, he may have cut a little too much.  His military examples were very effective, however, and I appreciated how he also showed the applicability of his method to artistic pursuits.

For me this book is an effective tool, particularly in conjunction with other books like The Magic Lamp (reviewed in an earlier post) which covers aspects of setting goals in more detail. Who Dares Wins will be helpful to me in the pursuit of my career goals.

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Filed under Book reviews, Life, writing