Screw Plan B!

If you’re working on your first book/film/creative “thing”, at some point you’ll send it to an expert (or a buyer) who, you hope, will be instrumental in getting you published, on the big screen or otherwise into  the world.

While you wait for their verdict, you might find yourself in a form of limbo because (in your view) their view might be the thing that determines what direction you take next:

Plan A – Living the dream!
Plan B – Self-publish… trash the project… hide out in Bali… qualify as a shrink… start a finger painting club… become a monk…

If your expert declares that your work is “Genius and Ready To Go!” then Plan A it is. But if the verdict is slightly south of average, you might think you have no choice but to move to Plan B.

You’re a realist, right? Especially if you have a family to support. But you’re also a dreamer. So your thinking might go something like this:

“I have a dream to be a best selling writer/director/artist… AND I have a family to support. I don’t have a trust fund, so I have to earn a living while I create my magic. HOWEVER, I need time and mental space to create said magic, BUT I can’t spend an unknown length of time walking the tightrope between a practical job and creating my dream. SO, what to do?”

Do you create a Plan B in case your art is kicked back? Do you go to Plan B even though every minute you spend on Plan B saps the core out your soul?

What if you took the chance and focused completely and unflinchingly on Plan A? What if Plan B never entered your head? Would you write/paint/create in a different way if there was no Plan B? Would Plan A be better, smarter and more determined? If there was no Plan B, would you find a way for Plan A to work no matter what?

I think, when we give ourselves an out, we’ve already decided to quit. So no Plan B.

Be Brave, folks. Stick with it.


If you’re a writer, eat the frog first!

If you're a writer, eat the frog first!I could write a 2000 word blog about this (Brian Tracy wrote a whole book!), but I’m going to be brief so you can get on with things. If you want to achieve the important things in your life (including being the writer you want to be), eat the frog first!

Do what’s difficult. Do what you’ve been avoiding. Do what you’re scared to do. Do what will honestly move you forward.

Look at everything you want to do today, pick the thing that will actually lead you to achieving your goal, do that first (no matter how hard/scary it is), then get on with the rest of it.

So if you’re selling something (book, short story, article, pot plant) and can’t seem to get started – make selling it the first thing you do. Don’t mess about with emails and internet research and other such excuses. Pick up the phone.

If you want to get fit but would rather have cream cakes for breakfast – get to the gym first. Don’t go shopping for new gym gear.

If you’re writing and have been putting it off – get your words in first. Leave social media and emails until later in the day. Why? Because once you’ve eaten the frog, you’ll actually have something to talk about and contribute.

For more about eating frogs, have a read of Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog”.

Damn delicious, I promise you.

If you want to flourish in the book world, then GROW A THICK SKIN!

Grow a think skin or you'll bleed out on the pitch!This is the only way to survive the game without bleeding out on the pitch.

Imagine this… You’re eight years old and you’ve just written your first short story. It’s about a crab who hitches a ride to the top of a mountain on the tail of a leopard. It’s a story about trust and risk and making friends.

You show it to your mom, your dad, and your grandma and they LOVE IT! You’re a genius. You get hugged and your story is plastered on the fridge. Enthused, you go back and write and your work keeps getting this response until you get to high school and for the first time, someone other than Mom, Dad, and Grandma gets to see it. This time, it’s an English teacher and for the first time, instead of hugs, your “work of genius” comes back lined with red ink.

“Be creative as you like,” she says, “but abide by the rules of grammar.”

Unbelievable! How is this possible?

You fight a good fight, but your grade doesn’t change from that D to the A+++++++ (and a hug) your grandma would have given you.

You have two choices – you can give up right there and never write another word (unless it’s for work or to update your CV), or you can recognize that there are rules to the game and if you want to break them, you have to learn them first.

Congratulations. You’ve just grown 1.23 mm of skin. You’re a writer. You’ve got what it takes. But 1.23 mm of skin might be enough for school. It’s not enough for the world.

To stay the course, you need to welcome and relish criticism. You need to bask in its blistering heat. You need to learn to stand up to it, hold it in your hand, and say “Foooeeee, I kiss the cheeks of your critique!” Because, you’ll admit, there is a lot of truth in that criticism/feedback/whatever you want to call it.

There are hundreds of courses that will teach you how to write. Thousands of books with advice on what to do and how to do it and whom to send it to when it’s done. But only you can grow your skin so thick that it doesn’t hurt when you put your heart on the table so people with sharp and shiny forks can prod and peel your layers off.

When you let them prick, stab, and shred your work while you stand strong, then you will have won.

If you collapse into tears at the first sign of negativity, then no matter how good your work is, chances are, publishers and agents will walk away. Why? This is a grown-up world with grown-up money at stake along with grown-up reputations. There is little space for eight-year-olds who need hugs every time they pee in the right pot.

So grow your skin. It’s the only way to really love this glorious, imperfect, painfully subjective business.

Kick some ass today!

Seriously? Fear is your excuse?

Fear is a lousy excuse not to write!Fear is all fine and useful if you’re using it to sharpen your senses and hone your survival skills. But the fear we experience as writers has nothing to do with battling the elements or making it through Christmas with the in-laws.

The fear we feel as writers is couched in personal insecurity and illusion.

It’s when our imagination, which should serve us so well, turns into the enemy at the gates. We have absolutely no evidence for what we fear. We just fear it will happen to us.

So let’s take a moment to look at the terrors that keep writers awake on dark and stormy nights:

People might not like our work
No kidding Batman. Give me the title of a single book that someone hasn’t trashed. Everything from the Bible to the Da Vinci Code has had its critics. Criticize is what we do as a species. That’s a fact. Like gravity. You scared of gravity? No? Then don’t be scared of some people not liking your book.

People might not like it because it really is crap
What if I write my novel and find I actually can’t write at all? – Ooh! The horror of admitting a personal limitation. This is actually a really great awareness to have. If you never have any doubts about the quality of your writing, then you will not strive to improve. Here’s the Catch 22 – for as long as you don’t write, you’ll never improve. Writing is one task that you have to do to get better at. Oh heavens above, this sounds so obvious. And when you say it to yourself, you know it’s obvious. But when you’re in the midst of writer’s block the obvious often seems coated in cryptic. So do this…. first, write for the bin, second, for a month or two, or however long you like, do nothing except write a personal journal or emails to friends. Now, when you do this, don’t just bash out words. Think about what you’re writing, edit it, craft it. Tell the story of your day; how you felt, what you did. Aim to transport your reader. Write from your heart as only you can. Instead of creating a basic journal entry, write it in third person and turn it into a bit of a tale. “Julie Pilonski (substitute your name) woke with the alarm clock lying dead on the floor beside her. Silence. Silence was nice. Silence and the sun streaming through her bedroom window? Shit! Late!…” Edit it. Work it until you like it. Once you’re happy with your journal tales, start creating emails to friends and family. Don’t just spit them out. Hone your craft whenever you write. When you’re happy, press send. Oh hell yes! Look at that. You’re published! If you worry about the quality of your writing, do something about it.

Even if it’s good it might never get published. Or if it does, it might not sell, and if it does sell, it might not sell enough for me to make a living out of it. Oh heavens save us. Bring out the prescription pills, razor blades, bulldozer and wooden box
Get a grip. My husband has a story he tells whenever I spout this nonsense. “Paddy and Mick”: Paddy needs a shovel to dig up his garden and he knows Mick has one. So on a fine sunny morning he sets off out his front door and down his garden path to ask Mick for a loan of his shovel. As Paddy reaches the road, however, he remembers the last time he asked Mick for something. Mick bitched and complained and generally made the whole experience a misery. Paddy shrugs the memory off and keeps walking. However, when he gets a mile down the road he remembers another time he asked Mick for the loan of some sugar and did Paddy hear the end of that? Hell no. By now, Paddy is getting a little tense. His fists balled into bundles, his back tightened to a rigid mass and a deep frown digging furrows on his head. He walks that little bit faster as he remembers yet another time he asked Mick for the loan of his tractor and the argument that followed. By now, Paddy has sweat dripping down his face, his gut is a turmoil of acid strong enough to dissolve a badger at fifty feet. He storms up to Mick’s door and bangs loudly. A minute later Mick swings the door open and beams at Paddy: “Well hello, Paddy. How are you doing?” Paddy glowers at Mick. “Shove your shovel up your arse!” he bellows, and stalks off. Point being: It’s easy to talk yourself out of what you want by assuming what might or might not happen.

I could work on something for a year and it might or might not go anywhere
Fine. True. This is a fickle business full of subjective opinions. However, if you start now, you’ll know the outcome in a year. If you hum and ha and mess about, it might be two or five or ten years before you know whether it’ll come to anything. So just get on with it!

Fear is just one of your demons playing silly buggers with your head.

Happy writing today.