You’ve all heard the saying, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right too.”
You’ve heard, “It’s all in the attitude.” Yup, you’ve heard those positive people say it, haven’t you?”
But do you believe them?
Do I believe them?
Do I believe we can think ourselves to a better life– a better place? Do I think we can think ourselves published? Or publish at a new and bigger house, or in the genre we would prefer? Can we think ourselves on the New York Times list? And it doesn’t have to be about publishing, it can be any goal. Do I believe it?
Nope. Sorry, I don’t believe we can. I don’t believe positive thoughts alone can bring about change.
I can hear all you negative Nellies out there shouting with glee, “Thank gawd, finally someone who’ll admit the truth!” But before you defeatists get too excited, you’d better read on.
I don’t believe positive thoughts alone can bring about change any more than just buying the $49.95 book on being thin will automatically make the pounds melt off and help me fit back into those size five jeans. Sadly, I’ve tried. But I’ll have to read the book and apply the weight loss steps.
Positive attitude, or in the case above, buying the book, can lead to motivation, motivation leads to action. Actions can bring about positive results. Actions can get us to a better place, they can get us published, get us multi-published, keep us published, and they can even land us on the New York Times. Oh, and they can get me back in my size five jeans.
I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve seen on this path to publication who gave up their dreams. I started writing in 1984. My first book was out in October of 1994. So I wasn’t an overnight success then. But it gets better, or I should say worse. Because after that first book, my dreams of book two and book three selling, and my dreams of that career as a novelist, well, it didn’t happen right away. My second book didn’t release until 2007—in case you’re not good in math, that’s thirteen years later.
Now I went through some detours during those years, and while there were periods of time that I didn’t pursue the fiction writing, I never stopped writing altogether. I wrote and sold magazine articles as my day job. It was in 2000 when I became recommitted to my dream of novel writing. By 2006, I had completed eight manuscripts, and six proposals. Gone through one bad agent experience and collected hundreds of rejections. I had two different books that got passed on to the senior editors with the recommendations to buy, only to get knocked down again. So close. No cigar. Ouch.
Did I get discouraged? You’re dang right I did.
Did I swear I was going to give up writing all together and consider a better money-making career of asking people if they wanted fries with that that burger? You betcha.
But the next day, or even sometimes the next week, before I went out and got another job, I would realize that I didn’t want to be a quitter. I’d start up my computer and start a new story. I’d write fiction and still pen a few articles to bring some income.
Now today, with self-publishing always an option, the trials and hurdles of new writers will be different. But they are still there.
Through my years, I’ve seen a lot of people give up on their writing dreams. They had talent, some of them had so much talent I swear their grocery list was good enough to be published. But they didn’t have the staying power. They simply gave up. Just as many of the new writers give up today.
So why? Why do some give up, and some don’t?
I think it can be summed up in one word: Perseverance. And how does one persevere? I believe perseverance is directly related to positive attitude.
I meant what I said earlier, I don’t believe a positive attitude alone can bring about positive results. But it is the secret to perseverance. So, do I believe positive attitude is all it’s cracked up to be?
No. I think it’s more.
Because while I don’t believe positive attitude is the direct path to success (you have to actively seek success), I do believe that negative attitude is the direct path to failure. Negative attitude leads to a state of apathy, a state of idleness. And those both can lead one to toss out their dreams.
I look back at how many hurdles I faced, the times it would have been easy to just give up. The hundreds of rejections, the years passing without selling. The difficulty of getting an agent. Of having to fire one agent and finding another. All of this when self-publishing wasn’t a viable option.
Instead of continuing to write, I could have been sitting around whining, commiserating about the hardships of writing with all the other writer whiners. (And writer whiners really exist. I’ve met and pulled away from many of them in my writing journey. And they still exist.) But instead I chose to remain positive, to allow those positive feelings to help me persevere and to continue to actively pursue my dreams. I didn’t just think about making it happen. I set out to make it happen.
Some people think we are born either an optimist or a pessimist. I agree it comes easier to some people. However, I think believing you have no choice is probably your negative attitude talking. And you need to start talking back. Sure, we all go through some tough times, and those times can rob us of our positive attitudes if we let them.
So how do you guard your positive attitude from being ripped off?
I believe the number one thing is to work on your circle of influence. Negativity is as contagious as a stomach virus. Hang out with negative people, and chances are, you will become negative and disillusioned. But the good news is that positive attitude is also contagious. Hang out with people who are actively pursuing their dreams—those dreams don’t even have to be writing— and you’ll be more likely to do the same.
You protect your positive attitude by setting reachable goals and celebrating them when achieved. You keep it by recharging your creative batteries, and nothing can recharge a battery more than continuing to learn. You keep it by refusing to let anyone steal your joy or your passion for writing. Remember, if you are real writer, you love writing. Your joy shouldn’t be solely attached to publishing. Write because you love it. It will show in your work.
Remember, you may not get where you want to be solely on attitude. But attitude to success is like gas is to a car. Just because you have a full tank doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get where you want to go. But without it, you may never set out on the journey.
So work on building a positive attitude. Then work on protecting it. And while I hope your dreams come true a lot quicker than mine did, I hope your journey is as satisfying as I have found mine to be.
So tell me, what are your goals?
Last week’s winner of a Born to Read t-shirt is Sarah C. Congratulations! Sarah, send your mailing address and t-shirt size to email@example.com.