When I was a kid, we didn’t do a lot of vacations, but we did go to the zoo at least every other year. And this last weekend, we took off with our granddaughter and visited the Houston Zoo. We had a blast. Do you ever go to the zoo? I know I’m grown up and perhaps I shouldn’t have so much fun, but something about looking at the animals just brings the kid out in me. Here’s a peek and some of the pictures I took.
As a writer, I get all sorts of questions tossed at me. Some of them are what I call repeaters, questions that get asked a lot. For those, I have my prepared answers down pat. Some questions are downright funny–people wanting to understand the strange mechanics of how a writer’s mind works. I usually just make up an answer for those, because please, I don’t understand how my mind works, either.
Some of the questions are just weird, and they make me laugh. Then there are the others that give me concerns about my fans, readers, and human population in general. (You know who you are.)
However, no matter what category those questions fall into, most of the time, I still love being asked. Why? First, because curiosity generally means interest and interest could result in book sales, and second . . . I love a good laugh.
So just for grins, and laughs, let me share some of those questions. I’ll also share my answers. And okay, because you are who you are, I’m going to go one step further and even give you the truth.
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Question: Do you ever take your characters with you when you go places? (I’ve been asked that one more than once?)
Answer: Of course, I do. But I insist that they pay their own way, unless I have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon.
Truth: I usually just stick them in my purse, and don’t feed them and sneak them into places without buying them a ticket. But seriously, at times, say when I’m out shopping, I will stop and think: Would Miranda wear that outfit? I’ll conjure her up in my mind and together we’ll shop for an outfit she’s going to wear in my next scene.
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Question: When you hear your characters talking to you, how do you know that it’s just creativity and not that you really are crazy?
Answer: Does it really have to be one or the other?
Truth: Anyone who sits around all day and spends hours envisioning and writing about the lives of their characters, along with making facial expressions in the mirror so she can describe them, has to be a little bit bonkers. I’m okay with that.
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Question: Is your husband jealous of your heroes? (This answer has variations.)
Answer if Hubby isn’t present when question is asked: “Of course, he’s jealous. My heroes are so hot, he knows he can’t compete.”
Answer if Hubby is present: “Jealous? Why? He knows I pattern all my heroes after him.”
Truth: Just as there is a little of myself in each of my heroines, there really is a bit of my husband in all my heroes.
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Question: What do you do when your characters misbehave?
Answer: I call the fiction police to arrest them and put them in solitary confinement.
Truth: I generally sit back and enjoy it. Generally speaking when characters start acting out, those are the best scenes.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have any crazy (or not so crazy) questions for me?
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay…let’s get to know each other. And yes, that usually means telling secrets, or just some surprising facts. I’ll go first, then I expect you to join in.
- Years ago, I acted in one made for television movie. Kent State. It was filmed in my old home state in Gadsden, Alabama. I was an extra throughout the movie, but I had one, just one, speaking part. “Go away pigs!” It got cut. The reason? Because I was supposed to sound like a northerner. I remember them saying. “The word ‘pigs’ is only supposed to have one syllable.”
- I interviewed one movie star. And yes, he is someone you would know. Tom Selleck. It was only over the phone. I thought he’d give me five minutes. We were on the phone for almost forty-five. Sad thing was, I was the one who had to end the call. Yeah, I practically hung up on Tom Selleck. I saw the time and my son was in kindergarten at the time, so I had to go pick him up. Now I think… The kid could have waited.
- I speak Spanish. Yup, I lived in South America for almost two years. And I speak it well enough that when I was there, I actually got in an argument with someone that refused to believe I was an American. According to him, all Americans were tall.
- In my other life I was a photographer. I did photo journalism for about ten years. And the strange thing is that I’m not really good with recognizing people’s faces, but if I take a picture of someone, I can remember them forever. I met a guy in a restaurant in the middle of the Chicago airport. And I knew him, but wasn’t sure from where. He started looking at me the same way, so I went up to him. He lived in Houston and I had written an article about him and his wife about ten years earlier.
- I believe in ghosts. No, I don’t sit around talking to them. I’m too busy talking to my characters. But, I’ve had too many eerie things happen to me that make it hard not to believe that spirits don’t exist.