Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Getting What You Want (in the Writing World)

Goal setting.

That's the answer -- its the single biggest reason I'm a full-time writer today. There are a lot of people who I have to thank for my success, but what I did to get here has everything to do with goal setting. And I believe you can do it, too.

Yeah, I know. I sound like a motivational speaker. Sorry about that.


 This is a picture of the Bloomsbury booth at the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Philly. Both of my Bloomsbury books are up there, next to each other, which makes me nothing if not giddy as hell. I remember looking at pictures of ALA in the past and imagining what it would be like to have books in one of those booths. It's a real trip and a fantastic sense of accomplishment to see them there now.

There are lots of uncontrollable factors in life. Break that down - there are lots of uncontrollable factors in publishing. Much of the business is out of your hands. Whether an agent will choose to represent you. Whether an editor will choose to root for and champion your book. Whether a publisher will agree with that editor. Beyond that, whether or not your book will sell or not, be critically praised or not, etc. All of this is out of your control.

So, let's talk about what is in your control.

Your vision.

That's all you, baby.

The way you see yourself as a writer and the future of your writing - you can perceive that anyway you want. You can choose to believe that you will be the next (insert successful writer here) or that you will win the next (insert big writing award here). Whether or not you BELIEVE in those things are completely in your control.

Here's the kicker -- you have to ACT AS IF.

Act as if everything you've ever wanted is already yours, it's just on it's way and hasn't quite arrived yet. Act as though what you want is coming -- it's just a matter of time. And BELIEVE. Believe that this will happen for you.

Have I lost you? Are you feeling like this is a little too new-agey for your tastes?

Okay - let me tell you a story.

Back in March of 2011, I was feeling pretty low about my writing life. I was teaching full time and writing practically full time and I didn't really see it going anywhere. I felt sort of hopeless about the whole thing.

So, I decided to re-watch a movie I'd seen a few years back -- The Secret. Now, I know what you're thinking -- The Secret? That Oprah-endorsed "law of attraction" mumbo jumbo? Yes, that The Secret. And it's not mumbo jumbo. Let me prove it.

I re-watched the movie and many things really resonated with me. Specifically, I loved the idea of creating "Vision Boards." This was sort of like a collage of all the things you'd ever want in your life. I checked out vision board samples online, then used magazines and poster board to make my own. And it looked like this.

2011 Message Board

If you can't see it that well, the basic idea is that it's divided into three sections. Top left is travel, bottom left is personal, and the entire right side is writing related. You can see I have words and pictures and all kinds of things - logos from various awards or conferences, names of publishers, etc. I filled it with what I could think of and I dreamed big. I mean, what's the point of a message board if you don't dream big, right?

So, again, this was March of 2011. About four years ago -- a little more. I kept it a couple of different places -- on the loveseat in my bedroom, in my walk-in closet, and finally in my bathtub. I know, it sounds super-weird. But it was because the tub was broken and I would see the poster every morning when I got up for work, which is important for vision boards. They have to be seen to have any influence on your life. They're a visual reminder of the things you want.

In June 2011, Taste Test sold to Bloomsbury, which was totally kick-ass and made me feel so AMAZING! My writing career "officially" began -- in terms of professionally, I mean. I felt validated. A little less than two years later, March of 2013, Bloomsbury bought my second book, Just Like the Movies. And I was happy. REALLY REALLY REALLY HAPPY.


The vision board said things like "full time writer" and "award winner." I was happy with what I had, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted what I'd envisioned. So, in the spring of 2013, I watched The Secret again. This time, I started writing affirmation letters about my future. I started each one with, "I'm so happy and grateful now that..." and then wrote about all the things I wanted -- personally and professionally. I talked about wanting to leave teaching and becoming a full time writer. I talked about my son playing soccer and enjoying Kindergarten. I talked about the kind of book deals I'd like to have and the kind of recognition I'd like to receive.

Then I read that letter to myself in the mirror every morning for a month. I read it until I believed it was going to happen.

That letter, the movie, my vision board -- whatever it was, I had a new sense of myself and my strength. I chose to leave my agent and my job. I was out there, flailing, but I knew I was making the right choices. When I signed with Suzie, I believed so strongly in myself and my future that there was no doubt my dreams would come true.

And they've started to.

If you look at the close up below of my vision board, you'll see a deal cut out from Publisher's Marketplace. It's a deal for Sue Dennard's books -- the deal was with Harper Childrens and Joanna Volpe was one of the agents attached to the deal.

better harper closeup

A little over three months after I signed with Suzie Townsend, she sold my book, THICKER THAN WATER to Harper. Joanna Volpe is the president of New Leaf Literary, the agency Suzie works for.

I cut and pasted this deal on my vision board in March 2011. My deal with Harper happened in July 2013. How could I possibly have known that this would happen? Is it fate? Is it coincidence?

I don't have an answer for you, honestly. I'm not a particularly religious person, so I don't pull that into my rationale. 

What I will say, though, is that I continue to look at my vision board and write new affirmations and read them aloud. I have an extreme faith in whatever it is out there that is influencing the universe. More importantly, though, it makes me happy. Happier than I've been in a long, long time. And that alone makes it worth it.

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