Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fernando's advice

By Joe Moore

A few days ago, my friend and blog mate, Clare Langley-Hawthorne, asked the question: Can the Introverted Writer Succeed? I think we all agreed that, yes, just about any writer can succeed given the right set of circumstances including big doses of talent and luck. Of course we could say the same holds true for winning the lottery; given the right set of numbers, anyone can be a winner.

But whether you’re introverted and shy or known as the life of the party, I believe the first step to becoming a successful writer is to adapt a successful attitude. By that I mean, if you act like a success, there’s a good chance the world around you will treat you in like manner.

Now, we can get into a heavy discussion of what success means. For some, it’s big money and a slot on the bestseller list while others feel successful in just completing a manuscript. Certainly it’s important that each of us determine what we consider to be a success and then work toward it. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I believe that success in a state of mind.

If you don’t feel that you’ve achieved success in your writing yet, it shouldn’t stop you from taking on a successful attitude.

bc Many years ago, the wonderful comedic actor Billy Crystal played a character called Fernando on Saturday Night Live. Fernando’s famous line was “It’s better to look good than to feel good.” I think in many ways we should embrace Fernando's advice. We should look successful now in anticipation of achieving success later. No, I don’t mean spending thousands on fancy clothes or showing up at a book signing in a stretch limo. Nor do I suggest lying about your success or attempting to deceive anyone.

Having a positive attitude is not deceit. In fact, it’s addictive and usually produces successful results.

Someone once said, “You are what you eat.” I think that concept goes way beyond food. For example, if you complain about the results of your writing or constantly bad mouth the state of the publishing industry, chances are you will quickly develop a self-fulfilling prophecy and those things that you find negative will continue to come your way. Your writing will suffer, your head will become clouded, and at some point, you will consider yourself a failure because you just might be.

Successful writers (or any profession) become so because they believe in themselves and their ability to succeed. And the more they believe, the more they attract success. Act the part, walk the walk, think as a successful writer would think, and before you know it, your writing gets better, your advances grow, your sales increase, and your publisher pays for the stretch limo.

Listen to Fernando.


  1. Good advice, Joe! "Begin as you mean to continue" is some good advice I got from a (very successful) writer years ago. She was always very confident about herself and her writing, although not in an arrogant way. Served her well.

  2. When I was a modern dancer, Joe, one thing I realized early on was that the people who got the jobs weren't necessarily the best dancers, they were the ones who projected a confidence, as if they never doubted for a minute that they would succeed. Although that confidence is so tough to achieve, both in that industry and in this one, where you can find yourself subjected to a multitude of humiliations (one of my favorite books is "Mortification," where well-known writers recount some of their most humiliating experiences on book tours). But that positive attitude is the goal, and you're right, it can make all the difference.

  3. Hey Joe. I couldn't agree more and it's been a difficult lesson for me (I'm more likely to put myself down than up) but I think it is the only way to succeed in this industry. You not only have to project confidence I think you have to believe in yourself. If you don't, no one else will either! Luck is certainly important but you have to create the right set of circumstances and attitude for it to come calling.

  4. Good post, Joe. If I didn't believe in myself, I would have quit a long time ago.

    I just saw a news flash that Ricardo Montalban died. I always assumed that "Fernando" was based on him.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Yes, Joyce, you're right. Crystal fashioned his SNL character after Ricardo Montalban.

  6. One thing I like about this blog is that no one is so confident that the page is filled with "how great I am" or "I'm so exhausted being successful" as on other sites.
    There's an important line between showing confidence and expecting laurels, as you point out, Joe. I'd like to commend all of you for providing great posts, without seeming to be above all the rest of us.

  7. Aw, thanks Camille! That's so sweet of you to say.

  8. Thanks, Camille. Besides, laurels make me sneeze. :-)

  9. Actually Crystal based his character on Fernando Lamas, not Ricardo Montalban.

    Anyway, I would suggest: Fake it 'til you make it.

    I'm not terribly extroverted and I really don't like the out-there aspects of book promotion, but, since I've been given another chance at this novel-publishing thing, for the most part I will fake it 'til I make it and work a little harder to find effective ways of marketing that don't annoy the crap out of me.