Thursday, April 26, 2012

Author Affirmations with Stuart Smalley

by Jordan Dane

“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggoneit, people like me.”
Stuart Smalley, Saturday Night Live (Al Franken)

I’ll be on a panel at the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Anaheim in July – “The Care and Feeding of the Writer’s Soul.” Ever since I committed to doing it, I’ve been pondering my contribution and examining my own practices when it comes to nurturing my writer’s spirit.

But I wanted to open the topic up for discussion here to get your input. If you could create a box of affirmations for the writer, what would be your personal contribution?

On my computer I have been collecting sayings that have meant something to me over the years. These have come from author speaking engagements, emails, or things I’ve found online that inspired me enough to post it where I could see them every day. Affirmations can be reminders of author craft you want to repeat or they can be a way to keep a positive attitude or make progress in your career.

Here are a few sayings on my computer that mostly deal with author craft:

“Stick with the action.” Romance author Dana Taylor
When I muddled an intro action scene with back story, Dana wrote these words in an email after she critiqued the scene.

“Be there.” James Patterson
Patterson was a speaker at am RWA conference in 2004. He filled a ballroom, standing room only. By these two words he meant to put your reader into the scene using all their senses. He also said that he puts as much care into the first sentence of each chapter as he does the first line in any book. (I wonder if all the James Patterson(s) do this?)

“Trust the talent.” Robert Crais
I heard Crais present this on a video he sent via email in one of his newsletters. He talked at length about how he writes in constant fear, but that he trusts the talent that has brought him his success. It reminded me that all people have doubts. That’s human nature, but when you have a natural storyteller inside you, you should trust it.

“Get in, make your point, then get the hell out.” Robert Gregory Browne
Rob spelled this out when he explained ELLE on a blog post. Enter Late, Leave Early. The method is best explained by the TV show “Law & Order” where the scenes are sharp, concise, and don’t over-explain to slow pacing. The barest essentials of the scenes are captured to move the story along and a viewer’s mind fills in the gaps in action. The same works for books.

Here are a few that would be my contribution to keep a positive mental attitude:

“The next pair of eyeballs to see this proposal will be the ones to say, Yes!”
“I strive to be better with every book. My best story is always my next one.”

“I touch new readers with every story.”

“My books are unique because they are filtered through me and my personal experiences. I’m not in competition with anyone, except me, to be the best author I can be.”

Here are a few silly ones:

“I never get my page numbers wrong. I must be good at math.”

“When I kill people on paper, they stay dead. Booya!

As for practices to keep me positive, I have a shredding ritual for any rejection to expel the negativity from my house. Try it. It’s liberating. When I complete any project, I also treat myself with something that isn’t food—time off, vacation, fun evening with friends or family, attend a book signing, buy a new outfit. I used to think that each positive step in my quest to become a published author was only a small part of a longer future—that celebrating too much is a distraction that can swell your head. But now I celebrate everything. Life’s too short not to cherish even the smallest of pleasures.

Please share your thoughts. What would you write and contribute to an author’s affirmation box? What practices do you have to keep your mind positive and your writer’s soul nourished?

28 comments:

  1. Well I have many areas of doubt and fear about my writing but the main one that attacks me most is terror that I can't pull off the wide-reaching plots in my head.

    So my affirmation would be something like: "Big plots. Big dreams. With persistence, you can do it."

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  2. "Act first, explain later." James Scott Bell

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  3. "A page a day, that's all I ask," is one of mine. It keeps me from thinking of the writing task as too overwhelming.

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  4. "Think more, write less." It was actually a comment made to me by a former agent at the Harold Matson Agency, Ben Camardi.

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  5. 1. "Never give up, no matter what!"
    If you are a writer, you were born that way. Just because no one's noticed yet doesn't mean a thing. They will. Keep writing, keep submitting. Love what you do!

    2. Wake up. Breathe in. Breathe out. Yep. Still alive. To the Keyboard!!!

    3. Die with a pen in your hand!

    Just sayin' . . .

    Not sure I'll make the RWA conference this year, Jordan. Darn it all. I want to meet you, woman!

    xox, Piks

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  6. Omg, you guys, these are fantastic. Everyone resonates with me.

    BK--I love yours about big plots. You knock those books doing it a page a day. And I can see Mark Terry's affirmation working here too, Think more, write less." Advance planning on bigger plots helps.

    Thanks for your contribution, Mark.

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  7. Joe--You are the John Wayne of writing--a man of few words, but what you DO say, packs a whallup!

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  8. Kathryn--A motivational speaker inspired me to start writing by saying he write his non-fiction book doing it "a page a day." I thought, hell I can do that. That started a fire in me. Thx

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  9. Piks--We are definitely going to meet. It's on my bucket list--that & have a pen in my hand when I go.

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  10. Wow, quoted by Joe Moore! Nice. Here's mine:

    "Write so as to get quoted by Joe Moore."

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  11. "Die with a pen in your hand" Now that's a T-shirt slogan if ever I heard one! 8-) Cool, Kathleen!

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  12. My first time here, a bit miffed that it took so long for me to stumble upon this blog. Looking forward to getting great inspiration and insight from fellow writers. Here's something I thought up just now, but have subsconsciouly grateful about for many decades:

    Even a bad day being a writer beats the hell out telemarketing for a living.

    Chris

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  13. I was asked once, "What gives you, an unpublished writer, the nerve to critique my story?"

    My answer: I'm a reader. :D

    There was once this commercial overseas with the slogan, "Life, be in it."

    I always remind myself to never stop living life, even when I'm seriously writing in my head.

    My husband: What are you thinking about?

    Me: You don't want to know.

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  14. "What! NO!"

    Tightens grip on phone and scrapes fingers of other hand through scalp like a rake in drought stricken soil.

    "Gentleman's Club? No, the Foreign Legion is not Gentleman's Club, not in the strictest sense. And I know I said to be assertive in your decisions but signing us up for membership was not a wise thing."

    Closes eyes as if resigning to death.

    "I don't care that they gave us a nice new jacket and free cigars. I don't look good in those round white hats, they look silly."

    Acid starts to churn in the stomach.

    "Man, I'm going to have to write a book about this someday, but it'll be fiction, because no one will believe the stuff you get me into."

    I could write fiction, or I could join the Legion Etranger. The choice was simple, because I hate deserts.

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  15. "Writer's are born between the pages of the books that go before us."
    I love that one.

    "Feed Your Muse. Love Your Muse. Let your Muse Fly." Kathleen Pickering

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  16. “When I kill people on paper, they stay dead. Booya!”

    I gather whoever came up with that one doesn't write about zombies. Or vampires.

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  17. A few that carry me through to remind me that the geek shall inherit the earth and to go after what I want with everything I have to offer:

    1. You miss every pitch you don't swing at.

    2. They aren't paying you to bring ammo home. (stolen from Tom Clancy)

    3. Go big or go home.

    4. Sometimes it's easier/better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    Great post, made me smile.

    Terri

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  18. Basil--You need to donate your brain to Science. Presumably after you quit using it. Maybe.

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  19. Hey Chris. I like your idea, but pretty much anything beats telemarketing.

    Diane--I'm surprised your husband is still asking what you're thinking. Such a loaded question for a writer.

    Hey Paula, girl. Love both yours. And double love on the Piks quote.

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  20. Hey Catfriend. Yeah, that one was based on REAL DEAD. The one way dirt nap.

    Terri--that Clancy quote is hilarious. And I love your pitch quote too.

    Lots of great affirmations today. Thanks, guys.

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  21. I love the one in Galaxyquest..."never give up, never surrender":) But seriously the one that resonates with me is "live your dream" I always dreamed of being a published author and now I've got there I intend to keep on living the dream - this helps whenever rejection makes me question what I am doing!

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  22. Ha! I love Galaxy Quest, Clare.

    It DOES feel like "living a dream." Best job I ever had. Like Chris said, it beats telemarketing.

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  23. One of my teachers, Lani Diane-Rich used to explain to us that you have to "own your own greatness" You have a unique voice with a unique story that only you can tell. You being great, awesome, or terrific, doesn't diminish or take away from anyone else's greatness. She always ends a class by making every shout "I am a great writer." (or, if you do it on computer she expects it in all caps with lots of exclamation marks.)

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  24. Wow, Chaco, I love that. It's hard to "proclaim" that. Takes guts, but I really love the idea that your writing doesnt take away from anyone else's. I preach that all the time. Thanks for adding to my list. Love it. Have a good weekend.

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  25. Honestly, I have lots of things that motivate me. And you really can't have too many positive motivators. But there is one that I always turn to, whether I'm scared that it'll suck or if I think something can wait. It's simple and much more powerful than most people would give it credit for. It's one word, and everything that's supposed to come will come after this. "WRITE" (Oh yea, I said it. But I'm probably not the first so...)

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  26. Ha! Starr---You are so funny, but what you say is very true.

    Write on, girl!

    Have a great weekend & thanks for the chuckle. Glad you are following TKZ.

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  27. Thanks for sending me to this site! It's great and I am only disappointed that I didn't know about it sooner.

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  28. Affirmations have worked for me, I had to work with them over a reasonable amount of time, however I have noticed a difference in the way I see the world now. Thanks for sharing!

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