Did you know you can change the course of your writing career by removing one word from your vocabulary? Sounds too good to be true, but it’s pinch-me-and-I’ll-feel-it real. And I promise if you’re willing to pay attention and eradicate this pesky career-stopper, then you’ll undoubtedly see progress toward reaching your writing goals.
What’s the magic word? Struggle.
If you’re located on planet Earth, you’ve heard it plenty. A common theme running through current books, memes, and talk shows is, ‘The Struggle is Real.’ The term can refer to weight loss, mental illness, menopause, unemployment, job changes, parenting and more–just about any topic under the sun. And there’s plenty of this struggle business directed with laser focus at writers. It’s on Buzzfeed, in writing blogs (this one is particularly rife with struggle, having posted an article detailing 11 Struggles of Being a Writer just two months after posting 10 Struggles of Being a Writer). This online magazine has an article about struggles only unpublished fiction writers can understand, while information marketer Jeff Goins chimes in with the 3 Struggles of Creative People.
Is this the perception you want to give, that you’re a struggling writer? If not, stop calling yourself one. Stop talking about what a struggle it is to get an idea, submit a query, get noticed, or get paid for your work. Quit the existential whining, pull up your big girl (or big boy) panties, and get to work. That’s all there is to it. Importantly, stopping the talk about ‘the struggle’ will stop any struggling going on in your writing life. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but the longer you go without negative talk about your writing career, the more productive, profitable and gratifying it will be.
It’s magic, yes. But it’s also science, so it’ll work for you even if you don’t believe in rainbow unicorns.
Let me explain. Whatever you focus on becomes primary in your life. You attract the object of your focus and bring more of it into your sphere of consciousness. Think about what happens when you’re jonesing for a particular make of car, say, a BMW, and suddenly you see them all over town. Everyone seems to have one. Rest assured, the entire population hasn’t run out and purchased a Bimmer because they know you want one. What’s happening is that you’re paying attention. You’re now seeing all the BMWs that have always been tooling around your town, but you hadn’t noticed them because you didn’t care to.
Likewise, if you’re always noticing how much you struggle with writing, ipso facto, you’ll have more of it. You’ll start seeing difficulties everywhere, from dealing with writing software to finding time to fit writing into your day. Writing will become more and more of a struggle. Ugh.
This means in order to move your career along, you must stop struggling. Stop talking about struggling to others and to yourself. When someone asks you how the writing business is, tell them it’s fantastic. If they ask you about whether you’re published, tell them you’re in the process. It’s the truth, isn’t it? Even if you’ve received numerous rejections, you’re still moving forward. Hell, people are reading your manuscript or pitch and liking it enough to write back. That’s progress! Start noticing the things going right with your writing practice. Pay attention and before long there will be more and more of those right things populating your universe and your writing career will be on the move.
And here’s the science: this type of attention phenomenon is particularly useful when it’s directed at a specific task, goal, or thing (like that BMW). So, although being optimistic is great, directing your optimism at a very specific area of your life (like your writing practice) can work wonders. A study conducted over two years with input from more than 123 employers and published in the Journal of Positive Psychology underscores this paradox, showing that work-directed optimism impacted work engagement and career far more than simple positive thinking.
Remember, the struggle is real, but only if you make it so. And the choice is yours!
See you on the next page!