"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." Milton Berle.
So often we wait for opportunities to come to us. Opportunity will present itself, we think. When the time is right, we tell ourselves.
As an author, I know I've thought that myself.
When I began to pursue writing very seriously, I made myself a name. What does that mean? I pressed my nose up against some windows. I went to conferences and walked the walk and did the talk. I met people that became excited for me. I became an author.
I got shot down with my pitches and editors thumbed their noses at me. What a great lesson in humility. Then opportunity knocked.
One day, in my email, came a shiny and brilliant email asking me to submit my work to a publisher because they wanted to publish me. (And they say it never works to put yourself out there. Look at that!) Being the eager author that I am (you know, the kind that is about to take over the world) I jumped in with both feet. Does it surprise you that it all crashed and burned around me? (I didn't think you'd be surprised.)
There is a process, and I'd done right by pushing my nose up against the glass, because my head was still above water, even if all my dreams were drowning.
I had a future here, but it wasn't going to be at the hands of someone else. So I built a door. I built a platform that others soon wanted to stand on as well. When I opened that door of opportunity I had built, in the shape of a publishing company, all my dreams came true. Once my feet were in a stable position, I helped others achieve their dreams and then some of them built their own doors to opportunity.
I think, sometimes, opportunity got tired of knocking on doors and began to hide behind the raw wood of doors yet to be built. Build your own door, stand on your own platform. Seriously, push your nose up against the glass and look in. Whatever you want can happen for you.
(My blog revisited from October 2011)
A lifetime ago, it seems, I sold products for a kitchen ware company at home parties. During one of the training sessions a woman said something that stuck with me forever. I took that advice and applied it to my life from that day forward. If you say it's so...then it shall be. Now I've taken liberty with that saying a bit, but what she said was this. "If you want to be a director, then call yourself a director." Hmmm. That made sense. If you put your thoughts into place you'd eventually be so comfortable you'd be there.
So I set forth to be a director in this company. I thought like one. I acted like one. I worked like one. And...I became a future director. Okay, so I missed the mark before I moved on to something else, but it worked. I thought like a director and I felt like I was on the right track.
Take that same mentality to my martial arts training. From the moment you step on that floor with a white belt tied around your waist you're instructed to act like a black belt. If a black belt kicks above the belt, then you need to work at your kicks until you can kick like a black belt. A black belt has discipline, courtesy, integrity, self worth, and the list goes on. They list for you all the good qualities that had you signing up to begin with. With every belt you think more and more like a black belt. And one day, you receive your black belt and you realize all along you've been a black belt, because you thought like one.
Now, I'm a writer. (Yes... a writer with a 2nd degree black belt!)
So to be a writer I must act like one. I must take seriously the time that it takes to put together a book. I must name it. Carefully construct it. I must love it. But above all I must realize that a writer would not argue that they are wasting their time. An author would say they are working.
I had gotten that part down very well. I'd been writing since I was 12. I got my first request at 16. But until I boarded that plane for San Francisco to attend my first RWA conference, I'd only been dreaming about being a writer. Until I actually walked the walk among authors, some big, some not. I hadn't truly convinced myself that I was in fact a writer. But something happens to you when you sit in a room with Nora Roberts. When Debbie Macomber walks across the room and introduces yourself to you and shakes your hand, you're IN! When you're walking down the hall and taking pictures of the line at the signing (which the you eventually get to take part in) and a woman laughs and joins you. You walk down the hall and she introduces herself and says, " I'm Christina Dodd" you think, this is for real! I am an author! And in my head I no longer waste my time writing. This is my career. I am a writer.
You would have thought it ended there...nope! There's always more.
Now I'm a publisher! I'm out of my element and people have decided to join me. I have 26 authors, besides myself, who depend on me. I have 6 editors who are anxiously awaiting the next great book to edit and the next author to help prepare for stardom. I have a deadline calendar. I have a daily ToDo list. I have a bank account. And I have a company name. All of this is because I thought I was a publisher and I made it so. Some things come easier. This decision to be a publisher was easy. The process of learning continues, but I'm excited. When I wake up and get dressed I think, "if I were at conference how would I dress as a publisher?" And I act on that. Because I want to be successful with it, I take it very seriously.
So, what's next? What shall I say so that it will become? My karate master gave me the answer the oneday. He said, "When can I start telling people I promoted a New York Times Bestselling Author to black belt?" and I smiled and said, "Say it now. Because if you say so... then it shall be."
What do you want in your life? Start putting yourself there and it will come.
Muffin Tops are In!
You’re thinking…really? I know, as a child of the 80’s, I had a smokin’ body with thanks from plenty of aerobics and sit-ups, well hidden under my two layered shirt, skirt with leggings, and three pairs of socks. Fashion- maybe. Lack of self confidence? More than likely.
Now I look around at these girls, and they’re wearing minimal fabric on their bodies, and I’m not sure they know what a sit-up is. That muffin top roll is prominently displayed for the world to see. But what else do I notice about these girls with muffin tops of all sizes? I notice them walking with their chins up, and shoulders back as if they could care less that my mouth is wide open and I’m shocked at their appearance? They have confidence, oodles of it, and what a beautiful thing.
I think growing up, and growing older, self-confidence is something that has been hard for me to grasp hold of. I can’t even begin to tell you anything I was confident about before I was twelve. In junior high I was a good student. Straight A’s with that one pesky B blocking my perfect GPA. (But just for the record it was an 88%) In high school, I was a good vocalist. In fact, my professional voice coach told me I had a voice of a classily trained opera singer. It usually took 20 years to accomplish that kind of voice and I was 10 years ahead of most people. What I didn’t have was the confidence to carry though.
I never aced an audition, because I didn’t have the confidence to do it my way. I’d take the easy route. I didn’t have the confidence to try things in college or get more involved, because I just might fail if I got that far.
I never submitted my manuscript because someone might just turn it down.
KaBoom! Hit with the grenade of truth!
If you don’t have confidence in yourself, well you’re hiding your muffin top. How can you be a successful writer if you won’t let someone read your work? Guess what. I got shot down, over and over and over again. It hurt. When someone tells you, “This is so bad I wouldn’t even consider it if came across my desk,” you tend to shed a few tears. Or, “If I buy you a box of commas will you use them?” (This is classic. This was a contest and those two comments paired with someone who gave me no comments and a very high score. Helpful, huh?) This tends to make you hide your muffin top under layers and layers of rewrites.
Then one day you decide you’re worthy of the tighter shirt. You have nothing to hide. You attend a local RWA meeting. You get a critique partner, actually two and one happens to be a retired language arts teacher. You learn that you use and a awful lot. You begin to understand that you shift POV much too often. When a critique partner says, “This isn’t making sense to me,” you realize that you haven’t looked at that story. You hid it, because you didn’t want to show it to the world yet. You have to revise.
Once you expose that muffin top, you don’t care who is looking. You push your shoulders back and walk with your chin high. Then you begin to feel the power. That first person asks for a partial manuscript, which leads to a full. You have Beta readers who come back and ask for more. The book becomes reality and people come to you crying because what you wrote moved them so deeply and changed their lives. You become someone asked to attend signings, be on committees, and the glorious part – you’re asked to write more books.
Suddenly you realize you’re showing off your muffin top in a bikini! You’re totally exposed! But your head is high, shoulders pushed back, and you’re feeling that self confidence like you never have before.
So I wonder, who will those girls who bare their muffin tops become? Will they take over the world someday in their tight shirts? Perhaps. Until then, I’ll hide my literal muffin top under a peasant shirt, but keep my chin high, shoulders back, and I’ll keep writing because that’s what I love to do!
POST ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE WARRIOR PRINCESS ROMANCE WRITER BLOG ON 7/31/11
Bernadette Marie is an Internationally Bestselling author of Contemporary Romance as well as a mother of 5, and owner of 5 Prince Publishing and Illumination Author Events. Read her full bio here.