Friday, July 29, 2011

Losin with Susan July 29 2011 The Power of Commitment

I love to tell the story of how I sold my first book. (Who doesn't?) Oddly, it's even relevant for losing weight...Here goes...

Years ago (over two decades, actually, but who’s counting) I went to my first writer’s conference. The trip was one of those last ditch efforts. I had been writing unsuccessfully for four years and I was depressed and defeated. Something either happened for me at this conference or I was quitting.

So I packed my bags and left for the airport more depressed than excited. I felt I was walking through the last chapter of my writing career story. I was sure nothing good would happen and come Monday morning when I returned I would no longer be a writer.

Pretty darned sad, huh? I get misty just thinking about it.

Anyway, on Saturday morning when the workshops began, I made the mistake of attending LaVyrle Spencer’s session on description. For those of you who don’t know, LaVyrle Spencer was the master when it came to description. She read passages from her books to illustrate her points and I swallowed hard. I could not write like that. In the first workshop I had attended I believed I had found the answer to my write/don’t write dilemma. I had no place in this world and no business calling myself a writer.

So I went back to my room in the hotel, drew the drapes and started repacking. (In the dark. When I get depressed, I pull out all the stops.) About fifteen minutes later, my roommate found me. She was shocked. And a tad angry. She couldn’t believe I was leaving when I hadn’t really given the conference a chance! I explained that I had but she said I hadn’t and the next thing I knew I was promising to go back downstairs.

But I couldn’t face another workshop. So I took my cigarettes (back then I was a chain smoker. I no longer smoke.) and sneaked to the lobby seating area and settled in to “be at” the conference, but not really go to another workshop!

I sat next to a woman who gently told me she was taking a break and didn’t want to talk about writing. To her surprise, I said, “Great. I’m sick of writing, too.” Feeling I had found a kindred spirit, I proceeded to chain smoke while we chit-chatted about nothing in particular. After about fifteen minutes of discussing anything but writing, she asked if I wrote. I told her I used to. I explained that coming to this conference I had realized I knew nothing about writing. I didn’t know all the “rules” everybody kept talking about…Heck, I didn’t even know there were rules. All I knew was that I read two books a day for five years and loved them so much I wanted to write them, but apparently I couldn’t because everything I sent in got rejected.

She said, “Hum. Are you writing what you know?”

I told her I was writing what I liked. Marriage of convenience, secret babies, and larger than life heroes. She said, “Can you somehow take the stories that you like but infuse them with your life experience?”

I said I didn’t know but what she said made sense.

We chatted some more about my kids and husband and her family and what it was like to live in NYC. Then she rose. She really had to get back to things. But she also handed me her card. She said, “I’m Lucia Macro from Silhouette books. Send me your next manuscript and we’ll see if you really should quit.”

I was surprised, but my friends almost fainted. I was so out of the loop I didn’t realize Lucia was an exceptional editor and that most writers would climb Everest to work with her. I wasn’t even going to send her anything. I thought she was just being kind by asking me to submit to her.

Well, technically, she was just being kind, since she had never seen my work. But through our conversation she recognized that I loved the genre and love for any genre frequently translates into good stories for that genre. And she made the fair assessment that if pointed in the right direction, I could write good books.

So, that night my friends and I set about to figure out a plot for a new book. (Since all my others had been rejected.) And that Tuesday night, after work, after the kids were in bed, when I could have been watching television, I was back at my computer.

I had a reason to write. After years of getting form rejections, I had someone willing to give me more than a cursory glance, maybe even someone who was willing to help me. If I didn’t send her something I would miss what other people considered to be the chance of a lifetime.

That’s motivation.

So why did I tell you a story about motivation if my blog is supposed to be about commitment?

Well, it was the motivation of having an editor truly interested in reading my next book that caused me to COMMIT to writing another book.

Writers are funny people. When the muse is visiting or we've got the magic combination of a great story and great characters, writing isn't just easy, it's a breeze. So we think that all books will be that easy. But when a few "difficult" books go by, books that seemed as if they should have been easy to write, but weren't, we one day wake up and realize that the "easy" books are the exception. The difficult books are the reality.

If we love what we do, right then and there, we simply make a commitment to stay in the game. If our "difficult" books end up as good or better than the ones that are a breeze, we can stay in this game because we love books.

The same is true for your weight. Lots of us look at thin people and think...Lucky Dog. What I wouldn't give for her metabolism. But what if it isn't metabolism that gives thin people trim figures. What if it's hard work...and commitment.

I don't care how motivated you are, the thrill of hard work wears thin eventually and once you hit that wall where motivation (the want of a new dress or even to look good on a beach or be healthy) doesn't cut it, commitment has to step in.

Committment is the DECISION to stick it out even when you don't want to. When it's hard. When everybody else is eating cheese cake and you have black coffee. When the scale's not moving. When you're sick and tired of high fiber oatmeal...when any one or all of those hit, the only thing that's left is that decision. I WILL DO THIS. I WILL STICK THIS OUT.

Now, why in the name of all that is holy would you make a decision like that? Something that's going to push you farther and harder than you've ever been pushed before?

Because you like yourself.

Whether you know it or not, when you committed to lose weight, you made a backhanded promise to yourself to stick it out. If you quit, if you don't commit, then when you take that first bite of cheesecake or walk away from the treadmill or devour three doughnuts in the office break room, you are breaking a promise you made to yourself.

And, wow. Isn't that sad. You can keep every promise you make to your husband, your kids, your parents, your friends...your pets. But you won't keep one measly promise you make to yourself.

I think we all need to take a second here and ponder that. Do we devalue ourselves? Do we really think so little of ourselves that we not only put ourselves last on the list, we break our own promises?

It's truly something to think about.

Because if you'd once, just once, keep this promise, do the exercise, eat the right foods, it could totally revolutionize your life.

Not just from a health standpoint, but from a psychological standpoint.

If you kept one promise to yourself, would you keep more? Would you get your self-respect back? Would you become the person you want to be?

Wow. Luckily we have the whole weekend to think about that one!



Gossip Cowgirl said...

OMG, how has no one commented on this post yet????

First of all, you made me cry, which always signifies to me that something hit me hard. And it's definitely hitting me. I make promises to myself all the time and break them. Wow. I just hadn't thought of that at all.

I am SO glad you put this up on the RBW loop because I really needed to hear this today. This commitment is not only a promise to myself, but a gift to myself. I need to remember that.

You rock, girl!

Pamela Mason said...

Do we devalue ourselves when we break a promise to ourselves...
What a way to turn a prism & give me a new facet to think on with this weight loss challenge.
I wrote the post about Recommit on the other blog, but this should be posted there.
That word came to me because there is an exercise leader who says this during 'recovery'-- that time when you've just been through a hard slog & your chest is pumping & the sweat is dripping and
You Feel Like Giving UP!
And she says... Keep Moving,
RE Commit.
Like you, I'm trying to write... funny thing is, the books are all easy to start (for me) until I hit the roadblock. That piece of cheesecake in the road, or that long upward hill in my run, or that choice with my protag / antagonist that says...
"You can't do this."
What do I do?
If I eat the cake, stop running & turn back, I fail myself.
And corresponding to my work, when I set the hard point aside to just
start a new story, I fail again.
And I'm too good to do that to myself, in all these things.
Thank you for writing this post and giving me another step to take, another word to write, another opportunity to prove that I can do this!