Monday, December 12, 2011

Goals Lesson 2

Since I accidentally posted the first goal setting lesson on Friday...I thought we'd just keep going with the goals theme this morning. LOL

If you missed the Intro and Lesson 1 scroll down...They're there. :)

So...Here's lesson 2.

Session Two: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…Motivation isn’t always a positive, happy thing.

After reading the first session and writing out a list of what you want and what you need, you probably realize that there’s a big difference between what you “want” and what you “need.”  Wants are typically positive things. They are a way to gain pleasure. Needs are usually things you must have in order to avoid pain. (Like pay your mortgage so the bank doesn’t foreclose on your house!)

Needs drive us more, farther and faster, because most of us will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.

Let’s face it, fear of busting the button on our slacks – in front of a group to which we are giving a workshop – at a writer’s conference where we are well-known – and at which our greatest competitor is also giving a workshop – will get us away from a second piece of fresh apple pie a lot quicker than the ambiguous, vague desire to “look good.”

Why? Because we can feel that fear. That fear is very real. The embarrassment would be very real. We cannot feel the accolades of looking good…Well, granted, we can envision a few people walking up to us saying, “Hey, you look great!” and for some of us that really is enough to motivate. But when it’s Susan versus the apple pie, the fear always motivates better.

Here’s a simpler example. When it’s a choice between using our mortgage money for a spur of the moment weekend in Vegas or paying the mortgage so the bank doesn’t foreclose, most of us wouldn’t go on the trip. We’d pay the mortgage. The fear of losing our house is much stronger than the desire for the pleasure of going on the trip. 

But all of our choices aren’t that clear. Particularly not when it comes to writing. So let’s go back to the story of Lucia asking to see my manuscript.

I’m not the first writer to be asked to submit a manuscript to a specific editor. I’m not the only one who has been published because of this kind of encounter at a writer’s conference. In fact, I would be willing to bet that fifty percent of the published authors I know got published because of an editor appointment at a conference that resulted in a requested manuscript. Unfortunately, and sadly, I would also be willing to bet that fifty percent of the unpublished writers I know have also been asked to submit a manuscript and never submitted.

These people had the same kind of motivation that I had. An interested editor. A once in a lifetime shot. Yet they never submitted. Why?

I can’t say for sure, but I can speculate that most didn’t submit because their fear of failure was stronger than their belief that they would succeed.

Or (reversed) their fear of success was stronger than their desire for success.

Ah, now we’re getting down to the good stuff! Fear of success and fear of failure.

For these people who didn’t submit, fear – either fear of success or fear of failure –  won.

But some people don’t succumb to the dual devils of fear of success or fear of failure. Some people use their fear to drive them.

Think this through with me…

Why was I able to go home, write a book in a short amount of time and submit it to Lucia? Because I was on my last chance. This was do or die for me. Fear of failure propelled me to do what I had been unable to do for the five years prior to that.

I used my fear. I didn’t succumb to it. I used it. Most people buckle under to fear of failure when they should be turning it to their advantage!

And that’s the bottom line. Fear either makes or breaks you. For some of us fear creates paralysis. For others of us, fear motivates. And for still others, it’s a combination of the two. These people live their own brand of confusion because what works in one instance does not work in another. 

So what do you do if you’re dogged by fear of failure and paralyzed by fear of success?

The simple thing to do is determine what you are afraid of and figure out if it motivates you or paralyzes you. If it motives you use it. If it paralyzes you, get rid of it.

That’s right. If you have a fear that paralyzes you, you can not only get rid of it, you “have to” get rid of it. And right now I’m going to show you how.

We’ve said there are two major fears. Fear of success and fear of failure. So first lets get rid of fear of success.

If you’re one of those people who is afraid of succeeding, I want you to stop reading and make a list of reasons you are afraid to succeed.  In fact, if you’re not sure if you’re afraid of success but you’ve been experiencing procrastination or a bad attitude or one failure after another, I want you to make this list too.

For me, on my list of reasons I was afraid to succeed, one of the biggies was that I wasn’t very good in crowds.  I was an introvert. I didn’t want people to know me. (I’m not like this anymore, btw.) I feared that if I became successful I would be inundated with phone calls and visits and swamped at conferences.

If this is one of your fears, take heart. Not only can writers remain totally anonymous if they use a pseudonym, but you don’t have to go to conferences. Even better, however, unless you’re Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown, or one of the absolute writing greats, you don’t get inundated at conferences. A few well wishers and fans may approach you, but these are usually wonderful people who you will be very, very glad you met.

The Internet, Facebook, Twitter have changed that a bit, but not really. Your face might be on Facebook, but you aren't. You're at your desk, in your pj's just chatting. Granted, there are precautions wise people take, but basically, unless you're one of the truly greats, most people are "intersted" in you but not fanatics!

So there’s no reason to fear becoming “famous” as a writer. I just blasted that fear to heck and back. And that’s what you need to do with everything you put on your list.

You need to write out all the reasons you are afraid of succeeding and then write the counter argument. 

If you’re afraid your husband won’t love you anymore if you are more successful than he is, write out a paragraph or two about why he will love you MORE if you succeed. (Start with listing your ability to buy him a boat, or a motorcycle or a new truck. Don’t be above bribery.)

If you’re afraid that your mother will be embarrassed by sex scenes in your books, write out a paragraph or two about why she will be proud of you. Or, if you can’t make an argument for your mother being proud that you can write sex scenes, write out a paragraph or two that talks about accepting that you may have to use a pseudonym and not tell your mother about your books! (And add in there somewhere how much fun it will be to have this delicious secret!)

Destroy every fear you have about becoming successful by making the case against it. Nine chances out of ten, when you put your fears on paper they will immediately look stupid. Because most fears are. They are consequences or possibilities we’re afraid will happen. Which means there is an equal probability they won’t happen. We cut them down to size either by realizing they are totally ludicrous, or by writing out the reasons we won’t let them happen, or ways we will handle them if they do.

You may have to make accommodations like a pseudonym, but that’s okay.

The point is for you to see, accept and then work with the knowledge that for every fear there is a response that obliterates it, and once you find it, you will free yourself to succeed.

Now, what if you’re afraid of failing? 

That’s a whole different track. To handle that fear you must make a list of all the good things that will happen if you succeed. You must make this list of  “things you will get when you succeed” big enough to keep you working and keep you trying when your desire to quit is strongest!

Here is where the difference between “need” and “want” really comes into play.  If you only “want” the things that drive you, they will only drive you so far. But when you “need” something that need will frequently supersede fear.

One of my big motivators was (and continues to be) that I cannot make as much money in any other job as I make as a romance novelist.  I live in a very small city with a high unemployment rate. If I am going to succeed financially, romance writing is my only option.

My ONLY option.

That’ll motivate ya!

So every time a deadline seems hard or impossible, when I feel the fear that I am wasting my time or going to fail, I tell myself, “You don’t have enough options to quit.”

That means that after you make your list of things you hope to get from reaching your goal, the next step is to see if you can turn those wants into needs. That might sound stupid but it’s not. Very often some very motivational “needs” come disguised as “wants.” Take a good look at your list of what you need and what you want and see if some of your items shouldn’t be switching sides!

For instance, before I was published, on my list of all the things I “could” do with the extra money that being published would provide I wrote things like send the kids to college. Get new living room furniture. Pay off mortgage. (Back when I had a smaller, cheaper house!) Get a bigger house. (Which has given me a larger, more expensive mortgage but also a better house!)
I pretty much thought everything on that list was a want. But each of them ultimately became a need.

How? Well, when your living room furniture falls apart beneath a guest it quickly goes from a want to a need. So it’s probably smarter to turn it into a need before it turns itself into a disaster!

Can you turn sending the kids to college from a want to a need? Sure you can. On the surface helping your kids with college looks like a nice thing to do, but, trust me, when college time comes around even if your kids get every loan and grant available, they will still need money from you. So having that money isn’t a want. It’s a need. Recognize it while your kids are still toddlers so you don’t find yourself penniless and doing without things like vacations, nice anniversary gifts, a new car, and even necessary home improvements when your daughter leaves for Penn State!

That’s the simple formula for handling fear of failure. You put yourself in a position where there are so many things you “need” that you feel absolutely driven. Or maybe more precisely put…Put yourself in a position where there are so many things you need that failure is not an option.

Then, when you have a bad day, get a rejection or are just plain too tired to work, you won’t say, “It’s no use…” You’ll say, “I have no choice…” Or, like me, “I have no other option. I must make this one work!”

If you’ve done those two exercises with me, you’ve handled your fear of success and/or your fear of failure, or, at the very least, you’re beginning to understand them!

And that’s the key. That’s actually how you learn to use fear to motivate you. Once you understand your fears and decide if they motivate or paralyze, you can obliterate the ones that paralyze and use the ones that motivate.
Trips, money, prestige (of a sort), a good signature line will all motivate you, but you should never underestimate the power of negative consequences. They are as real in each of our lives as “good things.” And sometimes fearing a bad result will get you going a lot faster than wishing for some ambiguous “good” thing!

You need to look at yourself and understand what drives you!

That’s actually what I want you to do for your assignment. If you didn’t do the fear of failure, fear of success exercises, I want you to do them now. But I also want you to take a look at your life.

Are you motivated more by fear of loss or hope of gain? Do you have some genuine fears that drive you? Like a fear of looking awful in jeans that keeps you from dessert, or a fear that you’re not keeping up with your peers that drives you to quickly write five pages before your critique group meeting?

Write ‘em down. Get to know them. Snuggle with them. They will become your best friends. Because when the chips are down, these are the things that are going to save you!

susan meier
Don't forget KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST! (Seriously...)


Peg Cochran said...

This is so wonderful! I've forwarded it to several people. Funny, I sold my first book/series because of a "need"--to prove that I hadn't been wasting my time writing all these years instead of becoming a nuclear physicist or top notch executive LOL. I sold my second series because I needed to pay my daughter's college tuition. Interesting how that works! Now I'm trying to NEED a vacation!

Susan said...

Meg! I have many times turned a vacation into a need! You can do it. LOL

But isn't it interesting when you take a look at what you've accomplished and realized it came just when you "needed" it!


Tess Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tess Grant said...

Oops! Let's try this comment again. These are great posts, Susan, and I'll be forwarding them to my critique group. We set weekly goals and I think this is information we all can use.

Susan said...

Thanks, Tess!

I reread the entire workshop over the weekend and realized I had acquired some fears myself. I thought it was odd, after all thse years to suddenly have fears, but there they were! LOL

So I got rid of them and actually set my goals.

Now I'm a happy camper, ready for 2012!


Lita Harris said...

You bring to light so many things that I know hold me back as a writer. A few years ago a friend of mine told me that I was afraid of success.It wasn't until I attended my first conference that I realized I was afraid of failure and success and it can be paralyzing. Thanks for encouragement and a way out of that mindset.

Susan said...

I think a lot of us suffer from fear of success AND fear of failure...and I also think it about drives us nuts.

Every once in a while (like this morning) I get up early and really think through what I want and why I want it.

Then I look for those buggaboos that could pop up like what if I write it and nobody buys it...or what if I get horrible reviews or what if I'm not made to be a writer (Yeah, even after 50 books that one sometimes creeps in)...and I shoot them all down with logic. LOL

Because logically we know that when problems crop up with can handle them...we always do. So why they scare us beforehand is a mystery.

Which is why I think we all need to devote a few hours at the beginning of every project to think of every potential pitfall and shoot it out of the water!


Bex said...

By substituting the word need where I have used the word want in the past, it changes the whole motivational dynamic. I had never thought of it in that way. What an eye-opener! Thank you!!

Susan said...

Isn't that cool!

Making something a need changes your whole perspective and even your physical feelings when you think about it!