Monday, March 10, 2008

It's All In Your Head

"Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible,

and of changing himself for the better if necessary."

Viktor Frankl

Saturday morning before I left the house I noticed my hair was laying just right, and my new outfit managed to cover a multitude of sins. With a confident smile on my face I set off into the world. Everywhere I encountered smiling faces, lovely people. When I got home there was a contract for a short story I had written. Truly a wonderful day.

Last Thursday I woke and checked my email. Aren't computers great? I don't have to wait for the mailman to be rejected. No. Here it is in my AOL inbox. The start of a truly sucky day was confirmed by the guy who cut ahead in to my line at the post office as I tried to mail those contest entries. And to make matters worse, later that morning, some idiot stole my parking spot on the way in to the library to do research.

Clever writers that you are, you have probably already discerned the difference between my days. While plenty of not so wonderful things occured on Saturday, I was able to assimilate them without much thought. Thursday my mindset was that life sucked, I sucked and actually the world in general sucked.

Our response to ourselves, and in turn the world around us creates a constant, as Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer, puts it, 'motivation-reaction unit.'

What are your 'motivation-reaction units'? What do you input on a daily basis that creates your mental and/or spiritual output?

Do you input 'I am never going to sell' and 'my writing is pond scum' or remind yourself daily that you will be a published novelist? Are you taking steps towards that goal by visualizing, and affirming on a daily basis? Or does your daily input resemble the day before as you create a mental list of why you will not sell--your 'mental-reaction units'.

What exactly is visualization?

It's a dress rehearsal for your writing life.

Begin now, training your mind to accept the positive reinforcement of visualization and affirmations.

Viktor Frankl who lived through the horrors of German concentration camps shared this in his book, Man's Search for Meaning. "...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

The bible stories of Abraham, David, Gideon and Peter illustrate the lives of men who initially didn't see the calling on their lives. They also demonstrate the power of 'calling things as not as though they are', and of truly stepping out in the vision of who you are meant to be.

If writing is your calling then start living the vision. If you aren't sure, then I suggest you get sure.

Stephen Covey's first habit in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is proactivity. "Change starts from within and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives by changing the things they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces."

I challenge you to create your own mental 'scenes' and 'sequels' --to plot the story of your writing life, and please remember to add all five senses to your scenes and sequels.

Can you see in your mind's eye, 'the call', the moment the editor tells you she wants to buy your book? Do you feel the excitement bubbling from deep inside you, until it pours out of your mouth as you babble a completely ridiculous response? Do you see your glance moving to the clock which has now stopped as you record the time for posterity?

Do your mental scenes show you on the New York Times list? Can you see your agent calling you with that almost hysterical excitement as she shares the news? Now you are dancing around the room in sheer joy, stopping only to pop a bottle of champagne?

Do you see yourself sitting in the audience at RWA Nationals, nervously smoothing your dress with your moist palms, as your name is called. How are you going to walk all the way up those stairs to accept your RITA?

What about that second book? Can you reach out and touch the ink drying on the contract or are you playing the same sequel of rejection, over and over in your head?

If today you at very least examine your 'motivation-reaction units' to the world around you and your writing career, you have made a proactive step towards a positive change.


  1. Tina, bravo for your excellent post! You're so right. What we feed ourselves is vital. I've read that a person's thoughts can aid in healing.

    Of course negative thoughts will come. As the saying goes: We can't stop a bird from landing on our head, but we can keep him from building a nest. So when those negative thoughts come, we can shoo those birds away before they mess with our minds or worse leave a mess in our hair. :-)

    Off to dream about a Rita. About a made for TV movie. LOL. Might as well think big.


  2. Thanks, Tina!!! I needed that pep talk!

    This is horrible, but I cried last week when I got a rejection from a magazine over an article I was so sure they were going to buy. I also got a couple of rejections from agents about queries I'd sent out, but the article rejection was the only one that lingered in my mind--still lingers. It was a form rejection letter, and the editorial assistant checked the line that read "The writing quality does not meet our standards." I thought, Can they insult me any more than that? That is the ultimate insult. Tell me my hair is ugly and I have no sense of style. Fine. I don't care. But don't tell me my writing sucks. Can't they just reject me nicely?

    It doesn't really matter, I know, but it's the first time anyone's told me the quality of my writing was bad. Ever. I mean, I've sold articles and short stories to other magazines--okay, so they were children's magazines, but still--but when you're getting so many rejections, it's easy to sink into the pit of despair.

  3. Sorry, I felt like ranting this morning!

    The truth is, I believe I'm going to get published. I even dream about a million-dollar advance at auction. Janet said you might as well dream big. Well, I have a big imagination!

  4. It's true that out of the abundance of the heart....

    Melanie, it is absolutely true that ten years later, and three edtitors later I sold the exact same short story to Woman's World.

    It is also true that the same Golden Heart entry that finaled twice did not final (unchanged) twice.

    We just keep knocking on the door and those of us left knocking will sell.

  5. Hey, pep talk girl. Nice post.
    I'm doing some visualizing right this second. Rita. HAHA!!! Why not?

    And I'm skinny in my long black dress, too.

    My personal favorite recurring fantasy is Academy Award. Best Adaptation. :)

    I'd give such a great speech. I'm a writer. I can write a short, memorable top quality speech.

  6. And Melanie...I'm sorry for the rejection. They are just nasty and that's all there is to it.

    Don't take that check mark to heart. They've got to check something and I think that's the default check box.

  7. Tina, this was an inspirational post! Blogging, reviewing, reading...I have re-entered the world I've always loved best. I just had my first interview in a local paper...I'm starting to believe things are possible when it comes to putting words on paper.

    Thanks for this!

    kimfurd at hotmail dot com

    PS I'm also envisioning my name as the winner of this week's drawing! ;-)

  8. I needed this. I continually sabotage myself, because as soon as I am fully engaged in the creation of a great piece, I say to myself, "What makes me think I have anything credible to say?" I do it every time! My husband is my best support in such moments, because he truly believes in me more than I do. I love writing. I love the research. I love learning and sharing. Sometimes the words pour out of my fingers and onto a page almost faster than I can let go of them. And then the neon sign goes up: You dimwit! Who do you think you are? Thank you for a wonderfully encouraging piece. I had never before compared my lot to that of Victor Frankl, but when I am honest I know that the prisons we build around ourselves are the only real prisons in the world.

  9. You know, Katherine, I think that inner critical voice is just the price you pay for having a vivid imagination. In fact, maybe there's a book in it.
    The inner voice, chiding you, is taken over by ... aliens? Demons? Computers?
    No wait, that already happened. My inner voice talks to me all the time about the stuff I have to buy there. :)

    Surely all you've gotta do is read one of MY books Katherine, then you'll be totally centered.

    Wow, if Mary can get THIS published, the the world is wide open for me.

  10. Great post, Tina. I get so mad at myself for flip-flopping between the extremes of positive and negative thoughts. I start imagining the elation of success, and then fool myself into thinking it's only self-preservation to prepare for the worst: another rejection, not making the finals in a contest. If I don't expect to win or succeed, then maybe it won't hurt as much when I don't. Yeah, right.

  11. Janet, I wanted to mention that visualization is a huge thing for cancer patients. I will be bloggin on it at

    soon. (BTW, giving away romance books there this week)

    The thing is sutdies have shown the effect mental status plays on the immune stystem. Haven't we heard all our lives about someone who died of a broken heart of giving up the will to live. We can agree that negative has a response, so why is it so very hard to consider the effects of a positive thought process?

  12. Padme died of a broken heart because even though she knew there was still good in Anakin, she realized that he was going down a path she could not follow. I wonder if she realized his wounds were so deep that the love she had for him wasn't enough to heal him. Why not?

    I can think of a ton of mainstream romances in which the love of the right woman healed the hero's wounds. So was Padme not the right woman for Anakin?

    Or maybe Anakin HAD to walk down the path to the dark side and live there for a while so he could LEARN that the longing he carried couldn't be met by the dark side. Yes, he was the chosen and brought balance to the force, but forget about the big picture. The individual man's inner journey took him thorough hell so he finally found someone unwilling to give up on him, to go to his death for him.

    Anyhoo, great article, Tina!

    Last night I dreamed about obtaining something I really really wanted. I can still "feel" the rush of joy and excitement, yet as I've thought about my dream, I've wavered between hoping the dream will come true and being realistic that it may not and if it doesn't then that's okay.

    Publishing related...

    Ever since the editor at Revell asked for a partial on my completed Victorian and my uncompleted Civil War story, I've been freaky about answering the phone everytimes it rings. It could be my agent calling.

    I keep thinking positive thoughts, but this itty bitty voice says, "If you get a rejection, remember it's not the end of your writing world. Life will be okay."

  13. Are you talking about Star Wars?

    Who is Padme?

    I am talking about going to Mortality and Morbidity meetings in hospitals and doctors speaking of the interesting thing that happens when a couple is married for like 50 years and one spouse dies, then the surviving spouse is diagnosed with metastatic cancer and dies soon after. What I took away from those meetings is a question: is that cancer inside of us right now? Is it suppressed by the immune system until a stressor triggers it to metasticise???

  14. Oooohhh, goosebump post, Tina!

    It wouldn't hurt to spend at least 5 minutes a day jotting down one of those dreams in story form to get us excited.

  15. You know, one great way to encourage ourselves would be to take a small rolodex file and put quotes from contest judges and editors and agents or whatever on the cards. Flip to a new card when you need a shot of encouragement.

  16. Oh, Tina, you're going all scientificky on me. I feel woozy.

    Yes, Padme from Star Wars...well, the first three actually. She's remarkably absent from the last except for when Luke asks Leia if she remembers her mom. Leia answers, then he says, "I never knew my mother."

    Hubby use the $ he made at Christmas buying and reselling about 15 Nintendo Wiis to buy a new surround system for our...his big screen tv. Once he hooked it up, he had to demonstrate its power. In pops Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

    While it played almost continually all weekend, I only watched it once.

    Life, you know, is more than about real people.

    On the flip side of Mortality and Morbidity is when one spouse dies and the other gets a new lease on life. Hubby's grandfather (94) passed away about 3 weeks ago.

    When hubby and his grandma were talking after the funeral, she said, "After spending 70 years with someone and taking care of his every need, being on your own and responsible for only you is rather freeing."

    Why is it some people lose someone and give up on life while others see opportunities? Maybe it all goes back to positive and negative thoughts.

    On a side note, that shrink who spoke in youth Sunday School two Sundays ago told about how brain scans show heightened activity in the frontal lobe during prayer. He said it looks like the brain is glowing. The pics he showed were amazing.

    If that doesn't testify that we were created for a Creator, then I don't know what is.

    Oh, great. My kids are screaming. Wait. They stopped. Whew. I thought for a second that I was gonna have to go parent. Hate when that happens.

  17. Amazing post, Tina! Thanks so much for the Bible passage. That one has never hit me in quite that way before.

    I looked up The Message version after clicking on your link. I think it's really cool, too:

    vs. 17-18 We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!"

    I love that!! And my favorite part: When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do.

    Amen to that!!

    Melanie, so sorry about your rejection. My hardest was a form letter that said my submission didn't have "that sparkle". I hated that. It made me feel like my writing wasn't special at all. Very humbling.

    Kim congrats on the interview in the newspaper! :)

    Katherine, what you said was so very profound: "...but when I am honest I know that the prisons we build around ourselves are the only real prisons in the world." Something so important to remember and to battle.

    Gina, what can I say? You crack me up!! I'm so glad you weren't actually called away to parent. LOL!!


  18. Tina, I'm a firm believer in visualization, seeing yourself in the winner's circle of whatever endeavor you delve into.

    Thanks soooooooo much for putting facts and opinion behind words of wisdom. You are truly a blessing and a spiritual guide.


    No matter what we call ourselves, aspiring, pre-pubbed or unpubbed (and I'm okkity-dokkity with all three-- sorry-- sick babies. We just watched Toy Story II with the rootinest-tootinest cowboy in the Wild, Wild West), rejections hurt. I expect they hurt just as much when you're pubbed and experienced.

    Maybe more because they're not as expected.

    And Katherine, bless that husband, your #1 fan and cheerleader. So many writers will envy you that, my girl! What a blessing.

    "That which doesn't kill you may only serve to make you stronger..."

    So I see Ruthy as an accomplished and fun-loving, slightly trouble-making author who owns a coffee shop/bakery and has so much fun with both that she works until she's ninety like the woman with the furniture store in Arkansas...

    The one Warren Buffet bought out.

    And the world will love both my books and my cannoli cake.


  19. Tina, thanks for the great post! I really needed that. I don't visualize those things and the idea of walking up the aisle to accept the award only made me picture myself stumbling. What can I say? My older brother said if you drew a chalk line on the sidewalk, I'd trip over it.

    Still,the truth is that I don't spend time thinking of those things because I don't want to be disappointed. But your post reminded me how important it is to envision myself where you want to be. So, I'm off for a five minute break where I'll will be walking gracefully up the aisle and, like Mary said, I'll be skinny in my long black dress.

  20. Way cool about "speaking those things that are not as though they are."

    In my visualization, I'm in a red dress, though. I don't look so great in black :-)


  21. Ruthy, you know ACFW is in Minneapolis this year, right? Where your daughter lives? An awful good excuse to tax deduct a visit with your girl.

    A separate topic: Can you take cannolis on a plane? I mean, does that count as liquid? Would you have to check it?
    No reason.

  22. Oh man, Melanie, I'm sorry. Talk about Tina writing timely advice! You're a good writer, Melanie! Don't let anyone puff out the flame of your creativity!!

    And yes, great reminder of visualization, Tina. Thank you!

    Not only seeing the culmination of your goal/desires helps, but the attitude along the way helps keep the dream alive. I'm not certain of my personality type, but I know I am not an A, so it's easy for me not to be the best, or a leader : ) It took a long time for the closed door/open window theory to take root in my mind, but when it did, it helped me to understand the entire concept of positive thinking. I see where I want to be; I plot the steps along the way; and I'm flexible when detours disrupt my progress. It's in those pesky detours that I've learned I don't know it all. My goal is still in sight, I just stop a little more often to smell the flowers along the way : )

    Good reminder to all of us, Tina!

  23. Ann,

    You are too funny.

    Now I am actually see us all sitting together, black and red gowns. Skinny..waiting to accept our RITAs, GH Awards, and an Oscar or two.

  24. Okay, Tina, I'm with Pam on this one -- your blog today is "goosebump" time!! Guess what scripture our pastor spoke on this weekend???

    You guessed it -- 'calling things as not as though they are'!! I came home so inspired (just like after reading your blog today, Tina) and have been "calling" things left and right ever since! :)

    Incredible post! Wonderful post! Inspiring post! Thank you ... I needed that!

    And, Melanie, I just did a critique for you, so I absolutely KNOW that the quality of your writing is wonderful. But in this business, it's win some, lose some. Like the 24 agent rejections I got, one of which didn't even have the courtesy of sending me a rejection on their own letterhead, but simply scrawled "No enthusiasm for this project" across my very own query letter.

    Your time will come.

  25. Melanie, I once got a rubber stamp rejection on the query letter. Hope they could afford all that INK!

  26. Oh, I've gotten those, too, Julie. My personal favorite rejection was from a critique group. Can you believe I got rejected by a critique group? This was when I first started writing novels. They rejected me for not having a strong enough hook. They quoted to me a long section of Stein on Writing, which I had just finished reading.

    But the truth is, whenever I think about that, I always think about how funny it will seem when I'm a best-selling novelist and someone is interviewing me and I get to tell that story. J.K. Rowling got 45 rejections? Stephen King's first 4 novels were rejected? I was rejected by a critique group!!!

  27. Oh, Mary, that's funny. What did the rubber stamp say???

  28. From Writer's Services

    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

    'an irresponsible holiday story'

    Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.'

    Watership Down by Richard Adams

    'older children wouldn't like it because its language was too difficult.'

    On Sylvia Plath

    'There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice.'

    Crash by J G Ballard

    ‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.'

    The Deer Park by Norman Mailer

    'This will set publishing back 25 years.'

    Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

    'Do you realize, young woman, that you're the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.'

    The Diary of Anne Frank

    ‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

    Lust for Life by Irving Stone

    (which was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies)

    ‘ A long, dull novel about an artist.’

    Carrie by Stephen King

    'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.'

    Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller

    ‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’

    The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

    ‘You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’

    Animal Farm by George Orwell

    ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’

  29. Great post Tina.

    Gina, you are making me want to see the 3rd star wars movie again.

    mary what is cannolis?

    Mel sorry about the rejection I hope this week will be a better week for you.

  30. Oh i remember Lord of the Flies!
    i had to read it in year 8 and i hated it. it wasn't the sort of book i was use to reading.

  31. I think, Melanie, it was that classic favorite, "You book does not fit our needs at this time."

    Yeah, but THAT in a stamp.

  32. Here, Jenny:
    Cannoli are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo, meaning “little tube”, with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine. They are also popular in Italian American cuisine.

    Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater or other flavorings

    From Wikipedia :)
    I really don't know much about cannolis, only that, if Ruthy makes 'em I'm going to want to eat them.

  33. Thanks Mary I learn so much here things i didn't even know i needed to know.
    if its food and an domestic flight you should be fine.
    i took food on my flight to Canada from Hawaii. oh yes i remember pineapple taffy its way to salty for me and i still have it.
    but domestic flights are better and you shouldnt have a problem if in doubt ring your airline.

  34. AusJenny, the cannoli ruse is a blatant attempt to get me to bring a tray of cannolis to Minneapolis...

    Except that I'm not in ACFW, so that's a tricky one, Mare! And it's a great city to visit. The Cathedral of St. Paul is absolutely amazing, one of the most beautiful churches I've ever been in. Wonderful.

    Ruthy's conference money this year will be used for Beth's wedding and paying never-ending bills. You can all appreciate that I know!

    Now I must visualize how to get cannolis to my friend Mary without necessitating me an expensive plane ride.

    Mare, I do have to get to Wisconsin at some time and scope out the Chippewa Falls area for my new series. How about you drive up toward I-90 and we'll do a cannoli exchange? You bring carrot cake, I'll bring the cannolis..(leave the gun, take the cannoli...Godfather)

    We'll have a picnic.


  35. Am I the only Sicilian on the board? And I am only 1/2 Sicilian. And the Irish girl is the one who makes the great cannoli?? Go figure.

  36. I'm never really tried visualization but I agree that the pendulum between "life sucks" and "the world's my oyster" is a rough one. One I don't care to hang on to so I try to be a bit more middle of the road. But why not just try to stop the pendulum on the positive side of the swing?

  37. With age, Patricia, we can only hope, comes wisdom.

    So at least if I realize what my mind is doing I can cope so much easier.

    That guy that cut in front of me probably is not out to ruin me, but has a kid who is late at day care.

    And one rejection does not a sucky day make.

  38. Here's my positive visualization: if you're passionate enough about writing that it feels like YOU on the page, yet can endure rejections of those words, you're probably meant to write. Whether that writing ends up published or not, you're a writer!

    Ah, positive thoughts. I needed them today!

  39. Gwen, thanks for stopping by.

    You are totally correct. I am not defined by my sales or lack there of.

    I am a writer.


  40. Hi, I have bouts of depression and generalized anxiety. Throughout the years, I have been on medication and in therapy! One theme that seemed to trickle through all of the various therapist was change your thought patterns. I am still working on that! I am told to immediately change a negative thought or fear into a positive one! Thanks,Cindi