...How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot Without Really Trying
The 9 basic rules of self sabotage are:
- Avoid building a firm foundation
- Hang on to what is not working
- Cultivate negative talk
- Let fear of success guide you
- Ignore basic business etiquette and protocol
- Do not plan
- Never take control of your life
- Stop moving forward
- Give up completely
1. Avoid Building a Firm Foundation.
Great writers are born not made. The same is true of nuclear physicists, brain surgeons and rocket scientists. I can't think of a single reason why a writer wouldn't want to build a foundation by learning the basics of writing and then constantly hone their skills by practicing the craft, reading craft books and attending educational programs. Would you go to a physician who never attended another continuing education class after he graduated?
2. Hang on to What is Not Working.
Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- You have a manuscript you have revised for Supers, Steeple Hill, Avon, Dorchester and that new small press and they have all rejected it with the same comments, yet you say you have fixed that problem.
- You keep starting stories and never finish them.
- Your critique group really doesn't do much for your writing but you keep going back.
- Your plots always sag in the middle and you don't know why and don't do anything to change this phenomena.
- All your contest judges say your story begins on page 4 but you refuse to cut your beginning.
- You always tell your editor the deadline she suggests will work and you always have to go back to ask for more time; instead of asking for more time up front and completing the novel in what will perceived to be ahead of schedule.
You don't even need Rule 3. Go directly to Rule 4.3. Cultivate Negative Talk.
For negative talk to be totally successful it should not only be practiced in conversation with others but in self talk. Inject generous amounts of NOT, NEVER, WON'T and CAN'T. Tape cards to the mirror and on the dashboard of your car with mantras you can repeat over and over again.
"I'll never sell a book."
"I'm going to be a one book wonder."
"I have writers block."
"If I sell..."
4. Let Fear of Success Guide You.
The tenets of the fear of success:
- fear that once you reach your goal you won't be happy
- fear that you really do not have talent or ability
- fear that you cannot maintain your success
- fear of being recognized and honored
Did you know the opposite of faith is not lack of faith, but fear? The only way to deal with fear is to replace it with faith. Faith in yourself.
Recommended reading: How to Be a Complete and Utter Failure In life, Work & Everything: 44 1/2 Steps to Lasting Underachievement by Steve McDermott.
5. Ignore Basic Business Etiquette and Protocol. Writing is a business and like any business it is your job to be a professional no matter how many morons surround you. In your corporate life you would never consider sharing inflammatory information or opinions about the company online. Don't do it this in your professional writing life.Try Google-ing yourself to check your writing footprints in cyberspace. Make sure you have no regrets.
If you are truly clueless, I again recommend Miss Snark The Literary Agent archives. Use the search blog feature and input the words: nitwit, or WWMSD (What would Miss Snark do), snarkasaurus or clueless to find protocol for the uninformed writer.
Which reminds me... I have an acquaintance who recently critiqued an agent rejection letter and returned it to the agent. Frankly, a pound of dark chocolate, a Godiva martini or Ben & Jerry's with a large spoon would have been as satisfying as sending that letter and would have done far less damage. This is a true story.
6. Do Not Plan.
"Failing to plan is planning to fail. " This is true of every area of your writing life from deciding which genre to write to marketing as a published author. How will you know when you have arrived at your destination without a clear and focused career plan? A plan lays out specifically what you hope to achieve, and your strategic steps to reaching those goals. "If you don't know where you are going, you will arrive somewhere else."
7. Never Take Control of Your Life.Do you regularly feel resentful and discouraged over not having more control over your own life? Are you constantly adding more stress to your life by taking on too much? Good news. I can help you. No matter what your obligations to your church, your family, your job--you have an obligation to you.
In the words of my friend Stephanie, "Guilt is a useless emotion."Use the word no. The Mayo Clinic says that saying no is a healthy option to stress relief. Check out their words of wisdom on the topic of no-- here.
8. Stop Moving Forward. If you have learned steps one through seven you will have arrived here. Remember: Change is inevitable. Stasis is death to writers. "Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still."
9. Give Up. You have made it to the final rule. You see failure where lessons lie and give up at the first sign of a challenge. Veteran writers, published and unpublished know a secret. That secret is that anyone who threatens to quit writing should be encouraged to do so. If you can give up writing then you are obviously not a writer.
Now you have everything you need to go forth and conquer the world or shoot yourself in the foot.
The choice is yours, but please clean up after yourself.