Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #23

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #23.  A strike is strong than a push.

In this lesson, I talk about taking a fresh approach to your work, as a way to make it more attention-getting. But there’s also an aspect of this that’s about doing things quickly and therefore more effectively. I don’t want to take the analogy too far because sometimes the best work is the work that takes a long, slow slog to get done (a push that goes on and on). But sometimes the best work is the work you do quickly, without agonizing too long over what you’re saying or how you’re saying it. This is especially true if you’re prone to perfectionism and miss deadlines because your project isn’t quite perfect yet.

“For Jessica” was written like this, as quickly as I could get the words out in one stretch on a terrible night. Most people think it is my best work. That’s not to say I could have done it without the forty years of hard pushing work of learning to write that went before. It’s just to say that for this piece, doing it quickly was the only way I was going to do it at all.

There’s also an element of completion to do this. Get the work done.

Has there been a time when you did something quickly and learned that it was really good work?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club: Lesson #22

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #22. Know the vital points.

In  this lesson, I talk about the importance of knowing what you’re trying to communicate to your readers. In this post, I want to expand on that idea a little. Knowing the vital points is about understanding what matters and then doing it. Recently a couple of students asked me about getting started in freelancing, and they were worried about how to pay estimated taxes and what they should know about contracts, and while I agree that these are things that must be attended to, they are hardly the important thing. They are not the business!

Getting started in freelancing means figuring out what skill you have to offer and finding out who will buy it. That’s what matters. If you don’t get that figured out, none of the rest matters.

That’s why my mantra for writers is always do the work, do the work, do the work. That’s what matters.

Do you ever have trouble figuring out what the vital point is? Let me know in the comments.

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #21

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #21. The warrior does not reflect on past deeds while in battle

This lesson is about not focusing on what has happened in the past to the detriment of what you’re doing now. In other words, if you’re working on a novel, you can’t obsess about how your last novel was rejected by a hundred agents and why should this one be any different.

This one is different by virtue of your being different and having learned something from the last go-round, although that doesn’t mean that this effort won’t also be greeted by a hundred rejections. But you can’t worry about that or you’ll never finish this project.

One of the ways to give yourself the mental space you need is to think of the act of writing and the act of marketing that writing as two different things. One is a creative endeavor and the other is a business proposition. That doesn’t mean one won’t inform the other but they are two separate things and it helps to treat them as such. When you’re writing, you’re writing; when you’re marketing, you’re marketing.

One of the things I do to segue from one mindset to another is to do a little ritual—it used to be some yoga, now it’s just a moment where I set my intentions and “turn on” the writing mindset.

What are some things you do to keep the chattering voices in your head quiet while you do the work?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #20

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #20 Integrity in all actions creates confidence

A question that comes up among writers fairly often has to do with how much to tell an editor/agent/client about potential conflicts of interest, challenges, and concerns. This is actually a lot easier to answer than it sounds. The more transparent you are, the fewer problems you’ll encounter in your career. But more than that, you’ll be more confident about your work. You don’t have to worry about Editor A finding out you also write for her competitor, Editor B, and wondering how she’ll react because you’ve already told her.

While I think it’s important to be honest just as a general practice, it’s also a practical matter. The internet has flattened the world and pulled down the walls that separate one thing from another. Fifteen years ago it was possible to write for one publication and not have an editor at another publication know it unless you told her. That’s no longer true.

Not long ago, a client of mine talked about wanting to use a pen name for his memoirs, since the work was likely to be controversial. I said that was unlikely to fly with editors but also that it would be hard for him to keep his anonymity. To prove it, I had an accomplished journalist take a few facts from his memoir and do some research.

Later that day she came back to me with his name. “Is this the guy?” she asked. And it was.

The best way to protect yourself is to be willing to own what you say, to own who you are. This isn’t about never making a mistake (if you make a mistake, admit it, apologize, move on.) It’s about giving people a good reason to trust you.

No, you don’t need to go into detail about why your toenail infection is going to make you miss your deadline, but you need to admit that you’re going to miss your deadline, and not let it come as a nasty surprise to your editor.

Have you ever had an experience where you’ve had to own up to a mistake with a client or otherwise have a difficult conversation you’d prefer not to have? How did you feel after having it?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #19

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #19 – Courtesy reveals your strength

Being polite even when you don’t feel like it is a big part of traditional martial arts. While it’s easy enough to manage under the given parameters of a sparring match or a lesson, it’s harder to do this out in the real world, especially because out in the world, other people don’t know the rules, or at least they don’t follow them. It’s hard to be courteous to someone spitting in your face.

Courtesy isn’t about letting people walk all over you, or not responding to a threat, or anything like that. Courtesy is about acknowledging that the other person is just as important, valuable, and amazing as you are, even if you find that hard to believe. That doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries or walk away from an asshole. It means you have emotional control and you use it.

In this Internet era of people saying whatever they want under the cloak of anonymity, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if what you’re saying is something you’re willing to say under your own name.

For writers, courtesy can be an especially useful skill to cultivate because so many people don’t have it. The next time you’re tempted to respond to an editor’s response or a blog reader’s comment with a knee-jerk rudeness, take a breath and ask yourself if courtesy wouldn’t serve you better.

A story I like to tell is one where a colleague and I had a spirited disagreement about an approach I had taken in some of my writing. Never once did she cross the line into rudeness or personal attacks. She stated her position and supported it, and I did mine, and eventually we wrote a book together and became good friends. That would never have happened if we’d dealt rudely with each other.

Is there a time when you’ve found being courteous worked to your advantage?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

 

 

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #18

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #18 – Understand what is expected of you

In this lesson, I discuss the unspoken rules of training and how that relates to working as a writer. Often expectations are implied or assumed but not stated, and it’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t understand how things work.

When I worked as an acquisitions editor, I received any number of submissions from people who were good writers but who didn’t understand readers’ expectations. I acquired romance, and romance readers expect a happily ever after. You can write a great story that is emotionally resonant, but if there’s no happily ever after, it’s not a romance. It might be something else, but it’s not romance. You can bitch about this all you want, but happily-ever-after is what a romance is.

In other words, a lot of people bring rejection and frustration on themselves when they don’t understand expectations.

I hope it’s clear that I don’t mean you need to follow some formula. I am saying you need to understand what’s expected and then do it.

The thing is, people aren’t necessarily going to be honest with you if you trip over expectations. Suppose you have a deadline, and you miss it by three days, but no big deal, right? The story didn’t go online for another two weeks anyway. And when you send the editor another story idea, and she says, “No, but thanks!” you may assume that the problem is in the story idea when in fact the problem is in the fact that you missed the deadline and the editor isn’t going to hire you again because of that. But she isn’t going to say that, because she doesn’t want to hear you follow up with fifty-seven excuses for why you missed the deadline.

I’m not saying you only ever get one chance in this business or you can’t ever screw up or like that. Anyone who’s been at this for more than a couple of months has tripped up in sometimes stunning ways. But I am saying that not understanding and meeting expectations has consequences, including said rejection and frustration.

So: know what you’re getting into, ask questions when you need to, and don’t kid yourself when you fail to meet an expectation. Learn and grow, learn and grow.

What’s a time when you tripped over an unstated expectation? What did you learn?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.