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Archive for November, 2013

Support breeds success

Support breeds success

Over the years, I’ve had to face many personal and business obstacles. Writing has proven to be my most challenging, and rewarding endeavour to date, but it comes with many obstacles and a host of naysayers. For instance, at a family event recently, a well-to-do family member made a comment to my husband about my writing, saying that although he understood my “passion” for writing, cautioned my husband against really believing it would ever be a financially viable venture. When I heard this, I was furious, both because this family member was unwittingly trying to undermine my husband’s faith in me, and because he was demonstrating what I’d encountered several times before with close friends and family; disbelief that what I was doing would ever amount to much of anything financially.

I’ve worked in commissioned sales for over ten years, and I know from experience that this kind of thinking is detrimental to the success of those who work in this type of career. Writing works very similarly; the writer works his/her buns off to get a project published, endures a great deal of rejection and trials, and only gets paid if the book becomes a commercial success. To be a writer, you have to develop pretty thick skin. You have to believe that what you are writing matters and has value to others. You have to believe in yourself as well as in your dreams. This is no easy task.

Snoopy writingThose who are close to writers don’t always understand what we do. They think we’re playing at an intriguing “hobby”, or worse, wasting our time. They don’t understand that toiling for hours upon hours, days, weeks, months, or even years, and seeing little financial profit is really laying stepping stones to success. Writing is like every new business; you have to be willing to invest the time, blood, sweat, and tears to build a brand and fineness the business model. Many writers work full time jobs and write every spare moment they can in order to create the platform they’ll use. The learning curve is tremendous, and in today’s constantly shifting landscape of book publishing, it’s even more difficult.

This doesn’t stop the true writer, or entrepreneur though. What family members, friends, and others who share the sentiments, don’t understand is that true failure comes when we becomes so downtrodden and unsupported, or disillusioned, that we cease trying. The other thing that often happens to writers, is that they fail to understand that writing and book publishing are also a business. If writers fail to understand how the business operates, learn the tools, and utilize them effectively, they’ll become disillusioned and fail to succeed.

In truth, this goes for everything in life. So what can you do when faced with naysayers and obstacles to your goals for the future? First, stop and take stock of where you are in the process. Make a list of all the things you’ve done to get to that point, and where you want to be. If you’re way off the mark, you may have to adjust your trajectory. That’s okay. No road to success is ever without misjudgements, hills and valleys. Your job is to find ways to continue moving ahead in a direction that leads you closer to the goal.

Pushing a boulder up a hill

Pushing a boulder up a hill

When starting any new venture, it’s very easy to underestimate what’s involved. That’s because human beings don’t come equipped with a GPS map to the future. It’s also why most financiers advocate creating a business plan that would address any potential obstacles and force the entrepreneur to pre-think of ways of seeing and dealing with those obstacles.

In life, we tend to move merrily along on our path, until faced with opposition. Only then do we stop and realize that the path we’ve been walking has veered too far to the left or right. The smart person takes stock of the opposition, learns everything he/she can about it, and adjusts the path accordingly by going through it, over it, under it, or around it. Some might also enlist the help of others to remove it from the path altogether, to allow them to continue forward. There are always solutions, but first you have to understand the problem. Same goes for writing. I keep hearing from writers that they’re “artists” and don’t want to do any of the work associated with marketing and promoting their work. They want to let others do it for them, or worse, do nothing at all, believing that if their work has merit, like cream, it’ll rise to the top. This is a fallacy. You have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and risk taking on new challenges. You have to be willing to accept that others aren’t going to understand you or why you’re doing what you do. You have to take responsibility for ensuring your work gets noticed and demonstrate why consumers want to purchase the product or service. You have to be willing to forge your own path, irregardless of the obstacles.

I recently met a fellow London, Ontario writer, Sunil Godse, who contacted me via the social media, LinkedIn. As a business mentor, he often counsels managers, CEO’s and struggling entrepreneurs about the benefits of learning from their failures, and how to turn those failures into successes. Because of the many stories he’s heard from his clients over the years, he decided to write a book about it, entitled, Fail Fast, Succeed Faster. As a savvy businessman, he knew writing was a whole other animal to his usual work, and so he enlisted, and solicited, as much help as he could get.

A few weeks before his book launch, he contacted me via LinkedIn and asked if I had a few moments to talk to him about writing and publishing. At the time, I had no idea what his subject matter was, but in the spirit of paying it forward, I agreed immediately. When we finally set up the date and time for a telephone call, I was surprised and impressed with what he’d accomplished so far, and intrigued with his subject material. In fact, I had just penned a blog post earlier that week on the subject of benefiting from failure and achieving success. A coincidence? Perhaps, but in talking to Sunil, I began to realize that he’d approached his book project like a business. He’d researched every aspect of the book publishing industry, worked with a qualified co-writer, hired a professional editor, cover artist, web designer, and after careful consideration, decided to self-publish his book. Honestly, I was impressed and wasn’t sure what I could offer him in the way of advice. In speaking with Sunil, it became quickly apparent that this was a man willing to listen and learn from others. He’d talked to heads of national corporations, new entrepreneurs, and everyone else he thought might have an interesting story or ideas to share. He initiated the contact to perhaps learn something from me about the writing and publishing business, and in doing so, taught me something in return; ask the questions, learn the processes, be invested in doing the task right by hiring qualified people, and ask for assistance when needed.

Bruce Croxon and me

Bruce Croxon and me

When we finally met at his book launch two weeks later, I was again impressed. He used his contacts and financial backing to create a great launch, and invited a truly impressive keynote speaker, Bruce Croxon, of tv’s Dragon’s Den. Both men were ready and willing to talk to attendees as much as needed, and I was pleased to have about 5-10 minutes with each. Again, I learned something from each of them, and enjoyed the event tremendously.

Another on-line friend, Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, also wrote an interesting blog post earlier this week that really resonated with me, entitled “The Key to Growing Readership: Your “Writer’s” Voice”. This week Jonathan tapped into the subject of overcoming naysayers, keeping your eye on the goal, adjusting the path where needed, and having faith in yourself, your own abilities and “voice”, and believing in the path you’ve set for yourself.

One other thought; when we support others in their goals, we can strengthen our determination to succeed in our own, and sometimes, learn new ways around the obstacles we face in our own lives. Oh, and when I heard what that family member had said, I understood that they in no way thought they were being unsupportive (not consciously anyway), but boy, did it strengthen my resolve to prove to everyone who doubted my writing future that they were WRONG!

If you’d like to leave a comment, please take a few moments to share some of the obstacles in your life, or business, that you’ve successfully overcome.

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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

It’s always a little scary when thinking of starting something new. I know, because I’ve started, re-started, and begun many new projects. Every time I start something new, I begin questioning whether it’s the right path for me. Is this something I want to continuing doing, and what is involved in starting the new project? I believe in making informed decisions about any new start.

When it’s been a new career path I’ve considered, I’ve done the only thing I know how to help me make an informed decision; research. I look into all the aspects of the new option to see where the road might lead me, and whether or not I think it’s something I might enjoy doing for the foreseeable future. When I started out in real estate, I went on-line to learn what courses I’d need, the cost of those courses, and checked out some of the local brokers to see what I thought of their platform. I then booked the courses, and booked interviews with the brokers I was considering working with, but I asked as many questions as they did, since I wanted my choice be good for both sides.

Once I’d made up my mind, I knew I’d done sufficient investigating to ensure minimal surprises, but of course every new venture comes with some unexpected pitfalls. I mean, it’s impossible to foresee things around every corner. What I’m talking about is checking things out to get a good sense of whether or not I think the obstacles are ones I’ll be comfortable in tackling.

It was the same thing when I transitioned from real estate into residential mortgage lending, and then novel writing. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the business, obstacles, and advantages before making a final decision. I’ve always said I’m a student of life, and life has taught me to be thoughtful and prudent when making choices. It doesn’t mean I may not change my mind later about whether or not to continue in the career I’d chosen, because I certainly have. To me, that’s the other beauty of choice; you can choose to either continue walking the same path, or investigate a new one that seems to be a better fit. I truly believe we create the life we want to lead by the choices we make daily.

I’ve discovered a lot about myself through this process, and I know I need to be challenged in a good way, and I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’ve learned that I’m self-driven and prefer not to have someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do, and when to do it. I work hard at my chosen career, no matter what it happens to be at the time. I’ve also learned that writing offers me the freedom to do as I wish, when I wish it, and I’m driven to establish concrete working routines to accomplish tasks. For me, writing is the perfect marriage of challenge and tasks. I love it, but it’s taken me over fifty-four years to get here. What I know now though, is that had I not gone down some of the other roads, I might never have discovered what I have about myself, and learned the skill sets I’d need to continue walking this long dirt road called writing which is full of pot holes, hills, and steep drops.

Butterflies

Butterflies

I still get the butterflies in my stomach, and I still tend to second-guess myself while I’m in the investigation stage of any new project, but once I’ve made up my mind to do something, I dive in head-first. I immerse myself in the work, the learning, and how-to’s, and I love the challenges that come with it. I give any new venture my best shot, and I’ve learned to be patient for the rewards. Hint; I’m not a particularly patient person by nature. I prefer things get done or achieved today, not tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that. Still, as my family knows, I’m a work in process, and that’s okay.

One of the things I do when stymied as to which way to turn before tackling a new project is to allow myself the time to mull it over. I’ve learned quick, impulsive decisions aren’t always the best for me, and if I allow myself to just think things through, I’ll come up with the right decisions for me. It comes down to listening with my gut, and using my instincts to tell me what’s right for me. It’s while I’m thinking things through that I do the research part. For instance, I’ve begun doing more public speaking on motivational topics, in addition to my writing and publishing talks. since discovering a love of connecting with people one-on-one, sharing my personalal story of triumph over the fear of failure, and inspiring others to go after their own dreams and goals.

When beginning a new book, I do the same thing. A story line or plot will start to form in my head, and so I’ll write a few short points about it on my computer (at my age, memory can come and go, so it’s best if I write it down somewhere). Then, I’ll let it all simmer while I continue on with the current project. I’ll do a little research into the subject matter, then let that simmer a bit as well. Now, I’m not talking about a long time, I’m talking a few weeks to perhaps just over a month. Once I decide I’m ready to tackle the new project, the excitement begins to rise. I begin to envision the characters, their struggles, and how they feel about certain situations. It’s like a movie that plays in my head, day and night, until I HAVE to write it.

The writing feels good, the words typically flow easily, and I get lost in the story. Once it’s ready to be published, I begin to get anxious again. Will publishers and/or agents see the merit in the story? Will the public enjoy the characters and get drawn into the plot? I’m nervous as all get out, but at some point, again I have to trust my gut. I remind myself I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, and with the aide of my publisher, I’ve done the very best I can. My stories are released like an offering to the waiting readers, and I hope they enjoy my work, and perhaps find some small take-aways from it; whether because it gave them some enjoyable entertainment or respite from their everyday, they could relate to one or more of the characters, or it made them think about something going on in their own lives.

Come Ride With Me

Come Ride With Me

I’m a communicator, I always have been. I believe my job, as a writer, is to have sufficient faith in myself and my stories to release them into the hands of readers around the world, and believe I’ve succeeded in some of the above goals. After the release of a new book, I start another one, and the cycle begins again. It’s a never ending carousel that goes round and round, but when it stops to take on new riders who join me on my journey, the ride gets even better, because it’s shared with others.

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