cross-posted at http://www.vickihinze.net: Vicki’s Special Projects site.
WHAT WE WANT MOST
Writers are creative people. Creative people get ideas–lots of ideas–and those ideas are not limited to their stories. They see the divergent paths in their careers and lives as well, and while that can be a good thing, if the writer lacks focus and direction, it can make for a jumble of experiences that haphazardly come together to form a life.
One prevalent mistake writers make is to diverge when staying the course would be a wiser career move. That comment is predicated on the writer developing a plan to get where s/he wants to go and then enacting the plan until something comes along that snags the writer’s attention or enthusiasm or focus, and then said writer–often with too little thought and too much emotion–diverges without considering the consequences of running off on a tangent.
Now times arise during the course of a career where the writer needs to be flexible and alter the course. Times arise when the writer wants something different or more and alters course. These are not mistakes. Following that which is most important to you is never wrong, but those are not the course alterations I’m referencing.
I’m talking about getting a fleeting thought, grabbing it, ignoring the warning bells inside you telling you that this is not a good move and is a tangent (even though others around you might say it’s a great move).
Here’s the thing. This is your career. Your life. You will be held accountable for it–to yourself. So shouldn’t this career and this life then reflect your choices and your desires and those things most important to you? Not to those around you or your editor or your agent or your spouse or your critique group, best friend, partner–to you?
Because of their creative nature, too often authors flit. They focus on the creative aspect of the work and never consider the aspect of career and/or life. My belief is that writers should consider those things.
They should value the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge is a wonderful thing. A magnificent thing. But it is not wisdom. You can’t build your best life with knowledge. You can build your best life with wisdom. Seek wisdom first.
Now if we look to traditional sources, we see that advice repeated often. Wisdom first. That advice can be traced back to the very beginning of recorded history. Why do you suppose the advice has endured throughout the ages?
One can have all the knowledge in the world, but s/he must have the wisdom to enact it. If a person doesn’t have the wisdom to use that knowledge, then of what benefit is it?
Knowing that a plan increases your odds of reaching success is great. But if you lack the wisdom to implement that plan, what will having the plan do for you?
My point is there is great benefit in acquiring knowledge. Knowledge of craft, the business, life. But that knowledge can’t serve you well without wisdom. Wisdom is the key to the ages–and to success, fulfillment and yes, even happiness. It is the core. Yours and mine.
Now wisdom is a great term and it means a lot of things to a lot of people. But what does it mean to the writer.
In the work, its value is immutable and evident.
Outside the work, in the life of the writer itself, the need for wisdom is also immutable and evident. But a mistake we make is in not attributing it wisdom’s proper values.
How do we miss that? Thousands of ways. Some I’ve noted most frequently:
1. We drift through our careers and lives without really considering what we want most.
Recommendation: Act deliberately, with well-defined intentions. Only then can you achieve what you truly want to achieve. If you need guidance on determining what you most want, there’s an article in the archives here and in the writer’s library on http://www.vickihinze.com called WHY WE NEED A PLAN. Invest in yourself. Read the article and develop YOUR plan YOUR way to achieve those things that most matter to YOU.
2. We live and work without determining what means the most to us.
Recommendation: Don’t settle for getting what you can. There’s plenty of everything. The universe is a place of abundance. Determine what means most to you and how you want to reflect that and embrace that in your work and in your life. Get specific. Get concrete. Otherwise, you make this mistake and you end up never fulfilling your dreams and potential. Never feeling fulfilled and often wondering what the hell you’re doing here and what your life is all about.
3. We never define, or define and then ignore what we choose as our Life Priorities.
Recommendation: Know what your Life Priorities are. What do you want out of life? Why do you want those things? Imagine yourself at 80, sitting in a rocker on your front porch, or in your favorite chair. What do you regret not doing? What are you most grateful for having done? There are your insights to grabbing your Life Priorities by the ears and claiming them. If you claim them (knowledge of them and the wisdom to enact them), they will be yours. Whether you sit in that chair/rocker and feel gratitude or regret is your choice. And it’s one only you can make.
4. We write what we think will sell rather than stories that are purpose and service driven.
Recommendation: Writing to sell without passion and personal investment is a futile act that rarely pays the kinds of dividends we need to enjoy fulfillment and contentment. If you think those things aren’t as important as earning a nickel, ask anyone about to die. The stories that are purpose-and-service driven, those where the writer strives to serve others, those are the enduring stories that feed the soul. And when we feed our souls, we are working in harmony with more than our careers. That’s an essential ingredient to a satisfied life. Some would say it’s ironic, but the purpose-and-service driven stories are the ones that fare best in the marketplace. It’s not ironic at all. It’s that connection core-to-core that draws people to those stories. Making that connection is why we read.
5. We spend far too much time thinking about what we can get versus what we can give.
Recommendation: When we focus on what we can get, we lose. When we focus on what we can give, we gain. For the spiritual-minded among us, it’s because we’re invoking the Universal Law of Abundance. Universal Laws are immutable. So when you give, you put into motion a series of events in which you receive. To bring it from a universal spiritual philosophical point to the everyday this is how it works, you get from something what you put into it. Invest and reap the reward. Invest a lot and the rewards are great. Invest a little and the rewards are small. When you get an idea, ask yourself in writing it what you will give, how it will serve. There’s a direct ratio at work here, and it’s always at work. So focus on serving, giving. If you do, you will receive.
6. We pay too much attention to the opinions and rely too heavily on the advice of others rather than our own opinions and advice.
Recommendation: The best opinion in the world is still subjective. The best advice in the world is, too. Both may be on target and terrific for you. Both both may well be in left field, or not in harmony with your plan, your vision for your work and/or your life. Doesn’t mean the opinion or advice is bad or wrong. Does mean it could be bad or wrong for you. And only you are the best judge. Only you know all about you and that means only you can view the opinions and advice of others in context. We all know how screwed up things can get when they’re taken out of context. But too often we don’t apply that to opinions and advice others offer to us. We should. We should on each and every occasion. Only if we do are we viewing others’ opinions and advice in context. Remember too, that in the end, we live with the consequences. We are responsible for the actions and inactions we take. We are accountable when it comes to us. Doesn’t matter who gave us the opinions/advice that spurred us to act or not act, the results and responsibilities are ours alone.
7. We get caught up in others’ views of success and don’t define our own.
Recommendation: define success for yourself. For some that means making the Times list. For others it means writing a book, not publishing it. For others its any of the thousand points in between. Yet often writers buy into letting someone else define whether or not they are successful. If you set your path and you’re walking it, doing what you feel is in harmony with your Life Priorities, then you are a success. It is your definition that most matters. This is, after all, all about you and your priorities and your life.
8. At the first sign of trouble or setback, we abandon our plans, ignore our priorities and frantically look for someone, for something, that can bail us out and save our bacon. Worse, we look for someone else to blame for our troubles.
Recommendation: In every career and life there are going to be ups and downs. It’s a fact. Accept it and press on, being joyful and grateful for the good times and gleaning what wisdom you can from the bad times. You can’t avoid them–shouldn’t want to avoid them. In both are growth opportunities, knowledge and wisdom. When challenges arise, assess, review your plans, keep your priorities front and center. If you need help, seek it. But understand that you retain authority on what you do and responsibility for what you do. Rather than blaming someone else for your personal lot–which is human and so much more comfortable to do than to take personal responsibility–spend your time on determining why the challenge occurred (knowledge) and how to avoid it in future (wisdom). It’s easy to blame others, but it’s seldom accurate. More often than not, we actively participate in positioning ourselves for the challenge. Not always, but often.
9. We grow cynical and jaded because we forget our purpose for writing what we’re writing.
Recommendation: It is easy–and taking the easy way out–to grow cynical and jaded when our careers and/or lives aren’t going according to plan, or according to the way we think they should be going. One mistake writers make is in not having a concrete view of where our career/life should be. Many settle for a nebulous inkling, like “selling books as fast as I can write them” and then wonder why they’re feeling lost and depressed and as if they’re not getting anywhere or accomplishing anything. They decide it’s the market, their publisher/agent, their family demands, their need to earn more money–now. It’s easy to see how one could fall prey to cynicism and feeling jaded about the possibilities under those conditions. But remember your purpose and you have the weapon you need to prevent a disenchanting event or episode from becoming cynicism or you from becoming jaded.
10. We give in too easily to fear and doubt and take professional criticism personally and then attempt to justify everything.
Recommendation: Fear and doubt are merciless bastards and that’s the nicest thing I can say–except that both do at times have value. If these little demons are challenges for you, then go to http://www.vickihinze.com and then into the library and read the article FEAR AND DOUBT. In a career field like writing, so much of ourselves goes into our work that we often mistake criticism for a particular work as criticism of us. It’s simply not so and that is a challenge we must overcome. Not one for which anyone else is to blame. When this happens, we too often immediately start justifying our rationale and/or the reasons we did what we did when and the way we did something. Huge waste of energy and one that just clouds the issue. It’s amazing how many writers feel they must justify every action, every choice, every road taken and the ones s/he didn’t take. It’s a monumental and thankless task. Often a scapegrace task. If an opinion is given with which you disagree, you don’t have to justify not embracing it. Just don’t do it. If someone questions you on something and you choose to share your rationale, fine. But don’t feel compelled to justify what you’ve done. These are your choices. Own them.
11. We cross the line from being professionally flexible to moulded mush and lose everything significant to us in the process–and then we assign responsibility to another.
Recommendation: Writers are flexible by nature. Good thing because they work in a dynamic industry and flexibility keeps them fluent. But that flexibility should be governed by the writer, not by others’ attempts to fit an author into a position s/he doesn’t belong. Too often writers will flex to the point that their own reasons for doing what they do are lost. To where all that meant anything to them is buried in a maze of other people’s decisions on what the writer should be and/or should be doing. Here we go with giving other people more power and authority over us when we are ultimately responsible for us. Some writers slide into this and turn to mush and then when it’s pointed out to them, they blame someone else. Well, bluntly put, that horse doesn’t run in this race. Others can guide, direct and even order, but you choose whether to embrace that guidance, those directions and those orders. (Knowledge and wisdom. Knowing and acting on what you know.) Bottom line, your choice, your responsibility. Flex to your specifications and only as far and in ways you feel are right for you, your career, and your Life Priorities. The responsibility for your actions and choices is yours.
12. We never know or we forget the value of knowing what we most want and we lack or never use our inherent wisdom to implement our knowledge.
Recommendation: Know YOUR plan. Know what YOU most want. Respect knowledge but embrace wisdom. Thought without action is the stuff of unrealized dreams.
Unrealized dreams. That brings to mind self-fulfilled prophesy and self-sabotage. And that will be the topic of discussion next time, in Part 7 of MISTAKES WE MAKE.
I hope this helps!