Friday, April 27, 2012

Author Affirmations with Stuart Smalley

by Jordan Dane

“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggoneit, people like me.”
Stuart Smalley, Saturday Night Live (Al Franken)

I’ll be on a panel at the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Anaheim in July – “The Care and Feeding of the Writer’s Soul.” Ever since I committed to doing it, I’ve been pondering my contribution and examining my own practices when it comes to nurturing my writer’s spirit.

But I wanted to open the topic up for discussion here to get your input. If you could create a box of affirmations for the writer, what would be your personal contribution?

On my computer I have been collecting sayings that have meant something to me over the years. These have come from author speaking engagements, emails, or things I’ve found online that inspired me enough to post it where I could see them every day. Affirmations can be reminders of author craft you want to repeat or they can be a way to keep a positive attitude or make progress in your career.

Here are a few sayings on my computer that mostly deal with author craft:

“Stick with the action.” Romance author Dana Taylor
When I muddled an intro action scene with back story, Dana wrote these words in an email after she critiqued the scene.

“Be there.” James Patterson
Patterson was a speaker at am RWA conference in 2004. He filled a ballroom, standing room only. By these two words he meant to put your reader into the scene using all their senses. He also said that he puts as much care into the first sentence of each chapter as he does the first line in any book. (I wonder if all the James Patterson(s) do this?)

“Trust the talent.” Robert Crais
I heard Crais present this on a video he sent via email in one of his newsletters. He talked at length about how he writes in constant fear, but that he trusts the talent that has brought him his success. It reminded me that all people have doubts. That’s human nature, but when you have a natural storyteller inside you, you should trust it.

“Get in, make your point, then get the hell out.” Robert Gregory Browne
Rob spelled this out when he explained ELLE on a blog post. Enter Late, Leave Early. The method is best explained by the TV show “Law & Order” where the scenes are sharp, concise, and don’t over-explain to slow pacing. The barest essentials of the scenes are captured to move the story along and a viewer’s mind fills in the gaps in action. The same works for books.

Here are a few that would be my contribution to keep a positive mental attitude:

“The next pair of eyeballs to see this proposal will be the ones to say, Yes!”
“I strive to be better with every book. My best story is always my next one.”

“I touch new readers with every story.”

“My books are unique because they are filtered through me and my personal experiences. I’m not in competition with anyone, except me, to be the best author I can be.”

Here are a few silly ones:

“I never get my page numbers wrong. I must be good at math.”

“When I kill people on paper, they stay dead. Booya!

As for practices to keep me positive, I have a shredding ritual for any rejection to expel the negativity from my house. Try it. It’s liberating. When I complete any project, I also treat myself with something that isn’t food—time off, vacation, fun evening with friends or family, attend a book signing, buy a new outfit. I used to think that each positive step in my quest to become a published author was only a small part of a longer future—that celebrating too much is a distraction that can swell your head. But now I celebrate everything. Life’s too short not to cherish even the smallest of pleasures.

Please share your thoughts. What would you write and contribute to an author’s affirmation box? What practices do you have to keep your mind positive and your writer’s soul nourished?

4 comments:

Amanda Stevens said...

I remember very well a workshop given by Susan Elizabeth Phillips where she advised every writer to be fearless. If you give editors something different, something bold and they don't buy it, it's not because it was too different, it's because you (the writer) didn't pull it off.

Oops, I guess that's the opposite of an affirmation. o_O

Anyway, her advice has really resonated with me over the years, saving me many hours of finger-pointing and much gnashing of teeth. Instead, every rejection has made me work that much harder to be different AND to pull it off. :)

Jordan Dane said...

Good point, Amanda. And that notion has paid off for you. I think authors should push the envelope on genre. It's better to make a trend than follow one. Have a great weekend, my friend. Great to have you on ADR3 too.

Beth said...

Breathe deep, let them go.

My characters always want to control their own stories...and sometimes they have better ideas than I do! I've found that allowing a modicum of freedom/chaos into every work can produce amazing things.

Jordan Dane said...

Wow, Beth! Very cool observation. YOU must be a mind reader. I was chatting about this on another blog. We were calling it "free falling." After you study author craft, when it's time to be at the keyboard, you let things fly and get in the zone. Let the creative side of your brain take over, like a well-trained athlete who instinctively "plays."

For me, I call it "free association." I let my brain get into the character and don't filter what I do. Afterwards I am amazed that I wrote it. It feels like an out-of-body experience.

Thanks for your thoughts. Amazing. You're like a sista from another mista.