Monday, May 13, 2013

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy...

One of the most fascinating concepts--to me, anyway--in psychology, is the self-fulfilling prophecy.  In a nutshell, it's an idea or concept that becomes reality, simply because a person believes that it's true.  Sadly, this is more often the case with negative concepts rather than positive ones.

Case in point: Why are people so awestruck when people succeed--despite unlikely or unfavorable circumstances--yet no one is surprised when someone fails given the same?

Why am I bringing this up?  Because no one likes to believe that SFPs (as I'll abbreviate it, because I'm lazy), apply to them.  I'm not saying SFPs are the be-all-end-all of a person's motivation.  Certainly not; there are lots of factors at play here.  But, there's no denying that what a person thinks they can do will more often than not be exactly that.

I had a bit of an epiphany a month or so ago.  I was working on my novel/novella thingy (wonky word count = no category yet), in hopes of getting it done, edited, and ready to query sometime in the near future.

"Near future" being the key words there...

I was sitting there, staring at the Word doc and thinking, "Sweet Jesus on a velociraptor, this thing is taking me forever!  It's only 40,000ish words [about 120 double-spaced Word pages], and I have writer friends who have cranked out full-length novels [60K-100K words] in a month!  I even know one who wrote one in a couple of weeks!  Sure, what they wrote isn't anywhere near final draft form, but neither is what I'm writing, either!  Every writer goes at their own pace, but what the hell is wrong with me that I can't even get this damn thing finished?"

At that point, I started feeling like a full-on failure.  I'm not proud to admit it, but there was a pity party, and everyone knows that there ain't no party like a pity party, 'cuz a pity party don't stop.  

There was more irrational self-loathing, eating of chocolate, loud wailing, and there might have been some fetal position in there somewhere, but eventually it petered out.  

What made it stop?  My epiphany.  I'm getting there, so hold your horses.  Even horses like to be held sometimes.

I asked myself why this manuscript was taking so long, and I couldn't come up with a good answer, which is really shitty when you're asking yourself questions--if anyone would know, it's you.  No, I hadn't lost interest in it; if anything, I was more excited to get it done. No, it wasn't going to be super-long and there was no end in sight; I estimated that I was less than 10K words from typing "THE END".  Blah, blah, blah...

Even worse, was that I didn't even have a good answer to why some of my lovely fellow authors had the super-human ability to become writing machines.  I mentally spouted bullshit like, "Oh, they're already published, so they're more familiar with the process than I am."  Not necessarily true; I edit for a publisher, so I'm familiar with the other end of an author's journey, even though I haven't been there as an author myself.  And, "They probably have a lot more free writing time, yeah, that's it." Again, not necessarily true--many of them have kids, jobs other than writing, and other things that take up a lot of valuable writing time.  Again, blah, blah, blah...

So what was it?  Why was this manuscript taking forever?  The answer was so simple that I was floored when I figured it out. 


Here it is:  Because I thought it was supposed to. 

That's it.  I thought a manuscript, this labor of literary love, was supposed to take a long time to write.  I mean, you hear about people who have been working on their manuscript for years, and take even longer than that to get published, so, somewhere along the line, my brain had adopted that as a weird mantra I wasn't even aware of.  

My brain rationally knows that novels will take a bit to write, but somehow that had translated into a ridiculously long time with nebulous ideas of when things like the query process would even take place.  Because I believed it, even unconsciously, it was happening for me.  My manuscript was taking forever.  

Now that I'm aware of this, I can consciously make decisions and take actions that will help combat this SFP.  

Have you ever experienced a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether it's about writing or anything else? 

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day

So, the publisher I edit for, Omnific, is doing a blog bounce for Mother's Day where we share things about mothers...favorite literary or movie mothers, childhood memories, and other stuff.

I figured I'd take the opportunity to talk a little about my own mother (or "Mum" as they say over here across the pond).

And I'll probably make her cry, which, quite honestly, isn't so hard to do.

Mom, you're reading this now and laughing and crying a little.

Don't lie.  I know it.


My mother always encouraged me to read...from when I little, I remember her reading books to me before bed.  She'd prop them up so I could see the words and follow along, whether they were simple narratives like Dr. Seuss or chapter books, and that's one of the ways I learned to read.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was the only kid in my first grade class who could functionally read anything and understand it beyond the basics; something around a fourth grade level, I believe.  I credit Mom with making me a pain in the ass to the teachers, who had no idea what to do with me while they were teaching all the other kids how to sound out words.  They ended up farming me out to another teacher who could work with me.

They were trying to avoid this scenario. 

Have I mentioned that my mother's a librarian?  No?  Well, I should.  She's taught in schools--both high school and elementary--for most of my life, and worked in our town's public library as well.  When I was in college and on break, she'd come home with new books they'd gotten in, and that she was going to read for storytime.  Well, you need to practice that stuff...get the inflections and pauses down so the kids with their two second attention spans don't lose interest.  So who did she practice reading the books to? Me, that's who.

It looked like this, only with just a twenty-something in sweat pants on the floor.

Now, she comes to me for book recommendations.  I haven't told her my review on Everybody Poops, though.

Mom's always been one of my biggest supporters, whether it's of my editing position or of my writing, and has promised to read whatever I do write, even when she'd rather pretend that I know a lot less about this stuff than I should. 

How I imagine the first reading of my novel will be from my mother's perspective. My excuse will be that she asked for it.
 So happy Mother's Day, Mom!  The next book's on me.

xoxo Sarah