(I read “this is stupid,” a post by Wil Wheaton, this week. I felt his pain. It reminded me of where I was last year when I wrote the article below. If you’re out there reading this, and think that the rest of us have “it” together, that we’re enjoying every bit of our work, that it all comes with ease, you’re wrong. It’s hard. It’s tiring. Often, all I want to do is head to the beach. But . . . Not even Kahuna stayed on the beach year round. He headed to work like the rest of us, and I’m pretty sure that the tough work made the summer waves that much more enjoyable. Some days the stuff we love comes to us like Ruth Stone’s train, but there are a lot of “this is stupid” days in between. Whether its a train day or a stupid day, we’re better for having both.  ~C)

When it was my publishing house’s turn to present its Fall/Winter line of books, I was introduced as the senior editor. One of the quick-witted sales reps quipped, “If she’s the senior editor, how old is the junior editor?”

I was 22 years old, attending — and presenting — at my first sales conference, and not yet a full year into being an editor.

My first job out of college was as a junior editor for a small publishing house in Florida. Within a few months, my boss said goodbye to the senior editor and I was promoted. This was a mom and pop operation, so I went from editing sales copy, sending manuscript rejection letters, and answering the phone, to acquiring and editing manuscripts, packaging books, writing marketing materials, negotiating author and vendor contracts, managing relationships with authors and vendors, and developing and implementing publicity campaigns — while still editing sales copy, sending manuscript rejection letters, and answering the phone.

No training.

Lots of time alone in the office, operating on instinct and a prayer.

It ended up being two and a half years of shooting the rapids, of going solo, of working from the gut.

I emerged on the other end confident in my gut’s instincts, but I also emerged doing PR, something that had never been an itch to scratch. I wanted out of Florida and a publicity job offer helped make that possible, so… I headed north.

Within the first month, the questioning started. I didn’t do what the other publicists did. Was I wrong? Was there a better way? The publishers my employer represented all expected top-tier media coverage — and when I advised a publisher that it was a waste of money to promote the book to the top-tiers, that the book wasn’t well written and wouldn’t be picked up by the outlets she wanted it pitched to, I learned that I had landed in a world where Reality was on permanent vacation. Publicists weren’t honest with publishers — and publishers believed the same approach could (and should) be applied to every book.

I needed a paycheck, so I pitched cardio-kickboxing to Bill O’Reilly and Wiccan rituals to Howard Stern. I mailed dozens of books to the New York Times and Washington Post book reviewers — and I attended conferences, and conventions, and expos, where dinosaurs manned booths and roamed the aisles.

Here’s my secret:

I hated it then — and twenty years later, I still hate it. Every time I write a column for this site I feel like a fake, because I’m not passionate about everything I write about. I don’t enjoy learning about MailChimp or Google Analytics or following Twitter’s next move.

So why the hell do I do this?

It makes me better.

The stuff I don’t enjoy is the yin to the yang of my passion. One provides knowledge and thus the ability to self advocate, which allows the other to soar to greater heights.

Here’s how it plays out in the rest of my life:

This weekend includes replacing the flapper in a constantly-running toilet bowl, reinstalling a bathroom tile, replacing the hardware on two dangling cabinet doors, and removing the base of a broken lightbulb that’s stuck in a socket. I don’t want to do (or learn how to do) these things, but . . . If I know how to do them I’ll save money by doing the work myself — or if I hire someone else, I’ll know exactly what’s involved, how much the service should cost, and how it should be done.

There this, too:

I get high on seeing stories I’m passionate about take flight

So, that means focusing on things I don’t enjoy spending time learning about — and then implementing what I’ve learned, writing about what I’ve learned, and sharing what I’ve learned, because there’s a high in seeing others learn from my experiences, too.

Back to my secret.

I hate doing the same things I often suggest that you do. You’re not alone, mucking your way through all the crap that can be PR/marketing. I’m not a fan either.

Here’s what helps me move along:

On the other side there’s Joy.

 

Posted in

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

25 Comments

  1. gwen abitz on November 18, 2016 at 6:19 am

    It’s weird when I would Post on What It Takes or Writing Wednesday asking myself what business do I have even Posting not being in the same arena. I question myself [when taking my stand] not having any degrees that I can put after my name. What do I know? What I know is many years, many hours of doing the work and what it takes being in my arena; daring greatly and on the Road swinging my authentic swing. What now moves me along is when I say “to all of them” DAMN, DAMN, DAMN YOU – but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for helping me to “find my Self” after being so lost. The Good News, these years of work were never a business; nor did I need to do any marketing it was/is simply sharing an experience and what I have learned along the way. Many have called me a fake, called me crazy and “ousted me”; but such is LIFE.

  2. Pam Young on November 18, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for this. I’m in that dark place now — of learning from others while getting ready to launch BURNOUT and fighting the dragons of my own weak confidence in this strange foreign territory. I’d never had to ask anyone for anything before, and I was seeing marketing as worse even than that. But now I’m older, on the down side of the mountain — longing to share parts of my path so others don’t feel so alone — and the retired teacher in me reminds myself daily that my weird indie project is a delightful experiment in learning what works and what doesn’t with where I am now — a beginner. Accepting what IS and allowing myself to be that beginner has just gotten easier from hearing your story this morning. Thanks!

  3. Erika Viktor on November 18, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I doubt Michael Phelps loves all six hours of swimming per day, six days per week. He might like parts of it, but not all six.

    My entry into adulthood has been to learn how to do the things I don’t like, which is 99.9% of things. I feel your pain.

  4. Mary Doyle on November 18, 2016 at 6:45 am

    This is such wise advice! I managed to learn this lesson myself, although I wish I’d learned it at age 22. Thanks Callie!

    P.S. Good luck with that weekend “to do” list!

  5. Maureen Anderson on November 18, 2016 at 7:00 am

    So interesting, Callie! Thanks.

    Writing — or recording another installment of the radio show — is a relatively small part of my week. The rest? Blech. It’s the price I pay for the fun, though — and I’ve always looked at it as a bargain.

    And from Darrell: If you can’t shut the power off to the light socket to remove the bulb base safely, get a cork that will fit inside the socket. Press it up into the socket (make sure it’s snug), and you should be able to twist it out.

    • John Arends on November 18, 2016 at 7:14 am

      And if a cork isn’t handy to use in extracting the broken light bulb, use a baking potato. Fits well in the hand, cheap to use and throw away, socket, glass shards and all.

      And by the way, on the stuff you’re passionate about, Callie? Rock star, you are. Thank you for elevating all of us lucky enough to read your takes and learn from your thinking and experience.

      • Maureen Anderson on November 18, 2016 at 7:25 am

        A potato would work, but just make sure there’s no power running to the socket or you’ll have more than a hot potato.

        That’s from Darrell, too, by the way. This is why I should stay off the Internet! 🙂

  6. Cheri Mauldin on November 18, 2016 at 7:05 am

    What a timely message for me. I have been fighting that familiar rebellion pushing to dominate my actions. Delayed gratification. How I hate that term, yet the truth in it cannot be refuted. Okay okay I hear ya. Sigh. Thank you and never stop sharing!!

  7. Dave H on November 18, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Great post Callie. We all have a love/hate relationship with this lifestyle… it’s good to see even the “big dogs” do too. (Not sure if you’d consider yourself a big dog, but hey, you have a bigger soap box than I do…!)

  8. Glenn Dyer on November 18, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Callie: Wonderful post. Honest as a summer day is long!

  9. Martin Haworth on November 18, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Success comes through facing into the necessary evils and finding workarounds.

    Where there aren’t natural skills that I have, there is a choice.

    Either I battle through it or find someone who can. Fiverr can provide adequate solutions, since actually, perfection is never necessary

  10. Dick Yaeger on November 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Honest. Up front. What a woman!

  11. Joan Simon on November 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Hello. Yes.The joy is the biggest surprise. I’m so glad you wrote that. Blessings.

  12. Erik Dolson on November 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

    A Zen Master once said, “The most difficult questions in the universe can be reduced to just two: Who does the dishes, who takes out the garbage.”

    Thank you, Callie.

  13. Jonathan Berman on November 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Love the reframe and clarity of the ‘yin/yang’ – ‘self-advocation engendering knowledge/passion’ analogy.

  14. Jerry Ellis on November 18, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Hey, Callie, that’s some pretty cool ass-kicking, even if it was mostly your own ass. And, you didn’t have to pay a therapist to get some of that monster off your back. I mostly enjoy writing and speaking to large groups, but confess that a part of me loves self-promotion. When Random House published my Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Walking the Trail, One Man’s Journey Along the Cherokee Trail of Tears, I made over 100 Cherokee masks that were placed in major bookstores to hang, of course, on walls behind stacks of my title. My tenth book is now almost ready to send to my agent in NY. Might even have it done late tonight, if I can just get that damned leak in the kitchen stopped. For some odd reason, the chewing gum didn’t work.

  15. Melany Franklin on November 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    You nailed it. What a great post. A challenge for us all!

  16. Michael Beverly on November 19, 2016 at 7:28 am

    The nice thing about self publishing is that you’re promoting your own work, which I suppose you’d better like/love or at least not loath.

    It does introduce certain complications because it is sometimes (normally) easier to say, “So-and-so is great” than “I’m great.”

    However, I’m getting over it because I think I’m awesome.

  17. Madeleine D'Este on November 21, 2016 at 11:30 am

    This is what I like about this site – the regular kick up the bum.

    Like others here, I prefer the writing but I know I need to put effort into the hard things (like PR). Thanks for the kick.

  18. Jeff Korhan on November 28, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Sounds like the life of an entrepreneur to me!

    Reminds me of the time I was vacuuming our front office/waiting area when a visitor walked in and said, “You must be the owner.”

    Wondering how she knew I asked.

    “Because you’re doing what everybody else thinks is below them.”

  19. Joe on December 15, 2017 at 7:51 am

    “On the other side, there’s joy.” It’s good.

  20. Brian S Nelson on December 15, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Callie,
    Again, another terrific post. My only concern is how you, Steven, and Shawn can so easily get inside my head and survey the rocky terrain? Uncanny.

    The disciplines required to work for oneself are a constant battle. Clocking in for someone else was such a forcing function for other behaviors. Being the forcing function myself to do the mundane, the hard, the boring, the routine is a constant challenge.

    There are also the joys of walking the dogs at 1000 when the off-leash park is empty, helping around the house when needed, doing errands for Kelly that give her space…as well as the joy of production.
    Have a great weekend.
    bsn

  21. Luke Marusiak on December 15, 2017 at 9:17 am

    We often want to succeed ‘doing our own thing’ but the need to live gets in the way. You almost feel like you’re compromising a piece of your soul or – like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye – that you’ve sold out and not remained true to your authentic self. That’s why it’s so important to do work in an area you love – even if it takes discipline to gut though the unpleasant tasks.

  22. Michael Beverly on December 15, 2017 at 11:05 am

    A year later and I still think I’m awesome…
    ha ha….

    Wow. I’m working with a small press as of a week ago because –reasons– and I’m super happy.

    I love how evolution and progress happen when I willing to put myself out there and keep trying after years of misery and hardship and a lot of failure.

  23. nancy Adair on December 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    You’re trying to slap me out of denial, aren’t you? My book is finally done and ready to meet the world. But my heals still dig deep into resistance. I’m waiting for someone to tell me how my story can enthrall the masses without all this painful and embarrassing marketing stuff. But you’re telling me I have to market myself. That’s not good news, necessary, but not good.

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