The question is, who are you?
A couple weeks ago I took Mande White’s course “Twitter Magic Bullet Virtual Intensive” (it was awesome!) to learn the ins and outs of how to use Twitter to expand my business, reach out to more people, get more clients. Rather than just dive into the how-to’s, Mande spent the first portion of the class talking about the mindset you need to have to succeed. It wasn’t about wanting more money or visualizing the road to success paved with dollar bills and diamonds. It was about being who you are. Being transparent. Being authentic.
What does all that mean?
When I started writing almost 20 years ago, I was devouring romances because I’m the biggest, sappiest, idealistic romantic you’ll ever meet. I believe in happily ever after. I believe in true love. I even believe in Santa Claus—shhh, don’t tell anyone—because I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no magic. With all that love and romance and magic you’d think my novels would be paradigms of wonder and brilliance. Sadly and shockingly, no. My heroines were wimpy and pathetic. No backbone, no imagination, no verve. They ate and slept and pined, pined, pined. Any minute the knight on the white charger would come dashing by and rescue them and all would be well. What more does a story need?
Well, it needs a lot. Storybook heroines need to be larger than life. It took many years for me to understand that and many more years to start putting that into my writing. Since I based my heroines on me and my real life had the excitement of week-old leftovers, my stories were about as thrilling. I had no goals, no motivation, and only tepid conflict. Surely that was enough, right?
Wrong! Successful characters need solid goals, strong motivation, and lots of conflict. So does a successful life. No more stuffing down that inner spark. No more pushing aside my dreams. After many detours, narrow winding roads, wrong turns, and more than a few flat tires, I’ve found my path. Being me means trusting my intuition and listening to the voice in my head that tells me to speak up and speak out. It’s scary, but I’m starting. Being transparent means putting these thoughts down on paper or on the Internet where other people can read them. That’s really scary. Being authentic means doing these things and not worrying about what other people think. I’m a worrier so this is the most difficult. By the time I’m 90 I figure I’ll have this handled.
I firmly believe we’re here on this planet to make a difference. To help others make a difference. We come into this world with gifts and talents and it is our duty and responsibility to use them, to put them into effect, to harness and guide them in ways that allow us and the people around us to shine. I’ve always loved words—anagrams and cryptograms and crossword puzzles, immersing myself in books, exploring story ideas and learning what makes them fail or succeed. My gift is my love of words. My talent comes from the experience of writing and reading and researching and understanding how words go together to form thoughts that inspire others.
To be authentic you need to understand who you are. I’m irreverent, often sarcastic, and I have a wacky sense of humor that makes me laugh at inappropriate times. My husband says I’m the nicest person he knows but my weird humor has hurt people’s feelings. Unintentionally, but it has. I’m flawed, as are most people. As a writer, I can use my own personality traits on my story heroines and create some interesting characters. Can you imagine a really nice woman who inadvertently laughs during a solemn eulogy? Or a woman who enters a hushed church, stumbles on the carpet, and swears loudly? Consider your own character flaws and how you might use them in your story.
My dream is to inspire others to write well. So many people write books. So many people want to write books. Think how amazing it would be if all of those books inspired you, in some way, to be better. To be greater. To be more of who you are. Romance novels, stories of courage, accounts of people who persevered through hardships, all of these fire the heart and make it yearn. Inspiration leads to passion. And passion touches readers. If you are transparent and authentic, you will write from the heart. That’s what your readers want. That’s what they’ll fall in love with. And that’s why they’ll buy your books.
Writing is about self-expression. Be you. Be transparent. Be authentic.