Every once in a while, I like to attach a title to my life plans, as a reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish. For example, The Year of Barb which was the year I turned fifty and promised myself I would enjoy as many new experiences as possible, or give name to my life plans mentioned A while back I decided to name this summer Big Dog Summer.
Why Big Dog Summer? The name comes from the saying: If you want to run with the big dogs, you’ve got to learn to pee in the tall grass. It’s my reminder that if I truly wanted to take my writing career to the next step, I needed to make four key shifts in my thinking.
Shift #1 – Commit to the grass. When I say commit, I mean jump in with both feet. This was the biggest and most important step. For years, I’ve tried to build a bigger career while keeping one foot in series romance because I was afraid to give up the comfort and security of a contract. As a result, my “security” took precedence over my dreams. Sometimes, if you really want something, you must fully commit to the dream. For me that meant turning down a new contract and fully committing to writing historical fiction.
Shift #2 – Believe that I belong in the tall grass. Okay, this one is a little harder. It’s very easy, to feel like the little kid in the room. The Millie Helper, if you will. After all, here they are promoting their books and I’m still stuck on page 150. Shift #2 means reminding myself that I am still worthy of associating with them. Being published in historical fiction doesn’t make them better, it simply makes them published. If that’s all I wanted, I could go back to writing romance.
Shift #3 – Believe that my grass is as good as everyone else’s grass. This might be the hardest shift of all. Last month I wrote how playing the long game involved learning to live without external validation, or rather, to learn how to validate myself. Self-esteem has never been my strong suit. It doesn’t help that a least once a month I read an author whose writing resonates with such beauty and depth that it makes me balloon with imposter syndrome.
Truth is, however, that the best lawns contain a blend of grasses. No one blade is more important than another. There’s room for both Beatriz Williams and Barb Wallace just like there’s room for Kentucky Blue and Perennial Rye.
What’s more, there’s no rule on how long it takes my grass to grow to the right height. Another author may pump out an historical and have it sold in five months and another may happily put out seven small books a year while I’m still working toward The End. That’s okay. What matters is that I am working every day and that I believe in myself.
Shift #4 – Don’t be discouraged if my grass doesn’t grow. Just because I decided to write bigger books doesn’t mean the world is going to automatically accommodate me. This manuscript could bomb spectacularly. Failing, I continually remind myself, is okay. People fail all the time. What matters is that I learn from the failure, get up, and try again.
Now that I’ve beaten the grass and dog metaphors to death, it’s time to remind you that these four mental shifts apply to you too. If there’s something you really want, don’t be afraid to commit yourself fully, and don’t be afraid to fail a few times before it sticks. What matters is believing you belong.