Friday, December 25, 2015
This morning a friend sent me a hilarious video of the SNL Sketch “Santa Baby” to put me in the holiday spirit. She knows how much I love Ryan Gosling!

In it, Ryan and his wife attend a holiday party and the host mentions to his son that Santa is upstairs and may make an appearance later. Ryan, an adult man who somehow still believes in Santa, gets a little crazy when the host says that they aren’t going to meet the real Santa, as you’ll see in the video below (feedburner email readers, click on the link above).

I lost it when the host says, “Rudolph isn’t here, Gina.” And Ryan replies, “Then how the f$%# did Santa get here, David?!”

All kidding aside (and now that I have your attention!), this video reminded me of a very important quality, and one that Christmas was built on, and really, many holidays in general: BELIEF

Not belief in Santa Claus, but belief in something bigger and most of all, in ourselves.

Struggles and Believing in Yourself Again

As I sit here with my family and friends on this holiday, I’m thinking about all the struggles I’ve been through this past year and how grateful I am that belief got me through it.

My husband lost his job over a year ago. He was a talented marketing director and clothing designer, but at age forty-seven, every job he interviewed with said he was “overqualified”—meaning they couldn’t afford him and were looking for someone younger. As a last resort, he even applied to jobs that paid a little above minimum wage without any luck.

I made some changes just to get by. As much as it pained me, I slowed down the WOW e-zine’s publishing schedule because I couldn’t afford to pay for lengthy content on a consistent basis that also needed to be edited, graphically designed, and coded into the site. My plans for the new mobile interactive WOW community site were put on the back burner. I took up freelance writing gigs, blogging, marketing, and graphic design jobs. I taught myself how to code and design websites. Admittedly, I also took out a few credit cards...

Then one day I sat down with my husband and asked him what he really wanted to do if money weren’t an issue. He said he wanted to open a local nonprofit business to help cancer patients. He’d worked in this area before and was a caregiver to his mother who had several types of cancer for many years before she passed away, and it made him feel like he was doing something real and good in the world.

And from that moment forward, it was a series of small steps that moved us towards our goal. It seemed impossible, but we found the perfect business space a week later, and an investor a week after that. We signed a lease, began construction, and opened up a month later. It’s been around six months now and we’re going strong. Don’t get me wrong; we’ve had numerous setbacks—including a change of partners and a break-in—but it was our belief that got us through.

I had lost my belief in myself and in my writing, but because I believed in him and us, I found that belief again in myself and in my work as a writer. The more I wrote the more I believed, the better I felt, and things started to change.

Believing in Yourself as a Writer

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed in successful writers and those that haven’t had much success or give up isn’t talent or opportunities. It’s the belief that they can achieve their goals.

Without belief in yourself, there is self-doubt, uncertainty, fear, and ultimately failure. This is the number one thing that holds many writers back, and I admit it has held me back in the past. We compare our work to others and lose belief in our own work. We give up before we reach the finish line because we can’t turn off our inner editor or are afraid of failure. The thing is, you have to have belief and keep working. When you have belief, you trust that all your hard work will pay off.

For example, in 2002, Markus Zusak began to write a book.

He started by outlining the beginning and end of the story. Then he listed pages and pages of chapter headings—some that eventually made it into the final book, and some that were cut.

He began writing the story from the perspective of Death. He wasn’t happy with it.

He re-wrote the book through the perspective of the main character. It didn’t come out the way he wanted.

He tried writing it from an outsider’s perspective, then in the present tense, and then the past tense. Nothing seemed to flow.

Zusak rewrote the first part of the book 200 times. And that 200th time he went back to his original choice and wrote it from the perspective of Death. And this time, it felt right.

When it was all said and done it had taken Zusak three years to write The Book Thief.

And we all know how that story ends: New York Times best seller for over 230 weeks; 8-million copies sold; translated into 40 languages; movie option for a major motion picture.

When the book was released, Zusak said, “In three years, I must have failed over a thousand times, but each failure brought me closer to what I needed to write, and for that, I’m grateful.”

He didn’t give up when he failed. He maintained belief in himself as a writer and trusted that his hard work would pay off.

How can you apply this to your life right now?

It doesn’t take a major life struggle like I went through to force belief in yourself. Instead, you can put into practice a few things that will make it come naturally:

Stick to a consistent schedule: if you waste time trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll end up not working at all. 

Some of the most successful writers had a daily routine:

- Franz Kafka would go to work from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, eat lunch and then take a nap until 7:30 pm, exercise and eat dinner with his family, and then begin writing at 11 pm for a few hours every night.

- Haruki Murakami wakes up at 4 am, writes for five hours, and then goes for a run.

- Maya Angelou rented a hotel room and went there every morning at 6:30 am and wrote until 2 pm, went home and edited.

What can you do? Whether it’s fifteen minutes or a few hours, try to stick to a consistent schedule for one week. Just one week! See if that works and go from there. Trust me, you’ll feel different after week one.

Don’t be afraid to write garbage: every idea isn’t a masterpiece...we have to get all the mediocre ideas out of the way to get to the good stuff. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

Give yourself some small wins: when you need build confidence, set small goals that are easily obtainable. Whether it’s a publication that may be lower paying but you know they’ll accept your work or a guest post or blogging twice a week. This is a small win that you can celebrate.

Find someone to hold you accountable: I wouldn’t have written this post today if our blog manager, Marcia Peterson, hadn’t assigned it to me. Thanks Marcia for always keeping me in line! I think we all hold each other accountable here in the WOW community, and I love that we can be in this environment and grow together as writers.

Affirmations: replace negative thoughts and self-doubt with a positive statement. Keep it in the present tense and say it out loud. “I am a great writer! Today I let go and let it flow onto the page!”

If I have a wish for you this magical holiday, it’s to believe in yourself.

Merry Christmas!


Renee Roberson said...

Great post, Angela! (I love Ryan Gosling, too, and that skit was hilarious!) I could really relate to the year you and your husband have had. Last year, on our 14th wedding anniversary, my husband was downsized from his marketing job at the company he'd worked at for 11+ years. He was fortunate enough to find work at a smaller local company, that hired a group of what they called "A talent" they wanted to help change the organization, but guess what? The old regime didn't want to change, so after a year there, he and 25 other people lost they jobs in November. We were floored, and he was pretty down at first. But the devastation soon turned to relief, because he hadn't been happy there and there was no sign of the growth they promised him upon hiring.

The good thing was that I had taken a temporary full-time editing contract and had extra income coming in while he began his job search. But to lay people off in November? It seemed impossible he would find something permanent before the holidays.

However, I tried to be supportive and told him that perhaps this was a sign for him to really soul search and figure out what he really wanted to do long term. He leaned on his network, and actually got a temporary marketing consulting gig in December to help bring in extra income, and then a full-time offer with awesome benefits at a company he used to work with in his previous job of 11 years. He starts in January and feels like he made the best decision with a more stable company with a supportive team. If we hadn't BELIEVED, none of it would have been possible. I wish you guys of luck with the nonprofit (it sounds wonderful) and am so grateful for WOW!, too!

Renee Roberson said...

And I have to add this whole experience has also made me realize what I most want to do as a writer, so my manuscripts are getting whipped into shape and I'm going to quit putting off the submission process!

Margo Dill said...

Also exactly what I needed to hear. What a year. I am going to my writing group today and hopefully, we are talking about our blocks and trying to set some realistic goals for the next year with my writing and my new reality. Love you, Ang! Great post.

Cathy C. Hall said...

First, thanks for the video because I laughed out loud (and I can't seem to stay up as late as I used to--dang, I miss SNL!)

And second, yes, keeping the faith makes all the difference, whether it's believing in your writing, your loved ones, or yourself.

Merry Christmas, Ang!

Angela Mackintosh said...

OMG, Renee, I totally relate to what you and your hubby went through this past year. And on your wedding anniversary? What timing! Doesn't timing always make for great stories? But I'm SO glad to hear there's a silver lining. Let me know if I can do anything to help you, and let's raise a glass to 2016! I'm looking forward to change and renewal next year. You also brought up a great point about leaning on your network. It's what makes things happen so much more quickly. Thank you so much for sharing, and we'll work through this together! Love you! Ang

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks, Margo! I hope you had a great session at your writing group! I know we've been through some challenges this past year but I know we'll be crossing off goals this year. Love you! Give KB a big hug for me. =)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Cath ~ Well, SNL hasn't had the funny juice it used to have in a while, so I was stoked to see this skit that brought the funny back! I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and here's to a very awesome new year! xo

Marcia Peterson said...

Well, I'm so glad I asked you to do the post! What a wonderful, inspiring message. I hope 2016 will be a great year for everyone. You all deserve it!

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