Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is something I listen to over and over again. I believe we all want to be highly effective writers so I'm going to translate his principles into writer-eaze.
Highly: in or to a high degree; extremely.
Effectual: producing or capable of producing an intended effect.
Habit One: Be Proactive.
The underlying principle of this habit is to take individual responsibility for our life and choices.
Your life is a product of your values not your feelings.
Being proactive means you take the initiative to do whatever is necessary to make good things happen.
In your writing life you:
• Are prepared for opportunity.
• Put yourself in situations where success can happen.
• Do your homework (due diligence in all situations).
• Study craft.
• Make time to write.
• Keep your eye on the prize.
• Evaluate ROI (return on investment) before committing to anything.
The opposite of a proactive writer’s life is a reactive writer’s life. Your life is a function of your feelings, your moods, your impulses or how other people treat you.
In your writing life you:
• Write when you feel like it.
• Validate your success by reviews, and awards.
• Take out your frustration on Facebook, or other social media.
• Allow your emotions to guide your career.
• Fail to take responsibility for your career with a victim mentality.
• Miss deadlines-self-imposed or contractual.
HABIT 1 can also be called the habit of awareness.
“I am a separate being from my feelings and moods and even my genetic makeup.”-Stephen Covey
Wow. Say that five times. YOU DO NOT = YOUR EMOTIONS
YOU GET TO PICK WHAT YOU EMBRACE.
The underlying message of Habit 1 is to take responsibility.
Let’s talk about action and reaction, stimulus and response on a more personal level.
“If we are proactive in the ordinary things of daily writing life, we develop extraordinary ability to handle major setbacks and disappointments. We learn that we have the power to choose our attitude. We have the power to choose our response in any given set of circumstances that we have no control over.” (Stephen Covey Paraphrased)
Viktor Frankl who lived through the horrors of German concentration camps shared this in his book, Man's Search for Meaning. "...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Frankl discovered that the survivor attitude, instead of the victim mentality was based on a deep belief that there was still a contribution to be made. A calling! So, giving up was not an option. Don't you have a calling too?
The bible stories of Abraham, David, Gideon and Peter illustrate the lives of men who initially didn't see the calling on their lives. They also demonstrate the power of 'calling things as not as though they are' which is what visualization is, and of truly stepping out in the vision of who you are meant to be.
As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations. He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not." Romans 4:17 New International Version (NIV)
When you choose your response you stop being a victim. Victim mentality says why are they doing this to me? Why is this happening to me, when you are rejected, or have a bad review, a bad contest experience etc.
Covey tells us that instead, try asking yourself, what is this situation asking of me, instead of what am I asking of it.
Trying choosing a response instead of reacting. When you do this you take control of your options and your world. You pick your response which then works like a domino to affect the next stimulus in your world.
My own personal addition to Habit 1: Be Proactive, is to include visualization. This is a chosen mental response.
If writing is your calling then start living the vision.
It doesn’t matter how many rejections you receive. It only takes one yes to get an agent, to sell a book, to win a contest. Every single time you get a no, be mentally proactive and visualize that one YES.
• Visualize “the call”- moment when an editor or agent tells you yes. Feel the excitement bubbling from deep inside you, until it pours out of your mouth as you babble a completely ridiculous response. See your glance moving to the clock which has now stopped as you record the time for posterity.
• Do your mental scenes show you on the New York Times list? Can you see your agent calling you with that almost hysterical excitement as she shares the news? Now you are dancing around the room in sheer joy!
• Do you see yourself sitting in the audience at the RWA National Conference nervously smoothing your dress with your moist palms, as your name is called. How are you going to walk all the way up those stairs to accept your RITA?
• What about that second book? Can you reach out and touch the ink drying on the contract or are you playing the same response of rejection, over and over in your head?
If today you at very least examine your stimulus and response to the world around you and your writing career, you have made a proactive step towards a positive change.