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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

But I had a plan...

by M. L. Buchman

You've never thought that, have you? neither.

It's been a funny couple of days. A friend is running a large workshop in town this week. Fifty writers from the US, Canada, and Europe have come to the Oregon Coast for it. I'm not attending, but its an annual event and I'm hanging out some to chat with folks (many of whom are now once-a-year friends).

And one of the big themes this year?

But I had a plan...

Or worse yet, I need a plan! (Sometimes with the added unspoken plea: Can you give it to me?)

I've spent a lot of time studying "success" over the years. There are times when that has taken up a major portion of my limited time to read. Do I plunge into the next Susan Wiggs title (isn't she awesome?) or do I go study more about how success works? (Weird, I know, but that's me.) Everyone keeps wanting "The Plan." Or they're worrying about "The Plan." (And this isn't just in writing, it's in every endeavor.)

The catch is, there are at least 3 major steps that come before the plan (courtesy of Napoleon Hill):

  • A clear goal
  • A burning desire to achieve that goal
  • Action taken in the belief that the goal is achievable.
People come to me, so eager to tell me about their plan. Seeking my input or approval, and I try to give it.

They have the goal (or some version of one). "I want to become a writer." 
They have the desire to achieve it: this conference is not cheap and they must travel to the remote Oregon Coast in order to attend and yet they have come.

And then they look at me as Mr. Successful Romance Author and can't see that in themselves--either in the present or future tense. I've met plenty of authors who make 5 and even 10 times what I do. When I see them, I could make two choices in what I think:
  • "Oh, I could never do that."
  • "How do I do that?"
If I thought the first, of course it would never happen except by blind luck. But by thinking the later, it's from there that the plan is born. I get to think: this is where I'm standing now, what are the steps to getting there? And, more importantly, what is the next step to getting there.

In the discussions this week, it has all been about the plan. Especially about how the plan is different for everyone so how can you figure it out.

I think the core answer--whether we're talking about writing, careers, or any more life change--is to place ourselves in that future success. If I can see myself achieving it, the question then simply becomes "How?"

I could wish you nothing greater than recognizing your dream and pursuing it. It is from that which "the right plan" is born.

M.L. Buchman started the first of over 50 novels and even more short stories while flying from South Korea to ride across the Australian Outback. All part of a solo around-the-world bicycle trip (a mid-life crisis on wheels) that ultimately launched his writing career.

Booklist has selected his military and firefighter series(es) as 3-time “Top 10 Romance of the Year.” NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for RWA's RITA award. He has flown and jumped out of airplanes, can single-hand a fifty-foot sailboat, and has designed and built two houses. In between writing, he also quilts. M.L. is constantly amazed at what can be done with a degree in geophysics. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and SF. More info at:


Judith Ashley said...

So true!!! And I'd add be prepared for hidden stumbling blocks. Why do you want to be that successful author, business person, etc? Just finished one of Mark Dawson's modules on "Pricing" Do you want exposure or profit? That is a determining factor when you price your first books especially.

Dr. Joe Vitali talks about the issues many have about success and their self-talk which belies the 3rd premise of Napoleon Hill: I don't want people to ask me for money. Or I don't want to be one of "those people" who's snooty, etc. He encourages us to look at being successful and what the downside is. Being accosted in public places, being asked/hounded for money/donations, being criticized because we aren't philanthropic enough?

Remember if we argue for our limitations they remain ours (I know I paraphrased).

Maggie Lynch said...

Good article, Matt. When you describe how some people at the conference perceive you, I can say I see that all the time when I do workshops. Everyone wants the "easy" button. Or as Dean and Kris used to say, they want to "have written" rather than to put in the hard work and years to get to that place. I don't know if it is our instant satisfaction society that drives this, along with instant connection around the world, or people have always been this way and I just never noticed.

It is a tough road and you are so right that it is different for every person. Though we can learn from the achievement of others, and should try, each person's implementation of that process is slightly different. We have different stories, different timelines, different financial resources, different perceptions of what is good "enough" to put forward, and on and on.

I want the easy button too. But I've given up on finding it. Instead, I've found that my calling is to find the most ragged boulders and climb over them in five different ways before moving on. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post as always, Matt!

And interesting comments!

Diana McCollum said...

I really enjoyed your post. Your success is in the AWESOME FIVE STAR range!! I am continually amazed at all you do to make a successful career out of writing.

Thanks for sharing.


Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Interesting post, Matt, as usual. It's funny how the plan continues to morph from year to year. What looks good one year, doesn't the next. At least it's been that way for me. Your plan obviously involves long hours of steady work. I haven't been able to put together that kind of time commitment. Kudos to you for your successful career.

M. L. Buchman said...

I think steady work is perhaps the most essential key. That's really Hill's 3rd point. It is the continuous application of faith that your goal is worthy of achieving. AND that "you" can achieve it. I've talked to a lot of people on this point (the last one 2 days ago, who I had to beat about the head and shoulders with it). Their answer? "I 'know' I don't deserve it, but that isn't going to stop me from pretending that I do."

Absolutely! I constantly edge my belief system outward, trying to keep it ahead of me. Every now and then I catch up to it and can feel the hard stumble as I trip over it...literally. My goal for 20 years was to make my living as a full-time writer. For two months after I was finally able to close my wife's business so that she could semi-retire and work only as my assistant, I pretty much couldn't write. Why? Because I'd achieved my goal and stumbled on it...HARD! It took a lot of work to push that belief system out and I can still feel just how close it is two years later. I think it is the main thing hold me back--the lack of faith that I can make that next big step.

BTW, anybody finds the "next level" Easy button, I'd appreciate hearing about it. LOL!