Saturday, April 16, 2011

3 Cornerstones of Success

There are three things I believe every author must possess and use on a daily basis: Inspiration, Motivation and Determination.

For inspiration, I don’t mean story ideas or sudden thunderbolts of fully formed plot and characters. Instead, I mean surround yourself with people who inspire you, in any way you can. Some people don’t even know they’re a source of your inspiration, either, and if you can tell them, it’s a good thing. I had this conversation just the other day with a good friend of mine, Sophie Oak. We were at lunch and I casually mentioned how much she inspires me to do better, write better, be better. Her work ethic, her sense of community and her books are just phenomenal. She had no idea I felt that way and it really made ME feel better for having told her.

You never know when someone feels you’ve inspired them. Tell them. I have a few stories of people who have inspired me in different ways over the years: Shelley Bradley aka Shayla Black sat with me in a bar one time and told me I was a good writer and that she believed I could make it in this business. I carry that with me always. Here is this best-selling (now a New York Times bestselling author!) telling me she liked what I did. Wow. That was so many years ago, but I remember the spark in her eye and the fierceness in her tone when she said it. She meant it. And it meant the world to me. Still does.

Other people in my life are true inspirations: my mom and dad and their incredible love story of 46 years. Even though dad is gone, I still feel his love and presence everywhere. My son Connor, who is ridiculously proud of his mom’s chosen career. He inspires me to be silly and strong and to do all the things that I always wanted to do. My favorite authors whom I don’t know personally, but stalk when I can: Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Stephanie Laurens, Robyn DeHart, Amanda Quick. I read their books and they make me want to write. To keep writing. To never give up.

Which brings me to Determination. I just spent a grueling seven weeks writing an entire book. 85,000 words in seven weeks. It’s a hard thing to do and I don’t advocate such lunacy unless it’s the way you enjoy working. But I had a deadline and I was determined to make it. Because I’m determined to sell another book and another and another, etc, etc, etc. I am determined to make this my lifelong career. Some days, determination is all I have that puts me in front of the computer. Especially when I hate my current project. Or I’m bored with it. Or it’s spun into a direction I never intended and have no idea how to get myself out of. But, I sit down, I open my document and I try to kick some novel butt. I might write nothing but crap on that day, but as Nora Roberts once said, “You can fix anything except a blank page.”

The final important key to being a writer is Motivation, also known as Passion. I love what I do. Adore it. Then I hate it. Want to throw stones at it and burn it in a fireplace. Then I’m all gooey for it again. It’s like a bad bi-polar love affair. I’ve heard a lot of authors justify why they’re still in the game after years of trying with little to no successes, constant rejection, constant re-writing and always chasing the brass ball. The golden carrot. The <insert your own analogy here>. Whatever the reason, a writer needs to stay passionate and motivated to write. Even on those days they don’t want to. It’s kinda like going to the dentist. The sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be. Finding that motivation though can be hard. If you’ve ever been kicked in the proverbial teeth by an editor, an agent, a critique partner, a reader or a reviewer, you know just how hard it can be to stand up, dust the tread marks from your forehead, square your shoulders and sit back down to that manuscript. But you will. Because deep inside you, the motivation and passion lie wait. They stir and swim among the dreams of your subconscious. They demand to be let out.

So you do. And when you apply your inspiration, toss in that determination, let loose your passion and motivation… well, then you’re doing yourself proud. You are living.

Happy writing,


  1. Great blog entry, Jenn. I so agree with you on these three points. I don't necessarily hate my work at times, but I occasionally do disparage my overall ability as a writer, thinking it's going nowhere despite how hard I try. Then I have something encouraging happen, like a word from a mentor or a great review and all is right with the world.

    I think it's funny you used the dentist analogy. I just opened an upcoming reomantic comedy with the question: Why were interviews as bad as getting a root canal at a drive-through dentist? You knew you had to go, it was painful when you went, and the whole time you were being drilled, you weren’t sure it was going to work.

    You're gonna do just fine. ;) You have the right mindset and the talent.

  2. Thanks Bobbye. I like your opener! Boy, does that really speak volumes!

  3. Jenn, congrats on finishing the book in seven weeks. Best luck with your career!

  4. Good job!I need to remember this.

  5. Great post, Jen, and you are an inspiration to many as well. I know you will go far with your amazing talent and persistence! Good luck!

  6. Great post, Jen! We always knew you had it in you.