SO THAT’S HOW IT GOES
As we enter the New Year with hopes, dreams and fears (and all three go hand-in-hand), it’s traditionally a time to consider new ventures – whether that means a new hobby, business, relationship, character trait change or new beginnings of any kind.
Here are some principles I’ve learned and have had to apply no matter what new undertaking I tackled. Most recently, they came into play when I attacked my longest-standing unmet goal and simultaneously, my most desired one: screen and teleplay writing.
No matter how many courses I took, how many books I read, mentors I hired, prayers prayed – no matter what I did – I couldn’t take the needed step to go from desire to manifestation. I couldn’t make myself write the words “FADE IN” and “FADE OUT” and all the necessary words that go between those two phrases.
To distract myself, an essential part of writing some call procrastination but I call writing, I stumbled virtually) into the world of online penny bidding otherwise known as recreational shopping. (I thought all shopping was recreational.)
My first encounter felt like being jammed into a larger-than-life blender, getting crunched and then spat out – sans my money and with no item, product or purchase. It felt similar to being attacked by gypsies.
Never again, I thought. But I also had that same reaction after writing my first book with a co-author, a true story that took me two years to write and which grossed me almost $900. In retrospect, that became the glass half empty thinking that I despise. No, I don’t despise negative thinking. I despise clichés. A glass is neither half full nor half empty. It’s a glass. It either has something in it or it doesn’t. Right? Maybe.
With even more retrospect, writing that first book became the equivalent of going to college to learn to write a book and instead of owing a bank a quarter of a million dollars for a student loan, I received $900. From that vision, one hell of a deal and definitely a full glass of water.
But back to this blog’s point.
When contemplating my tailspin and absolute, total refusal to write anything resembling a screenplay or teleplay – not one solitary word — I recently realized I felt more fearful, terrified, perplexed and inadequate about screen and teleplay writing than I had about any other undertaking in my life.
While everything is relative and some sages insist it’s always now, the one exception to the theory of relativity is emotions. The biggest, worst and most hideous emotion is whatever feeling blocking us now. Doesn’t matter what we felt before and worked through or what emotion we may encounter tomorrow. The stopper is that feeling we have today, the one we can’t get through, around, over and the one we erroneously think has nothing to do with our success or failure and in many cases, the emotion we deny even having because we’re so terrified and numb we don’t feel it.
This blog is about new undertakings. It’s about old dogs and young puppies learning new tricks. It’s about dogs that still hunt whether we’re vegetarians or not. It’s about static principles for success no matter what our new undertaking.
It’s also about the importance of things we may not think are important.
Everything is connected – to us – and lest you don’t believe me, some things are true whether we believe them or not. Sometimes the most insignificant activities and actions — whether it’s shopping, a hobby or in my case procrastinating on writing by engaging in online bidding — become the proverbial teacher waiting for the student (you and I) to become ready.
I’m still not certain I was ready but I’d become weary of the significant people in my life, even the most patient of them, screaming the same thing at me that I’d been yelling at myself: For the love of God and all that’s holy just write your script. It was time for me to become ready to be ready. Time to take the next step. And most often when we’re blocked, the next step is an inside job. In this situation, taking the next step meant doing that thing writers do after sufficient procrastination: actually writing.
That’s when I realized how important my hobby, diversion and most current preferred form of procrastination – online penny bidding – really is. By looking at my growth from being a loser spat out by the money-sucking vortex I encountered on my first penny auction online site (can’t remember the site’s name) to being one of the longest-term and most successful penny bidders at DealDash.com (the only online penny bidding site I can and will vouch for because of its integrity and because when you win an auction, you actually get what you pay for unless demand has exceeded supply, in which case you get your choice of a fair and reasonable substitution.
I began to list the qualities or skills I applied that helped me go from loser to a winner at something I knew absolutely nothing about when I started. I didn’t take me long to see that these are identical to the qualities that help me succeed at anything I want to do. While these ideas aren’t revolutionary, it’s easy to forget that each is within our power to do.
- Realize I’m where I am on purpose, even if it’s an accident. Sometimes the most trivial things that happen to us are more important than we believe. When I look for the big, the exciting and the momentous – I leave empty-handed. When I surrender to the present moment, understanding the sheer magnificence of each of these in my life – even those that suck — and then follow that with gratitude, my wheelbarrow overflows. (I use that expression because my entire life, I wanted a wheelbarrow and now I have one, a good one I won one for not much money at all at DealDash and because “cups overflowing” has become a cliché, something writers should avoid.) I really am thrilled about having a wheelbarrow and in my most far-fetched moments of self-love, couldn’t justify buying one.
- Remember that success doesn’t mean eliminating my character defects (for the most part). It means letting who I am work for me in a positive way. Translated, that means “learn to let your defects become assets.” Obsession can work for us, if we use it to achieve valued goals. Obsession translated becomes persistence. Letting go, maybe. But not giving up. Almost any book I’ve read about writing says something I’ve said about myself for years: successful writers aren’t necessarily the best ones; they’re the ones who didn’t quit. Once I found an online penny auction site I trusted – which took persistence too – I continually returned to penny bidding until I succeeded. Really succeeded. Succeeding at penny auctions doesn’t mean (to me) winning an auction but paying more than an item’s value just like success in writing doesn’t mean (to me) paying a publisher to publish my work. Success in penny bidding means winning an item I want at auction and paying less for it (price of bids included) than I would spend at Wal-Mart. Or Apple. Success in writing means a publisher or production company paying me for my writing, not me paying someone else to publish or produce my work. Success means other things to me, including quality of work, doing the work for the sake of the work so I don’t have to obsess about outcomes and loving the story I’m telling. We each need to define what success means to us. That way we’ll be able to recognize it when it happens.
- That last point leads naturally to my next: enjoy what you’re doing so much that you barely notice success when it comes because you’re having such a good time that you forgot to focus on outcomes. In penny bidding, I gradually but with much angst went from winning a mouse and being ecstatic about it to winning the world’s largest 3-D ready television set. I felt excited when I won it but it also felt like a natural next step. I also gradually but with much angst went from euphoria to seeing my first published by-line in a community newspaper to seeing my books in the New York Times Bestseller List. (I like activities that combine joy with angst. Like I wrote earlier in this blog, change doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating our traits; it means making them work for us.)
- Realize that success comes in a set of naturally progressive steps even when our last name begins with Z, as in Zuckerberg. Do the next thing, trusting your intuition if you’re a woman or your gut if you’re a guy and then combining that with intellect when it comes to deciding what that next step is. When I bid on DealDash, I don’t go from placing that first bid to paying for my won item in one step (usually, although I have won some items for a penny or three cents). I search the auctions, find one I feel good about, place some bids and then either continue or stop if I realize I’ve made an error. In screenwriting, I would likely not go from idea to finished script in a day. Or a month. Or a year. I carried the idea for writing Codependent No More around for over five years, moving it each New Year’s from my old goal list to my new one. Success at anything is usually a process that includes education, research, thought, study, procrastination, distraction, more procrastination, outlining scenes, more procrastination, re-outlining scenes, fleshing out those scenes, tossing out the outline if it doesn’t work, re-evaluating structure, re-outlining if necessary and then, finally, writing the script. Then rewriting it when someone gives you notes, after thanking them for taking the time to give you notes. But the overall process of writing a screenplay is accomplished one step, one scene, one typed word and one minute of procrastination at a time. I can’t do two things at once. I can’t take two steps – or 40 – at once. Some days, I can barely do one thing at once.
- Keep a beginner’s mind. Learn. Study. Be willing to change your mind. Be flexible. Information is power but make sure that the information you’re getting whether about how to win at penny bidding, how to write a script or how to build a birdhouse is solid information. Make sure you can trust your source. Naivety can be charming — for a second. Then it turns into victimization. Deal with trustworthy people. Prepare properly for what you’re attempting to do. Honor this new beginning. But do background checks on the people you’re letting teach you. Know that you can trust the people you do business with and most of all, trust yourself. And if you haven’t read it, read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” – an excellent book about staying flexible and open to one of life’s few certainties: change. Example. In online bidding, my preferred and only home site for bidding, DealDash, recently encountered a huge growth spurt. That brought about changes in auctions which meant changing my strategies for winning. When I began working on the television series I’m writing a pilot for now, I started out trying to write it as a two-hour movie. I continually encountered problems and then decided the story couldn’t be written, which it couldn’t – in the form I first attempted to write it. Now that I changed strategies and now that television offers a banquet table of creative opportunities to skilled writers, my approach works and I can tell because I cannot remember being this excited about anything I’ve ever written. Ever. But that doesn’t mean things won’t change again, because they will. It’s not that the other shoe always drops; it’s that people regularly take off and put back on their shoes.
- Remember that failure comes with success. It’s easy to look at others and think they succeed all the time. That’s because we usually don’t see people’s failures. Be willing to take small successes (I received $5,000 for optioning my first script years ago. Hey, why not take that as a sign that there’s a chance I may be on the right track instead of looking at my failure to perform and considering it a Stop Sign?) Still, be willing to fall on your face, pick yourself up and keep at it. I know I already mentioned persistence, but that’s different from being willing to fail. Failure involves involuntary humility. Failure stings. But more than anything, our response to failure can break or make us. The first place I run to when I fail is, “Oh, this must not be what I’m supposed to be doing.” Nice try, Beattie. No, you did exactly what you were supposed to do. You failed. Now see if you can learn something from it, okay?
- On the other hand, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing something you really want to do? I am still amazed at the difference it makes if I really want an item I’m bidding on in an auction. I get focused, roll up my sleeves and more often than not, I win it. Whether or not we really want to do something is a question that each of us needs to answer. Doesn’t matter if others think we can or should do it. How do we feel, really feel, about it? Do we want it? How badly? The best way to gauge our level of desire it pay attention to how we feel when we make even the smallest movement toward success. Ambivalence isn’t a good sign. Excitement is.
- Enjoy your success when it happens but remember that enjoying success is much like Thanksgiving dinner: it’s only fun when shared. I love a good win at online bidding. I also love giving someone I care about that thing they really want and I really love the look on their face after they say, “I can’t accept that IPod” and I reply by saying “It cost me five bucks. Would you let me give you five dollars?” I also enjoy getting things for myself I wouldn’t ordinarily get for myself because yes, codependency continues to haunt me. Can’t afford it. Don’t really need it. Blah, blah, blah. And if sharing a crockpot or anything else I win with someone I care about is fun, how much more exciting when I reach “FADE OUT” knowing I’ve told a story I love to people I care so much about: you, my readers. Eh, viewers.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! May you take steps toward turning your dreams into realities this New Year. May you find pleasure, angst, agony and joy in each step forward (and backwards). Because that’s how it goes, too. Remember to look for those subtle, hidden lessons because rare is the time when we’re not learning – or when Life isn’t trying to show us – something. And may you remember to look inside and deal with your fear, because that usually becomes our biggest block and barrier to accomplishing anything new.
Many years ago, when I consciously began this journey of being conscious, a trusted mentor told me after I had complained about feeling afraid, “If you’re not afraid, it’s because you’re not doing anything new.” Whether I believe it or not, some things were –and still are – true.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
January 2, 2013
Note: I know, I know. I never use merchants’ names on my blogs but you also know what they say: Never say never. If any of you decide to pursue recreational shopping or online penny bidding, please do so responsibly. DealDash (the only site I vouch for 100%), has a BIN, or Buy It Now option. That means you cannot lose if you only bid on items you can afford to and intend to buy whether or not you win the auction — like gasoline cars (unless you don’t own a car). When you Buy It Now, you get all your bids back. You don’t lose a penny. And no, this isn’t an advertisement and I don’t have an affiliate relationship with DealDash. If you choose to go there, I get no payback. I make no money. Above and beyond everything else, DealDash has been and remains an honest, cherished and valuable form of procrastination. You’ll need to type their URL in your computer yourself. Best, mlb