Business Musings: Expect Resistance

Business Musings: Expect Resistance

I’m still making my way (slowly!) through the Emilio Estefan book that I mentioned in an earlier blog.  For those of you who missed that post, the book is called The Rhythm of Success, and it is about ten years old.

I’m bookmarking a number of places where I’m finding material for blog posts later. I’m also bookmarking places that have phrases I want to steal. Leave it to a musician to put ideas into pithy two- and three-word phrases. You’ll see a few of those in the future blog posts.

Even though I had planned to go through this book when I’m done with it (and also to work with the Questlove book I mentioned last week), I have to write this post now before it leaves my head.

You see, Estefan said something in that pithy way of his that won’t stick in my mind. The concept flits away as if it had never been. Which means that part of me wants to ignore it.

And because that part seems to have control of the subconscious brain and wants to let this idea slip by me, I figured writing a blog post about this for all of you will make the concept stick in my mind.

The idea comes in the middle of the book, in a chapter titled “Expect Resistance And Prepare Yourself For It.” I figured I knew what this chapter would be about before I read it. I even figured I would know the anecdote he was going to tell.

One of the most powerful scenes in Get On Your Feet!, the Broadway musical about the Estefans’ lives (he’s married to Gloria Estefan), takes place in a record executive office. The Estefans wanted to play Latin music with English lyrics, and market the songs worldwide (not just to a Latin audience). And (cue sarcastic voice) that lovely record executive told them that they weren’t “back home anymore” so they didn’t get to “make the rules.”

Emilio Estefan got mad, and told the executive, “Look at my face — whether you know it or not, this is what an American looks like.” Because of the horrid climate here in the United States right now, that line got a standing ovation on the night I saw the show (from everyone except the couple sitting next to me, who seemed quite grumpy).

Estefan’s vision was the right vision, and as usual, the executive was wrong. I expected to read a variation of that story in this chapter, and sure enough, the story showed up, but in a longer, more detailed version.

The chapter also included (importantly, I think) this lovely aside:

If you had told me at that point that years later I’d be appointed president of the equivalent company as I was with Sony, I would have asked you what you were smoking. It would have been hard to imagine years later such a different scene in that lobby. “Oh, Mr. Estefan, let me get the elevator for you.” Back then it was, “He’s busy; come back tomorrow.” [The Rhythm of Success: How An Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream, Celebra, 2011, P. 107]

So yes, that story was in the chapter, and it’s an important story with a great comeuppance. Success really is the best revenge. (I have my own stories along this line.)

Estefan says—as anyone who is successful already knows—that meeting resistance is inevitable. The people who become successful power past the resistance, and the people who let one negative comment from someone else derail them never become successful.

But there was more to the chapter than that story and stories like it. He writes,

There are always going to be two forces at work: the internal and the external. Us and them. I don’t say that so that you develop a “me against the world” attitude. I say that so that you always keep in mind what you are up against. The external forces are much harder to control, so let’s look first at you, the internal force. The place to begin is with self-assurance. Your belief in your great idea and your dream has to be rock solid. [[The Rhythm of Success: How An Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream, Celebra, 2011, P 108]

That tripped me up, and it shouldn’t have. I’m still having trouble processing this.

I like to say that writers are a combination of insecurity and ego. We have the ego to believe that what we have to say is valuable and the world will want to hear it. But we’re insecure enough to doubt that we’re actually saying what we want. That’s why writers go to writers’ groups, to refine what they’re talking about, to let other people “validate” them.

I’ve always figured I was just contrary. I get grumpy when people try to make me into something I’m not. I figured it was part of my nature—and it is. I struggled against one of the most critical human beings on the planet (my mother) when I was growing up. So I fought back by deciding that I didn’t care what the neighbors said or what other people thought. I would do what I wanted.

It ended there for me. It was a reaction, not an action.

And what Estefan is discussing here is an action.

He’s telling people to actively defend themselves against their own internal resistance. To believe in themselves, and their ideas, their dreams.

In many ways, that’s revolutionary. It’s not contrary or even part of someone’s nature. He maintains that the attitude—the ability to believe in yourself and what you do—can be trained. As he has before, he boils it down to a single sentence: Don’t be negative or allow others to be negative.

And then he adds this:

Most people don’t like to leave their comfort zone. And because of that they are also afraid of risks. Don’t be one of those people. Be open to your own ideas and those of others. [The Rhythm of Success: How An Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream, Celebra, 2011, P 109]

The key phrase for me here: Be open to your own ideas.

And I realized—I’m still realizing—how much I had learned to edit my own ideas into something “marketable” thanks to my years in traditional publishing. Sure, I’ve fought against that “marketable” word over the years. I told one of my then-agents that the only people who became Big Names were those whose writing bucked trends rather than followed trends.

Dean and I put together Fiction River, the anthology series, so that writers could write in multiple genres, often in the same volume, because I hate the way that short fiction has been forced into narrow confines.

My own writing usually crosses genres and experiments with all kinds of tropes that people said someone who looks like me or has my background can’t write. I started writing science fiction mystery because I read a quote from Isaac Asimov that said sf mysteries were the hardest thing of all to write. So I stretched and tried one, and have been enjoying myself ever since.

But for each mental success story, I had a dozen others—inside my own mind—that I either truncated or ignored or set aside “for later.” I had already been dealing with some of that as I revised my novel FantasyLife for the Storybundle that Allyson Longueira curated. (My preferred version of the novel is available now. You can find out more here.)

I realized how much the failure of that novel—and the way that I got treated by the science fiction “establishment” after I left The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction—destroyed my ability to write fantasy. I did what I usually do when something hurts: I walked away and set the pain aside. (Yeah, not healthy. I’m working on it.)

I hadn’t realized how far away I had put all of that until Dayle Dermatis asked me into the Uncollected Anthology. I started looking at all of the series or story starts that I had abandoned. Many hadn’t been touched for years.

My work met with resistance and instead of defending it, I caved. I let the negativity win.

Now, you can say—and you’d be right—that I was struggling with many other things at the time. My slowly collapsing health. Some financial issues. The complete destruction of genre fiction within traditional publishing itself. And a vicious persona vendetta against me by several people in sf (the leader of which is now dead, which I find disconcerting—because I want that jerk to see my success, and to know it for the revenge that it is. Yeah, I can be vindictive. I just try not to act on it {outside of fiction}).

But those are excuses. Because I let myself be negative, and let their negativity overcome my own love of a certain kind of storytelling. My Kristine Grayson pen name had become a sideways method of keeping the fantasy part of my career alive, but it’s not the same kind of writing as FantasyLife. The Grayson books were a leak, because I had repressed a large part of what I was doing.

I hadn’t entirely realized it—oh, heck, I hadn’t realized it at all—until I read Estefan’s comments about internal resistance. Sure, I can see internal resistance in other writers, especially beginning writers. It’s easy to see when writers revise at the behest of their peer-level writing workshop (taking advice from people who know less than nothing). Or when writers twist themselves into a pretzel trying to please an agent—who is an employee and shouldn’t be hired in the first place. (See my many posts on that subject)

But it’s harder to see when you’ve done something and a continued barrage of negativity wears you down. That’s why so many published writers quit writing after a decade or so. Those writers are (usually) pummeled by the nastiness and negativity and utter destruction of dreams that occurs within traditional publishing, and the writers either fade away, or never get another contract and don’t really try to repair their careers. The pain is simply too great.

It’s really hard to deal with that kind of negativity. My way of doing so usually is trying to see what could go wrong and prepare for it. But that’s not the kind of preparation that Estefan is talking about in this chapter.

He’s not talking about gaming out scenarios for failure and figuring out how to overcome them. He’s talking about changing your own internal attitude so that when those scenarios come to pass, you meet them with strength: I believe in this, and I don’t care what you say. I’m going to make this work.

That’s a hard position to maintain. Especially when your dreams are dying of a thousand cuts.

But if that attitude is essential to who you are, then you won’t have to maintain an artificial position. You will pivot automatically. You believe in yourself and in what you’re doing, so you will find a way to make it work.

As I write this, I’m amusing myself, because I keep switching into second person. Clearly these are concepts that I need to work on, and as I write about them in this blog post, I make them less personal. They’re about “you,” not about me.

A lot of these places where contrary me did not defend herself or her work (wow! Third person now) occurred slowly, over time. I got worn down. I hadn’t anticipated the problems and so had no defenses set up.

I hadn’t practiced keeping the negativity out. I’d practiced battling it—and rebelling against it. To do both of those things, you (by definition) let the negativity in.

The idea that resistance to an idea or a process could be built in, because I hadn’t built a habit of positivity about my own work is a mind-blower for me. I’m clearly still working on it.

And will continue to work on it, now that it’s becoming clearer. I’m pretty sure there are lots of such lost narratives inside me, because I hadn’t sufficiently guarded against the attack on them. I hadn’t built myself up enough.

I’m not sure exactly how to fix that. But I’m going to work on it.

I must say, it’s easier to work on changing these habits of a lifetime now that indie publishing exists. No one will tell me ever again that they can’t publish one of my books because there’s no audience for that stuff. Or because no one likes my writing. Or (as one still-working idiot of an Big Name editor said to me) that they’ll only buy my work because my name is valuable even though my writing stinks.

As I write this, I think about all of those interactions, and dozens of others I haven’t mentioned here, and I realize I never reached deep down and went into the face of those negative folks. I never told them my version of “This is what an American looks like.” Instead, I moved sideways or shut the door myself or tried to find another (narrower) way.

Looks like I’ve got some work to do.

And I suspect that work will be fun.

***

As I write this, we’re getting closer and closer to the Business Master Class.(You will be able to sign up for next year’s shortly.)  I’ll be writing a few more blog posts ahead of that class, and then I’ll start into posts about what I learned this year. I’m really looking forward to it, because it’s even more advanced than it has been in previous years. Plus I get to share my new city. Always fun.

Thank you folks for your positivity and your willingness to back what I do. I cannot tell you how much it means to me.

Thank you all!

If you feel like supporting the blog on an on-going basis, then please head to my Patreon page.

If you liked this post, and want to show your one-time appreciation, the place to do that is PayPal. If you go that route, please include your email address in the notes section, so I can say thank you.

Which I am going to say right now. Thank you!

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“Business Musings: Expect Resistance,” copyright © 2018 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / Nevenova.




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12 responses to “Business Musings: Expect Resistance”

  1. ‘I believe in this, and I don’t care what you say. I’m going to make this work.’ Yup. I’m delayed right now, but I can’t imagine myself as someone who would quit. It got the first books of the mainstream trilogy finished and published in only 15 years, and will get the others written in spite of it taking far longer than half a year for us to move from NJ to California.

    I can be stopped – but I won’t quit. What I write and how I write is very different – that’s why I can’t just go out and buy it. So I’m writing it. Readers don’t care about the how (though I’m hoping more Patreon patrons will), but the ones I want to reach, mainstream readers willing to read indie work not vetted first by traditional publishers and critics, will care about the what.

    There is always doubt, and fear, and resistance – for a while. Then you figure it out, and write on.

  2. Anthea says:

    My eyes kept wanting to slide away from this post. Thank you for writing it!

    I’ve also bought the Emilio Estefan book now – here’s hoping I actually read it…

  3. Maggie Lynch says:

    Wow, Kris! This is a revelation and goes to show how even a successful author has doubts. Thank you for sharing this and being so honest about it. I do have to tell you that you and Dean were the first people to guide me in writing, back in 2004 I think; and the first people I trusted and believed in terms of writing what I wanted to write–even when it didn’t match the carefully crafted down-the-middle genre approach.

    I am fortunate in that my parents raised me to believe I could do absolutely anything I wanted. The downside is that I didn’t realize there was more to it than “wanting” to do something–training, money, practice, etc. However, I am thankful to them because, when it came to writing, I’ve always believed my writing was at least decent and sometimes even good. I always believed that my stories would be loved by someone; and I hoped it was a lot of someones. Even when I was going with agents and trad publishers, I always got acceptance of my writing. But it was the business of trad publishing–the churn and the constant attempt to be the million dollar book–that wore me down and made me question the profession as a whole and if what I wanted to do as a writer would never work. Thank goodness viable indie publishing came along when it did.

    My personal reaction to negativity around my writing–not honest critique, but the outright this-is-crap statements–was long eradicated after doing the agent/editor submission thing for more than a decade. I quickly came to realize it is all subjective. When it comes to the story there is little rational as to what really rings true for any particular person. I’m fortunate in that I’ve had good responses from readers–people who actually take the time to write and tell me how much they love my books. Those comments are what keep me going. I know that you have lots of rabid fan, Kris, with me among them. I hope they are helpful in keeping you going when you doubt yourself.

    For me, the negativity comes not with my stories but with the expectation of sales. Because I have been successful in other professions and business endeavors I had a conservative (I thought) expectation of success in my writing career. I gave myself a couple of decades to learn craft, first with selling short stories to publications, then with moving to novels–taking lots of classes from a variety of good sources. When I went full time I thought I had a reasonable plan: five years to build product; and getting to $50K annual income within 10 years. I don’t need to be a million dollar writer. I knew I would be able to live on half of my previous salary and still have money left over for vacations, visiting grandchildren on the east coast, and the twice a month date night. This journey is the one that is most stressful for me.

    I’m coming up on eight years full-time and haven’t reached the $50K target. This is where my self-doubt increases because EVERYONE has an opinion on how to make money in indie publishing. Most of those opinions are not in line with my process (write so that you drop one book every 3 weeks), the books I want to write (write straight down the middle of the genre), the money I am willing or able to spend (we are in a pay to play environment that requires more and more rad spending), and sometimes even directly against my values (gaming the system, stuffing, spamming). I know most of this advice is for the take-the-money-and-run crowd. But I do admit to questioning my planning ability. Or the way I test ideas looking for more help instead of staying with one plan consistently.

    I can see why people step out of indie publishing within ten years. I don’t plan to step out because I love writing too much. However, I may have to make some really tough decisions about how central a role this business takes in my life and if the toll is worth it. OR learn to shut out the majority of “marketing gurus” and trust my own business savvy and move forward with confidence.

    Thank you for your weekly posts, your honesty, and your continued search to be better. I see you as someone who tells your truth and is invested in a career–not a get rich quick scheme. That means a lot to me.

  4. Carilyn says:

    All of your posts are helpful but this one made me think and re-consider my own thoughts and how I approach things. Great post. Thx.

  5. Isabo Kelly says:

    Great post, Kris. This one hit a real chord (ha, pun not intended) with me. Thank you very much.

  6. Dayle says:

    Wow. This one really spoke to me. Thanks, Kris!

  7. D J Mills says:

    “The Rhythm of Success” is a wonderful saying.

    I am thankful for self publishing, for distributors, and mostly for readers who enjoy my stories. I have settled into a rhythm of writing, self editing, layout, cover, blurb, publish. And repeat.

    Negativity leads to depression. I have to watch out for it all the time, because it creeps up on me. However, once a year I sluice negativity from my life. Some of those washed away from me I thought of as friends with lots of negativity, others were only acquaintances. I know I made the right decision when I feel the weight lifted from my shoulders.

    Thank you for your blog article.

    • lfox368806 says:

      As always, Kris, Thank You. I needed this today. I missed the NaNoWriMo deadline I’d set for myself, and have been dithering about the WIP novel ever since – was it any good, would anyone want to read it?
      (1) It’s probably not as good as my 5th novel will be, but it’s the best I can do now. I’ll learn in the process.
      (2) Who cares if anyone reads it? I want to read it.
      I’m climbing back on the horse tomorrow.
      Screw anyone who tries to talk me out of it. And, that includes family.

  8. Colleen says:

    Your name is valuable to me because you are a valuable person – and a reliable writer. I love the Grayson novels, but I also love your SF novels, your mysteries, your romances. And I love that you combine genres. If I see your name on the cover, I know the story will be a good one and it will keep me entertained. You can’t do much better than that.

  9. Thank you for writing so succinctly what I’ve felt and experienced over the years.

  10. Richard says:

    For a long time now I’ve been reading your blog, and finding strength in it, strength and resilience and intelligence made real and powerful. I often felt, and feel, that I live in a world that disparages logic, optimism, critical thinking, kindness, exacting standards, long-term thinking to suit a lazy and decaying statu quo (sorry, that was close to a rant, wasn’t it). Not that life is easy, here or in the US, but there seems to be a consensus that positive qualities are doomed to fail and unprincipled brutality is the way of success in the future. It shows in a million ways, daily.

    Your blog has helped me not despair and keep faith, and see intelligence applied to reality. There are not so many instances of that. It’s impressive and inspiring.

    On to today’s post. I don’t comment often but this time I want to. I want to thank you (on top of the general thank you that I hope you understood to be in the first two paragraphs, it wasn’t explicit), because you’ve hit a nerve once again. Letting the negativity in, letting it eat away at my better self… Yeah. Now I see it. I hope you later share how you fight it in this blog. For now, I thank you very deeply.

  11. Mark Schultz says:

    Very powerful, Kristine. Thanks for going out on a limb with us and showing us how to survive.

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