Success Tips from Rehab

Wear success and failure like loose garments; they don't define you. 

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My friend the recovering alcoholic – Lorraine – tells me that she spent most of her life pretending to be someone she wasn’t, hiding her flaws, striving to win, and fearing disclosure. She was, she tells me, spending 99 cents of her daily dollar of energy just managing her image.

“I was Valedictorian of my high school, a National Merit Scholar, one of the first women to graduate from a previously all-male Ivy League University and second in my MBA class,” Lorraine tells me. “Even at home I was never just ‘Lorraine.’ I was always vying for the title of Best Working Mom or Wife of the Year. I 'self-medicated' because I 'deserved' it. Then my kids left home, as did my second husband. I was in debt up to my ears and my business crumbled. The housing market took a dive and the economy soured.

Read on at LinkedIn here.

3 Magic Words for Women Negotiators

Everyone's a shy negotiator. Some people are just better at hiding their fear. No one likes to be turned down even when it's not the romantic interest of your dreams, the job you really wanted, or the employee you fear might not be the best fit for the corporate culture.

My negotiation consulting clients have been both bold and hesitant. But whether they're an inventor moving a product to market, a lawyer having a dispute with his business partner, a professional looking for a new professional home, or a hiring partner trying to land the best talent, no one wants to be rejected.

That's the first thing the shy or hesitant negotiator must understand about her bargaining partner. Your counterpart is just as worried about letting an opportunity slip through his fingers as you are.

That's why we all sometimes need a few magic words.

Is it Negotiable?

Read on at LinkedIn here.

Open Carry, Ebola and Feminist Death Threats

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Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a talk that would have taken place at Utah State University after the university received a terror threat from someone claiming they would commit “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if [feminist gamer critic] Sarkeesian gave her lecture. The Washington Post

It's not news that women who speak out in public on behalf of their gender routinely receive death threats. Nor is it news that government officials respond to these threats with shrugged shoulders and pats on the head. They suggest that no one worry about these threats despite the fact that only five months separate us from the misogynist shooting spree at U.C. Santa Barbara by the now infamous PUA-addled Elliot Rodgers.

What should be news, but hasn't been, is this: Sarkeesian cancelled her lecture despite having fearlessly proceeded to speak in public in the face of similar threats in the past. As Salon explained in Gun Rights Trump Public Safety, Sarkeesian didn't cancel her appearance because of threats. She cancelled her appearance because the local police refused to do firearm searches because of Utah's open carry laws.

Read on at LinkedIn here.

How to Negotiate with a Sociopath in 3 Easy Steps

Step One: Start planning your escape.

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Yes, the job market sucks. But if a sociopath has put you in her cross-hairs, it's because she believes she can get something valuable out of you. And she's pretty darn astute. A better judge of character than the rest of us. Frighteningly skilled at sussing out our highest and best use. She sees people as means to an end, you'll recall. Figure out what she sees in you. It might even boost your confidence to understand that you've been targeted as a resource from one of the types of people who are flat out brilliant at identifying value in and mining value from people.

Sociopaths give new meaning to the term human resource. None of us, not one, are sufficiently confident. Let this experience boost your confidence. You'll need it because you're going job hunting again.

Read on here and follow all of Victoria's negotiation advice over at LinkedIn.

VICTORIA WILL BE GIVING A WEBINAR ON SEPTEMBER 11 FOR WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY BETWEEN NOON AND 1 P.M. PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME, FREE FOR WITI MEMBERS AND $50 FOR NON-MEMBERS ANDPRACTICALLY FREE FOR WOMEN NEW TO THE WORKPLACE ON SEPTEMBER 16, 6 P.M. EASTERN WITH TAKE THE LEAD.

Women Entrepreneurs Out Earn Men

When women run their own companies, not only does the gender income gap disappear, it's reversed, with women entrepreneurs earning 14% more than their male peers. SeeMen and Women on Risk and Failureat Annie Murphy Paul's blog. Speculating on the reason for this reversal, the "experts" attributed women's greater entrepreneurial success to their failure to negotiate wages.

HUH?

These results have nothing whatsoever to do with – and prove nothing about – women’s wages.

Keep reading here and follow Victoria over at LinkedIn where she's been posting dozens of articles on negotiation and women in the workplace. 

Victoria will be giving a webinar on September 11 for Women in Technology between noon and 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, free for WITI members and $50 for non-members and practically free for women new to the workplace on September 16, 6 p.m. Eastern with Take the Lead.

 

 

Celebrate Women's Equality Day 2014 by Getting Fat

Back in the day when I was an actress and taking classes in Hollywood, my teacher told a story about Marilyn Monroe and Maureen Stapleton walking down Hollywood Boulevard on their way to lunch. The story goes that the two actresses were casually taking in the sights in the middle of the afternoon and nobody was crowding around them, asking for autographs or photos. Nobody noticed them.

Maureen, a character actress, was accustomed to not being recognized, but she was stunned that Marilyn wasn’t inciting a riot. So she asks, “How is it that we can walk down the middle of the street in the midday sun and nobody recognizes you?”

“You want people to notice? Watch.” And with the flip of some internal switch, almost immediately a crowd gathered around them making it impossible to get to their destination.

Marilyn, a notorious introvert, had perfected both the art of invisibility, and when it suited her, she was a paparazzi’s dream.

Marilyn was in control of her presence.

In honor of Women’s Equality Day—it’s been 94 years since we got the right to vote—I invite you to be in control of your presence. Your leadership presence. Your brand. To do this, you will have to set aside all the cultural directives and rules about how women should behave. You’ll need to get fat and take up space. As I’ve been ceaselessly saying for the past several months, we women need to shift the dynamic and get the workplace (the world) to conform to us.

Try this:

  1. Be fat—take up space, spread out
  2. Sit at the head of the table
  3. Blurt—speak up, speak out, have an opinion
  4. Tell a good story
  5. Interrupt
  6. Take credit
  7. Bring your posse
  8. Laugh out loud with your mouth wide open
  9. Apologize for real transgressions, not for breathing

Go get fat and make the scales tip.


Want more of this? Register for our Signature Online Course Strategic Conversations: How to Network, Influence, Negotiate and Lead.

Starts September 8. But hurry, the online class always sells out fast.

How to remove self-importance from self-promotion and still be your badass self

I was working with a client, “Sally,” a very talented art director and designer with many credits, awards and years behind her name. Working through a career transition, I asked her to give me the unapologetic list of the things she’s really good at, and she demurred. She stuttered a little and said, “Really, I have to answer that? Isn’t it all in my résumé?”

Haha. No.

It’s always bowls me over that no matter how seasoned and accomplished we are, we all seem to share the same cultural DNA of doubt, and distaste for self-promotion. So I said, “Here, let me get you started. Say, ‘The best and highest use of my skill and expertise is to allow me to be the soul of your brand.’”

Sally twisted her mouth into a gobsmacked shape, and before she could deny I continued playing her role. “What I love doing most is being the guardian of your brand…making sure that from the first touch point to the last is a seamless experience for your market and for everyone who works for you.”

Sally then says, “Stop. I’ll never remember this. I have to write it down.”

When we are called upon to talk about ourselves, it’s as if we’re all Peter Pan before sewing on the shadow. We forget our three-dimensionality. It’s right next to us, but somehow just out of our sight line. What we fear is being perceived as a swaggering braggart, but what’s underneath that is the nagging belief that we’re frauds. We’re just not all that.

Let’s agree that those are all fabricated thoughts. Yes, they’re born out of the culture in part, but let’s just let them loose for a second and entertain something different.

What we are really after is removing self-importance from self-promotion. What we get when we do that is a narrative that frames who we are for others. In negotiation terms, it’s a story that frames your value as a benefit to your bargaining partner. And know this: that benefit usually translates to bottom line results.

Honestly, we know what we’re good at. We put our shadows on, full of dimension, capacity and feeling and walk through the world every single day. We may not have the skill to wordsmith our undeniable value, but if we take a look back at our careers, we can all make a bullet-point list of our major accomplishments, experiences, awards and recognitions. That’s your starting point.

Tell me about me

To help you unearth your undeniable value, I have a little exercise you might want to undertake with a few colleagues and friends. It’s called the “Tell Me About Me” exercise, and here’s how you do it:

  1. Send an email to five or seven current and former colleagues, plus a couple of friends who know you and your work well.
  2. Tell them you have a few questions you’d like them to answer that will help you get a sense of your contribution and value.
  3. Tell them to be forthright and direct.
  4. Tell them you will not reply, other than to say ‘thank you’; you will not deny, or argue for your limitations or criticize them for their responses. Your questions are forensic, not solicitous.
  5. Give them a deadline for responding.

Here are the questions:

  1. If you were to describe me to someone, what would you say?
  2. What do you think is unique about my me/my work?
  3. What part of the process of working with me was most valuable? Least valuable?
  4. Where do you think I can improve?
  5. Anything else?

I guarantee you will be humbled and amazed by the responses; you will discover common themes, even perfectly phrased copy you’ll want permission to use. As you read the responses you may also discover that your colleagues and friends value skills or behaviors that you’d like to retire. In other words, you’ll find some mismatched perceptions that will help you refine brand you.

Go. Do. Be your badass self.


Want more of this? Register for Strategic Conversations: How to Network, Influence, Negotiate and Lead.

Starts September 8. But hurry, the online class always sells out fast.

 

Is your self worth reflected in your paycheck?

© Jessica Hagy www.thisisindexed.com

© Jessica Hagy www.thisisindexed.com

Yesterday I asked my friend, a successful wealth advisor, if money was her main motivator. She said emphatically, “No, never,” adding that all she ever wanted was “freedom, autonomy and security.” Her main motivators—her values and priorities—are what put money in her pocketbook.

I asked her if she had always been paid what she was worth, and her answer stunned me. She said, “I never stuck around long anywhere that I wasn’t valued for my services. I either got what I asked for or I kept moving…because I’m worth it.”

That’s a perspective that successful women seem to have in common. Their self worth dictates they net worth. They value themselves first and foremost.

If you are giving away your skills and hard earned intellectual property for anything less than you’re worth, or you’re serving a market that can’t afford what you’d like to be making, you really need to ask yourself some hard questions.

Is it self-doubt and low self-esteem? Are you really committed to your highest goals and priorities? 

If we’re going to Lean In to our careers and businesses, we also need to Lean In to ourselves first. Raise your consciousness and your self-respect and the money will follow.

Something to noodle on...


Now registering:

Strategic Conversations: How to Network, Influence, Negotiate and Lead

  • Sept. 8, 15, 22, 29
  • 3 p.m. Pacific | 6 p.m. Eastern
  • $395

Register HERE.

The unvarnished truth about what really happens when you hire a negotiation consultant

In case you're wondering what we do all day--that is, when Victoria or I are not writing (here, or here, or here) or speaking or training -- here's a little tale about the core of our business -- private negotiation consulting. Get ready for the unvarnished truth.

It starts with an email. A little missive usually tinged with some kind of urgency, upset, worry or regret. Like this:

I just finished my third interview with Badass Tech Giant for Lead Product Manager and I'm on the verge of getting an offer. I have no idea what to ask for and I've frankly never done a good job of negotiating. I usually fold and say yes to whatever is offered. Like most tech companies, it's run by men and I think they're going to lowball me. Can you help? 

Or a phone call like this:

I own the patent to an invention that a Badass Mega Corporation wants. I need to craft a deal that will help me retain control, but frankly [everyone is always so frank...weird] I may need to leverage them with a rival interest. Tell me you can help me!

Then Victoria and I determine who is the best fit for the potential client. "This is part negotiation and part career development, and it has Lisa written all over it," Victoria says. Or, "I don't know anything about patents," Lisa says, to which Victoria responds, "Well, neither do I, but what 25 years as a commercial litigator gives me is the skill to figure it out."

The next step is negotiating about negotiation.

After people get over the shock about our immediate response to their query, we ask a boatload of diagnostic questions, the heart and soul of interest-based negotiation, to find out what their needs, goals and preferences are. And their fears. Lots of that.  Then we tell people, "you can hire us for $350 an hour, or we can settle on a mutually agreeable flat rate."

If we were talking in person, this is the point at which we would see our prospective client's eyes glaze over. "You mean I have to negotiate with the negotiators?" To which we say, "Relax. We're just having a conversation, getting to know each other, and finding a way to bring each other value."

At this point, people want to know about process and outcomes.

Over the years, Victoria and I would share notes about our clients, and source each other for support and two-for-the-price-of-one brainstorming. As a result, we discovered we were routinely engaging in 10 common themes or areas that we then captured into our Strategic Negotiation Planning process. 

  1. Assess Your Career
  2. Research Your Value
  3. Construct Your Narratives
  4. Gather Your Support System
  5. Prioritize Your Requirements
  6. Sequence Your Ask
  7. Identify the Decision Makers
  8. Develop Scripts and Stock Phrases
  9. Practice Your Ask
  10. Completion

But what people really want, and what they really get, is transformation.

We like to say, Be ready, your DNA is going to be altered.  We like to say, Let's turn your $3,500 investment into $35,000.

It's all true and possible. But when people are testing the waters and sniffing around the edges for what we can deliver, making claims about transformation sounds huckstery and smells of white patent leather. 

So in the course of our conversations, we listen. We hear the themes so often expressed by women everywhere:

Fear of conflict, rejection and the word no; fear of asking for too much; fear of being perceived as demanding or selfish; underestimating our value; not having a plan; constantly over delivering without recognition, promotion or raises; having responsibility but no authority; being a yes addict.

So How Does it All End?

In the end, we make a deal. We bond as women, first, and client/consultants next. We agree on a rate that is a match between the value we deliver in the hands of our market: you. The truth is, we serve multiple markets--from the C-suite six-figure exec to the hourly-wage administrative assistant, so every client is different. And getting to yes with each client is in and of itself a lesson in negotiation for our clients and for us.

The takeaway here is that you are already learning to negotiate when you negotiate your relationship with us. I had a conversation recently with a IT software engineer who was stunned that I would respond to her query personally and so quickly. I felt a pang of guilt that our branding or media coverage might have induced a sort of bloated, unapproachable aura. I reminded her that out mission is to transform lives, one woman at a time, and that where ever you are, we are.




This is where the transformation begins...




Help Your Negotiation Consultant Help You

If you're using a business consultant, you're far from alone. Last year, Bloomberg Business reported that management consulting in the U.S. had generated $39.3 billion in revenues the previous year.

That's a lot of money to waste.

Few executives and managers, however, are skilled at the effective use of consulting services. And too few consultants know how to best advise their business clients.

I've been in the consulting business since I was 28 years old, providing legal advice to individuals, partnerships, corporate executives and in-house counsel. I didn't think of myself as a consultant at the time. I thought of myself as a trained assassin. The more I consult with businesses, however, the more I realize I'm doing what I did my entire career, just without an opponent countering my every move.

They teach lawyers on day one that what you need to convince another lawyer (i.e., a Judge) is authority and you grow used to having authority beneath your feet. When I asked myself how clients could best help their consultants help them, I turned to health care professionals who pioneered the field of shared decision-making. That, after all, is what consulting is. Shared decision-making

Here then are the top 5 strategies recommended by medical providers, re-cast to help you help your consultant help you.

Read on here.

Lean Into Your Career with a Kickass Strategic Negotiation Plan

In a workshop recently, someone asked me for a definition of negotiation. I said it's "a conversation leading to good agreement." Turns out that's pretty close to the Dictionary.com definition. But what caught my attention was the derivation of the term:

Negotiation (n.) early 15c., from Old French negociacion "business, trade," and directly from Latin negotiationem (nominative negotiatio) "business, traffic," noun of action from past participle stem of negotiari "carry on business, do business, act as a banker," from negotium "a business, employment, occupation, affair (public or private)," also "difficulty, pains, trouble, labor," literally "lack of leisure," from neg- "not" (see deny) + otium "ease, leisure." The sense expansion from "doing business" to also include "bargaining" about anything took place in Latin.

No wonder we feel paralyzed by negotiation..."Business, not easy."

That is a message we've been running with since the 15th century--and you know that perspective probably goes back to the first time our ancestors had the brilliant idea of trading resources. We humans have been gritting our teeth about an activity that's vital to much of human endeavor and essential to our survival. That's a lot of collective angst.

So you could also say that our collective angst is informing our present experience. Our present choices. And our present choices have a huge impact on our futures.

And yet in our training and consulting experience when women learn the vocabulary and strategies of negotiation and use them intentionally, they (almost to a person) say, "Oh! That was way easier than I thought it would be," and, "It was actually fun." I have a theory about why that is:

Possibility makes us giddy.

When we collect new experiences that disrupt old beliefs, we have nothing less than a survival tactic that gives us a new confidence and a new edge. So, knowledge is power, and when we put the knowledge into action repeatedly, we start building new neural pathways. We start changing our futures. We start having fun.

And all that fun needs to be connected to your strategic plan.

What? You don't have a strategic plan? I know. That's why our new online course, Strategic Conversations is built around building out a 10-step strategic plan. A strategic plan for your career, and a strategic plan for negotiation. And this is how you will lean back into your career bones.

Here's what you'll accomplish in this training program:

  • Develop a strategic plan (we’ll give you the template) for any negotiation, and dovetail it with your strategic career plan (even if you think you don’t have one).
  • Learn the vocabulary, strategies and tactics of both interest-based negotiation and competitive bargaining so you’ll be armed and dangerous, and at choice in any negotiation setting.
  • Apply those strategies by practicing in our weekly calls on salary negotiations, dealing with difficult situations, problem solving, networking with intention, and more.
  • Research your market value, understand how to deal with requests for salary history, make an aggressive first offer, and trade across issues.

Strategic Conversations online course starts September 8. Here's who it's for:

  • Women who want to ascend to the next level, remove the barriers to success, and deal with the pesky double-bind cultural issues (you know, "don't be bossy, but don't be a wimp" or "don't be selfish, but don't be a doormat").
  • Women who are engaged in their work and passionate about it--whether you're an employee or run a business of your own.
  • Work teams, affinity groups, women's initiatives and even mastermind groups who know that learning to negotiate is key to your personal and professional aspirations.

For more info, course outline and to register, go here.

  • Sept. 8, 15, 22, 29
  • 3 P.M. PT  |  6 P.M. ET
  • Only 20 spaces
  • $395 

"Most people are insecure about the way they negotiate. As part of our ongoing programming for women at Shutterstock, there was overwhelming interest in negotiation training. We realized that across departments, everyone needs to negotiate internally and externally on a daily basis. 

She Negotiates stood out as the obvious choice from the many options we explored. Lisa tailored a workshop specifically to our needs. Her deep knowledge and warm demeanor made her an excellent instructor. The highly anticipated workshop filled up quickly, and the roleplaying exercises and variety of strategies provided skills that were immediately applicable. Lisa also provided a structure for us to continue developing independently and to support each other across departments."  
--Erin McCue, UX Designer, Shutterstock, Inc.

reframing the leader 'bitch'

Sheryl Sandberg talks about how female leaders, from toddlerhood to CEO must contend with the word bossy, aka, bitch. 

Lemme 'splain. You know that woman you work with...the one who's always speaking up, asserting her take on things and assuming everyone will follow her lead? The one who's fast on the draw, self-assured, confident, maybe al little enigmatic, interrupts your train of thought, and persistently entreats you to adopt her point of view?

You know her all too well. She's the one that will do anything to forward her agenda and get ahead. She's a powerhouse. And you avoid her at all costs.

Yeah, you know, the bitch.

You might never be inclined to call her a leader, even though her traits are classically associated with (male?) leadership.

I invite you to see things in a different light.

You and I, my friend, like all of our sisters (and brothers), have drunk the Bias Kool-Aid. The Bias runs deep, informed by eons of cultural conditioning that tells us women should not, must not, ever be opinionated, contentious, demanding or self-serving, and should instead be accommodating, conciliatory and operate at all times for the greater good. In other words, shut up, overwork and overproduce, don't rock the boat or ever ask for anything in return.

This week, I want you to consider making friends with the Bitch. Yes, the leader. Ask her to lunch. Ask her what she wants and needs, and what she's passionate about. Ask her where she needs support. What you discover may just transform your relationship with power, and lead to an influential partnership in which you bring your innate strengths and work/life experiences to accomplish a common goal.

She's not a bitch. She's you on your best day.

And if we want the workplace to look more like us, we need both of you to see each other in another light.


5 Rules for Men Who Negotiate with Women

Don't make these bush league mistakes when negotiating with women

Don't make these bush league mistakes when negotiating with women

It hasn't seemed fair to the guys for the women to be getting all the negotiation advice. So we've written five tips for men when negotiating with women. 

It may seem to you as if you're simply having a pleasant conversation with a woman applicant, a lawyer seeking equity partnership, a business woman angling for the C-suite or even a clerical employee seeking to move into management. If she's bold enough to be negotiating on her own behalf, assume that she knows what she's doing. No one ever got hornswaggled by over-estimating their opponent but many is the negotiator who doesn't know what hit him as a result of underestimating the preparation, skill and savvy of their bargaining partner.

Check out our newest negotiation post on LinkedIn, Five Things Men Shouldn't Do When Negotiating with Women here.

Be the smartest kid on negotiation block by framing and anchoring

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In the political arena, the power of framing is generally called "spin."  You needn't, however, be an expert at renaming torture "coercive interrogation techniques" to become skilled at framing your demands during negotiations. 

The Power of Framing

Frames are cognitive shortcuts that  help us organize complex phenomena into coherent, understandable categories. When we label a phenomenon, we give meaning to some aspects of what is observed, while discounting other aspects because they appear irrelevant or counter-intuitive.

Thus, frames provide meaning through selective simplification, by filtering people's perceptions and providing them with a field of vision for a problem. To demonstrate the power of framing, researchers asked subjects questions that contained suggestions of size, number and duration.  The impact of the framing terms -- short and tall, for instance -- were striking.

When asked how long a movie was, research subjects' average estimate was 199 minutes, 69 minutes longer than when they were asked how short the movie was (130 minutes). When asked how tall the basketball player was, research subjects' average estimate was 79 inches, ten inches taller than when asked how short he was (69 inches). Research subjects were also profoundly affected by numerical ranges.  When asked whether they'd tried "5 or 10" headache products, subjects' answers averaged 5.2.  When given the option of "2 or 3" headache products, they averaged 3.3.

A common negotiation frame treats the difference between offers and counter-offers at the point of impasse as the total amount in controversy.  If, for example, Dawn opened negotiations at $1.5  million and has, in the course of negotiation moved to $600,000, while Harry  commenced negotiations at $250,000 and has moved to $550,000 at the point of impasse, the negotiators will tend to  focus upon the reasonable division of the $50,000 delta rather than upon the total $550,000 offer or the total $600,000 demand.   

Focusing solely upon the value that separates the parties reframes the subject matter of the negotiation as the avoidance of the dispute's continued cost rather than the "fair," or "just" or "reasonable" value of the loss at issue, often unfairly so.   

And don't think that attorneys, judges and sophisticated commercial clients are immune to the effects of anchoring and framing.  

The Power of Anchoring

We've discussed before Adam Galinsky's excellent short article When to Make the First Offer in Negotiations. As Galinksy notes:

Research into human judgment has found that how we perceive a particular offer's value is highly influenced by any relevant number that enters the negotiation environment. Because they pull judgments toward themselves, these numerical values are known as anchors. In situations of great ambiguity and uncertainty, first offers have a strong anchoring effect—they exert a strong pull throughout the rest of the negotiation. Even when people know that a particular anchor should not influence their judgments, they are often incapable of resisting its influence. As a result, they insufficiently adjust their valuations away from the anchor.

That the anchoring effect is not limited to the unsophisticated or uneducated is demonstrated  in their article Inside the Judicial Mind.  The authors explained that they tested the effect of anchoring on federal magistrates 

by providing the[m] with a description of a serious personal injury suit in which liability was clear but the amount of damages was in dispute. [They] asked half of the judges to indicate what they thought an appropriate damage award would be in light of the plaintiff’s extensive injuries [and] the other half . . . the same question, but [not until they'd] rule[d] on a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to meet the $75,000 jurisdictional minimum for a diversity case.

The motion had no merit, but it had an effect. [The authors] found that the motion did have a large effect on the judges’ damage awards.Those judges who did not rule on the motion awarded, on average, $1,249,000, while those judges who did rule on the motion awarded, on average, only $882,000. The frivolous motion to dismiss, which forced the judges to consider whether the case was worth more than $75,000, lowered damage awards by 29 percent. These results suggest that judges are affected by anchors, even those that may be unrelated to the likely value of the case.

You see how subject to influence we are. We're suckers for it. 

Question everything. Then frame everything else in a way that favors you.

Negotiating with the Novel in Your Drawer

You didn't mean to do it. It was a Sunday and you were rummaging through your cupboards and drawers looking for paper clips and you just accidentally opened that drawer. The drawer that emits heat waves of angst every time you even so much as brush past it. The Novel Drawer. You run your hand over the first page and gently lift it from its resting place. You peel a few pages forward and read the words with your head turned sideways-just in case it's bad. Disappointing. One line, a few paragraphs, entire pages, and soon you're sitting in the big overstuffed chair with your pencil, loving your creation.

That night, that same Sunday night, the heat waves coming from the drawer slip past the blood-brain barrier and startle you awake. Your pencil lurches into your hand and you grab your journal and capture the message from the ether.

The alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and three lunches, two drop-offs and too many meetings later, all metaphor is drained from your body. You promise yourself that tomorrow is a writing day. Tomorrow is Tuesday andTuesdays are good for writing. (There it is, your negotiated compromise.) Your other child, your other job, lies abandoned again, waiting to be adopted by a real writer. One who really cares.

(I'm whispering this just to you. You know this place. And just between you and me, I know this place. And we both know the only real thing missing is commitment. Not a grudgingly negotiated compromise. You can answer the question, "What will it take to create the space to say yes to my writing life?" That's a truly great diagnostic question, but be careful to notice that most of your answers will be crafty little rationalizations those harpies in your head make up.)

In the end, you can't stand the thought of abandoning your child, so you carve out two blocks of 15 minutes and set a timer. You do this for several days until you realize you can't stop at 15 minutes. So you set the timer for 30 minutes. And soon, you've carved out 30 minutes a day, then half a Saturday, and even a long weekend

Along the way the harpies try to renegotiate with you. They remind you that you're just an accountant, or a lawyer, and not Virginia Woolf or Twyla Tharp or Mozart. You scold them for not cooperating (Tit for Tat) and tell them their breath is fowl and to take a hike on a crumbling cliff. 

Then once upon a time, just yesterday, you push "send."

You know your other child will not survive through wishful thinking. You must commit. You must commit to your dreams before the years multiply like missing socks in the laundry you did instead.