Happy landing

I am awake at 4:00 a.m. and not able to fall back asleep. This happens fairly regularly. It is a great time for reading, and sometimes writing.

Speaking of reading, one of the best books I have ever read is People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflict, by Robert Bolton, Ph.D. This is a book you will wish you had come across earlier.

The book reminded me of how, at times, I desperately want to help people and yet everyone has to determine to make positive changes of their own will. I can be accepting, listen reflectively, help with problem solving, and even confront, but a lasting, positive change requires that a person is internally motivated to take action.

I recently saw someone on a downward trajectory, heading to crash and burn. I recognized the signs because I’ve been there, figuratively speaking. We all have resilience and insight and if we catch ourselves in time, sometimes we can pull ourselves out of a fatal spiral.

In flight language, a “death spiral,” happens when a pilot, “loses the ability to judge the orientation of his aircraft due to the brain’s misperception of spatial cues” (Wikipedia). He loses his sense of equilibrium and fails to recognize or respond to instrument readings which, if heeded, could correct his course.

This kind of spiral can occur when visibility is reduced, as while flying at night or during a storm, but it can also happen when conditions appear good. I experienced it once when I was with a new pilot flying in clear skies.

As a writer, I can be flying along, thinking I am doing fine, when unexpectedly I find myself losing altitude and beginning to spin. Usually I’ve taken on too much, sometimes I’ve encountered a road block, or I’ve received some backlash for something I’ve said or done. I begin to feel fatigued and discouraged and start to behave irrationally.

When I experience a heightened sense of anxiety and a lowered tolerance of small irritants, when I avoid routine duties and responsibilities, and feel controlled by an obsession, be it a deadline or a conflict or crisis, I am beginning to spiral. These signs are like lights flashing on an instrument panel. If I don’t take corrective action I will put myself, and possibly others, at risk.

A wise professor once reprimanded a student who handed in a superb paper because he knew the student had not slept or eaten properly and had skipped classes and shirked responsibilities to get the paper done. The instructor saw the importance of maintaining a consistent and healthy lifestyle. He was wanted to encourage the student along a path that he knew would be sustainable in the long term.

As writers we can lose sight of the big picture and become fixated. When this happens we need to take a step back and think of where we will end up if we continue on our current trajectory.

I find it necessary to keep reminding myself of my values so that I can orient myself and adjust my course for a safe flight and a happy landing. I need to stay tuned to my “instrument panel.”

Marketing myself

The thought of marketing myself, or my product sends me into a state of sheer anxiety. Look, I’ll just put my writing out there and if nobody buys it, fine. Just, please, don’t even hint at the fact that I need to promote myself.

I think this fear dates back to my teenage attempts at sales. Back then I had a ‘can do’ attitude. Hey, I once even loaded the back of a pick-up truck with plastic bags of peat moss and went door to door trying to sell them. My brother and I had filled them ourselves. I thought my dad’s land had exceptional peat moss, but it didn’t seem anyone was in need of any lawn or garden enhancer that day.

I used to get easily motivated by motivational talks and fell prey to marketing schemes. Gradually I was cured of this ailment. For years there was a bone-coloured, leather-look carrying case filled with cosmetics and promotional material, sitting in my closet, reminding me of the wide gap between my dreams and reality.

I can see now that my sales pitch tended to sound more like an apology, “This is a wonderful product, but if you’re like me you probably can’t afford it. I don’t want to pressure you. Please. don’t think I’m trying to sell you anything.” And if someone bought something my eyes almost popped out of my head in surprise. Really, seriously?

Then there were the parties, you know, the ones where you invite all your friends and relatives and they are supposed to buy tupperware, or candles or something else they really don’t need for their house. After a few of these I started to respond with a tentative, no, to hosting anymore parties. I think it was because I was realizing pretty quickly how few true friends I had, or how fast I was losing them.

So, the upside was that I learned to assert myself. I didn’t have to buy anymore kits, or host parties, or attend any more pep talks. I began to see the success stories were about other people, not me. No, I wasn’t going to get those cheques they bragged about for selling vitamins, household cleaners, make-up, or whatever, no matter how good it sounded.

But now the old anxiety is returning. If I produce something, I will have to market it, some way or another. And I so hate promoting myself. Even writing an About page almost paralyzes me.

There is, however, one thing I know how to do. If someone has a need I can meet, I’m there. So if I research what people need, what they are looking for, I can respond to that. Maybe I can even present my product in such a way as to help them to see how it is precisely what they are looking for, or what their market needs.

For example, this morning I went to Markets « FundsforWriters. There I found what publishers are looking for. It’s all there, what they need. Now all I have to do is determine what it is in my experiences, knowledge, or research that is suitable. I think I can do this. But like I said, if they don’t buy it, fine. I’m out of there and on to the next one.