I ran across a powerful quote the other day from Nora Roberts, the romance novelist:
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”
Do you know about Nora Roberts? I met her MANY years ago when I was in Marketing at Waldenbooks/Reader’s Market. We hosted an autographing at one of our locations and she had a new romance novel out. She was a really nice person (most authors and celebrities at the time were obnoxious). A lot of you might say with a hint of disdain in your voice, “Oh, she’s a romance novelist.”
Here are some sobering facts — as of 2011, her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot. Over 400 million copies of her books are in print, including 12 million copies sold in 2005 alone. She’s a heavy hitter.
Nora began to write during a blizzard in February, 1979 while housebound with her two small boys. With three feet of snow, a dwindling supply of chocolate, and no morning kindergarten she had little else to do. While writing down her ideas for the first time, she fell in love with the writing process, and quickly produced six manuscripts.
She submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.”
In 1980, a new publisher, Silhouette books, formed to take advantage of the pool of manuscripts from the many American writers that Harlequin had snubbed. Roberts found a home at Silhouette, where her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981. She used the pseudonym Nora Roberts, a shortened form of her birth name Eleanor Marie Robertson, because she assumed that all authors had pen names. Between 1982 and 1984, Roberts wrote 23 novels for Silhouette.
Roberts believes that pursuing a career as a writer requires discipline: “You’re going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder.” She concentrates on one novel at a time, writing eight hours a day, every day, even while on vacation. Rather than begin with an outline or plot summary, Roberts instead envisions a key incident, character, or setting. She then writes a short first draft with the basic elements of a story.
After finishing the first draft, Roberts goes back to the beginning of the novel. The second draft usually sees the addition of details, the “texture and color” of the work, as well as a more in-depth study of the characters. She then does a final pass to polish the novel before sending it to her agent, Amy Berkower. She often writes trilogies, finishing the three books in a row so that she can remain with the same characters.
So let’s look closer at her words:
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it.
How many times have you known EXACTLY where you need to go and what you need to do? In fact, it’s right in front of you. But for some reason, something or someone is holding you back. Here’s a little secret, most of the time, that obstacle is usually YOU. You might think there are external forces out there — but you are putting those potholes in the road. You need to be very clear about what you want and go after it. Nora could have remained a stay-at-home Mom, but she had a dream of being a writer. And she went after it with gusto.
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
As a coach, I run into this one ALL the time. People are afraid of asking for that raise, that promotion, that business. They either feel they’re not worthy or that they’re begging. If you want it — go get it. Nora was turned down a bunch of times by Harlequin, but she kept going back. She wrote whole manuscripts, submitted them, and was nicely declined. But she kept coming back.
If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.
MOVE. You need to move somewhere and not stay in the same place. When we need to make a life change when life is giving us lemons (and it happens all the time), we tend to get caught up on where to go. Just take ANY step – very soon, you will be making your way forward and moving towards a new location with no lemons.
Listen to Nora, she knows where it’s at.
Nora Roberts biographical information was partially gleaned from Wikipedia.