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Writers: Ask for What You Want

Image: art installation on the side of a building, made of neon letters spelling the sentence ” There are a lot of good parties around” by strangnet is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Todays post is excerpted from Where Do You Hang Your Hammock ?: Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book by Bella Mahaya Carter( @Bellamahaya ).

When you’re out there promoting your work, you’ll have to ask for all sorts of things. This might feel hard-handed. You may make up legends, such as I don’t want to “bother” people or be a nuisance. You may feel as if you have no right to ask for what you want. You may even feel, deep down, as if there’s something wrong with asking.

Of course , nobody likes rebuff, either. We don’t want to hear the word “no.” But how people respond has more to do with them than with you. If you can blow by the nos, you’ll pick up fairly yeses along the way. So don’t cause that stop you.

Those storeys running through your thought, that make asking for what you demand seem unsavory, doesn’t mean your ask will not be welcomed or even revalued. I have had this experience too many times to count. Sometimes when I’ve struggled to ask a person for something, he or she is in fact happy to help. Here’s an example.

Years ago, I received an email from Jack Grapes, my old writing schoolteacher and mentor, who published my style diary in 2008. Jack is a well-known and beloved literary figure in Los Angeles and has been educating for more than four decades. His email promoted an upcoming writing seminar been provided by a former student of his. I wonder if he’d do the same for me, I imagined, in the midst of putting together my dusk writing classes.

The next day, I articulated “email Jack” on my to-do list. It didn’t get done. The following period, I wrote it again. Usually when I carry over an action item from one day to the next, I bridge it off my directory on the second day. Not this time. For a week straight, this proposed directive “email Jack” continued to appear on my inventory. Why is this so hard to do? I wondered. I knew Jack enjoyed me. I knew he respected my work. Still, asking him to do this for me felt monumental.

A week last-minute, feeling agitated, I forced myself to really do it.

Ten minutes after I make the send button, I heard back from him. “I’d be happy to do that, ” he responded.

A few days later, while exploring in my publication why writing and sending that email had been so hard, I realized the heart of the matter: pity. Deep down, I felt as if I shouldn’t need aid, which created embarrassment and dishonor about expecting. I are concerns that my request might seem disadvantaged or inappropriate. And from there, the sorry old-fashioned I’m not good enough voice, a close sibling of I’m not worthy and therefore don’t deserve this, knew its toehold and bounce into action, hoping I’d take the bait and twilight. Once I realized that my reluctance to ask had stemmed not from a fear that he’d say no but preferably from this feeling of unworthiness, something inside me liberated and I felt free.

How many times have you been reluctant to make a request of someone you perceived as more established, successful, or powerful than you? How often have you felt like you didn’t have the right to “bother” or “intrude upon” them? How many times have you censured yourself, saying you shouldn’t need to ask for help? How many times have you berated yourself, seeing, I should have my shit together and not need anyone else–especially when it comes to my busines?

Talk about “should-ing” all over yourself. Let’s concur right here and now to quit feeling crappy!

For times, I believed that one of the things writers needed most to succeed was chutzpah. Google characterizes this Yiddish oath as “shameless audacity.” Some of its synonyms are “nerve, ” “boldness, ” and “temerity.” Hispanics use cojones, or “balls.”

I used to think writers needed pellets of sword. Had my predicament with Jack been a reminder that I needed to grow a duet, or toughen up the metaphorical ones I had?

Book cover of Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya CarterAmazon/ Bookshop

And then it reached me: Instead of bigger chunks, instead of fighting, I needed to drop down into myself, to connect with that home where ultimate tenderness for and faith in myself and others reside. The key, I recognized, was to be shameless in the sense of understanding that we are all honorable and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for what we want. There’s no dishonor in it; in fact, it’s a bounty. None of us live alone on this planet. We are part of a community, a network of desiring, caring relationships. We all give and take all the time; these are reciprocal powers, regardless of our professional attainments( or recognized absence thereof ). Thomas Jefferson formerly wrote, “Remember that no one is better than you, but that you are better than no one.”

In ordering to ask for what you want, you have to know what you want. Sometimes this is clear. Other goes, you have inklings and suspicions. Trust your worthiness, even when you can use a little help. Especially then.

Note from Jane: if you enjoyed this berth, check out Where Do You Hang Your Hammock ?: Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book by Bella Mahaya Carter.

Read more: janefriedman.com