The past weekend, we Launch Labbers had our last session together. We reviewed what we had learned and discussed future goals, then we had one final guest speaker visit us before we parted ways. The always entertaining, best-selling author, Jenna Blum, joined us, and I don't think that I am the only one who left her talk feeling totally jazzed.
After Jenna gave us a run down of all the things she did to market and publicize her books (talking to every book club she could find, making t-shirts, using social media to its fullest), she gave us a writing exercise.
She asked us to write down a list of our ideal goals. She asked: If there were no limitations, what would we want for our book, our book launch, and our careers?
This proved extremely difficult for me. While other scribbled away, my fingers remained posied over my keyboard, unmoving. Though I've been taught many useful sayings--Fake it til you make it. When there's a will, there's a way.--I've also been taught not to "jinx" anything, and that arrogance is ugly. To have a list of writing fantasies in my brain is one thing, but to speak them aloud would ensure the following consequences:
1. I'd jinx them, and they would never come true.
2. I'd come off as arrogant and others (or the universe) would laugh at my audacity or plot my demise.
3. I'd get an equal percentage of misfortune for all the good I was granted.
So, my list remained very short, very attainable: get more teaching gigs, present at conferences and retreats.
Then, it was time for us to verbally state what we had written, and I found that I wasn't the only hesitant person in the room. Jenna and Katrin and Lynne had to encourage us to speak up. So, I spoke about my more modest goals, like the ones above. Then my fear of being arrogant with the group.
Jenna didn't laugh or tell me I was crazy. To my relief, she related and told us that she used to think that wishing was arrogant but now feels confident that "if you state what you want, you have a better chance of getting it." She said that psychologists call it "positive ideations." I liked this term, which, sounded to me, a whole lot better than "bragging." Yes, positive ideations--just entertaining positive ideas.
This gave the group a bit more confidence to speak up and Jenna wrote every single one of our goals up on the board. If you've been in a Grub classroom, you know that the board spans most of the wall. We filled the entire board with our positive ideations, the things we would do if we had no limits--book awards, best sellers lists, changing the way readers look at the world.
The bigger the goal one person had, the more courage another person had to state an even loftier aspiration. We fed off of each other. We smiled, we even laughed at the grandiousity of all, but you know what struck me? For every single goal an author listed, I felt this glimmer of posibility. Knowing the talent, the perserverance, the sheer hunger of the people in the room, I thought, you know what? You never know. It might just happen.
After all, when there's a will there's a way.
So, I'd like to extend the question to you, my fellow writers:
What are your positive ideations?
If you had no limits, what would you like to achieve?
Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I'm Sure, which was named Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, MindBodyGreen, Metro, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family.See other articles by Nadine Johnstone