This episode features a 2021 When Words Collide Keynote given by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Steena Holmes.
The talk was recorded on Friday August 13, 2021.
After the talk, Mark shares a couple of reflections and thanks patrons of the podcast who support it at patreon.com/starkreflections. He also shares that the presentations he gave at When Words Collide will be shared in video and audio formats for patrons.
Links of Interest:
- Episode 17 – Focusing on Your Readers with Steena Holmes
- When Words Collide
- The Relaxed Author
- Patreon for Stark Reflections
- Wide for the Win
- Mark’s Canadian Werewolf Books
Steena Holmes is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with over 2 million copies of her titles sold world wide, including The Forgotten Ones, Saving Abby and The Memory Child. Named in the Top 20 Women Author to read in 2015 by Good Housekeeping, she won the National Indie Excellence Award in 2012 for Finding Emma as well as the USA Book News Award for The Word Game in 2015. Steena has been featured in various newspapers and magazines, websites such as Goodreads, BookBub, RedBook, Glamour, Coastal Living and Goodhousekeeping. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her Website: http://www.steenaholmes.com/
Transcript of Keynote by Steena Holmes
(Please note that this transcript was auto-generated and has not been human-verified/validated)
One thing that I have been saying since the beginning of my writing career – and it’s something that you’ll often hear me say when I’m speaking at conferences and I know I’ve said it a couple of times during some of the classes that I’ve done – no one will believe in you more than you.
I’ve said it from the very beginning.
I think I’m going to continue to say it.
As long as I keep writing, I believe it more now than I did before, only because I’ve realized how much I need to believe in life. The strong belief is why I pushed myself to learn my craft. It’s why I joined writing groups and critique groups to put my writing out there and get demolished and destroyed and be forced to write.
Right. It’s why I spent years submitting to agents and pushed past 307 rejections. Uh, yes. You heard me right. 307 rejections, for one book. I’m kind of stubborn and I don’t like being told no. I knew that this book I wrote was worth it. I knew readers would love it. And I knew I would only need one agent to agree with me.
So I kept trying. 307. I believe in myself is why I eventually realized that after 307 recycle rejections, no one else was going to believe in this book more than me. And if that was the case, then I needed to prove it. So I pulled it. I had seven agents who had requested for it. They took their time reading it.
I gave myself a deadline and I said, I think it was like March 1st or March 31st. If no one offered I was going to pull it and self-publishing it myself. That’s what I did. I self-published, it, it skyrocketed, it did really well. And I had a lot of those agents come back and be like, actually you’re interested.
Um, this self belief in myself, it’s why I later decided to accept it. Not the one with the most money. Uh, but the one with the most potential to find readers for my book, it’s also the same reason, the same. Self-belief why after nine bucks, I stepped back from a contract, then I knew it wasn’t healthy for me at the time.
Also my fired my then agent disbelief. This no one is going to believe in me more than me is what has kept my asthma. It’s what forced me to write book after book and take class after class and work with editor after editor to improve my writing, to improve my knowledge of the craft to make sure I write the absolute best story for my reader.
It’s why after walking away from my contract, after walking away from an agent, it’s why I published a book. I wanted to write a book I needed to write. It’s why I pushed through that downward journey. It was on when I knew I needed to put my own mental health. I needed to rediscover who I was as an author after way too long of following someone else’s conviction of who I should be as an number, no one will believe in you more than you.
And from anything. I hope that you will take this and hold it close. No one will believe in you more than you. No one will push you more than you. No one will fight for you. That’s what happens when you start being your biggest cheerleader? What happens when you stop believing in yourself when you stop pushing yourself and when you stop fighting for you?
It does happen and it will, I can promise you that it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey and you may be in your first year, maybe in your 30th year, you may be writing your first book. You may have put out 40 books, um, eventually along your journey, it’s going to happen for one reason or another.
And you’re going to get dropped by an agent or you, sorry, you’re not going to you, could they drop an agent? You could get dropped by a publisher. COVID happens when your debut is about. A family crisis will demand your attention and your contracts and writing have to take a back seat. Life happens. Life is always going to happen.
I can tell you from experience, what happens when you stop believing in yourself, at least when it comes to your writing career, it kind of takes a nosedive. You start doubting yourself in your abilities. You wonder what has happened to you. What has happened to that skill that you spent years? Huh? You retreat, you pull away and you even question if you’re ever going to write again, and I know silly because we’re creative and writing is what we do, but yes, you’re going to wonder, am I ever gonna write again?
Can I write again, you’re going to struggle with those empty pages. Wondering if the words that you put on there are any worth it or not. You’re going to look for other means to fill up that part of your soul, that writing used to feel. All the while knowing nothing can replace that drive that need or that desire to right.
I wish I wish someone had told me back way back in the beginning, that being a writer was one of the hardest jobs announced. I wish someone had taken my hand, sat me down over coffee or wine or both. And we could have done like a very long day and they could have just given me these honest talks that I needed.
And explain in very clear terms that the high highs can become low lows, but that success or failure does not change who you are in your core, in your core. In our core we’re writers, we’re creatives. We have this passion for storytelling that will never disappear. Is that a question? Do you believe in yourself?
I think you do because you’re here. I hope you do because you’re here. How often do you remind yourself? This is good. How often do you remind yourself that you are doing the one thing, almost everyone else wishes they could do, but don’t how often do you tell someone I’m a writer and they come back and say, oh, I’ve always wanted to write.
I have a story that, you know, I think it would be so good and they go on and on and on. But, um, and then they’re like, so like, what do you read. Yeah, they really don’t care. They just wanted to tell you that they could have been a writer if they had decided to make the effort. When people tell me that now I, you know, I nod and I smile.
I say, you know, yeah, go you, and then I have a simple question for them. What’s stopping you? If you really wanted to write a book, what’s stopping you. You know? So this is my, I see, we have the hardest job we are doing what everyone else wants to do. We put in those hours, we struggle over words. We struggle over those sentence structures.
We will write and rewrite and rewrite some more. We sacrifice family time and personal time in order to get few words written every single day we do what needs done in order to tell that story growing inside of us, because that’s who we are. We are writers doesn’t matter what success I’ve seen in my career so far.
I know I’ve had the high highs. I’ve also had low. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve written. It doesn’t matter how many contracts I’ve had or the size of audience I’ve built, who I am. And what I’ve managed to do is really no different than who you are and what you can do. We’re all walking the same path.
We all start off with the same blank page. We struggled to figure out how to make this shrug or that smile different than the last. We all struggle with imposter syndrome at some point in our writing career. Now I know I have impact. I still do. And I am right now this minute, especially after listening to everyone else speak, who am I to be here, speaking with you, but something someone else more knowledgeable can give insight to who am I to teach on branding and marketing when I’ve had more failures and success.
Who am I to teach about making those first chapters shine? When it takes me days, weeks, hours to be happy with my own. My first book is that a dream come true tech story. It took me six minutes to write. I entered into a conscious much like what Kathy did, and I want a publishing contract. Fabulous. It changed my life.
I thought, yay me. I finally found something. I can do this something that’s mine. And then it took me another five years to write my notes. Even now after having 40 books published under different names, I have been working on a book for the past two years that I’ve just recently decided to put aside because there’s something wrong with it.
And I can’t figure it out. I’ve rewritten it three times and it’s still not working me after publishing so many books. It’s the first time I’ve ever done this. Put a book to the side. I wrote a crappy book when it’s not my first, when I first started. I have loads of books that’s never got completed. This is my first time like this.
I have a feeling it’s not going to be my last either. I’m no superstar. I’m also not lucky. It wasn’t luck that made my debut women’s fiction novel, jump the charts and garner attention. I spent years as chair, the ebbs and flows of my career, the highs and the lows. It happens to everyone in the school.
I’m you, you are me. Don’t roll your eyes. When I say that we’re all, we’re no different than anyone else within our small writing community. And it really is small. I may have a strength that helps me when it comes to connecting with my readers and then wrecking my books. You may have a strength that helps you to write those books that hit a note and make a difference in someone’s life.
We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. No one is better than the other. We just have a different way to take this journey that we’re on. And that’s why I’m here. I can push past the imposter syndrome voice. That’s screaming in my head. I’m here to help someone else succeed in an area. That’s my strength.
And it may be your weakness. I’m here to share the lessons I’ve learned the lessons that might help you not take the same path that I’ve had to trip over in my journey. What I love about our community is that connected. And at the core of who we are, we are all the same. We’re on the same journey. I wrote something that I want to share with you.
Um, something that helps reminds me of who I am and helps me when I struggle with that whole comparison game and that imposter syndrome, it helps remind me of who I am at the core and where my passion comes from and why I fight so hard to keep believing it. Remember? No, one’s going to believe in me more than me.
No, one’s going to believe you more than you. No one is going to fight for me more than me. No one is going to push me more than me. I can have a community of friends around me who understand, but that belief in myself needs to be there first, before I can believe it even from others. So here I go.
Originally, I wrote this as who I am and then changing it to who I am. Who are we as writers? I hope that you guys can see some resemblance in here. And I hope I’m not just talking about myself. We are dreamers, storytellers, lost art specialists in a world of electronics. We sit in chairs for hours, staring at blink screens, daydreaming of people in events with histories.
No one else knows about because we’ve closed. We are plotters, pantsers, begrudging synopsis writers. We are procrastinators, expert in deadline, chaos list makers and make work go-getters. We are our worst critics and our biggest supporters. We are pajama lovers, comfy clothes, huggers, pot of coffee, brewers that often go cold writers or tea.
You can say tea. We are worriers we’re taskmasters. We check our email every second after submitting coming up, kind of right. We are lovers of bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries. We are parents and spouses and caregivers who take on too much for too many, always placing ourselves. Last. We are encouragers, believers, supporters of other writers with dreams like our own.
We are exhausted. We are tired. We are worn down, worn out, unsure. If the dream we’ve carried for years can now. We are writers who have cried over our stories or for our careers over our dreams. And those til tears could fill a bathtub that then run over to cover the tiles. We placed in the middle of the night as fears, worries, dreams, plots, character submissions.
They’ve all kept us up too many nights in a row. We’re nervous authors who Bumble over storylines and plots when asked about what our story’s about, whose tongues triple her details and characters who know that less is more but more is really what we all want to talk. We are people with the best career in the world who follow their heart and passion who don’t give up.
Even when everything else falls apart, we are emotional eaters and drinkers. We celebrate and sympathize with wine and chocolate. We enable, but we can be a kick in the pants type of friend, too. We keep a daily word count. You Scribner for accountability and tell the world when we’ve met our goals. When we don’t, we blame it on Facebook or kids or life in general, when really we needed it.
We guilt ourselves more than we should. We binge watch and say it’s research. And that is okay. We tell people I’m just a writer when really we’re so much more than that. We are kick-ass writers who took the step and believed when everyone else is too afraid to try. We are tellers of stories, stories, readers, love to get lost in stories, readers want to know more.
We are someone who was living their dream, who refuses to give up and who denies all the naysayers. We push ourselves too much, too hard and too far. But even when we fall, we pick ourselves back up because what else are we going to do? We are writers.