A few weeks ago, I was in a webinar with Jane Friedman and Dan Blank related to book marketing. Blank said that when someone asks you what your book is about, don’t launch into a description of the plot or characters. Instead, talk about what it’s About.
When we write, we write from our beliefs, and these show up repeatedly in our writing. Blank recommended an exercise: write a list of what you believe. Begin each item with “I believe…”
I thought this sounded like a good idea and imagined myself writing four or five beliefs. Then Blank said some authors come back to him with a list of over 100 beliefs.
What a way to explore.
So that’s what I did. I wrote what I believed. Not 100, but 78 beliefs. After I wrote the list, it surprised me that many of these things show up all over my writing.
This was an easy and enjoyable task. If you choose to do it, allot at least an hour, ninety minutes might be better. When you write your list, just write whatever comes into your head, even beliefs that seem silly. It’s important to get the idea out onto the page because it clears space for the next idea to pop up. Edit the list later.
What happened for me was it took an hour to write the first sixty or so beliefs, and then as I typed up the list, ideas triggered other ideas.
Here’s my list:
- I believe each of us matter.
- I believe our stories matter.
- I believe we are all orphans in some way and need to become our own loving parent.
- I believe worth isn’t earned, it’s owned.
- I believe respect isn’t demanded, it’s given.
- I believe the human heart is wild and noble territory.
- I believe the sun is always shining, even when there are clouds in the way.
- I believe that life isn’t fair, and that it is especially unfair to some.
- I believe that love makes people beautiful, both in how they are seen and how they see.
- I believe that swimming topless in a large body of just-warm-enough saltwater feels delightful.
- I believe we are made in God’s image and since God is creative, then we are also creative, and meant to create.
- I believe each of us has unique gifts.
- I believe these gifts are meant to be appreciated and used.
- I believe we all have more in common than we do in difference.
- I believe the body is a gift that deserves our care.
- I believe the body has an amazing ability to heal and that good food is good medicine.
- I believe in neuroplasticity.
- I believe our environment influences us, from the place we live to the planet we live on.
- I believe we each make a difference, that how we live our life impacts the whole.
- I believe the ripples of my life travel farther than I can imagine.
- I believe being a parent is overrated.
- I believe being a grandparent is underrated.
- I believe it’s possible to have family I’m not related to.
- I believe in magic and mystery.
- I believe Trent still watches over me.
- I believe in the power of love.
- I believe love is stronger than anything, even titanium.
- I believe the most powerful combination is love + truth.
- I believe people I’ve never met can be marvelous advisors, Lady Gaga, for example.
- I believe my memorable dreams have something important to tell me.
- I believe that people in books and movies are almost as real as people in life, and there are some I would like to meet.
- I believe in the healing power of a warm bath, a good sweat, a hearty laugh.
- I believe firelight is better than fluorescent light.
- I believe I can change.
- I believe faith is logical.
- I believe our bodies die but our souls live on.
- I believe I would be better off if I did not believe some of the stories I make up in my head.
- I believe it’s good to consciously take time to do whatever brings us closer to whatever we believe in.
- I believe travel opens my eyes and my mind.
- I believe there are some books that are bigger than their pages.
- I believe we have a responsibility to speak up, kindly.
- I believe the thing we don’t want to do is often the thing we loved doing after we have done it.
- I believe the future is worth smiling at.
- I believe things can be figured out.
- I believe this thing that looks like a problem is actually a gift.
- I believe I am not a fan of the number six, even when there is another number in front of it.
- I believe people are more inclined to help than we believe.
- I believe tinkering with the genetics of plants is not a good idea.
- I believe butter is better than margarine.
- I believe the meaning of life is the meaning I give it.
- I believe fear makes us feel safe, because it keeps us from doing things that frighten us.
- I believe my tender heart is my map.
- I believe in starting small, in tiny pieces that add up, as a way to trick resistance and accomplish big things.
- I believe that although I can always make things worse, and although it might offer emotional release in the short term, the eventual results are undesirable.
- I believe if I can’t change it, then I can change how I feel about it.
- I believe how I feel about it depends on the story I tell myself about it.
- I believe this too shall pass.
- I believe introspection is an incomplete way to discover ourselves—we learn by doing.
- I believe there is no such thing as one true self or one true love. There are many possible selves and many possible loves.
- I believe if I don’t know what to do, I should wait.
- I believe if I know what to do, I should act.
- I believe why matters more than what.
- I believe whatever I believe is what is.
- I believe what other people say doesn’t matter unless I make it matter.
- I believe my opinion of myself is the opinion that matters most.
- I believe 66 is worse than 6.
- I believe if I have a problem that can be solved with money and I have the money, then I don’t have a problem.
- I believe my jealousies hold important clues for what I want but haven’t admitted to myself.
- I believe sex can feel good and sex can feel bad.
- I believe who I was doesn’t dictate who I will be.
- I believe sticks, stones, and words can hurt a body, and that the body keeps the score.
- I believe brave isn’t a feeling but an action, and it isn’t necessary to feel brave to act brave.
- I believe in breathing.
- I believe the opposite of fear is love.
- I believe there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.
- I believe it is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy.
- I believe I must be the hero of my own life. (I will never be happy if I try to cram myself into someone else’s idea of who or what I should be.)
- I believe this list is even more important than I believe it is right now.
Dan Blank recommends a part two to the exercise—take your long list and condense it to themes.
Next step: Condense into themes. My plan is to print out the list, cut the items apart, and then physically group them to make it easier to mentally group them.
This might take a while, but I’ll let you know the themes when I have them.
I haven’t said this before, but telling you things I plan to do helps me be accountable for my commitments. For example, here’s the drawer that used to be so full of cables and stuff it was hard to close:
I’d like to return the favor. If you ever want to be accountable for something, feel free to tell me. I’ll keep your secret.
Chewing the Cud of Good
Thankful for my body, my body, my body.