Thursday, August 11, 2016

Time Out Thursday: Tooting Our Own Horns

In June,  PHS Columnist Barbara Wallace wrote about how she was on a journey to create the new empty nest version of Barb Wallace.  This month’s column is an extension of that journey.

While at the RWA National Conference in San Diego last month, I had a come to Jesus moment, courtesy of fellow romance writer Damon Suede.  The two of us were chatting when Julia Quinn approached and asked Damon to pose for her #WhatIWantRightNow campaign.  When she looked at me, I, feeling like I wasn’t a big enough name, demurred.  What I actually said was, “that’s okay. I’m no one important.”

Cue Damon and his verbal slap aside the head, reminding me that, “Of course, I was someone.”  We posed together. 

His words stuck with me the rest of the conference.  He was right.  I might not be Julia Quinn, but I wasn’t some chopped liver schlub who didn’t belong either.  I was a published author with twenty books to my name.  I’ve won awards.  I sit on RWA’s Board of Directors for crying out loud! 

And yet, I said I was no one important.  Why?

Because I was feeling humble, that’s why.  As a kid, I was taught that the empty kettle whistles the loudest.  That (s)he who is truly great doesn’t have to toot her own horn;  She lets her accomplishments speak for themselves.  Let’s face it, we all know someone who never stops telling us about herself, her work, her accomplishments, etc.  Everything is golden, every child his perfect, and she’s on the cusp of great things right?  And, no one wants to be that person.   

Problem is somewhere along the line I mixed up not tooting my horn and silencing it all together. 
And I’m not the only one as it seems like every time I meet other women, we have a competition over who can downplay their accomplishments more.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever said one of the following:
*But I’m not published.
* I’m not that well known.
* It was nothing.
*I got lucky.
* But, you’re (did it better, faster, or at least just as well).

This is totally a female thing, too, because I’ve listened to my husband and his friends when they talk, and their conversations usually start with things like “Let me tell you about the simple machine last night…”  You won’t hear a single “It was Nothing” the entire night. 

Back to my come to Jesus moment.  After my verbal head slap, I realized that I needed to do a better job of tooting my own horn. But how do I do this without becoming one of those people I described above?

For answers, I turned to my head-slapping friend, Damon.  After all, he and Heidi Cullinan have written a book on promotion called Your A Game.  Heidi and Damon call what I did with Julia Quinn – that whole, “I’m no one important” as  Nice Think.

“ Nice think,” say Damon and Heidi, “is the belief we mustn’t rock the boat even if it’s sinking or static. Nice think says we don’t have anything exceptional about us, that being milquetoast or mediocre is safe. We must not excel as individuals, lest we draw dangerous attention to ourselves.”

Oh but am I guilty of that.  Nice think is the bane of female professionals, largely because we lack self confidence (a sad byproduct of social conditioning.)

Therefore, we, as women need to learn how to embrace the opposite of nice think.  Which is NOT, thank God, screaming our accomplishments from the rooftops.  

No, the opposite of nice think is fair think.  Now, in book marketing, this means the fine art of repriprocity.  I’ll celebrate your accomplishments and you’ll celebrate mine.

In life, however, fair think means being fair to yourself.  In other words, giving ourselves credit. We don’t have to toot our own horn, but we do have to own it, polish it till it shines, and believe that we have every right to play in the orchestra. 

In other words, we need to remind ourselves that we matter.  That what we do matters.  We don’t have to shout your accomplishments, but we don’t have to erase them either.  If someone says “good job”,  we need to reply with a simple “thank you,” not deflect or brush off the achievement.  If we have an opinion, we need to share it.  Speak up. Take the credit we deserve. Carry ourselves with pride.  Walk into a crowded room and tell ourselves you belong. 

And the next Julia Quinn ever approaches us a conference, never, ever, ever tell her we're no one important. 

Barbara Wallace's  next release for Harlequin Romance will be Christmas Baby for the Princess. For more information, visit

Barb also highly recommends reading Your-A-Game by Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan.  The book is a guide to promotion built around the idea that genre publishing is an interactive, strategic game which authors, colleagues, and readers play together for fun and profit. 

For more information visit

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