August 30, 2012

Michael Hauge’s Workshop: You’re the Hero of Your Life

Display of Army medals with text: Be the Hero of Your Life

Okay, I wasn’t going to do yet another post about Michael Hauge’s presentation at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Conference. But an off-the-cuff, as-we-were-heading-out-the-door thought he gave to us at the end of his “Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories” workshop really stuck with me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Over my past couple of blog posts about this workshop, we’ve talked about how our characters have a deep longing or need (that they might not consciously be aware of), and that they have a wound, false belief, and fear that keeps them from pursuing what they need.

Guess what? All these psychological things that make our characters seem real apply to us too. After all, we are real. *smile*

Just as our characters have inner conflicts and journeys, so do we. And Michael Hauge shared a tip for how to uncover what’s holding us back.

He said that to identify our inner conflict, we should ask ourselves to fill in the blank:

“I’ll do anything to reach my goal, just don’t ask me to do xyz, because it’s not me.”

Step One: Identify Our Goal

The goal we put into the “reach my goal” phrase needs to have a visible end point. What event/action defines the finish line for us?

This is tricky. So much of publishing is out of our control that it can make it hard to identify goals that are under our control. We tend to pick things like “seeing our book on the shelves” or “making enough to quit my day job.”

But our goal shouldn’t depend on luck because then we’re just asking for frustration and disappointment. Goals under our control would look more like “finish two books this year” or “submit my stories to 50 places this year.”

We have to understand what need or longing drives us. What makes us willing to sacrifice?

Step Two: Dig Deeper

Often with our characters, when we ask them why they did something, they’ll give us a lame answer first. Only after we stick them under the interrogation light and threaten to keep asking them the same questions over and over will they tell us the truth. The same psychological defense mechanism is at play in our own subconscious.

The first thing that pops into our head to fill in the “don’t ask me to do xyz” blank is often a red herring from our Identity, the sum of our wounds, false beliefs, and fears. Our Essence, the us behind our mask, doesn’t want to admit the truth.

Step Three: Banish Our Fears

The phrase “because it’s not me” at the end of the statement can throw us for a loop. What does that mean?

Personally, because I’m a writer and I write dark stories that push my characters beyond where they think they can go, my brain wants to retort, “What? I shouldn’t say that killing someone to reach my goal just isn’t me? Are you saying that should be me, Michael?” *snicker*

Uh, no. He wants us to look at our “it’s not me” feelings and see if they’re our fears in disguise. For example, if someone’s declaration was “I’ll do anything to sell more books, just don’t ask me to get on social media, because it’s not me,” we can tell that fear of social media is getting in the way of their goal.

There’s a difference between acknowledging that we don’t want to do xyz (publicize my book, do another round of revisions, etc.) and hiding behind our fears of xyz (no one will like me or my book, I’m not good enough to get it right, etc.). One we have power over, and the other has power over us.

Step Four: Make Progress toward Our Goal

Once we know our real goal and understand our fears, we can move forward. Awareness of the obstacles we face and the finish line we’re working toward is the first step. Heck, just writing down our statement can be courageous because we’re finally admitting what we really want and what’s really holding us back.

Next, we can identify the smallest first step we can take toward that goal. If our goal is to submit our work to 50 places this year, maybe the smallest first step would be researching: how to submit, or what a submission consists of, or who to submit to, etc. Any of those would make a brave next step.

One step at a time, we can work toward our goal. We’ll feel more fulfilled. We’ll become the hero or heroine of our own story. And hopefully, we’ll have a happily ever after.

What do you think of this idea of being the hero of your own story? Do you have a good—something you’re in control of and has a visible finish line—goal? Do you know what’s holding you back? Can you take small steps toward your goal? What sacrifices do you know are too big? (That last one is my issue. *smile*)

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Buffy Armstrong

This is what I have been struggling with the last few weeks (okay, forever.)

These words really stuck out to me:

“There’s a difference between acknowledging that we don’t want to do xyz (publicize my book, do another round of revisions, etc.) and hiding behind our fears of xyz (no one will like me or my book, I’m not good enough to get it right, etc.). One we have power over, and the other has power over us.”

I really do have to stop and identify what I don’t want to do AND stop hiding behind my fears. I can’t let my fear have power over me anymore.

Julie Glover

What a great exercise, Jami! I’ve been slowly getting over my extreme aversion to selling. I was that fundraising little girl who mildly tapped on a neighbor’s door, looked down at my shoes and mumbled, “You don’t really want to buy this, do you?”

I’ve discovered that to be a writer, I’d better get very comfortable selling my product. Of course, I don’t want to be a slick, slimy salesperson. Who would want to buy a book from that kind of person anyway?!!! But I do need to have confidence in what I produce and be willing to promote it when I’m published. I’m curious to know what obstacles others face when they fill in the blanks.

Stina Lindenblatt

I still can’t believe how awesome your notes are, Jami. You must have been writing like crazy to keep up with Michael. I know he talks fast.

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Love this!!
Yes, I have a goal, get an agent! That’s first. Now, granted, I have no real control over that, except write the best damn book I can, but its a definite goal and I’m driven to reach it.
The other goal I have is to make sure I write daily. My husband was recently diagnosed with cancer and needs to begin chemo and radiation. It’s going to be tough, we’ll have lots and lots of Dr.s visits to go to and there will be loads of things that take up my time.
I have to make sure I take care of him, but don’t give up on my dreams.
So my second goal is to write, even if it’s only a page or two, every day.
Pinned this post!!
Have a great evening 🙂

Christine Ashworth

This is an awesome post, Jami. I’m with you, I tend to think on the big stuff (like killing someone) so I’ll need to really think about what’s getting in my way.

I’m also setting concrete goals for the first time, and reviewing them. Because setting goals and then putting them away for a year doesn’t do a damn thing toward getting them done, right?

Great post, thanks!


This tidbit he gave us too! It really stuck with me, and I was able to figure out what was holding me back. The stepping stone for me was to sign up as a speaker for a conference–that is what I was trying to avoid. I went through with it, and now it’s no longer a roadblock for me. Just one of the many reasons why I love this man! 🙂

Shah Wharton

Fabulous insights Jami. I bookmarked this – think I’ll need to read it a few times and go back to it. Some of the fears outlined are mine.

I wanted to share some sunshine with you – I’m tagging you on the Sunshine Award. 😀


Great post, have added a link to it on my writer’s resource site The Funnily Enough.



[…] Michael Hauge’s Workshop: You’re the Hero of Your Life by Jami Gold […]


I was there that day as well. And thinking about my fears threw me for a loop. I also did a post-conference chat with Michael about my novel. He should consider a career as a therapist. He knew exactly how to get to the bottom of both my character’s issues as well as mine.


[…] I’ve pointed out before: All these psychological things that make our characters seem real apply to us too. After all, we […]

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