So, like a week ago, Lacey gave me this awesome Thinking Blogger award, and I’m just now getting down to thinking about it.

I’m supposed to pass it on to 5 bloggers who make me think. I know, I know – many of these people have been awarded this already. I think that’s okay. And there are many more of you who make me think, but the rules say I only get five.

First, we have Ms. Courtney Milan. CM makes me think often. Even more often, she makes me think about giving up thinking entirely, outsourcing all of my thinking to her, and taking up crochet instead. Her recent post on entails is just one of many gems on that blog.

Back when I was writing GOTH and wringing my hands about whether a prologue is a Good Thing or the Kiss of Death, Alice Audrey kindly reassured me with this post. It’s never too late to say thanks.

Lenora Bell routinely makes me think fondly about my stint as a volunteer in Southeast Asia. This post made me think I would cry.

With this completely innocuous post at Romance Vagabonds, Elodie made me think about someone I hadn’t thought about in a while. Someone I miss. Someone I wish I’d known better. Someone the world is a little more flat without.

And lastly, to throw some karma back at her, Lacey’s post this week about taking opportunities and (gasp!) asking for good things got me thinking a lot.

It reminded me of this article that a (non romance-reader) friend sent me the week before I went to NYC. It’s by author Lionel Shriver (a woman), who was nominated for the Orange (a prestigious literary prize), and shocked the world – or at least a few reporters – by owning up to the fact that she wanted to win.

Excerpted from Ms. Shriver’s article:

Throughout the whole Orange prize experience I was confronted with evidence that women are uncomfortable with naked ambition, trained to have low expectations, embarrassed by head-to-head competition, and virtually obliged to act abashed when they win. In contrast to a certain other sex that will go unmentioned. …

The closer zero hour approached, the more powerfully I felt impelled to anticipate that I would lose. Other women I’ve consulted who have been in similar positions – say, up for a job they badly wanted – report the same knee-jerk preparation for failure. The logic seems to run that if you anticipate disappointment, you will soften the blow when it comes, or perhaps sweeten victory, so unexpected. Thus in the run-up to last Tuesday’s ceremony I found myself typing in emails to friends, “In the unlikely event that I win … “…

Giving interviews afterwards, I was asked more than once, “When you won, were you surprised?” By then I was getting impatient with my own girly impulses. “No,” I said. And then I made a wrong answer worse by adding, “It’s a good book.” … [M]en who win big literary prizes are rarely asked if they are “surprised”, much less required to be. On TV, I watched Alan Hollinghurst win the Booker for The Line of Beauty last autumn, and his lengthy acceptance speech was clearly prepared. I doubt that any journalist asked him afterwards if he was surprised.

…For centuries, women have not allowed themselves to expect to get what they want if only because they were more or less guaranteed to be denied it. Old habits die hard.

This really struck a chord with me. Not because I’ll ever be nominated for the Orange or any similar award. But because I, like many women, feel uneasy about openly displaying and acting on ambition. I’m not certain how much of this unease is attributable to my gender and how much is just inherent in my rather introverted personality … but it made me think. Perhaps I should start thinking like a man.

And then I started thinking, but what I love most about romance is that it’s a genre almost exclusively written by women, for women. It celebrates things that are important to women – love, sex, family, personal growth. Naked, raw ambition is often antithetical to the underpinnings of romance – a close sympathy for the feelings of others, a desire to make things end happily for all. If I start thinking like a man, the question becomes … will I still write good romance?

Something tells me I need to learn not how to think like a man, but how to think like an ambitious, goal-oriented yet sensitive woman. That middle-ground must exist, right?

What do you think?

17 comments to “Blogging and Thinking, and Thinking Like a Man”

  1. Alice Audrey
    · May 2nd, 2007 at 2:49 pm · Link

    I hope I’m a little too smart to think like a man. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m an ambitious woman and I make no bones about it. Which will probably get me in trouble. Sigh.


  2. Alyssa Goodnight
    · May 2nd, 2007 at 4:13 pm · Link

    Wow! I see why you got the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’. Definitely something to ponder–I myself am very guilty of this behavior.

  3. AprilsMom
    · May 2nd, 2007 at 9:31 pm · Link

    Since we are discussing thinking like a man, may I use a sports analogy?

    I think women tend to think like baseball managers. We put the team (family, friendships, etc.) first. What is good for the team? Are we being fair to everyone? Would our actions cause dissent/jealousy? What can we do so all can shine to the best of their ability?

    That sort of thinking is great in a manager, but makes it really difficult to be an individual star player.

    Am I wrong? How can we combine the two skill sets? Without a good manager, the team could fall apart; without star players, no one would come see the game.

  4. Maggie Robinson
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 5:00 am · Link

    Self-effacement. Fear of failure. Fear of success. I think I’ve got enough of that for all of us. The struggle for self-confidence will always be with me, I’m afraid. Don’t they make a pill for this?

  5. lacey kaye
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 6:45 am · Link

    What do I think? I honestly think I’m going to cry. Which is probably not the *best* way to respond to a post about female strength, but…

    This was beautiful!!

    April, at the risk of sounding more conceited than I already am…I absolutley believe it’s possible to be both a great manager and a team player. It’s all to do with knowing what response is needed and when. Right now, for example, I’m with Snarky Guy. Some of you know about him…he’s a mechanic who was giving me a hard time when I was put in charge of his work group. My first response was to set boundaries. I refused to let him scare me, even though it was clear to me (and everyone else) that he’s hugely looked up to in his work team.

    My next move was to come down and spend some time with him on the shop floor. Guess what? He just turned my monitor sideways as a joke. I think I won him over.

    It’s all to do with setting boundaries first, and then widening them later. I think.

    I’ll let you know when I start making the big bucks ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Tessa Dare
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 8:13 am · Link

    AA – LOL, “too smart to think like a man.” Good for you.

    Alyssa – thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear I’m not alone. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Aprilsmom – great analogy. I’ve heard it said a lot that women, as managers, try to create consensus rather than giving orders. In my own work experience, leaders need to do both, and more importantly – know when is the right time for each strategy. Being a writer is a bit different, though – do we have a “team”? Or is it more like a footrace – every woman for herself? I don’t have an answer to that – just thought I’d throw it out there.

    Maggie – if you find the pill for it, let me know! I need that pill desperately!

    Lacey – that’s kind of what I was getting at, with my response to Aprilsmom. There’s a way to blend the two. How about as a writer, though? You have a really close-knit critique group, and you seem to look out for and promote one another’s work. That’s probably not a terribly “man”-like strategy – but is it working for you, and why?

  7. Alice Audrey
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 8:15 am · Link

    BTW, thanks for the award. It’ll be a while before I get to it, but I will. I’m glad the Prologue blog helped.


  8. beverley
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 8:19 am · Link

    I agree. In our society, this is how women are raised. Tons of self sacrifice, complete self-effacement. But I hope (and think) that this is changing. I’ve always been very outspoken but even to some degree I don’t like to set myself up for disappointment.

  9. lacey kaye
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 9:31 am · Link

    Well, that’s a good point, Tessa. Goes back to figuring out the right response at the time, etc. One thing you may not know is that we have a “Me-First” policy in our group. Nobody has to do or read or post or respond to anyone else if they’re not getting their own stuff done, their family taken care of, and so on. This is pretty hard for all of us sometimes,because we *do* want to make everyone happy and pass around the love, but then, we’re also a little unique in that all four of us are very confident and perhaps a little conceited ๐Ÿ™‚ We may not have as much trouble putting ourselves first as other people!

    Yes, I speak for the group!

    I mean, Erica owns her own web design company. You can see her client list on her website–she’s Big Time! Darcy used to be a project manager, and now she’s incredibly active in a bunch of organizations, usually at the board level. You all know about me. Jacqueline totally “owns” her part of the company, and has enough leverage there to demand she be allowed to work from home.

    So we’re all very aware of ourselves as individual people. We’re all goal-setters, though we set them differently. We also respect each other’s unique talents. None of us write exactly the same (what two people do?) so we can be very happy when someone comes up with a great line we wish we’d thought of but know would never work in our wips. Also, we’re totally comfortable sending “jealousy vibes” to each other! I feel confident saying “Here’s some Jacqueline-hate coming at you!” when she, for example, writes something extra fab.

    And we share EVERYTHING. All knowledge is fair game (unless super-secret promises have been made…but that’s very rare). Again, even though most of us are historical, we don’t have the same voice. I don’t feel like we’re necessarily in direct competition with each other, even though we are, and certainly I wouldn’t want to go up against anyone in a contest!

    Which just means I’ve come full-circle in my own debate here. I still don’t want to have my a$$ kicked and I don’t want to kick theirs. So like I said, it’s a balance like anything else.

    I think I have to go now! This rivals one of my own posts for length ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Kelly Krysten
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 11:06 am · Link

    Great topic Tessa!
    I think since I was raised by three men, I already think like a It had never occurred to me that there was another way to be until high school.
    Also I agree with everything Lacey said, I say this at risk of her head swelling even J/k, Lacey.

  11. Ericka Scott
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 3:22 pm · Link

    I was a terribly shy child. . . I look back on those years with a cringe. If you find that pill. . . I need a couple too!

  12. Tessa Dare
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 4:21 pm · Link

    thanks for sharing all your experiences, Lacey. It seems there are definitely times to work together and times to go it alone.

  13. lacey kaye
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 4:37 pm · Link

    Always a possibility, Kelly! No problem, Tessa. Didn’t mean to ramble on so much ๐Ÿ™‚ But you made me want to write a follow-up for tomorrow’s post! Hm. Maybe I’m writing in the wrong field?

  14. Jacqueline Barbour
    · May 3rd, 2007 at 8:30 pm · Link

    Having read Lacey’s treatise, I should just be able to turn in for the night, having permitted her to speak for all of us, but… Well, I am an assertive sort of person who always has something to say *g.

    I suspect, in many ways, I *do* think more like a man than a woman. I often laugh at those little “understanding your man/woman” quizzes because I always read the “this is what women want part” and think, “Uh, wait; I want what the MEN want!” I have more than once joked I am probably a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.

    That said, I am NOT nearly as confident as I would like to be, especially when it comes to selling myself or my work. Lacey pointed out that I “own” my company enough to demand I be permitted to work from home, and to some extent, that’s true, but it took nearly a decade of slowly and quietly proving my competence to get to that stage. I definitely didn’t arrive there by announcing to folks that I was great; I had to SHOW it. (Hmmm, a show don’t tell lecture is coming, methinks!)

    So the HARD part of selling my writing is ALWAYS going to be trying to convince people that what I wrote is good enough to be worth reading. I’d rather you just read it and decided for yourself. The in-between step is INCREDIBLY difficult for me.

    But I’m learning. Or trying to…

  15. Lenora Bell
    · May 5th, 2007 at 8:12 am · Link

    Sorry I’m late on this one–my parents are visiting and I’ve been showing them around Shanghai.

    Thanks, Tessa. You’re so sweet. I’m not worthy. No really, I don’t feel worthy. I feel like my blog is a pale shadow of what it should be. See? I am the poster girl for the syndrome Shriver articulated. I even feel guilty when I sing, because I shouldn’t love the spotlight so much.

    Thank you for bringing up this issue. I think one of the ways to find that middle ground between thinking like a man, and thinking like a sensitive woman who is not ashamed of success, is to gather strength from the wonderful community of romance writers online.

    You know that I am expecting you to win, and win big, don’t you? And when you do, I will be there to pop the champagne cork.

  16. India Carolina
    · May 5th, 2007 at 11:47 am · Link

    Well deserved blogger award, Tessa! You know a *few* years ago, I developed a psychological test to measure sex-role identity using personal constructs. Yes, it’s true, it’s called the “Sex-Rep” and it uses personal consturcts rather than stereotypes as measures of masculinity and femininty.

    The reason I developed this test was because the literature (in psychology) was replete with recounts of a strong correlation between low self-esteem and hi scores on measures of “femininity”. So the conclusion was that “feminine” women had low self-esteem and needed to become more “masculine”.

    I analyzed the tests of “masculinity” and “femininty” which were in use at the time, and guess what–they were full of stereotypes. The “masculine” scale contained words like –confident, ambitious, succusseful, bold

    while the “feminine” scale contained words like –nurturing, emotional , shy

    So of course, individuals who rated themselves as more “masculine” than “feminine” turned out to have higher self-esteem. The problem was built into the tests.

    I don’t think ambition and drive are male constructs. Evidenced by many of the women who’ve responded to this blog. It’s not about thinking like a man. It’s about being honest with yourself.

  17. Tessa Dare
    · May 7th, 2007 at 10:41 pm · Link

    Sorry I’m commenting late on these – what a wonderful discussion.

    Lenora – I can’t wait to see you in the spotlight, with your writing and your singing! I wish you were coming to Dallas so we could go karaoke together!

    Jacqueline – thanks for tagging on Lacey’s response. I’m sure your hard work and achievement in the business world will serve you well when it comes to managing your writing career. I don’t know how you do it all!

    And India – WOW! My goodness, woman – what don’t you do? Do you have any handy psychological tests for me?