Monday, January 28, 2008

Please Yourself First

Weekly Motivational Essay for Writers (reprint)

Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.
-- Anais Nin

Being a writer means taking risks. With perhaps our greatest leap being between the initial Idea and the impetus for Action. It really does feel like jumping off a cliff, or skiing down a mountain. You push off and go. Exhilarating it may be, but also just a wee bit scary.

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live." --Leo F. Buscagila

Now, I’m not just talking about the obvious risk. It’s a given that submitting your work, seeking publication, sending out queries, facing book reviews, trying to up sales, and everything in between, makes your heart palpitate and leads to an excessive need for hugs and chocolate. *smile* Yet there isn’t a person alive who understands what writers face every time they sit down to scratch out a few more words.

Yikes! I’ve said it before and yet I’m still in awe of the process…

Something out of Nothing. Where do these ideas come from? The perfect word? The plot twist? Believe me, learning guitar (which was no picnic, let me tell you) was a breeze compared to this.

“Oh, an A chord to F sharp minor to B minor to E. That’s easy. I Already Know Those Chords.”

Yet every new story must be original. We may learn how to phrase a thought or craft a pleasing sentence. We may develop an *ear* for timing and rhythm. Eventually, the clich├ęs wind down and the adverbs become less important. We evolve as writers. But the Magic required to pull those words out of thin air… well… It’s still a leap. A matter of reaching deeply into our subconscious. Delving into the shadowy parts of our psyche. We’re Taking A Chance.

So here’s what I think. Everyone here should take a moment and acknowledge just how freaking incredible this task is. You Are A Writer. Do you realize how special that is? Forget bungee jumping and skydiving. You are the real risk taker. Wow…

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." Andre Gide

I don’t know about you, but every time, I sit down to write, I let go of all that is safe and familiar. I push myself into the depths of my creative being in order to write. It’s taken more courage than anything I’ve ever done.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
--T.S. Elliot

And like most everyone here, I’ve discovered something incredible. I didn’t know if I could write a chapter, and I did. Didn’t know if I could write a book—I’ve written three. Each risk, leads to Something. How far can we go? As far as our wings will take us…

"You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on." –Ray Bradbury

The more we write, the better we get. That, perhaps is the only sure thing about writing. And, in my oh-so-humble opinion, that is fantastic. Everything else is a risk except that one thing. Every Time We Write, We Improve Our Writing.
Okay… Good. So that’s a given. But… What do we write? Do we write to please others or to please ourselves?

"Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth." --Katherine Mansfield.

The truth.


The truth is we want it all. Don’t we?

I’ve faced my own dilemma, one that many writers share. I’m just not willing to chase the market. Sometimes I dearly wish I could. Yet I worry and I stress about it. Just last year, an agent advised me that a particular genre was selling. This year, another agent suggested that genre is dead. Who’s right? And where does that leave an aspiring writer?

I put the question to Kate Duffy and here’s what she said:

“Write the best book you can and please yourself first. We, writers and publishers, create markets. Each author, no matter what the genre, is a franchise.

Editors don't buy by genre. They fall in love with a book and figure out a way to publish it that will make money.” –Kate Duffy

So… there you go. Take risks. Face the truth. Build your wings. Write the Best Damn Book you can and Please Yourself first.

Have a wonderful writing week, everyone! Remember… We Are Writers!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Living the Dream

Weekly Motivational Essay for Writers:

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. ~~~~ Les Brown

I was told by a good friend recently that everyone feels fear when taking on a new challenge. Some simply acknowledge the trembling spark and push it aside, as they have always done. For others, the emotion is overwhelming—a single flame threatens to extinguish our carefully built foundation.

Every time you win, it diminishes the fear a little bit. You never really cancel the fear of losing; you keep challenging it. ~~~ Arthur Ashe

I realized that I experience that tremor every day when I pick up my writing.

"It's a rush of expectation," I whisper to myself. "Adrenalin and anticipation."

For actors, it's called stage fright, and for those players there's no question about its legitimacy. After all, they're stepping out on stage in front of a crowd of strangers! No wonder they're quaking a bit in their boots.

But isn't that what we're all doing? Playing to a crowd whose faces we'll never see, hoping for a sign of approval that assures us that our performance rings true?

Fear can't hold a candle to unswerving faith, much less muster up the guts to even attempt to blow it out. ~~~ B.G. Jett

This is where faith comes in. We must hold true to our vision, despite the tremors and nail biting. We must have courage and faith to move forward despite the stage fright that overwhelms us from time to time.

Ah… but then we think to ourselves… "Fine. I'll take action. In a little while. First I have these very, very important things to attend to which will conveniently allow me to avoid facing that fear for a little while longer." HAH!

Uh-oh. *grin*

You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand? ~~~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Why not now? The fear is like the dirty dishes piling up in the sink. At first, just a plate or two, a few bowls, some glasses and a cup. The longer you wait, the more overwhelming it gets. Tackle the fear one word at a time. We dare not let it build up until the pile of procrastination threatens to spill over.

One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One page, one chapter, one book.
We can do it.


Because We Are Writers!

Here's to Living the Dream...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Light Tomorrow with Today...

"I still believe in Hope -- mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas." –Molly Ivins

In life, we have two clear choices, to believe in success or to believe in failure. It may seem as if there are an infinite number of perspectives available but it's simply not true. Each view slants one way or another, with all sorts of justifications for the core belief. We invest hours in explaining Why we will fail or Why we will succeed. Often we invest as much time in our justifications as we do with any action towards our goals!

"Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other." --Brian Tracy

All that time and energy to fuel our dreams. By golly, it certainly behooves us to know exactly Which Choice we're aiming for! Especially because our Choice will fuel our actions. Optimistic people tend to succeed more often because they Choose to believe in Success no matter what. By framing their perspective with optimism, they tend to look for solutions rather than seeing negative circumstances merely as a reinforcement of their failure. They Believe Success is Inevitable. And so it is.

"All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible." --Orison Swett Marden

No obstacle is too great when one shores up her dream with hope, faith and optimism. Mary O'Hara was 56 when she wrote My Friend Flicka. Anna Sewell was 57 when she penned Black Beauty. What may be the world's longest running play, The Mousetrap was completed by Agatha Christie when she hit the age of 62! Not to be outdone, Laura Ingalls Wilder published Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the eight-volume Little House on the Prairie series at age 65.

You bet these incredible women didn't let setbacks discourage them for long. They had two choices. To believe they would succeed or to believe they would fail. Which choice do you think they made? *smile*

"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit." --Helen Keller

The stars were once the primary navigational tool. The heavens above and a sturdy compass to provide direction. Consider the stars to be our source of inspiration. Occasionally there will be clouds obscuring your view, but your heart is the compass. Trust your heart to guide you, to give you direction. Believe in yourself. Believe in your goals.

"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Every day that we invest time and energy into accomplishing our dreams, we are a step closer to realizing our fondest hopes. The ones who reach the stars don't rely on outside circumstances to validate their success. Success is in their hearts, in their attitude, and the world knows it.

Take a moment every single day to validate your dreams. Don't wait for the world or for outer circumstances to do it. You are a Writer! We Are WRITERS! Say it now and every day. Remind yourself and you'll find out a secret. Believing in success makes you responsible to achieve that success. What most don't realize is that pessimists are lazy at heart. By believing in failure, they have a built-in excuse to avoid the work. Hah! We have no such dubious luxury (thank Goddess). We believe in success and so we must Choose to Do The Work. We Are Writers!

"Light tomorrow with today." --Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Today's focus is what will fuel tomorrow's actions. And the next day, and the day after that. Let that flame burn bright in your heart, for the optimism will always light the way. Remember, We Are Writers!

Goals, anyone?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

“Never give up, never surrender!” ---Commander Peter Taggart (lead character in “Galaxy Quest”)

Whenever I’m feeling down, I love to put up my feet and sink my mind into an old favorite movie. The reason is obvious. A good story, whether silly or profound, lifts us out of our ordinary life and into a new perspective. And within each story is a kernel of truth that some reader (or viewer) takes to heart.

Perhaps that is the essential ingredient we strive to discover in each of our own stories. That kernel of truth. This is what sets each story apart. For me, this new week, I’m quoting one of my favorite fictional heroes. And I want to urge each of us to Never Give Up, NEVER Surrender!

“Part of the issue of achievement is to be able to set realistic goals, but that's one of the hardest things to do because you don't always know exactly where you're going, and you shouldn't.” ~~ George Lucas

Ah yes, the challenge of balancing the need for realistic goals and the reality that because each story is an independent creation there are quirks and inevitable diversions. Not to mention the unavoidable distractions that daily living often presents. Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

We writers also face another challenge in our careers:

“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.” --Brian Tracy

Time. Yikes. So many little revisions, hours spent on research or even just staring into space while searching for the exact right word. How many here have sweated over picking the Perfect Name for a character? *smile*

Obviously, these precious moments invested are worthwhile. We love being writers, which is why we write. Yet too often we spend just as much time chiding ourselves over the hours wasted or bemoaning the lack of substantial feedback. We all have end goals in sight. A beginning writer hopes to get a positive response from a query. A published writer yearns for a stellar review. A multi-published author strives to reach a particular sales level. And it’s almost certain that every writer will judge herself at each stage, certain that she should be doing better.

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” -- Zig Ziglar

Let us remember, and remind each other as often as we can, that while we should damn well strive to reach whatever far-reaching goal we set our hearts on, We Are Already Successful. Reaching for the highest, becoming all we can be… That is one darn fine reality. Would we sneer at our best friend for her efforts, or judge her for not reaching her goals quickly enough? Of course not! We’d point out that the strongest trees grow slowly, sinking roots deep into the ground. A spindly sapling that shoots up too quickly might snap in a heavy wind.

“Trust, have faith, and keep doing the work,”
we’d murmur with an encouraging smile. Part of the process of staying motivated is keeping your spirits high! As the marathon runners stumble past, the onlookers cheer and shout their support. Imagine if they offered up the kind of words we’ve been known to toss at ourselves when no one is listening. We’ve all done it. My personal favorite is to shout, “I’m a hack! My writing sucks!” while pacing around the room. *rolls eyes* Not very best-friendish, eh?

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." - Oscar Wilde (famous playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer)

The truth is, everyone must strive to reach heights that are unfamiliar. We need to keep in mind that even those blessed writers who do get published immediately have issues or personal struggles of their own. We all share the need to better ourselves, to reach our personal heights, to become the Best We Can Be.

Part of what makes the difference with writing is perspective. The more we put the pressure on, the more it seems like WORK (the dreaded four letter word) and less like PLAY. Yet this is what we want more than anything, right? We’re not digging ditches or scrubbing toilets. This is our life’s dream, our greatest joy. Sometimes I find that my whole attitude shifts when I make a few changes in perspective. Rather than saying “I have to finish this book” or “I have to meet this deadline,” how about “I get to finish my book!” “I get to meet a deadline!” How lucky am I? *grin*

“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work." --Richard Bach.

And when you get right down to it, there’s nothing you have to do. Really. Everything is a choice. Even breathing. Sure, the alternative is I’d suffocate *cough* but again, it’s what I choose to do. Sometimes we Choose to take on obligations. It’s easy then to believe we have to do this or that. But the simple truth is, we Choose. Each and every time. To be responsible. To be kind. To be mature *grin* (sometimes). To write our books.

So let’s make that choice and recognize the beauty and absolute pleasure it is to Have that choice. YAY!! We Are WRITERS!!

I have company coming, so my writing time is limited and we seem to have taken in a stray cat, while our resident kitty is making her displeasure known. Ah, choice. It’s a beautiful thing. *wink* Still, I hope to get some focus on writing this week and at the very least, get my one essay done.

How about you?

Have a fabulous week, everyone!! Go-go-GO!!