Monday, June 30, 2008

Attitude is Everything

"All serious daring starts from within." --Eurora Welly

Remember the classic children's story, "The Little Engine That Could"? Although the tale is designed for budding minds, the message contained within is pertinent to all, young and old.

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!"

Writers often feel the strain and tug on their own internal engines. Struggling to make it over a difficult passage or pushing through a dark tunnel trusting a glimpse of illumination will soon brighten the way.

So what does that little steam engine remind us? Attitude is everything.

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." ~Frank A. Clark

When we face adversity, we yearn for sympathy and hugs. *smile* Yet what we most need is perspective. To realize that an unlined face isn't a symbol of youth but of a life not yet lived. To recognize each moment is a tiny seed bursting into bloom.

"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses." ~Alphonse Karr

Few careers afford the luxury of turning those lemons into limoncello. *smile* Every tragedy, setback, and obstacle is fertilizer for the imagination. Yup. The pile of manure spread over those seeds can yield some hefty blossoms. Consider Erma Bombeck. Her hilarious anecdotes wouldn't exist if she lived a quiet, uneventful life. Other artistic careers don't profit as we can from those nagging woes. Ah, but we have the luxury of crafting heroines who struggle against the odds or defeat the dark enemy. Not because we have firsthand experience slamming a spike into a vampire's chest either. *grin* For writers, each glorious moment of personal triumph or horrid hour of despair is a glimpse into a potential story.

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dig deep, my friends, because All Daring Starts From Within. Dare to write the passage that eludes you (even if it takes a dozen tries). Dare to edit the scene you struggle with. Dare to send off the query even if your fingers tremble with fear as you punch those keys. If you think you can, You Will.

Know what you want to accomplish, each and every day. Know what you want to accomplish five years down the line. The going will get rough, as the saying goes. To quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

"Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye." ~Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818

Here's a secret successful people cling to. If you hold your destination in mind, you will arrive even if you end up on a different road. There will be detours and unexpected stops. However, intuition is a potent tool. Keep that vision in your mind and your intuition will guide you no matter what twists and turns you face.

"Faith is a passionate intuition." ~William Wordsworth

Hmmmm… I think I can, I think I can, I Think I Can!!

Let's set some goals!

Last week my own twists and turns included complications with my wisdom teeth extraction. Nothing a few stitches wouldn't fix. However, my down time increased and I'm eager to get back to my goals. So…

15-25 fresh pages.
Rewrite query (as many times as necessary).
New essay to post.
Prepare for the extended holiday weekend.
Record one song (my hobby!).

How's about you?

Remember, We Are Writers!! Go-go-GO!

Smiles to everyone,

Monday, June 23, 2008

Be Here Now

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi

A few weeks back, I had been struggling to understand some of the psychological patterns in my life. Many of you probably relate. How often do we consciously want to move forward yet take action (or inaction) resulting in a setback? How often do we yearn for proof of our success, or better yet, of our worth? The ruminations lead to worry, which amplifies the insecurity that triggered the dismal cycle of self-doubt.

My own searching resulted in a night of revelations, which I spoke of in my essay on June 9th: Taking Risks vs. Riding the Brakes. My joy over this breakthrough tumbled into an email exchange with my friend, Misty Evans.

Her response (which she generously allowed me to post) prompted even more thought. She's paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle. Here's an edited version:

"Satori is the Zen term for a moment of Presence, where you step out of the voices in your head. When you face your insecurities, you rise up out of the clutter of thoughts and the turmoil they cause. You achieve Presence."

This is familiar stuff that we forget repeatedly, *snort* yet as writers we need to remember. Be Here Now. Don't fret over how your novel will end or if the pieces will tie together; it's only a first draft. Just write. Don't freak out about sending out queries or the endless "what if's?" in your writing career. Just write. Don't panic at the deadlines or the promotion or the submissions. Just WRITE!

Be Here Now. Write in the moment. Feel the presence of your characters. Revel in the story you're telling. FACE your insecurities.

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast? said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully."It's the same thing," he said. –A. A. Milne

There's only one valid reason to be a writer. The Love of Writing. Yet we all know those pressures build up and we forget how exciting and fulfilling and fun it can be! Often times those pressures can be whisked away by those three magic words.

Be Here Now. Forget, even for just a few moments, the worries that rattle your world. Breathe deep and remind yourself there is only one moment that matters, only one moment that exists. Now. WRITE now. *smile*

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." ---Buddha

If a particular passage is sticking, pull up another document and let your imagination play. Often it's nothing more than an unacknowledged fear impeding your progress. Fear of "bad writing" can hold us back . We become paralyzed, frozen by a glimpse into an imaginary future where our book doesn't meet expectations. We forget it's only a first draft because we project that fear into the future. Be Here Now.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and remember the thrill of writing. FEEL the excitement, the euphoria, the absolute JOY of writing. Do you love to write? Then shout it out (though it may be wise to shut the door first *grin*) and let those words rock your world. I Love To Write! I Love To Write!

Now, one more exercise. Close your eyes and picture all those worries and concerns as thought balloons. One by one, release those balloons and let them drift away. Surround yourself with the indescribable joy of Being A Writer.

This week our focus is clear. Let's all Be In The Moment, and remember to Just WRITE!

"Forever is composed of nows." –Emily Dickinson

Ready to set goals?

This week I'm facing the removal of wisdom teeth. Yikes!

My goals:
Ten pages.
Post essay.
Whatever else I can manage. *grin*

How's about you?


Monday, June 16, 2008

We Are All Meant to Shine

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." ~David Brinkley

There's an old saying, 'you can't please all the people all the time.' Which begs the question, why would we want to? When did we decide our Job was to please others? Although it may be a strange question to consider, I think as writers it's bound to come up.

Here's why. We Want Readers. We want readers to enjoy our books and to read them. *smile* Agents and editors have an invested interest in making sales, so they have their own personal stake in this (which often may be driven right through the heart of the book we adore).

So… what to do?

First thing is to remember is this. Writing is an art. Can an artist switch to please the market and be successful? Or happy? Hmmmm…

"At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important" –M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher is known for his brilliant, precise work. Drawings and etchings of such magnificent complexity it truly boggles the mind. His work features alternate realities and optical illusions with a strong mathematical component. Now, imagine for a moment if he fretted about chasing the market and instead focused on painting in an impressionistic style. Or if the daring masters of Impressionism balked under public pressure (the "newfangled approach" baffled and offended many at the time).

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

While we do need to balance an awareness of the market in our work, moving forward is essential. Part of moving forward is to Embrace What You Love To Write.

"The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable." ~Paul Tillich

Here's a thought. There's someone out there who will love your voice, even if you first encounter a dozen who don't. The more books you write, the more books you submit, the more books you publish, the greater the chance You Will Find Your Audience.

Yet there will be fans who feel dismayed or betrayed. Who imagine the story being something different. Or who wish you would write in a particular way. When some romance authors made the change to suspense (Lisa Jackson, for example), fans were disappointed. And boy did they let her know it.

Pete Forever, Ringo Never… Heck, when the Beatles switched out Pete Best for Ringo Starr their fans were outraged too. And we all know how THAT worked out. *smile*

"Other people's opinion of you does not have to become your reality." ~Les Brown

As a writer, you will face naysayers before you finish that first manuscript. When you're submitting, the rejections will feel like a slap in the face. *sigh* The reviews will sometimes hit you where it hurts. *groan* So, what are you going to do about that? Well, I have an idea. WRITE! Write, write, and write some more. You Are A Writer. You Can Do It!! Dare to dream, dare to write!

"Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic." ~Jean Sibelius

Critics can explain in great detail why something won't work (Thank Goodness the Wright Brothers didn't listen) but what do they know? You can spend your life reinforcing all the negative crap that is flung your way OR you can realize this. You Are A Success. You Can Achieve Anything. Anything at all.

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway." ~Mary Kay Ash

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." ~Author Unknown

Take a moment and breathe deep. Close your eyes and wiggle your fingers and toes. Consider all your dreams, your ambitions, your hopes for the future. Now… Visualize The Reality You Want To Create. If you're working on your first (or fifth) manuscript, visualize typing the words The End. If you're sending out a query (or ten), picture an agent or editor devouring your story, then picking up the phone and giving you a call. Visualize your gorgeous shiny book clutched in your trembling hands. If you're waiting for reviews, paint a picture in your mind of the Best Review Ever.

I'm serious now. Take a few moments and etch that image until you feel the excitement tingling inside. Once you get that tingle, say these words: This Is The Truth. This Is My True Reality. I Am A Success. Anything else is simply an illusion I no longer need. This Is My True Reality.

Belief and Action are the tools you need to make it happen. Write Your Books. Believe In Your Success. You Can Do It!

One more piece to inspire you…

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
--Marianne Williamson A Return to Love

Let's set some goals!

My goals:
15-25 pages on current WIP.
Remember it's only a first draft!!
Rewrite query and synopsis on last WIP.
Weekly essay for blog.
Write up documents for RWAOL forum.
Believe in my success!

How's about you?

Here's to another productive week tingling with potential! Go-go-GO!!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Taking Risks vs. Riding The Brakes

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." –H. Jackson Browne

Last weekend, hubby and I were jamming on guitars. It's something we love to do, sip a little wine and play our favorite songs. He paused and looked over at me, saying, "Don't hold back. Hit those strings like you mean it."

I needed the reminder. His next comment though struck home. "You need to let go of that tendency to ride the brakes all the time."

Bam. Wow. The thought reeled in my mind. The visual image meshed beautifully with the startling realization of my own tentative nature. You can bet I did play more aggressively for the remainder of the evening and loved it. Woo-hoo!

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." –Anais Nin

The next day I studied those words I'd scribbled down with such haste. Riding the Brakes. Being a writer is all about risk. Sure, just about anyone can string words together into the semblance of a sentence. Writing a story can be as simplistic as See Jane Run. Yet as readers, we know the difference between a story that merely connects the dots and one that sweeps us into an enchanted world. No matter the genre, whether commercial or literary, the writer who pushes past the boundaries makes us gasp with delight or sit stunned as a revelation resonates within our hearts.

I want to be that writer. *smile* Don't you?

"Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out." --Natalie Goldberg

Taking Risks vs. Riding the Brakes. Writing isn't an easy task. Which is why we heave a sigh of relief when finished and often eye revisions with the same enthusiasm with which we might face a cluttered, spider-infested garage. Ewwwwww…. But… I'm all done! WAH!


Part of why the task can feel so onerous is simple. If our story isn't touching our soul, rattling our bones, clenching our fists, touching our heart, we may simply be bored. *gulp* We need to dig deeper. Take our foot of the brake. Take A Chance.

If you're feeling stuck with a passage, pull up a separate document and write the three WILDEST, most preposterous ways to take your scene. Then write three more. Feel that tingle of excitement knowing You Can Write Anything. Anything at all! Anything you damn well please! That's right. It's YOUR STORY. If you're bored or beleaguered, feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, why not twist into a direction you absolutely would never consider? Take a chance. Whether or not you continue in that direction is irrelevant to your process of writing. Shaking up the map will often reveal roads you never would have seen otherwise.

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." –Andre Gide

Writing is a voyage of discovery. We must take risks in order to find not only an incredible story, but also our self within each page. Those amazing revelations that leave you gasping will strike your readers too.

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart... Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal." --William Wordsworth

Write the story you've always dreamt of. Write a paragraph without worrying how it will fit in (remember our mantra—It's Only A First Draft!). Write from your heart and soul. Let the words flow from you like a burst of spontaneous laughter. *grin*

We all have goals and deadlines. We are Writers. We write. By page count and word count. Yet let's make another goal. To dig a little deeper and remember WHY we write. To experience that tingle of delight, that shiver of excitement, that gasp of awe.

You know what? YOU can do it. YOU are a writer. Feeling a little fear at pushing yourself? Trust me, it's natural. That, my friend, is adrenalin coursing through you. YOU Are An Adventurer! About to leap off a cliff into the unknown, you can trust your wings to carry you off to new lands. You Are A Writer…

So… let's set some goals!

I'm shaking things up this week. *smile*

My goals:

15-25 pages on WIP.
Weekly Essay to post on blog.
Expand outline on NF idea.
PUSH myself to "close my eyes and leap" into my story.

How's about you? Ready to take some risks? Ready to Write??

Let's hear those goals!!



Monday, June 2, 2008

Writing the Waves...

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." --Groucho Marx

I must confess, I love to write. Although sometimes the desire is more like a wish to have written. *smile* Maybe because, unlike other activities, say… cooking, I often have no recipe to go by. Just a gnawing hunger and an insatiable desire for a delicious meal.

During those times of struggle I do feel despair. I worry about plot points, I'm convinced my writing is wooden and stale. Yikes-a-rooni! The temptation to fill out invites to a massive pity-party is overwhelming. As mentioned many times before, those days you'll find me pacing my office, bunching hair in fists while shrieking, "I'm a hack, I'm a hack!"


Yet the truth is, all writers struggle between waves. The energy waxes and wanes. All writers endure the cycle of highs and lows. We ride a crest of creative inspiration and then hit the dirt. *heh-heh*

"Only a mediocre writer is always at his best." --W. Somerset Maugham

Think about that. How true! Writers who pen books of rare beauty or profound insights struggle just like the rest of us. They too worry about whether the book is working. They write each story One Page At A Time.

"I'd like to speak loftily about my attempts to mold the characters and to reach great heights of wisdom when all I'm trying to do is to tell a story that holds together." –Journal of a Novel, June 27, 1994, Write Away by Elizabeth George.

So, how to deal with the inevitable burnout and wavering confidence that is often a writer's due?

A frothy concoction comprised of equal portions of humor and optimism. *smile*

"It's a damn good story. If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check." --Erle Stanley Gardner

We develop confidence by recognizing that our accomplishments are supreme. Think about this… Last week I joked about Reality Shows. Here's one version you'll never see: A group of writers, trapped on an island until one produces a book that wins the approval of the most selective agents around. *grin*

Fear Factor contestants would quake in their boots! A challenge of thirty seconds versus a quest of how years?

"Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators." –Olin Miller

"Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing." --Norman Mailer

So true, so very true…

Ah, but we do have a secret. Despite the struggles, the mind-numbing effort, the endless days and nights of staring hopelessly at the computer screen wondering what the HELL comes next, We Love To Write. Writing is… magic. We Create Books.

Hot Damn.

"I really enjoy writing novels. It's like the ocean. You can just build a boat and take off." --Denis Johnson

Whatever we desire, we have the power and the ability to create. We can peer into the future or plunge backward into a turbulent history. Conjure up a slinky cat burgler stalking her lover's nefarious dealings or explore the ramifications of a family in crisis. Writing is an adventure and an opportunity for self-discovery. I love to write!

"Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals." --Don DeLillo

Now, just for fun, here are some rules of writing to keep us all on track. Which one is your favorite?

1. Do not put statements in the negative form.
2. And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
3. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that agreat deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
4. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
5. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
6. De-accession euphemisms.
7. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
9. Last, but not least, avoid clich├ęs like the plague.

~William Safire, 'Great Rules of Writing'
Summer is almost here! Let's celebrate as only writers can… *grin* Set those goals and reach for the stars! We Are Writers…

My weekly goals:
15-25 pages
Weekly essay.

How's about you?

Here's to a super-productive week! Go-go-GO!! Write-write-write!