Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Book of Opportunity...

“A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” ~Author Unknown

As a new year approaches, the urge to take stock of our life bubbles up like a sip of fine champagne. Let’s lift a glass and toast our accomplishments, savoring the taste of our creative endeavors…the potential of the New Year sparkles like stars within our hearts!

We’ve all made goals… Some we’ve achieved and some still dangle like a sprig of mistletoe, just out of reach. The beauty is, no matter how far that finish line may seem, we’ve all accomplished remarkable things. I’m not yet published in fiction, yet I’ve written three books. No one can take that accomplishment away. Every page I’ve sweated over, every idea that’s seen fruition is an amazing accomplishment. We are Do-ers. We WRITE.

Now, we can shake off whatever frustrations we’ve battled and relish the opportunity to begin fresh.

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

The days stretch before us like pristine snow. It is up to us to step forward and forge our own path. How freaking exciting is this? A whole year to accomplish new goals, to wrap up ongoing projects, to meet the face of destiny and see that her face is our own. *smile*

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Now’s the time to choose how to fill those pages. How best to seize opportunity. How to celebrate our awesome career and relish in our gifts. We Are Writers. No matter how onerous the task can be, we are the luckiest creatures that exist. We Create Worlds. We Are The Magic Makers.

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~Ellen Goodman

And while, at times, we may be tempted to chide ourselves or bemoan the days behind us, let’s make a pact to focus on the potential instead. Who cares if we didn’t plant a seed in time to catch a particular rainstorm 273 days ago! There are seeds a’plenty and a promise of sweet rain to nurture those budding plants to new heights. Plot out your garden and plant away! Harvest time will come, and we will be ready.

"A new year is unfolding—like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.” --Anonymous

Let’s tease out the beauty within each idea. Breathe gently to encourage those petals to unfurl. Those ideas nestled deep within your soul are aching for release. We are the luckiest of all people… We Are Writers!

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ~Oprah Winfrey

Write ON!

Let’s focus on goals and see what we can accomplish.

Wishing you all a New Year bursting with potential and the will, the determination and the passion to meet every goal.

Happy New Year!!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Page at a Time

“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man has taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

What sets the successful author apart from the aspiring writer?

Perseverance. The determination to move forward no matter how many obstacles appear on the path.

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.” ~Author Unknown

Staying true to our focus means we must recognize that the path that leads to success can be arduous. Ah, yes. Rejections or writer’s block tempts us to toss aside our dreams. If you feel frustrated, you’re not alone. All writers experience this.

To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over.... - John Hersey

During the holiday season time is at a premium. There’s last-minute shopping and presents to be wrapped, houseguests chatting and children underfoot, and for some, severe storms that threaten to knock out the power. What’s a writer to do?

My suggestion first off is this. Relax. Enjoy the holiday season. *smile* If you can squeeze in a page or two, by all means let those fingers fly! If you can’t… be forgiving to yourself. Trust that you will be pounding those keys when the craziness eases off. Every book is written one page at a time.

“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling.” ~Lucretius

Next week we’ll set the stage for the New Year so let’s consider what we intend to accomplish in 2009.

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. ~William Feather

Let’s “hang on” and remember… We Are Writers!!

Have a lovely holiday season, everyone!

--Chiron O’Keefe

Monday, December 15, 2008

Write Your Own Happy Ending...

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." --- Richard Bach, American writer and pilot, from his 1977 book, Illusions.

There are times when we honestly can't write. Awhile ago my back went out. My desire to write simply wasn't enough. Unable to sit up at my computer, I spent days with cold packs, ibuprofen and magazines, trying to distract myself from the pain. One thing I could do was read (though barely). I made it through a short story and spent the rest of the time considering how the author had deftly handled the emotions contained within the few pages and how I might too incorporate such brevity in my writing.

Yes, we do encounter obstacles, and when faced with such, we strive to get around them or to work beyond them.

Yet obstacles are not limitations. Limitations are the restrictions we choose to embrace. Many writers combine a writing career with a day job or family. Some who are juggling jobs and family duties still manage to carve out a few precious writing minutes every day. There can be physical obstacles too (like my backstrain), or even an unmet need for privacy or quiet. There are so many obstacles that we may face but none of these are limitations. Why? Because, quite simply put, it is a choice to be limited.

Another choice (and dare I say a better one?) is to believe in our dreams, and in our success. Why choose otherwise? Let's decide also to let go of any tendency to explain why we can't succeed or why we can't embrace our dreams. Let's instead perceive each obstacle as a river to be crossed, and get to work building a bridge.

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." --Helen Keller

To be pessimistic means that we focus on what we cannot do or worse, we put all our energy into noticing the problems and turn our attention away from the solutions. It's not realistic to believe in failure or to set yourself up to "avoid disappointment." It IS realistic to recognize that rejections may inevitable in life BUT a rejection simply means there's more to be done. Another dozen queries perhaps, or another book under your belt.

My good friend, author Misty Evans, faced many rejections. She could have given up but she chose to keep moving forward. Not only did she focus on sending out more queries but she also kept writing. When she finally made a sale, how fortunate was she to have not just one book to sell, but a trilogy to be polished and submitted. When she found her editor, the books she chose to write were now waiting.

Richard Bach's book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 140 times before getting picked up. Gone With The Wind was reportedly rejected 38 times. A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before being published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The list goes on and on. Even Ray Bradbury said in an interview on Barnes and Noble that he was rejected over a thousand times!
To be successful requires an unwavering belief in yourself. A healthy dose of optimism is just the right medicine.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. –Helen Keller

To be optimistic, we must throw open our hearts and believe. Despite the obstacles, despite any rejections, despite the times we want to heave that damn computer out the window and give up. Instead, we wish upon a star…

Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged. –Helen Keller

How fortunate are we to recognize and act upon our desire to write! We know what we want to be… what we are… Let's say it together now… We Are WRITERS!

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. –Helen Keller

It's true… reality will reflect back what we believe. That's why so many successful people recount stories of optimism and faith. If you believe in yourself, in your success, others will believe it too. If you mark each day with a sign of your success, you establish a habit of productivity and positive thinking that leads you past the obstacles and to your own Happy Ending.

Let's stay focused, mark each day with a sign of our individual success, start off the morning with a reminder to ourselves in the mirror. "You, my friend, are a Successful Author!" Write ON!

The week before Christmas is a busy time for many. Write what and when you can. If the minutes slip away though, let's keep our thoughts positive! The new year is coming and we're like seeds in the frozen ground ready to burst into bloom. Let's keep our faces to the sun, and remember... We Are WRITERS!

Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, December 8, 2008

Keep Your Dreams Alive… Writing Motivation

"Keep your dreams alive. Understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hardwork, determination, and dedication. Remember, all things are possible for those who believe." -- Gail Devers

For those who believe… But what to do when your inner flame wavers? How do we persist when a cold wave of doubt threatens to douse our burning need to write?

First, recognize one irrevocable fact. All writers experience doubt and fear.

"Sometimes my life seems so insular and safe. There seems nothing worthy in it from which I might draw deeper meanings for my books and my characters. What am I doing pretending to be a writer?"Write Away by Elizabeth George.

Put away your judgment and cast off that self-recrimination. If you experience doubts and fears, take heart: You Are A Writer. It's a well-known affliction that we conveniently forget in our haste to blame ourselves. The source of our creativity is rather like a dark cave. Tucked back against the far wall are countless treasures. Magical, wondrous, amazing words cleverly arranged in the proper order. *smile* Stories wrapped up neatly and entertaining characters we can all relate to. *grin* You hold in your hand a single candle as you enter the wind-swept cave. Creepy-crawlies dangle from rocks overhead. Something rustles and moans in the shadows. What wild creatures might lay in wait to snatch this plucky writer as she traverses each obstacle on her way to the golden tale? Uh-oh. The tiny flame is wavering! And then a whispering sigh. The candle flickers once and darkness reigns. How do you find the light once more?

I'm trying to work for an hour each day. That's all I can demand of myself. When I was creating For the Sake of Elena, I became so incapacitated by fear that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I finally resorted to saying, "These are only words and I will not let words defeat me" in order to get up and work. Thus I struggled to the end of the novel. But now, nothing seems to work. I flounder…Write Away by Elizabeth George.

There is only one way to move forward… Faith.

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

But where does faith come from? For that matter, where does this pesky fear come from? Obviously, she muses, if I knew where the light switch was, I'd flip it on in an instant!

Faith and fear, optimism and pessimism feel emotional but the truth is they are mental constructs. The emotional impact all stems from the beliefs we hold. Beliefs influence how we react to every situation whether we are aware of these core beliefs or not.

This is how humans are: we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question. ~Orson Scott Card

Unfortunately, too many of us deep down believe we can't accomplish what we hope to. We may ultimately believe success is not within our grasp or that the obstacles we perceive are insurmountable. That's the bad news. The good news is those are beliefs, and All Beliefs Can Be Changed.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. --William James

This is truth. It's what every self-help book will share. You can reprogram your mind, change your beliefs and create faith where doubt existed.


First off, let's replace that negative self-talk with some positive words and a more realistic view. Say it with me: I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER.

Oops. Did a nagging little fear just pop up? Let's repeat:

Now… close your eyes for a moment and visualize yourself happily typing The End. Carry it further. See yourself sending out the query and getting The Call. Imagine yourself jumping up and down and screaming out the words:

Keep your thoughts positive,
because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive,
because your words become your behaviors.
Keep your behaviors positive,
because your behaviors become your habits.
Keep your habits positive,
because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive,
because your values become your destiny. --Gandhi

Now, those pesky negative beliefs took so many years to build up (like mental plaque!) they will surely need some persistent scrubbing to clean up. We have three and a half weeks left in the year. Just the right amount of time to modify our frame of mind and begin 2009 with this belief:

I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER. I can do anything I want to and I want to write! I Love To Write. My writing is engaging, entertaining, insightful and exactly what agents and publishers are looking for. I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER.

Whatever a person's mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes. ~ Shankaracharya

For many of us, December is a busy month. The minutes slip away and we may find our yearning to write is not so easily fulfilled. Which means This Is The Perfect Time To Instill Positive Beliefs.

So… right now, let's make a commitment to just five minutes a day. It's lovely if we can do more but let's commit to five minutes a day. That's right. For 300 seconds *grin* sit quietly and visualize yourself doing exactly what YOU think a successful published author would do: Type The End. Get the call. Sign the contract. Promote the book. Then… Say the magic words… I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER. Woo-hoo! Now, go to your mirror. Repeat those magic words until you Feel That Tingle.

That's right, baby. You Can Do It. You Can Do Anything. Why? Because…

Now… let's make it happen. Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mad Scientists of the Written Word...

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”-- Albert Einstein

Hah! Nor would it be called “writing.” *wink* We are mad scientists of the written word. We start with the germ of an idea… “What if…?” and begin our process of experimentation. Set the stage, shove in the players and let’s see what dastardly circumstances we can conjure up. Pit falls and red herrings, misdirection and misconception, we’re more than ready to throw every obstacle in our character’s way. Happily Ever After becomes the cheese dangling at the end of the maze.

Yet strangely enough, the kinship we feel with our characters blossoms out of a shared struggle. Both fictional characters and author are racing down one blind corridor after another. The distinctions blur. It becomes impossible to discern who needs that Happy Ending more, the hero and heroine or the author herself. The struggle for a resolution is shared, and just as our heroes and heroines need an extra push, so do we. In our wacky experiment, the perfect ending is as enticing and as elusive as that fragrant end-of-the-maze cheese.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein

Deadlines, markets, editing and endless rewrites, all are obstacles that every author must face. Yet, it could be that our biggest obstacle is really our own damn selves. When the pressure of pushing forward becomes too intense we’re sorely tempted to pull away. To let go the effort. To even… *gasp* give up. And, if we’re going to be realistic, sometimes the only way to renew our faith is to retreat for a time. Retreat, rather than surrender. Approach the knotty problem from another direction, sometimes that’s all it takes to find the solution.

“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” --Albert Einstein

So writers then must balance between pushing forward and knowing when to pull back just enough to revitalize our spirits.

Plus, of course, there’s one nagging little issue. We’ve covered this before but it bears repeating. Writers Create Something Out of Nothing. And in the barest beginning of our experimentation, the idea may seem a little… well… Out There.

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” --Albert Einstein


One of the trickiest dilemmas aspiring-to-be-published writers experience is to magically discover somewhere deep in the cavern of imagination The Utterly Brilliant and Unique Idea. No matter how agents will assure you that Great Writing Tops All, the truth is, unless you’ve dreamed up that one-of-a-kind twist and offbeat hook, they’ll toss your query aside without a qualm. *shakes fist* So… Give your imagination free rein! Imagine a world where the absurd rules. As actors are often told—Play it big, then pull back. When the story is being created, brainstorm first. Second-guess later.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” --Albert Einstein

Questions will often take you farther than answers ever will. Which is why so many writers love techniques like the “character interview.” Remember, in fiction, there’s no handy answer guide. There’s no blueprint to follow. You’re soaring on wings of imagination and there are no limits. After reading an article on poltergeists and telekinetic activity being linked to adolescent girls, Stephen King’s mind lingered on his own experiences in school. How certain girls were singled out and picked on. Teased, bullied, pushed around… What if a young girl’s angst exploded in telekinetic activity? What might she do? Scary thoughts, yet the speculation led to a published (and bestselling) novel.

Yet sometimes we do worry. We wonder if it’s worth it. Wonder if we can write one more page, send out one more query, come up with one more idea. This is a quandary we all relate to. Writing is exhilarating but also exhausting. My idea is this… Remember the old saying that the journey is the destination? There’s something to that. What is our end goal here? I say that every story we write enriches our lives. Every page we finish and every idea we explore. We are stronger and more creative as a result. So… even if just for a week or even a day, let’s try something new…

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” --Albert Einstein

Let’s recognize that our writing is valuable. Let’s open up each document and think how incredible a gift we have—we write. We Create. We are the Magic-Makers. We are writers…

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? We had a veritable feast. Yumy-yum-yum. Now, after too much turkey and just one more slice of pie, I’m ready to get back to work. How about you?

Ready to set goals?

One more month until we begin a new year. Although many scramble to find extra time in December, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We write!

So... let's Go-go-GO!!