Sunday, January 25, 2009

If I Only Had a Brain…

“If I only had a brain…” sung by The Scarecrow, from the movie The Wizard of Oz, original story by L. Frank Baum

Today I woke up with brain fog. It’s those lovely hormonal shifts that leave me drained and sleepy. The urge to consume too much caffeine (leading to headaches and trembling limbs) strikes and my ability to focus dwindles. If there were ever a day when I could avoid writing, this is it.

And naturally, I can’t.

My manuscript is due to the editor tomorrow and there are a few chapters left to read and revise. My essay is due to be posted today so despite the urge to crawl back under the covers, I’m pounding the keys. What to do when the outside world or inner dilemmas interfere?

There’s only one solution. Keep writing. It may not seem like much at first, but as you venture forward on your quest, the answers will appear. Better to write five pages and toss out four, then write no pages at all.

“The road to the Emerald City is paved with yellow brick.” --L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

We yearn to venture into the magic glittering world of our imagination. How many times have I stared at my blank computer screen, wondering how other writers come up with such amazing tales. Yet no matter how much I wish I were a wonderful wizard, seems that my job description is more like a brick-layer. *grin* One brick… er… word at a time is how I write. No wave of my hand nor magical incantations has produced a single page.

Dang it.

Writing takes time, work, and focus. However, the magic is there. While sometimes it feels as if I’m plodding along, laying those bricks and worrying that my prose is boring and mundane, the magic is snuggled deep within the words. Often, when I go back over the previous day’s work I’m astounded and pleased. How can this be? Where did this writing come from? It’s as if a wizard snuck in while I was busy working on the road. How cool is that?

Even those days when I pore over the words written previously and despair over my tendency to use the same word three times in one paragraph, *snort* I have a distinct advantage over those who don’t write. Those bricks are laid out, and now with a bit of rearranging, a substitution here and there, and voila! I’m back on track to the Emerald City.

“I can’t give you a brain, but I can give you a diploma.” --L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In the movie version from which the above quote is plucked, the Wizard admits to the Scarecrow that he has no magic. Nothing more than a stage magician who landed in a magical world, the Wizard realizes two things.

One, he alone is “mundane” while those around him possess a magic he can only dream of. More importantly, the truest magic lies within our beliefs. By offering the Scarecrow a diploma, he gives the straw-man an opportunity to believe in his ability to think. Pretty cool, eh?

Writers often feel despair, trapped within a land where others seem to work magic. Yet we too have the same power the Wonderful Wizard holds. We can have the opportunity to make others believe in our magical powers, and it all starts with the belief in our ability to create wondrous worlds.

“Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.” --L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Optimism is our guiding light. As Daniel Reardon says, “In the long run the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.” So, if you have your own version of Brain Fog, whether because the outside world is encroaching or your inner world is crumbling, remember to keep breathing.

Breathe in Hope and release fear…

Today I felt so befuddled, I seriously doubted my ability to compose a coherent sentence. Searching through past essays, and considering whether a “re-run” would be necessary, my eyes spied one titled, “Just Do It.” Hmmm… I considered my past advice while preparing a second cup of tea.

Immediately, the sing-song voice of the movie version of the Scarecrow popped into my head. I rushed back to my computer and typed in the beginning of this essay.

“I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” --L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

So here’s our focus for the week:

Just do it (even on those days when we don’t have a brain).

Remember… Our reality reflects our beliefs—We Are Writers!

Keep breathing through the fear.

Listen to your heart, have the courage of a lion, and somehow, someway, you’ll find your own magic…

Let’s set some goals!

I’m wrapping up my last edits before I turn in my manuscript to my editor. *happy dance* Then I have four goals. My bio and blurb for my October release. Pull up my current WIP and get in at least ten new pages. Begin re-read of previous book to consider possible revision and submittal. And of course, my weekly essay.


Bio and blurb.
Ten Pages.
Begin Re-read.
New Essay.

How’s about you?

Let’s get writing!

Chiron O’Keefe

Writing Motivation. A new essay every week.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tag, You're It!

A new game is a’foot. Tag favorite authors and list six things you love. Seems I’ve been tagged twice which gives us double the pleasure. *wink*
I’ve been tagged by both Linda LaRoque, and Tiffany James!

Rules are simple; Link to the person who has tagged you. Write down six things that make you happy. Post the rules, tag six others and let them know you did it. Then tell the person when your entry is complete.

Hmmmm… 12 things that make me happy. Fun!

1. Getting published. Last week I sold my fun and romantic women’s fiction, “Sidekicks Need Not Apply”! Woo-hoo! Definitely on my Happy list. *grin*
2. Being in love… After thirteen years, I’m happier than ever. Whether we’re playing music, watching television or exchanging smiles over a glass of wine, nothing makes me happier than spending time with my husband…
3. Playing music. I adore strumming chords and singing my favorite songs.
4. Dancing! Shake that booty, woman. *grin* Love to kick it up by myself or with my favorite chums.
5. Snuggling up with a great book. Ahhhhh… need I say more?
6. Writing. Whether I’m riding along with my latest heroine or focusing on a new motivation essay, there’s few thrills as intense as pounding the keys.
7. Soaking in the tub. Preferably with a good book. I’m with you there Tiffany!
8. My beautiful kitty, Dylan. That little purr-monster never fails to make me smile.
9. Going out to dinner. Someone else cooks and cleans and serves me wine. The good life!
10. Spring. Flowers burst into bloom, the touch of warmth, the sweet fragrance of cut grass…
11. Sitting by a lake watching the sunset. Something about the last rays shimmering on the water…
12. My friends. Whether on-line or in person, my friends are there for me. Giving me hugs and support or screaming with joy when I hit my mark. I love you all. Hope you know…

Now, for the list of 12 authors I adore… Drumroll, please! Tag, You’re It!

Misty Evans
Who is known to post at:
Five Scribes (thanks to K.L. Grady for the updated info)
Angela Guillaume
Wendi Darlin
Royal Blush Authors
Amber Leigh Williams
Jill James
Gillian Layne
Sandra Kay
Lynda Lampert
Donna Marie Rogers
Stacey Joy Netzel

I don't have blog addresses for Donna or Stacey (I'll add them when I can) but I love their writing so just had to include them here!

**update** Donna added her own list in the comment section!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Perseverance. Without it, passion is never enough…

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” --Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Perseverance is a word that stumbles on the tongue. It’s not at all like the word Passion. Passion sounds juicy and gorgeous and bursting with flavor. Passion. Yum. *smile*

Writers imagine the process of composing is simply a matter of the right amount of passion. As if each story dangles like ripe fruit just yonder out of reach. Snap it off the branch and there you go!

The desire to carve a story out of thin air is certainly our greatest motivation. Passion moves us to reach beyond the known and imbues us with the courage to venture into the dark landscape of our imagination. However it’s the less attractive relative—the one with the heavy backpack and sturdy walking shoes—who is more likely to successfully traverse that rocky path.


Without it, passion is never enough…

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” –Eddie Robinson

When the clouds of winter finally roll back from the sky and the delicate warmth of spring trickles in, the urge to plant seizes me. Oh, how I love to stroll among the potted flowers, inspecting each tag and imagining how the fragrant blossoms will color my back deck. I diligently purchase fertilizer and potting soil and browse the new array of containers. Ah, yes. My enthusiasm starts to wane after the first few hours of potting. *snort* My back aches from bending over and the multitude of plastic containers I purchased now strikes me as overkill. The initial passion fades and there’s only one thing that keeps me going. Perseverance. Especially because I often change my mind as to Which Plant Goes Where, forcing me to start over until I’m ready to scream. *rueful grin*

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” --F. Scott Fitzgerald

With every story, the initial concept may change as the pages pile up. The work is endless and like the wary gardener, the realization that some portions of our budding tale might need to be yanked out can freeze us in our tracks. We become paralyzed with our need for perfection. Our need to be on the Right Track can lead to us riding the brakes. Let me assure you, every writer experiences that same fear. What if we get up to chapter 13 only to discover that the last few chapters aren’t what we envisioned at all?


Our ability to write depends on our willingness to put in the time and to let ourselves make mistakes. Ever watch a toddler learning how to toddle? Falling down is inevitable. Getting up again is a choice.

“Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong.” --Jeffrey A. Carver

When the seed of a story first appears in our mind, the fervor to capture that delicious tale can lead to a satisfying burst of activity. Yet at some point the magnitude of the task at hand overwhelms our enthusiasm. The realization that the seed might take months (or even years) to grow and bear fruit can be daunting.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” --Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life

“Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” --Earl Nightingale

The fact is all writers struggle to finish the books they start. And every single book you’ve ever read, enjoyed or admired was written one page at a time. Too often we judge ourselves because we measure our accomplishment with a critical eye. Yet each page is an accomplishment to celebrate. While it’s true that my back deck isn’t finished until all my flowers are potted in their respective containers, each plant stands alone. Every single page counts. As you read this essay, one or more quotes might just strike your fancy. *smile* Which shows how vital and significant every sentence can be.

“I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.” --Gordon Lish

We must stay true to our vision. The only way to bring our passion to life is to buckle down and churn out one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more page…

“He conquers who endures.” –Persius

What’s truly heartbreaking is how the fear can not only slow our pace but also lead to a crippling dis-ease called Insecurity. We think to ourselves, Real writers don’t have this problem. If I was a truly talented author I’d be zipping through the pages without blinking an eye.

May I just say… “Hah!”

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” --Thomas Foxwell Buxton

The greatest minds out there achieve success not because they’re so freaking brilliant the stars blush trying to sparkle as brightly. No, ma-am. Not at all. Those who achieve lasting success are those who persevere. All books are written One Page At A Time.

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” --Jacob A. Riis

The authors who get published, who find agents, who hit the bestseller list, all have one trait in common. Perseverance. They pushed until they typed The End. They polished and revised until the book was irresistible. They sent out queries until the Right Agent said, “Let’s Go!”

They kept writing and promoting their books until they reached that coveted dream. Just like you, just like me, they reached for the stars. And just like you, and just like me, they persevered. *smile* We Can Do It!

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” --Charles F. Kettering

One sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time. We can do it. We WILL do it because (let’s say it together) We Are Writers!

And don’t forget:

“Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read.” –Susan Isaacs

Let’s support our perseverance with a visualization exercise. Remember, our subconscious works with our conscious mind to help us create the exact reality we desire. Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize the exact situation you yearn for. I’m typing The End! I’m getting “the call”! I can *see* my book on the bestseller list!

Remember, "Man is what he believes." --Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

We Are Writers! Go-go-GO!

--Chiron O’Keefe

For Writing Motivation look for The Write Soul:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Discover Your Self, Awaken Your Heart, Engage Your Soul---Write

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response.“ I don't know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn't matter.” – Lewis Carroll

Writing is a curious occupation. Although I suppose there are those who can pen novels, poems, songs, or scripts without any ‘soul’ investment, *smile* most of us instead take a deep breath and jump down that wondrous rabbit hole. In order to have the courage, the stamina, and the sheer will-power to keep ourselves on track we need to have a reason to write.

"The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart." ~Julien Green

Here is my suggestion:

Write to Discover Your Self.
Write to Awaken Your Heart.
Write to Engage Your Soul.

Truth is the sheer effort of completing a book can be exhausting. The process of submitting can be discouraging. The endless promotions and networking can leave you numb. This is why, no matter what anyone tells you, you must Write What You Love.

"No one remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself." ~Thomas Mann

Every writer experiences it. Whether the composition is your own version of the great novel or simply a chatty email with a close friend, there comes a moment of clarity which illuminates your soul. You discover in that flash of insight a part of your Self. A shiver of excitement and an astonished, “Well, that’s true, isn’t it?” follows.

Writing is more than a path to publication. Writing is a journey to your soul. When you invest those precious minutes and push beyond the linear constraints of your rational mind to dangle precariously within the caverns of imagination something amazing occurs. There’s really no describing it as each author has her own amazing revelation. Yet we all know how it *feels*.

"It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts." ~K.T. Jong

However, if we allow the fickle and ever-changing market to guide our path or follow the advice of a thousand other writers (including myself!) on What To Write, we may be robbing ourselves of the greatest gift of all: Self-discovery. And ironically, it’s often those who shun the rules who then create a new market. How often are we told that agents and publishers are looking for something different? So much so that many of us type madly amidst the chunks of hair we’ve yanked out of our heads with frustration. *laughs*

“Throwing away ideas too soon is like opening a package of flower seeds and then throwing them away because they're not pretty."— Arthur VanGundy, Ph.D. (Idea Power, 1992)

Self-discovery sounds very profound, doesn’t it? *smile* Yet it’s also a lovely, carefree and often silly dance. Consider for just a moment how children play. They explore all avenues with gusto and if someone advises them of the Right Way, they’ll buy into it for a time, yet then will gleefully rebel and discover their own Right Way. That’s what we need to do as writers. For some authors, this may mean investing ten years to write the next Gone With the Wind. For others, short and snappy might be just the ticket.

“Hi. I'm Troy McClure. You may remember me from such self help tapes as 'Smoke yourself thin' and 'Get some confidence, Stupid!'” --The Simpsons

The key is to Discover Your Path. Ready? Here are some steps to follow:

First… WRITE. (You knew that was coming, right? *grin*)

Second… Be Brave. Color outside those lines. Play in your own forbidden zone. Take every risk you can because you can always change it later. So why not leap out of the airplane?

Three… Keep Writing. *grin*

"When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target." ~~Geoffrey F. Fisher

The more sentences you carve out of your imagination, the more the pages will reflect your soul. Let yourself be excited not only by the potential of being published or hitting that best-seller list. Thirst for the revelations that will emerge as you jump down that rabbit-hole.

“I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.” ~~Lewis Carroll

Ready to take some risks? We Are Writers! Go-go-GO!!