Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Your Dreams…

"Courage is the power to let go of the familiar." –Raymond Lindquist

Back when I first learned to type, the teacher addressed the class. "Would those who already know a little about typing please raise their hands." The reason? The novices would require more attention to 'unlearn' their bad habits.

Learning music, it's the same situation. My hubby growled in frustration at my tendency to drag the pick across the strings instead of striking them with intent. Yet with my decades of playing haphazardly *laughs* it really took focus to retrain myself to be more precise.

Not just focus. Courage. I needed to embrace a willingness to be a beginner all over again. Scary stuff indeed.

Writers face this same dilemma every time they attempt something new. Whether it be a new book, a new genre, a new scene, a new revision.

"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." –Charles Dubois

Each rung we climb takes us higher, but sometimes it feels as if we daren't look down nor up, lest the realization of our momentous undertaking cause our fingers to quake and our hearts constrict with terror. Yet unless we open our eyes, we may believe clinging to that rung is safe when the only practical solution is to keep moving forward, one page at a time.

"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to." –Marilyn Ferguson

Realizing that our prose needs work, that we have a tendency to lean on crutch words or phrases, or that our characters need fleshing out to become more than just stick figures on a page can be daunting. That's why we need to remind ourselves that while the process of writing does require precision and an evolving ability to craft stories, we dare not let this overwhelm our sense of adventure. As Helen Keller pointed out, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

To be a storyteller requires us to take risks. To unfurl those literary wings and leap off the cliff, soaring to the heights of our imagination.

"Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking." ~Tim McMahon

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing." –George Bernard Shaw

After three books in one genre, I switched to suspense. At first, I bubbled over with excitement. *laughs* Then the doubts set in. Could I really do this? Did I have it in me to create a villain? Could I create tension, manage the pacing, work through the mystery?

All good questions. Only one answer: You'll never know until you try.

"Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." ~Frederick B. Wilcox

My passion for this new genre astounds me. The story is slowly taking shape. The characters becoming more real. Even my villain is manifesting more clearly each day I devote to delving deep into my book.

My risk-taking venture is opening my mind to new possibilities and generating more excitement as a result. Unless you take risks, you are in danger of becoming bored or worse yet, complacent. Seize your wildest fantasies and fling them onto the printed page. Make the biggest splash possible within your creative pool, you can always clean up the puddles later.

"We fail more often by timidity than by over-daring." ~David Grayson

If you're feeling a loss of motivation, it could be simply that you're not splashing enough water! *laughs* Open up a fresh page and give yourself permission to write crazy-ass, unbelievable things. What's the wildest action your character could take? What's the most shocking statement your character could make? Splash those words onto the page and at the end you might discover a welcome surprise. At the very least, embracing spontaneity and kicking aside the usual restraints will liberate your soul. Not a bad thing at all. *smile*

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher

In honor of the changing seasons, let's 'spring' into action and ignite our passion once more. Remember this is Your Book, Your Choice, Your Life. No matter what the outside world demands or desires, The Power is in Your Hands.

Be free to be yourself.

Be free to dream…

"Dreams are free, so free your dreams." ~Astrid Alauda

Any goals to share?

My focus this week:

I Will Persist. I Will Take Risks.

How about you?

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

Chiron O'Keefe

Featured at: Pop Culture Divas

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Persistence--The Breakfast of Champions

"Life is full of obstacle illusions." --Grant Frazier

This week I took my own advice. I set goals, planned which days to accomplish each goal and then didn't give myself a choice, I Just Did It. *wink* After all, if writing was my job, choice wouldn't factor in at all, would it?

It was an intriguing experiment which netted amazing results. In one week's time, I managed a complete edit of my 100,000 word novel. In Three Days. This left Thursday to work on my Royal Blush Authors blog post and today to pound the keys composing my essay. Next up, a quick look-see of my manuscript on Saturday and then it's time to ship it back to my editor.

Am I tired? You bet! *laughs* However, I'm also encouraged. Many times my weary eyes would read of yet another successful author whose busy schedule puts my own to shame. What's the most telling characteristic of a successful author? Persistence. Pushing past the obstacles no matter how tempting it can be to take a breather in the shadows.

Looking for appropriate quotes, I came across one that truly humbled me, inspired me, and fueled my desire to persist.

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." ~Life's Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr

Whenever I'm tempted to back out of my self-imposed commitments, based on what I feel are overwhelming odds, I'm reminded of Helen Keller, one of my earliest heroes. This woman surmounted obstacles light-years beyond my own petty grumblings. She believed too that everyone can achieve their dreams. Obstacles may be inevitable but giving up is an option I refuse to take.

"Never Give Up, Never Surrender!" --Commander Peter Taggart from Galaxy Quest.

In the movie Galaxy Quest, Jason and crew find themselves battling Space-Uglies in a surreal imitation of their long-cancelled television show. Going from being a pretend hero to an actual battle is quite an adjustment. As long as it's all make-believe, we can back out of the room and pretend none of it matters.

Writers face a similar dilemma. Here I sit locked away in my office. There's no boss breathing down my neck and no paycheck waiting at the end of my week. The same person responsible for accomplishing my goals is the exact same person most likely to renege. *rueful grin* In the beginning, writing is a lovely dream, a fantasy where the space-aliens disintegrate neatly on command and every plot obstacle is tied up within the 47 minutes allotted to the script.

Once we plant ourselves in front of the monitor, we're shoved into the Real World and like Jason Nesmith, discover how exhilarating the action can be AND how tempting it is to walk away.

Don't walk away.

There's success at the end of the road as long as you keep your feet (and fingers) moving steadily forward.

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong." –Ella Fitzgerald

Those insecurities and doubts hit every writer. Every single writer. There's no magic transformation that distinguishes those who are successful. If you've written a hundred books, there's going to still be a tiny insecurity that whispers, "Are you sure you have one more in you?"

Be kind to yourself in those private moments when you confess your doubts. Trust me, we all go through this.

"I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn't wish to have any other kind of life…and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence. The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would never have believed it would take such effort." –Elizabeth George, Write Away, Journal of a Novel, December 15, 1997

Here's the thing. If you're a firefighter or a fictional commander on Galaxy Quest, you don't have a choice. Crisis forces you to act. Rarely is there time to second-guess your decision.

Writers need more stamina, more persistence, and definitely more motivation to keep their energy up and their determination firmly in place. You Are A Hero whenever you push past an obstacle, whether it be inner (trepidation or fear) or outer (squeezing in fifteen minutes between job and/or family time). Being a writer is fun but it's also damn hard work. Honor yourself every day that you fulfill your self-imposed commitment.

I Am A Writer! Woo-hoo!

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." ~Beverly Sills

"The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do." ~Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, 1996

Now, here's where my nagging inner voice says, "Okay, fine. We need to persist. We need to stick to our goals, but how do I push myself past the funk that sometimes grips me hard?"

Good point, dastardly inner voice! *grin*

There's good reason books on positive thinking and sales seminars advocate affirmations as a means of self-motivation. Here's an intriguing tidbit. Did you know studies have linked memory to emotion? The more intense the emotion, the more likely you are to remember the moment.

Why? The brain is responsible for, and capable of, noting every single second of the day, yet our conscious recollection is selective. A good way to understand this is to think of your phone. You can store a select amount of numbers, however there are a few you can put on speed dial. Those 'intense' thoughts are on speed dial.

How does this serve us as writers, or even in our daily life?

Any thought you infuse with intense emotion is on your own inner speed dial. Think of those select numbers as the probable reality you want to connect with.

Positive thinking is not simply looking on the bright side (though optimism is always good!). Nor is it simply chanting affirmations automatically.

This is a process of self-hypnosis which plants in your brain a belief that shapes your reality. It may sound silly, to stand in front of the mirror and shout, "I Am A Success!!" but it works. When you whip up enough enthusiasm, you actually believe it's true. When you believe it's true, you think like a success, you act like a success and you tune into opportunities based on your belief.

"Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." ~Arnold H. Glasow

Helen Keller could never have accomplished so much without fervently believing she could. The astonishing accomplishments we stand in awe of all depended on a person believing in success, and persisting beyond all obstacles, even self-doubt. Without persistence, Disneyland would not exist. The Sistine Chapel ceiling would be blank. And this essay would not be written. *smile*

This week, let's have a dual goal. First and foremost, let's 'set ourselves on fire' by staring in the mirror at least once a day and saying those magic words. "I AM A Success. I Persist Because I AM A Success and That's What Successful People Do." Repeat until you feel the tingle. You'll know it when it happens. *wink*

Our simultaneous goal? Persist! Push for one more sentence, one more page, one more scene. Treat writing like a job that you love. If doubt intrudes or the urge to procrastinate hits, head back to the mirror.

Remember, You Are A Success. Your Actions Make You A Success.

Here's to a persistent, productive and successful week!


Chiron O'Keefe

Featured at:
Pop Culture Divas

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just Do It

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." ~Frank Tibolt

Author, Linda Ford posted a message awhile back in the RWA Online Forum where she puzzled over the resistance she experienced every time she sat down to write. I can pull up page after page in my own journal where I shook my own mental fist at the universe and asked the same thing.

A friend had phoned a couple of months ago, puzzling over her own resistance, this in relation to working out at the gym. She thrives on exercising, so why does she procrastinate and avoid an activity she loves? She hoped I would provide some magic answer and all I could tell her was this. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

It sounds too simple. Too flippant. Yet, Linda herself summed it up with an illuminating insight: “What made me slip into considering the activity rather than doing it?”

“A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.” –Carlos Castaneda

What I realized as I began this essay is this. For all the tasks we face, whether they be pleasurable or onerous, there’s always one distinction. Do we have a choice? When we don’t, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury to think about it. We know we have to just do it. Now, this doesn’t stop the cycle of resistance! If it were that easy, there would be no missed deadlines. *rueful grin* It does, however, provide a clue as to the process. Since we CAN choose, we stop and think. People who perform heroic acts would probably all agree, had they stopped to think about it, they probably wouldn’t have had the courage. Or the strength. Or the extra push needed to succeed.

Just Do It.

“You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” –Henry Ford

Years ago, a good friend of mine told me why he loved to ski. “When you’re up on that snowy mountain, you can’t stop and think about everything. You just do it.”


There it is again.

Linda’s post prompted much thought on my part. A contemplation about both resistance and the choice to resist. In all areas of my life. Even in the mental phrasing of what I’m doing.

Do I say to myself, “Today I HAVE to write. Today I HAVE to edit this many pages.”

Or do I just say, “Today I write. Today I edit this many pages.”

Hmm… Food for thought.

“It is always your next move.” --Napoleon Hill

Just Do It.

How can it still be winter? *grin* Spring is almost upon us and here we are at the crux of change. It is up to us to choose which direction to take each day. Should we consider whether or not to write or simply write? What is our choice?

Consider this…

Whatever we want to accomplish, we can. Whatever we choose to accomplish, we will. Whatever we want to be, we are.

We Are Writers. And what do writers do?

We Write! So… Just Do It! *grin*

Here's to a solid week of productivity. Write-write-WRITE! Go-go-GO!!

Smiles to you,

Chiron O'Keefe

Featured at Pop Culture Divas

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Secret of Success

"The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination." ~Marian Zimmer Bradley

The journey to success can be a treacherous one. No matter how meticulously you plan, or how enthusiastically you dream, there will be trials and tribulations. It's inevitable. Yet here's where my story-teller's mind jumps in to play.

Imagine you're bouncing about with several companions on a rickety boat in a stormy sea. Rain falls in bitter cold sheets, drenching the lot of you while the gale-force winds buffet your leaky vessel with relentless glee.

One person shouts above the shrieking wind, "Hang on there, help will arrive! We just have to work together and we'll make it through this!"

Another screams, "We're doomed, I tell you! Doomed! Shark-bait and fish food. This baby's going down and we're all going to die!!!"

Which person would you rather share the life-raft with? *wink*

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." –Louisa May Alcott

There have been endless jokes about the old 'glass half-full or half-empty' scenario. Yet one thing remains true. We train our eyes, train our mind to seek out whichever circumstances we believe in. This applies to The Big Picture as well as the absolutely mundane. Why bother to even look for a convenient parking space if you already know it's impossible? Hmm? *grin*

Few people find success without actively seeking it out. Success is elusive, I admit. You have to invest time, energy, and focus with determination and an endless supply of patience. Most important though is the belief that leads our perception. We must believe in success in order to look for it. We must have hope and optimism to chase those clouds away and keep our inner light shining bright.

"An optimist is the human personification of spring." –Susan J. Bissonette

Now a phrase like "beliefs create reality" may strike some as metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Others may just see it as simply another take on positive thinking, a perspective that has been around for eons. But let's backtrack and examine the idea from a strictly practical viewpoint. Bottom line: If you believe in success, you're more likely to have your eyes and ears open to any opportunity that comes your way. Put more simply, if you're looking for smiles, you'll find them. If you're looking for scowls, then that is what you'll zoom in on.

"You were not born a winner, and you were not born a loser. You are what you make yourself be." ~ Lou Holtz

If we walk into a room with our heads held high, shoulders back and an enthusiastic smile blooming on the face, we'll make a different impression than if we trudge in with shoulders slumped, right? Now consider this. Our self-talk, our beliefs, affect the impression we make on ourselves. You are the captain, and the ship is your life. Think back to the imaginary companions' cries during the treacherous storm, which person would you want piloting your ship?

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." --Benjamin Disraeli

A good way to examine your beliefs about success is to fill in a sentence like this:

"If I were a success then I would…"

For some of us, just starting the sentence gives us shivers and tingles. *grin* What would I do? Would I write with more passion or pump out more pages? Would I feel a surge of anticipation and bask in a glow of confident expectancy?

"Success doesn't come to you…you go to it." --Marva Collins

Success and optimism go hand in hand. It's natural to assume that the outer trappings is what signifies victory As if 'success' is a magical land in which only a lucky few are granted entrance.

Here's my quote: Success is not the promised land; success is a chosen attitude that leads to accomplishment.

"Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success." --Dr. Joyce Brothers

Being a success means also that you accept mistakes as part of the process. There's this great Disney flick called 'Meet the Robinsons.' The motto of this movie could have been: Making Mistakes is the Secret of Success. *grin* I love this movie for many reasons, but especially for this theme. It's so true. Unless you let yourself experiment and make mistakes, you'll never move forward. And unless you Believe You Are A Success, you may not have the confidence to make those oh-so-necessary mistakes.

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success." – Thomas J. Watson

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heart-breaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." --B.C. Forbes

This week, as we tackle each new day, let's frame our thoughts with an attitude of hope and success. Let's 'look for smiles' and tell ourselves every day (at least for one week), "I Am A Success." Remember, winning doesn't make you a success. Knowing you already are a success means you Go For The Win.

Success will never be a big step in the future, success is a small step taken just now. ~Jonatan Mårtensson

Wishing us all a very successful week indeed!!

Smiles to you all,

Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, March 2, 2009


"He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it." –Douglas Adams from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Writers are an odd breed. We spend our lives immersed in a dream world, a universe where we call the shots. Real life can seem like a pesky intrusion, and often, as the writing fervor grips us, we may lose track of exactly who is writing whom.

"Dreams are . . . illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you." --Marsha Norman

We become fascinated with the mundane. Curious about the craziest things. Our lives are dominated by two words: What If? As a result, our minds are prone to wander and eyes may glaze as we turn away from what non-writers call Real Life and enter the world we know so well.

"I dream for a living." -- Steven Spielberg

Truly, such a venture sounds heavenly. Which is why so many strangers sigh and comment, "I've always wanted to write."

It is a dream come true. Except even writers must awaken now and again. Truth is, as much fun as it is (yes, it IS like living in our own personal Disneyland), the work involved and the pressure we put on ourselves can make blood vessels burst.

"A writer's problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it." --Ernest Hemingway

The pictures in our head are so vivid and clear. Yet the process of wrangling them into words is as easy as tossing a rope around a bolt of lightning and dragging it down to earth.

Dream-wranglers is what we are. Herding those crazy ideas onto the paper and with patience and persistence, coaxing out the story we know to be there. Easy, right?

"The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid and stable business." --John Steinbeck.

True enough, this is one crazy business. While most non-writers see writing as doing nothing but playing with words all day (and even as I type this, a grin sneaks up my face because it is damn fun), the work can be draining. Add to that the pressure of trying to get published, trying to stay published, pleasing an audience or hoping for a good review, meeting deadlines and tackling promotional duties, and the "fun" gets overwhelmed by the work. Hey, even chocolate-tasters need a break!

"The ability to play is essential to being a creative artist." --Dewitt Jones

Writers need to play. Without that childlike ability, we're doomed to a life of dull prose so dry that our readers will be in serious need of hydration. However, it's not just the ability to play that matters. There's a serious need here to incorporate R&R into our routine. Why?

The first is the "Duh Factor." If you're too burnt out to work, your writing will suffer. The second is less obvious but just as vital. Playing refuels the flame, which in turn inspires us with new ideas and devious plot twists.

Just today, I thought to myself that maybe I should spend the weekend writing, instead of delving into music with dear hubby as we planned. Which is when my muse whispered a contrary opinion. *heh-heh* The playful times inspire me. I feel more refreshed, more energized, and infinitely more ready to jump back into my writing as a result.

"Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn't taste good." --Lucia Capocchione

Ah, yes. We do want life to "taste" like chocolate all the time, right? And especially our writing. Yum-yum. We can be so driven that we feel guilty for those occasional moments when we yearn to break free of the routine.

Then again… who knows what ideas might spring up while playing a game with your child or catching the latest flick with a dear chum? What troublesome plot point might be resolved when you give your weary brain a rest and let the muse step forth once more? Do remember to bring your handy purse-sized notebook along to jot down those lightning bolts when they strike!

Play keeps us revitalized and helps us to remember we are truly alive, and awake. How better to make those stories come to life than to remind ourselves now and then to wake up out of our dream world and jump feet first into real life?

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake." –Edgar Allen Poe

So, along with our constant desire to keep writing, let's also encourage a slightly different angle:

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." --George Bernard Shaw

"The world is your playground. Why aren't you playing?" --Ellie Katz

And one of my all-time favorites, from a man who demonstrated the fine art of playing throughout his life:

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." –Groucho Marx

Let's embrace the dream and reap the benefits of play. Here's wishing us all a playful and productive week!

Smiles to you,
Chiron O'Keefe