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

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Kathy Holmes said...

Wonderfully inspiring, as usual, Chiron! Just what I needed to read as I continue to comb through my manuscript, attempting to make it the best it can be.

Mary Jo Scheibl said...

Great post, Chiron.

I finished my edits yesterday at 1 PM, 12 days ahead of schedule. These next two weeks I've filled with plans to update my website and my blog, as well as preside over an online board meeting for our WisRWA board. :-)

One thing I've learned to keep me focused is to have a daily planner book. Right next to my monitor. I list my objectives for each day and how much time I spent each day on working toward their achievement. It's a great way to stay on track and realize what's derailed you if those goals didn't quite make it. It's also a marvelous affirmation of hard work when our work is so solitary and dependent on us being all things to ourselves. :-)

Of course, I took the idea from years of using "my" form of course objectives in teaching college. I always knew where I was and where I had to be.

I've read the book Simple Abundance twice and found it so helpful in so many different ways, from decluttering my house to decluttering my mind. And healing some sorrows and scars life had slung my way. Very good choice.

You are definitely on my must check blog list. :-_

Mary Jo/Casey Clifford

Ryshia Kennie said...

Thanks for another inspiring kick Chiron! And it's so true each sentence takes you closer to your goal until one day it's reality.

Chiron said...

Hello Kathy!

Thanks so much. Good luck with the combing. I think in some ways, the biggest challenge is to be able See what our tired eyes pass over.

On the other hand, isn't it FUN to polish those sentences and make them gleam?

Happy editing, my dear!


Miss Mae said...

I don't know how you manage to get these out week after week, Chiron. I really admire you, girlfriend. :)

Chiron said...

Hi Mary Jo!

What a lovely thing to hear! *beam* I'm thrilled to be on your blog 'must check' list!!

Huge congrats on coming in ahead of schedule. Very cool idea to mark how much time each objective takes. Monitoring ourselves isn't easy, however, it serves us very well.

I'll check out the book, Simple Abundance. Sounds intriguing!


Chiron said...

Ryshia, hello!

You're so welcome. Thanks for stopping by! Yup, one more page towards our goal.

I love being a writer!!


Chiron said...

Aw, Miss Mae!

Bless your heart. *blush* It's a challenge but a good one. Every week I feel a sense of accomplishment, which motivates me to move forward on my other projects.

Win-win, my favorite scenario of all!

Thanks for visiting, Miss Mae!


Misty Evans said...

By Grabthar's hammer, we live to tell the tale.

I love Galaxy Quest. We throw lines from it around all the time at my house.

I also love your weekly inspiration, Chiron. I'm about to tackle a chapter I'd rather skip over, but after reading your essay, I know I have to write it.

Luckily, I also know it will make the story deeper and richer. Thanks for giving me the push I needed to go there. By Grabthar's hammer, what an inspiration!


Captain Hook said...

You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. Thanks.

Sandy said...

Oh, Chiron, this was a fantastic post. Elizabeth George is right.

I talked to my youngest stepson today, and we were talking about my writing and him building his airplane. Both have taken years, but we've both persisted. He said, "We're very much alike." He's right. Smile.


Linda LaRoque said...

Wonderful post, Chiron. Accomplishing your weekly goals must feel awesome.


Chiron said...

Hello Misty!

Never Surrender! Isn't that one of the best movies ever? So quirky, fun and yet inspirational. The perfect combination.

Good luck with that chapter!

Smiles and hugs,

PS, I'm really enjoying your book: Operation Sheba!

Chiron said...

Hello there Captain!

I'm so glad the essay hit home for you this week. *smile*



Chiron said...

Hi Sandy!

It does sound like you and your stepson are very much alike! Building planes and writing books.

And Yes, the Elizabeth George quote reminds me always, we're not alone. All writers struggle and sometimes just knowing that can give us a boost.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Smiles and hugs,

Chiron said...

Hi Linda!

Thanks so very much! Yes, last week I hit those goals. It may not happen every week, but just doing it once showed me what I could do. Rather like an Olympic moment for me. *grin*

Thanks for taking the time to read this week's essay!

Smiles and hugs,