Sunday, September 27, 2009

Choosing to Believe

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." --- Richard Bach, Illusions.

There are times when we honestly can't write. A few weeks ago I noticed a unpleasant tenderness in my thumb. Gripping jars was difficult and typing became increasingly more painful. Instead of ignoring the ache as is my tendency, I visited my doctor who pronounced the tendon in my thumb inflamed and advised me to not type or play music for at least two weeks. *gasp*

My first instinct was to ignore her advice, which unfortunately she intuitively grasped and responded to. "That is if you want this to heal."


Okay, there's that.

During my unplanned break, I caught a very strange movie (The Science of Sleep, if you must know) and suddenly tapped into an intriguing idea for fantasy fiction. Undaunted by my sore thumb, I grabbed pad and paper and scratched out notes with my working hand until it ached. Granted I'll have to decipher those scribbles (embarrassing confession time: my handwriting could double as war-time code). Still, I showed myself that I could move forward despite the current restriction on my typing.

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 juggle jobs and family duties and still manage to carve out a few precious writing minutes every day. There can be physical obstacles too (like my inflamed tendon), or even an unmet need for privacy or quiet. There are endless obstacles that we may encounter but none of these are limitations. Why? Simply put, because 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 every 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 while turning 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 be inevitable in life but a rejection simply means there's more work 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 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 and in your dreams. 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…

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."Walt Disney

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

The greatest gift anyone can have is a dream to pursue. Millions of people yearn for something they cannot define. A lucky few know exactly what they would like to do or who they would like to become. The obstacles may be many but with courage, patience, perseverance and a healthy dose of optimism, just about anything you dream of can be achieved.

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

One secret to victory is that 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 triumph over the odds, 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, and start off the morning with a reminder to ourselves: "You, my friend, are a Successful Author!" Write on!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Thanks to my friend, David Carr for this gem of a motivational video. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Create Magic

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. ~Douglas Adams

For many of us, writing is a happy accident. Whether we meticulously plot out every scene in advance or jump into the fray with a vague idea (knowing our future self will be in charge of editing out the dreck), we often find that our best writing is a surprise to ourselves. Hopefully, to our readers as well.

That's where faith comes into the picture. We need to trust that somewhere in the caverns of our unconscious the story resides in full. Like the proverbial block of marble, the completed book already exists—we need to carve away what Isn't the story to find it.

"Like an old gold-panning prospector, you must resign yourself to digging up a lot of sand from which you will later patiently wash out a few minute particles of gold ore." ~Dorothy Bryant

Outlining, editing, revising, querying… Work-work-work, where's the fun? Yup, being a writer isn't the happy-go-lucky traipse through springtime flowers we imagine when we first begin tapping those keys. *sigh* Ah, but the rewards are indescribable. As our unique tale emerges, we delight in how smooth the story feels, how solid the sculpture appears, how grand and glorious it is to be a writer! There's no denying the effort involved yet... what an amazing triumph.

Whether the story snaps in at eleven pages or stretches for three hundred and fifty, You Have Created A New World.

A world where characters gasp and giggle, struggle and strive, kiss and snuggle, and dare to prevail against dire odds. You Create Magic. Which is why writers more than anyone understand the element of surprise. Hah! When we re-read a particularly good day's work, we might find ourselves sucking in a startled breath when the words drop off. But… but… but… we sputter… where's the rest? For one amazing instant, we *feel* the complete book and our linear consciousness wonders why the heck we stopped!

Relish the shiver of excitement, my friend, because YOU are a writer!

That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along. ~Madeleine L'Engle

Those bursts of illumination aren't constant. Like fireflies, they flit in and out providing flashes of inspiration when our inner sky grows dark. Yet every writer experiences a similar rush—a combination of exhilaration and anticipation. We Are Magic. Ideas dancing in the air. Words transforming into stories before our astonished eyes.

How freaking cool is that?

This week, let's celebrate the magic. Recognize how the process of writing takes us places we never imagined we could go.

"I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience - and laughter." ~Susan M. Watkins

Let's recognize writing isn't about playing it safe. Jump into the deep water! Walk the tightrope without a net!

"To do anything truly worth doing, I must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in with gusto and scramble through as well as I can."Og Mandino

Writing is a grand and glorious adventure. An opportunity not only for self-exploration, an opportunity to be daring and freely take risks. We're not actually skydiving here. We're free to leap out of the airplane a dozen different ways, knowing we can back up and jump again and again and again. Why play it safe? Have faith and tell Your Story Your Way…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.Mark Twain

Let's have a fabulous and productive week!


"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible." --Arthur C. Clarke

Now, do you have any tales of magic to share? Any times when your writing took you by surprise?

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dressing for Success

I couldn't wait for success... so I went ahead without it. ~Jonathan Winters

Years ago, I moved to Hollywood—land of a thousand dreams. In love with an actor, these were heady times for me as we explored our mutual love of the performing arts. One adventure I remember fondly was my foray into student films. You see, Hollywood is abundant not only with eager stars-to-be but also many an aspiring filmmaker. Those who yearn to be the next Scorsese or Spielberg. A number of these budding directors study either in New York's film schools or in the land where palm trees sway and convertibles rule the road.

How does the next winner of the Oscar for Best Director learn how to create that mega-million blockbuster? By producing small budget mini-films starring just as eager actor-wannabes. *grin*

So there I am newly arrived in Hollywood, scouring the dailies for audition possibilities when lo and behold I spotted a notice for a student film!

Wanted: Business-woman-extraterrestrial.

Perfect! *laughs*

Now while the competition isn't as fierce for student films as blockbusters (go figure) there's still a crowd to contend with. Obviously, I wanted to stand out as The Perfect Candidate. So what did I do? I slipped on the business suit I wore for my Kelly Services marketing jobs, wound my hair into a tight bun and strode purposefully in to the audition. In this case, I quite literally dressed for the part.

And nailed it. *woo-hoo!*

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. ~Winston Churchill

Now this ties in with last week's essay on visualization. Whatever "part" we aspire to, we need to approach our chosen new reality in a similar manner. In this case, dressing for success isn't limited to a wardrobe choice. As most people know, how we carry ourselves is more vital than the clothes we wear. In men's magazines, for example, the question is often posed, "What do you find sexiest in a woman—clothes or attitude?" The answer invariably remains the same. Confidence is the sexiest accessory one can wear!

Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~attributed to Bill Meyer

I'm going to make a sweeping assumption here that everyone reading this essay desires success and happiness in life. We want but we may not yet believe that we can achieve our desires. Beliefs, as previously noted, are the tools our mind utilizes to manifest our reality. In essence, they are the "wardrobe" of our mind.

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

By choosing to Act As If You Are A Success, you do two things. You send out a message to all you meet, and the universe in general, that You Are Indeed A Success. You also confirm to yourself this most vital message. Think about it. If today you had achieved your dream goal, how might you approach your day? Would you devote more time or invest more enthusiasm? Would You… Believe?

"What a man believes may be ascertained not from his creed, but from assumptions on which he habitually acts." George Bernard Shaw

Let's choose this week to reinforce our visualizations with action and attitude. Here's an exercise. Go to your mirror and pretend you've just met someone new and been asked, "Who are you?"
Look yourself in the eyes and say, "I Am A Success." Do this a few times and let yourself work up a good dose of enthusiasm. Now, Anytime you shake someone's hand, or offer up a hug, repeat this phrase in your mind. You'll really be amazed at how beautifully this translates. It's almost spooky just how much our attitude affects others as well as our self.

"Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude." ~Ralph Marston

Remember, reality is flexible stuff. If you don't believe me, watch siblings compare notes about their childhood. Often people growing up in the same house (and experiencing identical events) remember things completely differently. Rather than arguing for poor memory skills, consider how this reflects a vital truth: Reality is based on perception and perception is based on beliefs.

Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.Gary Zukav

Here's our affirmation:

This week I will remember that I AM a success. I LOVE Being A Success!

Let's make this September week shine. Summer's winding down and Autumn is peeking 'round the corner. Time to snuggle down with keyboards and legal pads and trek through lands of our imagination. Happy Writing, everyone!

Care to share any of your tips for or experiences of 'Dressing for Success'? Do share!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award!

A very cool writer, Kate Sheeran, who pens the wonderful blog Adventures on the Road to Success, has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award!

Yay! So now there are some guidelines to follow.

1) Thank the nominator, which is the fabulous Kate. Thanks so much! I'm touched and honored.
2) Post Logo. Uh-oh, she cast a nervous eye around the room. Do they know I posted the logo first? Hmmmm... Okay, at least now I can do the rest in the proper order *cough*
3) Link to the person who nominated you. Easy!! Click here for a fun blog!
4) Seven things about me that people might find interesting. Hmmm, again. Somehow I don't think this is the right time or place to tell people about my Giant Ball of Foil. *heh-heh* Just kidding. It's not that big. Any-who, here we go:

First--I play guitar and sing. Mostly classic rock, early Motown or Soul, Beatles, Stones, and the Blues. Oh, yeah!
Second--My avatar name was Cleo Dreamwalker and I lived in The Sims Online. The heavens shown upon me when I worked for Electronic Arts/Maxis, and I had the dream job of flitting about in-game to interview fellow gamers. How cool is that?
Third--I did stand-up comedy for one night. My biggest laugh came from this line: My name is Chiron and these are my breasts.
Fourth--I was a professional astrologer for twenty-five years.
Fifth--During my singer-songwriter days in the 90's, at a Body, Mind, Spirit Festival, I opened for Timothy Leary!
Sixth--Back in the 80's, I worked box-office for a new-fangled circus called, Le Cirque Du Soleil. Within a week and a half, it became The Hottest Ticket in town. Celebrities vied for entrance. At the closing night party, I drank champagne with Jane Fonda and (my personal favorite) writer, actor, producer, director Harold Ramis. Yay!
Seventh--Again, back in the 80's, I performed in a LipSynch contest in Lake Tahoe as Mick Jagger. And won!! *laughs*

5) Nominate and link to other creative blogs!


Blog #1: Kathy Holmes, Author. Not only is Kathy a great writer, she shares her adventures in travel and her own ups and downs in the writing life. You GO, Kathy!

Blog #2: Author Blog, Glynis Smy. Once again, the trials and tribulations and encouragement of a fellow writer always keeps pumped!

Blog #3: The Morgan Diaries. Funny and insightful. I love this blog!

6) Final step--Comment on said blogs and let them know! Will do. *smile*

Thanks again, Kate! You Rock!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just Write!

"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, 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

Now you can tell me, how have you faced down your own fears or broken through psychological patterns of insecurity? Any times when you felt overcome yet persevered?

--Chiron O'Keefe
Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hear Me Roar--Extraordinary Women in Music

Today I blogged at Pop Culture Divas! Stop by if you can and peruse Hear Me Roar--Extraordinary Women in Music.

--Chiron O'Keefe