Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seeing Past the Obstacle Illusions

"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. After all, if writing was my job, choice wouldn't factor in at all, would it?

It was an intriguing experiment which netted great results. In one week's time, I finished the revision outline, typed up notes for a NF book idea, put together a blog post for Pop Culture Divas (fun!) and today I'm posting this week's motivational essay.

Am I tired? You bet! 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!

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

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between the Lines.


Kathy Holmes said...

Your quotes reminded me of one of my favorites, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

I've just set 2 daunting goals for the rest of this year - must finish editing 2 wips so I can focus on the "big" book beginning in 2010.

Thanks for reinforcing that I can do this. :)

Anonymous said...
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Chiron said...

Great quote, Kathy!

Wow, fabulous goals, woman. I'm giving you a mental High-Five in advance!

The "big" book sounds very exciting. Woo-hoo!! Wishing you energy, motivation, persistence, and jolly-good fun!

Thanks always for stopping by. :-D


Judith Leger said...

Another great one, Chiron! I've always love the saying Never give up, never surrender! My mom used to say I was just stubborn but I always believed that with enough perseverance anyone can succeed with their goals! Thanks for posting!

Celia Yeary said...

Chiron--thank you, my girl. I love that term--"Obstacle illusions." Very true. Most of my obstacles are in my head, nothing real, just procrastination, daydreaming, running in circles, and imagining a huge roadblock. However, you'd be rpoud--I have made progess on re-editing a long ms for submission--somewhere, some day. I've stared at this thing for a couple of years--yep--that long--and a few weeks ago, began reworking it from the top down. It's amazing how many areas needed a re-write. Excellent--And thank you--Celia

KH said...

Thank you. Just what I needed to read at just the right time. My first novel was just published; I have an agent interested in a sequel, and I am still teaching high school English full time. Thank you for the words to keep me going.

dirtywhitecandy said...

I like the idea of following your own advice! That is so true - we'd know to tell a fellow writer to keep going, finish the draft, the revisions etc, but from the inside it seems like the end will never come. You're so right that often we need to give ourselves a little pep talk to keep our confidence up.

Chiron said...

Hi Judith!

With all due respect to your mom, it's the 'stubborn' people who beat the odds. *grin*

Ironic that some of our most famous authors and their bestselling books faced numerous rejections. Luckily for us, Madeline L'Engle, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter, Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), Mary Higgins Clark, Jean Auel, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, William Faulkner, Jack London, and countless others were just too damn stubborn to quit.

We'll stick to it, eh, Judith?

Never give up, Never Surrender!!


Chiron said...


That's great! I'm sharing the rewriting blues these days. It takes all of our perseverance, willpower and sheer determination to push on when the words push back so fiercely!

*rueful grin*

I'm proud of you. You're an excellent writer. But more than that, you're a Success because You Keep Pushing to get it right. Write ON, Celia!


Chiron said...

Hello KH!

That's wonderful news!! Wow. Congratulations. It's a challenge to juggle full time teaching and writing but it can be done. Allison Brennan, one of my author heroes, worked full time while writing books (it took her five to get published) and now she's a bestselling author!

I'll be rooting you on, my dear! Do let me know when your book comes out. Yay! This is the start of a Wonderful journey. Congratulations again and keep writing!


Chiron said...

Hello there DWC!

Great name and great blog! I added a link. *smile*

Thanks so much! Yup, us writers have to pull out as many tools as possible to keep that confidence engine running strong.

I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment!


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