Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reprogram Your Mind Towards Success

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

A classic book on self-improvement was published in 1960 with the title, Psycho-Cybernetics. The author, Maxwell Maltz, was a successful plastic surgeon who noticed a peculiar and discouraging phenomenon with some of his patients. Despite the removal of what they considered physical flaws, many still believed they were unattractive. Maltz realized their perception was distorted because of a flawed inner-view.

Bottom-line, self-image is based on inner beliefs, not outer appearance.

"Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment." ---Maxwell Maltz

This phenomenon also affects our basic interaction with life itself. Our core image determines how we will approach both goals and opportunities that come our way. To put it simply, You Are What You Believe.

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." ---Author Unknown

Now this is not new stuff, but the Dr. Maltz's approach may feel fresh, even nearly fifty years after its first publication. He likened the mind to a cybernetic "servo-mechanism". Pretty fancy, huh? *grin* The idea though is straightforward: our mind is like a computer-controlled missile heading to a target determined by beliefs. The self-image we possess is the result.

The target is determined by your beliefs. Think about that. Where have you painted your bulls-eye? How many times have you heard (or said) this common phrase: With my luck, THIS will happen…

Hmmmm?

"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." ---Michael Jordan

Since the publication of this classic (and I do recommend it to one and all) the idea of beliefs shaping the reality we encounter has become quite popular. Although, in fairness, the idea has existed for eons.

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

Yet today we still struggle with beliefs that affect our behavior and our self-perception. Why do some people manage to accomplish so much while others clench their fists in despair? How can we achieve success and happiness in life? Obviously, effort must be made. Goals set and reached. But unless you believe you can and will achieve anything of value, you may unconsciously set yourself up for failure or just languish in procrastination hell.

"Low self esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on." ---Maxwell Maltz

The good news is we can change our self-image. We can reprogram our brain to believe in success. One very powerful tool is visualization. By placing an image in your mind, you can reprogram your thinking. As children, we learn behavior by imitating others. We put a picture in our mind and strive to faithfully reproduce that image. We Form Habits.

How many here have to think before tying a shoe? Not many, I'm guessing.

Our mental habits are much more powerful than we realize. And those mental habits are part of our neural network. How we respond to a smile from a stranger, for example, is based on a series of beliefs. How we respond to rejection is also based on beliefs.

"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to." ---W.C. Fields

So… how do we use the power of visualization to change our self-image, to attract success and to become all that we long to be?

First:
Form a mental image of something concrete. A writer can visualize herself typing The End or signing a contract with a coveted publisher. You can form a picture of yourself paying off bills, marking PAID IN FULL. Perhaps focus on the image of a confident, radiant 'you' giving a lecture or shaking hands with strangers who welcome you warmly. Reinforce your image with an affirmation set in the present moment. Instead of saying you will be (fill in the blank here) say I AM…

The mind will respond As If This Is Happening Now. You are restructuring your beliefs and setting a new target for your mind to lock onto.

Second:
Focus on this image for at least five minutes, perferably twice daily. Maybe in your morning shower (or even better, while looking in the mirror!) and once before bed. Suspend all disbelief and let yourself *feel* excited. Woo-hoo! I AM A Success!! Tell yourself firmly: This Is My TRUE Reality. Everything else is an illusion I no longer need. Stick to this for at least a month. If negative thoughts pop up during the day, remind yourself that the "illusion" took time to set-up and might take time to fade away. However… This Is My TRUE Reality. Everything else is an illusion I no longer need.

Three:
Take action. Every day do at least one thing to reinforce your visualization. If you're trying to finish a book, for example, write at least one page and then repeat your affirmation. I finished that page! I AM a successful writer!

Four:
Persevere.
Stick to this and you'll be amazed at the results.

Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.

~Karen Ravn

We Can Do It! Autumn is sneaking in and soon winter will be knocking at the door. As the leaves drip off the trees and animals hunker down to ride out the cold weather, the urge for retreat can swell. Let's utilize this time to pull energies that have been scattered all summer and refocus on our writing. This will be a productive month! I can feel it… Let's Make It Happen.

Now share with me your tips for reprogramming your mind for success. Any great books or personal stories? Do tell!

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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taking Risks vs. Riding the Brakes

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is."H. Jackson Browne, Jr.

Last weekend, hubby and I were jamming on guitars. It's something we love to do, sip a little wine and play our favorite songs. He paused and looked over at me, saying, "Don't hold back. Hit those strings like you mean it."

I needed the reminder. His next comment though really struck home. "You need to let go of that tendency to ride the brakes all the time."

Bam!

Wow... The thought reverberated in my head. The visual image meshed beautifully with the startling realization of my own tentative nature. You can bet I did play more aggressively for the remainder of the evening and loved it. Woo-hoo!

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."Anais Nin

The next day I studied those words I'd scribbled down with such haste.

Riding the Brakes.

Being a writer is all about risk. Sure, just about anyone can string words together into the semblance of a sentence. Writing a story can be as simplistic as See Jane Run. Yet as readers, we know the difference between a story that merely connects the dots and one that sweeps us into an enchanted world. No matter the genre, whether commercial or literary, the writer who pushes past the boundaries makes us gasp with delight or sit stunned as a revelation resonates within our hearts.

I want to be that writer. Don't you?

"Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out." --Natalie Goldberg

Taking Risks vs. Riding the Brakes. Writing isn't an easy task. Which is why we heave a sigh of relief when finished and often eye revisions with the same enthusiasm with which we might face a cluttered, spider-infested garage. Ewwwwww…. But… I'm all done! WAH!

*chuckle*

Part of why the task can feel so onerous is simple. If our story isn't awakening our souls, rattling our bones, clenching our fists, touching our hearts, we may simply be bored. *gulp* We need to dig deeper. Take the foot off the brake. Take A Chance.

If you're feeling stuck with a passage, pull up a separate document. Now, give yourself free rein. Let loose and explore by writing the three wildest, most preposterous (or provocative *wink*) scenes that you can yank out of your imagination. Remember, this isn't part of your story so you can get as crazy as you want. When you're done, try three more. Let yourself Feel that tingle of excitement knowing You Can Write Anything.

Anything at all.

In fact, you can write anything you damn well please.

That's right. It's Your Story. If you're bored or beleaguered, feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, why not twist into a direction you absolutely would never consider? Take a chance. Whether or not you continue in that direction is irrelevant to your process of writing. Shaking up the map will often reveal roads you never would have seen otherwise.

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."Andre Gide

Writing is a voyage of discovery. We must take risks in order to discover not only an incredible story, but also our self within each page. Those amazing revelations that leave you gasping will strike your readers too.

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart... Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal." --William Wordsworth

Write the story you've always dreamt of composing. Write a paragraph without worrying how it will fit in (remember our mantra—It's Only A First Draft). Write from your heart and soul. Let the words flow from you like a burst of spontaneous laughter.

We all have chosen goals and nagging deadlines. After all, We are Writers. We write. By page count and word count. Today, let's make another goal. To dig a little deeper and remember why we write. To experience that tingle of delight, that shiver of excitement, that gasp of awe.

You can do it. You are a writer. Feeling a little fear at the mere thought of pushing yourself? Trust me, it's natural. That, my friend, is a shot of pure adrenalin. You are an adventurer, about to leap off a cliff into the unknown. Trust in the wings of imagination to whisk you away to undiscovered lands. Breathe in the sweet breeze and let your spirit soar.

You, my friend, are a writer… *wink*

Tell me, are you a Risk-Taker by nature or do you tend to Ride The Brakes? How have you encouraged yourself to push beyond your own boundaries?

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Daring Adventure

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."Erich Fromm

Yesterday, at the store I ran into an old friend from many years back. We hugged and shared tidbits of our lives. Her mom approached, and my friend offered up introductions adding, "Chiron's writing books now."
Her mom smiled as she gripped my hand, saying, "That's wonderful that you make yourself do that."

Laughing, I responded, "And I do make myself do it."

It takes courage, you see, to be a writer. Not just stamina and perseverance, but the courage to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before.

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." –Helen Keller

Having the courage necessary to accomplish what we choose is not always easy. We tend to beat ourselves up not only for every mishap, *groan* but for every quiver of fear that sneaks into our hearts. We think, "real" writers wouldn't tremble and shake. Uh-oh. There follows the logic that we daren't admit those worries lest others sneer at us, as we sneer at ourselves.

*sigh*

This tied in with a dream of mine. I was trying to cross a bridge that consisted of nothing more than a long plank and a wobbly cable on either side. Sheer terror gripped me. I backed away, explaining to my friend that I was afraid to fall. But I needed to get across! Finally, the solution came to me. I grabbed a bandana with the intention of tying it around my eyes, and letting my friend lead me across. Hah! Sometimes just pretending what we fear isn't there can give us the courage we need to cross that bridge.

With every book we write we're "crossing a bridge", and yes, the truth is, we might fall. Sometimes we have to close our eyes to what frightens us and move forward anyway.

"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

In my dream, I not only closed my eyes and refused to look at what feared me I also did what every writer should do when panic or discouragement strikes: I reached out to a friend. Writing is a solitary business; it's easy to feel we're all alone.

Remember this, my friends. You Are Not Alone. Every writer experiences panic, discouragement, fear and trepidation. If you're reading this, you're already connecting with another writer who 'gets it.' If you're involved in a writing chapter or you have critique partners, reach out and say… "Help!!" The community of writers is a family and while there will always be a relative or two that makes you roll your eyes and duck into the corner, you'll find most of us are willing to help because We Understand.

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them." – (attributed to) Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I felt discouragement, I reached out to two of my most trusted compatriots. Their insights and encouragement helped me to "cross the bridge."

Courage, my friends, is what being a writer is all about. Courage to face those empty pages, or yet another query. Courage to tackle a fresh scene that eludes us. Courage to revise, once again, a book struggling to come alive. Take just a moment now and consider just how courageous you are! You Are A Writer. This is scary stuff indeed. And here's something to think about… Daredevil stunts or taming lions, sure that's dangerous. However, once you've jumped out of an airplane, you pretty much know what do next time around. With writing, Each and Every Book Is New. You, my friend, are the ultimate adventurer. *wink*

"Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win."Bernadette Devlin

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself."Soren Kierkegaard

The best part is that we aren't solitary adventurers! There's always encouragement or support when you need it. Only one catch—you have to reach for it. Extend a hand and let your fellow writers know when you need help crossing your own bridge.

Courage is the hallmark of every writer. Still, courage is not necessarily an inborn trait. We develop our bravery just as we develop our writing. Part of the process, of course, will be incidents that demand valor. Horrid contest reviews, anonymous rejections, or just the dread arising when you worry you'll never finish your scene, chapter, or book. *gulp* Reach out and take a hand, my friend. Even the most courageous writers need to remember, We Are Not Alone…

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential."Maya Angelou

Here's to a week filled with adventures in writing, eh?

How's about you? Care to share your goals? I'd also love to hear your own stories of courage… How have you handled fear or discouragement? Please share!

--Chiron O'Keefe

also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stay True To Your Dream

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." --Frederick Douglass

Over the years I've become friends with many writers. Their books range from sweet inspiration to the hottest erotica yet each of these fabulous authors have one thing in common. The desire to see their name in print. However, the path to success is an individual one. Learning the craft goes hand in hand with tapping into that wonderful Unique Idea that kicks open the door to the lovely Land Of The Published. Unlike Dorothy, clinging to the doorway while your house gets caught up in a cyclone is not an option.

The quest for success can make us feel desperate. We begin the slow descent into compromise. Maybe if I include thirty-five sex scenes or scuba-diving vampires or a wiccan-rockstar-federal agent! Yup, that's the ticket! *sigh*

There are certain characteristics necessary to make it to the finish line.

Patience to get through the 350 or so pages plus revisions and way too many edits.

Persistence to complete however many manuscripts necessary and send out endless queries until The Call (or email) arrives.

Passion to continue to seek out new ideas and perfect each draft and continue to smile through the inevitable hours (and hours and hours) of promotion. Yet there's one more essential quality that must be firmly in place: Self-Respect.

"They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." --Gandhi

Self-respect means staying true to your vision despite the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Self-respect also means making your own decisions, whether it's to stick to one path or explore another. Self-respect means keeping your eyes wide open and choosing friends, critique partners, agents, and editors who hold your best interests at heart. It also means recognizing your own worth, which is where those wonderful friends, CPs, agents and editors can come in handy!

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." ~Judy Garland

Some writers burst out of the gate and immediately sprint ahead to the finish line. For those who are still struggling this fact can either be an inspiration or really freaking depressing. *rueful grin* Yet the clear-eyed fact is this—if they can do it, so can you. Many successful authors wrote a number of books before finding success. I've mentioned Allison Brennan before and I'll probably do it again. She faced countless rejections before getting her fifth manuscript picked up. There were many more hours logged in before she hit the NY Times bestseller list.

If She Can Do It, So Can You.

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."Abraham Lincoln

Part of the journey to being a successful author is discovering Who You Are and exactly what books you wish to write. As 'toddlers' we often learn by mimicking those we admire. Somewhere down the line, each writer discovers what he or she yearns to write. Whether you know immediately which books will be tumbling from your imagination or find your path evolving, one question inevitably arises. Am I writing the Right Sort of Book?

Agent Jessica Faust addressed this topic in her post, Be True To You.

The pressure to fit in or be acceptable may force us into all sorts of gyrations. Sometimes the pressure comes in the form of others looking down their nose at you. Because you write romance. Because you write erotica. Or even because you don't! I remember struggling when some writers I knew suggested my intent to exclude sex scenes in my rom-com novels was something I needed to 'get over'. Obviously I had issues with sex or maybe I was a prude or these were my 'principles' or perhaps I was simply afraid to tackle the delicate subject. They were more than willing to help me get past this…issue and assist me in conforming to their expectations.

When I tried to explain that this was preference, my choice, and akin to choosing not to write Westerns or Historicals, the words fell on deaf ears. In their view, writing romantic comedy meant I had to conform to their expectations. As if choice was simply a broken zipper to be mended.

Another author I know faced the exact opposite reaction. Chapter members shook their heads and voiced their dismay about her choice to include sex scenes in her novel. It seems no matter which way you swim, there will always be someone on the other side of the river wagging a finger toward the 'proper' direction.

"Be proud of the person and the writer you are, take ownership of your strengths."Jessica Faust

It's time to stand up for our choices and feel proud, damn it! One common response to the eternal question "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?" is simply, "When the fake books stop selling so well." *heh-heh*

For a giggle, check out Miss Snark's take on "When Are You Going To Write A Real Book?"

Now another view is the realization that one path may lead to another. Here's where the freedom of being unpublished allows you the luxury of making different choices. If one path doesn't pan out or starts to feel limited, why not explore another?

A truly gifted writer who is yet to be published (much to the astonishment of all who know her) is Amy Atwell. I highly recommend you read her article on branching out and exploring other avenues, Adjusting Courses.

No matter what genre of book you choose to write, no matter which boulevard you wander down, always remember to Stay True To Your Dream. No matter what the obstacle, no matter how long the wait, no matter how trying the effort, You Can Succeed. Within every person lies extraordinary potential. The secret? Stand up for the challenge. Embrace your destiny. However those fickle winds blow, be determined to take your ship out of the harbor and set sail.

"There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet." --William Frederick Halsy, Jr

Now you tell me. Have you ever experienced outside pressure to veer off your chosen course? Ever felt like you needed to duck your head because of your chosen genre? Do share!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest Blogging at Pop Culture Divas!

Check out this month's guest blog: A Stiff Upper Brit at Pop Culture Divas!

I share some of my favorite quirky British flicks. *grin* Do stop by and fill me in on your own picks!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Writing is a Form of Personal Freedom

I'm thrilled to have received this wonderful award from the delightful author, Miss Mae!

Here are the rules:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

Here are my three (or more) picks:

1. One blog I'm featured at is my all-time favorite: Pop Culture Divas. Being an eternal fan of Pop Culture (books, movies, music, and television), I'm constantly entertained (and often informed of cool new things) by these women.

2. Linda LaRoque. A great author, her blogs feature intriguing glimpses of life and historical facts (which I love!).

3. Celia Yeary. If you love historical snippets, this is a must-read. Like Linda's blog, Celia is a master at sharing historical facts.

(And because I cheated and included a blog I'm on, here's four more):

4. Armchair Heroines. Blog of Author Tiffany James. Great author interviews and slices of life.

5. Paranormal Romantics. Often dishy and not for the faint of heart--this blog does contain an 'adults only' warning.

6. Tamela Quijas. A wonderful author, Tamela opens the doors to her fellow authors, offering enticing book previews.

7. Prairie Chicks Write Romance. Consistently providing fabulous interviews with authors and editors, along with succinct glimpses of the writing life, this blog should be high on everyone's list. Do yourself a favor and become a follower! You'll be glad you did.

And now, for our regularly scheduled blog!

Writing is a Form of Personal Freedom

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." --Groucho Marx

I must confess, I love to write. Although sometimes it is more of a yearning to have already written. *smile* Maybe because, unlike other activities like cooking, there is no clear recipe to follow. Just a gnawing hunger and an insatiable desire for a delicious meal.

During those times of struggle I do feel despair. I worry about plot points. I'm convinced my writing is wooden and stale. Yikes-a-rooni! The temptation to mail out invites to a massive pity-party is overwhelming. As mentioned many times before, those days you'll find me pacing my office, bunching hair in fists while shrieking, "I'm a hack, I'm a hack!"

*snort*

Yet the truth is, all writers struggle to ride the waves without slamming face-first into the dirt. The energy waxes and wanes. The crest of inspiration is often followed by a period of restless wonder. Where did the muse go?

"Only a mediocre writer is always at his best." --W. Somerset Maugham

Think about that. How true! Writers who pen books of rare beauty or profound insights struggle just like the rest of us. They too worry about whether the book is working. They write each story one page at a time.

"I'd like to speak loftily about my attempts to mold the characters and to reach great heights of wisdom when all I'm trying to do is to tell a story that holds together." –Journal of a Novel, June 27, 1994, Write Away by Elizabeth George.

So, how to deal with the inevitable burnout and wavering confidence that is often a writer's due?

A frothy concoction comprised of equal portions of humor and optimism. *smile*

"It's a damn good story. If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check." --Erle Stanley Gardner

We develop confidence by recognizing that our accomplishments are supreme. Think about this… One week I joked about Reality Shows. Here's one version you'll never see: A group of writers, trapped on an island until one produces a book that wins the approval of the most selective agents around. *grin*

Fear Factor contestants would quake in their boots! A challenge of thirty seconds versus a quest of how many years?

"Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.” –Olin Miller

"Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing." --Norman Mailer

So true, so very true…

Ah, but we do have a secret. Despite the struggles, the mind-numbing effort, the endless days and nights of staring hopelessly at the computer screen wondering what the HELL comes next, We Love To Write.


Writing is… magic. We Create Books.

Hot Damn.

"I really enjoy writing novels. It's like the ocean. You can just build a boat and take off." --Denis Johnson

Whatever we desire, we have the power and the ability to create. We can peer into the future or plunge backwards into a turbulent history. Conjure up a slinky cat burgler stalking her lover's nefarious dealings or explore the ramifications of a family in crisis. Writing is an adventure and an opportunity for self-discovery. I love to write!

"Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals." --Don DeLillo

Now, just for fun, here are some rules of writing to keep us all on track.

1. Do not put statements in the negative form.
2. And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
3. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
4. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
5. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
6. De-accession euphemisms.
7. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
9. Last, but not least, avoid clich├ęs like the plague.

~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Which one is your favorite? I'd also love to hear your method for dealing with burnout. How do you keep yourself inspired during the lulls?


The heat of summer is upon many of us. Now's a good time to seek out an air-conditioned haven and write.


Till next week!


--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Between the Lines and Pop Culture Divas!