Monday, December 6, 2010

Top Five Reasons I'm Going to Miss Watching Medium

One of my favorite shows is wrapping up it's final season. Check out my Top Five Reasons For Missing Medium at Pop Culture Divas and tell me what YOU think!

See You There!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Agent/Editor Exposed--All Writers Should Beware

It's been awhile since I've posted here but a fellow author sent me a link that jolted me more than a double espresso. Now before I share that link, let's sneak a peek at The Dream.

How many aspiring authors yearn for The Perfect Agent? We dream of that shining advocate who will slay the slush-pile dragons and place our precious manuscript into the hands of the wizardly-editor who will confer upon us the supreme status of Published Author.

Yet I note that one writer friend (who shall remain nameless) struggled with a lackluster agent who did little to encourage and even less to sell (said writer actually landed the only contracts herself). When this writer sucked in a deep breath and courageously fired the agent, she was sought out by another agent—A TOP AGENT from a gloriously TOP AGENCY—a thrilling event which put stars in her eyes. "We''ll shop your series to top houses! You'll be a best-selling author in no time!!"

Wowee!! Yet here it is months and months later and guess what? The only books sold are, again, the ones the author managed to sell without any help from The Top Agent. Both agents are scoring royalties for books they did not sell. Hmmm… Really gives one pause to ponder.

Now, here's the link that prompted today's article:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2328

In all fairness, there's no way for me to prove or disprove the accusations levied against the agent and editor in question. I have no desire to impugn anyone's reputation. Whatever the situation, we can only hope that in time the players in this drama will resolve this fairly. However one thing is clear, writers need to keep eyes wide open at all times.

Searching for publication is a perilous journey. There are many unscrupulous people lurking in the shadows, eager to assure you of success while hiding their intentions behind a smile. There are legitimate, professional agents and editors who provide an authentic service. But be warned and be careful. Always, always be wary of any who offer Your Dream Come True for a price. As with the anonymous author's story above, even legitimate agents don't always have the key to the door you hope to unlock.

Side note: I sent a preview of this to another writer friend who responded: It boils my britches to see this happen. It also makes me want to smack said writer up the side of the head and say, "Seriously, $10,000?!!? WTF were you thinking! That's my kids college tuition! A trip around the world! Hell, you could have self-pubbed the damned book for that much and a lot sooner!" You might also mention that in your post...writer beware and be smart. Hello, dude. Common sense, anyone?

Painful but true. This isn't the first such story I've heard. Anonymous literary agent, Miss Snark, famously outed one scam artist quite publicly back in 2006 in the post: Miss Snark is Damn Mad.

What do you think? All comments welcome.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Learning How To Swim Over the Internet

“It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.” -Will Shetterly

Being a writer is all about taking risks. Every book about the craft will tell you and every experienced author will Agree—you have to push beyond your limits. While this is sound advice, it can also be rather daunting. We may wonder, “Does this mean I should write historical when I’m drawn to science-fiction? Must I write hot when I prefer sweet?”

The answer is not quite as simplistic. Yes, we should challenge ourselves by stepping outside our comfort zone if for no other reason than to explore the other aspects of our writing selves. No, we don’t need to twist up our creative self into a pretzel shape based on the current market or the advice of others.

In reality, every page we type is a risk. Every idea we explore is a challenge. Who hasn’t experienced a tremor of unease which we translate quickly into Writer’s Block? Often the truth is simply that we’re nudging up against our unspoken fear. The Fear That Dare Not Be Named is this: What if my writing sucks?

“You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing.” --Gene Wolfe

The more we write, the more we learn how to write. As we write our first novel we began the process of growth. Eventually we master POV and catchy hooks and dramatic cliff-hangers, a fabulous progression of events which often leads to the unfortunate notion that the fear will disappear completely. The good news is for some writers that will be the case. However, the percentage is small. Most of us struggle and whine and sigh and finally beat that damn fear into submission.

How? By writing. By writing a page even when our inspiration dwindles. By pushing to finish a chapter even if we’re certain our prose is stale. By finishing our first draft despite our inner critic who whispers that a REAL writer’s work is perfect from the get-go!

Let’s collectively roll our eyes and snort.

“You sit down and you do it, and you do it, and you do it, until you have learned to do it.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

Writers learn by writing. The mental acuity required to pen a story and polish it until it gleams is not something you learn by reading craft books. Some of the insights contained in craft books or in workshops conducted by bestselling authors will open your eyes. They may give you a new perspective which will enhance your story a thousand-fold. Those books and classes can educate you to the point where you’ll be capable of opening your own school.

But they can’t teach you how to write. Only you can accomplish that. All writers are self-taught.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” --Alice Walker

I’m a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory on CBS. In one episode, Sheldon (a nerdy genius with off-the-charts IQ) decides he wants to befriend a fellow scientist in order to gain access to the Open Science Grid Computer. His roommate Leonard tries to explain that he can’t approach making new friends the same way he learned how to swim… over the internet. Hilarious! The idea of someone learning how to swim without jumping into water is insane!

Uh-oh. This strikes a chord. How many of us have attempted the same thing?

The way we learn to write is by writing. By occasionally composing delightful, engaging, brilliant passages along with a whole lot of crap. *heh-heh*

“If you don't allow yourself the possibility of writing something very, very bad, it would be hard to write something very good.” --Steven Galloway

So, here’s the low-down. Boot up the computer or grab your pad of paper. Write. Get your story down. If you’re bogged down because you’ve written yourself in a corner, pull up a new document and vent. Spew out any and all ideas until one grabs you and doesn’t let go. Your intellect may encourage you to be cautious. Kick that caution to the curb. Write.

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." --Annie Dillard

If you love your idea, let go of the absurd notion of a perfect first draft. Or second. Or third. You have to marry your plot and see it through… for better or for worse. Cozy up close because you’ll be sleeping with and dreaming of your tale until the breath-taking moment of completion. Stick to it. Write. Rewrite. Make the story your own.

“Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it...” --Michael Crichton

Here’s the best news of all. As you progress to your second, third, fourth, fifth book, a marvelous insight will blaze.

You’re getting better all the time.

Each book will reflect your progress. Here’s a secret that authors can only discover after they’ve written a few books. You learn more after three books than you do after three rewrites. Which is why one piece of advice pops up more than most. Write Your Next Book. If your book isn’t being snatched up, set it aside and write your next one. And your next one.

65,000 words into my latest WIP, I tackled the task of editing my last book which I would have sworn was spot-free. I applied myself to the diligent task of giving it a read-through and doing any necessary clean-up. Here’s what I found.

TONS of mistakes. The book I’d pored over and pronounced perfect after endless revisions now revealed glaring holes and leaky prose. The simple truth is, I learned so much by writing my next book, my perspective had changed. The term, “Looking at it with new eyes” took on greater meaning. Trust me, this is not opinion, this is fact. You Will Grow As A Writer.

“You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday.” --Jonathan Swift

It’s all good. If you feel frustrated, relax, you’re a writer. If you feel fear, relax, you’re a writer. If you worry that your book isn’t perfect, Relax, You’re A Writer. You’re not alone. You will get through the endless drafts. You will finish one book and begin another. You will find an audience. You will succeed. Just keep writing.

“I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I'm one of the world's great rewriters.” --James A. Michener

Jump on in… The water’s fine.

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saturday Night Music Part One

This month's Pop Culture Divas post features a typical Saturday Night menu of music videos. Some old, some new, these songs lift my spirits and encourage me to dance and sing. How about you?

Jump to Saturday Night Music Part One and tell me what music video I should watch next! Hope to see you there!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Thursday, July 29, 2010

That's So Funny (I Forgot To Laugh)!

I love writing for Pop Culture Divas. There's so much to explore--music, books, movies, television, and now, of course The Web!!

This month I take on The Funny and share some of the hilarious (though often rude and *a-hem* somewhat profane) humor available on the web. Even though user-generated content can be a hoot (I threw in at least one such video--the seagull stealing cat food), there's quality entertainment created by well-known actors as well.

Lisa Kudrow, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tim Roth, Ralph Macchio, Sarah Silverman, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Will Ferrell, Ben Affleck & Jimmy Kimmel, to name a few. Okay, to name them all. *grin*

Hope you enjoy That's So Funny (I Forgot To Laugh)! Be sure and leave a comment and tell me what tickles YOUR funnybone!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rocking the Sixties!

For some cool music videos, check out Rocking the Sixties at Pop Culture Divas! Tell me which videos are your favorites. ;-D Have any fave-raves you want to share? Hop on over!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tuning Into Opportunities

"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 revisions based on my crit partner's notes, tightened ten more chapters, typed up notes for a sequel, researched agents, 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. 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 only 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.

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.

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. --Octavia Butler

"It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up." ~ Vince Lombardi

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. --Isaac Asimov

The Write Soul sprang out of my desire to encourage writers, including myself, to keep the creative flame burning bright! Initially, writing for myself, I discovered others also benefited and felt inspired. I've enjoyed being there for my readers, sharing struggles and striving to keep spirits engaged along the way.

However, the time has come for me to refocus my energy. This will be the last weekly essay posted for awhile. I'll slip in with news and to link to other posts when appropriate. Thanks so much for the lovely comments these past two and a half years! Wishing one and all success, health and happiness!

Cheers,
Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Do You Answer To?

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

When I first came upon this quote years ago, the revelation was a sunbeam piercing through a cloud-covered sky. Having spent my youth in hot pursuit of outside validation, the idea that I was actually "consenting" to feel inferior astonished me. And liberated me. Why would I consent to such a belief? Why should I? Hah!

We Can Be Anything We Want To Be.

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

Writers struggle often with a need for self-validation for many reasons. An artist can step back and view a painting with one glance. However, each book must be read one page at a time. A dancer can feel her limbs sway, a singer can hear her voice, but again, that book must be read One Page At A Time. So we sweat and worry, seeking validation and reassurance, truly believing (once again) that outer validation will make the worry go away.

"Am I kidding myself about being a 'creative artist'? Can I possibly be a creative artist when I approach this effort in so methodical and left-brained a fashion?" ~~ Journal of a Novel, June 25, 1997 from Write Away by Elizabeth George

Truth is, all artists feel the same pressure, the same worries, and the insecurity that resurfaces time and time again. If you worry before you are published, chances are good you will sweat it out even when approaching your twenty-fifth novel. The words may change… Do I still have it? What if this one sucks? What will the critics say? Yet the need for reassurance remains the same.

"We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies." ~Roderick Thorp,

We must believe in ourselves. While it's true (and obvious) that to become a successful writer one must put in the effort and produce pages regularly, success is not limited to financial or worldly recognition. The greatest outer success means nothing without self-appreciation or a firm recognition of Your Undeniable Worth. Successful people without self-appreciation are usually a mess (many examples spring to mind), as the gossipmongers love to remind us. Take a moment and think of people you've known, whether close up or from afar, who are self-confident, who love themselves and believe in themselves. Could there be a better definition of success?

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

Successful writers must embrace the relationship we have to the writing process. For better or for worse, right? Let's take a moment now and think of our greatest relationship of all.

The glorious and amazing relationship we have with our own lovely, stubborn, crazy-ass selves.

It's time to be our own best friends. Here's an exercise that is guaranteed to surprise you. Next time you look in the mirror, don’t just examine your make-up or check your hair. Don't frown and look away. Gaze deep into your own eyes and say those magical words: I Love You. Say it and mean it. The feelings this exercise will stir up may astonish you. And one thing is certain, you'll realize this is something You haven't heard from You often enough.

"Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable."
~Wendy Wasserstein

We are freaking amazing. We plot, we write, we edit, we revise, we stick to our goals and we prove that We Can Do It repeatedly. Even when time slips past and we don't meet expectations one week, the next week we're back at it. Pounding the keys. Searching for just the right word. Digging deep into our psyche to create a dynamic plot twist.

Isn't writing an amazing process? How delightful it is to be a writer! Yes, it's a challenge but what a joy…

We climb mountains, soar through sunny skies, trap fiendish villains, thrill to a clandestine lover's kiss, all within the lovely pages of our very own novels. Ah, what a glorious life this is!

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." ~Anaïs Nin, Diary, 1969

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

"I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet." --Nadia Comanceci

Are we ready for a new week? Stretched before us like a pristine page waiting to be covered with profound or playful prose, lies yet another week filled with potential and promise. Let's embrace our wildest expectations and push ourselves like never before. Summer is upon us. Just think how much we can accomplish before the autumn leaves fall! What amazing pages will drift down from our consciousness as the winds of creativity lift our spirits and encourage our souls to fly...

As Frank Sinatra (or Michael Bublé might sing): Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away...

Wishing everyone a most inspired week!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Laying a Firm Foundation

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." ~David Brinkley

There's an old saying, 'you can't please all the people all the time.' Which begs the question, why would we want to? When did we decide our job was to please others? Although it may be a strange question to consider, I think as writers it's bound to come up.

Here's why. We Want Readers. We want readers to enjoy our books and to read them. Agents and editors have a vested interest in making sales, so they have their own personal stake in this (which often may be driven right through the heart of the book we adore).

So… what to do?

First thing is to remember is this. Writing is an art. Can an artist switch to please the market and be successful? Or happy? Hmmmm…

"At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important"M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher is known for his brilliant, precise work. Drawings and etchings of such magnificent complexity it truly boggles the mind. His work features alternate realities and optical illusions with a strong mathematical component. Now, imagine for a moment if he fretted about chasing the market and instead focused on painting in an impressionistic style. Or if the daring masters of Impressionism balked under public pressure (the "newfangled approach" baffled and offended many at the time).

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

While we do need to balance an awareness of the market in our work, moving forward is essential. Part of moving forward is to Embrace What You Love To Write.

"The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable." ~Paul Tillich

Here's a thought. There's someone out there who will love your voice, even if you first encounter a dozen who don't. The more books you write, the more books you submit, the more books you publish, the greater the chance You Will Find Your Audience.

Yet there may be fans who feel dismayed or betrayed. Who imagine the story turning out differently. Or who wish you would write in a particular way. When some romance authors made the change to suspense (Lisa Jackson, for example), fans were disappointed. And boy did they let her know it.

Pete Forever, Ringo Never… Heck, when the Beatles switched out Pete Best for Ringo Starr their fans were outraged too. And we all know how THAT worked out. *smile*

"Other people's opinion of you does not have to become your reality." ~Les Brown

As a writer, you will face naysayers before you finish that first manuscript. When you're submitting, the rejections will feel like a slap in the face. The reviews will sometimes hit you where it hurts. So, what are you going to do about that? Well, I have an idea. WRITE! Write, write, and write some more. You Are A Writer. You Can Do It! Dare to dream, dare to write.

"Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic." ~Jean Sibelius

Critics can explain in great detail why something won't work (Thank Goodness the Wright Brothers didn't listen) but what do they know? You can spend your life reinforcing all the negative crap that is flung your way OR you can realize this. You Are A Success. You Can Achieve Anything. Anything at all.

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway." ~Mary Kay Ash

Here's an inspiring tidbit. At age 45, Mary Kay Ash quit her sales job when yet another fellow SHE Had Trained got promoted above her. (Let's all chime in with a collective, Grrrrrrr…) Determined to prove she had the Right Stuff, she started her own business with five grand. Within two years, Mary Kay Cosmetics sales hit the $2 million mark. Talk about determination! So flap those wings, fellow authors, and take to the skies!

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

Take a moment and breathe deep. Close your eyes and wiggle your fingers and toes. Consider all your dreams, your ambitions, your hopes for the future. Now… Visualize The Reality You Want To Create. If you're working on your first (or fifth) manuscript, visualize typing the words The End. If you're sending out a query (or ten), picture an agent or editor devouring your story, then picking up the phone and giving you a call. Visualize your gorgeous shiny book clutched in your trembling hands. If you're waiting for reviews, paint a picture in your mind of the Best Review Ever.

I'm serious now. Take a few moments and etch that image until you feel the excitement tingling inside. Once you get that tingle, say these words: This Is The Truth. This Is My True Reality. I Am A Success. Anything else is simply an illusion I no longer need. This Is My True Reality.

Belief and Action are the tools you need to make it happen. Write Your Books. Believe In Your Success. You Can Do It!

One more piece to inspire you…

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
--Marianne Williamson A Return to Love

Here's to another productive week tingling with potential! Go-go-GO!!

Smiles,
Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Am A Success Because I Persevere!

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." –Thomas Edison (who reportedly had 10,000 failures before successfully creating the light bulb).

Quite awhile back, I'd been chatting with some 'writerly' friends, dishing about our mutual struggles and commiserating over the need for patience. There comes a time when the wicked truth descends upon every writer.

Writing isn't a hundred yard dash. Writing is a marathon. You have to stick to it. Page after page, scene after scene, chapter after chapter. Then comes the rewrites. But honestly, that's not even the beginning.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of writers (okay, I'll admit I was one) sincerely believe writing their book, THE First Book, is the finish line. Once written, the accolades will tumble in. Contest wins! The queries will net 100% response! Agents will BEG to read the full! Publishing houses will start a bidding war! Ten days later, Bestseller List!!

*sigh*

Now, this does happen to the occasional writer. But even J.K. Rowling was rejected from just about every publishing house in the galaxy before getting picked up.

One of the commonest mistakes and one of the costliest is thinking that success is due to some genius, some magic - something or other which we do not possess. Success is generally due to holding on, and failure to letting go. You decide to learn a language, study music, take a course of reading, train yourself physically. Will it be success or failure? It depends upon how much pluck and perseverance that word "decide" contains. The decision that nothing can overrule, the grip that nothing can detach will bring success. Remember the Chinese proverb, "With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin." --Maltbie Davenport Babcock

On one writing loop, a troubled writer wrote about how she received her first rejection and quite legitimately wondered if she should continue pushing forward or just give up on writing and stick with her established career.

One author responded with blunt-force trauma saying, in essence, if you have to ask then, yes, quit! *gasp!*

Why would she say such a thing?

Because the truth is, unless you have relentless determination, undying passion, and the absolute unrealistic stubbornness to WRITE-SUBMIT-WRITE until the day a book of yours is published, in all honesty you probably should flee while you still have your sanity intact.

Seriously.

You're either in or you're out. Consider how many times sitcoms milked the pregnancy factor by showing a woman in labor screaming, "I've changed my mind!"

As Homer Simpson might quip, "It's funny 'cause it's true."

The painful labor required to write and perfect each book is enough to make a sane person rip out her hair in frustration. Then we must also wrestle with the synopsis, the blurb, the endless queries, all in hopes that This Book Will Be The One.

A noted author (and one of my heroes) responded with her own very personal story, which she graciously allowed me to repost for everyone here:

I wrote FIVE manuscripts before I sold, queried over 100 agents, had over 100 rejections, and never considered giving up. I often ask people when I speak, "IF you knew today that you would not sell, would you still write?" If the answer is yes, first, you're more likely to sell and second, you have the desire to write for the long haul, and perseverance is part of the publishing triangle (perseverance, talent, and luck.) Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and many other bestselling authors were rejected countless times. Most authors have been rejected. It's part of the business.

I had one agent request the full of my first manuscript and wrote back a one word response: SUPERFICIAL. Ouch. Yet, she was probably right. She could have been kinder. She could have said, "Your writing isn't strong enough for my list." But she didn't. I could have quit, but luckily I didn't because now I have 8 books on the shelves, a novella, and a short story, have one book in production, and I'm contracted for six more books and two short stories.

Every book I've written is better than the last. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing.

Allison Brennan Original Sin (Seven Deadly Sins) Available Now!

Coming 6/22/10
Carnal Sin

*hearty applause!*

Write ON, Allison!

"If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here's the thing. Published writers don't have a special key to unlock the doorway to success. They simply knocked longer and harder until someone opened the gosh-darn door and let them in.

Another thing to consider… The journey is damn important. I know the thought of being published is the dangling carrot that keeps our mulish self plodding forward, one page at a time. But I believe writing is more than a means to an end. I believe writing is an act of self-discovery. Each page you write is a testament to your strength, your courage and your perseverance.

"Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance."Samuel Johnson

While much credence is given to those who can do everything from Dance With The Stars to Surviving on Creepy, Crawly Bugs in this Reality-Show driven decade, few of those characters could ever accomplish what we do. We Write Books. This is our mountain. Every time we complete another novel, we are planting a flag. Visualize those flags fluttering in the breeze and feel a tingle of pride because We Are Writers. Damn, but we're lucky.

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." ~Sir Edmund Hillary

And believe me I know, the trek grows perilous. The rocky mountain path is a chore to climb and too often we pause wondering which way to turn.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Try this for a mantra:

Success comes to those who persevere. I Am A Success Because I Persevere.

Finish the page, the scene, or the chapter (remember it's only a first draft). Edit your WIP until it shines. Submit until The Right Person opens the door. And remember, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We Write!

Here's to a productive and inspired week... Go-go-GO!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

"Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment--this day--is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day--each moment of this day--a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity." --Dan Custer

Opportunity. What a lovely word. Two more that I love are Optimism and Optimal. The letters OP nestle within one of my favorite all-time words: Hope.

Sometimes the business of writing—whether it be the necessity of revisions, the frustration of wrestling with plot-points or the pressure of looming deadlines—can overwhelm our initial sense of joy. Leading us to forget what led us to becoming writers… The opportunity to write.

You know, one thing writers strive to understand is how words can be phrased to elicit emotion. How our choice of language can lead our reader to one conclusion or another. How even punctuation can transform the meaning of a sentence.

Consider this sentence:

A woman without her man is nothing.

Now, let's examine two ways of utilizing punctuation to completely transform the meaning conveyed.

1. A woman, without her man, is nothing.

2. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Fascinating, Captain!

If punctuation can make such a dramatic difference, imagine what one chosen word might accomplish. Yet in our fervent quest to select the right choice in our writing (bless you, sweet thesaurus), we often forget the impact our words have in everyday life. Not just in how we write, but how we think. Just for an experiment, read the next five sentences aloud, reaching deep and *feeling* what comes up as you speak.

"Today, I have to write five pages."

"Today I need to write five pages."

"Today, I get to write five pages."

"Today, I have the opportunity to write five pages."

"Today I will write five pages."

"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones." --Chinese proverb

Being a successful author isn't just about pounding out pages. The small steps we take in our approach to writing can be as significant as our productivity. And words have immense power. They really do. Words create magic, not just in our stories but also in our life. Let's try another sentence.

"I am a success."

Now, let's say it like we mean it! I AM A SUCCESS.

The same power that allows you to sweep a reader away into a world of intrigue or romance is at your fingertips, giving you not only the Opportunity To Write, but also the Opportunity To Succeed In Life.

Often we forget we have this power. For all the care we exert in selecting the proper word to express our chosen emotion within a story, we forget this same power exists within our life. This is why I encourage us all, every day, to shout WE ARE WRITERS! Words have power. Within our books and within our life.

"Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it." ~Author Unknown

This week, let's focus not just our minds but our hearts. Along with our goals of productivity let's forge a path to success with our thoughts. Once a day, every day, let's invest five minutes in focusing on our success. Feel it, breathe it, believe it! Five minutes where we imagine our life is exactly what we choose it to be.

And consider this… Studies show that the subconscious responds to our beliefs as if they are facts. Read that over one more time. Take a moment to savor the thought.

Our beliefs influence our experience. Visualization has improved the performance of athletes as significantly as actual practice. The thought is astounding. Do you realize what this means? Success Comes To Those Who Believe In Success. NOT because positive thinking is cool but because Our Beliefs Shape Our Experience.

Five minutes. "I am a successful, published author. My books are popular and engaging. I love to write. Writing comes easily to me."

Select the words that give you a tingle and repeat them with passion. Tell yourself—for the next five minutes I will suspend any belief in what my present experience APPEARS to be, and believe fully in the reality I choose. I AM a success. I hold within my hand my published book.

Why not? As writers we grasp better than most the need to "suspend disbelief." And the power of initiating beliefs. Now's the time to Create The World You Want. On paper and in life.

Let's seize the moment and begin anew!

"Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal." –Carl Schurz

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. .... All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." --Gautama Siddhartha Buddha

"If you can dream it, you can do it." --Walt Disney

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Quest for Integrity

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”--Joan Didion

I love this quote. While it certainly qualifies as a quote about writing, it speaks to much more. Everyone everywhere needs stories. We spin them in our minds, we daydream our way through monotonous activities, we conjure them up to provide a happy ending when life seems bleak.

We need stories just as we need heroes. Even more, we need to be the Hero of our own Story.

This urge to be a hero drives us forward. Sometimes with positive results. Sometimes not. If our need to be the “good guy”, the good daughter, the good wife, the good friend, means compromising our integrity or living an untruth, we can cripple our progress or even worse, feel increasingly depressed without realizing why.

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

What’s fabulous about stories, whether we're writing or reading (or watching) is how the character’s words and actions are not limited by our own personal inhibitions. In fact, our favorites tales can speak volumes about the qualities we wish to embrace. Characters who reflect those qualities are especially close to our hearts.

Here’s something I noticed… We like integrity. Now, what I mean by that is not Honesty, Honor, or Ethics. Obviously, in our daily existence, those three are pretty darn important. But let’s look at integrity. Integrity means being true to yourself. Being 'whole' instead of a fragmented personality who struggles to please everyone, at the expense of one's self.

In our stories, we want our heroes and our villains to be True To Themselves. If that integrity is compromised, we pull out of the story. Not deliberately, but suddenly something doesn’t click. Whatever the character does has to make sense because we as readers or viewers demand that the character embody integrity.

All men should strive
to learn before they die
what they are running from, and to, and why. ~
James Thurber

The challenge, in both stories and real life, is to weave in the need for evolution and transformation. That, too, is an integral part of life. Another way to understand integrity is to view it as consistency.

A long time back, hubby and I watched a movie that made us want to scream. Not only was it riddled with clichés, there was absolutely no consistency. The “heroine” (and I use that term derisively) was supposed to be a top-notch reporter yet she had the brains of cottage cheese. The “villain”, who apparently was harboring a secret obsession for the heroine, had built a shrine to her behind a closet door, yet left his computer running with a voice-over (her voice, naturally) so when she used the key (Tucked Over the Doorjamb! In New York City!!) to enter his apartment, she easily followed the sound to discover his Secret! *Gasp!*

*tears out hair*

We watched the whole thing, not believing our own stupidity because, let’s face it, the movie was consistently ludicrous from start to finish. D’oh!

What draws us into a story?

The hero’s quest for integrity. Usually our heroine/hero is not being true to her/his self. Because of this, there is an emptiness or a knot that needs to be untangled, although they rarely realize or acknowledge this. Throw in some unexpectedly challenging circumstances or an encounter with a person who pushes those buttons and you have the beginnings of a plot.

Why is this basic structure eternally appealing? Because it reflects life. We all are on a quest to discover our Self. To know ourselves. And we do encounter circumstances and people who challenge us to face the inconsistencies in our life.

No one remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself. ~Thomas Mann

We all want to be the hero of our own story. Within the pages of a book or the scenes of a movie, we learn how other heroines discover their own True Self.

"Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get." --L. Frank Baum

Have stories helped you to discover your own true self?

For me, the quest is about courage and embracing truth over illusion. As a child I devoured the tales L. Frank Baum wrote about the mythical land of Oz. Dorothy not only stood up for what she believed, she challenged others to be true their own selves. I don’t need my heroines to be a “kick-ass heroine” (very popular these days) right from the get-go. However, I do crave an awakening of her spirit. I adore how Bridget Jones went from lusting after Incorrigible Rogue to falling in love with the Flawed But Sincere Suitor. She eventually chooses the guy who likes her “just the way she is.” Awwww!!

Stories help me too because the escape allows me to breathe. I learn, I laugh, I cry, I breathe…

A dear, dear friend sent me an email asking, “Have you hugged your story today?”

Truth is, this life we lead is our story. Have you hugged Your story today?

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Would You Let Your Daughter Marry a Rolling Stone?

by Chiron O'Keefe

A Celebration of the reissued
"Exile on Main Street" and a tribute to the One and Only... The Rolling Stones!

Jump over to Pop Culture Divas and celebrate with me!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sparking a Wild, Creative Delight!

“If you don't allow yourself the possibility of writing something very, very bad, it would be hard to write something very good.” --Steven Galloway

This month I finished the novel I'd been grappling with for longer than I care to admit. It's no surprise the first and second drafts took some time. This is a completely new genre and the jump from rom-com to mainstream mystery suspense was quite a leap. I worried and I fretted about plot points and tension until I thought my head would explode. Finally, with a sigh of exquisite relief, I wrapped it up and shot it towards my crit partners.

Their response floored me.

“You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing.” --Gene Wolfe

They loved it. *faints* I about hit the floor. Sure, there are issues to be addressed, 'crutch words' (those pesky verbs or adjectives we unwittingly become addicted to) and a few minor "huh?" moments I need to correct. However their collective response has been overwhelmingly positive. Even better, they seemed to believe my writing took a giant leap forward with this genre. Woo-hoo!

However, truth be told, a small secret part of my soul is unsurprised this book stands out from my past novels. Why? Because this is the tale I yearned to write but feared I could not. Which means I had to dig deep to pull it forth from my psyche while simultaneously releasing any inclination to simply 'tell' the story. I had to live it. This is my voice, not the voice that appealed to me. I found myself relating to my characters and recognizing how they embodied qualities of my own being. Weird. Exciting. Scary. Invigorating. These characters spring from our souls as we give birth to a new world.

“The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my fourth novel. Some folks start off knowing exactly what they 'should' write. Others haven't a clue, only a burning urge to compose tales that sweep their readers away. Ironically, whether the original choice is the right one isn't really evident until after you've got a few books under the belt.

The rush of satisfaction after completion is the same whether you've tagged your true voice or not. The thrill of plotting out an intriguing story is also pretty much the same, as far as I can tell. What is decidedly unique is the recognition I felt when I read through this novel. An inner knowing that this is definitely my voice.

Most writers start off believing their first novel is The One. For a few that is the absolute truth. The majority of writers must contend with a number of rejections before finding success. If a writer isn't prepared for the long haul, this fact can be devastating. However, I want to urge one and all to cling with a fervor to your dream, burn with enthusiasm and a fierce determination to not only reach for but to surpass all your goals.

“You sit down and you do it, and you do it, and you do it, until you have learned to do it.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

“Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it...” --Michael Crichton

Yes, the process will eat up the hours, leave your back cramped, your eyes bleary and your butt fairly numb. *grin* Getting published is of course the most obvious finish line for most of us. Less obvious is the surge of satisfaction that springs from honing your talent. For the musician, each new chord mastered means a song once out of reach is now right at your fingertips. For an athlete, the grueling workouts and dedication improves performance and the challenge that once seemed overwhelming is conquered with ease. A cook discovers that recipes that previously seemed daunting are now, literally, a piece of cake!

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. ~Thomas Alva Edison

There are no easy methods of learning difficult things; the method is to close your door, give out that you are not at home, and work. ~Joseph de Maistre

Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still. ~Chinese Proverb

Embrace your dreams. Be patient with the effort involved as well as with your own misgivings. Persist beyond reason and not only will success be yours, the brilliance admired in others will someday shine from within.

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek." --Mario Andretti

No matter which road you choose to travel, invest yourself in that choice. Too many times we become half-hearted, unable to work up any enthusiasm because we're not really committed. Who can blame us? The writing life is an uncertain one. It requires tremendous effort and a propensity for delayed gratification. Simply put, there's a whole lot of work and the possibility of years before we see any reward. Being a writer is not for the faint of heart.

If you have made the choice to succeed, count your success anytime you finish a scene, or revise a chapter, or are courageous enough to send out a query. Count your success by your patience, your persistence and your passion.

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

Ready to take that step?

Here's to a week filled with success!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Secret of Nature... Patience

“A leaf that is destined to grow large is full of grooves and wrinkles at the start. Now if one has no patience and wants it smooth offhand like a willow leaf, there is trouble ahead.” --Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Ah, those pesky first drafts, and the ensuing edits. That first glimpse of a lovely idea, plots branching out all over, leaf-pages that are smooth as lovely and completely wrinkle-free.

And here I am with a couple of acorns and a muddy plot.

So what's the key? Persistence, Patience, Faith.

Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. ~Josh Billings (pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw)

Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. ~Earl Nightingale

Persistence—It's not enough to wish or want, one must DO. Just as we urge our characters to take action to resolve the many dilemmas we put them in, we also must take action and push ourselves to Keep On Writing.

Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience. ~George-Louis de Buffon

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patience—Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was it made out of paper. Yet here we are with the power of Olympian Goddesses, able to construct vast worlds, birth amazing heroines and heroes, and pick those (sometimes) hapless heroes and heroines up tod toss them in the most delightful muck we can conjure up. However, no matter whether the mind can race faster than a speeding chariot, the fingers can only do so much. We may envision the whole book in one day but barely work through a scene within those precious moments of writing time. So… patience. One 'word-brick' at a time. Build the foundation. Add some walls. Throw in some roads. The city will be built.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. ~Kahlil Gibran

I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn't fall down. ~Allen H. Neuharth

Faith—We must believe. There's no getting around it. The Wright brothers didn't say, "Oh, well, if it doesn’t work the first time we can always just go back to repairing bicycles." No way! They believed Man was Meant to Fly. Just as your book is meant to be written. Believe. Look in the mirror as you brush your teeth. As soon as you've spit out the toothpaste and rinsed your mouth, remind yourself, "I am a writer." Feel it and encourage your soul to burn with enthusiasm.

I AM A WRITER!!

And away we go!

Another new week. Another seven days filled with opportunity, inspiration, and endless possibilities. Let's make each hour count!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Encourage Your Soul To Sing!

"You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note." --Doug Floyd

If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ~Vincent Van Gogh

Awhile back, hubby and I yanked out the guitars, plugged in the vintage amps and took the digital recording equipment out for a spin. One of the classic songs we worked on is a long-time favorite: "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones. I memorized this tune back at the tender age of fifteen *gasp!* and to this day relish the intricate chord changes and plaintive lyrics. Love it, love it, love it… Except for one pesky little detail. Singing in the dreaded key of G.

Now I could transpose the chords or slap on a capo but for the accompanying lead guitarist, that’s a pain in the arse. There are those too who would argue that the richness and depth of the original chords are compromised.

Flash back to a few days earlier. Sipping a fine glass of cabernet, we’d been listening to the "Rolling Stones Rarities" album. The version on this disc has a blues feel, more vibrant and intense. Something about the husky tone in Mick's wail reverberated inside my soul. Suddenly, I just *knew*. The urge to redo the song thundered in my veins. So after hubby patiently arranged the microphones just so, and we dashed through the chord changes a couple of times, we gave it a go.

"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to." ~George Seaton

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

The first verse came out in a wobbly squeak, rather like an adolescent boy pushing maturity. A sure sign of the frustrating inability to Find My Note. Yet when the haunting chorus came around, I somehow magically tapped in. Faltering at first, but I could *feel* the correct pitch somewhere deep within my bones. By the second verse, I miraculously clung to the note for a few more seconds, astonished to hear myself singing in this impossible key. What a wild, incredible, brilliant rush. Yet… Could I hold it?

"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's." ~Billy Wilder

Each time I'd begin anew… The exhilaration would snatch me up, toss my soul into the wind and I’d thrill in a wave of ecstasy hearing the clear chime of My Note. Up until that fateful moment when I realized (with a rush of stark fear) what I was doing… *snort* At which point, my voice would once again wobble and squeak and my spirits would plunge down to the ground.

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

The process fascinated me. As soon as I let my thoughts wander over to an observation of my actions I’d lose focus. An image popped in my mind. The classic Warner Bros. cartoons where, in his eternal quest to snare the clever Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote would race off the cliff, legs windmilling wildly. His nimble feet would carry him several feet into the air until a tiny pinprick of awareness would nip his consciousness and, with eyes widening in realization, he’d sneak a glance down.

Ooops!

CRASH!

Life requires a certain amount of faith. Perhaps it’s most obvious in performance mode (or while chasing an elusive Road Runner), yet it’s clear that this axiom serves throughout every aspect of our existence. I know that when I’m typing, if I stop to think about the process my speed will slow considerably. I’ll become self-conscious, wondering if my fingers really know what to do. I'll make mistakes and often begin an endless cycle of correction, which then leads to even more mistakes.

Grrrr…

Once you become self-conscious, there is no end to it; once you start to doubt, there is no room for anything else. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

The last sentence is really the crux of the matter. While most of us (whether deliberately or not) work towards a measure of self-awareness, we also must step away from being self-conscious. Meaning, we must learn to not second-guess each decision or micromanage every step of our life. Which isn’t always easy.

Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive. ~David S. Muzzey

What I realized during the course of the night is that even the most impossible task can be accomplished if you tune in just right. Not to say that one can bypass the effort required to move past the blocks, whether it be learning the chords, striving to understand the process of plotting, delving into the particulars of mixing hues on a palette, or even distinguishing between an intrusive weed and potential bud in your soon-to-be-blossoming creation.

"Faith is a passionate intuition." ~William Wordsworth

Yet one thing remains clear. It is that initial “tuning in” process that carries us through. Whatever you dream, whatever you yearn for, can be accomplished. For writers, we must close our critical "mind's eye" and open our hearts to trust in the process of creation. Trust that the characters will spring to life and the light of inspiration will reveal an amazing story just waiting to be shared. We all have to have to trust that we can and will Find Our Note. Let those fingers fly and encourage your soul to sing.

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

The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do. ~Author Unknown

Wishing everyone a productive and inspired week!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

PS.. I also want to let you know that if you like my weekly essays and want the motivational boost every week, you can sign up to be a follower of my blog. Just click on the notice at the top of the page. When you sign into Blogger, you'll see my weekly essay which posts every Sunday. Thanks so much!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today I Dare To Win...

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

Awhile back, while shopping at a local 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 to 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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trust In Your Dream and Brook No Objection

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there."Thomas Berger

I'm reminded of an old joke: Why did the author write her book? To get to the other side. *grin*

Of all the reasons we could have to write, the best and perhaps most authentic motivation must be an obsession with seeing 'what happens next.'

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."Albert Einstein

A fellow author once shared her dismay regarding a former boss who had chided her for writing fiction. After all, fiction isn't real (so he said) and therefore, apparently, not as worthy as non-fiction. Excuse me while I snort in derision and roll my eyes.

"To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything."Anatole France

Imagination is what fuels progress. The greatest inventions, the most daring quests, and all of humanity's progress started within a tiny spark of imagination. Obviously, the world's panoramic vista of art began within the fervent dream of a artist yearning to create. However the practical aspects of our daily lives—from the light bulb to the lap top—exist due to someone's fertile imagination.

All artists face two equally daunting roadblocks at one point or another. First, there is pressure from the outside world. People may turn a cold shoulder or worse yet sneer at our dream. When I first decided to write a book, I penned a lovely romance between a hometown girl and the city boy who was her first love. This being my first venture, I naturally had qualms about my prose. At the time my journey had yet to sweep me into the world I now occupy—one that is chock-full of writers who share my dream and support my quest. So, naturally I turned to a good friend I held in deep regard to read my fledging attempt and offer a critical eye. She seemed flattered and agreed. I then added that it would be most helpful if she read a couple of books in a similar vein so as to have a clear view of what I was aiming for. Her response shocked the hell out of me.

She shuddered.

Honest to Goddess, I couldn't believe it. Truth be told, I never quite looked at her the same way again.

Judgment by others is inevitable in every path you take. An author must stay strong and embrace her dream, whether she writes inspirational or erotica, suspense or satire, mysteries or thrillers. Trust in Your Dream and brook no objection.

"Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away."Tom Clancy

The other obstacle we must surpass comes from the pressure we put on ourselves. Fear, self-judgment, lack of motivation all may strike at one time or another. That is when we must rekindle our curiosity. Stir those embers and spark a yearning to 'get to the other side'. We mustn't wait for the lightning strike of inspiration to carve those letters for us nor hope others will encourage us along. There will be days when the fever of inspiration does lift our spirits and definitely times when our fellow authors will boost our spirits and lighten our hearts. However, we can't wait for the weather to be perfect or all conditions to be met. We must be determined to carry on. We must be self-motivated.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." –Barack Obama

Now as I'm writing this the thought pops in my head, "Well, that's all well and good for you to say, but what if I don't know what comes next? What then, Ms. Smarty Pants?"

In one of my novels, my 'wanna be leading lady' faced her own moment of freezing panic by thinking, Come on, are you a leading lady or what? So the question becomes a gauntlet tossed down by the very characters we create. This conflict, this fear, this obstacle that must be faced stirs up emotion, right? Excellent (she says, rubbing her hands together), WRITE IT DOWN. Keep writing through your funk, keep writing through your fear, because your heroes and heroines are tackling their own conflicts and Each And Every Conflict You Confront Will Be Reflected In Your Characters.

"My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them."Bono

This is where imagination wrestles with knowledge and wins hands down. You have no idea how the character will surmount her difficulties any more than you know how YOU will overcome your own dang obstacles.

The author stared at the page, wondering if she had it in her to write even one more sentence. The buzz of the lawnmower outside was a tangible reminder of the gorgeous Spring day and the errands waiting to be done. Which was greater, her fear the essay would really and truly suck this time or the burning desire to avoid continuing no matter what the cost?

*grin* Lack of motivation or fear? Tough call. Hmmm… Guess there's only one solution—Keep WRITING!

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good."William Faulkner

The friend I mentioned earlier also dismissed the very notion of this blog. Apparently in her lofty view, blogs were right up there with romances. At least over the phone I didn't have to see her shudder this time. Now, here I am coming up on several years—and yes, wondering if I have it in me to pen yet another essay. Hoping to inspire and motivate others and myself to keep pushing forward, to keep writing, to keep reaching for that dream.

"Staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that."Eartha Kitt

"Your regrets aren't what you did, but what you didn't do. So I take every opportunity."Cameron Diaz


Here's the wisdom I've garnered in my years of writing.

• You need a dream, to have a Dream Come True.

• Dreams Come True through persistence, patience and passion.

Persist by choosing to write whenever you can, no matter what others say or what the outside world demands.

• Be patient as every dream needs continual effort and a certain amount of time. No one knows when or how success will come to you, but if you keep moving forward, you will succeed.

• Passion is The Flame Within and the flame needs fuel! Seek motivation from other writers, classes or motivational essays. But remember this—True Passion Springs From The Desire To Know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

Why did the author write her book? To get to the other side. *wink*

"When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.' "Neil Gaiman

Now, I'm curious. What wisdom have you garnered over the years? If you met an aspiring author today, what would you advise?

Ready to get writing? Let's hit the keys!

Smiles,
Chiron O'Keefe

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