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.


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!

Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas! Check out this month's post featuring Fab Videos with current bands performing their favorite Beatle Tunes! Find it here at Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Fans.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Fans!

I'm blogging again at Pop Culture Divas! Take a stroll with me through Strawberry Fields...

Just about everybody has a favorite Beatles song. Take a listen to current renditions of some of the best tunes in my article, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Fans.

Drop by and share your personal favorite! Hope to see you there. :-D


Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Choices Will You Make This Week?

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." ~Frank Tibolt

“If Not Now, When?”~ Hillel, 1st century Jewish sage

A member of my RWA Online Forum posted a message awhile back where she puzzled over the resistance experienced every time she sat down to write. I can pull up page after page in my own journal where I shook my own mental fist at the universe and asked the same thing.

A friend phoned several months ago, puzzling over her own resistance, this in relation to working out at the gym. She thrives on exercising, so why does she procrastinate and avoid an activity she loves? She hoped I would provide some magic answer and all I could tell her was this. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

It sounds too simple. Too flippant. Yet, another friend summed it up with an illuminating insight: “What made me slip into considering the activity rather than doing it?”

“A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.”Carlos Castaneda

What I realized as I began this essay is this. For all the tasks we face, whether they be pleasurable or onerous, there’s always one distinction. Do we have a choice? When we don’t, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury to think about it. We know we have to just do it. Now, this doesn’t stop the cycle of resistance! If it were that easy, there would be no missed deadlines. No scrambling to catch up on tasks long ignored.

It does, however, provide a clue about the process of procrastination. Since we can choose, we often stop and ponder our choices. People who perform heroic acts would probably all agree, had they stopped to think about it, they probably wouldn’t have had the courage, or the strength, or the extra push needed to succeed.

Just Do It.

“You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”Henry Ford

Years ago, a good friend of mine told me why he loved to ski. “When you’re up on that snowy mountain, you can’t stop and think about everything. You just do it.


There it is again.

The post I referenced at the beginning of this essay prompted much thought on my part. A contemplation about both resistance and the choice to resist. In all areas of my life. Even in the mental phrasing of what I’m doing.

Do I say to myself, “Today I HAVE to write. Today I HAVE to edit this many pages.”

Or do I just say, “Today I write. Today I edit this many pages.”

Hmm… Food for thought.

“It is always your next move.” --Napoleon Hill

Just Do It.

How can it still be winter? Despite the calendar, we're still seeing rain, chilly nights and even an occasional smattering of snowflakes drifting down. Yet I know that spring is peeking through the clouds. Buds are beginning to burst into radiant color. The Chinese Maple tree on my back deck is revealing delicate leaves and here we are, once again, at the crux of change. It is up to us to choose which direction to take each day. Should we consider whether or not to write or should we simply write? What is our choice?

Consider this…

Whatever we want to accomplish, we can. Whatever we choose to accomplish, we will. Whatever we want to be, we are.

Hmm... Well then, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We Write!

So… Let's Just Do It! *wink*

Here's to embracing our gift of choice. What choices will you be making this week?

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas

Monday, April 5, 2010

Let's Spring into Action!

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn."Ralph Waldo Emerson

The power inherent within a single idea is breathtaking. Every life-changing invention, every rousing song, every exquisite work of art and every heartfelt book began with a single idea.

Yet the work involved to pushing that idea to fruition is daunting. We're starting with a barren field! The dirt must be overturned, then sifted through for weeds and rocks. Fertilizer must be applied. Seeds planted then watered. More weeding. Some judicious pruning. Yikes! How long until we bask in the glory of our blossoming tree?

The process can be so overwhelming, many a writer is tempted to give up. Even the best idea might not seem worth the struggle, those tedious hours staring at the screen striving to somehow bring this seed of a story to life. And that's just the first draft! The inevitable process of revising also requires boatloads of patience as the hours, the days, the weeks speed by. Why not just move on?

"Throwing away ideas too soon is like opening a package of flower seeds and then throwing them away because they're not pretty."Arthur VanGundy, Ph.D. (Idea Power, 1992)

Because You Are A Writer. If you're looking for an easy career, keep looking. Trust me, this isn't it. Being a writer requires patience, more effort than seems possible, an eye that is never discerning enough (*sigh*) and a determination that keeps you chug-chug-chugging along like a certain little train from one of the first books most children ever read.

"I don't know much about creative writing programs. But they're not telling the truth if they don't teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer." --Doris Lessing

Being a writer means sacrifice. It means carving out fifteen minutes of your day when you only have ten. And more: tossing off the covers while the sun is still snoozing or crawling into bed when the rest of the family is already snoring away. Turning down an invitation to lunch because your current manuscript must be edited. Ignoring emails and avoiding computer solitaire! While there will be those moments when you absolutely need to step away from the computer or set down the legal pad and actually partake of life outside of your story, the key to success is to Spring Into Action. Take charge of your life and your writing and do whatever it takes.

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." - Mary Heaton Vorse

As one of the writers in our group called it: 'Butt-Glue'. Adhere posterior to aforementioned office chair posthaste and get thee to writing! (And do forgive my complete lack of historical eloquence. *heh-heh*)

In past months, we've embraced our desire to spark the flame of inspiration and to embrace our playful nature. This week, let's remember the reality of being a successful writer--the absolute need to stay focused and get our stories written. To return to our manuscripts again and again, polishing until the prose gleams. This is what being a writer is all about. We set goals with the intention of keeping them. We establish our finish line and push ourselves to cross it. We know that to establish a career in writing means doing the work.

"Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you -- as if you haven't been told a million times already -- that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching." - Harlan Ellison

This next quote is a heady reminder to me…

"The only difference between a writer and someone who wants to be a writer is discipline." --Ayelet Waldman

We need to apply that Butt-Glue, Do the Work, and Take Action to make our dreams (and our books) come alive.


"The greatest masterpieces were once only pigments on a palette." --Henry S. Hoskins

Let's Spring Into Action! Here's to another awesome week bursting with potential!

--Chiron O'Keefe
Also featured at Pop Culture Divas