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!

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!!

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!!


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.


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.