Staying Motivated

Success in its highest and noblest form calls for peace of mind and enjoyment and happiness which come only to the man who has found the work that he likes best.” Napoleon Hill

We all need an energy boost from time and time. Finding ways to keep ourselves motivated is one of the keys to a rewarding writing life. Eric Maisel, an author and creativity coach, has some advice to share:

1) Avoid the “maybe trap:” Make your work a true priority — and don’t let your intention to write slip away. As Eric puts it, “A lot of people get stuck in maybe and ‘maybe’ almost always turns to no. One way to bypass this problem says Eric, is to try to get your writing done in the morning. “When you get your writing done first thing in the morning, the rest of your day can be half meaningless and you won’t get depressed.” Mmm… something to think about, isn’t it?

2) Safeguard your energy: According to Eric, many of us tend to overemphasize how we’re feeling — and let this get in the way of what are really capable of accomplishing. Watch your self-talk! For example, after a writing stint, instead of telling yourself, “Wow, I’m so tired,” tell yourself, “I haven’t exhausted myself yet” — and keep going. There are two kinds of tiredness: physical and mental. “You can still write when you’re physically tired,” notes Eric. So push yourself past what you think your limit is and you’ll find that boundary stretches. A personal note: I’ve definitely found this to be true — and often tell myself, “I can still give another 15% here.” When you get into the habit of doing more, you’ll find you can do more than you think.

3) Stay strong: Don’t lose faith in yourself when you hit a rough spot or delude yourself into thinking that famous authors have something “special” that you lack — it’s not true! Practicing your craft and overcoming negative self-talk — these are the keys to a fulfilling creative life. And they are available to all of us in equal measure. So let’s write on!

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“Then Ripen”

“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

What wise words — and how hard they can be to take to heart! We live in a time when everything is on demand and instant. When we can find the whole world at our fingertips with a few strokes of the fingertips. With the whole world in a hurry, it’s easy to be lulled into the feeling that everything — even ideas and stories — should pop out of us like Athene popped out of the head of Zeus, full grown and fully armored.

And yet … in our hearts, we know the value of taking time with our work — letting an idea simmer for a while, sitting with it for a while, turning it around and looking at it from all angles, letting other ideas be attracted to it like bits of iron to a magnet.

When we give our ideas time to gain substance and weight, we begin to see their possibilities. We can play with them, feed them with our thoughts, nurture them and give them time to ripen. Then, when we get them down on paper and see what we have, we can change them, reshape them, add to them, enrich them — and make what we’re striving to say even bigger and better.

How many times have you laid a piece of work down because you ran out of gas and didn’t know where it was going or how to fix its flaws. Then, coming back to it after a time, everything seems clear. You see what you were really trying to say. You see how to reorder its pieces so that they flow from one to another. You see what you need to add or subtract to bring it to a satisfying conclusion — to make it whole.

All this is the fruit of time. When you give yourself time to let a piece of writing ripen, then you find the pulp and the juice that your readers will taste when they bite into it and savor its flavor.

So let’s not always be in a rush —- let’s give our work the time and freedom to ripen. When we do, it will reward us. Write on!

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Success Stories

I love success stories, don’t you? They inspire and embolden us to think that anything is possible and remind us that we, too, can make something magical happen if we find the courage to deliver on our dreams by putting them on paper and getting them published.

That’s why I was so excited to hear Andrew Marotta talk about his path to publication — how he became a newly minted author with not one, but two books out in the world and changing lives (https://andrewmarotta.com).

Andrew’s the proud principal of Port Jarvis HS. As a 16-year veteran on the front lines of education, he orchestrated a major turnaround of his institution. With years of experience, he had a boatload of advice to share with fellow educators. He spoke at an event where my great friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert was also featured. After hearing Andrew’s dynamic talk, Rob said a sentence that changed Andrew’s life: “You should write a book!”

On fire with the idea, on his way home, Andrew came up with 90 tips, stories, and hard-earned wisdom he felt would help principals in schools across the country thrive and excel. His 90 pointers quickly grew to 125 — and he was off and running. Though he’d never been pegged as a writer during his own years in school, Andrew reached inside himself and found he had a book in him. The result? A hands-on guide called, THE PRINCIPAL: Surviving and Thriving, that’s not only given him the proud title of author, but also helped fuel a growing reputation as a speaker.

Originally self-published, THE PRINCIPAL was picked up by Routledge, an educational publishing house, and is also available on Audible. Inspired by his success, Andrew went on to write a second book and has several more on the way.

This is a tale of two success stories: Andrew’s because he found the grit and courage to turn his hard-earned experience into a book. And Rob Gilbert’s because he lit a fire under Andrew that’s turned into a blaze. Bravo, Andrew! Bravo, Rob! ** Write on!

** Check out Dr. Gilbert’s podcast: http://www.thesuccesshotline.com

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Something Wonderful

Mesopotamia

I dreamed I was sailing on dusty waters
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia
There were two yellow rivers merged into one river
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia
My boat had a wove cabin for shade
And a double golden sail like an eagle in flight
And a woman who sang to me like marmalade
As we sailed in the direction of the night.

Adrian Mitchell

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Best Prize

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   Theodore Roosevelt

How true these words are, aren’t they? Can there be anything more satisfying than working hard at something you feel is worthwhile — that matters and makes a difference?

Now some would say that working hard is a fool’s game — that the real trick is to slip through life easily and let others do the heavy lifting. And some would say that the real trick is to look like you’re working hard when you are really just coasting along.

But those of us who choose the creative life know that working hard is what counts — pouring yourself out into an endeavor that we believe has value and meaning.

You know the feeling, don’t you? The moment when you are facing something difficult in your writing? The moment when you have two choices? You can choose to throw up your hands and walk away — or you can dive back in, start brainstorming, and pull out something better from somewhere deep inside you. Something you didn’t even know was in you until you were forced to struggle to find it.

Every day in ways large and small, we face those two choices don’t we? We may be struggling with a story that doesn’t want to yield up a satisfying ending. Or so many distractions that we can’t seem to sit down and focus. Or we may hit a rough patch in our writing and we begin to doubt our ability to finish what we’ve started.

Any or all of these problems — these challenges — can crop up in a writing session. And when they do, let’s keep our eye on “the best prize that life offers” — let’s remember that we are blessed to have the freedom to “work hard at something worth doing” and roll up our sleeves and get it done. Write on!

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Daily Doing

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Franz Kafka, surely one of the most inventive writers of the 20th century, was actually a lawyer. He spent many of his working hours laboring in the vineyards of the Accident Insurance Institute (sounds Kafka-esque, doesn’t it?) How did he hold down a demanding day job and also pen his classic and chilling literary works?

Here’s how: He found a daily rhythm — or daily regimen — that worked for him and used it to his advantage. He worked from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, ate lunch, napped until 7:30, exercised, ate dinner with his family, then began writing at 11 PM for a few hours.

While Kafka’s offbeat writing habit may not work for you, it’s worth pondering the power that a daily writing strategy can offer. Kafka isn’t alone in his commitment to a schedule. Many successful writers find that consistent patterns and routines nourish creative achievement. Maya Angelou, for example, used to rent a local hotel room, arrive at 6:30 AM, write until 2 PM, then go home to edit. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon writes from 10 PM to 3 AM five nights a week.

I’ve started committing once again to a solid block of writing time daily. I’ve had rough patches sticking to this regimen. But when I adhere to it consistently, I’ve reaped big benefits — and you may, too:

It builds “commitment muscle:” Just the act of committing to a consistent schedule is strengthening and highly motivating.

It signals readiness for action: Once you commit to a daily strategy and pursue it with intention, your muse pays attention (See Muse Management).

It fosters relaxation: Instead of feeling tense or worrying about not writing, having a daily writing session is freeing: You know you’ve got the time to write because you’ve made the time to write: It’s waiting for you. And a relaxed mind is a creative mind.

It generates desire and anticipation: As you begin to reap the creative benefits of a daily rhythm in your writing, you find yourself looking forward to the time you’ve blocked out and your unconscious mind does, too. 

We all have many demands on our time, but let’s strengthen our “commitment muscle” — and write on!

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Driven Dynamo

Wow! Sometimes a story truly captures people’s imaginations and rises above all the noise out there. That’s exactly what’s happened with The Queen’s Gambit — a Netflix original series that’s generated enormous buzz. Over the past few weeks so many people told me about it that I snagged a copy of the novel it’s based on, written by Walter Tevis. No spoilers here, so feel free to keep going.

What a riveting read! I’ve never played chess, but the heroine of the story, Beth Harmon, is a compelling character and the story is full of angst and drama. Beth has tremendous drive and intensity. My friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert ** calls it the “rage to master.”

“Rage to master” — what a powerful phrase — I can feel sparks flying from it! What can Beth — and her creator Walter Tevis — teach us about writing? Plenty. Here are four qualities Beth has in spades that we can all use with great results as wordsmiths:

Curiosity: As soon as Beth sees a chess board, she’s fascinated. A spark is lit inside her and she is driven to find more about the game. She won’t quit until a man who becomes her mentor gives her lessons.

Focus: Chess captures Beth’s imagination and she begins devoting all her energy and thought to the game. She’s singleminded — even obsessive — as we all need to be to develop our own skills and improve our craft. Her powers of concentration are concentrated on one thing.

Fearlessness: Beth isn’t afraid to fail — and when she does, she just picks herself up, figures out she did wrong, and keeps on going. I just recently read something that’s stayed with me: fear is faith in an antagonist. Love that! Beth doesn’t have faith in her opponents — she doesn’t surrender her power to them. Instead, she has faith in the game and confidence in her preparation and skill.

Patience: Over and over, Beth shows enormous patience. Patience in learning the game she wants to master. Patience in correcting her mistakes when she makes them. Patience in studying her opponents and their strategies. And patience in letting a game unfold.

Curiosity, focus, fearlessness, and patience — let’s take a tip from Tevis and Beth, his compelling creation, and embrace them with gusto. Let’s bring the rage to master to our game. Write on!

** Check out Dr. Gilbert’s podcast: http://www.thesuccesshotline.com — you’ll be glad you did!

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London Livens

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

“The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.”

“The hardest thing in the world is to put feeling, deep feeling, into words.”

Jack London 

Today, January 12, is Jack London’s birthday. He was born in 1876, light years ago, but his short stories and novels remain classics and are still widely admired for their energy and elegance. Jack was offered $5.00 for his first story, but he persevered and went on to become a worldwide celebrity and one of the first writers to achieve wealth solely through his fiction writing. When I came across an article featuring his advice for writers, it seemed tailormade for us:

From “Getting into Print” by Jack London, 1903:

“Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a “stint” and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.
[London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life].

“Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don’t wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.

“See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all. And don’t fling Carlyle in my teeth, please.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.

“And work. Spell it in capital letters, WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to the Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.

“The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth — SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.”

What a goldmine of helpful advice — let’s apply as we all write on!

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My Wish

As this new year unfolds, I believe our biggest challenge as writers and creative souls is to bring more peace and understanding into the world. With this in mind, I wanted to share the New Year’s wish with you, my cherished KWD readers, that a dear friend shared with me:

My New Year’s Wish for YOU:

12 months of happiness.

52 weeks of fun and laughter.

365 days of success.

8,760 hours of good health.

525,600 minutes of blessings, &

31, 536,000 seconds of Joy.

When we are doing work we love, we find the happiness of fulfillment.

When we share and support each other, we create fun and laughter

When we persist and improve our craft, we find success.

When we take care of ourselves and find rest, we invite good health.

And when we share all we’ve learned, we feel blessed & Joyful.

Let’s cherish these gifts and each other as we all write on!

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Something Wonderful

As this new year unfolds, with all its chaos and changes, I believe
our biggest challenge as writers and creative souls is to bring more peace and understanding into the world. With this in mind, I wanted to share the New Year’s wish with you, my cherished KWD readers, that a dear friend shared with me:

My New Year’s Wish for YOU:

12 months of happiness.

52 weeks of fun and laughter.

365 days of success.

8,760 hours of good health.

525,600 minutes of blessings, &

31, 536,000 seconds of Joy.

When we are doing work with love, we find the happiness of fulfillment.

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