William Wonders

“It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last.” William Morris

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris, born on 24 March in 1834, was truly a Renaissance man. He was a poet, artists, textile designer, novelist, architectural conservationist, printer, translator and socialist activist. As a writer, he contributed to establishing the modern fantasy genre. Friends always remarked that William was bursting with zest for life and with an infectious enthusiasm that touched everyone he met.

How did he accomplish all of this? To my mind, he brought enlivening qualities to whatever he set his hand to that we can all use as well:

He had a mission: Whether he was designing wallpaper or a book, William had a single goal in mind. He strove to create something that was both useful and beautiful. This was his touchstone and it led him down amazing paths and allowed him to crate work that is still admired and cherished today.

He was curious: In his lifetime, William mastered many arts and built a thriving business that revived lost or neglected British crafts. He gained mastery over unfamiliar subjects with self-taught gusto. He seemed to have been endlessly curious—always wondering—about how things could be done and eager to capture the beauty of nature. He was open to new ideas and ways of working.

He followed the “find it out or figure it out” path: William went boldly in whatever direction his creativity took him. He was never afraid to experiment or tinker. From what I’ve learned, he always brought a large dose of confident, can-do energy to his endeavors. This self-confidence wasn’t the product of bluster or arrogance, it arose from taking action—it was the fruit of doing. There’s an old Estonian proverb I love: “The work itself will teach you.” William always seemed to feel that if he worked hard enough, he could figure out what he needed to succeed. And he did!

He relished resilience: William had his share of failures and setbacks, but he never let them dampen his enthusiasm and love for his work. He just kept moving forward and left his mistakes behind. A great attitude!

What a joy to wander through the fields of William’s creativity and to admire the beauty he created! May we catch a spark of his flame as we all write on!

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Enlivening Energy

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promise.” Mae West

“Force yourself to act enthusiastic and you’ll become enthusiastic.”   Frank Bettger

There’s a world of wisdom captured in these two short sentences! So often, what keeps us from sitting down and really attacking our daily writing stint, however long it is, is not just inertia, not just resistance, but the idea that we’ll write when we feel like it. When our mood is brighter or we feel more rested or alert. Or whatever.

What would happen if we acted as if we were ready and eager to write every single time we sat down to write? If we gave ourselves a reputation to live up to? If we said to ourselves and everyone else, “I’m the world’s most enthusiastic writer! I’m the most enthusiastic writer who ever sat down to a page.” Or, the most excited writer. Or the most energetic writer – whatever description speaks to you.

Here’s what I’m thinking might happen: We’d shift from promise to performance. We’d stop thinking so much about writing and do more of it. Here’s why:

Enthusiasm overcomes anxiety: As my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* says, there’s a very thin line between anxiety and excitement. When we’re anxious, we clam up, we contract, we get agitated and can’t concentrate. If we come to the page feeling anxious about where we are in a story or some goal that we feel we should meet, we stop the flow of ideas. But if we take anxiety and channel it productively to make that short trip to excitement, then our juices flow and magic can happen.

Enthusiasm stokes our inner fire: Enthusiasm is the fuel that feeds our creativity. When we come to the page excited and full of energy – or when we force ourselves to act as if we’re excited and energetic – then we bring drive and momentum to the page. We bring focused energy. And when we bring focused energy, when we bring intensity and intention to what we’re doing, then we bring the full force of our ingenuity and we ignite our imaginative faculty. We’re not just drifting along on the page, we’re dancing across it!

Can we do this? Can we act as if we’re enthusiastic, excited, energized? Can we act as if we’re the most joyful, focused writer in the world? Why not? Let’s do it and see what happens. And as my friend Rob says,

“Act the way you want to become and you’ll become the way you act.” Write on!

*Check out Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690)

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Cultivating Confidence

One important key to success is self-confidence.
And one key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Arthur Ashe

“When you work as hard as I do, having confidence is no problem.”
Jordan Burroughs, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling

When my son Alex was a little guy, I remember taking him to a pool for a swimming lesson. He barely stuck one toe in the water before the instructor called out, “Good job!” I know she was just trying to encourage him, but he hadn’t actually done anything. 

Over time, as Alex was growing up, I often saw coaches and other adults being overly lavish in their praise in their earnest efforts to build kids’ self-esteem. When this happened, I always remembered what a wise parenting expert once observed. In a talk on nurturing self-esteem, she said that kids need just two things to feel good about themselves: They need to know that they are lovable and capable.

Her comment sprang to mind when I started thinking about feeling confident when it comes to our writing. Here’s what I mean: How do kids learn that they’re capable? They find it out by doing: taking action and accomplishing things that are important to them.

The same goes for us. How do we build confidence in our skills as storytellers? We do it by earning that self-confidence through hard work and preparation. The harder we work, the better we feel about ourselves, and the better we feel, the more we do, and the more we do, the better we feel and the better writers we become.

In a nutshell, we create confidence through continuous, focused action. It’s the result of careful preparation, whether we are pulling together a first draft or researching agents as part of our submission strategy. 

And when we feel more confident, we act more confidently out in the world. We find the courage to submit a story we feel proud of because, like Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs, the confidence we have in it flows from the hard work we know we’ve done to make it the best it can possibly be. We write our pitch letters to agents not from a place of wishful thinking, but from a place of strength, because we know the countless hours we’ve put into polishing our prose and plot until they sparkle and entice. We find creative ways to promote our self-published book because we know with core confidence that it will benefit readers.

Barry Farber, a bestselling author and media host (www.barryfarber.com), had this to say about what sometimes holds us back: “Why are we sometimes unsure? Because we don’t prepare enough, read enough, study enough, and work enough. Our strength comes more from knowing that we have put in the work and prepared for success than from what we learn from the actual preparation.”

So let’s read enough, study enough, and work enough to earn the confidence we need to create as we all write on!

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Different Paths

Does this sound familiar? It’s a poem called, “There’s a Hole in My Side Walk” by Portia Nelson:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

We’ve all been there, haven’t way? Made a mistake and then kept on making the same mistake, mainly out of habit. But just as this habit-driven walker finally finds another way, so can we.

If we’re struggling with a plot, instead of reworking the same chunks of it and trying to make them finally fit together, we can come up with a new angle and reenergize our structure. Or, if we have a character who seems pale and lackluster, instead of creating more of the same, we can give him or her a distinctive tic—and suddenly there’s a full-souled person on the page.

We’re creatives, after all. Let’s create something new!

So let’s heed the lesson of the hole—let’s wake up sooner to the different paths open to us more quickly and leave the hole behind. Write on!

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Word Gifts

“I was the poet of the poor, because I was poor when I loved; since I could not give gifts, I gave words.” Ovid

A Roman poet, Ovid was born in 43 BC and his birthday is celebrated today, March 20. He is best known for his masterwork, Metamorphoses. This collections of stories was wildly popular in classical times and was a source of inspiration for Chaucer and Shakespeare, among many others. Gathered here are fresh and timely words of Ovid’s wisdom:

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”

“We are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us.”

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.”

“I attempt an arduous task; but there is no worth in that which is not a difficult achievement.”

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force, but through persistence.”

“Enhance and intensify one’s vision of that synthesis of truth and beauty which is the highest and deepest reality.”

“Everything comes gradually and at its appointed hour.”

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”

“Make the workmanship surpass the materials.”

“Fortune and love favor the brave….The bold adventurer succeeds the best.”

“Happy are those who dare courageously to defend what they love.”

“Nothing is stronger than habit.”

“All things change; nothing perishes.”

“Beauty is a fragile gift.”

“There is a god within us.”

Bravo, Ovid! And now, I spirited and emboldened, let’s all write on!

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Something Wonderful

The longest road out is the shortest road home.  Irish Proverb

Since St. Patrick’s Day is still fresh as the green grass that is sprouting somewhere just beyond my door, I thought we’d all enjoy the warm glow of a traditional Gaelic blessing:

May The Road
Rise Up To Meet You

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Bountiful Blessings!

When Irish eyes are miling”    T-short slogan

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Instead of green bagels and buckets of beer, the times we’re in surely call for the comfort of traditional Irish blessings:

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you,
those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play-
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song-
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of your wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.

May you always walk in sunshine.
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.

May we all be safe and protected. Write on!

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Enthusiasm Energizes

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“From that day on, I began to sell. The ‘Magic of Enthusiasm’ began to work for me in business, just as it had in baseball….I would not want to give anybody the impression that I think enthusiasm consists of fist-pounding…but if fist-pounding is what you need to arouse yourself inside, then I am overwhelmingly for it. I know this: When I force myself to act enthusiastic, I soon feel enthusiastic.”

“Force yourself to act enthusiastic, and you’ll become enthusiastic!”

Frank Bettger, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling

Enthusiasm is a vital quality for us as writers on two fronts:

First, enthusiasm is the self-motivating excitement and energy we bring to our own work — the adrenalin boost we give ourselves when we bring joy and vigor to the page. And second, there’s  the enthusiasm we give others when we share our encouragement and excitement with them about what they are doing. This is a transfer of energy.

As Frank Bettger’s inspiring comments above suggest, there’s a simple, but powerful technique you can use to light an inner fire — “to arouse yourself inside.” Just “act as if” you’re excited and energized and you’ll become excited and energized.

What does enthusiasm look like for you? Would you bounce out of bed, ready for action? Would your mind be buzzing with ideas? Would you be totally “in the zone” when you began playing on the page? Whatever the ingredients are for you, why not try “acting as if” you have them in abundance and see what happens?

Let “the Magic of Enthusiasm” work its magic on you. Write on!

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Action Enlivens

“Talk doesn’t cook rice.” Chines Proverb

“Action is eloquence” William Shakespeare

“Will and act until victory.” Paramahansa Yogananda

ACE: Action Cures Everything! This is one acronym I find myself embracing more and more often, especially when it comes to my writing life. We writers love to think don’t we? Think and tinker, tinker and think. Think some more and tinker some more.

Sometimes we overdo it—I know I do! We overthink and get all angsty. We suffer from analysis paralysis. We hug our work to our hearts so closely we almost smother it. I’ve done it. And maybe you have, too.

What to do? What to do? There’s a simple solution: Take action!

I know, I know. Sometimes, we just need to put our thoughts into words and that’s enough. Or we’re happy just share our writing with a few people. But many of us write because we want to share what we know and have learned with the wider world.

Action opens doors to that wider world in so many exciting ways:

Taking action ignites our ingenuity: When we get out of our head and take action, we often unleash fresh ideas and energy.

Taking action expands our possibilities: When we take action to get our writing out into the world, we find new avenues for sharing it.

Taking action fosters commitment: When we move from thinking to doing, we signal to the Universe that we are committed to our work.

Taking action spurs change: When we complete a project and push it forward, we’re forced to get out of our comfort zone—and that’s good!

“Will and act until victory” —what a great mantra as we all write on!

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Champions Change

“No matter what journey you’re on, I wish you the best reward of all: that you discover the Heart of a Champion that beats within you.” Donene Taylor, from Heart of a Champion.

Sometimes a self-help book proves to be a game changer, a life changer. That’s exactly how I feel about Heart of a Champion. The book’s subtitle says it all: Proven Strategies to Help you Discover the Heart of a Champion that Beats Within You. Fueled by grit, goals, and a galloping desire to grow and change, Donene shows readers how they can do the same—make their dreams, however wild and improbable, come true.

Donene Taylor is an elite athlete. For 38 years—almost four decades!—she chased down her dream of becoming a world champion calf roper in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Once she finally achieved her lifelong dream, she chased down two more: writing books to share what she’d learned on her journey and becoming a mental performance coach (https://donenetaylor.com)

Donene had a slew of strikes against her: low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, fear of failure, and negative self-talk. But somehow, none of these obstacles proved bigger than her dream.

This book is about far more than pursuing an elite athletic goal—it’s a roadmap, a step-by-step guide—to changing yourself from who you are to who you want to become. Among the many strategies it shares:

Commit to your dream: Whatever your dream is—don’t fight it, fuel it! Devotion to your dream attracts whatever you need to fulfill it. Even when she retreated from it, a spark of Donene’s dream survived. Find the courage—and strategies—to fan your spark into a fire.

Find mentors to guide you: No one achieves a dream alone. We all need help to make it happen. Donene was timid, but determined. When she reached out for help, her life changed: her mindset and skills improved. Seek out positive role models and embrace their techniques.

Cultivate a positive mindset: Negative self-talk saps your energy and weakens your resilience muscle—your ability to bounce back from obstacles. With proven strategies, you can find ways rein in negativity and foster an energizing can-do, find-a-way mindset.

Make improving a priority: Focusing on results can be damaging. When you crave a certain outcome and fall short, it can drain you. Instead, focus on improving—on slowly and steadily honing your craft. Set goals and stick to them. When you do, then every failure is feedback and propels you forward.

Have fun: When you’re doing what you love be sure to enjoy it!

What an uplifting, inspiring book—full of strategies and support we can all use to chase down our dreams. And Donene has also written Master the Art of Winning, which I’m looking forward to reading and applying. Bravo, Donene, write on!

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