Something Wonderful

May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Bob Dylan

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Tight Spaces

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“When you get into a tight space and everything goes against you…never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”
Napoleon Hill

A true story:  On the cold, windswept shores of Lake Michigan a young man stood, discouraged and upset. ready to fling himself into the freezing waters below him. He was a 32-year-old bankrupt dropout who felt he had no future. As he contemplated ending it ll, he happened to lift his gaze to the night sky above him — a starry heaven shimmered with beauty. In that moment, he felt a surge of awe so powerful, it overcame his hopelessness. In that instant, a thought flashed through his mind: You have no right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to the universe.

R. Buckminster Fuller turned his back of that freezing lake and left his despair on its shores. He went on to launch a remarkable career. Best known as the creator of the geodesic dome, over his long, fruitful lifespan he garnered 170 patents and won worldwide admiration for his creativity as an engineer, mathematician, architect, and poet.

What an instructive, inspiring tale! How amazing that in the moment of his deepest despair, Buckminster stared up at the stars and found hope among them and then gathered the courage to let his creativity shine.

We’ve all been in those “tight places” that Harriet Beecher Stowe speaks of — where everything seems to be going against us. We may even be in one right now. We may feel discouraged, stuck, overcome with writer’s block — our creative well may seem empty. But like Buckminster and Harriet, if we can just look up and refuse to give up, then surely, the tide will turn for us, too, just as it did for them.

So if we’ve hit a rough patch, let’s look up — let’s remember how wide and wonderful the world is, how full of promise. And let’s remember that we are of that world: we belong to the universe. We have a part to play in its vast design: We have something to say and only we can say it in our own unique way. Write on!

 

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Unlike Athena

“Fiction, like sculpture or painting, begins with a rough sketch. One gets down the characters and their behavior any way one can, knowing the sentences will have to be revised, knowing the characters’ actions may change. It makes no difference how clumsy the sketch is — sketches are not supposed to be polished and elegant. All that matters is that, going over and over the sketch as if one had all eternity for finishing one’s story, one improves now this sentence, now that, noticing what changes the new sentences urge, and in the process one gets the characters and their behavior clearer in one’s head, gradually discovering deeper and deeper implications of the characters’ problems and hopes. Fiction does not spring into the world full grown, like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction original and profound.”
John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist

What a gift! Just reading these wise and compassionate words made me breathe a sigh of relief, because they really struck a chord with me. There are so many helpful nuggets of advice embedded in these sentences, waiting for us to discover and apply them.

First, there’s the idea that we begin with just a sketch – a wisp of an story. And that it doesn’t matter how clumsy that sketch is because we’re going to revise it, fix it, reshape it.

Next, there’s the dedication to making the story better, the willingness to go over and over it as if we had all the time in the world — because revising, revisiting, reimagining — takes time. As we add a bit here, take away a bit there, we improve one sentence, then another.

Then as we notice “what changes the new sentences urge,” we begin to see our characters and their behaviors more clearly. And, as we begin to delve more and more deeply, to understand more fully, their “problems and hopes,” we begin to know them more fully and bring them to life.

And as we take these steps, moving closer and closer to the heart of our story, we take strength from knowing that, unlike Athena, fiction “does not spring into the world full grown,” but must be nurtured, tended, and pruned. Armed with this wisdom, wisdom that will surely make Athena, the goddess of wisdom, smile down upon us and our words, let’s write on!

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Hugo Helps

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”                   Victor Hugo

Born on February 26, 1802, Victor Hugo is best known for his novels Notre-Dame de Paris and Les Misérables. A leading figure of the Romantic Movement, he was also a poet and dramatist. He studied law, but Hugo was always drawn to writing and was encouraged by his mother to follow his passion. Words of wisdom to light our way:

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”

“Life is the flower for which love is the honey.”

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.”

“Laughter is sunshine, it chases winter from the human face.”

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.”

“As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.”

“He who does not weep does not see.”

“People do not lack strength; they lack will.”

“Where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.”

“Our mind is enriched by what we receive, our heart by what we give.”

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.”

“Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.”

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

“It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubls of life.”

“Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie, it’s pleasure.”

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Bravo, Victor! And now, inspired and emboldened, let’s all write on!

 

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Run On

Words inscribed on a plaque in a park where I jog from time to time:

“Somewhere, someone in the world is running when you are not. When you race him, he will win.”   Tom Fleming

“It was routine for Tom Fleming to run 150 miles a week. At the height of his career, Fleming won the New York City Marathon twice, in 1973 and 1975. He began running at Bloomfield High School and then at William Paterson College, becoming a four-time NCAA All-American and Conference Champion. He placed second in the Boston Marathon twice, in 1973 and 1975, when he acheived a 2:12:05 PR [Personal Record]. Tom opened one of the first running stores in 1978, where, true to his love of the sort, he would mentor anyone needing running advice. For the past 18 years, he taught 4th grade and coached boys and girls track at Montclair Kimberly Academy, passionate about passing on his skills, encouraging each student to strive for their personal best. A charismatic storyteller, generous with his time and talent, he taught everyone that the only way to succeed was to work hard.”

I love reading this plaque and whenever I’m at the running track where it’s displayed, I tap Tom’s quote with my fingers, hoping to catch a little of his amazing energy and drive, even though I’m only jogging a few laps at a time.

For me, these words fly far beyond the track field – and apply to any endeavor we choose to pursue, including writing. Tom’s story is about doing what you love with intention and brio:

He brought passion:  He pursued his calling relentlessly, in all kinds of weather and conditions, no matter what else was happening in his life.

He brought grit and stamina:  Like all elite athletes, he must have endured his share of injuries and pain, yet he learned to fight through them and to keep running.

He brought joy and love:  Surely, no one can run 150 miles a week unless he loves what he’s doing, not for the winning and the awards, but for the sheer joy of it.

He brought a willingness to run the extra mile – over and over – always striving to release his full potential and surpass himself.

Can we bring all this to the page? Can we brig passion, grit, joy, and the ability to go the extra mile? Can we give a level of effort that makes us stand out? Yes we can! All these qualities are within our power. Let’s tap into them as we all write on!

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Giving Thanks

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While we celebrate Thanksgiving once a year, every day is an opportunity to give thanks and to bring an attitude to gratitude to our work. I have so much to be grateful for: my wonderful family and friends, my work as a writer, which I cherish, and all of my creative fellow scribes, who inspire me every day. So, as we go about our work, let’s take few moments some time today say thank you for all our gifts. Let me begin:

Thank you to my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert, whose wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690) means so much to me. I listen to it every day. Rob’s motivational mission really inspired me to launch my KWD motivational blog for writers in honor of my beloved mom Dorothy and my sister Judy. I wanted to share my love of writing and to offer inspiration and encouragement to my fellow writers. The writing life is wonderful, but it can sometimes be lonely and challenging. I wanted to bring some light and joy to it.

Thank you to my KWD kindred spirits for reading my posts and sharing your writing journeys with me. Whenever I receive a comment in my email in box, I feel so happy and blessed. It gives me a huge boost to know that I’ve shared something — a quote or an idea or a strategy — that brightens your day and, hopefully, gives you a shot of energy so you can keep going and push past whatever obstacles you’re facing. Knowing that you are reading KWD motivates me to keep going as well, so we are helping each other.

Thank you to my inner spirit and writing muses. When I launched KWD, I had a few random ideas for a handful of posts. But as my intention to continue grew stronger, my sources of inspiration blossomed (see Idea Magnet). Everywhere I turned, fruitful new themes seemed to pop out at me. I learned something very powerful from this: Our creative well is never dry. Many times when I’ve sat down to pen my day’s post, I’ve had no clue about what I was going to write — yet something always bubbles up inside me or jumped out at me. The more we ask of ourselves creatively, the more we have to give.

And a huge thank you to all storytellers, past and present. Sharing your struggles and triumphs has been such an enlivening experience: Above all, it has shown me the kind of grit and discipline I need to make my own writing dreams come alive — not just on the page, but out in the world.

Now it’s your turn! I hope you’ll take a few moments to say thank you as you write on!

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Washington’s Wisdom

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In honor of George Washington’s true birthday which is almost upon us (also my wonderful husband David’s birthday!), some words of  wisdom from our Founding Father to ponder:

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

“It is better to be alone than in bad company.”

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

“Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do–then do it with all your strength.”

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation. ”

“In politics as in religion, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.”

Let’s take inspiration and fortitude from George — and write on!

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