Whenever you don’t feel good enough–write through it

I have a friend who says whenever she finishes a book she gets this overwhelming dark feeling that it will fail, even with numerous books to her credit, a smothering sensation undermines her confidence and suddenly it feels as if she’s back at book #1. It will not be successful, the voice mocks, and no one will read it and how truly ridiculous it is to even think that this story was a good idea in the first place.  But every time she finishes a book she presses forward. Every time.

Her desire to succeed is greater than her fear of failure.

But what about the rest of us? How many times have we taken these feelings to heart and backed off of a project or lessen the frequency in which we write or read or seek an agent or send out another query letter? In reality, all it takes is a shift in our thinking paradigm to throw off our game, to become less enthused or to stop reaching for that muse. There is a scripture in the Bible that reads, …for as he thinks in his heart so is he.” When we start thinking that we can’t…well…we can’t.

Good Thoughts override the bad

That is why it is important to flood our hearts with good thoughts. Simply ignoring the bad thoughts is not enough. Even when no one else is encouraging us, we must remind ourselves every day that we are good enough, we are walking in God’s plan for our life and that is enough. Those other voices only come to discourage and would not come at all if we weren’t pursuing something worthy.

Feelings are Not Facts

When we get those feelings of discouragement it is important to remember that they are feelings and not facts. Feelings fluctuate depending on that which we constantly meditate. To change your feelings, change that on which you meditate. Think of your successes, your victories, and the message of your work. Fix your mind on such things, in other words be unmovable in your stance. Does this mean those bad thoughts will never pay you a visit? Not at all. It means that overtime your good thoughts will silence the bad ones and you will prove to be victorious.

 

Moving with Purpose: Reaching goals in the new year

Moving with Purpose: Reaching goals in the new year

As a kid I had a best friend that was the complete opposite of me. She was the six- o’clock-in- the morning kind of perky; she would swing her arms around me as an every time greeting (which, as a shy kid made my palms sweat) and looked at everyday things as adventures. As a nine-year-old growing up in a Pentecostal household where there were rules for everything from the way we ate to the way we wore our hair, she was a cool breeze. She was unshackled and unpredictable and perfect in small doses. With her the day could bring…anything. As we grew, I did the proper thing and went to school, eventually married and had children. For the most part I had goals and some plans and accomplished many of them. I don’t think she ever had any long term goals or plans; her life shifted often, she moved from state to state on a whim and had more phone numbers and addresses than I could possibly keep up with(Growing up we only had one and I still remember the number.). Even as I write this, her life is a series of blunders and missteps. No definitive purpose in her movements. No structure.

 

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On the other hand, the children’s church leader at my church has the kids’ schedule down to increments of five minutes. I get this feeling of being forced under water even as I think about it.

Flying freely and without a compass may make you sound brash and spirited when exchanging stories with your bestie who has one kiddo propped on her hip and the other smearing chocolate frosting on her shoes but the reality is life is a succession of moments carefully strung together by time and left unfettered we may one day look back and wonder how we used it all. On the other hand structuring our life down to the very minute is not only unrealistic but almost guarantees failure.

There is a middle ground. As you walk into 2015 look back not only on where you’ve come but where you want to go. Think about those goals. Now write them out–every one of them. No matter how ridiculous they may sound to others. Write them out. Then write out your objectives—how will you accomplish those goals? If you don’t have all of the specifics as of yet, that’s OK. Get something down. This will be a working document. It will become clearer or more focus as you move towards it. Be as specific as you can. What do you plan to accomplish by spring? Summer? Or before the next cold spell hits? Moving with purpose is essential.

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Now print it out and post it. Post it somewhere conspicuous for yourself—perhaps your home office or closet door. It is not for the whole world to see. Ensure it is somewhere you will be forced to look at every day. Write small goals, large ones and lofty ones. The small ones can be accomplished with ease and will keep you motivated. And then visit them often. Don’t be afraid if months into the year you haven’t achieved them, but make it a point to do something to work towards them every day. Take small steps. Move with purpose. And if you find you are off course—re-evaluate and figure out why. You may find you need help. Perhaps ask someone who knows you well and is not afraid to be honest with you. Ask them how they see you. Don’t be offended by what you hear. Pray. Pray daily and seek God. And then listen for his voice. When he speaks, listen and obey. You’ll be surprised at how far you get from listening to the divine One who had your life planned out well in advance. His plan is complete and always purposeful.

Live the moment: the writing process

Live the moment: the writing process

When I first started writing my book back in 2007 it seemed like a process with no end. I was working fulltime as a night auditor; days were for sleeping and nights, after my work was done, were for writing. Perfect. A couple pages a night was all I could manage. I remember thinking how happy I would be once it was done and ready to send to a publisher.

A year later I was finished yah! Now on to a publisher. I would finally feel happy once I found a publisher or agent (I was seeking both). I knew the process would take time, additionally, my novel although one of inspiration was quite edgy. I was delving into places that were kind of taboo in Christendom. But I was determined not to change it. But no one was biting. In fact I couldn’t keep up with the rejection letters. One agent who accepted queries via email sent me a flat ‘no’, the morning after I submitted my query online; it seemed as if she couldn’t reject it fast enough. Sigh. Living-in-the-moment

If only they would request to read it all they would see how good it was and then I could rest easy and finally be at peace that this portion of the process was over. I could finally proclaim that I was a legitimate writer.

Meanwhile I was generally unhappy and restless and prayed to God to just get me published…geez. I walked around with my proverbial head hung, feeling kinda forgotten.

And then, finally, a response from a small independent publisher who liked the three chapters I’d sent and wanted to read the entire manuscript. I was thrilled. This was it. And then it seemed to me that she was taking her own sweet time getting back to me. So what she had other clients? I was the most important one (tears)! I thought; once I hear from her I’ll rest easy.

Months later they made me an offer. They wanted to publish the book. Yah! Now I know you’re thinking this is the part where I was thrilled out of my mind singing and dancing in the rain, putting Fred Astaire to shame. Well, this isn’t that part. I honestly waited to

feel it– that peace that would settle upon me like warm rays of sunlight. It didn’t come. Instead there was this kind of melancholy, a sadness of which I couldn’t find the source. And then the fretting kicked in as I worried about, how long it would take to publish, book sales, whether or not it good was enough and on and on.

It wasn’t until months later that I took time to reflect on how far I had come. I realized I hadn’t lived any of those moments; the peace that comes from putting it on paper, the joy of having a couple of close friends read my work and getting great feedback, the thrill that someone wanted to publish it. I had pushed those moments aside each time, seeking future satisfaction.

Most of our lives are spent seeking and searching; it seems what surrounds us at the moment is trivial, brings no peace to our lives because something bigger, more significant is not too far away. We live for tomorrow because surely it has to be better than this. We will be happy when…

I realized often we fail to enjoy the moments that make life so great and that peace isn’t suddenly brought on by an event, a place or even a person. It’s internal. We already possess it. Everything you truly need or desire is in you, now. Today. Find it and be happy now. Love the one you’re with just as they are. Kiss and hug your babies before they start behaving. Live the moment. It’s really all you have.

 

Why true stories don’t always make for good fiction

Why true stories don’t always make for good fiction

fiction-has-to-make-sense-mark-twain-picture-quoteIf I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I could write a book about my life,” I could stop using the cliché, ‘If I had a dime.’ I must confess; whenever I hear someone dishing the intimate details of their life I am always looking for a story in it…because…hey…you just never know.
But the truth is real life stories don’t always make for the best fiction. I think of the infamous James Frey. You remember the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces, a candid memoir which we later found out was not so much true as it was fiction, hence no longer true by any account. Oprah called him on it because it was one of her book club picks and it went on to become a New York Times best seller because of this. Yet no one could deny that the story was well written. (O.K. as it turns out some thought it read as something contrived.) A few million were moved by the story. The point is, arguably Frey needed to use creative license (make up stuff) to make the story sound, tightly woven and plotted, like well written fiction. As a true story, I’m willing to believe the story would have been lacking…something. And Frey obviously agreed, hence his reason for making up most of it. Here are a few reasons why fiction and true stories can’t always marry.

 

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Fiction is a fabricated truth
It is true that fiction contains elements of truth. We take real life events and then we create a story. We build on that story from bits of our imagination, mingled with what we know and what we want to happen; we completely change the ending, maybe, or the location; we change the protagonist from male to female, from White to Black because, as fiction writer Alyce Miller says, “Fiction…is a method of transforming, not simply transcribing, life.” These liberties are like candy for a fiction writer. We have the privilege to create. Fiction is truth–fabricated.
The truth doesn’t always pan out into a sound story
The other day my brother was over and telling this joke which had him doubled over and I’m thinking, pull it together man and tell the joke we all want to laugh. Finally, he straightened up and told it between fits of laughter. We are all sitting there waiting for the funny part to sink in. Nothing. It was one of those workplace type jokes that just didn’t transfer to the general public. I’m sure if he would’ve told it to one of his coworkers they both would have been on the floor. Sometimes, with true stories, especially incidents which are personal and intimate the emotional attachment is so intense we somehow feel that those feeling will automatically transfer in our writing. But if the characters aren’t fully developed, or the plot is weak or full of holes, we won’t connect with the story. We don’t continue to read about stuff or people we don’t care about. Just because you care about them in real life doesn’t mean your reader will, unless given a reason.
No, seriously this is a true story
The saying that truth is stranger than fiction is absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean that it is good enough for fiction. I know, how ironic is that? But have you ever heard a story that was so absurd you absolutely didn’t believe it until the storyteller showed you proof? Well, real life events are like that. They aren’t tidy and neat. They don’t necessarily have story arcs or plot points or climaxes where the suspense is driving you crazy. Sometimes events shift suddenly without reason. True stories are all over the place rising and falling in the most unexpected spots. Frey said, “I wanted the stories in the book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs, to have the tension that all great stories require.” And dude, I get that. That’s what we all what. But we don’t always get that with true stories. Remember, fiction is about the suspension of disbelief. If it rings as absurd you’ll get called on it, no matter how true it is.
Sometimes you will get to tell that story for which the back cover of the book will read: Based on a true story. But if not, just keep making them up.
What do you think? Are true stories usually worthy to be told as fiction? I would love to hear from you.

Why some writers never become authors

running-uphill1Over a year ago I decided I would become avid jogger. And notice I used the word, “avid” because this is exactly what I’d had in mind. Please know that I have never been a jogger, runner or trotter of any sort (although I can be seen taking the occasional brisk walk). It was on one such walk that I got this great idea to jog. As I am taking my old lady walk up the hill, a virile young jogger, drenched with perspiration whisks pass me. She is glowing and happy and doing it. She smiles and waves as she passes and I thought I want that.

Eventually, I began to notice others in my neighborhood; donned in their workout they were whizzing by, getting in their cardio as they should and making it look as breezy as those grinning actors do in those commercials for the exercise contraptions you see on T.V.

Then, I got myself together one morning, did some extensive stretching and braved the neighborhood. I hadn’t planned to jog for too long maybe a mile or so.

Do you realize how long a mile really is when you’re jogging?

When you’re driving, a mile is not even long enough to finish a Krispy Kreme donut or listen to a favorite song. When you’re walking, jogging or using your legs in any way to get there it is long enough to listen to several songs on your phone or iPod; it is long enough to envision yourself on a stretcher being taken away by EMS; it is certainly long enough to become so winded you are gasping for air and seriously considering calling the hubby at home to hitch a ride back.

About a third of the way my legs were giving and suddenly it seemed as though there was this massive gravitational pull and a threat from my body of actually going backwards even though I wasn’t on an incline.

So much for things being the way things seem.

It’s like that with writing too. Writers read books by their favorite authors who make writing seem as effortless and attractive as that devious jogger I bumped into to. Their words seem to pour out in one fell swoop as if in a dreamlike trance. And so you begin to write. Perhaps you dabble here and there when you get inspired. Maybe you pen a short story or two when the spirit hits you. But it’s once you commit that things change.

Writing isn’t always pretty and inspiration can quickly become a byword. It is in fact more difficult than rock climbing (I’m guessing of course). It is psychologically grueling and intensive. You’ll search for the words to describe a thing or a feeling and it’s as if every coherent thought gets up and leaves.

Oh, so you want to be an author?

Writing takes your confidence for a thrashing. Oh, I see, you think your words flows like the Nile. Wait until you have a deadline in which to edit a chapter or a portion of your masterpiece and suddenly your river of inspiration dries up like an Indian well. It is then you hear the voices that remind you that your sister is the creative one of the family. It is then you will hear laughter from within and that begging question: “Uh…again, who told you that you could write?” Or your Momma will call you out of the blue and ask did you remember to submit your resume to that place because she heard that they have great benefits and it can’t hurt to at least consider working a real job.

Will you ever learn the process?

You hear that you must learn how to plot, whether to outline or not, the 10 rules of editing and how to develop style and voice and theme. Your head is spinning and you wish you were back in first grade when writing was just cute and fun. And just when you think you’ve learned enough to actual do some damage to the literary world you find out you are doing it all wrong. Sigh…And you have to ask why many writers never become authors?

Why do we write?

We would do it for free if we had to. We love it just that much. We image someone getting lost in the pages of our book as we’ve done countless times with the books of others. And the thought of working a 9-5 for the rest of our lives with no creative outlet feels a little like drowning.

You have a story pinned up inside and you can’t rest until you’ve gotten it down on paper. The thought of sharing your stories with the world gives you this indescribable thrill and you image that’s what flying feels like. And because for so many of us, it is a gift from God and writing is like walking in purpose. And who doesn’t want to walk in purpose?