Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dreams in my Pocket

I've been writing for a long time. A really long time. Like almost-half-my-life kind of long. But for many of those years, I carried my dreams around in my pocket. I knew they were there. I often reached in and held onto them. I kept them safe and cherished. But I didn't get them out. I didn't let them see the sun. I didn't share them except with a select few. There were circumstances in my life that prevented me from doing so. I didn't give them up,  but I kept them in my pocket. There, but out of sight. Waiting.

Illustration by Dana K.
Now things have changed. It's time to pull those dreams out of my pocket and set them free. And you know what? Those dear little dreams are starting to take flight. It's wonderful and scary too. What will happen to them? Where will they end up?

I don't know. I just feel so grateful that I've finally taken the chance and pulled my dreams out of my pocket and cast them into the sky.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Different Drummer

Here's some more wisdom from Thoreau on this lovely Friday.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. ~Henry David Thoreau

I don't know about you, but I'd far rather walk to my own special beat than anyone else's. What about you? In what ways do you step to a different drummer?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Occupational Hazards

As a writer, there are some occupational hazards you should be aware of. I'm sure you know about carpal-tunnel syndrome, eyestrain, back pain, etc. But have you considered these others?

Ink stains on all your clothes. (At least if you write by hand like me.)

Ink stains on your family's clothes, too.

Ink stains on the walls. (When you fail to notice your three-year-old sharpening a pen in the pencil sharpener right next to you.)

Other lost-track-of-the-three-year-old disasters (including, but not limited to, half an inch of water on the kitchen floor, a dozen broken eggs, toilet-flooding, etc.)

A tendency to space out in the middle of a conversation when a great plot point suddenly pops into your head.

Compulsive email checking.

Losing track of time and realizing you're ten minutes late for picking your kids up from school.

Accidentally posting on the wrong blog (like I just did).

Any others you can think of?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Qualities of a Writer Part VII: Perseverance

per·se·ver·ance[pur-suh-veer-uhns] noun-- steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. 

I've saved the best--or most important--for last. You've probably seen the quote at the top of the blog.

The Red Baron
Success flourishes only in perseverance--ceaseless, restless perseverance. ~Manfred Von Richtofen

As soon as I saw that quote in my fighter combat book, I knew I had to make it my motto. Perseverance is the hallmark of my life and in my opinion the single most essential quality for a writer at any level to possess. It is patience, courage, enthusiasm and confidence all rolled into one.

You write a book and your crit partners tear it to shreds.  
Keep on going!

You submit and submit and submit and submit and gather hundreds of rejections.  
Keep on going!

You get writers block and stop believing you can achieve anything.  
Keep on going!

You sell a book or story, but it doesn't end up being published.  
Keep on going!

You publish a book, but it gets lousy reviews.  
Keep on going!

There is never, ever any excuse to quit. And I don't mean just at writing, either. Life is amazing and fantastic and downright hard!

You can do it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Qualities of a Writer Part VI: Confidence

con·fi·dence [kon-fi-duhns] noun -- belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

There are other definitions of confidence, but this is the one that best suits this post. Belief in oneself! It takes a great deal of confidence to become a writer. I know it took me a long time to find the confidence to even begin writing. I didn't know if I could do it. It seemed so far out of reach. I spent my college days writing critical essays, but fiction? I didn't have the confidence to try. Thank heavens my husband gave me the encouragement to get going, and my confidence has been growing ever since.

Believe that you have important stories to tell.

Believe that you have the ability to tell them.

Believe that others will want to share them.

It may seem like arrogance, believing that you have something to say that others will want to hear. Believing that they'll pay for the privilege of reading your words. You may have self-doubt plaguing you. But don't listen. You can do this. I know it.

Just believe it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Qualities of a Writer Part V: Patience

pa·tience[ pey-shuhns] noun 1. the quality of being patient,  as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. 2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: 3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence:

Some qualities we are born with, like creativity and curiosity. Some we can nurture like enthusiasm and courage. And others must be developed like it or not. Like patience.

Most of us are not born with patience. At least I know I wasn't. I don't know if I even qualify as patient now after many years of patience-building experiences. But if you want to be a writer, patience is something you'll have to work on.

Take a look at definition #1. the quality of being patient,  as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It takes that kind of patience to deal with rejections, criticism, bad reviews, doubters, lack of support, setbacks, etc. etc.

Look at definition #2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: It takes that kind of patience to deal with submitting and waiting FOREVER for a response. Or getting an acceptance and still waiting FOREVER for actual publication. Waiting for beta readers to get back to you, waiting for time to write. Waiting, waiting, waiting. You know what I mean.

What about definition #3? quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: It takes that kind of patience to finish a manuscript. To revise it. And revise it again. And again. To submit it. And submit it again. And again. Writing a great book takes time. Publishing it takes time (yes, even if you self-publish it).

Patience may not be the easiest or most fun quality to develop, but it is one of the most important.

How have you developed patience? Any tips for the endless waiting game?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Qualities of a Writer Part IV: Enthusiasm

en·thu·si·asm [en-thoo-zee-az-uhm] noun -- absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest

I think it's true of anything in life. To succeed, you must have enthusiasm. Take a look at that definition. Absorbing or controlling possession of the mind. Ever feel that way about writing? I do.

Admittedly, there are many aspects of writing that just aren't that fun. (Typing. Submitting. Rejections, anyone?) But our enthusiasm for putting words on paper (or screen) can carry us through the tedious, difficult and downright heartbreaking parts. Creating characters, devising plots, finding skillful turns of phrase to describe it all. Yeah, it makes all the un-fun stuff totally worth it.

Your enthusiasm will shine through all your work. It will make your words sparkle. It will bring the stories to life.

How do you show your enthusiasm for writing?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Qualities of a Writer Part III: Courage

cour·age [kur-ij, kuhr-] –noun 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

Writing takes a great deal of courage at every stage. I have blogged about courage before, but I think it's an important quality for a writer to cultivate. It's worth talking about again. How about this quote:  

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. ~John Wayne

That pretty much sums up my writing journey. I was afraid to start writing, afraid my ideas were no good, that I didn't know what I was doing, that I was doomed to failure. I was afraid to let anyone read what I had written. I was afraid to submit it. I was afraid to keep going after I'd been rejected.

But you know what? I did all those things anyway. Writing meant too much for me to give up just because it was scary.

How about you? Do you have any fears about writing? How do you find your courage?