Lightning strikes. In a flurry of activity you quickly jot down every piece of information that has come to mind. Afraid to let even one tiny bit get away.
Having given birth to an idea you slump back, drained. Your eyes are now a combination of dry and itchy and glazed. Reality seems hazy. You look at your creation and beam.
In that instant you know you would do it again.
Having had three children I very much can attest to the similarities of giving birth and coming up with an idea. The lightning strike is the day of birth. The many years of watching your baby grow are the months of shaping your story into something you will maybe someday publish.
The birth of the creative work – bringing a book into reality for someone else to read – no longer just hidden deep in the imagination.
The wonder held at that initial inception of idea is not the final payoff. Instead you look forward to the months (or in some cases, years) of writing after that inspiration has struck as the first few years of life. Your idea is rolling over for the first time, taking its first steps, speaking its first words. It’s the beginning of many sleepless nights as you run into the other room to check on it.
You have read all the books that are supposed to guide you on the journey.
And still, you worry about whether you are doing everything right.
None of the rules, guides, advice from others will matter as much as making sure you are following what feels right in your heart.
After all is said and done you have to care enough to be honest. With yourself. With your story. With your readers.
Then you have to let it go out and find its own way.
Or, to quote Semisonic –
“Closing time –
Time to open all of the doors and let you out into the world”
Here’s a funny story. I had a completely different blog post in mind this week. As a matter of fact my blog was completely different until about 30 seconds ago when I deleted all of the words and decided to start over. Because sometimes that’s the point – we have to know when it’s not right and it’s time to start over.
There are lots of moments in life when starting over becomes the only real option. Terrible homework assignments when we’re young, bad relationships or failed careers as we get older. Some people are really great at starting over. So great they’ve made a career out of it. Some people maybe are less great and cling to what came before because uncertainty tells them that they might fail that too.
Failure isn’t giving up and starting over. Failure is continuing to work at something that has no potential and telling yourself you can make it so because you’re just too stubborn to admit you can’t. Failure is knowing things are over but you selfishly cling to an ideal of what you want things to be versus what they actually are.
Success, on the other hand, is when you know that you’ve done what your skill set is capable of and stepping back and taking stock of the big picture. Maybe you have to tear the page up and start back at “Once upon a time”, and just rewrite the whole darn thing. Maybe it just needs to go in the barrel with the leaves and be set aflame while you sip a cup of cocoa and ponder what comes next. Success is accepting that, doing what needs to be done and continuing on to new projects.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Sometimes we want to give up, but are afraid that in doing so we’re quitting too soon, that if we just keep working it will eventually line up. Sometimes stepping away provides the clarity to see the right path. And sometimes we have to try, and hope for the best. Just know that there isn’t failure in trying. The only real failure is knowing that fear made the decision for you.
If you feel like you’re running into the same brick wall over and over again, take a moment and think – Would this work better if I cleared the slate and started over?
There is no such thing as being done learning. You absolutely CANNOT educate yourself too much. Fact. There really should be no arguing with that statement (although there are those out there that will try).
I believe that I can always learn new or better ways to succeed in my writing, and I have been seeking some of this out through online avenues, books on writing, and a variety of different class or lecture style options. There are a large number of people who have done this all long before my atoms came together on this planet, and an equally large number of people who even started when I did, that have figured quite a few things out that I could stand to learn from them all.
While I believe that we should live our lives from the mindset of continuous learning I don’t believe that we should have to reinvent the wheel – so here are some of the resources I’ve found in the last week that I intend to look into. If anyone out there has found others I’d love to hear about them, feel free to share in the comments or shoot me a note and I’ll look into them and add some details for a later post.
Masterclass – from chefs to filmmakers to authors or musicians, there is a class for everyone interested in learning something new. I signed up for a one year all access membership for $180, and while that seems steep it covers unlimited access for a 12-month period. In addition you can choose to buy a single Masterclass that you’re interested in for $90 which makes the $180 a pretty great deal if it’s something you’re already interested in checking out. One thing I really like is that each Masterclass gives you downloadable lessons that go with the lectures from the presenter, so you have some concrete material to look at offline as well.
Less of a resource but still something I had fun with is a site that I discovered through the Neil Gaiman Masterclass called I Write Like. This site allows you to enter a passage of your writing and it analyzes the words against an algorithm and tells you what author your writing style compares with. This is pretty neat because it can be helpful when trying to understand your author’s voice – which is, ultimately, why Neil Gaiman shares it in his lesson. (I ran a few of my samples through, and was quite excited to get back Agatha Christie and Stephen King on mine.)
Some sites I find helpful when you are banging your head against a wall:
The Write Life provides some calming insight from those who have been there, done that.
Carol Tice has a site called Make a Living Writing that gives new and experienced freelance writers a leg up towards success all the while talking about her own past struggles and triumphs.
And last, but not least, books that I have read, started reading, or have picked up with the intention of reading (and Amazon links – although there are a wide variety of places you can find them in print):
Stephen King’s “On Writing” (Find it on Amazon)
William Strunk and E.B. White’s “Elements of Style” (Find it on Amazon)
Zachary Petit’s “The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing” (Find it on Amazon)
Gabriel Pereira’s “DIY MFA” (Find it on Amazon)
Paula Munier’s “Writing With Quiet Hands” (Find it on Amazon)
These lists are by no means the be all end all of writer’s resources – I have a few new books in my Amazon cart already, and am always on the lookout for new sites that can help, because no matter where we are on our journey we can benefit from a helping hand.
Have you ever built a bookshelf? And about half way through the instructions you realize you have no idea where the part that corresponds with letter B1 goes? You track back through the previous several steps to see if you can make it make sense, but to no avail. It’s not that you don’t want the bookshelf, or that you are even thinking about giving up on building it. It’s just that you’re starting to wonder if you really have any business building it in the first place.
I think sometimes choosing the creative life is a bit like building a bookshelf. You think you’re fine until you realize that you possibly got part B1 confused with A2 and now the entire structure seems a bit … wonky.
Part of you considers tearing the whole thing down, shoving it haphazardly into the box and sending it back to wherever you ordered it from, leaving a scathing review about the instructions being hard to follow.
Except that in this case it’s not really a bookshelf, now is it?
And if you ever really had a choice to begin with you might have decided against starting on this path in the first place.
And this is where we transition from talking about the hypothetical bookshelf to talking instead about where you stand on choosing the creative life. You’ve trod down this path for so long that it’s just as many steps back to the beginning as it would be to see it through.
I can say I’ve walked both paths – choosing to focus on the creating as a reality more recently.
I started with the regular day to day career that everyone tells you when you’re young is sensible. Except they are telling you this at the same time as lamenting your inability to understand sensible if it hit you in the face. Seems silly to expect you to go down the sensible path to begin with, now doesn’t it?
But that’s what I did.
I followed the sensible path. The bills got paid. I shriveled up inside, withering a bit like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a very, very long time.
I like to talk about why it’s important to hold on to and follow the dreams you have. Albeit while making sure to consider how to pay the bills and stay out of the cardboard box under a bridge at the same time. You just have to remember to water the plants too.
I’m working on understanding what that balance is. How to do what I love while still paying the bills. It can be done.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Herman Cain
Do you know what the most exciting thing about making a commitment is? It isn’t the fear of failure, or even the thought of success.
It’s the acceptance of the challenge.
Once you decide that you are indeed willing to do something all the should I or shouldn’t I fades away. It becomes a guarantee that you will do it, regardless of the obstacles.
It becomes the lighthouse, and your boat now knows how to get to shore no matter how choppy the waters before then may be leading up to that point.
You can now begin to identify what needs to be done, and the planning stage is where everything has possibility.
The commitment itself means hope.
When you make a commitment it makes change possible. Any change. All change. And no matter how big or small it gives way to:
I spent quite a while really standing on the precipice, unsure if I was ready to commit to a path that meant risk. Making this commitment meant committing to uncertainty.
Last week I shared with you all that I was ready to make a commitment to where I see my career moving. This week I wanted to share my excitement.
It’s been a tingling of anticipation this last week as I began to lay the groundwork for what comes ahead. I have lists and ideas. I have identified the sources to start with for establishing a writing career. I have thoughts on updating my business card and website to advertise this new offering.
I also have a lot of exciting thoughts about new things that I want to offer but haven’t seen anywhere else. New, like making the first step to commit, is a little scary. There isn’t an established baseline anywhere that helps be a guide post.
But I’m accepting this challenge as I’ve accepted the challenge to commit. I will forge ahead.
Because if I fail I just have to remember to get back up. Try again. Possibly fail again. Fail better next time.
And keep at it until I am failing so well that I can call it success.
So here’s to the joy of accepting the call and taking up the mantle as hero in your own creative journey, whatever yours may look like. We can forge ahead to what may be a brighter opportunity.
I’m excited about what the future holds.
It’s high time I stopped feeling sorry for myself and making excuses. I am never going to achieve goals or catch up on missed opportunities by sobbing into my ice cream or playing the ostrich.
TIME TO STOP THE PITY PARTY!
After last week’s post I spent some time soul searching – not climbing to the tallest peak of a mountain range in Tibet level soul searching, but enough to realize I needed some tough love. I realized it was time for me to stop making excuses, no matter how valid they might seem, and accept my part in holding myself back.
I am a writer because I write.
I am a writer because I write.
When I try to do other things the writing sucks at me, pulling at a corner of my soul until I return. It’s not the number of hours that confirm my dedication, it’s the follow through.
It’s not the falling off the horse that decides whether you should ride or not, it’s how many times you are willing to get back up and try again.
Miss writing a post? That stinks. Start the clock again next week.
Someone didn’t like your post (book, picture, design, etc. …)? Oh well. Keep at it for yourself, there will be others that do.
Receive unsolicited advice telling you not to quit your day job? Think about taking the leap anyway.
We never get ahead playing it safe.
If I had been waiting to have kids until I was ready I would never have had them.
And if I keep waiting to create until I am ready I may never create.
The secret to when will I be ready isn’t a certain time. It’s knowing that you’re never really ready. But you summon the courage to leap anyway.
It takes a leap of faith.
Faith in yourself.
Faith in your ability to get back up if you fail.
Faith that you DO deserve to succeed.
So it’s time for me to take that leap. What about you?
Have you ever taken the time to make a list of what you see as your role in the world and the associated obligations and time commitments that go with them? I did just that the other day and I have to say it was an interesting exercise. Interesting and enlightening at the same time.
Here’s what I came up with in the exact order I came up with it:
|Role||Daily Time Commitment|
|Monday – Friday Day Job||8-10 Hours (sometimes 12 hours)|
|PTSO Board Member||Less than 1 hour|
|Girl Scout Troop Leader||Less than 1 hour|
|Student||Approximately 2 hours|
The frustrating thing here is that I identify myself to other people as a writer, but when I look at what my subconscious thinks – writer is the last thing I see myself as. To be fair the day job supports my role as mother and wife – but the rest of my roles with much smaller time commitments managed to land higher on the list from my self proclaimed vocation.
AND … and I can’t even say what kind of time I’m committing to the act of writing.
I know that I spend a few hours a week on my blog – posts like this one, and perhaps an hour here or there (more often then not less than that) on my current work in progress, but that maybe averages to an hour a day. Which – if you know the law of averages – really means that I’m maybe writing and then maybe not writing.
BIG maybes. (You can’t trust averages no matter how far you can throw them).
If G.I. Joe taught me anything it’s the more I know should result in something being better, different, something. So now I know how I actually see myself.
How do you wrestle your subconscious into submission?
I’ve tried setting writing goals (Thoughts and Reflections for the New Year) and as we come to the close of quarter two for 2019 I’m feeling very far behind. I haven’t nailed a single one of them.
How to be held accountable? How to be the writer I state I am? How to make the follow through be the priority?
Maybe the real secret isn’t trying to force a square peg into a round hole, but instead to accept who we identify as, and identify the ways that align with the information gathered.
Like I said before, G.I. Joe taught me that it’s the more you know.
And now I know.
Now to decide what to do with that knowledge.
I stood in the kitchen this evening taking over the dinner meal preparation and giving my husband a break, and as I stood at the stove I listened to the sounds of the house. Laughter from the living room filled my ears and I breathed a sigh of satisfaction. Happiness in the fact that my family is here around me, that my husband is able to sit just a room away from me and laugh with our children.
Even more so, there is the joy that I have my partner who stands beside me in whatever endeavor I take, who holds my hand when our children take large leaps forward in life. This man who has the utmost faith in me, who loves our children as much as I do, and can’t wait to see the people that they will become. This person who shares this path with me that I celebrated today.
We were married father’s day weekend many many turns of the earth ago, and at the time being a father was the furthest thing from his mind – and just as far from my own. A year later we welcomed our first child into the world and have made some choices that perhaps if given the chance we might make differently today. You know, things like should he watch television, or how to react at the first big fall?
Regardless of what parental decisions we stumbled through I am grateful to know that he always stood by me – we always knew we had each other there to figure it all out together. Not everyone gets this rare gift, and I try not to take it for granted. I try to remember that every day is not a guarantee.
As a result I have been taking more Sundays off to focus on family. To focus on the present. To focus on what priorities need the most of my attention.
Always remember to make the real priorities the top of your list –
And Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers (and father figures) out there.