Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. ~ Derek Sivers
Bill O’Hanlon was the speaker at the SouthWest Writers first Saturday meeting of 2014. O’Hanlon is the author of Write is a Verb: Sit Down, Start Writing, No Excuses and has authored or co-authored 35 other books. Besides being a prolific writer, he’s the kind of speaker who makes you laugh and think and get motivated to follow your dreams. In the case of his January presentation, he suggested five poisons that many writers succumb to and the antidotes to overcome them.
1. Perfection Poison
Writers who fall prey to this deadly poison get lost in their desire to make sure everything is perfect before starting to write. This might include acquiring the right computer and the programs to go with it, fixing up a writing space, waiting for the right time of day or night or season to write, acquiring writing skills, amassing research (everything must be known before starting).
♦ Give yourself permission not to be good (to write the worst book ever).
♦ Be willing to be radically edited, torn apart and made better.
♦ Start writing.
2. I-Don’t-Have-Anything-New-To-Say Poison
This is another lie writers might tell themselves, and it can stop them from penning the first word: All the stories have already been told. But no one can write the story like you can – you have a unique style, voice, and slant. Every musician is limited to using the same 12 notes, but listen to the uniqueness of what each produces.
♦ Remember that everyone is profoundly weird – embrace your weirdness.
3. I-Don’t-Have-Time Poison
This is probably the excuse writers use most often not to write. With so many demands on our time, it’s easy to let this poison take over and keep us from our writing dreams.
♦ Do something writing-related everyday, even if it’s only to sharpen pencils.
♦ Make a commitment, set your priorities. If you want to write, you’ll make the time – even just 5 minutes a day.
♦ Consider: Maya Angelou wrote at her kitchen table before going to work, with children crawling on her lap.
♦ Consider: Bill O’Hanlon wrote 10 books in 10 years and had three kids to support and nurture.
4. This-Will-Never-Get-Published Poison
Understanding why you write is key to overcoming this poison. O’Hanlon believes four things motivate or fuel your writing: being blissed, blessed, pissed, or dissed. He calls these a Writer’s Energy:
1. blissed – you love to write
2. blessed – you’re encouraged to write
3. pissed – you’re angry enough to write (righteous indignation)
4. dissed – [prove someone wrong and] turn that sensitivity into fuel for your writing
♦ Figure out how to write without knowing you’ll get published.
♦ Try again, fail again, fail better.
5. I’m-Not-In-The-Mood-To-Write Poison
You’re not inspired to write. Your muse is just not showing up. What if the muse never pays a visit?
♦ Show up and the muse will, too. Start writing, it will take care of those moods.
— F. H. Bradley: The mood in which my book was conceived and executed, was in fact to some extent a passing one.
— Madeleine L’Engle: Inspiration comes to you while you’re writing rather than before.
♦ Treat it as a profession – do the job and you’ll find your groove.
♦ Remember: the more you write, the better you get.
Wherever you are is always the right place. There is never a need to fix anything, to hitch up the bootstraps of the soul and start at some higher place. Start right where you are. ~ Julia Cameron
What have you found to be the best antidotes for the poisons that paralyze your writing?
Image “Chemist With Test Tubes And Flask” courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Growing up, my mother was my hero. She immersed herself in motherhood, and sacrificed a chance at a career to stay home and raise my siblings and I. She loved us unconditionally, taught us to play fair and work hard, taught us to laugh – because that’s how she lived. When I had children of my own, I decided early on to be as much like my mom as I could be. I wasn’t perfect at it (neither was she) but I wanted my kids to know what it felt like to be loved and respected.
If following my mother’s example is any indication, then following a hero can make us better people by emulating their good qualities. Real heroes sacrifice unselfishly for others and strive to make a difference in their world. They push past their fears and climb over obstacles that would stop most people – and as a result, inspire us all. Who isn’t inspired by reading a story or watching a movie based on the true life of a hero?
…in the end, these are [hero] stories not just of courage, but of inspiration, stories that, if we let them, will help us to see our world as a place where the real heroes go about their lives in ways not played out upon a grand stage in front of thousands, but on a small stage, or even back stage, in front of few. ~ Michael Cleveland, Merrimack Journal
Do you have a dream but are fearful to move forward with it? Maybe what you need is a hero to inspire you, or just someone else who is already chasing their dreams. Try looking to your family or friends, a neighbor or co-worker. For movies where the “good guy” wins out (read my take on heroes and underdogs), watch A Beautiful Mind, Chariots of Fire, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Norma Rae, October Sky, Rudy, or The Pursuit of Happiness.
If you still need inspiration, here are a few places you might find it:
♦ Joseph Badal, the author of five published suspense novels, blogs once a month about Everyday Heroes — military and civilian heroes who make a difference in the lives of others, and even a black bear that went the extra mile.
♦ Every Friday at the Living Better Stories website, Jeremy Statton blogs about people who are doing something Secretly Incredible. In a recent blogpost he wrote, “I tell you the stories of amazing people. People whose lives don’t fit the category of normal. People that blow me away. Their lives, especially their decisions to live for something bigger than themselves, inspire me to do more with my life.” He doesn’t call these people heroes but they are.
♦ Lisa-Jo Baker is a mother who inspires and encourages other mothers (and anyone with a heart) at Tales from a Gypsy Mama. She did a great post On (not) Raising Deadbeat Dads, and here are bits and pieces from Daughter, you can take this one to the bank:
I will always come
I’m tired and she’s tired. I’ve already put her to bed more than once tonight. She’s standing in the crib…on tippy toes with soft, chubby arms stretched out to me as far as she can lean. She’s standing with eyes trained on the door and fingertips craning toward me… I will always come, baby…I dance with her slowly – the rock and roll of motherhood – and I know this is a promise I can stake my life on. I will always come…
When the mean girls make you want to shrivel inside your skin…when you get laughed at and people point fingers at your hair and your shoes and your too bony hips. My darling, I will come. When that boy breaks your heart…When you say your “I do’s”, when you start your happily ever afters, when none of it quite feels like you thought it would…when you regret what feels like signing your life away to someone else. When you keep on keeping on…I will so be there…
I will rock and roll you with my love and the promise that I will help you get back on your feet. I will hold your hand. I will rejoice. I will babysit. I will pass the tissues. I will wash the dishes. I will come. Tonight. Tomorrow. And the day after. And after. And then some.
Get inspired. Follow a hero. Take a step today, even a small one, toward making a difference or chasing a dream. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Even you.
Who inspires you? Who is your hero?