Motivational Monday: Don’t Give Up

I’m in the process of rewriting my WIP. And by rewriting, I mean starting back from the blank page when I was already half-way done because my story wasn’t working, even though I’d plotted it out. Even though I’d prepared. It just wasn’t working. If you’ve ever had to start over, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating that can be. All the work, gone. But it isn’t wasted because I learned along the way, and what I learned will hopefully make this new draft not suck so bad so I can move on with revisions. As I tackle this overhaul, I’m reminded of how difficult writing can be–and yet how absolutely amazing and rewarding it is if we simply follow through. So this is a reminder to all not to give up, regardless of where you are in the process. You’re just starting? Don’t give up. Querying? Don’t give up. On submissions? Don’t give up. Just keep writing, keep revising, and keep reaching for your dreams because they WILL happen if you’re willing to work for them.

Dont Waste Life

Writing Trouble

Story Untold

But perhaps one of my favorite quotes that reminds me it’s all possible–
and it’s a quote I have on my business cards–is this one:

Dreams Come True

Because…

Writing is Magic

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The art of working hard

Our culture seems to have an aversion to working hard. Everywhere I turn, there’s a clamor for instant gratification. Forget sweating, forget busting our behinds. We have a dream. We have a vision. This is what we’re MEANT to do. But we don’t want to wait. We don’t want to do the dirty work. We don’t want to put in our time and effort to get there. We want it, and we want it NOW. And we want it easily.

Reminds me of a toddler cranking up towards a massive meltdown.

The thing is, the only way to get to that dream, for it to really mean something, is by working hard. By paying our dues. I was talking with a friend and former colleague, author Christine Kling, many moons ago about writing, and she said something like this: to get close to having something ready to publish, you have a million-word internship. In fact, she wrote this post about The Million Word Rule. And I believe it because, as clichéd as the saying is, it’s true that practice makes perfect (or better yet, practice makes better.)

Sometimes, I’ll hear well-meaning friends say, “Hurry up and write it!” Or family will want me to finish, but don’t understand the time I take away from them. But if I don’t sit on my behind and write, if I don’t spend the time to develop the characters and the world, to run through the steps that it takes to start and finish a draft, and then to revise it (over and over and over again) until it’s ready to send out, it won’t happen. I’ll have a half-finished story, a draft full of possibilities that’ll simply evaporate because I didn’t put in the time and effort. A book’s not going to write itself.

And on the same note, a first draft will NEVER be good enough. It can ALWAYS be better. It’s not called a shit-draft for nothing! I drill this into my students: the importance of writing multiple draft, of reading and re-reading and revising to polish their work. I take this to heart, and it’s what’s allowed me to silence my inner editor temporarily while I get the story down into that first, exploratory draft. But again, this is work. It takes time, dedication, patience, and endurance.

I haven’t reached my dream yet of being published, of sharing my writing with the world. I also don’t have an agent…yet. But I’ve seen how much I’ve grown in the past five years since I started taking writing seriously, as a career. Every class I take, every workshop and conference I attend, every critique I receive and every story I write puts me that much closer to reaching my goals. That’s what I have to do. If I want this with every cell of myself, then there’s no other option but to keep on writing, keep on trying, keep on paying my dues so that eventually, it will happen. And when it does, the prize will feel that much sweeter because I reached it with my own effort.

i-did-my-waiting-gif

Sure, there are days where it’s harder than others, days where the inner doubt creeps in and tries to take over. But that negativity is just an excuse. It’s a way of trying to take the easy way out, which I guess we’re programmed to want. So stuff a pillow in doubt’s mouth and keep going–the only way to reach that dream is by persevering! You can do it. And when you think about quitting because it’s just too hard, remember this:

“There’s only one thing that can guarantee our failure, and that’s if we quit.” – Unknown

And these:

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

“It’s when things get rough and you don’t quit that success comes.” – Unknown Quote

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” – Ross Perot

Keep going, keep writing (or keep doing whatever it is you need to do to succeed)!

If we spend our lives dreaming, will we ever know when we reach our dream?

This issue of dreams is risky business. We’re always told to dream, and to dream big. Nothing is out of our reach so long as we roll our sleeves back, our pants up, and get neck-deep in the process. We need to get dirty, stress, suffer – and with all the hard work, we’ll get to that dream.

Trouble is, we tend to have many dreams. At least I know I do. It seems as with human nature, we’re not content in reaching one destination. We’re always pushing for more. I can think of a slew of cliched phrases that demonstrate this, starting with: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” I say “starting with” because that’s why we dream. We want something other than what we have in the present. I’m no exception. I’m always dreaming of something else. Fo example, I dream of leaving South Florida. I’m tired of the traffic, the rude (and highly volatile) drivers, the packed cement blocks. I’m tired of the fast-pace of the city. I dream of open land, pastures, green (that doesn’t involved painted trash cans). I dream of friendly people, like those I met in Virginia, who, instead of saluting with the middle finger, gave friendly waves and hellos, even though we were outsiders. I also dream of writing full time. Dedicating the hours while my son is in school, to writing down all these characters and memories that plague my mind. Sometimes, I even dream of inventing some sort of time machine to go back to a healthier, livelier, more energized me.

The problem with these dreams is they interfere with my living today and now. I think there’s a saying that says something akin to: the past already happened, the future is yet to come, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. In dreaming so much of tomorrow, and in working so much for a future (retirement, fame, whatever), we oftentimes neglect today. And in today lies family and friends. When it’s all said and done (I’m just full of cliches today, aren’t I?), what do we have to look back at in our lives? Will we be happy? Will we be satisfied that we did all we could do at each stage?

I find myself often at this point, stuck between the dreamer and the realist. I remember my godparents, who worked their behinds off (might as well keep at it with these trite expressions), saving up for an unsure future, only to die in a plane crash in Long Island, on their way back from Colombia after the Christmas and new year holidays in 1990. What was that worth? Then again, if no planning is done, no dreams to pursue, our future might be just as bleak. There’s no denying that retiring here, with nothing but Social Security (if that) is simply not possible. What’s the right answer? Is there one?

I don’t have the answers. I am pretty sure, though, they lie somewhere between dreaming and planning, drifting and cementing roots. There’s got to be some balance there.

Chocolate Dreams

My son’s sleeping has finally become regular over the last few months. This semester was certainly much better than last, with only two weeks of multiple wakings due to a cold, croup, and ear infection. By 8 PM he’s in bed, and because he’s pretty much given up on napping during the day, he only mumbles, sings, chats for a few seconds before his eyes shut, his breathing slows, and soft snores escape his lips. In the morning, he’s up anywhere between 4-6 am, at which time he drowsily pit-pats his way into our room, climbs in bed with us and, if it’s our weekend (meaning neither of us have to go to work), he’ll keep sleeping until 7-8 am.

This morning was no exception.

His routine before settling himself back to sleep is as follows: Once in bed, he rolls from me to my husband. At each of us, he leans over, smacks a wet kiss on our cheek, and says, “Mommy [or daddy], I love you.” We say I love you back, he smiles, sighs, and turns over. Sometimes he’ll do that a few times before he goes back to what children dream of.

Occasionally, he’ll talk in his sleep. We know he is prone to sleep disturbances, as he’s had night terrors pretty badly, but on the smaller, less intrusive scale is the sleep talking.

This morning, after he’d fallen back asleep in our bed, he sighed, smiled, and whispered, “Mmmm, chocolate.”

Oh how sweet his chocolate dreams must be!