“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” -Thomas A. Edison
I came across the most amazing book (and then found out it was one of four in a series of books!) called Post Secret: Extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives, by Frank Warren.
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.
PostSecret began as an art installation for Artomatic 2004 in Washington, D.C. The simple concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions were (or are) made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams.
Since Frank Warren created the website on January 1, 2005, PostSecret has collected and displayed upwards of 2,500 original pieces of art from people across the United States and around the world.
The site, which started as an experiment on Blogspot, is updated every Sunday with approximately 20 new pieces which share a relatively constant style, giving all “artists” who participate some guidelines on how their secrets should be represented.
Not only is this a fantastic idea, but a great place to get story ideas, as well. After reading through my copy of the book, I came up with about 15 new story ideas!
So the point of this post is to get you thinking about–and looking for–places where you can get story ideas. Sometimes it’s the last place you’d think, sometimes it’s the first. But if you’re always on the look-out for ideas, then you’ll never be able to say: “I’ve got nothing to write about.”
If you’re like me, you tell yourself almost everyday “I’m going to write today.” And then you find 300 other things to do that are just “so much more important,” like cleaning the bathroom, washing the laundry, picking up after your kids, etc. And then you never end up getting around to writing. And then you feel guilty for the rest of the day/night/week.
But what you don’t realize, is that by saying “I’m going to write today,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Especially if you’re a procrastinator.
When you tell yourself you’re going to “write today” or that you’re going to spend “the day” or “the weekend” writing, you’re bombarding yourself with having to write, which makes you feel overwhelmed, and then you look for a million other excuses not to write.
To get writing done, instead of saying “I’m going to write all weekend,” tell yourself “I’m going to write for two hours on Sunday.” By setting a specific day and amount of time, you are not only giving yourself freedom to do the other things you have to do (like walk the dog, bake a cake…you get the idea), but you’re allowing yourself freedom to write without feeling bombarded by it.
Give it a try this weekend. Choose a day and an amount of time, then when that day comes, sit down and spend that much time writing. That’s it. No more, no less.
I’m going to try it this weekend as well. Be sure to come back and let me know how it goes for you!
“My mind tells me to give up, but my heart won’t let me,”–Anonymous
Many writers can identify with that quote above. Especially writers who’ve been rejected a lot, and writers who procrastinate to the point where they wonder why they’re even dreaming anymore.
Recently, I’ve had a few people make me feel like my writing dreams are impossible. And for a minute I started to think, maybe they’re right. Maybe this is something that will never happen for me. And then I tell myself to ignore them, stay positive and keep dreaming.
Sure, it’s really difficult to chase a dream and to keep on feeling like no matter what you do or how hard you work, you’re never going to get there. All writers understand this feeling (and actually, all dreamers understand this feeling, too!).
But you have to push through it. You have to keep on trying and, especially, keep on believing.
You have the power to make all your writing dreams come true. You just have to be willing to stand up to those who put you down and to look negativity in the face and say, “I’m doing it whether you like it or not.”
Because there will always be someone around who wants to knock you down. There will always be an editor who hates your work. There will always be a publisher who rejects you.
But if you believe in yourself, and keep on writing and keep on dreaming, eventually, you will get there. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
So whenever you feel like you’re losing your nerve, remember this: Critics didn’t put you here, so they can’t take you down.
“A single affirmation or reminder of your commitment can do a lot toward achieving the finishing line,” Morris says. “Develop your own version of the Little Red Engine’s mantra: ‘I think I can, I think I can!'”
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“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them,
but by building a fire within,” Bob Nelson
Sports teams, upon winning a big game, often thank their coach. But why? The coach didn’t even do anything…or did they?The job of a coach is to teach, mentor and motivate. And when they do this, they spark something inside that causes you to take action. That’s why a lot of people have life coaches and personal trainers and nutrition counselors. All of these people are doing, in essence, the same job–motivating you to take action and succeed. And most importantly, they care whether or not you succeed.
A writing coach is no different. Their job is to offer you insight, advice and motivation for completing whatever project you’re working on. And they’ll stick with you until the final chapter.
I just hired a writing coach of my own. She’s going to be helping me work toward completing my very first novel. And I am so excited and eager to get started!
If this sounds like an option that would help you, I suggest doing some research and finding a writing coach that you feel you can work with. A good way to do this is to interview potential coaches to find out what they’re all about. Then make your decision. Some coaches are better with certain writing styles or certain subjects, etc.
Here’s an article on “7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire A Coach,” to get you started.
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Have you ever worked with a writing coach before? How was your experience?
Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com shared his “staring death in the face” story with us the other day. He noted that right after it happened, he all of a sudden felt alive again, like he had a new shot at life. And he didn’t want to spend that life doing something that didn’t excite him or that he wasn’t passionate about. So he got rid of the old and brought in the new. And he’s much happier now.
Read his inspiring story.
Not only did Brian’s story inspire me to take a look at my life and my dreams to see that the two aren’t matching up, but it also inspired me to take action. Yesterday, I sat down for almost 8 hours and worked on plot and character development for a novel I’ve been wanting to write forever.
It’s unfortunate, but sometimes near-death experiences are the best way to really wake up and realize that you only get one life, you should be living it the way you want to.
So what do you think? Did Brian inspire you to get started on those writing projects pronto?
Yesterday I was getting ready to work on a short story I have to turn in to my fiction professor this week as part of my final portfolio. I was sitting on my couch watching TV and trying to psych myself up to get some writing done. But as I looked around my house, I noticed a hundred things that needed to be done–clean the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floor, vacuum–and that’s when I knew I would never be able to get any writing done at home. So I decided to change locales.
I went to my local Starbucks (cliche for a writer, I know!), got myself a Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino, a bottle of water and a chocolate croissant, and found a small table nestled in the corner of the room. I sat down, pulled out my laptop and an amazing thing happened.
I was able to just start writing. There was nothing to distract me from my task of writing (other than my delicious croissant, which I polished off quickly). There were no chores to do, no TV shows to watch, no people around to bother me. It was just me and my laptop.
I ended up deciding to turn the short story I’ve been working on into a novel, and I got the first chapter written yesterday at Starbucks.
Getting writing done isn’t all that difficult. It just takes some focus and dedication. I found it very useful to get out of the house for a bit. It really forced me to concentrate only on writing.
So this week, I suggest you try this method of sparking creativity out. Find your favorite place, or a place that you can go without being distracted, and go there to write. Then drop me a comment and let me know how it went. Where did you go? What, if any, distractions did you find there? How much writing did you get done? Do you think it helped you to change locales?
I’m always looking for creative ways to motivate, or “trick” myself into sitting down and writing. In the last few days, I’ve learned of and come up with some ideas that I think are worth trying. Here are two ideas to get you started:
- Write a check to someone you hate–my creative writing professor said that when he was in desperate need of finishing one of his books, he motivated himself in an extreme, but helpful, way. He got out his check book and wrote a $1,000 check to a person that he hates more than anything. Then, he gave the check to one of his good friends and told them “If I don’t have my book finished by January 1, I want you to give this to the person and tell them to cash it.” Although pretty extreme, the idea of losing $1,000–and having it go to someone you hate–is a pretty good motivational tool to get your writing done.
- Pretend like you’re already done with it–last night while I was sitting on the couch watching Jimmy Kimmel Live and not writing, I had a moment of inspiration. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I just made a book cover for the book I’m trying to write and then used it to cover up one of the books I own? So I did just that. I made a mock cover for the book I’m trying to write, then I cut it apart and taped it over one of my Stephen King books, making it look like I wrote the book. Then I placed it on my coffee table so that I could look at it all the time. I figured seeing my name “in print” would make me more likely to sit down and actually write the book.
So take a few minutes this weekend and try one of these motivational tactics out. Which one motivated you the most? And how much writing did you get done because of it? Got any motivational ideas of your own? Drop me a line and let me know!