As I’m sitting down to write after a 2-hour karate training tonight, my thoughts turn to the article I recently read in Women’s Health Magazine. The article’s title is “True Grit or Determination: How to Get What You Want” and you can read it by following this link: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/success-secrets?page=1.
The advice in the article can be applied to absolutely any area of your life, any goals you have. For me, it also resonates strongly with what my Sensei (karate teacher), also known as my husband, always says: people can be smarter than you, stronger than you, faster than you, more athletic than you, etc.. However, do not let anyone outwork you. Perseverance, hard work and keeping your goals always in front of you is what will put you ahead of others, and will make you successful. Angela Duckworth, Ph.D. defines “grit” in the article as “working strenuously toward challenges and maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity, and plateaus.”
The article also addresses the issue of how to keep going and not lose sight of the goal, even when things get tough and motivation starts failing. When you hit a snag in the road, sometimes it’s seems much easier to just give up. The snag can be anything from being in physical pain and being exhausted from physical workouts to being disappointed by a rejection of a query for the novel you just finished. Even being too busy with other things, and not having the energy to sit down and write some days can be a major downer.
So how do you keep the goals firmly planted in front of you and keep marching forward to achieve them? There are a number of ways to help with that. Here’s a few:
- Visualization. Visualizing the end result of your goal is a great motivator. For an athlete, it’ll be visualizing finishing a race or getting that coveted black belt. For a writer, it could be seeing your book on the shelves of a bookstore (or for sale on Nook/Kindle), going on tours or just holding your finished manuscript in your hands.
- Setting little goals to achieve the big ones. Big goals are often scare because they seem too far away and well…just big. Setting smaller goals, not only brings us closer to the major ones, but also gives the satisfaction of achievement throughout the whole journey. This feeling of satisfaction with achieving one small goal makes you feel so good that you want to get to the next one just to have that feeling again. So make small word count and/or time spent writing goals every day. Expand them a little every day, and eventually it’ll be hard not to do it!
- Talk yourself through negative thoughts and plateaus. Cultivate a more positive attitude. And if you have a hard time with that at any point, use the “fake it ‘till you make it” attitude. It’s been proven that if you smile when feeling gloomy, you will eventually start feeling happier. This can be applied to cultivation of positive attitude in all things.
- Keep visual reminders of your goals. This can include looking at books of your favorite writers and knowing that you can be someone’s favorite writer one day as well. Keep any positive feedback on your work in a folder where you can easily access it anytime you need a little pick-me-up. Post pictures of scenes you want to write or that motivate you in any way.
Besides working very hard, passion is of the outmost importance to the success of achieving any goals. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that the spark of that passion is always present.
The “writer’s block” tag is cliché, but there’s no other way of putting it clearly. And it can occur because of various reasons, not the least of which are lack of inspiration and fear of failure. For me personally, it often comes down to having seeds of a story but a fear that the whole story will escape me, that I will start writing and eventually I won’t know where to take the story, how to end it. And the best cure for this is to get over the fears and write. We have all heard that to write is to be brave, to be courageous (something that as a Martial Artist I try to understand every day). And, of course, the cure is to find inspiration anywhere you go and in anything you do. Because I firmly believe that a writer, same as an artist, can grab inspiration everywhere. It is our gift, it is what makes us writers and artists. Inspiration for creation is out there for us to capture. The opportunities are boundless. The key is to want to see these opportunities, to consciously identify them and use them in our work.
So here’s a few ways to find the inspiration and capture the opportunities. These are nothing new but I wanted to put them all in one place to look over every day and remember to consciously seek them out. Hopefully it can help a few of you out there as well.
- Listening in on people’s conversations (and no, it’s not eavesdropping when you can’t avoid the loud voice of people in public transportation or a restaurant!). It’s not as hard as you think, especially in large cities like New York. Overhearing people’s conversations in the subways, buses, restaurants and stores is a great way to gage the appropriate interaction and dialogue style for your own characters. Two middle-aged businessmen in a fancy restaurant will talk quiet differently than twenty-somethings hanging out in a club. A conversation between a mother and a daughter will differ vastly in style than one between a girlfriend and a boyfriend. A dialogue will seem out of place in a novel if it does not use words and style appropriate to the characters’ age, location and time-period.
- Another value in overheard conversations is the seeds of stories that they might contain. Our characters may have super powers and amazing talents, but we have to base them on real people, because that‘s where our experiences are based in. And, as they say, sometimes reality can be stranger than fiction.
- Read, read and read some more! Personally, I usually get my greatest inspiration from books. I can’t imagine going a day without picking up a book, or at least a magazine, to read (often both!). Even on the busiest days and if it’s only for half an hour, I’ll find time to read. It helps that my commute is an hour each day. Read books in the genre you write. Read books in other genres. Again, inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. Plus you never stop learning as a writer and, while it’s extremely important to find your own voice and style, there’s always something that you can learn from others. It may be how to do something better or it may be how not to do something. Either way, your own writing will become better for it.
- Quotes. I love quotes. I have them everywhere – pasted to my file cabinet at work, in my email, in my notebooks. They are from different people and various times in history. They are on different topics – motivation, courage, love, perseverance. But they all serve one purpose – to give inspiration. And just glancing at some every day gives me a little inspiration to do something that day. Post a few of your favorite quotes somewhere where you can see them every day. Sign up for “quote of the day” newsletters. Or follow twitter accounts like this one: @GreatestQuotes.
- Make sure to have a great support network. This network should include family members and good friends who believe in your and can push you forward or just listen to you rant and rave once in a while (I will repeat that – once in a while, not all the time!) and give you moral support. It should also include other writers, established and/or aspiring and those who can critique your work in a meaningful and productive/constructive way. It’s helpful to tell people in your support network of your goals because then you have more of a motivation to actually keep them.
- Capture your inspiration and motivation everywhere. Go out for walks and observe nature. Carry a notebook with you and write down descriptions of locations, weather, how the light hits a lake at different times during the day, everything! Describe people’s facial expressions when they’re on their way to work compared to their expressions when they’re on their way from work. Note the obvious and the minute differences. Some of these notes will remain just that – notes, scribbles. Some of them you may end up incorporating into your work. But just the act of writing will get you motivated and inspired to write more! Believe me, it really works.
- Be brave and write. Don’t be afraid of failure. Because if you don’t start something, you will never have an opportunity to finish. If you don’t let yourself do something and suck, you will never know if you had an opportunity to see something you’ve done/created become a success!Again, I know you have all heard this before and it is nothing new. It’s been said in many different ways by many people. But take some time to really meditate on these concepts and see what that meditation takes you.
Now go and write! You’re still here?
What are other ways you know of motivating and inspiriting yourself or others to write? Please share.