Tag Archives: perspective

Little Bee

Little Bee

bee_paperbackTold in the alternating voices of two very different women, Chris Cleave skillfully unveils a story of both tragedy and triumph in a way that only a master storyteller can. The plot is engaging all the way through and realistically reveals the nature of human foibles illustrating the inter-connectedness of of all of our lives, even when it’s not seemingly apparent. The story is both thought-provoking and endearing.

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To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

I’ve been thinking lately about writers and the thought occurs to me that as writers, particularly aspiring writers who are not already getting paid for our work, we’ve really got it cush, yet we think we’ve got it tough.

As aspiring writers, we inadvertently sabotage ourselves, or at least hold our potential at bay, because we have both a wishful desire to get paid as a writer, and at the same time, we privately wonder why anybody would pay for our writing. What is profoundly insightful or insatiably intriguing to others, to us may seem commonplace. And we fall into the trap of thinking that if we thought of it, then anyone else can think of it too….so therefore our thoughts are not remarkable…and therefore our words are not worth money….and because they are not worth money, of course no one will pay for them. And voila! We’ve conveniently justified not writing. Because why bother anyway? Only people that are already getting paid for their writing, get paid for their writing, right? Wrong!

This is a classic case of a thought thread beginning with a statement of truth, but very quickly veering off track into a self-deluding lie, albeit one that tastes palatable and so therefore must be true. It’s too easy to assume because the seed of our thought started with a truth that the end conclusion will also be a truth. But that just isn’t the truth!

Herein lies the flaw: Just because anyone else can think of your same thought doesn’t mean they will, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they will do anything with it, and even if they do do something with it, so what? Is your take on the same motif going to be EXACTLY the same as someone else’s? I hardly think so! But, by far, the biggest lie in this line of thinking is assuming that our thoughts are unremarkable and unworthy of monetary consideration because everyone else has the same thought potential as we do.

So that’s true: everyone else does have the same thought potential. But potential is where the truth ends. If we don’t turn that potential into writing that someone else can read, it remains just that–potential. And how much money do you think potential alone ever made anybody? Zero! Potential has to be turned into something. This is what distinguishes writers from thinkers. And the ‘something’ it gets turned into may or may not command money in the marketplace. But that doesn’t matter.

When you’re a writer (that’s not already getting paid for your writing), you can’t use whether or not your writing is going to get you paid as your impetus for starting to write in the first place. You just have to write and let your stuff get filtered thru the universal sieve of the marketplace. We all know that people get paid for crap writing all the time, but crap is subjective. If that crap is generating money for its author, then it is withstanding the test of the marketplace, period! The only difference is degree and as an aspiring writer, we can’t afford to concern ourselves with degrees; we should instead be concerned with breaking the barrier from not getting paid into getting paid, assuming of course that we are writing in the first place! And even after we break the barrier and start getting paid, degrees still really don’t matter, at least degrees relative to other writers. The only thing that matters is our results relative to our desires. And for promotion and marketing: they’re a numbers game. Promotion and marketing are a hedge, that’s it; nothing more, nothing less. We still have to write.

It’s like this: We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, and as a writer we have to take the shots (i.e., write the stuff) regardless of what we think the outcome might be. One of two things is going to happen: We’re either going to produce stuff that people will pay for or we’re going to learn a hellava lot in the process, presumably about ourselves and about writing. And besides that, writing is an art and art works by working on its creator. The more we create (write), the better our (art) writing becomes. So who’s to stay that what we are writing now that no one is paying us for won’t pave the way for us to write something that someone will pay for?

The point is this: Write. Just write. Write regardless. Write with abandon. Whatever happens, it’s a win all the way around.

Money or no money, as writers, we have to be willing to put ourselves and our writing out there. It’s a requirement for the job!

P.S. Please excuse my several instances of prepositions at the end of sentences. If it makes you feel better, think of it as post-positioning instead of pre-positioning!

Striving for Failure

Striving for Failure

I wonder what would happen if we changed our idea about ‘failure’ to simply mean a milestone for having tried something big?

And if we try something big and fall short of the goal, does that really mean we failed? If failure means not having met the goal, then yes it does. But I’d offer that our definition of failure is flawed. Shouldn’t the objective always be to do something bigger than we believe ourselves capable? Isn’t life about stretching ourselves, taking risks, embarking on adventure?

Where did we get this idea that the point in life is to be comfortable? Seeking a comfortable, easy life is analogous to striving for planned complacency–and doing it on purpose!

We’ve been programmed to believe that failure is bad and should be avoided, but what if we strived for failure on purpose? And I don’t mean planning for failure; I mean striving for failure. There’s a difference!

Planning for failure is using this idea as a means of justifying and explaining your failures in some kind of twisted logic where failure becomes the new success. “Well, the point of the exercise was to fail, and there I failed, so I succeeded.” No!

Striving for failure, on the other hand, is deliberately choosing projects or goals that are bigger than you, that feel scary, that are beyond our capability to handle and that have an element of unknown. Of course, when we do this, we are likely to fall short of our goal; but more importantly we will have tried something big. We will have stretched ourselves. We will have expanded our consciousness. And maybe, just maybe in the process of trying something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us–in our families, our communities, villages, towns, cities, etc! ‘Bigger than ourselves’ by definition will have a ripple effect even into the lives of people we don’t know.

It’s like this: If it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing. If at first you don’t succeed, then you were not challenging yourself enough. No one ever achieves something big by being grandiose. We accomplish big things by being willing to risk failure, by not being afraid to put our heart and soul into something that just might not work, by being willing to try. Trying is not dying; trying is the opposite of hiding (1).

(1) Thanks to Seth Godin for the perspective on trying.

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

What the hell does that mean? And who would use ugly wrapping paper–especially on purpose?

I’ll tell you who….Life, the Universe, Nature, God, the Life Force, the Divine!

When we ask for Divine Guidance and Intervention, sometimes the Help we get comes in the form of another frustration, headache, embarrassment, more of the same crap we’re already sick of or a pain in the ass situation we now have to deal with. That’s what I call a gift in ugly wrapping paper. But why is that a gift?

Because it’s exactly these type of situations that put us at wimp junction–that crossroads between choosing to keep doing the same thing over and over or to triumph. Wimp junctions are always uncomfortable (did I say always?), usually don’t give us very much time to make our choice and are always rooted in fear (did I say always?). When we emerge victorious from wimp junction, we have learned a lesson that is paramount to our own unique development. We are released from its bondage.

Let me give you some examples:

Having a client that treats you like crap (gift in ugly wrapping paper)
Risk losing the client and the income they provide (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Deciding the abuse is worth the money, or
(2) Informing the client that the way they treat you will not continue to be acceptable
CONSEQUENCES
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) The client moves on and makes room for better clients or changes they way they treat you (gift)

Losing money on a big project (ugly wrapping paper)
The impact of this on your future (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Letting the situation define you as a failure, or
(2) Deciding to do the work necessary to learn from it
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Being armed with new knowledge and insights that can be applied to the next project (gift)

Having an alcoholic spouse (ugly wrapping paper)
Losing the relationship (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Continue to accept their unacceptable behavior and be miserable, or
(2) Seek help
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Building new relationships or deepening existing relationships (gift)

Are you catching on? It’s the messes that are the gifts in ugly wrapping paper! They give us the opportunity to stand in the middle of wimp junction and decide for ourselves if we’re going to rinse and repeat or do something different. I read recently in a book that the only people that have their shit together are those that are standing in the middle of it! We all have shitty, uncomfortable messes in our lives. The question is not “Why is this happening to me?”, but rather “How can this help me to grow if I choose to see it differently?”.

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love

So I just finished watching Eat Pray Love, the movie adapted from the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. It finally came out on Netflix! I cried and laughed and loved and felt loved all within the 2 hour and 20 minutes space of the movie and now I feel compelled to write. That’s how it works for me, I suppose; something causes me to drop into my heart and I want to write….need to write. Maybe it’s because she is a writer and I’ve read the book, but I doubt it. I think it’s more just because I’m a writer.

I forget that occasionally. I get busy with life and forget that about myself. That writing is one of the things I want to do most; that I feel like I was born to do. Writing makes me feel like I’m contributing to the world.

There are seven things in life that really make my heart sing, that which you might call my passions: 1) writing, duh!; 2) reading, I read lots of different types of books, but find that always having a good fiction book going helps me feel more balanced; 3) playing pool, I actually aspire to go pro; 4) riding (and working on, we call that “wrenching”, motorcycles), I’m fond of the long-distance brand of motorcycle therapy; 5) studying, learning and speaking Spanish; 6) photography; and 7) travel, it’s no accident that I can do all of these things while traveling! I like and enjoy lots of other things, but none more than these seven; these rise far and above all other possible activities.

I go thru spurts and dry spells with all of them. Currently, I’ve been indulging my love for the game of pool one night a week. Yes, I know a girl that wants to go pro has to play a helleva lot more than one night a week and, quite frankly, I’m kinda tired of hearing it. Has anyone ever said out loud that it’s really a whipping to be constantly reminded of your potential by others? Don’t do that! It creates barriers. I know why we do it. We do that to those we love precisely because we love them, and it makes us happy to think about them fulfilling their greatest potential. But what if we focused on tending to the fulfillment of our own potential, instead? Then we wouldn’t have to focus on someone else’s as a distraction for our own. We inspire people to seek and indulge their greatest potential by supporting them; allowing them time and space; by loving them as they are, not as we want them to be; and certainly not by minding their business and painting their picture for them or by telling them what they already know.

See, here’s the thing about passions. They are things we feel deeply about and that satisfy a place in our souls for which nothing else will suffice. By definition, they are soul work. I can work out the messiness of my life on a pool table in the same way I can by writing or riding my motorcycle. I get perspective. I have aha’s! Life is one big analogy, but we can’t digest and relate to “one big analogy”. So we have passions. Passions help us relate and see our world and our problems thru a different lens; they give us perspective.

When I’ve made a mess on the pool table because I didn’t play good shape, I’ve got to play it like it lies. And when I stretch myself to formulate a plan to approach a “low probability of success” situation (of my own making), I get reminded that the point was not so much about the success or failure of the immediate next shot as it is about the strategy of the entire game. Life is one big game and our passions give us bite-size games as altars upon which we can learn our life’s lessons….if we’re paying attention.