Tag Archives: success

CONQUERING THE DEVILS IN THE WRITER’S MIND

Guest Post by Michelle Wilson

michelle

Michelle Wilson is the author of “Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?.” an inspirational nonfiction look at the power of perspective in our lives. Her second book, “The Beautiful Balance: Claiming Personal Control and Giving the Rest to God” will be available in August 2016. Michelle also writes women’s fiction and is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of The Corvisiero Literary Agency. She lives in Washington State with her husband and three kids.


A few years ago I attended my first LDStorymakers Writers Conference. I walked around wide-eyed and drooling at the privilege of learning from amazing authors and experts, rubbing shoulders with agents and editors, and meeting some awesome people. I sat through classes that fueled my passion for writing. And yet, the strangest thing happened. By the end of the conference, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. Still excited, but daunted by the idea of writing the best novel ever.

I came home and stared at my laptop. I typed and deleted. Then stared some more. Then the doubts began to creep in. What if I couldn’t write the best novel ever? What if I couldn’t even write a crappy novel? The more the questions rolled in my head, the bigger they got, and the more I believed them until finally, the big one came: What if I’m not a writer at all?

The words of Ana Gasteyer to Garth Brookes in their infamous SNL skit came to mind: “You’re pathetic (Michelle). You are a talentless loser, and I’m not supporting you anymore.”

Who was I kidding? What made me think I could do this? What made so special to think I could write something people would want to read. I was afraid to fail. I wanted to stop writing. To quit.

These doubts—these devils—in a writers mind are dangerous. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably experienced them too. They whisper cold lies that still your creativity and smother your enthusiasm.

And it’s not just self-doubt. Other devils include but most definitely are not limited to:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Perfectionism
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Doubt
  • Guilt

These devils make you feel out of control, helpless, and hopeless.

You and I aren’t the only ones who have felt this way. Stephen King once said, “I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing—that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.” Romance writer Sara Eden shared with me that “doubt is my constant companion as a writer. Doubt in my abilities, in my dreams, my future, even in the very choice to write. It whispers constantly, creeping into my thoughts and making me question what I do.”

We writers wrestle with demons. That’s part of the gig. I know I did. And still do.

Luckily, I had someone in my corner who wouldn’t let me believe them, wouldn’t let me quit. My husband, Jerey. He said, “The only way you’ll fail is if you stop trying.”

It sounds like something you’d see on a kitten or unicorn poster, or cross-stitched on a pillow. But his words held great meaning for me. They made me realize that the enemy isn’t my perceived lack of skill, but the thoughts I allowed to swallow my confidence in and gratitude for my passion. He helped me to understand that the power to succeed is, in large measure, in my own hands.

In the words of T.A. Barron, from The Mirror of Merlin: “But you also have choices. Yes—and choices are nothing less than the power of creation. Through them, you can create your own life, your own future, your own destiny. . . By your choices, you might even create an entirely new world, one that will spring into being from the ruins of the old.”

We have choices! And in those choices lay more power than any devil we can summon.

We can choose to acknowledge and understand our fears.

We can choose who we are. Say it with me: “I am a writer.”

We can choose to be realistic about our progress and our need for continual growth.

We can choose to not let our dream of publication overshadow our love of writing.

We can choose to be ourselves, not copycats of other writers. But, us.

We can choose to be vulnerable, to take risks.

We can choose to believe in ourselves.

And we can choose not stop trying.

For every writer, that looks different. I’ve heard it said that real writers write every day. Not true. Real writers simply write. Period.

It’s normal to feel some doubt and fear. It doesn’t mean you’re a loser, talentless, or hopeless.

 

You are a writer.  ALL writers fight devils sometimes. The key is to starve the voices—write in spite of the devils—and feed the creativity. Write what you love, not what you think will sell. Take a break if you need to. (You’re still a writer when you’re on a break.)

 

You have been given a gift. Claim it. Nurture it. Love it. Live it.

 

Don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own kind of awesome, and do it well.

 

You answered the call to write. Don’t hang up.

 

Choose to keep trying, to keep writing.

 

Because you are a writer.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Looking backward, looking forward

We’re closing in on the end of another year. I know this comes as no surprised to anyone. We’re probably all busy thinking back over the year and deciding on resolutions for 2016.

So, while we’re being retrospective, what did you accomplish in your writing this past year? Did you have any specific goals? Did you have any successes you can take satisfaction from? What went well this year? What could have been better?

I had the goal of finishing my fifth novel, which I did. I also went back and revised my fourth, giving it a deeper edit than I’ve ever done before. So while I’m still not particularly great at revision, I made some positive strides there. I also submitted a short story for publication, and though it was not chosen, that was also a positive step forward for me.

What bothers me, however, is how I fell flat as a writer over the past month. I’ve been prepping for my next novel for a couple months, and that’s evidently too long. I’m finding I’ve lost a lot of momentum and enthusiasm, and I’m struggling to even complete my pre-writing. The exercise has been fruitful, but the cost has been high.

So what are your goals for the next year? What one single improvement do you feel would help you most in the coming year? What things do you want to try? What would make you stretch most as a writer?

I’ve got a couple of goals for 2016. First of all, I want to write novel #6. That means I’m going to have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and make myself get excited about writing again. And the sooner the better.

I want to focus on characterization this year. My characters have always felt a little thin to me. I need to figure out how to give them depth, how to make them feel more real.

I also want to submit more stories. I’ve got to get used to submitting my work and taking feedback, even if it’s in the form of rejection. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What successes would you like to trumpet from this past year? What things do you still need to work on? What are your writing goals for 2016? Leave a comment and let us know!

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

How will I know I’ve ‘Made it?’

So, when will you finally be a real author? I ask this because for every author it’s different, and not just from one another, but for that author, depending on the status of their career. You see, we writers tend to be a disbelieving lot—which is rather hypocritical of us, considering we specialize in helping readers suspend their disbelief. But when it comes to feeling like a “real author” we have a very difficult time believing we’ve made it because, for one, we don’t feel any different. We also tend to see ourselves in a more harsh light than we do our heroes.

Therefore I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this from one of my own heroes recently. Michael J. Sullivan makes a living as a writer, having four books in distribution and a contract for a series of five books set to start releasing next year. He recently completed one of the most successful literary Kickstarters of all time (it’s over, and people are still sending him money!).

So I was a little surprised to read a blog post from him recently beginning, thusly:

“Long time readers of this blog will know that I keep a note of various indicators that would let me know when I’ve “made it,” or when I can consider myself a “real author.” Those relatively new here, those who foolishly think I am An Author, might find this silly, but trust me, this is a thing.

Every aspiring writer looks for signs that they’ve made it. Everyone likes to believe in the fairytale that there is a definitive point. As Neil Gaiman once put it: that night when he and Stephen King and J.K. Rowling show up at your door in hooded cloaks and hand you the scroll that reads: You are now an author, and give you the key to the secret author’s club. As much as I’d love for this to be true, it isn’t. There’s no finish-line, no diploma, no standard to look for.”

What evidence is he looking for that he’s “made it”?

My dream goal is seeing someone reading my book in the wild. Given very few of the big names have even had this pleasure, I’m not holding out hope. The closest I got was a friend of mine seeing someone and taking a picture to prove it. I still search for indicators of outside acceptance beyond that of sales to give me a sense of how readers perceive my work. For the final assessment of all things comes down to them.

As the odds of meeting a reader in the wild are slim, I don’t see many (any) blips on that radar. The sheer saturation levels at conventions improve the odds, but traditionally these have been exercises in humility. In the early part of my career, I went to several and the experiences were not positive. Even after publishing through Orbit I would sit for signings—just me and my placard, clicking my lonely pen. No one asked for my signature. This experience is about as much fun as reading the one-star reviews of my books, only more public.

In 2013 at ConnetiCon where I was a guest of honor (alongside Brandon Sanderson), I had a “handler” to keep the crowds away. They were concerned I might be trampled, or that the throngs of fanatics would tear at my clothes or fight over my discarded plastic cup. Clearly they had no idea. Still, they set me up with a solo event for me to speak about my books. A surprisingly large crowd of ten people came. Eight knew who I was. Six had read me. This was astounding—a massive achievement that left me grinning. (I’m not being sarcastic—I’m very serious. This was great.)

Read the whole thing if you want further proof that even successful writers doubt themselves, and that very, very few achieve the “rock star” status we probably all mentally equate with success. It makes me wonder what Brandon Sanderson’s definition of “having made it” looks like.

I’m not sure what advice to extract from all this, of course. Perhaps it’s this: You’d better enjoy the journey at least as much as the destination, because you may never allow yourself to “arrive.” Writing is a solitary business, and while we may have unexpected encounters with fans in their natural environment, the most common signals of progress are mere numbers, which look a lot like words, which we as authors have learned can’t be trusted.

Or perhaps my advice should be this: Does it matter if we “make it?” What if someone came to you from the future and told you that your total earnings from writing would come to exactly $43,489.23 by the time you die? That’s not bad, but it’s not “professional writer status”, either. Would you keep writing? Would you give up and pursue another career? What if they told you you’d be worth $22.8 million dollars someday from your writing and subsequent rights and merchandizing? Would that scare you enough to make you stop writing? Would that disappoint you? You certainly wouldn’t be the next J.K. Rowling.

Now, what if they were to promise you you’d make $4 million over the next twenty years from cleaning septic tanks? Would that be enough to convince you to give up writing and buy a pair of nose plugs and shoulder-length latex gloves?

$4 million is a lot of money. It’s more than I’d make at my current job if I worked it the rest of my life. I have to admit I’d be sorely tempted. I could always get back to writing after I retire. But on the other hand, I have a good job now, and yet something drives me to keep writing on my lunch hour every day. Chances are I’ll never make as much from writing as I make just going to work every day. And yet I try to eke out an hour of writing every day instead of going out to networking lunches or otherwise spending that time advancing my career. Writing is something I simply must do, at least for now.

My own criteria for “making it” as a writer? Having made enough money to pay off all my debts and be able to support myself and my family from writing. Would my criteria change once I reached that point? Probably. I, too, have a hard time believing I’m anything cool, or wonderful, or successful. I’d probably just say, “Yeah, well, I guess I’ll really know I’m a real author when I can be guest of honor at WorldCon. Or something like that.

Maybe my advice is really this: Set your dream wherever you want, and move it if you need to. We all know that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Or, to put it another way, “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?”

And enjoy the journey.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

“Caring” for Our Goals

A dear friend, and former writing student of mine, Barbara Wilson, momprofilepicruns a marvelous blog called “Uniting Caregivers”. She and her husband were in a horrific auto accident over 20 years ago. She felt a necessity to bring caregivers together in some way to learn from (and lean on) each other during the challenging times of being a caregiver.

Last Tuesday, the post was written by her grown daughter, Katie Wilson Ferguson, who was very young when her parents were in that crash. She talked about the “Power in the Positive.” She was talking, of course, about caregiving. But I think it all applied beautifully to writing as well.

Her five main points were:

  1. Only set goals you truly desire.
  2. Write your goals down
  3. Focus on the positive outcome.
  4. Attach emotions to the goals.
  5. Reward yourself.

A. What do you REALLY want out of your writing? To be published? That’s not always within the control of the author — unless you’re willing to do the incredible work of self‑publishing. Maybe what you REALLY want is to leave something to your family. Or you want to explore answers to problems you’ve experienced in your life and how you handled them. Or you want the “fame” and the “money”. Are these realistic expectations for your writing? They are if you’re willing to put in the work to make them so.

B. While writing your goals down, Katie suggests that you do so in the present tense. What do you know about present tense from your writing? It is more immediate. It brings the “reader” (you, once you finish writing it down; possibly family or friends who will help you stay on target) closer to the action. Therefore it’s a powerful way of stating what you wish, hope and strive to bring about.

C. Be sure you are focusing on what you do want, not those things you don’t want. Focus and think about your feelings once those goals have been accomplished. Is that a wonderful “warm‑fuzzy” or what? This focus will help you to concentrate on the good outcome, rather than the pain, trouble, travail — and the occasional disappointments — which assail all of us.

D. Think about how the emotions felt the first time you finished a piece of writing. Maybe it was a poem in 2nd grade. An essay for your high school English class. The first time you read something aloud to a writing critique group — and they liked it! Keep that emotion close to your heart. One of my favorite experiences was when my English teacher got a kick out of an essay I’d written about the fear of going down into the dark, isolated basement in my grandmother’s house. Of course, I’d exaggerated everything — the cobwebs through the back enclosed porch, the steep stairs, the dark of the furnace room, all just to grab a bottle of my grandma’s peaches to take to her upstairs — “Oh, No! She wanted apricots”. How I ran back through that path to get out of the scary basement. My teacher, a well‑known local writing teacher and poet, asked if she could use my essay to share “what can come out of an ordinary English class assignment.” My mother was so proud — made me read it aloud to the whole family! (But my grandmother was mortified: “Our basement isn’t that dirty!”) I didn’t make much headway trying to explain “poetic license.”) I still get a kick out of thinking about that incident, and remembering my poor grandmother’s worry about “what people would think.” I can still feel all the emotions I felt then. So add emotion.

E. Rewards: when you finish that set of three poems, give yourself time to read another chapter of a book you love. When your critique group thinks “Now it’s ready to send out” to that contest, or agent, or editor, celebrate with your critiquers. Include them in your joy, your reward. When you finally write THE END on p. 317, go out to dinner with the whole family ‑‑‑ they had a lot to do with your making that goal as well.

F. And now step SIX: write down your NEXT goal, remembering all the above steps.

Some of you may be caregivers as well as writers ‑‑‑ I’d like to encourage you to take a look at the Uniting Caregivers blog. It a wonderful source of information and encouragement about this difficult but rewarding service. Especially take a look at Barbara’s “About Author” section to see what she’s about.

 

 

Building a Better Blog

The blogosphere is unique social construct, a community in which thousands of voices speak into the darkness and hope for a whisper in return. Even though nothing committed to the internet ever disappears entirely, the life of a blog is always uncertain. Some voices seem to continue to ring on strong, but these are the exception. Most speak out for a while and then die off into nothingness. There are several important differentiating factors that I have found as both a reader and a writer to be good indicators of the health of a blog.

The first predictor is the dependability of the people behind the blog. If they have a schedule set, do they fulfill those promises? If not, do they post regularly or is it months between new content? Do they have some way to communicate to their readership when new content becomes available? As a reader, I have neither the leisure time nor the inclination to browse blogs that haven’t been updated. Go too long without new material, and I will not be back. Chances are the blogger won’t be either.

The next sign I look for is the self-awareness of the blog and blogger. All writing must have a target audience, a group of people whom they wish to reach and influence. Whether you are trying to reach a niche, sub-culture or an entire demographic, it is essential to know what interests them and to tailor the blog’s culture to fulfill those needs. Do your readers seek entertainment? To learn something or keep up on news? To share in the thoughts and art of another? These questions change the nature of the posts themselves.

This leads directly into my third flag. Does the blogger produce high quality content, or can most of what they post be considered “fluff”? More importantly, is the type of content that they produce consistent to the needs and expectations of their audience? Both are legitimate strategies, after all. For instance, a blog that seeks to target geeks with science and entertainment news may be posting many short, graphic centric articles. They do not rely on readers going in depth, but rather depend on a high frequency of shares and new visits to spread their message. A blog that discusses the finer points of restoring classic cars, however, would rely on a small pool of devoted readers and discussions generated by more detailed content.

The final and most important aspect that I use to predict the success of a blog is its focus. Bloggers who write for their own satisfaction, who are internally focused, tend to be less reliable, and frankly, less interesting. They write for an audience of one. If that is enough for them, then I hope that they have fun with their little piece of the internet. Bloggers who are truly successful tend to be externally focused, seeking to reach people in order to share their passion and interest. They seek to form a community.

When I think of the blogosphere, I can’t help but picture the club fair that occurred during the first week of the fall semester at my college. Back then, we dragged tables out to the middle of our campus, and freshmen wandered around, trying to find what extracurricular they wanted to be a part of. These days I sit behind a digital table, but the goal is the same. I want to attract people who share my interests to stop and talk to me. If I’m lucky, they’ll even join my club and stick around. Community is what matters to bloggers, it is what supports and sustains us. It is our raison d’être.

The community that surrounds ForeverWriters.com and the Author’s Think Thank have become part of my personal blogosphere, part of my community. This community has done what most don’t. Not just grown, but thrived. Through reading their blog, listening to the podcast, and participating in discussions in the Think Tank, I see many of the indications I mentioned above that point to a long-lasting and healthy community.

Most of all, I’m thankful to all of you, dear fans and readers. Both my own, and those native to ForeverWriters. Without y’all, without your willingness to listen from within the darkness, and occasionally even whisper back, we would not, could not go on.

Nathan Barra

About Nathan Barra

Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” He is an active blogger, not only on his own site, NathanBarra.com, but also with a group blog called the Fictorians (www.Fictorians.com). Nathan is always up for a good conversation, so please drop him a line through his contact page, or write on his Facebook wall (www.facebook.com/WriterNathanBarra).

Focus

Focus

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Dealing With Discouragement

Let’s face it, this is a tough game. Sometimes it can be downright discouraging. We all know failure is an important part of the process. We know we can’t fully succeed until we’ve experienced sufficient failure to make us into the writers we need to be. But it can sometimes be exceptionally discouraging.

So here are some ideas for dealing with discouragement:

Don’t make decisions while you’re feeling down. It’s just a bad time to do it. If there’s something you’re considering (such as giving up on the industry to go indie, or divorcing your agent), don’t decide it while you’re down. Take a deep breath, write yourself a note to consider the question later, and then make your decision when you’re in a good mood. If it feels right when you’re happy (and yes, you will be soon), then it’s probably a good decision.

Give yourself a break. Don’t start a writing fast, just give yourself the day off. If you feel better tomorrow, great. If things are bad enough that you’re considering taking 6 months off writing, don’t bind yourself to it. You may feel like writing again next week, and if you’ve bound yourself to 6 months, you may miss a great story or opportunity. Just tell yourself you’re taking an indefinite break, but that if you haven’t started feeling like it in three weeks, you’ll force yourself to start writing again. By then, you’ll probably catch the bug again once you start.

When you talk to people, be positive. You can talk about your struggles if you need to, but be optimistic. Sometimes hearing yourself say things convinces you’re mind that they’re true. And sometimes that convincing is all it takes to pull you out of the dumps.

Regularly remind yourself of your motives. In the midst of all the writing related stuff that’s not writing, it’s easy to forget the main reason you write. And though that reason will be different for every person, your reason is good enough to carry you a long way, even through discouragement.

Stay close to people. You have lots of teams cheering you on. Family, friends, fellow authors, are all cheering for you. Let yourself lean on them sometimes. Because, as I said, this is a tough game. Soon, you’ll be the one offering a shoulder. In fact, one of the best ways to boost your own feelings is to lift someone else’s. Surround yourself with people you care about. Throw a party if it helps. Just invite those who are encouraging of your efforts, though. this is probably a good time to avoid conversations with detractors.

Cheer for the Little Successes. This can be hard when your big goals seem to be plummeting. The little thank you emails from readers, the small purchases, the kind comments on social networks, they’re all worth something. Give them the appreciation they deserve. Respond in genuine gratitude to those little successes, and it will feed the opportunities for more and bigger successes.

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Fear of Success

Success

We talk a lot about fear of failure in this game. We’re all afraid of showing our work–that people will think it’s junk, even though we put our everything into it. We’re afraid publishers and agents won’t take it. The fear of rejection is real.

But for many of us, we’ve faced so much rejection and failure that the fear of it is a lesser issue. There comes a point in every artist’s career where they have to face up to the bigger, deeper, and far-less-addressed issue: the fear of success.

That may sound weird, the idea of fearing the thing we want most, but every person who experiences success faces it. Deep down, we know what it’s going to take to make our desires into reality. The difficult, painful, and frightening steps that we know are part of the package scare us so badly that we often step back and tell ourselves, “Oh, I don’t have to worry about that yet anyway. I’m still trying to get the point where I can even have a little success.”

But really we’re lying to ourselves.

What Is Success?

Success isn’t something we have or don’t have. It’s not something we get. It’s not even something handed to us once we’ve proved ourselves worthy of it. It’s something we choose. It’s something we take. It’s something we do. And how do we choose it? How do we take it? We proceed. We take the next step–and then the next, and the next, and the next. So what is success? It’s simply the conscious, active choice to move forward.

As we consciously choose to continue forward, success becomes its own form of propulsion. It pulls us forward when we don’t want to proceed, but know it’s necessary. It pushes us off the edge when it’s time to learn to fly. It drops us into the pit when that’s the next step. It also lifts us to the pedestal when it’s time to shine, and it puts us in front of audiences of a hundred or a billion people when it’s time to speak.

What does it mean to be successful?

Being successful means pressing forward when the terror of what lies ahead can no longer stop us from pressing forward anyway. It means the obstacles are no longer a factor in whether or not we continue. Sure, we’ll be constantly changing our approach, our methods, and our tactics, and we’ll regularly come face to face with the challenges that our own efforts necessarily create, but success can’t be avoided when success itself becomes our choice.

Is it an easy choice to make? Nope. And that’s as it should be. The easy route’s not usually worth taking anyway.

It’s a funny thing, really. Once you realize that success really is a choice, the idea of fearing it becomes obvious. And chances are, you’re going to find out that success is a whole lot more than you bargained for. As you experience it, your goals change, your focus changes, even your ambitions change–and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It was passion and work that got you to where you are now, and while those attributes will continue with you, you’ll find a dozen other sets of attributes that you’ll need to develop to get you through each leg of your journey.

 

So how about it? You ready to choose success? It’s there for the taking the moment you make the decision. Think hard about it. Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you’re looking for the wrong kind of success. Maybe you need to rethink your goals. Either way, success is there, and it’s waiting for you.

And if you want it, take it.

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

I Recommend Pleasant


Remember the old Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey, about the guy whose best friend is a 6 foot imaginary rabbit? Bizarre (and thus awesome) plot, but there is one line in that show that stands out as a priceless bit of wisdom. Someone comments that the guy, whose name is Elwood, used to be so business savvy, and one of the keenest men in town. Then he takes on the imaginary bunny friend and everything changes. When asked about it, Elwood’s reply is the line that impresses me.

“Years ago my mother used to say to me… ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

As authors, we’re trying to make our place in the world, leave a mark, get heard, seen, and read, even though our nature is to stay in the quiet shadows, curled up with a book or pen.

We’re told that we have to get out of our shell and become awesome marketers. We’re told to get our work professionally shined, wow the world with our brilliance, and then convince the masses to follow us around to gobble everything we produce.

The smart ones are able to pull it off.

I hope they’re enjoying their success, especially since they’ve worked so hard to obtain it. I’m sure they deserve it, and I’m impressed with their achievements. But personally, I’m with Elwood and Harvey on this one. I’ll take pleasant.

I hope my books help people want to be better, to get the most out of life, and love doing what’s right. I hope when people listen to my music, it makes them happy and feel inspired. I hope my stories play the role of the six foot rabbit that makes everyone feel good to be around, and inspire people’s imagination.

My works might not reach millions, but to the few they reach, I hope they make life just a little better.

Of course some will say that without the smart business mindset, you’ll never make it. That’s not reality.

To that I’d respond as Elwood, “Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”


So if you’re struggling between whether to be smart or pleasant, I recommend pleasant.

 

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Can You Be a Mom and a Writer?

mother-working-at-home-with-daughter

A few weeks ago I was contacted by another writer through Facebook with a question I know most writers deal with. How do you make time for writing without taking the time away from everything, or everyone in your family? As a Mormon mom with four kids, it’s difficult to have any sort of balance when your kids are demanding every second of the day. But after thinking about my own trials, I came up with a few tips ending up helping both of us in the end.

This writer wondered if it was possible to fulfill her role as both a mother and writer at the same time. Remarkably, I’ve been struggling with some of these same questions and feelings myself. So, mothers out there who write, this is for you. It’s time to become grounded. Here’s how.

1. Pray about it and ask for an answer.

Whether you are religious or not, asking for guidance in your life is always something that will help you focus on the thing/things you need to change. Ask and you shall receive an answer that will help you map out your goals and time.

2. Make time for you. It’s okay to take an hour or two each day away from your motherly responsibilities.

Just like your kids who need your time, you need your own time to develop and grow as a person. Don’t feel bad. You’re setting an example to your kids of what it takes to set a goal and achieve it.

3. Don’t let other writers make you feel guilty for being a mom.

I have quite a few friends who are bread winners, dads, and writers. Most of them aren’t mothers. Don’t let thoughts of discouragement crawl into your head. It’s so easy to think that everyone has it better than you do. Kick those thoughts to the curb! Look for the joy in your writing to support you when these thoughts creep in.

4. Stay away from social media as much as possible.

Yep. Social media can be very distracting in more ways than just wasting time. If you have a good share of writer friends it’s easy to start feeling like you’re spinning your wheels on things that aren’t helping you in the long run. Yes, having an online presence is important, but focus on your project and the magic it has, instead of the awesome deal your best friend just signed yesterday. Others successes can start to feel like your failures. Distance yourself.

By grounding yourself in your project, it’s easier to feel confident in what you’re doing. Those little thoughts of guilt can tear you apart. Wondering if you should spend time making dinner or writing a chapter during nap time sometimes can cause you to rethink what’s really important. Your kids, family and home, or writing the latest greatest novel of all time.

Writers start to question whether they should keeping going down the path they’re on.  Some even tend to give up when these thoughts creep in. You’re not alone in having these feelings and acceptance of them can help you move in the right direction.

If you’ve found other ways to conquer these thoughts and feelings, feel free to leave comments! Everyone wonders if they can do it. What’s so easy to forget–is that you already are. Happy writing!

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).