Saturday, September 18, 2010

Two Streams of Thought

This week I've had two important realizations that I think will help my writing immensely. Perhaps they are things which have already occurred to you, and in that case, you can tip your hat at me and say "Thank goodness you finally caught up." To which I would reply, "Glad to be here. It's better than back that way yonder."

These ideas aren't even entirely new to me. But rather than fuzzy vague images, they have been brought into sharp clarity in my mind.

The first is that I'll be lucky to achieve what I aim for, and will never surpass my goal. Therefore I need to set my sights higher in order to go further. Oddly, this realization came while bowling with my husband.

In the not so distant past, I went bowling every Sunday with a friend. I knew I was capable of bowling a 130 game on average. So I would say to myself, "If I break 130, this would be a successful game." Sometimes I did better than 130, but rarely did I go much higher.

Flash forward a few years. Having fewer chances to bowl these days, I now say "I'll be satisfied with this game if I break 100." An average of 10 pins a frame is not so unrealistic a goal is it?

The problem with this train of thought is that I know I only have to make so many good throws to meet my goal. I get sloppy. I don't try as hard. I realized that if I said "I want to reach 150" or "Let's try for 200" I'd likely bowl a lot better. Yeah, I'd be really lucky to ever reach 200, but I'd also do a lot better than "just breaking 100."

This same principle applies to my writing. For the last couple years, I've been going alone with the mindset that I'd like to write a book worthy of publishing. A daunting goal all by itself, but I have just come to realize that its not good enough. I'm not striving to write an amazing, epic, can't put it down, your-eyes-are-burning-from-lack-of-sleep-and-you've-had-to-pee-for-the-last-hour kind of story.

And while, yes, I'd be extremely lucky to produce anything so awesome, it's this higher goal, this striving for not just good but excellence, that will improve my writing. I personally don't care for literary stories. I find them slow, heavy, and needlessly wordy. So my main goal is not to write a beautiful, poetic story, but one that delights the reader as so many stories have delighted me.

So let me not sell myself, or my reader, short. I don't want "publishable." I want extraordinary. And I'm determined to work my tail off to reach that goal, because (and I don't remember who said this or the exact phrasing) "Success isn't the absence of failure. It's having failed 1000 times without giving up."

This blog post is getting longish, so I shall save my second revelation for a "Part II." In the interim, here are some inspiring quotes I came upon while looking for the source of the one above. Bye for now!

Success and failure. We think of them as opposites, but they're really not. They're companions - the hero and the sidekick.
- Lawrence Shames

Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
- James Russell Lowell

Thomas Edison viewed each setback he encountered in making a light bulb simply as another way NOT to make a light bulb.

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.
- Conrad Hilton

Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite.

The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.

The Model "T" - Why "T"? Because Ford had gone through A-S before being successful in producing and marketing the "T".

Breakdowns can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.

When you fail, don't give up. These people didn't:
- R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
- Novelist John Creasy got 753 rejection slips before he published the first of his 564 books.
- Thomas Edison was thrown out of school in the early grades when the teachers decided he could not do the work.
- Harry S. Truman failed as a haberdasher.
- When Bob Dylan performed at high school talent show, his classmates booed him off the stage.
- W. Clement Stone, successful insurance company executive and founder of Success magazine, was a high school dropout.

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