Category Archives: Motivation
We pour our energy into creating the future. Set our sights on creative dreams that are finished, materialized, produced, published, bought. We anticipate income, status, a certain level of “making it” in our respective fields. If we’ve already achieved one level, we reach for the next. We feel passionate about our work, our talent, our ability. The challenges thrill us. Even in our uncertain moments, we still feel that pull of our “potential.” It infuses us with determination, gets us moving again.
“What’s next” drives us. And that’s a good thing. Dreams need persistent action to come true. There is much work to be done. Every minute spent on a dream adds up to its entirety.
What we need to be mindful of is that in the midst of all our work on the future, is the now.
The work we do to create, raise and see a dream mature into its fullest essence is the reality of our now. The fulfillment and success of that dream takes place every moment you spend in it. If you think that happiness, success, fulfillment are out there waiting for you (waiting for the dream to come true), you are mistaken.
They are here. Now.
If you’re a writer, the process of writing is your success, your fulfillment, the “living the life of your dream” part. It’s not out there waiting for you to realize some measure of external recognition and success. When you finish a project, you pretty much finish your role in it. You move on to the next project. When the writing is done, so are you.
There will never come a day when you will feel that you have “arrived” because the human spirit doesn’t work that way. One goal is replaced by a bigger one. That one becomes your driving force. “Making it”? Success in sales and revenue is just that. Sales and revenue. Money is money. You can earn it by laying pavement or by writing a novel. Either way, it is money. “Fame”? Fame has a high cost and very little true reward to the individual. It sets you on a platform for higher income and greater reach, perhaps, but it costs you most of your freedom.
Which leads me to the question: why do we do what we do? Laying pavement is hard physical labor, but you see a concrete result at the end of the day. Laying down words that will be cut, edited, thrown out later in the process offers far less reward.
Walk through book stores and look at the books relegated to the “bargain bin” – think about those authors. They worked just as hard as every other author. They put their soul into it. They spent the hours, days, minutes that you are spending now on your project. We all know that our work is fleeting.
That’s why you have to be in it for the process. Not the result. You have to love what you do. Love every minute of it, love the challenges, love the fear, love the uncertainty.
Love it because it makes you feel alive. Love it because you can’t imagine living your life any other way.
As writers, we spend the majority of our time in revision. It’s where we truly get to know our characters and ourselves. It’s a time of intense concentration that requires different skill sets than first drafts. Revision is where we hone our craft. Where we wrestle. Where we experience the deepest depths, darkest fears, brightest illuminations. It is the real work of a writer and where writers and characters need the most support.
If you’re like most, revision is never done until you decide it’s done. Story is one of the only art forms that can always be improved, changed, re-directed, given new form. Because we spend so much time in revision, there are a few things we can be mindful of during the process.
It’s okay to feel lost.
We think we should always know where we’re going, don’t we? We get critical, trusted feedback; we take time to listen to our guidance on that feedback; we feel strong pressure to know where the story should be going from fade in to fade out. Some people swear by their ability to plot out their entire story from beginning to end. If that works for you, that’s wonderful. It doesn’t work for me. Story unfolds as I write it. I have a general understanding (usually) of the beginning and the end, with glimpses of points along the way. But for the most part, I don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens to the characters. I don’t know what they’re going to say until they say it. That may sound very chaotic, but for me, it works. I am the container that the story flows from. I give it shape and form, a place for the characters to dwell. Knowing up front where we’re all going? Not going to happen. Feeling lost and completely blind at times is just part of the art form. Which leads me to the next point.
Time is irrelevant, even with deadlines.
You’ve got a deadline – what do you do? Keep working. But work without striving. If you strive, you’ll lock down your ability to be receptive. Being receptive is 90% of your job. Keep an open mind toward time and understand that you can’t force it. So, take breaks. Step away. Listen to different music. Be present and available, there to receive. Keep a mindset that you’re on duty. Some of that time, you’ll only be on call. Waiting for the characters, waiting for something (you may never know what) to occur where the next scene or thought formulates. You may need to sit at your screen and just write. You’ll get a feel for the story’s rhythm, how the characters prefer to work with you, and the ebb and tide of your own process as a writer. Just flow, don’t force.
Characters need you more than ever to be perceptive.
Revision is stressful on you and even more stressful on your characters. If you’ve got a solid draft down, they’ve done considerable work with and for you. They’ve poured their energy and emotions into it far more than you have. And let’s face it, most of story is conflict and that’s a tough energy to sustain and endure. Give them a break. You’ve got to get characters to work with you, even if they disagree at first at the changes you (as the Story Director) are asking them to make. Include them in your decision-making process and they’ll surprise you with their willingness to dig deeper. Your protagonist and antagonist carry the most weight and should have the most influence on you. If you think of your characters as a cast (and bear in mind the actors who will embody their roles) and yourself as the Story Director, you’ll be able to ask characters to do or try new things — to fight harder, to reveal more, to defy each other — with the safety that at the end of the day, they’re all still friends.
Characters need you more than ever to be perceptive. You need to be available, there as coach, confidant, leader, ally, therapist, and witness. You will never work more closely with your characters than you will during revision. Build your team. Be compassionate. Be tough. And remember, no matter what, you’re responsible for making the final decisions.
Doubts are normal and necessary.
We all go through it. Doubts, fears, wondering how we’re ever going to pull this off. We run up against challenges that make us quiver. This happens to every one. Success just makes it worse. Doubts are part of the process and this never changes. But think about it — doubts mean we’ve come to a place that is stretching us to either grow as a writer (and a person) or quit. There are no other options. If you grow, you expand your writing acumen, your craft and your experience.
Your mind and spirit need to disengage.
You’re in the midst of revision on a project you feel passionate about. Time passes unnoticed. You are in your story more than out of it. You think about it all of the time. You push on, keep going. Just stop for a moment. Your mind and spirit need a break. The more engaged you are in revision, the more likely that you’re dealing with characters and scenes that are emotionally trying. To the characters, and to you. These emotions may have little or nothing to do with your non-writing life though. You need space to process them. (If you’re not feeling your character’s emotions, you need to dig deeper, because if you can’t feel them, your reader/viewer won’t either.) Let your character’s emotions flow in and through you, but make sure you let them flow away and out of you as well.
Be patiently persistent.
Take the attitude that you will never give up. If what you’re writing means something to you, then set it in your heart that you will do whatever it takes to nurture it, protect it, support it and carry it into the world. Set it in your heart, too, that the process of writing is the real life of a writer. It’s not the film made, the book published. It’s the act of writing. That’s where your successes arise, that’s where you feel the joy. That’s where you are a writer.
Life does not require religion; it requires faith.
Faith in yourself, faith in your dreams, faith in your guidance, faith in the unseen, faith that you are a being of Life, that your power is inherent, that you have the heart and soul and spirit to bless others and yourself. Faith that the challenges precede the growth, the hours of cultivation, care, nurturing are in themselves the reward, the achievement of a dream only the beginning of another, as you expand, expand, expand into remembering your beauty, your power, your place – so rooted here for the moment, so blessed for infinity.
Your dream – what you want in your life – matters. It’s tied in a million intricate ways to the rest of us. Your blessing is our blessing. Your joy is our joy. The vision you have opens our eyes. You remind us of where we came from, why we’re here.
Your dream – what you want in your life – is yours. No one can give it to you, no one can make it happen, no one can take it away. It’s yours.
So choose life, choose your dream, choose to say yes and live it.
Choose Faith Over Fear
When I started out as a full-time freelancer, I had six weeks of savings to go on. As I marketed my services, I soon realized that I made very different choices when I was moving out of faith that the Universe would provide, than I did when I was acting out of fear and desperation. I learned that I had the power to choose faith and to reject fear. This shaped the type of prospective clients I approached and allowed for magic to happen. When you move out of faith, you make smarter, wiser choices that align with your spirit, you’re able to say no to what’s not right for you as you trust that what is right will be provided.
Pick Your Clients
I’m choosy. I know what type of clients I want to work with – and those are clients who value people and improve, inspire or add value to people’s lives. The type of industry those clients are in doesn’t matter to me. I have selectively approached potential clients and have been fortunate enough to choose who I work with. I have also seen the Universe pick ideal clients for me. One of my longest standing clients called me up out of the blue one summer afternoon. We’ve been together for six years. Why does this matter? It creates a synergy in my worklife that allows work to naturally assimilate with my life and who I am. I work with clients that I feel good about and we get along well with each other. It makes sense that as individuals we are suited to certain fields of interest, industries or types of clients. Choosing rather than accepting anyone who comes your way, leads to happier, more satisfying work.
Go Where the Money Is
This is the most important advice I was ever given. It came from one of the most successful American Indian entrepreneurs in the U.S. who founded a multi-million dollar security firm for the Department of Defense. He started as an electrician on a reservation in northern Minnesota. He dreamed of having his own business. He took a risk and opened his own company. He said even when things were tight, as long as he was working for himself, there was the chance that the phone would ring and something wonderful could happen. He knew if he hadn’t taken that chance, the phone would never have been able to ring. He saw potential, he climbed above the expectations others had and he learned that going where the money is just makes sound business sense. Go where the money is. Go to companies who have the resources to pay you you charge. Don’t waste your time on companies who promise much, expect a ton and pay little. This is why I will not work for start-ups, non-profits or anyone who doesn’t already understand the value a copywriter brings to their business. I’m not going to spend my time convincing someone why they need me. If they don’t have the business maturity to already know that, they’re not the right client for me.
They Will Pay You What You Decide You’re Worth
Many freelancers struggle financially because they charge very little, they scrape by and never set their sites higher than a minimal wage income. You can be one of these people, or you can decide to be someone who charges a lot more and gets paid higher rates because you decide that you’re worth it. Go to salary.com and check out what the average salaries are for your type of job in the places your prospective clients operate. Set your standards higher. Go where the money is. You don’t need the headache of working for clients who have tight-purse strings, who don’t understand what it is that you do, or who want you to work your ass off for little or nothing. There are plenty of these type of clients around. There’s also plenty of clients who know your value and are more than willing to budget for it. But here’s the main point: you decide who you’re going to work for. You decide how much money you can make doing what you do.
Provide Value through Great Relationships, Not Just Performance
How you do business is more important than what you do in business. Offer more. Always be generous. Set up expectations of what you will do and for how much, but be there in a pinch when your client needs you, too. Remember, choose faith over fear. This means being confident enough to know that the Universe will support you and confident enough in your own value, to have the capacity to be generous. People work with people more than once because they like how it feels to work with them. Skills are important, but skill sets can be replaced. It’s how easy you are to work with, the value you give, how you make your client’s life better and easier, and the quality of your work that keeps them engaged with you.
Remember Why You Freelance
For me, it’s freedom to control my lifestyle and be home with my kids. My husband is also home with us, so we are together as a family full-time. We like it that way. I work Monday – Thursdays, normal business hours. I’ve found a three-day break is ideal for sustaining a creative profession. We also home educate, adapting that schedule around my work and days off. We spend part of the year in Minnesota and part of the year in Sarajevo. I’ve read that just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you are with your kids. I disagree. I’m physically present, interruptible and it’s my and my husband’s energy (and not a daycare provider’s) that they are absorbing and growing up with. They are learning what it is to commit to your dreams, to create your life with your thoughts, that they have the power to create money, and are growing up with an alternative to conventional living. They are the remote workers of the future, the agile, adaptable, trans-global innovators, equipped with the technology and the freedom to value their creativity, to think for themselves and possess the power to do work they love. It’s this I remember when things change, when finances aren’t as steady as a regular paycheck, when I’m tempted to wonder if the courage and resilience of depending solely on oneself to create your world is worth it. It is worth it. It’s priceless.
Q: How important is it to not just achieve a creative dream, but to do it well?
I think what you’re asking is really an issue of creative integrity. I’m not sure anyone starts out to put work out there that isn’t their best, but it happens. Some people are willing to sacrifice quality for success. Basically, selling themselves and their potential out for a quick return. Some people just don’t care. A lot of it comes down to maturity, motivation and professionalism.
I’ve always been someone who won’t do something unless I know I can do it well. That can trip me up sometimes, but for the most part, you’re not going to see my work until I feel pretty confident it represents the best of me at that time. You’re going to get quality and you’re going to get a professional who respects you as a human being. We live in an age of instantaneous results. The expectations that creates makes it hard to give yourself and your work the time, focus and protection you need to truly become something that stands out. Going to market too soon may pay off in early returns, but it will cost you in the long run because you’ll never know what you could have achieved if you’d given it more.
There’s another element involved, too, and that is respect for others’ time and talents. I’m not going to bring to market a product unless I know it meets high standards in my field. That isn’t arrogance, but understanding that doing something well is how you give and receive respect. When you respect someone, you honor them as a human being regardless of their position. And really, all of life comes down to how we relate to one another, so how you relate to others IS what life is all about and all of our creative work is really just play. It’s more important to me that you feel cared for as a human being than it is what you can potentially do for or with me on a project.
I read an article the other day by a screenwriter who said he always has a script or two in his car so if he sees Ben Affleck in the parking lot, he’ll have something to give him. Really? I think that’s terribly obnoxious. Is it possible that Mr. Affleck would accept a script that way? Maybe. Is that how you want to be known for doing business? Not me. (Would you want to be approached during your non-working time by a stranger trying to sell you something or get you to do her a career favor?) There’s a big difference between ‘taking advantage of an opportunity’ and having the self-respect to trust that how you do business is ultimately more important to your career than any one project.
You respect people’s time, talent and investment when you deliver your best – and you don’t waste their time with something that’s not ready yet. It really is a matter of setting high expectations for yourself and your work – and letting those expectations lift you and the work higher. You have to have the humility and discernment to take guidance from those you trust and the self-confidence to trust yourself when it counts. But at the end of the day, if you know you’ve put everything you’ve got into the work and you’ve delivered your best, well, that is the reward, isn’t it?
Q: But you talk about being bold? It sounds as if you’re after perfection, isn’t that risky?
Excellent point. I do talk about being bold. Because in my experience, I’ve always made decisions based on what I knew to be true for me – even when others couldn’t see the logic or reasoning. (For instance, I knew in my heart from the time I was 17 that I was meant to go to Bosnia – and for six years of turbulent life circumstances that calling simply wouldn’t let me go, no matter how many well-intended people tried to talk me out of it. I couldn’t explain why I felt called to travel there or why I felt attached to a people I’d never met – but I knew it was what I was meant to do and it proved that the calling was right.) I make decisions with my heart and intuition, and disregard the opinions of those who can’t see beyond the potential risks (which for some reason have never seemed that risky to me). So, be bold? Yes. Have the faith in yourself to make connections and act as a professional with those in your field you respect? Yes. Be willing to say yes to yourself and your dreams? Yes.
Perfection? No. Doing something well involves trust. Perfection never trusts. Perfection is built on doubt. Doing something well means listening to your inner voice when it tells you you’ve done everything you can and now you must let go and move on. Perfection will never get you to the point of letting go and moving on. Doing something well means you have the humility to know you will continue to grow – as well as you have done now, you will eventually do even better. Perfection has no room for that. It’s not built on wanting to deliver quality (though it appears that way) – but on fear of not being accepted. Never build anything on fear or doubt.
Q: Is it really a matter of being passionate about what you do?
Oh, passion, passion. Hmm. Passion has such a strong connotation of unwavering high-energy to it, doesn’t it? I hear ‘passion’ and already see the burn-out. But, maybe that’s just me. If you were to ask me if I’m passionate about writing, I would probably say no. If you ask me if I’m passionate about using writing to inspire and nurture the human spirit, I would say yes. I’m not trying to be coy. It’s just that for me, motivation and purpose are my driving factors. Passion feels too fragile to be the anchor that will hold for all the ups and downs and getting thrown off and having to be the one to dust yourself off and convince yourself to get up again and keep at it. I think passion is good when it means “enduring love for what you are doing” – but if it means “always feeling the high” then it fails miserably.
I should add that high quality in our day and age is something that will set you apart. You do something well and you’ll already be at an advantage. You show the dedication to master your craft, trust yourself, display self-confidence built on humility, and a conviction in your dream and you have already elevated yourself above the crowd. People respect courage, they respect those willing to take a chance on their dreams, they respect those who aren’t scared that they’ll miss their chance and trust that they have the power to create their lives – but only when you bring respect, integrity and are someone who is genuinely good-natured and pleasant to work with. You have to respect yourself if you want anyone else to respect you – and that means having some principles. Old-fashioned? Maybe.
But greatness is built on that.