Motivation Part 1: Putting Fear in Its Place

*Disclaimer: What motivates me, might not motivate you. Know Thyself.

Hello! It’s the middle of the last week of October, which means just 6 full days until NANOWRIMO takes over our lives. (If you don’t’ do NANOWRIMO, don’t worry; we still like you.)

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So, I want to talk about motivation today and, hopefully, you’ll be prepared if you find yourself lacking…everything…come mid-November.

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First of all, we need to know what motivation is. We give our story characters motivation, but do we ever wonder what our OWN motivation(s) is (are)?

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Motivation is (1) the reason(s) we have for acting or behaving in a particular way; (2) the general desire or willingness we have to do something.

(mostly from dictionary.com)

The bad thing about being real humans instead of book characters is that we don’t know what our motivations are before we begin writing our stories, a.k.a. living life. We’re our own authors and we aren’t privy to that information.

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So, to find our motivation behind a specific behavior, let’s identify a behavior.

Here’s one: You are staring at a computer screen with all of this preparation around you—character arcs, plot cards, timelines, setting maps—and yet, your fingers hover over the keys like you know nothing at all.

No, I don’t have cameras in your house; I had only to go as far as my short-term memory.

The behavior that we want to analyze is the paralysis of moving forward. What’s the reason for this thought spiral that leaves us impotent.

If I were a betting woman, I’d lay down 50 cheese balls that some, if not all, of the following questions are floating around in your head:

  • What if no one want to read this story?
  • What if my characters aren’t as cool in three months as I think they are right now?
  • What if the plot is too small and thin?
  • What if there is a plot hole I’m not seeing and I write the whole thing and I have to throw it away because of the big, fat hole?
  • What if I get to the end of the story and only have, like, 10,000 words?
  • What if I don’t have the grammatical background I need, and I don’t even know I’m making mistakes?
  • What if I’ve picked the wrong POV?
  • What if it just plain sucks?
  • Why am I even doing this?

All of these questions are spawned by one tiny, terrible word:

FEAR

It’s so little and looks so harmless—I mean, it only has 4 letters, but it should have 1 million with the way it takes over our lives.

Fear will stop you from doing ANYTHING that is not in your comfort zone. It’s supposed to keep us safe, and it will. We will not die if we stay as we are.

BUT, what if you’re tired of your comfort zone? What if you want more than those four walls that box you in?

Fear is a natural response that happens when you’re trying to change things.

Think of it like this:

You don’t normally jump off a mountain, but you have this notion that you might actually want to. This is a change from your normal, sidewalk-skipping ways, so your brain sends nervous electricity to your stomach, screwing with your bowels, and begins to yell “WARNING!!” to your consciousness, and all the sudden, you’re thinking,

  • That mountain is so very high.
  • Am I ready to potentially die?
  • What if the straps are dry-rotted?
  • What if there is a strong wind and I get off course?
  • What if the instructor isn’t the crispest lettuce in the salad?
  • Why am I even doing this?

Looks a lot like the list of questions running through your mind right now as you stare at your blinking cursor, right? Why? Because deciding to write a book that may show the world your insides is kinda like deciding to jump off a mountain, which may also show the world your insides. A really tall mountain. With really sharp rocks, and there’s no fog so you can clearly see all aspects of your death-fall.

(Dial it back, Mea.)

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But here’s what I want you to know:

Fear is the consequence of change. We humans don’t do change well, and our minds will do anything to keep us in status quo, like allowing fear to spread like an epidemic until it consumes our thoughts and affects our actions. 

I have a question for you.

What made you to do character arcs, plot cards, and setting maps? What about those behaviors and actions?

I think that we’re focusing on the wrong behavior. We wanna know why the blank screen, the blank mind, the veer toward procrastination, and all of the not-doing, but what if we focused on what spurred us to action when we loved what our hands touched? What thoughts were running through your head when before the idea had pockmarks?

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet 54 gumdrops that it was something like this:

  • What if there was this boy who could turn into a tree whenever he wanted to?
  • What if she went to the moon BEFORE she discovered a planet?
  • And there could be this plant that emitted gamma rays…
  • This character is the sh*t!
  • I can’t believe that this came from my imagination!
  • I am so pumped right now!

This is the behavior to analyze in order to discover your TRUE motivation, not the fear-focused one. This positive interaction with your creative side gives you strength, friend. When the hype dies, don’t let fear make you feel less than you are.

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I’m not going to lie to you. Stepping past the fear-hurdle is not easy, and it’s a constant struggle.

I’ve had a little success with this. At the beginning of the year, I decided that I would OVERCOME all this oppression, and it was just that. I felt like I was lying prostrate with this huge fear-boulder covering the length of my back. I wanted to get up, to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t turn over.

I looked at my boys, at their beautiful, hopeful faces, and knew that I didn’t want them to be in their 30s and feel like this. I also knew that I couldn’t guide them to be better than me if I didn’t teach myself how to be better than I was right then. (You might have to read that sentence twice. It’s confusing but important.) Thus, the search to discover the “general desire or willingness to do something I want to do” commenced.

I made a plan, and implemented it. Here’s what I learned:

  • I’m a do-nothing girl. That means that I can acknowledge that I have a personal need and do absolutely nothing about it. I have to fight my nature as well as my fear.
  • I fight (present tense because it’s a war that won’t end) my nature by making a routine, on paper, and going through the checklist each day.
  • I fight my fear by identifying who I want to be, professionally and personally, and figuring out why that is my ideal. For me, the initial desire was to be an example to my boys. That moved me to action. That’s an external motivator, a super good one, but I found that internal-motivation (wanting it for myself, too) is equally as important as external motivation. (That’s our next blog post because this one is LOOOONG.)

The first line of defense against your fear is knowing the characteristics of the person you want to be and the reason you want to write.

This is the “general desire or willingness” the definition of motivation talks about. Scribble them down. Post them somewhere, and when the fear blinds you from your dreams, look at your reasons. If they still ring true, if they calm you and revive the spark, sit down and write anyway.

Fear is spurred by change, right? So, make a writing routine part of your normal, so fear will shut the hell up.

But if your reasons don’t ring true anymore, you need more than motivation, friend. You need make sure this career path is right for you. And that’s okayWhy would you want to waste a moment more doing something that doesn’t feed your soul? If you leave writing alone for a while and decide you miss it, come back. Writing likes you. It’ll understand. And so will the writing community.

Sig

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprising Response to Rejection

 

I got my first official rejection today. Honestly, it was a really nice stock letter.

Supportive.

Kind.

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No, I don’t need ice cream. Not to sort through my feelings, but I’ll let you know if that changes.

Right now I’m just…surprised.

Not that I received a rejection letter. Rufus knows I expected that. I actually expect it will be the first of many.

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No, I’m surprised that…

it hasn’t affected my feelings of being a writer.

Does that mean I’m kicked out of the club?

I almost feel bad that I don’t feel bad. I don’t know what this lack of negative feeling means.

The internet told that I would be devastated. That rejections would kill my confidence. That I’d be tempted to let these letters strangle the dream. That I’d be tempted to *gasp* quit.

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But that isn’t what I’m feeling. Am I a robot?

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve spent years being fearful about this very thing that I’ve already experienced those emotions before I even pressed “submit”, and now…I’ve found I’m rather over it.

Maybe I’m stronger than I thought I was. Is this confirmation that I actually have confidence? Or that I’m just so completely abnormal?

Maybe the fact that I finished the project was enough of an achievement for me. I felt so much more about that moment than I’m feeling about this rejection.

I’m swimming in a pool of questions right this moment.

Here’s what I DO know:

I’m glad I submitted. The act of choosing to click that button made me realize that I’m ready to take this into my own hands. No more standing in the shadows waiting to be “discovered” by someone who thinks I’m something special. No more growing fungi in dark corners. I believe in the effort, emotion, and care behind each of my stories. I don’t think I knew that until my anti-climactic response to my first rejection letter.

Today, I’m…okay.

Hopefully, I’ll still be tomorrow.

Sig

 

 

A Word to You Graduates

Hello, Graduates! Congratulations on this crazy awesome milestone and having the guts to jump blindly off this cliff of adolescence into the abyss of adulthood.

Y’all are so brave, and I mean that.

I remember not feeling brave at all when I was a high school graduate, ducking into abandoned hallways or taking the long way to my car, so I could avoid people asking me the question all graduates hear:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It was always followed by a sardonic laugh, like the person who asked it created the question for the pure joy of seeing me squirm and fish for words.

Ha, haa, huhhh…

Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be. I didn’t have a lot of talents, or so I thought. I never internalized what my “dream job” would be. Truthfully, the only career options I considered was what I could do that wouldn’t kill me and provide, you know, food.

It never occurred to me to “dream big”, to “search deep”, to “care” about what I should be. The question was so monstrous, so intimidating, I decided that I just wouldn’t “be” anything. That what I would “be” inevitably would pale to whatever dream I could conjure, so I might as well not conjure one at all. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

I was not a confident teen. I was driven by fear-fear lead to procrastination-procrastination to denial. Denial that I even wanted more than what I had allowed myself.

I’ve heard a lot of people blame the world for failures, but I was the worst kind of hypocrite. The world wasn’t my problem. I was my problem. And I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to know myself, that I didn’t need to believe I could be more.

I had been telling myself “NO” long before I donned a cap and gown.

For example, I was waiting tables my senior year of high school, and met a news anchor for the local television station. When the check was delivered, she put her card in the small, black folder and asked me to contact her if I wanted an internship with her.

I was elated. My heart burst forth lighting my path with rainbow dust. The opportunity of interning with her hung before me, a colorful piñata ripe with sweet possibilities. I held the stick. All I had to do was whack the thing open.

I didn’t.

I lived off the good feeling the offer gave me for a year before I realized I’d wasted it.

The phrase “my life will do” took the place of “I love my life” and, my young friends,  “doing” might make you feel good for a moment, but long-term, you want the “loving”.

I settled on a path in college, and didn’t dare question it until my senior year, and by then, I was so close to a degree, I just sucked it up and finished it.

Why did I do this? Why was I so self-destructive?

I’m not a thousand percent sure, but I have an idea that this is part of the reason:

I was asking the wrong question.

It shouldn’t be “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?”.

It should be “WHO do you want to be?”

To get to that answer, maybe answer a few of these questions could help.

What kind of person do you want to be, inside and out?

What characteristics do you want to embody?

How do you want to affect others?

What about you do you want others to admire?

How do you want to feel at the end of the day?

I don’t want to give you the impression that answering this question is easy. In fact, my answer two years ago is different from the answer I hold in my mind today. It’s an evolving answer as we grow, observe, learn, and change.

BUT the hard work will be worth it.

In my heart of hearts I know if I would have ventured onto this path of self-discovery, my career choice would have been chosen to complement me, rather than an obstacle to overcome. And if I would have stumbled into a career choice that didn’t match my expectations, it would have been okay because at the end of the day, I would have known who I was. I could have recognized when I was in a situation that didn’t honor WHO I wanted to be and I could have made the necessary career changes earlier.

So, WHO do you want to be? WHO do you want your future spouse to fall in love with? WHO do you want your parents or guardians to be proud of? WHO do you want to face in the mirror every morning? WHO do you want your future kids to look up to?

Find that person, BE that person, and the WHAT, WHY, WHERE, and HOW will fall into place.

Cheers, class of 2017! Don’t be afraid to show my generation up!

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Sig

Update on Life-April Edition

I have so much to tell you since the last time I’ve written. I think I’ll put it in sections, so I don’t forget anything.

A. The Poetry

With the poetry book done, I got a notice my alma mater was having a poetry reading that weekend. Standing in front of people I may or may not know and reading something that comes from such a private, personal place sounded terrifying. So I did it. And it was terrying.  I choked the last line because I was trying not to cry.

But something good did come from it. A past professor, one I really looked up to, was there and after the event, she sat with me and went through every word of the chapbook and made sound suggestions that really made the quality of the whole project leaps and bounds better.

Though I’d settled on the title, it bugged me a bit. She helped me change it. I’ve already reworked the suggestions, and even submitted it to the first competition. There are two more that I’ll send to soon.

I’m going to write more on this, but I see merit now in choosing a smaller project to see through, beginning to end, before launching into a novel. I have tangible evidence on what “done” is like, and it is addictive. I believe the memory of it will carry me to completion on the next novel project.

B. Camp Nanowrimo

I have a goal of 25,000 words to get me to the end of a first draft of SongNovel. There is a new layout method that I’m in love with and am itching to put to action. (Dan Harmon’s story circle. Check it out!) I was doing really well, even exceeding word counts during the weekdays, so my weekends would be more family focused. Approximately 7,500 words in, my husband found a house that he loved. I love it, too, and through a series of emotional events, we’re…

C. Buying and Selling a House

After Hurricane Katrina (2005), the apartment the newly wedded Smiths (that’s us) lived in became too expensive. Not only my apartment complex, but also a host of others who sustained damage from the hurricane raised monthly cost $100 or more. We also had a pet, which meant most affordable complexes would not rent to us, even before Katrina. So we bought a little baby house, in hopes that we would be able to move to a toddler house about two years or so after.

For the past, 11 years, we have shared 1 bathroom about the size of an office desk. And we have grown from a 2 person family to a 4 person family as well. There are no secrets where there should be secrets. My friends, it’s time for a second bathroom. Please, Lord Jesus, let it be time for a second bathroom.

So we put a contract on the house that we love, contingent upon the selling of our current home.

Relatedly, on January 21, 2017, a tornado hit our small town, and I am still in conversations with contractors to complete/start work on our house. AND NOW WE HAVE TO SELL IT.  Per our contract, we had to list the house asap.

I cleaned the house to take pictures of the inside of it before the sheetrock gentleman came to fix spots in two ceilings and a section of carport. Then I cleaned more when people wanted to see the house before the work was done. I will also have to deep clean the house again when the workers finish. (I don’t know when that will be because they are on contractor time, which I found out recently is different than Mea time.) There is a daily tidying situation that has to happen before work everyday because you never know when you will have to tell your realtor, “Sure, these potential buyers can see the house without the 24 hours of notice we asked for.” (Daily tidying wouldn’t be difficult if my two toddlers weren’t sleeping on a pallet in the living room because their ceiling is getting worked on, and–I have two toddlers.)

And then there are…

D. Kittens Residing on my Front Porch

My sweet kitty is the best mom and wants her babies to see the world, but not from the cozy confines of our outside laundry room, as I had hoped. Instead she’s set up shop on our front porch, so anyone who would like to look at the house must first pass five tiny, blue-eyed, toe-biting guards and their mother. (They are adorable and we’re keeping two of the five because we love them so.) (I just wish I could love them so from the house we want to buy instead of the house we want to sell.)

E. Conclusion

I know this is just a season of life that will be fine in some months. It’s just messing with my creative life so I’m a little resentful. I can adjust with this unexpected change because at the end of the day, it will benefit my family. The house is a fixer upper, too, so I hope to be posting some before-and-afters of rooms and projects. I’ll tag them something clever in case you don’t care to see.

So…this is my life currently. Anyone else going through a big change?

Sig

Iiii….It’s Done

At 4pm on March 29th, I finished my poetry chapbook.

 

A writing project complete.

 

Since then, I’ve done a lot of staring at things. And blinking.

 

I honestly feel like I’m in shock. I don’t really know what to do.

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It’s been so long since I’ve finished a writing project.

 

This year I decided I needed a baptism by fire. Something that would blast through this fear of acknowledgement/discovery. Not discovery as an author–that would be stupid cool–but discovery as in, the inner workings of Mea Smith. Which, I believe will be a huge step toward the author thing. I know I’m all sunshine and roses on the outside, but there are some pretty dark unicorns and tricky sprites inside that I’ve had (and have) to deal with.

My Southern upbringing taught me to deal with these things privately, but do you know how lonely “privately” is? And who really “deals” with their shit if they’re not pushed by someone or another? So, poetry has been my way to “deal” with the poop piles of death, disappointment, and depression (woah with the alliteration).

“No one has to read it,” I told myself. “Just write it down, get it out, cleanse the inside.”

And that’s what I did.

So, back to “baptism by fire”. I am a fearful being by nature.

And I’m friggin tired of it.

So when making my list of things I want to do this year, I wrote–Get Over All The Fear. I made a plan, and at the time, it felt like a good one.

The Plan

Step 1: Find that poetry that means the most to you. [Maybe subconsciously I wanted to share it because I typed it up after I hand wrote it–Or maybe I thought Iwould want to remember where I came from one day when I am not crazy (so probably never) and typed it up. Either way…]

Step 2: Write some more about The Things. You know what they are, Mea.

Step 3: Put them all together in a pleasing fashion.

Step 4: Share with world.

See, poetry is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s my therapist since I can’t afford one, so putting this out in the world for others to judge and scowl and laugh and cry over…is probably the worst thing I could do to my poor, fearful self.

So that’s what I’m doing.

And that’s what I mean by “baptism by fire”. It’s going to hurt like hell, but I know I’m going to come out a better, braver person when it’s all over. (I so, so hope.)

Now, I sit. It’s cover glares at me when I tell it I’ve picked three competitions to submit to. I’m not sure it wants to go, but this is the Year of Overcoming, and so I and my darlings will overcome.

I decided to go mixed-media with it and added poems on photography I’ve done and illustrations. It’s this Thing that I’ve become proud of (look what I’ve overcome) instead of ashamed of (you don’t want to see my darkness; look glitter!!!).

So here is the cover:

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I’ll let you know if I get chosen from one of the contests, but right now, it just feels damn good to Finish Something.

-Mea

Strange New Things

Hello! Long time, no see, Darlings.

I could tell you Everything from even before my last post, really the last two and a half years, every excruciating detail that has brought me to now, a Strange, New Thing typing this post, but…

your speculations are probably more spectacular than the truth.

And I’ve worked so hard to figure out where some big, bad things fit into my life, I don’t really want to rehash them all. My emotions might explode and get into your pretty hair.

So, I’ll sum up in a less aggressive way-bullet points!

  • A very important person in my life made a terrible and uncharacteristic decision. It hurt so many people and cause him great guilt and regret, ultimately leading to his depression and suicide. The suicide happened before we could reconcile. I was 31 weeks pregnant during his funeral. It sucked a lot.
  • After giving birth, I had postpartum depression. Again. It sucked a lot.
  • I was in an unhealthy job situation that, in combination with the above, sucked a lot.

Two and a half years later, I think I may possibly be able to get back out in the world because of the next few bullet points.

  • Strangely, forgiving him wasn’t the biggest issue for me. It was that I didn’t tell him I didn’t hate him as he assumed I did. I was just so. So. Sad. I have come to a “place” where I can forgive myself more every day and grieve properly with each allowance.
  • I’ve been back on the medication that helps me deal with postpartum depression for a long while now. Actually, I believe I’m finally in a spot where I can try getting off of them again, which thrills me.
  • I have a new, positive work environment and I like to go there, to be a part of the “team”. I didn’t know how bad the previous situation was until I experienced something different. I make less money, but can I just tell you Folks that quality of life is worth a million rubies?

So, I’m getting back on track. It actually started at the end of July 2016, but I was embarrassed to tell you all publicly. What if I wasn’t “fixed”? What if nobody told me I had crazy in my teeth? I’ve had a few months of pleasant days now, though, and I feel more…resolved, maybe? That might be the right word.

The next set of bullet points are things I’ve learned going through this mess:

  • Forgive others.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Experience your emotions. Don’t hide them away.
  • Write it out to understand better.
  • Keep hold of your joy.
  • Live the best you can.

I’m feeling good about 2017. I truly hope you are, too.

Kanpai, Lovely People!

Sig

June 2015 Update

I have a working outline! Tomorrow I will begin writing a. Whole. Lot. as I try to squeeze out a rough draft for the July Nanowrimo Camp. I’m fretful and nervous, but it can’t be that bad, right? RIGHT?! I’ve been humbled with the failing of LibertyNovel and feel that one reason it didn’t work out was because it took so long to write it. Through the years, I changed so much and the message got garbled because what I wanted to say kept changing as I learned lessons in my life. So this time, I’m writing with a single message and theme and motivation in the forefront along with the characters, plot points, and world building. I’m hoping this formula will produce a better draft than LibertyNovel had a chance to be.

So, here’s to MediatorNovel and everyone writing this upcoming month! *Raises metaphorical glass* CHEERS!

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