David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Spasmodic Dysphonia”

Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 4 of 8)

FEAR IS THE MIND KILLER

So what holds you back? What are you afraid of? People are creatures of habit, slaves of fear. If we allow it, fear can and will rule over us, keeping us from breaking out of our comfort zones. If we venture too far into the realization of our dreams, fear will jump into our paths, growl at us, and bare its sharp teeth. And what do we do? We turn tail and crawl back into our self-imposed prisons of comfort. We’re satisfied to live out our lives within those confining walls because we hold ourselves bound by the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, the fear of lack, even the fear of success and the responsibility it brings with it.

I don’t remember exactly when I first read it, but the following quote by Marianne Williamson, spiritual author and lecturer, struck a chord in me that has resonated ever since. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”[i]

Two decades ago I lost my voice after developing a disease known as “spasmodic dysphonia,” a condition that lasted six grueling years (for those of you who listen to NPR, this is the same disease Diane Rehm suffers from). At that time I’d always wanted to learn how to speak better in public so I could teach, so despite my weak, tremulous voice (or maybe because of my determination to overcome this debilitating ailment), I joined Toastmasters International. I then began to conduct interviews for articles because the non-fiction material I was writing at the time had begun to sell. Then a junior college teacher asked me to teach a class on staying motivated as a writer. Despite sounding like a three-pack-a-day smoker, I stood in front of that room full of adults and delivered my talk. I refused to play small.

Each time I faced my fears—the fear of rejection by family and friends, the fear of talking and sounding like an incoherent idiot, the fear of public speaking, the fear of interviewing people—I grew. And over time I soundly trashed each one of those fears. Goethe once said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” Overcoming those long-suffered fears was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, despite the years of pain and suffering. I learned that fears can indeed be overcome, that they can be defeated. Facing those fears head on and moving forward despite them taught me I can do anything I set my mind to, with God’s help and blessing. It’s the same with the fears I’ve had—and still have—about writing.

Even if no one else believes in your writing, believe in it yourself, because when it comes right down to it, that’s all that matters anyway. Joan Lowery Nixon said, “You must believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself and in your ability to succeed, then you can’t expect others to believe in you.”[ii] Why would they?

Frank Herbert wrote about fear in his novel Dune. “Fear is the mind-killer,” he said. And the life killer. And the dream killer.

Marty Goldbeck, a psychologist and former police officer, spoke about fear at the October 1995 Beaumont Golden Triangle Writers Guild conference in Beaumont, Texas. “The thing that weighs us down is our own self,” he said. “What are the limitations that keep us from writing?” Goldbeck also said there are two things determining whether or not we can achieve our dreams. The first is attitude. “If I choose to have a creative, good attitude, my life is limitless,” said Goldbeck. And the second is choice. It’s your choice, every moment of every day, to do the things you want to do. Like the old king said in the introduction to this discussion, the decision is up to you.

 

[i] Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”. New York. Harper Collins, 1992. 190.

[ii] http://chichikir.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/there-is-no-one-right-way-to-write/

 

 (Next up: Persistence and Determination Alone are Omnipotent)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 2 of 8)

DREAMING FOR DOLLARS

Do you write for the money? If so, I’m sorry. Amanda M. Thrasher, co-founder of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, my publisher, told me, “We don’t do this for the money. We do this because we love it. The rest will follow.” And P.T. Barnum once said that money “is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.” Have you succumbed to that master, or are you master over it? Choose carefully.

We hear so many stories about the big names—Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, John Sandford—that we forget the majority of the bookshelves are filled with unknowns and un-heard-of folks like us, and that’s if we even make it to the bookshelves. It’s easy to be led down a dangerous path by the much-glorified accomplishments of others. Our society places so much emphasis on the money-makers and the big names that it forgets about the rest of us, the vast majority. There’s no glory in the ordinary, there’s no hype in the mediocre, so we must manage our expectations while allowing the excitement of our dreams to keep us inspired.

“An author signing a first contract can expect to receive an advance of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, on average, per book,” reports Rebecca Brandewyne on her website.[i] That’s a far-cry from the multi-million dollar deals grabbing the headlines and propelling our well-grounded dreams into ethereal fantasies. Oftentimes an author contracted by a publisher may not sell enough copies to recover the advance and begin generating royalties. If a book doesn’t “earn out,” the publisher may ask the author to pay back the remaining advance not recouped, and the book is then pulled from the shelves and considered non-salable. And to sprinkle dead flies on a rotting corpse, the average shelf-life of a novel you may have spent three years writing is about four months. That stinks.

There’s a story about an elderly Jewish gentleman who began to withdraw from his family, friends, and the community at large. As concern for the man’s health grew, his rabbi decided to pay him a visit. “What is bothering you?” he asked.

“Nothing,” the man said. “Since retiring the world has grown so complicated. I have no time to worry about anything but keeping my head above water.”

The rabbi smiled and led him to the window. “Look there. What do you see?”

The man watched the people on the street, the vendors selling their wares, the children playing. “I see people living their lives as they do every day.”

The rabbi then led the man to a full-length mirror hanging from his closet door. “And here, what do you see?”

“I see myself. Why?”

“You see,” said the rabbi. “The window and the mirror are both made of glass. You look through the window and see the world, your community, your friends. Nothing is in the way.”

“And the mirror?” the old man asked.

“The mirror is backed with silver,” the rabbi replied. “Whenever silver gets in the way we only see ourselves.”

Now, think again of the bookstores, row after row, shelf after shelf of unknowns. Like an Oreo cookie, the bookshelf end caps may yell, “Read me, I’m excruciatingly famous,” but the stuff in the middle is the stuff worth savoring. When the silver gets in the way, we only see ourselves.

[i] http://www.brandewyne.com/writingtips/authorspaid.html

 (Next up: Part 3: Dealing with Writer’s Guilt)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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