Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mottos to Live and Write By

As a writer I try to keep myself motivated. But it’s not easy when you’re working all alone and the only one around to talk to is the cat. So I resort to mottos – mottos haphazardly scrawled and strategically placed around my office.

Over the years, as my moods have changed, new mottos have replaced the old. Others have faded beyond readability, or have fallen behind my desk. The majority of my mottos are inspirational, like, IF YOU THINK YOU CAN, YOU CAN. This one got me into writing, and, hopefully, will keep me there.

Others are simple and direct, like, COURAGE! which I need to get through a tough chapter or a particularly trying day. Or CHUTZPAH – you got nothing to lose, so go for it!

Some mottos are downright desperate: STAY ORGANIZED OR DIE! Organi­zation has been a BIG problem.

Here’s a motto I borrowed from my management days: PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN. FAILING TO PLAN MEANS YOU’RE PLANNING TO FAIL. This applies to most human endeavors, including my own – writing a novel.

Some mottos are nothing more than reminders: ENJOY LIFE ALONG THE WAY. Sort of like, “Stop and smell the roses,” which I don’t do often enough, especially when I’m in the midst of a lengthy novel that’s taking me forever.

Or, DON’T LET THE DISAPPOINTMENTS OVERRIDE THE SURPRISES. Too often I let minor setbacks, like a rejection slip, color my day and I forget all about the encouraging notes at the bottom of those same rejections, or a letter from a long lost friend praising my latest short story, thus giving me hope.

Other mottos are subtle: WINNERS FIGHT FOR THEIR DREAMS, LOSERS SURRENDER. My dream is to write a good novel (who wants to write a bad one?) which is why I left my regional manager position at Kinko’s and moved to Malaysia.

OTHERS HAVE DONE IT, SO CAN YOU: All novelists, I like to remind myself, even the famous ones, were at one time struggling, unknown writers. Another motto is for encouragement: FOCUS ON THE POSSIBILITIES AND NOT THE REALITIES, REALITIES CAN CHANGE.

For example, there’s a possibility that my novel will get accepted soon and published in the near future. (So long as I keep improving it and sending it out.) The reality is that the odds are over­whelmingly against it, so why bother? That reality can change quickly, if the agent who’s reading my novel (and my screenplays) decides to take me on as a client, this will increase my chances significantly.

Other mottos are purely motivational: DON’T WAIT FOR THINGS TO HAPPEN, MAKE THEM HAPPEN. I can sit around and dream all I want but the novel won’t get written (or rewritten) unless I work on it.

ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE TO SUCCEED: Write the best you can and keep at it – pure and simple.

WANT IT BAD ENOUGH! Be willing to work harder and smarter at writing than everyone else. Sort of like, “Go that extra mile.” Isn’t that what great writers, past and present, do?

And DON’T LET THE SIDESHOWS DISTRACT YOU FROM THE MAIN EVENT. It’s easy to get distracted along the way – temptations are everywhere and time is limited. Emails and surfing the Internet are fun but if you have “no time” to write, where are your priorities? So, as a reminder, I post my latest motto right on my computer: EMAIL OR NOVEL – YOUR CHOICE!

This leads me to my biggest motto: YOU ONLY FAIL WHEN YOU STOP TRYING (including failing to get around to it), SO NEVER GIVE UP!

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I