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 the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Paper Perspective

Yo! Down here! Further down. By your foot. In fact you’re practically stepping on top of me. Yes, that’s me. I’m that piece of paper.

What am I doing on the floor? Just lying around observing people’s feet. Actually I was dropped – accidentally I’d like to think. At least I assumed it was by accident. But these days, it’s hard to tell. One moment I’m minding my own business, full of purpose, clean as the day I was born, all ready to be written upon, and the next, I’m on the floor.

Naturally I assumed I would be picked up, brushed off, and put to good use. But I wasn’t. I was simply – abandoned. How humiliating! To make matters worse, people enter the room and kick me while I’m down. They step all over me, smudge me, crease me, and tear bits and pieces right off of me as if I don’t have any feelings.

What did I do to deserve being treated like this? What did I ever do to you?
Oh, sure, you’re thinking I’m just a piece of paper, lower than a snail, slow too compared to that upstart e-mail.

How soon we forget.

Before Internet, I was always there for you. I laid myself bare in your hands – not always clean hands at that. Did I ever complain? I let you write all over me with your quills, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, and god knows what else. We shared happy and sad times together, like the time you wrote to your best friend to say that you were sorry for taking your friendship for granted.

I know what that feels like.

People have taken me for granted for years. They chop me down as part of a tree, drag me to the mill, send me off to the paper factory, and voila, here I am, only to be crumpled into a ball by some Michael Jordan wannabe and thrown hap­haz­ard­ly into the trash, missing the mark half the time. Oh sure, you may get me on the rebound, but more often than not I’m left to lie around until the cleaning lady comes.

Then there are those times I’m casually dropped and left on the floor for hours, even days, getting as filthy as the floor.

No one bothers. No one cares.

At the very least you could pick me up and put me out of my misery by placing me into the trash bin. Better still, send me to the recycling center so I can have a fresh start.

Ah, if only I could start all over again I would gladly fall into the hands of a five year old, someone who can appreciate my full potential by seeing endless possibilities. I can be folded into an airplane, made into a boat, or a hat, or cut into circles and squares or a string of dolls. I can be drawn on, written all over, or I can become a canvas for colorful crayoned creations. I can even be splashed with wonderful watercolors!

For teenagers I can become your first poem or even a love letter – the beginning of something magical with the whole world before you. For adults I can be as serious as an essay or a narrative or a short story, or even the first page of an award-winning novel filled with beauty, love, truth, and honesty – OK some sex, too. I can also be a letter to a long lost e-mail-less friend, or a cartoon that will make your friends laugh. I can be whatever you want me to be, limited only by your own imagination. Just pick me up, brush me off, straighten me out, and use me. I don’t mind. That’s what I’m here for.
         --Borneo Expat Writer

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.