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.


Sassy Jam said...

like this article alot.. cant believe you use the 'fail to plan, plan to fail' quote.. it was so corny when my ex boss used it in a so called motivational session he tried to do on us..

my personal fav has got to be ' you must be First, Best or different'

oh yeah and thanks for the email reply on the writing courses. ive done some research and decided to go with the sharon bakar course at th british council.


BorneoExpatWriter said...

Yes it is corny but full of logical truth too. If you fail to plan to write your novel (making time for it, researching it, organizing it, creating characters, scenes, etc etc), then you are planning to fail as a novelist. It won't happen. First you need to make a plan, a firm commitment to yourself that this is what you want to do, then go for it. Use whatever motto that works for you. One that turned me around in Kuching was "clean up your messes". This applied to a lot of loose ends, from articles needed written, short stories needed edited (and needed to be made edgier) and novels and screenplays that needed a face lift and no doubt some liposuction too. So I've started to tackle them, one at a time, and I'm seeing results. I have two books coming out in 2008 (possibly a third) and a play that's getting produced in Kuching. Good luck with Sharon's course.

Sylvester said...

first of, sramat manug - welcome, to Sarawak

here is one motto i find meaningful, i came across it in one of CAP's publication

"live simply so that others can simply live"

well something like that

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Thanks, on both counts!

Sylvester said...

i like what you wrote on the other blog i.e walkingwithjasoninborneo, too bad it has not been updated yet

Sassy Jam said...

Excellent news!!
I managed to get into Sharon's course commencing this 15th .. am really excited.

Clean up your messe would apply to me literally i guess..

One which has managed to get me to where i am now, Just Do It.
It made me get my ass of the chair and register for this course..

i love reading your blog and once im done wiht my 3 books which im reading now is shall for the first time read a book by a local writer, yours.


BorneoExpatWriter said...

Sylvester - Thanks, I need to get back to that, but it'll involve another older son, too, who was visiting me in Sarawak for two weeks, so I must change the title. Not all of the walks involved Jason.

Karen - That's great news. It's all about taking immediate action to your ideas, and taking Sharon's course will only fuel that fire. Tell her I said hello! And thanks. Hope you'll enjoy the book too. You can get a headstart with one short story, "Neighbors" which you can download free from my website and then join the on-line discussion about the story, via my website (sign up under special interest group, which is free for the Melta link. Also,today I just finished rewriting (overhauling) my blog entry on the subject (in June), now titled, "Neighbors, A Suicide and Making Choices". This will get you thinking about choices you need to make before you write a story to make sure you're writing the right one! Good luck.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

It's not in June but July 1st.