Chutzpah

In her blog article titled “Watch One, Do One, Teach One” by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, the author writes that it is a very good to read lots of books, to write a book, and to teach others about writing. In doing this method, she writes that you will increase your abilities. She also remarks on the need for a writer to be self-assurant and self-motivated. She says a writer must have “chutzpah.” I admit I had to look up the definition of this word. It means “shameless audacity” or “supreme self-confidence.” This is a word I like very much like Demi Lovato singing the song “Confident.” It’s just got that pizzazz to it. Chutzpah.

I am reminded of the story my husband told me of Stephen King. Now this is a story and I am not sure word for word that it is factually correct but he told me that when Stephen King first started out writing, he wrote a small story and sent it to a publisher. The publisher rejected him. He threw the story in the trash. His wife came along, found the story, fished it out of the trash, and sent it to one more publisher where it was accepted. Thankfully, his wife had some chutzpah. And, that story is Carrie.

Another great story I learned about from Facebook of all places, is the story of Sylvester Stallone writing a screenplay. According to the story, Sylvester was down on his luck and almost destitute. He poured all his effort into writing this screenplay and then took it to pitch to the production companies. They liked the story but refused to make him the main actor in the movie. Sylvester would not budge. He apparently said that they could not have the screenplay unless they cast him in the leading role. Have you guessed the story yet, one of the most motivational and inspiring stories in contemporary times? That story was Rocky.

Bollywood and Southeast Kansas

We’re planning our first coffeehouse event for the book Searching for Fire. It will be at 7:00 pm this Tuesday night at 402 S Broadway in Pittsburg, Kansas. We will start with an emcee from Toastmasters and then individual talks by two authors, Mark Johnson who wrote Powerful Presentations that Connect, and then myself. There will be good conversation, refreshments, and book signings. Root Coffeehouse is really the best little coffee shop in our small university town and a hidden gem. It’s a great hangout for college students and for anyone who enjoys a nice eclectic and artsy vibe.

Mark plans to talk about how his book can help with public speaking. He also mentioned he plans to talk about his years at the university helping students to reach their potential. One particular student is from India and his book is about vampires. He went to PSU and writes about southeast Kansas in his bestselling books, The Company Red and Code Red. These are being turned into Bollywood films. I would love to see these movies! The author’s name is Shantanu Dhar. He graduated in Human Resources at PSU like me and now he works as the VP of HR for one of the biggest transportation companies in the world! He is also a bestselling author in India!

We’ll talk about this and other interesting topics like the 12 Steps to a Hero’s Journey and how it influenced the creation of Star Wars. It should be a fun night at the Root. You are more than welcome to attend. Thank you.

Book Suggestions?

I am finishing up Rick Riordan’s Red Pyramid now. I’ve got a few more chapters to read. I am looking for my next good read. I read a good number of the classics when I was younger. Growing up, my favorite books were Black Beauty, Call of the Wild, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and My Antonia. As I got into my teens, I loved historical romance novels….any Johanna Lindsay or Kathleen Woodwiss or Jude Deveraux book I could get my hands on. Now, in my older years, I read off and on in between daily duties. I’ve found audiobooks to be preferable now especially while commuting to work. I went through hours upon hours of Game of Thrones, House on Haunted Hill, I Claudius, several business books, and listened to tons of Joel Osteen hour-long sermons on Sirius XM.

Do you have any suggestions for a great contemporary read?

I’ve been thinking about picking up Killers of the Flower Moon since I heard the movie might be filming in the Bartlesville, Oklahoma area that is about 2 hours from my home. I read Mean Spirit in college and it was very compelling and I’ve been to Bartlesville several times with the kids to visit Woolaroc.

Do you prefer to read a paperback, hardcover, your Kindle, or to listen to audiobooks? I’m working this weekend on the farm. I’m doing some mortar tuckpointing and it might be nice to take a good audiobook along.

What do you recommend listening to?

Luck Helps Those Who Help Themselves

I’m starting to plan for the first public event for the book Searching for Fire. There’s a lot of things to consider: sales tax id, how to use a square, how to setup a paypal account, how to setup the accounts associated, etc. Then there is the packing list for the event and books to be ordered and how to price them, etc. etc. My husband agreed to help me out on this one. It is the Artwalk in my hometown which features a wide array of artists, musicians, and literary folks, as well as food vendors from my local community. It will be on Broadway in the downtown area this Friday from 5 to 9 pm. There will be lots of arts activities for children and lots of fun things to do and see that night. I am really looking forward to it! That is also the same day the kids go back to school so we are gathering school supplies and getting clothes and such all ready for their big day too!

Starting to prepare the display table.

A book launch event should be fun – a time to celebrate months and months of preparation. In other news, the book got the first review today on Amazon and got 4 stars. This makes me super happy and I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was so fearful it would just get one star…..or worse, half a star or a big ole goose egg zero stars………which brings me to an interesting topic. …..

A friend asked me to help her with writing. To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the subject. I do not hold an advanced degree in English or frankly any degree related to writing. I haven’t poured through tons of manuals or expensive online classes. We got to talking. I offered to help any way I can but I got the impression that the more we talked, the more prepared she was for writing than I. She talked about Scribner and other softwares and technologies and even some theories on writing. I just listened greatly impressed by her knowledge.

Writing to me………..it seems the one main element that you have to possess is an unusual one. It is not flashy or super sophisticated with all sorts of advanced technologies. The element that seems most crucial to me is this…………courage.

Now, hold up, before I go any further…….I don’t want you to think I mean this kind of courage.

I mean you gotta have courage like this…….

Do you remember being a kid at the public pool and your friends dared you to jump off the high dive? You look up at that behemoth of a diving board and the tall ladder leading up to the top and you sorta gulp. But you say, “Sure! Let’s try it!” And you follow your friends to the line waiting at the tall metal ladder. One by one, the kids climb up the ladder. Some of the kids have done this before and take running leaps off the top board. Other kids are like you and they slowly climb the ladder hesitantly and then carefully and slowly walk to the edge to look over and at the far, far distance down below. Yikes! You think to yourself that you would prefer to take the chicken exit but you have seen what happens to the kids that bail. Some of them get chuckled at and some of them never do gain the courage to overcome their fear and jump. And yet, you’ve seen others…….over-cocky and maybe a little arrogant types that over turn their jumps and end up doing painful belly busters. You don’t want to do that either.

It’s your turn. You’ve been waiting for this and your friends are counting on you to try. You climb the ladder rung by rung with a nervous feeling in your belly. Maybe even your mom has stopped watching from the poolside cabana chair and is now standing and watching you. She’s squinting into the sun. Her hand is over her eyes as she watches you above. She wants you to try but she’s also deeply worried about you and ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to save and protect you.

Your feet feel the hard nubbles of the concrete slab of the high dive. You’re very aware in that moment, feeling the adrenaline in your body. Pools of water surround your feet as you look at the edge. Then you slowly walk step by step to the end. You look down for a little while, enough time that you won’t look like a coward. Your heart is pounding now. Your breathing is a little jagged. You step a few paces back and then……

You run off the ledge to freefall. And it is terrifying and exciting at the same time. Your eyes are wide open and you straighten your body out to execute the jump just right so you don’t belly buster. The last thing in the world you want to do is belly buster cause that is embarassing.

And you close your eyes and hold your breath right before you finally hit the water. And it is the best feeling in the world when you come up for air. You realize it is not so hard as you thought it could be. You realize that the biggest obstacle you faced was dread.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

-JFK

And you maybe even chance going off that high dive a few more times that day.

Anyway…….that’s the kind of courage it seems to take to try to create and show something rather than spend lots and lots and lots of time writing as a hobby but never going any further.

So, honestly, I don’t know a lot about these new templates, and theories, and ideas, and software, and techologies and all these great classes to take on writing. But I do know that eventually you gotta act.

As I was writing earlier this year, I kept two fortune cookie fortunes on my desk. The first read,

Luck helps those who help themselves.

The second read,

The simplest answer is to act.

A long time ago, I had a good friend in the military. He was a decorated war veteran and served six of seven year-long tours in Iraq and Kuwait. He was an Army officer and retired a Lt. Colonel. When we would travel together and I would drive, he would get super frustrated with my driving. I would be polite and always let people pass me or cut in front of me as we traveled around the Washington DC Beltway. He would always look at me and say this mantra of the military:

He who hesitates is lost.

I just figured he was an angsty type of driver but turns out he was trying to teach me a very valuable lesson that I picked up on later in my 40s.

Just act. Don’t waste your life never acting.

Writers by nature, tend to be very introspective and thinkers. They think a whole bunch before they finally make a decision to move. They remind me of the Ents in Lord of the Rings. There’s a certain quote by John Green that sums up their behavior well:

Writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.

So, my main point with this extended post is just to encourage you to act. To use another metaphor…..a pilot can take a brand new plane onto the runway and wait for the go-ahead from air traffic control. He can study all the manuals, memorize all the control panel buttons, put all the latest technology into his plane, learn each and every possible idea about piloting, perfect each and every detail of his manuevers, etc. But eventually, he is going to have to make the hard decision to move forward and race at breakneck speed, barreling down that runway, hoping and praying that those wheels come up and those wings start to lift. He’ll pass the point of no return. He’ll have to do it. The sink or swim point. Fly or crash and burn in a blaze of fantastic but embarassing glory. The belly buster.

Just do it.

-Nike

Eventually you just gotta do it and when you do, you will want to try again. And remember, a plane doesn’t fly until it reaches a point of intense pressure. To fly, to defy gravity……..that is a worthwhile moment. So, if you are facing a whole lot of pressure writing…..well, maybe that is just you getting prepared for lift off.

So, that’s my cheap and unsophisticated two cents on writing. It’s not fancy. It’s not long enough to turn into an hour long class but it is authentic and real.

And finally, as a side note, the last thing I would add is take the pressure off yourself. There’s so much pressure already on you from daily life……why add more to yourself? Remember to have fun with writing. Make it playful. Just write for the sake of telling a story to yourself or maybe to the one person out there in the whole wide world that might read your stuff.

Don’t write to be successful. Don’t write for fame and fortune. Don’t write for riches or fly b******. Just write for your own enjoyment. It show s in your words when you enjoy what you are writing. Some stuff we try to write to impress others often comes across later in reading it as pretentious and stuffy and just full of it. Don’t believe me?

Consider this:

When I first started to write poetry, I wrote short but decent stuff with meaning like this:

Late Bloomer

They say you gotta sit in the dark a long while before you see the light,

Hell, I’ve been sitting here for years and yeah, I guess they’re right.

Well I’s seen a share of sadness and a couple shares of doubt,

But I suppose a seed’s got to be buried before it will start to sprout.

See, that one wasn’t too bad and it was authentic and from the heart because I played at writing poetry then. However, things changed a few years later after I had failed a couple of poetry contest submissions. I figured I needed to be more aloof and more intellectual and more big city and more of what I truly am not. And so I wrote this one:

Thoughts on Writers and Figs and Such Matters

Kindred soul, I heard your muffled cry in the library stacks.

The rhythm of your fragile heart still beats within,

rustling the yellowed pages of this forgotten book.

I have found your anguish.

Your essence escaped life on the winds

waiting for love’s embrace.

You lived and breathed like a golden songbird

buried beneath the sands of time in a locked box waiting for a key.

Sylvia, immortal,

for your sake, how I wish your discontented hand settled on a plump ripe fig

so many years ago in the distant past.

But then, I would have never felt your spirit.

Ok, so………..this second one is not terrible but is admittedly a little over the top. Too emo and a little on the weird side in my opinion. I wrote it to impress poetry authority figures rather than write the things I really thought and felt about the world around me. It’s stiff and awkward and frankly, I haven’t even read The Bell Jar all the way through…….just some passages here and there, some Wikipedia, and some Cliffnotes online. Not authentic. Not good.

So be yourself. Be playful with your writing.

and to finish on a high note, one last quote from the great Elton John.

You could never know what it’s like

Your blood like winter freezes just like ice

And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you

You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use.

……Don’t you know, I’m still standing better than I ever did,

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.

That’s my point from Elton John’s Still Standing (and I bet you’re now thinking of a piano playing gorilla from the movie Sing lol). My point is be brave as a writer but also be playful at it like a kid and willing to show and share your authentic voice.

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

-Oscar Wilde

Ok, that’s all I got. It ain’t much but it’s from the heart. That’s it for tonight, folks. Have a great night and keep writing and creating.

My First Blog Post

Lose Yourself

Look
If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?

— Eminem

This is one of my favorite songs. I have a secret. Sometimes I listen to this song to get hyped for writing. The motivational beginning inspires me just like my favorite quote by Laurel Ulrich, “Well -behaved women seldom make history.” This second quote is often associated with Marilyn Monroe or Eleanor Roosevelt, an amazing woman I named my daughter after.

But back to the Eminem song, I like the lyrics and Ulrich quote because in them you can feel a rebellious nature and angst with the status quo, a desire to achieve more. To be more than your environment, more than what life dictated for you……more….more……more. They remind me of a poem I wrote 10 years ago:

Pilatus Flower

I went to the top of Mt. Pilatus a long, long time ago

and stood in the cold wind looking at the white desolation below.

I took a rocky path along the curve of the silent mountain and past the wintry bridge,

to a spot where a single solitary flower clung to the side of the ridge.

I reached out to pluck the bloom but hesitated in that instance.

It was in that moment that I realized the power of persistence.

I heard someone say once, “It doesn’t matter where you came from;

it only matters where you go.

I say, “It doesn’t matter where fate placed you. It just matters that you grow.”

Keep striving and growing, my fellow writers. Reach for your dreams with your words and pull those amazing stories out of hiding from your mind and your heart. Get to that moment in your story when the words flow out of you like rushing water and you lose yourself in the writing. That moment when the story is all you want and the storyteller is all you want to be. There’s magic in that moment. Gold, pure gold.

Keep creating! Keep writing! Keep being more!