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Writing Successfully: What You Need to Know

So, you want to be a writer.

Change that… you want to be a successful writer.

The most important thing you should know is that success is a matter of perspective. What you may define as success, may not be my definition of success. For some people, success is reaching their daily writing goal (more on that in a minute). For others success is: getting an article published in a well-known magazine, having a poem included in a literary journal, or signing a book deal to print your latest novel. Each of us has our own minds-eye picture of what writing success is.

When most think of success, they may envision J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King. These writers have had major success. Not only in the book genre, but most of their pieces have become motion pictures. Now that is success! There is just one thing, and prepare yourself, you are not a Tolkien, Rowling, or a King. Neither am I. BUT, this is a good thing. Who needs another Ring, Potter, or Roland writer? You are you. And while their success will not be your success, each of us will experience it on some level; when we are willing to do what is necessary.

What is Necessary

Last week we talked about the choices we make and how those choices mold us into the people we eventually become. We also discussed that God directs our lives and we should have no regrets about our past, present, or future choices. With this switch in topics, I want to tackle a specific choice. A choice that has affected my life; the choice of writing.

I have been writing since I was in Jr. High School. It all began with a poem about Summertime. I fell in love with writing. I loved the feeling of being able to take words and put them down on paper in an organized fashion. By the time I found “love” I was writing poetry regularly. I had also begun writing daily in a journal in a journal I received for my 12th birthday. Through that writing, I have pretty much accounted for every moment of my life from that day in Jr. High through at least my Junior year in High School. (scary thought)

That brings me to my first necessary point; write regularly. We talked about goal setting a couple of weeks ago. One of my writing goals is to write 250 words per day. I do not compartmentalize myself with what I am writing, I just write. It can be thoughts, prayers, ideas, or even journaling. The point is to write. One of the things I love to do is to journal my dreams. I love it when I dream because I know that I will meet my daily goal easily. If you want to be successful writing, develop a habit of writing daily. Set a word count goal; it doesn’t have to be monstrous. Something you know you can handle. You will find that as you get into your groove you can, and will, adjust that word count.

Although I did not know it in Jr. High, I had developed my own habit of writing daily. While it was mainly adolescent gibberish, it was a habit. Some of that daily prattle was sprinkled with poetry. I submitted some of it to my High School newspaper. I had two poems published and countless more rejected. This leads us to our second necessary point; don’t give up. I received several ‘no’s’ before I got my first ‘yes.’ I know that a high school newspaper is not on most people’s list of success, but it was on mine. Remember, success is all about perspective. That success motivated me to write more. Isn’t that the point anyway, to write more?

What You Should Know

Fast forward about twenty years. I began my “professional” writing career a little over two years ago. I felt if I was going to do anything about the call on my life to write I need to act. I began by polishing up a short story about a dream I once had. I wrote, and rewrote, my first literary piece of work and began to submit it. One thing that you should know about submitting is that waiting is half of the process. To keep your sanity, you should be writing the next piece as you wait for any replies on submitted works. To date, that first short story has yet to find its ‘yes.’ It has however found five ‘no’s.’ Remember, don’t give up. I am certainly not. Right now, it’s under review with another publisher. (prayers and fingers crossed)

Stephen King tells us about his experiences in his book, “On Writing.” He talks about his first rejection letter. He then says that put a nail into the wall and hung that rejection letter. A couple of years later that nail would no longer hold the number of rejection letters he had received, so he changed it to a spike… and kept on writing.

We look at SKs successful career and never even think that he would get rejected, after all, he is a literary genius. But he did. I have and rest assured you will too. The next thing you should know is that you will NOT be an overnight success. There are dues you must pay in order to experience success. They begin by doing what is necessary and are followed by paying your dues along the way.

Let me explain another way about what I mean by paying your dues. My cousin had gone to school to be a Pharmacy Technician. She paid the money, went to class, and received her license. She was excited about it, and when she went to apply for positions at Pharmacies around her area, they told her she would have to work six months behind the register before she could become a Pharmacy Tech for that store. Not willing to stoop to the level of being a ‘cashier’ she did not take any of the positions offered to her. She never used the Pharmacy Tech license she worked so hard for because she was not willing to pay her dues.

There was no shortcut for my cousin to get into a pharmacy. She chose not to work as a cashier and thus lost her opportunity at something more. There is no shortcut to becoming a writer. While there are things you can learn from other writers to help you avoid some stumbling blocks, you must go through the ranks just like everyone else. My dues were paid through writing for different writing job sites making $2 and $3 per article. Then I graduated to a larger job site, and now I am making considerably more. Even the switch to the larger site required me to start out from the bottom. Now I am somewhere in the middle, this blog you are reading is part of my growing process.

Final Thoughts

Late last year one of my articles was published in a magazine. It does something to you when you see your work, and name, in print. It does something to you when you cash that first check. Both the acceptance letter and cashed check are in a frame on my wall behind my computer to remind me that it all is worth it. The countless hours I have spent writing, the millions of words I have written, and the many rejections I have faced are all worth it, and I would do it all again.

While we will not be overnight successes, we all will succeed. As long as you set realistic goals and meet them, you are on the road to the success that is laid out for you. Do not listen to the naysayers telling you that you cannot do it. Remember, I am 42 now. I didn’t begin my writing career until just a few years ago. If it is a passion, and a calling, it is never too late to begin. You must pay some dues though. You may have to write those smaller articles. But it is all to your benefit; it hones your skills, helps you to know what works and what doesn’t, and gives you a chance to experience deadlines and revisions. (I will get more into that in future entries)

Remember, your success does not depend on what others think or an acceptance letter. Appreciation and accolades are empowering, but not necessary. If you feel good about what you write and have that sense of release, then you are successful. Even if you are writing a $2 article or a cashier in a pharmacy, you can appreciate what you are doing because of the possibilities the future holds. It all begins with maintaining the habit of writing and never giving up on your dream of being a successful writer.

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The Opportunity of a Life with No Regrets


I am 42 years old. This week, my wife and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We have 4 wonderful children; half of which are now out of High School. We have decent jobs and attend a local church where we have been serving the past eight years.

As I look back on my life, I have wondered about the choices made. Most of my life decisions I have made myself, but some of them have been made for me. When I consider these things, I am tempted to think about opportunities I may have been passed up, asking myself where I would be if I had chosen left instead of right?

Even though I contemplate, I know, right now, I am precisely where I am supposed to be. All the choices I have made have led me to this point in time for a time such as this. All the paths I have traveled, and the pitfalls I have dove headfirst into, all have made me into the man I am today. And that person is the person God is continuing to mold me into.

This not only works for me. It also means that everything you have experienced in your life has led you to today and the person you have become; the person God is making you into.

Choices We Make

This all begins with choices. We make choices every day, whether we realize it or not. We choose what time to get out of bed in the morning, what brand of coffee to drink, and what we are going to wear to work. Leaving the house, we chose which route we are going to take to our job, how fast we are going to drive to get there, and how close we are going to park to the entrance.

At work, we chose what projects we are going to prioritize, how much effort we are going to put into that assignment, and then what are we going to eat for lunch. Once we complete our inbox, we chose how to get home, what to eat for dinner, and then what time we are going to hit the hay.

Choices.

These decisions come to us day in and day out. Once we develop a pattern, we can go through life, sometimes on autopilot, not realizing the ramifications of our choices. Yes, the pattern I have laid out is normal life. You may think that what you have for lunch or what project you start off with matters little in the grand scheme of things, but it can.

What we eat can affect our health. The assignment we work on may not be what our bosses want us to prioritize. How we drive to and from work can matter because that 5MPH over the speed limit can put you somewhere where you wouldn’t have been if you had gone the speed limit. Our choices have consequences. Even the small ones.

So, we live with the consequences of life, and we deal with them as they come. Our choices can lead us to feeling stuck; in a rut. This can evolve into doubt and eventually regret, especially with the larger decisions we must make throughout our lives. The decisions we once had control over, and now look back on with questions.

Choices Made for Us

While we can choose Columbian or Guatemalan coffee for breakfast, there are some decisions that are beyond our control. Yeah, we may feel we have control over all areas of our life, but when it comes down to it, we are stuck with some things and have to make due. We are to take what we are given and use in the best manner that suits the situation, and our abilities.

For instance, I have chosen to drive a truck for a living. When I get to the terminal in the morning, I have to pre-trip the truck I am driving. These are federal laws that help protect me, the people on the highway, and the company I work for. I have no choice but to obey those laws. Otherwise, I lose my job. Yes, I can choose not to follow that checklist, but what if there was a brake line leak? I would get down the highway, and when I tried to stop, I wouldn’t be able to. Then I would cause an accident, perhaps injure someone (or worse.) I would lose my job, my license, and most likely have a lawsuit to deal with. All because I went against a choice that was made for me.

Other decisions made for us can be less dramatic. It does, however, begin with a choice we make, but what happens from there is often in someone else’s hands. We can pick a car to drive, but we may be limited to a certain type of fuel or parts to maintain the vehicle. We can choose to go to school for a degree, but the courses we must take to achieve that degree are spelled out in an outline. Or we can choose a path in life and walk that road boldly, only to find it more difficult than we thought.

When the momentum of the choices we have made begin to take on a life of themselves, we feel the loss of control. Then we make attempts to slow life down only to be overcome by the inertia of the very thing we began rolling in the first place.

Opportunities Left Behind

With the complexity of life, we get so lost in going through the motions we forget to live. Then we wake up one day and look back and wonder if we have made the right choices, or worse, we regret the choices we have already made. Regret can cause drastic actions. This can lead to the so-called mid-life crisis; the realizing that there is less life in front of you than there is behind. You carry the weight of thinking you could somehow be more than what you currently are. Don’t be mistaken; this happens to both men as well as women. Both trying to look, act, and live younger. It always leads to dangerous ground.
Regrets of past opportunities we let pass can keep us from accomplishing what we currently have set out to do. Life cannot be lived in the rearview mirror. Looking back takes our eyes off the here and now. If we focus on what has been, we lose sight of what will be. By the time we realize it, new opportunities will have passed us by, causing further regret; it’s an endless cycle.

You may hate your job and don’t see any way out. After all, it’s what you have been doing for ten years.
You may be rethinking your career path, but you have put so much money and energy into this course that you feel there is no turning back.

You may feel your life is stalled with no future ahead. You are sure that you have accomplished all you are going to.

Regret and self-doubt get you nowhere. They only destroy who you are now. However, there is a silver lining to it all. There is some good news.

Regrets are not Failures

There is one important thing to know when you are faced with feeling regret as you survey your past; you have not failed. The truth of the matter is you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Your job, your relationships, and your life are all part of a divine plan. Your responsibility is to find the joy in what has been given to you and to live that life to the fullest. No regrets, even when you are convinced that you messed up.

God has laid out a path for you. He has a plan for each of us, win, lose, or draw. We can take what we are given and utterly screw it up, but still be completely in His will. You see, God is not surprised by anything. He knows our choices before we even make them. Our mistakes are His greatest triumphs because when we fall short, we learn. (Some of us have learned a lot.)

There are two things we can do when we face failure. We can give up, throw in the towel, and sit in misery. Or we can learn from it and move on, stronger than before. Giving up should never be an option. It is an immature way to handle the situation. When we accept that life is going to have bumps, it will become easier. The more we live, the more we learn to anticipate and prepare for the strikeouts of life.

Final Thoughts

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” God gives us the courage to move on. Right from where we are at. When we learn to be content with where we currently are, then the clarity of our call will be realized. When we learn what the call on our life is, it will become our heart’s desire. When we learn to depend on his guidance toward our calling, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

There is no need for regret. You may not feel accomplished in your life, but that is a matter of perspective. There will always be someone behind you that sees you more successful than they are. The only one who can give you the proper perspective is God. Once you can see yourself through His eyes and come to an understanding that God don’t make junk, then you can begin to see the events of your life in a different light.

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Goal Setting: The Importance of Having Accountability


Last week I wrote about goal setting for 2018. Upon a reread of our discussion, I found that I talked about the importance of setting goals, and how you are the only one who can accomplish the goals you set out, but I said little about how to have a greater assurance of success. It is true that no one can accomplish your goals for you, but you can use the “cheering section” I spoke of to give you the occasional boost when your confidence is dry.

Choosing Your Goals

I hope this past week you have been successful in getting your goals narrowed down. A good rule of thumb is to write them down. A goal that can be seen gives it more life. If you merely keep your goals in the recesses of your mind, they can be forgotten or not taken as seriously.

There is something about seeing your goals in writing. Have them in a place where you can see them regularly, daily is preferable. Have them in a place that is easily seen; on a bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, or take a photo of them and make them your screensaver. This will keep them fresh in your mind.

I know, if a goal of yours is rather personal it may be difficult to see every day. Don’t look at it as a reminder of your past failures, look at it as an incentive to make that change, or motivation to reach that goal. You cannot expect to make progress without being challenged. That reminds me of a movie quote from Young Guns. Billy the Kid, played by Emilio Estevez, is talking to his fellow ruffians. He tells them, “You have to test yourself every day, gentlemen. Once you stop testin’ yourself, you get slow.” Once you stop challenging yourself, you stop growing.

That makes me think even more. That movie was about a bunch of guys who had each other’s backs. Yes, Billy the Kid was a lone wolf sometimes, and he cost his cohorts quite a bit, but they never gave up on him. Regardless of their situation, they stayed together. They lived and died in defense of a common goal.
This leads me to the reason for my follow-up; having accountability. We all need that voice in our ear, encouraging us. But who should that person be?

Choosing an Accountability Partner

While you don’t need to gun down Murphy’s men in defense of John Tunstall’s murder, to help you when you struggle, you do need a Doc Scurlock or a Chavez y Chavez to have your back. An accountability partner can console you, lift you up, and push you on to achieving your goal. AND you have their back to assist them in achieving theirs.

When you are choosing an accountability partner, there are a few things to consider:

First, they must be willing to be an accountability partner. It may be surprising to you that other people may not be as interested in your success as you are… I know, right? In all seriousness, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that nobody will take your aspirations as seriously as you. So, don’t expect just anyone to bend over backward to keep you going; going is your job.

The person who is best suited to become an accountability partner, is someone who already encourages you. A good friend, a mentor, a family member, or a spouse. The more they know about your goal already, the more supportive they will be. If you can find someone who has similar goals, you can push each other on to accomplishing them together.

Second, if you are married, the person should be of the same sex. Having an accountability partner who is of the opposite sex can cause conflict with your spouse. Even if your spouse is okay with you allowing them to help you stay accountable, it’s best to refrain from any appearance of wrongdoing. Just don’t do it.

Finally, expect them to keep you accountable. You cannot get upset with someone who is on you about your eating habits if you asked them to keep you away from the junk foods. You cannot get angry with someone who is reminding you that you gave up that habit when you gave them permission to scold you if you picked it up again. You cannot avoid your accountability partner because you falter. Your partner is not only there to encourage you; they are there to support you when you fail.

Final Thoughts

One final thing to know is that if you fall behind or break a rule, it’s okay. Making mistakes and failing is part of the learning process, part of getting to where you want to be. Nowhere are you promised success in all that you do. Life is a series of steps; forward and back. We don’t know what the next day will hold, so we must make the most of every opportunity, even if taking a chance ends in failure.

The road may be long, so do not get discouraged if you do not accomplish everything in 2018. If you take just one step closer to any of your goals by December 31, then you have made progress, and you should be proud. The point of having an accountability partner is to have the help to take more than one step. To make you not satisfied with just one step. To encourage you to success, and even more, to celebrate with you each achievement you make.

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Goal Setting: Realizing Your Destiny for 2018

It’s the end of another year. We are putting away Christmas decorations, returning the sweater two sizes too big, and prepping for a night of partying to various degrees. As we close the chapter of 2017 in each of our lives, we look to the future of what 2018 will bring.

Perhaps you had a rocky year, and you are less than enthusiastic about moving forward. Perhaps you just had the best year of your life and you feel that things couldn’t get better. Either way, you may feel a sense of fear of what 2018 can hold.

A new year always brings out people’s best intentions. The determination to make ourselves better. We set out to lose X number of pounds, receive a certification or degree, or to earn a certain amount of money. All worthwhile goals, but where is the determination come December, February 1, or Jan 15th.

Physical Goals

These are usually the first ones to go. Studies have shown that most gym memberships occur in the month of January. Of those, almost a third of them only visit the gym once a week during the first month and are dropped out by the third.

People who are not used to working out or eating healthy find the adjustment hard. Those people think that on January 1 they can flip on a switch and dive head first into the deep end of physical fitness. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s not that simple.

Fitness goals need to be structured. Fitness goals need to be spread out. If you want to eat healthily, then don’t quit ‘cold turkey’ all food that is deemed bad for you. Begin by cutting back, and what’s more important find a replacement. After a little while, cut back more. Ease your way into a healthier lifestyle.

The same goes for working out. Don’t think you have to go to the gym five times a week and twice on Saturday and work out for three hours. Be subtle. Although, the change that will be most difficult is making the time. While it doesn’t have to be three hours, you do need to work in some time and adjust as you go.

Setting worthwhile goals is not only about setting out to accomplish the important things, but it’s also about learning the discipline of what it takes to make your goals reality and having the determination to do what it takes to accomplish them.

Academic Goals

We all aspire to have the perfect job. Maybe it’s the one we are working, but most likely it is not. We simply tolerate the place we are working. Day in and day out we punch the clock and get to work, trying to work as little as possible before we can clock out and head home (or to the gym).

Most of us know where we would like to be; in a better position with our company, in a different position in another company, being on our own and calling our own shots, or even retired with a pretty good nest egg to live off. With any of these, goals need to be set to accomplish them.

As it is with Physical Goals, to accomplish your Academic goals, it’s about making subtle adjustments to get you to where you want to be. If you try and change overnight, then you will become exhausted and not keep up with it. You could also experience things like; people looking at you differently because you come in on time now instead of two or three minutes late, coworkers changing attitude with you because they see you as a brown-noser now, or even you don’t get the recognition for the positive changes you have made.

Another way these goals are like your fitness goals is that you need to know how to stagger them. Don’t try and accomplish them all by February 1, or even December 31. You will have your short-term goals, the ones that can realistically be accomplished in a year, and you will have your long-term goals, the ones where it will take some time to get there.

One of my long-term goals is to write full time. Right now, I am a truck driver in the oil field. My desires do not keep me driving a truck for the rest of my life. I do it, as most of us do, to pay the bills. My goal is to retire from working for a job, to writing as a job. This goal I hope to accomplish in five years, well, for now. I set that goal in October of 2016. AND I am well on my way. This blog is part of accomplishing my academic goals.

Whether your goal is to become a manager or CEO, or if you want to be in a different field or you have dreams of owning your own business, it begins with setting smaller goal, accomplishing them, and then moving on to the next step of your drawn-out plan.

Personal Goals

This hits a bit closer to home. Everyone can relate to getting healthy and job advancement. But not everyone is you. You are the one who looks in the mirror every morning and considers who the person is who is staring back. Either we like what we see, we don’t like what we see, or we are indifferent with good and bad thoughts. We know what we would like to be different, we know that if we just changed that one thing about us then we would look more favorably upon the figure in our reflection. And we strive to change that one thing.

Sometimes the changes are evident. Stop smoking. Drink less. Spend more time with family. Other times the changes are less obvious, at least to others. Every day you see that flaw in yourself, and you desperately want to change. This goes beyond the physical and feeling a bit pudgy. It is often a mental state that is lived in and no one knows but the person suffering.

Goals to change who we are, are the most difficult to overcome. Habits that have been ingrained in us that have us bound to making certain choices. Buying that next pack of cigarettes, or case of beer is a hard habit to break. Working that one extra hour or making that one stop on your way home is a difficult cycle to end. Even trying to make subtle changes can be excruciating.

Some personal goals can run even deeper. Deep down to the person we are, or have become. Maybe you are a negative person who always finds what is wrong with a plan or idea. Even right now you are reading this saying ‘it can’t be done, and this is why.’ I used to be a negative person. It took a while, but I have overcome my tendencies to pick things apart. Now for every one negative thing I see, I try and find two positives; BEFORE I open my mouth.

It doesn’t matter if you have an unfavorable outlook on life or if you have been a manipulative person; able to get anything you want by drawing on the pity of others. It doesn’t matter if you feel you are beyond all hope. It does not matter what your age, gender, or occupation is. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, or how bleak the future looks; you can make a change.

Change begins with the recognition of what you see your fault is. Next comes confiding in a friend that you are wanting to make a change. Then comes deciding what needs to be done to correct the issue. Finally, you need to follow through with what you decide to do. You have your confided friend as accountability.

Spiritual Goals

Now we must talk about the glue that holds everything together. Having spiritual goals helps you determine what your other goals should be. If you don’t have the spiritual recognition that something is wrong or missing in your life, then you will continue, as always, through the monotony of life with never making a difference. Without conviction in your heart, you do not desire change. Even the recognition of the lack of anything spiritual in your life is a spiritual conviction. And that is a good place to start. It creates desire.

When you desire more out of life, the one place you should begin with is yourself. And I don’t mean anything on your personal goal list. That will inherently change as spiritual goals are developed. I mean yourself; as in your heart. Who does it belong to? Yourself? Your spouse? Your children? Family? I will tell you something, every one of those people will fail you. Your family, your spouse, your kids, even you; yourself will fail you. There is only one person who never fails; Jesus Christ.

It becomes imperative that a relationship with God exists before we begin any changes in our life. Not only for direction but for the real support we need to get through the challenges we face. A friend can give you words of encouragement. A spouse and kids can give you love and support. But all that is external. You can get all the external motivation in the world and still feel unsuccessful. It is only through internal recognition that true comfort can be attained. If you don’t feel it inside, then words will fail, and often times so will you, because you give up.

The only person who can run the race is you. You can have a cheering section telling you to go and that you can do it, but unless you get on your feet and move, the race cannot be won. The confidence comes from within. And this confidence is deeper than self-induced motivation. It comes from the giver of life, the one who gives us the strength to take the next step when we are at our end; it comes from the one who wants us to succeed in all we do.

Final Thoughts

Every change we face this coming year, whether it be part of a new year’s resolution or something forced upon us, we need to go about it with a positive attitude. All circumstances put on our path are God-given. They are God-given to guide us. They are God-given to challenge us. They are God-given to grow us.

The question we need to ask ourselves as we move into 2018 is not, “Who do I want to be?” It needs to be, “Who does God want me to be?” When our focus is switched from what we want to what He wants, then the other changes that need to be made will become easier. When we chose to look to God for encouragement, then no disheartening words of man can bring us down. When we finish the God-given race before us, we develop the confidence needed to move on to the next goal. Each step moving closer to the person we are destined to be.