Thank You for Your Words, Maya Angelou. b. 1928 d. 2014

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

JK Rowling Was Afraid of Failure…Until She Did

I love JK Rowling. Love all her work. Love all her speeches. She is such an inspiration. I even toil and triumph at my keyboard under her words, pasted in vinyl on the wall in my office:

“It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are; it is our choices.”

I like the quote not only because it has a great message, but also because it demonstrates the proper use of a semi-colon, a punctuation mark that makes me nervous every time I attempt to use it in my own writing.

I found her Harvard address the other day when I was researching a post for a client. I watched it in its entirety, twice. Did I mention I just love her? I think her advice her is excellent for anyone who is afraid to fail. She explains that she was terrified to fail, so much so that she didn’t even pursue her writing, for which she had a passion all her life. But ironically, it wasn’t until she had failed at her other pursuits, the practical ones she had hammered out through compromise with her concerned parents, that she finally gave herself a chance.  She is candid about the fact that it took failure to get her to try. In fact, one quote I really liked was:

“Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Here is the entire speech. I highly recommend that you watch it. It might inspire you to try:

Just. Love. Her.

Being a writer is one of those things that is in your blood. No matter who you are or what kind of stories you tell, you either are a writer or your not. I believe that any of us who call ourselves writers need to believe that we have a story to tell. But we don’t have to hit rock bottom to tell it. Write your story. Start today.

Because not trying is the biggest failure of all.

My Goal Post

goal plan

Do you have a defined goal for your writing?

I don’t.

Oh sure, I have ideas of what I want and visions of what I my career as a writer might be in my fantasies. But a defined goal with achievable steps that reaches a certain, specific point…not so much.

Part of the problem is that I am so busy that I don’t have time to really define what I want. If I am not raising children, cleaning a house, making food for someone, or collapsed on the couch exhausted after everyone is in bed, I am writing. But generally I write for other people. My poor personal blog hasn’t had a new entry in months and the novel I started two years ago, still sits gathering digital dust in the archives of a folder called “Thoughts” on my hard drive.

This is not a bad problem. Writing every day, even if it isn’t for myself, has greatly improved my writing. Working relationships that praise my talents that have absolutely nothing to do with my ability to put a straw in a juice box, have improved my attitude. Helping others achieve their goals through my writing gives me a sense of satisfaction that my “other job” could never provide.

Plus I just love the looks I get when I tell people I’m a writer. It’s a mixture of doubt, surprise, and skepticism. And for my neighbors, worry since they think I sit in my office writing about what they are up to…

All of this is fantastic, but without goals, I am likely not going to make it to the next step. So I have set a goal to make goals. Next week. Before you judge me, I would like you to know that I scheduled it in work calendar, so this is not a real procrastination. In fact, you can email me to check up on my next Monday morning, at 9am PST to see if I kept my appointment.

But what makes good goals? Lucky for me, there have been many, many authors that have gone before me that can help with this question.

Here is a summary of my favorite points others have made on this important topic:

  • Dream big. Making a goal is silly if you can achieve it by the end of next week. That’s not the point of making goals. If you need to stretch yourself, risk a little, and really work to achieve it, then the goal is probably big enough. If you get a little embarrassed when you say it out loud, however, then it is DEFINITELY big enough and you should stop feeling sheepish about wanting it. Dreaming big is the only way to achieve big things.
  • Plan to get to the big dream. Now that you have exposed your true goal, the one that is a little embarrassing to say out loud, start figuring out how to get there. If you don’t know how to get there, Google it. You will be surprised what you can find on the World Wide Web that will help you define these milestones. Here’s one tip that you can have without even clicking your trackpad, however: If you want to be a writer, whether it’s a screenwriter, a novel, or a comic book, writing it will be the first step…pretty much in any scenario.
  • Channel your inner life coach. SMART method is a favorite of many different types of motivational gurus. That’s because it works. The SMART method helps you organize your goal achievement process by giving you criteria by which to define your next steps. The acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-related. So to summarize, make a specific yet attainable goal that has a way to measure your progress, relevant to your big dream and put a deadline on it. If you want more detail, you can Google “SMART goals” and take your pick of spins on this effective acronym.
  • Celebrate your victories; don’t give up when you fail. Working on a goal for a long period of time with no break can be demotivating and lead to abandonment of the big dream. Be sure to celebrate your victories as they come. Another reality is that not everyone achieves his or her goal. It’s a fact of life. The ones who do are the ones that never give up. Which group do you belong to?

Writing and planning your goals are an important way to achieve success. In a career like writing, it can be embarrassing to admit some of them out loud. In my experience, the people who aren’t afraid to say their goals aloud, to do the work to get there, to live through the pain of failure time and again, are the ones who achieve their goals. I need to define my goals and make my plan (next Monday at 9am, PST…) if I want to join them.

Wanna join me?