Monday, March 14, 2011

Challenges

One of the themes that is present in my novels is that, if we believe and give our all, we can overcome any challenge.  Sure, there are things that are beyond our reach in this moment, but to limit ourselves to what we can touch in this instant simply doesn't work for me.  All of us grow - sometimes consciously, sometimes as a simple response to circumstances - but from the moment we took our first breath, each day we become more than we were the day before.

I've been approached by a fairly large number of people who are interested in writing a novel of their own.  Somewhere in the conversation the phrase, "I can't," appears.  It may be as blunt as a declaration or as subtle as a wistful, "I'd really like to," that has no conviction or belief behind it.

Each of us faces challenges.  The journey isn't in teleporting beyond those challenges, but is found in the strength and perspective we develop while overcoming the obstacles before us.

Take writing novels, for instance.

Most people assume that if you've published a novel, the writing process must be reasonably free of challenges for you.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I often transpose letters and numbers in strange mirror patterns - such as the number "4" and the letter "h."  On top of that, I suffered a nearly fatal illness as a child which created great difficulties for me when I try to work with words that sound similar to each other.  For instance, my brain will take a word like "typically" and write "technically" instead.  Almost two years ago, I suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke that primarily hit my communication centers and left me completely unable to write.  When I attempted to speak (due to a condition known as Broca's aphasia), I knew what I wanted to say but my brain couldn't put the words in any sort of order.  I was limited to "baby talk" and sentences that consisted of no more than three or four words strung together.  Any more than that and my brain would lose the meaning of what I was trying to say.

In the midst of those challenges, if I focused on the end result I hoped to achieve - for example, publishing a novel - it would put my goal far beyond my reach.  How can you publish a novel if you can't even write?  What I do is break my challenges down into pieces that I can engage with, those things that I can reach out and touch.  It's not, "Today I'm going to relearn to write," but, "Today I'm going to write a sentence."  If I looked at the journey before me as, "I'm going to write a 100,000 plus word novel," I'd find that the goal is beyond my reach.  I can't engage it; realistically I can only work with what's right in front of me.  Instead I look at the journey and say, "Today I'm going to write the first sentence," or, "Today I'm going to write the first paragraph."  That's where I begin.  That I can do.

As you approach the goals you set for yourself, don't qualify them.  Give yourself room to be human; to be flawed; to be real.  When I'm writing a novel, I don't allow myself to edit the book until the manuscript is complete.  If I focused on making the first chapter "perfect," the second chapter would never be written.  Take pride in what you do accomplish and don't qualify your successes.

Engaging your challenges in such a manner will do more than simply help you reach your goals.  Each step of this journey will deepen your strength and your perspective.  As an artist - and all of us are artists in one manner or another - we draw upon who we are to create our stories, fill our canvases with color, or add beauty to the relationships we hold dear.  They say, "Write what you know."  That process starts with you.  Know yourself.  Believe in yourself.  Set goals you can reach and engage them.  Grow.

Lao Tzu wrote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  I'm preparing to publish my second novel in May and I had to relearn how to speak and write.  Just imagine where your own journey can take you.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, what an amazing story of perseverance.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this, Jeffrey!! Well said and Words so true...:)

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  3. Nancy, Throwsnaill, Bookblogger, and Majesticnanook: Thank you! We all face our own challenges. When looked at from afar, they may seem to come in different sizes, but they're simply what each of us know in the moment we're in. I'm certain that each of you have faced things along the way that helped shape you into the person you are today. Ah, this crazy thing called, "Life..." ;) LOL

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