Failure is a stepping stone not a stopping point.

“Obstacles are put in your way not to stop you, but to call out your courage and strength.”

In my quest for mentors and role models to guide me in this new realm of entrepreneurship, the ones who seem to resonate with me the most are the ones who have failed the most on their journey. They are the ones who seem to have lost everything on their road to success but still kept going. In fact, their failures seem to pivot them toward another path that eventually would propel them to a higher level of success.

How a failure launched another dream.

For example, Dave Ramsey is a name brand in the finance coach arena, but his past isn’t perfect nor does he hide it. He used to be in real estate, and at one point needed to file for bankruptcy relief. Around that time, he started coaching small groups around money matters, and soon, Financial Peace was born.

I don’t know how he found the grace and grit to rise, but I’m thankful he did. Because of his teachings, I am free of credit card debt, and am on to the third baby step of his process (save 3-6 months of expenses in savings).

What may have seemed like a huge failure at a time, actually became a new beginning and calling. I have been blessed by his financial coaching, and I know millions more have been as well.

The Success Halo

There’s this halo, at least in my mind, that if someone is successful then they did the right thing all the time perfectly. In the process, I automatically disqualify myself from anything because of my perceived failures. I would hit an obstacle, and assume it meant “Go no farther.”

What has taken me too long to understand is that an obstacle simply means: “Go a different way.”

(Or, it may even mean, “Not now, come back later.”)

The word success has such a positive connotation to it that we immediately equate it with: easy, done, perfect. The reality is that behind every success story is a string of struggles, obstacles, and failure.

Failing is part of success, not the opposite of it. The ones who have reached a modicum of success are just those who have learned to fail fast, and keep moving toward their goal.

How to Fail Well

I think part of success is developing your mental resilience like you would any muscle. In sports and fitness, you learn how to fall safely in order to prevent injuries. The same can be applied to our other non-physical goals.

Here are four practices to strengthen your mental resilience

  1. What did I learn from this? Re-align yourself with your outcomes. Are your activities aligned with your purpose? If not, then let go and feel good about it.
  2. What’s the next step? So often we look to our Big Goal and it seems like this immovable point in the distance always out of reach. Focus instead on the next step that you need to do, and gain momentum there.
  3. Remember your Why. Meditate and reflect on your Why so that you can be re-energized for your work and better serve those around you. Even the most menial or tedious task can be transformed into something joyful and rewarding simply by remembering Why you’re doing it.
  4. Gratitude. When you reflect on all the things you’re grateful for, you will feel better mentally and physically. You become more others-focused rather than self-focused. It will help you focus on the positive things in life that you want to protect and enable others to have as well.

Just like any exercise, the more intentional and consistent you are, the easier these practices will be.

I know it’s hard to see in the moment, but failures aren’t meant to stop you. Failures just show you that you need a different perspective both on your goal and of the failure itself. It gives you the chance to pause, reflect, and strengthen your vision for what you hope to accomplish.

I hope that wherever you are in your journey, that you’re still pushing toward your goals, whether you’re already in action or are still dreaming.

And, if you’re stuck, let me know. I can be a sounding board, accountability partner, or cheerleader. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

Liza

PS

I’ll eventually be moving this blog to a self-hosted site. I think I’ll be able to move my readers/subscribers with me via Jet Pack, but if not, I’ll make sure to add your email addresses to keep you in the loop!

PPS

I was thinking about doing a simple fitness and planning challenge to start off the new year. Like a “Transform your body, Transform your mind” challenge. I’ll be hosting it here for the first week of January. I’ll post details tomorrow–lemme know what you think!

Do You Have Any Writing Advice For Me?

 Writing Advice

I was deleting old emails from this blog’s contact form, and stumbled upon an email from a young lady stating that she hoped I was a friendly variety of writer, and asked, “Do you have any writing advice for me?”

I checked my email archives, and was happy that I wrote her back. Her question, after all, was very easy to answer, since I feel like I have to continually advise myself every day I write. My emailed response to her was this…

 I don’t really have much advice in the way of writing, since I’m still learning myself!  The best advice that I’ve read for any writer is something that Stephen King said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That’s pretty much all you need to know and do, especially while you’re still in school.  Read as much as possible.  Read read read.  While you’re reading as much as you can, write write write. When you surround yourself with words, you’ll be able to use them more creatively.

On my blog, I chronicle my writing journey.  Feel free to poke around there, and glean any learnings as I stumble around on my own writing path.  Though my goal is to be a published author one day, the skill/art of writing is a talent that I believe needs to be strengthened and sharpened continually.  It’s like a muscle that way.  You use it or lose it. My blog is my way of keeping myself accountable to “using” my writing skill.

Oh, one more thing: as you write, remember why you’re writing.  I truly enjoy creating stories, and I love getting lost in the creative process.  Sure, it gets frustrating sometimes, and I get tired, but in the end, I write because I love it.

…and re-reading it now, my advice wouldn’t change if she asked me again. The best part? Seeing my old words, “Sure, it gets frustrating sometimes, and I get tired, but in the end, I write because I love it,” and knowing they’re still as true today as they were six months ago.

Friendly Variety of Writer

There was one point in her email that stuck out to me that I didn’t notice the first time I read it six months ago. (Possibly because I was still amazed that anyone would ask me for writing advice, and was distracted by making sure my answer made sense.) (Also, what a great argument for letting a manuscript rest before revising it.) The young lady hoped that I was a “friendly writer.”

Of course, because I’m me, I’ve wondered all morning if she had encountered many unfriendly writers to have phrased her sentence that way, and moreover, if I lived up to her expectation of being a friendly writer.

Anyway, I didn’t write this last part to garner any words of sympathy or encouragement. Only that the realization gave me the opportunity to reflect on my writing journey and public persona, and to hope that I can be a support to my writing peers. (After all, writers provide me with books, my drug of choice, and I need to support my addiction.) 🙂

So, what one piece of writing advice do you share the most? What recent epiphanies have you had that caused you to reflect on your writing journey?

PS: One of my favorite author role models is Beth Revis, and she wrote a blog post HERE that stayed with me long after reading it.

Routines

The Writing Life

Image by Simply Bike via Flickr

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

I probably shouldn’t have titled this post, “Routines” since that implies a certain healthy-ness that my writing habit does not have. Maybe “Ritual” would be more appropriate. Or, “Addiction.” Oh well.

Anyway, a running theme with all time management gurus is this: whatever goal you have, make sure you do it first thing in the morning. There are plenty of reasons why this advice is common, so I won’t get into that here. And, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that advice. I’m just saying it’s out there.

Well, I’ve discovered a long time ago that I’m not a first thing in the morning kind of writer. I’m actually not the best thing at anything first thing in the morning, unless you count coffee and meditation (read: staring off into space) as a “thing.” (Although, while on vacations, I enjoy morning walks on the beach. Since I live in the Midwest, this is not so much a possibility in my everyday life…) But, after my cup of coffee, putting the dishes away, and my morning ablutions, I can sit down and hammer away at the keyboard and sprint out a couple of pages before work. Then, after a day of work and other non-think-y pursuits, I can bust out more pages at night right before bed. (Actually, through a happy accident of passing out on the couch after a late night movie marathon, and not being able to get back to sleep, I found that I’m the most productive and creative between 1AM-4AM…possibly because my brain is really supposed to be sleeping and dreaming, but hey, whatever works, right?)

But, before my self-discovery, I thought I was the most uninspired, unfocused writer ever! After all, ALL the author websites that I’ve visited that have a “My Writing Process” page include waking up at 6AM to write their requisite page counts per day. I know all writers have a different process, and we all have to find out what works best for us, but I always felt “wrong” for not having a morning writing session.

Now, I have my semblance of a routine, and feel good about it. (I know, I know, I should sleep more, but sometimes, writing into the night and “dreaming” that way is WAY more refreshing to me than sleeping a full eight hours.)

How about you? When are you the most productive? What habits/quirks/superstitions do you have in your writing routine?

Are There Methods in the Madness of Writing?

Cup

My favorite writing accessories: coffee and moleskine

I’ve been in a business/management environment for the better part of a decade and I can’t help but think in terms of following best practices, finding strengths and opportunities, and creating action plans to leverage found strengths against any opportunities (aka, areas of weakness, but no one likes to say “weakness”). I do this unconsciously, and constantly analyze and re-analyze various scenarios in order to arrive at the results I want, hopefully becoming more efficient, more effective with each project.

I’ve been thinking recently about how to finish my story in the most effective manner possible. Of course, I am familiar with the stayinyourseatandtype writing method, and the don’tlookatbrightandshinyfacebooktwitteryoutube avoidance techniques. Those address the problems of discipline, work ethic and focus: all very important, but not necessarily what I’m thinking about at the moment. It’s more like I want to know best practices, methods and techniques that other writers have employed to get them from one scene to another, eventually stringing all the pretties together into a finished story.

I’ve mentioned before that I have completed my plot outline of the major points of the novel. So, here I am plodding along, filling in the blanks between the points of that plot outline. But, I have been wondering recently: should I keep writing straight through the story as it is laid out chronologically (per my plot outline), or would it be more effective (or at least equally effective?) to write out some of those “fun” scenes, those major plot points, and then write in the transition scenes later on?

I’ve read that “writing to” something helps to iron out what those little, in-between scenes need to be, especially important if I need to hide clues or throw red herrings in along the way (though I’m not to that point in the story yet). I know for me, I had a glimpse of another chapter of my character’s life (basically the beginning of a potential other book, though I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, so I’ve chosen to call it “chapter”), and it looked like so much fun, that it helped me to outline and plot the novel toward that point. Plus, it just made sense to see how the BIG picture ends.

But, I still have a nagging little voice in my head that tells me if I touch those big scenes first, then I will lose the motivation/fire/passion to write the rest of the scenes. I know it’s silly, and I’ve come a long way from that mindset, but it’s still there.

cute cuddly with the potential for scary...yup, that's my muse

I know there’s no right way to go about this per se, and that the best method is the one that keeps me writing. So, let’s just call this inquiry my overwhelming, insatiable need to know things, and you get to help me learn more about the creative process. What method do you use in your madness, and why do you like it? The jittery, caffeine addicted gremlin that is my muse would like to know.