You Are a Winner!

         That’s what I need to hear right now. That I’ve won NaNoWriMo. Or that I’m close to winning. Trouble is, I wouldn’t believe you. I am so far behind in my NaNoWriMo word count, I don’t believe there is a way to recover. How will I ever get 35,000 words written in less than a week? I’m even having trouble writing these short blogs.

         Are you there, too? Have you given up hope of finishing? Or maybe you never started because you thought there was no hope of writing a story in a month. Don’t quit! Keep writing! Even if you don’t make it to 50,000 words, you will end the month with more words, more of the story told than you would if you gave up. Even if you are not participating in NaNo, if you are regularly visiting our site, you are most likely a writer. So write! That is what makes you winner.

         When you can’t write, though, when life is full of upheavals and activities that drain away your energy, when no matter how hard you try, it’s a struggle to get to pen or keyboard, when days go by and the scene in your head is still trying to find its way out, don’t despair. If you are a writer, you will write. That makes you a winner! Whether you get 50,000 words written in NaNo or only write one short story this month, if you continued the struggle to pull words from your brain, you are a writing winner.

         I’ve had an emotionally and physically draining few weeks. Family responsibilities, both routine and unusual, have taken much of my time. Family interactions have been particularly stressful this month. That has left me drained of energy, even in the few moments I have found to steal away to the computer. But, even with my lagging word count and my diminished hours, I still say I’m a winner.

         I have spent time with my Dad while he’s here recuperating from a car wreck. I’ve played games, put a puzzle together with him and made sure he ate well each day and had everything he needed. I tended to the routine and the not so routine things of my life. I have memorized all my lines for my part in our church’s Christmas play, I show up to practices, people can count on me. And I’m preparing a big Thanksgiving feast. I’m worn out, but this is just a season. A brief season in my life. As I have learned from my past experiences, it will all change again in time. The important thing is to keep the important things in focus. (We’ll be discussing more on how to do that next month. Be sure to come back.)

         The point I’m trying to make is that I am a winner even if I don’t win NaNoWriMo this year. And who knows? Maybe I will win. After all, I wrote 24,000 words in two days last year.

         Keep writing. Keep telling those stories. Keep struggling to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard.

         Do that and you can say, “I’m a winner, too!”

Avoiding Discouragement—A Melodrama

 

O

ptimist woke up early in the morning, refreshed from a fabulous dream she was having about her NaNoWriMo novel.

 

“I’ve got it!” She smiled to herself in the mirror. “I know how to get my heroine to the train station on time!” She winked and spun away from the mirror.

 

     She checked her email before getting started for the day. Ugh. Three messages from Discouragement. Why wouldn’t he leave her alone?! She already had to move to an undisclosed location after he started meeting her at her computer every morning with a cup of cold water.

 

     She could tell this was going to be a long day of avoiding Discouragement. Couldn’t he take a hint?

 

     She started to write the train scene but it wasn’t coming out like she thought. It seemed so good in her dream, but now….Optimist stared out the window. She gasped. Discouragement was sitting in the tree smiling at her.

 

     Aargh. She closed the curtains with a dramatic flair.

 

     The phone rang. Caller ID showed no phone number but she picked up. She needed a distraction anyway.

 

     “It’s me. Can’t we talk? We used to be so good together.”

 

     Discouragement!  She slammed down the phone, glad that it was one of those old-fashioned phones that you can slam down with a satisfying bang.

 

     She called up her friend, Edify. “Edi! I need your help. He’s back.”

 

     “Oh, he makes me so mad,” said Edi. “You are too good for him. This has been going on too long. It needs to stop here and now. You can’t avoid Discouragement any more. You’ve got to confront him. He’s not taking any hints so you’re going to have to meet him head on. Do it at a coffee shop and pick me up a double shot skinny caramel latte while you’re at it.”

 

     “Thanks, Edi. You always know what to do. But what do I say?”

 

     “Tell him that you are writing your first draft. No one writes a good first draft. Tell him that it doesn’t matter how many words it ends up being as long as you push yourself each day to write as much as you can in that day. Tell him that you are working towards your personal best. And, lastly, tell him that he’s a doofus.

 

Optimist looked at the pink sticky note on her computer and smiled. She knew just what she would do. She….(check the comments section for alternate endings…and leave one of your own! )

An Antidote to Discouragement

Discouragement isn’t a topic I tackle lightly. Nor do I think the causes and cures are only for creative people, or people going through tough times, or for those who live in one society versus another. Discouragement happens when we take things very seriously and they don’t turn out as we expected or hoped. Once we’ve established our goals or hopes, we can be like a salmon swimming upstream in our fight to keep discouragement at bay.

But I’ve found two tricks to help me keep swimming! The first and most important one is to focus on gratitude. Someone tried to explain this to me in the context of church – the power of praise – but it has taken years of practice for me to “get it.” I’ve only now understood how it works to the point where I can use it like a weapon against discouragement. Focusing on what you’re grateful for – word count, your health, being able to say goodbye to a dying friend – helps alleviate some of the pain you feel from not getting what you want – a higher word count, a better job with health insurance, longer life for everyone you love.

More than that, focusing on the things you’re thankful for keeps your brain operating in a positive manner. When the messages coming in are positive, the brain continues in that vein and will work on positive answers to the problems before it. When the messages coming in are negative because of discouragement, frustration, anger, etc., the brain will work in that manner, focusing on what’s not working. This explains part of why some days seem to go smoothly and some days feel like everything has gone wrong. The phrase “It’s all in your head” refers to how you perceive the world, not how the world may be in actuality.

The second trick I’ve learned is, when a problem arises, to immediately flip the switch in my brain and tell myself that this isn’t a problem so much as it’s a challenge, a puzzle I have to figure out. Every time I try something and it doesn’t work, I’m one step closer to figuring out what does work. This works with everything, big and small, but the bigger the problem, the more creative you have to be in figuring out how to look at it in order to avoid discouragement.

So today, I can look at my tiny word count and see failure because I am not much closer to making the world a better place through my stories. Or I can see success that, even as I was busy making the world a better place by delivering food and water to a Red Cross station to help those who lost their homes in the Southern California wildfires, I still managed to get a few words pounded out on my novel. It’s a constant re-evaluation, much like the scientific method.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph, was a pro at this! I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from him. And please, let us know what you do to avoid or defeat discouragement.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.