Influences

          As you have probably guessed, this week’s theme is about what influences us. When Kitty and Shonna and I came up with this topic several weeks ago, we determined that we meant outside influences. Maybe it is the emotional journey I have been enmeshed in for so long or maybe something else, but I can’t seem to think of any outside influences that are not at least an indirect result of my internal, mental and emotional influences.

          The more I consider this topic, the more I realize that what I think not only motivates me to do (or not), but it also filters what I hear and understand and believe. If I believe I’m intelligent and capable of learning, I’ll hear and draw strength from those voices of friends and others. If I don’t believe I’m capable, I probably won’t even hear blatant encouragement. If I do hear it, I’ll discount it. So what I think about myself, my abilities and my possibilities in large part determines what influences me.

          As our regular readers know, I’ve been through an emotional year and a half. I’m on the healing side of that journey, but I still need what a dear friend calls “reality checks” every so often. Periodically, she would share an event or opinion and ask for my perception. She wanted to know if her feelings and actions were appropriate or if she had misconstrued something. By getting another person’s perspective, she can better adjust, or reinforce, her mental influencers.

          My major reality check influence is the Bible. I’ve chosen to base my life on its principles. There have been times when what I read conflicted with what I thought or accepted. Because of my choice to believe and live by the Bible, I had to adjust my thinking. That hasn’t always been easy. (How can I live if I die? How do I become rich by becoming poor? Am I really loved so much the Creator of All pursues, protects and provides for me?) But I choose to believe and in the process, have found strength and purpose through difficult times.

          “How To Live Right When Life Goes Wrong” by Leslie Vernick has been a huge influence this year. I’ve read that book and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” multiple times in the past months. (Despite its title, it is more about recognizing and creating emotionally healthy relationships.)

          My friends and my family rallied around me. They believed in me when I doubted myself. They encouraged and prodded and supported me through some very dark days. One friend in particular made a point to articulate those areas where I excelled. (I didn’t believe her for months, but finally some of her words took root and replaced the negativity and self-condemnation that filled my mind.)

          God, books and friends. Seems like appropriate influencers for a writer. Wouldn’t you agree?

Who Are Your Influences?

John has a knack for finding cool photos of other people’s amazing libraries, reading rooms, and funny things made out of books. This staircase is something he promises to paint for me when we have a home of our own. I love it! When I look at it, I see a pyramid of influences.

When we paint our own stairs someday, I think I’ll paint the Bible on the bottom step. It’s my first and most important foundation for all things including my writing life. There is excellent advice on the best way to use your time, how to manage your money, how to grow as a person, and how to build healthy relationships with other people. It also gives me a lot of story ideas! The backstory of my superhero novels comes from Genesis chapter 4.

I haven’t decided who I’m going to paint on the other steps, but some of the other influencers in my writing life include Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Christopher Vogler, Dean Koontz, and C.S. Lewis. To name a very few!

When it comes to who I really listen to, though, that’s a somewhat different list. Of course, Shonna and Stephanie here at Routines for Writers are major influencers in my writing life. So are my writing friends Lauraine Snelling, Kathleen Damp Wright, Marcy Weydemuller, the Reunioners group, and The Coven, my writers group in Australia. My Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America are also high on my list. And I listen to almost all of the workshops of the annual RWA conference when I’m running, so those writer-speakers are some of my big influencers as well.

I’m beginning to find that some of my readers – old friends and new – are becoming influencers for me, too. I’ve gotten some of the nicest compliments from friends and strangers (i.e., friends I don’t know well yet) who have read Little Miss Lovesick or my short story that just came out, “Hero in Disguise” in the anthology Romancing the Pages. The things they’ve told me about what made them laugh and what they found to be romantic gave me good ideas for how to keep giving them more of the same. (And, of course, it felt great to get such positive feedback!)

I just went to the Dave Ramsey one-day EntreLeadership course on Friday. Dave has become another one of my influencers on the business side of writing. (Well, personal finances, too.) He and the other speakers at the event reminded me that if you “just” have a business and it’s not doing well, there’s nothing wrong with quitting, shutting it down, trying something else. But if you feel strongly that there is a reason for what you’re doing – I want to help young women understand they have more power over their happiness than they realize – then you should never, never, never give up!

When it comes to encouragement, I want to be one of your influencers reminding you of that same thing: if this is more than a hobby, if it’s more important than pursuing a dream for yourself, if your writing is about changing the world for the better – never, never, never give up! And while you’re at it, try to be a positive influence on those around you. Slowly, but surely, you will make the world a better place! And in that you’ll find that you have more power over your own happiness than you may realize.