Tag Archives: motivation


Everyday living for most people can be compared all-too-easily to what drought means for farmers, what the dry seasons meant to American Indians. It’s a barren time full of silence and waiting and subtle, fatalistic dread that nothing is going to happen, that life will wither and perhaps even die. And it’s that need for green, for life and living, which brings comfort and joy and the heights of emotional salvation when the rains finally come. One could make the argument that we read drama and fantasy and horror because we have an inherent, hard-wired need for emotional input—a need for rain.

That’s a writer’s job, at least some of the time. We must don the doe’s skull and bright feathers. We must clothe ourselves in tanned hides and wrap bone rattles about our wrists and ankles. We must dance, sprouting clouds of dust as we stomp our feet and we sweat upon the hard-baked clay of everyday life.

It’s our job.

One of the hardest things writers have to live with is the uncertainty that their dancing has brought rain, sprinkled or poured a little bit of life into a reader’s existence. The truth is that most writers, especially at the beginning of their careers, never find out if their dancing has borne precipitation. There is this gulf—a fundamental disconnect—between writer and reader, one that leaves writers with cracked lips and dusty throats.

I recently had two experiences—more milestones in my career—which gave me tangible evidence that my own dancing was not in vain. Last fall I submitted a short story called Family Heirloom to the magazine Steampunk Trials. It’s a steampunk take on the Underground Railroad where a white widow and a freed slave build an Underwater Railroad in Missouri.

Included in the acceptance email was a very simple accolade, and one I’ll never forget. The story had brought tears the editor to eyes. When I wrote that story, it was with the absolute intention of touching, playing upon the heartstrings of the reader. I intended to bring forth the emotions of suffering and sacrifice, highlight the resolve of an individual to carry on and enrich the lives of the next generation in spite of tragedy.

Because of that first editor’s response, I chose Family Heirloom as the lead in a short story collection of mine that came out this summer. It’s not a best-seller in no small part because it contains cross-genre short stories, which is really a double-whammy against people even looking at it, let alone buying it. And yet, in spite of its uphill battle to gain recognition, I recently received another bit of rain. One of the reviewers up on Amazon said the same thing as the editor: that the story had brought tears to his or her eyes, and that other stories in that volume also had profound emotional effects. A reader took the time to let me—and the world—know that there was rain to be found between those pages.

For a writer, there’s nothing better than that.

So, to all the writers who read this, I can say but one thing: keep dancing. And to every reader, for all the rain you have been given by authors, give them some back. Give them the rain they need in the form of emails and reviews and word-of-mouth praise for the rain that has sustained you.

Drought is a fact of life, but we all possess the means by which we can bring rain to those who need it.



Tales of Love and Triumph

If we do our jobs as writers well, the product looks and feels effortless. However, I can assure you that it is anything but easy. The path of a writer is long and rocky, filled with rejection and discouragement from all sides. This, more than anything, is why most people who want to write a book never do, and why most completed manuscripts are never sold. It takes determination, passion and flat out stubbornness succeed. But, most importantly, it takes love.

The talent of all creative professionals is born from the love of a fan. First, we find joy in the work of others and then seek to develop our own skills through emulation until we are able to forge a unique style. Our efforts are nurtured by the love of friends and family until they develop enough to stand on their own merit. Then, the drive to create is fueled by the enthusiasm of fans. Without love, art is meaningless.

In recent months, we have been dealing with some pretty heavy topics on the Fictorians. When I was asked to lead July’s month of posts, I wanted to make sure we spoke on something meaningful, yet entertaining. I wanted to give my fellow Fictorians and our guests the chance to be inspiring and sentimental, clever and laugh out loud funny, and most importantly of all, real. So, I proposed that we speak on love, specifically those moments that keep us going when the road gets rocky. We will spend the next 30 days drawing back the curtain and letting you see into our lives, with the hope that our own stories touch and motivate you to create your own art.

This month, the Fictorians and I present the stories and moments that make us love to be writers.

Rothfuss and Praise

Patrick Rothfuss While I was in Brighton for the World Fantasy Conference, I was given the opportunity to hear Patrick Rothfuss read from one of his novels at a nearby bookstore.  Patrick did a great job and his humor and wit worked well with the foreign audience giving him plenty of material to work with.  By sheer chance I was given a seat in the front and after the reading I decided to stay sitting and wait while everyone else lined up to get a book signed.  What happened next amazed me.

While it wasn’t my intention to eavesdrop on all the conversations, fans are really passionate people and they’re really hard to ignore.  In the time I was there, I was witness to some incredible stories about how the stories Rothfuss created have inspired and improved their readers.

One story spoke of a girl who followed Kvothes lead and decided to go travel the world.  Another fan started taking piano lessons after hearing how music was able to move people in the books.  Patrick, each time, would look humbled and truly grateful at the words and the sentiments.  It was beautiful to watch and inspiring as a distressed author.

My work has been hurting since I would put other tasks before my writing.  They’re all important, in my mind, but the other tasks had deadlines and people waiting on me.  These tasks would always take priority, and I would just tell myself that I could just write tomorrow.  My intentions were good, but it turned into a perpetual postponement of my work.  I needed a deadline that would give my writing a fighting chance against these other things that seem to fill my time, and as I starting thinking back on that night in the bookstore the idea occurred to me.

Everyone always says you need to write for yourself.  This is true.  Don’t lose the love and passion that goes into your writing.  Don’t let it become just a job.  But don’t let that stop you from looking forward to your work being consumed and truly loved by others.  Let that be a motivation that helps keep you moving.  Others are out there waiting for that little push that will make their lives greater.  When you finish your work, people will read it.  Readers will reflect on their own lives as they do so.  They’ll put themselves in the place of the protagonist, and wonder why they aren’t out there playing an instrument or traveling the world.  They’ll wish they could draw, or sing, or dance like the illusion they paint in their minds eye does.  And, in that moment of vulnerability where the hero exceeds expectations and the emotions are riding high, they’ll cheer for that image that is shining in their heads and do something about it.

Let those people become your deadline.  They’re out there waiting.  Waiting for you to finish your novel.  Waiting for that push.  Waiting for your work.  Write for yourself.  Write to tell the story only you can tell.  Write to inspire.  Write to change the world and keep writing until it happens.  Someday, you’ll be sitting in a bookstore surrounded by fans and some troubled author will watch and even that will inspire someone.  They’re waiting for you.  Go do it!

Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders Charity is in the last week of their Christmas Fundraiser. Go consider donating to help make the world a better place!

Taking Back What Was Stolen

Today is an important day.

Politics and economies and foreign policies aside, September 11th is a day to remind us of standing up after something is destroyed. It’s a day to rise above adversity, to strive to rebuild and rework and hunker down and not let others take away what lies within ourselves, no matter what.

I’m old enough now that I don’t remember how old I was in the 5th grade. I actually had to think about it. That’s another epiphany regarding time in a growing list of them as I get gray at the temples.

I guess I was nine when I discovered a love of writing because of what it could evoke in readers. What started it all off was a story about an alien world and lava pools and molten spiders. The teacher loved it. My classmates loved it. It was the first time I ever heard someone read out loud what I had written. And in that moment a fire was kindled—a dream born.

So I kept writing—here and there—because it was a way to explore new places, even play god by creating them and setting lost souls adrift within them. But, while all this was going on, reality struck hard and took hold.

My father was born in 1929—in Brooklyn, New York. While you probably didn’t hear about the birth of my father till just now, you may have heard of something else that took place in the same city and the same year. It was called Black Tuesday, and in its wake lay the Great Depression. These were the formative years of the man who would eventually raise me. He had very specific ideas on career choices and artists and stability and retirement. Being an author wasn’t in that mix.

Like it says on the bio I have on my website, I was “…waylaid by bandits armed with the age-old adage, ‘So you wanna be a starving artist the rest of your life?’” Those words came from my father. More than once. And they killed the dream I had… or, it seems, pushed it into a deep coma. I don’t blame him for what he tried to do. There’s no doubt that my father cared deeply for all three of his children, and he did have the very best of intentions. He thought he was helping.

So, one day, after having spent seventeen years in IT and pursuing a career that wasn’t mine for reasons that belonged to someone else, I found myself staring down the barrel of a layoff. A few mornings after, I woke up wondering what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was forty-three, a bit long in the tooth to start a new career, but totally disinterested in going back to IT.

And then the writer within me, the one that had slept soundly for over two decades, woke up. You know what he told me? He said that he’d rather die a starving artist than live another day as a slave to the corporate grind. And then he became me.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a day-job, and it’s still somewhat in IT. I write technical documents for a software company. It’s enough to pay what few bills I have while I whole-heartedly pursue the dream. And that’s the lesson here.

I’m reminded of the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” If there is one quote to take away from that film, it’s when he’s talking to his son. They’re living on the street and his boy talks about becoming a superstar basketball player. Will’s first response is to shoot down the dream because it’s risky and many don’t make it, and he’s raising his son on the street. Then he stops. And ponders. And then fixes what he broke with his words by saying, “Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”

I still get teary-eyed when I think of that. I was that little boy, but I never got the fix. My own father didn’t figure it out till after I started having successes in the writing game, and that was twenty-five years later… after I did it myself.

But I’m telling you now: if you have a dream, don’t let anyone take it away from you. Ever. You may fail over and over again, but that’s what dreams are for, to give us a moon to shoot for. And if there is a better definition of what this life is about, I don’t know it.

So go get it.