Two choices: quit or keep trying

swimmers in a pool
My kids learned perseverance and to never give up from swimming.

Recently I lost an entire manuscript that I failed to back up. I was devastated. My computer was randomly deleting files and the automatic backup I thought was going on — wasn’t.

It’s been a longtime goal of mine to have a book published. I’ve written several manuscripts, but so far the goal has been elusive. When my latest attempt disappeared I was tempted to quit altogether. I’m not getting any younger and maybe I’m wasting my time.

But I got over myself and I am enjoying writing the manuscript with a fresh perspective and new POV.

This incident reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago when I was disappointed and almost quit. Here’s a bit of it:

I got an unfortunate email yesterday. It was from an agent, who was reviewing my mid-grade novel I’ve been working on for years. Long story short, it was a no.

This is a big goal of mine, to get this book published. Finding an agent is one step along the way, and I had glimmers of hope when a couple agents were truly interested and one in particular, wanted eight weeks to take a deep dive.

When my husband consoled me I said, “I have two choices. I can quit or keep going.”

Four times since that email, I ran into messages like someone was placing a big neon sign in front of me with specific directions.

 

Fishing at Big Bear Lake
Dad fishing at Big Bear.

One

Dad shared that he spent almost three hours fishing yesterday. He was ready to give up, but decided to cast one more time in the last few minutes before he was due to return the boat. Yes, he caught a fish!

Two

I was looking at FB and a writer friend posted how lucky she was to find several four-leaf clovers yesterday after hours of looking. She said to never give up. Never!

Three

On Twitter, I saw from bestselling author Brad Thor a book recommendation for #Grit, a book about passion and perseverance. Yes, I’ll order it from Amazon today.

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Four

On SwimSwam.com, an article jumped before my eyes: “6 TIPS TO KEEP YOU CHASING YOUR SWIMMING GOALS WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP,” by Olivier Poirier-Leroy, who writes really good stuff for swimmers that can be used in all aspects of life.

Here was part of his advice to get in touch with your feelings when you started on the journey:

“What are the reasons that I want to achieve this goal? List 2-3 reasons for why this goal is important to you. This is the simplest way to get in touch with your original set of motivations.

How will you feel when you push past the resistance you are feeling now? Think back to the last time you kicked down the wall of resistance that was in front of you. Yeah, that time. How did you feel afterwards? Proud? Like a certified O.G.?

Will you regret giving up a year from now? Imagine yourself a year from now. A year smarter, a year older, and hopefully a year further along. Is “Future You” going to be pumped about you having quit today?”

I got the message loud and clear. I’m not giving up on my goals or dreams. This is all part of the process, and yes there will be some ups and downs. It’s so cliched, but it’s also true.

Update:

I decided to put away the mid-grade novel after I submitted it to an editor who was a speaker for a webinar. For a fee you could get a critique. He gave me the snottiest, most hurtful critique. I’ll admit my feelings were hurt. Perhaps it was more of a reflection of his personality than my writing. I’ve started other projects including the manuscript I’m working on now. In the future I may get the mid-grade novel out and take a fresh look.

Yes, getting a rejection letter and a nasty critique are not great. Quitting on a dream would be worse.

How do you handle disappointment? What goals have your given up on? What goals are you still pursuing?

Motivated by bloggers

cat on SwimSwam magazines
Olive hanging out on top of magazines with my stories inside. She doesn’t want anyone to read them.

I literally dusted off two picture book manuscripts that I wrote 20 years ago — thanks to my blogging community.

I was motivated again by blogger LA for her leap entering a writing competition. In her comments section, I lamented that I had not fulfilled my dream of having a book published. Another blogger along with LA encouraged me to keep going.

Although I’ve won contests, been published by magazines, websites and newspapers — that elusive book deal hasn’t happened.

I realized that it won’t happen — because I quit submitting to agents and publishers two years ago.

When I said I dusted off two picture book manuscripts, it’s because I discovered they aren’t on my laptop, nor are they on icloud. They’re on backup devices that no longer work with my current system. It has been 20 years since they were on my computer or backed up. That’s a lifetime in nano years.

I wondered if I had thrown out all my manuscripts when we moved? If so, my work would be lost. After searching the house and garage, I found two notebooks that I used to keep copies of my manuscripts, a spread sheet of submissions and a bevy of rejection letters. It wasn’t sad to look at the rejection letters, some had personal handwritten notes and were encouraging.

Long gone are the days of the snail mail submission with an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). I won’t receive hand written notes or form letters in the mail. Everything is done online and many publishers and agents don’t send rejections. If they aren’t interested, they don’t respond. Fortunately, some do reject via email, so I’ll know from those agents and publishers if my submission got lost in the ethers — or not.

I quickly typed the two manuscripts into my laptop and I’ll be off pursing my dream once again.

What are your goals or dreams? Have you stuck with it or did it go by the wayside?

If I could only remember

Olive with her cat grass.

I’ve been struggling with the NaNo Prep 101 assignments. I can’t quite find my idea or nail down the characters for the writing challenge I signed up for in November where I’m going to write 50,000 words of a novel in 31 days. I’m weeks away and just not thrilled with anything I’ve come up with.

Here’s a description of the first assignment:

Some people struggle to come up with a novel idea that excites them! Some people are idea machines, but have a hard time committing to one. Tackle this week’s exercise to focus on finding inspiration… and then hone in on a few ideas that spark your creative passion.

https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101#week1

Last week I completed the first assignment. I had some inspiration with my characters but struggled through the next week’s tasks:

Week 2: Create Complex, Believable Characters
(Strong enough to shoulder a novel and hold your interest)
Week 2 Exercise: Character Development and Questionnaires
Characters are the active drivers of your story, and a huge part of a first draft is getting to know the characters you’re creating. Get a head start with this exercise!

Last night I had a vivid dream where it was all laid out. I had five characters. I was filling out their backstories, their ages, appearances, mannerisms, pet peeves, desires. It was all coming together. I made progress on the plot and was so excited to write. I was sitting at my laptop, editing, making changes, completing the exercises.

Morning came. Olive the cat jumped on the bed and woke me up. I struggled in my morning pages trying to remember my characters. They floated away out of my mind’s reach. I wonder if they were any good? Or was it my mind working through the process?

Have you ever problem solved or figured out a creative solution in your dreams? Do you usually remember your dreams or not?

Do your ever dream about pets?

Angus and Sherman visit me in my dreams. Angus lived until 15 and Sherman was 18, RIP.

This might seem weird. But from time to time my RIP pets enter my dreams. I’m so happy to be reunited with them. This happened to me last night. My childhood dog Pepi was there. She was so happy, waving her tail and playing with a ball. I watched her romp around. Pepi was born on my six birthday, one of a litter of 10 golden retriever pups that arrived on my special day.

In my dream, I couldn’t believe how good Pepi looked. I was telling a friend that she was born when I was six. I was trying to figure out how old that would make her, but got stymied after I hit 50 years old. That couldn’t be! Even in my dream, I knew that was way too old for a golden.

Often when my pets visit me in my dreams, I see them from afar, running through a field. I sometimes get to pet them, but mostly they are out of reach.

I wonder what it means when our pets are in our dreams? I googled pets in dreams and one thing stood out to me. Several websites said that dreaming of our own pets means that we are preparing to take care of someone. Interesting, since I’m going to be flying to the Bay Area to take care of my son after his surgery.

kids playing with a Rottie
My kids celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Natasha also appears in my dreams. We had her for 10 years.

What are your thoughts about pets in dreams? Do you ever dream of a pet that’s passed away, or do you dream about a pet that you have now?

How to catch your dreams

download-2I’ve discovered a few secrets on how to take control of my life and pursue my dreams.

First, have you defined your dreams? If not, write them out. Make it specific and concrete. Write out a few steps you can take right away. They can be baby steps, not huge leaps.

Second, after you’ve written down your dreams and goals do you find that everyday life gets in the way? I’ll sit down and write or make that phone call — after I unload the dishwasher, sort the laundry, and weed the garden. Plus, the car needs an oil, lube and filter. Then, I’ll get started on my dreams.

Third, is it fear that is holding you back, not life in general? Why aren’t you following up on your baby steps? Take a close look at what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing and ask why.

Here are my tips on how to overcome my fears and reach for my dreams.

ROUTINE:

I revel in my routine. I was talking about routines with my husband this morning. He said he believes all mammals crave routines. For example, Olive, our cat, leads a structured life. She stays out all night. She wanders in announcing her arrival with three short little mews at the same time every morning and then jumps onto my tummy. She meows a little louder and wants me to walk her to her food bowl. Minutes later, after I’ve snuck back into bed, she’s back on my tummy for a kitty dance before she settles in for the day.

Baby Olive

Baby Olive.

At this point, I have to slip out from under the covers without disturbing Olive, to start my morning routine.

My routine involves writing three pages longhand every morning of every day. This clears my mind so I’m open to new creativity. It serves as a brain dump to get those niggling uncomfortable thoughts out into the daylight. Some days my morning pages are a long to-do list.

The few times that I’ve missed my morning pages I’m anxious and jittery.

EXERCISE AND FRESH AIR:

The second phase of my morning routine, besides the basics of toothpaste, floss and face cream, is to walk. I walk two miles around my neighborhood and park, marveling at the beauty and how I get another chance to start fresh. I throw in a short stretching routine, sit-ups and pulldowns. Energized and refreshed, I’m ready to start my work.

DO THE BAD STUFF FIRST:

Another tip is to tackle those things that you don’t want to do–first. Get them crossed off your list and your day will open up.

Fear and anxiety can be big blocks. When I take my fear head on I’m motivated rather than blocked. Anxiety is energy. I tell myself to harness and ride it toward my dreams.

I have a sign in my living room that says, “Live now. Procrastinate later.” Such good advice that I try to follow it.

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4 Tips to Make Dreams Come True

IMG_8956Do you have a secret dream that you’ve been working towards for years? Or, maybe a dream you once had, but never reached? What’s holding you back? Why aren’t you moving forward? Do you feel stuck in your daily grind, with no time to finish that project, or follow your dream?

I’m reading a book that provides a strategy to make dreams come true.

It’s called “From Chump to Champ: How Individuals Go From Good to Great” by David Benzel. He’s an author, athlete and sports family coach. I discovered him on the USA Swimming website. He offers monthly webinars and has written books that are inspirational and helpful.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

What I’ve discovered and learned so far from reading this book are the following four tips:

  1. Dream—Be specific about your dream. Like going to Olympic Trials. Please take note as a new Masters swimmer in my 50s, this is not my dream. It’s someone else’s dream, but a good one to use as an example.
  2. Goals—Set steps that you need to take to reach your goal. Say, if you’re a swimmer, and your dream is Olympic Trials, then you have a specific time goal. If you need to drop a second to get your cut, what daily things are you going to do to get there? Cut out junk food? Work on underwaters? Those would be specific goals to reach your dreams.
  3. Visualize—Use the theater of your mind to picture what it will be like getting your Olympic Trials cut. Make a movie in your head and replay it over and over all the way through.
  4. Belief—This is the hardest one for me. Get rid of that pesky voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, or your dream is just a dream. “I’m not talented enough to make it to Olympic Trials. Other swimmers are stronger and taller than me.” Change the self-talk to positive. “I’ve worked hard my entire life for this. Nobody works harder than I do.” Reflect on all your accomplishments and the hard work you’ve put in. How you’re setting yourself up for success.

Step #4 is the one that 80 percent of us need to work on. It’s the last stumbling block we need to overcome before realizing our dreams.

Sunset at the beach.

Sunset at the beach.

Can you imagine what it would be like to face life fearlessly every day? Excited to reach your dreams? Carpe Diem! Let’s go for it!

Carpe diem.

Carpe diem. Photo by Debbie Gardiner