Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writing Motivation: Draw Strength From Your Past

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Writing is the toughest job I've ever had. This may also be true for many of you reading this. Sure, the craft can be learned, but it's a tough industry to break into, and one where the rules aren't easy to learn, except to learn the hard and long way. But when you love something, maybe its true value is best appreciated no other way than but the longest most brutal journey possible. 

Today I'd like you think about a moment to draw strength from, to give you the motivation to keep you inspired, to push you to keep trying, no matter how far or how close you are to reaching your personal goal. Today I hope to push you just one more day. And where maintaining and even building momentum is what makes a writer successful, another day is a hell of an achievement.  

Think of a time you were most proud of yourself--the day that against all odds you triumphed. A day that amidst the toughest days of your life, you achieved something special. That no matter your failures today, nothing and no one can ever take that moment from you. 

The day that comes to mind for me was the day I sat before my platoon of forty young police cadets, feeling defeated beneath the humid, midday San Diego heat, holding the elite position of Guide, and giving them a speech that would forever define me...and forever hold their respect. I never wanted to be elected Guide (platoon leader), to lead a group of others when I wasn't sure if leading was something I could even do. 

But that first day of boot camp marked the longest, toughest five days of my teenage life, I was commanded to the front of the platoon, after shouting my position. "Forty-two!" I'd screamed, standing a shy 5'1" 105 pounds. Maybe it was my bellow that despite my tiny form, was loud and clear, but I was suddenly commanded to stand before my drill sergeant, handed a tall pole with a colored flag on the end, and given the task of Guide. "Try not to get fired," he said to me.

I stared up at all 6'5" of the beefy man, and into those baby blues, cast on a face that looked shockingly similar to Val Kilmer, and made a silent promise that "No, I won't get fired..." No matter what.

So there we were, three days into boot camp, fatigue and heat seeping into our already waning bodies. A girl had fainted from the heat, forcing our drill sergeant to leave me watching over the platoon. They were staring at me, after having just seen me lift a 160 pound dummy across a lawn in less time than it took their jaws to drop. It was the adrenaline, I'm sure, that had helped me carry the massive doll. But they'd also seen me zip across an obstacle course and leap over fences and six foot walls, sprinting and dashing across the track, besting every girl (and many other boys in a class of over 100 cadets). I'm not sure how I did it. But I was in shape, after playing tennis for years, and even softball, my body was used to the workout. But never at this intensity had I ever been challenged. 

I don't know what compelled me, but I filled in the silence. Words were coming out of  my mouth that after looking into their grumpy, unmotivated, irritable faces, were full of hard encouragement to tough it out, to hang in there and to stop thinking of themselves as an individual in this platoon, but as a team. "When you see your fellow cadet struggling, push them, 'One more push-up, come on, keep going!' Look them in the face and don't let them stop--don't let them give up." Half an hour later, I shut up. Someone yelled from the crowd, "You should write a motivational book or something. That was awesome." 

I think that was the moment I saw the potential--the true influence--my words could have. 

Boot camp ended. I graduated second runner up as the top cadet of the entire class, bested only by a senior cadet who'd come in second two years in a row. My drill sergeant came up to me, shook my hand and said, "I sure gave them hell for not awarding it to you."  

That was all I needed, and I think he knew it too. Someone had fought for me. Someone had believed in me. And that was all I needed. (I did end up winning a fitness award--the most fit female cadet or other--which I was still very proud of.)   

Now I'll have this blog to reflect upon for days when I need a reminder that there have been many tougher days in which I have triumphed, and draw strength from it to motivate me to do more work today. 

I'd love to hear about your moment. And guess what? Now you have the weekend to use it to inspire and motivate you too...

Happy writing!


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  1. Great post as it relates to writing, which I believe was your point in writing it. In my mind I also saw how it can be applied to all of the challenges that come along in our lives. To be honest, I didn't need this for my writing challenges, I needed to "hear" it for the other aspects of my life that seem to be kicking my butt lately. I appreciate you for giving that to me today.

    1. Hi Michael,
      Thank you for your comment! And yes, you're absolutely right, the application can both be for writing and for our daily struggles. Sometimes writing down our proudest moments and reading them, reflecting on them, has more lasting impact than just whimsically "remembering the memory" or being told, "remember when you did this?"

      Anyway, I'm really glad that at least for one day, I've helped you in some way. :)


  2. Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at
    Thanks for sharing!


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