Alabama fog in September
Recently I’ve been “out of it,” as it were. In a fog. Trying to find my way. One morning I decided to watch a motivational video on YouTube. It was great! The male voice was well modulated. The visuals were awesome. The music—hypnotic. At the end of it all, I found myself “fired up.” So, I watched another one. Then, another.
One particular message outdistanced all the others, and the first speaker to deliver it was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. “You must have a vision,” he said. “A dream.” He’s right. In another video, Steven Spielberg made the same statement. As did Morgan Freeman. I concur. Who can argue with that?
The dream, the vision, the goal is what drives us all toward some desired realization. It’s all the foggy in-between stuff that causes problems. With high-octane visuals, the motivational films addressed the stops and starts, the failures and successes. Fueled by a dream, we see a fighter, jabbing the dummy, a runner, pulling up a hill, a young girl, flipping through the air, the ice skater, rising off the floor, twirling, with folded arms and closed eyes.
We witness a visual montage that documents not only the long, tough hours of training, but also the painful mistakes, the blunders. We see them fail time and time again, crumpled on the floor, crying in pain, or sprawled in the dirt, hands clawing the choking dust, and then—teeth set, muscles straining, strong arms pushing against the agony—they rise. They start over, make the effort—one more time. I couldn’t take my eyes from the screen. “You got to WORK for what you believe in!”
After plowing through video after YouTube video, I sat back in my chair and started doing what we writers do best, I analyzed. I realized I had seen only a few quick images of intellectual struggle: a student taking notes in a classroom, a young girl reading a book, an older man’s hand, holding a pencil, poised over a sheet of paper. The image doesn’t include his face. And the paper’s blank. Bummer.
The fact is, dramatic images of physical endurance and strength vastly outnumbered images of intellectual/imaginative efforts. Pictures of boxers, a lot of that—you know, punching a bag, sweating. Tons of sweat. One video showed an African American football player running full tilt down the sidelines. Slow-mo! It was hypnotic. The guy is running, looking over his shoulder, straining, pumping; suddenly the defensive guy is right there, running, inches away from the receiver…then the outreach of arms, hands, the football spinning into view and the receiver touches it, flips it, catches it! The defensive player staggers out of bounds. The receiver curves back in. The ref’s arms go up. The fans are screaming! Thousands of fans! I’m practically falling out of my chair. I don’t even watch football anymore, but that clip was awesome. Push yourself! Hell yeah!
Ah, but one click of a keyboard key, and I’m back to Word, back to reality, back to my WIP! There’s the soft lamp, the silent screen. There’s no sweaty workout, no coach yelling at me, no thousands of Sunday afternoon fans. There is only me. Alone. Desk. Lamp. Computer. Blinking cursor. Quiet.
We, writers, are not performance artists. We are solitary workers: the last light burning after everyone else has gone to bed, or the dim morning light as everyone else still sleeps, or both. Our motivation comes from those wonderful, silent books watching from the shelves. It comes from other writers, struggling as we struggle. It comes from the many publications that remind us, over and over, don’t give up! Don’t quit. Stay the course. Be like the ice skater, the boxer, the runner. Work through the failures, the misery, the despair. Push yourself towards the goal. I’m glad I watched those videos. I’ve set my goal. What is it? My goal is simple: To write the best novel that I alone can write–alone. I take a deep breath and get to work.
So, my good blogger friends, what motivates you? What’s your dream? Your goal?
I look forward to hearing from you. It’s been too long since my last post. End of summer blues…difficult times…hard times, but the fog has lifted. We’re moving on, eh?