The dictionary defines “zeal” as “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective.” It’s encouraging to see someone with zeal for a just cause like the environment or civil rights. But sometimes, zeal can have a negative connotation. People can take their zeal to an extreme and use it to condemn and bash others who don’t share their views on an issue.
Being a writer, it’s hard not to have zeal. When we finish that draft. When we get an agent. When our work is published. When our work creates a voice in the world. There’s a lot to be zealous about in the writing world. Now, I haven’t reached the pinnacle of completing a rough draft of a novel or getting an agent or sending query letters. I feel I still have a long way to go as a writer. But just saying to myself that I am a writer gives me zeal. Writing in my journal gives me joy. Writing posts for my blog is an accomplishment.
The longer I stay on this path and the more I write, the more I’ll feel zealous about writing something that matters, even if it’s for entertainment value.
Youth is a funny thing. When we were young, we wished we were grownup and be able to do whatever we wanted. Now that we’re older, we wish we could be younger. There are all these advances in cosmetics and healthcare to make us look and feel younger. So many companies are making the claim that they’ve discovered the modern-day Fountain of Youth, but it still won’t change the fact that we’re getting older. But hopefully, the old adage will apply: with age comes wisdom.
Still, I would want to travel back in time to my younger years and give my past self some sage advice I’ve heard. The most impactful: focus on your writing. This may be out of guilt or envy, but I think it’s the most vital I would tell my younger self. I know it takes years to get published, but I think developing those habits early in my writing life could save me some trouble. The other piece of advice I would give is be confident in yourself and your work; that rejection is inevitable.
I think those words of wisdom would have been beneficial to my younger self. I’m sure other writers feel the same way. And even though we can’t go back in time without messing with the present, we can pass what we learn to future generations. So, let’s make a difference through the youth of today.
I have a list of names I keep on my Evernote app in case I run into a name that strikes my fancy. Xenia happens to be one of those names. Here’s a short piece about her.
Xenia stopped in front of the restaurant door and looked at her reflection. She ran her hair through her fingers. She hated having anyone pointing out pieces of lint or fur or whatever was stuck onto her raven-toned curls. She then brushed her silk blouse and pencil skirt. She knew appearance was important to her company.
She entered the restaurant. The line snaked across the foyer. Men, young and old, wore gray three-piece suits. Older women were dressed in lavender sundresses and oversized hats. Little girls in their flowing dresses that nearly brushed the tiles.
Xenia looked behind her and tried to peek into the dining hall to see if the guests arrived before her. No one stood out. Occupants waved toward one another, chatting about whatever was the topic of the day. Xenia inched her way to the bar. She grabbed a tray and a plastic red cup.
Xenia nodded yes. “Has anyone from the Hardaway party arrived?”
The cashier looked back at the dining hall. Most of the tables taken were separated, seating the maximum of four people.
“I’ll see if I can find someone who can help you. In the meantime, the total will be $10.59.”
Xenia lay her clutch down and took out her American Express card. The cashier slid the card and handed it back to her. The manager, a man in a button-down shirt and red tie, approached the cashier and Xenia.
“Are you Ms. Hardaway?”
“Right this way.”
The manager escorted Xenia to the Boswell Wing, a private room reserved for large groups.
“Your party’s been expecting you. And I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Don’t be sorry, sir,” Xenia replied. “She wouldn’t want you to be.”
Yesterday, I teased on Twitter about starting a new project. I could have done this sooner, but it fell in line with the A to Z posts, I decided to wait. Truth be told, I thought about this even before this blog came into fruition. And to be fair, I can’t take the credit for this one. Beck Gambill and Hazy Shades of Me, two bloggers I follow on WordPress, inspired me. If you haven’t Beck’s “Dixie Lee” stories or Hazy’s “Helena” stories, they are worth the time.
“Wired” is the name of my anthology. (I’m still working on the title, so bear with me.) The story follows Greg Stephens, a 24-year-old techie and his days at the local electronics store he works. The stories chronicle his encounters with customers and employees alike. Nice and mean, old and young, and everywhere in between. He’s also a family man fighting to maintain a balance between life in and out of his career. I’ve begun drafting the first of these stories, with many more to do.
Now, if you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you know of my goal to produce five short stories by the end of the year. That is still a goal I hope to accomplish outside of this series. This series was not part of the original goals I posted this year. As far as how many stories I will produce this year, I haven’t set a goal on that yet. Maybe I’ll do three to get a feel on how I’m going to tackle this project in the midst of my normal blogging and short stories other than this series. We’ll see what will become of it. In the meantime, I am excited that I get to share the news with you about this series. I look forward to see where this series goes and what encounters will await Mr. Greg Stephens.
We all love the thrill of victory. It’s a sign of our hard work paying off. I can’t imagine anyone not being excited after such accomplishments. But not every victory has to be for the big moments. The small steps we take deserve to be celebrated. Big or small, recognizing those victories is important to our psyche. But I think it’s also important that we recognize the failures along the way. No one enjoys them, yes, but even in defeat, there are small victories worth taking away.
Writers are no different. We have moments, big and small, that are worth celebrating. Sure, we celebrate when we our manuscript gets the green light from a publisher, when they become books, and go on to be best sellers. Book tours soon follow and we’re local celebrities. But even if their manuscripts don’t become books right away, just the feeling of completing a manuscript is victory enough. But with some writers, just completing a chapter is a victory of itself. Or, when someone meets their quota of writing 500 words in a day. Or, when a manuscript becomes a book, just feeling the book in their hands, seeing their name on the cover.
Everyone views victory and success in their own way. I feel victory just by writing a page or two a day. Or, when I post something on my blog. This A to Z challenge is a confidence booster. Knowing there are people reading what I wrote, whether it be positive or negative, means I’m writing something worthy of commentary. I haven’t reached the point where I’m ready to produce a manuscript, but I have the feeling that day will come. I focus on short stories right now, and I feel victory when I complete one. Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a week. But that accomplishment is worth celebrating.
In my line of work, the word “unlimited” carries a lot of weight. Unlimited calls, unlimited text messages, unlimited streaming, unlimited data. (Especially the unlimited data, which–trade secret–is not truly unlimited.) Yeah, “unlimited” is a very big deal. In the corporate world, there’s talk of unlimited potential. In the fields of science and art, there are unlimited ideas. The talk of “unlimited” is, well, unlimited.
Certainly all that applies when it comes to writing. (Maybe not so much in terms of tech-talk.) There are millions and millions of ideas floating around in our brains; characters, stories, themes. Sure, 100% of them have been told before, but we all have our own versions. That’s the beauty of writing. We have unlimited power to make a difference in the world, to be informative and inquisitive of the world around us, or to entertain the masses in our own unique way.
When I wrote my Detective Falcon stories, I had so many ideas about where to take him next. My writing evolved when I got into college, changing my major. My professors made me realize that I have unlimited potential to create something beautiful. I had ideas and dreams that I believed would carry me far. But somewhere along the way, I stopped believing. After realizing my degree was too limited, I felt discouraged. I didn’t seek out what I could do. I missed out on opportunities to further evolve my writing, to turn my “unlimited” items into fruit. It’s only later in life that I got back that passion and tapped into that unlimited potential. Now, I have more ideas for stories, and potential novels. Will any of them come to fruition? Who knows? But it shouldn’t stop me, or anyone else, from exploring those ideas.
We all have unlimited potential to write something beautiful, to be someone great. As long as we believe that, we will go far.
If you’re at a Starbucks or a bookstore, look around and see how many people are on a laptop or smartphone or tablet. Just about everything we saw in science-fiction movies forty years ago has become reality. (Still waiting on the hover boards and lightsabers.) It’s astounding how much technology has integrated into our lives. We can’t go out of the house without our smartphone or MP3 player or an e-reader in hand. And the funny thing is that we only just scratched the surface. We have cars with built-in wi-fi, electric cars, smart watches, drones. And there’s more to come.
Writers and technology have a relationship that spans centuries. Back then, there was no pen and paper until the Chinese came along. When the printing press was invented, it was considered modern technology. Fast forward several hundred years, and look where we are. We have software for dictation and typing stories. We have apps on our smartphones for notes and journals. Even the pen and paper has evolved to writing on electronic notepads.
Writers are torn between old school and new school. Some prefer the feel of a pen in their hand brushing against paper, while others prefer the feel of a keyboard, typing at blistering speeds. For me, I’m indifferent to using one over the other. Sometimes, I work better having pen and paper; sometimes the laptop is the only option. Regardless, it gets the job done.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we care about statistics. It’s the measuring stick of life. Economy, politics, science, sports, sociology, technology, history. There’s not a facet of our culture climate that doesn’t have a statistic attached to it. It can be a driving force behind what we do and who we are. Think about it. How would corporate big wigs know what the next trend could be if they didn’t pay attention to statistics? They would be chastised for not listening to consumers. Now granted, people, as a whole, are fickle. (Yeah, I said it, so I include myself.) And what the consumer wants doesn’t always transition to the next great idea.
Even in the artistic world, statistics play a role. Why? Before answering that question, the creative side says, “Don’t worry about statistics, focus on your art. Thinking about statistics stifles creativity and nothing will get done.”
Now, statistics can present evidence of interests. It can be used to show a current trend and predict what might come. I’ll use blogging as an example. We check our dashboards to see how many people view our posts and even more, what posts are getting comments. We’re happy if a post receives a certain number of likes and comments and get discouraged if a post falls short of a quota we set for ourselves. But statistics can only do so much. There is no formula that will guarantee success. No one can predict how long a trend will last. Back to blogging as an example. Say a post garners a lot of attention and receives numerous comments. Sure, you can continue to post about the same subject, but the readers will want something fresh.
Statistics, for all its worth, can’t measure everything. It cannot define who we are and what we do. As a new blogger, reading a notification about fifty people following my blog means I must be doing something right. But I shouldn’t let it go to my head. I can improve. And that’s something that cannot be measured.
Religion is a touchy subject these days. It seems anyone who professes a certain faith is labeled a zealot, an extremist. Now there are some people who take their way to the extreme and use it as a justification to berate and heap violence against those who don’t share the same views. I think they tend to forget they’re human, not God or Allah or whatever higher power they worship. I am proud to say that I am a Christian and that I make mistakes.
Having said that, I admit I have a gross misunderstanding about Christian fiction. Or any religious fiction, for that matter. I always thought that authors used their books to push their beliefs onto their audience. An example is the Left Behind series. I’ve never read one book in that series, but I know its subject matter revolves around the End of Days, as the Bible prophesized in the book of Revelation. Outside of that, I am ignorant of the plot itself. But that is what authors want the reader to believe. Now, I might be wrong that the author is pushing their propaganda onto an unsuspecting reader. It’s hard, at the same time, to not refute it.
This is kind of ironic because when I started writing, I wanted to write Christian fiction. But because I didn’t research the premise, I steered away from it. Now, there might be other books who try to push religion, and there are some that do not. Again, I haven’t read any of them to discern the difference. As a writer and reader, I need to appreciate all works of fiction, no matter the genre.