Sunday, June 23, 2013

Encouraging Yourself — Finding the Thing That Keeps You Going

Last night I went to the bookstore with my mother. While we browsed some books, mostly we poked around the selection of beautiful trinkets my local bookstore carries. After we'd selected our treasures, I said, "I have to go to the children's section."

Not looking for anything in particular, I headed over, happy to be surrounded by the books I love; the land I live in. My mother stayed behind look at other things while I made my way around the books, sometimes reaching out to pull one of the shelf, sometimes just to touch the spine. It's a quiet thing I do, being with the books even if I have no intention of buying one or evening reading the jacket copy.

Because here's the thing: sometimes I just need to be with the books. When writing feels tiresome and I'd rather be doing something else; when I fall behind on my schedule and I'm not sure I can make up the time; when I'm tired; when I doubt myself; when I become strapped with the worry that this book might not go anywhere and the question of am I just wasting my time; when I wish I had something more to show for all my hours and efforts; when I need inspiration; or when I really need to somehow, someway feel closer to my dream — these are the times I need encouragement most. These are the times when I need to go do something that perhaps no one else can do for me. I need to find that thing that will keep me going. That thing that touches my heart strings. The thing that encourages and inspires me. The thing that is most meaningful to me.

So here's way I do:

I just stand there. In the bookstore, in the children's section, I find my area of books: intermediate fiction. Then, I stand in front of the books and I admire the spines. My eye jumps from color to color, from title to title, taking in the physical books in front of me.

I think about the covers. The authors. The hard work that went into this seemingly effortless and beautiful story that is just patiently waiting to be picked up by the right hands — to touch just right heart. I move slowly from shelf to shelf, my gazing settling on the names of various authors, sometimes purposefully, sometimes at random. And then, after I've taken in the books and moved quietly amongst the shelves, I think to myself, "That could be me. This could be my book." And then sometimes I feel a bit tearful as I know that day will eventually come — that someday, I will see my book on the shelf. Someday, this dream will come true.

And then I am ready to work again.

You see, I usually don't tell people this. It's kind of vulnerable, admitting how deep this personal hope of mine really is, even if most people know it about me. And I know to some, this practice of imaging my book on a shelf might seem silly, but it's what keeps me going. In a way that nothing else does. Sure, I am hugely dependent on the support of my loved ones, the encouraging words, the excitement of new story ideas, and my honest love of writing itself. But seeing these books on a shelf, it just gets me differently. It makes me feel hopeful in a way that's hard to explain.

So whether you're a new writer or a veteran; an artist or a singer, I would encourage you to find a way to encourage yourself. Find your thing that gets you through — the one that inspires you in that unique, personalized way. Because it helps. It really does. And it bring you that extra boost of energy you need — an energy to keep working hard and to an energy to see the joy that sometimes gets hidden in the pursuit of your goal.

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