A Personal Mantra

WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

It’s Life List Club Friday again, and today it’s my pleasure to host the fabulous Jenny Hansen. Jenny’s one of the best bloggers I know, and if you don’t know her, you need to meet her. Her Saturday series on problem pregnancies is especially great. After you read Jenny’s piece here, scoot over to Gary Gauthier’s blog to read my post on buying a new computer. Then browse some of the other Life List Club members’ blogs. We’ll just make a party of it.

Without further ado, here’s Jenny:

Do You Have A Personal Mantra?

clip_image001I’ve been down sick this week, which gives a person WAY too much time to think about “stuff.” All kinds of thoughts have been zinging around my brain – it’s been hard to sleep through the racket.

One of the biggies has been Life Lists, which ties in well with what the seven of us do every other Friday when we blog-hop. We celebrate life and any accomplishments we’ve made, we discuss our goals and how we get motivation to complete them. If you’d like to find out more about The Life List Club, click here.

What is a mantra?

My favorite definition is:
A group of words that is considered capable of “creating transformation.”

That definition lights my hair on fire, in a good way.

A close friend of mine helped me make my personal writing mantra. I’m pretty sure he had no idea at the time that he was doing it, but the story goes something like this:

About a year ago, I made dinner for some family friends of ours. The husband in this clan is an extremely successful musician.

It hit me, before he came over, that I know a great man, who is very successful at his CREATIVE career, and not once have I asked him about his creative process. Here I spend all this time on writing craft and process… Why have I never asked my friend about his creativity?

I can only say that it falls along the lines of not wanting to act like a groupie with him when he’s off stage. I like to think that when all of US are successful New York Times Bestselling authors that our friends will give us a break when we go to dinner at their house.

Rather than pepper us with all the “writer groupie” questions like – Where do you get your ideas? How is the book going? Blah-blah-blah – I’d like to think my friends will just tell me about their insane mothers, or provide advice on how to fix my complete lack of fashion sense.

(In other words, the things we talk about NOW.)

Still, that particular day had been full of creative a$$ kicking with my own manuscript and I’d been the loser in that contest. My enquiring mind wanted to know how my friend did it, year after year and album after album.

clip_image002“Walter,” I asked, “you’ve made an album a year for TWENTY years now. What is the creative process that allows you to do that?”

He smiled at me, a really benevolent cozy smile that made me feel better about bringing work to his Saturday night of fun.

And then he said, “I don’t really know.”

My response was, “WHAT? That’s it? Come on! I thought this music business was different than being a writer. That’s what all my writer pals would say.”

He looked at his wife, who is a major force in his success, and said, “Well SHE books the studio each year and tells me about three weeks beforehand that I need to write fifteen songs.”

She and I exchanged an eye-roll and I said, “There’s got to be more to it than that.”

His response: “Jen, every year when it’s time to record a new album, I feel like I’ve done it already and those are all the songs I have to write.” He paused a moment and added, “Then I’ll hear my mother’s voice in my head, like she’s right there talking to me”:

“Walter, you said you wanted to be a musician; it was what you trained for and practiced at. It was the only thing you EVER wanted. So, get off your a$$ and write some music, and quit crying about it.”

And he does, every single year. He goes to the place in his mind where his music lives and hangs out there, scribbling, until the music comes.

Ever since this conversation, he’s been one of my creative inspirations: He trusts in his creative process and has the discipline to sit down and kick himself in the keister, now that his mother isn’t there to do it.

His answer challenged me to create a writer’s version of that “Memo from Mom” above my computer screen, to assist me on those really crappy days. I’m gonna share it with you:

You want to be a writer. It’s all you’ve EVER wanted to be.
It’s what you spend all this time and money on, training and practicing your craft.
Get off your a$$ and write your page and QUIT CRYING ABOUT IT.

It’s working for me so far.

What about you? What helps you bolster your creativity? What helps you finish a page that’s going badly? Do YOU ever feel like you just can’t write another word? What has helped you bust through this fear and get to the other side?

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

clip_image003Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites or at her group blog, Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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45 Responses to A Personal Mantra

  1. Pingback: Tall Tale Tuesday: Mother Nature « Ellie Ann

  2. Marcia says:

    I remember you telling us about this friend…love this story. Sometimes the inspiration you find in unexpected places is the stuff that sticks with you, as in your case.
    I remember when i was a 20-something and hated going going to the job I had, my mom said, “just focus on today, then tomorrow focus on that day and before you know it the week will be over.” it stuck with me forever. Now she says, “Just write one paragraph. Tomorrow write another. Before you know it, your book will be done.” Simple but so right. Great story and mantra, Jenny.

    Like

  3. Marji Laine says:

    “Just keep swimming,” the sing-song voice of Dory on FINDING NEMO runs through my head. My stops are usually downswings, but I need the reminder on the upswings too, to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself.

    Great post, Jenny.

    And DAVID, your blog inspires me! I’ve tagged you on my blog. You can find out the details here:
    http://marjilaine.blogspot.com/2012/03/ive-been-tagged.html
    I hope you can play!

    Blessings!

    Like

  4. Jenny Hansen says:

    David, thanks again for hosting me today – I had SO much fun!!! Have a great weekend. 🙂

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  5. I love Walter’s mom. I find myself, writing “Just Do It” in different blog posts, because that’s really what it amounts to. I just have to do it. Don’t wait for inspiration, don’t wait until I feel like it. I have to just get in there, and get started, and then the rest usually follows! Thanks for sharing Walter’s key to success!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You’re welcome, Lara! I always say “Done” is better than “Good.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Someday, all of us who keep at the “done” will achieve “good” and be published. 🙂

      Like

  6. hawleywood40 says:

    Oh, and I know this is corny and cheesy, but when I’m really frustrated and down and stuck I listen to Travis Tritt doing “I’m Gonna Be Somebody.” Not a mantra exactly, but does the trick for me : ).

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  7. hawleywood40 says:

    What an insipring post, Jenny! IThanks to both you and Walter for this. What gives me my kick in the keister? Sometimes, it is reading LLC posts like this one. Sometimes it is walking away from the writing that is getting me stuck and working on something else. Sometimes it is envisioning how sad and frustrated I’ll be if I DON’T keep going, or how happy I’ll be when I finally break through : )

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You keep going, Pam! You are ON YOUR WAY! I know it. (And p.s. from your comment above, I think that Travis Tritt song title is so awesome that now I’m gonna go search that song out on YouTube to see how I like it. 🙂 )

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  8. Julie Glover says:

    I don’t really have a “mantra.” I do have things that pop into my mind — such as reading a book and thinking “I can do better than that and they got published.” I also recall a moment in the movie The Rookie where the pitcher is discouraged playing minor league ball in his 30s and then one evening watches a little league play and remembers that fire for the game. He comes to work the next day and with a big grin tells a fellow player, “You know what we get to do today? We get to play baseball.” So every day — how cool is this! — I GET TO WRITE. Yippee! Finally, I have a Bible verse on my desk that reads “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart…” Colossians 3:23.

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  9. Love this. Love hearing about other artists’ creative process. Lately, dealing with rejection, I hear my husband’s words: “James Lee Burke had his novel rejected 111 times. You will get there.”

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    • Of course, I don’t think my husband meant I’d be rejected 111 times (as my comment does!)

      It’s Fried-Day…

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Does it make you feel better to know that Jack London had “The Call of the Wild” rejected over 900 times? Probably not…

      I think you should tell your hubby that and see what he says. I’ll bet James Lee Burke was snapping people’s heads off after number 5. Just sayin,,,

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  10. Jenny, great post, and a wonderful story. My current writing mantra is the following: “How can I make this book better? How can i make this book better?”

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Rachel, you are further up the road than I am! I know I’m going to get there. But right now I’m in – “How can I get this book done?!” mode. I’m trying not to look too far ahead so I don’t freak. (You brave, brave soul!!)

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  11. Brilliant mantra! Love the story Jenny. Thanks for having her David.

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  12. Emma says:

    Great mantra, I’m adopting it 🙂 Thanks Jenny

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  13. Love that mantra, Jenny! I’m going to use it on myself because it’s so true. Butt in the seat and all that.

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  14. Loved the post! Very inspiring.

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  15. This was great, Jenny. I’m totally stealing Walter’s mantra. I’m lucky enough to have a husband willing to support the family, but even though I have more time than most of you, I still struggle to treat this as my job. So maybe I’ll also post a version of Angela’s: Write or go back to being a secretary! My own mantra that was to go on my office doorway this year was “Finish the Damn Book!” Dad’s illness has made that much less a priority, but I still need to put time in writing. Now, to go off and check out this whole Life List Club thing . . .

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  16. Love it! Doesn’t that sort of just sum it up perfectly. It’s what you want, get off your butt and get it done and quit whining about how hard it is. LOL! I love it and am totally adopting it.

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  17. K.B. Owen says:

    Fab post, Jenny! Love that mantra. I need one! But I think what helps me is thinking of writing as a job, not a hobby. If I needed to run an errand, and had a 9-5 office job, would I skip work to grocery shop? Of course not, so why would I cut into my slotted writing times to volunteer at my child’s school, or run errands? I choose now to do those things at other times, and keep my time slots as sacrosanct as possible. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course (“Man plans; God laughs”), but it’s a lot better these days!

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  18. What helps me bust through to the other side?

    This post.

    Your friends story about his wife booking a studio three weeks in advance and him cramming all those thoughts into strumming order to meet that deadline.

    Your mantra above your computer.

    My need to get one of my own. Until I do, I’m stealing yours.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL. He absolutely swears he doesn’t know how he does it. *eye roll* I know. He does it because he hears him mama, and because it’s his job. It’s what he does. Just like our writing is for us. 🙂

      Like

  19. Thanks for a good piece, Jenny, and for stirring up some good feedback. You rock, as always.

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  20. Pingback: Embrace Your Inner Doberman and Other Life Lessons from a Tiny Dog by Sonia G. Medeiros | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  21. Catherine Johnson says:

    Great story, Jenny. Can we all borrow his wife too lol? She sounds very helpful.

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  22. Great story, Jenn! I’m dying to know who was the musician 🙂

    I don’t have a real mantra, maybe except for “Write or go back to the real job!” – it works every single time. I don’t think I would ever want to work in my profession again. Maybe I should imagine this bring said in my mother’s voice. That should be really effective! (*shivers*)

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  23. Jess Witkins says:

    I’ve heard you share this story before and I still really like it. You know us writers are romantics and we all dream about the success fantasy and so many don’t make it past the first draft of a book. This motto is exactly the kick in the pants we all need to move forward, to practice, to work hard on our goals. We need to earn them! Great tale, Jenny!

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  24. Hi Jenny! I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever. Manny the manuscript is very demanding these days at page 257. I don’t have a mantra per se. But it’s something like, “No one will ever take you seriously unless you really follow through with this. So two hours a day. Get to it.” And if I’m lucky, sometimes I get 4 hours.

    Great post. Who is your mystery musician? You’d better DM me the answer.

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  25. Awesome! I’ll have to try that. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  26. I’m glad your “Memo from Mom” is working. Thanks for sharing your friend’s story. It always is so helpful to hear how others work through creative challenges … we all have them, that’s for sure!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Patricia. He’s a completely unassuming guy, despite his international music guy-ness. We love him to pieces. And I appreciate the mantra inspiration!

      Like

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