Monthly Archives: October 2013

You Are a Success

Some days I feel like I’m failing. As if I’m not doing everything I should be, or I’m not doing enough. Maybe it’s because I’m not getting all my work done, maybe I’m hitting more snags than usual in my writing, maybe I’m just frustrated with my small place in the world and I find myself wishing it were bigger. You know the feeling.

You’re small, you’re insignificant, you’re capable of so much more but you’re just not doing it. You have so much potential but it’s not being fulfilled. You’re doing so much, but it’s not enough, it’s never enough. You want to be more. You want to do greater things. You want to make a bigger difference in the world.

Success Trophy

by Peter Griffin

But you are.

Nobody is bigger than anybody else. I may be a monarch, a senator, a business president, or a Burger King fry cook. Whatever I am, I am a success, because I am out there, doing something; I am out there, doing my part, making my effort, and making that difference, however “small.”

In God’s eyes, we are all equal. He does not judge us by our friends or coworkers, but by ourselves, and how much we’re doing to be ourselves. He made us who we are, and He led us to where we are; and because we followed, because we made it here, we have succeeded. We have fulfilled our purpose. Maybe it was a smile, maybe it was a kind word, maybe it was as small as a donated dollar or as big as a mission trip; we have done our part, and we have made our difference.

Don’t get me wrong. We should always strive to be better–just like you strove to be better yesterday, and now you are. Just like every day we strive to do more than we did yesterday. And don’t you see? Every day we succeed, every day we do something we didn’t do yesterday; every day we do more, every day we grow. Every day we take one small step, and that small step makes us better than we were yesterday. Every day we succeed.

Lately I’ve been stressed; there are so many projects on my plate, including but not limited to an ever-growing number of writing projects. But it’s not all getting done. You know what that’s like: There’s so much to do and there’s so little time to do it.

But then today I was reading, and I paused to stare out the window; and suddenly it occurred to me: Look where I am. I never thought I would be here, not so soon. Why am I so worried about where I’m going? I thought, I’ve made it this far, haven’t I? If I’ve proved that, why should I be afraid I can’t go as much farther?

I am me. That’s all I was ever meant to be. And the best thing I can do for this world is be who I am.

You are a hero. You are a gifted person, and you are sharing your gifts with the world. You are making a difference. You are a success.

Go be the success you are.

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In Leaps and Boundaries

by Nuzrath Nuzree

Dear readers,

A lot of things in life have boundaries. It may be marriage, family, religion, a job. Sometimes it feels like these things are holding you back, and these boundaries become walls, making life into a prison. You want to fly loose and free, but the weight of responsibility is keeping you down.

But life isn’t a prison. It’s more like a library. A library has boundaries, a library has walls, but it’s no prison, is it? I can think of few places that give me as much freedom.

But if I want to enjoy the library’s blessings, I have to stay inside its walls. Even if I take its blessings with me, outside the walls, I have to live within boundaries and bring the book back. But I don’t complain, because I know these boundaries are holding my blessings in place.

In a library, I am free. I can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything: my imagination is my only guide. In a library we’re surrounded on all sides by blessings. Life is the same. But we’re so busy wondering what’s outside the walls that we ignore our blessings.

I’ve been outside. I’ve seen what’s outside those walls. Now, I’m only human, and I like to borrow a book so I can go outside the library’s walls and explore. But no excursion has to exceed my boundaries. I’ll be back before my book is due. I’ll go outside the walls for a breath of fresh air, but I won’t go outside my boundaries. I’ll soon return, and I’ll be content. My blessings are waiting for me.

The next time you feel as if you’re trapped inside prison walls, stop and ask yourself: Are these walls holding you prisoner, or are they holding in all your blessings?

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The Spirit of the Sea

Dear diary,

I paid a visit to the ocean recently. Neither of us were willing to do too much traveling, so we met halfway on the beach. But from the first wave I noticed she was a little blue; and my thoughts, too, were heavy, drowning in contemplations of writing projects and planning or marketing. For a while I was unable to immerse myself in the spirit of the sea.

Spirit of the sea

But as I was walking along with the water washing at my feet, I asked myself suddenly why I was ignoring everything around me. Why was I deaf to the beauty of the sea’s roar? And I was forced to laugh at myself. I, a transcendentalist of sorts, was absorbed in pragmatic trivialities! I was being unfaithful to one of my prime philosophies, as best explained by Thoreau:

“Of course it is no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.”

Suddenly the ocean was not blue, but sapphire. The sun glowed brighter. I let my heart become one with the sea, soaring above my stale thoughts; and for an hour I was something more than human. I was a star floating through Heaven.

I happened to have a penny in my pocket at the time, and on the whim I decided to make a wish for the fun of it, and throw the penny into the sea like a wishing well. This forced me to ask the question: What do I have to wish for? I could think of nothing. After several minutes of thought I made my decision and hurled my penny into the sea.

“I wish the world would open its eyes a little wider to beauty.”

That was the best penny I’ve ever spent. May your eyes be a little wider with wonder today.

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Why Every Writer Should Play Chess

by Petr Kratochvil

Dear writers,

Chess: if you think it’s just another board game for bored people, you’re wrong. You’re so wrong, anyone with even a minor penchant for the game would slap you in the face, declare you a blasphemer, and promptly proceed to tar and feather you; and that’s if you get off easy. He didn’t break out the stake or the guillotine.

No, chess is no mere “game”; chess is a way of life for some. Even for the less passionate players, it is no mere pastime, no more than reading or writing. The art of chess is to be taken seriously, for an art it is; and like any art, there are many things it can teach us about life. And anything that can teach you about life, teaches you about writing.

There are many reasons writers should play chess, and wiser, more ardent chess masters could probably write volumes on it. I’m going to spare you that, and touch briefly upon some of the main points.

Keeping it all together. Chess is about minding every square and every piece on the board at once. You have to be able to see every possible move, feeling every piece as if it were an extension of your body. It’s no easy task to keep so much in mind at once; but that’s exactly what a writer has to do.

You have to mind your characters like a chess player minds their pawns; you have to mind style, grammar, story, plot, and so much more, all at once, like a chess master juggling his or her each and every piece.

Knowing your opponent. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

In The Art of War, one of Sun Tzu’s most important philosophies is learning to accommodate oneself to one’s enemy: this is the surest path to victory. As a writer, my opponent is my reader. If I wage my campaign on conceit and arrogance, knowing myself but heedless of my reader, I’m only babbling to myself and I belong in an asylum. (Whether or not I belong in an asylum in general, is a question we won’t address just now.)

Luckily, it’s up to you to decide who your reader is. Ask yourself who your ideal reader would be; I find it infinitely helpful to choose someone I know, one person in particular, to write for. When that person is yourself, you enjoy the writing experience, but end up pleasing nobody else. When that person you write for is someone else, you are doing more than writing for your own enjoyment; you are writing for others. That is when the writer excels.

Planning ahead. Chess is about looking ahead and planning out paths to victory. If you don’t have a direction in mind before you start you’re too late already. But one plan will only take you so far; variables rarely have any regard for your designs. You have to be on your toes. You have to have multiple routs planned to take you to the same destination, and you have to be flexible, and capable of adapting your plans to allow for new developments.

A writer can plan, a writer can outline all he or she wants, but nothing ever goes perfectly to plan. If it does, if you can pull it off unchanged and infallible, chances are victory will be stale, and your opponent will be able to tell. A mutable plan makes for a more thrilling experience.

In chess, you have to be creative; it’s no different for creative writing.

Protecting what matters. Chess is about protecting all your most important pieces. The more material you sacrifice, the harder victory becomes. If you let go of the things that matter most to you, you’ve already lost.

Chess is too serious an art to play frivolously. If you’re going to play with a heedless, devil-may-care attitude, you might get a few laughs but you won’t impress anyone. Throwing your pieces willy-nilly will result in a loss that catches nobody’s attention. Chess, like writing, is hard work, it’s true; but it’s fun and, if you take the time to do it right, the experience is a sensational one.

Pay attention and have care: vigilance alone will empower you to protect what matters most. Whatever your ideals are, fight for them, and don’t let them go.

Making sacrifices. Call me a hypocrite, but sometimes you need to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, and when a winning strategy necessitates sacrifice. There are times when it is essential to let go, and in life and chess, that’s one of the hardest things to learn.

If you try to protect every piece without letting go of any of them, you end up with a confused melee that will prove impossible to defend and soon lead you to your defeat. In creative writing, it’s impossible to please everybody. You’ll only end up pleasing no one at all. You need to learn to let go, of the right things, at the right time and place, for the right reasons. That’s no easy lesson.

Analogy. Here’s the best lesson I can give you: before you put pen to paper next, sit down at a chessboard first and find an opponent, even if it’s a computer. The lessons I’ve pointed out are a small few. Go, play a game yourself, and see what lessons you can learn about writing from the fine art of chess.

Not only will you learn more than I could teach you, but you will, ironically, learn another lesson from this mode of learning itself. In searching for metaphors and comparisons, you will be honing your perception, expanding your vision, exercising your imagination and creativity, and generally gleaning further lessons about the value of analogy.

So what are you waiting for? Writer or human being: go play a game of chess.

If you don’t know how—Philistine! Grab a chess master if you have one handy, or look up the rules online, and start learning!

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