An Essay for Lifebysack©
Note: The following essay is one I read every morning, right before my 15 minute daily meditation. It was written to help me overcome the tough points in my life, as there have unfortunately been many. I also wrote this piece to give me confidence about my writing ability, and have used analogies concerning Literotica whenever appropriate. I am sharing this with all of you, hoping it will be printed out and read whenever necessary. May "tomorrow be the first day of the rest of your very fulfilling life!"
When the chips are down, as they occasionally are, it's very easy to become depressed. A pity party of one does not make for a healthy gathering, so I have composed eight suggestions to get out of the "poor me" rut. Please let me know if they work for you via Public Comment or Private Message. Good luck!
1. You can do anything!
The most important four words in the English language, and the basis for all achievement. In order to feel good about yourself, you need to believe anything is possible. One way to do this is to visualize yourself performing your desired outcome every step of the way. For example, if you wish to learn piano, see yourself asking people for referrals. Then, imagine your first lesson going incredibly well with your awesome teacher. Continue to visualize successful practice sessions and relaxing times listening to music. Sooner than you will believe, all these exciting things will happen in your life. The key is to arrange your circumstances so as to allow maximum potential for what you want to occur. Yes, there will be setbacks, but if you prefer the "gloom and doom" approach that will become your reality just as quickly.
Believing "you can do anything" is not egotistical or chest thumping. It is the simple reliance on your inner strength and fortitude to get you through any dilemma.
2. Problems are relative.
As my wonderful grandmother used to say, "there are problems and there are PROBLEMS." Fortunately, most of our everyday issues are minor in nature which just need a little creative problem solving. While you are simmering because of a co-workers comment at work, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters are affecting thousands. As you curse someone out for cutting in front of you on the highway, millions are wondering where their next meal is coming from.
Of course, life can deal everyone some major punches, but even these can be overcome if you change your mindset. If you lose your house, see this as an opportunity to create the living place of your dreams. If you are given 3 years to live, make your remaining time as precious as possible by offering your uniqueness to others. I am corny enough to believe "every cloud has a silver lining." and "when one door closes, another opens."
To give an example from my own life, about 10 years ago I found myself suddenly laid off from work, with $40,000. of credit card debt and nowhere to go. Since I had taught piano occasionally in the past, I decided to put an ad in a local newspaper to attract new students. At first, only two people responded. Then, by word of mouth, I had eight students. Within six months I was up to 25 and able to make enough to money to get by and continue to look for work in my main vocation, Psychology. After a year of piano teaching, I found a dream job working in a school in Connecticut, but liked the new profession so much, I decided to continue working part time for a music school as well. I still have 20 students today, and this would not have been possible IF I HAD STAYED AT THE OTHER JOB!
Even when unfortunate things happen in a relationship, such as a divorce, it is important to quickly overcome feelings of hopelessness. There are numerous examples of second and even third marriages being happier and more rewarding than previous ones. Ironically, divorce gives you a second chance of finding a soulmate, without the stress of having an affair and relegating yourself to an inferior position.
3. Don't listen to naysayers.
No matter what you dream up, someone will tell you in great detail why it won't work. This may be due to jealously or insecurity on their part, but whatever the reason it is extremely important to IGNORE THEM COMPLETELY!!
If you have an idea that something will be good for you, trust your instincts. A good friend of mine decided to home school her children, despite tremendous opposition from her friends and relatives. She disregarded the predictions that her children would be social cripples, and stuck it out. Now, ten years later, her offspring are the pillars of their respective communities and doing just fine. This is not a recommendation that everyones' children be home schooled. My friend had a belief that home schooling was the right thing to do, and clung to her belief despite the naysayers.
As writers, we are all going to endure the experience of others criticizing our work. If you choose to learn from a particular comment, that is your choice. However, we need to believe in our convictions and story ideas to the fullest, no matter how inadequate they may seem on paper. The nature of human existence is that people simply love to "fix things." Who knows how many great stories have been lost because some benighted soul saw a need to "fix" it. What will always amaze me about Literotica is how the most unlikely or trivial story fragments can be brought to fruition by amazingly creative writers. I firmly believe ANY story is possible and there are no "wrong" ideas. Look to the vast diversity of Literotica to inspire yourself and overcome negative self doubts as well as external criticisms.
4. Don't worry!
Worrying is an extremely useless emotion. It doesn't work, and merely wastes valuable time and effort. Major confusion arises about what differentiates "worry" and "concern". The difference is in our minabout something is to have a positive feeling about a particular outcome. For example, many individuals in the Author's Hangout forum were concerned about a fellow writer's displacement by Hurricane Rita. They tried to collect new toys for her children, give her alternate escape routes, and offer other positive assistance.
Worry, on the other hand, revolves around the negative. What if my story is rated 2.00? What if I get horrible comments? What if no one reads it? And so on, with an infinite number of possible "What if's?" Life is going to continue to happen no matter how much you worry. As a writer, we owe it to ourselves to have confidence in our creations, and believe that everything happens for a reason. There will always be trolls and those who delight in causing misery to others. They achieve power to the extent that you let them get to you. If you don't worry about them at all, you've already decreased the wind to their sails!
5. Avoid thinking of your achievements in terms of rankings.
With each new story, the less I care about the Literotica rankings and the more I cherish Public Comments. A thousand things can influence the "magic number", most of which I have absolutely no control over. Someone could have spilled their coffee right before voting, or disliked my story characters, or merely be feeling perverse at that critical voting moment. Whatever the case, if you are happy with your story and enjoyed writing it, you have earned a permanent "5". Particularly in competitions, stories are not rated as high as they would be otherwise due to a few mean spirited people.
Don't ever let a low ranking or mean public comment affect your writing. People will always react differently to stories which is the basis for the numerous forum "taste" threads. Rarely will one particular story appeal to the Literotica masses, and frankly, I think that's just fine. For example, I have written for the relatively unpopular Celebrity category only for the reason I enjoy it. Such stories have received very few votes or reads, but the occasional comments I get are basically positive.
If you have moved even one person with your writing, you have succeeded. We all need to get away from the "numbers game." It can put wedges between writers and foster ill will that is completely unproductive. A little competition is healthy, but to worry needlessly about story ratings leads to more neurotic writers. And aren't we already neurotic enough?
6. Forgive, whenever possible.
In this litigation oriented society, it's easy to be offended by just about anything. Unfortunately, the resulting reactions and counterreactions end up wasting a great deal of valuable time as well as giving the participants needless heartburn. We all say thoughtless things from time to time, which often leads to that dehabilitating phenomenon "The Waiting Game." Everyone knows how "TWG" works- after a little skirmish both parties are too proud to apologize, waiting for each other to make the "first move." Weeks stretch into months and before you know it, friendships are broken and valuable contacts lost.
When you are part of a disagreement, it often pays to be the initiator and apologize. I've tried to do this in the forums after I've uttered words that were impossible to eat. Even after you apologize the situation may continue to be awkward, but at least you have done your part. I happen to believe that certain acts are unforgivable (murder, torture, etc.) but recognize that others are willing to overlook even those transgressions. Some individuals believe you are simply a wimp if you always apologize, but I think it makes for a strong person who doesn't get immobilized by the "small stuff."
7. Help others.
In this odd game of life, we are all interconnected. When difficult things happen, it always is more productive to have a helping attitude. One never knows what strange twist of fate will happen next, possibly putting yourself in a position of accepting help. Mother Teresa is a sterling example of selfless helping. She received very little of an external nature for her efforts with the disadvantaged of India. Instead, she shared her inner talents and resources without needing or expecting anyone's approval.
No one writer has the key to every door. Yet, by pooling our helpful ideas and comments, we become stronger as a community as well as improving on an individual basis. Some people are afraid of leaving constructive criticism for fear of it being interpreted as "negative." Actually, it can be interpreted as any emotion, as we are all different and will react to a particular statement based on our own life experiences. I offer my observations as one person's opinion, unfazed as to whether they are "adopted" or not. A story is rarely completely realized or utterly impoverished. Therefore, it is usually possible to say something you firmly believe is helpful. If you are misinterpreted, chalk it up to the complicated human condition. Sincerity is the key issue here, as well as a genuine attempt to help others achieve their goals as writers.
8. Accept a "higher power" as part of your life.
This topic will always be controversial, but I do think it is critical in leading a fulfilling life. As you look around you, taking in the mysteries of nature and the wonders of our physical world, do you really think it all happened randomly? If you accept higher intelligences in the universe, you are in a deeper way yielding to a "higher power" from which your entire lifetime is intimately connected. Some people use the word God, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. The exact terminology is irrelevant; what is important is the acknowlegement that we are but a comma in the infinite essay of life.
As a philosopher once said, you came from NOWHERE, you are NOW HERE and when you die will return to NOWHERE. Accepting a "higher power" into your life will drive the precious NOW HERE days to their ultimate realization. Our time on earth is distressingly short, but we have the power to use it in a manner to best service ourselves and others.
Whenever I read a exceptional story, I always think such remarkable writing talent is God given. Yet, in a sense the Higher Power is within all of us, just waiting to be activated. Let today be the first day of the rest of your life. You can do anything by dint of sheer positive thinking and your enmeshment as one with your personal Higher Power. May your next story or poem be the creation of your dreams, limited only by the depths of your imagination...