In my last post, I promised to do a sneak peek of what's coming up on my blog over the next several months, so here is the what along with the why.
Alice in Wonderland
Here's the backstory: I wrote this super-funny (I thought) middle grade (say 4th-7th grade) novel-length re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. It's called Glassbreaker Alice and uses a lot of the same tropes and characters from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, which is actually a re-telling itself (Basically, then, I've written a re-telling of a re-telling). After pitching it to agents and getting discouraged, I kinda/sorta forgot about it and wrote another book. But a couple of months ago, I decided to put my Alice story out there anyway, and I have been posting it chapter by chapter on Wattpad, where you can read it now (You do have to create an account first, unfortunately).
On my blog, I'm going to do some reflection on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Why does it persist? I'm also going to be doing some visual renditions of my novel and posting them here.
The Pied Piper of...Oklahoma?
I just finished a novel. It's a mashup of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin," the Cold War, and farm life. Weird combination, right? The Pied Piper is an interesting fairy tale with an even more interesting history. I'm going to investigate and share what I find out.
Bad, Bad, Bad Future
I am embarking on a new novel, which will combine the issues of terrorism, climate change, and refugees. Heavy stuff, right? I am in the process of doing research, and I plan to post some of the information I discover in future posts.
When it comes to college, be a Boy Scout!
Since my target reader is considering college or already in college and since I teach college classes, I'm going to do a series of posts on what to expect in college and how to prepare yourself. Included will be interviews with real, live college graduates or students in college right now.
Ah, the college years! Best years of my life...true story.
Of course, I'll probably get distracted by other topics along the way. I'm like a dog who sees a squirrel, that way. In any case, I'm quite sure some topic will come up that I feel a sudden need to blog about. What that will be remains to be seen.
Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader. We're gonna have some fun!
Have you ever seen that tv show about people who hoard the oddest, most random things? Their houses are so full, you can't even see the floor. Boxes and piles of junk are stacked all over the place. Trash is accumulating and slowing being turned into coal under mountains of garbage, kittens are being fossilized in the briefest nooks and crannies, and crumbs are attracting complete civilizations of insects. And you look at those places, and you wonder to yourself, where would you even start cleaning?
Life is like that, really. Stacks and stacks of boxes to be unpacked, sorted, sweated over. Trash to be picked up and thrown out. Order to be made out of chaos. The truth is that if you want to have a happy house, a clean, well-ordered house, the home-sweet-home of your most fervent dreams, then you're going to have to put your back into it, you're going to have to burden yourself with the task, drip salt water and scowls over it, put time into it again and again and again...until finally, somehow you've reached that shiny, happy place you've pinned your star onto. Yes, dreams take hard work.
That's the thing that people don't seem to get. Yes, they might say, I'm really into this, I'm willing to pour my life into accomplishing my dreams. Their eyes are on fire because this time, this time, will be different, this time they're going to turn their wishes into reality. But then, things start getting a little bumpy, there's a pothole in the road to their destiny, so they give up. Oh well, if it's hard, they complain, then I guess it's not worth doing. So they sigh and shrug their shoulders, go eat potato chips and watch reality shows on tv.
What these people don't seem to realize is that the things that are the hardest are usually the ones most worth doing. I remember reading a Dear Abby letter one time in which an older woman was lamenting her age. She wanted to go back to college, but she thought to herself, Imagine how old I will be when I graduate. In turn, Abby replied, "Well, how old will you be if you don't go to college?"
That's how goals are. Imagine how much time, energy, frustration, and mind-breaking work goes into achieving a goal. It's such a pain...so much crap, really. But where will you be if you don't achieve your goal? Well, you'll be nowhere. I mean, you can sit on the couch for five hours watching tv or you can work toward your goal for five hours. Afterward, you're either five hours closer to your goal or you've created a five-hour dent in your couch. Which is worth more to you?
If you're not willing to do the tough work to reach your dreams, you're not going to reach your dreams.
If you don't like the way I wrote it, or if you think that I'm an idiot-nobody who is not worth listening to, then read how the 20th century uber-genius Albert Einstein said it instead: "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work."
Yeah, I know it's a drag, and while luck does play some role in fame and fortune, hard work is what separates winners and losers. It's that simple.
So how do you keep at it when something gets hard?
First, make sure you actually know what you really want. If it's something that is really important to you, then it should be worth the hard work...even if nobody ever sees all the time and crap that went into it. So think about it. Do you really want to be a pro-football player? I mean, really? Do you really want to do the work involved to get to that level? Or do you really want to be a doctor? I mean, if you're not putting effort into your science classes, then face reality, compadre--you ain't never going to be a doctor.
So, the first step is just making sure that whatever you're dreaming of is something you really, really want.
For example, I once toyed with the idea of learning to play the fiddle. I thought it would be superCool to be able to play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on a fiddle. I could imagine myself at festivals and family get togethers breaking out my fiddle and waxing hard on a country jig. The problem is that I wasn't really dedicated, and I knew I wasn't. I knew it would take hours of practice to learn how to play the fiddle, and I had other goals that were more important to me (like making a living and honing my writing skills). So in the end, I knew it was just a fantasy and that I would never follow through with it.
______________________________________ Don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Also, be realistic. You know, I'd love to be a tall, willowy, sexy bombshell on the cover of fashion magazines, but at 5'3" and 130 pounds, that ain't happening. Likewise, if you've got legs that go on for a miles and no coordination, the chances of your becoming a gymnast are pretty close to zilch. Try looking yourself straight in the eye and seeing if you really have it in you. If you're crap at logic and computers, you're not going to be a hacker, and if you have no sense of rhyme or rhythm, you're not going to be a rapper either.
So after you've asked yourself these questions, if you're still stoked about whatever that awesome goal is that you've been dreaming of, then right on! Just remember, as the proverb by Lao Tzu says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." So don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Take me, for instance. I really really want to be a published writer, and it's a goal I've nurtured since I was a wee lass in junior high (something you probably know as "middle school"). But it's taken years of reading and writing to even get to the point I am at now, and in that time, I had to work to earn a living and do all the in-between things that are needed to live an okay human life in these modern United States-ian times.
And to finally get a novel written, I couldn't look at the word count and say, "Oh my Chrysanthemum! I have to write 70,000 words to get a YA novel under my belt! That'll never happen." You know, because if I look at the huge amount of work it's going to take, then I'll never even get started. Instead, I've myself a daily goal of about 100 words. That's not only reachable, that's easy peasy, companero.
So remember to think about the end goal sort of abstractly, and focus on the small goals in between instead.
Finally, here are a couple of other tips. Set yourself some deadlines for accomplishing your mini-goals, set manageable goals (i.e. 100 words at a a time instead of 70,000), and reward yourself for your work. I have to grade papers all the time, which is not fun in spite of what you may have thought when you were in 5th grade. So I break down the workload over several days and give myself rewards every few minutes or hours. I'm not talking big rewards--I don't splurge on diamonds or Ferraris every time (just some of the time). I'm talking about rewards like getting up and going to the bathroom or grabbing a glass of water. Chocolate is also a great reward (or whatever kind of food you think of as a treat). In fact, chocolate is a great carrot on the end of the stick no matter what your goal is--even losing weight.
Now you have the information you need to get started. And here's the thing--YOU CAN DO IT! It takes hard work, but you've got enough grease in your elbow to get it done, I guarantee it.
If you need more inspiration and tips for those moments when the going gets tough, try these:
How to Get Going When the Going Gets Tough--Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, offers tips for getting your head back in the game when things get tough.
7 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive When the Going Gets Tough--As the title suggests, Sean Kim gives seven ways to frame your thoughts when things don't seem to be going your way.
6 Ways to Keep Yourself Motivated When the Going Gets Tough--Are you noticing a theme in these titles yet? Colleen Kettenhofen offers six strategies for keeping yourself in the race, a couple of which I mentioned in my post above.
When the Going Gets Tough--Christianity is full of biblical scripture to keep you at it when things get tough, and Joe Stowell tells you about it in this article.
If these four articles aren't enough, try googling phrases like "how to persevere," "what to do when the going gets tough," and "how to overcome adversity." Also, try clicking on the purple word "Motivation" in the right-hand menu on this page; here's a post I'm particularly fond of. Or leave me a comment and I'll try to light a firecracker under your posterior (figuratively speaking, of course).
As always, if you think this post is worthwhile, please share it by clicking the Facebook and/or Twitter buttons below.
Jeez, Cheryl, stop with the kind words already. Is that really the title you want to use?
Yes, actually it is. It's true--nobody cares about you. And if that's what you suspect during your moodier days, then, congratulations, you're right!
So you're saying no one cares about me?
Yes, that's what I'm saying. You are alone in this world. So give in to to the unhappiness, the feelings of self worthlessness, the doldrums of depression. Soak it all up and wallow in it, buddy!
Wow--Way to make a person feel better, Cheryl. Jeez.
Okay, so I wasn't serious about that last part. I don't want you to get depressed about the fact that no one cares about you.
Well, you sounded pretty serious to me. That was mean.
Besides, it's not true that no one cares about me. My mom cares about me! And my family cares about me! And so do my friends, so there! You're wrong, meanie pants!
Oh, so someone does care about you. In fact, several someones care about you. Yeah, you're right. When I say that no one cares about you, it is a bit of hyperbole (you know, that fancy literary term for exaggeration). The truth is that some people do care about you. Think about how many "friends" you have on Facebook. Let's be generous and say that not only do your family and friends care about you but that many acquaintances care about you too. Let's say that as many as 1000 people care very deeply about you and say a little prayer every day that you will have a super-fantastic, awesomely superlative day!
Okay, yeah, let's say that. 1000 people. Well, that may be a bit too many. I mean, I don't even have that many "friends" on Facebook.
Doesn't matter. I'm just putting a big number out there. So you think, then, that 1000 people is a big number of people to care about you, right?
Yeah, it sounds pretty nice.
Good. But let's compare that to the number of people on the planet. There are approximately 7 billion people on the planet, and by the time you read this post, there could be as many as 9 billion people alive on Earth. So if 1000 of those people care deeply about you, then that means approximately one out of every 7 million people on Earth cares about you, or approximately 0.0000001% of the total human population, a statistically insignificant number.*
Go out there and embrace your vulnerability, your
ridiculousness, your weirdness, the things that make you
special, the things that make you unique.
Okay, sourpuss, back to the bad news, then. Gee, thanks.
No, but don't forget about the second part of my title--"and that's a good thing." It's actually really great that so few people really care about you. It means you can make lots of mistakes and very few people will care about it. You can screw up big time, and the world will glance over you like you're a speck on the sidewalk.
Hmm...I see where you're going with this. So I can do all kinds of crazy things my teachers and my parents tell me not to do, and no one will even notice. Okay, then, bring out the drinking and driving, the cocaine by the bootful, the promiscuous behavior! Great! I'm on it!
Actually, I didn't mean to go that far because you have to remember that there are consequences to your behavior, you know, stuff like wrapping yourself around a tree, ending up in rehab or with the inside of your nose rotted out, getting pregnant or getting a disease that makes your insides rot--you know, the usual things.
So what you're saying is that there are not many people who care about me so I can do all kinds of things people tell me not to do, but I shouldn't do them because they're bad. You're bumming me out again, Cheryl! This seems to be a lose-lose situation. Where's the silver lining? Come on, I need a silver lining!
Right. There is a silver lining. And it's this: since very few people care about you or pay any attention to what you're doing, you have the freedom to be bold and take risks. Sing a song at the talent show. Apply to Harvard University. Wink and smile at that boy or girl you like. Take chances! Don't let your fears about what other people think stop you from doing what you want to do!
Yeah, but what if I screw up and make an idiot of myself? I mean, what if I forget the words on the stage and everyone laughs at me. What if Harvard rejects me? What if that person I like looks at me like I'm a mangy gerbil?
Well, all those things are possible. That's why they're risks. But here's the thing--just because other people might think you're a weirdo shouldn't stop you from doing the things you really want to do. Besides, people have short memories these days. There's a different "big" story of people humiliating themselves almost every week. Do you remember the kid who did that stupid thing earlier this year that no one would shut up about? Maybe his pants fell off during gym class or she farted really loudly during a speech? Well, you had probably forgotten about those incidents, and if that person was smart, he or she probably made a joke about it anyway.
After all, do you remember Tonya Harding? No? Never heard of her? Back in the 90's she was in the headlines for months when she was accused of having an assailant attack her rival ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, before the Olympics. It was a huge story, but did you know about it? Probably not. And even if you did, it probably didn't make a big impression on you.
The point is that people forget about the missteps and the bloopers, the mistakes and the gaffes and humiliations. So don't let the chance of screwing up stop you. Don't wrap yourself in a cocoon of safety where nothing ever happens and you never accomplish anything. You might make yourself safe, but think what a boring life that would be.
Instead, go out there and embrace your vulnerability, your ridiculousness, your weirdness, the things that make you special, the things that make you unique. Be yourself, and carpe the heck out of the diem, my friend!
PS--Making mistakes is good for you. Don't believe me? Read these articles I found doing a simple Google search**:
7 Reasons Why Not Making Mistakes is the Biggest Mistake--This inspirational article offers seven reasons you should embrace mistakes.
Why Making Mistakes Is Good For You--This article is written for men but offers great insights to anyone, whether you're a man, woman, child, or bigender!
Why Failure is Good for Success--This article offers reasons why failure is good for both businesses and individuals.
Failure is Good--This article from Psychology Today looks at how failure is an innate part of the human condition.
Go out and do your own web search for more information. And remember--Fail, fail, fail, make as many mistakes as you reasonably can without killing or maiming yourself or someone else!
*If I got the math wrong, please leave a comment and let me know. When I tried this calculation on my calculator, I got a weird number ending in an e, whatever that means.
**If any of these links are broken (not working) by the time you get to this article, please leave a message in the comments. Thanks! :-)
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This summer I had the good fortune to be able to work with teenagers in the Upward Bound program. They were taking part in a six week stay at a local college campus, going to classes and experiencing what it’s like to be a real college student.
I was their computer teacher (in spite of the fact that my degree is actually in English, and I don’t really consider myself to be particularly tech savvy). For their first assignment, I asked the students to create a newsletter using inspirational quotes and stories from your website www.motivateus.com. If you remember, I had called to ask if you would mind if I did so, and you gave your permission. You also asked me to let you know how things went, so I am writing this letter to tell you a little about the class.
My themes for the course were inspiration, motivation, and activism, and I tried to create assignments that catered to those themes. For their Excel assignment, for example, I used facts and figures on world poverty from the World Bank and information about blood donation and disaster relief from the Red Cross. For another assignment, they were required to research information on a cause that interested them and write to their legislators about that topic. They wrote about obesity, teen drinking, medical marijuana, health care, and a variety of other things, and in the end, I did indeed send those letters to their legislators. In addition to these and other assignments, I read to them each day from the book Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris.
It is pretty obvious, as you can see, that I had an agenda. I didn’t just want to teach them how to use computer applications. I wanted to inspire them to make a change in the world and in themselves for the better. And I was pretty blatant about communicating this goal. The question is whether or not I had an impact on any of them.
Basically what I saw is that the students performed at a consistent level from the time they entered the class to the time they left. Those who worked hard did so from the time they entered to the time they left, and those that slacked and played on Facebook (yes, even in a program like Upward Bound, there are slackers) did so consistently throughout the six week period. So did I make an impact? Hmmm. Hard to say.
I will say that I made them think. And yes, I do use the word “made” consciously. I asked them questions about their beliefs, asked them how they were enacting those beliefs, asked them what “hard things” they faced, and asked them questions inspired by the Harris’ book.
Although it is difficult for a teacher to measure the impact she has on a student--especially when she sees those students for a very brief period during their young lives--I think it is important that we keep trying. At the very least, they know that there are people in this world who really do value passion, inspiration, and motivation, and I appreciate the fact that you have put your web site out there for everyone to see. Those of us who care should not remain silent. We need to communicate that message, whether through the internet or face to face.
So I would like to thank you sincerely for allowing us to use the material from your website for our classroom project. It started the class out on the right foot, and I hope that it helped inspire my students to, in a slight modification from the army’s motto, “be all they can be.”
To all you teenagers out there, you are a complete mystery to adults. To your teachers, your parents, your aunts and uncles, basically to anyone who is no longer a teenager.
So when you say, "You just don't understand me!" you're right! Congratulations! As an adult, I admit that I do not understand you.
Oddly enough, it seems like I didn't really understand teenagers when I was a teenager either. That kind of makes me think that while there are some things that most teenagers have in common--bad skin, mixed up emotions, insecurity, the desire to be independent--teenagers are actually individuals who are complete mysteries to each other.
Teenagers have been on my mind a lot lately for a variety of reasons. One, I am teaching high school seniors this summer with Upward Bound. Two, I have spent my career as an educator working with teenagers (9 years in the trenches of public high schools). And three, I aspire to be a writer specializing in YA (young adult) and MG (middle grade) literature. In other words, I write for teens and tweens.
So you'd think I'd understand teenagers a bit better.
But here are some things I do know about teenagers:
Working with teenagers, I've been very distracted by the idea of motivation. How can I motivate you guys? How can I get you to do your best? How can I get you excited about whatever it is we happen to be doing?
It's easy to get little kids excited. Life is new. It's an adventure. They're not afraid to express their giddiness. They don't care what the other kids think about them. All of them are giddy little monsters, so why would they care?
But teenagers? Teens are cynical about the world. "Yeah, we've already seen that." Yawn. "We already did that in school." Another yawn. Or maybe they don't want to show too much excitement because they are afraid other people will make fun of them.
I remember that as a teenager I tried really hard to hide my true self. You don't want to stand out too much, I told myself. You want to blend in. You don't want people to think you're a freak. You don't want to be different. Whatever you do, don't be conspicuous.
Here is a quote a friend of mine gave me about teenagers: It's important to be different, just like everybody else.
Interesting quote, which I'm sure a lot of teenagers would say isn't true, but think about it really. You want to be different, special, unique, but on the other hand, you don't want to stand out too much. You don't want people to think you're weird. You may say, "I don't care if people think I'm weird. That's their problem." But think about it. Do you really not care what your group of friends think about you? What the girl or boy you have a crush on thinks about you? If you say you don't, you either have buckets of self esteem or you're lying to yourself.
I feel like I'm getting off track here, but the thing I want to circle back to is being yourself and being enthusiastic about something. Believe it or not, people will admire and respect you if you are enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is catchy. People like to be around others who are enthusiastic. I know I like to be around enthusiastic people. I may not agree with them about everything, but I love to soak up their energy. It makes me feel energized.
So do you agree? Do you think it's okay to be enthusiastic when you're a teenager? Do you think it's okay to be motivated? To be inspired? Or is it more important to hide yourself so that people won't make fun of you? (Hint: Most people admire others who are enthusiastic/motivated/inspired.)
It'd be interesting to get some comments on what you think...
Word and Book Lover.