Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Novel Motivations

With the release of Scarlet and the Keepers of Light underway, I find my myself, like many an author, drifting to thoughts of sales, media schedules, and book rankings?  How many kindle downloads did I have today?  Have the paperback sales gone up this week?  How can I better engage the public?  How do I get more people involved in spreading the word?  Not thoughts I'm likely to stop having in the near future (if I'm being realistic), but it does provide an opportunity for a little self reflection.

All to often in our goal oriented, success is king, winner take all society, it is easy to lose sight of what is vital.  What truly nurtures us, and brings about happiness.  I know when I decided to become an author, although it is probably more accurate to say, when I decided to begin writing (I've always been a writer), I didn't do so with the idea that one day I would be rich and famous.  I wanted to tell stories.  I wanted to share my imagination with others, and move them to smile, laugh, inspire a sense of awe, and yes, even move them to tears.  These are certainly my prominent motivations while I'm immersed in writing, but those intentions get easily muddled once a book is released.  When we begin with passion and promise in an endeavor in which success is traditionally marked by money, our original intentions, our Panglossian views, get lost in the day to day grind of responsibilities, deadlines, and financial obligations.

Before you click away, I am not suggesting that you dismiss all traditional concepts of success, give up all your worldly possessions, and become a carefree monk in the Himalayas (as a side note, not even monks are carefree).  However, taking a step back to live in the moment, to remind ourselves of truer, more edifying motivations is exactly what is needed to bring about happiness.  Is there a goal any more universal than that?  If your an American, it's even in your Declaration of Independence.

Now, some of you might be thinking, "right, easy to say for the guy who spends a third of the time fighting fires and saving babies, and the other two thirds, as Neil Gaiman would put it, 'making stuff up, and writing it down.'"  Perhaps you work in a cubicle you hate, at a job you don't enjoy, and the only reason you go everyday is to make money to feed your family.  My problems are not at all like your problems.  And yet, we are all more alike then often we realize.  As a firefighter and paramedic, I rarely fight fires, and I rarely save babies.  I deal with paperwork, people who call at three in the morning because they have a cold, and fire alarms at the same location five times because the system is malfunctioning.  It isn't often that I wake up at 4:30 and bounce out of bed thinking, "I get to go to work today!"  To be honest, I don't know that I've woken up at 4:30 in the morning and been happy about much of anything.  I find though, once I triple check my alarm clock to confirm that it is actually 4:30, shake out the cobwebs, and have a cup of coffee, that I am in full control of how I decide to live the day.  I can let myself get bogged down in the minutia, or I can look at each moment as an opportunity to bring and receive joy.  Whoa, got a bit touchy feely again there, sorry.  I can choose to be annoyed at having to stop what I'm doing, and rush out to a call that is likely nonsense, or I can focus on the knowledge that every time the sirens blare on the fire engine, there is some little kid looking up at his mother and squealing "fire truck, fire truck."  I can focus on the fact that although there is really nothing I can actually do to help in a lot of situations, my presence brings a sense of relief and security to the person that called 911.  Sure, I have to work today on book selling stuff rather than writing my next novel or a great blog post, but the harder I work to get my books into the hands of readers, the more smiles there will be on the faces of those who experience them.
David Grubin's, "The Buddha" (Asterisk Animation / PBS)

Someone once said, some 2500 years ago, "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world."  Your attitude, your approach to life's situations, your noble motivations are what determines the happiness you give and receive in this life.  Sometimes you have to stop, breath, and remind yourself that your life is more than the sum of money, tasks accomplished, and trophies won.  We have to live in the real world, and so to say that such things are without value is silly, but they are of minor importance in the grand scale of life.  What is important, of true value, is this moment, and whether or not you chose to be present in it.

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