Sunday, April 26, 2009

Defeat Is Another Name For Determination

I was in my military dress greens, traveling to the next school, sitting in an airport overnight. At twenty I had just been dealt a huge lesson in humility. I'd been kicked out of Language School in California for being "unable to learn a language fast enough", now I was being sent to another school across the country on the East Coast. I was alone, feeling like the most insignificant thing on the planet. To make matters worse, a freak spring storm had cancelled all the flights, so now I was alone, tired, miserable with no place to stay.

Writing is a lot like that, it's a lesson in humility, and frustration. If our internal editor doesn't harass us, its the results of the contest, the place in your story you don't know how to write through, work requiring over time, family that needs you, or something catastrophic like a lay off or illness that brings you to your knees-all interfering with writing. It is that time of darkness that shapes and works with you.

Personally, I wish it wasn't so darn painful.

Recently I was on a whirl-wind business trip, it was uneventful, but tiring. I flew to Dallas, only to return the next day. Still, every time I fly, especially on business I remember those moments twenty years ago as I sat in that airport, feeling so very low. I still taste the misery, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I also remember what I chanted to myself, "I can do this. One step at a time." Just like writing, we press on even when our ego is saying we are failures, there is nothing left but to keep on going.

Like with everything, eventually it all works out. As I wandered the airport, I found the USO and slept on the floor with other stranded military. The next day I managed to get the flight to my next destination. I took a taxi to my unit, stepped in to the building to announce myself, only to look at confusion at the large guy with the green beret sitting behind the desk, who gave me an evil smile.

"Congratulations, you are the first female in the Green Beret's!"

You see, sometimes, even life has it's own sense of humor.

I know we've spoken about this before, pressing onward in spite of obstacles, but what are the words that you say to yourself when you are at your lowest to keep on going?


Angel said...

Um... Mary, I did not know this about you. :)

I've most definitely felt that defeat, and most recently felt like I was spinning my wheels while not moving forward at all. But it seems if you keep believing in yourself, something good does eventually have to happen. I finalled in the Golden Heart. That was a moment of golden dawn in the midst of some very trying times. We just have to keep plugging forward. If one plan doesn't work, try another one. Eventually something will click. :)


Karen Beeching said...

What a neat story, Mary!

And you're right. We need to keep moving forward no matter how much life wants to take us back or down.

Besides, the alternative to moving forward is gloomy.


Louisa Cornell said...

Wow, Mary, that is awesome and a real inspiration. I just keep seeing this scene in my head with you in a full Green Beret battle gear saying "Language? We don't need no stinking language!" LOL

It IS hard when life seems to throw every obstacle known to man into your path when it comes to writing. It would be bad enough with my own doubt, that blasted internal editor I can't turn off and that evil gremlin in the back of my mind saying "You can't do this. Who told you you could be a writer? They lied!" Then you add having to give 40 plus hours per week to Wal-Mart in a job that sucks your soul and threatens to turn you into a gibbering idiot to that. Then add money worries. Then add .... well, you get the picture.

I think the best thing I did was limit my pity parties over big things to one day. Things like rejection letters, bad comments from judges, those sorts of things. I get one day to feel bad about it and then I MAKE myself move on.

The little things I get an hour. Short little pity party and then on to the next thing.

Nobody thought I could be an opera singer either, but I was.

Nobody thought I would survive my husband's death, but I did.

There have been a few other disasters in my life, but I'm here. I made it. And there must be a reason for all that. If there isn't I'm going to be really ticked! LOL

I just remember what Winston Churchill said "If you're going through hell, keep going."

I think the thing I have to decide EVERY DAY at least once a day is - Do I want what is on the other side of that hell badly enough to keep going? As long as the answer is yes, I'll keep going.

Besides, I'm a widow living alone in the middle of nowhere. Writing romance is the only sex I'm having!

M.V.Freeman said...

Scary, isn't it Danniele?
Let me assure you, I did not end up in the Green Beret's (thank goodness) my school was a building over, but it didn't prevent them from making me squirm a bit. LOL

And I think of how hard you have worked, and I truly celebrate your success in finaling in the Golden Heart. Your determination and success has inspired me. :)

M.V.Freeman said...

You are right, and even though I write gloomy, I don't want to stay gloomy. Writing brings me joy. I know it brings you joy! :)

M.V.Freeman said...

I would love to talk to you about your life one day, it intrigues me and it does inspires me(so be pre-pared!). The fact you sang opera just grabs me. (I've never sang, never will, but love listening to it).

I see in you a woman who has walked all avenues, and still you find a way to Live not just survive (all though I agree with you, jobs can suck the soul out of you!) --And I LOVE that Winston Churchill quote!

I know you will achieve your dreams, because you do keep on going~!

Christine said...

Wow, I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people who are honest about their fears and dreams! You articulated a life moment of change so beautifully, Mary. I could see you sitting there--alone, discouraged, afraid. And then you found your USO group! It takes other people to help us through the dark times, the scary times, the times we listen to the evil inner critic who says we can't. In that moment, I run to these blogs and read about the successes and ways of coming through the doubt.

Angel--you are so going to have an amazing time at the national conference. I can't wait to see you up on the big jumbotron screen and I am crossing fingers, toesies and knees for you to place!! I am so happy for you!

And Louisa, you are an inspiration to me. You work full time, live alone, and write romances! Although it's not the same as, ahem, the *real* thing, it's pretty close when we get to imagine wonderful, gorgeous men giving our heroines the love and respect they deserve.

So I get through the down times, well, by taking baby steps if I am sick or low or just hijacked in general. And then I tell myself, at least I am trying to get there. The only person who stands in the way of my doing what I want is me--my thoughts. And right now, I have a phrase--NO NEGATIVE WAVES.

Okay, I wrote a book here... gaack!

Anonymous said...

What a cool story. I was in the Army Security Agency, at Ft. Devens, Mass. and flunked morse code class for the same reason and had to take remedial while everyone else was skiing on the weekends. I well relate. Finally graduated..and so today,while stranded on unpubbed island, I can send morse code. Sadly, editors don't know morse.

M.V.Freeman said...

I love your comments, they flow with so much energy and joy. I agree with you, I truly enjoy being surrounded by such inspiring people (and I am enraptured everyone's stories, personal and professional...I am such a nosey person). Everyone has something about them I admire greatly. I like to try and "soak" it up so to speak.

I also like the "No NEGATIVE waves!" YES! :)

M.V.Freeman said...

Welcome! I had to laugh! It is hard when you go through something like that. And too bad the editors can't understand morse code....:)

I salute you as you continue onward on "unpubbed island"! I don't think you'll stay there long! :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Tina, honey, you are NOT on unpubbed island alone! We're all here with you. All we need is a few tiki torches and some hot cabana boys and we have a party !

Winston had some great quotes, Mary. He was one tough cookie and I don't think anyone expected him to amount to anything. His life is an inspiration in and of itself.

And I am no big deal. I am the product of a Native American mother and a the son of Welsh coal miners who came to America in 1892 in search of a dream. Both sides have a propensity to produce singers and story tellers AND people who are just too darned stubborn to quit.

And I have been lucky to encounter some really great, talented people who helped me along the way. Even the naysayers were a big help. I LOVE to prove people wrong.

There have been tough times, but as my brother says "Any day above the ground is a good day."

M.V.Freeman said...

See Louisa,
You just intrigue me all the more! LOL! You say so simply "I'm no big deal"...Hey, you have life experiences that I will never have, how cool is that?!

I also think Winston Churchill was an incredible person. Another saying he has is "Never, Never, Never give up." I have that on my refrigerator.

I agree with you--its not only those who help, but those who hinder that build us.

I am reading an incredible book, "The Last Lecture" by Randy Puasch (Ok, books on tape when I am driving)and he has a statement--forgive the paraphrasing-- the brick wall is not there to stop you...its there to show & prove everyone else how much you want it.

I am constantly amazed, encouraged, and awed by every one of us who write, published or unpublished. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Mary, that's a great story.

I can only add that a little over a year ago, I felt a lot like Danniele. Within the space of a week, it all changed. That's how fast it can happen.

And yet, there's all that slogging, all that thinking you're going the wrong way, all that self-doubt. We all have it.

I have no doubt you'll get there. :) If you could survive the army, you can survive this. :)

Great comments, everyone!

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks Lynn!
I love hearing about the good things, like yours, as well as how everyone works through the bad.

Plus, I love life stories of every one around me, they fascinate me. ;)

Carla Swafford said...

Well, everything I could think to say were cliches, so I'll make it simple. I tell myself, what else would you rather do? The answer is nothing. So I keep writing.

M.V.Freeman said...

It is straight to the point, and so very, very, true.

I can't imagine not writing, when I do, it disturbs me.

You are one of the most positive and determined people I know, and it awes me. :)

Sherry Werth said...

Well, as usual, I'm really late posting but I just wanted to say how great your post was Mary and all the following comments! And BTW, how did I not know you were in the military?
Most days the battle I fight is with myself. One day I hope to conquer the battle going on within and celebrate with the 'write' winner!