Move from Thinking to Doing

Observation and thought – two characteristics that have served me well as a writer. Not so much when it comes to living life.

My whole life I have watched others and considered how their actions get them to where they are. When I was young, this meant watching how my older brothers got into trouble. Hey, I’m a firm believer in learning from others’ mistakes.

napoleon quoteThe problem is that all this thinking often keeps me from experiencing adventures. I think about what could happen and talk myself out of them. When I do take action, I often feel like I’m diving into an Olympic-sized pool of Arctic water.

The result is that things turn out fine, usually a lot better than I anticipated. So why do I let that little voice inside my head paralyze me?

I admire my daughter who is definitely a doer. In fact, she often does too much and gets herself in trouble. She’s usually juggling so much, that she gets overwhelmed and distracted.

If I could only take her “doing” and my “thinking” and combine them together into one person – a sort of Clarkenstein monster perhaps – that would be perfect! Unfortunately, my utility budget couldn’t stand the strain, so I must figure out a better way.

So here goes:

  • Stop anticipating. That little voice is not a fortuneteller; it can’t really know the outcome of my action.
  • What will be, will be. When that little voice says, “Don’t do it! You’ll get hurt,” just remember that I can deal with whatever comes.
  • Doing gets me to where I want to be. No matter how much that voice tells me to wait because the time isn’t right, I know it’s wrong. I can’t get anywhere without taking that first step, then the next…
  • Fear is an illusion my mind produces. That little voice that tells me all the bad things that can happen to me is nothing more than a character I have created. Therefore, I can kill it off if I really want to.

When I stop thinking too much and start doing, I experience more. When I experience more, I enrich myself and, consequently, my writing.

P.S. For those of you near South Carolina, the Rock Hill Chapter of the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop will hold “Writers’ Secrets Uncovered,” its annual Writers Intensive on Saturday, April 25. Sunscribe Publishers, one of the main sponsors, is holding a contest for an exhibit table. The contest ends Sunday, March 22.

The Power of Emotion: Tapping into the Dream

“I have a dream!”

Four words that changed the course of American history.

I recently read that putting emotion into writing is the best way to get readers to take action. These four words grab the heartstrings and don’t let go.

First, let’s look at the situation Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists faced in 1963. There was legalized, institutionalized discrimination against people of color throughout the South. Even in the Northeast and “liberal” areas of America, African-Americans faced poverty, hopelessness, and the inability to escape a bleak future. People’s anger and frustration at the injustice and inaction were on the verge of violent eruption, something Dr. King definitely did not want. Even people of good intent needed a catalyst to move them off of the status quo.

Dr. King appealed to people’s logic, to their sense of morality, to history. Yet it wasn’t until almost the end of the speech that he connected with all Americans on the deepest level; he tapped into everyone’s desire for a better world.

“I have a dream!”

We all dream about a better future. We dream about having a good job, a nice home, love, a better education for our children, and the opportunity to freely choose our paths to a better tomorrow. This is why millions of people came (and still come) to the United States. This is the American dream.

In four short paragraphs, Dr. King masterfully interwove the deepest desires of all Americans, of all people, and connected them to a vision of what America could, and should, be. He made people see that we are all Americans, entitled to its promise and to be judged on our actions, not our appearance.

“I have a dream!”

It is 52 years later. I was too young to remember Dr. King’s speech. Yet when I hear or read those words, I can’t help getting a lump in my throat. I am an American and long for that ideal Dr. King described. I can see how great America can be, and I face the challenge to do what little I can to get it there for all people.

Time has not diminished that emotion. Time has only increased the power of those four, simple words.

“I have a dream!”