by Barbara Bartlein
I recently had the opportunity to meet Stephen Coonts, the best-selling author of Final Flight, The Minotaur and Flight of the Intruder, at the Maui Writer’s Conference in Hawaii. (I know, tough gig. I’ve heard it from everybody.) With Final Flight spending 4 months on the New York Times Best Seller list, his character, Jake Grafton, enjoys a popular following. I asked Mr. Coonts, “Where do great ideas come from?”
“Bad pizza,” he responded. “When I eat bad pizza, I can’t sleep. I lay there thinking and there are no interruptions to block my creativity. These are the times I get my best ideas.” While Mr. Coonts was referring to writing, I think the “bad pizza” approach applies to any creative endeavor. Innovative ideas occur when we clear our minds of every day concerns and let the subconscious takeover. That is why retreats and quiet walks can propel thinking better than sitting at a desk trying to force solutions.
Here are some other words of wisdom from this great author:
A story is a destination. Make sure you have the end in mind before you start. With the end in mind, you know where to start. Life works the same way. Make sure you have your goals in mind as you start out with each day, each week and each year. What are the accomplishments that you have in focus? Clearly picture what you would be doing if “all your dreams came true.” If you don’t know where you are going, you will never find the right road.
The destination must be worth the journey. Like a long joke with a lousy punch line, or an epic novel with a flat ending, your goals and aspirations should be grand enough to fit the work of getting there. Think big and dream big. Go for more than you think is possible. You will likely surprise yourself. Remember, you get in life exactly what you settle for.
Do not get lost in the underbrush. Don’t let details overwhelm, exhaust and choke the action. Likewise, don’t let the “small stuff” in life snuff out your drive and consume your energy and talent. Stay focused on your destination, and enjoy the journey.
Do not use divine intervention to solve the problem. Don’t write a story expecting a miracle to save the hero in a flash of lightening and don’t expect the same in your life. The only successful people I know are those that have worked hard and persevered even when they have failures. Dreamers buy lottery tickets. Winners make success happen.
You must be willing to fail. Be anything but boring. If you haven’t failed, then you haven’t stretched yourself. Rejection and failure is very much a part of an author’s life. I know. I routinely collect rejections on articles and manuscripts. With each rejection, I revise and improve the work. Life works the same way. Revise and improve with each set back and you will leap over “failure.”
Be original. Go where no one has gone before. Follow your own dreams especially if others do not think it is possible. Then you know it is original. If it were easy, then anyone could do it. Do the things that others have been reluctant to do. Make sure you are an original in a world of imitators.
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