Life Lesson: How to Succeed In Life

I had this day – recently – where I was like, constantly let down by people.

You know the deal. Basically they tell you they’re going to do something and they don’t. That happened. But it happened like… seven times… by seven different people.

It got me thinking about what really determines success in life, and I realized that in today’s age of transient culture, of doing what you want when you want, of impulsion driving decision rather than responsibility the answer is simply this:

Do what you say you’re going to do.

A while back now, when I first started Gideon I had one central challenge to myself. I didn’t want to be someone who was all talk, no game.

As a matter of fact, I wanted to be all game, no talk. How much better is it that others see your fruit rather than you talking about what fruit you will have?

I sort of have turned this into a mandate now for my life as a whole. I want to be someone who is all game, very little talk.

The thing is that more and more today people are being ruled by desire rather than duty.

This is very much the case with writing. No one is going to finish your story for you, no one is going to do your planning while you go to the mall or watch TV.

The buck starts and ends with you.

No one else.

So that’s it. If you really want to succeed in life do this, and only this: do what you say you’re going to do. Be all game, little talk. The fruit at the end of the day is a better testimony than a zillion ideas.

A Feel Good Tune for Your Tuesday

So I like to write music as well as stories.

Most of this music is for children’s church, and even now I still enjoy writing songs for kids.

Anyway, I figured I’d post a cute little song I wrote a while back now. Despite how happy and carefree it sounds, I actually wrote it out of some real hardship. It always has the ability to encourage me, so I figured maybe it could do the same for you.

Check it out on Soundcloud here:

Enjoy!

Figuring Out The Shape of Your Story: A New Technique For Writing Storylines

Not kidding, this is actually going to be useful.

So I have a few different techniques I used when writing stories. I sort of invented a new one yesterday and figured I’d share it with you.

Recently I’ve been working on this new idea (Dare, a super hero story, which FYI you can download the first few chapters of, on an earlier post) The story is built around the period of time from St Romulus’s Day, and Christmas Eve.

Anyway, so I was writing the storyline yesterday and this is how I did it.

First things first, I had to determine the shape of my story, in order to determine the general flow and the structure that I needed to fill and build into.

Shape of a story!? I hear you ask. By this I mean the structure of it. There will always be a start, then a defining moment, a turning point, leading up to a climax and conclusion. To demonstrate this, I’ve drawn up the shape of the Lion King’s Storyline. The Lion King has four boxes.

1) Introduction of Characters, ending in Simba’s act of stupidity, and Mufasa explaining to him (atop Pride Rock) the geographic make up of his Kingdom (and other things)

2) Scar thinks up plot to kill Mufasa, this plot is outworked and Mufasa dies

3) In light of Mufasa’s death, Simba goes off into the wilderness, tries to escape his past. Hakuna Matata. Out of the blue, Monkey and Ex-Girlfriend show up and confront Simba to return to the Pride Lands.

4) Simba has encounter with his father (in the shape of clouds) goes back, fights uncle, Climax!

Storyshape LionkingSO! I did this with my story Dare. I figured out the boxes that I needed to fill in my story. It looked like this:

Storyshape dare

In light of this structure, I began to list everything that would be cool to happen in this story

Random Ideas

Using four pens, all different colours, I determined where abouts in the four boxes of my storyline that that particular thing fitted.

Once I had the general structure, and the general content, I built them both around the three dates the story revolves around. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. To do this, I made a calendar of sorts, to sort the ideas onto various days. I blanked out days I didn’t want to use, to make sure it wasn’t like… biblical, like ‘There was evening and there was morning the first day.’ kind of stuff. This way I could really intensify the climax point. This calendar looked like this:

Structured into a day plan

Then, once I was happy with the day balance of the story, I began to write it out, into one of my more ‘traditional’ storylines

Writing into storyline

Which… as you can see isn’t exactly finished.

Anyway. This is how I wrote the storyline of Dare. I found using story shapes a really useful tool, I hope you do too!

Metaphors Feat. New Zealand

You’ve probably guessed by now I really like words.

I just really like the idea that by using them, you can capture these really great pictures and paint ideas or concepts in people’s minds in such a creative way.

Using words in a new or unconventional way, coming up with a great descriptive piece, or even a brilliant metaphor.

I love metaphors (or meta-mores, as my brother once said… he will NEVER live that down.)

Metaphors are when you directly compare something. Rather than a simile, you’re not saying something is LIKE something else, you’re saying it is this.

Yesterday, whilst thinking rather intensely about the NZ General Election (which is taking place tomorrow by the way, this is hugely important) I reflected upon probably my favorite metaphor of all time.

The best part about this particular metaphor is it’s a uniquely New Zealand one, which is cool, because it is kind of awesome to find particular manners and features of our speech that are uniquely us.

‘Dad,’ I said to my dad on the way home, whilst listening to talk back radio, ‘I think it’s all down hill for the Internet Mana Party (NOTE: Let’s not even talk about the Internet Mana Party . UGH) … like… they have…’ with lack of a better term I hesitated before concluding, ‘they’ve sucked a kumara.’

Sucked a Kumara.

How great is this expression?

For those who may be reading this that are not from New Zealand, you don’t have to search this one on Google, a Kumara is basically a sweet potato. The metaphor implies that something is like a kumara, supposedly underground, buried, so… dead.

Sucked a kumara, is just this brilliant visual picture of something being… well… broken. Over. Stuffed. Done.

There are a zillion great expressions of speech out there, unique, and vivid and today I encourage you to consider the way you speak and the metaphors you use. They are such a great way to add creativity into your day to day speech, but also writing in general.kumara

Stories In Everything

There are things people don’t know about me.

The fact that I love Jemima Puddle Duck.

My appreciation for funky and cool socks.

One thing, however, that is pretty obvious is my near on obsession with Ray Ban sunglasses.

It’s a family thing. My nana wore a pair of black Ray Ban Wayfarers, which my dad ‘borrowed’ from her when he was a teenager. Then my dad wore black Ray Ban Wayfarers which I ‘borrowed’ when I was about seventeen.

To me, Ray Bans are an iconic thing. They represent something in my mind. A link to a greater idea. My nana wore them, my dad wore them, Audrey Hepburn didn’t wear them but wore something similar to them. They are icons.

Here’s a confession. I have like… nine pairs now.

Now any regular person would be like, ‘Okay, Jess. The fact of the matter is you only have one set of eyes, how the hell will you ever be in a situation where you would ever need ten pairs of Ray Bans?’

I was explaining this last night, as I purchase my 9th pair (Black leather in case you’re wondering)

To me, each one has a specific story. Not just a story of how I got them (which are often strange stories…) but the sort of story I am telling about myself when I wear them.

I have a pair of Catseye Clubmasters (from the late 80s early 90s) they are gold rimmed, which is unusual for Clubmasters. To me they are vintage, and by far my most hipster glasses. When I wear them, I am telling the story of hipster/arty Jess.

Or my light blue gradient lense Wayfarers, (Purchased at a steal 60$ second hand, just saying) They are beachy and carefree, not to mention when I first started Gideon I saw them online and swore I’d buy them one day since the blue is like the blue in the Gideon logo.

Or my red fronted Wayfarers. They were a birthday present from my mum and dad given to me on the way down to Wellington to see Josh the first time. They are so intense and poppy because of the dramatic red they are ‘Making a statement’ Jess glasses. There are some days even I don’t feel up to the Red Wayfarers.

Each pair to me carries a story, it embodies a story of who and what I want to tell people about myself today.

It’s weird, because no one else but me probably notices, but I think it’s just a cool thing to stop and take a look at yourself and your life and see the stories in things.

I watched this documentary once where they were saying that the secret to big brand clothing is the story you tell people when you wear it. People want to tell the story of their pre-torn jeans showing how ‘hard and edgy’ they are. Reality is that they didn’t make the holes in those jeans it’s just embodying something of our story we want to tell people that day.

I just think it’s cool that we as people invest stories in things. And it’s a cool reminder to see the story in everything.

glasses

Starting Right

The other day I was relaying something that had happened to my mum.

Anyway, so I got about three sentences into this story then stopped and was like, ‘Okay. I have started from completely the wrong place, sorry.’

The problem was that I’d sort of begun at the very pin point of events, rather than providing enough context for the story.

I hate starting stories.

Hate it.

I have this super intense insecurity about it concerned that it’s just crappy and over explained or that it doesn’t have a good enough hook, or that it’s just not outlined in the best possible light.

That’s the problem with beginnings. You can go anywhere with them. That kind of scares me.

When I was younger, and didn’t have as much experience, I would get an idea, crack open a notebook or open a new document on Word and it would be SO easy. Writers block only came when I got past the initial four chapter excitement.

These days it is the total opposite. I think it is because the older I got, and the more I had to read through my work and edit and change and focus things the more I realized how much pressure and importance is on those first few opening paragraphs.

Regarding starting stories I think there are a few important things to keep in mind, and I keep these in mind when combatting my massive new book writers block:

1) Are you starting at the right place. Much like the story I told my mum, you have to pick where it will all begin. Generally if it’s a first book in a series or a one off I tell people to get into the action quickly. It’s only when you’re further into a series you have the time and ability to take your time, because readers already love the characters.

2) Are you over explaining. I am a chronic over explainer. I’m serious. Like. ‘Oh you haven’t read the other books in this series, here’s the WHOLE STORYLINE IN AN EXPLAINATION!’ reality, no one wants to read that. Imply things. Allow characters to set scenes, and situations, and also take your time addressing anything readers need to remember from earlier books. If this is a first novel, make sure you take the advice that it’s better for characters to SHOW readers the circumstance rather than the author TELL readers about it.

3) Be vivid. Sell people on the idea by painting bright and intense scenes and characters which are a point of interest. You have to bait readers. Get them interested. Be this an interesting character/personality or setting. Do something that will get people curious about the other pages to come.

4) First lines. I have a one or the other kind of feeling regarding this. I either have a long starting sentence that makes people go; ‘What?’ or a short sharp one, that makes them go, ‘Oooooh!’

EG:

Jericho Take Over:

In order to understand what I’m about to tell you, you’re going to have to appreciate two things. My sister Kate is crazy.

Atrean (a more intense fantasy book):

Robin’s death was a planned event.

Starting is hard. But like any hard thing, once you have a plan and strategies you can totally handle anything.

At least, that’s what I tell myself …

We Are Being Ruined by FOMO.

I know.

Like you’re reading title of this and thinking, ‘holy moly has she lost her mind…?’

But seriously. I’ve been internalizing this one for a while, so here we go.

FOMO, for those who – like me – had no idea what this mean until you saw it all over Facebook/heard it from people and at some stage w had to google this to figure out what it mean it means this: Fear Of Missing Out.

Apparently FOMO is like a property anxiety these days because of the digital age and access to information and speed of the world that we live in. Who knew!?

There was this point a few months ago that I stopped and thought, ‘Oh my goodness. Am I a boring person?’

I just saw people living these awesome lives on Facebook and my life seemed so uninteresting.

It was a Me < Everyone Else kind of equation.

Not only that, I would get this HUGE insecurity that came with every opportunity, be it church or work or social or whatever that I had ALL OF THIS STUFF to do (that had to the potential to make me as exciting as everyone else looked!) and the reality was that I already have this pretty full life.

Not to say I don’t have time for people and friends and stuff, it’s ALWAYS important to have time for that, but I didn’t have time for every single event outside of the boundaries that we have to put up to ensure that we still function, and sleep and eat and have time to breathe.

Most people I meet are exhausted. Or describe themselves as ‘Busy’ or you have to book three or four weeks ahead to see them. Frequently I am like that too. Busy, rushed, tired, and unavailable and I hate it.

Still, we are driven by this insecurity that means that we fill every single second with a wrestle to be ‘In on it.’

Whether this means we are at that place that everyone else is at.

That we know that thing that everyone else knows.

That we wear that thing that everyone wears or whatever else is trendy (be it a band, book or whatever) at the moment.

We want to be ‘In on It.’ THAT is at the heart of FOMO.

The problem is that in so desperately wanting to be ‘In On It,’ we are robbed of enjoying the things we are ‘In On,’ and we live lives in this blur of checking Facebook, or looking over the person we are talking too’s shoulder because maybe such and such is here. We aren’t present in what we are ‘In On’, appreciating the stories of what we are ‘In On,’ and the moments of it. Which sucks because this is our life. We should enjoy it and be happy with it.

The worst thing is that advertisers and brands and sometimes our friends use this insecurity associated with FOMO to pressure us into being or doing or wearing or whatever when we know it is clearly outside of who we are. We are terrified that we’re going to be ‘Out of It’ that we often undertake way too much and become these busy, stressed, full on book three months in advance people.

To which I say to you this: Slow the HECK down.

Chill out. Stop constantly looking forward but instead take the moment to enjoy the right now.

Figure out who you are, what your capacity is, what matters to you, and do that. Then once and every so often surprise yourself, by doing something different.

Be available, don’t be dictated by this fear that you’re going to be ‘Out’ but enjoy what you are ‘in.’

The thing is we are living our own stories every day. We are the custodians of them. But if you’re traveling at a million miles an hour and trying to tick boxes and be in the mix of everything, you’re going to have this movie trailer life that looks super exciting but misses the depth and awesomeness of the full movie. I am not saying be boring. I am saying be yourself on purpose without FOMO.