Wordy Wednesday (GUEST POST: “The Last Lecture”)

Hey there, dear blog reader! Julia here to let you know that I am currently out of town and, because of that, unable to write blog posts myself. In order to keep Julia the Writer Girl alive while I’m gone, some great writers are helping me out by penning guest posts. Totally sweet and awesome of them, right? So, let’s give a big round of applause for today’s guest poster, Shelby Moore!

Shelby recently watched Randy Pausch’s famous lecture on achieving your childhood dreams and was super inspired by it, so she decided to write this post.

Shelby: Your post is just as inspirational to me as Pausch’s lecture, and I’m sure readers will feel the same. Great job with this, and good luck with writing! You’re so talented. 🙂 Thanks for being a guest blogger!

If you’d like to contact Shelby, you can check her out at her blog or email her at: shelbymoorewriting[at]aol.com .

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“I’ve always wanted to write a story, but…”

I don’t have the time.

I probably don’t have talent.

Nobody will like my story!

I’ve never written for fun before.

I’d rather watch TV/read XX book/play XX video game/etc. right right now.

[Insert limiting excuse here.]

How many of you have ever told yourself any of the above?  I certainly have!  But why do we talk ourselves out of writing?  It’s not terribly hard in comparison to so many other things – martial arts or brain surgery, for example.  Writing a novel is really quite achievable, as long as you are dedicated to writing a little bit every day.  All you have to do is put butt to chair and pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  Even if what you write is awful, it’s better than nothing at all!

While growing up, I loved to write.  Sometimes I got in trouble because I was neglecting my homework in order to work on a story!  Ever since I could hold a crayon, I have dreamed of sharing my stories with the world.  However, recently I was telling myself that I was too busy to write, that I had too many other things to worry about.  I went without doing any creative writing during my first year at college.  I really missed it.  When I got home about a month ago, I decided it was time to start again.  I made this resolution because of a lecture which I watched at the request of my mother.

“The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” is a lecture given by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University a few years ago as he was dying of pancreatic cancer.  It is also one of the most inspiring and uplifting speeches I have ever heard, and I’ve listened to more than my fair share of speeches during my lifetime.

Pausch doesn’t talk about his impending death.  He focuses instead on the dreams he had as a child and how they have become reality over the course of his life.  His lecture could apply to almost any area of life, but here are eight things that I got out of it which relate to writing:

  1. It’s ok to daydream.  You can get some of your best ideas while daydreaming.

     

  2. Have goals and write them down so you don’t forget them.

     

  3. Don’t limit yourself in your goals.  If you think small, you’ll never find out what big things you can achieve.  Some of Pausch’s dreams seem nearly impossible for an average guy to fulfill, but he never doubted what he really wanted, and it paid off eventually.

     

  4. Be free to express your personality and creativity.  Pausch talks about painting his own room when he was a kid, and some of the things he painted.  He put whatever he wanted on his walls!  We should feel free to write the story we want to write, and surround ourselves with the things that inspire us.

     

  5. “You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.”  You may have the greatest, most exciting idea for a story, but if you don’t use punctuation and spell everything wrong, it’s not going to go anywhere!  Take time to hone your skills.  Take time to revise and edit.  Take time to make sure the fundamentals of writing are in place, and that is when your story will truly become a great one.

     

  6. Learn from the advice and criticism of those who have gone before you.  Speaking of a hard day at football practice, Pausch said:

    “When [practice] was over, one of the assistant coaches came over to me and said, ‘Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’  And he said, ‘That’s a good thing.  When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.’  That’s been a lesson that stuck with me my whole life.  When you see yourself doing something badly, and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be.  Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.”

    Sometimes, we are hesitant to write or show our finished writing to others because we are afraid of what they will say.  We should actually be grateful for the critique people give us.  Time is valuable.  Your critique-ers and beta readers obviously think you are worth their time, otherwise they wouldn’t bleed all over your precious story with their red pens.

     

  7. Sometimes your dreams won’t get fulfilled in quite the way you expected.  Pausch discusses that one of his childhood dreams was to be in zero gravity.  He ended up riding in an airplane which flies in parabolic arcs, creating about 25 seconds of weightlessness at a time for the passengers.  You may set out to write a novel and find that you end up with a book of poems.  Or you may start out with a plain ol’ fiction story and somehow end up with a sci-fi story set in another century!  Or maybe your writing debut isn’t a best-selling novel like you imagined – maybe it’s a small piece in a literary journal.  These are all successes.

     

  8. There will always be brick walls in our way, and “sometimes those walls are made of flesh.”  Pausch relates a story of trying to get permission from his superiors to take a sabbatical at Disneyland as an Imagineer.  You may be trying to find an editor, or querying agents, or attempting to self-publish right now.   You may be running up against “brick walls made of flesh” as people turn you away.  Don’t let the rejections put a halt to your dream.  Pausch adds, “Remember, the brick walls are there for a reason.  The brick walls are not there to keep us out… they are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”  Find ways to get around the brick walls.  Others have achieved their dreams, so why not you as well?

In conclusion, if you want to write, do it!  Stop making excuses and start making your dream a reality.

If you haven’t already seen “The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, I encourage you to do so.  The entire lecture is only an hour, and it is an hour well spent.  You can watch it for free on YouTube.

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How great is Shelby, right? Again, you can check out her blog HERE or email her at: shelbymoorewriting[at]aol.com .

Talk to you as soon as I’m back from vacation–I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip!

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~Julia

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