Among the most influential books in my adolescence was BE HERE NOW, a groovy meditation on detachment, openness to the universe and love, by Baba Ram Dass. In it, another phrase, Go with the Flow, pushed its aimlessness onto my heart.
With my inexperience in life at age 15, I misunderstood the power of these concepts. I thought their point was to send out good energy into the world — by thinking positive thoughts — and to sit quietly contemplating my belly button lint.
Fast forward 30+ years to this past weekend. On Friday, I spent the day with aspiring writers (and wonderful readers) at the Tony Hillerman Mystery Writers Conference. It’s one of the premier mystery-writing events in the nation.
Then, on Saturday, I watched my youngest child earn a junior black belt in Tae Kwon Do. That afternoon, I also earned my black tip. This means I’ll be eligible to test for my black belt sometime late next year.
So, in two days, I had many examples of determination and its role in creating success.
Every week, I meet people somewhere on the continuum of the writer’s journey to publication. Some folks dream and don’t go any further than that. There are those who start project after project but never, ever finish. Others complete manuscripts and tell me, "Oh, I wouldn’t dare let anyone else look at my work." Still others send out queries, get rejections and give up right there — or, wrong-headedly refuse to take useful input — and stop growing as artists.
At the Hillerman conference, you could’ve summed up almost every session, every presentation — about craft, marketing or the writer’s life — with these words: perseverance, determination, hard work and luck. David Morrell spoke about them. Tony Hillerman and Steve Brewer did too. The agents and editors at the con went down that road as well.
I moderated a panel with Margaret Coel, Steven Havill and Joseph Badal. "Sinkholes on the road to publication," was my title. I told the SRO audience that I hoped our session would inoculate them as they pursued their own dreams. Yep. You guessed it. Behind every horror story, at the edge of every success, those same words — perseverance, determination, hard work and luck — popped up.
You’d think every member of the conference faculty had met beforehand and had decided to push the same agenda. But that didn’t happen. We’d all come to our conclusions through living our lives, through attaining the successes we’d attained so far and working toward more.
I used to think that the ideas of Being here now and Going with the flow were the polar opposites of taking action, setting goals and striving higher. Now I think they walk hand-in-hand.
Being here now means watching and paying attention to the present. If we practice that in our life, we’ll be able to identify opportunities right here that we may have missed if our sights are only set on the future. By working hard now, we’ll keep on track and create many of those opportunities (or attract them) AND those magnificent unforeseen boons that we call "luck."
To me, this picture of a ladder at Acoma pueblo in New Mexico from the cedarmesa website symbolizes this path of mindfulness in the present and aiming for that gorgeous blue-sky future.
Today, in our discussion, I hope you’ll share some of your examples of successes — or of luck — flowing from determination and perseverance.
Mondays are great days to be inspired.