Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday Talk-Time: A Mantra for Life

Dedication, desire, discipline, determination and perseverance. In her last column for the Pink Heart Society Michelle Styles explains her mantra for living.

Earlier this month, I happened to read Angela Bissell’s Call Story on the So You Think You Can Write blog. Angela is the latest Presents author. For many years, I used to post on the Harlequin Community and every so often I would put up my mantra – dedication, desire, determination, discipline and perseverance. 4 Ds and one P.  It chimed with her and she had the words taped to her computer. They helped her in her darkest days just as they have helped me. I was totally thrilled that she mentioned me and my mantra.

The mantra is derived from a talk Barbara Taylor Bradford gave to the Romantic Novelists Association conference back in 2004. She mentioned the 4 Ds and I hurriedly scribbled them down. However, it soon became apparent to me that I needed something extra and that was perseverance. Unlike Ms Bradford, I didn’t have a bestseller with my first published work. Neither did I sell my first book half completed.  I have had a ton of rejections.  And I have learnt that life goes on. I have also learnt that it is what you do AFTER the response that is important. You always have a choice. You do not have to accept that all avenues are closed. The choice you make helps to define you. The mantra worked for me once I added the perseverance part.

Discipline can be hard for me. Some of writing is the simply showing up and getting the words down. It  can be as simple as making the time to write. When I started on my exercise journey, it was a lesson I had to learn all over again. If you are pressed for time (a common excuse), try this. Make  a seven day grid with every half hour blocked out.  Go back over the last seven days. In each slot, mark in what you did. Be honest. This is not a tool to beat yourself up with. Then take a look at how you spent your time. Are there dead times? Are there times which you waste? See if you can rearrange things. You might be able to carve more time than you think. Make an appointment with yourself for the things that are important. This includes things like spending time with the family, exercise and (if you are an author – published or not) writing without internet distractions.

Dedication I always believe is taking the time to do the research and to improve. Knowing what your goals and figuring out a way to accomplish them. It is about getting to the end of a project.
Desire is that fire in your belly. You have to know what you want and why. You have to want to write the story. Writing is 99% hard work and at some point, you will hate the story or rather the process of writing that story. It is what happens. It is why you have to really have the desire to write that particular story.

Determination means grit. You have to be determined to get to the end of the project. You have to be focussed and not distracted.

Finally there is Perseverance (which sometimes I think is the most important part). There is a lot of things you can’t control, but what you can control is your reaction to them. You can let them overwhelm you or you can see them as stepping stones. Sometimes it can take 10,000 ways of writing a story before you discover the right way. Finding the right agent for you can take a long time and sending out lots of queries, proposals etc. Finally landing the publishing deal you want can also take a long time. Sometimes it is a matter of digging in and getting on with it. It is what you do AFTER you have had a response and how YOU respond that counts.

The mantra works for me. It works with other things besides writing. Hopefully this will someone else.

I have enjoyed my time at the Pink Heart Society and wish it all the best. I look forward to reading it for many years to come.

Michelle Styles writes warm witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Summer of the Viking was published in June 2015. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

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