Sunday, August 12, 2007

Finding pockets of willpower

I quit smoking 14 years ago and I haven't had a drag on a cigarette since. It was hard. I'd smoked for years and I liked it. Anyone who knew me well thought I would never quit. Neither did I.

Sixteen years ago, I wrote an eight page letter to someone very close to me. It wasn't a nice letter. I wrote things I'd never have the courage to say out loud, things I'd only thought before, things that would flatten this person if they ever read it. I still have that letter in a sealed envelope. I never mailed it and I never will. Writing it was enough for me.

Eighteen years ago an ex-boyfriend took me for dinner right before I moved across the country to live with the man I eventually married. He tried to talk me out of leaving, and when the waitress brought us our fortune cookies, he said, "Why don't you crack yours open & make the decision to stay or go based on what it says inside?" But I'd already made my decision, so I never did crack open that fortune cookie. I still have it, inside an old tin box at the back of my closet.

I received an email from a reader this week asking where I found the willpower to write novels. Wasn't it hard?

Yes, it is, but it's like quitting smoking, or not mailing that letter, or keeping that unopened fortune cookie all these years. I have wanted to be an author since I was ten years old, and I am stupid stubborn about remaining one now that I've got my foot in the door. However, that said, I do have a saying taped to my monitor that helps give me willpower when I feel myself losing steam: Nothing is particulary hard if you divide it into small jobs -- Henry Ford.


M. G. Tarquini said...

I'll take this to heart.

Zany Mom said...

I like this. Thanks!

Anonymous said...


I needed that.

Therese said...

Not "stupid" stubborn at all--"tenacious."

And wise.

kyla-dale said...

I really needed to hear
that quote today. Thanks
a lot for posting it. I'm
off to try and quit smoking

Old friend from Winnipeg said...

I remember when you smoked. Wasn't it something like 1-2 packs a day? I would have bet big money that you'd never quit.

Good for you.

And congratulations on all your success as a published author.
I'm not surprised at all.

Melissa Marsh said...

My husband had to quit smoking when he got yanked into the hospital in June. Unfortunately, when he ends up at the neighbor's house, (the guy who loves to work on cars and fix things up, just like hubby) he will have the occasional cigarette.

I, too, have wanted to be a novelist since an early age. It's been such a powerful dream that I haven't stopped striving for it.

The Anti-Wife said...

You didn't sacrifice anything by quitting smoking, moving or not mailing the letter. You moved on and sometimes that's the best possible solution.

Adrienne said...

Wow. This is a fantastic post.

Thank you Holly.

wordman17 said...

As for me?
None of my business, but I'd
love to read that letter and I'd be smashing open that fortune cookie in a heartbeat if I were in your shoes. I've got no backbone. A bad critique of my writing and I am a mess for weeks.
With respect.

Travis Erwin said...

I envy your strength.

My writing mentor has always emphasized to me the importance of taking a story a paragraph, a page, a chapter at a time.

Someday I hope to match hers, as well as your success in the business.

ORION said...

Much food for thought here...let me at that fortune cookie!

Jess Riley said...

Holly, this was fantastic. I love that you had the willpower never to open that fortune cookie!

I've never smoked, but I can tell you my husband is a closet smoker. It does indeed seem crazy-tough to quit.

And YES, that quote is AWESOME! Reminds me of Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird."

maryanne said...

You're one tuff cookie!

I could never not open that
fortune cookie and I sure as hell woulda mailed the letter. Both not good things, but both reflective of the big wuss I can be.

Larramie said...

Will power is a combination of knowing what you want and having the patience to enjoy the success of each day's journey in staying the course.

Kim Stagliano said...

Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph..... You get it. It's true. Very cool (not Kool) on quitting smoking. I'd have eaten the cookie by now though. :)

Kate S said...

Wow, that's some willpower you have there. I envy it - too much of a wimp myself. :)

There's no doubt your career will continue. Your writing style is lyrical and evocative - just beautiful.

Holly Kennedy said...

Thanks for all your blog comments, everyone. I won't address each of you individually, though I appreciate you all stopping by.

Developing 'staying power' can be tough, at any stage of your career, and for me it certainly is. I have almost no attention span, get bored very easily and have to be diligent about pushing myself to get the work done. Having spoken to many other published authors, I'm always so relieved to feel that they work much the same way (whew!)

If you're working on a novel, keep pushing. If you hit a wall, move to a new chapter & start fresh in a different section. Eventually, it'll all come together and you'll be grinning from ear to ear!

Demon Hunter said...

Great post, Holly! :*)

Deanna Yillson said...

Give me that fortune cookie.
I'll crack it open for you.
It's making me crazy already!!!!

Katie Alender said...

LOL, Deanna!

Kudos to you on sticking to these things that are important to you, Holly!

My word verification is" yzuphsxy", which is read as "Whazzzup? Hey, sexy!"

Heidi the Hick said...

This is a totally powerful post and I've read it three times. I can feel your solid resolve and your determination.

I'm learning it for myself and I hope someday I can pass it on.

Anissa said...

Wow, Holly, fantastic post. You're one tough cookie (and so is the one in your box.) ;)

Write on!

kim said...

I've quit smoking, I've burned unread letters, I've changed the scope of my life one baby step at a time, but I'm with orion and deanna -- the cookie, AHHHHH!

Open it! I'm going mad, mad I say!