Janet Sumner Johnson
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hard work

When Fortunes Come True

May

18, 2015 |

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My family and I really like Chinese food. Our favorite part (okay, maybe tied with eating all the yummy food) is opening our fortune cookies.

I always get the best fortune.

Seriously. Like, even my kids want my fortune.

I’m just lucky that way.

Here is my latest.

*All your hard work will soon pay off*

So to understand how great this fortune is, you need to know why we were eating Chinese.

Why, you ask?  Because I’d just spent a week packing and cleaning to get our house ready to sell–solid days of doing nothing but that–and I didn’t want to dirty my newly immaculate kitchen.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled with this fortune! Because who wants to do a bunch of hard work and not have it pay off, right?

And happy for me, this fortune cookie really was all-knowing. Our house sold, and we are feeling all kinds of relieved.

The thing is, since that time, I’ve had an epiphany. This fortune came true not because of some omniscient cookie. This fortune came true because hard work ALWAYS pays off.

It just doesn’t always pay off in the way we would like.

For example:
Remember that manuscript you wrote and edited, then finally tucked away in a drawer? Remember that laundry you folded that your toddler then unfolded? Remember that bed you made that you then unmade later that SAME DAY??

Every one of those situations included pay-off. Think of the practice and skills that were gained in writing that manuscript. Think of the work ethic your toddler gained by watching your example. Think of the peace that made-up bed exuded in your room all day long (and peace exuding is totally a thing).

Hard work always pays off.

So don’t you go fearing that your efforts will be a waste. They won’t. Even if you don’t get what you want, they. are. not. wasted.

Peace out and work on my friends.

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Controlling our Destinies

Oct

06, 2014 |

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“Our decisions determine our destiny.” ~Thomas S. Monson

There is so much in life that we can’t control. So much that seems to affect who we are, who we will become, and in fact, our very destinies. I heard a snippet of an interview on NPR with an actor from That Seventy’s Show, and they were talking about how much there is out of our control that determines our “success.” (I put success in quotes, because that’s a matter of definition, isn’t it?)

The interviewer commented that making it big is not just about getting out there and working hard. He knows plenty of people who have been there working hard for a lot of years. People who have worked just as hard if not harder than the ones who DID make it big. So it’s not just about work. It’s about work, and luck, and timing, and the stars aligning, and Jupiter being in its 3rd rotation of the 5th lunar cycle and blah, blah, blah.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past week. In truth, we can work hard and never achieve that “success” that we all dream of. So much of that is out of our control.

But we can control our destinies. How do we react when we get that rejection? Do we throw our notebook across the room and refuse to ever write another word? Do we scream and rant and blame others for not giving us what we wanted? For sabotaging us? Or do we pick our tarnished pride up off the floor, wipe away the dust and move onward? Learn from experience?

Most of us will probably never make it big. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have bright destinies and leave a trail of shining good in our wake. It doesn’t mean that we can’t leave the world just a little better than we found it through our actions.

Because we can control that. We can control how we act and react to everything we face . . . good and bad. And that is what determines our destinies.

Have you ever felt proud for how you reacted in a bad situation?

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When You Have Nothing Left: On Soccer and Writing

May

12, 2014 |

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So I started a soccer team. After watching my boys play, all the love for the game came rushing back until I couldn’t stand it. I had to play. That’s all there was to it.
 
There I am, circled. 🙂

My husband found an indoor soccer place with a women’s league, and I convinced all my friends that they needed this in their lives. And it’s kindof been awesome.

It doesn’t matter that most of the women I play with have never played before. It doesn’t matter that our team is terrible (if we can keep the other team to single digits, we feel pretty good!). We are out there taking a risk. Doing something different and having fun!

And being on the field has reminded why I love this sport so much. You have to dig deep, and run harder and faster than you think you can. Even when you have nothing left, you push yourself, because if you don’t, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting your teammates down.

The ball rolls free and it’s a race. Muscles tense, you fly to beat your opponent. In that moment, you forget the ache, forget the scream in your lungs, because if the other team gets it, the opportunity is gone.

If you don’t give it everything you have, you wind up like a puppet–yanked around while you, half-heartedly chase something you will never catch.

Writing is like this. As an author, you have to push yourself harder and dig deeper than you think is possible. It takes will power to make yourself sit in that chair and write. It takes focus to get those words from your brain onto paper.

And once it’s down, that’s only the beginning. Then you have to push yourself to find the story that’s hiding in there. The one that wants to come out and shine if only you can dig deep enough. If only you can get past that voice that says it’s too hard. Or that you aren’t good enough. Or that your story’s not good enough.

Push yourself! That ball is bouncing just out of reach, and if you don’t give it your all, you will wind up chasing a dream that is always just out of reach. Always so close, but never in your grasp. Instead of shining, you become a shadow of what you could be.

We won’t always win, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing you gave it your all. You gave it everything you had and then you gave more. You didn’t quit. You focused. You conquered yourself and came out just a wee bit better.

And all those wee bits add up.

How do you push yourself?

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Tools

Sep

16, 2013 |

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I have this cookie recipe that is just . . . Yum. So yum that people ask for the recipe all the time. Now I’m no master baker, but seriously, these cookies rock.

Which is why I was so surprised when I got some feedback that the cookies weren’t working out. Had I missed an ingredient? Forgotten to tell them something? What was the secret that I was withholding?!!

I couldn’t figure it out until I made them during a visit to my parents. The cookies weren’t the same at all! I’d used my same recipe. I’d done everything the same, so why had I failed?

And then it hit me. The pans! At home I always use a baking stone. My parents didn’t have one. And oh, what a difference it made.

So it turns out that my cookies aren’t amazing because of any special talent I have, but rather because of the tools I use.

A lesson that applies to life. When I started writing, I thought that getting published was about talent. Only those who were born with an intrinsic ability to write could attain such a lofty goal. But I’ve since learned differently. Writing (or drawing, or playing a sport, or whatever it is you love to do) isn’t about talent. It’s about tools. And getting those tools is about work.

You want to write characters who are real? Start reading about characterization. In the blogosphere alone there are countless articles on how to do this. Check out a few books on writing, then practice, practice, practice. That is how you gain the tool of creating awesome characters. And the same goes for any other aspect of writing, or really of anything.

You don’t think your talented enough? So what! Get out there and do the work. Practice, practice, practice. Because that, my friends, is where it’s at.

Have you ever gotten a “tool” through practice and hard work?

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