This esssay first appeared in Romancing the Blog
Whenever I get discouraged as a writer, I think of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yup. That’s right. The “Govenator,” or “Ah-nold”, the no-neck Austrian whose most famous turn-of-phrase is “I’ll be back.”
A hulking, Republican governor probably seems like a strange role model for a diminutive, liberal novelist. I’ve never seen Terminator or any of Arnold’s other action movies, but I did see him featured on E! True Hollywood Story, and suddenly he became my real-life hero.
As I watched his life story unfold, it occurred to me that there’s a lot more to this man than a series of bulging muscles. He came from a little town in Austria and made himself into the world’s greatest body builder. When he’d gone as far as he could as a weightlifter, he decided to conquer Hollywood. When he got too old to wield an Uzi on the screen, he took on politics, and became governor of California.
All of this from a weird-looking guy with a heavy accent and a nerdy name. I mean, when’s the last time you read a romance novel with a love interest named Arnold?
I followed his triumphs and came to the conclusion that as a writer I could learn a lot from Arnold. He’s got several qualities that separate him from the ordinary guy on the street.
1. An ability to ignore the nay-sayers. No matter what stage of your career as a writer, people will try to put you in little boxes to limit you. “You’ll never get a book published” or “You’ll always be just a genre writer.” When people try to keep you in your place, remember Arnold, and how he’s constantly redefined himself. What an amazing stretch to go from Conan the Barbarian to Governor Schwarzenegger. Imagine all the nay-sayers Arnold “terminated” along the way.
2. A tendency to be think big. Whether it comes to the state he governs or his biceps, Arnold thinks big. Take a page from his book. Don’t settle for Rhode Island-sized dreams if you have your eye on California. Yes, it’s scary to state your dreams when they’re big. People might laugh. You might laugh. But go ahead and declare your intentions. “I want to sign a contract with a big publisher!” “I want to be a best-selling author.” As Arnold would say, “Don’t be a ‘girlie-man’ when it comes to going after what you want!”
3. An unwavering belief in himself. Often your biggest nay-sayer will be the inner voice that says “I can’t do it.” When the voice in your head gives you a laundry list of all the reasons you can’t succeed as a writer, remember Arnold who has risen to the top of three extremely competitive professions. He didn’t listen to the voice that whispered, “Action stars can’t be governors.”
It’s time to channel your inner Arnold and enter the world where all kinds of unimaginable dreams can come true. Say hello to your future, and “Hasta La Vista, baby” to anything that’s holding you back!
Karen Neches also answers to the name Karin Gillespie. Her novel EARTHLY PLEASURES is a Booksense Notable for February. Visit her at www.karenneches.com