Lessons from successful writers

Normal, Weekender

For PNG writers, the journey is difficult but the arrival can be rewarding if one persistently holds on to that dream of being published, writesDr STEVEN WINDUO

ONE of the books I have on my desk all the time is by Jack Canfield, a motivational speaker of grand stature. The book is The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. I have read this book so many times, made notes, and have book marked various pages of the book. I have benefited a lot from reading Canfield’s book to remain inspired even though the world around me is full of people who make life difficult at times. One memorable quote in Canfield’s book is from W. Clement Stone, former publisher of Success Magazine. The quote is: “When life hands you a lemon, squeeze it and make lemonade.”
This quote stuck with me for a long time. Opportunities in life are like a lemon that we have to squeeze in order to make lemonade for us to enjoy. Opportunities in our lives arrive in unexpected ways. As many would do, seize the opportunity and make use of it. 
I first shared this quote with a group of young leaders, teachers, NGOs, and students in Oceania and Japan. The occasion was a forum called Oceania Future Forum organized by the Japan Foundation and the Waseda Hoshien Christian University in Tokyo. I was invited to Japan to coordinate the forum with a Japanese professor. I could not think of a better way of expressing the feeling that as young leaders of Oceania we must take advantage and make use of every opportunity life presents to us. Without doing so we risk taking the train to our destiny.
The moral fibre of sharing this is that many people are resigned into their depressing world without taking action to improve their conditions and life. Opportunities are always present. Sometimes in an obvious natural way and other times opportunities are revealed through indirect means and ways. It is up to us to take heed of such moral intelligence if we care to make a difference in our lives through our own positive actions. Those of us who write books know that the journey is difficult but the arrival can be rewarding if one persist to hold on to that dream.
Two Papua New Guinean writers in my view who took advantage of the opportunity to write and have their books published are fine examples of individuals with such moral intelligence. Lahui Ako, from Hanuabada Village wrote and published two books: Upstream Through Endless Sands of Blessings (2007)–a life story about himself, his family, and his beloved Motuan people of Hanuabada. The second book published by Lahui Ako is a colourful coffee table picture book about his life as a diplomat in Beijin, China, entitled A Logohu in China (2007). Lahui was generous enough to present both books to me one day.
The second writer is Fegsley Risapi, a former school teacher, who now works with the Curriculum Development and Assessment Division of the Department of Education. I first met Fegsley when he registered for my course on writing, editing, and publishing, offered during a Lahara session at UPNG. Fegsley had started writing a book before enrolling in my course. This year Fegsley had his first book Innocent But Responsible (2008) published. He was bubbling with excitement as he signed and presented me a complimentary copy of his book. Now he tells me his second book will be out soon.
Both writers did not have to wait for someone to help fund their publications. They managed to find some money somewhere to have their books published. The admirable quality of Lahui and Fegsley is that they believed in what they did to get what they wanted in life. Nothing could stop them publishing the books they wrote.
They had no institutional support or funding from the government to have their books published. In Lahui’s case, he had approached me early on, in my days as the director of UPNG’s Melanesian and Pacific Studies (MAPS), to have his book published, but with no funds I could not assist him to get his book published.
In Fegsley’s case, he almost gave up waiting for the editor of one of the international publishing companies to help him publish his book. Gathering enough courage and belief in himself, he self-published.
These authors have proven that the spirit of creativity and the opportunities in life are always around us. All we need to do is take advantage of these opportunities by using them to produce the kind of product we want.
So often people express the self-defeating remark that they don’t have the time to write a book. Others with books written are looking out for a publisher or someone to help them publish their books. The simple formula successful writers use is to write a small number of pages a days, say between one and 10 pages. Most of us would write one to two pages a day. In a month of 30 days if I write two pages a day I would have completed 60 pages. And in three months I would have completed 180 pages altogether. I can then rework my book to reach the 200 to 250 pages mark for a typical book for publication.
We can learn a thing or two from successful writers as in the experience of Stephen King, the acclaimed science fiction writer:  “I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three month span, a goodish length for a book–something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh. On some days those ten pages come easily… Sometimes when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”