Real Women, Real Lives
Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?
There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skill set and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.
The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.
These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.
Today, I am delighted to invite Colleen M. Story to share her story.
Tell us a little about you and your story.
The question I’m most often asked: “Is that really your last name?”
I’m happy to say it is. I can thank my father for that! One of my elementary school teachers who stood about six-foot, four-inches tall and had a booming baritone voice used to walk down the hall behind me singing the old song, “Tell me a story, tell me a story…” I didn’t appreciate the extra attention, so I learned to seek cover whenever I heard his shoes hitting the linoleum floor with their telltale clomp, clomp, clomp. Now I wonder if the teasing was prophetic in some way?
I always enjoyed writing, and tended to celebrate when teachers announced essay rather than multiple-choice tests, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, I was intent on being a music instructor. During my student teaching experience, though, I grew discouraged with the public school music program, and decided I preferred teaching privately, which I continue to do to this day.
After I graduated from college, the writing bug bit me, and I’ve been writing ever since. I started out as a writer for a corporation, then after three years went freelance. I’ve supported myself as a full-time freelance writer ever since. My real dream was always to be a published novelist, though, so during my off hours I worked on fiction writing.
Eventually my hard work paid off and I traditionally published my first novel in 2015, followed by my second novel, Loreena’s Gift, in 2016, which was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others. The next year, I ventured into self-publishing with my first non-fiction book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, which was named Solo Medalist in the New Apple Book Award (2018) and earned the Book by Book Pub Award for the best writing and publishing book in 2018.
Today, I’m also a motivational speaker and workshop leader, and regularly speak at writing events around the country. I play French horn in the local symphony, and live in the beautiful state of Idaho about 1.5 hours from the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and two hours from West Yellowstone National Park.
What’s your biggest dream in life?
One of the biggest dreams of my life was to traditionally publish a novel. I was fortunate enough to have that dream come true, and though I still have a lot of writing-related dreams I’m pursuing, I can no longer pick one that is the “big dream.” At this point, I think my major hope in life is to “get better”—to continue to improve as a writer, speaker, business owner, teacher, creative individual, and overall human being.
If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?
My power word for 2019 is “action.” I’ve found that immediate action is the magical elixir when it comes to success in your career and in life, in general. I’ve grown almost addicted to it, as over the last year especially, I’ve seen the results. When I push myself to take action quickly on any idea I may have, it’s usually a little scary, but then it becomes super fun and motivating, and before you know it I’ve taken giant steps forward.
Because of my newfound attitude toward action, I’m now working on things I never would have imagined I’d be doing:
- writing the story for a new musical collaboration with a composer friend of mine,
- organizing a joint day-long writing workshop with another writer friend of mine,
- and creating a new online e-course for writers, among others.
Sometimes it feels like I have a zillion balls in the air, but gosh it’s exciting! Each week I create a list of things I’m working on, and every day I take action, take action, take action, even when I don’t really feel like it. I’ve discovered that just five minutes is enough to get me going, so in 2019 I plan to devote myself even more to this idea, to see where it takes me.
Who inspires you and why?
The most inspirational person in my life by far is my mother. When I was only four years old, she took my older brother and me across country so we could start a new life. She was alone and with very few means (my father came into our lives later on), but since my brother had very severe asthma, she wanted to get us to a drier climate. With her unwavering hard work and endless optimism, she established a new life for us out west, and we all thrived because of it.
I still get some of the best advice in life and business from my mom, but most of all she reminds me not to take things too seriously, and to have some fun now and then. She really loves life, no matter what, and it shows in her energy and vitality. I hope to follow her example.
What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?
I get really excited about helping others learn and grow. Even when I was in kindergarten, the teachers asked me to mentor the other kids, and I loved it. Watching someone go from confused to confident is so rewarding when I’m involved in the process.
I’m now finding that same motivation in my creative work. When I get an email from a writer telling me how much my book, blog, or speaking event helped her, it makes my day. I also find the projects that get me up in the morning are usually those meant to help others overcome challenges.
There is another side to me, though, that’s equally motivated by the experience of escaping into the act of creation. It’s why I love making music, writing novels, graphic design, and even the occasional crafting project.
What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?
Like many authors, I worked for a lot of years in obscurity, with few people reading my words. On the one hand, that was fine, as I understood the need to pay one’s dues, but on the other hand, it can be very discouraging if you think all your efforts are for nothing. As a musician needs an audience or a painter needs a viewer, I think writers need readers. Once we find that niche into which we belong and connect with those who are interested in what we’re doing, we start to really grow and thrive.
Until that point, though, it’s easy to be filled with self-doubt and questions, such as, “Should I really be doing this?” I’m working on a new book now that will help writers find their unique niche. I don’t want to see others get discouraged along the way, and now I know there are things you can do to start gaining readers a lot sooner.
How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
To keep your motivation high, you have to really know yourself and what makes you tick. Interestingly, most of us don’t know ourselves as completely as we should, at least according to recent research. One study, for example, found that our friends can actually judge our IQ and creativity better than we can!
To that end, I’ve made a point to get feedback from others, discover my strengths, and experiment with different approaches to my career and daily routine. Over the years, I’ve discovered some things about myself that really surprised me, but now that I understand them better I’m using them in a conscious way to keep my motivation high.
I also make a point to get away at least once a year to a place where I can reflect on my life, review what’s working and what’s not, and set up goals for the following year. This process has proved invaluable to building a more fulfilling and exciting career. There’s something magical about gaining some distance from your day-to-day existence so you can really see where you’re going, and then course-correct if you need to. I highly recommend it.
To find out more about Colleen M. Story you can connect with her here: