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Posted by on 7 Oct 2013 | 0 comments

How 99 Days of Inspiration Can Change Your Life

All of us have dreams but not all of us fulfill them, so what does it take to transform your life? Are there particular traits successful people have that ensure their success? Is talent more important than tenacity? And what about courage, self-belief, passion and will-power?

As an aspiring writer, this was a topic that always fascinated me. When I was twenty-one I gave myself until I was thirty to publish a book. If I hadn’t done it by then, I promised, I’d give up and get a real job. When nine years of waitressing and writing didn’t produce the desired result, I decided to self-publish. That was the beginning of everything. My little fable, Men, Money & Chocolate, was picked up by a publishing company and soon translated into 26 languages. This April my first work of literary fiction, The House at the End of Hope Street, was published by Penguin. So, what changed?

My new book was inspired by a dream. As a young, unpublished writer I spent many desperate and difficult years waitressing during the day and writing at night. I longed to have just enough money to work full-time on a book, to give it all my attention, passion and inspiration. One night I fell asleep at my desk and dreamt of a very special house, a refuge for all kinds of artists: writers, singers, painters, actresses and populated by the ghosts of famous women who’d achieved incredible things. These women gave inspiration and advice to the new tenants of Hope Street.

Researching the book, I spend many happy hours discovering wonderful words of wisdom from women such as George Elliot, Charlotte Brontë, Virginia Woolf, Daphne du Maurier and Florence Nightingale. I built up a collection and found much inspiration there, professionally and personally. Their wisdom informed the characters in the book and a blog I wrote afterwards: 99 Days of Inspiration, based on the fact that each tenant at Hope Street was allowed to stay at the house for 99 Days – just long enough to transform their lives but not too long to procrastinate and postpone their dreams.

My research confirmed what I’d suspected myself, that courage is the most important thing above all. Tenacity is essential, since no one is ever an overnight success and most creative have to endure many rejections and overcome a great deal of disappointment before they make it. But courage underpins tenacity. Talent helps, certainly, but it’s not nearly as important as courage. Intelligence and industry is good, but without courage both will be meaningless. It took me nearly a decade before I finally got published. During those ten years I had many moments when I thought I should give up, when I’d suffered so many knock-backs that I believed that to keep trying was not only pointless but senseless. And yet I didn’t stop. Every day I drew on ever-diminishing reserves of courage and I kept going. I self published my book. I baked chocolate flapjacks and begged booksellers to put my book on their tables and in their windows. I returned to booksellers after they’d sent me away. I re-submitted my book to Hay House, even after they’d already rejected it once. Until, at last, they said “yes”. So, whatever it is you want to do with your life, just make sure you nurture your courage, above all things.
9 Inspirations to Change Your Life Today:

“My most valuable trait is tenacity, but what’s got me where I am now is courage.” – P.D. James

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
– Maya Angelou

“Either life entails courage or it ceases to be life.”
– E.M. Forster

“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe

It is a truth universally acknowledged that whatever it is you want to do in life, especially if it’s extraordinary, you’ll need tenacity and courage to do it. Tenacity is essential everyday. Courage is essential from time to time.

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
– Doris Lessing

If you wait for everything in your life to line up before you act, you’ll be waiting forever. Nearly everyone who’s achieved something of significance has overcome great odds to do it. So, whatever your circumstances are, just get started!

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
– George Eliot

Don’t waste time lamenting the years that have passed when your dreams drifted by unfulfilled. It’s a great waste of your creative spirit and won’t effect anything except to make too depressed to take positive action.

“I honor endurance, perseverance, industry, talent.”
– Charlotte Brontë

Whatever you want to achieve never underestimate the power of simply never giving up and, while you’re doing it, always keeping your word with yourself. It’s an essential practice, the difference between actually fulfilling your dreams, or just talking about them for the rest of your life…

“What does the brain matter compared with the heart?” – Virginia Woolf

Only some of us have the ability to be intellectually brilliant, but most of us have the capacity express what we feel in our hearts. Cultivate that and you’ll create something really special.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– E.M. Forster

Never get so fixated on your imagined future that you don’t see all the possibilities life has to offer. So, even while you’re applying tenacity and determination to fulfilling your dreams remember, at the same time, to let go.

“Words ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results.”
– Florence Nightingale

Self-belief, talent and visualisation aren’t enough. You must take action, courageous actions, in the direction of your dreams. Your dreams won’t come true from your living room chair.

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
– Sylvia Plath

When you’re not getting the results you want, whenever you suffer a “failure”, know that you are on the right path. It’s a cliché to say that failure is just a step on the way to success, but it’s a cliché because it’s true.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”
– Agatha Christie

A seemingly silly piece of advice but it really works whenever you’re mentally stuck. Stop thinking so hard, do something else and let your mind wander loosely around the subject, skirting it gently. It won’t be long very long at all before a spark of inspiration settles on your shoulder…

Menna Van Praag

Menna Van Praag

Fifteen years ago I wrote my first novel. Ten years later, with six unpublished manuscripts & a stack of rejections, I self-published my novella, Men, Money & Chocolate. Nine months later I sold it to Hay House and today it’s been translated into 26 languages. The sequel, Happier Than She’s Ever Been, followed a year later. Last April mydebut work of literary fiction, The House at the End of Hope Street was published by Penguin and I’ve just signed a two-book deal with Random House to publish my next two novels: The Memory of Starsand The Cambridge University Witches.
Menna Van Praag

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