CJ Carmichael

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Rise And Shine

Some people wake every morning with a smile on their face, anxious to start the day. Others take a little longer to ease into a wakeful state. But we all need a reason to get out of bed each morning. What is it for you?

Children or pets who need you?

Your job?

A commitment to exercise?

coffeeOr maybe just the allure of breakfast and that first cup of coffee?

When you’re self-employed—as I, and many other writers are—the motivation to rise every morning and attack “the work” has to come from within. There is no child that will cry until you start writing, or boss to tap her watch and raise her eyebrows at you.

And sometimes it’s hard.

We work because bills must be paid, but we also want to feel that our labor is fulfilling a larger purpose, whether it’s helping others, keeping the peace, making the world a healthier, cleaner, more educated place.

Throughout my career as a writer I have struggled with the question of whether my stories matter. Will they make a difference to the lives of the people who read them? Perhaps more crucially—will people read them? Stories have no impact if the words lie unseen on the page. If they don’t win prizes—the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker—were they still worth writing?

The one way I can clear my head from these worries, is by heading out to the mountain to hike, ski or snowshoe. Sometimes you have to climb the peaks, to rise above the fog in the valley.


Unfortunately I don’t come home from these treks with new wisdom and insights about the world. But I am refreshed and healthier. I realize that my stories must contain my truth—what I care about and what I believe. Sounds pretty, but what is that, exactly? What matters to me?

Sure, there’s chocolate. Good coffee. And pretty shoes.

More importantly there are people. My family and friends. Neighbors, colleagues, and Molly at the grocery store who always smiles and asks me if I’m having a good day.

I care about my city, and my country. Yes, I worry about the economy. But also, is constant growth sustainable? And is it possible for humans to ever live in peace with one another and the natural world around us?

Turns out there are so many things I care about that making a list isn’t really helpful in deciding what I should write about. I can’t tackle everything.

I’d love to write an epic, world-changing novel. Something that would make the entire literary community shake their heads with awe and wonder. But I don’t know how to do that. So, I start small. I pick a place. A couple of people. A small, fictional world begins to form…

And it turns out that what I really care about are relationships, all the nitty gritty problems that are part of living and loving. I’m fascinated by the good and bad in all of us. And the struggle between these powerful forces.

So, if that’s what I care about, what do I believe in? If you’ve read my books you already know: The power of love and truth to resolve conflicts.

The message is simple, nothing you haven’t heard before. I’ll have to leave the Pulitzer Prize winning literature to others. My stories may be small, but when I receive a review or email from a reader saying they stayed up all night to finish, that they cared—laughed and cried—that the story felt so real, then I know my message may not be original. But it’s something people need to keep hearing. And believing.

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