12 Ways Nelson Mandela’s Attitude Can Help Writers

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Photo compliment of Morguefile.com 

On December 6, 2013, Jessica Durando from USA Today online shared 15 of Nelson Mandela’s quotes. Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner was an inspiration to so many people. In reading his quotes, I realized there are many ways writers can benefit from his attitude.

What can writers learn from Nelson Mandela? 

1.  “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

When you’re creating your characters, show a character whose lot in life looks dismal, beyond hope, and let us see him persevere, make him one whose strength and courage to keep fighting earns him the badge of honor, the gold star in the end, the ribbon of truth that sets him free and makes him stand out in the crowd. Let him reach his goal, but show us his climb.

2. “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Show a heroine who sacrifices her life for others, who gives up what she wants to help someone less fortunate or less worthy. I think of Katniss Everdeen and how she goes to battle for the people from District 12. How can you create a character who does something similar?

3. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

When you write, keep your head and your heart in the right place so when your novel is complete you’ll feel confident that your story is constructed of a good message, one that makes you feel proud.

4. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

Never believe that you know all there is to know about writing, that you’re ahead of others in the craft. There is something to learn from every writer despite how seasoned they appear. When you let other writers teach you and are proud for them you encourage them, and in doing so you become their cheerleader. Even if they don’t thank you for letting them lead you will have found happiness in empowering them.

5. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Show a character in your novel who’s goal is to find revenge, but teach that character Mandela’s lesson so when the story is complete they find this truth, and so will the reader.

6. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The writers who don’t write are the ones who fail. Reaching the end of your novel might be a long journey, but if you write 1000 words a day it’ll only take 50 days to write 50,000 words. 

7. “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

To me, the best novels are those that show me two sides to a story, those that make me think and feel a different way about a social cause or a platform. Write strong and make a stand others may not be willing to make.

8. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

All writers have excuses not to write. Life gets in the way sometimes throwing illness, job loss, and financial problems to block our way. Let the passion of your mission keep you on course. God gave you the gift. Find a way to work through the dirt.

9. “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”

Stay true to yourself. Don’t let society or the trends dictate what you write or what you don’t write. Be courageous about the content of your story and your message. Only then will you feel worthy of the title, AUTHOR.

10. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

If you want readers to read your story and learn from your message, learn the craft. Never stop improving your prose. The better your prose the more readers you’ll have and the more lives you will change.

11. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Understand that fear is normal in this profession. Fear of rejection, fear of success. Will I have readers? Will people disagree? Will readers think my story is trite? Will I sell my books? If readers like my book, will they feel disappointed in the next one?

Accept that there will be fear, but don’t let doubt stop you from your journey. Move past the questions, the insecurities, and conquer your fear.

12. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Haven’t you often read about an author’s success after they’re received tens and hundreds of rejection letters? What made them successful was that they continued to reach for their dreams. They gripped the sinking line and pulled the thin cord until they were able to stand again.

How can these quotes help you as a writer?


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  1. Thank you Michelle, What an amazing post. These quotes are so unbelievable. Number 10 is my favorite. Again, Thank you! Blessings.

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