The Power of the Human Spirit to Overcome Adversity
Writing is a powerful tool. Don Kirchner is a wondeful living example of what I mean. I met Don at an entrepreneur’s conference in Los Angeles in 2007 and was impressed by his soft smile and compelling story. He had spent time in the federal prison system on smuggling charges and had self-published a book on his experiences, and a movie was and is in the works. I stayed in touch with Don since then, even having the honor to present my “Call to Adventure” workshop to him and friends last year.
I recently <finally> read his book, A Matter of Time, and was so inspired that I contacted him to learn more about his relationship to writing and how writing helped him while he spent time in the federal prison system.
In our virtual interview, this is what he had to say:
In what way did writing help you while you were in prison?
It helped me keep my mind off of the more common challenges facing anyone incarcerated (i.e., boredom, conflict, drugs, sex, etc.). It also helped me keep my focus on creative work, on continuous new material, and allowed me to practice writing skills.
How did writing A Matter of Time change or transform you?
It was a major part of transforming [me] from average workaday world consciousness and survival to one of less judgmental and open attitude toward others, regardless of class, culture or background. It also enabled me to impart to others the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. The transformation feels complete to me, in that as often as I have felt overwhelmed by other challenges in my life, I could not revert to old ways of doing things. It gave me strength to draw from, no matter what I was facing or where I was in life.
Since the theme of my blog is FUN, was there anything about the writing process of A Matter of Time you would consider fun?
Completing the book and seeing it in print was a degree of “fun,” in that it brought a measure of happiness to see my words and my story in print. Traveling around the country and cultivating new friendships and relationships as a result of having authored a book was also a different sort of “fun.” Ultimately, of course, with the first and then succeeding books being successful, the increased income will allow me to have much more real fun.
Any advice you’d like to offer to first time book authors and beginning writers?
“Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” — Churchill
Apart from that, get a book cover design made that can be shown to others that shows your subject matter and conveys a sense of immediacy and credibility. It should be a professionally done cover, that makes an impact, because despite the old saying to the contrary, people do, in fact, judge a book by its cover.
Write every day… Keep the brain actively thinking in terms of writing. Think, act, breathe, eat and sleep writing — and openly admit to being a “writer,” to the degree that it is your passion, and then proceed with unwavering focus, and the willingness to do whatever it takes — legally — to succeed.
What do you do to keep moving forward on your writing when things look bleak?
I read other books by successful authors, particularly true stories and biographies, and autobiographies. Sometimes movies help, if the subject matter and the acting talent is exceptional. Workshops and motivational seminars can, but don‘t always, help. Writers’ groups sometimes help, but my experience so far is that they are not that much help. To present to writers, perhaps, but just not to sit around and talk about writing and the problems each one has. They can be useful, but not if it’s just a lot of commiserating.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with writers to help them in writing their books?
Be passionate about everything you do, and don‘t let others’ opinions sway or deter or even overly influence you. Negative or positive, it’s still just others’ opinions. What works for some doesn’t work for everyone. Same thing with publishing. For some, mainstream publishing works best, for others it’s “Print On Demand” and Internet publishing. It’s a whole new world out there, and it’s essential to plunge in whole-heartedly and learn everything you can about it.
More About Don
After attending Colorado State University, Don joined the U.S. Army in 1969 and served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Chief Warrant Officer and a combat helicopter pilot.
Fast forward a number of years of ups and downs. As recounted in his book, A Matter of Time, Don was convicted in 1981 on drug smuggling charges. While bouncing around the federal prison system, Don earned unprecedented commendations from his work in prison with other inmates.
His first-hand experiences with inmates in federal prison inspired Don to do something. Within six months of his own release from federal prison in April 1988, Don founded The Society for Return to Honor as an Arizona nonprofit corporation to facilitate the reentry of former criminal offenders back into society.
Don has written extensively on the subject of prison reform and human redemption, and has published numerous letters, essays and short stories.
Don currently lives in Sedona, Arizona.