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Jumping for joyWow, this past week has been exciting. After some three years (give or take) of writing, I can now say I’m a bona fide published author.  Woohoo! The moment I downloaded a copy of my book onto my Kindle and my mother downloaded hers onto her Nook, I started to shake. Then I cried like a baby on my husband’s shoulder, while my dad looked on in bemused wonder.

I was unprepared for the emotions I’d experience at the live “birth” of this baby. I’d always wondered why authors likened a book to a baby, but having just gone through the experience, I now completely understand.  Having toiled away in relative quiet; writing, reading, editing, re-writing, submissions, rejections, more editing, more reading, and about three more rounds of editing, I’ve come to realize just what kind of dedication it takes to becoming a published writer. It’s no easy task, and not for the faint of heart.

Kind of like with pregnancy, you grow the “book baby” within you, close to your heart. No one can see or hear it yet, but you know it’s there. Then you announce to the world you are writing a book, and the responses run the gammit from “Wow, that’s incredible!”, to “Oh really…”. Like a pregnant mom, you protectively cross your arms over your growing child and tell yourself  it doesn’t matter if your book is a huge commercial success, is beautiful, well-received, or brilliant. It doesn’t matter. It’s yours – all yours.

As release day looms, you begin to anticipate all kinds of terrible things, like; it’s a terrible story, it’s not well-written, people will hate it, it’ll be full of all kinds of flaws that everyone will see. But you love your child, so you do everything you can to prepare for the birth – the release date. You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, hoping to get it as perfect as you can, while still agonizing about how it will be received by the public at large.

As you go through all of these stages, you are terrified you’ve missed something. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect book. Almost every book written has some flaws, a missed punctuation here, an oddly placed word there, some bit of awkward phrasing you didn’t catch during the gazillion times it’s been edited by you, your editor and whoever else you’ve had aid you. Just before the release, you realize you’ve done everything you possibly can, and you know your child will not be perfect. As in people, it simply can’t be. You breathe and you try to accept that this “baby” will be whatever it is meant to be.

Oh, but then there is the birth – the date of public release. Suddenly after all the stress, strain and pain, it is out in the world for all to see. Every thought you’ve put down on paper is there. Good, bad or indifferent, anyone who picks it up and reads it now knows whether it’s a good story, a mediocre story, or a bad one. All the flaws are revealed. But as you gaze upon the written words on a mechanical device or paper bundle for the first time, your heart melts. It is done. It is beautiful. So you cry, you shake with emotion, and you let those who’ve stood by your side wrap you in their arms of love and share in the excitement.

cartoon BabyThe first day or two are euphoric. You are thrilled, proud and want to show it to everyone. You want to give it the best life you possibly can. So what do you, the author/parent do? You begin promoting the hell out of it. You tell perfect strangers, family, friends, anyone, that your baby deserves a fighting chance. You start pouring over the book’s ranking on the on-line sales sites, unsure of what they mean. Your family and friends start asking things like, “so how’s it going?” or, “how are sales today?”

You become somewhat defensive. Sales? Who cares about sales? Who cares if it currently ranks in the hundreds of thousands on Amazon because few people still know about it. Oh, you care. You care because you want your baby to succeed. You care because your “baby” is a reflection of you. You created it, so it is intrinsically a part of you. It is only day four of it’s life, yet you want it to be a star among stars, shining brighter than all the other millions of stars out there.

Then, if you are reasonable, you begin to breathe again and realize that you can only do the very best you can.  As Richard Mabry states in his guest blog on Rachelle Gardner’s blog site, “should you open the champagne when the number is small and look for the bottle of antidepressants when the number rises? Nope. Just keep writing.”.  You want to give your new “baby” the best possible start in life you are able to provide it, and you will continue to do so, but you must also resume other aspects of your life. Your spouse, family and friends are standing by patiently (or not) waiting for you to rejoin the rest of society. You start to loosen the iron grip you had on statistics, rankings and reviews, and begin to focus on simply raising your “child” and enjoying the journey.

Then, you get another book idea-and start the whole cycle over again. So now I understand. Writing a book and getting it published is about more than just putting words to the proverbial page. It is about faith, love, perseverance, and the need to tell the stories that inhabit your mind. It is very much like parenting and life. In fact, it brings to mind the Serenity poem, which reads, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. 

Serenity Prayer

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Ikea got me with this one – I love this commercial. Recently I attended a production of 9 to 5 (musical) at the Huron County Playhouse and one of the lead actors is Lisa Horner, the star of that Ikea commercial. As I laughed and mentally snapped my fingers along to the upbeat songs of the production, I couldn’t help but be impressed with Lisa. It occurred to me that she had to have rehearsed and performed this play numerous times, yet for those of us in the audience, she brought it to life and played her character full out. I wondered how she could do that, night after night, no matter what might be going on in her personal life, or how tiring it might get. But then, she’s a professional – a master of her craft, so she goes out there and gives it her all every single time, and makes sure her audience gets their money’s worth. In an article written by theatre critic, Richard Ouzounian, Lisa comments, “Once the curtain’s up, all you can do is put one foot in front of the other when you’re out there.”  Well doesn’t that just sum up so much of life?

I couldn’t help but admire her enthusiasm and professionalism during the play, and afterwards I began to reflect on that comment. Every single day, each of us has a choice. We can either lay in bed and bemoan our fate and current woes, or we can swing our legs out of the bed and get on with it – whatever “it” is. There’s another well known theatre quote that says, “Life is not a dress rehearsal”, and again I say, “hear, hear!”.

You see, things aren’t always easy in my life. I’ve been the single parent living at or near the poverty line while raising two children; I’ve been let go from a job I desperately needed to support myself and my family; I’ve dealth with loneliness, disappointment, blended families (just try bringing five teens together into something resembling a family), horrible family betrayal, and more financial stress than I feel I deserve; but it’s my choice how I deal with life and it’s bumps (or roller coaster rides). I could choose to sink into the morass of depression and “woe is me”, but that really won’t serve any purpose. I have my days, mind you, but they don’t last long. I choose to look for the positive and revel in the loving relationships I’m fortunate to have in my life. If a day is really a downer, I can always find at least 5 things to be thankful for – that first cup of coffee, the sunshine, the sound of birds in the trees, the love of my husband, my children and grandchildren…

Then about three years ago, I decided to write a romance novel. I’d always wanted to, but wasn’t up for the commitment of time and energy (it takes a ton of both), or had the confidence. But then I stopped worrying whether or not I was a good enough writer, or whether or not anyone would want to read it, I just sat down and started writing. I’ve researched and Googled my way through the process to better understanding of the business of writing and book publishing. I’m no expert, but I’m definitely learning, and as a result, I’m gaining confidence. I’ve met (on-line) some fabulous authors who inspire and excite me, and I begin to feel a part of this new family called “writers”. I am more confident claiming that title and using my learned abilities in my day to day work. I am evolving – again, and I’ve discovered it’s okay be uncomfortable and grow.

So, as Lisa says in her Ikea commercial, “Start the car! Start the car!”.

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Hold close the beauty of each day

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve taken on a new position as Business Development Manager for Strategic Incentive Solutions, a Canadian/US incentive and rewards marketing company. I’m pumped, I’m excited, I’m ready to rock and roll. I’m  ready to get out there and kick butt. But…

Having committed to this writing gig, I also acknowledge that I have to fine tune my time management. No longer can I devote my time soley to my writing, but allocate blocks of time to successfully work at both. Each is time consuming and comes with it’s own set of demands. As I dive into the sales pool again and surface, I know I have to stay motivated in each area in order to make them work. But how to accomplish that task?

Motivation is a funny thing. Typically, humans aren’t motivated to change unless given a reason – an incentive if you will. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Well, you might want to fix it if the same old same old simply isn’t working for you any longer, or if there is an incentive to change or take action. For example, most people will motivate themselves to get up in the morning and go to work because the incentive of a pay cheque waits at the end of the week (or whatever pay period you have). Going to school? The obvious incentive is to gain education and thereby hopefully secure a good job in a field of interest, and get paid for it. What about writers who write a book, article or journal? Again, the motivation might lie in wanting to get paid for the work we do.

But there are other motivators and incentives, as well as the inherent rewards. What about the social aspect of work and school? I remember my children at around the age of eight or nine years old telling me their motivation or incentive to go to class wasn’t getting education – far from it. They were motivated to get up and out the door by the prospect of seeing their friends and playing with them, or doing something neat like a school trip, or being leader of the class for the day. Later in life, when we start working for a living, yes we need that pay cheque, but we also crave the social aspect of working with others. Most of our friends are cultivated from work or the work place, so we want to go there and interact with others.

Then there’s the motivation to succeed, to improve and to grow for it’s own sake. I know I personally am often motivated to do something because I enjoy the challenges, or the learning experience. Every time I take on a new project, I learn more about the subject matter, and about myself. When I travel, I love seeing the truth of the place beyond the commercial glitz (I’m not averse to commercial glitz and enjoy that too!). I love discovering neat little out of the way places, or talking to the locals. So, even though I’m terrified of alligators, I’ll hold a baby one (yep, me big chicken) and go to an alligator zoo to get up close and see the criters, because I’m motivated to learn and see something new.

That brings me to recognition. Most people also seek recognition of what they do, whether in the work place or on a personal level. Recognition can be as simple as a heart-felt “thank you” from a boss, coach or trainer, or it can be as elaborate as getting an all expenses paid vacation to a fabulous destination. In fact, experiential rewards top material merchanise or gift card ones by far, every single time.  Recognition can also come through fame; by attaining that level of notoriety whereby you are recognized by peers and the world at large for what you’ve accomplished, which can be it’s own motivator.

In fact, studies have shown that when employers recognize and reward their empoyees, the confidence in the company increases, production and sales increases and loyalty increases. Getting paid and just having a job aren’t enough to motivate people to do their best, to remain with a company, or strive to excel. When employers and managers see the value in those who work for them, and when teachers, coaches and trainers understand the true merit of incentives and rewards, then, and only then, will they see the kinds of performance they need to reach certain goals. I call this a “thoughtful team work approach”.

The fact is, people are motivated by a variety of factors. Each is as valid as the other, and every person is subject to his or her own motivators. Our jobs as human beings is to find what motivates us to change or do something proactive and use it to our best advantage. In fact, to borrow a military saying, “to be the best we can be”.

Question: What motivates you to achieve success or reach a goal, and how do you act on that motivation?

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Okay, so I’ve written a few novels. I’ve even gotten an e-publisher to be interested enough to want to publish my most recent one for all the world to see. Or so I hope. Whew, this business of writing is a lot more complicated than I thought. That’s all right though. I’ve decided to finally chase the dream.

I first started writing at around the age of about ten, when I decided to try to pen my own story for the “Dark Shadows” television series. Remember it? No? Well that’s okay, it was a looong time ago. It may actually have been one of the first paranormal romances, and I fell for it completely. I loved the mystery and intrigue. I loved Barnabas Collins (the vampire protagonist), and I wished I could be a part of it. So, I created my own story line.

It was pathetic. I was already an avid reader, but my first attempts at writing taught me one thing – writing is hard. Oh, the story and dialogue came easily enough, but it took time. A lot of time,and I knew it needed a lot of work to make it good. I realized it would take more time and hard work than my ten year old self was willing to give it. See, my problem is I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist – no, really. If I start something, really start it, then I want to finish it. I give it my all and learn everything I can about it, so I can be sure I’m doing it as well as I possibly can.

Then there’s the whole life thing that happens. I grew up, married, had two children, divorced, raised two children on little to no money, tried to go back to school, couldn’t afford to, met a man, fell in love, married, added his three teenaged children to my now teenaged children, formed a new family, worked, was blessed with five fabulous grandchildren, starting writing novels, …then everything fell apart. I’m still married to that wonderful man, I still have my family – thank God, but financially, the bottom fell out of our lives.

I was a mortgage advisor for one of Canada’s largest banks and had been a real estate agent for five years previous to that. How the heck did it happen? Well, let’s see, first my husband was downsized out of his corporate job of thirty years, at the age of fifty-five. I was working commissioned sales in mortgages, and we thought things would get better. They didn’t. Our mortgage interest rate was locked in at a higher rate than we could really afford on my husband’s company pension, there was little to no equity in the home, and we were staring at mounting debt. All this lead us down the slippery path to financial disaster.

I quit my high stress, commissioned sales job, we sold the house at no profit, and moved in with my parents (temporarily, I promise you mom and dad), and decided to take a breather to consider our next plan of action. Part of that plan includes me, writing for a living and living within the means of my husband’s not so grand monthly company pension benefit.

I’m fifty-two years of age, what the hell am I thinking? My kids don’t get it. Lots of our family and friends don’t get it, but we get it. We are getting off the merry-go-round. We’re starting over and we’re doing it our way.

We didn’t get where we are because we’re stupid, or dishonest (quite the opposite in fact), or lazy, but I am a realist – I think. The old plan wasn’t working. We had to come up with a new one. A simpler one. One that allowed us to live our lives on our own terms. We also needed to seriously look at how we wanted to deal with looming retirement. After many looong, sleepless nights and even more looong talks over coffee each morning, we decided to follow our dreams. I wanted to write, not work long hours at a commissioned sales job for a bank. Here’s a lilttle secret: I’m not really very good corporate material. I ask questions, I care about the little people and will fight for their rights, I treat people fairly and honestly, and I’m not run by the company. Okay, I get it. I was very good at my job, but suck at commissioned sales. As for my husband, well, he’s still trying to decide what he wants to do when he grows up, which is fine with me, because I can’t make those decisions for him – any more than he could for me.

One of the bonuses I’m discovering, is time. I now have time to think, to really plan, to notice what matters to me. I get to spend time with my husband and my family. I am reconnecting with people who are important to me. Most importantly, I’m re-connecting with myself. I think that’s important too. I write every day. I spend a lot of time learning the business of book publishing and am slowing getting more confident. I’m feeling my way along, braille method, as I traverse this road toward becoming a bonifide, published writer.

I’m also learning something else. I was right when I was ten. I love to write, but it’s a lot of work. For the first time in my life, I feel ready to tackle the job and learn the lessons. I don’t have the educational background in English, or journalism, having finished school mid way through grade twelve, but I still think I’m smart. Smart enough to take the time to learn the ropes. Smart enough to have fun along the way now. Smart enough to know only I can make it happen. It feels as if my whole life I’ve done what I had to, what was needed to be done, but there was always that little kernel of knowledge in my head and in my heart that said “you’re a writer”…so now, I write.

I welcome any who wish to join me on the road to discovery. Feel free to share your love of reading, writing and life in general. If you are an author, publisher or anyone with an interest in books, and have some tips and tricks you’d like to share with others, please don’t hesitate. From time to time I’ll also post reviews of books I’ve just read. If you are a fan – you’re my favourite kind of person. lol

Seriously, my goal is to educate, share information and a few laughs, and have fun with it.

I do, however, expect common courtesy, respect for all who post on this forum, and a willingness to share their love of life, the written word, as well as the business of bringing words and stories out into the light of day to be shared by all. Welcome.

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