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Confidence Moves You

Confidence Moves You

Writing has given me many unexpected benefits, in addition to the actual writing, that is. It’s allowed me to share the stories that tumble around in my head. It’s allowed me to tap into deeper parts of myself and become more confident in my purpose on this earth, and it has introduced me to many wonderful people via in-person and on-line networking efforts I’ve engaged in.

Once my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, was released back in November, 2012 (Echelon Press), I knew I was going to have to step even further outside my comfort zone. I was going to have to go public with my book and do book signings and talks. I’d always been terrified of speaking in public – who isn’t? The thing is, I knew I was going to have to get over myself and my fears and just go do it. After all, writers have to be comfortable talking about their books, and themselves, in order to promote the work they’ve just spent countless hours, months and yes, years, creating. Whew! This was going to be a challenge.

When I first started writing, I never gave a thought to actually publishing the book. I just wanted to write a cool story I had come up with about a ghost who falls in love with a modern-day woman. I didn’t look too far down the path, but rather, I learned as I went. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be required to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk. I didn’t think I’d get that far. I did though, and so I gathered my courage and stepped into a local library, copies of my book tucked into a pretty little book bag, prepared to do my best. I figured if I crashed and burned, at least no one really knew who I was anyway. I also brought my husband along for moral support. He turned out to be an invaluable ally, since I could see him nod his head in approval when I hit my mark, or shake it slowly when I was veering off course. He also handled the monetary transactions for the few books I sold – I think it was 2 or 3, and took a few photos. When we left the library, I was pretty proud of myself. I’d faced and conquered one of my deepest fears; looking like an incompetent idiot.

Next time I went to a book signing, I took my mother. She’s one of my biggest fans, and again, having her there really boosted my confidence. During the Q & A portion of my talk, she spoke up and asked some questions she knew others in the small group were also wondering about. She also handled the financial transactions for the few books I sold, again maybe 2 or 3. On the way home, I was giddy with relief for having gotten through the talk, but surprised at how comfortable I felt once I was up there and got going. I had reminded myself before I began the talk that there was absolutely nothing anyone in my small audience could ask me about my writing, publishing, or my journey thus far that I couldn’t answer. I had this one. I’m passionate about my writing and the whole business of publishing, so once I get started talking about it, I could go on for hours. That’s why I write out, in point form, my entire talk. I have a limited time period in which to engage, entertain, and hopefully, inform my audience. I realized I could do that.

My Audience

My Audience

Looking out into the audiences I’ve spoken to over the past few years, I recognize myself in the faces staring back at me. I’ve come to understand that these people are there because they’re interested in what I have to say, and welcome any tid bits of info or insights I can impart. I’ve come a long way since that first talk. I’m proud of my ability to connect with others and address several issues besides writing.

After the release of my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, I began speaking to groups about something new. I call it my Step Up and Step In To Your Life talk. You see writing also opened up new insights for me. I began to realize just how many times I’d held back from pursuing a dream, or from approaching a problem head on. I’d side-step it, I’d waffle, and sometimes, I’d out and out run from it. My life hasn’t always been easy – not by a long shot – but I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes along the way. I know I still have a lot to learn. When I began speaking publicly, it became apparent that just about everyone struggles with how to take control of their lives. They’re not sure how to make serious, lasting changes in their life. Changes they’ve always wanted to make, but have been afraid to.

Let’s face it, writing isn’t a solid career choice if you’re looking for a regular pay check, or regular anything. It’s the most difficult, challenging, frustrating, flat out ridiculous career move I could have made, but I love it. I’m caught, hook line and sinker. Because of the many challenges a writer faces, and the numerous rejections we receive over, and over, and over again, we develop a deep sense of conviction about who we are and what we want from life. We willingly step up to the plate day after day and pitch/hit our best. We face our fears head on every time we sit down to the task of writing. When it comes time to actually publish, market, and promote our work, we tackle a whole new set of obstacles and fears.

That’s why I felt that I had something of value to share with others who are likewise struggling with elements of their life. Sometimes it really is all about being willing to do the hard work, and stepping up, and into, our lives. It’s about taking responsibility for the choices we make. It’s about owning who we are as human beings, and as individuals. It’s about claiming our truth and being proud of it. It’s about facing fears, accepting our failures, and moving through them to get where we want to go. It’s also about accepting and respecting others for who they are.

Make Things Happen

Make Things Happen

It’s about dealing with a whole lot of things we all face. That’s why I talk about it openly. I’m not the only one struggling to come to terms with what to do with the years I have to live on this planet, and neither are you. My goal is to motivate even one person at each speaking engagement to examine their life and where they want to go with it. By hearing me talk, maybe that one person will move closer to their goals and dreams. I won’t necessarily ever know it, but for me, that possibility is awesome. I’m not a doctor, and I certainly can’t claim a whole bunch of letters after my name, but I’ll continue to talk publicly about things that matter to us all. I’ll do my best to impart what bits of wisdom and experience I’ve collected along the way.

What would you like to achieve in your life?

If you’d like me to speak at your business or organization’s next meeting/event, please feel free to contact me at mcclure.d@hotmail.com, or visit my website at www.damcclure.net for more information. If you’re outside Ontario, Canada, feel free to contact me, as I am able to periodically travel to worth-while events. Thank you.

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Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

 

It never ceases to surprise me that, as I continue to build my writing career, I’m also exploring new avenues of communication with others. Of course I’m hoping I reach readers through my books, and some are very generous by posting reviews on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This is incredibly important on many levels, but on a personal one, it means they think I’m doing something right with my writing, or they share how they felt about the characters I’ve created. There is no higher reward for a writer!

 

But then there’s this blog, and it’s helping me communicate with others on a whole different level. It lets me share my thoughts on many subjects, and again, sometimes hear back from others. But I’m continually looking to expand my reach and stretch my comfort zones, which is why in addition to book tours/signings, I’ve branched out into the public speaking arena. Although my stomach still gets tied up into knots before every appearance, I know this is a good thing. Once I get started, I’m fine and I relax. I actually even enjoy the experience, because not only do I give a talk for a specific period of time on a topic pertinent to the attendees, I do a question and answer session. This allows the audience to ask me questions, and often, I ask them questions. This exchange is really important to me, and I hope, to them. The take-aways are huge for me, and gives me a chance to connect with others outside my computer and the net, on a personal level. I can watch their faces and see their reactions to my words immediately. Likewise, they glean a little more information about me, my work, how I think about certain subjects, and can see and hear me talk as well. To me, public speaking is the ultimate vehicle for connection, and I’m very present in the moment. It isn’t about what I have to say, so much as it’s about what they hear and take away from the exchange. Public speaking isn’t about the speaker; it’s about the audience, and giving them something of value they can use in their own lives.

 

Retreat Presentation

Retreat Presentation

This past Sunday I spoke for an hour to a group of female teachers who were attending a women’s retreat. As I spoke, I was watching their faces, their postures, and their body language. At several points I knew I’d touched a nerve with some of the attendees. When they dabbed at their eyes in response to a portion of my talk where I revealed some of the really difficult years I’d struggled with as a single parent living on Family Assistance while raising two children, I knew they were really listening. Those were dark days for me, but they were also days of re-connecting with my family in amazing ways. Clearly, something in my words touched some of these women, and it was evident on their faces and by the tears they shed. I have no idea why this resonated with them, because everyone has their own story and internalizes information in their own way, but I was glad to see they felt something, not just heard my words.

 

At other times they laughed at a comment I made, and again, this was gratifying for me to hear. I felt I was hitting my mark with my talk. Then I did something I’ve never implemented before. I had left a one page feedback sheet on each chair, and requested the attendees take a couple of moments to comment on my presentation. While I was busy signing books, my husband was in charge of dealing with the money exchange and accepting the returned feedback sheets. Because I was focused on the book signing and chatting up the ladies who’d approached me, I wasn’t paying any attention to how many were actually returning the sheets. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I asked my husband about them. I thought we’d received maybe one or two returns, but he assured me we had received many more. He’d put my book bag in the back seat of the car, so I couldn’t access the pages until we got home, and I was thrilled to discover we’d received ten responses out of sixteen attendees! That’s an excellent return quota.

 

As I read through those pages, I was overwhelmed by some of the comments these ladies generously supplied. Comments like, “Your ability to overcome what you felt were obstacles and/or failures in life was inspiring”, or “Yes! I’m at that moment (just before 50) and realise that its time to look forward…”,and “Debbie’s life story of her struggles and successes has truly motivated and inspired me to persevere in some areas of my life that I have been hesitant to start due to fear of failure”, resonate and touch me deeply.

 

We Are All Teachers

We Are All Teachers

As I mentioned during my talk to these ladies, we never know whose life we touch in a positive way when we reach out beyond ourselves. By being vulnerable to and with other people, we allow them to see that we all share similarities. We are all afraid of the new and untried. We all have failures and fears. When we share of ourselves, our stories, successes, and failures, we connect in ways we hadn’t always anticipated. It sounds trite, but I honestly feel that if even one woman present last Sunday was motivated to take on a new challenge, or overcome an old one, then I’ve done more than just stand up and talk. I’d like to hope I made them think and feel. Much as I love sharing my work, and of course, selling my books, it doesn’t move me the way connecting with others does. I’m discovering that both men and women have a need to be reassured that failure, perseverance, and ultimately, success, is and can be part every human experience. We are all teachers.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider leaving a comment here, and sharing with your circles on social networks. Thank you! Debbie

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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

It’s always a little scary when thinking of starting something new. I know, because I’ve started, re-started, and begun many new projects. Every time I start something new, I begin questioning whether it’s the right path for me. Is this something I want to continuing doing, and what is involved in starting the new project? I believe in making informed decisions about any new start.

When it’s been a new career path I’ve considered, I’ve done the only thing I know how to help me make an informed decision; research. I look into all the aspects of the new option to see where the road might lead me, and whether or not I think it’s something I might enjoy doing for the foreseeable future. When I started out in real estate, I went on-line to learn what courses I’d need, the cost of those courses, and checked out some of the local brokers to see what I thought of their platform. I then booked the courses, and booked interviews with the brokers I was considering working with, but I asked as many questions as they did, since I wanted my choice be good for both sides.

Once I’d made up my mind, I knew I’d done sufficient investigating to ensure minimal surprises, but of course every new venture comes with some unexpected pitfalls. I mean, it’s impossible to foresee things around every corner. What I’m talking about is checking things out to get a good sense of whether or not I think the obstacles are ones I’ll be comfortable in tackling.

It was the same thing when I transitioned from real estate into residential mortgage lending, and then novel writing. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the business, obstacles, and advantages before making a final decision. I’ve always said I’m a student of life, and life has taught me to be thoughtful and prudent when making choices. It doesn’t mean I may not change my mind later about whether or not to continue in the career I’d chosen, because I certainly have. To me, that’s the other beauty of choice; you can choose to either continue walking the same path, or investigate a new one that seems to be a better fit. I truly believe we create the life we want to lead by the choices we make daily.

I’ve discovered a lot about myself through this process, and I know I need to be challenged in a good way, and I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’ve learned that I’m self-driven and prefer not to have someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do, and when to do it. I work hard at my chosen career, no matter what it happens to be at the time. I’ve also learned that writing offers me the freedom to do as I wish, when I wish it, and I’m driven to establish concrete working routines to accomplish tasks. For me, writing is the perfect marriage of challenge and tasks. I love it, but it’s taken me over fifty-four years to get here. What I know now though, is that had I not gone down some of the other roads, I might never have discovered what I have about myself, and learned the skill sets I’d need to continue walking this long dirt road called writing which is full of pot holes, hills, and steep drops.

Butterflies

Butterflies

I still get the butterflies in my stomach, and I still tend to second-guess myself while I’m in the investigation stage of any new project, but once I’ve made up my mind to do something, I dive in head-first. I immerse myself in the work, the learning, and how-to’s, and I love the challenges that come with it. I give any new venture my best shot, and I’ve learned to be patient for the rewards. Hint; I’m not a particularly patient person by nature. I prefer things get done or achieved today, not tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that. Still, as my family knows, I’m a work in process, and that’s okay.

One of the things I do when stymied as to which way to turn before tackling a new project is to allow myself the time to mull it over. I’ve learned quick, impulsive decisions aren’t always the best for me, and if I allow myself to just think things through, I’ll come up with the right decisions for me. It comes down to listening with my gut, and using my instincts to tell me what’s right for me. It’s while I’m thinking things through that I do the research part. For instance, I’ve begun doing more public speaking on motivational topics, in addition to my writing and publishing talks. since discovering a love of connecting with people one-on-one, sharing my personalal story of triumph over the fear of failure, and inspiring others to go after their own dreams and goals.

When beginning a new book, I do the same thing. A story line or plot will start to form in my head, and so I’ll write a few short points about it on my computer (at my age, memory can come and go, so it’s best if I write it down somewhere). Then, I’ll let it all simmer while I continue on with the current project. I’ll do a little research into the subject matter, then let that simmer a bit as well. Now, I’m not talking about a long time, I’m talking a few weeks to perhaps just over a month. Once I decide I’m ready to tackle the new project, the excitement begins to rise. I begin to envision the characters, their struggles, and how they feel about certain situations. It’s like a movie that plays in my head, day and night, until I HAVE to write it.

The writing feels good, the words typically flow easily, and I get lost in the story. Once it’s ready to be published, I begin to get anxious again. Will publishers and/or agents see the merit in the story? Will the public enjoy the characters and get drawn into the plot? I’m nervous as all get out, but at some point, again I have to trust my gut. I remind myself I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, and with the aide of my publisher, I’ve done the very best I can. My stories are released like an offering to the waiting readers, and I hope they enjoy my work, and perhaps find some small take-aways from it; whether because it gave them some enjoyable entertainment or respite from their everyday, they could relate to one or more of the characters, or it made them think about something going on in their own lives.

Come Ride With Me

Come Ride With Me

I’m a communicator, I always have been. I believe my job, as a writer, is to have sufficient faith in myself and my stories to release them into the hands of readers around the world, and believe I’ve succeeded in some of the above goals. After the release of a new book, I start another one, and the cycle begins again. It’s a never ending carousel that goes round and round, but when it stops to take on new riders who join me on my journey, the ride gets even better, because it’s shared with others.

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Success through Failure

Success through Failure

As an emerging writer, I’m often faced with having to work through my fear of failure. It seems as if I’ve failed at so many things, I should be an expert at it by now. My first marriage failed dismally, and I’ve failed at virtually every job I’ve ever taken on. Then I got into writing, and the very nature of that beast means I’ll be met with failure, rejection, and more failure. I’m not a masochist, honestly. I’m just determined to continue moving toward what I do want, rather than settling for something close to it.

For years I was a single parent, raising two kids, and living on the poverty line. I had no job, no money, and was at the lowest point in my life. I couldn’t see how I was ever going to turn my life around, but I always thought I would. I believed that I could achieve better than my circumstances at the time. I was right, but it didn’t come easy. It never does.

When I talk to people who attend my book signings and library readings, I hear so many of them tell me they always wanted to DO something. They had a dream that they let slip through their fingers. Or worse, they feared failing if they tried. I get it. I know what it is to face your fears, and try to step beyond them. I also know that failure isn’t just a possibility when you reach for your dreams, or a life you want to have, it’s guaranteed. What helps me is to remember that I’m not alone. In fact, I’m in some of the greatest company possible. JK Rowling comments often that she felt like a colossal failure for most of her life, before publishing the Harry Potter series of books. Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, received 144 rejections before landing a publisher. And virtually every well-respected inventor or luminary has experienced failure on a HUGE scale. So, I figure I’m okay.

Moving Toward Success

Moving Toward Success

Failure leads to learning, and learning leads to success. One can’t happen without the other. I also know that, just like Rowling, had I succeeded at any other job, I would never have begun to write, or stuck with it for so long. That’s the beauty of  life; we don’t know what’s around the next corner, or whose lives we touch.

Just today I watched a video interview featuring writer, Lisa Nichols, the author of “No Matter What”. I was fascinated by her story. Lisa talks about how, in her college days, one of her professors told the entire class that Lisa was “the weakest writer he’d ever met”. That fuelled a fire under Lisa, and she went on to become of the world’s most renowned writers. She didn’t set out to be a writer, but when the opportunity came, she went for it. That woman deserves the praise and accolades she receives, not only for writing, but for speaking out.

With the upcoming release of my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, I too have begun to take on public speaking engagements. Talk about overcoming a fear of failure! Before becoming a published writer, I’d never dreamed of speaking in public. The very thought terrified me. But I knew if I wanted to get the word out about my work, I was going to have to get over it. What I discovered surprised me. Turns out I love it, and others claim I’m good at it. I soon realized that I had nothing to fear. Those who had come to hear me speak only wanted me to share what I already knew about novel writing and publishing. I could do that. I was confident that I could provide some value to what they were seeking, so I relaxed and enjoyed the process. Even more than the speaking part though, I enjoyed the Q&A that followed. I love hearing the questions and connecting with people. Public speaking offers me a forum to do this, and I love it, so I’ve begun to expand and offer other topics relating to motivation and encouragement for groups, companies, etc..

Stepping Up to the Mic

Stepping Up to the Mic

A few months ago, I participated in my first podcast interview at Eat, Sleep, Write. I was keyed up in fear for days in advance, but on the day of recording, I relaxed. I realized it was just like public speaking in front of an audience. I was there to share what small knowledge I had on the topic of writing and publishing, and of course, my work. It went beautifully, and was fun. As a result of having said yes to the host’s request to do the podcast, it lead to him asking me to pull together a roundtable discussion podcast with two other paranormal mystery writers. I was thrilled. I knew who I wanted, and I knew I wanted it to be as interesting as possible for listeners. As a Canadian writer, I wanted an international feel to the next podcast, so I invited UK’s Karen Perkins, best-selling author of Thores-Cross, and USA Today’s best-selling author, Tonya Kappes, to join us. What a resounding success that has been, with the podcast going live today at eatsleepwrite.net! It was such fun learning how other authors work within the paranormal mystery genre in very different ways. Karen focuses on the darker side of paranormal, Tonya infuses humour into her paranormal mystery stories, and mine, as romantic paranormal mysteries. My point is, if I’d allowed my fear of failure to stop me from accepting the first interview, I would never have had the opportunity to work with Adam again, or with Tonya and Karen on this one.

Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Walt Disney, and Disney World in Florida. Ever since my parents took me and my three siblings to the Magic Kingdom back in the ‘70’s, and after years of watching Disney movies, I’ve had a thing for “Uncle Walt”. What I’ve loved is the man’s ability to move through failures, and he had lots of them, while using his imagination to visualize a future like none other. Many, many times throughout my life, I’ve had to hold on to my visualization for a better future, and I still do, every day. Imagination isn’t just about fantastical or magical books and characters, it’s the corner stone behind virtually every medical and technological development known to man. Someone has to first have the imagination to conceive of the idea, and that’s truly amazing, but its not enough. After all, As Lisa Nichols says, “Vision + Action = Success; Vision + Inaction = Wishful Thinking.” Wishful thinking is NOT enough. We have to be willing to put the action into place and DO something to move us forward to success. Without it, we go nowhere. That’s where so many go wrong. They rely on wishes, good intentions, and visualize the heck out of something, but they stop short of actually doing what’s necessary to achieve their goal.

The other thing I’ve learned is that to succeed at something, you have to have Guts. You have to believe you have the right to achieve the outcome you want, and just go for it. So many times I didn’t try hard enough. I knew I wasn’t giving my previous jobs my all, and so wasn’t really surprised when they didn’t work out. But when I discovered my passion for writing, I knew going in I’d have to pull out all the stops. I’d have to push myself and not allow failure, rejections, or a lack of imagination for the future stop me. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s damned hard, but it’s worth it. I’m still struggling to make ends meet, and my writing career is far from stellar yet, but I’ll keep pushing, striving, and writing, until it’s as good as I can possibly make it. Oh, I’ll still also wish upon lots of stars, because that’s part of the magic of being human. More importantly, I’ll add a hefty dose of action behind the wishes.

Going to the Ball

Going to the Ball

I guess I’m like Cinderella; I want to go to the ball and dance with the prince at the palace.

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