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Warning!Tsunami Ahead

Warning!Tsunami Ahead

I couldn’t have been more pleased to have been asked by writer and blogger extraordinaire, Molly Greene, to do a second guest blog over at her writer’s blog! Go here for the original post over on Molly’s site!

 

 

When I first started writing, about five years ago now, I thought writing was the hard part. It was a challenge to craft a story from beginning to end, applying the necessary discipline to get the story written, and edit, edit, edit the finished product.

That first leap of faith

With only a Grade 10 education, writing a novel was a major undertaking, and a leap of faith, but I decided not to over-think my path. I just wanted to start writing a story that came to me and get it down in print. That’s it. I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband what I was doing, and when I finally did, I made light of it. It was just a fun hobby. At first I didn’t even admit to myself how much I wanted to become a published author.

That was waaay too scary.

It was also probably a very good plan for me, since it took the pressure off just getting started. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. It’s kind of like getting pregnant and thinking you know what life will be like after the baby is born. You have an idyllic view of the future, and that’s just as well. If prospective parents truly understood just how drastically their lives will change, no one would have children! Nature is kind and leaves the blinders on until it rips them off like a bandage to expose the reality underneath.

Learn to swim with the current

When I teach writing courses to beginner writers, I advise them not to think too far into the future. That way lies madness, fear, and self-doubt. Writing is supposed to be fun, cathartic even, so enjoy the journey for that aspect alone. Give yourself time to find your “voice,” and experiment to your heart’s content before worrying about all the how to’s to come. You just don’t need to go there yet.

Slowly, I began learning more about the business of writing, publishing, and marketing the finished product. Because of my background in real estate and mortgage sales, I knew the marketing and promotion iceberg was looming in the distance, so I started a slow, leisurely swim out to greet it. I use the internet for many, many things. It’s my best friend when it comes to discovering virtually anything I need to know. It’s proven to be the best research tool I could hope for, and when I find articles of interest, I create folders and bookmarks to house them so I can refer back to them. Perfect. I like simplicity.

Take on social media … slowly

Then I started hearing about how writers were using social media to connect with readers and other writers. Cool. I can do that. So I looked into Facebook. I’m no techie, but it was incredibly easy to set up a Facebook account, and I began “friending” family and friends who also use Facebook. I began to feel comfortable in using it on a personal level, and have become very proficient in using it as a marketing and promotion channel for all things book and writing related.

Then I read about other social media connectors, like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it. That terrified me. What the heck am I supposed to do with all this stuff? Why do I need it? What’s it going to do for me? I began to panic. I didn’t know what to do first, so I did what I always do; I researched the heck out of each of these platforms and chose a couple to begin getting familiar with. That eased the anxiety.

Choose a path and follow it

By this time I’d finished writing and editing my first book. Now what? Well, I went back to my most trusted friend, the internet, and researched “how to submit to literary agents.” I was thrilled by the amount of information there was on something I’d never heard of before; querying. I have a strong back ground in office administration (before the sales days), so writing a business letter, which is what a query letter is, was easy for me. I looked up examples of query letters online and set up a template to follow.

I was excited and nervous to begin this next step, but I’d made a decision to become traditionally published. That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of self, or indie, pubbing. I did and I do, but it sounded like a lot of work and I was too new to feel comfortable taking up those types of challenges. I figured I could get out there and find myself an agent and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, I’d land a publisher and my first book would appear on book shelves all over the world. Sigh. Yes, I was completely delusional. (It took another two years before I published my first book with a small traditional press, and learned even more along the way.)

Take one step at a time

Fantasies aside, I realized that I needed to take things one step at a time and not cross bridges I hadn’t come to yet (my father still tells me that all the time). So I took a deep breath and began sending out the query letters. I’d read that writers receive many rejection letters, but I was naïve enough to think I’d get maybe a few before I’d be swept up into the literary realms of success.

Wrong.

I received nothing but rejections, and eventually put that manuscript into the proverbial drawer. In the meantime, I began to write the next book. I’m not a particularly patient person, and I was beginning to understand that writing involves a lot of hurry-up and wait. I’m not great at waiting, so writing helped give me purpose. Turns out, that was a perfect way to get through that period.

I also started to hear about something called “blogging.” What the heck was blogging? I began reading many, many blogs on all kinds of topics, including writing. Wow! Here were all these writers who were a little further along the road than I was, and I could learn from them for FREE! I still didn’t want to blog, but I sure learned a lot from reading other writer’s blogs. Only when I felt ready did I step into the ring and start my own.

Let the journey evolve

There’s no doubt about it: writing has the learning curve of a tsunami. But the point to remember is that we don’t need to know everything all at once. In fact, I found it was better to allow the journey to evolve and focus on what’s right in front of me, rather than get caught up in what’s on the horizon. It lessens the panic and lets me swim with strong, confident strokes. It can seem completely overwhelming to realize that there’s so much out there to learn, that you want to simply give up and sink before you’ve even really started.

By learning from others (like Molly!), you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, which is a tremendous help. Bit by bit, you’ll feel comfortable sharing what you’ve learned along the way with others coming behind you, and that’s great too. I’ve said before that writers work in our own insular little writing caves. Stepping outside and facing the huge wave of what’s still to come can have you feeling like it’s all just too much. So, take a deep breath, start with slow, strong strokes, and just keep breathing. There is a shore out there, and if you don’t give up, you’ll be fine.

So what are you struggling with, and how do you handle it? Please leave a comment below or on Molly’s blog to share your thoughts. Thank you!

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I’m so honored and pleased to share the guest blog post I did over at Molly Greene’s blog this week, entitled “Don’t Let Anybody Should On You!”. Molly is a true professional when it comes to writing, and generously shares the information she’s gleaned over years of writing her books. In fact, her site has become one of my go-to places for any writing industry information I might want. Here’s the link to my guest post and Molly’s blog: http://www.molly-greene.com/

Please feel free to comment, and of course, share with your networks.

That’s all for now folks.

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Soul Full Eye by Artist, Lisa Redfern

Soul Full Eye
by Artist, Lisa Redfern

I have to admit, I’m a lover of fantasy. I love the idea of going after the dream, wishing on a star, and clicking my heels three times to achieve my deepest desires. But that’s not gonna happen any time soon. So what am I left with? Reality. I’m left with the realization that I have to do something, anything, to make things happen. No fairy godmother is going to come along and wave her magic wand and make me or my life what I want it to be. Talking about it, planning for it, making lists, researching, none of these things really advances me toward my goals in a substantial way. Oh, they may be necessary aspects of beginning a new project or adventure, but they don’t have the same effect as getting off my duff and actively doing the nitty-gritty work necessary.

 

When I talk to groups of people who attend my writing workshops, I always start by asking where everyone is in their writing journey. At least half, if not more, of the class talks about how they want to write, how they have always wanted to write, which is why they’re in my class. Beautiful! Wonderful! But I then ask those same people, why they haven’t started to write yet? That’s when the excuses come into play. They’ll claim that they haven’t had time, or the self-confidence. Some will claim they need to learn how to write before they begin. I then ask if they know how to use a pen and paper, or computer to put words down into sentences. Everyone nods their head and laughs. Of course they do, but they want to learn how to begin. I tell them it’s really very simple. They just start writing.

 

babies walkingEver watch a baby learn to roll over, crawl, walk? Ever watch a toddler climb, begin to talk, feed itself, and all the other astounding things they do each and every day? No one teaches a baby or toddler to do these things. They just decide to do it, and they keep making mistakes and trying again until they get it right. Yes, they will fail, and they might cry in frustration, but then they’ll get over the tears and make another attempt, until they get it right. Then once they’ve mastered that feat, they begin to tackle another in exactly the same manner. Try, fail, fall down, cry, try again, fail again, fall down again, cry again, then get back up and do the whole thing over again, until success is reached. No one has to teach them any of these things. Oh, we as adults can encourage and praise, but that’s all. The rest is up to the individual child to discover what works for him/her and find their own way. So it is with writing. You can take all the courses you want, make incredible outlines, plan to your heart’s content, but until you actually plant your butt in the chair and begin writing, you aren’t a writer.

 

That doesn’t mean the learning curve isn’t huge, because it is. Yes, there are guidelines and things to learn, and tons of ways to fail, but the words on the page are what writing is all about. Nothing else. This writing gig is a loooong battle that never really ends. I’m learning that for myself the hard way. As I continue to slog through revision after revision of my latest WIP, I could get discouraged, and sometimes I do. If I’m to move forward though, I have to get back to the business at hand and write. It doesn’t even matter if what I write in the first or second draft (or third or fourth) is particularly good; that’s what edits and re-writes are for. The key is to sit down and write.

 

It has often occurred to me that life is exactly like writing, or anything we wish to accomplish in our lives. At some point, the rubber must hit the road for the car to move forward even one inch. It doesn’t matter what challenges you’re faced with, to move forward means doing something. It’s okay to stop and consider the options though, and in fact, it’s extremely advisable. We were given brains to use them in constructive, creative ways, so we might as well use them to figure out ways of getting what we want.

 

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Everyone has different dreams and goals. Each person is unique unto him/herself, and we can all learn from each other. We can all be inspired by others and apply what we learn to our own lives, or just admire the doer for their innovation and creativity. Anyone who regularly visits this blog knows I interview other writers, primarily because people fascinate me. I began interviewing other writers from around the globe at various stages of their writing journey for another blog, Christina Hamlett’s You Read It Here First.

Through Christina, I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of “meeting” so many incredibly talented people over the past year. People who are taking their dreams and running with them at full speed. People who seek new ways to express the deepest part of themselves, and help others along the way. Talk about inspiration! Each one of the individuals I interview shines a light into an area I had never explored before. Although I may never choose to climb a mountain, like fellow writer, Jeff Rasley, be able to create stunning pieces of visual art, like Lisa Redfern, take a love of animals and turn it into unique stories told from a dog’s point of view, like Carol McKibben, write wonderful, witty plays like Christina Hamlett, translate an admiration for another person into a series of books, like Tony Lee Moral, trek around the world and write about my adventures, like Janna Graber, or gather my family and head out to parts unknown to experience new cultures and ways of life, like my up-coming interviewee, Michelle Tupy, I can be inspired by them to keep playing my own tune and following my own dreams.

 

I find it reassuring to know that people can do literally anything they choose to, and do it with skill, finesse, and a lively sense of humour about trials and tribulations they encounter. I love knowing it’s okay to make mistakes, to fall down, and then get back up to try again. In fact, since I started writing, I’ve come across scores of people who are launching themselves forward into their lives with gusto, and with a look over their shoulder to see who they can help along the way. How cool is that? In talks with other writers, like ML Swift (watch here for his interview in the coming weeks), who chose to dedicate the last years of his mother’s life to helping her get through the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, then wrote about that experience, I realize that we all have something to give, and get, from other people. Perhaps we should retain more of the dogged determination of infants who watch, learn, internalize, then gather the courage to get out there and DO something, damnit!

 

So yes, learn all you can about whatever it is you want to go after, but at some point be prepared to put yourself out there, risk humiliation, overcome fear, and HAVE FUN with the whole messy business of living your life while going after your dreams! And if it helps to close your eyes and wish upon a star, cross your fingers, click your heels together, whatever, then go for it, because we can all use whatever help God, the Universe, Allah, Buddha, whatever you want to call it, can give us.

Wish Upon A Star

Wish Upon A Star

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Inspiration Moves Us

Inspiration Moves Us

 

 

As a writer, I’m asked many times, “Where does your inspiration come from?” This is a very good question, with many possible answers.

 

In thinking about the question, it occurs to me there are different kinds of inspiration. We can be inspired by people, places, or things. We can be inspired by events, or acts of any kind, and nature is inspiring in both its simple and complex designs.

 

Writers, singers, and artists of all mediums claim inspiration for their works. What inspires us is unique to each individual. Inspiration often results in an animating action or reaction. Inspire is a verb; meaning it’s an action word. It causes a person to do, think, act, or believe differently than before the inspiration occurred. It honestly doesn’t matter what inspires a person. The important thing is that the person feels deeply affected by the experience, and for artists, sometimes results in the creation of something new.

 

For me, inspiration comes in many forms. People can inspire me profoundly. Seeing others tackle their fears and overcoming them, inspires me to examine my own fears and overcome them. Events can inspire me and have a huge impact on how I view myself and the world around me. Watching the news and hearing of acts of altruism and humane behaviours by others makes me want to reach out and help too. Nature is also extremely inspirational for me. I never cease to be inspired when walking along a long sandy beach, through a deep green forest, or watching animals in their habitat. Places of great beauty, architecture, and art inspire me. A sunset or sunrise touches me deeply. I become humbled by the beauty of art and the talent of the artist, and sometimes they inspire me to reach inside myself, and have confidence in whatever small talent I may possess. To honour the things that inspire me, I have chosen to live in area that’s close to the water, is surrounded by tall trees, and I decorate my home with various reminders of things and people I love.

 

WritingWhen I write a story, I draw on everything that inspires me. I pull from the depths of my own experiences when I write my characters, places and events, even if the story has a fantastical element to it, or is set centuries in a past I could never know. At any time I might be inspired by something and think what a great story that would make. Ultimately, I am intrigued and inspired by the human condition and the world we inhabit.

 

Even when researching a story for characters, places, and events, I become inspired by the facts I read. I am fascinated by regular people who accomplish great feats. I readily admit to being in love with the life altering forces of love. I’ve begun to realize we all have the power to make significant changes to our lives, the lives of others, and the world in which we live. I guess that’s why I allow my characters to follow their dreams, and act in ways which cause them to question and grow. I encourage failure as a means to discover the successes, and in order to appreciate those successes.

 

Recently I was speaking with a woman who commented “Well, all we can do is try to survive.” That comment upset me and caused me to immediately reply, “Not really. We also need to dream and strive to achieve something better.”

 

Now, this woman had grown up extremely poor, and was born in a country that didn’t offer much in the way of education or opportunity, so she’d learned to keep her head down and survive. That’s an important lesson when in crisis. But she also left that country, married, had a child, and kept striving to improve her family’s financial circumstances. Even though she didn’t give her actions credit, something must have inspired her to accomplish each of those things. Otherwise, she’d have stayed where she was and kept plodding along.

 

When I listen to people like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, or anyone for that matter, who encourages change and the belief that we are all capable of acting on our inspirations, I am inspired. I begin to look forward to the challenges of walking my own road, and finding who I’m supposed to be. I love hearing it when others talk of finding that same burning desire; the desire to do more than survive.

 

Writing is a notoriously difficult road to walk. It can often feel lonely. The writer sometimes feels misunderstood by family and friends. The path to becoming published is far from easy, no matter whether the writer decides to work with traditional publishers, or opts to self-publish. It’s damned hard work. It takes a very long time, and there isn’t always a gold star at the end of the day. But when inspiration strikes, the writer, as with any artist, is compelled to share it with others. Why? Who knows? I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. I just know that, for me, it feels right. It feels the most like “me” than anything else I do with my waking hours.

 

What I know, is that someday I hope to inspire others to follow their own dreams and succeed at whatever it is they feel is their purpose in life. I don’t care if it’s walking on the moon, being the best teacher they can be, or dedicating their life to their family. It doesn’t matter. We are all driven by needs that are separate and apart from money and “surviving”. It gets mixed up in our childhood experiences, in our own perceptions of the world, and who we believe we are. Life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. But it constantly ebbs and flows with new experiences, new opportunities, and new tomorrows.

 

timeNone of knows how long we have on this earth, but I’m inspired many times a day, if I seek inspiration, to make the most of what time I do have. I have many, many dreams for my future, and sometimes wish I’d discovered this path I’m on years ago. Because I’m already in my mid-fifties, I worry I won’t get to do all the things I want to accomplish, write all the stories I’d like to write, and visit all the places I’d like to see. But that’s not up to me. What’s up to me is how I use my days, how I treat the people around me, and whether or not I continue to seek and act on inspiration. As for the rest, I guess I’ll just have to trust that whatever the future holds, it’ll be enough.

 

Please take a few moments to comment and share this with your social networks. Tell me, what inspires you and what do you do about it?

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