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By: Kristi Holl
Blog: Writers First Aid
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Writers are opinionated people.
Our brains never seem to stop. We criticize because we “know” how things and people should be. This “critical editor component” of our personality is absolutely invaluable to the editing and revision process. If you can’t spot what’s wrong with a manuscript, you can’t fix it.
However, this same critical ability can cause writers to actually lose focus, allowing their writing hours to slip away with little or no work done.
Think About It
Many of us go through our daily lives with our internal critic or editor in charge. We don’t see the person right in front of us as he or she is (which may be perfectly fine.) Instead, that person reminds us of an ex-spouse, and we “see” characteristics that aren’t there. Stress!
Conversely, we think the person in front of us is “supposed” to be kind and supportive (our inner definition of parent/spouse/child/sibling). And yet many such relationships are anything but, leaving us hurt and upset because they should be supportive. More stress! Life rarely satisfies a person who lets the “shoulds” run his life.
Do we spend our time “shoulding”? We don’t see a child who is happily singing at the top of her voice. (That child should be more quiet in the store!) We don’t see an interesting shade of purple hair. (That teenager should resemble a miniature adult instead.) We don’t see the predator or user sometimes either–because trusted family members shouldn’t be such things. Our “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” color everything we observe.
Change Your Perspective
Our inner editor sometimes keeps us from seeing what’s in front of us. We are constantly “revising” the facts. So what’s the problem with that? You can’t accept–and get peace about–what you can’t honestly see or face. You stay stirred up–a condition rarely suited to being creative. Sometimes the simplest solutions evade us because we’re all riled up inside.
It reminds me of a story (you may also be familiar with) about “The River and the Lion: After the great rains, the lion was faced with crossing the river that had encircled him. Swimming was not in his nature, but it was either cross or die. The lion roared and charged at the river, almost drowning before he retreated. Many more times he attacked the water, and each time he failed to cross. Exhausted, the lion lay down, and in his quietness he heard the river say, “Never fight what isn’t here.”
Cautiously, the lion looked up and asked, “What isn’t here?”
“Your enemy isn’t here,” answered the river. “Just as you are a lion, I am merely a river.”
Now the lion sat very still and studied the ways of the river. After a while, he walked to where a certain current brushed against the shore, and stepping in, floated to the other side.
Control What You Can: Yourself
We also can’t gain peace of mind and the ability to focus unless we’re willing to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our environment. We spen
|Katie's graduation from Pierce College. |
|Katie's graduation from boot camp.|
As a mother our jobs are to raise our children to be self-sufficient, and ready to go out into the world and be successful. Well, I did do that. Now I'm not sure I'm ready to let them go! My sweet Katie did running start here in WA, that is were she did high school and college at the same time. OMG she did so well. A week after she graduated she left for the Navy. She is so strong and determined, I wish I had half of her strength and brains.
Now my son goes off for his junior year of college, he is doing a dual major of Physics-Engineering. I will only have one child left at home. My career as a stay at home mom is about to be finished. This has been one of the most rewarding careers of my life. Yes, I loved aviation, I actually wanted to be an airline pilot, but ya know, motherhood was and is far more exciting than I could ever have dreamed.
Here's the key, "When you know who you are and recognize the gifts you have been given, it is easy to make an impact on the world. Yet, when you can see potential in others and play a role in helping them grow..... it is exponentially rewarding.
By: Kristi Holl
Blog: Writers First Aid
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The last two posts, I talked about overload, how it happened, and the effect on writers’ lives. Although certain Type A personalities seem to thrive on overloaded lives, most writers don’t.
Our best ideas - and energy to write about them - require some peace and quiet, some “down” time. To get that, we must rebuild margin into our lives.
What exactly is margin? According to Richard Swenson M.D. author of Margin, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is something held in reserve for unanticipated situations. It is the space between breathing freely and suffocating. Margin is the opposite of overload.”
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
You might wonder at what point you became overloaded. It’s not always easy to see when it happens. We don’t have a shut off valve that clicks like when we put gasoline into our cars. Stop! Overload! Usually we don’t know that we are overextended until we feel the pain and frustration.
We would be smart to only commit 80% of our time and energy. Instead, we underestimate the demands on our life. We make promises and commit way more than 100% of our time and energy. Consequently, we have no margin left.
A Simple Formula
What exactly is margin? The formula for margin is straightforward: power - load = margin.
Your power is made up of things like your energy, your skills, how much time you have, your training, your finances, and social support.
Your load is what you carry and is made up of things like your job, problems you have, your commitments and obligations, expectations of others, expectations of yourself, your debt, your deadlines, and personal conflicts.
If your load is greater than your power, you have overload. This is not healthy, but it is where most people in our country live. If you stay in this overloaded state for a good length of time, you get burnout. (And burned out writers don’t write. I know–I’ve been there.)
So how do we increase margin? You can do it in one of two ways. You can increase your power - or you can decrease your load. If you’re smart, you’ll do both.
Many of us feel nostalgic for the charm of a slower life. Few of us miss things like outhouses or milking cows or having no running water. Usually what we long for is margin. When there was no electricity, people played table games and went to bed early, and few suffered sleep deprivation. Few people used daily planners or had watches with alarms, let alone computers that beeped with e-mail messages and tweets. People had time to read–and to think–and to write. It happened in the margins of their lives.
Progress devoured the margin. We want it back. And I firmly believe that writers must have it back. Next week we will talk about ways to do just that.
PLEASE SHARE: What do you think so far about this week’s discussion of margin and overload? Do you identify? What does that mean to you as a writer?
Most of the New Jersey SCBWI members know Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo and were so happy for them when their book, SIRENZ came out in June. It was so much fun for me to read, because they both took a character and took turns writing the chapters from their characters POV.
Their own personal voices came through loud and clear, which only added to the fun of reading the book for me. Everyone who has read the book has told me how much they enjoyed reading SIRENZ, so you might want to add it to your collection and see how they handled co-authoring a YA novel.
This made me think that there maybe writers out there who could use a reminder of the basics of Point-of -View.
- POV is the eyes through which you’re seeing a scene. Also
called character voice.
- There are three types of POV: Omniscient, First Person,
- Omniscient POV is where you’re not in any particular head.
This POV lets you tell and know all, but lacks intimacy.
- First Person is where you’re in one character’s head, and
speaks in terms of I. This POV is immediate, emotive, and intimate, but
can be limiting and difficult to write.
- Third Person can be in a limited number of heads, and speaks
in terms of he/she.
More on POV: http://wp.me/pss2W-1Xv
Now for the inside scoop. Over at Eve’s Fan Garden, Natalie and Charlotte take you down the road they took to get their book off the ground and published. I think you will really enjoy reading about their journey. Don’t miss clicking over.
I don’t normally post jobs, but with this economy I figured it might be a good idea to let you know of this opportunity at fwmedia. http://www.fwmedia.com/careers/publicist
Filed under: Author
, Young Adult Novel
Tagged: Charlotte Bennardo
, Natalie Zaman
1 Comments on Inside Scoop & Publicist Job, last added: 7/27/2011
Brunonia Barry used book groups to refine The Lace Reader, and then self published it in 2007. The book did so well there was a bidding war from traditional publishers. When HarperCollins published it, it landed on the New York Times best seller list.
But even though it’s self publishing is what launched her success, she doesn’t recommend it.
Read why and more about the author and her books here.
NY Times Magazine had an article/interview with Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old e-book wunderkind who recently signed a $2 million contract with St. Martin's for her next four books.
In the past year, Hocking has self-pubbed 10 e-books and made about $2 million
from them, even though she prices them between 99 cents and $2.99. She now averages 9,000 downloads per day. While she says she thinks about each book for up to a year, she spends just two to four weeks writing them.
“Hocking is at a loss to explain the phenomenon. “I’ve seen other authors do the exact same things I have, similar genre, similar prices” — like many self-published authors, she prices her books radically below what traditional publishers charge; typically hers cost between 99 cents and $2.99 — “and they have multiple books out. And they all have good covers. And they’re selling reasonably well, but they’re not selling nearly as well as I am.””
She started with fan-fiction, then moved on to writing her own stuff. She started self-publishing because she couldn't get an agent. She has signed with a print publisher because only 15% of people owns e-readers and she wants to reach the other 85%. She's already a million-dollar author. For me to be a billion-dollar author, I need to have people buying my books at Wal-Mart.”
Read more about her here.
You made it! This is the stage where you look around and can hardly believe it. You’re finally living your writing dream!
You have dreamed of this day for months–or decades. If you started down the road to success right after college when you didn’t have a family to support or attend to, you could well have cut the learning curve short. If you started when you had a young family (like I did), the stages probably took longer (since there are only so many hours in the day). If you began the journey while raising a family and handling a full-time day job, it might have taken ten years to reach this spot.
It doesn’t matter how long it took. You’re here–so celebrate and enjoy it! Before you set new and bigger goals, pause long enough to savor where you are.
Warning! The Dark Side of Success
Let yourself enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to attain. It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road. Don’t allow anyone or anything to interfere with the pleasure of what you’ve achieved.
Sometimes success takes you by surprise, and your successful career becomes overwhelming and distressing. My children were babies, toddlers and preschoolers when my books were first published. I was unprepared for the school invitations, I was scared to death when newspapers wanted interviews and photos, and I didn’t like traveling (driving in snow) and being away from my family for days at a time. At the time, it never occurred to me that I could say “no.” The whole thing spun out of control until I got too sick to continue. Keep success manageable! You’re the only one who can do that.
Success attracts more of everything, so be prepared and think some of the issues through ahead of time. Yes, you’ll have more money, which is immensely helpful. But you’ll also have more business expenses, more calls, more e-mail, and more requests for your time (guest blog posts, interviews, Skype chats with book clubs or school groups, reviews). If you’re not careful about limiting what you say “yes” to, you’ll find yourself longing for the days when you just wrote and no one knew about you!
Never think that you must accept everything success brings simply because it has been offered. Decide ahead of time how much of your day or week you’re willing to give to these things, and then stick to it (for the sake of your family, your health and your sanity.)
When success hits and you wonder how to fit everything in, you may want to read a few good time management books, especially those written for writers. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel!
Your friends may change a bit after you are successful too. True friends (writers and non-writers both) will be happy for you, but there are some who will be jealous. If they don’t adjust their attitude, they may drop out of your life.
On the other hand, success as a writer will give you opportunities to meet other successful writers. Some of them will become lifelong friends, those truly kindred souls who speak your language and are as happy about your sales as they are about their own. Treasure these friendships.
Be grateful for your success. Not everyone in this country who would like to be a writer will survive all five stages of success. So be grateful that you have the ability and the freedom to do this. I sure am! I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Okay, you prepared (Stage One). You explored your options (Stage Two). You got started (Stage Three). Now you’re ready for Stage Four of “The Five Stages of Success”, where you survive and thrive.
You might have had a very fast start. That would be the writer who published the first thing he submitted, or his first novel was a Newbery Honor Book. These overnight successes are at the extreme end of the bell curve.
The other extreme end of the “survival and growth” stage is where you find the most dedicated, determined writers. They sell articles about “how I made my first sale on my 239th submission” or they sell a book they’ve been working on diligently for twenty years.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. This stage is the most challenging, partly because it’s usually the longest. There is a lot to learn about the writing business, and improving one’s writing craft simply takes time. If you know that and truly understand it, you will enjoy this stage of your success so much more.
It shouldn’t be rushed through. Try to resist society’s “instant gratification” message when it comes to your writing. More and more, I’m receiving emails from new writers saying, “I haven’t had a response in two months from a publisher. I shouldn’t have to wait to be published!” And I think, Why not?
Writers for centuries have had to wait and practice and revise before being published. And thank goodness they did! Even writers like Jane Austen didn’t write early drafts that were very good. So don’t get in a rush. All you will accomplish by that attitude is getting material self-published that is way less than your best is going to be. Nearly everyone I hear from who did this regrets it later.
Growth is Fun
So where’s the success in this stage if it takes such a long time?
I believe there are dozens and dozens of mini-successes spread throughout this stage. They include things like:
- finishing your first book
- attending a conference
- making a new writing friend
- small sales and large sales–celebrate each one!
- being asked to speak to kids or librarians
- the years your income taxes reflect “black” instead of “red”
- good reviews
- book signings (whether you sell many books or not)
- autographing books for your friends and family
- and so many more!
During this “surviving and growing” stage it’s easy to get fixated on all the things you can’t do yet. Don’t forget to notice–and celebrate–that you ARE making it! You are growing. You are getting there, step by step.
If I could do one thing over in my writin
If success is a journey, where are you along this continuum? As we go through the five stages of success–and learn to celebrate each stage–you’ll see each milestone for what it is: a huge victory.
As I mentioned in “The Five Stages of Success,” my first step along the way was taking the correspondence writing class from the Institute while my three kids were infants and toddlers. Choosing to throw myself into this endeavor was a successful leap of faith for me. (And my husband, as it took exactly half our food budget to pay for it!) But all success has a price, even if it entails making your own bread and homemade yogurt for a year.
If I knew I wanted to write, where did the exploration come in? In two phases actually.
In Phase One, I hadn’t known I wanted to write. I had tried four other home-based businesses before the writing course. Through those experiences, I found out I did NOT like selling vitamins or make-up, stuffing envelopes, or day care. I was successful in weeding out those careers. Until I took the writing course, I had no idea how much I would love it–a love that has lasted thirty years so far.
Phase Two of the exploration phase dealt with deciding what exactly I wanted to write. I had no idea, and the process of deciding can’t be forced or hurried. You have to take time to explore and mentally try on and investigate the many writing possibilities open to you. And when you hit your niche, you’ll know it.
Analyzing Your Explorations
I sold fiction and nonfiction to magazines, experimenting with shorter material. For two years I wrote for ages preschool through adults. The easiest to sell was middle-grade and adult nonfiction–and that was a consideration. But my highest satisfaction came from writing middle-grade fiction. [That's where I settled, and (for the most part), that's what I wrote in the coming years--but that's a different stage.]
The “Exploration Stage” of success can be such a fun time! I found it exciting. If you want more guidance or direction for this phase, you might try Finding Your Perfect Work by Paul and Sarah Edwards or Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy.
Stay tuned for “Stage Two: Preparation” on Monday!
Do you feel like a successful writer? Or are you waiting to pass some big milestone before you can feel successful? (e.g. sell a story, win a contest, finish a novel, get an agent)
Is success (in your thinking) saved for after you’ve reached your next goal?
No Finish Lines
If so, let’s re-define success.
Success, according to many experts, is a process. It is not a finish line you cross. There are milestones along the way. Haven’t you found that to be true? You set one goal and eventually are successful at achieving it. But what do we do almost immediately? We set a new goal and decide we will be successful at some point in the future when we attain that goal.
Is it any wonder we never feel successful? (Oddly enough, though, we see other writers as successful–even writers less published than we are!)
Success, to be realistic, needs to be measured in a different way. Each step–each of the five stages–along the way in your writing career needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.
My own writing career started with taking the writing course offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. I poured myself into that course, set aside study time daily during naptimes, and graduated in ten months. After thirty rejections, I sold three of my assignments, and two years later, my first middle-grade novel to Atheneum. My seventh novel won a children’s choice award. I’ve gone on to write four series, some fiction and some nonfiction.
At what point did I consider myself successful? Truthfully, a big part of me still thinks of success as being “out there” somewhere. I look at other writers who have MFAs and high powered agents, and think, Now THOSE are successful writers!
Looking back, though, I would say that success happened at various milestones–and the first milestone was signing up for the writing course and taking my dream seriously. I think I was successful each time I got a rejection slip and decided to not give up. I think there were more successes than just the “public” ones we usually acknowledge: the sales, the awards, getting that agent.
The Five Stages
According to experts Paul and Sarah Edwards in Secrets of Self-Employment (Working from Home), there are five stages of success. Each is a milestone in itself. In order for the writing journey to be fun and rewarding, you really need to celebrate each victory–each success–along the way.
During the next five days, we’ll be talking about the five stages of success: Exploration, Preparation, Start-Up, Survival & Growth, and Bull’s-Eye.
Let’s re-think our definitions of success. Don’t focus just on the end result. Focus on being successful in the stage where you are right now. You’ll enjoy the process so much more this way!
[Next blog post on Friday is Stage One: Exploration]
By: Kristi Holl
Blog: Writers First Aid
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Some terrific reading is waiting for you this weekend! The articles below from around the Web will give you writing and marketing help, help you see through the current publishing confusion, and even show you ways to get your kids to read through the summer.
“Is Publishing Turning into the Wild West?” The publishing world has changed radically in the last couple of years, thanks to those pesky e-books. Do the old rules still apply? Does chaos rule? Or are there ways to survive and thrive in the new environment? [Terrific article here by Randy Ingermanson, plus interesting comments.]
“A Dozen Ways to Get Your Child to Read Over the Summer and Have Fun Doing It!” Every year student assessments show that when kids take a break from school over the summer and they don’t read or have any reading instruction during that time, their reading skills are adversely affected. But this doesn’t HAVE to happen. Encouraging children to read during the summer will not only sustain their current reading achievement, it will also contribute to their success in reading proficiency. [Here you'll find suggestions for early primary grades, middle grades, and teens.]
“6 Query Tips from a Publishing Insider” To help you write a query letter (or submission letter) so that an agent will give your manuscript the time of day here are the top 3 Do’s and Don’ts from our head Acquisitions Editor. [The first tip was even a surprise to me, although just last week I sent a proposal to a publisher and got an email suggesting that I add more marketing stuff-even though this publisher has published nine of my previous books! She said there was also talk of adding a marketing clause in new author contracts.]
“Twitter-patted” Twittering gave the world a fast way to communicate and also a new tool for marketing. Marketing with only a few words takes planning and focus. [Read this article for a brilliant way to plan and write your Tweets while you are working on your book/story/article/ebook to be released later.]
“Ways to Improve Your Writing Style” Newer authors struggle with writing technique, and long time writers still find elements in writing that are their nemesis. Being aware of problem areas in your writing can help you move ahead as a writer when you focus on them and find ways to improve those techniques. Here are a few tips on become a better writer. [Gail Gaymer Martin's blog posts are meaty and almost a mini-workshop. Don't stop with this post, but go through her whole Writing Fiction Right blog site.]
Here's a nice story in a Colorado newspaper
about its Lt. Governor visiting an elementary school to promote literacy as a driving force for kids' success. I've always felt that regular daily reading to children from a very young age and up is key to their success in school, work and life in general. This is a nice article that talks a little about that, and coincidentally, Brave Little Monster is one of the books that the Lt. Governor reads to the children to promote literacy. Enjoy! :)
Lessons on Failure from Joyce Carol Oates
The Fringe Benefits of Failure: J.K. Rowling Harvard Commencement Speech
J.K. Rowling on Fear, Depression, and Failure
"Talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study”
"When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself."
"Failure is success if we learn from it."
-Malcom S. Forbes
Be responsible for your own success. "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go."
Stay the course, even when it feels like you aren't making progress. "One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night."
"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience."
"Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it… Success is shy – it won't come out while you're watching."
Today I'm going to point you to an article I read recently and found very helpful:
9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.
Halvorson points out that most of us have a hard time figuring out what it is that makes us succeed when we succeed and therefore that makes it hard for us to repeat the process on each new project or goal. I had never thought about it this way but I think it's so true. When things go surprisingly well, we tend to think we "got lucky" but I truly believe that LUCK = PREPARATION + OPPORTUNITY so that means it's got to be more than just showing up, right? But rarely do we stop and ask ourselves why something we did worked. We just rejoice in it.
One of my favorite things on the list is: Focus On Getting Better Rather Than Being Good
Such a good idea, and SO hard to stay focused on. So if you've got a few minutes, I highly recommend checking out the link!
Are you climbing the writer’s ladder of success, but beginning to suspect that your ladder is leaning against the wrong building?
I’d been wondering for nearly a year. I reviewed my goals for the year and saw that I was moving fairly steadily toward each one. Mostly that made me happy.
But two goals I’m moving toward make me uneasy. I realized I really didn’t want to reach those goals. They were things “the experts” said I needed to do to be a successful writer, but they appeal to me less and less, the closer I get to the goals.
Your Goals? Or Someone Else’s?
Then I re-read one of Randy Ingermanson’s free newsletters, and it was one of those “aha!” moments. He was talking about creating your “approximately perfect life.” In part, this is what he wrote:
“What’s your ‘approximately perfect life’ look like? Have you made a list of the things you’d like to have or to achieve or to be that would make your life the one you want?…Nothing happens unless you take action. But you can’t take any meaningful action until you define your direction. And you’ll never have direction until you know what your ‘approximately perfect life’ would look like.”
How do you even know the kind of life/writing life you would like to have? (And by writing life, I mean to include family and other goals you have. The whole enchilada.)
There are a number of ways (books and websites) to help you define what YOUR perfect life would include. Randy recommended an online free website that he faithfully uses called Simpleology. The creator of that site promises that:
Within minutes of setting up your account, you will:
- See your day with instant clarity
- Focus instantly on what´s important
- Dump the rest (liberation is a click away)
- Clear your brain of clutter and distraction
Let’s Get Personal
What’s important to you? What would spell success for you in the writing life? Have you written down your goals? Look at each one closely. Are they truly your goals and desires? Or are they goals–like several of mine–that were dictated by others but, in your heart, you know they don’t fit who you are?
Today I have a very long walk planned to think about these issues. I suspect, that when I get home, I’ll be doing some restructuring of my goals. My life is too busy and fragmented, and something’s got to go. Why not start with those things that really don’t spell writing success to me?
If you’re willing to shar
I’m going to reveal my age here–I was born the same year as John-Boy Walton. I loved the Walton family, I own all ten seasons of their show, all the specials, and a few books about them.
So when our plane was overbooked and we didn’t get on our overseas flight, we drove from Baltimore to Norfolk, VA, to catch a plane flying out of the Naval Base there. We had four days to relax and read. I was looking at a map of Virginia when suddenly the words “Walton’s Mountain Museum” leaped out at me.
Forty Years Ago!
There it was! Right in the Blue Ridge Mountains, very near Rockfish. The Museum was in Schuyler, the small town where Earl Hamner, Jr. (creator of the Waltons) grew up. The drive took longer than expected, and we very nearly didn’t get there on time to see the 30-minute video before going through the museum. I was entranced, enthralled…
This was my favorite family during their ten-year run on TV. They were considered a goody-goody kind of show. When they were put on the air in September (’73, I think), they were in the same time slot as Flip Wilson’s comedy show and “The Mod Squad.” Earl Hamner said they didn’t think the series had a prayer against those two popular shows–but by Christmas just three months later, “The Waltons” was #1. They remained popular for ten years.
Write What You Know
I always love to see the homes of writers. The Hamner home on a steep hillside (above) was modest for a family that included eight children. The country store sits on the spot where Earl Hamner, Jr. had a writing shed. The church they attended was just around the corner on the country road. We passed several logging trucks and loggers at work as we neared Schuyler–everything very “Walton.”
Whether you loved the Waltons or not, as writers it’s worth thinking about its popularity at a time that everything was “mod” and becoming irreverent. Earl Hamner, Jr. tapped into something that spoke to people. First his books, and then the shows made from his books. How did he do it? He followed the advice of “write what you know.”
Writing That Connects
He studied people–and what made them tick. He knew specific details: the birds, the trees, the wildflowers on the mountain.
He observed dynamics between people and got to the heart of what made a common man heroic. He wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more.
Hamner is 88 now and lives in California, but you can still buy his autographed books at his boyhood home.
I left the mountain inspired.
[Leave a comment if you were/are a Walton's fan!]
By: Kristi Holl
Blog: Writers First Aid
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We don’t like to talk about quitting or giving up on our dreams. But let’s be honest. Will every wannabe writer eventually land big contracts, snag a well-known NY agent, and be sent on ten-city book tours? No.
Maybe your dreams are more modest, but you’ve worked at breaking into publishing for years. Should you continue the struggle? For how long? How do you know when to quit?
Asking the Wrong Question
I came across an excellent discussion from a blog post that is several years old, but the advice is timeless. Called “When to Quit,” it’s a lengthy article by Scott Young on this subject. I hope you’ll read it to the end.
One factor the article said to consider was how you feel on a day-to-day basis as you pursue your dream. How is the process affecting your life, your character, your growth? “So if you are pursuing your dream and you don’t think you are going to make it, the question of whether or not to quit doesn’t depend on your chance of success. The real question is whether pursuing this dream is causing you to grow. Does this path fill you with passion and enthusiasm? Do you feel alive?”
You may not agree with all his views, but I guarantee that the article will make you think–even if you have no intention of quitting. It might lead you to make a course correction however. And it will make you evaluate why you’re pursuing your particular dream–and that’s always a good thing!
If you have a minute, give me your reactions to the ideas in his article.
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Having pondered the subject of guilt in an earlier blog, I am now thinking about its second cousin, the subject of regret. My parents had many regrets in their adult life, the main one being that they didn’t leave Europe at an early age and thus avoid the horror of the Second World War. But there were others, many of them being the decisions they made in either spending or managing their money. No matter how problematic my father’s relationship was with my brother, he never regretted anything he said or did in my poor brother’s regard. Remember, he was the one member of my family who never, never was able to say, “I’m sorry” except on one occasion.
My mother had many regrets, the most painful one for her was that she felt she was not close to her mother. And after my grandmother was killed, she was haunted by the fact that she never told her mother that she loved her. It’s mistakes like that which are the most lethal ones with which to live.
The other most painful regrets have to do with money. I heard my dad say, “I should have invested in that apartment house.” Of course his friend, who did take a chance on it, made a small fortune. Moreover, Dad didn’t learn from his mistake. He never was able to risk a dime on anything that wasn’t a hundred percent insured, solid investment. He had many regrets in his life.
Fast forward to my own regrets. I must be chip off the old block because I don’t really have any regrets regarding my interpersonal relationships. However, my husband and I both regretted not putting our house on the market a couple of years earlier when the market was hot. Our house is rented now and the regrets have diminished.
Moreover, recently there has been some talk about the fact that we may be going into an inflationary period in our economy, and owning a house may just end up being the best hedge against inflation that we could possibly have. So all this makes me wonder if we should really spend a whole lot of time kicking ourselves over regrets, when there isn’t much we can do to reverse things, and maybe, just maybe, our decisions may end up being the best ones we could have made in the first place.
Filed under: Becoming Alice
Tagged: family history
0 Comments on What About Regrets as of 1/1/1900
There is a famous quote: “If you take one day off writing, your muse will take off the next three.”
In other words, it will take you three days (after skipping writing) for you to get back into the flow of your writing project. Even taking one full day off will cost you in focus.
I don’t know why this is, but when you finally get back to writing, you can expect some uncomfortable, not-fun writing days, producing stuff that stinks. Several writers I’ve read lately say that if you’ve been away from your writing for a week or more, you can expect about ten days of writing that is no more fun than getting teeth pulled when you start again.
When I say “away from your writing,” that’s what I mean too. Sometimes–and I am sooo guilty of this–we fool ourselves that we’re writing when we’re:
- Reading a writing magazine or blog
- Marketing a story (looking for publishers, printing copies, going to the post office)
- Answering email to writers, editors and family members
- Speaking at writer’s conferences
- Going to book signings or book store readings
- Posting to Facebook or Twitter
That’s not the kind of writing I mean. Those are writing-related tasks, and writers today have more and more of them, it seems. They have to be done. But they don’t take the place of writing.
In the Flow
To stay in the groove, so to speak, you don’t have to write for hours and hours every day (although hours are lovely and the more, the better.) I have found that if I work on my novel for even twenty minutes a day, I can avoid that horrible getting started angst the next day. And I don’t have to waste time trying to remember where I was, what the characters were feeling, what the plot problem was, or that new insight I realized about the theme. Our brains seem to be able to hold onto those things for about 24 hours.
As Heather Sellers said in Page by Page, “I try to avoid missing days. The not-writing days aren’t worth it! It’s too hard to get back into it. This is why athletes cross-train off season. This is why people who are successful with weight management stay below a certain weight. It just isn’t worth it. Getting back into shape is just too hard. It is easier to keep doing it, tiny little writing periods, day after day. Without missing a day.”
What if you’ve already missed a few days, or weeks, or months of writing? Then start again. But you can also take this to the bank: your writing will stink, you will hate it or question your story or your talent or your motives, you will feel self-indulgent, and writing for twenty minutes will feel like hours. But this really uncomfortable period is usually necessary. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that-if you stick it out for about ten days straight-it will pass. The muse will return, the writing will be fun again, you’ll realize how much you missed it, you’ll love your writing rituals and routine, and you’ll wake up eager to write as you did in the past.
Once you regain that wonderful writing state, do everything you can to maintain it. If you know you have a super busy day tomorrow, set your alarm twenty minutes earlier and write before the day takes over. It doesn’t take much writing to stay in the flow-not nearly as much as it takes
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Yesterday the little town in which I live had its first book faire. Well, it wasn’t strictly a book faire because the OjaiBookFest allowed renters of table space to sell goods such as decorated gords, crafts, pamphlets, and what-nots as well. However, as one of the booksellers (of Becoming Alice, A Memoir,) I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The first good thing that happened was that it didn’t rain despite the fact that it had been in the forcast for a week. Actully that is only partially true since the rain started at about two o’clock sending us booksellers into a frenzy to save our books from becoming soggy piles of wet paper ready for the recycler.That left me about three to three and a half hours to mind my table at the faire. In that period of time I sold a lot of books, but even better, I had a great time.
There is a method for being a bookseller at a faire. First of all the seller must be on his/her feet. So often when I looked around at the others, I found them sitting down, chatting with one another, having coffee and a snack and completely ignoring anyone that might be passing the table. The trick is to make eye contact with the passerby … not the person who’s selling something next to you. Once the passerby has stopped, smile at him/her. That’s the first invitation to maybe say something, like “Do you want to know what this book is about?” They may smile back, shake their head, and move on. That’s okay. Or, they may approach your table. That’s when you pick up your book and say, “You can find out what this book is about if you read this short synopsis on the back cover.”
If you’re lucky they’ll say, “Wow.” Then you can add whatever else you want. In my case I say, “It is a true story.” Now your passeby is engaged and will either ask more questions or make a remark like, “Oh, I’m from Portland.” Or, they might say, “I was in the war … I was with the occupation forces … we did this and that and this and that.” That’s the kind of engagement that ends up in a sale.
The best kind of engagement comes about when the passersby stop three feet from your table. They hesitate and look at the table and your invitation to read the synopsis doesn’t move them an inch closer to you. That’s when you smile and jokingly say, “You’re welcome to come and look at this book without buying it. It’s free to look … you can put it back down and walk away and I won’t mind at all.”
Of course, you already know that these passersby, who probably were afraid of a sales pitch, bought my book.
Filed under: Becoming Alice
, Marketing Books
Tagged: Becoming Alice
, Book Faires
, Marketing books
2 Comments on How to Succeed at Book Faires, last added: 3/22/2011