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Last month on Capitol Hill, a tedious slur on Henry Kissinger (“war criminal”) provoked an irate reaction (“low-life scum”). The clash between Senator McCain and the protesters of Code Pink garnered media coverage and YouTube clicks. The Senate’s hearings on national strategy not so much. This is unfortunate. For world-weary superpowers, opportunities for sustained strategic reflection are rare. The transfer of power in the Senate affords such an occasion, and John McCain has seized it. His committee hearings nonetheless illustrate both the many challenges facing American foreign policy and the limits of strategy as a guide to foreign-policy choice.
Making strategy is intellectual work. The strategist seeks to explain the patterns of world events, hopeful that comprehension will guide policy and permit policymakers to shape global trends. Requiring interpretation, making strategy is akin to writing history, but what the strategist explains is the present and future. Henry Kissinger once put it thus: “I think of myself as a historian… I have tried to understand the forces that are at work in this period.”
During the Cold War, the forces at work were clear — or so it now appears. The world was divided, and the United States stood for freedom and against the Soviet Union. Washington did not push the USSR too hard, for doing so risked war. Instead, policymakers adhered to a strategy of containment, the logic of which presumed that the USSR would crumble upon its inner contradictions. History vindicated this theory, and many now yearn for the coherence that containment presumably imparted to US foreign policy. The Cold War was dangerous, General Brent Scowcroft told the McCain hearings, but at least “we knew what the strategy was.”
Americans should not yearn for such clarity. Containment nostalgia distorts the actual adaptability of US foreign policy in the Cold War. The search for strategic coherence is, moreover, inappropriate to the needs of US foreign policy today, which requires not intellectual cohesion but tolerance for complexity, improvisation, and even contradiction.
Consider Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski — two of the sages who addressed McCain’s committee. They rank among America’s clearest strategic thinkers, but neither was in his own time a strategic dogmatist. Henry Kissinger began as an adept practitioner of Cold War geopolitics, but as new challenges mounted, he pirouetted to champion cooperation on issues, like energy, that had little to do with the Cold War. From these efforts, the International Energy Agency and the G-7 were born.
Brzezinski, with President Carter, worked to build a “framework of international cooperation” for a world that the Cold War no longer defined and brought human rights into the foreign-policy mainstream. Only as US-Soviet relations deteriorated in the late 1970s did the Carter administration adopt an invigorated anti-Soviet policy. Pragmatic adaptation to events, not devotion to strategic coherence, enabled policymakers to lead the United States through one of the hardest phases in its superpower career, prefiguring the Cold War’s resolution on American terms.
America today faces complex and discordant challenges. For John McCain, a revanchist Russia, a rising China, a truculent Iran, an implacable Islamism, and a rash of failing states make the world more dangerous than ever. McCain might have included (as Scowcroft did) global climate change, an existential challenge for industrial civilization. It is seductive to presume that a singular strategy could enable the United States to transcend, resolve, and master the myriad challenges it faces.
The hope is forlorn. Containment during the Cold War provided no roadmap for policy. At most, containment enjoined acceptance of the world’s division and optimism in the West’s prospects. Within this loose outlook, policymakers improvised and adapted, pursuing diverse agendas. The most effective, like Kissinger, understood that even superpowers do not determine the course of world events; instead, their leaders must react and respond. Presuming the reverse risks the kind of strategic hubris that embroiled the United States in the quagmire that President Obama has struggled for six years to resolve.
What role then for strategy? Strategic thinking, which weighs costs and benefits and contemplates long-range consequences, is a prerequisite for responsible foreign policy. Yet Americans should beware the notion that world affairs can be comprehended within coherent, meta-historical frameworks: the Cold War, globalization, the clash of civilizations, and so on. To be creative, strategy must acknowledge both the provisionality of its own conclusions and the validity of alternative perspectives on the world. Like history, it must remain a work in continual progress.
Heading image: Ford Kissinger Rockefeller by David Hume Kennerly. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Cyber attacks on Iran have been well publicised in the press and on Western television. General William Shelton, a top American cyber general, has now turned these attacks around saying that these events are giving Iran a strategic and tactical cyber advantage creating a very serious “force to be reckoned with.”
Since 2010, Iran’s infrastructure has been attacked hundreds of times by cyber viruses. To date the most documented and best known cyber attacks have been aimed at Iran and are known as cyber worms called Stuxnet. These electronic worms were used to attack Iranian nuclear power plants and connected systems. General Shelton, who heads up Air Force Space Command and Air Force cyber operations, gave a briefing to reporters in January 2013, where he said that the 2010 Stuxnet virus attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium processing plant had generated considered responses from Iran that have led to improved offensive and defensive cyber-capabilities.
In December 2012, the Stuxnet virus returned and hit computer and energy operations and companies in the southern Hormozgan region. Shelton claimed that Iran’s improved cyber defense capability had helped Iran protect it against subsequent attacks on oil terminals and other manufacturing plants. This new capability, he believed, will subsequently be used by Iran against its enemies in the near future. “They are going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said General Shelton, “with the potential capabilities that they will develop over the years.” At present he stated that America had over six thousand cyber specialists employed to monitor, analyse and counter cyber attacks, and he was intending to employ another thousand specialists over the next twelve months to improve America’s effectiveness in this vital area.
Moreover, assassinations and assassination attempts in conjunction with cyber attacks are thought to be part of an integrated plan of attacks on Iran’s nuclear research and manufacturing capabilities. A year ago on 11 January 2012, Ahmadi Roshan, a 32-year-old Iranian scientist, and his driver were both killed when a motorcyclist attached a bomb to their car as they were driving. So far these attacks, which seem to form part of the broader cyber-related strategy aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, have successfully killed five Iranian nuclear scientists in the last two years according to FARS, a Tehran news agency. However, in January 2013, the Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi claimed that his organisation had stopped a number of attempts to kill nuclear scientists so it is uncertain which reports are accurate.
These attacks on Iran’s electronic systems represent only a very small amount of the current cyber attack and threat capability. Increasingly, all governments and corporations must respond to the cyber reality. With an interconnected world, cyber attacks on infrastructure have become frequent and damaging. Cyber crime is costing businesses billions of pounds although they tend to keep quiet about the attacks. (The BBC reported that UK cyber crime costs £27bn a year.) Efforts to get a grip on the problem had been hampered by firms who don’t want to admit they had been the victims of attacks for fear of “reputational damage”. Baroness Neville-Jones, Prime Minister David Cameron, and Foreign Secretary William Hague met the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest businesses, including Barclays, HSBC, Tesco and BA, to urge them to take the problem more seriously.
In September 2012, a hacker called vorVzakone posted a message on a Russian online forum saying that a malevolent Trojan, called Project Blitzkrieg, was capable of attacking the American financial industry, that it had already critically affected up to five hundred American targets, and that it had stolen over five million dollars. “This attack combines both a technical, innovative backend with the tactics of a successful, organized cybercrime movement,” a McAfee report explained, adding that the next target would probably be investment banks.
Hackers, apparently working independently as criminal gangs, have grown in their specialization faster than most police and government intelligence organisations would have believed possible. Yet cyber hackers working for governments have targeted everything from computer systems to power plants from the US to Iran, Europe to China, Australia and beyond. These civil servant hackers are often employed by governments to help fulfill a strategy, to change information and publicity, or to gain information and bring systems down.
One example comes from Ray Boisvert, who recently retired from the post of Assistant Director of Intelligence for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He believes the current capabilities of most governments is not enough to counter the current cyber threats. He said that cyber threats were fundamentally undermining Canada’s “future prosperity as a nation.” He stated there is a lack of response on three levels. First from government and corporate policy-makers who do not, in his opinion, understand the technical complexities of digital telecommunications security. Second the government has not invested enough to protect Canada’s communications and electricity systems from cyber attacks. Third, he thought there was an inherent corporate shortsightedness regarding protecting Canada’s communications infrastructure.
The cyber issue is growing and will become a rising threat to governments and corporations. It may require a serious attack such as a massive electricity system shut down before a full government response is played out.
Alfred Rolington is the author of Strategic Intelligence for the 21st Century: The Mosaic Method, an industry insider’s assessment of current intelligence methods and offers a new strategic model, directed toward the police, military, and intelligence agencies. He was formerly CEO of Jane’s Information Group, responsible for such publications as Jane’s Defense Review and Jane’s Police Review, as well as CEO for Oxford Analytica. He has over thirty years’ experience of analytical publishing and media companies, producing information and intelligence for commerce, law enforcement, the, military and government. He has written about and given lectures on intelligence and strategic planning to Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard Universities, and to organisations such as Thomson Reuters, the CIA, SIS (MI6), NATO Headquarters, and GCHQ.
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Subscribe to only law and politics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. Image credits: Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Ryan Allshouse uses the intrusion detection system to monitor unclassified network activity from the automated data processing workspace. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons; Maps and charts are scanned from “Atlas of the Middle East”, published in January 1993 by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I am hard at work on Act 1 of a new story that I am jokingly calling SHARKS.
I have roughly plotted out the story for Acts 1-3, and am now getting serious about Act 1, using two strategies:
Lists Help Me Plot
Creating lists is a helpful way for me to explore possible scenes and remind myself what needs to be included. My first list is a rough idea of the scenes that need to be included in the first act.
I need a scene that:
captures interest, while introducing the setting and main characters, A and B
sets up a minor conflict, a sort of running gag
A meets C and the result is joining a club
set up another subplot, one with parents
Club goes on outing which reveals a global danger to A
A and B try to warn someone about the danger, but are rebuffed
A and B are determined to save the world, even if the world doesn’t want to be saved
Does this list seem unfocused and boring to you? It does to me. But it’s a start. These ARE the scenes that I need, but I need to inject conflict and put more at stake in each one. And listing is a help here, too.
Scene 1: Introduce A and B and the outcome is that they don’t like each other.
A good opening strategy is to introduce two characters with a minor conflict that creates a distance between them. I know these guys must work together closely, which means they can’t get along smoothly, there must be conflict. OK. What sort of conflict? For me, that can depend greatly on setting. So, I create a list of possible settings; the general setting is Seattle and Puget Sound, but I need to know a specific setting for a scene, which is grounded in a particular place with particular actions.
On a ferry
Bike rental shop
Discussions with Myself Help Me Plot
Which brings me to the second strategy, and that is a discussion with myself about these options. Some of this is internal, but some of it is actually typing the conversation with myself. How do I know what I think until I write it?
Here’s an example of what I might write to myself:
I’m thinking the coffee shop is a good idea. A comes in and B is working there.
Immediate questions: How old is A? Is this a MG or a YA? If a MG, can he be wondering around on his own and ordering 5 cups of coffee? Teen, yes. 12 yo? Not so sure. This story isn’t YA, though, so it needs to be definitely MG. So the coffee shop must be very close to his grandparent’s house. And he’ll need a steady income, an allowance or something, or he can’t buy that much coffee.
If I use the coffee shop for the opening scene, it is 3 blocks from A’s grandparent’s house; he gets a generous allowance from his parents (Dad is Dr., mom is ambassador, so they can afford this). His first week in the Seattle area, it is plausible for him to become so enamored with coffee that he orders five cups in one morning; that also set up conflict with grandparents for later because he will be wide awake all night. The time change from his move, combined with caffeine could heat things up. I like this possible cause-effect relationship between scenes.
On the other hand, do I want school scenes or not? If so, I need to introduce it early: which is more important to the overall story, a coffee shop or a school yard. Can I reuse the coffee obsession later and have the coffee shop come back? Maybe the “club” meeting can take place in
Answers from Elena Ornig.
If the answer is yes – than welcome aboard and good luck!
Before answering this question let’s take a look at the basic functionalities and the main aspects of digital publishing.
There are similar aspects in both traditional and digital publishing – production, distribution, marketing and copyrights, however the methods of delivery for all these aspects in digital publishing are different because they are based on an electronic rather than a physical platform; therefore, operating in an e-commerce or digital economy sector, with its own particular rules and regulations, has its own specific approach.
Production of a digital book is easier, faster and cheaper. It is also quite flexible because an eBook can be downloaded, stored and read on a laptop, personal computer, mobile devices like tablets, e-book reader devices and even mobile phones. E-books require no printing expenditure for the publisher, no big stuff for day to day running ...
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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
Oxford University Press has appointed Casper Grathwohl to the newly-created role of senior vice-president, group strategy.
Grathwohl, who is currently vice president of reference and digital publishing within OUP's global academic division, will move into the new position on 5th October, reporting to c.e.o. Nigel Portwood. He will work at group level and alongside OUP's business units on a range of activities designed to address OUP's strategic agenda.
For twenty years, I’ve told students and wannabe writers that you have to put the writing first! Do it before other things take over your day.
Fight the impulse to clean your kitchen first, or straighten your office, or clean up the mess the kids made before leaving for school.
“But I can’t work in chaos,” writers protest.
You know what? Neither can I anymore–at least not well! And when I force myself to, the work is doubly tiring. Doubly stressful. Much less satisfying.
Energy Drains in Disguise
Something I read today made me realize my advice might be a tad off. Not wrong altogether, since if we don’t make writing some sort of priority, we won’t do it. However, to eliminate energy drains in your life, you need to look at the whole picture. Certainly all the things you do in a given day take your energy. Every action you take on your lengthy “to do” list uses energy.
What you may not realize is that actions you don’t take use energy as well. Your disorganized office, the piles of laundry on the bedroom floor, the stack of bills to pay, the two birthday gifts to buy, the clothing needing repair–all this drains your energy reserves as well. It happens whether you are looking at the unfinished business or just thinking about it.
It siphons off energy that could be used in a much more positive way. “These items on your mental ‘to do’ list, the ones you’ve been procrastinating about, distract you or make you feel guilty and drain the very energy you need to accomplish your goals.” (So says Cheryl Richardson in Take Time for Your Life.)
NOT an Excuse to Procrastinate
Taking care of the unfinished business that nags at your mind–and keeps you from feeling like you can settle down to write–may be necessary before you can tackle your writing assignment. Don’t go overboard though, or you’re just procrastinating. Washing the dirty dishes is one thing–taking time to replace the shelf paper in your pantry is something else.
Figure out the things that you MUST have done to feel at peace in your environment, and do those things ONLY. (It helps to do as many of them as you can the night before too.)
Eliminate the chaos in your environment, and you’ll eliminate a LOT of the chaos that blocks your writer’s mind. Now…off to clean my office.
I very rarely read an e-book and then buy the hard copy–but I did in this case. I have to mark it up, add my colored flags and post-its, and turn down page corners.
Why? Because it is so very full of practical, usable, frugal marketing advice. (And I mean frugal in terms of both money and your time.) I already owned the 2004 first edition, but publishing times have changed so much–and this 2011 updated version reflects that.
Why a New Edition?
We all know that book promotion (and life!) has changed since The Frugal Book Promoter was first published in 2004–particularly in ways that have to do with the Web, but in other ways, too. As an example, the publishing world in general is more open to independent publishing now than it was then. So, this update includes lots of information on ways to promote that were not around or were in their infancy a few short years ago.
So here is what is new:
A simplified method for making social networks actually work–without spending too much time away from my writing
How to avoid falling into some of the scam-traps for authors
The best “old-fashioned” ways to promote–the ones I shouldn’t give up on entirely
How to write (and publish) an award-worthy book
How to promote your book to mobile users and others
The pitfalls of using the Web and how to avoid them
Unusual methods of getting reviews–even long after your book has been published
Today’s technology, social networking and marketing techniques are covered. Updated web resources abound. Advice in sync with today’s Internet are incorporated:
* Blogging tips and pitfalls
* Obtaining reviews and avoiding scams
* Finding places to pitch your book
* Using the eBook explosion to promote sales
* Using Google alerts to full advantage
* Staying on top of current trends in the publishing industry
* Writing quality query, media release letters and scripts for telephone pitches
* Putting together power point and author talk presentations
This is just a tip of the iceberg too. I highly recommend Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s updated Frugal Book Promoter. (NOTE: Be sure you get the new 2011 editionwith the cover above.)
At the beginning of every new year, I make a list of middle-grade books I should read and study, since that’s the genre in which I write. They are award winners mostly, or books recommended as “must reads.”
Most teachers encourage you to read a wide variety of books, and I always start with the best of intentions. But time to read is short for everyone.
Me and My List
Occasionally a book on the list really grabs me, and I sail through it. But more often than not, I have to really push myself to finish.
These popular books are well written, and for the most part, they deserve the honors and sales records they’ve garnered. However, many just aren’t “me.” Either I really don’t like them for some reason (subject matter, language, depressing ending) or I lose interest because I know that I never want to write a similar book. With time to read so very short, I hate spending it reading something I just don’t enjoy very much. I always feel guilty about it, but I finish few of the “must reads” on my list.
You need to learn how to read as a writer. What that means, first and most importantly, is that you need to read for pleasure. Never mind all the books you think you should read; what do you want to read?… Find a writer whose work you admire and feel you can learn from — choose someone whose level of skill you sense you could achieve someday, not a writer whose way of writing feels unattainable…You may want to choose a writer whose books focus on subjects that interest you. Then immerse yourself in this person’s work and see what you can learn.
Even though I agree with this advice, you’ll find plenty of teachers who will say the opposite. This is just my opinion based on years of trying to read the children’s books and adult books I “should” read. Nowadays I start them, but if I just don’t like them after ten or fifteen pages, they go back to the library unread. I’m giving myself the freedom from now to read what I love.
And with that said, I’m ready to dig into a book I bought for my birthday. I love P.D. James novels, and I love Jane Austen. Guess what the new James novel is? A lover of Austen herself, she just published Death Comes to Pemberly. I expect I’ll finish this one!
I once had an apartment with one large hall closet. At first it was roomy and organized. Over the two years I lived there, it grew more and more crowded and chaotic as I stuffed more and more junk into it. One day, I realized I couldn’t jam one more thing in there and still close the door.
Something was going to have to come OUT before more would go IN.
Time is Like a Closet
One year I took some online classes plus set up a self-study program to grow in my writing craft. It would require around four hours per day to do everything I wanted to do. Given the fact that I NEVER had four free hours in a day, where was that time going to come from?
One thing I love to do on January 1 is change calendars: wall calendars in kitchen and office, desk calendars (daily and monthly) in my office, and pocket calendars for my purse. The squares of the New Year calendar pages are virtually pristine and pure. An occasional appointment already made dots a square or two, but that’s all.
The calendars I pitch have perhaps one or two clean white squares per month with nothing scheduled. Just looking at them makes me feel tired. I know from experience, though, that the clean calendars will soon look just as jam-packed as the old calendars if I didn’t take steps NOW to prevent it.
Create a “NOT To-Do” List
To make time for some new things I wanted to do, I had to look at the calendar and find the time wasters. Some events are important to me and will stay on my new schedule: our weekly potluck supper with my grown kids and grandkids, teaching Sunday school at the Air Force base to basic trainees, my every-other-week critique group, leading DivorceCare at church, and blogging 3X/week. These activities feed my goals of a strong extended family, volunteer service, and growth as a writer.
However, I noticed a LOT of stuff on my calendar that could easily go. (Well, easily in the sense that I wouldn’t miss it. Difficult in the sense that it would mean saying “no” more often-and people pleasers like me hate that.)
My Personal “Not To-Do” List
I know the Internet eats up a lot of time for me. This year I’ve decided to stay offline until noon by adding the blog the night before so it posts automatically in the morning without me being online. Before I go to bed at night, I remove the laptop (which has the Internet connection) from my office altogether. It’s easier to deal with the temptation this way. Out of sight, out of mind! Reading other people’s blogs, posting on Twitter and Facebook, and answering e-mail can wait till later in the day.
No more “come and buy something” parties. I don’t like parties selling jewelry, home interior decorations, clothing, pots and pans, etc. I am also going to limit how many invitations I accept to showers. At my age, every woman is having grandkids and giving baby showers for friends having new grandkids. I rarely know their children or grandchildren. The shower only appears to take two hours, but by the time you’ve bought and wrapped a gift, gotten yourself ready, and driven to and from in heavy city traffic, it kills about eight hours. A gift card in the mail would be fine most of the time. (Not sure I’ll ever get up the guts to RSVP with, “Hey, I’ve never even met your kid, and I barely even know you, so I won’t be coming or sending a gift.”) Sounds very Scroogey, I know. But ooooh, so tempting.
I will no longer clean the house before the every-other-month visit by the Ork
After a couple of busy weekends (writing conferences to speak at) and other events, I was finally able to sit down for a lengthy time yesterday and write. Or so I thought.
I sat down all right, but once I finally had an uninterrupted moment to think, a certain situation that has been bothering me for months came flooding back. I couldn’t concentrate on my novel, and I was up and down. I walked. I ate. I sorted laundry. I worried. I ate some more. Later in the day, I Skyped a friend. But I didn’t write until…
I reviewed the thoughts-feelings-action cycle. Since my thoughts were unruly, and my feelings were haywire, I figured that “acting like a writer anyway” was my best option. I read her chapter on “Acting As If.” Here are a couple snippets to think about:
People draw conclusions about themselves through observation of their own behavior just as they draw conclusions about other people based on observation of their behavior.
Simply act a certain way based on your ideal Writer Self-Image, and over time, you become what you are acting.
Attack that Cycle!
A licensed professional counselor, Stone had many practical suggestions about how to act “as if” you’re a confident writer, act “as if” you’re a self-motivated writer, act “as if” you’re a self-disciplined writer, act “as if” you’re a future-focused writer, and act “as if” you’re a task-oriented writer. [I definitely recommend her book.]
I used one suggestion in the “task-oriented” section, acted “as if,” and got to work. Even though it was later in the day, I had the evening free and ended up with one of the most productive writing days I’d had in a long time. (I’m re-reading that chapter first thing today though!)
Don’t give up. We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful for writers like Kelly Stone who share what works!
[NOTE: Thanks for the inquiries about the release date for the paperback of More Writer's First Aid. I thought it would be yesterday, but it looks like this weekend. I will certainly let you know!]
“Crazymakers like drama,”says Julia Cameron in her classic book for writers, The Artist’s Way. “If they can swing it, they [the crazymakers] are the star. Everyone around them functions as supporting cast, picking up their cues, their entrances and exits, from the crazymaker’s (crazy) whims.”
You may have a quiet weekend of reading and writing planned, but then voila! A crazymaker shows up. It might be someone you thought was banned from your life for good. It might be someone no one else suspects is your crazymaker. They might rage and scream–or knife you in the back while smiling in the traditional passive-aggressive style.
“Whether they appear as your overbearing mother, your manic boss, your needy friend, or your stubborn spouse,”says Cameron, “the crazymakers in your life share certain destructive patterns that make them poisonous for any sustained creative work.”
Enough is Enough
Sometimes you get blind-sided by crazymaking behavior. It can be shocking and look ludicrous. It turns your schedule upside down, destroys any plans you might have, nearly always costs you time and/or money, is draining with its drama, and–if they’re really good–the crazymaker can blame you for the whole problem they created.
I’ve had more than my share of crazymakers to deal with in life. (I suppose everyone feels like that!) Anyway, it happened to me again recently, and I was tickled by my reaction. I recognized the game, called a spade a spade, and was astounded to see the problem go away. It didn’t cost me any sleep, and the crazymaker found someone else to harrass.
A Dance by Any Other Name…
Julia Cameron always said, “If you are involved in a tortured tango with a crazymaker, stop dancing to his/her tune.” Yes, that’s easier said than done–but it CAN be done! I was thrilled to see that if I stepped back and didn’t play the game, it stopped. And beyond that, I got some writing done!
Maybe there are some nut cases in your own life that need to be banished for the sake of your creativity. If so, deal with it as soon as possible. You’ll be soooo glad you did!
Creativity is a mysterious concept to most of us. We don’t really understand what it is, where it comes from, why it leaves us, and how to make it “work” consistently. We give it a lot of power because of this.
However, says the author of The Soul Tells a Story, “if I know from experience that inspiration arrives under certain conditions, I will make sure to re-create the conditions that invited it initially. Thus my early experience comes to determine how it is I will work.”
After our vacation took an unexpected turn, I’ve had more time to reflect this week than the past five years combined. For four blissful days, I had no Internet connection, nowhere we had to be, plenty of books to read, places to walk, and time to think. I hadn’t really realized what an incredible luxury this is in the fast-paced world in which we live.
How Things Have Changed…
Because of marketing demands the last five years–both online and elsewhere–the writing life has been a bit frantic. I don’t know about you, but frenetic activity is not conducive to coaxing out my creativity. That much I already knew. But I hadn’t given much concentrated thought to what things did work for me.
Each writer is different. I know writers who must be surrounded by noise and people or loud music in order to write. I am just the opposite, preferring quiet and solitude when I can get it.
If you’re not sure what conditions are best for you, think back to when you started writing. How did you work best then? What conditions did you just naturally create for yourself? What are the non-negotiables you must have for your creativity to flourish?
Take a Self-Inventory
Here are some things to consider:
Before writing, do you need some quiet time to think, meditate, or pray?
Can you write at any time of day–or only at certain times?
Can you write any place–or do you need your “office” to be the same each day?
Can you write in tiny bits of time–or does your creativity absolutely require large chunks of time? Does it vary depending on the stage of your book?
How much socializing do you need in order to be your most creative? (This includes time with writers and non-writers alike, time to “talk shop” and time to just have fun.)
When you are stuck, does it help to read a book on craft (viewpoint, research, inspiration, etc.) to get your creativity flowing again?
Does reading other writers’ books help you be more creative–or does it make you feel anxious as you compare yourself to them?
Do you need a healthier diet or more sleep for your creativity to be at its peak? Or do you work best on short naps and skipping meals?
What kind of critique at what point in your project is helpful? What kind is the kiss of death to your creativity? (When is your ego more fragile?)
Do you work best with a deadline, or do deadlines make you freeze up? Do you do well with six-month deadlines but choke on series deadlines set every two months?
Can you be creative when dealing with emotional upset? Do you need to solve family problems before you can settle down to write?
Take Time to Know Yourself
As we’ve said before, just because conditions aren’t perfect doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. We’ve all had to produce work under some appalling conditions. But if you have a choice,it’s lovely to set up your life and home and schedule a
Nuns are people too, and we are given a view of the diversity of personalities who are called to the religious life as the stories move from Antivenin to An Exercise in Logic. Parents should be apprised that the salty ship commander engages in mild cussing akin to a John Wayne style character, but only a few instances…
An Exercise in Logic by Barton Paul Levenson
RESPECT FOR OTHERS
Editor’s comment: “She holds herself with the dignity of her position as both a nun and a diplomat, yet is willing to bend–whether that means by sneaking out in defiance of the mission commander’s orders or going to her knees to pray when logic seems to fail her. “
How many times, when trying to get a point across in a conversation with someone of a totally different life experience, we have said it to be alien or foreign to them? In this story, trying to explain Christianity to people raised in secluded colonies is a bit like trying to explain a life of freedom to someone whose lifelong existence has been dictated under communist rule. But even more difficult is being the foreigner…the one who cannot comprehend the faith belief being explained. A nun and expert on alien religions, Sr. Julian is called in to negotiate with a group of aliens whose obedience to the decisions and words of their ancestors is taken to the extreme, and she has a short time to learn their religion in order to prove them illogical. Aristotle is oft quoted as saying “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”, and this story demonstrates how respectful discourse rather than angry debate can lead to Truth. For those who like stories of intellect and strategy, this one is for you! Pick up the entire anthology at Amazon http://ow.ly/4F48e .
(About the author: Barton has a degree in physics. Happily married to genre poet Elizabeth Penrose, he confuses everybody by being both a born-again Christian and a liberal Democrat. His work has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, ChiZine, Cricket, Cicada, The New York Review of Science Fiction and many small press markets. His e-novels, “Ella the Vampire,” “Parole,” and “Max and Me” can be downloaded now from Lyrical Press or amazon.com, and his first paperback, “I Will” is available from Virtual Tales (or amazon). Barton was prohibited from entering the Confluence Short Story Contest again after winning first prize two years in a row.)
All writers are looking for time-saving strategies and tips to increase their productivity. With school getting out in a month, many writers need to streamline both their writing life and personal life. If this is YOU, you’re in luck!
If you have June’s The Writermagazine, read Kelly James-Enger’s article called “10 ways to work more efficiently.” And for some free articles on this subject…
Other Writer articles online filled with tips to improve your efficiency–and give you more time to write–include:
After a couple months this spring of unexpected work and lack of sleep, I’ve found myself battling severe procrastination the past few weeks. I’m getting rested up, but I’m so out of the writing habit that getting started has become a big issue.
Luckily I can usually find a resource on my own shelves!
From the author’s website: “Writers want to write, but often find themselves whirling through cyberspace, glued to HBO with a box of doughnuts, careening off to the nearest Starbuck’s, and/or carving out last week’s fossilized spaghetti from the kitchen table.”
Sound familiar? This is what Dr. Karen E. Peterson— who has overcome writer’s block herself—calls ‘the write-or-flight response.’
Write? Or Flight?
In this revolutionary book, a psychologist and novelist presents an effective way to outwit writer’s block. Based on “new brain research and sound psychological principles,” this innovative program shows writers how to conquer writer’s block using:
Exercises to conquer the “write-or-flight” response
Techniques to create that elusive “writing mood”
Parallel monologue and interior dialogue to jumpstart the writing process
Checklists to see which side of the brain is blocking you
I fully recommend that little book because it worked for me. (I realize that it doesn’t mean it will work for you, but I think it’s worth a try if procrastination is an issue for you.) It explained the actual physical reasons why certain types of blocks occur–and what to do about them.
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.]
During the 1988 Jamboree encampment of 32,000 Boy Scouts, one troop (38 Scouts) led the entire Jamboree in cuts treated at the medical tent.
The huge number of nicks from busy knives sounded negative until someone toured the camp and saw the unique artistic walking sticks each boy in that troop had made. They led the entire encampment in other kinds of games, too.
Wounds simply mean that you’re in the game. It’s true for Boy Scouts–and it’s true for writers as well.
I know an excellent writer who has revised a book for years–but won’t submit it, even though everyone who has read it feels the book is ready. What benefit does she get from that? She never has to face rejection. She never has to hear an editor say, “This is good–but it needs work.” She never has to read a bad review of her book, or do any speaking engagements to promote her work, or learn how to put together a website.
She will also never feel the exhilaration of holding her published book in her hands. She won’t get letters from children who tell her how much her book means to them and has helped them. She won’t get a starred review or win an award or do a book signing. She won’t move on and write a second (and third and fourth) book.
Paying the Price
If you want to be a writer, you have to get into the game and risk a few wounds. Figure out ways to bandage them and recover from them, but don’t be afraid of getting them. They’re simply a sign that you’re a writer. Wear the battle scars proudly!
What part(s) of the writing life make you want to stay on the sidelines and out of the line of fire?
In the August edition of Randy Ingermanson’s free (wonderfully helpful) newsletter, there was a link to a free e-book describing a new time management systemRandy is using. (For back issues of Randy’s newsletter, go here.)
Since “free” is one of my favorite words, and I’m always looking for ways to manage my time better, I downloaded it to skim.
Skimming quickly turned to reading carefully, and soon I’d read the whole 57-page e-book by Jim Stone called Clear Mind, Effective Action. It deals with the subject of “fractal planning.” Fractal has to do with breaking something large into smaller parts. (You can get the free e-book here.)
In some ways fractal planning is unique, and some parts are a combination of the best time management ideas from the past twenty years.
In the free e-book, the author explains how to implement his system on your own (on paper or spreadsheet or Word document), if you don’t want to subscribe to his service. (I’m using a Word doc–for now–to see how it goes. I have to admit that–so far–it has boosted my productivity and ability to focus significantly.) If you’d like to go directly to the Fractal Planner page and check out the features, you can do that here.
If you try the fractal planner or read the e-book, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experiences–plus or minus–if you try it out.
Back in March, I wrote about pruning some things from life in order to have more time to write. (See my former post “The ‘Not To-Do’ List”.)
In order to make time for anything new in your life, it requires some necessary endings.
Help Is on the Way
So I was thrilled yesterday when my son-in-law loaned me a book by a favorite author of mine (Henry Cloud of Boundaries fame). It’s called Necessary Endings. It’s the best “how-to” on this “pruning” subject I’ve ever seen. It covers both personal/relationships and business. [Remember: if you're a writer, you're in business.]
I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty cutting things out of my life–even when doctors say, “Cut back or die!” (or the equivalent). This book has already helped me identify more clearly what needs to go. And, as Cloud shows, it all starts with having a clear idea of what you’re pruning toward (your goal or vision.) Only when you know that can you know what/who has to go.
You can download a free chapter from Necessary Endings called “Pruning: Growth Depends on Getting Rid of the Unwanted or the Superfluous.” Go to Facebook, do a search for “Henry Cloud (author)”, and you’ll find it. Just click the “Like” link, and you’ll have access to the free chapter and dozens of excellent short videos he’s posted.
Also, in the “Notes” section of his Facebook page, you’ll find a group study starting today on how to do this whole process of “necessary endings” in work, relationships, outside interests, and everything else (even good things) that keep us from being able to pursue the best things.
When my children were small–and even as they grew older–I struggled to find a writing schedule that worked most days of the week. After much trial and error, I would hit upon a schedule that allowed me to write nearly two hours per day. Bliss!
Not For Long
That “bliss” lasted a very short time usually–until I once again had morning sickness, or someone was teething, or my husband switched to working nights, or someone started school, or someone else went out for three extra-curricular activities and we lived in the car after school and weekends.
It was many years before I realized there is no one right way to schedule my writing. The “right way” (by my own definition) is simply the schedule that allows me to get some writing done on a regular basis.
Being sick for ten days recently taught me some lessons.
1) I’m too busy. It’s no wonder I have trouble getting any writing done, much less enjoying it. I’ve noticed for months that I was having a lot of trouble settling down and actually doing my daily writing. I was great at telling other people how to do it, but not good at it myself. So when I was extremely ill–but still getting more writing done than usual–it got my attention. Why was that?
It was because I was running a fever and couldn’t see people or I would spread the plague. Each morning I’d stand in the bathroom, shivering, and take my temperature. If it was over 101, the solution was simple: cancel all meetings I had that day. Most days I cancelled more than one meeting or appointment. In ten days, I cancelled ten things. Two things I really minded (babysitting my grandkids). Eight things I didn’t mind much at all. (And truthfully, five of the things I was thrilled to get out of.)
After being home a week, I realized how lovely it was to be home. I didn’t enjoy being sick, but I loved being able to stay put. And just from being home more, I wrote more. Usually just fifteen or twenty minutes at a time out of sheer boredom, but it all added up. And a lot faster than my “well” days when I pushed myself to write.
The result? I resigned from an office that requires about six or seven hours per month and two meetings per month. I plan to back out of a few more things when my terms are up.
2) The second lesson I learned when sick was that I’m online too much. I had sort of realized this for a long time, and had a goal of not getting online until noon because email and Facebook and surfing ate up too much time. But when sick, I just wanted to be curled up on the couch with the heating pad, blankets, cough drops, and a book. (I don’t have a wireless laptop, thank goodness, so that wasn’t an option.)
After ten days of only being online maybe an hour every other day to attend to editor email and post a blog, I realized how much more I was enjoying my days–even sick! I’m not even sure why, but I find being online too much quite agitating. I don’t read or watch things that are disturbing, so it’s rather a mystery to me, but I definitely notice it.
I’m feeling much better now, but yesterday I deliberately stayed offline because I didn’t need to blog, and I wrote and read and took my book outside and sat in the swing (which I hadn’t done in months) and noticed things (cardinals, daffodils coming up, lawn furniture needing scrubbing). I got the reading done that I needed to do for a class, but it was calming.
3) The third lesson I learned while sick is that I don’t read enough good books. I read a lot of articles online, or books that don’t challenge me but are entertaining before I drop off to sleep. But good books? Challenging books? They’re hard to find.
When my fever dropped after a week or so, I headed to the library for some new books. I had been re-reading classics on my shelf which I loved, but I was ready to concentrate on something new. I brought home six brand new books–I was the first to check them out.
I only ended up reading one of them all the way through, and it was only so-so. The others-many by bestselling authors–I only made it through about fifteen pages. Apparently the trend now in adult books is to switch viewpoints every two or three pages (one book had seven viewpoints in fifteen pages), and it was like being jerked around on a badly edited
The winner of The Liar Society giveaway is Lori Lee(email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The real lie was that "I wear colored contacts". I do not - that is my real eye color. Though, I get asked that a lot.
I do dye my hair a little darker/richer than it really is (can you say mousy brown? not that I have any gray or anything.....) and the weight on my DL is actually correct! (believe it or not! Just don't ask me what it is!:)
We are finally back to Marketing Mondays which will include interviews, tips, and other resources on marketing yourself and your books.
Today is on the topic of identifying the segments or target audiences for your book so you can hone your marketing better.
When people come to me for marketing consultation or to do web sites or to create swag - most authors or writers cannot list for me the target audiences for their book. I find most of us think are targets are: teens, librarians, schools, and bookstores.
They are... but there is so much more to it than that.
As you begin your marketing plan/strategy, it is important to segment out all your audiences into smaller chunks. You cannot target a billion teens, a katrillion schools, and a million librarians.
Here is something you can do now before you are agented and published - identify the target audiences for your books.
1) Write down all the topics your book covers.
(For example - a teen knitting mystery set in an Alabama summer camp would probably have: knitting, mystery, and Alabama to start with)
2) Identify the audiences interested in the topics.
(For example - just off the top of my head, I would divide the teen market into the following segments: those who like knitting, those who are crafty/like doing crafts, those who love mystery, Alabama teens, teens in the south, teen camp counselors etc)
3) For each audience, identify the top 3-5 ways to reach them.
(For example - lets take knitting - Google knitting magazines, craft magazines, knitting/sewing clubs, etc)
4) Keep a record of everything (I prefer excel myself) and start documenting all the information for future: contact name, address, phone, web site address, type of channel (magazine, club, ezine etc)
That is how you start thinking through the main targets of your book so you can be prepared when it comes time for your book to come out.
What questions do you have? Do you find it hard to drill down and identify your target audience for you book? Can you identify 3 groups?
Answers about People First Networking event.
Join us in our monthly networking drinks! Informative, entertaining and popular!
I am thrilled to present to you – People First Networking hosted by People First Solutions for the last 12 months by Alina Oldfield and Renae Gibbs.
I know! I know exactly what you think, “It’s boring, its business and not entertainment”. I felt the same before I went there for one reason only – to see the next performance of Justice Draconis for my article and following interview. But I can tell you right now, “It wasn’t boring!” It was quite informative, entertaining and rewarding. I was converted to a fan and even won a tempting bottle of red at the end.
So, stay with me and you will find out many interesting things you more than likely don’t know, never heard of or have ever seen. I have included many interactive links to other websites ...
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