Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, for tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, for tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know my friend J. Anderson Coats says a lot of things that resonate with me. She’s the one who gave me my favorite piece of writing advice and came up with that great cow-through-a-colander writing metaphor.
During a recent email exchange with my Class of 2k12 friends, Jillian shared this:
A writing career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You’re not on a schedule. There is no schedule.
That first part, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the second part? It felt like a revelation. It’s true that when you’re on deadline you most certainly have a schedule, but otherwise, the writing life is wide open.
So you know what?
Repeated themes I heard at the writer-illustrator conference in LA: Slow down. Take time to do your best work. When you think it’s done, set it aside to assess again later. Build on what you borrow. Be courageous — do work you find important, no matter what others say. LIVE so you’ll have a rich portfolio of experiences to draw and write from. What gets your next book published isn’t luck, desperation, a magic shortcut, or networking with stars; it’s your hard work, your being ready to jump at sudden opportunities, and your connections with friends. #SCBWI14
Here’s to approaching your writing with freedom in the days ahead!
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Recently a writing friend reminded me of something I wrote long ago: “Looking at it physiologically, perhaps writer’s block is more akin to constipation–things get all backed up in your semi colon.”
Yep, I know a few delusional mugwumps believe writer’s block is a myth, but let’s “pretend” it does exist. Why not apply constipation remedies to get your semi colon unstuck?
Strive for a balanced diet. Read and write in equal proportion.
Increase your fiber intake. Read outside your genre-of-choice to challenge yourself.
Drink plenty of water. By which I mean, drink plenty of water. Dehydrated writers produce dry writing.
Elevate physical activity. Maybe you’ve been practicing Anne Lamott’s dictum too much. It’s time to get arse out of chair and move. Walking is a time-honored way for writers to get the creative wheels whirling.
Get into a routine. For the love of prunes, if we can train your bowels, can’t we train our brains too? Establishing a writing pattern–whatever that looks like for you–helps your noggin’ to shift gears and be productive more quickly.
Heed the call. If your body says you need to, you know, “go,” then go. If your brain gifts you with a cool story idea or a solution to a knotty plot issue, jot it down, text it to yourself or tell a friend, don’t assume you’ll remember later.
Try applying these tips for two weeks, and you too could become a Smooth Operator. (Thanks, Sade.)
I wish that being famous helped prevent me from being constipated. ~ Marvin Gaye
I am not a risk-taker, generally speaking. I wear my seat belt, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Brush twice a day. Eat my burgers fully cooked and avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.
Yes, I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle (once). I floated in the gondola of a hot air balloon, sat in the front seat of a whirling helicopter, cuddled with a Burmese python, sang an original song to hundreds while wearing a helmet with horns and even walked the streets of Chicago’s north side, but those were exceptions to my usual play-it-safe life. Oh, and once, I even used a public restroom without putting one of those paper doilies on the seat first. So, yep, I guess you could say I’ve sauntered on the wild side a time or two. (I saw you roll your eyes, by the way!)
But here’s what I know: you get what you risk for (or at the very least, you up your chances exponentially).
This spring, comedian Jim Carrey addressed the graduating class of Maharishi School of Management in Iowa. In a rare moment of transparency, Carrey shared how his father had the potential to be professional comedian, but opted to become an accountant because he thought it was the safer choice. It was not. He lost his job.
“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” Carrey said. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
Is there a polished manuscript that’s “circling the airport” because you’re afraid of rejection? Submit it.
Is there an agent you want to query? Do it.
Feel the fear, but do what you want to do anyway. You can do this. (And I will join you.)
A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for. ~ Albert Einstein
At the end of May B., I am crying. I am crying at the ways she is so strong and capable.
I remember that intimate dedication and I feel like Caroline Starr Rose wrote this book in part for me.
It was as if she were writing to encourage me on behalf of all my teachers in and outside of the classroom who for years didn’t see that all the misspelled words and run-ons as a red flag. It was as if she were writing right into the places of my heart where those accusations of being careless and not good enough had settled. And she whispered that like May, I could overcome. I could hope for the good things even when they are hard. Thank you Caroline. Thank you May.
I am deeply moved and grateful Amy reached out to share this with me. I’m again reminded that what we create is always bigger than anything we could ever imagine. Please click through to Stories and Thyme to read the rest.
The post Sometimes You Get an Email That Takes Your Breath Away appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.Add a Comment
Okay, so maybe it’s another of my odd habits, but when I walk into a library, hotel lobby or museum, I typically look up. Come to think of it, I look up on walks through the woods. Or when I’m outside on a cloudless night.
(Yes, I’ve had a few near head-on collisions, but it’s almost always worth it.) I like to see what’s up there, not just what’s straight in front of me. Looking up gives me a different perspective, both in the physical realm and that weird world that exists between my ears.
Here’s one of my favorite “uppity” quotes: “The gloom of this world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.” ~ Fra Giovanni
I love this quote because it reminds me I have a choice. I can look down and focus on what’s painful or scary or I can look up to focus on what’s possible.
For me, looking up doesn’t involve donning rose-tinted shades and pretending everything’s perfect. I think it means, given the choice, why not be positive? Having an upbeat attitude does not have the power to influence reality. In other words, my looking up will not equate to a polished manuscript, a publishing contract or calls from agents. (It’s never that simple, but you know that already.) But looking up does reorient my point of view, my perceptions and how I choose to respond to my reality.
So, while it may not be magic, shifting my perspective upward . . .
1. Infuses me with hope.
2. Energizes me when my reserves are on E.
3. Takes my eyes off the immediate and helps me see the bigger picture.
4. Gives me buoyancy.
5. Makes me slightly more tolerable to be around. (And that right there is the price of admission, I’d say.)
I’d be a pimple-faced liar if I told you I manage to keep my head up every single day. As I’ve shared in early posts, some days I full body hug the berber. It is not pretty. I get overwhelmed with pessimism, break out in envy pox and become enveloped in self-doubt (which by the way, I am convinced is the leading cause of cellulite). When I’m looking down I become paralyzed, unproductive, and kinda pitiful. And I’m stuck with my own company. Bleh.
Thankfully, a lot of my days, with the help of encouraging friends and some stern self-talk, I can rise above that compost heap of negative glop.
Let me encourage you to remember you have a choice. I hope you choose to look up. You might like what you see when you become “uppity” too.
Now through Friday, August 15, visit Frog on a Dime and leave your favorite quote as a comment. You’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a keen package of fun, schlock-free writing supplies, hand-picked to inspire you. Trust me. You’ll like it–I’ll have a hard time parting with it.
Now, hop to it!
Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes
I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.
– Anne Lamott
Congratulations to Patti Bumpus Richards, winner of the give-a-quote giveaway!
You’ll find a fun, inspirational surprise package in a mailbox near you soon!
Thank you to everyone who added to my stash of inspirational quotes. I look forward to sharing them (and crediting you) in future blog posts.
Thanks to Patti for this pithy reminder from Mr. Edison . . .
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas A. Edison
I ran an earlier version of this post right after selling my first book. Because it’s one of my favorites, and because I so often need to hear these words myself, I share them again today. Keep plowing, friends.
It was 2004. While driving to meet my writing group, I happened to catch an interview on NPR with Adrienne Young, a folksinger just starting out. She talked about her first album, inspired by some advice she’d gotten while struggling to make it as a musician:
If you want to do this with your life, stay focused and see this through. You’ve got to plow to the end of the row, girl. That simple phrase – plow to the end of the row – was enough to push Adrienne to continue. It became the title of both her album and lead song. I can’t quite explain what that interview meant to me, hearing an artist choose to create despite the struggle, to push against fear and sensibility and make it “to the end of the row.” I’ve carried this image with me for years, the plant metaphor standing in for artistic endeavor, the plow the unglamorous slog needed to dig deep and make it to the end. Sometimes I find it funny I’d choose a profession so bent on forcing me to wait, so full of uncertainty and disappointment. An almost foolish optimism has kept me working, trusting that the next editor or the next agent or the next story would be the one to launch my career. I’ve haunted mailboxes and inboxes, waiting for something positive to come through. I’ve ceremoniously sent off manuscripts, chanting, “Don’t come back!” (entertaining postal workers, for sure). I’ve journaled again and again “this next editor is a perfect match!”, managing somehow to keep on plowing in midst of little validation. After twelve years of writing and hundreds of rejections, I sold my first book, May B., a historical verse novel about a girl with her own challenging row to hoe. May’s determination carried me through a rocky publication experience: losing my first editor; the closing of my Random House imprint, Tricycle Press; the weeks when my book was orphaned, with no publishing house to claim it and its future uncertain; the swooping in of Radom House imprint, Schwartz and Wade; edit rounds seven, eight, and nine with editor number two; and finally, May B.’s birth into the world only three months behind its original release date. Though each row’s length varies, they’re still mostly lonely, not very straight and loaded with stones. But the soil has gotten better as I’ve worked it, and each little sprout I’ve planted has been stronger than the last. And I keep at it — plowing, planting, hoping, dreaming — because I’m made for this. And knowing this is enough to continue, enough for my work to thrive.Add a Comment
It’s my delight to introduce you to vivacious, rap-writing debut author Lisa Rose. I first met Lisa through our regional chapter of SCBWI and was immediately attracted to her bright smile, energy and enthusiasm. And wait until you hear her good news . . .
Tell us about your book–details! We want details!
SHUMLIK PAINTS THE TOWN will be published by Kar-Ben in 2016. It’s about a painter named Shumulik who needs to create a mural for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). He can’t think of anything to paint and soon all of Jerusalem will be there. What is he going to do? It has a funny surprise ending!
Can’t wait to read SHUMLIK PAINTS THE TOWN and find out what the surprise is. So, when did you know you wanted to write for children?
It sounds cliché, but I was in second grade. I wrote a poem and my teacher called me a writer. I always wanted to write. But my mother told me to do something that made money. So I became an elementary teacher and got really, really, really rich! Moral of the story: don’t listen to your mother.
Very funny, Lisa. Now, what is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?
Hope. All children’s book must end in hope or by definition they are not a children’s book.
What’s the best writing advise you’ve ever been given?
I was a playwright before I wrote for kids, but this still applies: “No amount of sequins can save a bad script.”
Love that. And it definitely applies to children’s writing too. As you know, Frog on a Dime is all about encouraging children’s writers, so what’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you (related to writing)?
It was from Michigan’s own Debbie Taylor. I was writing outside of my race and shared with her I wasn’t trying to be revolutionary, I just wanted to write about something that touched me. Debbie said, “That’s your answer!” Recently, I was working on a project and it just wasn’t working. I tried and tried. Until I realized I was writing it for all the wrong reasons. I think good writing must have passion and purpose. The idea must scrape your soul.
What advise would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?
Keep going and learn how to flip-turn. I was swimmer before I was writer. It is excellent training. I was used to going as fast as could into cement walls. Instead of crashing after rejection, I just turned around and swam as fast I could into another cement wall. I sent the editor at Kar-Ben over twenty stories. We were on a first name rejection basis. But she kept encouraging me to send more stories. And so I did. I told myself I was going to keep writing until I got a contract or a restraining order from her. Luckily for me, the contract came first.
That’s great advise, Lisa. I’d never thought about flip-turns, but that’s a perfect analogy for the submission process. Time for one last question? Okay, name three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.
1. While I have this nice Jewish book coming out with Kar-Ben, most of my novels feature African-American characters and I am working on a digital media project with the former producers of rapper Eminem. Yes, I even write rap music.
2. I have partnered with a Detroit graffiti artist, Fel3000ft. to create a chapter book. I joke that I write everything from shalom to shazizzle!
3. I like eating ice cream with a fork.
4. BONUS! I have an e-book coming out with MeeGenius in the Spring: OH NO! THE TOOTH FAIRY BROKE HER WING! It is a sequel to OH NO! THE EASTER BUNNY IS ALLERGIC TO EGGS!
Hey, this was fun, Lisa. Thank you for stopping by Frog on a Dime. Wishing you many more publishing success stories. Keep doing those flip-turns!
Most of my life, I’ve thought runners were like Chemistry majors — skilled in a way I wasn’t and fans of pain and tedium. This all changed after my second son was born, when my walking partner of many months turned to me and said, “We’re running the next mile. Go!”
For weeks, we steadily built our distance. I insisted Rachel talk to me the entire time about books, teaching, raising boys, recipes — anything to distract me from the hard work. Somehow, while pushing that double jogging stroller and learning about couscous salads, I got hooked.
My husband wasn’t surprised. He’s always said I have the perfect personality for a runner: outdoorsy, disciplined, someone who craves time alone. I’ve never been fast, and as I’ve gotten older, worked through injuries, taken time off, and battled the adjustment moving from sea level to a mile above, I’ve gotten slower still.
Lots of runners talk about the grand thoughts they have while they’re covering the miles. While I’m not one of those (my mind is usually in rest mode while my legs do the tough stuff), I have, at times, thought through the similarities between running and writing.
Here are a few I’ve come up with:
Any other running writers out there? What similarities do you find between the two?
This post originally ran March 9, 2011Add a Comment
On Wednesday I posted about the similarities between running and writing. Today I thought it would be fun to look at some of these more closely:
In it for the long haul:
Just like the hard work required to add miles or increase speed, writers need to be committed long term. You can’t “become” anything overnight.
Every step counts:
It’s not glamorous to think about those early mornings you force yourself out of bed just to put one foot in front of the other. Neither is it deeply exciting to recall every word you’ve ever put down on paper. But each small effort builds on the next.
Hold onto success to motivate later:
Early last December, my sister called to tell me my brother-in-law wasn’t going to be able to make the half marathon they’d planned to run together. The race was in ten days. Would I like to take his place?
My longest race before this was a 5k. I had no time to train. My sister flew me out to Kiawah, South Carolina, where we walk/ran the first six miles. Then something came over me: I wanted to finish out the race on my own. Though I hadn’t run that far in years, I finished the last seven miles without stopping. I’ve used this moment as motivation ever since.
Have you ever had a breakthrough writing moment? A time you knew what your story was missing, a writing session where every word worked? Save those moments to use as future motivation.
This post originally ran March 11, 2014
…wrapping up the running theme
Some days are great, some days aren’t:
Some running days are fun, some start hard and get easier, some start easy and get hard. And there are some that you just have to get through. Writing is the same. Don’t let a hard writing day scare you from getting back into the groove.
Love what you do:
I’m slow, I’ve got funny form, but I love the way running makes me feel: strong and powerful and joyful, like a little kid.
While I set goals and due dates for certain projects, I never know how easily the words will come. This is where love for the writing process helps to sustain me. Last summer I got stuck on two stanzas for a picture book and couldn’t move forward for weeks. I spent hours and hours on what amounted to roughly twenty words. Twenty words! As frustrating as this was, I’m so thankful I kept returning to the story, sat with what I had, and trusted the words would come. The writing process has never worked the same way twice for me, but I love what eventually unfolds.
Find your rhythm:
There is something very familiar and comfortable about settling into your pace. The same can be said about your own writing process. Maybe you need music in the background. Maybe you have to re-read everything you wrote the last time you sat down. Whatever your system, if it works for you, use it. From that familiar place your work will grow.
Keep track of your goals:
Just like runners love to record their fastest times, make sure you’re paying attention to — and celebrating! — your progress: finishing a manuscript, positive feedback from critique partners, requests for partials from agents. Those milestones keep you moving forward.
When things don’t work, try something new:
I’ve had my share of injuries and have had to alter the way I’ve approached running. For months I practiced the walk/run system my sister swears by. Other times I kept all running to a mile — holding onto the fun and cutting back on the work.
Are you working on a manuscript you need to retire? Are you writing in a genre that just doesn’t fit? Give yourself permission to try something new or approach your work differently.
Metaphor for life:
Running is hard, but life is harder. When I push myself physically, I feel like I can take the world on.
Isn’t it just the same with writing?
This post originally ran March 16, 2011
Update: A friend just told me about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir by author Haruki Murakami. Can’t wait to dig in!Add a Comment
If all it takes to sell a book is talent, work hard and perseverance, more of us would be published. Like it or not, luck is a piece of the process. But can you make your own luck? I think so. You just have to be willing to ask for it, compete, put out, flaunt a little and sell yourself.
1. Ask for it. Whenever I receive a manuscript critique from an editor or agent, I always end the conversation by asking if I can send him or her my manuscript. Pride is too pricey. Go ahead and pop the question the editor or agent is expecting you to ask. (And then make sure you follow through. Send that manuscript and mention the invitation in your cover letter.)
2. Put out. Sweetie, shyness is simply out of your price range. You really must interact with other writers and members of the publishing community via social media. Send cards. Build and cultivate a blog or web site. Comment on other’s blog posts. Be generous and offer your help to others in the form of critiques or feedback. Aside from surrounding yourself with a supportive community of talented people, you never know where those connections may lead.
3. Flaunt a little. Humility is pricey too. You’re going to have to loosen up and show off a little. An author/illustrator friend of mine, Ruth McNally Barshaw, was contacted by an agent after a friend encouraged her to share her sketches online. Ruth wasn’t looking to lure an agent, but posting her work resulted in the start of a fabulous partnership and the launch of her graphic novel series–Ellie McDoodle.
4. Be willing to compete. When was the last time you entered a writing contest? In 2012, I entered a contest sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Did I win? Uh, noop. But my picture book manuscript placed in the top 5 out of more than 750 entries. Did that boost my confidence. Yes, indeedy. Children’s Writer and Highlights run themed contests regularly.
But don’t limit yourself to writing contests. If there’s a pricey conference you want to attend, chances are there’s a scholarship contest to go with it. I have had the privilege of receiving funds for both a regional and a national SCBWI conference, as well as for a Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop. And don’t assume you have to be penniless to apply. Check out the requirements to see if you qualify and go for it. Even if you don’t win, oftentimes filling out the application gives you great practice for a query letter or synopsis. So, it’s time well spent even if it doesn’t result in cash.
5. Sell yourself. Have that elevator pitch memorized. Be ready to talk intelligently about whatever you’re working on right now. Know how to introduce yourself as a professional–including a beautiful business card. Work it, Baby.
Make yourself some good luck this week!
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ~ Seneca
You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help. ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes
Where were you when you first heard the sound? Good sounds – your husband’s voice, your baby’s giggle, the words “I love you?” Do you remember? Can you picture the scene and surroundings?
I experienced a condensed courtship with my wife because I was briefly called back to service during Desert Storm. I don’t recall the first expression of the four- letter L word in our relationship. I know it came, and stuck. I have said it to her every day for nearly twenty-two years. I say it every night to my girls and sometimes in front of other people, much to their chagrin.
I wish I remembered the first time I said it, though.
I will never forget the first time I heard the word Cancer as it related to my family. I was in the hospital just a week ago when it was introduced to me, while my little girl lay sleeping nearby. The doctor actually used the words “oncological event” before I made him dumb it down for me. Cancer.
I held my wife in my arms as she collapsed into a puddle. Doesn’t cancer affect other families? Why would he be saying this word? I felt an instant dislike for this man, but my mind clouded to nothing. My wife’s head heaved in my chest. I couldn’t think in more than three word bursts. I have no idea how long we stood that way. I was roused only by the sound of a man pushing a cart way down at the end of the hall. The wheel squeaked as he carried out his task and I remember thinking, “How can he be pushing that? Doesn’t he know? It doesn’t matter where that squeaky cart is! Why isn’t he stopping?”
It was then I realized this isn’t everyone’s diagnosis. It is Kylie’s and ours: our family’s, our friends and network of support. But the rest of the world will continue to march on around us.
I will add a link to Kylie’s Caring Bridge at the end of this post because I won’t allow cancer to dominate my writing. It will peak its evil head in from time to time, I have no doubt. But I won’t allow it to take over my life, steal my joy, soil my faith, or crush my little girl.
It took a while to determine the enemy. Until then, we’ve been punching at shadows. Now we start to take it out. We are at the beginning of a long road, but there is hope. Kylie knows what is going on, she is scared. We cried together and prayed. She has decided that this is happening because God must have a really big, great plan for her. I don’t know if I could have gotten to those words so quickly at twelve – she’s just chock-full of amazing.
The picture I added is one of Kylie as Annie in her school play a couple of years ago. She is an incredible actress and I can’t wait to see her on stage again.
Because our minds are reeling right now, the verse we’ve been holding onto is Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, friends. I have to go now, the bell just sounded for round one…
Writers, the real ones I mean, are magnets for neuroses, paranoia, depression, fits of rage, and yes, occasional bouts of constipation and anal seepage. (I tried, but there was no way to pretty that up.) It’s a wonder we have enough strength to smother our sorrows in Haagan Dazs.
And as if this crazy cocktail wasn’t enough, many of us succumb to Seasonal Myth Disorder. Not familiar with SMD? Perhaps you are. You just didn’t know it has a name. Let me explain. Assuming we agree life comes in seasons (and not just the April showers variety), it’s important to recognize that with these life seasons come some myth-perceptions, otherwise known as Seasonal Myth Disorder. (Don’t bother looking for it in the DSM V classifications. If you must know, I made it up.)
In any given season of life, especially the ones that ram us down a rabbit hole, it is easy to mistake these three myths for fact:
1. I am alone in this season.
2. No one understands what it’s like to be in this season.
3. This season will last forever.
Let’s myth bust these one at a time, ever so gently, shall we?
1. I am alone in this season. Are you struggling to find time to write, much less produce anything worth reading? Trolling around Facebook will lead you to believe you are the only one who isn’t there yet. Everyone is landing agents, agents are landing contracts, books are launching, movies based on the books are debuting, writers are churning out novellas before tea time . . . and then there’s you. Everyone is wildly successful and you’re nothing but a schlep with digestive issues. NO YOU’RE NOT! (And lay off the Facebook for a while.)
2. No one understands what it’s like to be in this season. HIGH SODIUM LUNCHEON MEAT! (aka BOLOGNA!)
3. This season will last forever. IMPOSSIBLE!
Okay, okay, so maybe that wasn’t so gentle. The point is, these are all myths. You’re a smart, literary person. You know what a myth is. It ain’t true.
You are not alone. In fact, you’re in good company.
Every single writer you can name or will ever know struggles with seasons of despair from time to time (even the super cute ones). Lots of people understand what you’re going through. If you don’t know any, join SCBWI, start a critique group or do something to connect with at least one other writer. You’re sure to find some sympathetic souls.
And no, this season–even though it feels like a six-month-Michigan-winter–will not last forever. You’ll get your groove back. You’ll have some small successes. Heck, maybe even big ones. So, please stop mything all over yourself. You’re too fine a person for that. And you know what that does to your gut. Let this be the start of Be Kind to Me season, okay?
Now, put down the spoon and go write something.
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet
Of course, that doesn’t mean authors don’t engage in our own kind of competition. I’m not talking about contests. It’s more about the weird competitive dynamic among writers seeking to be published. We have this crazy notion in our heads that there are a finite number of publishing contracts to be had and when one of our fellow writers snags one, that’s one less available for us. Well, hey, now. It’s not like that. There’s no song that goes like “A hundred publishing contracts on the wall, a hundred publishing contracts, take one down, pass it around, ninety-nine publishing contracts on the wall . . . .” (Thank goodness because that was be really tedious.)
The truth is, we compete with ourselves for what we want. We compete with our own schedules, inner critic and insecurities for dominance. We are not competing against each other. We are not rivals. We can all win. (And for the record, it’s been my experience that children’s writers are among the most generous, supportive and encouraging people toddling on ten toes. My husband was shocked by this. He couldn’t understand why writers would be so helpful to people who are their competitors. Maybe it is odd–but the good kind.)
And, by the way, if we were choosing sides for volleyball, I would totally pick you. (But please, please don’t bump the ball to me!)
I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it. ~ Walt Disney
I love Annie, plain and simple.* She’s talented, poised, smart, and going far in this world. Just wanted to share her TEDx talk called Brighter Than a Spark.
Here’s a guest post Annie wrote several years ago about her year in Scotland and how it changed her perspective on writing.
*My neighbor girl loves her, too. When she found out A. C. Gaughen is a writing friend, she swooned.Add a Comment
Thank God for hard stones; thank God for hard facts; thank God for thorns and rocks and deserts and long years. At least I know now that I am not the best or strongest thing in the world. At least I know now that I have not dreamed everything.
– G. K. Chesterton
What Do You Do With An Idea? is about a boy who has an idea, illustrated as a golden crowned egg with legs. The boy wonders about the peculiar golden biped; its origins, its purpose, its place in the world.Add a Comment
Maybe you didn’t know it (and maybe it doesn’t show), but in addition to being a writer, I’m an editor. Part of my job as a Communication Specialist is to edit other people’s work. I think about a lot of things when I’m editing, but I guarantee you there’s one thing I never think about . . .
Let me backtrack a sec. Just so you know, there are a lot of things I do think about when I’m editing a piece of non-fiction. For my job, I pour over articles, letters, brochures, ads, scripts and the like. Here are the kinds of questions I ask myself during the editing process:
Who’s the audience for this piece?
What’s the bottom line—the message—to be conveyed?
Does this truly communicate the message or is it a lot of pretty words strung together?
Is there a simpler way to say it?
Could this be tighter? Is there fluff or useless repetition or verbosity . . . (oops, now I’m doing it!)
Is this the best format for this piece? Would subheads help, for example?
Is there a flow and connection throughout?
Is the tone and language appropriate to the message and the audience?
Is there proper use of grammar and punctuation?
Quite a list, isn’t it? So, what “don’t” I think about? I do not think about the author. Hold on. I should be more specific. Maybe it sounds heartless, but I don’t think about the author’s feelings. Sure, when I’m editing, I do try to keep the author’s intent and style in mind. I don’t want to edit to the point that the piece no longer sounds like the author. But as I’m editing, the last thing I care about is the author’s feelings. It’s not even part of the equation.
Here’s what I care about: answering my list of questions above to the best of my ability so that the end product is a clean, eloquent, effective piece of communication. That’s it. I never once ask myself if it would hurt the author’s feelings if I take out an entire paragraph or reorder the piece or change silly things like utilization to a perfectly fine, simpler word like use. And even though that might sound cold, it’s truly a marvelous thing. Think about it–would you rather have your byline attached to a solid piece of writing or a so-so piece? C’mon. Let me hear you say it. Mm-hmm. I thought so.
Why am I telling on myself? I want you to remember this the next time your work is edited or you’re swirling in a vortex of editor comments. Your editor isn’t heartless. Your editor wants to make your work shine. And sometimes that means hauling out the sandblaster and pick ax. It can be painful at the time. But, baby, it’s for your own good. So, try not to take it personally. It really isn’t about you. It’s about making your work better. And what’s not to like about that?
Just don’t touch “my” work!
Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?’ – James Thurber
“Handwritten letters are more special. They’re heartfelt,” my teen daughter said. “They aren’t like texts. You want to read them over and over.”
Such a brilliant girl. [Mom blushes.] She recognizes the power of the written word–the handwritten word.
Eons ago I sent letters to a friend during a dark time in her life. But, to be honest, I had forgotten all about them until I received a surprise in the mail last week. My friend wrote to tell me, “Your loving, tender words were part of the life-saving medicine that kept me alive until I felt like living again.” Wow. I was clueless to the impact of my letters. Incapable of mending her broken heart or fixing her circumstances, all I had to offer were words. And so I did.
Inside her letter, wrapped in a pink ribbon, my friend tucked some of the more the two dozen letters she’d received from me and kept all these years. (See photo.) She said she wanted to return my words to me. How unexpected and exceptional! Re-reading those letters I’d penned ages ago made me grateful to know I was able to do something for a friend in need.
Words are free. Most anyone can draft a sentence. But it takes a willing writer to string those words into something meaningful and soul-touching. You have that ability. It’s a power of incomparable worth.
Whose life will be better because they received a word from you?
Take 20 minutes right now–less time than it takes to watch a sitcom–and write a letter to someone. Don’t fret over revising, critiquing, scrutinizing and all that jazz. Just let your heartfelt words flow. Then address that note, stick on a stamp and send it on its way.
Do it. Don’t delay. Exercise your power today.
To write is human, to receive a letter: Divine! ~ Susan Lendroth
Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward…Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.
One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive, or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simple put, making art is chancy — it doesn’t mix well with predictability.
Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable, and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding. …Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.
Artists get better by…learning from their work. They commit themselves to the work of their heart, and act upon that commitment. So when you ask, “Then why doesn’t it come easily for me?”, the answer is probably, “Because making art is hard!” What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.
The post Quotes from ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.Add a Comment
Tom Selleck owes me an apology. Anyone my age knows the unobtainable standard he set for a teenage boy just coming into maturity. Why, do you ask, am I seeking contrition from him?
Good looks? No.
Suave disposition? No.
All the ladies? No…well maybe.
I’m talking about the hair…his stinking perfect hair.
When all of the girls had a picture of the Magnum PI in mind, how could any of us real boys measure up? Curly coiffure, bushy mustache, chest hair, leg hair… There it is! Leg hair. Recently, smooth has become stylish and I would have been perfect for this new generation. But that isn’t my generation. When I was in high school and college, the girls wanted hair and lots of it. Hair I didn’t have. Well, that’s not absolutely true. Science should study my leg hair because it is translucent like that of a polar bear. It’s there, just not to the naked eye. It only shows up if I have a deep tan, which is near impossible for someone of Swedish/Germanic descent. Undaunted, I went to the pool, laid out, and held my legs just right so that passing females might possibly get the proper angle to spot a few strands.
As a freshman in college, I went so far as to purchase a tanning package. I donned little glasses and laid on top of the plastic surface to bake. And bake I did. Remember the shorts Magnum used to wear? Not long like they are today, 80′s shorts came way up on the thigh. Hoping my tan would expose leg hair from the top of my leg to my toes, I even pulled them up higher. Oh yeah, I got burned in very sensitive areas. It hurt for weeks and didn’t help my hair stand out whatsoever.
We all have physical characteristics we would rather minimize or hide completely. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend who told me her 10 year-old daughter E had been called fat by another girl. My heart sank. Her sweet little girl is now self-conscious about something as irrelevant as my smooth legs. She is active and isn’t overweight in the least, but also isn’t waif-thin like so many women our society seems to put on a pedestal. Such a tragedy.
I want so much for her and other little girls to see what truly matters about themselves instead of what is fleeting.
Your beauty should not consist of outward things … Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
That’s what is important. I hope my daughters know that. I pray little E learns that too. We have to tell them they are beautiful and keep on telling them until they understand. That’s how God sees them.
So Tom, whenever you are ready, it has taken 25 years, but I am finally over your provocation and prepared to accept your apology. It’s been a long time coming.