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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: attitudes, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 18 of 18
1. Positive and Negative Perspectives

Satire on false perspective, showing all of th...

Satire on false perspective, showing all of the common mistakes artists make in perspective, by Hogarth, 1753 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People talk about attitudes every day. The subject is always revealing. This morning I came up against it yet again, but in a different way. Let me explain.

I was brushing my teeth a while ago when I heard the toilet flush. Ours is a split bath with the lavatory separate from tub and toilet. I was startled because I’d not noticed Sister moving past me, either going or coming back.

I immediately inquired if she’d done so, to which she said, “Of course!”

Color me surprised. I replied, “I must have been really focused, since I didn’t notice you walking past me.”

Her response was, “Oblivious would be a good choice of word, too.”

I’ll tell you what I told her. “I choose to take a positive stance on this one, rather than see it as negative.”

This whole exchange may sound silly, but it addresses an everyday choice we make as humans. I prefer to think of the episode as “being focused.” The opposite take is “being oblivious.” I was focused on what I was doing and what I was thinking at the time; which just happened to be what I was going to write for this blog post today.

Sister considered it as less aware. One the one hand, she’s correct. I was unaware of her presence behind me and of her proximate activity. From her perspective, what I was doing took little thought and, therefore, I should have noticed her movements.

At the same time, my perspective informs me of my concentrative ability to screen out irrelevant activity while working on the mental plane. This does not happen when I’m in unfamiliar terrain or in uncertain situations. I see it as indicative of how safe and secure I feel in my own home.

Different perspectives? Certainly. Different attitudes? Again, yes, though those attitudes are informed by expectations as well. My expectation was of safety in my home. Hers revolved around momentary awareness of my surroundings.

When we move around our world, we carry expectations, and perspectives based on them, with us and draw conclusions from those factors. Whether those conclusions are viewed as correct are, for wont of another explanation, dependent on how other individuals interpret those conclusions.

The behavior of the world’s populace is based on these factors. Until consensus of perspective arises, there can be little hope for consensus of behavior. At least, that’s how I see it.

If one small action—my brushing my teeth and not noticing someone move behind me—creates a schism between positive and negative interpretation, how much more dramatic are divisions surrounding vast actions?

Give me your thoughts on this question. How do you see perspective and its role in the daily behavior of those two-legged creatures called humans? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

Until then, a bientot,

Claudsy

2. Positive and Negative Perspectives

Satire on false perspective, showing all of th...

Satire on false perspective, showing all of the common mistakes artists make in perspective, by Hogarth, 1753 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People talk about attitudes every day. The subject is always revealing. This morning I came up against it yet again, but in a different way. Let me explain.

I was brushing my teeth a while ago when I heard the toilet flush. Ours is a split bath with the lavatory separate from tub and toilet. I was startled because I’d not noticed Sister moving past me, either going or coming back.

I immediately inquired if she’d done so, to which she said, “Of course!”

Color me surprised. I replied, “I must have been really focused, since I didn’t notice you walking past me.”

Her response was, “Oblivious would be a good choice of word, too.”

I’ll tell you what I told her. “I choose to take a positive stance on this one, rather than see it as negative.”

This whole exchange may sound silly, but it addresses an everyday choice we make as humans. I prefer to think of the episode as “being focused.” The opposite take is “being oblivious.” I was focused on what I was doing and what I was thinking at the time; which just happened to be what I was going to write for this blog post today.

Sister considered it as less aware. One the one hand, she’s correct. I was unaware of her presence behind me and of her proximate activity. From her perspective, what I was doing took little thought and, therefore, I should have noticed her movements.

At the same time, my perspective informs me of my concentrative ability to screen out irrelevant activity while working on the mental plane. This does not happen when I’m in unfamiliar terrain or in uncertain situations. I see it as indicative of how safe and secure I feel in my own home.

Different perspectives? Certainly. Different attitudes? Again, yes, though those attitudes are informed by expectations as well. My expectation was of safety in my home. Hers revolved around momentary awareness of my surroundings.

When we move around our world, we carry expectations, and perspectives based on them, with us and draw conclusions from those factors. Whether those conclusions are viewed as correct are, for wont of another explanation, dependent on how other individuals interpret those conclusions.

The behavior of the world’s populace is based on these factors. Until consensus of perspective arises, there can be little hope for consensus of behavior. At least, that’s how I see it.

If one small action—my brushing my teeth and not noticing someone move behind me—creates a schism between positive and negative interpretation, how much more dramatic are divisions surrounding vast actions?

Give me your thoughts on this question. How do you see perspective and its role in the daily behavior of those two-legged creatures called humans? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

Until then, a bientot,

Claudsy

3. How NOT To Be Taken Seriously

respectIf you take yourself seriously, you will be taken seriously.

A common complaint among new writers is that friends and family members don’t take them–or their writing–seriously.

I tell them–truthfully–that the main thing they need to do is convince themselves that they are serious about their writing. Others will pick up on that attitude and start giving them the respect they crave.

Do You Need An Attitude Fix?

If you’re a self-employed, freelance writer, you’re in business. You’re creative–true. But you’re still in business if you want to make income from your writing. And often it is poor business attitudes that keep others from taking you seriously. Do an attitude check with the list below.

Are you harboring these unhelpful attitudes?

1) The “I’ll work when I please” attitude–Most of us are drawn to self-employed writing because we like the idea of being our own bosses. We can work when (and if) we so choose. But if you take this attitude to mean you can meet deadlines if nothing else comes up, you’ll never be taken seriously. It’s one thing to let an editor know you won’t be able to meet a deadline because you’re in the hospital and both arms are in traction. It’s quite another to miss a deadline because you’re hand crafting mini pinatas for your daughter’s birthday party.

2) The “I don’t have the money to be professional” attitude–You have to invest money to make money, say the experts. For example, if you’re advertising your resume-writing business with a brochure, get a good printer or have them professionally done. During the early years, I never had a publisher willing to foot the bill for flyers or bookmarks or other advertising. It came out of my pocket. [This is where I differ from the experts though. I didn't put anything on a credit card. I have a horrible fear of debt.] Since the family needed my book advances to live on, I would do “extras” to get whatever money I needed to run my office: an extra speech, an extra workshop, an extra critique. And when the “extra” money ran out, I stopped. Perhaps if I had been willing to put things on credit or had more expendable income, I could have increased book sales faster. I don’t know. But I do think you have to spend some  money to get established, even if it’s just for paper and ink. [That was me--I already had my husband's old college typewriter.]

3) The “I can’t charge more” attitude–Sad, but true. People tend to value what they pay for. Dogs that people pay big bucks for are treated so much better than free dogs from the pound. While you may choose to write or speak for free very early in your career, don’t let that period last long. [The only free stuff I used to do were talks at my children's schools as my parental/community contribution. I never wrote for free that I can remember. Even now, if I critique for free, it's because I'm trading with a writer friend who is giving me a free critique also.]

Early in my career I complained to another (more experienced) writer that I didn’t appreciate some of the disrespectful treatment I got at certain schools. Her reply? “Triple your speaking fee. You work too cheap. They’ll value you more.” With much fear and trembling, I did it. She

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4. Writing in Flow to Make Writing Fun

One of my writing goals for 2012 is learning how to recapture the “fun” of writing. I love having a writing career and being published, but sometimes I long for the days when it was simply enjoyable to write.

I remember the days of getting into my fiction simply because I loved the character and I wanted to tell her story. No deadline. No contract. Just a story to tell. I’d get immersed in my fictional world, lose all track of time. Then I’d hear a baby wake up crying, and be shocked that ninety minutes had passed!

Getting into the Flow

In order to recapture this “timeless state of writing,” I’ve been reading books like The Art of Relaxed Productivity e-book and Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us and a few blogs. I found many references to “flow” and the “flow experience.” It reminded me of a book I read years ago incorporating the principles of “flow” (from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.) That book is Writing in Flow by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. I’m re-reading it now, and I think the topic is so important that I’ve decided to do a blog series on it.

We all want to be more productive as writers and make the best use of the little writing time we have. And we all want to ENJOY it more. We want to relax and lose ourselves in our writing. This is true if you’re a student working on your first lesson or a much published writer in an established career.

Defining Flow

What is writing in flow? According to Perry in Writing in Flow, “You know you’ve been in flow when time seems to have disappeared. When you’re in flow, you become so deeply immersed in your writing…that you forget yourself and your surroundings. You delight in continuing to write even if you get no reward for doing it…”

Apparently we writers have a lot more control over getting into this “flow state” than I used to believe. There are habits and rituals that can help you get into flow. We don’t have to wait for the muse to appear. I’ve been trying the author’s advice this month on how to write in flow more often, and it works for me. There are things to watch out for and avoid, too, so that you’re not jerked out of flow once you enter it.

One condition to be aware of resonated with me. Apparently I’m not alone in needing to get through an entire draft or two before showing a manuscript to anyone. “The optimal conditions for creativity (and thus for flow entry) include a condition of psychological safety from external evaluation,” Perry says. “Tell yourself that no one has to see this, that you can decide afterwards whethe

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5. Key #2: Think Like a Writer

We’ve talked about the benefits of writing in flow, in that relaxed timeless state, and we’ve talked about the first key to developing this skill: have a reason to write.

Today let’s look at Key #2: thinking like a writer. These keys are based on Susan Perry’s Writing in Flow.

CHANGE MY THINKING?

We all think like writers already, or we wouldn’t be writing, correct? True enough, but in this series we’re concentrating on developing the ability to write in flow. Do writers who frequently write deeply and easily think differently?

Yes, it appears that they do. They have a certain set of attitudes, based on hundreds of Perry’s interviews. If we study these attitudes and beliefs and incorporate them into our own thinking, we should also be able to write in flow, be more productive, and enjoy the writing more.

WRITER ATTITUDES

This doesn’t mean you need a new personality. Quite the contrary. Be who you are, Perry says. “When you work with what comes naturally to you rather than struggling against it—whether it’s your preference for an uncluttered workspace or your tendency to do the opposite when those little voices in your head suggest that you ought to be answering those letters rather than writing a poem—you can apply your energy to what matters most to you.”

Another attitude, especially with writers in the early years, has to do with spending free time pursuing writing. They may be “troubled by the niggling feeling that taking too much time for their writing is slightly selfish because it’s like stealing time from their family,” Perry says. “If you identify with that second attitude, naturally you might find it more difficult to let go and focus fully when you do sit down to write.”

This attitude is easy to overcome after you are published and making money at your writing. Before that, I found that I got over the guilt when I took my writing time from my own free time activities—my sleep, TV, time with my friends. I gave up my own “extras” instead of taking it from the family, and then I didn’t feel guilty. It’s very hard to relax and write “in flow” when you’re feeling guilty!

RISK TAKING

Relaxing into flow—that essential letting go—can feel risky to certain personality types like mine. I don’t like risks, and I spend too much time probably trying to avoid risks. I would love it if I could make all my loved ones stop taking risks too! H

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6. Kathryn the Grape’s Colorful Adventure by Kathryn Cloward and Christine Hornby

 4 Stars

Purple is Kathryn the Grape’s favorite color!  Purple is the color of royalty, but Kathryn was not acting very royal at dinner with her family, including her three brothers.  The night’s menu is the All-American favorite, hamburgers, which Kathryn does not like.  To add to her distress, Kathryn’s brothers were talking about their days and Kathryn wanted to do the same.  Instead of speaking up, she stared at the hamburger on her plate and waited for someone to pay any attention to me.  So I just sat there staring at that gross hamburger.

When her mother asked what was wrong, Kathryn complained about the hamburger rather than speak up about her day.  She stomps up to her bedroom, yelling you only love the boys, slammed the door, and waited for someone to check on her.  Maggie, a magical butterfly and Kathryn’s best friend, flies over and asks if it was another hamburger night (which everyone loves except Kathryn).  Kathryn continues her complaining to Maggie, who responds by taking Kathryn on a trip to show her how colorful you really are.  She gives Kathryn a charm bracelet that will shine a color when she learns something about herself.

At the first stop, a tree represents belonging and a charm shines a bright red when Kathryn realizes she belongs in her family, just as the tree belongs in the forest.  Further along the trip, another charm shines yellow the color of trust when Kathryn understands how to trust yourself and your intuition.  By the end of their trip, Kathryn learns much about herself including how bright and colorful she shines.  Back home, a brightly shining bracelet on her wrist, and new gained self-knowledge, Kathryn realizes she needs apologize to mom.

The book is extremely colorful, as one would expect from the title.  The colors burst off the page and will delight any child between ages three and nine.  Kathryn looks to be eleven or twelve years old.  She is the only girl in the family of six.  At dinner, while the boys excitedly tell their parents about their day, smiling and laughing, Kathryn sits and pouts.  She wants attention, she wants to tell everyone about her day, and she wants to eat something other than a hamburger for dinner.  Instead of expressing any of these desires, Kathryn the sour grape yells about dinner then storms off, still yelling.  She sounds and acts like a spoiled child who, for once, was not the center of attention.

Maggie, the magical butterfly takes Kathryn on a trip of self-discovery.  At each stopping point, a lesson is waiting for Kathryn to learn.  If she understands, the charm for that stop will shine brightly in a corresponding color.  The tree charm shines red when Kathryn learns she belongs and the heart charm shines green when she admits she loves her family.  Why does the heart shine green?  Green is the color of envy, which certainly matches Kathryn’s attitude toward her brothers, but that is not the color of love.  No, the charm of belonging, the tree charm, shines red.  Another charm, the sun charm, shines yellow when she realizes she should trust herself, even more than she should trust her parents.  Sure, she should learn to trust herself, but more than she trusts her parents?

The stop where everything became dark and gloomy, because Kathryn let her thoughts wander to thinking her brothers were laughing at her (they were not) and her parents loving the boys more than they love her (they do not), made the most sense out of this trip.  Maggie tells her negative words come from negative thoughts, and negative thoughts make everything cloud

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7. Take Aim and Keep Shooting

basketConsider this quote from basketball great Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

His point? To be so successful, you have to be in the game a lot and willing to fail on the way to your successes. The same is true for writers.

Over and Over and Over

Do you want to be published by a traditional publisher? Then you need to write and submit consistently–and be willing to get rejected–in order to succeed. And not just once or twice or five times. You need to do this a lot.

Don’t misunderstand here. It’s not just a matter of doing something a large number of times. Even Michael Jordan didn’t just close his eyes, spin around, and throw the ball up in the air–and magically score hundreds of points. He:

  • opened his eyes
  • took careful aim at the basketball hoop
  • listened to his coach
  • practiced his form
  • concentrated, and
  • then threw the ball.

Sometimes he missed–but lots of times he scored. The one thing he didn’tquit do was quit along the way.

Writing Parallels Sports

In the same way, just writing and writing and writing, then submitting and submitting and submitting, won’t do the trick. It’s not just about the volume of words you write, although volume is important. (It does take practice to make perfect.)

If you want to build the career of your dreams, you must also: 

  • study the markets
  • take careful aim
  • invite feedback from writing teachers and critique partners
  • revise
  • repeatedly practice whatever form of writing you do, and
  • then submit.

Keep following this formula–keep on keepin’ on. The law of averages will catch up with you if you don’t quit.

What About You?

Writers struggle more with some parts of the process than others. Some can write and revise till kingdom come–but won’t submit. Others submit to editors willingly, but don’t take feedback and revise.

Which part of the above “formula” for success gives you the most trouble?

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8. A Calling or a Career?

careerMost of us start out writing because we feel a yearning, a call, a really strong desire to be a writer.

We have stories inside us burning to be told. We see the world in a slightly different way, and we want to share how we see people and events, all wrapped up in a spell-binding story.

Then What Happens?

Somewhere along the way, I’ve noticed, the calling often becomes a career mindset. It might happen with the first sale, or it might not happen until years into publication. With me, it happened after I’d had two or three novels published by Atheneum.  Status became more important than telling a good story.

Warning: this can happen to you too! Be aware of the signs and what can trigger it.

A Common Story

With me, it was financial need. It was the 80s during the farm crisis, and we were in danger of losing our Iowa farm. Suddenly sales were crucial. Advances had to be bigger and bigger. I began to worry more about whether I needed an agent than if my current book was better than the last one. Achieving excellence took a back seat to making money.

I wish I had seen it coming. Getting back to your calling-your love of storytelling-is a lot harder than maintaining it in the first place.

An Agent’s Perspective

Literary agent and author Donald Maass (in The Fire in Fiction) suggests that writers are either those who desire to be published, or those who desire to tell stories. They may start out the same, committed to making it as writer, to being the best storyteller he/she can be. He says that over time a writer’s real motivation will emerge.

Admittedly, I took the ICL course with a hopeful eye of staying home with my children and having a career too. But did that necessarily mean that I had to change from being a storyteller to a status seeker? No, I don’t think so. I think your calling and career can co-exist within you-but only if you guard your writer’s heart carefully.

What needs to stay in the forefront? A pursuit of excellence, for one thing. Keeping the writing fun for another.

Warning Signs

What are some signs that you’re moving from a storyteller to a status seeker? Maass gives some insightful signs:

  • The majority of status seeker writers seek agents and publication years too soon.
  • When rejected by an agent, the status seeker writer immediately offers the agent something else from his desk drawer. (Not something better-just something else.)
  • Status seekers grow frustrated with rejections, thinking landing an agent is a matter of luck. Storytellers know that something is missing from their writing and they work on it.
  • Status seekers ask how they can just make their stories good enough to sell. A storyteller is more concerned with making his story the very best it can be.
  • With a first contract status seekers are very concerned with what they are getting for blurbs, advertising and promotion. Storytellers have a more realistic grasp of retail realities; they promote some, but then get to work on the next book.
  • Status seekers go full time too soon, relying on advances for their living. Storytellers keep their day jobs for as long as it takes.

More details are given in his book to distingui

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9. A Life Changing Journal

I recently re-read Angela Booth’s “Change Your Life with Your Journal.” I’ve  journaled through many down periods in my life, and it’s always been therapeutic. However, her following statement hooked me.

“The key point to note is not the therapeutic effects of writing in a journal but rather the fact that regular journal keeping will influence the way you think or feel about a specific topic.”

And what big change did Angela accomplish in her writing career by using journaling? It’s a change I would give almost anything to also achieve! This is the leap of growth that journaling allowed her to make.

“I could see that unless I changed my reluctance to market my writing, I would be stuck at a level of income I knew I could surpass… Journaling helped me change my mind about marketing my writing. I went from someone who became physically ill at the thought of sending out query letters and making cold calls to market my copywriting, to someone who LOVES marketing.” What a change!

The Proof in the Pudding

I tried her idea. In my journal I wrote about a writing task I had put off for weeks–and it had grown in my mind to mammoth proportions. I wrote about why I didn’t want to do it, what I feared would happen if I failed, all that angst stuff.

Then later I sat down to do that task, wondering if the journaling self-talk had helped. I got the job done–it took only 25 minutes according to my kitchen timer–and minus the angst. I was amazed. Only 25 minutes after procrastinating on the chore for weeks. Sheesh!

Make It a Habit

Give this idea a try with something in your writing life that has you stumped or scared or blocked. Share your experience with journaling toward an attitude change.

Did this idea work for you?

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10. Weekend Gems

gemOver the weekend, I hope you’ll have time to check out some very helpful and thought-provoking blogs I read this week.

Kick back, relax, and enjoy these gems!

Gems of Wisdom

**Agent Wendy Lawton wrote a series called “Career Killers.” Full of wise advice! One post is on speed writing. Other “career killers” included impatienceplaying “around the edges,” sloppiness, and skipping the apprenticeship. If you avoid these mistakes in your career, you’ll be miles ahead of the average writer.

**Are you trying to combine babies with bylines? Try “Writing Between Diapers: Tips for Writer Moms” for some practical tips.

**Is your writing journey out of whack because you have unrealistic expections? See literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s post “Managing Expections.

**Critique groups are great, but you–the writer–must be your own best–and toughest–editor. See Victoria Strauss on “The Importance of Self-Editing.

**We’re told to set goals and be specific about what success means to us. Do you have trouble with that? You might find clarity with motivational speaker Craig Harper’s “Goals and Anti-Goals.

**And finish with Joe Konrath’s pithy statements in “A Writer’s Serenity Prayer.” You may want to print them out and tape them to your computer!

Share a Gem!

What have you read lately–online or off–that you felt was particularly insightful or helpful or thought-provoking? I’d love to have you share a link of your own!

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11. Pitch It to Yourself!

pitchYou meet an editor or agent in an elevator or the banquet line. They turn to you and ask, “What’s your book about? Why are you the person to write it?”

Which One Is You?

Do you give a confident 30-second talk summarizing your book’s main points and why you’re the only one who could do the project justice?

OR

Do you say, “You know, that’s a good question. I’m a lousy writer! Who do I think I am anyway, masquerading as a writer? It’s a dumb book idea.”

Of course you don’t spout that second example!

And yet, many writers do that very thing to themselves every day. That evil little voice in your head or over your shoulder whispers, “That’s a stupid idea” or “That’s been done before–and a lot better” or “You’re never going to finish that story.” And like agreeable little twits, we nod and tell ourselves, “This is a dumb idea. I’m never going to finish this. This concept was done last year–and a whole lot better!”

Then, discouraged for another day, we head for the ice cream.

Pitch It to Yourself!

The name “elevator pitch” means a short speech you have ready for that opportune moment when you can market yourself or your book idea to someone that might buy it. Every day–even many times a day–you need to pitch your writing project and yourself TO YOURSELF.

How are you going to sell your story idea to yourself? What elevator pitch can you give to yourself when you’re surprised, not by an agent or editor in the elevator, but by your own nagging questions?

  • When “voice in the head” says, “This is just too hard!”
  • You say, “I have done many hard things in my life. I can do one more difficult thing.”
  •  
  • When “voice in the head” says, “There’s too much going on in your life for you to write now”
  • You say, “Writing is at the top of my To-Do list because it’s important!”
  •  
  • When “voice in the head” says, “Editors and agents scare me!”
  • You say, “Even when I feel anxious, I can act like a professional.”
  •  
  • When “voice in the head” says, “I can’t write because I can’t tolerate rejections”
  • You say, “NOT writing is the only rejection that matters. It’s a rejection of my dreams. I can write a little each day.”

Write Your Own Now

Take a few moments today and write at least three elevator pitches of your own, counter-acting the voice in your head. Write the pitches on cards and tape them to your computer. When the “voice” badgers you the next time, read one of your cards OUT LOUD. Several times.

And if you’re feeling very brave, add an elevator pitch in the comments section (up to three pitches) that you can begin pitching to yourself today!

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12. Who’s in Charge? (Part 2)

attitudeHope you read “Who’s in Charge?” (Part 1) first!

On Monday I talked about taking charge of your negative thought because where the mind goes, the man (or woman) follows! And how will that help?

Attitudes

Changing your thoughts will change your attitudes and emotional feelings about writing. Instead of postponing happiness until you get published, for example, choose to be content with your writing today.

Choose to enjoy the act of putting words down on paper to capture an image. Choose to enjoy delving into your memories for a kernel of a story idea. Choose to enjoy the process of reading back issues of magazines you want to submit to. Choose to enjoy reading a book on plot or dialogue or characterization for tips you can apply to your stories.

Instead of feeling pressured to succeed quickly, choose to be patient with your learning curve. Choose to be happy about each small, steady step forward.

Zoom Out!

Look at the larger picture, how each writing day is another small building block laying the foundation of your career. Stay present in the present! Pace yourself with the determined attitude of the tortoise instead of the sprinter attitude of the hare.

You also need to choose an attitude of commitment. Commit to your goals and deadlines, to continued improvement in your writing, and to dealing with negative feelings as they come up. Commitment is more than “I wish” or “I’d like.” Commitment is “I will.” There is a huge difference! (Like the gap between a man saying, “Gee, I’d like to marry you” and “Will you marry me–here’s the ring–let’s set a date!”)

Move from the wishy-washy attitude of “I’d like to be a writer” to the commitment level of “I’ll do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to be a successful writer.” That one change in attitude can be what determines if you make it as a writer.

(Stay tuned for Part 3 on Friday.)

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13. Are You on the Verge? Then Don’t Quit!

[Writing goes in cycles. I am tempted to quit every few years! This weekend when I was particularly frustrated with a revision that isn't going well, I went back through my blog and found this. It helped me--and maybe it's worth repeating for you too. This is from several years ago...]

What’s the Use?

Yesterday I dragged myself to the computer, bone weary, body aching, and tired of my writing project. The last few weeks I’d increased my writing hours a lot to meet my (self-imposed) deadline.

I imagine part of it was not feeling well, but yesterday I looked at the almost complete project and thought, What’s the use? This actually stinks. I bet I’ve wasted the last six months on this.

I couldn’t make myself get to work. So I did what most good writers do when they want to look like they’re working, but they’re not: I checked email.

Rescuing My Writing Day

And thanks to Suzanne Lieurance from “The Working Writer’s Coach” and her “Morning Nudge,” my writing day was rescued. This is what she sent yesterday that got me back to work.

The life of a freelance writer can be very frustrating at times. There are so many things to do and not enough time to do them all. Or - the writing seems to be going nowhere and you just can’t make yourself sit down and write. You work and work, seemingly to no avail.

So you begin to wonder - What’s the point? Am I really getting anywhere? But know this. If you’re starting to feel frustrated because you think you’ve been working WAY too hard for the few results all this work has produced, you’re on the verge (even though it may feel more like you’re “on the edge”). You’re on the verge of creating some powerful momentum.

Stick with it…  So many people give up, just when they are on the verge of great success. Just when they start to feel really frustrated. Just when they feel nothing is going the way they want it to. If that’s how you’re feeling right now - celebrate! You’re on the verge of wonderful, great things! You’re on the verge of creating that powerful momentum that will move your writing career ahead to an entirely NEW and exciting level!

Today, relax and let go of that frustration, knowing you’re on the verge of great things. Try it!

I urge you to sign up today for Suzanne’s daily kick in the writing pants, “The Morning Nudge.” You’ll be glad you did!

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14. Knowing When to Quit

quitWe don’t like to talk about quitting or giving up on our dreams. But let’s be honest. Will every wannabe writer eventually land big contracts,  snag a well-known NY agent, and be sent on ten-city book tours? No.

Maybe your dreams are more modest, but you’ve worked at breaking into publishing for years. Should you continue the struggle? For how long? How do you know when to quit?

Asking the Wrong Question

I came across an excellent discussion from a blog post that is several years old, but the advice is timeless. Called “When to Quit,” it’s a lengthy article by Scott Young on this subject. I hope you’ll read it to the end.

One factor the article said to consider was how you feel on a day-to-day basis as you pursue your dream. How is the process affecting your life, your character, your growth? “So if you are pursuing your dream and you don’t think you are going to make it, the question of whether or not to quit doesn’t depend on your chance of success. The real question is whether pursuing this dream is causing you to grow. Does this path fill you with passion and enthusiasm? Do you feel alive?”

You may not agree with all his views, but I guarantee that the article will make you think–even if you have no intention of quitting. It might lead you to make a course correction however. And it will make you evaluate why you’re pursuing your particular dream–and that’s always a good thing!

If you have a minute, give me your reactions to the ideas in his article.

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15. Poetry Friday: Boxing, Poetry (and Water Afterwards)

I had a joyous day earlier this week, donning my boxing gloves and pounding away at the heavy bag in the back corner of my gym. Bad Moon Rising was blasting from my iPod; I was wearing pink and feeling strong; the more I hit the bag, the more I felt as if I was going to lift off the ground and fly.

For those of you who've never boxed, let me say that it isn't about anger. At least not for me. It's about rhythm and control, and that sound...the thwack of my gloves popping against the bag. It's also about getting my whole body to work together, so I can put every bit of my strength into one concentrated punch. Focus and power---that's what boxing means to me. (I love this essay, too, by Robert Flanagan, "What he learned in boxing," in which he says "gym work -- skip rope, medicine ball, light bag, heavy bag -- was like saying the stations of the cross, a penance for weakness, yet giving you hope of being redeemed.")

So what does this have to do with Poetry Friday?

I wanted to find a poem about boxing that expressed what I felt. I haven't found one yet. (I may have to write it.) Most of the poems I found were about blood and being in the ring, something I've never experienced, and might never want to. (Big conflict avoider, that's me.)

But I did run across something amazing that I wanted to share: the World Heavy Weight Championship Poetry Bouts. It's just what it sounds like---two poets enter the ring and duel with poetry, until one is declared the winner by the judges. Poems instead of punches. Cool. Wait until you hear who was competing not too long ago.

Here's the scoop:

The Taos Poetry Circus ended its run after 22 years in 2003. The World Poetry Bout Association, which ran the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout ("The Main Event") during the circus, disbanded. But remnants of the circus exist, including video footage of the 10-round bouts, and this archived article from the NY Times: Bouts of Poetry (the Stress is on Beat,) published June 21, 1994.

"...the circus included readings by several American Indians, like Sherman Alexie, a 27-year-old poet from Spokane, Wash., of the Coeur d'Alene tribe. In a bout on June 9, he read several works, including "Song," which speaks of adolescence on the reservation:

I remember all your names, Indian girls I loved, Dawn, Loretta, Michelle, Jana, Go-Go, Lulu, all of you Spokane Indian princesses who never asked me to slow dance

To the music

That always found its way

Into the tribal school."


Four years later, in 1998, Sherman Alexie won the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout, and went on to win three more times, until he "hung up his gloves" in 2001. Here's a picture of him with the trophy.

No wonder he wrote about fighting in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. And even though he's won other major grants and recognition over the years, I still marvel that it took from at least June, 1994, when he was reciting that poem, until last November, 2007, before his work about the exact same subject---adolescence on the reservation---won another championship bout, the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. (Read more about why he decided to write for young adults here.)

I'm seriously thinking of springing for the $29 it costs to buy a video tape of one of his bouts. Or maybe I can get a motivational tape of his voice to listen to while I smack the bag and compose poetry, punch by punch, line by line, at the gym and in that fighting corner of my soul.

Now for the water I promised you when we were done...

From his collection, "One Stick Song":

Water
by Sherman Alexie

I know a woman
who swims naked
in the ocean
no matter the season.

I don't have a reason
for telling you this (I never
witnessed her early morning
dips into the salt) Read the rest here.


Poetry Friday is hosted today by its founder, Kelly Herold, at Big A, little a.

15 Comments on Poetry Friday: Boxing, Poetry (and Water Afterwards), last added: 3/12/2008
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16. Writers: Always Working

thinkingIf you’re a plumber hired to unclog my drain, but I catch you sitting and looking out the window, I can, in all fairness, say you’re not working. If you’re my cleaning lady, but I catch you rocking in a chair staring into space, I can say justly that you’re not working.

What about writers? Not so easy to tell!

Thinking vs. Writing

According to Wallace Stevens, “It is not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and looking out the window.” It’s also not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and going for a walk, between thinking and washing dishes, between thinking and daydreaming, and between thinking and grazing in the fridge.

Why is this true? Lots of thinking precedes writing. For fiction writers, thinking about characters, getting to know them, listening to their voices-all this happens in the head while “thinking.” Plot twists and turns give birth while “thinking”-and woe unto the writer who skips thinking and writes the first thing that comes into her head.

Although all this pre-thinking is critical, that isn’t all the thinking you’ll have to do. Even while working on revisions, you’ll find yourself thinking and staring out the window, thinking and walking, thinking and grazing. You understand that “I’m thinking” means ”so please don’t interrupt.” Chances are, your family won’t. Instead they will walk into the room where you’re “thinking-writing” and say, “Oh good, you’re not doing anything. Can you hold the ladder for me?”

Thinking in Disguise

That’s why I prefer to do my thinking in private if I can. Otherwise it just seems to invite interruptions, often at a critical moment when I’ve just about figured out my theme or where the climax scene needs to go.

If I’m home alone, that’s no problem. If it’s in the evening, though, or on a weekend, I weed flowers or fold a load of laundry or wash dishes when I need to think something through. (Nobody bothers you when doing chores-they might get roped into helping.)

Reap the Rewards

Contrary to the life of a plumber or housekeeper, a lot of the writer’s real work happens when she’s looking out the window. Sometimes my clearest thoughts, my best insights for how to fix things, come when I’m not thinking about the piece of writing at all.

Give yourself enough of this “mindless” time, and you’ll be amazed what bubbles up to your conscious mind. Despite the heckling you may receive, during this thinking time you’re a writer at work. And the pay-off will be huge.

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17. Re-Thinking Your Thinking

thinkAccording to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 thoughts per day, or 4.4 million thoughts per year.

I wager that writers are well above the average because we read more and writing causes us to think more than the average.

Who’s In Charge?

I had known for a long time that our thoughts affect our emotions, and that toxic “stinking thinking” could derail our writing dreams and health faster than almost anything. You are the only one who can decide whether to reject or accept a thought, which thoughts to dwell on, and which thoughts will become actions.

But sometimes–a lot of the time–I felt powerless to actually do anything about it on a consistent basis. Sometimes I simply felt unfocused and overwhelmed.

Need a Brain Detox?

I’ve been reading a “scientific brain studies” book for non-science types like me called Who Switched Off My Brain? by Dr. Caroline Leaf Ph.D. which has fascinated me. With scientific studies to back it up, it shows that thoughts are measurable and actually occupy mental “real estate.” Thoughts are active; they grow and change, influencing every decision we make and physical reaction we have.

“Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body–for better or for worse.” The author talks about the “Dirty Dozen”–which can be as harmful as poison in our minds and our bodies.

Killing Our Creativity

brainAmong this dozen deadly areas of toxic thinking are toxic emotions, toxic words, toxic seriousness, toxic health, and toxic schedules.

If you want to delve into the 350+ scientific references and pages of end notes in the back of the book, you can look up the studies. But basically it targets the twelve toxic areas of our lives that produce 80% of the physical, emotional and mental health issues today. And trust me. Those issues have a great deal to do with you achieving your goals and dreams.

There Is Hope!

According to Dr. Leaf, scientists no longer believe that the brain is hardwired from birth with a fixed destiny to wear out with age, a fate predetermined by our genes. Instead there is scientific proof now for what the Bible has always taught: you can renew your minds and heal. Your brain really can change!

Old brain patterns can be altered, and new patterns can be implemented. brain-detoxIn the coming days, I’ll share some more about the author’s ”Brain Sweep” five-step strategy for detoxing your thoughts associated with the “dirty dozen.”

But right now I’m going to read about the symptoms of a toxic schedule. I have a suspicion…

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18. The Serenity Prayer for Writers

tension7When I’m frustrated, it’s usually a sign that I’m trying to control something I can’t control. This can be a person or a situation or an event. The process can churn your mind into mush until you can’t think.

On the other hand, making a 180-degree switch and focusing on the things I can control (self-control) is the fastest way out of frustration. This concept certainly applies to your writing life.

Words of Wisdom

Remember the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How about reducing frustration with your writing life by applying that wisdom to your career? Here are some things to accept that you cannot change:

  • How long it takes to get a response from editors and agents
  • Rejections
  • Editors moving before buying the manuscript they asked to see
  • Size of print runs
  • Reviews
  • Publisher’s budget for your book’s publicity and promotion

Trying to change anything on the above list is a sure-fire route to frustration and wanting to quit.

However, do you have courage to change the things you can? Here are some:

  • Giving yourself positive feedback and affirmations
  • Reading positive books on the writing life
  • Studying writing craft books
  • Writing more hours
  • Reading more books in the genre where you want to publish
  • Attending local, state, regional and national conferences you can afford
  • Joining or forming a critique group

Wisdom to Know the Difference

If you’re battling frustration and discouragement with the writing life, chances are good that you’re trying to control something beyond your control. It will make you crazy! The fastest way back to sanity is to concentrate on what you can control about the writing life.

Choose anything from that second list–or share an additional idea in the comments below–and get on with becoming a better writer. In the end, that’s all you can do–and it will be enough.

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