Inspiration for Monday, March 14

lucas quote

What are you focused on right now? What is the reality that you’ve created for yourself? What is the reality you would like to create for yourself?

I’m a person who often gets carried away by big dreams and big goals. I start off with a lot of momentum but when that doesn’t get me where I’d like, or my wheels get stuck in the mud I start focusing on the mud and being stuck. I start focusing on how my life isn’t where I want it to be yet, and upset because I don’t know the steps in between to get myself there.

Finishing my first novel was a huge step for me. It was not only exciting to have a completed novel, it was exciting because it told me that I could do it. I could actually finish this large goal I’d set for myself and wanted to accomplish for most of my life.

I’ve heard that Michelangelo believed his sculptures were finished already, but that he had to cut away the marble to reveal them. I feel like a lot of my adult life has been cutting away at the marble to uncover the sculpture hidden inside. I tried different things in order to figure out if they were right for me and when they weren’t I had to learn to cut them loose. It freed up energy to do this because my focus has become sharper and my goals more precise.

One way I’m trying to focus my attention is by creating a career that circles around writing. I’ve worked for the past few months at a restaurant to make some extra cash but now I’m beginning to offer editorial services (under my real name!) for academic writers (since that’s part of my day job) as well as self-publishing fiction authors (since I love fiction!). It’s one more way for me to focus on my fiction career by reserving energy that would otherwise go into other ways to pay my bills. So, if you’re a self-published author, or academic who is seeking a copyeditor or a proofreader, I’d love to talk with you about your manuscript!

Inspiration for Monday, March 7

shes a dreamer

I love this quote. Not only is reaffirming that possibilities are endless, it also reminds us that dreaming is great, and thinking is important, but doing is the thing that turns these possibilities into opportunities. I think this is a great quote for writers to remember, and it’s certainly something that I relate to.

I’m fortunate. My creative life is manifested in multiple ways. I love to cook and be creative in the kitchen. I like to paint and draw and am pretty decent when I put my mind to it. I’m creative at making arts and crafts and I love to make my home more beautiful. I also love to tell stories and create new worlds. This is the passion that has sustained me throughout my life. And it’s the one that is closest to my identity. Even when I wasn’t actively writing and not actively trying to become a writer, it was the thing that I thought of myself as. It was the only job I ever truly, truly wanted for an extended period of time.

As much as I love having multiple outlets of creative expression, it can get hard when deciding where to focus energy and attention. It’s been a long and hard process of pruning my creative and professional ambitions until I figured out what path best fit me and my goals. I’ve had multiple jobs that could have gone different ways if I’d dedicated my attention to them. But, I kept coming back to the underlying knowledge that writing stories was my big passion and I needed to figure out a way to make it happen while also paying my bills.

Saying no to the possibilities we see everywhere can be hard. It isn’t fun to cut away and close doors and tell yourself that while painting is fun you need to focus on work. It isn’t pleasant to fail at other ventures, or to realize the time and effort you put into them is ultimately a waste because it doesn’t meet your needs. But, saying no to some things leaves you open to others, and those chosen paths, the ones you actually set forth on, and the ones you actively keep clear of obstacles can produce the sweetest results. So I’m focusing on the doing of the thing, and less on the dreaming. That might mean I spend less time posting, but I hope I’ll be able to find a balance between all of the balls I’m currently juggling. In the meantime, keep seeing possibilities but also focusing on your own goals.

Inspiration Monday

Inspiration Habits

Whew! It’s been so long since I posted Inspiration Monday. 21 days! I didn’t realize it had been that long, and I feel pretty bummed about it. Sort of. See, I have a bad habit of going big and then fading out. I don’t like doing that, but I think I might have bitten off a little too much to chew with this blog for now and my other work. I still have some big ideas but I don’t have the time to execute them. So I’m working on getting myself that necessary time, and also cutting back a little on posting so that I have room to breathe.

I’m also in the middle of living a crazy personal life, which is so much fun and so much growth as a human who happens to be married to another human. Man, marriages make a lot of work don’t they? Mine is great, and we are happily, stupidly in love after 4.5 years of marriage and nearly 7 years together. Yet, as with all of life comes growth and sometimes that growth is painful but important. I’ve been doing a lot of that these past couple of weeks and so this blog hasn’t been on my mind as much. I feel like I’ve been embodying the quote above and although I’ve neglected some of my work it’s been such a welcome break from the everyday life I’d been living that I appreciate it. Sometimes you need to escape from the everyday. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re waiting for something to happen. That is a lesson I’ve spent 32 years coming to understand because I am a consummate waiter. I wait for the future and I wait for when my life will resemble what I imagine and then I go and get disappointed when it’s not working. I like making plans and goals that I work towards but I don’t want to get so focused on the future that I forget about right now. I’m trying to break that habit (slowly but surely!) by being more of a doer. And right now it’s hard but fun to change my path.

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Michael-Hague

Michael Hauge expounding his wisdoms

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 7,235 (no change)

So, I haven’t done any BICHOK work on this, but I’ve been doing a lot of discovery that will give me a much stronger foundation as I move forward. I’ll talk more about that in a second.

Platform Progress

Nothing happening here! It’s been so busy with other things that I haven’t focused as I would like.

Life Progress

This weekend I went to a Michael Hauge Story Mastery workshop held by my RWA chapter. It was two days full of story structure, character development and a little pitch practice too. It was honestly pretty damned amazing. Some of the concepts were things I was familiar with, which was actually pretty great because it allowed me to focus more deeply on understanding the layers underneath what I already knew rather than trying to absorb all new things. It’s improved my direction for my WIP exponentially, and my understanding of character goals and motivations. Michael is primarily a movie story consultant, but most of these concepts cross all types of story and so they are applicable in novels as well. It’s also been a great chance for me to think about how story relates to reality. Why we read stories and what we gain from them. It’s given me a better understanding of psychology and my own growth as a person.

How many times can you say you’ve gone into a writing workshop and come out with a better understanding of yourself as a human and also your marriage? Right?

 

Inspiration Monday: Laura Benanti

You know Oprah’s motto, “Live Your Best Life Now”? I have a feeling this lady is doing just that.

L B

Laura Benanti is a Tony award winning Broadway star also seen on TV shows that I love, like Nashville, the short lived Go On and currently Supergirl. She’s also hilarious on Twitter and in real life. But why is she my inspiration for this week?

Because she looks like she is comfortable in her own (admittedly gorgeous) skin, and comfortable being her goofy, witty and endearing self. She’s such a professional but she seems like she’s having a blast doing it. Because she has come forward talking about the issue of going through a miscarriage and wanting to talk about it.  And because she is open, and expressive and energetic. Last week I was feeling pretty tired and trying to get my word count for the day but I needed a midday pick-me-up. So I watched her performing with The Skivvies and was instantly revived and ready to get back to work. She’s got such an enthusiastic spirit that I admire. As I get older and feel more comfortable with myself, someone who has talked about feeling younger and being herself as she gets older, she is my newest role model for living my best life.

Now go watch her videos!

 

Today in history

NYT 2:3

Today, in 1917, America broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, who had announced unrestricted submarine warfare. This was the beginning of America’s entrance into the Great War, also known today as WWI.

I recently finished listening to a book I’ve re-read frequently since I was about 11, Rilla of Ingleside, which is all about Anne of Green Gables’ daughter as she experiences the war while being stuck at home, knowing very little of what’s going on, and trying to remain brave and heroic. The book hasn’t aged perfectly. It was written several years after the war, and is quite patriotic and very idealistic about the war, but I try to remember that during the war itself, these sentiments would have been true and dearly held. But, I was surprised by some of the very modern and very true ideas in the story that I would not have noticed as a child. I still love it, and it still makes me cry and breaks my heart. It does what good fiction ought to do– help place us there, make us empathize and make sense of what we are experiencing.

Having grown up since I first read this book, and studied WWI extensively, both in college and on my own, I know just how terrible and meaningless this war was. All war is terrible, but for me, this one was even more tragic because the modern warfare we know today was basically unfamiliar to the young men facing the enemy from mere yards away across no-man’s-land. Machine guns, barbed wire, airplanes, chemical warfare– all of these were new experiences for the armies and they ripped apart the old world, leaving an entire generation to die or figure out how to live again. This war changed the course of human events in ways we are still feeling today. It influenced civil rights movements, the music, poetry and art of the era, language, it changed the political and social climate and set the stage for another terrible war.

Please take a minute to think about that. 99 years ago today, our country took steps that would lead into a war that would impact us even now.

Weekly Progress

17.-power-of-persistance-420x420_0

For the past week and a half it’s been hard to be persistent and consistent. I got a little distracted and overwhelmed by other things in my life. But I’m trying to make up for it by being smarter and preparing in advance. I’m trying to use the few moments I have wisely. It doesn’t always work, but it’s working right now, so I’m pushing forward. I have some exciting developments in the future, but that means trying to readjust the scales on my time management, figuring out what I can give up and what I need to keep. It’s not easy, but then, what is?

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 7,235 (from 3,928)

3,307 words feels like a lot of progress right now. I’ve been consistent in my writing habit, but until today, it felt like I was trudging through mud. Good mud, the kind that might eventually even blossom lotus flowers, but mud all the same. It doesn’t make for easy walking through nature. However, today I feel like I might have reached a nice little turning point.

I’ve also resolved to write some of the fun scenes, the ones that I’ve been waiting anxiously to have a crack at, so that my excitement about this project is boosted. Usually I’m a chronological writer. It helps me keep the motivation of my characters straight, and their emotional state, etc. But right now, I just want some adrenaline shots into my day. So I’ll go write some of the scenes that I think will be really fun, and then I’ll come back and tackle the others once I have a stronger road map. I think that’s part of the problem right now. I have a big picture map, but none of the rest stops are marked on it, so it’s hard to keep the big picture in mind when you’re slogging through mud and don’t know when you’ll be able to get to the rest area.

Platform Progress

My new phone is shiny and pretty! But I haven’t been doing too much different with it besides enjoying having a new phone. I’ve been using it in much the same way.

In other social media news, I’ve continued to grow my networks, but I’m noticing a lot of the network isn’t who I would expect or hope my target audience would be. I really like the followers, but want to connect with more writers and readers of romance. So, I’m going to re-evaluate and re-adjust so that I can meet more of the romance community with my blog, because they are just so awesome and fun and nice, and because we share such a great common interest.

Life Progress

I have a lot to do today and very little of it has to do with writing. A lot of it has to do with my other job of teaching. We are going to be discussing one of Willa Cather’s short stories, “Paul’s Case”. I’ve read it several times before, but I do love how you learn and see so much more when you re-read. Just last night, I saw new shades in this story that I hadn’t noticed before. Often my teaching and readings for class feed my soul and direct me back to writing, so that is a lovely thing. But, grading does not feed my soul, and that’s what I’m about to do. Wish me luck!

 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

Tech Tuesday: What is an Author Platform?

080501-Hemingway

This guy never had to worry about an author platform! 

As I am learning about the business of becoming a writer who can get published, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about an author platform, and how to build one. So I thought I would spend a little time this week talking about why platforms are part of today’s business of publishing, what they are, and how a person can go about creating one. I’ve spent a few weeks building my social media network but haven’t really focused on why.

Back in the day when writers wrote, editors edited, and publishers promoted, an author couldn’t spend too much time worrying about their platforms. Of course, the things existed, but there was a barrier between the author who wanted to promote a book and the audience who would read it. The author could do some things, like go on book tours, do readings and interviews, sign books and make appearances, but all of that was pretty small scale compared to today. And even then, you had to be published to be able to do them.

Today, we are able to connect with each other in mere seconds and the barriers have broken down between public personas and the audience. Twitter allows people to respond to each other no matter how big or small you might be, and blogs, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels can make even the most ordinary person a celebrity.

So in this sea of social media, where millions of people are Facebooking, tweeting and posting, how can a person navigate it, or even rise up to the top and let the swell of public sentiment carry you to success?

(I’m tempted to make an Old Man and the Sea of Social Media” joke now but I’ll spare you.)

First of all, what is an author platform?

The easiest definition might be that it is an open conversation with readers and authors. Anyone can join it, and no one is obstructed from participating. This is both awesome, and daunting. Awesome because it creates connections where before there were none. Daunting because what if people are mean, or the platform is abused? Either side could potentially cause an author’s platform to tip. Readers could respond negatively and the author will most likely hear that feedback. Or, an author could behave badly, and take advantage of the voice they have been given.

But, what is the point of this conversation?

Some cynical person might say it’s just about getting as many followers and likes as possible to sell more books, and while they wouldn’t be technically wrong, it’s not the way to view a platform. Unless of course, you are just a cynic who only cares about the bottom line and doesn’t mind living a soul sucking existence. Really, it is about the consistent effort over the course of an author’s whole career to carve out a place where they can speak and be heard. And hopefully, as an author increasingly has something to say that people want to hear, this will extend their network to attract more like-minded people who appreciate the content the author is producing. This can help make the author more marketable to larger content providers, like publishers, which will in turn increase the author’s network of like-minded people.

As far as these larger content providers are concerned (and therefore we are too) a strong platform shows three things:

  • Visibility- Who you are, what connections you have, what media outlets you can use to expand your network.
  • Proven Reach- That you can actually reach the number of people you claim (one of the major reasons why buying followers is BS!)
  • Target Audience- That you can reach the kind of people who are going to be interested in your content.

A platform is not about self-promotion just to make you feel popular. It is not about hard-selling your products. It is not about being an extrovert (thankfully!). It is not about being the most active person on social media. If your network isn’t into social media but you have strong engagement through another format then do what works for you! Jane Friedman has more to say here.

Brooke Warner, over at The Write Life has some great advice that I need to keep in mind and you might too. She says: “The key is to take it slow. For writers who are just beginning, it can feel like you’re coming really late to a party that’s been going on for years — and that’s in essence exactly what’s happening. If you look at someone who has thousands upon thousands of Twitter followers, it’s likely they were an early adopter.”

But, that’s okay! You still have a seat at the table! Your authenticity and your contribution is a foundation. Slow but steady growth is healthier because it leads to a long term career. Think about all the one hit wonders you’ve seen blaze out over the years. Now think about the musicians who toured for years, and kept putting out albums, even before they were well-known and might even still be touring. You want to be Keith Richards (only with less drug abuse). In order to be Keith you need to continue producing, publishing, connecting with people and partnering with other authors. You also need to let your voice shine. Your personality, authenticity and expertise are vital parts of making you a trusted and connected voice and that’s what an author platform is really all about.

Keith

Keith has got your back! Now go forth and create!

Inspiration Monday

Dewston 1

The Dewstow Gardens and Grottos in Wales are deceptively beautiful. Built in 1895, the surface looked like any normal estate garden as you can see in the photo below.

grounds-of-dewstow-gardens

But just below lay a secret world, full of water falls and fountains and lushly green ferns. It was a fairy land. An unexpected world for discovery and daydreams.

Dewstow-Gardens-Carousel

During WWII these underground gardens and grottos were covered by tons of dirt and weren’t rediscovered and renovated until 2000.

Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have discovered this fanciful masterpiece under the garden you were fixing up? I’ve always loved discovering the past that lays just under the surface of our world. I think it’s one of the reasons I write historical fiction– because I’m always wondering what people’s lives were like as they stood in the same spot I am standing and look out over the same vistas I am seeing.

Ever since I was a child, living in a house built in 1910, I’ve been fascinated with digging down to discover the worlds below. And I’ve been fascinated with the possibility of fairies living secretly, just under the flower petal, or beneath a mossy hill. This garden, for me, would be the most magical thing my childhood self could come across. Even now, I’m wondering how to work it into a story, or my next trip.

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Henry David Thoreau quote

This quote is one of my all time favorites. I recite it to myself sometimes, when I need a little inspiration. It is my unofficial motto for this year, a year in which I am taking risks and working hard to create the life I’ve imagined for myself.

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 3,928 (from 34,116)

I told you that I’d be majorly overhauling my WIP to make a stronger conflict, and better tension, and so I’ve almost entirely started over. Some scenes made the cut, but were whittled away and changed to the point that their own mother (me, I guess) wouldn’t even recognize them if she hadn’t seen their first form. The basic action of the plot remains the same, but how the characters meet, get the plot going, and even how they act have been changed. It’s interesting to see how much better this second version is already, although getting my daily word count yesterday was a struggle. I had to go take a nap in between sessions.

Platform Progress

My platforms have been growing slowly, but hopefully this organic growth is also beneficial. I’m trying to focus on content that is strong and useful so that people both trust and like what I have to say. It’s been hard this week to stay as focused as I was last week on using social media and the tools I have. So I’ll probably need to re-evaluate and take approaches that work for me and my current busy schedule.

I’m also buying a new phone today. Mine is dying the slow death of a drowned iPhone 4s. Its battery is failing, and it’s probably time to upgrade anyway. Maybe a new phone, with new capabilities will give me new things to try out and share. At the very least, it will be pretty, and I do love pretty things.

Life Progress

I’m feeling pretty productive today, even though there are some deadlines that I’ve let creep too close for comfort. I’m about to take care of those tasks when I sign off here, so maybe I’ll be feeling even better in a few minutes. Yesterday was a mostly lazy day, but I got nearly all my work done, so that makes me feel like I didn’t entirely drop the ball to chill with my husband. I’ve also been trying to work out in the mornings because it makes me feel more powerful and beautiful. I did 15 minutes of yoga this morning, and a short kettle bell work out yesterday and Monday. On Sunday I went to yoga in a bar with a good friend, and could feel the burn for the past two days, but I noticed an improvement in myself from the week before. I do love getting back to a yoga practice!

On a day like today I do feel like I am headed in the direction of the life I never quite imagined, but am happily discovering I love. I hope you are too.