Archive for category The Writer’s Life

Life’s Unseen Blessings—Are We Really Thankful?

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry, but I KNOW she is hiding her mouse friends.

Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry *head desk*

I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough.

I wrote a blog ages ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, we run the danger of being ungrateful for what we have, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.

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The Spawn is “helping” me edit….

Lately, I’ve had a hard reality to face. I’m so busy potty training the toddler and teaching him and correcting him, but have I taken enough time to ENJOY him? There are the dishes, the laundry, the dusting, but am I ENJOYING the home I have? I love serving writers, blogging, teaching, but am I taking a moment to ENJOY all of you? I have the world’s best husband. I make it a point that, when he gets home from work, a fresh, hot meal is made and his clean pajamas and towel are laid out next to the shower, but am I ENJOYING him?

Am I truly giving thanks?

I don’t know about you, but I know this is an area I can ALWAYS come up higher. Grateful people are happy people.

Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.

We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…

I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.

I am thankful for the big electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.

I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.

I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means I’m literate.

I am thankful for the car that needs all new tires because it means I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get what I need.

I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.

I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.

I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have family who love me enough to travel to see me.

I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.

I am thankful for the split ends I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.

I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.

I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because the body the firemen pulled out of the fatality accident could have been me.

I am thankful for the gutters I need to clean, because it means that I have a home.

I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I’m not alone.

I am thankful for my less than perfect thighs. It means I didn’t lose my legs in a car accident or to diabetes or an IED.

I am thankful that I sometimes have doubts and confusion about my future and my purpose when I think of the lives cut short before they ever had a future.

I’m thankful for the government I like to gripe about, because I don’t fear going to prison or being shot if I disagree with my country’s leadership.

I am thankful for my freedom and the amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to protect it.

I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me on this blog by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough, but all of you are so generous to me. You share the very thing we all need more of….TIME. Thus, I’m immensely grateful you guys give to freely to me. I’m WAY thankful for my amazing WANA community. You guys are the bright spot to each and every day in my world and the world around you. It is such an honor and privilege to serve you.

What are you guys thankful for? I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way).

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D .

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73 Comments

Martha Stewart or a Tinsel-Covered Train Wreck? What’s Your Holiday “Style”?

Nothing says HOLIDAY like a NERF BATTLE AX....

Nothing says HOLIDAY like a NERF BATTLE AX….

Thanksgiving is this week, but we ALL know Christmas is zooming right behind. If you’re anything like me, you make this super stupid promise to yourself roughly December 24th that you will buy gifts throughout the year, so you aren’t pressed and stressed and ready to stand on a roof with a shotgun holding the entire dish of rum balls hostage…and ALL the rum. No, this year will be different. I will be PREPARED.

*clutches sides laughing*

Yeah….

Sort of reminds me of finals back in college. Next time I am going to read all my chapters AHEAD of time.

Christmas is a magical time of year, but all of us handle the season differently. So what is your Holiday Style? Here’s a helpful little quiz:

1) When cleaning before the holidays, you:

a) Might give the mantel a light dusting just so you don’t look like a show-off. The gleam from your spotless fixtures could cause retinal damage. Eloise is a rank amateur next to you.

b) Make a plan to go room by room and whip your house into shape. Once this baby is clean, you KNOW it will stay that way for good. In fact, you’ve vowed to stab your husband in the face if he leaves his towel on the bathroom floor, and have threatened your children with a tell-all e-mail to Santa if they don’t put their clean clothes away properly.

c) Get a little excited because you haven’t seen your floors, counters or pretty much any of your home’s flat surfaces since the party last New Years. In fact, you are pretty sure the Christmas tree is still up under one of the piles of laundry and unopened mail. Hey, why take down decorations you know you will need every year?

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Yes, this is um…ME *hangs head*

2) When it comes to holiday shopping, you:

a) Are already finished. You made a long, detailed list last January and have spent the year buying the perfect gift for all your loved ones. All that’s left is to enjoy the season while those ill-prepared dopes fight over the last Holiday Barbie.

b) Wait until Black Friday. Technically, you start three days before Black Friday. What better way to use all that camping equipment you got last year for Christmas, than to stake out the front of Apple, Ikea or Best Buy?

c) Dig through your closet for all the unopened crappy gifts you got at the office Secret Santa party last year and then re-gift them to your distant relatives. Sure, Aunt Edna doesn’t know who Justin Bieber is, but who wouldn’t want a singing toothbrush?

Well, other than you, of course.

3) When it comes to gifts, you:

a) Spare no expense. The holiday season is a season of generosity. All your gifts are thoughtful, beautiful, lavish, and better than everyone else’s.

b) Believe it’s the thought that counts, and most people will think you are cheap if they see the Clearance sticker on their present, which is why you LOVE black Sharpies. They can be counted on to fully black out the $4.99 on the bottom of that seashell vase from Anthropologie. Hey, we don’t have to pay retail to still give an awesome gift. You just make sure the gift recipient can see part of the original price of $89 so they feel like you “shelled” out a lot of cash.

c)  Make one trip. Dollar General has everything you need for Christmas gifts. What could be a better Christmas gift than cans of Lite Vienna Sausages (Now Made with REAL Meat!) or Low-Sodium Spam?

4) When it comes to holiday memories, you:

a) Love capturing every moment on video, then editing the clips to music using your MacBook Pro. Then, of course you order prints from SnapFish so you can scrapbook together all the holiday magic. You have the cutest little snowman stickers that will add the perfect touch to the family newsletter you send out early morning December 26th.

b) Have them all in a big box that you will organize one day…once you locate the box.

c) Just get drunk on Jack and Coke then watch Jerry Springer reruns. The effect is pretty much the same.

5) Of all the Christmas carols, you:

a) Know Handel’s Messiah is your all-time favorite, and you know all the words. Why wouldn’t you? You sing in the choir every year.

b) Can’t get enough Silver and Gold, sung by Burl Ives. It reminds you of being a kid and waiting all year to see Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

c) Think Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is the funniest carol EVER, next to the Three Kings who tried to smoke a rubber cigar. In fact, you can’t even sing Deck the Walls with the correct lyrics.

6) As far as wrapping Christmas presents, you:

a) Use the tips you saved out of Martha Stewart Magazine. You bought the heavy duty paper and lavish bows last year at the Container Store After Christmas Sale and expensive ornaments 85% off at the Dillard’s After Christmas Sale. All your gifts look so beautiful, they might as well be considered Christmas decorations. No one ever wants to open your gifts until they’ve taken a picture of the wrapping.

b) Thought you were saving money when you bought the wrapping paper from Wal Mart. Of course, you didn’t foresee that it was as thin as rice-paper on a crash diet. After tearing the corners on every box you wrapped, you had to wrap everything AGAIN. This means ten gifts took 42 rolls of paper. You lost the tape, only to later find it stuck to your butt. The dog ate all the ribbon and is now pooping tinsel, and your husband has found it HYSTERICAL to put tape on all the cat’s paws instead of helping.

You make a note to buy big bottle of Maker’s Mark for next year’s wrapping.

c) The gifts you bought came pre-wrapped. It’s called a Dollar Store bag. DUH. You love the environment, so why cut down more trees when THIS Christmas wrapping paper can later be used to pick up the tinsely dog poop?

7) When it comes to dressing for holiday parties you:

a) Buy smashing outfit ahead of time so you have time to find the perfect accessories and shoes to match. Then you make sure to get an appointment with a hairdresser and makeup artist in October before the slots fill. Why trust those holiday pictures to anyone but a professional?

b) Buy an outfit ahead of time, but completely forget about shoes and earrings…and eating less. You bought the dress even though it was too small, because it was supposed to make you be “good” this year and not overeat. Ah, but that was until the dog started pooping tape and Christmas ribbon and you leveled the fudge like a Biblical plague (Baby Jesus would have been duly impressed).

So Christmas Eve you find yourself wandering the mall searching for the last pair of Spanks in the free world. Speaking of tinsel, you can’t help but wonder what the tinsel-strength of spandex is. In your mind, you imagine a Catastrophic Spanx Failure that takes out three innocent bystanders.

And is it considered an act of domestic terrorism if you survive?

c) Just wear yoga pants and a maternity top for the extra “give.”

8) As far as decorating for the holidays, you:

a) Hire professionals. Can’t be Yard of the Month without a little help. Your Christmas lights can be seen from space. The folks at NASA and the Soviet Space Station are your biggest fans.

b) Were going to avoid it altogether until it became evident that you were the ONLY house on the block without lights, and now you have been shamed into putting out some last-minute effort. Of course, everything was sold out, so you were forced to decorate with the Halloween lights.

Orange works, right? Hell, just put Santa hats on all the skulls. Make it a Goth Christmas.

c) Just plug them in. You left them up all year :D.

9) When it comes to your children and Santa, you:

a) Bake cookies for Santa with the kids, and Christmas Eve you take the little ones out into the yard and spread some “Reindeer Food.” Your husband dresses in a Santa costume and you “sneak” some iPhone footage of Santa at work in your living room to show the kids the next morning. Childhood is a magical time and you want to fuel your children’s imaginations.

b) Take them to Cabela’s. Free photos with Santa, fishing gear is 50% off, and they FINALLY have your ammo in stock.

c) Let your neighbor take your kids to Cabela’s. You still have to find the Christmas tree…after you level up on Halo 6.

10) When your kids question how Santa can make it to all the boys’ and girls’ houses in all the world in one night, you:

a) Tell them that Santa is the spirit of generosity and love, and that spirits have powers we mortals cannot comprehend.

b) Point the pizza kiosk in the mall and yell, “I’m buying!”

c) Inform your kids that Santa has been cloned, and reference the Star Wars Clone Wars.

11) When sending out holiday cards, you:

a) Buy cards for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, and just general holiday cards and then send them to the appropriate recipients.

b) Buy generic reindeer cards, then write it “Happy Holi-Chrisma-Kwanzaa-kuh.” Your friends all know you’re weird anyway. Frankly, they are all shocked you got the cards sent at all.

c) Holiday Cards? *laughs hysterically until can’t breathe*

12) When someone gives you a dreadful gift, you:

a) Know they meant well, so you make sure they see you wearing that horrendous purple mohair vest at the church bake sale. You would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

b) Send a nice thank you note then return the gift for something you prefer.

c) Stockpile the crappy gifts away for next year, so you don’t have to do as much Christmas shopping. Hey, waste not want not.

Tally Your Scores!!!

Amazing Alice/Awesome Alan

If you answered mostly As, you get an A+++++ in Christmas. You, Amazing Alice/Alan, are the star of the show with the prettiest EVERTYHING, the one who has everything in order and who pulls out all the stops…which is probably why most of us secretly hate you and want to stab YOU in the face.

Normal Nancy/Typical Ted

If you answered mostly Bs, relax. You’re normal. While you probably could try a little harder, why bother? Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan are going to outdo you anyway.

Slacker Sarah/Lazy Larry

Hey, life is too short to be organized. There are video games to play.

I hate to say it but I am almost an even mix of Normal Nancy and Slacker Sarah. Every year I promise to try harder. ONE DAY I will be an Amazing Alice…yeah, no. My brother and sister-in-law are Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan, which is why I love them, but am secretly jealous. Even why I TRY to make my Christmas packages look all awesome and professionally wrapped…they just look more like a roll of wrapping paper and Scotch tape had a drunken one-night-stand.

Sigh.

What is the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten? My Aunt Iris once bought me a bright purple sweater that was so small, I think it was made for a Barbie, a child or a circus midget…then loudly commented on how fat I’d gotten when I couldn’t “try it on.”

So what about you guys?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D.

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51 Comments

WANA–A Nursery for Stars

Image via Flickr Commons and contributed by The Smithsonian.

Image via Flickr Commons and contributed by The Smithsonian.

Yesterday, a minister commented on my post and said something that made me really think, “Sometimes even the ministers need ministering.” My purpose with my blogs and teachings have always been to serve writers holistically. We are humans with dreams, wants, needs, crises, and people depending on us. Writers need more than a craft class, Facebook lessons or a better way to write a query letter.

Often, when we decide to become writers, those closest to us can become our biggest dream-stealers. I know when I left sales to become a writer, it was ugly. I might as well have told my family that I was moving to New Mexico to worship aliens who’d whisk me away on a comet if I wore a gray track suit and Nikes.

The aliens never showed up, btw. Total…flakes. *rolls eyes*

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People have often made the joke about the Church of WANA, yet in ways, it is. I’ve made it my mission for the past five years to serve writers as human beings. I educate about craft, and all of my social media teachings are centered around love, service and focusing on building community. I offer no fancy tools or algorithmic alchemy, just a simple formula. Love each other. Be who you are. Be storytellers. Be there.

That’s it.

I wanted writers to know they weren’t alone. Much of our job is grueling, solitary and even mocked. If we aren’t J.K. Rowling, we aren’t “real” writers and our “job” is viewed as a silly hobby (as if J.K. Rowling began as a mega-author *grumbles*). It can be very easy to give up if one is alone…which is WHY I created WANA (which stands for We Are Not Alone).

When I began my journey to become an author, I was very lonely. Had it not been for my mom, I know I would have given up. She allowed me to live with her on the condition I worked and did everything I could to reach my dream. We had many close to us tell her that she was “enabling me” and that no thirty-year-old should be living at home with Mom.

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

I needed to stop being a fool and a leech go get a “real job.” One of our church elders informed me I had a better chance of being hit with lightning than becoming a published author and that I needed to be an adult and pursue a “real” career (He was a stockbroker, and we no longer attend that church).

Anyway, after what he said to me, I fell apart and polished the resume. I contacted my former boss to see if he would give me a recommendation, that I was giving up writing and going to find something in sales.

He refused. He’d read my writing and told me he would not support me giving up on my dream.

TWO people. Two people made the difference.

Thus, years later when I discovered blogging and social media, I wanted to pay that precious gift forward. I knew what it was like trudging through craft books that were garbage or outdated. It was a nightmare trying to find solid guidance on craft. I also knew social media would be a game-changer, that it would be the key to empowering authors.

In 2007, I witnessed literary agents being downright cruel to new authors. Some even refused to accept pitches or openly mocked query letters as if the poor writer who’d written it wasn’t human. I received rejection letters with my name misspelled or even the wrong title of the book. So I was supposed to do every little last detail perfectly but it was OKAY to not even offer the human decency to spell MY name properly?

Right.

I vowed I would change this. Writers didn’t deserve to be the least and the last. Baby writers needed guidance and nurturing and YES…even protection. We needed a family when we couldn’t rely on our own. We needed support—professionally, spiritually and emotionally.

Then came WANA.

I wish it was wholly my idea, but it coalesced from a small group of people who started to care for one another. I took note and began building on that. Writers didn’t have to go this hard road alone. We are here. Need a beta reader? Are you sick and need a guest blog? Need advice for cover design? Need a good template for how to write a synopsis?

Need a friend because it’s two in the morning and you’re sitting with a loved one in the hospital? Suffered a loss? Feel like giving up? Doubting your dream? Questioning your sanity for even daring to try?

Just speak out in the darkness and a WANA will answer.

We won’t let you quit.

WANAs at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at Huntington Beach…

We have been there to help writers on deadlines and offer guest posts. One writer was broad-sided by a truck. She expected her platform to be gone when she finally got home. Nope. WANAs were there. WANA has supported the birth of babies and even been there to cheer on the brave ones fighting cancer, yet still writing.

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all...

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all…

It’s funny how I’ve spent so long being there for the WANAs, yet the tables so recently turned. I wanted to give in and give up. I was absolutely wrecked. I’d fallen and couldn’t get up…until countless digital hands reached from around the world to hold me, to prop me up and let me know that I was NOT ALONE.

So I thank you. I’m on my way back and you guys are the light that guides me. Thank you for ministering the minister :D. I love what I do. I love to believe there are baby writers who are now full-grown authors because WANA was there protecting them, loving them, nurturing them, and supporting them. I love the people WANA has brought together, because I might never have been so blessed to know you any other way.

WANA isn’t just some hashtag to blast promotions or a gimmicky group to cross-promote. It’s a nebula; a light in the dark…a nursery for stars ;).

Thank you for shining so bright.

What are your thoughts? Has writing been lonely? Have you had a WANA there to help you up? Have you been discouraged, overwhelmed? Do you struggle with family or friends who make fun of your dream? Meet us on Twitter at #MyWANA and we can chat and offer you a digital hug.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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70 Comments

Lesson of Confession–”I’m Drowning. Help.”

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This past six weeks have been a real beating, including the death of my grandmother. She’d no sooner passed away when I had to step in and care for my sister-in-law who was having major surgery to reattach both retinas. I was in go-go-go mode and I thought, if I could just get some rest, I would be okay.

Well, after taking a week at the ranch, I’m not okay. I didn’t want to move or write or sleep or eat. I felt surrounded by a deep malaise, like blows in the dark yet no idea where the pain was coming from. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but then an old lesson resurfaced.

Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It

One of the first things that helped me tremendously was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.

This was over ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.

Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.

It was a really bad habit to get into.

So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help.  I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.

My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”

I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I’d like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”

“What is it, then?”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m drowning. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”

“What?”

“I’m heartbroken.”

By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time.

I’d lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.

How could I? I was only sick or tired.

But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.

This simple lesson was the first major step. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy—-fix what was broken, grieve what was lost, let go of what needed letting go. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.

From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”

It was scary, and still is. I will also point our this is a lesson we are always relearning.

Again, today, I was talking to my Mom. I just wanted to run away, change my name, hide under the covers. Then I realized I’d fallen into an old bad habit. When Nana died mid-October, I got busy. I stepped in to care for my SIL. I cooked, I cleaned, tended the toddler and SIL’s two boys, the dogs the laundry. I did every thing but…cry.

I was drowning and didn’t even see it.

In our fast-paced world, what is the allotted time for sadness? Do I take a day off? A week? I’d been so caught up being there for everyone else, I’d never stopped to cry, to admit I miss my Nana. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.

Just walk it off….

Anyway, sorry if I have depressed the heck out of all of you. I’m doing better. I think there is just something about the three-week mark when there’s a death. It’s like we are so caught in the shock blast of losing someone that our brains and emotions take some time to catch up.

I know when I broke my arm in two places I didn’t feel any pain. ANY. I recall it being so surreal. My arm was in the shape of an “S” but nothing. Doctors later told me it’s because there is SO much pain, the brain kind of short-circuits. It’s only until the pain starts to lessen and the shock wears off that we FEEL what’s happened. I think death is much the same.

We all experience loss–death of a loved one, a relationship, a dream and this is all part of life. But to everything there is a season, even a season to just sit still, cry and admit we are sad and that it is okay to be sad. I know once I did that today, once I had a good cry, I felt a LOT better.

So yes, I am still here. Still alive. Tired and a bit battered but better :D. Thanks for your love and support through all this mess. It is VERY appreciated.

What about you? Have you ever been through a loss and yet it never dawned on you to just call it what it was? To grieve? To get angry? To cry? Were you so caught up in the routine of life that you had a hard time giving yourself permission to just sit? To mourn? To notice you were drowning and needed help?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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127 Comments

Author Success—The Laws of Sowing & Reaping

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zechariah Judy

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zechariah Judy

Life has many irrefutable truths. One? We get out of life what we put into it. We will get out of our writing what we invest. We cannot expect large returns from a social media platform if we rely on robots (automation) and connect randomly and half-heartedly. Social media is about relationships and being fair-weather friends has limited effectiveness.

Sure, there are flukes, people who run face-first into blind luck. But, one thing I’ve learned is the harder (and smarter) I work, the “luckier” I get ;).

When we take hold of a dream, we are assigned a sort of spiritual plot of land. Depending on the dream will depend on the plot. If we want to grow fresh peaches for our family, we don’t need a thousand acres. But, if we wish to make a living as a peach grower? We’ll have much more land and work ahead.

Same with writing. If our goal is to publish a memoir to hand down to our children, this is a different “plot” than if we desire to be a NY Times best-selling authors.

Some land is more fertile than others. If we grew up as children of famous authors, surrounded by other successful writers, then we have a reasonable head start. We “inherited” a grove and aren’t starting from scratch. Most of us are not so fortunate, so we need to start preparing our “land” early.

The Early Years

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

This is when we get our land and realize there are a ton of weeds, crappy soil and a zillion dead trees and trunks that need to be removed. There might even be some junk cars, scrap metal and old toilets that need to be hauled away. We need to form new habits. We need education, training and practice. We need to learn about branding and start building our platform.

When I left paper sales and decided to become a writer, I needed to learn the craft. I had bad habits. I put myself last on the list because writing wasn’t a “real job.” The early years is a lot of clearing away insecurity, fear, and even laziness. We learn to write even when we don’t “feel” like it and come to understand that simply showing up is a bigger deal than most people realize.

Sowing

This is when we start planting. We’ve cleared the fields and added missing nutrients to the soil. We put our butts in the seat and blogged even if the only comments we get are from the BuyCalvinKleinCheap sites:

“I so lick you’re blog. It changed my bruther’s life and bookmarking now.”

Blogging trains us to keep a professional pace. It trains us to show up and not be too dependent on others. Sure, it’s fun blogging now that I get 95 comments, but there were years I blogged to the ether. I didn’t do it for others. I did it for ME, to train me.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

Blogging is also the most resilient form of social media and one of the best investments of time when it comes to ROI (return on investment). No search engine will direct people to your witty tweet or clever Facebook post. Search engines WILL, however, start sending readers to your blog (if done properly). Also blogs can be harvested for books and promotion (and if you want to know how, my new book gives a step-by-step plan).

Sowing also involves research, plotting, writing, finishing then revising the book.

The Silent Years

After we’ve planted a lot of good stuff, it’s easy to get discouraged. We don’t plant a peach pit and a week later have a ten-foot-tall tree raining yummy peaches all over the ground. In fact, for a loooooong time, it will look like nothing is happening. It’s because that peach pit is germinating and putting down deep roots before much appears above the surface where we can see results.

We need deep roots to make it in this business, because high-winds and storms don’t stop because we want to write books (as I talked about in yesterday’s post). Did you know that the root system of any tree needs to be as wide if not wider than the span of the branches? What is below (unseen) must match (or even outmatch) what is above, or the tree will fall over and die with the first bad storm.

The Silent Years can be brutal and this is why most writers don’t make it. This is when we suffer a lot of angst. When people ask us what we do and we say we’re writers, we get replies like, “No, I meant what is your real job” or “Really? Where can I buy your book?” We must learn to brush off any insecurity and criticism and simply appreciate we’re growing, preparing for greater things ahead.

This is tough in a world addicted to instant gratification and an over-reliance on luck. Too many people want fruits with no roots (thanks, Joyce Meyer).

Reaping

If we keep pressing and don’t dig up our seeds to check if they really are growing (which is highly tempting), eventually we can reap what we’ve sown. Ah, but here is the catch. Back to my peach example. After a long wait and tender, patient care, we get a tree. YAY! Eventually, we see little tiny fruits popping out. AWESOME.

Not so fast.

The smart grower plucks off all the tiny green peaches. OH NO! Why? So the tree will bear more fruit and better fruit. For us? This could mean writing two or three bad books before we get a winner. It could mean multiple revisions. But, to gain more, we have to sacrifice.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Harvest and Maintenance

In the beginning, we have a lot of back-breaking work. But, if we are patient and consistent we can finally reach a maintenance phase. Once the grove of peach trees is producing, we keep fertilizing, tending, and harvesting.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

An author platform is the same. In the beginning, we need to build traction. Yet, there will come a time when we can back off. We need to let the soil rest. We need to cycle in other crops. We need margin in life or we lose that creativity and passion that started us on our path to begin with.

Two Mistakes Writers Make

One writer wants everything instantly. This writer wants a thriving platform and big books sales too early, and maybe resorts to shortcuts. They spray chemicals on green immature peaches (blogs/books) and try to pass off bitter, tasteless content to consumers. Or they just jump into the market too soon.

The other writer overworks the grove and production eventually suffers.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

I’ve been guilty of both mistakes. When I wrote my first social media book, I failed to build a platform ahead of time. My first royalty check was dismal and made me cry for three days. I needed to dig in and keep cultivating.

Now? I need more margin. I’m cutting this blog back to two days a week. I’d rather give you guys two fabulous blogs and more books, classes, WANACons and consulting.

Right now, I’m blogging because I love it. It’s fun. But there are better ways I can serve you and help you learn and grow. We can get so in a habit of doing something, we fail to see when we can (and need to) stop overworking.

And this is a tricky blog to write, because I want to tell you there are times for the back-breaking-put-all-you-have-into-it-work. There are no shortcuts and this isn’t offering excuses. The marketplace is glutted with books and without a platform, our odds of success are better with scratch-off tickets. But I also want to impart on you, that there is also a time to back away. We need balance to maintain. I will still be working my tail off, just in different areas ;).

So what about you guys? Are you guilty of living too much with your accelerator pressed to the floorboard? Do you struggle with knowing where and what to let go of? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of yourself and your writing and it’s making your “creative field” suffer?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

I will announce October’s winner next week.

I’m offering my First Five Pages Class November 14th 8-9:30. The first five pages of any novel are the most critical and I will teach you how to hook hard and early and also how to spot bigger problems in your novel.

I’m also offering my Antagonist Class. The antagonist is the beating heart of the story. If you can’t seem to finish a book or a book isn’t selling or is getting rejected, this class can help tremendously. There are also upgrades where I work with you one-on-one to repair or even create your plot.

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87 Comments

Hell Month and How Social Media Saved Me

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

When we write, life doesn’t stop. Things happen and bad things like to happen all at once, apparently. I’ve blogged faithfully for over five years, through death, sickness, and even when The Spawn knocked out all his front teeth and needed emergency surgery. Even when we found out my husband was being deployed to Afghanistan.

I enjoy blogging. I enjoy all of you. Talking to you, teaching you, and connecting with you. I know I kinda disappeared off the planet, so here’s the story (and I asked permission to tell it, btw).

October was a beating. We worked our tails off all August and September to put together WANACon (recordings available here, and it’s great stuff if you missed it). We thought, once we were finished? Ah, rest.

Yeah, about that.

Early October generally is hard for me anyway because it marks my Dad’s unexpected death (October 9th) and the death of my favorite aunt last year (October 4th). But those are just sad days, and I pushed through.

Then….

My nephew suffered a football injury. Crushed thumb (requiring surgery) and major concussion. Okay, I’m still good. Then, my AWESOME sister-in-law had to go in for laser surgery on both eyes to reattach her retinas (congenital issue). All right. Still going. Then I get a call my Nana is in the hospital, but stable. Okay. The next day? She passed away.

I wanted to go to Florida to attend her funeral, but something told me to stay home. The rest of the family was going to Florida and Sister-In-Law couldn’t travel. She was up and around, but something could still go wrong.

Boy did it EVER.

Last Sunday evening Sister-in-Law calls me bawling in pain. I’ve known this woman 14 years and have seen her cry three times. She couldn’t see anything but flashes and shadows. I didn’t sleep a wink and rushed over early the next morning to take her kids to school and her to the doctor, then another doctor, and another. Bad news.

She needed surgery again on both eyes; one surgery MAJOR, horrific and painful (for the curious, she needed a Vitrectomy on left eye and laser again on right eye on the same day). I call my family who is in Florida at the funeral and say, “Hey, it is what it is and it sucks, but Hubby and I have it handled.”

Monday night, no sleep because I’m all nerves about what my favorite person in the world is about to go through. Also, I had to keep her up to midnight (minimum) so she could eat and drink as much as possible because surgery wasn’t until the next afternoon and she was going to have to endure a looooong time with no food or fluids.

Tuesday afternoon, the surgeons worked on her eyes for THREE hours. She comes out of the anesthesia and the pain starts. Though it delayed our leaving, I asked the nurses to give her another round of hard-core IV pain medicine and sat…some more…clenching my teeth so hard I thought they might crack.

The 40 mile drive home was a nightmare. We, of course, hit rush hour traffic and are on the other side of the world from where she lives. Not only that, all I could think of this entire miserable ride home was some idiot texting and rear-ending us. That would be catastrophic. My mind just kept playing images of her getting hit in the face with airbags after surgeons just spent half a day reconstructing her eyes.

And, of course, on the way home, every yahoo with a truck bed full of crap HAD to pull in front of me. At one point, we were cruising along and a car broke down in our lane. I had to maneuver around between cars doing 70…with a nauseated patient in pain. By the time we get to the street where we need to pull off for her home? I thought I would have to pull over and puke from nerves.

So, I finally get her home and…her pain is skyrocketing. The med they gave at the day surgery center isn’t making a dent and she is crashing fast. I have to call in something stronger. It’s 5:30 PM and the country pharmacy closes at SIX. I zoom over and refuse to let them close until they fill her new med.

“I will SLEEP on THIS floor near the TUMS, THANK YOU! You going to leave me in here? O_o”

I rush back to her house and give her the new med, but it doesn’t seem to be working. KILL. ME. NOW.

Hubby races over with The Spawn and Pippa (my dog) in case Sister-In-Law needs to go to ER. Oh, but there’s a catch. Hubby is also watching over brother’s business while he’s at the funeral and needs to check on a job a few miles away….so he leaves. Also, we find out that one of our company trucks has been stolen.

Yay.

So I have The Spawn, a tiny dog who looks eerily like one of their big dog’s chew toys (they have two HORSES dogs that weigh almost 70 pounds a piece, and Pippa is 7 pounds). Also, the house has a steep set of stairs and now I have a toddler. The older boys aren’t home from football, I’m alone, and can’t locate a baby gate.

I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. But, I didn’t. I focused on other things. I set up Pandora in Sister-In-Law’s room to play soothing music and rubbed her back and her hair and brought her ice packs.

In the meantime, I’m scrambling between calling doctors, keeping The Spawn entertained, checking on Sister-in-Law and praying her pain gets under control because if it didn’t, we would be off to the ER. Hubby and older boys finally get home and Kim is out of the rough (sort of). Pain is awful but she’s no longer crying which crying is BAD when one has had eye surgery.

Original plan? I was supposed to take her the next morning for the surgeon to evaluate her eyes and let us know if the surgery was successful. I delegate this to Hubby because I wasn’t safe to drive. Of course, this meant I got to be night nurse after being up three days.

I can do this! *cues “Rocky” theme song* Eyyyeeee of the tiger….

Wait, bad song choice?

I had to go in Sister-In-Law’s room every thirty minutes and make sure she was lying on her right side (off the left eye that had the major repair). I also had to keep giving her pain meds and liquids and make her sit up, face-down, 15 minutes EVERY hour all night. This is to help the retinas heal.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

By morning, I was dead on my feet. I go upstairs to make sure Hubby is awake to take Sister-In-Law to the doctor and older nephew to school. On the way down the stairs? I miss a step.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, OUCH. Now I have a mildly sprained ankle and wrist and badly bruised arm and leg. Walk it off. No, I’m cool.

Hubby takes Sister-In-Law to the doctor and I finally get a little bit of sleep. When they return, surgeon is less than thrilled about the results (so please pray for her). I get drafted for night nurse again and THANK GOD for the WANAs and Facebook friends because they kept me awake chatting with me and keeping me encouraged.

I tried to sleep the next day, but with The Spawn and a set of stairs, that was NOT going to happen. Also, all three dogs insisted on sleeping with/on me or they barked and I was concerned they would keep Sister-In-Law awake, so I allowed it—all 150 pounds of snuggle-bunnies. At this point, Hubby has taken older boy to have the pins removed from his thumb and then is off to airport to retrieve my mom and brother.

My brother finally returns from out of town on Halloween, so I’m cleaning their house, packing and hand-making the younger son’s costume because Sister-In-Law can’t see to do it. The police call and tell us our work truck has been found. Yay…um no. Instead of going straight home, I follow Hubby to the location the truck has been found and we have to wait on a wrecker to come retrieve it lest the thieves return.

At 9:30 we stagger in and I have to cook dinner. Full belly. Home. Now sleep? One would think. I kept waking up every hour to check on Sister-In-Law and was very disturbed that I couldn’t find the bathrooms and when the hell did they get CATS?

Friday morning, I again tried to sleep, but everyone on the planet kept calling. I couldn’t turn off my phone because I had to be available in case something went wrong with Sister-In-Law or The Spawn’s school needed me (am also a TERRIBLE nap-taker, so probably wouldn’t have slept anyway). Finally, I gave up, cleaned house, did laundry, and made casseroles for the weekend. That night? Still kept waking up to be night nurse.

ARGH.

Saturday, Hubby and I collapse on the couch and watch movies. I was SO SURE I’d get sleep. Nope. I made the mistake of thinking about my unread e-mail and had my first panic attack…ever. Ten o’clock that night? Couldn’t breathe and heart rate shot through the roof so was awake doing yoga breathing and praying until 4:00 AM.

So last night? I KNOW THIS IS THE NIGHT. SLEEP! The Spawn is off to bed and I’m shutting off lights when I hear Spawn start yelling my name. I rush to his room…and he pukes all over me and the floor. And he has 100 degree fever. Hubby let me go to bed and took care of Spawn. Hubby gets to bed around 10:30 and sometime after that The Spawn crawled in bed with us and kicked me half the night, though I wasn’t waking up enough to realize he was with us. Hubby takes him back to bed and today he is home, still running fever.

Thus, if this blog makes no sense it’s because I’m down to five brain cells and three are currently on injured reserve. I am very grateful for the many kind people (many WANAs) who were there to pray, comfort me, and keep me together because I was seriously falling apart by last night. Even DC Lozeau wrote a super sweet piece about me that really perked me up.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Rachel Funk Heller lives in Hawaii and she was up IMing me to keep me awake through this so I could care for my loved one. Jay Donovan hijacked my blog to let y’all know I wasn’t dead. Lisa-Hall Wilson stepped in to guest post. Many of my Facebook followers who were nurses, IMed to walk me through what to do, how to care for Sister-In-Law, what to tell/ask the doctors, etc. I was able to keep a positive attitude and entertain all the kids and keep them upbeat and laughing.

We can’t control a lot in life, just our attitude :D.

I have THE BEST Sister-In-Law in the world. She is beautiful, kind, and just the best mom and wife in the world. It was an honor to be there for her. She’s just…there are no words to explain how wonderful she is.

People can say what they want about social media, but I could not have gotten through this without the love, help, encouragement and support of many people I have never met in person and I would name them but right now I am struggling with my OWN name. So, I might not be blogging the rest of the week. But if I go missing, please do NOT put my picture on milk cartons, ask for my picture to be placed on wine bottles because all my friends are writers :D.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a week, month, year that just beat the TAR out of you? Have you had social media friends who were your life-savers? I love hearing from you. I have missed you guys so much ((((HUGS)))).

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121 Comments

Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams

The "False Alarms" from the movie Labyrinth.

The “False Alarms” from the movie Labyrinth.

If you’re a writer, then you have a dream. You also have a lot of work ahead. I heard an interesting quote this morning from Joyce Meyers. There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. That hit home for me.

After having been around the block a few times, I can say I’ve met both types of writers. Some writers have all these ideas and generally a stack of unfinished work to show for it. They aren’t willing to dig in when it gets hard, when the “fair-weather friends” fall away. On the other side, we have those who write, but are afraid to dream. They’re terrified to dare ask if they could be great.

To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers. Starting is easy. There are a lot of people to cheer us on, but watch what happens when the heat turns up? Most fall away. To be successful, we must remain focused so we can remain standing at the end (often alone).

Win, lose, or draw, if we finish? We’ve still won.

WANA, Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, WANA International, how to be successful writer

Image via Marie Loughin WANA Commons

The Beauty of Finished “Failures”

Many of you who’ve followed my blog any length of time know I like to pick on my first novel. It’s now chained in the garage and keeps burglars away. I thought it was going to be an instant runaway success, and my largest concern?

Learning the craft? *giggles* You guys are funny.

Becoming a professional? *clutches sides*

No, my largest concern was how to handle all the agents that surely would be fighting over this “masterpiece.” Time, experience and failure gave me a solid pop on the snoot and a hard dose of reality.

Now, I could have cried that I failed and staggered back to the corporate job I loathed, but I didn’t. Call me an eternal optimist, but I took my lumps then searched for the success in the ashes of my greatest “failure.”

Sure, I’d written a book so bad it was banned by the Hague Convention as torture, but, for the first time in my life?

I FINISHED something. 

Yes, the book was an unfixable mess, but it was a big first step in an entirely new direction.

Warnings to Those Who Want to Be Finishers

When you lock on your dream, you must be centered in what you want and who you are. One of my favorite scenes from the movie Labyrinth is when Hoggle is guiding Sarah out of a jam (the oubliette) and they head down a passage with talking stone faces saying things like, You’re going the wrong way! Turn Back! Soon, it will be too late!

Hoggle tells Sarah to ignore them, that they are false alarms put there to scare people heading the right direction.

False Alarms Abound

We just finished the second WANACon and it was FABULOUS. Words cannot describe the experience. It is SO surreal to be in a class and having fun from home, in jammies while learning from top experts…in the company of other writers from all over the world. We had attendees from Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the entire continental US, all in the same virtual classroom.

I cannot tell you how many people told me a conference like WANACon was impossible. I’ve had people quit with no notice. I’ve had contractors take money and then disappear.

But by grace and support from the WANAs? I’m still here :D.

I can guarantee you that, every time I attempt to do anything BIG (teach a class, publish a book, host a worldwide digital conference), about two weeks before go-time? All hell breaks loose.

You’re going the wrong way!

You don’t know what you’re doing!

You’re going to FAIL!

Focus on the Goal

Those voices (or e-mails or blog comments) will always be there. Often people are projecting their own fears or insecurities on to us, and that’s normal. We’re wise to give others permission to be afraid without personalizing it. If I handed you a plate of rotting meat to ingest, you DO have the option of saying, “No, thanks.”

Know who you are and what you want and focus on that. Focus on the people who still believe in you (because we CANNOT be successful alone—*waves to Jay Donovan, Jamie Gold, all the WANA volunteers and the wonderful speakers and attendees*).

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 6.12.56 AM

Be Accountable, Not a Doormat

Criticism will always come to those attempting anything remarkable. In fact, the only way to completely avoid criticism is to never attempt anything interesting. Criticism isn’t always bad. It can help us grow and learn where we need to come up higher. Often, those who criticize aren’t very skilled at it, so don’t expect it to come with a bouquet of flowers.

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

But, we do need to sift through the hurtful stuff for the gold. People want answers, not excuses. It is perfectly okay to not know everything. And, guess what? It’s okay to be learning, to not be perfect.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “Thanks for the feedback and I will make sure to work on this.” If you can do something to fix or help fix the problem, go ahead, but sometimes? It’s too late, and all that is left to say is, “I’m learning. I will do better next time. Thanks for pointing out la la la.”

Doormats and Drama Queens Rarely Succeed

We have to remain grounded in where we’re going and what we want. There will ALWAYS be people to point out where we fall short, because criticism is easy. Acknowledge it, work on it, but remind yourself that there are areas you DO shine.

Doormats take everything to heart and, as a result, just lay there and collect dirt. We DO need to take action when possible, even if that action is as simple as vowing to do better the next time.

Be proactive, not reactive. Drama Queens are reactive. They plunge ahead with rash emotional decisions (often to their own demise). Take time to calm down, then press forward. No decision is better than bad emotional decisions.

Dreams, Like Pregnancy, Require LABOR and THEN Birth

Men? You’ll just have to use your imagination here. I can attest that when I first got pregnant, it was awesome. I glowed. I got to have fun shopping for all kinds of cutesy baby things. By month TEN?

KILL…ME…NOW.

The Spawn had to be evicted, even though he’d already ordered his Ikea futon and digital streaming cable. He liked the Mexican food he regularly ordered being delivered instantly and had no intentions of changing the plan.

Mommy?

Mommy was DYING. I couldn’t sit, or sleep or think (I could only run to pee every three minutes). I hurt everywhere and I didn’t care what they had to do if I could just get THAT STUBBORN BABY out into the world.

And it would have been great if they’d invented a Newborn Transporter System, but they HADN’T. So I had 98 hours of induced LABOR. By the time Spawn came into this world, I looked like I’d gone a round or two with Mike Tyson.

The Spawn after "eviction."

The Spawn after “eviction.”

But it was ALL worth it. Once you have that baby (or dream), it’s funny how soon you forget the pain. You forget the fear, the doubt, the thoughts of Okay, exactly HOW is that baby going to get from IN HERE to OUT THERE?

But, remember, babies aren’t born Day Three. We get nine or even ten months to adjust and take on more struggles (like not being able to see your feet). Same with a book or even an on-line writing conference. Take it a step at a time. Breathe. Focus on the “baby” and do your part.

Ahhhh, what pain?

Ahhhh, what pain?

In the end? You get no sleep and to change diapers revisions and all the tough steps to publication. But if you press, you gain the joy of holding that dream in your hand and knowing you toughed it out.

No one can take that away.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a hard time finishing? Do you fall prey to self-doubt? Outside criticism? Do you have to watch letting outsiders discourage you? Did you finally hold your finished book in your hand and forget all the trauma?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Announcements: There are a handful of people waiting on their 5-Page revisions. My goal is to have those finished by tomorrow. Between a stomach flu and WANACon, I am running behind and I didn’t have enough brain power to do your pages justice. I’d rather be a little late than return junk. I want to give your work 1000%. I am also FRIED from working all weekend, so I will announce September’s contest winner on WEDNESDAY. Yes, Kristen IS human.

 

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95 Comments

Want to Be Successful? Beware of End-of-the-Rainbow Thinking

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jeremy Schultz

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jeremy Schultz

Our culture has been infected with a disease of distortion, what I’m calling “End-of-the-Rainbow-Thinking.” We can all be guilty of this. We see the mega-best-selling-indie, the New York Times best-selling author, the successful small business, the guy with the big house or the family who lives debt-free and we scope-lock on the end result as if this “success” POOF! erupted from the ether.

Reality television superstars, fluke mega-advances for first-time authors, and lottery-winners only reinforce this Get-Successful-Quick-With-No-Effort-On-Our-Part mindset.

The Kardashian Konundrum

A couple days ago, I was checking out at the grocery store and there is an entire issue of a magazine devoted to Kim Kardashian. Why? What has she contributed other than fodder for the gossip mill? Yet, these are the role models that, whether we like it or not, can infect how we view ourselves, our goals and what we seek to accomplish.

We must be mindful to separate junk food “entertainment” from reality.

America in particular has transformed from a culture that once valued hard work and apprenticeship, to one that elevates the ego, the individual, the “self-made”. Yet, serendipity aside, those who’ve experienced authentic success didn’t uncover some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

They worked and they worked hard. They worked harder, failed and learned to work smarter.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Value the Apprenticeship

Before the Industrial Revolution, skilled labor was very different and had been for centuries. One began studying as an Apprentice under a Master, then, upon reaching a certain benchmark, graduated to Journeyman. After years of skilled practice, a Journeyman might eventually reach the level of Master.

These days, we all have this mistaken notion that we are natural “Masters” on Day One. I can’t speak for any of you, but I know I was this way. I didn’t need craft classes *snort*. I knew how to write a novel. I made all As in English, duh. My biggest concern with my first novel was all the agents who would be fighting over it.

You can laugh at me. I do.

Mastery Myopia

But why I want to bring this up is that, if we believe we should be Masters from the get-go, we risk being less open to feedback, and even potential mentors. Growth is stifled and our gift suffers. We can get discouraged when we haven’t reached a certain benchmark because we are completely unaware that the benchmark was utterly unrealistic to begin with.

For instance, I opened WANA International a year and a half ago. I was a baby CEO. I had people on my team who up and quit because, after six weeks of being “open” we weren’t bazillionaires taking the world by storm. If I hadn’t had my tail end handed to me on a platter by my experiences as a writer, I would have probably bailed, too.

Setbacks are normal. Stalling is normal. Failure is a good thing.

Failure keeps us humble and often opens up better or more efficient ways of doing things. Humility and a realistic perspective liberates us to ask for help, to be open to being teachable. Failures emancipate us from the responsibility of having to “know everything.”

It’s Okay to Be Growing

A year-and-a-half later? I am still growing. I am no longer a Baby CEO. I’m a Toddler CEO well on my way to being fully potty-trained :D. But last week, I was being particularly hard on myself and I stopped. WHY? I’m still relatively NEW.

This isn’t permission to be lax, foolish, lazy, but it is permission to remember I’m learning. I’m learning by doing and sometimes FAILING. I’m reading stacks of business books penned by those who did this “business thing” better (books that make me want to hurl myself into traffic, btw).

When we aren’t grounded in the reality of what it takes to be successful, we’re vulnerable to barbs from the outside world, because, remember…many of them have fantastical thinking, too.

How many people have you met who have a “great idea” for a super-duper-successful story? They believe the only thing separating them from JK Rowling is writing a book. Many outsiders have a similar belief that command of our native tongue naturally qualifies us to be rockstar best-selling authors.

It’s one of the largest causes for the push-back we experience as authors. If our first time to bat book isn’t a home-run runaway best-seller then we’re “failures.”

Again, End-of-the-Rainbow-Thinking.

The Callouses Behind the Curtain

Most of the world sees only the “finished project” or the “outcome of a dream.” It’s the Ooooooh, ahhhhhhh sparkly stuff they see.

What they DON’T see are all the small steps, calloused hands, and hardened resolve led to that place. They aren’t conscious that any success (financial, personal, professional) is merely the final product, a cumulation of tiny “right decisions” and a series of tough lessons from “wrong decisions.”

They see the beautiful “house” not rebar, concrete, pipes, sheetrock, bricks, nails, blood, and smashed thumbs.

People don’t see when we choose to write instead of going to the mall. They don’t see us up until two in the morning to make a deadline even when we KNOW the toddler will be awake in four hours. They don’t see the rejections, the missteps, the @$$chewings because we made a bad choice. Outsiders don’t see the tens of thousands of words cut away, unusable, the hours and creative blood they represent.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Outsiders don’t see the sacrifice and they won’t appreciate the sacrifice because they weren’t willing to sacrifice, themselves. If they’ve never been through the fire, how can they see it or even value it?

In a world of $100,000 millionaires and instant-credit, the outside world has forgotten. And we can’t control how they think, but we can control how WE think. Every time you choose to write instead of watching TV, count it a victory. Every time you write when you don’t feel like it or research something that is tedious but important, VICTORY!

Every time you stick to the novel you are revising instead of flittering off to a newer “shinier” idea? You’re one step closer to being the professional you’re destined to become. So, lighten up.

Allow room to grow, to fail, to get up and work harder and smarter. You’ll get there. Likely the world will hail you an “instant success” and then you can wink my way because we know better ;).

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced push-back because you weren’t an instant Stephen King or JK Rowling? Are friends and family some of your toughest adversaries? Are you your worst critic? Do you need to learn to give yourself grace? Hey, I did and still do.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

WANACon now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. Just a note: A LOT of major authors sacrificed time for no or little pay to pay it forward and offer an affordable and easily accessible conference for those who need one and WANA is extremely grateful to have them.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

For those who are total newbies, I am running a Writer’s Guide to Social Media Class TONIGHT for $39 5-7 EST (NYC time). Use WANA15 for 15% off. We will cover the major platforms, what they do, and which ones might be right for you and your brand.

I am also holding ACHOO!! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral 5-6:30 EST (NYC time). This class is $49 and, again, use WANA15 for 15% off. Not all content is created equal. This class helps you understand how to understand how search engines work, how to gain favor, and how to create content that will give you traction. Feel like you are blogging to the ether? This class can help.

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Nothing Says “I’ll Love You Forever” Like a Dead-Mother-In-Law Diamond

momring

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stephen Durham

Things have been C-R-A-Z-Y lately with WANACon coming up (COOL OFFER AT THE END OF POST), Toddler-Stomach-Bug-of-Satan and just all the work that’s involved in global domination with little more at my disposal than duct tape, glitter and stolen swizzle sticks.

When I get tired, I get weird…okay weird-ER. Need to lighten things up. And nothing lightens the mood like death :D.

My family is pretty strange when it comes to the subject of “death.” And not like anyone is, per se, “normal” about death, but my family takes weird clean OFF “The Munster Family Scale” and lands us somewhere into the domain of a cross between Rob Zombie and Monty Python.

“The Zombie-Python Scale”?

Likely, this laissez faire attitude stems from a number of primary causes (beyond the obvious answer “mental illness”). One? Occupational. Mom was a nurse and came from a medical/military family. Dad? All soldiers and farmers.

Yeah, talk about gallows humor.

The second factor? Genetic. I come from Vikings, and science has proven (okay “proven”) there is a genome embedded in our DNA that demands that, upon expiration, our bodies must be placed on a wooden ship in the middle of an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet, then piled in gold, pushed out on the water and set on fire.

Fire, fire, heh heh. Heh heh. Fire.

Heh.

Sadly, I have yet to find a local government official who will grant me a permit to be set afloat in my cousin Randy’s bass boat into Benbrook Lake then shot with leftover fireworks. Just kidding. Not about the permit, but the leftover fireworks part.

We’re TEXANS and there NO SUCH THING as “leftover fireworks.”

Anyway, when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher died, which really sucked, not just because my teacher died, but that it was the WRONG teacher. MY teacher, Mrs. Emmet, was awesome. The Demonic Embodiment of Science Education I had to spend an hour a day with, however, DID NOT die. I think it was because she was feasting slowly on the souls of fifth-grade children…

…and the guinea pigs near her desk that kept dying under strange circumstances (which were never fully investigated).

No, Demon Teacher lived, and is probably still alive today because she likely possesses a painting that ages in her stead. AWESOME Teacher is the one who had the heart attack (and DEMON Teacher looked strangely younger the next day).

But I digress…

The school, being confused and benevolent, brought in a grief counselor. Though, looking back, I think the grief counselor was the same dude wielding a leaf-blower earlier that school year. Grief Counselor told us to go home and discuss the subject of death with our parents then write a paper.

Great idea.

THANKS. Thank you for scarring me even further for LIFE.

So, I go home and ask my mom how she wants us to handle her passing on. Her answer? Taxidermy. She wanted to be made into something useful, like a lamp. She was even gracious enough to allow my brother and I to share her. I could take Creepy-Mom-Lamp for six months and brother could have her the other six months.

Yeah, right on that, Mom.

My Dad? He wanted to be cremated then his ashes strapped to a rocket and spread in space, an idea which everyone thought was sheer lunacy until Gene Roddenberry made it “cool.”

And I imagine the only reason CPS wasn’t called when I turned in my paper was because it WAS the 1980s. This was back in a time when it was permissible to banish your kids who wouldn’t stop running through KMart to go sit in a 110-degree station wagon and fight over a single Slurp-ee.

Fast-forward to 1999 and my father passes away. Since NASA and I weren’t exactly close and their security people already knew what I looked like, the rocket idea was out of the question. This meant Dad’s ashes went on a high shelf in my closet until I could make another plan. Then one day, years later, I’m all cleaning out my closet.

WTH is that blue box? I don’t remember putting that….*reaches and box falls*

OH HOLY HELL!

Yes, it was my father. In…my…shoes.

You CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, PEOPLE!

I had to vacuum up my father, and he’s now laid to rest with cremated flip-slops, cat fur, dust bunnies one of my favorite earrings, and I hope that makes him happy after being a smart@$$ about that “being blown up in space” crap.

And it is now 2013 and Mom is still intent on the whole “taxidermy” idea, though I’ve informed her that I’m going to have her stuffed in the squatting position so she can water my front garden. Strangely, that threat hasn’t bothered her enough to deviate from Taxidermy Funeral Course.

I’m happy I’ve broken the Cycle of Weird, though. My husband is Clean-Cut-Boy-Scout-Air-Force-Military and he wants to be buried in a graveyard with a tombstone where we can go talk to him and bring flowers and chocolate offerings like NORMAL PEOPLE.

Me? I want to be cremated and made into a diamond so my son has a ready-made engagement ring for his beloved. How could a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law be ANY closer? THAT is family (and being frugal—Hey, “waste not, want, not”). It’s also a great excuse to gain some extra weight. A skinny dead mother-in-law is good for little more than a tacky nose ring, which might impress some young Waffle House waitress from the trailer park, but not a gal suitable for MY boy.

But a mom-in-law with some MEAT? I might make a nice 2 carat solitaire. Not large enough to catch a Kardashian gold-digger, but big enough to impress a young lady with more than a G.E.D.

So, yes, I want to be made into a diamond (princess cut, of course), but NOT before my consciousness is uploaded into a microchip and implanted in Hubby’s head…so I can keep annoying him for eternity.

You know, *rolls eyes* NORMAL :D.

Okay, yes maybe I’ve gone off the reservation with this post (not the first or last time), but the whole “made into a gemstone” idea seems better than taking up space in a grave…that is later claimed by imminent domain and then the city builds something super-depressing over you like a Baby Gap.

***This is why all Baby Gaps are haunted, btw. It’s “science.” Don’t argue***

Then there is the made into a tree thing, which is a close second choice, but in Texas? With OUR weather? That’s just DELAYED CREMATION.

What are your thoughts? Well, maybe you don’t want to share those, unless you have some cooler ideas. Not “cooler” ideas, though cryogenics holds promise *rubs chin contemplatively*.

And I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

COOL ANNOUNCEMENT #1:

First, I am offering an opportunity for you to get a FREE WANACon. We have 26 presentations with some of the best of the best, but we need a little help. We need volunteers (specifically for Friday) to help us shepherd speakers. We teach you how to use our virtual classroom. It’s so easy, I can do it.

All you have to do is make sure your assigned presenters log-in, introduce them, enjoy the session, keep the party to a low roar, then kick everyone out so we can reset the recording and the digital room. This is a first-come-first-serve offer and you must shepherd a minimum of two presenters to get the conference.

And yes, you get access to the recordings.

The reason I am doing this is that if we have happy presenters, we get MORE presenters and HIGH-QUALITY presenters and can keep the costs low. Please e-mail Jami Gold at jami at wana intl dot com if you want to volunteer.

COOL ANNOUNCEMENT #2:

For those still unsure how a virtual conference runs, we’re holding some free digital Open House Parties.

September 19th at 8-10PM Eastern Standard Time (AU/NZ compatible)

September 26th at 11AM-1PM  Eastern Standard Time (Europe compatible)

Go to the WANA International Open House Page.

On the right sidebar select “Conference Hall A”

Enter your name & password: “openhouse”

HAVE FUN!

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73 Comments

Get What You Want Part 2—The Power of TNT

Original image via Wikimedia Commons.

Original image via Wikimedia Commons.

Back when I was in sales, we had a saying, Fail to plan and plan to fail. I have a lot of people ask how I manage to get so much done, and much of it boils down to planning and TNT. We can’t use TNT if we don’t plan.

What is TNT?

Aside from the explosive stuff Wile E. Coyote employed in his many unsuccessful attempts to snag a roadrunner, TNT is Today NOT Tomorrow (a great acronym I learned in Peg Pickering’s book, The Art of Getting It Done).

The world will never reward us for what we intended to do.

In Part One, we explored the notion of being busy versus fruitful. I also shared a neat, yet scary bit of math. We can miss out on a lot of great stuff because of five minutes wasted. Just wasting 5 minutes, 12 times a day adds up to over 340 hours in a year (over TWO WEEKS or 31.6 eight-hour work days).

Why Plan?

Planning helps us maintain focus. I can tell when I have failed to plan and make lists. For instance, I had a WAY off day yesterday. Many of you might have noticed this because it’s the first time I have failed to post a blog in four years. Anyway, I went the store (no list) and forgot the three main things I went for, yet managed to buy $100 worth of stuff. Yes, I needed the “stuff” but I REALLY needed new dishwashing gloves, dog food and envelopes.

Also, since I didn’t make a list, I forgot to bring the two things I needed to MAIL (ergo why I needed envelopes), which would have been simple to mail since the post office was on the way HOME.

Now, I have to go BACK to the store to get the envelopes and go to the post office. This is easily 45 minutes I blew because I didn’t take FIVE minutes to make a list.

Planning can feel very counterintuitive. We feel like we are wasting time sitting down and making lists and agendas. Yet, a little bit of preparation can give a major return on investment.

Your Time is Valuable: How Are You Spending It?

Time-effectiveness studies conducted by DuPont demonstrated that, for every one minute spent planning, the time required to complete an activity is reduced by 3-4 minutes. Spend 10 minutes, reduce completion time by 30-40 minutes. Spend an hour, reduce by 3-4 HOURS….When properly used, 15 minutes of planning can effectively control your time for an entire day (The Art of Getting it Done, pg 64).

Planning Prepares TNT

Ever had a day where you know you did a lot, yet you were miserable because you felt like nothing was truly accomplished? Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. We will fold laundry or tidy the fruit bowl instead of tackling the hard stuff, the stuff that scares us.

The ugly stuff usually:

Involves doing something out of our comfort zone.

Doing something out of our natural skill set.

Tackling something overwhelming in size.

Yet, the ugly stuff is also what gives us the best returns. These are what Brian Tracey calls FROGS, and they must be eaten FIRST. Unless you’re from the bayous of Louisiana, the idea of eating a frog makes us cringe…so we put it off….and off…and we will do it Monday or start next month.

BITE ME!

BITE ME!

Uneaten Frogs Cause Depression, Anxiety and Procrastination

Whenever I start feeling “depressed” I stop myself. Am I really “depressed’ or am I overwhelmed? What frogs are bouncing around out there that need to be eaten? What is scaring me? Uneaten frogs hop around in our heads and distract us. They keep us from sleeping well.

My FROGS this week? Final planning for WANACon, taxes (UGH), finalizing a paper version of Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

I am a relatively new entrepreneur. WANACon is a revolutionary conference that brings all the best of a writing conference to YOUR HOME for a fraction of the cost (only $119 if you sign up before the 15th). Real, live interaction with top-tier professionals, NYTBSAs, editors, Amazon, etc.

But we have to train speakers to use the technology, recruit shepherds/moderators, and create forms to systematize our processes (NOT my area of strength).

I am new to self-publishing (part of why I recruited Amazon to present at WANACon). I’m slow because I don’t understand as much as I need to. I’m used to being fast, confident and in control. Now? I feel like a moron (but I’m learning).

Taxes scare me. I once had a panic attack on the phone with a lady from the IRS who practically had to talk me off a ledge, and they owed ME money.

Frogs Require TNT

When we plan, we need to be honest. Write down the BIG stuff, the stuff that scares you. Then employ TNT, Today Not Tomorrow. Some frogs are bigger, grosser and uglier and maybe they can’t all be eaten in one day. Break it up, then blast each part with TNT.

As an example, I was injured in college and couldn’t work for a time. I had to use credit cards to live. Debt piled up. How did I eat THAT Frog of Debt? I listed all the credit cards and payed the minimums on all except the smallest. I focused all my efforts paying off the card with the lowest amount. I worked from smallest to largest, eventually paying them all off.

Did the same with the medical bills. No, I couldn’t pay off the $3,500 ER bill, but I could pay $30 towards it. I could then pay OFF the $68 x-ray tech fee and work my way up until even the big stuff was eaten.

Why smallest to largest? Because we need to feel accomplishment or we get discouraged. Small victories add up, and give us energy and confidence. Make planning and TNT-Frog-Eating a habit? You’ll be shocked how much you will get accomplished.

What are your thoughts? Are you discouraged? Overwhelmed? Have you struggled and found a system that helped you slay your frogs?

I love hearing from you!

Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION TOMORROWUse the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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