Archive for category The Writer’s Life

Writer Victory!—Change Your Mind

Image courtesy of Laura Hadden via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Laura Hadden via Flickr Creative Commons.

We’ve been working on an Author Acrostic for Victory. V for voluntarily submit. I for identify problem areas and defectsToday we are at C for change your mind. Most of us know where we need to try harder, come up higher. Yet, sometimes the simplest things to do are the hardest.

I lived my 20s like a Mountain Dew commercial. I taught Ju-Jitsu during the week and then camped, hiked, kayaked, and mountain biked on the weekends. I was the only girl on an all-male college Roller Hockey Team. If it was guaranteed to be dangerous and stupid? Sign me UP!

I’d grown up with two parents terrified of making decisions. Terrified to try and fail. In making no decisions they still made a decision. I fell into that same pattern as an adult, but thankfully was able to see that bad habit. I pushed myself to do what scared me.

Learning to Fly

I’d always wanted to go skydiving. In 1996, my boyfriend dumped me and I figured, “Why not?”

Skydiving is an interesting sport. There are only two categories—Grand Champion and Stuff On a Rock. The first time I jumped, I chose to go tandem because I wanted to do the jump from 16,000 feet without focusing on an altimeter or pulling a chute. I yearned for the free fall.

Be careful what you wish for ;).

So I get in the plane and all the sudden I’m buckled in and the plane is taking off. OMG. WHAT AM I DOING? And I had a good half hour to contemplate being Stuff On a Rock. I, of course, was not the first person to jump. I sat and watched with ever-ratcheting terror as seasoned divers did backflips and cannon balls out the small airplane’s door.

Finally….my turn. Though it was the middle of a typically scorching Texas summer, the air up that high is freezing. Also, the world disappears. You’re too high to make out anything other than a patchwork below.

My instructor says to me. “All right. We are going now. Remember. Let go. Trust me, and kick your butt.”

“Kick my BUTT?”

“If you don’t kick your butt we will lose control and can die.”

AAAAGHHHHHH!

Mentally and analytically, I knew what he meant. If I spread my legs instead of tightening into a ball, then we wouldn’t be aerodynamic. In my gut, all I heard was AAAAGHHHHHH!

Trust me, when you jump out of a perfectly good airplane, the first step is the hardest, but man there is nothing to compare to the ride down. Free-falling over a minute, facing death, facing mortality and then POOF! the shoot opens and it is like the very hand of God just gently scoops you up to enjoy that last part of the journey you were so terrified to take only minutes before.

Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.

We glided down, the air becoming steadily warmer on my face. I laughed with abandon I hadn’t felt since I was a little kid. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life because I had the courage to fall.

I knew I had a control issue. I had a problem letting go. I had problems simply DECIDING. Still do.

But what a great lesson this can be for all of us. Let go. Trust. Kick your own butt.

We have all this training about success, and that’s great. I blog about it, too. But, we can’t become good at success until we get really good at failure. When we step out and dare to dream, to write a book or query or blog or freelance or do anything remarkable, we have to LET GO. We can’t have the glorious experience if others can’t scrape us off the door.

Let go of one thing for a possibly BETTER thing.

It’s okay to be afraid, but become good at letting go. Let go of ego and doubt and fear. Let go of toxic relationships. Risk being metaphorical Stuff On a Rock. Thus, today I hope to strip away your illusions. You will make far more wrong decisions than right ones. So will I! Own it.

We learn to make good decisions by making bad ones and learning and then living to tell the tale. And sure I want to motivate you. Let go. We can’t control everything and often the best experiences come with raw abandon. Um, falling in love?

But the other side of that is KICK YOUR OWN BUTT. You can’t make me write and I can’t make you write. I have to kick my own butt to finish what I start. To recognize when I’ve let things slip. Give permission for mistakes, but then Writer UP.

We have to decide to change and KICK OUR OWN BUTT. Don’t analyze problems and patty-cake with them and talk about them. Just do the hard stuff. Recognize the problem, make a plan then act. If that plan doesn’t work, revise and do it differently. Fail spectacularly.

Yes, when I jumped out of that plane, maybe my chute wouldn’t have opened and I would have ended up a SPLAT on some poor cattle rancher’s property. But what a way to go :D. And I’m not pushing anyone to be reckless, but be fearless.

Live a life worth dying for.

What are your thoughts? Do you have things you know you need to change but you simply aren’t stepping out? I know I am guilty. Are you afraid? Afraid of failure? Are you learning to embrace your failures as learning experiences? Are you balancing grace with some kicking your own butt?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

If you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

ALSO, Remember WANA has a KILLER Class on Dialogue Coming Up:

Need More Help With Dialogue?

Check out my book How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide. In it you’ll learn how to format your dialogue, how to add variety to your dialogue so it’s not always “on the nose,” when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t, how to convey information through dialogue without falling prey to As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome, how to write dialogue unique to each of your characters, how to add tension to your dialogue, whether it’s ever okay to start a chapter with dialogue, ways to handle contractions (or the lack thereof) in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, and much more!

If you prefer live teaching, I’m running a webinar called Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine this Saturday, May 17th.

This 1.5 hour live webinar will…

* cover the seven most common mistakes when it comes to dialogue and how to fix them,
* explain how to ensure your dialogue makes your story stronger,
* show you how to create dialogue unique to your characters, and
* answer some of the most frustrating questions about dialogue such as how to handle dialect, should we use contractions in historical novels, science fiction, and fantasy, and is it okay to begin a book with dialogue.

As a bonus, all registrants receive an ebook copy of my book How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide.

The webinar will be recorded and made available to registrants, so even if you can’t make it at the scheduled time, you can sign up and listen later at your convenience.

Click here to sign up for Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine.

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51 Comments

Writer Victory!—Identify Problem Areas

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Last post we talked about the first letter in our acrostic for VICTORY—voluntarily submit. I feel those of us in Western societies have a hard time with the word submit because we’ve redefined the word in a negative way. If we submit, we’re weak. Untrue! There is tremendous power in the act of submitting.

When we submit, we’re able to let go of what we can’t control. We’re more maneuverable when we encounter resistance, setbacks or criticism. Instead of breaking, we can bend and move and use negative energy in our favor.

Nature clearly demonstrates the strength and resilience submission offers. This is why palm trees thrive in coastal areas hit by hurricanes. They bend in high winds and submit. When the storm passes, they spring back.

Here in North Texas we have a lot of Live Oaks. Though oaks are tough trees, if one looks closer and studies the branches of Texas oaks, you’d see they aren’t straight. The branches curve and twist in a spiral. The bark itself has winding grooves ideal for diffusing the force of high winds from fierce storms.   

And this is why they can take the beating of Texas weather.

Running Toward the Fight

Today, I’d like to talk about I, which is for Identify Problem Areas. We can’t change what we don’t see or refuse to see. Now, most of us could all write a long list of where we fall short. This isn’t to make anyone feel badly. But, when we’re honest about areas we need to change, we can make a plan.

Camping on top of our problems isn’t the mark of a pro. It’s the self-indulgent Soma of the amateur.

Examine Our Motivations

Writing has been such a painful and personal journey for me that has gone far beyond craft of writing books. When I began writing, I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I was a people-pleaser. I was insecure and had something to prove. I was selfish, angry, jealous, unteachable, hyper-critical of myself and others and undisciplined. I blamed others instead of taking responsibility.

Oh, if my family would just be more supportive THEN…

That’s crap.

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As long as my locus of control was external, I could relinquish my responsibilities. So long as it was my family who interrupted my writing, others who didn’t take me seriously, that I didn’t have a new computer or a private office in a condo with a view of the ocean, I had excuses to remain stuck. Well, I’d have made word count had Such-and-Such not interrupted me.

Writing is a unique profession. We don’t clock in and clock out. No Author Straw Boss will punish us for not writing. We don’t get stars on the fridge for working. Our craft is subjective so we can dismiss even valid criticisms and remain self-deluded if we choose.

Who Will Remain?

Many writers won’t make it long-term, and, sadly, this has nothing to do with talent or lack thereof. An author friend of mine and I were recently talking about how many writers and bloggers held such promise yet have vanished.

Five years later, they’re gone and we’re still here.

When I go to a conference I know most won’t make it. It reminds me of a scene from the movie G.I. Jane. The troops are lined up and shown a bell. They can leave at any time, just ring the bell and a soft bed, warm meal and rest is at the other end.

Image via www.freerepublic.com

Image via Free Republic.

Who will ring the bell? Will it be you? Look to your left. Look to your right. Most of you won’t be here by the end. Who will ring out first?

My husband was in Special Operations. He can attest that often the strongest, boldest and loudest are the first to go. Training is far more mental than physical. It’s about strength of will, courage, and relentless pursuit that defies logic. Passion that defies reason.

The Crucible

Want to see who a person really is? Who you really are? Turn up the heat.

Writers who want to succeed welcome the fire. In the beginning, I didn’t welcome the fire. I avoided, defected, blamed and whined…and didn’t have anything but a pile of flimsy excuses and half-finished projects to show for all my exertions.

Making excuses can be exhausting.

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

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

I knew I was a mess. I learned to appreciate that I couldn’t tackle all my defects at one time. My first step? Finish something. My first novel is a disaster…but for the first time in my life, I FINISHED.

Blogging was tremendously helpful for me. I learned to meet self-imposed deadlines even when no one other than Cheap Xanax dot com cared about my posts. I learned to ship. It trained the perfectionism and laziness out of me.

Then, instead of hiding in the comfort of my writing group where I was the strongest writer among a bunch of other unpublished authors, I sought out conferences and groups with pros. Boy, that humbled me up with a quickness. I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.

I was hiding behind “Aspiring Author” waiting for the world to take me seriously when even I didn’t take myself seriously. I hid behind a cutesy moniker texaswriterchik. I wrote when I “felt inspired.” Every new idea that flitted across my gray matter was an excuse to drop my WIP and pursue a new shiny.

Oh, well no I’m not working on THAT book. It wasn’t “right” for me.

Claiming the profession is inviting the heat. Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. It takes guts to be a writer. Many of you know I prefer the term pre-published author. Why? We’re owning it. We are welcoming the crucible. Writers write. Those who want to do this for a career know there are a lot of un-fun activities that go with the job.

We work when others play. If we have a day job, we have to stay up later or get up earlier. We don’t find time, we make time.

When we are flailing and faltering, instead of whining, we must stop and ask the hard question.

What Am I Afraid Of?

Am I afraid of failure? I never finish anything because then I can’t truly fail. Am I afraid of success? If my book is a hit, can I write another one? A better one? Will I outshine Dad, Mom, Aunt Penelope?

Am I afraid I really don’t have any talent? I keep switching projects, genres, ideas because deep down I fear that I’m a hack?

I’d like to offer a quote from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death (page 39).

Keep Asking

Thing about life is it can be a game of Character Whack-A-Mole. Just about the time we get the self-discipline thing down, perfectionism pops up. Then we whack that sucker only to see we’re getting sucked into too much family drama and using that as an excuse. Whack! Then we pop that sucker on the snoot and something else pops up.

It’s life.

This is why we began this series with voluntarily submit. Writing and life is a process. It is never static. Our job is to maintain vigilance and be honest even when it hurts. The quicker we can come to that point of painful truth, the quicker we can shut down self-doubt, criticism, or fear. We can be proactive and root it out before it spreads.

I believe in you, so there is at least on person on your side. I don’t dish out anything I don’t eat first.

We’ve had a HELL of a year. Four deaths in ten months. Sickness, problems, family issues. I became deeply distraught and sidetracked until I realized I was allowing myself to become too caught up in things I COULD NOT control as an excuse for avoiding what I could.

So don’t feel badly. This is life. Focus on your love and passion, but also be fearless with yourself. We all procrastinate, make excuses, hide, or deflect. We are human. A pro takes problems seriously, the amateur takes them personally.

Dust off, wipe away the blood and get back to it. This is why we will remain when others fall away. Refuse to ring that bell and keep pressing!

What are your thoughts? Has writing helped you grow as a person? Do you run into problems and then realize it’s really something you FEAR? Do you face self-doubt? I do too if it makes you feel better :D.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

April’s WINNER is Patricia Woods. Please send your 20 pages (5000 word WORD document), query letter (250-300 word Word document) OR synopsis (Up to 1000 word WORD document) to kristen at wana intl.com. Congratulations!

If you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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72 Comments

Being an Author Parent & Guiding Your Child in the Art of Dragon Care & Zombie-Hunting

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First of all, THANK YOU for the outpouring of support, stories and help. Please continue to comment on my post Common Core and Vegan Zombies if you want. I read all comments. I might not respond to everyone because, if people have signed up to follow any further comments, I could blow up their e-mails.

This said, the “Dreaded Parent-Teacher Meeting” went rather well. For the record, this private preschool has been wonderful. We love the teachers and they love The Spawn. I know they are doing these “evaluations” because they get directives from the Borg public schools. Blech.

The Meeting

My husband went with me (so someone would have hold of my leash). We offered insight into our unorthodox home life and explained that The Spawn has two introversive parents both working in non-structured creative fields.

And he is FOUR.

We (Dad and Mom) were also run through the meat-grinder of public education and punished for being different. I was stuck in the hall and repeated every grade from 6th on because of The Almighty Standardized Tests, and Hubby figured out how to game the tests without actually learning anything, LOL.

So yesterday, I received a copy of The Spawn’s “report card.” BEST BAD REPORT CARD EVER!!!

Can the child tell you his or her name?

Spawn: Zombie Robot.

Does the child seek approval and acceptance from friends and peers?

NO.

Um, so codependency is a good thing?

Where Did The Spawn Make A’s

Separates easily from parent.

WIN!

Assembles puzzles.

WIN!

Uses good habits while eating and cleans up afterwards.

WIN!

The rest? Eh.

Most of the stuff he is being “graded” on is how well he integrates into groupthink like “Plays Mom and Dad.” Okay, I’m a writer and Daddy shoots competitively. He blows the curve on this for weirdness.

Um, Spawn knows his mother is a cyborg (and is rather excited about that).

RiseoftheMachines_KristenLamb_FullCover_Final

“Would rather play alone than with other children.” Helloooo? I’d rather be by myself, too and so would Dad. We’re creative INTROVERTS. We even mentioned to the teachers that, if we (the parents) were judged by the same litmus, we’d likely score about the same. We felt the test was biased against introverts.

The teacher and admin then claimed that Spawn had no problem playing with others and could be gregarious, but that he didn’t like group activities. I replied that just because he’s an introvert doesn’t mean he’s shy. I suggested that he’s needing downtime away from the others and it’s less defiance and more needing to recharge. Oddly, the teacher and administrator paused thoughtfully then said, “Actually, that’s a valid point.”

I wish we could educate the world that Introvert is not the same as SHY.

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Other “standards.”

Sings a song from memory like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Spawn version.

“Twinkle twinkle little bat. Now I know just where ur at. Up above the world so high. Shooting zombies from the sky. Red mist.”

And Spawn prefers singing One Republic, anyway. You’ll hear him singing, perfectly in-tune, Baby, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep. Thinking about the things that we could be…

Can tell an adult his first and last name.

Zombie Robot. Um, duh.

Enjoys doing new things.

FAIL, but his parents don’t like new things. We are obsessive people. We focus on a handful of activities and work toward mastery to the point of blind obsession.

Can child name at least eight body parts?

No, only two. “Headshot” and “center mass.” (Joking! He named eight.)

The Test is Flawed

I think children of creative people (writers) need a new test.

Zombie Robot's mother.

Zombie Robot’s mother.

Does child understand the concept of a deadline and to leave Mommy or Daddy Writer ALONE?

A+++++

Does child understand the passing of Little Darlings and know how to deal with grieving the loss of imaginary people in a positive way?

Yes.

Does child appreciate that imaginary friends are essential to being AWESOME as a kid and adult author?

Yes.

Does child appreciate that multiple personalities makes better writing?

Yes.

Does child interact and play well with the voices in his or her head?

Yes.

Can child effectively diffuse a fight between imaginary friends?

Yes.

Can child clear a room with a bad@$$ NERF gun, checking blind spots and differentiating targets before shooting? I.e. Can he or she tell zombies from an innocent unicorn, angel or elf?

Yes.

Can child train and nurture a mythical creature, like a pet dragon?

Yes.

Does your child treat all races with respect, whether Werewolf, Vampire, or Fae?

Yes.

Does child understand the nuances of Star Wars and understand why the prequels sucked?

Yes.

Can the child differentiate between an AWESOME Joss Whedon vampire and a lame sparkly one?

Yes.

Does child appreciate how EPIC Big Bang Theory is? Extra Credit: Does child use any quotes from BBT?

Yes and Spawn uses, “You’re in my spot” appropriately when Mommy sits in his chair.

Does your child prefer DC or Marvel superheroes?

Marvel.

Can your child identify the major Marvel characters?

Yes.

Does he or she want to be ALL of them?

Yes.

Can child appreciate how any super villain apprehended by The Wonder Twins needs to turn in Villain Card for a slot on My Little Pony?

Yes.

Does your child offer his name and age to total strangers?

NO.

Can your child clear a browsing history?

Needs Improvement. He prefers watching Japanese drift racing on You Tube.

Can your child go from being a human ally to an infected zombie immediately?

Yes.

Does your child tell adults (who are not family) his home address or phone number?

No. “Get a warrant.”

Can child tell the difference between a Klingon and a Ferengi?

Yes.

Does child understand that when Author Parent says, “He SO needs to DIE” that this is referring to manuscript and not real life?

Yes.

Yes, We Are THOSE Parents

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I know the schools are likely unaccustomed to people like us. The administrator was highly distressed that he couldn’t tell an adult his name or address. What if he became lost? My first thought was we don’t let Spawn out of our sight and, in the off chance his does get lost in a store, we’d probably know to come pick up any child claiming to be “Zombie Robot” or “Blue Angel.”

And I said to the teacher, “I know you’re concerned he won’t tell adults his name and address, but why do they need to know that? Any pedophile is going to be hard-pressed to get The Spawn to give away information that’s none of their business anyway.”

“Uh, I guess you have a point?”

Solutions/Plan

Yes, this is us.

Yes, this is us.

Hubby and I hunted for supplementary private play-based and kinesthetic learning programs for the summer and fall. I had him going to school five days a week at this school, but will drop to three and bring him to the more Montessori-like school two days a week. This way we can foster his creativity but also put him in a structured environment.

Even creative people have to be able to work within a system of order and rules. We don’t get a pass. I think the key for us is doing this in a way that keeps him passionate about leaning and but also show he can embrace being creative, unique and introverted, too.

Anyway, thanks for all the feedback on Tuesday’s post. I read all of them. I LOVED them. I cannot thank you enough for your stories, suggestions and support.

Do you think schools and curriculums are unfairly biased against the introvert? What are your thoughts about new testing for creative people? Can you think of other questions that should be given to children of writers?

Anyway…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce April’s winner after waking from the conference coma in a couple days.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class coming up to help you!

CLASS COMES WITH HANDOUTS AND FREE RECORDING.

Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem ;) . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.

And, if you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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66 Comments

Common Core and Vegan Zombies—Confessions of an ADD Mother

The Spawn loves airplanes. Watching The Blue Angels.

The Spawn loves airplanes. Watching The Blue Angels.

This week I have to go to a parent-teacher meeting regarding The Spawn. They are concerned he is developmentally behind because he’s four and people have a hard time understanding him. His speech isn’t where it “should be.” And this just puts a knot in my skirt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to honestly and lovingly help my son with any challenges he might face, but sometimes I want to scream. We have handed our kids to the bean-counters and academics and the children are the collateral damage.

This Isn’t Our First Rodeo

When The Spawn was two months old, I took him for his first checkup and vaccinations. They wanted to give him and UNGODLY amount of vaccinations at one time and I said no. I wanted to space them out. He weighed only eight pounds and common sense dictated that a tiny body could not take that kind of bombardment.

The pediatrician shopped short of calling me an abusive mother.

Jerk Doctor: Well, the American Medical Association says—

Me: Okay, stop there. Doctors also thought radiation for everything was AWESOME and once recommended X-Raying children’s feet to fit SHOES properly. They prescribed Thalidomide for morning sickness which caused rampant birth defects. Every drug pulled by the FDA has first been approved by the FDA. So logic is not on your side, Buddy, and forgive me if I don’t worship the APA, AMA, FDA because I think that’s a good way to end up DOA.

He loooooved me.

What was particularly interesting was when I took our dog, Pippa, to be vaccinated, she weighed the same. Eight pounds. The veterinarian made me take her in multiple times because a body that small couldn’t take the onslaught of mass vaccinations. I asked if she could be my son’s pediatrician because she had more sense.

Let’s just say I have a history of being THAT Mom.

College Prep for Infants

So a couple weeks ago I hear a commercial for an on-line education system and I’m sure it’s great. But the commercial ticked me off. It’s a mom’s voiceover with touchy-feely music talking about how her son was born with a health issue and spent his first six months of life in a hospital and she was deeply concerned he’d be behind educationally.

Huh?

All right. I am from Texas and maybe I’m a dumb redneck, but what’s a kid learning between birth and 6 months that needs help from a computer learning tool? Maybe The Spawn is defective because I remember chewing on toes and rolling across the living room floor to be the big deal.

I’m a bad mother. I was letting him teethe on picture books instead of refining his understanding of fluid dynamics.

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Big Trouble in Little Wedgewood Elementary

I was always in trouble in school. Yes, I see your shock face. I didn’t learn linearly. I had to reverse engineer everything and still do. I have the mind of an engineer or a ferret (jury is still out on that one). I have to pull things apart to understand HOW they work.

My mom was great. She didn’t force me to sit at a desk and do things the way “normal” kids were supposed to, likely because she already knew The Normal Ship sailed without me. She didn’t care if I did my homework hanging like a bat at midnight wearing a tutu so long as it got done and I made good grades. School, on the other hand, was not thrilled with me hanging like a bat in a tutu and this is why all memories of third grade involve me sitting in the hall.

Kristen Circa Third Grade

Kristen Circa Third Grade

I made the best grades but was in the most trouble and not a lot has changed.

I think standardized testing is fine…no, sorry I think it’s boneheaded. It has nothing to do with knowledge and only tests one’s ability to take a test. I scored so low on my SAT I think they had to check me for a pulse. I started out in junior college in Moron Math while I tutored Chemistry and Physics for extra money and read books on Chaos Theory for fun.

The “Test” told them what math class I needed and the Oracle Test doesn’t lie.

I dropped out of high school twice. It took me five years to graduate by the skin of my teeth and I am the reason for the current truancy laws. But, in my 20s, I spoke four languages and earned a degree in International Relations with a heavy emphasis on Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. I was a killer code-breaker and every branch of the military wanted me in Intelligence. So that whole reverse-engineering I received Fs for in school was apparently very useful after all.

Ironically, this skill is what makes me an excellent teacher.

What is Standard Anyway?

Either let our teachers be teachers and do their jobs and their art (which teaching IS) or just be honest and hand them a white lab coat and a clipboard and be done with it. Reward the kids with a Nutri-Log if they can figure out how the hell Common Core Math works.

And this whole notion that “Your kid is this age and should be doing this” would be fine with me if it weren’t worshipped to the point of stupidity. Yes, we need benchmarks. We need to know areas to focus so we can guide and nurture our wee ones. And maybe The Spawn is verbally behind because he loves solving highly advanced puzzles more than talking. He’s like his parents. More like Shawn cuz I never shut up, but dig puzzles.

Our boy is FOUR. For the love of all that is chocolate, let them be BABIES. Let them be LITTLE. It is such a brief and beautiful time and we are forgetting that.

Bat Spawn and his trusty minion, Lazr Cat. And, no. I have NO idea how he got up there.

Bat Spawn and his trusty minion, Lazr Cat. And, no. I have NO idea how he got up there.

They’re kids not copies. No human is identical. We don’t come off an assembly line. Can someone please tell the bureaucrats and scientists that they will never create a single operating manual that will work on all of us.

Michelangelo was dyslexic. DaVinci nearly lost every commission he was given. No one wanted to work with him because he was a NOTORIOUS flake. He’d start a project then see something shiny and disappear for weeks or months. He was SEVERELY ADD and that’s a good thing because we can thank him for his art, his groundbreaking work in anatomy, his early designs of flying machines and SCUBA gear and on and on.

Einstein likely had Asperger’s. Walt Disney was considered slow. Churchill had a speech impediment and was bad at math. Agatha Christie had dysgraphia (an inability to  understand written words) yet grew up to profoundly impact an entire genre with her unique writing style.

What if these geniuses had been in our modern school system? I think they’d have been sitting in the hall, too. Maybe the “experts” would have even medicated the genius right out of them so they could grow up to be something soul-sucking…with dental benefits.

No I’m Not Crazy. My Mother Had Me Tested.

I know I might be overreacting. I’m a writer and we can be dramatic, but often I think it’s because so many of us were chastised for being different. We didn’t fit in. We couldn’t be “measured” as accurately as others. Maybe we even were told we were learning disabled. Because my brain works differently than the fat part of the bell curve, I am disabled? Really.

Yes, I wrote a half a million words in less than a year…I also put the mayo away in the microwave.

And The Spawn is SO funny and clever. He made up the death metal song “Zombies and Babies” at age three. Not long ago he started singing “Zombies and Pears.”

Me: Zombies and pears? Zombies eat brains. What kind of zombie eats pears?

Spawn: *matter-of-factly* Vegan Zombies.

And HOW do you argue with that?

What are your thoughts? And feel free to disagree with me, I only ask that any debate be polite. I’m anti-drone so feel free to offer me another POV. It’s how I learn. Maybe there is a perspective I haven’t considered. The Spawn is my first and only boy, so this is new. Any of you have suggestions? Ways I can prepare for this meeting? I am bringing Hubby so he can hold my leash and make sure my muzzle stays on.

Do you think all this college-prep crap’s gone cray-cray? Maybe SAT instruction for pregnant women to put on their bellies?

Are you frustrated that every year they seem to be putting our teachers in a tighter straight-jacket? Are you one of those kids who sat in the hall, too? Hey, we’re Hall Peeps! Any teachers who can offer some help, advice, anecdotes? Do any of you  “suffer” from a learning disability? Has your “learning disability” actually been your greatest asset? I know my ADD presents many challenges, but so does being boring.

How have you overcome your disability? And sorry, that last question still ticks me off. WE need to overcome? Maybe “normal” folks should have a moment in our brains and see what they’re missing…SQUIRREL!

Anyway…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce April’s winner after waking from the conference coma in a couple days.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class coming up to help you!

CLASS COMES WITH HANDOUTS AND FREE RECORDING.

Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem ;) . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.

And, if you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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198 Comments

Don’t Freeze Your Family—Physics PROVES Why We Writers Need to Lighten UP

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.51.25 AM

Many of us are running around like a one-legged man at an @$$-kicking contest. Writers juggle a lot of things at the same time—day jobs, family, laundry, dishes, finances, family, sickness, loss, and THEN there is the actual WRITING. I’ve come to understand that most of us writers live in two opposing states of being:

The State of I SO ROCK Narcissism and The State of I Don’t Deserve to LIVE, What the Hell Was I THINKING?

We write a few pages and think: “OMG, this is AWESOME.”

Next Day: I suck *hangs head*. Where is that brochure for dental hygienist school?

We revise and revise trying to make our work perfect. Whether it’s a book, parenting, or doing bills many of us hold ourselves up to impossible standards. We just about get the house clean and then…the family comes home. Just finish the dishes and…time to start dinner. AHHHHGGGGGG!

We wonder if it’s illegal to cryogenically freeze our spouse, kids and pets so we could have JUST ONE DAY that everything stayed CLEAN. Can we stop time and bask in loving what we just wrote? Didn’t we just DO laundry? Is that ketchup stain we ignored in the refrigerator trying to open a portal to a demonic realm? O_o

I just CLEANED THESE!

I just CLEANED THESE!

As a recovering perfectionist, I’m here to “scientifically” prove why we all need to lighten the hell up. How am I going to do this? Using tinfoil, swizzle sticks, glitter and the Three Four? Laws of Thermodynamics. And every reader who is a real scientist can just chillax.

This is “science.” Don’t argue.

(All “actual” laws contributed via Wikipedia)

Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics

If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other. This law helps define the notion of temperature.

Zeroth Law means that temperature/energy will always seek a way to equal out. Two hot bodies (steaming EPIC tamales) placed next to ICE COLD margarita long enough? Margarita will suck heat and cool off tamales….leaving tamales too tired to finish revisions.

Life Application: This is empirical “proof” that yes, we parents were correct. Toddlers do drain energy. This also “proves” that children, as they get bigger, drain even MORE energy. Think how fast a 98 oz. margarita would chill your tamales (being “Tamale Mom” and “Tamale Dad”) and this explains why teenagers drain energy faster…unless the 98 oz margarita  teenager wants to date or wear too much makeup and that will temporarily heat the tamales parents.

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

Also, the hotter the WIP and the tougher the editor, the more we the writer will want a margarita. Told you! SCIENCE :D .

But don’t get too excited, there are three more “laws.”

The First Law of Thermodynamics

Because energy is conserved, the internal energy of a system changes as heat flows in or out of it. Equivalently, machines that violate the first law (perpetual motion machines) are impossible. Heat is the flow of thermal energy from one object to another.

Did you catch that? Okay, so maybe it was the only part of this I understood. Perpetual motion machines are IMPOSSIBLE. Gee, I wish I would have learned this last Thursday. Okay, Thursday of somewhere in 1992. We can’t do it all. Heat is synonymous with energy and as we expend energy, we um—Aw crap, hold on *finds Thesaurus function for another word for “expends”*—oh, there it is. WE LOSE IT. WE LOSE ENERGY and cannot run on Red Bull forever.

spawn2

Life Application: Apparently, despite what the world wants to tell us, we are incapable of doing everything forever. Yes, there are gizmos, gadgets and apps that “promise” us we can have six-pack abs, a refrigerator that doesn’t make us shriek little a little girl when we reach into the vegetable drawer, and write a perfect book in two weeks. But physics proves they are LYING.

Next time someone complains you are taking a nap, tell them physics has proven you need one.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

The entropy of any isolated system cannot decrease. Such systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy of the system. Equivalently, machines that violate the second law (perpetual motion machines) are impossible.

In English? Everything is hurdling toward chaos. If you have kids, a closet, a heartbeat, you have a lot of experience with entropy. It’s impossible to isolate any system. I’ve tried! Banning the toddler from walking across my freshly mopped floor only attracts a cat to puke on freshly mopped floor.

This means….we need to just suck it up and expect some imperfection.

Life Application: This also goes for our art/craft. It is called a creative PROCESS. Sure, we can write the “perfect book”….if we are stranded on a desert island and somehow found a way to power up our computers using coconuts (Heck, they did that on Gilligan’s Island). The problem is that this perfect book is likely something we want to sell and make a living off of. Which—DANG IT—requires other people part money and time to buy it and read it and love it.

Problem is, readers can’t be sealed away (legally—I know, I checked) and thus tastes, preferences, ideas, passions are ever-shifting.

My advice? Give up on a perfect book and settle for a finished one. Finished books DO exist, perfect ones do NOT.

Also, again, notice the reiteration that a perpetual motion machine is impossible because it violates this Second Law. So take that nap. You’ll thank me later.

Third Law of Thermodynamics

The entropy of any pure substance in thermodynamic equilibrium approaches zero as the temperature approaches zero. The entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically zero, and in all cases is determined only by the number of different ground states it has.

We can never cool anything to the true point of Absolute Zero (no energy), only get close enough for government work.

Life Application: Do NOT freeze your family. I triple-checked and yes, it IS illegal and your house will still be a mess so it isn’t worth the legal bill.

Freeze some ice cream or a daiquiri instead.

Don’t y’all feel smarter already? I really wish I’d paid more attention in high school.

As we all collectively learn to give ourselves a bit of slack, we can know that science has our backs (unless you are Pluto and then you got screwed). Enjoy your family, your writing, your friends and life and just roll with it. Embrace the imperfections and laugh. Laughter increases energy and warms up the “bodies” around you, staving off entropy for at least a little bit ;) .

Throw a PARTY!

Speaking of a lot of energetic bodies together in ONE space, I am finishing this post out to invite ALL of you to come and celebrate my 40th birthday with me this Sunday (even though my birthday was a week ago, but entropy tried to kill me so the party was moved).

It is a virtual party in one of our WANA International classrooms, and, if the WANACon after-parties are any indication of how fun this will be?

We might very well break the Internet.

But most of the people I love and care about are on-line. Since kidnapping air-fare for people all over the world is more expensive than the legal bills after freezing one’s family, my attorney has advised me that a virtual birthday party is the best option.

THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 6th from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Central Standard Time (or 7-9 NYC time) we are having an 80s themed party. So bring your sky-high bangs, and favorite A-Ha videos. Also, for the moms who have accidentally worn their bra on the outside of their clothes, remember, Madonna did it, so now you are “fashionable.”

To attend this party, go to the WANA International home page at the time of the party (we will open the room 15 minutes early for those who wish to spike the digital punch). Off to the right, you will see the WORDS Big Blue Button. There is a selector. Choose the room named “Birthday Party” and the password is “Big80s”.

What are your thoughts? Feel better now that physics has “proven” you can relax a little? Do you find yourself swinging between GOD-LIKE CONFIDENCE and wondering why you wanted to write?

What are some of your favorite 80s memories? Songs? Fashions? I always wanted a SWATCH, but we were too poor. Favorite 80s movie? Best love songs of the 80s?

Are you an 80s kid and wonder how the heck you SURVIVED? We drank out of hoses, played on playgrounds made of INDUSTRIAL STEEL, and streetlights were our curfew. How any of you are even around to attend my party is frankly…amazing. And if no one shows, I will assume you likely died in a Slip-and-Slide accident when you were eight.

Will announce winner for March next post.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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56 Comments

Is Your Life Out of Control? What Can We Do When Nothing is Going Right?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

One of the things I’ve strived for with WANA, this blog, my teachings is to offer practical lessons, honesty, tools for growth and change and support. Change is tough, right? I love to serve, to help, but I’m challenged daily to live the life and walk the talk. I have good days and bad days and OH DEAR LORD IS THERE A REWIND days (been having A LOT of those recently).

I believe our character will impact our dreams, our relationships, our well-being. And I would love to tell y’all I’ve got it all together, but I’ve been struggling…a lot. And I have some seriously clever excuses involving alien abduction, but….sigh. Tempting as it is, I won’t go there.

The Infestation

I remember a dream I had in 2008, and it’s been such a guide in cleaning up my behaviors and attitudes. I dreamed I inherited a beautiful cottage-home. From the outside it looked almost perfect. Just needed a little bit of paint…

.…yeah.

So in the dream, I begin to paint and notice the wood is loose. I know I can’t paint bad boards, so I pull them back with a pry bar.

AAAAAGHHHHHHHH!

Vermin everywhere. I scream, get them cleaned out and prepare to paint. But then I open the cabinets. WTH? OMG! You guessed it. More rats, roaches, termites. I’d just about get it pretty then see another layer and another and another. I couldn’t even DO any of the fun stuff—painting, decorating, picking out cute curtains—because what was “beneath” was infested and rotten.

My subconscious knew me better than I did. Pretty on the outside, but LOTS of problems on the inside.

It sounds strange, but I’m happy I’ve had to earn things the hard way when it comes to being an author. Growing up, I was naturally smart, the person who didn’t study and made As. As much of a blessing as it was, it was really a curse.

I could cruise through “appearing” to have it together, but it created a lot of BAD habits and rotten attitudes and behaviors. I’ve cleaned out a lot of the “infestations” but there are always more. Also, even if we do rid our “homes” of rats, mice, roaches, termites, we have to be in a habit of keeping the place clean so we don’t invite in new unwanted guests.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Living Mindfully

There are dumb things we can do that can have serious consequences. For instance, out at our ranch, one of my relatives forgot a bag of feed corn on the porch. When we got out there, there was CORN EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t open a drawer, a cabinet, a closet that there wasn’t some well-fed family of mice with a lovely stockpile of corn. The mice chewed through wiring and the hoses on the dishwasher…which then spewed water all over the floor.

A momentary lapse of mindfulness created hours of expensive, dirty and dangerous work. Not only that, but guess what LOVES to snack on mice? Rattlesnakes. Snakes that normally would have been quite happy out on the property discovered there was a SWEET buffet at the Lamb Ranch if you hung out on the PORCH.

Hubby and I spent an hour trying to coerce a rattler off the homestead property. I have this hysterical video of Hubby flinging a very annoyed rattler through the air. And yes some people would shoot the snake, but why? We invited him for dinner. Snake was just doing what snakes do.

And there is one brain-damaged snake now wandering our property with head trauma and a grudge.

Which is to say that life is always moving forward. We think life is a static picture like a magazine, but it isn’t. The kitchen will always need cleaning, there will always be more laundry and more bills. We need to shower more than once in a lifetime, and this also applies to our attitudes and habits.

If we slow down (and I am LEARNING) we can be more mindful about where we commit, what we start, or what we need to finish. Give ourselves grace, but be brave enough to address small problems early before they rage out of control.

Name It and Claim It

We can’t change what we won’t face. I have a saying. Name it and claim it. To offer a bit of insight, this has been a rough couple of years. It’s like everyone in my family is getting sick, ill, injured or dying. We’ve lost four family members in just the last year. Five in the last two. FOUR major surgeries, three of them life-threatening. As a person who loves and honors family I chip in to help the best I can.

I’m sure you guys have been through seasons like this. It’s as if life DOG PILES you and just about the time you come up for air, you get hit again.

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

But the thing is this is life. When I became published, no cute forest creatures showed up to style my hair and help me clean.

LUZRS.

Times of trial can be crucibles that reveal our weak points. I used to be a MAJOR WHINER. Oh poor me. I just about get going the right direction and SOMETHING happens. I was at the mercy of situations.

What these recent life events have shown me about myself are embarrassing, but I have to face these flaws even though truth stings.

I need to be better at communicating. For some weird reason, I will work myself half to death before I think, “Hey, I could possibly ask for HELP. Whouda thunk?” I’ve come to see that I overcommit. That is a BAD habit. If I give my word, I need to follow through because I want to be a person of integrity. This means I need to strive to be better at saying, “Let me get back to you.”

I’ve also developed this awful habit of cramming my schedule to the point that I can DO everything…so long as everything goes smoothly and the planets perfectly align. They WON’T. We NEED margin. If the Internet goes out, the weather goes nuts, the car breaks down, the business hits a rough spot, the kid gets sick, a spouse loses a job, it will affect everything else.

I’m working diligently to be more honest and realistic. Sure, I want to help people, but if I just flake out, forget, lose stuff, I’m doing more harm than good.

Yes, I need to give myself grace, but I can always seek to come up higher, too.

We NEED a Support System

Stress is a lot like being drunk. Our bodies default to limbic brain. We run on adrenalin. As a survival mechanism, we cannot harness our higher thinking centers. Apparently pondering Nietzsche while running from a bear is BAD. Yet, in modern society, we have the equivalent of bears all the time (and they look a lot like the unfinished WIP, piles of toys, a stack of bills and the IRS :D ).

This is why we need the similar equivalent of a Designated Driver. We need people who love us and are honest enough to say, “Go sleep. Say NO. Finish what you promised.”

Jay Donovan is a fantastic friend. Why? He encourages me. He is there for me. But, he’s also unafraid to send me a kind but scathing e-mail when I need my butt kicked correcting. I have a looong list of stuff to finish, but baby steps.

You guys have been an amazing support team and I’m so grateful. When I was up all night with The Spawn in the ER because he knocked out all his front teeth, people on-line were there to keep me calm and offer prayers, love and support. Same with the deaths, etc. You are the voices that make the world more lovely and never lonely.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

But last week I had a major revelation. My husband, The Spawn and I are too isolated. We have family, but no one who lives nearby. I have no one to lean on when I am sick, worn out, overloaded or on the verge of just crying for a month. We’ve lived in this house for almost five years and know none of our neighbors. We don’t have any friends in the local community.

Last week, I stepped out of the comfort zone. I needed more. I NEEDED people close who might let me have a day where I can take a long nap. I can’t run forever on sheer force of will. As much as I love social media, it can’t be our only resource of support.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT resource, just like chainsaws are AWESOME for cutting up trees downed in a storm (but not so great for hanging pictures on the wall). We need to diversify our relationships. I need to as well even though I am an introvert. On-line friends are far less terrifying than talking to…*shivers* neighbors.

But, Suck it up, Buttercup.

It’s OKAY to BE WEAK

We aren’t robots. We live, laugh, love, screw up, start over, do better, blow it, then try again. I do. And there is a blessing to being weak. It offers others the gift of being strong for us. When we allow others to help us, we are giving them a gift. We feel good when we can help others. Why would others be different? So many of you take time to comment, encourage, offer help and you guys make me better each day.

We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like renovating your attitudes, habits, behaviors is overwhelming? Do you get discouraged too? Are you bad about overcommitting or not stopping to realize maybe you could kinda-sorta-maybe use some HELP? Are you hesitant to make friends with neighbors? Do you work your schedule off plank time? LOL.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

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65 Comments

Pride, Perfectionism and Anger—Confessions of a Recovering Jerk

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

I am one of the most blessed people on the planet. Truly. I’m not a millionaire and may never be, but I’m infinitely rich. I wouldn’t trade the wonderful people I know personally and on-line for anything. This is a tough post to write because it’s vulnerable. But I know that all of us struggle and fail and fall and often what keeps us pressing is to know others have been a mess (or still are one). It’s why I’ve branded everything I do under We Are Not Alone.

I have a confession. I am a Recovered (Recovering?) Jerk. It would be nice to lie to you and tell you I never have my moments, but I do. Thankfully, they are much rarer than they used to be. Today, I’d like to talk about some of my Jerk Reformation. It could be a BOOK…okay a SERIES of books, but we will touch on the highlights.

And I realize all of you are kind and sweet and don’t need this for you, but maybe it can help with someone you know ;) .

Perfectionism

I used to be highly critical of everyone and everything, including myself. The last part was likely what others never saw. I led those around me to believe they never measured up, but the truth was, I never measured up. I came from a highly dysfunctional and chaotic home. I knew nothing of peace. I only knew control. Granted, in my mind I was helping. Yet, I’ve learned over the years that people need love more than “help.”

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I was fraud.

On the outside my clothes were perfect, my hair perfect, my house perfect, but truth was? I was falling apart. I felt that showing any weakness was bad, that it made me a failure. This made me prideful and afraid to ask for help. Others didn’t see I needed help because, “Well, Kristen is ‘perfect'” *rolls eyes* Granted, others probably sensed I was a mess so my “perfect” facade simply generated more resentment.

People aren’t fond of phonies. Imagine that?

Life popped me on the snoot and opened my eyes to my character (or lack thereof), my poor attitude, my judgmental ways and my impossible (and stupid) standards. I couldn’t give away what I didn’t have. I had no grace for myself, so how could I give that to others?

I was white-knuckled-terrified of failure, of not knowing ALL the answers or being *gasp* WRONG. Every quiet moment was a montage in my mind of how I sucked, how I’d screwed up, how I should’ve could’ve would’ve….

BLURGH!

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

I refused to cry, to let others know I was a mess. I bottled it up—the fear, the disappointment, the feelings of inadequacy.

What I’ve come to understand is that failure is the tuition we pay for success (Yes, I’ve been using that phrase a lot lately). Failure is vital. Failure is an event, not a state of being. Failure is to be celebrated, because it means we’re being brave. We’re trying. We’re daring to do something remarkable. As I began to give myself permission to fall on my face and laugh it off, I realized I needed to do that with others.

We don’t need critics who point out we fell and draw a diagram of our stupidity and how “they would have done it better.” Likely they wouldn’t have done it any better and even if they did? Who cares? What we need is a hand helping us up, patting us on the back and then high-fiving us for daring to TRY.

Pride

An ugly stepchild of perfectionism is pride. As I mentioned earlier I was prideful. I knew better, did it better and life was all a competition because 2nd place was the first loser.

Dumb, dumb, dumbditty-dumb-dumb.

Yes, I know. I had something to prove but was too foolish to realize there is nothing in life TO PROVE. Good people don’t judge us by our resume or our lists of accomplishments or rows of trophies. Others won’t remember our designer handbag, our perfect house, our fancy car. They will remember and respond to how we made them feel when they were in our company. 

In the United States, the average household has SEVEN credit cards. Out of your hundred closest neighbors, four homes are on the verge of being foreclosed upon. How many of us buy into the lie that others care that much? We run and scramble to keep up with the Joneses when we aren’t seeing the Joneses are BROKE, hurting and miserable.

I worked a job for years that I loathed because the pay was good and the title “impressive.” But, I longed to write. Oh, but writing meant I might have to shop at Walmart or thrift stores instead of fancy boutiques. I might have to drive an old car and clip coupons. THE HORROR! What would others THINK?

Probably nothing, LOL.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.49.52 AMThe funny thing was all those people who were my friends when I could pick up the tab or take them shopping vanished when the money ran out. I learned the hard way that real friends aren’t for sale ;) .

Pride created other problems. Because I was too afraid to admit I wasn’t the All-Knowing-Oracle-Perfect-At-All-Things, I was an unteachable @$$. This left me to relying on luck and resenting others who were successful. Tearing others down to make myself feel better.

Oh, sure, SHE’S a successful writer. If I had a more supportive family, a better computer, a magic pad of FLOWER POST-ITS I could be there too. WHAAAAAHH!

Stupid, I know.

But when I let down my guard and began to admit that perhaps-maybe-kinda-sorta that I didn’t precisely-specifically-exactly KNOW EVERYTHING I began to grow. I could take advice and even *gasp* criticism. I could separate my work from ME. Mentors, critique partners, etc. were pointing out problems in a story or a situation, not ME. Wow! Who knew?

These were baby steps to learning that my work could be flawed and I’d live and even improve. The next step? I could be flawed in my character, behavior, or attitudes and would live to tell the tale! I might even…improve.

Whoud’a thunk?

Boundaries, Anger, Forgiveness

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

For a long time I suffered with an anger problem. I’d love to lie to you guys and tell you I’m perfect and cured but I hear thunder rumbling outside and don’t want to push my luck :D . When I grew to a point that I could accept increasing layers of critique/criticism with my writing, I was more open to others pointing out my personal flaws.

*shivers*

I was a people-pleaser and said yes to everything. Then I’d get overloaded, stressed, angry and lash out. I’m still working on not overextending. I love to help. This is a great character trait, but it needs balance. One of the reasons I’d lash out in anger is I was realllllly bad at putting down boundaries, communicating them and sticking to them in a loving way. I’d back up and back up and back up and say, “Oh, it’s okay” when it wasn’t.

Then BOOM!

Image of a Kristen Temper Tantrum via Wikimedia Commons.

Image of a Kristen Temper Tantrum via Wikimedia Commons.

Three of my best friends, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Jay Donovan and Piper Bayard pointed this out (among other things). It hurt. I defended. I railed against the unfairness…then realized *sigh* they were correct.

What I’ve learned is that boundaries are part of all healthy relationships. I heard this metaphor and love it. Your life, MY life is like a beautiful garden (which likely needs a lot of weeding but that’s another post). Frequently we buy into the lie that fences are bad. People should be free to come in and out of our lives. This is true, which is why all good fences have a GATE.

Image courtesy of Norah Wilson WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Norah Wilson WANA Commons

We need to let people in and out and through, but this doesn’t mean we offer them permission to dump old tires and toxic waste into our space. I was letting others bring in junk and saying, “Oh, it’s okay, set the rusted emotional refrigerator there…but next time.” No, it isn’t okay. It wasn’t okay. This led to anger, resentment and then an outburst.

HOW COULD YOU PUT THAT HERE? So I LET you…. Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

HOW COULD YOU PUT THAT HERE? So I LET you….
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

I’d explode, then justify. Then talk about it over and over and over as if this replay made me being an angry jerk okay (Hint: It didn’t). And then I’d think about it over and over and that’s when anger had a chance to take root. I didn’t know how to forgive, thus adding to my Supreme Jerk Status.

Are We Ringing the Bell?

I used to believe that forgiving others gave them a pass, that they were somehow “getting away” with something. Unbelievably, I’d somehow forget about all the times I’d shown MY butt and wanted grace. I was wanting from others what I was unwilling to give in return.

Then I heard another story and it changed me (because I dig anecdotes).

There once was a young monk who’d been terribly wronged by another. He prayed and prayed but the anger never went away. He could not forgive no matter how hard he tried. So, he went to the old parish priest and asked for advice. The older priest knew the young man was in charge of ringing the bells for service. He said to the young man, “When you pull the rope to ring the bell, does it only sound once?”

The young monk replied, “Well, no, it keeps ringing.”

“But the ringing eventually gets softer then fades and finally stops. Correct?”

“Yes.”

“My son, anger and forgiveness is the ringing of the bell. The pain will be deafening at first and will take time to fade. Our job is to not continue to pull the rope.”

I used to believe that if I forgave, that magically-mystically the pain would go away. It doesn’t. It takes time. This is why my family was so angry (and many still are). They are still talking about when Such-and-Such did this or that and how awful they were and GOOD GRIEF that person has been DEAD for 15 years! Enough already!

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.01.45 AM

Maybe some of you have relationships where you aren’t in trouble for something you just did, you are still getting hammered with how you failed a month ago, a year ago, or when you were FIVE.

And the bells still ring.

I didn’t realize I was doing that to others. To make my poor behavior somehow better, I’d talk about how Thus-And-Such did this or that and HOW AWFUL and poor ME. Then, I was oblivious to why I couldn’t have solid relationships.

Here’s the hard news. All of us will be hurt and all of us will hurt others. It’s life. With some, we need to stop ringing bells. I was terribly abused by certain people and I had to discipline myself to let it go. I was letting someone rent space in my head for free. Failing to forgive was like drinking poison and hoping the other person would drop dead.

And this is why the gate is vital. We need to forgive. Forgiveness is for US. This doesn’t, however, mean we allow the person free reign to trample though our garden. Some people might never get to come through the gate. This doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven or are still angry, it means we are setting a BOUNDARY.

For instance, I have a family member who is like living with Mt. Vesuvius. Everything has to be HER way and she looks for opportunities to create strife. I recall the family throwing a birthday party and, as par for the course, this person arrived and within minutes, the conflict began.

In the old days, I would have bitten. It would have become a Jersey-Shores-Jerry-Springer-Argument over who’d done what or worse or whatever. We’d have fought over a list of wrongs reaching back to the 80s.

This time? I didn’t. I calmly said, “I understand you’re upset. Please go take ten minutes to cool off. But, we are here for a birthday celebration and we still want to be. But, if you are going to act this way, then I’m afraid we will have to leave. I hope you choose to let it go and enjoy the fun we’ve prepared.” And the difference this time was I was calm, but I was also FULLY prepared to leave.

As a recovering jerk, I was unwilling to take the bait. I’d learned that if I maintained peace, the offender would be the only jerk left standing. Jerks can be like a hurricane. They NEED that hot-moist air to fuel their raw powers of destruction. If we refuse to fuel them, they fizzle.

Image of a Family Reunion from SPACE, courtesy of Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image of a Family Reunion from SPACE, courtesy of Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons.

The same applied to ME. The perfectionism, pride, back-biting, resentment, jealousy, anger, false pretenses were fuel that kept me in the destructive cycle of being a jerk. To change, I needed to learn to love others where they are. Love myself where I am. Perfection is a lie. Pride is a poison.

We Are All Works in Progress

We all have good days, bad days and days we wish we could erase completely. Most people are not sitting up all night thinking of ways to make others miserable (Some do, so don’t let them through that gate until they knock it off). We screw up and always will.

But the good news is we can learn, grow and become better. We can discipline ourselves to look for the good in ourselves and others, because it takes no great talent to be critical. And the beautiful thing is when we learn to give ourselves permission to be imperfect, we get better at extending that grace to others.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, via Stupid.Photos

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, via Stupid.Photos

If we only want to be around “perfect” people, life will get really lonely. Also, good fence-building is a skill that takes time.

I love this blog and adore all of you. Honestly. I love how you guys talk about your struggles and lift one another up. I’m inspired by your generosity, your honesty, your newness, your authenticity, your brokenness, your flaws, your weakness, your strengths and all of it makes me better every day. I might still be a jerk without you :D .

What are your thoughts? Shocked I am a Recovering Jerk? Hey, we jerks need friends too. Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you find yourself holding others to super high standards because you do it to yourself? Are you afraid of being you? Afraid if people knew your house was loaded with laundry they might not like you?

Do you deal with family who tramples through your heart and home? Are you learning about how to put up good fences too? Are you afraid if you cry you might never stop? Are you a Recovering Jerk too? What did you learn?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

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128 Comments

Can’t Find Your Butt with Google Maps? A Powerful Tool that Can Help Writers Become Organized

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

If you are anything like me, you VOW EVERY NEW YEAR’S DAY that THIS YEAR you are going to be more organized. Six months later we can’t find the Post-Its and the bag of paper clips have been sucked into the same vortex that eats half the socks. Our treasures purchased at The Container Store on January 2nd are lost (likely still in the BAG) and our cute pocket organizer hasn’t had an entry since January 15th.

*head desk*

*Note to Self: Dust Pocket Organizer*

As writers, we need to research and to be able to keep track of that research. We also have lives. Many have mates, pets and kids who’ve grown accustomed to being fed *rolls eyes*. So needy. We’re juggling so much that we actually hope a fanatical fringe group of Calgon Terrorists really will “take us away.”

When I launched my business WANA International, I was on the hunt for the best teachers for ALL aspects of a writer’s life. Since organization is a big part of what will help us be successful and accomplish more in the finite time we’re given, the choice for the best teacher was crystal clear.

Jenny Hansen writes, blogs, works multiple consulting jobs, teaches, gardens (and then flaunts her KALE on Facebook). She balances so much and is happy, generous and fruitful. She is also one of the few people on the planet who has the talent to teach technology and translate into Writer-ese.

Feel free to set down your paper bags as Jenny takes us on a brief tour of one of the most powerful tools we have for keeping everything organized and accessible in ONE place. I know that I used to use OneNote before I switched to Apple and it was fantastic. I’m thrilled to hear it’s now available for Mac products and will be with you for Jenny’s class because my keys can only end up on the freezer so many times….

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

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

I’m a software trainer by day so I have several “true loves” in the software realm. But as a writer, my hands down favorite is OneNote, especially after this week’s announcements:

  1. It’s now free across all platforms.
  2. Yep, you heard me…it’s now available for the Mac. (Move over, Evernote!)

To put it simply… I. Heart. OneNote.

And I know what some of you are asking: What is it, and where do you find it?

OneNote is a planner and note taking software. It lets you easily capture text, images, video and audio notes, and keep important information readily available across all devices.

If you’re the organized type, it’s likely that you have a binder with all of the research information and pictures for your book. OneNote allows you to keep this information in the same format electronically so it’s searchable.

You’ll find OneNote in your START menu.

I could do several posts on the topic (and I probably will) but when I stopped to think about what I use the MOST in the program, it was pretty easy to come up with my Top Ten Fave Features.

#10 – ToDo Lists

OneNote allows you to insert handy checklists. You just check off the item when you’re done and you can keep it for posterity or edit the list as you move to a new day.

How To Do a Check List:

Click to type in your OneNote notebooks page (top tabs are sections, right side tabs are pages) and type “Ctrl+1”

  • In the top middle of your Home ribbon in OneNote, there is a “To Do” button
  • Type your ToDo
  • Hit Enter
  • Use the Ctrl+1 shortcut key again to add more checkboxes

Click here for the latest OneNote and Microsoft updates that affect writers.

#9 – Tag and Find Important Items

Why is this exciting? One Note has a series of Tags that you can add to any page that are easy to search by with the “Find Tags” button on the ribbon. I’m copying and pasting a screen shot of the Tags drop down to the right but there are even more than are listed. This feature makes me SQUEE!

#8 – Sync Up OneNote Between Your Phone and Computer

Yes, you heard me! If you have a smart phone, it can synchronize with the OneNote on your computer. Sign me up!!

Note: You need to first set up the app on your smart phone and you must also set up OneDrive (used to be SkyDrive), which is helpful to do anyway. OneDrive is only available with OneNote 2010 and later! It will not work with the older versions.

Tips on setting up your OneDrive in OneNote and getting the iPhone app are here (along with a ton of other amazing OneNote answers).

#7 – Ink to Text (There’s also “Math to Text” now, but hello? We’re writers!)

Ink to Text is a gift for creatives. You could go one further and get a Livescribe pen if you want to be able to upload longhand writing to OneNote first. If you have a tablet with a stylus, you can write right in OneNote, highlight it and choose Ink to Text to convert your scribbles into searchable text.

There are many, many ways to take notes, as you can see from the graphic below:

OneNote_ManyWaysToNoteTake

#6 – Hyperlinks to Anywhere

You can copy or create hyperlinks from any page, anywhere, and put it in your notebook page. I’m thinking of keeping an active writing notebook with tabs for each topic to store the amazing links that I run across in my web surfing. My bookmarks tend to get lost because there’s so many.

#5 – Print to OneNote

When researching, you can send a whole page or part of a page directly to OneNote. Choose File > Print and your page is sent to an unfiled note in OneNote, which can be moved to any section or page.

#4 – Send Whole or Part of Any Page to OneNote With a Shortcut Key

Imagine surfing the web and pulling up a side note by either pressing the Windows logo button + N or clicking the N (OneNote) icon button in the task bar (down by the time) and being able to jot down your notes to keep in your book’s OneNote binder. This shortcut automatically files it in the Unfiled Tab in OneNote, which you can move around.

#3 – Audio and Video Files

OneNote will also add audio or video files to your notebook pages. It can even record the same right into a page! Now that we’re in conference season, I’ve made the goal of adding my meeting and class notes into OneNote, and then recording those extras things that I didn’t get down in my notes.

#2 – You Can Attach Files to Any Page in OneNote

Can you writers say character charts? Photos? I thought of moving this higher on the list, it’s so sublimely amazing.

From your Windows Explorer, click and drag any file onto a OneNote Page. You will get the following dialog box:

You can insert a hyperlink, or choose the second option to have an icon on your page that you double-click on to open the file. But the last choice (to insert the file as a printout)? LOVE IT! I used this with a conference handout to make my notes next to the speakers content. It saved me a ton of time.

And My #1 FAVORITE thing in OneNote is:

OneNote doesn’t have a Save button. OneNote automatically saves your work on an almost constant basis in the background. This means I don’t lose work, even if forget to save.

Helpful Links:

Does OneNote sound like it would be helpful to you? Do you have questions, or shortcuts you’d like to share? We’d love to chat with you in the comments!

Where can you get more of Jenny?

Her blog information is below, but she also teaches online. For all you writers and OneNote/Evernote fans, in fact she is teaching a class for WANA next week!

Next week’s class details:

      • Course title: OneNote: The Simple (Kinda Sexy) Organization Tool
      • Course time: webinar next Monday March 24th at 7 pm EST – it’s available OnDemand afterwards, so don’t worry if you can’t make it.
      • The initial webinar is followed by two weeks of online time where we cover the material and create notebooks. We finish with another quick webinar recap.
      • There are various levels for the class, depending on if you just want the knowledge or if you need active one-on-one help setting up your notebooks. Be sure to click the course title link above to see what’s included for the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.
      • Use the discount code MORECOWBELL for $10 off!

Lastly, we’re going to have THREE special things for this kickoff class:

      1. A member of the Microsoft OneNote team will audit the class to answer any questions on the technologies and features that are still new.
      2. A drawing will held to give away a subscription of Office 365 to one lucky attendee.
      3. Any interested authors will be entered into a drawing to be a guest author for the Office blog – in return for the description of how OneNote helped you “get it done,” Microsoft will promote the winner’s novel at the bottom of the post.

Really, y’all…how can you beat that? (You can’t! This inaugural class is the only one that will have all this, since it comes so quickly on the heels of Microsoft’s rollout.) Click here to sign up!

****

Thank you, Jenny! Are you like me and struggle to keep organized? Do you have passwords for your passwords? One giant bag with all the mail so you have at least a good starting place for locating the electric bill? Or do you use OneNote and can attest to its powers? Do you have questions for Jenny? Confessions?

I LOVE hearing from you guys (and comments for guests count DOUBLE)!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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)

About Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA and at Writers In The Storm.

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75 Comments

Myth-Busting—The Real Difference Between Introverts & Extroverts & Meet the Ambivert

Actual photo of Kristen in high school (Image via Flikr Creative Commons wwarby)

Actual photo of Kristen in high school (Image via Flikr Creative Commons wwarby)

I made it home on Monday afternoon from presenting at the Tuscon Book Festival, one of the largest book festivals in the world. To meet me at the conference, one would never suspect I’m actually an introvert. Yet, even after two days of sleep, I’m shaking from fatigue. This morning I had to get Hubby to bring The Spawn to school because I simply don’t have enough energy to be safe on the road. I spent all of it at the conference giving (what I hoped) were unforgettable presentations.

Many believe the extrovert is the ideal speaker, yet introverts have a way of channeling energy from themselves to others. When people leave my sessions, they often feel supercharged, like they can take over the world. I love that. It’s what I’m going for…but this comes at a cost for me. I must unplug, get quiet and recharge. Crowds drain me faster than a toddler using an iPad.

BIG crowds? As in a quarter-million people? AHHHHHHHH!

As humans we tend to think in very black and white terms, but as writers and artists, we are wise to remember that people have many dimensions. What we see is not necessarily accurate, especially when it comes to labeling others as “introvert” or “extrovert.”

What Does It REALLY Mean to Be an Extrovert or Introvert?

Introversion and extroversion are very  commonly misunderstood. Just because someone is shy, doesn’t mean she’s an introvert. Someone who is bubbly, gregarious and the life of the party can, in reality, be an introvert. The difference between introverts and extroverts is simply this:

Where do we gain or lose energy?

Introverts are drained by people and need alone time to recharge.

Extroverts are drained by too much time alone. They need human interaction to recharge.

Meet the Ambivert

Truth is, most people fall into what is called an ambivert, meaning we exhibit traits of both. If you want to learn if you might be an ambivert, there are cool tests on-line. I’d google them for you, but this post is all I’ve got left.

People who read this blog and who meet me all believe that I am the very definition of extrovert, yet that’s far from the case. As a child, I had to be forced to go play with others. I was very happy alone in my room reading, drawing and copying articles out of my set of encyclopedias.

I was frequently chastised for bringing a book to family events and made to interact with others. Yet, when I did, I was the life of the party. I was fascinated by standup comedy and, being blessed with an eidetic memory, I could perform the standup routines of all the famous comics, down to facial expressions, timing and gestures. My family was particularly fond of my freakishly accurate impersonation of Sinbad.

Yes, Kristen was the precursor to the DVD.

In school, I didn’t want to play at recess. I wanted to read and draw unicorns.  But I loved debate and speaking in public. When it came to presenting, I had no fear and, again, I was funny. Being funny helped when you changed schools every six months. BUT, in high school I was shy to the point of probably needing medication. The stage was far less terrifying than the lunchroom.

Before I was married, I would go shopping at two in the morning, because I couldn’t take the crowds. To this day, I don’t like concerts, amusement parks, crowded clubs, conventions, big parties or sports events. I love attending writing conferences because I love writers, love teaching and presenting and I DO love people…but when I get home, I practically slip into a coma. Also, I am okay on a stage presenting to an audience but please don’t make me be a part of a crowd.

As much as I LOVE people, as much as I adore people and making them laugh…they exhaust me.

I work from home and, if I never had to leave, I would be okay…so long as I had Internet connection. One of the things I love about social media, is it allows me to interact, connect, chat, entertain…but at my pace. It keeps me from flatlining myself.

I’ve had to learn from bad experiences that I need to pace myself at conferences if I want to maintain that powerful, positive energy.

The Myth of the Extrovert

There is another common misunderstanding about the whole extrovert thing, and it’s done a LOT of damage in the corporate world (and when it comes to author platforms for selling books).

Companies spend all this time shoving introverts into being extroverts. They hire mega-extroverts for sales, and yet mega-extroverts are some of the WORST salespeople. I witnessed this back when I was in sales, myself.

I recall sitting at a table with a customer and a mega-extrovert salesperson. The mega-extrovert was so busy talking and being entertaining, that he never SHUT UP long enough to listen. He didn’t stop and ask the right questions. In fact, he didn’t ask ANY questions.

That’s a problem.

One time, I was at an annual marketing meeting and the company was putting  together the agenda for the next year. They kept going on and on about price, and how we needed to be cheaper. I was brand new, but bold.

I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone asked our customers if this is what THEY want? Is price the biggest factor?” The table sat in stunned silence. Then I recommended we brainstorm twenty areas where we could serve the customer better and then get them to take the survey.

Price came in at #4.

Customers actually wanted faster lead times. Our product was the type of inventory the customers never thought about…until they ran out. A better plan was to rent cheap warehouses in the areas near our major clients and stock them with the most common sizes ordered. Then we could have offered same-day or next-day delivery….which the company refused to do and still focused on price and lost a crap-load of business and it’s a sore subject with me.

Why did they do this? The mega-extroverted marketing and salespeople controlled the agenda, and they were lousy listeners.

We All Have Strengths and Weaknesses

This isn’t to pick on mega-extroverts. All personalities have strengths and weaknesses. As an ambivert, I do have some mega-extrovert tendencies. I’ve had to TRAIN myself to be a better listener and to ask others about themselves…instead of making them laugh with my Sinbad impersonations.

Awareness is Key

The point of all of this is we need to be self-aware so we can focus on strengths and buttress weaknesses. It is good for the introverts to get out. Too much alone time with the imaginary friends makes us a bit weird…ok, weirder.

Social media can be very beneficial for introverts. It forces us out of the comfort zone and we can interact at a pace that doesn’t put us in a coma. Extroverts get to practice willpower and self-discipline, to shut up, get off Twitter and get back to work.

Ambiverts? We get to do both *head desk*

No Excuses

But the good news is this. This notion that mega-extroverted salesperson is the most effective salesperson? PURE MYTH. This is one major misconception that TERRIFIES most writers into being afraid of social media or makes some writers try to change their personalities….which is just weird and kinda creepy. Be YOU. YOU is awesome :D.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Here’s an article that displaces the myth that mega-extroverts are the best salespeople, and explains why it’s actually ambiverts who hold the advantage.

Talk to people, listen, ask questions, and let them talk. Be authentic and kind. We don’t have to be super entertaining all the time. Really ;).

For those curious, THIS was my family’s favorite among my vast comedic repertoire:

So what about you? Are you and extrovert? An introvert? Shy? Do you feel misunderstood because you’re a shy extrovert or a people-loving introvert? Do you think you might be an ambivert?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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119 Comments

Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

Fear is a funny thing. We all experience it. Fear can be positive. It can keep us out of danger. It can stop us from making a super dumb decision, like getting in a car with a driver who’s been drinking too much. Fear can drive us to change for the better. At the same time, fear can cripple and, in extreme cases, can be deadly (I.e. suicide). Fear kills more dreams than failure ever has.

Fear is something we have to understand and respect. It’s a feeling and feelings do lie. Are feelings useful? Of course. But they can be affected by so many outside influences we are foolish to solely rely on them for guidance. Feelings can be affected by weather, diet, lack of exercise, a flat tire, a pile of unopened mail, stress, and on and on and on. Same thing with fear.

Fear of Heredity—Am I My Father’s Daughter?

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

My father was genius smart. He probably had an IQ off the charts. Yet, when he passed away at the young age of 50, he was working for minimum wage repairing bicycles. Though a fun, kind and generous man, he had no friends and lived a very lonely life. The only thing he left me of value was an antique bed that wasn’t even his. It was my great-grandmother’s.

Shortly after the funeral, we had to clean out his home. It looked like a bad episode of Hoarders. When I opened the front door, I broke down crying. Not just because of my father’s sudden death. The daunting task of sorting through endless piles to see if anything could be saved was enough to make me short-circuit. Almost everything he owned was set out on a curb for the trash.

That was the sum of his life.

Though he was a prolific and talented writer, I never managed to find any of his writing in all the days sorting through mounds of clothes, gadgets, books, papers, and trash. The only work I have of his are the ones I memorized and a handful of notebooks with unfinished stories or poems.

In the case of my father’s passing, fear became a double-edged sword. Fear I’d end up like him was stronger than fear of failure or being mocked by others to pursue being a writer. It saddened me that someone of so much talent left nothing. He never focused, never finished, never believed in the dream enough to take it seriously. Bluntly, he did more whining than working.

This fear drove me to examine where he went wrong and make corrections in my character. I was a lot like him both in good ways and in bad.

The good? He was intelligent, generous, kind, loved to read and he was the most fun person anyone could know. Neighborhood kids who friend me on Facebook tell stories of my father dropping everything to fix their bikes because their families were to poor to replace the shot gears or the trashed tires. Thirty years later these kids (now adults) still remember my father fondly.

My dad’s passion for reading and writing was passed to me at a VERY young age. While other kids were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Tolkien. I was published the first time at age eight in a popular children’s magazine.

My father was also very humble and fun and rarely serious. It was NOT uncommon for me to come home from college only to be attacked from the bushes with a long-range high-powered water gun. Here’s this 49 year-old man who was goofy enough to ambush his daughter with a toy.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

The bad?

My father wanted to please his family more than he wanted to be a writer. He wilted in the face of any criticism. In wanting to please everyone, he pleased no one, including himself and the consequences were steep. He feared failure so much he never tried, thus sealing he would fail anyway.

I was doing the same thing. I was in a job I hated because “it paid great money” and had lots of perks and made my family Oh so proud. Let’s just ignore that I had to pull over to puke on the side of the road every day because of the stress, because I hated my job with every fiber of my being. It was a fabulous job…for someone else.

I was paralyzed by the fear of failure to the point I was willing to work a job the world believed was “acceptable.” I crumbled at any hint of criticism. I lived my life by committee and was a wreck because of it.

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The fear of ending up like my dad served its purpose for a time. It helped me stand up to family when I decided to leave the corporate world to become an author. I studied my father’s missteps then did the opposite. Where he retreated, I plunged ahead. My father was all about escape—music, books, books, books, TV. Ignore the real world and get lost in a fantasy. He neglected his writing, his home, his dog, his life to be…elsewhere. Like the grasshopper and all play no work.

This drove me to become self-directed, self-motivated, disciplined…and neurotic.

While it’s good to examine what we fear, we risk going to the other extreme. Fear, in many ways, is like a family dog. Trained properly it can defend us and keep us from harm. Yet, if we don’t keep it leashed and make it “heel,” it will chew on our souls and pee on our dreams.

Fear of Ourselves

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

When I examined my father’s strengths and weaknesses I witnessed my own. Yes, I was blessed with a sharp mind and talent. But, I let others have too much sway in my life. Why? The only one who’d face the consequences was ME. It’s hard to share this, but I was lazy. I believed more in luck and opportunity than hard work. My locus of focus was external. I blamed people and circumstances for where I was or wasn’t.

If I had a computer then I could write.

If I didn’t have to work a day job then I could finish the novel.

If others would take me seriously, then I’d be more “inspired.”

I relied too much on inspiration and underestimated the power of perspiration. I wanted the “Seal of Approval” from the outside world before I could do anything.

Lately, I have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. I’ve realized that fear has chewed through its leash and gutted my couch self-esteem. I can accomplish a hundred things in a day, yet have come to see I’m only noticing the ten I missed. Self-examination has shifted to self-deprecation.

And this will happen. It’s natural. But why I’m blogging about this is I want you (and even me) to be alert. Watch for the read flags that good fear has turned on us.

My family had the Autumn from Hell in 2013. Two family members with MAJOR surgeries. My mom had a hernia so bad they almost thought they couldn’t repair it. My sister-in-law nearly went blind and had to undergo one of the most horrific and painful surgeries anyone could endure to repair her detached retinas. My grandmother passed away. I’d just about come up for air and then something else would knock me to my knees.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

At the beginning of the year, we thought we’d be able to recuperate. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. The big trucks where my husband works all went down at the same time. No trucks? The company goes under and the company has only one mechanic.

My husband is trained in diesel engines. He’s worked 60-70 hours a week for the past month with one day off, meaning I’ve had one day off. Since Hubby’s gone most of the time, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping on top of running a business and writing…with virtually NO break from The Spawn.

To add a new layer of difficulty the washer died. Hubby can repair it, but he doesn’t have time. This has left me lugging loads and loads of laundry to a nearby laundromat. Also, a few days ago, my other grandmother was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening and unknown infection. The stress has been crushing (part of why I added in vigorous exercise).

I’ve been working my tail off. Any time I sit down for five minutes, I hear the voices. You’re just not trying hard enough. That ten minutes you sat down? You could have been cleaning, working, writing, coming up with a cure for cancer.

I recognize that one of my early character flaws was laziness. But in the past couple days, I’ve come to recognize that I’m teetering on the other extreme. It’s great to be a hard worker, to be disciplined. But rest and play are vital to maintain balance, mental health and joy.

Fear Will Drag Us To Extremes If We Permit It

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Fear is a riptide. Swim with it or allow it to drag us under. I can be so afraid of being lazy I become a workaholic. So afraid of being irresponsible I become over-responsible and even controlling. Fear can drive kids of obese parents to eating disorders, children of abusive parents to being far too permissive, offspring of broke parents to be obsessed with accumulation of money and on and on.

The trick is to face what we fear and see it for what it IS. Almost all of us fear failure, but failure is the tuition we pay for success. We can fear criticism, but criticism is a fact of life. Fear of criticism can lead to perfectionism or passivity. Conversely, criticism can help us toughen up or even become stronger, better or more resolved.

What’s the answer? First, be self-aware. Many of us bee-bop through life going through the motions without inspecting the why behind our choices. This is dangerous. Fear is both good and bad. What changes the nature of fear is how we are using it. Are we using fear to be proactive or are we being reactive? When we’re proactive, we’re acknowledging fear and taking positive steps. We hold the leash. When we are reactive? Fear has a leash on us.

Fear is a feeling, which means it can lie. F.E.A.R. can be False Evidence Appearing Real. Evidence requires examination. Do we hold onto it or dismiss it? I feared ending up like my dad. That I would value pleasing others so much I’d live an empty life.

We cannot live the dreams of others and be fulfilled. This was positive fear. The evidence of my father’s choices showed me the truth of what happens to someone too afraid to fail. That evidence was real and worth holding onto. I also had to examine what he did right and grab hold.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

Unexamined fear can become The Hamster Wheel of Doom. The HWOD tells me I suck because I’m not a fitness model with an immaculate Martha-Stewart-decorated-home, twenty best-selling books, a mansion and I’ve failed to travel to Africa twice a year to feed the starving children.

That’s false fear. 

"Meet Spiffy the Hamster." He's DEAD. Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

“Meet Spiffy the Hamster.” He’s DEAD.
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

If I asked any of you right now to take out a piece of paper and write down all that’s wrong with you, I’d wager most would have twenty pages. But what if I asked what’s right with you? Bet you’re stumped, too.

We all struggle. Struggle can be good. Resistance is what makes us grow. But if we only focus on what’s wrong with us, we’ll just get more. We are what we focus on.

In racing, part of how they train drivers to win is teaching the driver to acknowledge the wall, but never look at it. The car goes where the driver looks. Look at the wall and you’ll hit the wall. Focus on the finish line.

All of us have our “wall.” Mine is laziness, people-pleasing, blind loyalty, procrastination, and I could list even more. I recognize them. I respect them. But I must focus on the positive. I am also disciplined, kind, generous and passionate and these qualities deserve my attention. If we focus enough on developing the positive, it will eventually crowd out the negative.

We also must learn to focus on the realistic. I am human. It’s okay to take a nap, play some video games, or read a book. There will always be more laundry, more dishes. But at the end of my days will I remember the clean dishes or the hour I spent running through the house with The Spawn with NERF guns “hunting zombies”? I can focus on the negative legacy my father left, but that might cost me the positive legacy he gave me.

I will never be too old to enjoy a bounce house.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a "serious" business after all.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a “serious” business after all.

What are your thoughts? Who has the leash? You or your fears? Do you find yourself being reactive? Too hard on yourself? Do you struggle to list what’s good about who you are? Is it hard to have fun? Do you feel guilty for rest? Is it tough to cut yourself slack? Do you find yourself maybe going to extremes because you fear being like a parent or other adult influence? Or maybe you’ve made positive changes and you’re afraid if you take one day off you’ll slip back into what you worked so hard to change?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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