Archive for category The Writer’s Life

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.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.46.35 AM

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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115 Comments

Is Your Subconscious Mind Setting You Up for Failure?

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

In my last post we discussed striving to find balance and giving ourselves permission to be imperfect. This brought about some interesting discussion and I’d like to expound. I confess. Americans are notorious for “shortening” the language.

We use a lot of words as synonyms when, truth be told, they aren’t. Or we have “blanket words” which mask truth, thus prevent us from making progress in life, with relationships, our career or even ourselves.

As writers, we of all people should appreciate the power of words. We have the ability to create entire new worlds that could possibly endure hundreds or thousands of years…all by using various combinations of symbols. Words have creative and destructive power. This is true in non-fiction, fiction and in life.

When I began college, I was on scholarship to become a doctor, thus spent over three years as a Neuroscience Major. Though I eventually earned my degree in Underwater Basket-Weaving (International Relations/Economics), I’m still a geek when it comes to science.

I subscribe to Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discovery Magazine and inhale science books like candy, but brain science is of particular interest to me.

Did you know, for instance, that our brains cannot discern the difference between truth and lie? So, if we walk around with a self-dialogue that says, I’m just going to fail. I never finish what I start. I can’t do this. Our brains metaphorically shrug and say, “Okay. As you wish.” It is the human will that makes the difference, and will is guided by self-talk and belief.

I love leadership books and self-help, and I know they catch a lot of flack. I don’t buy the Think It and It Will Happen because this is only part of a much larger equation. We still have to put in the sweat equity. BUT, self-talk can act as an internal guidance system, which means we have to be careful of our thought life as well as what we tell ourselves and others.

Another interesting fact is that the human brain begins listening at the first ACTIVE VERB. I see this bungle in advertising all the time.

Don’t forget to sign up!

When does the brain begin listening? What is it really “hearing”?

Forget to sign up.

Changing how we talk to ourselves and others can make a HUGE difference. Instead of saying Don’t forget where you put your keys, replace that with Remember where you put your keys. You’ll be surprised how much your “memory” will improve.

Blanket Words

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

Blanket words are particularly dangerous because of their vagueness. We cannot change our self-destructive behaviors, rid poor habits, gain better habits, achieve or even properly communicate if we get lazy with the language. All right, maybe some can, but life can already be tough enough, why make it tougher?

I’ve told this story before, so forgive me if you’ve heard it. Part of how I became a writer is I have HORRIFIC food allergies, which often can be diagnosed as other illnesses. In my case, I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy.

The misdiagnosis destroyed my career and wrecked my immune system. I’d had pneumonia three times in a year and couldn’t get well. I lost everything and had to move in with my mother, which was humiliating and demoralizing.

I recall my mom coming into my room one day and I was still in bed. I’d always been a neat-freak. In fact, when I was in sales, I once moved and the movers were shocked it took less than three hours to move me and took less than four hours for me to completely unpack. They teased me that I was the “House the Rubbermaid made,” meaning everything was neat and organized and labeled and in an appropriate box.

So fast-forward to me living with my mom. Laundry everywhere. I couldn’t have found my own butt without GPS and a flashlight. I’m still in bed. All I want to do is cry and OD on chocolate. My mom comes in and asks if I am depressed. This was an A-HA moment for me.

I said, “No, I’m overwhelmed. I’m angry. I don’t know where to start. I’m heartbroken.”

For the first time, I refused to use this blanket word depressed. I spoke aloud the truth of what was really happening  inside and, for the first time, this empowered me. What could I do about being “depressed” other than maybe take meds and go to yet another shrink who wanted to talk about my childhood and have me journal to my Inner Child? (I walked out of the last psychiatrist’s office the second she mentioned “journal.”)

And journaling might have been productive had I been being specific instead of playing the internal violin and using nebulous words like sad or tired or depressed. When I finally confessed I was overwhelmed?

Well, Kiddies, we can do something about that.

We can make lists of everything that is scaring the bejeezus out of us and break those frogs down into manageable parts for positive change. Anger? We can confess that and let it go. Figure out WHY then change that, too. Tired? Are we really tired or are we disillusioned, overwhelmed, or wounded? Maybe we are simply dehydrated or need more exercise and sleep.

I was really proud of my mom the other day. She works a tough job as an RN. Instead of saying, “I had a bad day” she said, “I had an arduous day.” Note the difference? Bad is a blanket and amorphous qualifier that risks tainting our overall attitude. Arduous?

“Arduous” is limited to the circumstances of that day and even implies a bit of victory because, despite the day being difficult? She MADE IT!

Careful of False Synonyms

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

This dovetails into my next point. There are a lot of words we use as synonyms which really aren’t. For instance, someone might say, “She is such a mature eight-year-old.” No. Maturity is only birthed from experience and, unless this eight-year-old just escaped a concentration camp? Unlikely she is mature. Now, the child might be precocious (seeming older than her years) but she isn’t mature.

She’s still a delicate little kid who needs the support of adults. “Mature” implies she’s earned emotional armor she doesn’t have and often can set the kid up for facing things alone when an adult really needs to be there for guidance and support.

Mad or angry are other false synonyms. What are we really? Disappointed? Ask the tough questions because those yield the best answers and thus can reveal the best plan to remedy the situation.

If I say to my husband, “You are such a jerk and I’m mad at you,” this limits what either of us can do.

However, if I say, “I’m really disappointed. I feel like too many of the plans for global domination and laundry are being left to me and I need help. I’m overwhelmed.” THIS implies a reality which has a plan of action to remedy the situation. Let HIM train the sea monkeys Ju-Jitsu for a change.

Situational Versus Conditional

This brings me to the impetus for this blog. “Striving for excellence” and “perfection” are two different things. If I’m caught up in “perfectionism” notice the “ism” at the end. The —ism is Latin for the condition of things. Alcoholism, racism, sexism. See how this implies a belief and a continuing state rather than an event?

The reason perfectionism is particularly nefarious is perfection is an impossible goal. Thus, when we buy into perfectionism we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure, disappointment, self-loathing and neuroses. Perfection can’t be attained so the goal can never be reached.

There will always be someone who doesn’t like our blog/book/article. We cannot please everyone. There will always be someone fitter, thinner, richer, more talented, and The Perfection Gremlin goes nuts when faced with any kind of “competition.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 6.12.56 AM

Striving for excellence? Totally different story. We can be excellent without being “perfect.” Excellence ships. Excellence has deadlines. I can finish and let go of an excellent book. A perfect book? Good way to still be editing the same book for a decade.

Perfect steals the life from life and from art. Life is messy and rough and often what we humans love. We don’t like “perfect” people or “perfect” characters because we can’t connect and relate.

Perfectionism is qualitative, where as excellence is QUANTITATIVE. We can’t measure an imaginary ideal. We can, however measure PROGRESS.

Make it a habit to say, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be. I’m growing every day.” Say it even when you don’t believe it. Eventually the brain with catch up and so will reality.

Tell Me What You WANT

I get onto my mom about this all the time (yet she still loves me and IS improving). For instance, after a major surgery last year, she started working on rebuilding muscle. She’d say, “I don’t want to be an old lady who can’t even get off the toilet.” I corrected her and said, “Okay, now tell me what you DO want instead of what you DON’T want.”

I want to be extremely fit. I want to be an energetic, athletic older woman.

Same with writing. Instead of, “I don’t want to be a failure.” Tell me/yourself what you DO want. And going back to one of the point I made earlier in the post, look at what negative and even positive goals are REALLY telling us if the brain is lazy and only begins listening at the first active verb.

I don’t want to be fat.

I want to be fit and healthy.

I don’t want to be one of those writers who never sells books.

I want to be a successful author who makes enough off my writing to quit the day job and live even more comfortably doing what I love.

This is why I LOATHE the term “aspiring writer.” Aspiring gives us a pass. It labels us as hobbyists who are holding back out of fear. “Pre-Published Author” comes with responsibility, confidence and a plan of action.

To achieve anything, we must set goals. From finishing the laundry to finishing the novel. Yet, a key component of solid goals is they are positive, actionable and attainable. And don’t let the attainable throw you off. Yes, timing, luck and chance can factor into this. BUT, I can have a goal of, “I will be a NYT Best-Selling Author” and take steps to make that reality…like, um, writing. 

Testing What We Believe

One of my first jobs as a writer was I wrote textbooks for teaching forensic writing analysis. To do this I trained for months with investigators studying thousands and thousands of writing samples (and I used to give a super cool presentation on this subject).

The FBI can look at handwriting and tell A LOT about the person and it’s a fantastic way of constructing a psychological profile. Why? Handwriting doesn’t lie.

***And people will say, Oh, but my writing is always different. I have at least five types of handwriting. To the trained eye? Nope. There are fundamentals that will remain consistent.****

I can look at a sample of writing and tell if the person still has her wisdom teeth (there is a neurological hiccup that will give an extra dollop of ink at a particular hesitation mark in rounded letters like “o” once those particular teeth are removed).

The trained analyst can see anger, aggression, level of self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, depression, emotional repression, psychosis, immaturity, narcissism, self-confidence, joy, love and on and on. The “science” (though only a tool and not admissible in court) is truly remarkable and frighteningly accurate.

There was one tidbit of my training that I’ve kept with me for the past fifteen years. In our handwriting (for most people) it is impossible to lie. Our subconscious will tattle on us every time. How? Spaces.

Most people aren’t sociopaths so we kinda suck at lying. If forced to lie in a conversation, one of the ways others spot our lie is in our hesitation.

Where were you?

I was    at the    movies.

The same phenomena happens when we write. There will be a space if we don’t believe what we’re writing. The bigger the space? The more we disbelieve what we’re “saying.”

Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write things you know you believe versus something you know is completely false (at a normal speed of writing) and look at the difference. I do this to double-check what I believe about my goals and see what I really feel on a subconscious level.

I will be a New York Times Best-Selling Author!

Or?

I    will be     a   New York Times     Best-Selling Author

Often I will crosscheck with silly sentences to compare.

I     will    give   up     writing     for    life in the     rodeo.

Thus, if I get:

I will finish my next novel by May.

I will     give    up     and go    back into     sales.

I can cross-compare and SEE what my subconscious believes is truth. And, to be blunt, when I began as a writer? I didn’t believe I’d succeed. I’d write:

One day     soon    I    will    be           published.

The spaces represent what we either don’t believe, accept or even where we might be emotionally distancing. Other things that might happen in this exercise is, if we don’t believe? We will misspell things. If we believe? We can see !s or even underlines. This shows we really are believing what we are writing.

When I began doing this 15 years ago, I didn’t believe it when I wrote I will be a successful author. I got:

I     will be   a succsessfull     writer

But, as I took steps to learn the craft, build a platform, read, train, and finish, guess what happened? Eventually my belief changed and I could literally measure how my subconscious self was improving over time with this simple exercise.

I went from:

I     will be   a succsessfull     writer

I   will be   a successful   writer (notice the spaces closing and no longer misspelled)

I am    a successful writer (Hmmm, no punctuation and still have gaps, but notice the verb change)

I am a successful writer (No more spaces)

I am a successful writer. (Improving)

I am a successful writer(BINGO!)

I believe that success, finishing, joy, peace, reaching dreams and making them reality begins in the mind. We can only achieve that which we can first conceive. I’m very careful about my self-talk. If I catch myself saying, “Don’t forget to send out that check.” I stop and say, “Remember to send out that check.”

I only permit the positive. I used to chant, “Oh, I am such a failure. Why hope for anything good? I’ll just be disappointed. I’ll never finish this book.” I expected rejection and failure, so guess what I got?

To be blunt, this transition wasn’t overnight. I had a lifetime of bad habits when it came to how I spoke about myself, my situation and others. I had to first be aware of what I was thinking and saying. Then, I had to change that and learn to rephrase in the positive. Changing my way of speaking changed my thinking and then finally my beliefs.

But, it was a process and it’s one that never ends.

Even in the darkest times when life was kicking me in the teeth, instead of playing the Woe is Me tune, I began thinking and saying, “What is this challenge developing in me? In my character? How am I going to grow stronger because of this?” It might even be something as simple as remaining peaceful. We don’t have to be at the mercy of circumstance.

We can’t choose our situation, but we can choose our attitudes. We can change how we see ourselves and our futures. And this is like bathing, it should be done daily. There is no Magic Thought Wand that’s going to transform us overnight. This is a process and a habit and it must be maintained (and paired with work), ergo why I really love that writing exercise. It’s clear when I’m slipping and allowing negativity and doubt and perfectionism to take over.

What are your thoughts? *bada bump snare* Do you have negative self-talk? Are you working to break the habit? Are you conscious about your thought life? Do you struggle with the trap of perfectionism? Are you now terrified I will see your handwriting? :D

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Also, I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. THANK YOU!

 

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135 Comments

Author Branding—Harnessing the Power of Digital Age Storms

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ahhh, the new buzz word, BRAND. What exactly is an author brand? Great question. Branding has gone through a major transition over the past decade. The globe is more interconnected than ever in human history and this trend is increasing exponentially. We’ve seen the fall of major gatekeepers and a complete shift in consumer buying patterns, making discoverability a nightmare in The Digital Age.

Proper branding is one of THE most critical elements of author success. Brands that are outdated, boring, rigid, abandoned, fractured, negative or nonexistent are not only unhelpful, but they can spell disaster to our career and eating earning potential as artists. An author brand has to fit in the new paradigm. If we live in a world that’s changing hourly, our brands have to be able to bend and move and shift with changes.

Being a total history nerd, this makes me think of that definitive battle between the Spanish and the English when King Phillip II made an unsuccessful attempt to invade Elizbethan England. At the time, there were major tactical and technological shifts regarding the way that battles at sea were conducted.

The Spanish Armada was the shining example of traditional sea warfare—towering ships that were more like floating fortresses. The galleons rode high out of the water, making them slow, not very maneuverable and difficult to sail.

On the other hand, the English captains (in particular Francis Drake and John Hawkins) relied on a new form of “race ship”. “Lower in the water, with a long prow and much reduced fore and after castles, these sleek ships carried more sophisticated forms of rigging, enabling them to sail closer to the wind, making them faster and more maneuverable than the Spanish ships.” ~BritishBattles.Com

Long story short, the English ships could take advantage of the elements (high winds, rough seas) and were far more maneuverable. The Spanish fleet was too bulky, and, when battered by North Sea storms? Very expensive gold-plated splinters. Spain lost almost their entire fleet and this defeat of the Spanish Armada marked the rise of the English Empire.

Why do I give this story? Other than it is COOL?

Brands in The Digital Age are encountering the same tactical and technological changes. We are no longer part of the rigid, massive, virtually immobile TV-Industrial complex. We need to be innovative, creative and build a brand that can harness change instead of being splintered by change. Algorithms shift constantly. Social platforms come and go and change tactics. Trends shift. Tastes shift. We need to be able to use these changes to power momentum.

As you know, tonight is the beginning of WANACon (details below) but we always launch with PajamaCon, which is FREE. We are going to hang out in jammies, have fun and I am going to talk about what it means to create an author brand.

• What is an author brand?

• How has branding changed in The Digital Age?

• Outdated and ineffective branding approaches.

• How much time should we invest in branding?

• What are ways to keep a brand flexible?

• Practical ways to grow our author brand.

WANA is all about helping authors, so PajamaCon is our gift to you. I’ve done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to. There are ways to brand that will make you cry and end up curled in the fetal position with a bottle of tequila. It’s much better to start building properly than to have to rip down to the foundation and start all over. Brands take time to build, so even if you’re just now working on that first book? BEGIN TODAY.

Yes, branding is critical, but a good book is as well. I can tell you as a long-time content editor that it can be VERY costly. This is why I have added in some killer prizes for attendees.

You, me, your book, bandages and suture-kits. Either I can help you fix a book that’s not working or plot one with you that WILL. So if your book is on life-support, DOA or you’re lost and can’t find your original idea? I can help. If your brand/blog makes you want to hurl yourself into a leaf-chipper (been there), here’s your chance to get one-on-one time with moi for some help.

CONTEST DETAILS

So, WANACon is here. PajamaCon is a gift  (CLICK HERE FOR INFO) and gives you a chance to make sure your computer is set up properly if you choose to join us for the conference. If not? Still a fun time and a chance to learn. SIGN UP for WANACon HERE. Also, AGENT PITCHES are available. You can SIGN UP HERE.

Since my goal is to see you guys succeed, I am offering three BIG prizes for WANACon Attendees. Grand Prize is The Book/Brand Combo. I will personally consult to either assist in plotting a new book or fixing one that doesn’t work. I will also consult you personally on your brand and give you a plan for SEO, content, everything. Book Prize is I work with you to plot or fix a book. Branding Prize is I personally consult you on your brand, teach you about SEO and lay out a plan.

EVERYONE who attends WANACon automatically gets ten entries. Encourage a friend to sign up and you earn 25 additional entries and the friend who signs up gets 15. Just make sure to tell us who referred you. WANA is committed to helping you realize your dream.

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19 Comments

Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

One of the reasons I am SO HAPPY you guys take the time to comment and share your thoughts is your insights often highlight areas I might not have thought to address.  A commenter Mr. Dandylion replied to my publishing predictions for 2014 with darker thoughts, which included this phrase:

“A new author will commit suicide after a sustained online bullying campaign, most likely stemming from Goodreads; it will cause major headlines and public anger.”

Those words hit home and made me think. Granted, as a writer, I’ve experienced my share of trolls and (gratefully) only two LOONIES. But I have too many author friends (including NYTBSAs) who’ve been victimized by flash mobs of cyber-bullies. I’ve also had blogger friends who wrote on very innocent topics randomly victimized by gangs of trolls for seemingly no reason.

Oddly, when I tried to research bullying and bullying resources for yesterday’s post, I was taken aback at how most of the tips were for kids, teens and parents. The problem is that (as MANY commenters shared yesterday) bullies don’t go away. They grow older and often more vicious.

Often these creeps are on-line, in church, in critique groups, clubs and in the workplace. After six years in Rotary, I left because of bullies. They had stolen all my joy for public service…so I took my passion for helps elsewhere.

Their "future boss." Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Their “future boss.” Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Another commenter, Lloyd Lofthousel was thoughtful enough to share this link in the comments; a NY Times article about the study of aggression and how the actual makeup of the brains of aggressive teens is vastly different from those of non-aggressive teens. Aggressive teens demonstrated heightened activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when shown images/films of acts of violence and cruelty (images that would have repulsed the rest of us).

Granted, this is a very small study but it, again gave me food for thought. This study made me think of a recent article in Discover by Dan Hurley; Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (which I highly recommend you read in full).

Is DNA REALLY at Fault?

Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of “Blame DNA or Blame Mom.” We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice. But neuroscience and genetics might offer insights and tools for how we as a culture can feed the good and starve the bad, so to speak.

According to the article, Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist married their theories and work and pioneered a new area of study, which came to be known as epigenics.

These two scientists posited that nature and nurture were highly integrated and also that humans might carry genetic memory through generations. I confess I am no scientist and this is a Spark’s Notes for discussion, but it is fascinating. As a blog, this IS immensely reductive, so forgive me. But the theory is interesting for debate.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

According to this new research, we all have DNA (duh), but what Szyf and McGill noticed was our spools of DNA required something “extra” to activate certain genes. One of these extra elements is the methyl group, which, “works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).” Discover, Hurley

In English, right?

Originally, epigenetic changes were assumed to happen only during fetal development. But Szyf and McGill wanted to probe further. Could grandad’s experience as a POW during Vietnam affect a grandson’s DNA?

“According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.” Discover, Hurley 

Of course, what was really interesting about this article is it gives us good reasons to believe we aren’t at the mercy of DNA or methyl groups. Methylation apparently can be changed. Just like a diet of fried Twinkies can activate cancer genes, growing up in a stressful, neglectful household can similarly activate traits for suicide, depression, aggression, etc. by methylating those parts of the DNA.

This, I feel, is how we can see either generational traits continue or cease. In my own experience, I grew up in a Jerry Springer household. Fighting, yelling, abuse was the norm. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.

Thus, when I grew up to become a parent, I made it a point to maintain peace and consistency.

Whereas I was a high-strung, neurotic, fearful child, who suffered night terrors and sleep issues for years, The Spawn is happy, calm, gentle and can sleep anywhere. Yet, as parents, we have ZERO tolerance for people who want to infuse stress and chaos into our lives. This has meant terminating old friendships and even avoiding contact with certain family members.

Is Our Society Birthing Bullies by Tolerating and Ignoring Them?

I probably love watching Discovery ID more than is healthy (hey, I AM a writer). But one common theme does emerge when studying criminals and, specifically, serial rapists and killers. They often begin small. If they aren’t caught or properly counseled/punished early in the cycle, they grow increasingly emboldened.

This lack of consequences fuels a growing narcissism that “they can get away with anything” (generally until they are finally apprehended or grow bored and turn themselves in so they can write books from prison and be rewarded for being psychos).

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

I feel when we don’t stand up to bullies, when we give children advice like “ignore them and they will go away” this feeds the rush bullies so enjoy (and crave). The rush then only bathes the DNA in more of these methyl groups because the bully has been able to create chaos and upset and get away with it.

***NOTE: I feel we aren’t teaching children how to properly ignore bullies. We need to guide children how to remain peaceful, happy and continue life, not hide in a library and stop participating in school out of terror. This only FEEDS more intense bullying.***

I am making this arm-chair assertion based off the article, but according to this research, those who have a proclivity for violence—when subjected to (or allowed to create) stressful, chaotic and aggressive atmospheres—only get worse. The negative environment increases the methyl bath that continues to activate certain negative genetic traits.

To extend the logic, when major blogs allow trolls to rant and throw furniture in the comments without censure, it’s gasoline on the fire of what’s fueling them to begin with. When bullies can make someone retreat from the Internet, stop blogging, hide, they WIN…and grow even MORE emboldened and continue searching out even more targets to terrorize to feed the rush.

When the office bully can attack someone at the copy machine and not be fired? This emboldens the bully and, like any addiction, it generally requires larger doses for the same high.

I think this is why ignoring trolls in the comments, deleting them and refusing to feed them does often work. They aren’t getting the desired response that gives them the dopamine rush of “winning.” It’s also why I believe they disappear when faced with a wall of loving, caring people who support the victim. Their positive energy disrupts the chaos and fear the bully craves.

It is also why arguing or fighting with an on-line bully generates the opposite effect—it makes trolls CRAZIER, because we’ve chosen the wrong form of confrontation. When we “fight back” we give them the negativity they need.

Not all confrontation has to be aggressive ;).

The Counterpoint—Can Victims Be Healed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Methy groups (according to the research) don’t only affect those who are aggressive. Methylation can also activate depression, anxiety, codependency, etc. Often dysfunctional families are made up of aggressors and victims (I know that was my case growing up).

For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.

Which is crap, btw, and for another blog.

Yet, one of the interesting observations I’ve made as the WANA Mama is that many shy, frightened, even victimized writers have found tremendous healing by being part of a large group that focuses on love, support and service. They’ve become brave enough to blog, to post, to write, to publish, to *gasp* have FUN because there is a different kind of family offering a very different type of energy.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

When authors have life beating them up? They have a safe place. When an author’s family, spouse or friends are being cruel or critical? They can come to us. When a troll mob is on the attack? The WANAs can step in and diffuse the hate. Darkness can’t help but retreat when faced with light. Love is more powerful than fear.

What Can We DO?

Regarding this discussion on neuroscience, I believe we can change behaviors. Deny the hateful the chaos they seek and provide the love and tranquility for those who need it. Changes in environment can make the aggressive more empathetic and the cowed more confident.

But how?

Rethink Cyberspace

I feel there are many areas of life where certain behaviors are simply NOT tolerated. As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, Amazon, Goodreads, Huffington, Yahoo, etc. are on-line, but they ARE places of business—not a free-for-all-forum where anything is permitted.

Amazon sells, well…everything. But major blogs count on ads to thrive and grow. If people grow fearful or weary of trolls? They’ll move on to blogs where they aren’t afraid to comment. This means the site will have lower hits and no one will want to advertise…and then the site goes away.

We all have rights. But my RIGHT to swing my fist STOPS where your nose begins.

I have the right to complain. I DO NOT have the right to scream, yell, shout obscenities, and stalk and abuse the staff. If I went to a restaurant, I have the right to complain about the food or the service. But, if I screamed obscenities and attacked everyone in range verbally, do you guys think the manager would say, “Oh just ignore her”? NO. He’d toss me out on my butt and call the cops if I refused to behave or leave.

And if I gathered all my hateful friends to mob-attack the restaurant, would I be allowed to continue with this behavior? NO. I’d be sitting with my jerk friends in jail.

Take Charge of Our Blogs—Moderation is Paramount

I think as bloggers, we can be diligent to not allow abuse on our blogs. I guest-posted for a big author one time and a commenter was just INSANE and going for my throat…and the author allowed it because of “freedom of speech.” I never blogged there again.

Big blogs like Huffington, etc. need to increase moderation and have a Code of Conduct for commenting AND STICK TO IT. People can disagree, but they cannot act in any way that would land them a ticket or in JAIL if this was in person. If these blogs don’t take moderation more seriously, businesses won’t want to advertise there because the clientele (readers/commenters) has been sacred off.

Strength in Loving Community

Those of us who want to enjoy the Internet need to find a community of friends and support. WANA is of course an option, but there are surely others. Start your own. Be the light ;).

Positive Confrontation

Boundaries are crucial for any healthy relationship. Refuse to tolerate hateful comments on social media. I delete people who are offensive or out of control. I then politely message them and tell them I am happy to leave their comment if they can rephrase respectfully. If they refuse to stop peeing on the digital furniture? I report and block them or unfriend.

Be Professional

We cannot please everyone. Art is very subjective. We can never write a book everyone loves. Bad reviews happen, and, as professionals, we need to put on our Big Writer Pants. We cannot endure, let alone succeed in this business if we have the skin of a grape.

Yes, writers need to feel safe to publish, but reviewers also need to feel safe to review. Just because they don’t like a book doesn’t automatically make them a bully or troll. If we get too many bad (but thoughtful and respectful) reviews? We might have jumped the gun and published too soon. Maybe we need to pull the book and rerelease with better editing. Or try again.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

I know as an editor I’ve had writers go NUTS because I didn’t say every word was unicorn glitter. This is a profession not a playpen. When I was a neophyte, I got a lot of bloody noses in critique (but they were right). Honest feedback is what helped me get rhino-skin and become a better writer. It happens. We grow.

We can’t grow if we aren’t open to critique. Also, there comes a point when we have to brush things off. People have the right to an opinion (and they aren’t always correct). We don’t have to listen to and follow every opinion or we will end up with crappy books-by-committee.

So what are your thoughts? I don’t think we are at the mercy of nature or nurture. I believe we still have choice. But do you think we can change the future, no matter our genetic predispositions? Do you think we as a society or greater community could help drive that positive change? That maybe we could deflate bullies and rehabilitate the abused? What are for thoughts on nature-nurture? Were you from a crazy family too and yet managed to break free with your own kids? I like to think we can change the world, but blind optimism is my superpower :D…

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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146 Comments

Expectations & Reality—Making a Better, Happier, Stronger YOU

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 7.18.43 AM

Twig the Fairy

My father loved to spin yarns and tell jokes, and one of my favorite jokes of his was the one about the twins (some of you have heard this before, but it never gets old). One was a pessimist and the other was an optimist. As my father told it…

Scientists were conducting an experiment to study the difference between pessimists and optimists. So, they searched far and wide for parents with twins—-one an optimist and one a pessimist. Finally, they found a pair of boys, and, after all the waivers were signed, the experiment could begin. There were two rooms, both were waist-deep in horse manure. The scientists watched from behind the two-way mirror to see what would happen.

One boy (the pessimist) cried and moaned, “I just knew it. This stuff always happens to me. I should have known that something bad was going to happen. Why can’t I ever get a break?”

The other boy, though, was slogging happily around the room and laughing as he flung horse manure into the air, each time with a healthy giggle. Baffled, the scientists had to enter the room of the optimistic twin and ask, “What on earth are you so happy about? Don’t you realize you’re waist-deep in animal feces?”

The boy replied, “Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I be happy? With all this horse sh!% there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Meltdown

The past three months have been crazy. October and November were a train wreck when it came to my personal life. Just about the time I was seeing some light, Dallas/Fort Worth was hit with a major ice storm last weekend, which wasn’t so bad until Saturday when every sink, tub, shower and toilet decided to back up water and sewage and flood the floors. We used every towel we owned to keep the walls and carpet from being ruined…and every plumber in DFW was down. They, too, couldn’t get out because of the ice.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday cleaning the epic mess.

But you know what?

I don’t believe it is any great test of character to be happy when everything is going our way. Anyone can do that. The real mark of a person is how he or she behaves when the world seems to be caving in. Can we be peaceful, calm, happy, and look for the good….no matter what?

Yes, I freaked out for a few minutes and cried about the mess and that no plumber could come help. But, after I had my five-minute pity-party, I worked with my husband to make a plan to endure the freeze. We cleaned up as much as we could then began pouring boiling water with dish detergent down the main sink. Soon, the plumbing wasn’t backing up into the tubs, sinks and showers and we could take brief showers and use the sinks and toilets…carefully.

I set my mind that the ice storm was really a blessing. We wouldn’t have to pay the $250 emergency fee just for a plumber to show up. We made it until Monday and guess what? It was a regular plumbing visit (a clog) and the total was $218. If one of the four companies I’d called when I was freaking out on Saturday had actually been able to come over? It would have easily been close to $500.

Feelings Need Discipline

We train our minds much like we train our bodies. We need to exercise them and discipline our habits. We have a choice how we react and a lot of this is influenced by our expectations. What are we expecting to happen? Are we looking for the good? Or looking for how we will be somehow wronged?

I know that I was born an optimist. I think that is why my father used to rib me with that joke. But, there was a span of about 15 years that I allowed other negative people to convince me that I was a fool, an idiot, an unrealistic Pollyanna. I started expecting the worst, and I wouldn’t allow myself to hope for anything, because if I didn’t expect good things then I couldn’t be disappointed. I became a grouch, a complainer and a seed of discontent…and no one wanted to be around me. My life was full of junk, and why wouldn’t it have been? I didn’t expect good things, so I couldn’t even see them when they sat right in front of my face.

Eventually, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I started being very careful about my thought life. Our mind doesn’t have to be a garbage dump. We are in control of our thoughts, and we don’t need to dwell on every thought that drifts into our brains. Focus on good things, and it is amazing how quickly the tough times will fly by. Life, people, your work will disappoint you. Sometimes, they might even rip out your heart and show it to you.

We can cave or we can change.

Yes, the view from the mountain’s summit is breathtaking, but nothing grows there. The most growth happens in the valleys. Film is developed in the dark and so is character. When hurt, pain, loss, disappointment, frustration come our way we have a choice in how we view the situation. All of us have rough spots, and those setbacks, hurts and trials are the spiritual sandpaper that will shape us into a more excellent version of ourselves.

I know that life is about seasons. There are seasons of joy  and abundance and it seems that everything is going my way. In turn, that isn’t all of life. Gotta have the sour, or the sweet isn’t as sweet. And, if I have to endure the sour, I choose to do it with a smile, with great expectation of the better Kristen those trials will make me.

With all this horse sh*& there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere :D!

What do you guys think? What are your opinions? Thoughts? Ideas? Have you ever experiences something that appeared to be a disaster, yet was a blessing in disguise? I love hearing from you guys! Btw, the above image is Twig the Fairy if you want to follow her on Facebook. I’ve met her and she is seriously NEAT.

I love hearing from you!

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

I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World onAmazon or even Barnes and Noble.

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74 Comments

Life’s Unseen Blessings—Are We Really Thankful?

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.18.48 AM

The Spawn is “helping” me edit….

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

Am I truly giving thanks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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

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

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73 Comments

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