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**Please check back as this blog is being overhauled to a (new) website**
Thank you! See you soon!
I heard Savanah Gutherie’s commencement speech this morning as replayed on the Today show, and it was excellent. Her words not only apply to the 2019 grads she was addressing, but they resonate with all of us. I especially feel her words in my own zig-zagged path to being a writer and getting published.
The goals are never-ending for me. I reach one, pause to celebrate for a minute, then push forward to the next. But in doing this, I often forget that, as Savanaha basically says, the journey is the destination.
As a writer, I speak to fellow writers who struggle with their path for various reasons that often change day to day. This speech will inspire you to keep going. But I also share this as a person living this thing called life. We can all use these inspiring words to keep us going.
Here are some highlights to note from Savanah’s speech:
“My path is not how anyone would tell anybody to get anywhere. It’s like someone giving you directions from right here to New York City by telling you to start heading toward Miami. But what I’ve realized is — no matter how many detours you take, you’re going to get where you are meant to go.”
“Every person sitting here has some kind of dream — an idea of what their lives might look like. It could be a career goal, it could be an athletic achievement, it could be the place you want to live or the family that you hope to create. Here’s the thing: Whisper it to yourself if you must, but say it out loud, put it out there – don’t curb your ambitions, don’t tell yourself, ‘I could never do that. I’m not good enough. It’s too much.’”
This is a particularly inspiring portion of the message:
“Every person sitting here has some kind of dream — an idea of what their lives might look like. It could be a career goal, it could be an athletic achievement, it could be the place you want to live or the family that you hope to create. Here’s the thing: Whisper it to yourself if you must, but say it out loud, put it out there – don’t curb your ambitions, don’t tell yourself, ‘I could never do that. I’m not good enough. It’s too much.’
My advice is really simple: Think big for yourself and then, just head in that general direction. Whether you arrive at the ideal destination is not even the point. The point is to be ambitious for your life … and then just, try.
Now: of course, I can’t know where your fulfillment and happiness will be found. I can’t tell you where your dream is. Only you know that.
But I can tell you where it isn’t. It isn’t in your comfort zone. It isn’t in your wheelhouse. It’s not where you feel safe. It’s not where conditions are perfect. It is not where you are usually right and rarely challenged.
Your blossoming and your growth — which is to say, your success — is always, always, inevitably, on the other side of a risk. It’s on the other side of a bold choice. It’s on the edge, waiting for you, on the other side of your fear.
This is true whether it’s career, or faith, a relationship, or love — when you find it, it will only be after you’ve taken that big, giant, daring leap. It will be you, standing at the tip of a ravine, or maybe it’s a tall cliff rising over a deep canyon … you’re looking down and looking across, your heartbeat is rising, your sweat glands are pulsing. You will be here many times. You will be called to do this again and again and again.
…And what you will find is — your obstacles, your broken places, the spots where you’ve healed, the things you’ve overcome — this is the source of your strength, and it also is the source of your beauty.”
If you’d like to see a video of her full speech or simply read the full thing, go to the Today Show page. https://www.today.com/news/read-savannah-s-guthries-full-graduation. It’s worth the read.
Mostly, I hope you walk away from this post with a bounce in your step and head out there with your purpose renewed.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve updated/posted a message on this blog, but I have a message I want to share that I believe will be helpful in some way to many people. It’s not a new message by any means, but one that is worth repeating.
We all feel fear at one point or another; it’s natural and in some cases, life saving. Fear isn’t always a bad thing, but at the same time, sometimes we need to push past fear to move forward. Writers, I can tell you, have to push past fears on a regular basis, or stay stagnant, wishing for success but never finding it. To find success in anything, we are often required to face and push through some kind of fear, however big or small.
I will concede that sometimes we should not ignore or push past fear, such as if we are making a decision weather or not to balance on the top of the railing of a building, or walk around a sheer cliff on a ledge hardly big enough for our feet, or jump into water without knowing the depth or what dangers lay hidden beneath (such as large rocks).
We do need common sense and logic, too. Of course. But most of our daily fears are not so dramatic. We may fear asking for a raise, sending in our story or manuscript, auditioning for a role, a job interview, social situations and so much more. When faced with these types of fears, we have two choices. We can choose comfort or we can choose to grow.
Simply writing a blog for some of us is choosing to grow over comfort. That’s the case for me. Sending a short story in for publication or entering a story in a contest is choosing growth over comfort as well. Most of us have to make this choice between experiencing growth or settling for comfort several times a day. Good for you every time you choose growth!
I would encourage you to choose growth as often as you can. You’ll never regret growth, but you may regret choosing comfort. Not always, but much of the time. Take a look back at choices you’ve made and how that played out. Even just over the last month.
Think of fear not as a roadblock, but rather as a chance to stretch yourself. It’s more of a stop sign. You stop, look both ways than continue through the intersection. You don’t stay stopped.
Anytime we push past our self-imposed boundaries, there’s a chance it might be a little painful at first, but like working out at the gym, the pain will pass and you’ll have gained muscle.
I’m sharing these suggestions as an average person who has personally pushed past her fears and boundaries countless times and reaped the benefits of doing so. I can tell you I would never have gotten any of my work published had I not pushed past my fears. And I’m still pushing and still experiencing the successes and benefits of doing so. Every day.
I’m not saying pushing past fears means you’ll always get what you wanted (that raise or published), but you will increase your chances of getting what you’re after. And you will benefit in several other ways. It’s a no-lose choice to make, pushing past fear. Again, we are talking about the fear that limits you and your potential, not the fear that saves your life.
May we all find the courage to push past our fears when there is a chance for personal growth!
Please feel free to share any stories of your own personal growth experience after facing a fear. However big or small, it’s all good.
To my fellow writers and authors, keep on pushing. The fear may not subside, but your courage will grow with every push. And successes will come more often!
Many of us are schedulers, meaning we have a daily planner and we use it. We jot down every appointment, meeting, grocery shopping trip and more. So why not schedule our writing time on the calendar or planner? I can almost hear you saying, “Yeah, good question. Why not?”
Finding Time to Write is important, but making time to write is imperative. If you write only when you find the time, you’ll likely never finish anything, or at the very least, it will take you far longer to complete that writing project than necessary. And who has time, really, for that? We are all busy, so time is important, don’t let it slip away.
I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know or suspect, but we all need reminders, especially if we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in the “I can’t find the time to write” mode. Shake it off and get writing! Yeah, easier said than done, right? Nope.
Granted, there will be times when you absolutely must stomp all over the time you carved out to write on any given day, that’s true of life. But keep it to a minimum. Don’t let just any activity, event, daydream, phone call, nails in need of filing, dog barking in the background or internet rabbit hole throw you off course. Schedule that stuff for another time.
“But it’s hard to stay focused with so much to do,” you might say. And I say, “You must if you want your writing career to get anywhere, or finish that novel or even short story.” Remember, it may be short, but it takes plenty of time to mold into perfection.
So, how do you insure (for the most part) that you write as often as you’d like, or as often as you need? It’s not magic, and you don’t even need to build some elaborate machine that shocks you every time you even think about leaving your chair. I mean you could do that, but there is an easier way: you schedule it! Like anything else that’s important to you.
Schedule, schedule, schedule.
I tell you this coming from a place of experience. I practice what I preach, and I schedule writing time on my weekly planner every week. I do. Even though the days I write are generally the same days every week, I jot down a block of time anyway. That’s the only way I can be sure I’ll sit down at the computer and write. I stop when I’m ready to stop, but I definitely have a start time. And if something does cause me to have to interrupt my carefully planned schedule, I move my writing to another time rather than scrap it all together.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I don’t write at all as planned. I am human, after all, and far from perfect. But the schedule helps minimize those occasions. You don’t have to be super rigid about it, but if you have it on your calendar, chances are you’ll make it work more often than not. Give it a try; it can’t hurt.
You can take a look at this subject from a slightly different angle by visiting The Write Life blog , an excellent resource for writers every day. But don’t stay too long, you have a schedule to keep!
Before you start pounding away on that well-worn keyboard, please take a minute to follow this blog and/or leave a comment, offering your own advice or personal experience on the subject.
I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer.
It’s been my experience that writers (or artists in general) are often cursed with heightened self-doubt. Constructive criticism, or any criticism, from the world hardly stands a chance against the ugly voice in our heads.
My latest bout with self-doubt had me sitting on the floor for thirty minutes, staring at the rug while contemplating quitting writing, tears pouring unchecked down my face. I couldn’t see anymore why I should continue to put myself through all the torture of trying to make it in the biz. But, the thought of giving up as a writer opened a hole of despair so deep, it was frightening.
I felt trapped. It was tortuous to continue writing, yet impossible to quit. The problem is, I love to write, to create fictional people and situations. But I also want to entertain others with that writing, give them something to enjoy, that touches their life in some way. Yes, I love to write, but I don’t love to spend hours upon hours, sweating over my creations purely for my own reading entertainment.
A couple of weeks earlier, I’d received a note from an e-zine (on-line magazine) editor about a short story I’d submitted. It was a rejection letter with a piece of advice. Pure gold! It’s rare to receive feedback on a submission outside of a form rejection, and I was thrilled with the opportunity to learn anything that will help me advance in my craft.
The note read: “This was a near miss with us. You have a great knack for detail and expressiveness, and you have a very natural style. But I was hoping for more story decisions from your main character.”
With the proverbial lightbulb lit, I embraced the message, took the advice and got to work restructuring my piece with confidence and renewed vigor.
Everything would be perfect now, right? Every piece of short fiction I sent off from now on would be flawless.
Knowledge is power, yes, but so is practice. I knew how to write and how to write well, but putting all the working parts into their perfect place took practice and lots of patience. I needed more practice.
Even with all my knowledge, I still committed what some in the writing community view as a sin. While I had explained better the “why” of it all, I had done it in such a way that I was telling rather than showing. Come on! That’s writing 101. We all know about showing vs. telling. Right? So how could I have made such a rooky mistake? My reader was wrong; that had to be it.
So I pointed my chin northward, ignoring the gut feeling I was making the wrong decision, and sent the revised piece off, as is, to another e-zine. (Cue cringe)
Yep. You guessed it. It was again rejected, this time with a message that I’d done too much telling, not enough showing. Duh.
I was devastated. Not because of the rejection specifically, but because of the self-doubt that sprouted immediately, like a weed on crack. I doubted my talent as a writer and my ability to ever find success in spite of having a completed, published novel and a growing strength in short story writing.
The ugly, negative voice in my head went nuts, telling me I should quit, give up my dream, I was never going to get it right. I mean, come on, I should have known better, right? I’ve been writing for a long time, studying the craft for years. I do know better! How could I have been so blind to my mistake, or even made a mistake? Mistakes are not allowed. Ever, according to the perfectionist’s handbook.
Doubt had a stronger right hook and it was winning. I was slipping into a dark pool of despair with every passing minute, every self-pitying tear.
I wanted to quit so badly in that moment, but the idea of not being a writer killed me. It felt physically impossible for me to quit my craft. I mean, what else would I do? Nothing else makes me feel alive like writing, creating stories. To quit writing is tantamount, for me, to tearing off my right arm. Maybe not quite as gory, but just as painful and debilitating since I’m right handed.
The tears had stopped, but I still felt wounded, sad. Then something strange happened. My subconscious, I realized, had already begun editing that original short story. It was moving forward, finished with all the drama while I still sat on the floor, whimpering.
Once again, quitting proved not to be an option for me. As frustrating as that is at times, it’s also my saving grace.
Perseverance isn’t just a word to toss around, it’s an absolute necessity for anyone who is following their passion.
“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” -Samuel Johnson.
I may always carry a certain amount of self-doubt, but that’s okay, probably even healthy. The challenge is not to let it get too big. Feeling discouraged, heartbroken, frustrated and defeated, along with many more unsavory emotions, goes with the territory. To be creative is to be vulnerable, sensitive. And as painful as that can be, it’s also the pressure that creates the diamond. We just can’t let those feelings or insecurities shatter us.
Something else came out of my last session with self-doubt. I realized I was focusing far too much on reaching my end goals, or the point of so-called success, while ignoring the beauty in the journey. I love to write and I love to learn, so every minute I’m doing either of those things is valuable.
I’m consciously slowing down, savoring the process, the journey. It’s not easy keeping impatience or demand for “perfection” in check, but it’s necessary. There’s a certain fulfillment only trials, time and persistence can provide.
I’m keeping my eye out for all the success I’ll encounter on my way to success.
Every writer experiences those days (or weeks) when we just can’t seem to write, or at least we can’t seem to write anything “substantial”. Technically speaking, we can always write, put words to paper. It’s writing what we want that doesn’t always come easily, or sometimes at all.
I’m sure you’ve all read or been given advice from several sources on how to deal with what many call writer’s block. And it’s probably all good, sound advice. Or mostly. My favorite is being told to keep writing no matter what. I mean, it’s excellent advice and it works…most of the time. It honestly does. But sometimes I don’t feel like writing anything at all. Nothing.
On the surface, that sounds perfectly reasonable, right? And it is, if you really don’t want to write. What I’m referring to is the complex feeling many of us writers experience of wanting to write while simultaneously not wanting to write. Get it? I’m sure you do. We writers can be a nutty bunch.
As writers, we always want to write; we love to write, need to write. So what can we do when this frustrating state of emotions happens to us? Well, I do one of two things. I sit down and I write. Hear me out. I don’t try to work on current writings, but instead I find an old story that’s been sitting untouched for some time and I begin to re-write. For me, this works because I love re-writing! I love adding meat to the bones. The process stimulates my “writing muscles” (that can be taken both figuratively or literally I suppose) by taking away the pressure of working on my current project while putting me back into the game. It works probably 98% of the time.
For the remaining 2% of the time the above tactic doesn’t work (usually because I just can’t muster enough of anything to even begin writing a single word), I read. I give myself permission to not write today and pick up a book and read. I’ve always got one handy. For me, reading other fiction stimulates my own story-telling needs.
Let me state the obvious. When you feel some form of writer’s block, find what works for you and do it. Don’t feel guilty because you aren’t writing, use the time to figure out what stimulates you back into putting your words on paper (or screen). I’ve learned that guilt only creates anxiety which can shut the door to creativity.
If you have any other suggestions or advice on the subject, please do share for every writer’s benefit. If it works for you, it will most likely work for many others. So don’t be shy.
Happy reading and writing!
There is a documentary called The Ascent of Woman (http://www.ascentofwoman.com/the-series/) you can find on Netflix that I highly recommend. It tells of the power and place women held BEFORE it was taken away and our treatment as second-class citizens began. It’s a fascinating account of how we, women, were not just gatherers or a womb for giving life, but we were also warriors and Empresses.
Among the interesting facts, I discovered a real gem. The world’s first full-length novel was written in the early 11th century by a Japanese woman named Murasaki Shikibu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murasaki_Shikibu). It’s titled The Tale of Genji and is lovingly housed in a museum in Japan. I would love to see this amazing and important artifact.
I was very taken in by how women were once held high in the world of two sexes. I’d actually never been aware of that truth. Especially since I’ve never known such a world, being born into a time that still treats women as second-class citizens to some extent. Sure, we’ve made excellent progress over the years of fighting for equality, but we still have some heavy lifting to do if we ever wish for our status to return to where it was many hundreds of years ago.
Don’t mistake me for being of the mind that women can “do anything a man can do”. What I believe — and this history I speak of shows — is that women have distinct abilities that do not limit us, but when accessed, raise us up and do the world a service.
As one example, the documentary tells of a time when women were warriors. Graves and the artifacts in these graves have shown that women’s skills were tapped into and utilized far beyond childbirth and nurturing a family (though those things are no less important). Specifically, women were (and likely still are) highly skilled at using the bow and arrows. Snipers, skilled with a weapon that did not require physical strength, yet was just as powerful and deadly.
The bottom line here? The history of women is rich and amazing with examples of how we are equal to male counterparts in ways that don’t require us to have the same skills. Men are amazing and wonderful creatures, strong and intelligent. And women are amazing, wonderful beings with intelligence and skills also to be celebrated equally.
How men and women approach a task or a problem is often quite different, depending on several factors, but the common thread is that both sexes can and do reach the same outcome. That is where we are “equal”.
You’ve decided you want to start writing for magazines, but without experience and clips to highlight that experience, you find it difficult to break into the business. How can you possibly gain exposure and experience if no one will hire you without those two things?
Thankfully, there is a solution: volunteer your writing.
Don’t like the idea of working for free to get your foot in the door? Keep in mind that volunteering your time or work isn’t a new idea. High School students volunteer their time in order to pad their college applications and academic resumes. College students accept internships (often without pay) in order to build a strong resume and gain necessary experience.
Working for free to build a resume or portfolio and gain experience is a solid and often necessary route to success, but by no means is it the only route. If you can secure paid work, go for it. In fact, I’d say it’s a good idea to submit to both paying and non-paying markets. Knock on as many doors as you can. I’m simply suggesting you open your mind to the idea of accepting a few non-paying jobs to get started.
Writing is work, hard work, and we should be compensated for our time as well as our bodies of work. Volunteering your writing is simply another opportunity with a plethora of possible outcomes.
Here are five compelling reasons why you should consider writing for free in the beginning of your freelance writing career:
For the Exposure- With exposure, you’ll begin building a reputation.
The more you put out there, the more familiar you’ll become to readers and bloggers.
For the Experience- Every time you write a blog post or an article, you gain valuable experience. Getting paid or not does not diminish that experience, or all the lessons learned with each project. In fact, experience is exactly what you need to get paid, or at least to get paid well.
For the opportunity to experiment- Writing for blogs and websites allows you to experiment with different styles of writing and subjects and helps you to discover what you enjoy.
For the possibility of paid work- When your blog post or article is published, it will be read by hundreds if not thousands of people, and any number of those readers may be editors or bloggers who are inclined to offer you a paying job writing for their magazine or blog.
The possibilities are numerous.
For creating a portfolio- It’s often challenging to find paying gigs when you aren’t able to tangibly show an editor any of your work because you haven’t been published yet. But once you have a couple of clips and samples of your writing, you’re better equipped to approach paid opportunities with confidence.
Volunteering your article or story for a blog or website is simple. Check the “contribute” or “submissions” page on blogs and websites and follow the directions to send a pitch. That’s it! Be professional and always submit your best work.
Don’t discount your own blog or website as a valuable place to build your portfolio. That’s the ultimate self-employment!
Writing for magazines, e-zines, websites and blogs can be fun and monetarily lucrative, but getting your foot (or your pen!) in the door can take a bit of time and patience.
Be creative and persistent and you will find success.
Have you ever had your feelings hurt by the words or actions of another? Sure you have—we all have. It’s part of the human experience. We’ve all endured the pain of someone saying or doing something unkind to us, or at least unkind according to our personal interpretations.
But have you noticed that if the offender, whether they’ve offended us on purpose or not, sincerely apologizes, we are more likely to forgive and move forward? As opposed to dwelling on hurt feelings and holding a grudge. Why? Because our feelings have been acknowledged and proven to matter, thus our ruffled feathers smoothed. We have been offered respect and empathy.
The apology must, as I’ve mentioned, be sincere and followed by an action to show sincerity, such as changing the offending behavior, or doing something kind to “make up for” what you’ve said or done.
Apologizing isn’t about offering lip service to mollify someone after you’ve done them wrong. There’s no power in that approach. Power comes about from acknowledging hurt feelings and taking action.
The apology is empowering for both the offended as well as the offender. For the offended, the apology can dissolve, or undo the negative effects of the harmful words or actions.
For the offender, having the courage to render an apology and admit wrong-doing can foster a deep sense of self-respect. It can also free us from the weight of self-reproach and guilt, even if the person we apologize to does not accept our apology or render forgiveness.
As I tell my children whenever they find themselves in a situation where they need to apologize, you aren’t responsible for how someone reacts to your apology or whether or not they accept it. You are only responsible for proffering the apology. The most important part of an apology is the giving and the sincerity.
According to an article by Beverly Engel in Psychology Today, an apology is crucial to our mental and physical health. “Research shows that receiving an apology has a noticeable, positive physical effect on the body,” Engel states. The person receiving the apology experiences a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate slows and breathing becomes steadier.
According to a Ted Talk given by Robert M. Gordon Ph.D., there are two types of apology, or two core reasons to offer one: to get something (such as forgiveness), and to give something (such as repair to a relationship).
Doctor Gordon also suggests there are three main elements to an effective apology:
1) Acknowledgement— Admit to the wrongdoing or transgression.
2) Remorse and Empathy—Express remorse and an understanding of how the offended person feels.
3) Restitution—Make up for the transgression. Do something to show true remorse. Take action such as exhibiting a change in behavior.
Bottom line, an apology sends a message of care and concern for the other person, further mollifying them. Even a simple ‘I’m sorry’ can be enough to defuse and restore balance to the relationship. So exhibit courage and strength, and don’t hesitate to apologize.
“Learning to endure disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person.”
That gold nugget of a statement comes from Elizabeth Gilbert in her new book “Big Magic” (great book by the way!), and I’d like to ponder the meaning with you.
As a writer (and author), I agree wholeheartedly in the authenticity of that above opening statement. None of us writers (or other creative types) can or will escape disappointments and frustrations of our “job”, but we can (and must) learn to endure them in a way that keeps our head above water.
Now, there are the obvious disappointments of the dreaded (and often too numerous to mention) rejection letters after we’ve submitted the work of our blood, sweat and tears to someone who didn’t love it the way we did (how is that even possible?). But there is also the daily disappointments and frustrations that can knock the wind out of our sails or steer us into a fog so thick we’re sure we’ll never get out of it. Whatever the cause, we must not let disappointment and frustration kill our creative desires or blind us to our path.
Living with disappointment isn’t the same as giving into it. Living with or enduring both disappointment and frustration means recognizing it, feeling it then putting it out with the garbage. And leave it out there. Don’t try to bring it in like a stray cat, because if you feed it, it will stay. And if disappointment and frustration stay, they will derail your creative life and goals in no time flat.
Up until recently, I used to think there was something horribly wrong with me, that I must be some special kind of stupid because after each disappointment and through every frustration I continue to get right back to my writing (sometimes after a couple days of feeling sorry for myself, but still…). I get the air knocked out of me, but eventually I begin to breathe as if my life depended upon it. And I think it does. I believe if I don’t follow my creative calling, I will stop breathing.
But this all pertains to more than creative people living creative careers, doesn’t it? It’s relevant to every person in every walk of life, every career and calling.
Life will always be sprinkled with frustrations of varying types and disappoints in all shapes and sizes, but we keep living. And if we want to keep living in a way that brings us happiness instead of simply filling our lungs with air, we’ll need to hold our head up high and power through those frustrations and disappointments.
I encourage everyone, but I’m especially speaking to fellow writers (and creative types) when I say hold on tight to what you love, and please don’t deprive the world of your gift by letting fears, insecurities, frustrations or disappoints knock you off course for long.