Author Archives: ljwrite2014

About ljwrite2014

Linda Juliano is an author and writer of romantic women's fiction and short stories. Her first published novel, Cadence Beach, is a romantic-suspense work of fiction. She is currently working on her second novel in the genre of women's romantic fiction.

A Journey Through Self-Doubt

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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.

Wrong.

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.

How to Destroy “Writer’s Block”

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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!

 

Amazing History of the Female

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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”.

Writing for Free Pays

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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.

The Importance of the Apology

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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.

Creative life and frustration

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“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.

 

Weight obsessed: an observation

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Have you heard the reports lately about how, in spite of all the information that’s been given to Americans about how to stay fit, we’ve been getting bigger? Are you surprised?

As a fellow American woman (I’ll speak hear for women, but I’m sure many men feel the same way), who does not have a weight problem to speak of, all the rhetoric about losing weight and “being fit” that we are bombarded with over the radio or on television is offensive and, well, irritating. Whether you have an issue with your weight or not, you probably feel like you do, or that you should after hearing all these messages. I think even thin women feel like they should lose a few pounds simply because our culture seems to insist upon it. I do not know a single woman (and I’ll admit nearly all my friends are thin/fit women) who is satisfied with her body or weight. Nearly all of them would be happy to lose a few (or more) pounds.

I’ve begun to think we believe we have to lose weight in the same way we need to eat, sleep, breathe and so on. It’s nuts. And I am as much a “victim” in all this as anyone else. At 5′ 9″ tall I’ve always been thin with a long torso and thin waist. But I’ve never been satisfied, deciding my thighs must then be the problem. On a scale, I was always a good, if not low, weight, but it didn’t matter. In the back of my mind, there was always room for improvement. Not until now, as a 40 something woman approaching menopause, have I become aware of how ridiculous our country has become about weight and body shape.

Every time I think I’m fine, I’m healthy, I exercise regularly, I’m a good weight/shape for my age (It’s not good to be too thin as we age for health reasons, not to mention a little weight helps hide wrinkles-lol), I hear or see a commercial or program about the best way to lose weight. Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight is a message we hear every day, several times a day. Most of the time we don’t realize it any more, but if you pay close attention you’ll likely be mortified at how often that message is put out there. Our culture has become a bully, threatening our self esteem and acceptance if we don’t comply.

Remember the old wisdom, don’t hound someone about their weight or they’ll likely gain more? Or something along those lines. Well, I think that’s exactly what is happening in American. We may not have as much of a problem with people being overweight as we do with people hounding people about it. I am not an advocate for being overweight in the least; in fact I’m a huge proponent of health and fitness. I feel, however, our focus has gotten out of hand, thus changing the message to a negative one.

The message started out innocent enough, the emphasis on getting (and staying) healthy with information centered on what kinds of foods to feed our bodies for optimum health as well as exercises to benefit not only body, but mind and spirit, too. But that original message seems to have, like so many  things in life, spiraled into something negative. Now the message behind the message is clearly LOSE WEIGHT you slug. Well, maybe not exactly that message, but you get it.

Even when I didn’t need to lose weight, I’d hear this message and think I was wrong, that maybe I DO need to lose weight. It’s horrible, and I’m not at all surprised that Americans are reported as getting bigger, not smaller. I fall into the category of middle-aged women who feel they need to lose a good 10-15 pounds. Maybe it’s true I need to drop a few, maybe not, but I do know that the more pressure there is on us, both men and women, the least likely we are to healthily and safely reach and maintain our goal.

My advice? Healthy foods should be less expensive than junk food (imagine that concept!!), but that’s another discussion. Teach us all how to eat healthy and what to eat to obtain that goal as well as how to exercise (and there are sooo many ways to get exercise), and weight loss will follow.

At this point, I believe we DO know how and what to do and eat to be healthy, for the most part; we just need to take the focus off of it and let it happen. Would you agree? Shouldn’t the dominant message on the airwaves be focused on living a life filled with good friends, joy, family, following our passions, being kind to others and so on? Wouldn’t that do more to help us each reach individual goals of being fit and healthy in body AND mind, not to mention the all important spirit? Health will follow. Weight loss (where needed) will follow. Let’s all try to get off the weight shaming treadmill (see what I did there? lol).

Our body will tell us when/if we need to lose weight. We just need to listen to it. If we have any weight-related issues such as bad knees, bad back, diabetes, inability to walk far and so much more, then yes, we need to take off some weight until those things clear up. But if we are in good health, we need to remember that there are all different shapes and sizes, not one ideal to attain.

Whatever our body type is, it needs to be allowed to find its healthy, not be turned into a clone of someone else’s image. With all the hype on weight loss and being skinny, we’ve lost sight of what healthy really is.

I realize everything I’ve said here has exceptions, but I believe this generalization fits a lot of people and I hope does some good. And for those of you who are the exceptions, keep up the excellent work and spread your positive body image message. 😉