For Fun, For Writers, Personal Growth, Say What?

Marbles and how to find them. Maybe.

Have you ever looked at your Astounding List of Totally Compelling Blog Post Ideas and wondered to yourself, “What in the name of chili cheese fries was I thinking when I wrote that?”

Yep. That happened to me today. Three times.

Maybe you can help me remember what in the world I’d wanted to write about when I jotted this little jewel into my notes folder.

No Chickens On The Boat
Exhibit A.  Ahoy.

 

 

So yeah. I don’t remember what that was about.  I love chickens.  Enjoy boats too. But not sure where the chicken-boat combo came from.

 

Or this one:

Another idea

 

I feel like this is something I wanted to investigate but now I can’t remember what it is or why. This is why the internet is my frenemy. It kicks the tires of my imagination but then disappears off the lot of my brain.

Last one:

scrambled mess
?????

 

I know not where to start. Apparently at one point I was considering a poll. And laughing about mental face slapping.

If I couldn’t laugh at myself I’d be crying right now. This is how my brain works, my friends. The funniest thing though is that I think I’m being so clever and efficient, writing down these ideas when I have them. Apparently I need to write a note to myself and explain that I need more context in my own notes.

 

 

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For Writers, IMHO

Stating the obvious.

When I first decided I was going to make a for-real attempt at writing for a living, I started reading all the advice to new writers I could get my hands on. You know what the underlying thread is in nearly all of them – from award-winning, NYT Best-Selling icons to newbies?

Every single person says the best thing you can do if you want to be a writer is to write every day.

I love love love though that nobody tries to hide the secret sauce. There’s no silver bullet method to getting published. If you talk to a dozen authors, you’ll get a dozen unique stories about their path from idea to shelf, whether they’ve self-pubbed or been picked up by one of the big houses. But you can’t get published if you don’t write.

The killer, of course, is that this is much harder than it sounds.

Life gets in the way. Work. Spouse. Kids. Pets. Plumbing. Illnesses. Miss one day and it snowballs into months in a blink of an eye.

So here’s my advice, as a pre-published author who also happens to freelance copywrite and proofread for a living. If you’ve missed a day (or year), put it behind you. Don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh. Start now. Make an appointment with yourself to write for however long you can, however often you can. And keep that appointment.

For Writers, Personal Growth

presto change-o

I almost gave up again. On writing, that is. Between daily life and the holidays and new school/job, I’ve been struggling to make time to put words on the page.

It’s too much, I told myself.

It will keep, I reassured myself.

I can always try again after____ is over, I promised myself.

Somewhere in the middle of my rounds of self-negotiation, I was chock full of self pity and feeling pretty low. I mean, seriously, who do I think I’m kidding? I’m not a writer. I’ve started and stopped how many times? You could probably fill an entire wing of the internet with the number of blogs I’ve neglected to nurture. (I know the internet doesn’t have wings, but I’m making a point here)

It was at that point that a small, still voice told me it was time to pray about it.

I hadn’t prayed with much regularity since I was in high school, and even then, I confess that I was more of a gumball-machine prayer – the kind that dropped prayers in  and expected the good stuff to flow out.  So I was feeling pretty sheepish and awkward about trying to strike up a relationship with God again after, well, a long time.

Maybe I’d better not ask for anything, I thought. Maybe I ought to just read the Bible and see if there’s a verse that points me where I ought to go. After all, I don’t know that I would just strike up a conversation with someone I hadn’t talked to in years. That would be rude. I don’t want to be rude to God. Isn’t there a Commandment about that?

Anyway. I opened my Bible and here’s the verse I landed on, from Philippians 2:3:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

My immediate response wasn’t pretty.

When have I been selfish and vain, exactly?  I mean, sure, I’ve been aggravated when my plans haven’t worked the way I want them to.  Consider others better than myself?  I mean, I’m every bit as good a writer as these other folks, right? I might even be a better writer than they are. I’ve been writing most of my professional life. So why am I not published yet? Why is my name not on the best seller lists? Why am I not going on book tours or being asked to speak?

When my temper tantrum subsided, the truth hit me square in the face. The truth is that I’m not so great. And I really haven’t been trying to serve anyone but myself.

I’ve been writing to show other people that I could do it. To prove to people – family, former coworkers, friends – that I could be creative and imaginative and funny. I wanted everyone to know that I was important.

It’s hard to humbly serve when you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. In my case, I think I may have lugged around boulder-sized weights on both shoulders. I’ve been writing to advance my own ambitions rather than to help other people, to share the joy that comes from knowing we’re not alone, that God is for us.

So yeah, I prayed. I asked forgiveness for my arrogance, and for guidance to find the work that I’m supposed to do. I don’t have any answers yet, but I know that step by step I’ll uncover what God has in store for me.

Even though I may not be working on a manuscript, I felt like maybe blogging here about this next part of my journey might help someone else who’s feeling lost.  Every morning I ask God to help me find my place, to help me use whatever gifts I have to serve Him and others.

Whatever it is I’m supposed to do – whether it’s writing or building a powerpoint or shuttling kids to karate class- I’ll do it knowing that He loves me enough to show me the truth. He loves me where I am, and He’ll help me fulfill his purpose.

 

 

 

 

For Writers

Branding

 

800px-Brännjärn_Hingstdepå,_helbild_-_Livrustkammaren_-_31068

 

Say the word “brand” and what image comes to mind? A particular fruit? A can of soda?

Companies invest major money in creating brands, and for good reason. They want to claim a portion of your mind and heart so you’ll feel good about spending your hard-earned money on them.

Does this mean, as a writer, that you have to take out a second mortgage to hire high-powered advertising agencies to create a brand for you?  Of course not. But you do need to spend a little time thinking about some things. Make no mistake: you are, with every decision you make and every action you take, crafting your own personal brand. Let’s make sure that it’s the one you want to build.

What is a brand, anyway?  A brand is:

  • a  promise
  • an emotional connection
  • actions that deliver upon both

You may be wondering  whether or not this is really important right now, especially if you  haven’t published that much or are pre-published. Branding is important for writers for the same reasons it’s important for businesses. Readers have plenty of options to choose from, and they are more likely to choose books by authors they’re either a) familiar with or b) recommended by their friends.  You have a better chance of being read if readers recognize your name. That’s where your branding efforts come in.

Good branding starts with understanding the business – in this case, you.  First you need to answer these questions:

  • What do you write?
  • For whom?
  • What value do you bring (what makes you special)?

Stuck?  Keep it simple. Let’s practice with R.L. Stine, creator of the Goosebumps series.

  • R.L. Stine writes scary stories
  • for kids
  •  that make kids laugh out loud.

Once you’ve got answers to those basics, you’ve got the basics of the brand promise.

Let’s tackle the emotional connection next. Using R.L. Stine as our example, think about what kind of connection you want to have with your reader. Whether you write scary stories for kids or bible studies for senior citizens, think about how you want to be perceived by your readership. Do you want them to count on you for a dose of silliness in a stressful world? Your adventurous spirit and imaginative tales? Maybe you want them to trust you for faithful testimony or insight?

Whatever your desired connection with your reader is, you need to bring that goal into focus and let it guide a) where you brand and b) how you brand.

We’ll cover those two topics next week.  Questions?  DM me or post in the comments, I’m  happy to answer!