Inspiration

Fear of Failure by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait talked about bravery in her opening post for Round Two. I want to build on Kait’s thoughts, because I needed to break it down for myself.  When I think of bravery in writing, I think of Malala, persecuted for writing about her views on educating women,  or Salman Rushdie, targeted for writing about Mohammed. Thus, my instinctive response, although I agree wholeheartedly with Kait, is “Nope, not me, there’s no opportunity for me to be brave.”

However, when I think more deeply about it, I find that there are small acts of bravery in writing at all.  The writer whose memoir may not paint a family member in the best light, or may not align with other family members’ sanitized history of a loved one; the writer whose day job as a kindergarten teacher may be jeopardized by her writing erotica; the writer who stares into the shadows of her own soul to find all sorts of uncomfortable monsters there. All these situations require bravery.

Then Kait really shot me in the heart, with “You have to be brave enough to fail so that you can LEARN.” I’ve always been the square peg, resisting the round hole with every cellulose fiber, but that is not failure, that is resistance, which can require bravery. Being open to failure is a different kind of bravery. I am the mistress of opting out. When friends convinced eight-year-old me to climb to the high dive, I teetered on the edge, panicked, then fought my way back down past all the people crowded on the ladder, ignoring the lifeguard’s admonition to jump and be done with it. Funny how one’s upbringing surfaces in such unexpected ways. My father would brook no failure. He did not know of Star Wars or Yoda’s famous dictum, “There is no try. There is only do,“ but it could have been emblazoned on his coat of arms. I find it hard to accept failure as a learning experience, although I know logically that it can be, and is not the end of the world. Without the possibility of failure, I am paralyzed just like I was on that high diving board decades ago. It is only with accepting failure that I am freed from my paralysis. If I truly feel what I have to say that is important, I must gather all the grit I can muster to put it out there.  Does it scare me enough to raise the fine hairs on the nape of my neck? You bet it does.

Kait’s post made me realize that I do not learn as much as I could because I do not try.  Failure takes all kinds of bravery and boatloads of it. Failure requires investment and “skin in the game.” Now I have to ignore how scared I am of failure,  because it is the only way I will learn. I commit to embracing bravery this Round, and will revise my goals to reflect that commitment.  Who’s with me?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Do You Want It Bad Enough? by Chris Kincaid

In 2006, Alyssa Lampe made history in Wisconsin when she became the first girl to place in the WIAA wrestling tournament. She finished second in the boys’ state meet, at 103 pounds, becoming the first girl in history to earn a medal in the event.  From there, the Tomahawk native went on to wrestle in college, then in international competition. She tried out for the 2012 Olympics, but didn’t make the cut. Earlier this spring, she made yet another bid for Olympic gold.

I’ve met this young woman from my home town, and if I didn’t know the facts, I would never peg her as someone to get down on the mats and wrestle competitively. She’s a very sweet girl, but not so sweet that she can’t take on anything. Anyway, she once again missed out on going to the Olympics and at 28 years old, this was probably her last shot.

When I asked a friend of hers what happened, she told me, “She just didn’t want it bad enough.”

Didn’t want it bad enough? How can someone not want to go to the Olympics bad enough? In one interview I read, her coach said that she had told him her goal was to be number two. Number two? Who settles for number two?

Well, as proud as I am of Alyssa for making it as far as she has, I am not in her head. And I’m not supposed to be. I am in my own head and need to ask myself, “Would I want to make it to the Olympics? Would I want it bad enough?”

Am I willing to work that hard, make those sacrifices, miss out on the fun stuff other people do, because they don’t have their eyes on the same prize?

What about you? Do you want to write that novel bad enough? Do you want to publish your book bad enough? Sell twelve articles this year? Win NaNoWriMo? What goal is at the top of your list and what are you willing to do to get there? Or are you willing to settle for being number two?

And even though you can write well into your old age, isn’t it time to go after it now?

~*~

Chris Kincaid

Write Anything–Even If It’s Wrong by Eden Mabee

Hi, all! Hope you don’t mind, but you are now my test subjects for an experiment. I want to know: Is it really better to “do (write) anything, even if it’s wrong“?

See, my husband spouts this (witticism) all the time: when we’re discussing plans for the new kitchen design or what we might like to plant in the garden, where would we like to go on vacation… basically for all things. A lot of it is in retaliation… self-defense(?) for my Analysis Paralysis (and his, and our son’s… it’s really a family epidemic here at Chez Mabee).

So, as I’ve been suffering another bout of The Other Writer’s Block lately, I figured I’d do something about it this time, and I would take you all with me as I did. I am going to try out Writing Anything, even if it’s Wrong. Because if I wasn’t writing this post, I have nine drafts I started and tossed in my recycle bin on such topics as: Writing Begets Writing, The Process of Habituation, Is Too Much Positivism Hurting Your Progress, Why So Negative

Any single one would be an excellent sponsor post. But each time I pull one out, I reach a point where I can’t get beyond my research and note taking to condense the expansive ideas into a coherent post. Perhaps they haven’t percolated in my mind enough yet; perhaps I don’t understand them as much as I feel I do; maybe they just aren’t speaking to me… no, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as drafts, if that were the case…

No, in this particular case, I know exactly what is wrong.

I know (meaning I feel) I can’t do them (or you all) the justice they deserve. These are such important topics, after all. And this is a sponsor post, damn it! I can’t just toss out some word, half-cocked and hope that they’ll come off as something meaningful. I owe it to you,, to my craft to be careful, to make sure all my Is are crossed and my Ts dotted–wait!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimera_%28mythology%29

Ain’t it cute?

The point is, to use Shan Jeniah’s wonderful phrase, I have this obnoxious pet in the house called the Chimera of Perfection (don’t get one if you can… they eat everything, take up the bed every night, sit at the corner of your vision demanding attention and fuzzles when you most need to get some work done). I don’t know how he got here. Yes, I do have a bad habit of caring for strays (as anyone who has ever read my blogs about the backyard cats and strange couch-camping roommates can attest, but I think I would have at least seen this thing before it moved in.

I admit, I’m a bit intimidated by this guy. How do I get him to move out without risking life and limb? It’s not like I can refuse to feed him; he just raids the cupboards on his own.

But something needs to be done. I’m a sponsor this ROWnd, and part a sponsor’s duties involve writing a post to inspire our fellow ROWers. Why did I accept being a sponsor if I knew this post was going to be such a trial? I mean, I struggle with this issues every time I sponsor. I dread it. I waffle, I bitch and moan, I make a ton of “possible drafts”… I always submit my pieces late (Kait just loves me). But I do it. I’ve done it several times. And I’ll keep doing it.

What does one feed these anyway?

Because I find, even when I struggle with the post, that the act of making myself write something… even when it’s wrong, inspires me to try harder. Because getting those words down is a powerful act. Determination and action are the basilisk’s* stare to the chimera’s talons. And though it can be hard to move that rock that’s been holding you down out the door and into the yard for the birds to perch on, it’s energizing. You won’t believe how strong, how capable you are after you’ve done this.

Wait… one need a gorgon to do that. Ah, well–just proved the point…

Write something, write anything… even if it’s wrong.

(*Don’t worry… you can always get rid of these by judicious application of weasels!)

 

~*~

Eden Mabee

Why I Love Camping by Steph Beth Nickel

There’s the sleeping outside no matter what the weather … No, that’s not it.

There are the l-o-n-g walks to the bathroom … Nope, not that either.

There’s the wide variety of wildlife you may run into on your way to said bathroom, especially at night … Hey, I like wildlife, but not creatures like raccoons, skunks, and bears who may not take kindly to being surprised.

How about the coin-operated showers with boxes just a little too far to reach when you’re soaking wet and need to add another quarter because the shampoo is still in your hair? Not so much.

Wait! Maybe I should have given this piece the title “Why I Don’t  Love Camping.”

But there is a type of camp that provides almost all the fun and none of the inconveniences of actual, real-life camping, the kind without soggy tents, distant bathrooms, skunks, bears, and soapy hair.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about Camp NaNoWriMo.

Unlike the original NaNoWriMo, camp takes place twice a year: once in April, when nobody (or only the extremely hearty) wants to go camping in my neck of the woods (pun intended) and July (for those of us who aren’t out doing “the real thing”).

Instead of committing to writing 50,000 or more words in a single month, Camp NaNo allows you to choose a goal as low as 10,000 words, much more doable. Another perk: As I understand it, the powers that be at NaNoWriMo expect you to write 50K words in the same project. With my eclectic sensibilities, writing a total of 10-15K on a variety of projects works way better for me.

Like out-in-nature camping, you can choose to be in a cabin, either with a group of friends or random strangers. Thus another advantage over the OIN variety. Actually sharing a cabin with total strangers could very well prove to be a bad idea—dangerous even. (Plot idea!)

And with a cabin full of fellow writers, they’re gonna notice if you’re not writing—as long as you don’t fudge your daily word count tally. This accountability and the arrow that moves closer and closer to the middle of the target are great motivators.

The stats page shows not only the individual’s progress but also the progress of the cabin. Are you and your fellow campers on track to “win” the challenge? I like working toward common goals and attending Camp NaNo is another way I can do that.

The wind can howl. The snow can fall, which it did a short time ago. The critters can roam freely about. No problem from my perspective.

I’m in the midst of Camp NaNo and having a blast. No bears. No skunks. No raccoons. (Though there is the frequent chirp of crickets, but those are for my daughter’s bearded dragon.) And one more thing: my bathroom is right downstairs.

Why not consider joining me in July. Hope to see you then. Maybe we can share a cabin. (It’ll be safe. I promise.)

Find out more at campnanowrimo.org

~*~

Steph Beth Nickel

 

Read, Read, Read. By Beverley Baird

I didn’t know what I would write for this post. My first thought (and my 2nd, 3rd, etc thoughts ) was – what do I have worth saying?

And then I really looked at the APC (Art Playing Card) I had made and I realized how true Thomas Jefferson’s words were – “I cannot live without books.”

 

books 001

 

Books have always been a part of my life. I wrote about my “Reading Touchstones” in March for the March Slice of Life (a writing challenge throughout March, where we all wrote a slice from our lives)  – and the importance of books throughout my life – from childhood  (Anne of Green Gables) to teen years  (Diary of Anne Frank) to my brush with Catholocism in my 20s  (In this House of Brede),  to my teaching years (The Book Whisperer) and to my growing art life (The Artist’s Way). There have been so many books that have impacted me in some way or another. Sometimes it was just to lift my spirits or take my mind off exams or problems.

 

So many of these books have become a part of me and have shaped me – as a woman, a mother, a teacher, an artist and as a writer. I have kept many of these books, and refer to them as needed. SomeI have read several times. Many I have passed onto othersw or bought copies to give away (The Artist’s Way in particular)

They have given me an immense measure of happiness yes, but many have also become mentor texts for my writing.

 

So many authors offer writing advice and so many stress that reading and writing must go hand in hand.

Here are a few quotes that stress the importance of reading to improve one’s writing:

Stephen King: “Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

 

Ian Rankin:  “1 Read lots.  2 Write lots.”

 

Michael Moorcock:  “ Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. “

 

PD James: Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

 

Evan Maloney: “Reading is essential for writers – it instructs, inspires and offers a blissful escape from the blank page.  

 

We read to be transported, to visit new lands, meet new people.

We read to learn the traits of the genres we seek to write; to learn the language; to learn lessons in dialogue, setting, mood, tension.

 May you all read and read and read and then write and write and write.

 ~*~

Bev Baird

How American Idol and Mary Tod Changed the Way I Connect with my Audience by Beth Camp

American Idol’s fifteen year run ended in early April.

 

What a finale with superstar performances and lots of strobe lights. I’ve been a fan since the second year. Each week, American Idol hosted a singing competition with weekly feedback from the celebrity judges. I loved those judges, and I hated them. Each week behind the scenes, selected semi-finalists would move through a round of mentors, practice with musicians and coaches, to finally perform. America voted on who would move forward. Some performances were heart-breaking. Some inspirational.  But each week those who remained ‘upped their game’ and persevered.

 

Ryan Seacrest noted that what made American Idol different was involvement with the audience. America voted. America chose. This resonated with something ephemeral I’ve been thinking about as I weed through the dozens of writing-related articles and posts I receive each month. For we writers do study writing craft. If we’re self-publishers, we take on the whole range of skills needed to publish and market our books. We build our online platforms. Sometimes we pay for advertising. We tweet and blog and post on Instagram, never quite certain if we’re using our time wisely or productively.

 

So here’s what I gained:

 

Readers want to learn about you, the person behind the writer.

 

They’ve read your stories and books. They feel connected with you, and they’re curious about you, your writing, and your opinions. Maybe they’ve signed up for your newsletter. What can you offer that’s a little different than that constant refrain, “Buy my book!”? Whether you’re blogging or writing that newsletter you hope will build your reader base, start by thinking about your audience and then use questions to add depth to your social writing.

 

  1. Define Your Audience. Begin with a specific definition of who your audience is. The most useful suggestion I’ve found is to use a Google search with these words: define audience for <insert your genre>. If you don’t find enough information, use the words: survey of readers <insert your genre>.

 

I wasn’t expecting much from a Google search, but I was thrilled to find Mary Tod’s exhaustive survey of people who read historical fiction, highlighted on the Historical Novel Society’s website. Interestingly, when women read historical fiction, they are drawn to strong female characters. Men and women (who both tend to be a little older than average) want stories that have a strong sense of what life was like ‘back then,’ and men prefer more action and adventure.

 

Additionally, Mary Tod noted that most readers of historical fiction find new book recommendations on GoodReads, blogs and sites about historical fiction, small book review sites, and Amazon. Both LibraryThing and Shelfari also show up as important resources for readers.

 

Mary Tod’s analysis has changed how I think about my newsletter and my blogging.

 

  1. Ask questions as you write your blog and/or newsletter that lead you to add your own opinions or share the experiences that led you to write a particular story. Share . . . the rest of the story, the story behind the scenes.

 

  • Which aspects of characters resonate with your own life or the lives of your target audience? Why did you write about these particular characters? Or about this particular story?
  • How does the content of what you’re writing challenge or affirm your beliefs?
  • What particular stories did not make it into your project? Why or why not?
  • How does the theme of what you’re writing connect to your audience?
  • And, most importantly, what do you think about what you’re writing?

 

Just now, I’m participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Some of the over 1,800 participants commit to a theme before the challenge begins, and some even write their posts before April 1. This year, I using the A to Z Blogging to write about my research for Rivers of Stone, my current work-in-progress, now in the revision stage.

 

As I write my daily post and respond to reader comments, I’m noticing that readers connect what I’ve written to their own personal experience.  Readers are not returning necessarily to read summaries about my research, but to discover what I think about that research, what personal stories I tie into my research, and how this links to their own experiences.

 

American Idol offered an incredible promise and platform to new talent. Those singers who made the next cut brought hard work, discipline, and their creativity to a wide public. We writers may not have the same support system or the national platform, but this lesson remains:

 

For writers, it’s about the content of what we create and how we connect with readers. The more we understand who our particular readers are, how they find new books to read, and what appeals to them, the more insight we can gain into why our writing appeals to certain readers. This can help us to focus our marketing and to tighten that bond with our readers. May Round 2 bring you new strategies and new ways that encourage creativity in your writing!

 

For more about Mary K. Tod: https://awriterofhistory.com/

About the Blogging from A to Z Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Book Lover

 

 

Focus on Distraction by Fallon Brown

 

Focusing on writing isn’t always as simple as we might like it to be. There are so many things out there to distract us, and sometimes we create even more of these distractions ourselves. But, there are ways to minimize the disruption they cause. Sometimes, you may even be able to use them to focus more(yes, I know that sounds backwards).

Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to settle down and be able to focus. Having some kind of routine can even help this along(if that’s what works for you). I do pretty much the same thing every morning before I start writing: Take the puppy out, start my coffee, close the kids’ bedroom doors so I don’t wake them, start my music, and jot down a few notes on the scene I’ll be working on next. Then, I can start writing. Without that, particularly the coffee and music, the words usually don’t want to come.

And the routine really does help. Getting up at the same time(or close to it) every day, sitting down in the same place, having the same things around me. For some people, I understand this may seem more of a rut. For those of us that need it, it can be the one thing that signals it’s time to write.

Sometimes even when you have a routine figured out, distractions can still come up. Kids want your attention, the phone won’t stop ringing(the one I hate the most), all the books you want to read, chores to do, shows to catch up on, and whatever else might take you from your writing. Sometimes these distractions can’t be ignored. My family continues to insist they have to eat every day and have clean clothes for some reason.

I have different ways to focus. Though, some may look at them as distractions. Something I figured out back in high school, though, is that I actually have to distract myself in order to focus. Like I said above, I know that sounds backwards, so just stick with me a moment. I’d be there trying to do my homework in my quiet bedroom, but my mind would keep skipping around to pretty much everything else. But, if I had music playing or something on the TV I didn’t really have to pay attention to, I could focus better. It was like I needed something to distract one part of my brain, so the other could focus on what I needed to do.

One other thing that could go either way as far as being a distraction or a way to focus is having a list of different projects to work on. Sometimes this does feel like I’m spreading myself too thin between them. But, there are other times when I just can’t make the words come on one project, but the characters from another are practically yelling their story at me and the words just roll right out. If I try to stay focused on that first one, it just doesn’t happen. So, I need the distraction from it.

So, really, some distractions aren’t distractions after all. Sometimes it’s just a matter of settling down to write, and sticking to a routine can help with this. Also, sometimes embracing those distractions can be more productive than trying to fight them.

How do you combat your distractions? Or do you embrace them?

~*~

Fallon Brown