Friday, May 27, 2011

How to take the "yechhhhh... homework!" out of blogging

I was at a lawyer's marketing conference the other day. The keynote speaker encouraged blogging and video as 2 surefire ways to get increased web traffic - and ultimately more clients. He asked how many lawyers in the room blogged. There were only a few hands - and one woman said she wrote blog content for other lawyers for a living. And, I don't think that afterwards, despite the words of the speaker, a bunch of those lawyers are going to diligently blog. Why? All I could think of was "The Book Report" from YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN.  And, there you have all of the approaches to blogging in 4 part harmony and fugue.

1.  Schroeder - the type who ends up loving writing because it became fun and a time for great imagination.
2.  Lucy - counting every word in every sentence as it is written, because it is a chore.
3.  Linus - the type who can't help themselves - every blog is a treatise.
4. Charlie Brown - the ultimate procrastinator - because to think about reasons not to write becomes more intriguing than writing itself. Or the sunshine calls too strongly.

So, of all the models above, I choose Schroeder. So that blogging doesn't become a chore or an unpleasant duty, make up your mind to write about something that interests you, or has an emotional connection to you. All right, so I end up in the Charlie Brown category a lot. But today. I'm not - so there! No "yechhhhh!" in my blogging today!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There is a time to not write

This week I've decided is a week to absorb rather than write.

I know, I know. My internal editor is screaming at me to knock out 1000 words, 500 words, any words. But I'm taking a little time off to enjoy my family. With preparing a homeschool graduation for my two graduating seniors and family coming from out of town, it seemed to me that there are more important issues as hand than what happens in my fictional worlds. Therefore, I'm technically on vacation.

So take a walk or two, enjoy a little of the spring time which is quickly passing into summer, and have a life. That too, is important to a writer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Public service announcement: the world is not going to end on May 21st

Note: This is not a writing post, but just an explanatory post for anyone wondering if the world really would end today.

Some of you out there may actually be asking yourselves if today is the big end-of-everything-day. I'm not. For anyone who doesn't believe the Bible, what I say will make no difference. For those of you who do believe the Bible, but have been shaken by this guy out there claiming he's got Jesus' return date figured out, please keep the following in mind:
  • The Bible clearly states that no man can know the day or the hour during which Jesus will come back. (Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.")
  • In fact, as the verse above says, not even Jesus knows the time, but only the Father. In light of this, I'm a little surprised that people still devote so many hours to trying to figure it out.
So relax. If you are saved, which means that you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and have confessed that He is your Lord, thus putting your faith in what He did for you on the cross to pay for sin, you're in good shape.

If you aren't saved, you can become so not by doing everything right, but by believing in Jesus. That should be comforting, since religions constructed by man always require that you get-your-salvation/go-to-heaven/achieve-nirvana/do-whatever by living perfectly enough or by fulfilling a list of requirements. Since I am far from perfect, I'm exceedingly pleased that my salvation has absolutely nothing to do with my perfectness, but rather is a choice to believe God. (Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.") No pressure. It's up to you.

If you aren't saved and don't want to become saved, you'll just have to find out the hard way. The bad thing about that is, it's too late once you're dead to change your mind, because hell is permanent. This is, of course, why God made a way through Jesus for you not to have to go there at all. (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.")

Hope this clears it up for anyone who was wondering.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jury duty: a lesson learned

Those two words pretty much say it all, don't they? Yesterday I was called to downtown Chicago for jury duty. I have to admit, I'm not a big city kind of person. I rarely go there unless it is with my husband. The idea of going it alone would have made me a little nervous except for one thing. I have a good friend who works downtown every day.

This friend took me under her wing. I met her at the train and rode down with her. Once there, she helped me find the station to get my return ticket, pointed me down the street in the right direction, and navigated me around some construction. Coming back she also helped me find my way to the right Metra entrance and get on the right train. Thanks to her, it was a fun and stress-free experience.

This week I've been reading Some Writers Deserve to Starve! by Elaura Niles. Most of the book didn't come as a surprise to me since I've been in the publishing industry a while and writing for some years. What did surprise me was a chapter which Kristi Holl also commented on in her blog this week.

The title was, "Truth #12: Writers Rarely Help Other Writers."

I found this one a real shock. The author's idea was that there is only so much room in publishing near the top of the ladder. When writers become successful, they stop helping others attain their level. They don't want the competition which will make their own writing life all the harder. These writers have quit being grateful for the help they received from others. Since the writers at the bottom of the ladder trying to make it up are really only in a position to take, the ones at the top get tired of only giving with no getting back. They tend to become, well, cynical and hardhearted. Ms. Niles wasn't condoning it, but she was just saying this is an issue in the real writing world when writers enter the upper echelons of their profession.

My jury duty adventure in downtown made me think of this. My friend went out of her way to help me yesterday. She didn't have to. I know it inconvenienced her, at least in terms of time. Her husband even picked me up after I walked from the station to the library and gave me a ride home when I was able to leave early. True, me being downtown didn't compete with my friend for her job, but she's just the kind of person who would have helped me even if it had.

In view of this, I hope that when those of us who are still on the ladder make it to the top as writers, we remember where we came from. Stay grateful. Help others. Don't let it threaten you. Personally, I'd prefer giving up writing to becoming hardhearted and only out for number one. I believe that if you always write the best you can and look out for those around you, you'll never have anything to regret.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Squeezing the toothpaste tube

I'm sure you've heard the object lesson of the toothpaste tube. The point we're supposed to extract from it is that whatever is in you is what will come out when you're under pressure.

When pressure is applied to the outside of the toothpaste tube, toothpaste squirts out the opening in all it's gooey glory. In the same way, whatever is in you, whether it be the good, the bad, or the ugly, is what will squirt out when life puts you in the pressure cooker. After thinking it over, I decided there were a few more good analogies in the toothpaste tube of life.

Take the cap off the tube so it doesn't explode under pressure

Life is going to put pressure on you. You might as well put that pressure to good use by writing about it. The three benefits of this are that you'll have some good material that you can draw on later if you need it, that you'll get better at writing (can't beat that), and that it will provide a private way for you to release your frustrations. It's kind of like a pressure release valve for your internal toothpaste tube. An added bonus is that your friends and family will be relieved that they no longer have to wear safety goggles around you.

You can control when and where the toothpaste squirts out

You might not feel like you have control over life, but you do have control over your writing. Harness your internal exasperation (or exultation) by grabbing a pencil and writing with that intensity instead of wasting it. As they say, write hot; revise cold.

Even when you think it's totally empty, there's always something left in the tube

Ever get to the toothpaste tube late at night after the rest of the family has managed to eek out the last of the toothpaste, only to find there isn't a replacement tube in the closet? All of a sudden, you are highly motivated to put on a little extra pressure on the tube to get what you need, because there is no way you want to climb back into your clothes and drive to the store.

Writers don't have the luxury of waiting for life to provide the pressure to write. A writer reads and writes. Lots. Just do it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Traveling tips for writers

There are many aspiring writers out there longing to arrive at the destination of publication. In a fevered pitch, they jump in their writing car, throw it into reverse, and back out of the driveway (hopefully missing their children's bikes, scooters, etc.). Then they throw it into gear and gun the engine, feeling like they're definitely late and have already fallen behind the pack which consists of the "already published" crowd.

If you're one of these people, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Publishing is not a race, and as they say, the joy is in the journey. Here are some traveling tips for you:

Buy a map

You know, you aren't the first one to take this trip. Other authors have broken the path already, so take advantage of this through reading their books and blogs or by listening to them at conferences.

Check your oil and get regular service

I'll never forget the first time I threw a rod. End of car. Period. We had developed an oil leak and not realized it. Result? Engine destroyed. Regular service is definitely something you should take care of, not only with your vehicle, but as a writer. When I started out, I had all kinds of problems in my writing that I was unaware of. When I finally joined a writing group and attended regularly, it helped me identify these issues before they caused my story to die on the highway to publication.

Fill up your tank

This isn't going to be a short trip. Fuel up whenever you get the chance, whether it's by reading the genre you write for or just by living life. Life, which is chock full of material, is sometimes underrated. Don't miss out on it.