Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Family Separation, Disconnection, and Chaos Theory

What happens when you’re suddenly contacted by someone you’ve not seen nor talked to in 26 years? Stick around and let me tell you what happened to me.

Last week when I called my father, who’s recuperating from hip surgery in a convalescent center, I got to talk to my brother who happened to be in the room at the time. He asked me if I wanted the phone number and email addy of my first cousin, Pat. I took up pencil and paper and duly wrote down the information. Color me too  shocked to object or question anything.

It seems that she’d paid a visit to Dad that day while visiting with an old classmate. She even brought along the classmate. She’d been thinking about him recently, had spoken to her friend about not being able to contact him, and this classmate happened to be in Burger King one day to discover someone who knew Dad. In that round-about way, Pat was informed of his stay at the convalescent center.

Talk about your seven degrees of separation!

The upshot was that I now had in my possession the information to make contact possible after 26 years. The oddest part of this story, I suppose, was that this cousin had been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I had no clue why I kept thinking about her, though. Couple that oddity with the fact that all of a sudden I’d been picking up friend requests from writers from Indiana for a solid week, when I had no others before that. Now you can glimpse my need to shiver a bit.

Yep, things aren’t always what they seem on the surface, unless you’re like me, and have dealt with too many coincidences in the past to take them lightly. There is no such thing as a coincidence, in my humble opinion.

I contacted Pat, who now goes by a different nickname, by email. It was short and sweet and inviting. She responded immediately and we’ve been corresponding daily since.

We’re getting reacquainted. As we all know, people change over time. Life does that to a person. I’ve learned some things about this lovely woman that I would never have expected. For instance, she loves poetry and buys books of poetry every time she finds a poet that she can click with. She's happily used her time to garden since she retired a few years ago.

These are the kinds of things that I would have known if we could have communicated over those intervening years. We’ve lost time with each other. We’ve lost our connections. As we grow older, having family contemporaries becomes more difficult.
She is one of only three cousins of my age—within a year or so—on either side of my family. That’s a really small pool to draw from, and she’s the only relative that I know left on my mother’s side of the family. That pool just got dangerously small.

Why am I talking about all of this? It has to do with recognizing how fragile connections and communication really are. It focuses one’s attention on those bits of self that have been left behind; bits that impacted other people that one never expected. And, it allows for more examples of those seven degrees of separation that Chaos Theory is always shoving down our throats.

Remember I said that Pat loves poetry. I sent her a link to some of my published poems on the Soft Whispers site. She came back to me expressing her pleasure in a specific poem and told me how much it reminded her of her favorite poet, Gwen Frostic. She told me that she used to go to Gwen’s studio each year to get any new books of poetry that had come out since the last visit.

Now I’d never heard of that poet, but I remedied that with a Google search. Though deceased now, Gwen became an instant favorite of my own, as well. Look her up and see if you can figure out why. Her books are also still available on Amazon. Somehow I can see an order in my future.

I discovered a new poet, introduced to me by a cousin long estranged, reconnected with a much forgotten past, from a place I hadn’t lived in 26 years. I think that’s a good week’s work, don’t you?

I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to discover this week. Until I find out, take care, all, and may blessings litter you path through life.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Relatively Speaking

An old adage says “Everything is relative.”

Everyone stumbles across this one truth at some point in their lives. That is, if they’re paying attention.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll remember that to walk into a house heated to 65 degrees from an outside temperature of 32 or less feels like you’re walking into a hot house. Give yourself a couple of hours and the inside temps won’t seem so warm.

Place that same scene in the dog days of summer with outside temps of 100 degrees and walk into that same house set at 65 degrees. Suddenly one has walked into a meat locker.

Someone has undoubtedly thought of the analogy of “How do you boil a live frog?”

The power of relativity has come to bear on our lives so often that we seldom pay attention to it. We make our statements about conditions around us and move on to another distraction. It’s not something that seems terribly pertinent.

Why am I talking about such a petty little observation? Isn’t it the petty little observations to which writers must pay attention?

Whether a writer is dealing in fiction or non-fiction, it’s the details that will either set you free or bury you. If you’re working in non-fiction and you present one of those little observations of relativity incorrectly, credibility will be tainted. Precision of detail is critical in non-fiction. The writer cannot afford to allow relativity to color those details too much. Even memoir has its limits concerning relativity.

If the writer works in fiction, the relativity displayed by character and situation makes or breaks the reality of the story presented. If you have a character who hates feeling cold, who lives in the desert for that reason, for instance, her air conditioning unit won’t be set at 65 degrees in the summer. The character would never stand for a temperature setting that low. Yet, such a situation can be successfully used to further define the character’s individual needs, tastes, backstory, etc.

Some people call this perspective since relativity is reserved for a physics theorem. Regardless, writers deal with the continual relativity/perspective factor every day. Many times we do it unconsciously. Somewhere, on an intuitive level, we understand how critical it is that we appear authentic and accurate.

The genre dictates how we use this factor, as well. Children’s writers must write as adults. Their presentation of material or story, on the other hand, must be from the perspective of the readers’ age for fiction and use appropriate language level, etc. In non-fiction children’s age-appropriate language also holds hands with concept understanding and developmental stages. Targeting the proper age market for one’s work is crucial to success in that genre.

The same holds true for marketing any piece of writing to any audience. Relativity/perspective demands proper marketing for success. The writer of technical journals, for instance, targets only those who need that particular information, written at specific levels of expertise.

As you can see, everything is relative. From the content to the marketing the writer juggles accuracy with approximation every time she sits down at her computer, regardless of what she’s writing.

Maybe that’s a large part of why this industry is so fascinating and frustrating at one and the same time. If anyone has another take on this subject, let me know.  I’m always up for discussion.

Until later,


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Driving Focus Needs the Right Schedule

Spinning one’s wheels without forward movement is a true exercise in frustration. Putting more on one’s plate than can be eaten in a meal is gluttony. And writing without a plan of action is just plan insane.

We all know these truths. If we haven’t learned them within the first few experiences, we don’t deserve to call ourselves intelligent.

I bring all of this up to preface my new beginning. I’ve been stacking so much on my writer’s plate that even Hercules couldn’t have lifted it without a forklift. There are just so many marvelous projects that I must stick my fingers into right now. I know that I have four-ten other projects sitting in the wings looking for a finale. I understand that a new project needs extra time for development, which eliminates time slated for other work.

Yeah, I get it.

Addiction is a terrible thing. This addiction on mine to constantly find new, more fascinating projects to tinker with has got to stop. That’s why I’ve taken today to develop a work schedule for myself that is rigid enough to keep me focused and flexible enough to allow for movement between projects and chores outside of writing.

I’ve done scheduling before without success, I think because too much rigidity and I don’t get along well. We tend to go to war. Blame that on my need for flexibility.

With this new attempt, I’ve built in those non-writing tasks that always stole time I didn’t feel I had before. I built in time for email and social media twice a day. I built in time for reading for review and for pleasure. I built in specific timeframes for writing on different projects on different days of the week.

I even built in time each day for personal home tasks and half an hour of exercise. Believe me, that’s definitely new.

Each week’s schedule will shift just a bit as administration tasks are completed and others take their place. Now I can go to my day’s calendar and see just those things that need my focus, without having to think about those that will come on a different day.

Down the line further, I will build in all of the deadlines for submissions. I’ve already allowed for a few hours each week for marketing research and submissions.

I’m going to try, with determination and focus, to get this new attempt to work for me. Every other one has failed so far in the last two years. I’ve learned a bit about myself since then.

Wish me luck and check in on Monday to see how the work proceeds and how my newest project is coming along. What is that project, you ask. It’s a women’s fiction novel titled “Dreamie’s Box.” I’ve completed the first two chapters and moving forward.

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Answers by the Bushel

A few days ago I posted about the confusion I felt concerning whether I could do this thing called writing in today’s publishing world without losing what was left of my mind. I got part of my answer last evening as I listened to two more class sessions on Author Summer School.

As I was listening to the experts, my mind filled with how each of their points pertained to me and what I could do both in strategy and platform without doing much more than I am already. The only thing I really needed to do was stop worrying so much about not getting more writing done and devote a short amount of time to putting what I really needed into place.

 I suddenly saw myself in my tiny rowboat, floundering with oars that weren’t quite gaining enough purchase in the water to propel me forward. It came to me that that was the problem I’d been having. It wasn’t that I was writing all the wrong stuff or not enough. Instead, the problem lay in my scattering all that writing as so many jetsams inefficiently onto the waters of potential publishing success. I was actually sabotaging myself by not taking the time to put together a working and effective plan of action for myself.

I realized that while I would lose a couple of weeks writing time, I would gain much more, including a renewed focus and a method for doing all the types of writing that I wanted to do. The key was to actually have separate platforms with separate foci.

I know. It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But the way I envisioned it, the only daunting part was that initial learning curve for putting the plan into place and for keeping the different arenas separate on the net.

For example, I have this blog with its followers for children’s work and the occasional experimental piece of fun. I have my Wordpress blog for interviews, reviews, and commentaries of various types. I also have a brand new blog opening soon to replace my Positive-At-Tent-Ion website; a new blog that I believe will be better by far than the old site and that will be run like a small magazine.  God willing, my followers there will come over to the new one.

The social media portion of the equation will be put together in the next couple of weeks while I’m taking classes and building a large file of expert advice from all across the spectrum. I figure if I take the time now to do this, along with subbing out all the remaining work in my file cabinet, I have a shot of coming into September with a plan of daily action that will keep me motivated, productive, and moving forward with my writing career.

That’s where I am today; beginning to put together the plan. Making those decisions that force me to dedicate my focus, as well as time, to writing to the best of my ability while riding a marketing strategy toward the future.

I hope that others out there with this predicament can find hope in my trials and struggles. There are answers out there, if you ask the right questions and if you’re willing to accept opportunity when it’s offered. I just had another thought. This change is necessary for me because my writing grew beyond the fences that had previously held it. Will that happen again, if I take on another growth spurt?
Huh. If it does, I'll just have to adjust again. Practice makes... and all that.

Take care, all. Until later,


Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-examining One's Direction

For the past few days I’ve been taking some classes through Trissa Tismal’s Author’s Summer School Program. These were simul-cast over telephone/web.
The majority of the information given to the students was geared toward non-fiction, but easily converted over for fiction. Both traditional publishing and e-publishing were addressed in easy to digest ways to ensure that everyone would come away with valuable tools for their publishing future.
Much of the emphasis was that writing—if you want to do it for something other than a hobby—is a business and must be approached that way.
I have to admit that anyone writing--whether for books, articles, essays, etc.—this is especially true. Any writer who wants to make a living at writing through copy writing or book production must change their thinking processes to allow for office mentality.
It came as a big shock to me over a year ago when I came face to face with that reality. Every time I turned around, I was hearing the same thing. I heard it from fiction writers, screenwriters, essayists, journalists, travel writers, and copywriters. There was no escaping the reasoning behind that truth. There was no lark singing sweet songs for the Muse that may or may not bestow creative genius while I sat at the computer trying to decide what to write for the day.
I still don’t have to like that reality. I just have to find a way to live with it and organize my writing life in a way that makes use of it in the most efficient way possible.
That’s one of the big problems for me. I have enough projects on the boards to keep me very busy for the next year without developing any new ones. Each of them takes time to write, edit, polish, and market.

Hiding in the corners of the mind sits a wee concern called enjoyment. How does the writer gain enjoyment from the work while still viewing it as a business with schedules to meet, plans to develop, schmoozing to do on social media sites, etc.?  Can there be enjoyment within the process alongside all of the demands from the business?

As I sat listening to the experts talk about how much social media and its uses were necessary for a working writer, I pondered my ability to do what was necessary. I wondered if I had what it took to be the writer I want to be without having to become a slave to the changing face of the publishing world.

I can tell you that being an eclectic isn’t going to make the situation any easier. Each writer needs a platform. That’s been drilled into us all. When you write travel pieces, children’s stories/articles and hopefully books, along with social commentaries, op-ed pieces, memoir and essays, plus adult fiction, what kind of platform can you build that will work? Drop poetry into the mix and you have disaster waiting to claim the world.
Like everyone else, I want a life outside of writing. It might not happen, but one can hope. I want to be able to read books for enjoyment besides those I will do for reviews. I want to be able to do interviews for my Wordpress blog. On top of all that, I want to go out of the house on occasion to see if the rest of the world still exists and has something to show me that I can write about.

There you have my dilemma. How crowded does my daily schedule have to be to get everything into it? How much time do I have to shave off this hour or that one to allow for laundry (I can do poetry or reading then, too, during the drying cycle)? Can I make an outing a time for jotting down notes for that YA fantasy on the back burner?
If anyone has any suggestions for me on how to make scheduling work better than it’s been so far, let me know. If you have a way to cram more into a day without feeling as if deprivation of spirit is just around the corner, please, I implore you, tell me what it is. I’m counting on suggestions here, peeps. My present scheduling system isn’t working at all well anymore.

Do I really have to scale back what I want to be writing on in order to get the rest done?
Load me up with suggestions, sure-fire ways to excel, anything you have on hand will help. In return I will loan you my sure-fire ways to overload your desk while skipping joyfully down a path toward writing overload. Hey, fair is fair.

Until later,