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The spinning pinwheel of death - so pretty, and yet, so deadly

The spinning pinwheel of death – so pretty, and yet, so deadly

Stand By: Technical Difficulties Ahead

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to over the last few days – whether online, or in “real life” – has had similarly disparaging things to say about the past week. Perhaps it was the transition from summer to autumn, or the adjustment to the start of another school year (which seems to affect everyone, whether or not they have school-aged children), or just something run amuck in the stars. Whatever it was, I truly hope it has run its course and will not continue to trouble us as we step into September in earnest.

I closed out my work week with a rather terrifying technology snafu. Late on Thursday, my wireless “magic trackpad” developed a mind of its own. Instead of obediently responding to the taps and swipes of my fingers, it began jumping all over the screen, randomly highlighting objects and content, dragging them from here to there, refusing to disengage when I clicked elsewhere. Typing was impossible. Phantom highlighting would suddenly delete entire paragraphs without warning. Or, my cursor would inexplicably disappear from where I was meant to be typing and appear elsewhere on the page, usually in the middle of a word.

I was not encouraged to find that “my apple trackpad is possessed” is a pre-populated Google search term.

I called apple. Forty-seven minutes and nineteen dollars later (my applecare contract expired three months ago, of course), I had no cure for the mysterious, technical ailment. What I did have, was an appointment at the so-called “Genius Bar” for 1:15 today. Hurrah.

I do not know exactly how this story will end, but I know the moral before we even find out the fate of my computer: Back up your files! For years, I was very casual about my backup systems. Because the process was outside my technical comfort zone, I just pretended I didn’t need to worry about it. I trusted to fate. Silly girl. Though I have (touch wood) so far avoided complete disaster, I’ve had one too many friends and colleagues suffer great tragedy at the hands of faulty hard drives and other evils. My advice to you, if you don’t already have a backup system, is to get one. Today. Maybe two.

Though I am not an expert about computer backups, here are the methods I currently use:

Carbonite: This is a cloud backup system that works in the background – automatically backing up your files in real time. This is a paid service, but it’s very much worth the peace of mind that comes from knowing that even if you’re being lazy about manual backups, your important files and photos, etc. are still being backed up on a regular basis.

External Hard Drive: Because I don’t trust any virtual backup 100%, I also purchased an external hard drive. After talking with a “genius” at the apple store, I went with something called a G-drive Slim. I also learned that it’s important, if you’re a Mac user, to have something called Time Machine (a built-in apple feature) turned on because that will ensure that your backup not only contains your files, but keeps them organized in the directories and folders that you created. Otherwise, your backup will just be a jumble of unorganized files. (Can you imagine the nightmare?)

Dropbox: Though I haven’t upgraded to the Pro or Business plans (yet), I understand that they do have an Extended History option that provides another, in-the-cloud backup option. Worth exploring, especially if you’re already a Dropbox fan. For now, I just manually add copies of critical documents to my free dropbox account as an extra bit of insurance.

Old-School – Email: In a pinch, I’ve also emailed copies of documents to alternate email accounts (like my Gmail account) in order to have another copy out there somewhere … just in case.

 

Whatever your method, all I’m saying is, get backing up, people. I know you think it’ll never happen to you, but that’s what my friends said, too. I’d hate to think of you crying over a deceased machine, bemoaning your lack of proper backup and inability to retrieve your novel-in-progress, poetry collection, essay archive, or whatever your writing treasures happen to be.

What I’m Writing:

grub street logoThis past Wednesday, I made my way into Boston for an evening workshop at the Grub Street writers’ center. The class was called Writing and Selling the Money-Making Essay, and it was taught by Calvin Hennick, a Boston-based journalist and essayist.

My inexperience with Boston traffic made me a few minutes late for class, but everyone made me welcome and I enjoyed being in the “real world” company of other writers. I had enrolled in the class with the hopes of learning whether it is possible to make “decent money” writing essays for various print and digital publications. The short answer: yes.

mediabistro logoThe most valuable tactical takeaway from the class was learning about Mediabistro, an online writers’ resource that refers to itself as “the pulse of media.” Their $55/year premium membership includes access to their extremely detailed “How to Pitch Guides” which includes a wealth of information (circulation, editorial style, story needs, pay rates, etc.) about all kinds of print and digital publications. I will definitely be signing up.

The class also taught me a little something about myself. I do not like in-class writing. My writing process, which has evolved over the years, typically requires both germination and fermentation periods. In other words, I’m not comfortable writing on command, at least not in a classroom setting. Is this a weakness? Maybe. Mr. Hennick half-jokingly referred to me as a “miscreant” because of my “writer’s block issue.” While I was momentarily abashed by his putting me on the hot seat, I’m just old enough now that I was able to let my discomfort slide off like water on a duck’s back.

I came away from the class inspired by the variety of publications that accept personal essays and the not-so-shabby pay rates that many of them offer. I was also happy to find that even this brief foray into a literary environment kickstarted my creativity. Based on our review of various magazines and the in-class writing prompts, I now have half a dozen ideas for essays. I’m kind of excited to try my hand at crafting and submitting some pieces.

What I’m Reading:

book yr in provenceAs I already mentioned, this has been an especially stressful week. At times like these, my reading choices lean towards selections that are calm, lightly humorous, and don’t require too much effort on my part. In this particular moment of chaos, I chose to return to an old favorite.

I can’t recall when I first read Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, or why I picked it up in the first place. What I can recall is the sense of peace and comfort the book brought. Perhaps Mayle’s best-known novel, A Year in Provence is a funny and endearing romp through all that is quaint and quirky about life in Provence. From Amazon:

Peter Mayle and is wife had been to Provence as tourists. They had dreamed of one day trading the long, grey winters and damp summers of England for the blue skies and sunshine of the coast of southern France. And then they made it happen.

They moved into an old farmhouse at the foot of the Luberon mountains and embarked on a wonderful, if at times bewildering, new life. Among their experiences that first year: being inundated with builders and visitors, grappling with the native accent, taking part in goat races and supervising the planting of a new vineyard.

Now, Peter Mayle personally recounts the pleasures and frustrations of Provençal life– sharing in a way no one else can, the unique and endearing culture that is Provence.

For this reading, I chose the audio edition of the book, read beautifully by the author.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

Just in case you had a tough week, too …

pin hope strong

Here’s to hoping for the best (but preparing for the worst), trying new things (even if they scare you), and finding comfort where you may (even when times are tough). Happy reading. Happy writing. See you on the other side! 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Without including any spoilers, name a book whose ending you’d like to change and why you’d want to change it. (Tough assignment, I know, but you can do it!)

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: There are a million books I’d like to change the ending of. Any character I grew to love, (There are so many!) I would make sure they made it to the end of the book hale and hearty. It’s difficult to pick one book, given the “no-spoiler” rule, but I do remember hucking The Once and Future King across the room when I got to a certain horrible part in the middle. If you’ve read it, I think you’ll know what part I’m talking about. I read it as a kid and I was devastated by what happened. If I could, I’d go back and change that part. It took me weeks before I would go back to the book and start reading again.

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas – Oh there are a few. Old Yeller probably tops the list (but now as an adult, I understand why it had to happen, but still, sheeesh.) Harry Potter – I didn’t want an ending, I wanted the stories to magically keep on going forever.

Also, while it’s not a book, the story that is Dead Poets Society is a heart breaker, again I understand that the ending had to happen the way it did, but for the love of all that is good, I wish the father had let up, just a little bit. For goodness sake, give the kid a break.

 

 

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Doing What You Love

coffee journal

Image by ci.mike on Flickr via Pinterest

Wow.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

While digging around in my Live to Write – Write to Live archives (searching for a post I remember writing, but still can’t find), I realized that this past June marked my four-year anniversary writing for this blog. Four years! How on Earth did that happen?!? I feel like it was only yesterday that Wendy graciously invited me to be part of this team, and now – suddenly – four years have flown by just like that. My daughter was six years old and in kindergarten when I started blogging here. Now she’s ten and about to enter the fifth grade. Again – wow.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I am, ironically, working. Don’t feel too badly for me. I took Wednesday and Thursday off for some back-to-school shopping and “road trip” fun with my daughter. We had a fabulous time both days, my favorite bit being an impromptu stop to watch (and play in!) the impressive surf at a beach up the coast. Watching her dancing on the rocks and laughing into the waves had me grinning so hard my face hurt.

So, now that the holiday is upon us, I have some catching up to do. A lot of it. I was explaining to my daughter about my deadlines and then mentioned that my first order of business was to write this blog post.

“Mom, why are you writing a blog post if you’re so busy,” she asked.

“Well, because writing the blog post is part of my job, too.”

“But, it’s not your real job. I mean, you don’t get paid for it.”

“No, I don’t. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not my real job.”

And after she’d scurried off up the street to meet her friend, I thought about it and realized that while she is right – I don’t get paid for the writing I do here – I consider it just as (if not more) important than the writing that pays the bills. I’m grateful for the paying work I have, but I never feel like that’s my “real” work. Though I am self-employed, I consider that work my day job. I do my real writing work here and in my journals and when I’m working on stories.

Would my day be less stressful if I passed on writing this post and worked instead on my copywriting deadlines? In theory, yes; but in reality, no. I’d miss being here. I would feel cheated. And, I would feel like I’d shirked my real responsibility. I love writing these posts. As grateful as I am for the paying gigs that keep a roof over our heads and food on our table, I’m just as grateful for the way this blog gives me a creative outlet, a platform on which to share my thoughts about writing, and – most importantly – a fun and supportive community.

I may not be getting paid for it (yet), but I still manage to do what I love. And that is what makes life worth living.

 

What I’m Writing:

Art by Bianca Green

Art by Bianca Green

Talk about time flying – I can’t believe that the two writing workshops I signed up for a couple weeks ago are coming up this week. Now that they are almost here, I have to admit that I’m a little nervous. It’s been a long while since I took any kind of formal writing class. Though I’ve always had wonderful experiences at Grub Street, I am still intimidated by the idea of heading into the city to sit in class with people who I assume are all “real” writers who know what they are doing.

I’m also battling the deadline demons who are trying to convince me that I should skip class in favor of putting in some extra time on my client projects. Oddly enough, I found myself fighting for my writing life in similar circumstances the last time I took a Grub Street class. Though I was a little discouraged to realize that I’m still dealing with the same obstacles, I was encouraged to note that I didn’t give up then, and I’m not going to give up now. I may only be making progress in baby steps, but at least I’m still moving forward.

So … next week, I will be spending two evening in Boston at Grub Street headquarters. On Wednesday evening, I’ll be learning about creative nonfiction in Calvin Hennick’s workshop, Writing and Selling the Money-Making Essay. And on Thursday, I’ll be testing my funny bone with Wendy Wunder’s class, Lighten Up: Cultivating a Sense of Humor in the Writing of Serious Fiction. (I think there are a few seats left in this one. Just saying.)

So – today’s writing (apart from this post) is all about keeping my B2B copywriting clients happy. But next week … next week, two evenings will be about keeping my “real” writer happy. I can’t wait.

 

What I’m Reading:

book little beeLast weekend, my beau gave me the most wonderful gift – an entire afternoon sitting in a lounge chair on my deck with a book. It may not sound like an extravagance, but we so rarely take the time to just sit that it felt like the most indulgent treat in the world. We spent some time staring out at the boater activity across the street at the town wharf, but then I slipped between the covers of my book and disappeared for a while. It was bliss.

I found my paperback copy of Chris Cleave’s novel, Little Bee, in a box outside a neighbors house. It was tucked in amongst an eclectic collection of kids books, self-help tomes, and some small household accessories. It had been out overnight and the morning dew had caused the pages to ripple slightly, but the bright orange cover with it’s bold silhouette illustration seemed mostly impervious to the ravages of a single night out under the stars.

The facts of Cleave’s story are simple, but your reaction will not be. From the back cover:

We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we’ll just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to dace. Two years later, they meet again – the story starts there …

Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.

I agree, so I won’t tell you what happens. I will tell you, however, that the story is riveting, the narrative voices are both endearing and discomforting, and the writing is excellent. This is not a story that will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it will make you think.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin tell yourself the story

Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me. Have a great one, and I’ll see you on the other side! 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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chickadeeBuild a little birdhouse in your soul.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time staring out the window. My writing desk is positioned to accommodate this activity. Situated in front of a large picture window, it provides an expansive view of the town wharf and the river twisting around the bend and out to sea. There is always a lot of activity going on across the street – boaters coming and going, people walking their dogs, cyclists careening around the corner, children chasing the ice cream truck, and flock after flock of Canada geese making their daily trips up and down the river according to some complex time table that only they know.

Closer at hand, only a few feet from the window, is my bird feeder. Like the Canada geese, the avian visitors who frequent my feeder do so according to an indecipherable schedule of their own devising. My most frequent diners are common house sparrows, a rowdy and somewhat uncouth bunch who travel in packs like winged wolves. One moment, there is not a bird in sight and the next twenty or more have descended in unison and suddenly blanket the entire area as they scavenge for leftovers.

I have been an amateur birder since the age of seven. Other feeders I’ve had at other houses have attracted a wide variety of birds – finches, wrens, titmice, jays, cardinals, gray-eyed juncos, orioles, downy woodpeckers, and – one of my favorites – black-capped chickadees. Sadly, at this house, the local house sparrows aggressively defends the feeder from all other species, even chasing off the larger cardinals who sometimes have the audacity to come in for a quick bite.

Earlier this morning I looked up and saw, to my surprise, not one, but three chickadees at the feeder. This was highly unusual. Most of the time, these tiny but courageous birds will come in singly. They are, I expect, trying to slip in under the sparrow radar. But, this morning, there were three – bold as daylight. Their impertinence made me smile. Despite the sparrows’ dominance, these masked renegades had slipped in to steal the seed from the enemy camp.

Those little chickadees reminded me of my creative writing practice. Each day, the lion’s share of my time is gobbled up by a marauding band of responsibilities and obligations. From doing the laundry and buying the groceries to juggling multiple deadlines for my copywriting clients, these duties pillage my larder of time and energy, leaving only the most meager crumbs for my creative projects.

And yet, like the diminutive chickadee, my creative self does not give up. Unable to overcome the odds by force, my creative writing uses more cunning means to steal a little time here and a little energy there. Persistence and patience deliver enough sustenance to keep my creative practice alive and hopping. Nimble and tenacious, the protectors of my creative time keep coming back despite the challenges. Like Robin Hood, they steal from the rich and give to the poor – feeding my urge to make things, express my ideas, and tell my stories.

Perhaps one day, the chickadees will stage a coup and oust the belligerent sparrows; but until then, it’s good to know that a little charitable thievery goes a long way to keeping dreams alive and well even when the Real World feels a bit overwhelming.

P.S. – In case there are any other children of the 80s out there who get the reference in my headline, here – just for you – is your ear worm for the day: Birdhouse in Your Soul.  You’re welcome. 

 What I’m Writing:

"One Word at a Time" book art by Brian Dettmer. Photo by Lindsey Davis on Flickr

“One Word at a Time” book art by Brian Dettmer. Photo by Lindsey Davis on Flickr

So, here’s a thought. Even when you aren’t “writing-writing,” you can still be practicing your craft.

Wait. What?

Though my life does not currently make it easy for me to set aside large chunks of time to work on big creative writing projects, I still find time each day to hone my writing style and skill. And, guess what? I bet you do, too. You just haven’t realized it. Here’s an off-the-cuff list of a few ways I get writing practice in during my “non-(creative) writing” days:

  •  Scribbling my way through three morning pages. It’s a messy, but effective way to loosen up my writing muscles.
  • Writing emails to friends, family, and even clients. Whether I’m sharing a recent event with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, corresponding with my parents, or making a case to a client, emails give me a chance to practice brevity and clarity in my writing.
  • Posting to social media. Instead of thinking about social media as a time-waster, think about it as a chance to practice a little flash fiction. Social media can actually help you learn how to create a strong hook and tell an engaging story in only a few words.
  • Commenting on social media. From Facebook status updates to blog posts, the Internet gives us so many opportunities to engage via our writing. When I do leave a comment for someone – either socially or professionally – I take care with the words I choose. I do my best to contribute valuable thoughts and make sure that I articulate them well.
  • Captioning photos. I’m an Instagram addict who fell in love with the visual nature of the platform. I also love the chance to craft cool captions for my photos. I don’t do it all the time, but when I’m inspired, I spend a little extra time coming up with something that might be the title to the story told by the image, or sometimes the caption will be more about practicing writing a good description.
  • Thank you cards. I am making a conscious effort to send more thank you cards – real ones, that you have to put a stamp on and bring to the post office. I love getting mail and I love sending mail. Thank you cards are a wonderful way to help you practice expressing your feelings without resorting to tired cliches and ambiguous generalizations. I love making thank you notes as personal and honest as possible.

I am in no way saying that these kinds of in-the-nooks-and-crannies writing exercises can ever replace a more focused and dedicated practice. I do, however, find it comforting to know that even when I’m unable to carve out hours of time to work on a story, I can still be doing my writerly thing – if only in a small way. Every little bit makes a difference. Each word on the page helps you define and refine your voice.

 

What I’m Reading:

book urban bestiaryDuring busy times like the one I’m in now, trying to read fiction is mostly just frustrating. I never seem to have a long enough time to truly sink into the story and savor it. Consuming a novel a couple pages at a sitting certainly does not do any book justice, and also robs me of the best experience. So, instead of fighting my way doggedly through such a battle, I will sometimes turn instead to a non-fiction read.

This time, I chose a book that I saw at an indie bookstore last holiday season. I thought about picking up a copy for my mom, but another book won out that day, and I left The Urban Bestiary sitting on the shelf. A few weeks ago, however, Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s book again caught my attention, this time from a shelf at my local library. I was walking in circles trying to locate my daughter (who was, doubtless, also walking in circles in an attempt to evade me and extend our stay at the library), when the sky blue cover caught my eye.

In the first chapter, A New Nature, a New Bestiary, Haupt describes what she hopes to accomplish with her book:

It is time for a new bestiary, one that engages our desire to understand the creatures surrounding our urban homes, helps us locate ourselves in nature, and suggests a response to this knowledge that will benefit both ourselves and the more-than-human world.

Each following chapter is an educational yet enchanting exploration of a particular species – coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, crows, cougars, and many others.

Though I am fascinated by the subject matter, I toted this book home as much to sate my curiosity about this kind of writing as to learn about the history, behaviors, and folklore associated with my furred and feathered neighbors. In her bio, Haupt describes herself as “a naturalist, eco-philosopher, and speaker whose writing is at the forefront of the movement to connect people with nature in their everyday lives.” I love that. I’d never heard of an eco-philosopher. I also hadn’t given much thought to the fact that there are many writers who make a living writing non-fiction books about nature and related topics – topics that I care about deeply.

Haupts book is a wonderfully informative and entertaining read that I recommend to anyone – writer or not – who has a love for or curiosity about nature, particularly the way it intersects with our lives at the fringes of the wild world and the urban one. I’m learning a lot and enjoying her writing style. I’m also equally grateful for the way this book has opened my eyes a bit more to all the different kinds of writers and writing that exist in the world. Reading this book has filled my head with all kinds of new ideas.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin write like breathing

I hope your creative chickadees are winning their battle against the house sparrows of Real Life. Here’s to stealing time back for your creative life and enjoying the journey along the way.


Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: When you find a book that you absolutely adore, how do you go about reading it. Do you forsake all your other responsibilities and just surrender to the story, consuming it in great gulps. Or, do you ration it out to make it last longer? 

 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: What a lovely question! If I become enraptured with a book and it’s humanly possible, I will forsake everything else to keep reading without interruption. I love when I find books like that (and have the time to give myself over to them!)

I only ration a book like that if absolutely forced to. I’ve been known to have a quick-fix meal instead of making a well balanced meal just to get back to reading faster. I suppose audio books would make life easier in this instance, huh? I could carry the book with me and multitask while ‘reading’. But I haven’t tried that yet. My only novel reading is via a paper book in my hands.

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Susan Nye: While I might want to forsake other responsibilities, more often than not, it’s impossible to drop everything. Instead, I do my best to drop as much flotsam and jetsam as possible to binge on the book. I’m usually early to bed but if I’ve got a book I just can’t put down I become an night owl. And pay the price the next day!

 

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Is there anything better than loving a book? I will admit, it doesn’t happen often for me. These days I keep studying the craft, so getting swept away is quite the feat. When that happens, I just go with it. I’m with Lisa, I only ration if I must.

 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I used to love reading a good book into the night, until I could hear the birds chirping in the early morning. But those days are over, at least for now. Most of my fiction reading right now is actually listening in the car, and it’s hard to shut the car off and go into the house when I’m listening to something great, but I usually do (at least at the end of the chapter.) Then I sort of forget about it until I have to travel alone again and then it occurs to me that I have a good book to listen to and suddenly I can’t wait to get in the car!

 

 

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: When I fall in love with a book, I find myself turning a blind eye to reality so that I can secret away as much reading time as possible. As is the case with most love affairs, its very existence gives me a means to justify almost any behavior and bad decision. I can ignore housework and familial obligations, duck out on friends and shirk on deadlines, and I can stay up too late and generally make excuses to avoid anything that might interfere with my reading. I inhale the book in great, deep breaths … until I get close to the end. As the pages left to read dwindle down to a sad few, I hold back just a little. The end of the romance is in sight, but I’m not ready to let go, so I tarry as long as I can, lingering over each phrase. Eventually, of course, my beloved book and I must part ways; but if it was truly love, I know that we’ll meet again.

 

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Diane, I don’t mind driving now that downloading audiobooks from the library to my phone and playing them via bluetooth in the car has made it so easy. And like everyone one else, I’ve been known to say, “Leave me alone, I’m reading!”

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robin williamsActing Out Optimism

My daughter and I had just returned from our first trapeze class after a year’s absence from “flying.” It was late (we’d stopped for dinner on the way home), and I was whirling around the kitchen, simultaneously shooing her into the shower, feeding our two cats, and having a quick catch-up call with my beau. In the midst of the chaos, I heard my beau say, “It’s awful about Robin Williams, huh?”

Before I could answer I had to pause to holler up the stairs at my daughter (again), and aggressively tap the remaining bits of canned cat food off the spoon I was wielding. “What?” I asked. He explained. About the death. About the suspicion of suicide. None of it registered. I made some meaningless response, something about it being a terrible tragedy and such a shame; and then I said I’d call back later and hung up.

Early the next morning, still tucked in under the covers, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in an effort to come fully awake. As I read the dozens of posts honoring Williams and grieving his death, I began to cry. Even now, as I sit here typing this post, tears are welling up.

I’ve come a little unglued.

After all, I did not know Williams personally. I have been a fan since his Mork & Mindy days, but I haven’t even seen all of his movies. I admired him and his work; but I if you’d asked me a week ago to name my top ten performers, he wouldn’t have made the list. And yet, knowing he is gone broke something in me. Like so many other people I’ve talked to, I find myself unexpectedly touched by his sudden absence.

I’m still processing my emotional response to this loss. I’m still trying to figure out why of all the heartbreak in the world, the loss of this one entertainer has left me so bereft. I need some private writing time before I can share my thoughts with more clarity. There is one quote of Robin’s, however, that I would like to share. There are so many making the rounds on the Internet now that he is gone. I think the one that I’ve seen most often is “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lost it.” Though I love that one, there is another that I find more intriguing, “Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Despite all the death and injustice and sorrow in the world, despite being locked in constant battle with his own demons, despite the intense pressure of life that we all feel – whether we are Hollywood icons or simply a member of the PTA – despite all of this, Williams chose laughter. He chose joy and kindness and generosity. In the face of all the darkness, he chose light. And he shared that light with the world. This, to me, is the highest purpose of any art – to express hope and optimism.

I think Zelda William’s said it perfectly in her lovely statement about her father:

“Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls Ive ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”

 

What I’m Writing:

tweet conv professionalsI continue to swim upstream against a strong current of crunchy deadlines for fairly intense projects. I’m grateful for the work on my plate, but that gratitude does not dispel the stress that comes along with juggling multiple clients and projects.

Last week, I had a quick little Twitter exchange with fellow copywriter, Donnie Bryant. I had never met Bryant, but a quote he tweeted caught my eye, “Amateurs wait for inspiration; professionals do it with a headache.” It just so happened that on the morning I read that quote (as retweeted by Craig McBreen) that I was sporting a doozy of a headache and was working off of only four hours’ sleep. Though I felt physically awful, Bryant’s quip made me smile.

Though I am now and always will be a work-in-progress as an author and storyteller, I earned the right to call myself a professional writer years ago. It wasn’t the caliber of my clients or the monetary value they placed on my work that gave me the confidence to call myself a pro. It was the fact that I always got the job done. No matter what. A hobbyist has the option to say, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow.” A dabbler can decide to go to bed early instead of staying up to meet the deadline. A poser can happily act the part without actually producing anything. But a professional? A professional must deliver. An MIA muse is not an acceptable excuse. A sick kid is not an acceptable excuse. A headache is most definitely not an acceptable excuse. If you’re a professional – paid or not – you get the work done. Period. End of story.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

What about you? Do you call yourself a professional? Is that even important to you? What’s your take on being a pro vs, being a dabbler?

 

What I’m Reading:

faerie magWhen I’m not so exhausted that I’m falling asleep on the way upstairs to bed, I am still managing to fill any remaining nooks and crannies in my day with small but still joyful moments of reading. I am not, however, finding making enough of these moments to get through some of the bigger reads I have on my plate at the moment.

So, while I continue to enjoy those in bite-sized morsels (and will share here once I’ve finished off the last, delicious bits), I’ll share with you today a little diversion that arrived at my PO Box this week: Faerie Magazine.

It happened like this: I was scrolling through Facebook (geesh, I seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook), and saw a picture of a beautiful fairytale cottage. (It may have even been fellow Live to Write -Write to Live blogger, Wendy, who posted it. I’m not sure.) Anyway, the image had been shared from the Facebook page of this beautiful print publication. It was rather late at night and I was struggling with the day’s final deadline, so – of course – I decided to take a little side trip via a click to the magazine’s site. A few minutes later, I was a subscriber.

The reason I share this with you is to illustrate the power of the niche audience. This is a beautifully produced and written print magazine (supposedly a dying breed) that is on its 27th quarterly issue, so it’s been in print for nearly seven years now.

If you have a passion for a particular topic or genre, there is a publication out there that is serving other people who share your passion. In fact, there are probably multiple publications (especially if you consider both digital and print) catering to the exact audience who would most appreciate your writing on that beloved topic. Find these publishers. Get to know their work and their readers. You never know when you might find a perfect home for the writing you love to do best.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

spark madness williams

Here’s to hope and optimism and finding the courage and joy to let your spark of madness shine. 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Is there any genre of books that you secretly love to read but are embarrassed to admit you enjoy? Confess. 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: I’m not embarrassed to admit I read erotica, but it’s difficult to take those books in public, so I have to keep them at home, or tear the covers off (and I don’t destroy books, so, reading at home it is!) Some dark fiction books I enjoy have graphic covers, so it’s difficult to take those anywhere, too. I don’t want to offend anyone — or scare the crap out of anyone. I read whatever attracts me and can pull me into a new world. I love reading young adult books, too, and sometimes get asked if I’m a teacher if someone sees me reading that genre. “No, not a teacher, just a reader enjoying a good story.”


Susan Nye:
It’s not a secret and I’m not embarrassed but I’m a fan of shoot-‘em-up detective stories and legal thrillers.

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My reading tastes run far and wide. From Tolkien to Tolstoy, I’ve probably dipped my toes in almost every genre. In some cases (Stephen King – horror), I jumped right back out; but for the most part my book selection bounces from genre to genre like the “Squirrel!” dog in the movie Up.  The only genre that am a little embarrassed to admit I enjoy is “Chick Lit.” Now, there’s literary Chick Lit (which I have no problem with), but once we start getting into beach read territory, I start to feel a little uncomfortable. The truth is, though, that any story you enjoy is a story worth reading. Do I sometimes watch stupid movies or watch inane television shows? Of course I do. I actually have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to my guilty pleasures. I figure that guilty pleasures are a great way to a) unwind the brain and b) remind us how fabulous our non-guilty pleasures are. ;)

 

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: I’m clearly too serious and have entirely too little time to read, so I’m grateful for the above – and I’m especially interested in Lisa’s recommendations!

 

 

 

 

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas:Like many of the other writers here, I constantly read. If it’s not a book I’m reading for an article’s research, or a book I’ve been asked to review, then it’s a book I’ve heard someone crow about and I want to see what it’s about.

That said, one of my guilty pleasures is Cozy Mysteries – you know the Murder She Wrote type of story that involves an unlikely detective along with a pretty large dose of humor. For some reason, they just tickle my reading bone.

Like Jamie, I also enjoy a good “chick-lit” story every now and then. Interestingly, I tend to read those in the summer instead of the winter when I usually turn to “heavier” reading (non-fiction, research.)

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