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Do you find yourself unmotivated or drained when you look around and no one is cheering you on to achieve your goals? Does lack of support make you question your dream?

If you find yourself here, stop, take a breath, and perform a reality check.

Here’s a secret: You and only you have the power to meet and exceed your goals and turn your dreams into everyday life.

Yes, I know sometimes it’s difficult to get on the rah-rah-let’s-go train, but, honestly, does it really matter what Friend A, B, or C thinks about your dreams?

We’re each unique and need to share ourselves with the world in a manner that is true to us, individually.

The only person we need to impress is ourself. If we end up surprising family or friends, it’s a bonus. But when we can prove to ourselves our dreams and goals are achievable, well, it’s euphoric.

In my working life, I seek out writing opportunities that push me to learn more — it’s the only way I can grow. And when I nail a project, well, I do a happy dance to celebrate.

Similarly, in my personal life, I’m focused on being a better runner. Running is still new to me, but I enter races, I show up, and I cross the finish lines. I’m not first, I’m not last, but I do my best in that moment. Kudos and cheers at the end are fabulous, but what puts the biggest smile on my face is knowing what it took me to get there — and actually getting there.

Lisa 2014 Millenium Mile

You, like me, may always work (or run) with other people, but it’s our own thoughts that keep the forward momentum going — that get us to the end of the project (or finish line).

If you keep moving toward your goals, step by step, little by little, day by day — no matter what others think or say — you will achieve what it is that you want to achieve.

Believe in yourself.

Repeat after me: “I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Oh, yeah, I totally have this. YEAH!”

Now, go on and get this week started!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She just crossed her 4th runner’s finish line in 2014 and danced on her way back to her car to celebrate the victory. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Every once in a while, I hit a speed bump.

six by nineI have been a writer since the age of seven when I penned (or, rather, penciled) my first entry in my first journal. I have been writing ever since. Every once in a while, however, I hit a bit of a speed bump. For one reason or another, my certainty about being a writer wavers.

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series, the super “Earth computer” works out that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42. That’s all well and good, but a bit useless if you don’t know what the actual question is. In a wild, last ditch effort to find out exactly what the ultimate question is, Arthur Dent (the book’s protagonist) pulls random Scrabble tiles out of a bag. Lining up the tiles, he finds the message, “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?” Clearly not very helpful.

Sometimes that’s how I feel about writing.

Usually, I have no doubt that writing is “my thing.” I am also very clear about why it’s so important and valuable, not just to me, but to humanity in general. But, now and again my cocky conviction wobbles and I’m suddenly wondering if maybe writing is a crazy thing to do. I worry that I can’t really understand why I do this thing or whether it matters.

But then I come to my senses. I remember that writing is not a science. It’s an art. It doesn’t need to be defined and categorized and explained. It just is. Writing does not need to justify itself. And, furthermore, I don’t need to justify being a writer.

After that, I get back to doing what comes naturally. I write.

 

What I’m Writing:

multiple personalities

Just how many “yous” are out there?

Though my workload for my marketing clients continues to keep the vast majority of my writing time tied up, I have managed to stay on track with my bi-weekly column for the local paper. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet (and its corresponding deadline). It gives me the chance to craft a different kind of story and express my own ideas instead of a client’s.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to share my latest pieces with you. You see, up to this point I’ve been posting my columns on my marketing site under the heading “Off-topic.” I have decided, however, that this is not the right approach. I need a better way to manage my multiple online identities.

Though I make my living as a marcom (marketing and communications) writer, I aspire to write fiction, publish my column, and handle the odd feature assignment. I need to figure out the smartest way to blend (or not) these different aspects of what I do into a cohesive and sensible online presence. I haven’t figured out the solution yet, but I’m leaning towards creating another site or blog where I can post my personal and creative writing.

I bring this up because I wonder who else might have a similar problem. Do you have multiple writer personalities? Most writers I know fill a number of different writing roles in order to make ends meet and/or keep their creative muscles limber. If you’re such a person, how do you manage your public persona?

 

What I’m Reading:

Last week I mentioned how much I enjoyed Robin Sloan’s Kindle Single, Ajax Penumbra 1969. This “follow-up prequel” (is that a thing?) to his novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore was the perfect fix for a reader who wasn’t quite ready to leave Sloan’s quirky and hopeful world.


This week, I pulled a beautiful book off my shelf. Lyra’s Oxford (affiliate link) is one several stand alone short stories that Phillip Pullman has written as companion pieces to his extremely successful His Dark Materials trilogy (affiliate link). This tiny, clothbound tome is beautifully designed and includes a fold-out map and some other printed ephemera on the last few pages of the book. It’s a gorgeous edition that delivers all the sensory pleasures that we bookish types adore.

While I did enjoy the story, I enjoyed its presentation more. I wanted to love the story as much as I loved the trilogy, but it didn’t capture my imagination in the same way. The ideas in the trilogy are so big, I can see why it would be challenging to reduce them to a scale suitable for a short story.

What I found most interesting about reading these two pieces was the concept of creating short stories and even novellas around a larger work. I like the idea of an author being able to dip back into a particular world or collection of characters, even if creating a whole new novel doesn’t make sense. I was also struck by the difference in (perceived) value associated with the two “shorts” that I read. Ajax Penumbra 1969 clocks in at about sixty pages and is available as either a Kindle Single ($2.99) or an Audible audio edition ($3.30). Lyra’s Oxford is also approximately sixty pages long, but is more expensive ranging between $5.98 and $13.45 across five formats including paperback, Kindle, hardcover, CD, and audio download.

I’m honestly not sure where I’m going with this (yet). I just found it interesting and thought you might, too.

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 no self

So – here’s to writing for yourself and finding your public. 

Happy writing & happy reading! 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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Men in Tree Photo Credit: Andy M Taylor via Compfight cc
Six by Nine Photo Credit: adamgerhard via Compfight cc

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: Have you ever participated in a book club? As a reader or an author? What did you hope to get out of it? How’d that work out for you? Any advice for someone who wants to start a book club? Additional, random thoughts? 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: As I recently shared in a Weekend Edition, I just joined my first ever book club. Until now, I’d mostly thought about book clubs in the context of Oprah’s Book Club and the way that woman seemed to be able to single-handedly influence the lives of so many authors.

I really enjoyed the first meeting of our local, non-celebrity endorsed book club. It was fun for me, as a writer, to hear how other readers perceived a particular story – what they liked and didn’t like, what surprised them, and also how they interpreted certain things about themes, characters, etc. Though it felt a little disrespectful to the author whose book we had read, our dissection of her novel was quite enlightening.

I already have the next “club book” in my hot little hands and am looking forward to sharing the read (and some wine … and cheese) with my fellow “book clubbers.” Once again, our pick is not the kind of book I would normally pick up, but I love the fact that being in the club is forcing me to try different genres. It also makes me wonder, however, whether a genre-specific book club would provide even more valuable insights. Hmmm … something to think about.

Meanwhile, my ten year-old daughter recently announced that she’d like to start her own book club. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I think she’s more interested in the hosting and eating part of the gig, but – hey – you have to start somewhere, right?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I started a book club back when I was working full-time and wanted an excuse to read a good book and do something besides work. Whoever hosted the book club prepared dinner for everyone (we did it on a Friday night and all the members worked full-time so it seemed easier to plan to do a whole meal once every six months rather than bring something every time) and picked the book we would read. The only other rule was you didn’t have to read (or finish reading) the book. I wanted it to be low-stress. We had great discussions. Usually we had dinner together and then talked about the book. Sometimes talking about the book didn’t last long, other times we spent the whole time talking about the book. It was a mixed group, men and women, so we read many different types of books. One of the books that sparked the most discussion was Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer. I really enjoyed those book club meetings, especially because they were so laid-back. If people were visiting I brought them along–after all, they didn’t need to read the book! I’d love to be in a book club now, but haven’t made the effort to find one or start one. One of these days I will.

Lisa J. Jackson

Lisa J. Jackson: I joined a book group that associates books with movies (read the book, then meet to discuss over dinner, then watch the movie), but my good intentions haven’t been realized into actually making one of the meetings. I think getting together to chat about a particular book is a great idea. Just like with writing workshops, I can imagine all the different points of view — the different details of a story that people pick up on — can make for lively conversations and give me new ways to think about reading, and writing. I’ll get active with a book group someday, I’m sure.

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Susan Nye: I started a book club about five years ago with two objectives. The first was to get out more. Writing is a solitary occupation and New Hampshire winters are long so any excuse was a good excuse to go out. Since I love to read, a book club was better than most. The second was to read books that I might not normally pick up.

Both objectives have been met but … yes, there is a but … I sometimes find that several in the group want to spend less time talking about the book and more time talking about anything/everything else. I don’t mind discussing other things but I’d like to give at least equal time to the book.

Since I started the book club, I put together most of the criteria. If you have specific needs, it’s probably a good idea to start your own rather than try to find an established book club. It might even be easier. Lots of book clubs run for decades and, once established, don’t easily take in new members.

When you invite people to join you, let them know your plans. With my group, I specified fiction and creative nonfiction and when we would meet. We expect, but it’s not a hard and fast rule, that everyone read the book. We don’t modify the discussion if someone hasn’t finished the book. There are no spoiler alerts.

Our group has grown quite a bit. There are now eleven of us, we meet eleven times a year and everyone hosts one meeting a year, usually the same month. The host picks the book and works with the library to get copies for everyone. In addition, the host serves food and wine. It’s nothing fancy – usually a few snacks and wine and, after the discussion, dessert. Once or twice a year, we do a potluck.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: This question makes me laugh, and think about the path of good intentions. I belong to a book club that started out fairly strongly. But then we met less and less, and people felt badly about not reading or finishing the book. But we still wanted to try and meet at least once every couple of months. So now we still call it the book club, be we don’t read books. We usually just eat, drink wine, catch up on our lives, and make each other laugh. We will likely get back to reading books at some point soon.

I have author friends who go to book clubs to talk about their books, and they love the experience.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin: I don’t belong to a book club, but I’m one of the authors Julie mentions who loves going to book clubs to talk about my book. I’ve done it in person and via Skype – and it’s always lots of fun.

I’m also a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council, where I’ve facilitated books discussions in public libraries, hospitals and prisons. The Vermont Humanities Council has a catalog of themed reading lists and multiple copies of each book; the library (or other sponsor) picks one and hosts the event, which includes a presentation by a scholar and a discussion. In twenty-nine years, I’ve facilitated book discussions all over the state, and I love meeting people from all over, all walks of life, all with a passion for learning. But Vermont is a hard state to get around, and I now limit how far I’ll drive to do these, especially at night. But it’s a great model that has been replicated by Humanity Councils in every state and several countries – so there may be a great reading program happening       near you!

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I’ve tried book clubs but they never really seem to work for me. Either I’m not interested in the book that is being discussed or I’m not interested in the discussion (which is rarely about the book.)

Although I do enjoy discussions on writing, books, and literature, to be quite frank, I’d rather do them in an online discussion than in a group around a bottle of wine.

 

I recently read a blog post by one of my favorite authors and creators, Danielle LaPorte. I felt that she had written the post especially for me.

Danielle talked about her first book, The Fire Starter Sessions, and the lessons she learned as she wrote and published it.

Her first “lesson” was the one that really resonated with me: Create no matter what is going on around you.

Am I doing this? I asked myself. Am I creating no matter what is going on around me?

And the answer came: Yes, I am.

I am a writer and an aspiring author, yet my life revolves around my family—immediate and extended. A few days ago I wrote to a friend about progress on my various interests outside my family. This is what I said:

“To be perfectly honest, my life is not set up to be anything but a stay-at-home mom and a support person to my extended family—right now. But I’m plugging along, doing what I can, when I can.”

I’m doing what I can, when I can.

I’m working on my short story, I’m writing blog posts, and I’m journaling. When I look at all that I’d like to do as a writer, it’s not a lot, but when I look at my life as a whole and my priorities, I’m very happy with all that I am doing.

I’m working toward my 10,000 hours of mastery, sometimes 5 or 15 minutes at a time.

“Create no matter what’s going on around you.” I think Danielle means just ignore everything and create. I see her lesson in a different way.

There’s a lot going on around me every day, so I tell myself to write “for 15 minutes,” or I create “just one tool” for my life coaching clients, or I keep my iPad in view so I can add a few ideas to the mind map I’ve started for my next talk whenever I have a spare few minutes.

These are tiny steps, but they add up.

I used to end every day feeling defeated because I “didn’t get anything done.” When I said that to myself I ignored all the tasks, chores, loving, and caring I did every day. I meant I didn’t get 1000 words written, or a story finished, or another chapter written. I didn’t get anything real or substantial doneand nothing else counted.

These days I know that everything I do counts and anything I do with respect to my writing is progress.

I know I will continue to create no matter what’s going on around me. Today I may only have 15 minutes to write, but I know there will be a day in the not-too-distant future when I’ll have plenty of time to write. On that day I’ll be glad for the free hours and I know I’ll look back and be glad I spent today’s hours as I did, and I’ll be glad for that 15 minutes of writing.

How do you continue to create no matter what else is going on?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a blogger, writer, life coach, mother, and stepmother. I don’t want to say I’m lowering my expectations of myself, but if you want to look at it that you, you could. I choose to think that I’m doing what I can, when I can, and that’s just right!

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share the most moving essay I’ve read in a long, long time. It is actor James Rebhorn’s obituary, which he penned himself. Who, you may ask, is James Rebhorn?

rebhorn

James Rebhorn

I’m not sure I knew his name, but I certainly knew his face. A character actor who has played the “bad” guy so many times I don’t think I can count. He died last week at the (too young) age of  65. He left a huge body of work on film, and on stage. He listed no roles, no awards, no public kudos in his obit. Instead, he talked about his family, and what they meant to him. You can read it here.

I am moved by Mr. Rebhorn’s words. Words he chose to tell his life story, the way he wanted to tell it. His wonderful career barely got a mention at the bottom. He let the world, and his family, know what was important to him. His family. He told his story, as he wanted it told.

I have been thinking about this obituary all day. About the comfort it will give his family. About what it says about him as a human being, as an actor, as a son/brother/husband/father, and as a thoughtful man. About the way it made me think about him. About how he used his own obituary to thank the people who gave him joy, rather than celebrate that life itself. A very powerful way to reframe what success looks like.

Pen for Hire

My studio - about a 60-second walk from my back door.

My studio – about a 60-second walk from my back door.

I participated in a Freelancer’s Roundtable on WordPress’s Daily Post last week, Beyond Blogging: Freelancing, Getting Paid to Write, and Writing for Free. Of course, I was flattered to be asked, even though I do very little freelance writing anymore. Nevertheless, I was surprised by some of my answers, which I’ll elaborate on here.

My Typical Day

I get to my desk by 8:00 am, and I start with NAMS: I narrate the state of my mind onto the page, followed by affirmations. Then I meditate, at which point my mind is clear and still for a Single Task, which these days means working on my novel, Ellen: The Autobiography of Jane Austen by Ellen Wasserman.

I work on my novel till lunch. Ideally, after lunch I walk the dog, then return to my desk to write radio commentaries, editorials, or other paying work. In reality, I often run errands, attend meetings, and do chores. Right now, I’m in that sweet spot where I’m finishing a novel, and I often return to it in the afternoons.

And then there’s the business that supports writing. Today, I spent three hours planning a writing workshop, Mourning Our Mothers: A Daughter’s Day of Remembrance, scheduled for the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I wrote a press release in the afternoon, and met with a web designer in the early evening. I’m writing this post after nine at night.

Honestly, I don’t know if there is a typical day as much as there are ideal days and days that veer out of control. But this much I do know: I’m always writing, even when I’m apparently doing other things, like driving the car or opening the mail.

Paid v. Unpaid?

Writing fiction comes first, even though it doesn’t pay — yet. I do my pen-for-hire work in the afternoon. But this is relatively new. For years,  I had to be more concerned with income than I am now. Then, I was lucky and found freelancing jobs through networking. It helped that I had three salable skills: good writing ability, research skills, and medical knowledge. I did a lot of technical writing for major medical centers that was both interesting and lucrative. Most of this work was without a byline, but the paycheck made up for that. Now, jobs come to me, and I only take those that both interest me and pay well.

Writing for Free

I’m a great believer in “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Since the publication of my first novel in 2010, I call myself a novelist. Into the Wilderness won both critical acclaim and an award. I hope my next novel will earn money. Currently, I earn money by writing nonfiction, leading workshops, public speaking, and taking on private clients for developmental editing. I used to teach, but I’ve decided I’d rather have time to write than money. In a world where income is our default measure of success, this can be difficult.

That said, I blog for free because I’m passionate about writing; because it connects me to a community of writers; and because it ultimately builds an audience for when my next novel comes out. I also write for nonprofits I support, which beats baking brownies for bake sales: fewer calories, larger audience, and best of all — it keeps me at my desk.

Writing for Exposure

 I once met a writer who aimed to receive one hundred rejections in a year. In the process, he received eight acceptances.

Digital and self-publishing have made it so easy to publish that I think a lot of good writing never happens: new writers are impatient to see something in print and what goes out isn’t really finished. I think writing for peers is the first step, and then letters to the editor, guest posts, and newsletters are a good way to move forward. It’s important to distinguish between being published and being read.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin earned a PhD in English Literature, managed a medical practice, taught, raised children, kept bees, hiked 2/3 of The Long Trail (so far), and tells stories.

Everyone has a story to tell. Are you ready to tell yours?

Susie_John_Brenda_1962_03I love memoir; the intimacy of it, the truth of it. Memoir shares a life and time. Good memoir is both more and less than a history lesson or autobiography. The writer’s thoughts and feelings unfold with the story to reveal something larger.

More than simple facts, memoir shares the writer’s interpretation of events. My sister and brother are often amazed at both my memory for detail and my bald-faced lies. A poor, pitiful middle child, these are my truths and I wear them with pride. Each of us sees the world through a unique set of filters. There is no single reality. Facts are relative because our experiences and observations are filtered through our individual history, strengths and foibles.

For the past two years, I have been leading a memoir writing group. These writers’ experiences and observations span more than six, seven or eight decades so they have an almost infinite stockpile of topics. As they read their stories every week, I suspect that their eight grade English teachers beam down on them with pride. Technically, their writing has been solid from day one. However, while those technical skills continue to improve, their immeasurable growth has been in their ability to identify and share stories that are bigger than they are.

Good memoir shares an event or series of events while simultaneously illustrating a universal theme. A camping vacation is more than logistics and an itinerary; it is a story of family love. A business deal is more than widgets in exchange for dollars; it reveals the good, the bad and the ugly of human nature. An illness in the family, physical or mental, reveals our fortitude, fragility or both, usually both.

No matter how ordinary it may, at first, appear on the surface, a powerful story will reveal something beyond a anecdote or colorful character. As you sit down to write a story, draft it, edit it and polish it, ask yourself, “What is this story about?” If it’s a good story the answer will be more than, “It is a story about the summer I spent with my aunt.” It might be something like: “This is a story about determination as illustrated by my aunt’s campaign to save the wetlands.”

The first story could easily devolve into a list of activities from a not particularly interesting discussion with a governmental agency to a hot, dull afternoon on a picket line. If you are witty and clever, the stories will be fun and entertaining. In the second approach, you will share what you learned from and admire about your aunt. It may even show how that summer helped transform you into the person you are today. This story will have depth and meaning and it can still be witty and clever.

So yes, memoir is personal but it’s not all about you. Good memoir goes beyond events and personal musings to share a universal truth. To resonate with others, the story must be bigger than a single individual and transcend the writer’s life. There are many truths to share; love and loss, courage and cowardice, family and friendship and more. A whole lot more.


Susan Nye
is a corporate dropout turned writer, blogger and teacher. She is a regular contributor to a variety of New England magazines and author of two short stories published in the NH Pulp Fiction Anthology Series. Feel free to visit her blog Susan Nye – Around the Table

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

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