Know your audience (Who are you?)

I’m new here.

My first post was supposed to be at the end of December. It was titled, “What did you write in 2017.” But then my snarky inner voice chimed in, “did you even write anything in 2017?”

Of course I wrote.

whatiwrote_1

What I wrote in 2017

I wrote shopping lists and to-do lists.

I wrote cover letters, thank you letters, and condolence letters.

I wrote job announcements and bid announcements.

I wrote newsletters and love letters.

 

I wrote finance reports, grant reports, and project reports. I wrote e-mails (so many e-mails).

Most of my writing is anonymous or functional. The majority is both. It is technical writing, which means it is a step in a process, but not the final product. The benefit s of this type of writing is that it is published, it is read, and it is paid. The downside is that my writing is functional. It is more likely to alter someone’s to-do list than their sense of wonder.

My favorite part of being a pen-for-hire is knowing my purpose. My audience varies from officers at the Environmental Protection Agency, to parents at an after-school program, to clowns. When I sit down to write, the first question I ask myself is “who will read this”? Followed closely by “why am I writing this.” How I write, and what details I include, vary based on the reader.

This clarity can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to creative writing. One of the biggest challenges I face when I sit down to my creative projects is a sense of purpose. There is no deadline. There is no guaranteed paycheck. And, most troubling, there is no audience. 2017 wasn’t exclusively a year of functional writing. I also I wrote two plays, two performances pieces, and six (and a half) short stories. Some of these pieces have been performed or shared in a workshop, but most have only had an audience of one (me).

One of my goals for 2018, is to get more work in front of an audience.

That’s where you come in.

whoareyou?

Who are you?

The trouble is, I don’t know you.

Who are you? What do you want to read? What brings you to Live To Write, Write To Live?

I’m excited to write about: making time for a writing practice, combatting self-doubt, sharing unfinished work, and blogging ethics. What do you want to read?

I look forward to reading your responses in the comments and getting to know you!

Small_headshotNaomi Shafer is a writer, performer, and project manager. She works for Clowns Without Borders. Her written work has been performed at an array of theaters, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Middlebury College, the New England Youth Theatre, and Peppercorn Theatre. She has dueling degrees in business and playwriting.

Reply to Readers’ Comments

I no longer remember which of my colleagues at Live to Write – Write to Live first advised me to reply to readers’ comments, but it’s been great advice, so I’m passing it on.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s easy to send stories out into the world; it’s harder to know if they ever get read, and harder still to know if they hit home. When a reader comments, it’s like an out-of-the-park homer. Replying is simply cheering for the home team.
  2. When a reader’s comments offer me a new perspective, I thank them for widening my world-view. I live a somewhat solitary life, and I appreciate other’s opinions, life experiences and wisdom.
  3. When a reader reveals uncertainty about their writing, I reply with encouragement. I know both how easy it is to become discouraged and how important kinds words can be. Everyone has stories to tell; not everyone has the courage or wherewithal to write them down, let alone send them out into the world. Everyone benefits from kindness.
  4. Humans are a narrative species. We need stories. Stories are a way to build empathy, trade information, and resolve conflict. I want to do what I can to promote such peaceful behavior.
  5. Sometimes, this somewhat solitary writing life gets lonely, and hearing from readers has led to some on-line friendships. I’ve been in love with letters and intrigued by letter writing since I was a kid, and I like epistolary relationships. I still love snail mail, but email is easier and faster.
  6. Recently, an acquaintance I made through my blog turned into a face-to-face visit. Last week, this reader from England stopped by for coffee. (Read about it here.)

The chance to comment on a blog and reply to a reader’s comment is a gift of the internet. Yes, I received fan mail when my novel, Into the Wilderness, came out. No question, it was terrific. But I write novels slowly; I post blogs about six times a month. The frequency allows me to reach more readers between books, and these readers’ comments sustain me. So replying to comments only makes sense.

Thanks to all who read my posts both here and on Living in Place. This post is a special shout-out to those who respond with a comment.Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, public speaker and educator who lives in southern Vermont. There are still a few spaces left for the WOMEN WALKING AND WRITING TO WISDOM WALKshop on November 4th. Learn more here.

Making the Most of a Post

Renovation & Revision posted recently on Living in Place, the blog on my website. It could have just as easily been posted here, as it’s about craft. Specifically, it’s about revision, which is my current work.

This is not the first time that a post for one blog is appropriate for another, and that’s not surprising. I’ve spent most of my life writing, even while doing other things, like supporting and raising a family. Back then, it seemed as if I mostly wrote shopping lists. But perception can be as skewed as memory, and I have several book-length manuscripts to prove it.

But the protocol is not to cross post. That is, not post the identical essay on different blogs. For the six years I’ve been writing for Live to Write – Write to Live, I’ve only cross-posted once, when I wrote about my Writing Buddy a few weeks ago.

The post I wrote last Wednesday on Living in Place is about my two current preoccupations: overseeing a kitchen renovation and revising a novel. “Obsessions” might be more accurate.

I invite you to wander over to my website and read for yourself how the seemingly unrelated activity of a kitchen renovation supports my work as a writer, revising a novel.

And I’m always happy to discover what you think in your thoughtful comments.

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin is an award-winning novelist and radio commentator, a public speaker, and a long-time educator. She lives in southern Vermont, where she spends a great deal of time outdoors gardening, sculling and hiking in the summer. The local bears have put an end to her beekeeping.

 

It’s Thanksgiving Week – What Are You Grateful For?

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and many people have the day off (and some even have Friday off for a 4-day weekend).

For the most part I’ll have the 4-day weekend to do what I want, including working on my NaNo novel (National Novel Writing Month). I’m a lot behind on the word count, but I’m determined to hit that 50,000 word goal by midnight on Nov 30th. Very grateful for the quiet time!

I enjoy this time of year, in particular, to take more time to pause, reflect on the year-to-date, and to give thanks.

  • I’m thankful for my family, friends, roommate, and exceptional business associates.
  • I’m grateful for my accountability system that includes tools, of course, but most importantly weekly, monthly, and annual checkins with fellow writers.
  • I’m thankful for new writing opportunities.
  • I’m grateful for variety in many things – music, friends, work, projects, exercise routines, places to work, adventures to try, and places to visit.
  • I’m thankful for my new place – its convenience to everything important to me, its newness, layout, accessories, and size.
  • I’m grateful for technology that enables me to work from anywhere at any time.
  • I’m thankful for this blog – my co-bloggers and you readers – I’m always learning something new!

If you’re traveling this holiday – I wish you the safest and smoothest travels and hope you make great family memories.

If people are coming to your home, I wish you many hands to make meal prep easy and that you can find a few minutes to take a breath and appreciate those gathered around you.

(I’m also thankful for fleece socks, flannel sheets, new journals to write in, and new books to read.)

What are you grateful or thankful for as we approach the end of 2016?

Special note: Over the next few days, we’ll be moving nhwn.wordpress.com to nhwriters.org. If you have trouble reaching us, please be patient as the new domain name resolves. Thanks for your patience! The NHWN Team.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

I’m a nun and I ain’t go nuthin’

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t got nuthin’.”

Little kids say the funniest things. This gem came courtesy of my cousin on a Halloween night many moons ago. I was a young teenager and he was little, maybe 5? He was sitting in a mustard yellow upholstered chair that was grossly oversized for his slight frame. He wore a Spiderman costume and constantly kicked his legs, ever in perpetual motion, as little kids are want to be especially, hopped up on sugar post Halloween candy collection.

J, his parents and his older brother came to our house because they lived in an apartment complex and we lived in a neighborhood where the houses were spitting distance apart. I don’t remember the exact context of the conversation that was going on at the time, but I suspect his Dad and my Bonus Dad were talking about their days in Catholic School.

Out of the blue it came, a complete non-sequitur.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

Conversation ceased and we all burst out laughing. He had no idea what he’d said or why it was funny but he guffawed right along with us. Then, he said it again. And, just in case we hadn’t all heard him, he said it one more time. As time went by, the line became a family catch phrase for sheer exhaustion, or being out of ideas, or even just a way to break tension.

J as an adult dressed in a Spiderman costume fighting crime with his two young sidekicks Captain America and Ironman

A grown Spiderman schooling emerging Captain American and Ironman (J with his boys this past Halloween ©2016 Used with Permission)

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

As recently as this summer, I had a list of topics going for Live to Write, Write to Live blog posts. It was a piece of notepaper from a local bra fitters shop. No connection to the blog, just what was nearest when I was inspired the first time.

“I’m a nun, I ain’t got nuthin’.”

As previously noted, I’m a planner.  When I sign up for NHWN slots, I try to sign up to post on Thursdays. After I’ve selected my dates, I go to GQueues my personal to-do list manager and add 3 tasks for each blog post.

  • Blog post idea (due the Friday before)
  • Blog post draft (due the Monday before)
  • Blog post due (due at 8am on that Thursday, although my goal is to have it completed Wednesday evening if possible.)

The next time I sign up for blog posts I’ll be adding a fourth task, Locate blog post graphic, but I digress.

Sometimes I have an idea in the wings, so the Friday task is an easy check-off.  If not, I have all weekend to ponder and review what I’ve been reading and or writing to see if there is something “bloggable” there. Usually something rises to the surface.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nothin’.”

Last Friday I saw the task and grabbed for my trusty idea list. Ugh, there was nothing left. As time has passed, I’ve used the idea for a post, the idea has ceased to be relevant or I just couldn’t develop the idea into a full blog post. ‘That’s ok,’ I thought, ‘I’ve still got time’. Except I don’t. I’m slammed with a work project.

Honestly, I thought about bailing, but, out of necessity I had to bail several times last summer during the Family Health Crisis that WOULD.NOT.END. My NHWN teammates aren’t sitting around eating bon bons by any stretch, they are all busy too, so Suck it up buttercup and come up with something to write about.

I did the Winnie the Pooh Think, Think, Think, thing several times over the weekend but with zero success. When I sat down to draft this, the old family catch phrase sprang to mind.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

I chuckled to myself because hey, it is once again Halloween and the little boy is now a dad to two boys of his own and has a successful career in law enforcement. To see him now, he’s kind of intimidating, and I’d recommend against crossing him while he’s working. But, I knew the boy that wore Spiderman Underoos and cracked us all up with his wit. I know the man who would go to the ends of the earth for his sons. He doesn’t scare me, we just don’t talk politics. Although I had absolutely nothing to do with it, I’m super proud of the man he has become. His uncle, the man who inspired me to write in the first place, would be proud too.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

So I hope my tale of writer’s block woe has entertained you. I’ll do my best to have a more writerly post next time.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently typing her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction on a mechanical keyboard.

 

The Short Form

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

For the past seven months, I’ve been writing, publishing, broadcasting and posting short form essays at a rate of more than two a week. This has been gratifying work, connecting with my various audiences who listen to my broadcasts, subscribe to my blogs, and read me in The Rutland Herald.

Even my pen-for-hire work tends to be in the short form, from 400-word profiles to 700-word essays.

I’ve come to love the short form, which forces me to choose the exact words I need and to arrange them in the most effective order. The short form requires clear emphasis to establish a sharp focus all while telling a very short story. I think of the short form as a hybrid that crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry.

I like the short form, and I think I’m good at it, at least most of the time. But I long for the long form.

I have two book-length projects in different stages: an incomplete rough draft of a novel and a rough idea for a long piece of non-fiction.

I long to write in the long form of books.

I long to write in the long form of books.

These two long thoughts keep me company like imaginary friends. They comfort me at the oddest moments: in the shower, in traffic, in my dreams. When I can, I jot down notes of ideas and tuck them away for later. If later ever arrives, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find them, but I don’t worry about that. I still have the ideas. What I haven’t yet found is the long time in which to write the long form.

The short form suits my current life, which has been interrupted by both duties and delights. The long form requires more consistency than I’ve managed lately.

I’ve managed the long form before, so I know I can do it. I even know how: rise and write – before breakfast, before chores, before coffee. But I’ve been resistant, which is normal; now I’m tired of that, which is good.

I'm setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

I’m setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

In need of a kind of reset so that I can double down by getting up early to work at length before pounding out short form pieces later in the day, I’m setting off on a long walk. Walking never fails to help me find my writer’s voice, so I’m looking forward to listening for it as I hike The Long Trail, which follows the spine of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada.

I’ll be carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, and a camp stove, as well as a pen and paper. I’m sure I’ll be writing, but I’ll be offline for a month. I’m looking forward to being unplugged. Before I leave, I plan to schedule some reruns of favorites, both here and on my personal blog.

Barring bears, broken limbs or other unforeseen mishaps, I expect to plug in again in mid-September. In the meanwhile, I wish good words to you all. –Deborah.

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin hikes and writes in Vermont and on the web at www.deborahleeluskin.com

 

 

 

 

What Every Writer Wants

Google GI asked Google, “What does a writer want?” I found a variety of answers. Lev Raphael says we want “Everything,” and quotes Roxane Gay saying writers “want and want and want.”

Some writers will say they want fame, others money, some just want luck. I think what a writer really wants is Audience.

Writers want what they write to be read.

But as the explosion of blogosphere and the self-publishing industry demonstrates again and again, publication does not guarantee readers. Good writing might.

Here are some ideas for finding and building an audience with a blog. None of these ideas require an advanced degree in rocket science; they all require hard work, and they’re all working for me.

  1. Write for your audience. (This post is for Live to Write – Write to Live readers: writers – you.)
  2. Say what you want with economy and grace.Like everyone else on the planet, your readers are pressed for time, so don’t waste theirs. (I aim for a post of 400-600 words.)
  3. Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. If you
    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    were a pianist, you wouldn’t invite your audience to listen to you play scales or learn a new piece; as a writer, you don’t want to show your audience your rough draft. (This essay went through three drafts.)

  4. Commit to a publication schedule. While an audience may like to be surprised in the content of what you write, it also likes to know when to expect a new post. I post here every other Tuesday, and I post to my own blog every Wednesday. It’s hard work that has garnered non-monetary rewards, namely a growing audience. I have readers who look forward to my posts; I know because they tell me.
  5. Keep writing and other opportunities will follow. I keep writing; in addition to meeting new readers, editors I don’t know now ask me to write for them; invitations for public speaking and proposals for writing projects arrive in my inbox. I get to decide what I want to write and for whom.

I wouldn’t say no to fame and fortune, but it’s my audience who will determine that. Of course I’d like more readers, more publications, and more royalties. I believe they will come if I continue to do my job, which is to write stories that will cross that membrane between writer and reader, to engage in that intimacy that occurs when my words get under my readers’ skin, into their thoughts, and maybe even change how they think.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the award-winning author of Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont during the Goldwater – Johnson presidential campaign in 1964. She blogs every Wednesday at Living in Place.