Weekend Edition – The Magic of Small, Basic Tasks

Keep things simple.

Keep things simple.

When things get a little crazy (and when aren’t they a little crazy?), small, humble tasks create pockets of sanity in my day. I expect my gravitating toward these menial chores in moments of crisis is a bit like the British tendency to make tea even when (sometimes especially when) everything seems to be falling apart. There is comfort in the simple and the mundane, in purely functional activities that are what they are. These manual labors provide a sense of grounded rationality that is often otherwise hard to find.

Take for instance, mending. For months now, a small pile of clothes has been sitting high on a laundry room shelf, patiently waiting for me to repair ripped seams and broken fastenings. The job was not all that complicated, but I just never seemed to get around to it. And then new damage to my daughter’s favorite pair of yoga pants elevated the issue to crisis level.

It took me a while to locate the plastic zipper bag containing my random collection of mini sewing kits and half-used spools of thread. And then it took me a while longer to search out a separately stored set of needles (with larger eyes) that I could actually thread. Finally, with my needle successfully threaded and knotted, I began the simple but careful process of adding one stitch after another, slowly closing the tear in the first item.

I am no seamstress. My work would never stand up to the scrutiny of even the most generous inspection. My stitch work was uneven, causing the seam to pucker and twist, but it held. To ensure its strength, I went back over the seam a second time. Tying off the end knot and snipping the thread, I felt a sense of satisfaction in a job if not well done, at least sufficiently done.

Though mending is obviously not something I do on a regular basis, there was a comforting familiarity in the rhythm of the task, perhaps some latent muscle memory carried over from generations gone by. I feel a similar sense of domestic heritage when I sweep the kitchen floor, toss scraps out for the crows, water the houseplants, or prepare a meal.

These tasks, and many others like them, have remained mostly unchanged over the centuries. As complicated as our culture, politics, and commerce have become, some things do stay the same. Our lives have been changed in innumerable ways by modern appliances, digital media, and mobile devices, but a broom is still a broom.

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I feel similarly about my writing. Sometimes, things start to feel a little crazy. Sometimes, the weight of everything that needs to be done, wants to be done, should have been done yesterday gets to be overwhelming. My heart races at the prospect of missing assignment deadlines. My head aches trying to come up with the just-right headline or angle on a piece of copy. My mind ties itself in knots as I endlessly mull over story ideas, project inspiration, and the many different paths that lie ahead in my writer’s journey – all the choices and chances to get it wrong.

And then there are the voices of doubt and derision that clamor for my attention and vie to inflict the deepest wounds. Even as I tap away on the keyboard, these small but insistent voices hiss in my ear that the words I’ve chosen are the wrong words, or – worse – that I have nothing to say. They snipe at me from the dark corners of my consciousness. They derail my thoughts and make me question my ability.

All of these voices and worries crowd in around me until I fear I might be smothered. I am, at the very least, handicapped by the oppressive feelings, sometimes to the point of a creative paralysis that leaves me staring dumbly at a blank screen.

In these moments of utter confusion and creeping despair, the only thing that rescues me from my own head is stepping away from everything and setting to work on a simple task. Sometimes, that simple task is a domestic one – folding the laundry, running the vacuum, or perhaps just picking up and setting things to rights. These menial tasks serve as a distraction that helps me clear my head. I surrender to the motions of the work and often find that my thoughts are suddenly jostled loose and I’m able to get back to work, sometimes leaving the chore half done.

Other times, what I need is a simple writing task – something that doesn’t require heavy lifting either intellectually or creatively. I might step away from my desk and curl up on the couch with my journal. I might grab pen and notebook and do a little low-key brainstorming about either the problem at hand or some totally unrelated quandary. Or, I might find some partially administrative task that needs doing like formatting a document or reorganizing some files.

The comfort and calm come from returning to the basics. When faced with a writing challenge that is monumental in scope, complexity, or difficulty, it helps to step back and remember that even the most daunting writing task is nothing more than the compilation of many smaller, and much simpler tasks. Choose a word. Write a sentence. Start by articulating the idea you’re trying to convey in the simplest of terms and then worry about how to make the prose sing.

Stuck on how to move a story forward? Forget about the story. Instead, describe what you see in front of you. Don’t worry about characterization or narrative arc or metaphor. Just find the simplest words you can to paint a picture of what’s right there in front of your eyes.

When all else fails, put aside all expectations of meaning and just write a word – any word. Feel the way the tip of your pen glides over the paper. Watch the ink spill out and leave its mark. Lose yourself in the movement of the line and the shape of the letters. Let everything get quiet inside – so quiet that you can hear the scratching of your pen like a whisper of wind through your mind.

··• )o( •··

Simple tasks hold magic. They have the ability to untangle our thoughts. They can set us free from our doubts, giving us a chance to feel a small bit of accomplishment. The simple task grounds us, body and mind. Even as a child, I took comfort in acting out the simple daily chores of settlers and pioneers. The fantasy stories I read became fodder for creative play about a more rustic existence – the young heroine living in her cottage in the dark forest, spending her days drawing water from the well and stoking the fire on the hearth.

Our lives are anything but simple these days, but we can still retreat to our safe havens of sanity by setting the complicated world aside and taking up a straightforward and useful task. We can mend a hem, fix a loose board, or sweep the cobwebs from the corners. As writers, we can give ourselves permission to return to the basics, to go back to our roots and the simple building blocks of language and story.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: trophygeek via Compfight cc

Saturday Edition – What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life?

Don't be scared of paper tigers.

Don’t be scared of paper tigers.

I’m in need of a writer-to-writer pep talk today, so I’ve decided to give myself one.

This isn’t going to be easy. I’m realizing, to my chagrin, that being optimistic and upbeat comes much more naturally when things are going well. Who’d have thought? Maintaining a good attitude is a bit more challenging when you’re stuck at the bottom of the proverbial well with no rope and no ladder (and a creeping suspicion that something malicious may be lurking down there with you, just waiting to jump out from the shadows and give you a nasty bite, or worse).

Why I’m down here in the metaphorical muck is mostly immaterial, so I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say that the struggle has been a little tougher than usual and I’m starting to feel like someone may be out to get me. In a recent conversation with a friend, my inner Pollyanna valiantly tried to put a positive spin on my current situation by pointing out that this must be what people mean when they say that tough times build character. My smart and talented friend, who has seen her fair share of difficulty over the past six months, commented wryly that she could do with a little less character, thank you very much. Indeed.

While part of me would like to wallow and lose myself in a binge-session watching Orphan Black, I know that neither of those options will help me in the long run. This is the point in the story where the heroine is supposed to pick herself up, dust herself off, and head back into battle with renewed conviction and purpose. This is where the plot twist becomes a key turning point in the trajectory of the narrative. This is where the rubber meets the road.

So, instead of wallowing, I’m going to engage in a little tough love. I’m going to give myself a compassionate but firm kick in the arse. If you’re feeling a little stuck or disheartened, I invite you to join me as a recipient of said tough love. There’s plenty to go around.

··• )o( •··

Ok, you, I’m here to ask you what’s holding you back. I get that you’re scared and unsure. I understand that things are a little tough right now and you may even be questioning your right to continue pursuing your writing. I feel your pain and I empathize, really, I do. But – you knew there was a “but” coming – if you really want to do this thing, you’ve got to push past the fear and the uncertainty. You’ve got to blow up the obstacles standing in your way. It’s time.

The thing is, you’ve only got one life to live and – I hate to be the one to tell you, but – the clock is ticking on it, honey. So, how about if we dry those tears and take a good hard look at all the “Real” Reasons why you aren’t doing the writing you want to do.

I’m afraid.

We’re all afraid. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Even the people you admire most are afraid, but they did what scared them despite the fear. Writers, as a group, fear plenty of things. We fear failure and ridicule. We fear being thought of as silly, naive, and self-indulgent. We fear being put in our place by Other People who know more. We fear that sharing our work will leave us vulnerable and exposed. We fear offending people we care about. We fear being rejected, panned, and – worst of all – ignored. Heck, we even fear success.

And the worst part is, our fears are justified. If writing was easy, everyone would do it. Writing, if you share your work with others, is like going to work naked. Subjecting ourselves to the possibility of publicly falling on our faces or revealing more of ourselves than we planned is just part of the package.

I cannot take your fear away. I cannot tell you that the things you fear aren’t real or that you are overreacting. There is no magical badge of courage that will make you invincible against the things that give you nightmares. All you can do is, as they say, feel the fear and do it anyway. Just don’t let the fear hold you back. Don’t talk yourself into thinking that your fears are proof that you shouldn’t be writing. That’s your inner critic talking, and she’s a manipulative little twerp. Tell her your fear isn’t proof that you’re unworthy, but rather proof that you’re human. It’s human nature to fear the unknown, and damn but there’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to writing.

So, put on your big girl panties and put your fears in their place – away in the corner where you don’t have to listen to them whine. You’ve got better things to do.

I don’t have enough time.

You’ve got better things to do, and only so many hours in the day. I admit that finding time to write is hard. In fact, “finding” time is nearly impossible unless you’ve got a fairy godmother who can wave a magic wand and make extra time appear in your day. This is why we need to make time to write, not hope to find a few extra hours lying around somewhere.

Because the truth is, you do have the time. You’re just not using it wisely.

The bad news is that you’ll only ever have twenty-four hours to spend each day. The good news is that you get to decide how to spend them. What  you aren’t going to want to hear is that making time for writing means giving up other things. I know. It sucks. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You have to make hard choices. You have to sacrifice. You have to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

What this means in your world is different from what it means in mine, but in addition to the obvious things (a little less Netflix time, a little more hands-on-keyboard time or maybe going to bed earlier so you can get up earlier, etc.), you also have to consider making “selfish” choices that might cut into time with family and friends. You might have to navigate the emotional minefield of explaining to someone you care about that, as much as you love them, you need time alone to work on your writing. They may not understand at first. There may be hurt feelings. But, that’s part of the Hard Work you have to do.

And – P.S.– you can’t just make time, you have to create space, too – not physical space, but head space. You have to give yourself permission to “indulge” in your writing even though it might seem like a frivolous pursuit. You have to learn to validate the time and effort you spend writing even though it may not earn you a single dollar. This is harder than it sounds, but it’s part of what you need to do.

Ok, got it? What’s next?

I need to make money.

You and me both, honey. You and me both. One of my favorite excuses to drag out when someone asks why I don’t spend more time on my fiction is that I have to make money. I justify myself by explaining that fiction doesn’t generate immediate income, and I can’t pay my mortgage with dreams and best intentions. I’m not wrong, but I’m also not right.

Here’s the thing. Basing decisions on money is a terrible, terrible way to live your life. I get that you’ve got bills to pay, maybe even mouths to feed. You’ve got responsibilities and obligations. You’ve got a standard of living to which you’ve become accustomed. Me, too. But that shouldn’t keep you from writing.

You’ve heard the story about a certain author named J.K. Rowling – broke, single mom who worked on what would eventually become the largest fiction franchise in history while she was so down on her luck that she would sometimes have to skip meals so her daughter could eat. And yet, despite being that destitute, she kept writing.

Imagine if Rowling had based her decision to write on whether or not it would make her money in the short term.

You don’t need money to write. All you need is time and passion and maybe a pencil.

But, just as important, you don’t need to make money from your writing in order to validate writing in the first place. Don’t saddle your muse with the burden of generating revenue. Talk about a way to suck the joy out of something! Go ahead and nurture your dreams of becoming a successful (and well paid) author (if that’s your ultimate goal), but don’t let the weight of that expectation drag your writing practice to a screeching halt.

You’re right. You do need to make money, but you don’t need to make that money writing. Do what you do to earn your living and let your writing evolve separately from that. Many famous authors held down other, non-writing jobs throughout their careers. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to do things. It allows you time to explore and experiment, to play. Moonlight, if you like. Test the waters. Dabble. But don’t set yourself up for disappointment and failure by applying unrealistic earning expectations on your writing. That’s just mean.

I’m no good.

No one is good in the beginning, and the only way to get better is to study and practice. And, guess what? You are lucky enough to live in the age of the Internet, which means that you have almost unlimited access to a vast and ever-expanding wealth of knowledge. Seriously. Anything you want to learn, you can learn about it online. There are books, blogs, online magazines, podcasts, YouTube, classes, courses, forums, and endless other digital resources from which you can learn just about anything you need to know about writing. From story structure to grammar, finding your voice to finessing your theme, characterization, plotting, pacing, and on and on and on.

If you think you’re no good, get better. Stop fretting about being less than and figure out how to be more. Read, and then read some more. Visit the library and take out as many books as you can carry. Read about writing and read stories and novels from every genre, era, and age group. Analyze the shit out of everything – why does this work so well and why does that fail?

Be passionate about your craft. Don’t settle for subpar or even good enough. Take stories apart to see what makes them tick. Listen to your instinct and follow that up with research about what the pros have to say. Dig deeper. Ask harder questions – of yourself and the hundreds of bloggers out there who write about writing. Share your work. Ask for feedback. Get involved with a writers’ group. Take a class. Audit a class. Do whatever it takes to get better.

Do you think the writers you admire sat around saying they weren’t good enough? No. They studied and practiced until they had something that wasn’t just “good enough,” it was spectacular. You can do that, too. Start today.

I don’t even know what I want to write.

I know this one makes you a little extra crazy. You have a desire to write, but you can’t quite seem to focus that desire into an actual project. You have vague ideas and notes. You have half-formed plots and random characters taking up headspace. I get it. Happens to me, too. Sometimes, the trouble is less about having unclear ideas and more about having so many fabulous ideas that you can’t pick which one to pursue.

Either way, indecision = paralysis. Plain and simple. (And, not good.)

The cure is just to pick something. Anything. As Jessica Abel says, “Pay attention to your attention.” And, as I’ve said before, follow your curiosity. Look at what you read and watch. What kind of stories are you drawn to? What kinds of themes? What’s important to you in Real Life? Think about how you spend your free time and how that might be related to a certain kind of writing project, topic, or theme.

Don’t spend too much time on this part of the process. Just take an informal survey of your interests and pastimes so that you can hone in on some story element that captures your imagination. Then, start writing. Know that this isn’t the only thing you’ll ever write. You can get back to your Other Ideas later. Try to stay focused on one thing at a time. Give your attention fully to the story at hand. Listen to what it’s telling you, and then you’ll know what to write.

I never follow through, so I must not be a “real” writer, anyway.

You’re right. Real Writers follow through. They do the work. So, what would you have to accomplish to feel like you’re following through, and what would it take for you to achieve that goal?  Stop saying, “I never do anything.” Figure out what you need to do and do it. Break it down. Give yourself a support network. It might be as simple as asking someone to be your writing buddy or joining a writing group for accountability. It might be entering a contest or taking on an assignment with a deadline. Don’t tell me you can’t follow through. You can.

I beat myself up for not doing the work all the time. Just a few months ago, I wrote about how New Year’s left me reflecting on my failure (again) to accomplish writing goals I’ve had for twenty, maybe even thirty years. But, even though I feel like I’ve let myself down, I never let it keep me from writing. In fact, although I haven’t accomplished those particular goals (publishing fiction and building a business around my love of writing/reading/story/creativity), I’ve followed through on a lot of other writing goals. And slowly but surely, the writing I have done is starting to converge with the writing I’ve always wanted to do. Do I still need a kick in the arse? Most definitely. But, I also deserve a little pat on the back – for never, ever giving up and for always, always continuing to write, even when it’s hard, even when I’m not sure why I’m doing it or where I’m going with it.

Take today. Part of me didn’t feel up to writing it because I wasn’t in the best mood and wasn’t feeling up to doing the work. Part of me wondered if I should forget about it since I knew it was going to go live several hours later than I usually post. Part of me thought about scrapping my idea for this post and instead writing something shorter and “fluffier.” But in the end I decided to just buckle down and do it. I decided to put my fear in the corner, make the time, shut down my inner critic, get clear about what I wanted (needed) to say, and just follow through.

And you can, too. Believe me. If I can do it, so can you.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, a nature lover, and an eclectic reader. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Saturday Edition – In Troubled Times, Write

On Existential Dilemmas and the Creative Act:

When things get stormy, writing shines a light in the darkness.

When things get stormy, writing brings a light into the darkness.

I’ve been struggling with something lately. Though I intentionally minimize my news consumption (and try to restrict myself to the least sensationalist sources), I can’t help but notice that the world has gone a little mad. It’s scary out there. It’s as if the cruel and ridiculous worlds of satirical novelists like Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams have come to life; and suddenly the jokes aren’t so funny anymore. Global warming, economic collapse, war, terrorism, political corruption, religious intolerance, discrimination of all kinds – these are the living nightmares that keep so many of us up at night. These are Big Problems – global issues that affect all of humanity and very fate of this fragile planet.

My struggle is knowing what to do in the face of all this insanity.

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It’s an old saw, but a true one: Life is Short. This fall, I will celebrate my forty-seventh trip around the sun. I sailed past forty and even forty-five with hardly a second glance, but something about being this close to the half-century mark has made the sound of my personal countdown clock – tick-tock, tick-tock – a bit louder and more ominous. I have days where I channel Marisa Tomei’s character, Mona Lisa, from the movie My Cousin Vinny (you know the scene I mean), except instead of being worried about my biological clock, I’m worried about how to best spend my remaining time on this planet.

I mean, how do any of us live our Best Life, and what does that even mean anyway? I realize that the definition of a Good Life shifts wildly from person to person, and even –over the course of a lifetime – for each individual based on changing beliefs, new experiences, and the painful process of growing up. But lately I’ve been feeling more pressure than usual to, pardon the expression, figure this shit out.

I mean, what do we do? Do we embark on crusades and tilt at windmills, knowing full well that we have only the slimmest chance of making even the smallest difference? Or, do we focus on making our own tiny corner of the world more beautiful and kind, more tolerant and hopeful?

Or, maybe – just maybe – those two things are not mutually exclusive?

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I don’t know about you, but I am often torn between my desire to create and my sense of obligation to Real Life and Other People. I do my best to walk a straight and narrow line doing all the things that responsible people do, but I keep losing my balance because the gray matter inside my head is spinning at such velocity that the centrifugal force pushes me right off my feet. I feel distracted and unmoored because my attention and intention are split between taking care of the Real World and creating a world of my own.

I worry that writing is a self-indulgent waste of time, an unearned privilege, and a misuse of my one and precious life . I worry about being perpetually caught up with chronic navel gazing. But, eventually, my inner Guardian of my Writer Self steps in (usually with a slightly exasperated sigh) and straightens me out:

Writing is not self-indulgent. Writing is brave and generous. It is the act of digging deep down inside your heart, mind, and soul; extracting the truth you find there; polishing it to the best of your ability; and sharing it with others. Writing is the opposite of self-indulgent. Yes, it requires that you look within, but ultimately that internal searching is an effort to connect. Stories are not meant to be kept inside. Stories are, by nature, shared. They are the best gift you can give.

Though my conviction wavers now and again, I really do believe this.

Since the dawn of human consciousness, stories have informed, educated, inspired, and comforted us. Cautionary tales let us benefit from the wisdom of those more experienced than us. Stories about heroes and heroines inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves. Happy endings give us hope.

And, as a writer, the act of writing helps us break free of the paralyzing forces of fear and doubt. Though the state of affairs in the world may leave us feeling helpless, putting words down helps us understand our feelings and – if we share our stories – helps others understand, too. Through writing, you can transform the pain and fear. Through the alchemy of story, you can turn the darkness of conflict, tragedy, sorrow, and anger into forces for good.

··• )o( •··

I have said before that I believe the world would be a better place if more people wrote. Writers never take things at face value. We are curious creatures. We ask questions. Lots of questions. We are happy to spend whole lifetimes exploring the endless possibilities of “What if?” We are observers, seekers, and storytellers. We are magicians who have the ability to make the otherwise invisible visible, thereby revealing the world as we see it to others – opening eyes and minds and hearts, creating connections, reminding readers that they are not alone. Never alone.

Writers have the potential to be beacons of hope – a light that keeps the darkness at bay. A small flame to guide and comfort us as we walk through our days and dream through our nights. Through our characters and our stories, our essays and our memoirs, we can be voices of reason, acceptance, and compassion. We can choose to write stories that embody kindness, empathy, beauty, and joy. We can inspire generosity, laughter, and understanding.

We can also expose evil. We can mirror the horrors that we see in the Real World, raising awareness through literal or metaphorical plot lines. We can imagine the outcome of some particular cruelty, folly, or corruption and enlighten people to the danger that lurks right under their noses.

Ultimately, stories – even the ones that reveal and teach – offer a momentary escape from the weight of the world. And, sometimes, this temporary reprieve from one’s problems is the greatest gift a story can give. The space created by a story gives us the chance to step back and take a broader view, to hear ourselves think, to connect the dots. Stories bring perspective and inspire us to think about our choices and actions in a different light. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories help us step more fully into who we truly are.

··• )o( •··

I will never stop struggling with this dilemma, but that’s okay. “Balance,” I’ve heard, is a verb, not a noun. I must gently remind myself that my Best Life is not a destination that exists entirely in either the Real World or my Writing World. My Best Life is an ongoing experience that moves seamlessly between the two unique but deeply connected hemispheres of my life. I will not tear myself apart worrying about writing when I’m fighting Real World battles or worrying about the fate of the Real World when I’m writing. I will accept that my Writer’s Life exists in both worlds, it’s just my role that changes. In the Real World, I am the observer; while in my writing world, I am a creator.

As for the question of whether it is more “right” to fight the good fight out in the Big, Wide World or to focus my energies on creating something beautiful in my small corner, I think that in a perfect world my creative efforts – no matter how modest – may be the greatest contribution I can make. Writing is how I take my stand. It represents my beliefs and my dreams. It embodies everything I want to nurture in the world. And, because I share some of what I write, writing also gives me a way to connect with others and make the world a little smaller and a little less scary.

So, if the news has you feeling a little discouraged or downright despondent, please don’t give up hope and please don’t put down your pen. The world needs writers more than ever. Write your stories. Share your thoughts. Send up a beacon of hope. Inspire and educate us. Help us to see the world in a new way. Remind us that we aren’t alone and that the good guys can still win.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Writing and Creativity

My husband and I have been reading and talking about creativity a lot this year. We are both exploring our creativity, sometimes in very different ways, but sometimes in very similar ways.

We are both thinking and talking about creative ways to motivate people to change their beliefs and behaviors. I do this as a life coach; he does it as Chief Medical Officer of an organization.

He’s also exploring his creativity as an amateur nature photographer—he just returned from a trip to Costa Rica and Panama where he took some amazing pictures and experimented with different techniques.

unfinished watercolorunfinished drawing with watercolorI’ve been exploring my creativity through writing, of course. I’ve also been exploring my creativity through improvisational theater and through drawing and playing, just a little bit, with watercolors.

This morning my son and I drove to school and he started singing The 12 Days of Christmas. We figured out days 1-11, although I don’t think “11 Bagpipers Piping” is exactly right, but we couldn’t remember what day 12 was.

“Let’s just make it up,” my son said.

Since we were driving, I said, “How about 12 cars a-zooming?”

“No, that’s not right. Let’s do ’12 chocolate candies.’” (If you make chocolate sound like a 2-syllable word, it works.)

So, on the 12th day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, 12 chocolate candies. What could be better than that?

The more creative I am in my daily life, the more creativity I bring to the page.

This has not been an easy lesson for me to learn. I grew up, as many of you did, with Depression-era parents who valued hard work and getting ahead. Play was not valued once childhood was gone. I’ve worked hard all my life.

Now that I’m playing more, I’m not getting less done. I think I’m actually getting more done. I produce more, even though I spend less time “working hard,” and more time “playing hard.”

As I’ve really experienced this in my life over the past year, it’s been easier to let go of my beliefs about hard work as the only way to get ahead. I’ve also researched play, as I’ve mentioned before, which added weight to my new belief that play is the way to get things done.

So, if you are a writer (and I know you are!) think about how you used to like to play when you were a kid. Probably you liked to play with words (my siblings and I used to put on plays for each other and my parents) but there are many other ways to play, from hiking to hopscotch, from playing the violin to playing Blackjack. Pick one or two and go with it for a while, just to see what happens.

I think you’ll be surprised how much play can add to your writing life, not to mention life in general.

Let me know what happens in the comments.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, runner, improviser, and, last but not least, a mom. Each role requires creativity–the more creativity I bring to each part of my life, the more fun I have!

Milestones, Birthdays, and Other Reasons to Celebrate

As I celebrate another birth-year I’m thinking back at all that has changed in the past 365 days for me – good, bad, and other.

Let's Celebrate!In realizing personal growth, improved fitness and health, and the addition of more race bibs on my walls and books on my shelves, it dawned on me that birthdays are quite similar to business milestones.

Any date we choose as the date to pause, reflect, appreciate, and celebrate is a birthday, in a sense, isn’t it?

December 31 – a big party day to celebrate the end of a year; being grateful for it ending over if it wasn’t great and being excited for new possibilities in the next 366 (leap year) days.

January 1 – most notably to celebrate the start of a new  year – a blank slate, a way to start fresh. However you want to think of it. (September 1 feels more like a fresh start to a new year for me.)

July 4 – celebrating America’s birthday; reflecting on the history, how far (or not) we’ve come; where we can be in the future.

Think of all the activities in your life that have dates that involve reflections, evaluation, celebration… Annual physicals.  Twice-a-year dental exams.  School exams (weekly, quarterly, finals). Graduations.  Anniversaries.  Races.  Games.  Births.  Deaths.  Holidays.  Vacations.  Bucket list items.  First day of spring.  First day of summer.

In our businesses, we have goals we want to achieve and dates we want to achieve them by. They are dates where we evaluate our progress, celebrate successes, make changes, and pick a new date for the next evaluation. Those deadlines are random dates on the time continuum.

Each (and every) day is a milestone of some sort, isn’t it? A new day brings new possibilities. Yesterday is done. Whatever happened, happened. Today is new and full of possibilities.

Today, I get to take a few moments to reflect on all I’ve done in those years, celebrate with family and friends, and dream about what I’ll do in the upcoming years. I started the day listening to cardinals chatter (they weren’t singing, and I don’t know what to call their beautiful sound!) while I sipped my first cup of coffee and wrote this post. I’ve done a lot in the past year – some things I imagined, some things I didn’t. I’m where I want to be in some regards, and not in others.

It’s a Wednesday – not a day of the week that gets much respect other than for it marking the half-way point of a common work week, but still a new day with a lot of potential.

And it’s time to get to work — deadlines to meet, don’t you know? I’m raising my cup (of coffee) to you as I wish you another fabulous, productive day in the spectrum of your life.

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.

Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Mar 20

Happy Spring!

A sure sign of spring - skunk cabbage, Mother Nature's little, alien pods

A sure sign of spring – skunk cabbage, Mother Nature’s little, alien pods

Though there is a chill in the air and snow in the forecast, a sense of spring still vibrates through the ground beneath our feet. All around us we can see the signs of green things growing things and feathered and whiskered creatures returning and awakening. There is an expectancy in the air that cannot be denied.

On our walks this weekend, my beau and I heard peepers and larger frogs singing in chorus from the edges of vernal pools nestled in the hollows of the forest. Rising in counterpoint, the voices of summer birds flew back and forth amidst the still-naked boughs of budding swamp maples and beech trees. Streams bubbled along at our feet, pushing their familiar way through the grass and debris that had collected in their springtime paths over the winter. Ever a herald of the changing season, the skunk cabbage emerged at the roadside, exploding through the spongy, brook-side earth like alien pods.

And just like the denizens of wood and stream, pond and sky, I find that spring sets my heart beating a little faster. Though, living in our fabricated world, I do not have the luxury of syncing my existence to the natural rhythms of nature, I still feel a kind of quickening in my mind. Ideas and inspiration bubble up like those vernal pools and springtime brooks. Everything I see and experience holds the potential of some creative work; the world fairly bursts at the seams with possibilities.

Like the seasons, we writers are always changing. Ours is a ceaseless cycle of creative birth and growth and death. Our inspiration and passion ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. We are one moment caught up in the throes of creation, and the next lying still and fallow, catching our breath for the next burst of energy. Both extremes have their challenges, but we can take comfort in knowing that neither will ever take us over completely. Always we will spiral through the process, crossing over the same path in new lands again and again.

Happy spring equinox. May this season bring you creative joy and adventure!

_jamie sig



 Books I’m Reading:

This week, I chose a book that is the perfect antidote to last week’s read, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Well, “antidote” is perhaps not the right word. After all, I enjoyed Stone Mattress and admire Atwood greatly, both for her writing and for the woman she is. But, as excellent as Atwood’s stories are, they are somewhat dark and even a little bit depressing. They are thought-provoking, and the thoughts they inspire often have to do with the less appealing side of human nature. So, let’s not call Bailey White’s work an “antidote.” Let’s call it the perfect complement to Atwood’s oft-dystopian tales – the ray of hope to Atwood’s shadows.

Amazon Affiliate Link

I first read White back in 2013 when I finally read the copy of her short story collection, Mama Makes Up Her Mind. About a year later, I read her novel, Quite a Year for Plums, a book which is now taking up space on my mom’s hutch bookcase since I’ve made her promise that she’ll read it. This time around, I chose White’s other short story collection, Sleeping at the Starlite Motel: And Other Adventures on the Way Back Home.

Once again, Bailey’s skillful storytelling and simple but magical prose transported me to the southern towns that she so loves. Each piece in the collection is very short, some only a two or three pages long, but each is whole in its own right. White has a wonderful ability to sketch out each quirky character with only a few sentences. Though we meet them only in passing, we feel that we might recognize them if we passed them on the street. And the charm of the anecdotes she shares  always gives me a pleasant case of the warm & fuzzies. There is comfort there, but it never feels contrived or turns its back on the difficult realities of life. The quote from Isabel Allende that appears on the inside flap says it best,

“Bailey White has the kind of intelligence that allows her to see things from behind and from beyond. She has a rare combination of wisdom, infinite tolerance, an eye for the absurd, and a sort of tenderness that is never sentimental.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I highly recommend all of White’s works. I know that I will return to them often – both as an inspiration for a story well told, and for the solace that they bring in times of strife and stress.

And if you’d like to listen to White read some of her work, you may want to explore some of the NPR archives featuring her stories, like this one – “The Second Hand or the Roach.”


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:






Sundry Links and Articles:

out on the wire

This week, I’d like to share another podcast resource with you. I think I may be on my way to becoming a podcast junkie. I listen while I make dinner, while I shower, while I run the vacuum, and pretty much any time I find myself in the car alone. I could have worse vices, and at least with Out on the Wire with Jessica Abel, I’m gaining tons of insight into the craft of storytelling.

In Out on the Wire, Abel walks listeners through creating a story step by step. The process she shares is based on what she’s learned interviewing “the masters of new radio” including the people behind iconic shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and Planet Money. Abel’s podcast was born from the research she did for her graphic nonfiction book of the same name.

The format of the show is bi-weekly episodes in which Abel covers an element of storytelling interspersed with bi-weekly “workshop” episodes in which she and her two team members discuss some of the interesting work that listeners have posted in the Google working group. Oh! Did I not mention the Google working group? There’s a private group on Google in which listeners can share their ideas, get and give feedback, and generally enjoy the collaborative part of storytelling. Very cool. (You get an invite to join the group when you sign up for Abel’s newsletter.)

Though the kinds of stories that Abel focuses on for Out on the Wire may not be exactly the kinds of stories you’re telling in your fiction, trust me when I tell you that there is a LOT you can learn from these podcasts. I’ll be sharing bits and pieces in future posts here at Live to Write – Write to Live, but I recommend you listen to the full podcasts to get the total experience.


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin bird sings proverb

Enjoy this first day of spring. I hope you get outside, and I hope what you experience outside inspires the stories you hold inside. Happy writing & happy reading! 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Saturday Edition – Getting Paid to Write, Part II: When and Why to Write for Free

No Such Thing as “Never” or “Always”

shift freedomIn Part I of this series, we talked frankly about the very real, very widespread problem of certain publishers and clients expecting writers to write either for free or for rates so low they would offend my twelve year-old daughter. We heard the passionate and well-presented opinions of Porter Anderson, Chuck Wendig, and Harlan Ellison, and I got up on my ever-ready soap box to decry the bad behavior of the Powers That Be. But, because we live in the Real World, I also acknowledged that this isn’t a cut-and-dry issue. While I believe fiercely that quality writing has real value and that writers who provide such material should be well compensated for their work, I am also aware of the realities facing writers in today’s marketplace.

It’s hard for a new or struggling writer to turn down an opportunity – even an unpaid one – to get work published. After all, we write in order to be read. Our drive to get our words and stories out there is strong, akin to survival instinct. And, just to be clear, even established writers wrestle with this dilemma. I’ve talked to several talented, self-supporting writers who still have to think long and hard about certain unpaid/low-pay writing “jobs” that come across their desks.

The marketplace environment we writers must navigate is complex, mercurial, and full of potential pitfalls. While there are many brilliant and trustworthy sources of information and insight out there (the aforementioned Porter Anderson and his colleague Jane Friedman being two of my go-to reads), ultimately you have to make your own choices and find your own path. While it’s smart to stay informed and consider other people’s perspectives, you need to develop personal criteria for assessing “opportunities” in the context of your writer’s life

As we’ve talked about before, most of us have some hang-ups about money, and when you tangle that up with the self-doubt and other ailments that often accompany artistic pursuits you can wind up with a pretty volatile mess … not a good place from which to make sound decisions. I hope that the following observations, anecdotes, and rules of thumb – both my own and those generously shared by colleagues – will help you sort out your own thoughts and feelings about when and why you will consider writing for free. It’s important to have principles, but it’s even more important to know deep down that they are your principles and not just adopted opinions.

Picture This …

There are a variety of scenarios that force writers to weigh the pros and cons of writing for free vs. holding out based on principles. Though this list is by no means exhaustive and only touches lightly on each type of situation, you will get a sense of just how often you might have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to write this for free?”

Intern/Beginner “Jobs”

One of the most common hurdles for new writers is getting experience and building up a portfolio of work. It’s a classic chicken-and-egg quandary. Whether you’re an essayist, a short-story writer, or a copywriter, it’s hard to land the better-paying gigs/more prestigious placements unless you can share work that demonstrates your ability. But, if no one will give you a shot on a well-paying assignment because you haven’t got relevant work to show, how are you supposed to build your portfolio?

When you’re starting out, there is nothing wrong with doing an internship or working for a lower rate that correlates to your level of experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes an internship or mentor relationship can provide experience and networking benefits that far outweigh typical monetary compensation. If you find a good fit somewhere, go for it.

The trick in this case is knowing when enough is enough. At a certain point, you will evolve beyond the beginner stage and will have earned the right to higher rates. When this happens, you have to be willing to recognize the fact and then speak up about it. Most individuals, publishers, and companies will be happy to have you continue working for free or for peanuts unless you say something. Sometimes, you’ll have to leave that initial situation and move on to others where you can enter into the relationship at a different level. That’s okay, too. The writing life is about constant growth and change. Sometimes you’ll outgrow certain relationships.

One other caveat that’s directed more to the business and copywriting folks – please be very wary of content farms and many of the so-called freelance job sites. Though there are some that are reputable and fair, many of these organizations take advantage of new writers. The rates are terrible, the jobs are low quality, and the expectations on turn around times are completely unrealistic. In most cases, you’d be much better off hustling your network and local sources (think local business organizations like your chamber of commerce, etc.) for projects with small businesses and professionals.

“Exposure” Opportunities (Including Writing for The Huffington Post, et al)

This is probably one of the most prevalent no-pay/low-pay scenarios that writers encounter. From newbies to well-established professionals, we all field these inquiries on a fairly regular basis.

The scene goes something like this – you get a call or an email from a cheerful editor or business owner who would love to offer you a great opportunity to get some exposure by writing an article/essay/website/brochure/whatever … for free. This person may or may not ply you with enthusiastic projections about how many readers the publication has or how much business you’re likely to get because you’ve written the FAQ page for some obscure website.

When you are faced with this kind of “opportunity,” the first question you need to ask yourself is this: What’s in it for me? Hint: the answer is rarely what the publisher/business owner is selling you. There are good write-for-exposure opportunities and bad write-for-exposure opportunities, and which category a request falls into depends entirely on the writer’s personal situation and goals.

Bad opportunities have no upside for you, the writer. There are hundreds of reasons why you should immediately disqualify a so-called writing opportunity:

  • The publication has no real audience
  • The quality of other work published there is low
  • The business website gets almost no traffic
  • Writing copy isn’t your thing anyway
  • And so on …

On the flip side of the coin, here are some examples of write-for-exposure scenarios that serve the writer as much as the publisher/business:

Stephanie Hepburn (@stephepburn) writes about sustainability and ingenuity at The Good Blog. She repurposes those posts in a series on Huffington Post, for which she is not compensated. Hepburn explained her decision to write for HuffPost in an email interview,

“In the past decade, freelance journalists (and journalists generally) have seen a significant decrease in pay and opportunity. Writing for free just further undermines our value, so I avoided doing so until relatively recently. What changed my mind, at least for now, is that no publication has ever employed me to write an opinion piece. Opinion writing for publications is overwhelmingly male, specifically white men. This causes disparity not only in terms of opportunity for writers but also a lack of diversity in opinions that are available for readers. Meaning, readers predominantly only have access to opinion pieces written by white men, which fails to represent our population as a whole.”

Writing for free for HuffPost is a win for Hepburn because she is not spending time creating original content, the platform does enable her to reach a much wider audience than if she only published on her own blog (resulting in a social media boost that sometimes translates into incremental traffic to her website), and – perhaps most importantly for Hepburn – it gives her a chance to diversify the OpEd voice of a prominent online publisher.

··• )o( •··

Susan Nye, fellow blogger here at Live to Write – Write to Live, does not write for HuffPost, but she would consider the opportunity if it arose, “I’m not paid for my twice weekly blog posts. So, if Huffington Post or another site with a huge  audience asked to repost should I ask them to pay me for something I was already willing to post for free?” Nye and Hepburn both bring up an important point about providing free content to these non-paying outlets. In both Hepburn’s experience and Nye’s hypothetical situation, the work provided for free is existing work that is being republished. Though this is not the case in every situation, it’s an important distinction to make.

··• )o( •··

Craig Tomashoff is an experienced journalist who has written and edited for broad range of well-known publications including People magazine, TV Guide, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and Emmy Magazine. He has also worked as a television writer/producer on shows for Queen Latifah, Martin Short, and Craig Kilborn. Tomashoff also writes (for free) for HuffPost.

“With the Huffington Post I’m never working toward money,” Tomashoff explains. “It’s never gonna happen. Mostly, I just have something to say and I want someone to see it, or I want to show my ability to write.”

Tomashoff has been in the industry a while, so he’s got some valuable perspective on how things have changed in the writing marketplace. The Internet, he says, changed everything. Many people stopped reading newspapers and other print publications that employed journalists, and digital media brought about a glut of content that increased competition exponentially.

While Tomashoff would like it if experienced writers could be a bit choosier about the work they accept, the reality is that many of them can’t afford that luxury. He tells a story about taking a job mentoring the young blogging staff of an up-and-coming entertainment website. When the company told him the rate for the gig, he commented that it was less than what he’d usually accept for a week’s worth of work. They explained that the rate wasn’t per week, but for the whole gig. Tomashoff took the job anyway. “It’s a matter of preservation,” he says. “You never know when the next job will come, and – meanwhile – you can learn a skill that might apply to that next thing or uncover something else you want to to do.”

“Spec” Work and the Client Who Won’t Pay

“Spec” work – work that you do “for consideration” without any guarantee that the work will be accepted and paid for – is something we touched on in Part I of this series. This scenario applies mostly to “marcom” (marketing and communications work like copywriting and content creation), but can sometimes also crop up in literary situations.  While I don’t ever advise a writer to accept spec assignments (they usually turn out to be an exercise in spinning your wheels), there are some rare instances in which the effort is worthwhile.

When I worked in the world of advertising, we did spec pitches all the time. It was part of the cost of doing business. Whole teams – strategists, planners, writers, designers, developers, etc. – would pull all-nighters to whip up amazing work intended to wow the client into signing budgets worth tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars. In these cases, the effort was worth it because the potential payoff was big, and – in most cases – you didn’t pull out the big guns until you’d already run the gauntlet through the initial filtering rounds, so you knew you had a pretty good shot.

On a smaller scale, the risk is greater that you – the writer – will get the short end of the deal. I’ve heard  plenty of sad tales of writers who did spec work, didn’t get hired, and then later found that the potential client had gone ahead and used their work anyway. So not cool. If you find yourself tempted to say yes to a spec assignment, consider asking for a “token” payment – a low fee that (make sure they understand this) is in no way representative of your actual rates, but which serves to demonstrate their genuine interest and a small modicum of respect for your time.

Sometimes, even when you land the paying gig, things go south because the client refuses to pay. I, along with all my freelancer friends, have our own war stories about clients who’ve tried to screw us over. In some cases, they’ve succeeded, and we’ve learned important lessons … the hard way. Whenever this topic comes up, I share this presentation Mike Monteiro gave to a group of creative professionals in San Francisco. I’ll start you at the good bit (the title page of his deck kind of says it all – fair warning, this clip contains profanity):

The contract issues that Monteiro goes on to discuss are a much larger topic that I care to cover in this particular post, but I do just want to point out that no matter what kind of writer you are, it’s important to button things up in terms of contracts and rights and all those other details.

“Pro Bono” Work

Pro bono work is another beast entirely. This is work that you willingly do for free because you want to. It’s volunteer work, basically. Many writers provide pro bono services to friends, local businesses they frequent, or non-profit organizations that they believe in. I actually enjoy doing pro bono work once in a while because it’s a great way to give back to people and causes I believe in. It makes me feel good about my ability to provide something of value that might make a real difference for someone. The caution here is to be clear and firm about boundaries. Happily, I haven’t had any terrible experiences, but many writers who volunteer their time for various organizations have found that it’s true what they say, “If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

Nichole Bazemore is an accomplished writer and editor who has helped a variety of businesses and publishers up their content game. Bazemore occasionally does pro bono work for organizations she believes in, though she makes commitments carefully. Even so, she has her own battle scars. After doing a variety of pro bono writing (including blog posts, press releases, and a feature story) for a cause she believes in deeply, she was approached by one of the organization’s leaders about writing a book. When Bazemore provided a price, the would-be “author” became offended and walked away. Unfazed, Bazemore moved on. As she put it, “I’ll donate a few thousand dollars’ worth of work to an organization I believe in, but when you ask me to write a book without compensation, you can go kick rocks. That’s just exploitation.” Well said, Bazemore, well said.

Unpaid/Fee-based Submissions (e.g., to Literary Magazines)

Another area that sometimes gets caught up in discussions of no-pay/low-pay writing is the realm of literary magazines and other fiction publishers who not only don’t pay for submissions, but sometimes charge a submission fee. This can seem  unfair (I have to pay money to have my work rejected?), but it’s indicative of the financial challenges editors and publishers face to keep their magazines alive.

YiShun Lai is an author (her debut novel, Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu, is available for pre-order now), writing coach, and copywriter. She is also the nonfiction editor for The Tahoma Literary Review (TLR). While she acknowledges that the literary market is tough and not a “cash cow,” she believes that writers who submit and are accepted deserve to be paid in cold hard cash, a policy that TLR supports.

Even when writers do submit to non-paying markets, however, there are non-financial benefits that can be worth the effort. Lai explains that the more a writer publishes in literary magazines, the more publishing credits that writer can include when they query other publications. Quality publishing credits increase your credibility with editors and also, should you eventually pitch a book idea, agents. “Agents know it’s hard work to get published,” Lai says, “They appreciate the effort.”

The submission process is sometimes complicated by other factors. Beyond submission fees, some literary magazines solicit big-name writers to contribute. In these cases, Lai explains, the editor is obligated to publish the solicited work, which in turn reduces the number of spots available for as-yet-undiscovered writers who are waiting patiently in the slush pile.

It can be a disheartening battle, but it can lead to Good Things. Take, for instance, the on-going story of a small, independent digital literary magazine called Full Grown People (The Other Awkward Age). Founded and edited by Jennifer Niesslein, this gem of a site publishes excellent personal essays on a wide variety of topics. The digital magazine recently placed well in a respected ranking of literary nonfiction markets, and a Full Grown People piece by Kate Haas was mentioned in a What We’re Reading post on The New York Times website alongside pieces from The New Yorker and The Atlantic. These may seem like small victories, but they are possible stepping stones for both the publisher and the writer in their larger, longer journeys. Though I haven’t spoken to Niesslein or Haas, I’m willing to bet they would both say their efforts were worth it.

Free Books

For novelists and nonfiction authors, “free writing” invariably leads to discussions about the pros and cons of giving away books. While this post cannot hope to cover the deep and broad topic of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing or all the nuanced variations on that theme and the pricing/selling conundrums that ensue, I would like to just touch for a moment on the sometimes-beneficial tactic of giving away your books.

This idea is explored in a post called Why give away your work for free? A collaboration between the publisher Medium, Litographs (purveyor of literary-themed products), and science fiction author Cory Doctorow, the post curates quotes from a number of authors who have benefitted greatly from the act of giving their books away.

Doctorow sums it up nicely, “My problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity, and free ebooks generate more sales than they displace.” Many other authors agree with him, including Neil Gaiman, Paolo Coelho, and Matt Mullenwig. The idea is that, in today’s over-crowded market, your best bet at success is not necessarily as much about making sure everyone pays for your work as it is about making sure as many people as possible are exposed to your work. The theory goes that if you can get massive distribution – even free distribution – and turn readers into fans, you will have built a strong and profitable platform from which to launch future (paid) works.

It’s a lot to think about …

Clearly, there are many different situations in which writers have to give careful consideration to whether or not they are willing to write either for free or for a minimal fee. The scenarios are many, the nuances are subtle, and the context can change dramatically depending on each writer’s personal situation and journey. As Tomashoff said in our interview, “This isn’t something you can approach with an absolute mentality. It’s always on a case-by-case basis.”

It’s important to remember that there are not as many “Good Guys” and “Bad Guys” as we might think. Mostly, there are writers looking for a break and opportunistic publishers looking for an edge in a very competitive market. Sure, sometimes there are players with unethical practices, but other times “unfair practices” turn out to be justifiable (as in the case of many, struggling literary magazines).

While I am sticking to my guns about joining Porter Anderson in his boycott of Huffington Post, I have found some middle ground that allows me to still support the writers who publish there. Since many of those writers are repurposing pieces they’ve already published elsewhere, usually on their own site, if a HuffPost link crosses my radar, I seek out the original and share that instead.

I also support writers and publications I admire in other small ways – “tokens,” perhaps, but worthwhile nonetheless. For instance, I donate $3/month to the brainpickings, a site that I read on a regular basis and which features high-quality writing on topics that inspire and educate me. I purchased the paperback anthology of essays published by Full Grown People. I have also taken advantage of “micro payment” options on sites like Writer Unboxed, which use an app called tinyCoffee and PayPal to enable readers to “buy the author a cup of coffee.” Nice.

We may each be on our own writing journey and bear the responsibility of making our own choices about when and why we write for free, but we can still support each other and the broader community in small ways. After all, we are all in this together.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: djwtwo via Compfight cc