Career Expectations for Artistic Pursuits

One of my jobs is teaching arts management. I love teaching, and enjoy passing on knowledge I’ve gleaned from 30 years in the field. I focus primarily on theater, more broadly on the performing arts. Over the years, it has morphed from a “these are the business models” structured class to a “here are the challenges and opportunities to making a life in the arts.” I’ve written about arts funding, and speak about it often in my role as executive director of an arts service organization.  The path to success in the performing arts is a tough one.

I am also a mystery writer who realized her dream of being published last year. This year has been about releasing book 2, finishing book 3, and figuring out how to stay published by working with my agent to noodle new ideas. I love this part of my life. It takes work, and focus, but it gives me great joy.

But here’s the thing. Right now, I can’t make my living as a fiction writer. I can make it part of my portfolio career, but resting all my eggs in that basket? The numbers don’t work.

A few weeks ago a friend recommended the book Born To This by Chris Guillebeau. He talks about the three legs of a career–money, joy, and flow. Flow is doing something you are good at, joy makes you happy, money supports you. Your career should be an equal mix of all three.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Am I less of a writer because I can’t support myself writing? Is a actor less of an artist because she pays the bills by teaching? Is a musician less of a musician because she is also a lawyer? Are some artistic pursuits more worthy than others? Or does expecting your art/craft to provide joy AND flow AND money put too much pressure on your art/craft? Is it okay to have to do two or three things in order to achieve balance?

It is more than okay, as long as it works. That is the real challenge, making sure it works for me, not for what expectations are for me.

As 2016 winds down to a close, I am thinking about joy, flow, and money. I’m also thinking about my goals for 2017, and the balance of my complicated career. Wonderful, but complicated. May the path forward be as rewarding.

Happy New Year to you all.

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Julie Hennrikus writes mysteries as Julianne Holmes and J. A. Hennrikus.

The beauty that is Jack Reacher

 

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are gems. If you haven’t picked one up (his latest is Night School) then do yourself a favor – get a copy and sit down to read it, but make sure you have a spoon handy so you can enjoy every last bit.

night-schoolI’ve been asked to review Night School for a publication and for that review I’ll be talking about characterization and plot (both excellent) but for this review I want to talk about Child’s writing style.

In a nutshell Child follows the philosophy of – “less is more.”

Child uses short sentences. All the time. Instead of explaining how a situation is affecting Reacher, he’ll use techniques like repetition to “show” us, what Reacher is thinking about. Like this passage which is repeated several times as a way to describe how he views a woman he is working with:

Taller than average, but no wider.

The black dress, the pearls, the nylons, the shoes.

The face, and hair, combed with her fingers.

Looking good.

Reacher is literally fixated on this woman.

In just a few words we know so much about the character Reacher. He’s smart, he’s analytical, he pays attention to detail. He notices things. Think how less effective it would have been if we had been given a full and detailed description of the woman – we would have seen her from the author’s point of view and not the character’s. In stating only the important details, Child lets our minds fill in the blanks.

Here’s another passage where repetition (attention to detail) is effectively used:

“Then he dug in his pocket and gave the guy five American dollars, and asked, “Do you have a phone?”

The guy pointed at the wall. An old Ma Bell pay phone. All metal. For outside a gas station rather than inside a barbershop, but points for effort.

Reacher said, “Does it work?”

“Of course it works,” the guy said. “This is Germany. It was rewired as a normal telephone.”

Reacher dialed the number on Griezmans’ business card. From the envelope with the fingerprint. He got ring tone. The phone worked. Germany. Rewired. “

By using such clipped sentences and observations, Child leads us through the story in real life as the main character experiences it. It’s really an extraordinary writing style which not only gives us a front seat to Reacher, but which also helps the book’s pace race along.

As writers you should be constantly reading and analyzing other works. It’s part of the job. Writing in short sentences and clips may not be the best style for you, but knowing what it can do and how powerful it can be means that if you understand the technique, you can keep it in your tool box to pull out when needed.

Give yourself a treat and go read Night School but along with that spoon, bring a highlighter so that you can take notes on some of the best writing around. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Try Something New and Take a New Step Forward

try-something-newIt still amazes me how often I hear people not only say they are afraid to try new things, but they actually avoid trying new things.

If you’re a business owner (or want to be someday), there are so many things you don’t yet know about that you’ll have to learn. If you don’t want to learn anything new, being a writer and/own business owner probably aren’t paths you want to consider.

We’re all born with a blank slate. Every thing has a first time. Why weren’t we afraid from the very start to learn to communicate, eat, move until we knew how to walk? Because we didn’t know any better.

Each writer has different strengths and interests and we come about them in various ways.None of us woke up one day as successful writers. We had to learn how to:

  • print / write
  • spell
  • read
  • craft sentences/paragraphs/stories
  • learn writing rules
  • understand grammar
  • come up with ideas
  • type
  • outline
  • research – through the Internet or, old school at a library
  • use a printer or scanner
  • learn to upload and download
  • use e-mail
  • and so on

Our businesses didn’t create themselves out of thin air – there are numerous tasks we need to figure out how to do when we’re a business owner.

Every little bit and piece of our writing business started with learning something new.  All things are brand new to us — at first.

Deciding to be a writer is scary in itself, isn’t it?

Pursuing writing as a career has its own anxiety, too. 

And there will always be something that makes us sweat – even a little – when it first comes to mind.

Where does the fear come from? Why do we get afraid of a project that’s a bit over our heads?

I’ve been there many times, and expect to be there many more. Being a little afraid is how I know I’m continuing to learn, improve, and build upon my current writing (and business) skills.

If you have the basic skills for a project, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them as a foundation for new work. If there’s a certain type of writing you are passionate about pursuing, go after it however you can – online classes, workshops, webinars, writing groups….

We all start with a clean/blank slate. It’s up to us, individually, to fill the slate with the skills and experiences we want and need.

Being nervous is a good thing – it means we’re aware and open to possibilities. It means we desire to push ourselves further.

If you don’t feel a little scared, you aren’t stretching yourself.

I encourage you to embrace the fear and push out of your comfort zone.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? I bet you learned a lot from the experiences – good, bad, or otherwise.

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.

Writer’s Weekend Edition – Grounding and Connecting

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Other than a year-in-review post that I’m putting together for the 31st, this will be my final post of 2016. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this particular year come to an end, but – despite being a chronic optimist – I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to see what 2017 holds.

This year has been dramatic, to say the least, and the repercussions of recent political events here in the states and abroad will have far-reaching social, economic, and environmental consequences for years to come. They will change the stories we tell.

It’s a lot to take in.

We also suffered some especially painful losses in the world of arts and entertainment. Each year brings its own sorrows, but we lost so many amazing artists in 2016, among them David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and Gene Wilder.  And we lost writers, too, including Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

It’s no wonder that most people I know are looking forward to putting 2016 in the rearview mirror.

··• )o( •··

Despite its many challenges, 2016 has also offered us opportunities for deep learning, which translates into a chance to grow. Like many other people I know, I am currently engaged in a self-taught crash course on the mechanics of politics. For the first time in my life, I am actively engaged in monitoring and discussing the kinds of news stories I’ve always avoided and ignored because they “weren’t my thing.” I was proud of not watching the news, of keeping my distance from such matters. Now I feel the sting of shame and regret for having been so irresponsible and for the unearned privilege that allowed me to say such things without even a twinge of remorse.

As a result of this new awareness, my eyes are now much more open to the true depth and breadth of the many injustices in the world. It’s not a pretty sight, and bearing witness even in the most benign way – via news stories and videos shared on social media – has wrought irrevocable changes in my perspective and my priorities. My inner champion for justice rails against the unceasing and often unspeakable wrongs perpetrated against not only the many persecuted peoples of the world, but also against the planet herself.

··• )o( •··

All of this makes me want to cry. The massive scope and scale of the challenges we face is crushing. The weight of the responsibility we now must bear for ourselves and our children and the natural world is almost too much. And yet, we must shoulder it and move forward.

I understand the urge to flee. Earlier this week I posted a link on Facebook about a tiny, self-sufficient Scottish island that’s for sale. I captioned the link, “In certain moments this is so, SO tempting. #runaway” … and sometimes it is tempting. But, running away is not the answer, and neither is turning away.

The change we’re going through is hard. It’s painful and scary and we have no  idea how things are going to turn out. That is, perhaps, the worst part – the deep-seated uncertainty that haunts us … the not knowing. But, we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from looking our problems in the eye. This is not the time to allow ourselves the false luxury of pretending that everything is okay or that someone else will fix these broken things.

··• )o( •··

Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, it’s so important for everyone, but especially for writers, to be plugged in to what’s happening all around us. It’s so important for us to find our footing in this new and changing world, find the stories that need telling, and tell them. The storytellers of the world have a lot of work to do.

We – you, dear reader,  and me and all the other writers and artists out there – must ground ourselves in our creative work. We must dig deep and hold on. We must remember why we started creating in the first place and stoke the fires of that passion so that the light never, ever goes out.

Some of us will choose to create in a way that addresses the global, societal, and cultural situations of the day head on. Others will choose to take a more subtle and oblique approach. But, each in his or her way, we will speak; and each story, each piece of art will make a difference. Our work is our voice, and our voices matter.

··• )o( •··

As the year draws to a close, the way forward may be unclear. You may, like me, be hesitating, unsure of which path you should take. Don’t worry. Find your center and move from there.

I came across an interesting quote by someone named Michael Meade:

“We live in initiatory times when each soul can feel more isolated amidst the dying breath of one world and the uncertainty that attends the forming of life’s next design. It is not the lack of time that we modern people suffer from, but a lack of connection to things timeless, mythic and eternal.”

I believe there is much wisdom in this sentiment. We do need to connect more deeply and openly to “things timeless, mythic and eternal.” And that’s what story does. That’s what writers help us do when they share their stories. That’s what you do.

So, keep writing. Keep shining your light in the dark. It does matter, even when it feels like it doesn’t. And remember – you are never, ever alone.

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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, 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.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Friday Fun – Gifts for Writers

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:  

With the holidays coming up, you know that people are out there buying presents. There’s nothing wrong with presents, in fact I love getting them, but I’m at the point in my life where I don’t really need anything. I’d rather get something that’s thoughtful and that I can use as opposed to something that just sits and looks at me. (I’m talking about you large clay chicken.)

I recently participated in the reddit Secret Santa event and after a few messages back and forth, my Secret Santa, knowing that I was a writer sent me the following items:

  • A Moleskin notebook – because I told him I carry a notebook everywhere
  • An incredible Gel pen – because ball point pens create too  much drag for my hand
  • Pen/pencil grips – for the days my hands ache
  • A chicken USB drive – because I use my laptop to compose and my desk computer to edit.
  • Walking by Thoreau – because he knew I was writing about my walking trip and that I plan more.

How perfect was all that?

It got me thinking.

As writers, what would *you* like to get as gifts?  Let’s all create a list that we can share with others.

******

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I really like Wendy’s list, especially the Moleskine notebook! As a writer, you can never have too many notebooks/journals/yellow pads/post-it notes! I also think a 5-year journal is a great gift for any writer. I’m almost done with my first one and I love looking back over the past 5 years. Each entry is only a paragraph, so it’s not too overwhelming to thumb through–unlike my Morning Pages journal, which is definitely a task for a long winter’s night curled up by the fire.

LL Headshot

 Lee Laughlin: Whooo boy. My greatest challenge is time. I am a writer who works better without the interruptions of day-to-day life to distract me. The perfect gift for me would be a weekend (or even a day) at a space with a desk, and a nice view. Other suggestions:

  • Pens, I like FriXion & Ink Joys
  • Notebooks – This is Midori Notebook is my current favorite
  • Literature and Latte’s Scrivener App is amazing, but it does need a good user manual so I recommend Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez.
  • A Kindle – I know some like paperbooks, but my Kindle is one of my prized possessions.
  • A membership to their genre’s professional organization (i.e. Romance Writer’s of America or Sisters in Crime).

dsc_3083Julie Hennrikus: Time would be a great gift for a writer. Time where she is forced to write. Aside from that, wonderful writing books (like Bird by Bird, or On Writing, or Plot Perfect). A notebook. Scrivener.

Back to the time thing. The need for writing time is real, so if you can offer help with childcare, or offer a place for a retreat, or give her a gift card for a local coffeeshop where she can write for hours. Those are great gifts. Really great.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson:  Journals, books, pens, notecards, coffee, post-it pads of various colors, plaque with inspirational saying on it, word magnets for fridge, waterproof writing board and pen for shower, gift cards where any of the above can be purchased.

Or, this can about cover it:

christmaslist

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin: Lee & Julie’s ideas for how to give the writer in your life time are tops. Also, encouragement, especially if there’s a writer in your life who is not yet published and/or scared to make the commitment to the page. If you have a friend/loved one who says s/he wants to write, believing in them is the best thing you can do. Faith, Encouragement and Support.

Forgiveness and intention for writers

 

It’s the end of another year and it’s time to think about what your goals will be for the next year.

Like so many of the writers here at this blog, I don’t make resolutions. They are just too difficult to keep and when you inevitably break them, you feel like a failure. No thanks.

Instead I reflect on what I did in the last year, how I can do better, and what it is I hope to accomplish in the coming New Year.

Which brings me to a little New Year’s Day ceremony I used to do with my kids -I don’t do it anymore but maybe I should dig it out and dust it off.

On New Year’s Day, after our annual family breakfast of pancakes, bacon and sliced fruit, I would hand out 6 green leafs cut from construction paper to each member of the family.

On 3 of the leafs we were to write things that we didn’t like about the last year. Things that embarrassed us or that made us feel bad or worthless. Failures, lies, poor performances.  We didn’t have to show anyone what we wrote; we just had to be true to ourselves.

The younger kids would always need help with this, because let’s face it, there is little self-doubt or embarrassment in the very young child, it’s only when we get older that we start to attach morality and shame to our failings.

On the other 3 leafs we wrote goals that we wanted to accomplish for the coming year. A project we wanted to complete, an aspect of ourselves that we wanted to improve upon, something that we wanted to contribute to others.

I’d gather the leafs with the things we didn’t want to remember and we’d gather outside while I burned them in a special cast iron kettle that was only used for this purpose. We’d all watch as tiny wisps of paper ash rose into the sky forever absolving  us of our shame, our guilt, our doubts.

And then we’d take the goal leafs and travel to the bank of a local river where we’d throw the bits of paper into the rushing water, thereby releasing our intentions to the world.

It’s a powerful thing when you allow yourself forgiveness for your mistakes. And it’s just as powerful to put your intentions into words and then send those words outward – a prayer of hope.

You don’t need paper leafs in order to do this ceremony, but it certainly doesn’t hurt – leaf buds signal growth, fallen leafs signal change. If you choose to do this, though, your “bad things of the last year” list needs to be destroyed – fire is a wonderful cleanser. You can’t, for example, write them down in a notebook. A list of bad things reviewed is a list of bad things that are never forgotten or forgiven.

It *is*, however, important to keep your list of intentions for the New Year up front and center. Place it loud and bold on a wall in your office, by your bedside table so be seen at end of and beginning of day, or even attached to your bathroom mirror. A list of goals daily seen is a list that is daily re-enforced.

Whatever you choose to do, make it count.

Consider spending some time this New Year’s Day to reflect on how you can release old doubts and how you can accomplish unique contributions to help make the world a better place.

And then get to it.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Wrap-up of Best Books of 2016 Lists

This collection won’t be anything close to complete, but I hope it will at least offer up a few selections that pique your interest. So, peruse and enjoy. And, if you find other lists that should be added to the wrap-up, please feel free to leave links in the comments. (My list is skewed to my own preference for speculative fiction, so I have definitely overlooked other popular genres like thriller, mystery, and romance; so – please! – let me know your favorite picks!)

Here’s to making your To-read List even longer!!

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Tor.com Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR's Book Concierge - Best Books of 2016

NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2016

 

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Happy reading!!

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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, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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