Paid to Talk

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Groner

An unintended consequence of being a writer is being paid to talk.

Never shy about sharing my knowledge or opinions in print, I now speak them out loud to just about anyone who wants to listen, and I do it in a way that’s not just informative but also entertaining. And yet – just as in my opinion pieces – I challenge my audience to think about current problems in new and not always comfortable ways.

I have a collection of popular off-the-shelf talks, and a nearly limitless willingness to talk about anything about which an audience and I have a mutual interest. Give me a topic; I’ll give you a speech.

Currently, I have four off-the-shelf talks: Lessons From the Long Trail, about my transformative end-to-end through hike of The Long Trail when I turned sixty, and three through The Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau:

Getting From Here to There: The history of transportation and settlement in VT

1964: A Watershed Year in Vermont Political and Cultural History

Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen?

I make customized motivational and celebratory speeches to groups who want to hear what I have to say. After teaching reluctant writers, leading Weight Watchers, and raising three children, I’ve developed some serious motivational skills that can be translated into a celebration and/or call to action.

I’ve also spent the past ten years learning about restorative practices as well as Roberts Rules of Order, so if a group needs a facilitator, I’m good at making sure everyone in the room has a chance to be heard.

Of course, I’m always ready to talk about and teach writing and literature, from blogs to biographies. Earlier this year I lectured on Virginia Woolf for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and I’m currently teaching a grant-funded memoir-writing class at my local library. We’re having a blast.

Between writing, teaching, and public speaking, I’ve fallen behind on other tasks, like keeping my website updated, but that’s next. In the works is a calendar where anyone who wants to attend one of my public lectures can find out the what, where, and when. And for those who may be interested in a custom-made talk, just contact me.

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com

 

Weekend Edition – Being Kind and Creative During a Revolution

River Reflections – Life Reflections

After writing more than 200 Weekend Edition and Sunday Shareworthy posts, my previously consistent weekend writing routine has hit a snag.  And I’m starting to think that’s not a bad thing.

As I explained in my a recent post, This Is Who I Am, “My identity as a writer is not yet fully baked.” And – while that makes the Type-A side of my brain twitch – that’s okay, too.

I’m experiencing a major shift in perspective that is making me reevaluate everything I do. This also, while a little painful, is not a bad thing. I’m taking a much closer, much harder look at WHY I engage in certain activities and routines. I’m getting more granular about assessing whether or not they deliver real value to me, to anyone else involved, or to the world in general. I’m shuffling the deck and reprioritizing and cleaning house.

It’s freeing, actually.

I read a couple of posts this week that got me thinking in new directions about some related questions and challenges that I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while now. The first post was by our very own Deborah Lee Luskin: How to  Sustain Political Activism and Write a Book.  I loved her no-nonsense take on how to marry persistence and self care while also exercising some reality checking on just how much activism you can handle on top of all the other obligations in your life. Smart woman.

The other piece was one I stumbled across via a Facebook friend. In her post, What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life?,  Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui writes,

The world is such a noisy place. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. For bigger and better. Sacrifice sleep for productivity. Strive for excellence. Go big or go home. Have a huge impact in the world. Make your life count.

But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

Good question, Krista.

Too often, we forget that we cannot look outside ourselves to find happiness or contentment or approval. We have to stop letting media and other external influences define the life we think we want. We need to stop comparing ourselves to someone else’s vision of “right” or “good” or “enough.” As writers, the opportunities for comparison to other writers (those we admire from afar and our own peers) are excruciatingly endless.

Likewise, as many of us take on the time-consuming task of becoming more active citizens and feel the pressure to – quite literally – save the world, we need to step back and think hard about what our own definition of “enough” looks and feels like.

I read these two posts and was reminded of a recent column I wrote for my local paper. Though this piece starts out focusing on politics, as I read it again I realized that much of what I’m trying to convey also applies to the challenges of living a creative life in the midst of the chaos and responsibility of so-called “Real Life.”

Whether you’re talking about political activism, groundbreaking cultural shifts, or writing a novel, all Big Accomplishments are really just a long series of small, persistent actions. They all boil down to small, daily choices. Thinking of them in these terms, you realize that nothing (and I mean, nothing) is impossible.

With that, here is the column I wrote. Whether you are walking beside me as a writer, an activist, or both, I hope you enjoy it and find some words of encouragement and empowerment here. Think small. Think daily. Think happy. You’ve got this.

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For years, most of my social media profiles have included the line, “Believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings.” This quip has served as a kind of abbreviated mantra, meant to encompass the concepts of treating others as you would be treated, taking time to enjoy the little things in life, and always keeping hope and optimism in your heart.

But, as our country careens toward a new and frightening political reality, I find myself reading those words in a new context.

Perhaps more than ever before, the character and reputation of our country’s political leadership has been tainted by intrigue and espionage, shades of illegitimacy, vicious in-fighting, rampant corruption,  and — perhaps most worrying of all — the incoming administration’s growing disregard for the press, the truth, and First Amendment rights.

It’s no wonder many people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The current situation is exhausting. When I talk with people who share my concerns and my desire to make a difference, I hear the deep weariness in their voices and their sighs. Our conversations are punctuated with long pauses in which we try, through our disbelief, to process the latest headline or tweet.

There’s so much work to do.

It feels a little bit like being saddled with a monstrously huge and excruciating domestic chore. It’s as if you have to put away Christmas; pick up after an out-of-control kegger; and clean out the garage, basement, and attic … all in one day. Best of all, these extra responsibilities have been slapped on top of your existing day-to-day professional, family, and household obligations.

It can start to feel daunting and even hopeless very quickly, but here’s where a simplified version of my little mantra might offer some comfort. When I begin to worry that it’s all too much, I focus on the core attributes of my social media signature: small, daily, and happy.

When we look at someone’s personal transformation, a culture’s scientific achievement, or a turning point in world history, we are often so blown away by the scope and scale of the thing that we fail to see it for what it actually is. Our focus on the end result keeps us from fully comprehending the events that delivered the final outcome.

Without exception, there’s always much more to the story than we know; and nine times out of ten the “overnight” story is actually a tale of small, daily commitments. Each metamorphosis, discovery, and revolution is made up of countless small, daily actions. These unappreciated actions are unaccompanied by fanfare, but they are real building blocks of every great event in our personal and global history.

So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and hopeless — whether in the face of a personal challenge or your desire to save the world — remember that you don’t have to take on everything at once. You just need to take small, daily actions that move you toward your goal, and you’ll get there. Sign a petition, make a donation, talk to someone, volunteer, attend a march, participate in a political meeting on the local or state level, read an in-depth news article, read a book, investigate an issue, share what you’ve learned on social media.

Keep your efforts small, and make them a daily practice, and you’ll be amazed at your progress.

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of “happy” in the equation. This isn’t just about being hopeful or optimistic. It’s also about operating from a place of joy and love. Instead of being motivated by fear or hate, be inspired by a desire to protect and share what you love. Only then can your actions become a comforting and heartfelt meditation on the beauty you see and seek. Let that feeling guide you and sustain you in your efforts. Small, daily, happy — this is how to be the change you want to see in the world.

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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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Favorite Springtime Reads and Writing Exercises

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:  Although Old Man Winter seems loathe to loosen his grip on those of us living in the northeast of the United States, Spring IS coming. In fact, the official first day of Spring was earlier this week on Monday, March 20th.

So – with hope in our hearts, sunshine on our backs, and the persistent and triumphant chirps and whistles of feathered friends in our ears – we’d like to share with you our favorite springtime stories, novels, poems, and writing rituals. (And then, of course, we’d love to hear yours!)

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: My favorite spring poems are by A.A. Milne. I read them as a child, and when my daughter was a little girl we would listen to them over and over on a cassette tape in the car. (Yes – my old car still had a cassette player.) There are so many to choose from that I could never pick a single favorite: Daffodowndilly, Water Lilies, Spring Morning. I love them all.

I never thought about having favorite Spring reads. Winter reads seem much easier to come by. Spring seems to call for something light and humorous, even frivolous. I’m not one for romances or so-called “chick lit,” but I could do with something witty and fresh. I recently picked up an autographed copy of Lost Among the Birds by Neil Hayward. That might be just the thing.

As for a Spring writing ritual … I’m going to go with just getting outside and letting Mother Nature inspire me. I get out plenty in Winter (and am duly inspired by snow and ice and the amazing adaptive abilities of nature’s denizens), but Spring invites a closer inspection of the world around us. Spring opens up our minds as it opens up the earth and plants. I look forward to that.

P.S. ~ If you’re looking for some poetic inspiration of your own, I found this handy collection of Spring poems on the Poetry Foundation site. Enjoy!

Deborah Lee Luskin: I get so much inspiration from tilling the garden, from planting vegetables, and from weeding, which I find to be deeply contemplative and tremendously satisfying.

 

How to Sustain Political Activism and Write a Book

Activism and Writing both take persistence and self-care.

Like at least half the American population, I’ve been distressed by current national politics. I went into a deep funk of disbelief back in November; then I became hyper-active, making phone calls and writing letters. After that, I needed a vacation from both work and politics. Now, I’m trying to find a sustainable way to continue to support issues I care about, like civil liberties, social justice, and ethical government.

Jen Hofmann’s Weekly Activism Checklist

Lucky for me, a friend forwarded a link to Jen Hofmann’s Weekly Activism Checklist. It’s been a big help.

As I read it, I realized immediately that the ways to sustain political activism are almost identical to the methods necessary for tackling a long writing project.

The Weekly Checklist

Hofman’s Action Checklist for this week starts with current congressional bills and issues that need immediate attention.

My writing checklist for this week includes a meeting, a phone call and a writing assignment for my long narrative about learning to hunt. This checklist helps maintain forward momentum on a project that will take at least another year to complete while I continue to write, broadcast, teach and talk.

These days, I also create a checklist of the political phone calls I will make:

  • Senator Leahy about the Supreme Court nomination;
  • Senator Sanders about the Budget and Healthcare;
  • Representative Peter Welch about the unresolved conflicts of interest between this president’s private businesses and public office.
The Rule of Three

I’ve written about the Rule of Three before: Choose three manageable and achievable goals each week.

Every week, I limit myself to three projects, and every day I limit myself to three tasks related to those projects. More than that and I’ll just stare out the window and not lay down the words. Same thing with phone calls to politicians. I can make three every week.

Three phone calls won’t change the world quickly, but if I make three phone calls every week, they add up, just as writing three sentences, paragraphs or pages adds up.

Worse, not making phone calls equals silence, as in “everything is okay.”

Everything is not okay. So I make three phone calls each week, minimum; more than that’s gravy.

Take Good Care of Yourself

You can’t write from your heart any more than you can change the world if you don’t take care of yourself. Self care includes measures to maintain your general health, sustain your emotional health and nourish your spiritual health. So do whatever it is that keeps you whole, whether it’s reading a book, sleeping, eating well, fishing, sky-diving, going to church, or some combination thereof.

Persistence and Self-care: They make a difference when it comes to writing book or changing the world.

In addition to making phone calls, Deborah Lee Luskin frequently comments about current affairs on her blog and on Vermont Public Radio.

A Poem a Day

Jane Yolen is one of the most prolific and lauded children’s writers of our time. She has written more than three hundred books including many picture books and middle grade novels in a variety of genres and worlds of her own imagining. Her awards are many including (from her website), “the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.” She is also a generous supporter of other writers, often speaking at conferences, teaching, and maintaining a lengthy For Writers page on her own website.

My favorite Yolen book is one that seems to be out of print called The Wild HuntIt’s one of my favorite winter reads and a story that I come back to again and again, and with each reading discover something new.

I recently discovered another small treasure from this woman of letters, stories, and fairy tales – an email project that she’s been running for several years now, in which she sends subscribers a poem each and every day. The poems range widely in style and subject, but I love that they arrive without fail in my inbox each day – a delicious morsel of art to brighten my day.

It’s easy to subscribe, just email Yolen at janeyolen (at) aol (dot) com, and she’ll add you to her list.

Yolen is also a fabulous follow on Twitter at @JaneYolen. She’s very engaged with her followers and just a lot of fun.

So, that’s my treat for the day. 🙂

I hope you enjoy her site and Twitter feed and maybe sign up for her poem a day.

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

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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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Show Up – Then Decide

keepmovingAs a bit of an introvert – okay, more than a bit – I sometimes let the voice in my head talk me out of showing up for events.

These can be networking events, business meetings, 5K races, sip & paint nights, meetups, and generally any activities that involve several people (whether I know them or not).

This also extends to starting/trying new writing-related projects or activities – personal or client-based.

There’s always inspiration and excitement when first agreeing to do something, but when the date arrives to actually “do” that something, excuses can pour out of the ceiling like rain drops. Do any of these sound like the voice in your head?

  • Oh no, that sniffle might be the start of a cold. Skip it.
  • It’s going to rain, you don’t want to get we. Skip it.
  • It’s going to be hot and humid, you might die. Skip it.
  • You won’t know anyone there. Skip it.
  • You aren’t fully prepared. Skip it.
  • There’s no time to grab a meal first. Skip it.
  • There won’t be anything good to eat. Skip it.
  • You can attend the next one. Skip it.
  • You’ve never done that before so you’ll look silly. Skip it.

In 2016, I talked myself out of numerous activities for reasons like those above – basically, no good reason. I always said out loud, though, “I am purposely choosing not to go,” so that my true self wouldn’t pile on the guilt. However lame the reason was, I purposely chose to avoid activities, so took responsibility.

However, choosing to skip things resulted in numerous missed opportunities to meet new people, try new things, achieve new goals, and push myself out of my comfort zone. Negative results were particularly obvious from the physical activities I avoided.

This year I have made the commitment to myself, and told others, that I will at least “show up” for everything I commit to. And then once there, that is when I can choose whether or not to participate. I’m 99.9% confident that making the effort to show up will result in full follow through.

Isaac Newton said, “An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by a equal or stronger force.”

I challenge you to stay in motion and “show up” for any commitment you’ve made – in person or online, whether personal or work-related – “then decide” whether or not to at least give it an honest try.

lisajjacksonLisa 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 and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One word at a time

A beach, the waves and a orange and pink setting sun in Hawaii

I took this in Hawaii two years ago. I keep it handy because it reminds me to breathe deep.

I don’t like to whine, but I do like to keep it real.

I am having a creative crisis.

I think I’ve mostly worked through it, but there are still days …

As I’ve mentioned before, like most of us, I do not write full time. I am a caregiver, and I work in marketing and communications for a boutique technology firm, that specializes in digital signage for airports. And, I write personal essays and fiction.

I finished the first draft of my novel a little over a year ago. YAY! I knew when I finished it that there were more holes than a fishing net, but I was okay with that. I gave myself another year to finish the second and third drafts. I had goals, a schedule and deadlines.

Then 2016 happened and the universe laughed as my deadlines whizzed by unmet. Come the turn of the new year when I sat down to map out my goals for 2017, I had the same goals I’d had for 2016. I felt defeated and overwhelmed.

Why am I bothering?

Yes, I want to write, but CLEARLY I am not making it a priority.

The self doubt crept in and I’m a planner, so of course I forecast disaster.

I mean publishing is soooo hard to break into. Plus I keep reading all of these writer enrichment materials that talk about building your platform even before your published and I talk to friends who ARE published (even NYT best sellers) and it’s always something. Do I really want to expose myself to that level of stress?

Add to that the current state of U.S. and world affairs and I just wanted to pack up my toys and go home. As a matter of fact, I did. For about 24 hours, I threw in the towel and said “I’m done, this book just isn’t going to get written.”

As it happened the day after my meltdown I was already scheduled for an overnight away. Originally it was to write, but then I was just going to snooze and catch up with some friends because, you know, I was going to set my writing aside for a while.

When I got to the hotel, the pen and the paper mocked me.

I took a nap.

It was still there staring me down.

I did some yoga.

Still there.

I meditated (can’t sit still longer than 10 minutes, but I’m getting better. More on that in another blog post).

Finally, in a calmer relaxed state, I gave in, I picked up the pen and I opened the journal.

I emptied my head on the page. It was drivel, but it felt so good to get it out. I did not solve the world’s problems. I didn’t erase my deadlines, I didn’t even solve any plot problems.

I did remember that I truly love to write and I gave myself another chance. I looked back on all the work I HAD done to strengthen my story and I forgave myself for missing my deadlines.

My truth is this:
Life is complicated.
I’m a good writer.
I have a story to tell.
It’s just going to take me longer than I expected to tell it. I’ll worry about the problems that come with working in publishing when the book is on track to be published.

I’ve added a little more to the book since I got back, but I’m in the midst of my busy season at work and we have a family vacation scheduled at the end of the month. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our world going to hell in a hand basket. All those negative aside, I registered for the Romance Writer’s of America National conference today. That is my carrot. My reminder that yes, I am a writer and I do have a story to tell and dammit I’d better make some time to tell it.

Have you ever quit writing? What got you back into it?


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 working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.