blogging · Change · curve balls · General Writing

Fire

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I had been working on an article about how to successfully move your business from one County to another, but this has been put on hold due to the fires in the county I moved from (Sonoma) and a fire in the county I moved to (Lake).

Sunday, October 8, 2017, the wind was fierce and concerning. Later that evening as I worked at my computer, an alert came across my phone regarding a fire near Calistoga resulting in road closures to Sonoma County. I became worried because the next day Don would travel from our home in Clearlake Park to the Petaluma Creamery in Petaluma to pick up cheese and then deliver it to various places around Lake County. Since he was already asleep, I left him a note on the kitchen counter, saying he might want to take a different route due to a fire.

After going to bed late on Sunday evening, a popping woke me. Since the wind was blowing harder now, I thought nothing worse had happened than the electricity going out and had quickly fallen back to sleep. At about 2 a.m. Don woke me and said something was going on, the electricity wasn’t working, and that we needed to get out now. At about the same time, a mandatory evacuation order came over his phone with direction to go to a designated shelter. In the dark, we grabbed a few things and tried to capture the cats, but they became agitated and would not let us near them. We had no choice but to leave them behind and hope for the best.

When we stepped outside, the night sky was bright with flames from Sulphur Bank Road in a neighboring village, Clearlake Oaks. Smoke hung heavy, making it difficult to breathe. In what is normally a quiet area, a flurry of activity was taking place: fire trucks with flashing lights were hurrying toward the fire and cars with headlights like fear-stricken eyes were quickly moving the other way down the hill.

As Don and I drove the 20 minutes to the evacuation center, all I could think about was how close the flames appeared to be to our home. I cried because our precious fur babies were still in the house. My worst fear was that, being inside cats, they would not be able to escape if our house caught on fire. If they did escape I hoped they would be able to survive.

When we arrived at the evacuation center, rows of cots with pillows and blankets filled one side of the large building. People milled around in a daze, while other lay on the cots trying to sleep. Being pushed from our home and at the evacuation center was surreal and scary, as if we were living a Stephen King horror novel. When we finally settled in with coffee at one of the tables, we all attempted to smooth over a tough situation with conversation about everyday life sprinkled with our early-morning evacuation experiences.

While still at the evacuation center, I went looking online for information about the Sulphur fire—the devil that had chased us from our home—and read that Santa Rosa was burning up too. I discovered that friends had been evacuated from various parts of the city, and later learned that many had lost their homes. With barely time to get away from approaching flames, our family members lost everything they owned.

While Don and I were blessed enough to stay with a friend, and to have other offers shelter, the evacuation centers quickly filled up. In Lake County, during the two days we were not allowed back home, strangers embraced and shared their stories and tearfully talked about the continuing destruction in Santa Rosa. Community came together in loving and compassionate ways that we often forget about in ordinary life.

The evacuation in Clearlake Park was lifted on Tuesday night of that same week. Because it was dark and the electricity was not yet back on, we returned home on Wednesday morning. I thought coming back would feel a little normal, but it did not. The air smelled burnt and smoke billowed from the sky in the distance. Our cats gazed at us, as if to ask where we’d been for two days. It took several days for me to adjust before realizing we were safe and that the danger of re-evacuation had passed.

Now, two weeks later, the northern California fires- Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma-have all reached almost full containment. In the Lake County fire there were 545 structures destroyed and 43 structures damaged.

In the combined Sonoma County, Napa County, and Mendocino County fires 42 civilians and one private tender operator. Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa are devastated and people’s lives were turned upside down in a matter of hours. In Santa Rosa alone, approximately 5,300 structures were destroyed. In the combined fires of Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties, about 9,000 structures are demolished.

The aftermath of the devastation is just as staggering as when the fires ravaged through entire communities. Now, some people will stay and rebuild, but others will move on to start new lives elsewhere.  In this, my hope is that all paths will lead to a place of healing.

blogging · discipline · General Writing · goals · Marketing · Time management · writing

Time Management: It’s All About the Time You Already Have

TIME MANAGEMENT

The many years I worked full-time it was easy scheduling time to write. I would pencil in my lunch break or the few hours before bed, and I would tell myself that I could put in some extra writing hours on the weekends too.

It took me awhile to learn that scheduling time to write and the act of writing were two different things, especially with a stressful job that required periodic overtime. I often ended up relaxing at lunch instead of writing, and on most overtime days I was too tired to fire up my computer in the evening.

Sometimes I could get some quality writing time in on the weekends, but that was only if I was not suffering from low motivation after working all week. Because I had created poor time management habits, and I was allowing myself to become stressed and overtired in my job, my writing suffered and I eventually shelved my works in progress for extended periods of time.

In July of 2017 everything changed. I got laid off from my full-time job and found myself with nothing but time on my hands.

While applying for unemployment, looking for work, setting up my own business as a notary public and loan signing agent (which included building a website, researching the market, and doing online marketing), getting my condo ready for rental, and preparing for a long-planned move to another county, I suddenly found myself inundated with work.

This thing is that I’m still ultra-busy dealing with being laid off and moving, but I’m sitting here right now writing this article for my blog.

The difference between then and now is that my writing no longer sits in the back seat. I have chosen to put my writing in the passenger with my notary and signing agent work because I love them both so much.

My attitude about how to manage my time has also changed. I don’t have to make time for the things I love to do, I just need to utilize the time that I already have.

The reason that I could not see my writing opportunities before is because I was allowing stress and dissatisfaction to take over my life.

Things are looking better for me every day.  I have been doing temporary work when available and landing some notary and signing gigs.

And, I’m still finding time to write.

I have been earning a little money from writing content and pitching to companies that need writers.

Tomorrow I will work on a guest article for a writing friend’s blog, and I will begin working on an article I have been hired to write for a magazine. After the gym, I will fix my oatmeal with fruit, make my mocha, and work on these articles while I eat.

Oh, and I’m back at working on my first novel again-making changes and killing little darlings, as the saying goes.

Every day is a new day and reveals how much time I will have to write—and, there is always time.

blogging · Change · discipline · General Writing · goals · writing

Placeholders (Places You Have Been)

1 TYPEWRITERMy grandparents owned an old Underwood typewriter that my mother used in school during the fifties, and her four sisters used in the sixties and seventies. It was old, durable, and downright tough against all the fingers that tapped its’ keys to complete many a school paper.

When I was twelve years old and announced that I wanted to be a writer, my mother bought me a pink typewriter for Christmas. I don’t recall if it was a Royal or Olympic, but I do recall typing stacks of my handwritten poems onto onion paper to create a booklet for my mother.

That pink typewriter lasted through junior high and high school and has always been a well-remembered placeholder symbolizing when I first became serious about writing.

In fact, placeholders are important to remember as we walk our journey to success because they tell us where we have been and where we are going, and let us know when we have reached our destination.

Where You Have Been

One of the most important things to remember is where you come from. Even if right now you’re churning out novels, stories, or articles left and right and making a living writing, chances are you didn’t start that way. You started where all writers start and faced rejection, and more rejection, probably until you were ready to give up.

For example, Dean Koontz sold the first short story he wrote then received 75 rejections before selling anything again.

Stephen King said that by the time he was fourteen, his rejection slips hung heavy from a nail on his wall. When the nail would no longer hold the rejections slips, he replaced it with a spike and went on writing.

It’s clear these two prolific writers never forgot where they came from and, despite the odds, they kept moving forward.

Where You Are going

It’s important to have a clear picture of where you are going.

If you want to be a writer, then you must write and keep writing. You must use a pen and paper, or open a word processor, and you must write, and keep writing.  To do this, it’s a good idea to:

1. Find a quiet place to write
2. Open notebook or laptop, or engage typewriter or desk top computer
3. Cut our all distractions
4. Put butt in chair and write for a specified amount of time each day

If writing isn’t your thing but law is, then you must go to law school and make sure your activities revolve around law. A lawyer never starts off as a lawyer, even if their dad or mom, or uncle, practiced law.

If you want to be a nurse or doctor, you must first complete educational requirements. You don’t just start off as a nurse or doctor, you take steps toward working in your chosen profession.

As you take each step toward where you want to be, keep in mind the path that is helping you travel toward your goals. Each place you have been holds purpose and intention.

Where You Want to Be

Finally, there is that moment in life when you reach the place you want to be. Perhaps you finished law school and decided to practice elder law, or you earned your RN and became an emergency room nurse.

If you had not stuck out all the prerequisites in college to get into law school, or endured all those late-night nursing, you would not be doing what you had set out to do.

Or, after years of enduring rejection slips, you finally sell that story or novel, that leads you to writing more novels and becoming a midlevel or bestselling author.

Had you let those rejection slips knock you down, you would not have met with success so many years later. You would not have reached your goal of honing your craft and finally selling your work.

If I remember correctly, my grandparents donated that old Underwood to the local historical society. As for me, I don’t remember what happened to that old typewriter, but the clickity-clack of the keys in motion is forever embedded in my memory.

 

 

blogging · Change · discipline · goals · writing

Believe in Your Worth

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When was the last time you really believed in yourself, when you were sure of your accomplishments and where you were headed in your life?  A time when you, without a single doubt, believed in your worth? 

If you’re like most people, including me, you have trudged through difficult times when you didn’t see value in your work.  Maybe you were working at a unfulfilling dead-end job or you just could not figure out what you wanted to do. 

The bottom line is that you need to know your own worth in order to succeed in your chosen profession, whether it be a traditional or entrepreneurial career.  How much, or how little, you value your skill set determines how you present yourself to others in the business world. 

Knowing your worth is especially important if you are self-employed because incoming business determines whether you make a profit. For example, if you are a freelance writer proposing low rates for projects just to get your writing out there, or you think nobody would pay you higher rates, then you are selling yourself short.  

You may get less writing opportunities if you quote higher rates, but it’s guaranteed that you will more quality ones.  In my book, quality always wins over quantity.

Knowing your worth requires seeing the value in your skills, putting yourself out there, and going after what is important to you. It means believing in yourself and not giving up even when you face slow times, or even rejection. 

Believe in yourself. don’t give up, and you will realize your own worth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging · Change · discipline · goals · Marketing · writing

The Snowball Effect

When you’re a kid and you do something you’re not supposed to and try to hide it from the adults, the snowball effect can take over pretty quickly and get you into trouble.  I’ve been there, you’ve been there.  We’ve all been there before.

When you’re an adult trying to start a business, the snowball effect is exactly what you need. You start with small steps and then let the process take over.  I know…I’m there right now.

How does this whole snowball effect happen?

First, you decide what kind of business you want and start taking actions to reach your goal, kind of like when you were a tot learning how to press snow together and shape it into something. After awhile of trying to shape the snow, you came up with your first snowball.

With every move you make toward your goal, the snowball gets bigger and bigger, until you have something tangible to keep building on.

What kind of actions are essential to creating your business?

Write up a business plan

There are plenty of business templates on the web that you can use. The important thing is to get your business model down on paper so your goals are clear.

If you will be creating more than one business to bring in income, it’s a good idea to write plans for each one.

Buy a Domain Name

Buying a domain name will be one of the best things you do for yourself.  You can purchase a domain name for as little as $10 a year.  When you choose your domain name, think about the type of business you plan on running.

For example, if you’re a writer, you will want to choose a domain name that reflects that. Or, if you are opening a baby store, choose a domain name that clearly tells the world that you will sell baby items.

Build a Website

Once you have purchased your domain name, there are numerous places on the internet where you can find web hosting for reasonable prices. While I prefer WordPress because it’s easy to use, you need to find one that works for you.

It’s also a good idea to link your website to your social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social media you participate in.

Educate Yourself

Research everything you can regarding the type of business you want to open. Look both locally and globally for educational materials relating to your field.

You Tube is excellent for finding instruction videos, as are online professional organizations. Check out companies and organizations in your area so that you can build relationships that will help you build your business.

Market Like Crazy

Once your business plan is set and you have your website up and running, and you have educated yourself enough on business essentials, it’s time to start marketing. The best way to do this is to make cold calls, send cold emails, and show up at local venues with your pitch and business card.

For example, if you want to write articles why not market yourself to local newspapers and magazines?  If you’re into retail, sign up with the Chamber of Commerce and attend meetings. Take all necessary actions to promote yourself.

Keep the Forward Momentum

Once your business starts to flourish, or the snowball starts growing eyes and a carrot nose, you will need to keep taking actions steps. It will do you no good to just sit back and expect things to keep moving forward by themselves. All business have peak seasons and slow times.  Always use the slower times to do more marketing.

Once you have established professional relationships that work for you, keep flourishing them. Send occasional notes, or even create a newsletter to keep clients informed and remembering you. Work on creating new relationships at every turn so that clients start coming to you.

Final Words

You’ve got this. Keep building that snowball and trust the process.

 

blogging · Change · discipline · goals · storytelling

Running and Starting a Writing Business (What They Have in Common)

I am as much an avid runner as I am a writer. If I could write while running I would do it. My goal is to turn the little bit of paid freelancing I do now into a lucrative career.

Well, today as I was on my run, I thought about what my next steps are in trying to grow my writing business.  I have read blogs by successful writers, and I have watched the videos on creating business plans. I have even read a terrific book or two on freelance writing.  I’m a big planner, so I have put a lot of effort into working toward that milestone of taking my writing from making just a little money on the side to making enough to survive on.

Somewhere in this 40-minute run, I thought about how launching a writing career is similar to the process of running.  Read on to see what I’m talking About.

Both Require Setting a Reasonable Pace

With running, you need to start out slow, especially if you have never engaged in this activity, or if you have run very little.  You might walk for ten minutes, run for five, and then increase your time until you have run a mile, or two, or even more.  If start out too fast, you could injure yourself, but going too slow could bog down your efforts and make you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

With launching a writing career, you also need to take your time. Don’t just quit your day job into trying to make mega bucks.  It takes time to build up any career.  You need to market and build up a portfolio. Test the writing waters on the weekends or evenings while you still have a job. Give yourself time to work toward your goal of becoming an accomplished writer. 

Both Offer Diverse Scenery

You can run anywhere–a trail in the park, on paved sidewalks, in the mountains, by the ocean, or even on the treadmill at the gym. You have a choice of what you would like to see when running.  There’s little chance of getting bored if you change your running venue often.

Scenery is also important when launching your writing business. You can experiment with different types of writing until you find one, or several, that appeal to you.  If you think you could never write about business, why not give it a try?  Or, if you love writing about animals, send some queries to cat or dog magazines.  Diversity is makes the world go around.

Both Require the Right Tools

If you’re a runner, you know how important it is to have the proper tools.  Good fitting shoes are a must, as is comfortable running attire.  If you have long hair, you need some good hairbands, and maybe a hat.  Some runners even go as far as using heart rate monitors to track their heartbeat and calories they have burned. 

Think about this in terms of running a business.  The right tools are a must, especially a computer setup, the internet, a word processing program and email. Another essential business tool is a website to let the world know you are available for assignments. Finally, you need to acquire the skill of cold queries to places you want to write for, and you need to consistently market yourself as a freelance writer. 

The Takeaway

Running can be extremely difficult at first, but it becomes easier as you build up stamina and learn the ropes.  It is also no easier starting up a freelance writing business, but I expect it becomes easier as you become experienced and start landing writing projects.   

In other words, keep working toward your goals and don’t give up. 

 

blogging · discipline · General Writing · Uncategorized · writing

Pro Bono with Benefits

A friend once said he refused to write for free. He was not making any money writing yet, but was working on novel and hoped to land an agent or a  publisher with a big advance and contract. I don’t know if this ever came to pass, but I do believe that his expectations were unrealistic.

I can understand wanting to get paid for your work and taking the steps to make that happen, but there we all need to start somewhere.   Consider this scenario.

You want to make money writing and have read up on how to find writing jobs, so you start looking through some of those fabulous job boards on the internet.  Some projects sound like they are right up you alley so you read what the clients wan: experience and clips of previously published work.

You don’t have any clips because you have not landed your first writing job yet. In fact, you don’t even have a blog because you refuse to write for free.

What do you do?

Read on, because I have some ideas.

Look in Your Own Backyard

Santa Rosa, California has one of the largest writers clubs in California (Redwood Writers Club, a branch of the California Writers Club) where the volunteer opportunities are endless.  If you want to copy edit, join the public relations team. If you want to write articles about writing, there’s the newsletter. Our club has editors, novelists, non-fiction writers, short story writers, and the club publishes anthologies where club members are chosen by blind submissions. Being in this club for fifteen years has helped my writing skills grow by leaps and bounds, plus I am surrounded by others in the writing business!

If you are not interested in joining a writers club, how about looking through local publications such a newspapers, magazines or newsletters and offering your writing services for free.  If you are interested in learning copywriting, why not call some local ad agencies and ask if you can shadow some of their copywriters and help with some projects.  Sometimes pro bono work can turn into paying gigs.

Start Spreading the News

What is the one thing that makes a great book sell like wildfire?

Word of mouth.  One person reads a book, loves it and tells someone else, who tells someone else, until all that talking puts the book on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Well, it’s similar when launching a new career. If you tell people what you are doing, then they might know of someone who can use your services.  It might be a free gig at first, but it’s important to remember that these freebies will definitely lead to experience and possibly paying jobs down the road.

Do Some Pitching

My number one rule is that if someone has given me a lead on a publication and I write in the required genre, then I never to let that lead go unexplored.  A friend asked me to write an article pro bono for a legal publication, which I did, and she also gave me a lead to a larger professional publication. I have queried this magazine with an article idea and I am waiting to hear back.  The glass is always half full here because even if a pitch is turned down I have gained experience in putting myself out there.

You can also do some cold pitching. This means finding publications that publish the type of material you write and formulate a query letter with your article idea.  A query letter is addressed to the editor, with the first paragraph containing information on who gave you the lead and why you want to write for the magazine.  Be clear and concise in your pitch and always close with a line about looking forward to working with the editor.

Create a Website with a Blog

Starting a blog is one of the best ways to showcase your writing skills. It’s always a good idea to write about a subject you are passionate about, whether it be animals, health, or moon dancing.  For example, I love animals and am an avid health nut, but the only places I write about these things are on my personal Facebook page. On the other hand, I have been involved in our local writing community for years and write in the law office all day, and I can write about writing until the cows come marching home. Why? Because I love to write.

So, figure out what you love to write about and create that blog, make a schedule to write at least once a week, and share make sure to share your writing on your social media.

Now that you have some ideas about how to build up you portfolio, it’s time to start putting yourself out there! You CAN do this!