blogging · Change · curve balls · General Writing

Fire

firefighter-1851945_640

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.

 

 

Change · curve balls · discipline · General Writing · goals · Marketing · storytelling · writing

When Life Throws You A Curve Ball

FLYING BALL
When life throws you a big fat sock-her (or sock-him) ball….

Quick, DUCK!

But stay in the game.

Seriously, we have all experienced a fast-moving curve ball that we saw from a mile away, or that we did not expect at all.

It’s our attitude that will break our spirit or carry us through a difficult time.

When a curve ball comes our way, we have two basic options: we can let it slam us to the ground, or we can duck and use the opportunity to learn.

In the business world, a speeding curve ball can actually be a life-saver.  Read further to find out what I’m talking about.

Honestly Assess the Situation

Whether or not you saw the sock-her ball coming, it’s important to assess the situation and look at your part. For example, if you lost a client and are not sure why, think about your working relationship.

Were you and the client not a good fit, but you continued the relationship anyway because you needed the money?

Or, did you make some big mistakes, only to realize that the project was out of your league?

It does no good to point your finger at whomever threw that curve ball.  Assess the situation through your own eyes and learn from it so that you may better service your current and future clients.

Enjoy a Big Glass of Lemonade

When I was a kid and I complained about things not going the way, my sweet mother used to say, “Well, take those lemons and make some lemonade.”

After you have made that lemonade and downed about half of it, take a look at the glass. Is it half full or half empty?

If you see the glass as half empty, you are focusing on what you do not have.  On the other hand, perceiving the glass as half full means you are fully aware of what you do have.

Focus on what you have gained from the arrival of the curve ball, not on what you have lost.

For example, you may have lost a client that was not a good fit but you now have room to take on some new projects.  Or, perhaps you made some mistakes with that huge project, but now you know how to change your behavior to produce a better work project.

 Stay in the Game and Up the Ante

force-2483944_640.pngNow that you have figured out your part in the situation and you see a half-full glass of lemonade, what’s next?

Vow never to give up. Stay in the game and up the ante.

For example, before considering future clients, take time to assess whether you are a good fit.  The quality of a working relationship is far more important than money.

If your work product suffered, explore ways to improve performance for future projects. For example, if you were coming up on a deadline and cut corners instead of asking for an extension, learn how to manage you time better. If your work had too many errors, take steps to improve.

Final Words 

So, whether life has thrown you a sock-her or sock-him ball, the important thing is to remember, as my mother used to say…….

It’s not the end of the world. This too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

blogging · discipline · General Writing · goals · storytelling · Writing and Family

How to Write (or Get Your Writing Done)

My Dream

When I was a kid and decided I wanted to be a lyricist, I had to be inspired to write  a poem or song.  Inspiration usually came from pining over my latest crush, or listening to country music songs, or dreaming about being a famous songwriter when I grew up.  Most of my poems and lyrics were about love and heartbreak, except for the poem I wrote about my dog, Tippy. I wrote sad poems all through my teen years.

I took a break from writing in my twenties, but picked it up again when I was in my thirties and going through a divorce. I often would not write unless I was inspired by my own emotions. However, I was in my mid-thirties when I decided I need to find a way to practice writing discipline.

My lessons in discipline started when I signed up for creative writing classes taught by a published author. She told us that to be a writer you must write. We were required to submit 2,000 words each week, I believe, as well as participate in shared critiques of our work with classmates. This new writing routine was no easy task, especially for someone- me- who had spent some many years convinced that inspiration created the writing muse. I learned a lot while taking those writing classes.

Say Bu-bye to Inspiration

Inspiration is all in your head. It really is. Saying all those years that I could not write without inspiration was just another way of saying I was undisciplined, or maybe even  lazy when it came to my craft. While inspiration can motivate action, it was holding me back because I was allowing myself to write only when I felt like it. The bottom line is if you let that muse lead you, you will not get very much of anything done.

There is an old saying that inspiration has paved many roads to hell.  In the writing word, inspiration has paved many roads to  dead-end streets with garbage cans full of words that have been thrown away.

Say Hullo to Discipline

Treat discipline as a verb. This means taking action to  write in a way to ensure that your goals are being met. For example, if you plan is to submit stories to magazines, you need to sit down and write stories. If you want to find work as a non-fiction writer, you need to find magazines or paid sources to pitch to, and then write those articles.

A schedule is essential for a writer. whether it be a half hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, or every ten minutes on the hour throughout the day.  Go to your special writing space, shut out all distractions, fire your word processor up and start writing.  Just do it.

Create Goals

Once you have a schedule down, what are you going to do with all those words you are writing? I suggest creating goals, such as finding homes for the pieces you write. If you pen short stories, why not find magazines that accept your style of writing?  Duotrope is a great database to search short story markets.  Writer’s Digest offers this list, and  The Write Life blog lists 23 quality places to submit stories.

If you want make some or all your money from writing, then search out the writer’s job boards for projects that might be a fit for you. ProBlogger, Bloggingpro, and Freelance Writing are three job boards I like really well. Pick projects suitable for you, pitch your skills, and take a chance.

You can also find online blogs, publications, or websites that you would like to write for and do cold marketing. If you want to learn more about how to do this, I recommend The Well-Fed Writer (I saw Peter Bowerman speak a few years back, and he knows his stuff) and this blog by Elna Cain. There are many other blogs out there by people who make income from writing.

Stick to It

Once you have said goodbye to inspiration, hello to discipline, and created your goals, you need to stick to the plan. This does not mean you have to write every day, or be prepared to write at any given moment. It just means you need to treat writing as if it’s work.

If you have a nine-to-five job, then writing time might be a few hours a week, or three or four hours on the weekend. If you work part-time, then your writing time might be four or five hours every day. If you want to make income from writing, you need to make time to market yourself and get the word out about what you do.

So, no matter what you writing schedule is, or what you want to do with your writing, the important thing is to stick to the plan and get your writing done!

 

Change · General Writing

In the Middle of the Night

It is my fault that  I am awake at 3:18 on a Tuesday morning and here in my home office writing this article. I should have known better than to drink a mocha at 8:30 in the evening, and to allow my mind to get bogged down with “stuff.” I will undoubtedly go back to bed soon and try to sleep another few hours before getting up at six to get ready for work.  I am feeling plenty exhausted about now.

So, what’s keeping me awake?

Changes. Huge changes are happening in my life.

I opened the door to opportunity, my feet hit the pavement, and now the forward movement is happening with grace and the right speed.  This action is enough to keep me motivated but not to knock me off my feet.

It took me some time to get to a space where I was not fearing change.  For some time, I was allowing my confidence to waver because I was so busy focusing on what the end result should be instead of experiencing the moment.  In fact, a quote from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe best describes how I was feeling for a while:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

My lesson is this; opportunity is not about the end result but about my footwork in working toward my goals. I don’t get to say what happens in the end, or how it happens, but I have complete control over the steps I take to get what I want out of life.

So, change, continue coming into my life because I’m ready for you. One hundred percent ready.