Modesty, the 5% golden rule (and the 3 Cs)

celebration runThis is the third and last post in my consistency, confidence and celebration series.

I am a complete technological failure. I know I have said this previously and considering the fact I do have social media and run a blog and have a website you probably think I exaggerate.  Trust me I don’t. What I get right one day I basically stuff up the next. How is that possible? Good question. It’s simple. There is no good reason. I am good at some things and bad at others, and sometimes I manage the reverse.

When forced into situations I can push myself and achieve what is needed but then it goes straight out of my head and panic sets in while I try to figure out how I did it and if I can do it again. We can’t be good at all things even those things necessary to our profession, and I’m thinking age has also a lot to answer for as well. Age, and perhaps a residual bit of fear, tucked away in the mind that goes hand in hand with putting yourself out there. Sure you can be brave enough to do it but that doesn’t mean you stop being afraid.

Sarah Raplee in a post I read the other day says that sometimes she is surprised at how much we don’t put into practice.  We know things, we understand them intellectually and even emotionally and yet we don’t really take them on board. The theory here for writers being that modesty gets in the way. Working with media, particularly in a competitive field seems too much like saying look at me, support me, and the dreaded implied, buy my product because it’s good. I don’t just mean books. This way of feeling is pretty much universal.

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Like Sarah I am thinking our inability to accept we are, dare I say it, good enough is the culprit causing cringe worthy moments and impacting negatively on our lives. I do discuss my novel in my posts. I do hint at the fact purchasing my book would be most welcome but ask outright for help in any shape or form – no, it terrifies me. Yet I sit at the computer and work on my second novel. I sit on my computer and blog. It all seems perversely contradictory. No wonder I am confused. To do what I do (the authoring and in this I also include the blogging), heck, to even sit at the computer, has to mean I think I have talent, even a tiny minute amount. (EEEWWWWWWWWW!  What an incredibly huge cringing moment instead of a celebration).

Asking for help feels immodest, asking for others to believe in the things you care passionately about feels uncomfortable. The irony is that you are not thinking in terms of comparison to others. You are just doing the best you can do. Shouldn’t that be something to celebrate?

The use of the term celebrate (I mentioned this in my last post) brings up something else that I also find ironic. I have not really celebrated what I have done so far because I have been afraid to. More irony, because telling people is not the same as celebrating, is it? Perhaps if I had actually sold a lot of books I would do it differently. The general consensus has always been to celebrate big results. However it the small successes that keep us motivated to achieve further.

Sarah mentions the film, Hector and the Search for Happiness and how after being kidnapped and nearly murdered, Hector learns that the value in happiness comes from knowing how to celebrate it. I get what she means. We do need to celebrate the small steps. They keep us focused. In writing, circumstances often appear more intimidating because of the volume of books out there. It is easy to forget that accomplishment is the real aim, that the doing and completing is the real prize. Perhaps if we accepted this readily our confidence wouldn’t suffer as much?

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Have you heard of the Five Percent Rule? Unfortunately I am not sure of the source (Sarah mentioned it in her post but not where it originated) but it goes something like this. Out of the millions of people who talk about writing a book, only 5% will actually start one, and out of the 5% who start a novel only 5% will actually finish it, and only 5% of those authors who finish will write a second book.

 

I’ll bet any amount of money (if I had it) that a lot of the dreams we dare to dream end up with similar percentages. Running is not strength for me so when my daughter talked me into doing the Colour Run a few years ago I confess to nerves. I did it but I didn’t tell many people (probably because I came next to last). The real truth is that although it was fun, and for a good cause I didn’t see it in terms of me. I was wrong. We should celebrate each step wherever we take it because maybe, just maybe we may feel enough encouragement to go all the way in something else. We might let confidence surface a little when we need it.

My last two posts in between bits of poetry, and musical sharing have revolved around consistency and confidence and hinted at celebration. I think we should add it to the mix. The three Cs has a nice ring to it, and so does 3 balloons.

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Until next time,

Barb

 

The consistency Equation

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Not so long ago I attended a function. As often happens at this sort of event we had speakers. One in particular impressed me because the discussion was along the lines of something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I mean I have been having some deep and meaningfuls with the person in the mirror.  What do I want, I ask my reflection, and can I achieve it? What do I have to do to get where I want to go?

I would love to have the things I do to have meaning, and that others may enjoy or gain something from it. It’s why I teach English as a Second language to migrants. Knowing I have helped them in some way to communicate is humbling. Communication is empowering. That part of my life I seem to understand really well but other parts are up and down.  Can you guess what I am explaining on the whiteboard?

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However like most of us I have many balls in the air to balance and all without ever having juggling lessons. Is that the problem? Attempting too much? But, why shouldn’t we?  Is it so terrible to want a variety of areas in our lives to go right? Or is the problem something much simpler?

The speaker at the luncheon had the theory that the problem was the image we present and the person we are doesn’t always mesh. At first I thought this a little superficial for aren’t we so much more than we appear? Yet on deeper reflection I got it.  Your personal image and how you manage it, decides whether you are mediocre or a star, even a tiny one. First impressions do matter.

The image you present is like opening the front door to your home.  It says this is me and when the door opens it needs to be consistent and representative of that me.  If what they see is a mess then you are asking clients, friends or family to see you through that mess.  It isn’t fair to them. It’s your mess and one you can’t be bothered cleaning up. How will they ever believe you will do a good job (whatever the circumstance or situation) for them, if you don’t respect yourself enough to do it for you?

When I am teaching English as a communication medium I think about what I wear (I use the colours, the shapes for description), I think about preparation and presentation in terms of what the students will relate to and what works best for me because I am the presenter. I juggle (even without juggling lessons) these aspects and always reflect on what can be improved by asking, by allowing them to see I don’t know it all. Why is it easier in one situation than another? Why isn’t there an easier transference?

What is there that needs to be transferred? The answer is everything. Things work when we are consistent, consistent in our approach whether it be taking care with our appearance, the work we are preparing and the attitude we have in delivering. Consistency is the fly in the ointment, the worm in flour, the mould in the bread. Not consistency itself but the lack of.

We can’t measure our success by what we do in one place; it has to be reflected in all we do and the only way to achieve this is to recognise the importance of consistency as part of an equation for a more productive and happier life.  We don’t have to be perfect.  We just need to build creativity, capability, credibility into our lives as consistent habits. Together they spell professionalism and if we work to maintain this, the rewards come in the form of satisfaction in our job, life, friendships and they way we look.  It builds confidence (more about this in a later post).

A recent video I watched about Navy SEALS in training gave making the bed a whole new meaning. Getting things right, Admiral William H. McRaven (fascinating speaker and video clip) informed us, can start with the habit of making our bed every day, one small completed task done right, can be the springboard for many more. How can we get the big things right if we don’t do the little things? And the added bonus – knowing we have a comfortable refuge at the end of a hard day. It reminded me of my own days in the Defence Services. Our beds had to be perfect enough to be able to bounce a 20 cents coin (we had to have the old hospital corner thing going or we were in serious trouble).  It took me forever but I did it, and back then, believe me, we needed the comfort because to our young innocent minds and bodies the days were very long.

To be honest my mother taught me how to make the bed. The Army taught be how to make it quicker,  but the Navy SEALS taught me to appreciate the consistency of having a nice place to go back to. Maybe I already knew that last bit but for me and the SEALS to have something in common is not an event I can pass up mentioning.

On a more serious note, its the little things that form the base from which to change the world.  After all, it is about consistency, isn’t it?

Ci vediamo

Barbara

Missed Opportunities or not?

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Hard work is consuming all my energy. Fun seems to be stolen moments these days. There are so many different things to think about that at times I find myself double guessing every decision I make on this trip down writing career lane. It’s not the writing itself that concerns me but rather the constant accommodations I make for the writing and those that I don’t. It’s the same problem most people face when trying to fit in what they need to do in their working lives with their family and social demands.

For instance I just missed a wonderful opportunity to attend the RWA conference in Brisbane. This is the Romance Writers of Australia creating an ambiance of fun and learning and mutual support, a very rewarding experience. Of course I worried about the cost, the travel and accommodation and generally fitting it when I have children spread so many kilometres apart to visit, bills to pay, work, you know the usual. Suddenly this year became next year.

I have attended many workshops and gone to writers’ festivals but mixing socially and attending workshops for a couple days in one gigantic writing environment is on a different scale. So far in my writing, dare I call it career, I haven’t had the chance to attend a conference but just recently a post by Shayla Eaton caught my eye. She had attended a conference in Dallas and was thanking people for all the things she learned. . The feel of her post was very positive; of course it was because she’d had a boost of people in the same boat straight into her bloodstream. It, this injection of like-mindedness was running around, adrenaline directed, to become bee buzzingly motivating, and feeding writer strength and belief and confidence.

The strange thing was that as I read I realised her points applied as much to life as they did to writing. For instance, the fact that people “are looking for a novel that inspires them—not a perfect one” and that “perfect is the enemy of done” made a real impact. In striving for perfection in our lives enough is never enough. Having the home, the car, the toys, the travel, the kids activities, social media, attending the gym, meditating – goodness the list is vast, or should I say endless. These are just things to do, to have but do they sustain us? Don’t misunderstand; these are good things in their place. But, do they sustain us and keep us going? The older I get the more convinced I am that is inspiration that energises us and gives us balance. It pushes us to re-evaluate our decisions in terms of the real world constantly.

So if perfect prevents the doing then providing inspiration in our books is vital. Reminding people that living is more important than having is something to strive for and this slid right into the next point. “Don’t be afraid to show the world your book. They need to see it.” Remember this was a writer’s conference but writing is about life and all this means is we shouldn’t fear showing who we are and what we are capable of. If we have this courage then surely it will inspire others in their own fields. Too often we seem to be afraid to show people what we do because we fear their rejection, their criticism. We shouldn’t. The world needs to see the struggle and the end product. If it’s not to their liking it doesn’t matter. Accepting the challenge and getting to the finish line is what counts. The rest is individual taste and in this we differ.

And why shouldn’t we differ? It is natural to feel differently about things. It feeds the rhythm of our lives, keeps us moving to the beat. There is nothing like finding and being surrounded by like-minded people, exchanging ideas and sharing experiences to keep us up-lifted. I think my energy level would be higher if I had attended that conference.

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Years ago I missed a dear friend’s wedding  and I also missed the things she had planned us to share pre-wedding, silly things, girly things. Whilst I know she did understand I think I missed a chance to really connect in a way that was special. See I knew the rocky path it took her to get there first hand.  I missed a rare opportunity for me to be inspired by what can happen.  I missed a chance to sustain her buoyancy.

I have finally finished the editing bar some small housekeeping bits and pieces and am ready for my re-uploading.  In fact I am hoping that the next two weeks will have the finished product out there in print as well as the polished version of the eBook. But I might have had the support of fellow writers and their advice had I gone to the conference, something I am sorely missing at the moment. Sometimes our choices are a quandary best not reflected upon.

I’d rather leave on a positive note and share some very good reading for you romantics out there. These are a couple of books that have kept my spirits up while I keep working hard. They have inspired me to choose inspiration every time.

 

Moving forward and onward

cappuccino-577732__180Even though writing is a very solitary occupation, ironically it only functions, when it has an audience. Every author needs a tribe – a lovely way to describe the audience or more to the point, readers.  It is our readers who help us stay afloat, who give us the inspiration and support to keep on writing.  With the help of social media the author can gather and keep that tribe together by giving them a place to meet, a place personal to their relationship with the author.

Navigating this environment on a personal level is overwhelming, involving as it does, me trying to keep my balance, while I stand in a very rocky boat, rowing on an ever changing sea of elusive writing wisdom.  However as Jane Friedman   points out if readers know where to find you then it is very reassuring for them, gives them a feeling you care enough to give them that security. It inspires their loyalty.

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Still feeling as if my identity, as a writer, is in the embryo stage I have managed to embrace what Jane calls a baseline (website).  To keep this thriving I have struggled to tweet and not be a twit, pin on pintrest without being a pinhead, face book this dubious person (me), youtube without losing the video clip for at least two days (you had to save?), Google plussed (do you spell it with a double ‘s’, who knows?) in a circle when I have a square brain, and linked to Linkedin and Goodreads.

 

I have also tried to maintain writing posts at reasonable intervals, work on my series, work on the revisions of our anthology (more about this further down), and work in general (so I can eat and pay bills). God help us if my Unexpected Series is published because I will become a mediausermess.  Yes, that last word is real.  I should know because I made it up using three separate legitimate words – media, user and mess.   Put together they spell reality and are a harsh awakening to what a real author does if they are serious about writing. Mental exhaustion is a pre-requisite to success or so it would appear.

Fortunately exhilaration is the other side of the coin.  It had to be or the world wouldn’t have so many people desirous of writing. How can it not be when you get actual feedback from actual people on something you have actually created?  However, with this comes responsibility.  Cara Brookins, an author and speaker whom I follow with regularity says she judges a book by its cover.  Bear with me because I am still on the same topic despite how it may seem. She admits she doesn’t want to but like most of us can’t help herself and is drawn to the visual pulses of colour and images.  She adds “writing a book is a lot like the long waiting period for a child, and seeing the cover is a whole lot like seeing that baby for the very first time.”

I was quite taken with this analogy especially since babies are on my mind at the moment.  My youngest daughter just had the cutest baby boy but that discussion deserves its own separate stage.  Anyway, let’s suppose for a moment that the cover represents not just the cover but is a metaphor for the work created. Think about repercussions when it gets read.  What if the results on reading are not at all what you expected or hoped for, what if the experience is less than perfect?

The baby cries constantly because it needs a change of diapers, formula or something we can’t even begin to guess at?  Do you ignore its needs? Do you just suffer it and accept your lot and wait for time to ease the pain or do you find a way to improve the situation.  Do you add colour to the cover in some way? I mean it was your idea to have the baby. Okay so I have jumped to cover, babies and back to the book itself.  Are you lost?  I think I may well be too, or do I make sense?

Laurel Cohn in her tips for publishing says we need to treat our text with respect and that means professional assessment and professional editing both in copyediting and proofreading.  We as a group when working on the anthology totally agreed with this thinking but none of us were in the position to do it that way.  Instead we took a risk and did it all ourselves down to that very cover.  Waiting could have meant years of inaction.  We made the choice to self-edit, self proof-read and lastly self-publish.   Did we do the right thing?

A few days ago I spent six hours with Alyson  at a coffee shop revising Stories of the Dark and Light to make sure that we did.  We took feedback on board and made changes to respect this.  Fortunately self-publishing an ebook gives us the opportunity to polish and upload without too much trouble.  True it requires an inordinate amount of work but how else can we keep a tribe if not by showing we are prepared to take their thoughts and their opinions on board.   I confess I was becoming doubtful about the risks we took but never about our willingness to listen to feedback and act on it. Greatness blog 2

I think the risk was justified.  It brought us closer to our readers.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely!!! If we are willing to learn from what we attempt to do in life then it is a success. Learning leads to growth, to changes in ourselves that expand into what we do. So it’s time to move forward and onwards.

Next post I hope to hit you with some pieces from my upcoming romance.  I am nervous but also looking forward to it.  It’s time my Unexpected Series surfaced especially if it may bring more of the same in reader interaction.

A la prossima,

Barb

 

Up and Running

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Hard at work.

A week after the big event and I still can’t quite grasp it.  I can call myself an author.  That might sound strange considering I have been blogging for a year but somehow the publishing of a book is so different.  Blogging has continuity; you can change your mind and rescind whatever you wrote or you can add to it, explain it and all in the next post.  A book is final.  It is a completed work. Yes, it is possible to go back and correct small errors but basically once created there is no going back.  It is very exposing.

Stories of the Dark and Light, a project I have been working on for almost a year with my writing group Wordwick3d is now up on Amazon and Smash Words and it has my name on it, all our names on it, and it brings a feeling of pride mixed with a good dose of trepidation tempered by a delicious sense of satisfaction. We did what we set out to do.  We published.  We let go of our fears.  The thought that people might not like our stories is no small thing.  We accepted it and ploughed ahead. Thirdly and the best reason of all for feeling happy with ourselves is that we did it together as a team.  Together we are a mixture of personalities and yet we put everything aside (did I mention strong personalities with a tendency to theatrics) to work together.

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Hard at work.

How can we not be proud of reaching this point?  From here we can travel our own road with more confidence.  Banding together was not something I had ever intentionally considered but on my own my work sat and waited for the right moment that never seemed to arrive.  I have no doubt it would have come but working with a group that held the same desires and fears propelled a faster delivery date. Together we have prodded and produced.

Meeting up on a regular basis as a group, has encouraged activity. For me, someone that has struggled in the town I live in (I miss home) the project has pushed me back into the land of the living you could say. It piqued my memory and I found myself recalling my passion for the teachings of Dale Carnegie.  It brought to mind one of his sayings which I think has been sitting reclusively in the background of my memory waiting for something to spark it into existence.  One of Dale’s more famous quotes is the one where he says “Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.”  So I did. We all did.  And Dale is right. We got busy on this and it has improved our own individual work.

 

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Yay at last!

When I started blogging it was with the idea of building an audience towards this day, the day the title, author, becomes legitimate. Surprisingly I find myself quite calm about everything.  I am not jumping around yelling, buy me, buy me, in fact if anything I am very low key and am probably a marketer’s nightmare.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have told friends and relatives and have spread the word and do have a plan in place but all of that is taking a back seat to emotions that surprised me.  They are about so much more than finally publishing our collection.  They are centred on the fact that we are following a dream.

Whenever people go out on a limb to follow their dreams they demonstrate that age, and circumstances don’t rule our outcomes.  There are ways to make things happen.  We just have to be willing and open and then it seems we become a magnetic to others with the same idea. Everyone seems to be waiting for that one item to inspire in them the courage to get busy.  For me it has been the many authors over the years that have given my soul sanctuary every time I engaged with their words.  Sanctuary is just another word for survival; we just find it in different places.

There was moment last week when the computer went quiet and blank as if it needed to rest before rising to the grand occasion it had been invited to.  We waited, silent, barely breathing until light flashed and suddenly, magically there was this vision on the screen, our vision and we jumped and gave a joint gasp of absolute wonder and delight.  There it was, our creation ready to journey to you, and it is all about you out there, the readers of the world.  This is our way of giving, of making a difference even if it is a few moments entertainment.  I am not saying we succeeded.  I am saying that at least we tried.  We took a journey that had hazards and we navigated, and survived.

I read an interesting comment by Richard Branson that I think sums up what I am mean. He was asked the following by Mark Ernst:  “If you had another 65 years of life, what would you want to achieve?” This is a question to a man we all know has achieved a great deal already.  Your mind jumps to the infinite possibilities he might come up with. His answer instead was simple and humble. I quote:

Despite everything, my destination has always remained the same. My goal, no matter what I have done, has been to make a difference in people’s lives.”  

Now comes the hard part, the finding out how well we did it and that is entirely up to you out there, and whether you decide to be or not to be our readers.  We have something for everyone that likes their stories slightly dark and we are willing to have your input.

Ciao till next time

Barb