Mon. Oct. 15, 2018: When Tolerance Is Used as a Weapon #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 15, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

I could go on at length about this topic. There are plenty of facets to it.

The bottom line is simple: You are not required to tolerate someone who wants to harm you.

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On a side note, for those of you who are enraged by the current situation and want to channel that rage into developing art (in any discipline), I’ve started an invitation-only group for progressive artists identifying as female called Women Write Change. I created the sanctuary I need right now. The guidelines are here. If you want to participate, the email to send a request is at the bottom of the guidelines.

Take care of yourself.

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Published in: on October 15, 2018 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mon. Oct. 8, 2018: Persistence & Definitions of Success — #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 8, 2018
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

There are a slew of misconceptions about working in the arts as a profession rather than a hobby. Among them that it’s easy, that we’re automatically rich, that we don’t “deserve” to be paid, that we’re all promiscuous drug addicts, and that it’s not “real work.”

All of them are false.

One of the most frequent questions I get from people who are doing their art on the side is the question of what did I do, working my up from off-off-off Broadway to Broadway, when the day job/temp job interfered with the show?

Very easy solution: I quit the day job.

Any “day job” I took served a temporary purpose to pay the bills until I landed my next paid theatre gig. I was upfront when I was hired – theatre comes first. Always. You get my full attention while I’m here, but when I land my next show, I’m gone.

Because unless my art was my priority, I would NEVER have been in a position to earn a living at it. And before those who don’t have the guts to make the leap start screaming that they have responsibilities and “can’t” – I have ALWAYS been the primary breadwinner in my family, since I came of age. I have a whole host of responsibilities. So don’t tell me that yours are better/harder/more important than mine.

But am I/was I successful?

When I was a teenager, I had dreams of fame and fortune. Once I started earning my living in theatre and saw what fame did to people, how it interfered with their lives and their art (and no, being a performer doesn’t mean you’re “asking for it”. Reality show celebutards are a different story – they seek the attention). But serious performers? Recognition is necessary, to keep landing quality work. But few of them “enjoy” fame. Too many are destroyed by it.

So I made a conscious decision, quite far back, that I did not want fame.

Which meant adjusting several other things.

Which meant redefining what I considered success.

If I was not willing to make the fame compromise, it meant forgoing certain elements by which OTHER PEOPLE define “success.”

Sometimes, that affected how much I was offered for a gig, or other circumstances. Or even IF I was offered a gig. I learned to live with that. It meant I didn’t land certain gigs I wanted; however, looking back, it worked out.

I decided to define success for myself as earning my living doing work I love.

That simple.

Knowing that definition means I can set boundaries when others try to get away with not paying me for my skills because “we don’t pay for that” or “it’s not real work.” Then, hon, I’m not working for you. It’s NOT a loss for me. A loss, especially in terms of self-respect, is accepting or seeking work and approval from those who don’t value my skills and my talent.

Those individuals are not worth my time.

The carrots they dangle to manipulate me into doing what’s good for them (but not for me) with the promise of better down the road? That “better” will never materialize.

MY success means walking away from them, and connecting with people who respect my talent and skills, or creating situations that draw those to me.

It means trusting my gut and a clear vision of what I want and who I am – and knowing that will evolve over time. It doesn’t mean being inflexible. But it means knowing when a situation isn’t going to offer me anything except grief. And being willing to walk away.

Not just walk away, but move on to a better situation.

That kind of persistence builds a positive career.

It’s not easy. People don’t like it when they can’t manipulate you, or if you don’t acquiesce to their agendas.

Too bad for them.

I persist in making decisions that build on what I’ve done, stretch me in interesting ways, and pay me a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Earning my living doing work I love – persistence allows me to do that.

 

Published in: on October 8, 2018 at 4:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fri. Oct. 3, 2018: Digging In

Friday, October 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Yesterday was busy, but I didn’t get as much done as I needed to (that seems to be a theme lately).

The writing was unproductive, I had some errands.

On the up side, I got some good work done on the proposal, and got some LOIs out. I made myself take the time for my yoga class, and definitely needed it, then finally made it to the gas station to get gas in the car.

I’m still waiting on an estimate from my mechanic, so I can get some necessary repairs on the car.

Today will be an infuriating day for anyone who actually values Justice and the Constitution.

I’m doing a lot of writing in my head. That’s great for when I finally sit down and write, but now I have to sit down and DO IT.

This weekend, I need to dig in and get a lot of writing done. After tomorrow’s vote, I will probably stay offline through the holiday.

I doubt I’ll have a chance to blog on Tuesday, so I’ll be back up on Wednesday. I do have an #upbeatauthors post scheduled for Monday.

Have a great autumnal weekend!

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mon. Oct. 1, 2018: Persistence — How Badly Do You Want It? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 1, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

There are five Mondays in October, which means I have to sort my thoughts on persistence into FIVE posts. Yes, that will take persistence!

When I teach, one of the first questions I ask is, “How badly do you want this?”

The students who will gain the most out of my classes are not those who prefer “having written” to writing. I am strict, and demand a high level of productivity and commitment.

Because that is what you need if you plan to have a career in the arts.

High productivity.

Ever-increasing skills.

Commitment.

Persistence.

I spent most of my professional life earning my living in the theatre. I worked my way up to Broadway, production managed some indie films, and day-played on network television shows.

I made the decision that was what I wanted to do quite young, and started working professionally when I was 18, and still in college.

Did I ever do other things? Of course. I temped all over the country. I worked at nearly 200 different companies. I worked at many non-profits. Some of them were great experiences, like the Guggenheim Museum and the Neuberger Museum. I did a three-year stint for an art book publisher during the day while working off-off Broadway at night. I did five years working for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation part-time, as I worked shows at night, moving from off-off Broadway to off-Broadway. Eventually, I worked enough off-Broadway to just work theatre, and write, and pick up some extra cash between gigs playing the horses at Aqueduct and Belmont and as a tarot reader.

Then, I worked at the Public Theatre for some people well-established in the field, who recommended me up the ladder to Broadway because they liked my work.

I made the leap.

At the same time I transitioned to Broadway, shows I wrote were produced in London, Edinburgh, and Australia, so I took time off from the transition in order to be with those shows in those locations.

When I worked on Broadway, I wrote. I had shows produced in small theatres. I collaborated with fellow artists.

I started getting back into writing not just plays, but short stories and novels again. I took workshops. I learned how to pitch. I learned more about effective pitching from working with film acquisitions people at conferences than anywhere else, and it is what I learned from those film people that honed my skills so that my novel pitches started to hit.

I made a tough decision that much as I loved writing scripts, I did not want to relocate to LA and start at the bottom of the ladder again. I didn’t want to do what was necessary to achieve a spot in a writer’s room. I respect writer’s rooms enormously, and the collaboration that goes on there. It is not an environment where I would thrive. Do I still write and pitch scripts? Yes. But I’m not going to earn a spot in a writer’s room of a television drama in LA. My career trajectory isn’t going to go there. I’m at peace with it. Most of the time. 😉

When it was time for me to leave Broadway, because the physical demands of the backstage work were too much, and mentally, I needed to stop splitting my focus between working on other people’s shows and my own, I left New York — and moved far enough away so that I wouldn’t be tempted back.

I dug in, and through a mix and match, and a lot of pain and frustration, made it work. I shifted and expanded what I write and how I handle my business in order to make a living. Unfortunately, I live in an area that talks big about celebrating artists, but doesn’t actually support working artists. Are you a visiting artist who likes the beauty and history of the area? They’ll fall all over you. Have a summer house? They grovel. But move here, live here year round and try to work? The attitude is that you must have failed elsewhere, so the expectation is for you to work three part-time jobs at minimum wage without benefits and do your art for “fun” because “we don’t pay for that.”

So I don’t work for them. I have some local clients I enjoy and value, who value me in return. I expanded my client base beyond the bridge, and reconnected with international contacts. I network here, sure, but have redrawn my boundaries, and when the demand is made to work for free, I say no. Because this is my business, not my hobby. I’m not living off a trust fund. I’m not writing for pin money. I am not supported by a corporate husband paying the bills.

This is my profession.

I talked in earlier posts about how if you don’t respect your own work, no one else will, either.

Saying “no” has done more to expand my business than saying “yes” to the wrong situations ever did.

Is my life perfect and without struggle? Of course not. I am still building the life I’ve always wanted. I will always be building the life I want, because life changes, breath to breath. You can either insulate yourself and pretend it doesn’t, or rage that the world refuses to change to suit you. or think on your feet and make the decisions that support your choices.

I knew, when I was six years old, that I wanted to be a writer. Once I fell in love with theatre, I wanted to do that, too. I had a dual career as long as it worked. While I have a multi-pronged writing career, it is also what I want. I like doing different things, having different facets and challenges.

Years ago, I thought I wanted an ivory tower existence. I imagined something quite different from what it is.

But what “is” is better, in many ways, than the roads not taken.

And the road I hope to build in the coming years will continue to improve. Not without obstacles, pain, and tangents — but if I persist, I can build something good.

I got here because when I asked myself, “How badly do you want this?” — my answer was, “Badly enough to do what it takes.”

 

Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 3:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others

Monday, September 17, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

In this month about the Tolerance Topic on Upbeat Authors, let’s take a minute to think about what makes other people happy.

Social media has intensified the contempt people feel the need to show for those who enjoy things that they don’t. If we are going to practice tolerance, and walk our talk, then we need to stop making fun of people for liking what they like (provided their “like” is not actively causing harm).

If someone posts something about being so happy that it’s pumpkin spice season, take pleasure in their enjoyment!

Okay, I admit, I’m not a fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff. But I like that it stands for the change of season, into my favorite season. And people get so excited when pumpkin spice season comes around. Their posts make me smile. I enjoy their enjoyment, and it brightens my day. I don’t have to be enamored of the actual flavor in order to enjoy their happiness.

If you really can’t stand what they enjoy – scroll past WITHOUT MAKING A DETRIMENTAL COMMENT. Save those comments for something that actually matters, where there’s harm being caused, such as on the political spectrum, or if someone is abusing someone else.

If someone takes joy out of strangling puppies or drowning kittens, or trophy hunting endangered species, yes, absolutely call them out and report them to the appropriate authorities. If someone threatens physical harm or performs verbal abuse as their preferred pleasure, yes, do something.

But simple pleasures, the small daily joys in people’s lives that don’t cause harm? Either enjoy the enjoyment or keep going!

I’m paraphrasing an old saying that works along the line of a trouble that’s shared is a trouble halved, but a joy that’s shared is a joy that’s doubled.

Double your joy by sharing what makes you happy, and participate in doubling the joy of those who share what matters to them.

Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mon. Sept. 10, 2018: Tolerance & Reciprocity

Monday, September 10, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

September’s theme for Upbeat Authors is “tolerance.”

There are different types of tolerance, and different meanings of tolerance.

To me, “tolerance” means giving those around me enough room to be individuals, providing they aren’t hurting me or anyone else. It also means they give me the same room.

Tolerance, like respect, is a two-way street.

Often, though, I find those who scream the loudest about intolerance are the ones who want to be allowed to do and say anything and everything they want without consequence, but that no one else is allowed to do or say anything they don’t like.

These are the same who whine and rage about respect and civility – as in demanding it without giving it in return.

But all three concepts need to be reciprocal in order to have a functioning society. When they are non-reciprocal, when “power over” becomes more important, or one faction making decisions that cause harm to those they deem “different”, we run into trouble.

All of these are part of a social contract that we, as human beings, need to negotiate. Since none of us, at this point in time, is the only human on the planet, we must live in reciprocity. We want respect? We want civility? We want tolerance? Then we must also give it.

If we give it and the other party believes that makes us weak or a doormat, then yes, absolutely, we have the right to set boundaries and refuse to be mistreated.

We also are not required to tolerate that which harms us or others. Going along to get along ends up in genocide. Those who stand aside and allow it are as culpable as those who commit the acts of atrocity.

So give those around you room to be individuals, to make their unique contributions to the world. And make sure you get the same in return.

Published in: on September 9, 2018 at 11:06 pm  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 10, 2018: Tolerance & Reciprocity  
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Thurs. Aug. 30, 2018: Dissecting Creativity & Poor Business Choices

Thursday, August 30, 2018
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Hot, humid, cloudy

Long day yesterday, although I got good work done on RELICS. The heat and humidity are supposed to break a bit later today, thank goodness. I am not productive in this weather, and I need to be productive. This morning, the RELICS worked rocked! We are at the first of the double climactic sequence and barreling to the end of this draft!

Lots of work with the client yesterday, and next week will be long days of extra hours. But it’s all good. The work is interesting, and that helps.

Finished re-reading TENDER IS THE NIGHT (F. Scott Fitzgerald). Although there is a lot of beautiful language, it’s also a cruel book. It also keeps the reader at a distance, which I hadn’t noticed the first time I read it. I never felt that the POVs were close enough. It wasn’t quite third omniscient, but not really close third, either. That got frustrating after awhile.

It’s also interesting to speculate on how he used material and transformed it into fiction. I always wonder how much of that transformation is using a real-life inspiration as a jumping off point, and how much is exploring one’s feelings toward that inspiration? In my case, when I do my job properly, the inspiration evolves into a fully-formed individual/character very separate from the original inspiration. I know where they diverge. But I always wonder if and where it happens for other authors.

Nicole Diver reminded me, in some ways, of Sara Murphy. So many of her characteristics are similar to Sara’s. But her mental health issues reminded me of Zelda Fitzgerald. In the same way, Dick Diver seemed a combination of Gerald Murphy and Fitzgerald himself. Although the McKiscos also reminded me of the Fitzgeralds. The racism in the book also struck me. I think it was deliberate on Fitzgerald’s part, him pointing it out and depicting it, I mean. I don’t think it was thoughtless. I think he wanted a spotlight on how black individuals were treated in that time and place. There were many people in the novel where one could speculate the inspirations — especially because I’m re-reading the book about Sara and Gerald Murphy, EVERYONE WAS SO VERY YOUNG, at the same time. The first time I read it, I didn’t know any of the context. It was less distracting in some ways, but I was also less discerning.

It’s been an interesting experience.

I was absolutely shocked when I opened my email yesterday and there was an email from a startup wellness company attacking me for not buying their product. I’m not even sure how I got on their list in the first place. They asked if I wanted an invitation to subscribe to their monthly yoga box. I accepted the invitation for an invitation. That’s not a commitment. That’s saying I’m interested in hearing about it. When I received the invitation, it was for a limited time, and I was dealing with two deaths that happened in close proximity. I glanced at the invitation, I had questions about pricing — things were unclear and it looked like the pricing would fluctuate every month, which meant it wasn’t an option for me. And, frankly, their stuff was fine but it didn’t excite me. I put it aside. I CHOSE not to purchase it at this time. That is my right as a potential customer. To CHOOSE whether or not I buy a product.

Yesterday I got an email, berating me for not purchasing the product. Basically calling me too stupid to understand their offer.

I sent a strongly-worded email saying that I was dealing with two deaths at the time and not everything was about THEM, and sending an email attacking potential customers is not the way to grow one’s business. I then unsubscribed from the email list, too.

Of course, there was no apology. I felt like I’d been blindsided with a gut punch, and I wanted one. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it didn’t matter. Yeah, my ego wanted the apology. But there is no way I’d become a customer. There is NOTHING they could do or say — not an apology, not an offer of free or discounted anything — that would make me trust them enough to give them money. I’m done.

And this is supposed to be a company promoting the yoga lifestyle. Hypocrites.

I’m still hurt and angry, but I’ll get over it, I’ll move on, and I want nothing to do with them. I realize it’s hard to be a start-up, but walk your talk. And you’re NOT going to succeed if you abuse potential customers.

Roughed out the next month’s worth of Ink-Dipped Advice pieces. Uploading next week’s today; will write the next over the weekend and upload them next week. Also want to get ahead on the September postings for Upbeat Authors.

Working on calendar articles.

Have to get the balance back between working on RELICS and DHARMA. This draft of RELICS will head off to the editor as soon as I can finish it (hopefully this weekend).

Working on the piece about Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow mysteries, which should go up on A Biblio Paradise next week.

I have errands this morning, and writing, and web stuff (have to get the new website offline properly so we can work on it). Because it takes place behind-the-scenes on a television series, my editor and I are also discussing how the #MeToo movement will affect the plot. When I started writing it, we dealt with the issues differently than we are trying to deal with them now. So, as we work through this next draft preparing for galleys, we have to figure out how to acknowledge how things have changed and figure out where and if they affect the plot.

I’m hoping the weekend will be a combination writing retreat/meditation/purge-the-basement/yardwork event.

I’m not going anywhere. The Labor Day Tourist Insanity was already in full swing yesterday. I’ll do some grocery shopping tomorrow, and some errands, and then I’m in for the weekend.

Back to the page.

Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 20, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury DIRECT (as of yesterday)

Thank goodness Mercury is finally direct! With all these other retrogrades, especially Mars and Uranus (and Saturn, life lessons), it’s been tough.

Last week, on Upbeat Authors, we talked about the need to respect our work (and ourselves) if we want anyone else to respect it.

This week, we talk about respecting others.

Not the faux “civility” that’s being batted about so often lately. Have you noticed that the ones screaming the loudest about the need for civility are those least likely to practice it toward others?

We live amongst other people (unless we are recluses). There are certain social constructs that allow that to happen, and some of those constructs have to be turned into laws, because too many human beings refuse to treat others well.

We now respect ourselves and our work (or, at least, we’re working on it).

The next step is to respect others. How far to take that has to be an earned quality, but when we meet people, it’s important to meet them on a level ground of basic human respect and dignity.

We are all flawed human beings, and most of us are doing the best we can to get through the day. We will all have bad days. We will all go through patches when it’s more than a day.

We have to monitor our own behavior so that we don’t inflict our bad days on others. We have to LISTEN (a lost art) to those around us – if something is important or hurtful to those around us, it IS our responsibility to remember and speak or act within consideration.

That’s different from “political correctness” – again a term that is too often used to oppress under the guise of being progressive.

What I am talking about is being a decent human being.

If someone tweets or posts or talks about something that makes that individual happy, don’t deride or condescend or criticize (unless it is something that causes harm – if beating someone makes the person happy – yeah, that’s something to criticize).

You might not like what that person likes. You might shudder at what makes that person happy. That does not give you the right to make fun of them or demean them or try to make them feel bad for enjoying it.

That’s not “being honest.” It’s being an asshole.

And when called out, a sincere apology is needed. Not an “if I said something hurtful, I’m sorry.” Just plain, “I’m sorry.”

We all are thoughtless or flippant when it’s not appropriate or say or do something inappropriate at times. But owning it and, when and where appropriate, apologizing, is also important.

That doesn’t mean you need to apologize for holding your boundaries when someone tries to demean you and then make you feel guilty for standing up for yourself. Those are two different issues.

You need common sense and sensitivity.

But then, as writers, that’s what we do. We are able to dissect complex issues and emotions and communicate them in our work to show a broader view of the world, both good and bad.

In our writing, we can explore characters who are nasty, who are mean, who deliberately cause harm. We can take our bad experiences, raise the fictional stakes, and make things right in our work. Without preaching, without screaming, we can create a picture of the world we want, a world in which people learn how to respect each other and work together, even when they come at it from different viewpoints, or don’t always agree.

As writers, we have the ability to take that respect for ourselves and our work, meld it with respect for others, and write a better world.

 

Published in: on August 20, 2018 at 5:02 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors  
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Monday, Aug. 13, 2018: Respect, as in Self-Respect #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 13, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Let’s talk about respect when it comes to ourselves and our work.

If you don’t respect your writing, no one else has any reason to, either.

Don’t demean your work. Don’t make excuses around it. If you talk about your writing, and call yourself a writer, CALL YOURSELF A WRITER.

If someone tries to demean you, give them “The Look” and move on.

You do not owe it to anyone to discuss how much you earn, how much your advance is, how much your royalties are, or any other terms of your contract. When someone who has no business asking these questions tries to pry the information out of you, simply smile and say, “I’m happy with the terms of my contract.” And don’t engage.

If they persist, go ahead and say, “That’s none of your business.”

If someone tries to get you to work for them for free, whether it’s the insulting “You should write . . .” or the even more insulting, “Oh, but it’ll be so EASY to write this and we’ll make a lot of money out of it” – no.

For “You should write” smile and say, “I’m already contracted out on at least three years’ worth of ideas. But thanks for thinking of me.”

For the trying to get you to team up – which ALWAYS means you do the work while they bask in the money they think they’re going to rake in, again, smile and say, “My agent (or lawyer) handles that. Here’s the number. By the way, negotiations for ghost writing or co-writing start at 30K. And there has to be a publisher in place.”

Don’t engage with people who try to sabotage you. There’s nothing wrong with being cordial and walking away. If they continue to behave badly, there’s nothing wrong with being RUDE and walking away.

But the walking away is important.

Also, don’t denigrate your own work. You don’t “just” write marketing material or romance or genre. There’s not “just” in it. You DO.

Marketing writing is every bit as legitimate as novel writing as play writing as short story as anything else.

Don’t make self-deprecating comments about your work. There’s a difference between keeping your ego in check by being low-key and actively encouraging people not to respect your work. The choice of words you use to describe your work, even jokingly, will set the tone for the way strangers will regard you and your work. There’s a difference between an arrogant hard-sell (which is a turn-off), and a pleasant one-sentence summary (your log-line, your hook that you used in your pitch) that gives potential readers and conversationalists a taste of it.

Women have a tendency to self-deprecate more than men do. In the 1980s, we were supposed to wear the oversized shoulder pads that made us look like line-backers so we could tackle “a man’s world” (in stilettos, no less). Then, in the 90s, we were expected to self-deprecate, especially when we had major achievements.

Don’t.

Use positive language that shows self-respect without arrogance. There’s a difference between arrogance and assertion, and yes, it is about more than gender. Plenty of people will call you “arrogant” or “aggressive” if you are an assertive woman, especially an assertive author who’s a woman. That’s their problem, not yours.

Changing your negative self-talk takes time, but it is well worth it. When you start watching what you say out loud, it will also adjust in the voice that’s your saboteur, that often comes out as the “internal editor” (the negative kind) that gets in the way when we create.

That’s like when someone feigns interest in what you write, asks you about it, you tell them, and they say, “Oh! I never would read THAT!”

They aren’t “being honest.” They’re intentionally trying to make you feel like “less than” and that what you do is “less than.” If they were actually being productive members of society, they would smile and say, “How interesting! How wonderful that you wrote/published that!”

There are plenty of books that I won’t read – but I won’t spit in an author’s face by saying so when they’ve taken the time to tell me about the book, ESPECIALLY when I’ve asked about it.

There’s no reason you can’t be supportive and gracious, even when you don’t plan to read the book.

Smile and move to a different conversational group. I no longer grope for another topic. I’ve learned that this individual does not have the most basic social etiquette, and I’m not going to waste time. I smile and move on.

In this divisive time, I get plenty of “I bet you write feminist libtard crap.” To which I smile and say, “No, you wouldn’t like it. My work deals with concepts of humanity, justice, equality, which don’t interest you. Plus, I use words of more than one syllable.”

And I walk away.

Never forget how much non-artists HATE the fact that artists create. They will pretend they “don’t mean anything” by their remarks. But they do. The purpose is to undermine your self-esteem, your self-confidence, to make you feel bad, to “cut you down a peg” or to “put you in your place.”

My place is wherever I CHOOSE it to be.

Smile, be gracious, disengage.

Hold on to the core of your self-respect.

Don’t let anyone treat you with less than respect.

When you respect yourself and disengage from those who treat you without it, you’ll be surprised how their behavior changes, how positively your self-respect affects your life (and your work), and it begins an upward spiral.

Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 4:14 am  Comments (4)  
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Mon. July 30, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors One Tip To Improve Your Writing

Monday, July 30, 2018
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

 

In my opinion, there is only one real thing that will improve your writing. You improve your writing when you write, and when you apply what you learn from each project moving forward.

Write. Every day, except for days you choose, ahead of time, not to be writing days.

Work on melding your art with your craft. Craft matters. The more you write, the more you learn rhythm and pace and character and plot. Listen to feedback. Learn from critiques.

APPLY what you learn moving forward.

The most frustrating thing when I teach is when grammar, usage, and structural problems are explained to writers and they refuse to apply the notes moving forward. They expect me to keep correcting the same things. It’s not a style choice — it’s that they never bothered to learn basic grammar and structure in school, and can’t be bothered to learn and apply it now.

It’s a waste of everybody’s time.

Every project has something to teach you. Not only in terms of subject and the research you have to do on subjects you don’t know to bring them to life. But on the writing process itself. Every book or short story or play has its own innate rhythm. It has its own voice, that layers over the author’s unique voice.

The more you write, the more you learn to listen to these rhythms. You learn where to bend them to fit structure, and you learn where to CHOOSE not to do so. There is nothing wrong with breaking “rules” of style, genre, structure. But each break needs to be a defendable choice, not just “I don’t like rules and structure” or, even worse, that you don’t know them.

You want to improve your writing? Write. No excuses. Just sit down and write.

 

Published in: on July 30, 2018 at 4:43 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 30, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors One Tip To Improve Your Writing  
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Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors

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Image courtesy of Cleverpics via pixabay.com

Monday, July 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

As usual, this will focus on how failure affects us as authors, in our work and life. Some aspects can be applied to other parts of life, but the focus is on our art.

The first way to deal with it is to define it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “failure” as:

Definition of failure

1a omission of occurrence or performance; specifically failing to perform a duty or expected action 

  • failure to pay the rent on time
(1) a state of inability to perform a normal function 

  • kidney failure

 — compare heart failure 

(2) an abrupt cessation of normal functioning 

  • a power failure
c a fracturing or giving way under stress 

  • structural failure
2a lack of success
b a failing in business bankruptcy 

  • He was trying to rescue the company from failure.
3a a falling short deficiency 

  • a crop failure
4one that has failed 

  • He felt like a failure when he wasn’t accepted into law school.

 

But do you?

I sometimes feel I fail if I let someone else down. If it’s because I was thoughtless or disorganized, then it’s on me and I damn well better find a way to make it right. But sometimes it’s because the other person put an unfair expectation on me and I wasn’t strong enough to say no right off.

Sometimes I feel that I failed if I don’t get an acceptance from a market or a publisher or a grant to which I applied. Yes, I failed to get that particular slot. Most of the time, though, another opportunity comes up that I wouldn’t have been able to accept if I had landed the previous one. Also, because I’ve worked on the publisher side of the table, I know that acceptance is more than just a well-written book: it’s about fitting the tone of a particular publisher, and fitting into the needs of a particular list. Most traditional publishers and some of the smaller publishers have to balance their list so it appeals to a spectrum of readers. If they have too many of one kind of book and none of another in any particular season, they will lose readers that season, and might never regain them. It’s about where your piece fits into the bigger picture, not just your piece.

Many organizations that give out grants expect you to apply (and fail to get an acceptance) over a period of years before they take the application seriously. This always angered me, even when I worked for such non-profits. But many organizations want to see that an artist can sustain work over a period of years before giving that individual money. They don’t want someone who will use a day job or another excuse not to work, or to accept the grant and not meet the requirements of the work that needs to be produced.

None of that knowledge takes the sting out of those refusals, or alleviates the sense of failure.

How do you deal with it?

Acknowledge that you feel angry, sad, whatever. Don’t get on social media and rant and rave against the publisher, agent, or organization. It’s fine to admit disappointment, but don’t attack. Save the venting to do in person, privately, with people you trust. Because there IS a need to vent; there’s just no need to do so publicly. Your feelings are your feelings; they are valid. How you choose to handle them has consequences.

If there’s any feedback, step away for a few days, and then re-visit it with a more objective sensibility. What can you learn from this? How can you apply it positively moving forward?

There are certain publishers and/or organizations that are not a right fit. Just “getting published” isn’t enough. It has to be a place where you have a positive working relationship and both the writer’s and the publisher’s needs and goals are met. Sometimes what starts out as a promising relationship deteriorates. It’s not that one side is “better” or “right” — it’s simply that the needs of both parties aren’t being met, and it’s time to part ways (hopefully amicably), so you can both move on to a better situation. That’s true in any job situation.

I think it’s often harder for artists to deal with failure because what we do is so personal, so much a part of ourselves. It’s difficult not to feel that it’s a rejection of us as human beings.

If something we wrote doesn’t sell well or sell at all, we feel we failed. After a period of time, we can look back. Could it have been structured better? Used stronger language? Have you learned something in the interim that makes it work now? If it’s a sales number, what can you learn from that book’s campaign that you can apply to future promotions? We are pushed to think in terms of immediate large sales numbers, instead of a steadily growing readership. There are plenty of books I’ve read with huge opening sales numbers — and I’ve never read anything by that author again either because I didn’t like the book or because the author never managed to get anything else done, feeling the pressure.

But there are a lot of competing needs and agendas out there, and we’re not all compatible.

When it comes to finding the right agent or publisher, I often compare it to dating — it’s unlikely you’ll find your soul mate the first time out. You need to meet a lot of people and date around. Finding the soul mate for your work is similar.

There’s no need to dramatize or villainize if something doesn’t work out (although, in the first flush of hurt and disappointment, we will). Happy yippy platitudes too soon to the hurt are counterproductive. But then, take a step back, look at the positives, and apply what you learn moving forward.

As a teacher, that’s the most infuriating aspect. When a student REFUSES to apply a correction moving forward. We all start somewhere. We all have things we need to learn. When something is explained (such as the difference between a possessive and a plural) — learn it. APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again and expect someone else to fix it.

The only true failure is REFUSING to learn from something that didn’t work and refusing to apply it moving forward.

Most other situations are disappointments or setbacks that can be overcome.

–Acknowledge

–Create objectivity

–Learn

–Apply

And then go on to create something wonderful!

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 4:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. July 9, 2018: Say “Yes” — #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, July 9, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

 

There’s a saying I’ve heard about both opportunity and the Muse: that when it knocks, you better answer or it will move on to someone else.

I believe that.

Of course, there are those who will insist they are “offering” you an “opportunity” to try to get them to work for free while they do nothing. Laugh and walk away. That is not something you to which you want to say “yes.”

But say “yes” to new experiences that are out of your comfort zone, but that you might enjoy. I did that with Argentine Tango – I said “yes” to taking classes for a few months. Not only did I have the chance to do something I hadn’t done in years – dance – I met new people, learned about a world-wide community, and gathered material for at least three new books. I even put a tango scene into my radio play “Light Behind the Eyes” which was produced this past March.

I said “yes” to attending my very first Bouchercon way back in the mid-1990s, and that was the catalyst to writing novels again. I said “yes” to my very first Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which led me to an invitation to participate in the Adelaide Festival Fringe, which meant I got to go to Australia, something I’d always wanted to do. And I got to go there as a working artist.

In Australia, I said “yes” to a local networking meeting someone I’d met in passing invited me to, which led me to saying “yes” to a curator for the library, who invited me to see an illuminated manuscript, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in my life. I said “yes” to doing a promo on a local radio show – which got such a positive response that I wound up co-hosting the show while we were at festival. I said “yes” to an invitation to an art gallery opening, where I was exposed to stunning work by Aboriginal artists depicting the sections in Australia where the ozone layers are burned all the way through. I said “yes” to an invitation to join a group of Aborginal women artists for their morning coffee – a rare honor, since they didn’t mingle with the other festival participants often – and learned a whole new way of communicating and relating.

I said “yes” the first time I was invited, in my first theatre lighting class in college, to working on the crew of a show – and that, eventually, led me to my career on Broadway.

I said “yes” in high school, when I was starting to learn cello, but they needed more viola players and asked me to switch. And I learned the viola (not that I remember it after all these years, but still . . .)

I said “yes” when I was just getting back into thoroughbred racing to work on a benefit to help racetrack workers have access to childcare and ended up with lifelong friends among trainers, jockeys, backstretch workers, which led me to pitch (and accept) a job covering the Triple Crown for thirteen years, and go to races in England and Scotland.

I said “yes” when given the opportunity to write about ice hockey and spent months with a minor league time; I said “yes” when given the opportunity to cover America’s Cup and learned about sailing and those beautiful old Newport yachts (even though I can’t swim). I said “yes” to covering Highland Games and local sports and lighthouses and restaurants and anything else that sounded interesting.

I can’t even count the times I’ve said “yes” – because I say “yes” more than I say “no” – especially if it means a new experience. I trust my gut – if something seems off about the offer, or I figure it’s dangerous in the wrong way, I decline.

But I trust my gut, and saying “yes” means I had opportunities and experiences many others around me haven’t. I ask questions. I’m interested in the world. So when someone offers me a chance to do something unique, especially by someone who is passionate about their interests, I try to say “yes” and then enjoy it!

 

Mon. July 2, 2018: Calm #Upbeat Authors

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image courtesy of pixabay.com

Monday, July 2, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

There are two kinds of calm. One is the kind others try to impose on you, usually when you make them uncomfortable by holding your boundaries and standing up for your rights. Don’t be manipulated.

The other kind of calm is the calm you need in order to function in these dark times. It’s the calm you have to pull from your own depths in order to stay sane and focused.

That can be helped by external stimuli. I love the beach in winter — that’s why I moved to Cape Cod. I like it in summer, but can’t get to it with all the tourists! The ocean helps calm me. A walk on the beach, yoga on the beach, meditation — all of that helps me even out.

A walk in the woods will do something similar. Sometimes I need water, sometimes I need trees. Sitting on my back deck, looking out over the yard, helps, too. I often get some of my best work done out there in decent weather. Since it’s a covered deck, I can also sit out in the rain and work!

Sitting on my meditation cushion, morning and evening, helps to. It’s a correction for my emotions and thoughts that can swirl out of control. It allows me to regain perspective, because it is from the place of perspective that we can make our best decisions.

While some of my best writing comes when I ride a wave of emotion, revisions are best done from calm.

I also have built a “space of calm” in my imagination. A place to which I can mentally place myself if my day is difficult and I need a few minutes of respite. I can turn inwards and ground there. I can’t go into detail publicly — the fact that the space is private, known only to me, is vital.

Find what works for you. Make sure that “calming down” is YOUR choice, and not something someone else wants to impose on you, not for your own good, but for their agenda. Trust your own instincts, that you know when and how to stay calm, and when and how to utilize your anger or any other emotion. It could save your life.
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Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 4:13 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 2, 2018: Calm #Upbeat Authors  
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