Ending the Overwhelm

The instantaneous consumerism of the internet  is overloading authors with pressure to be more and more prolific. It is no longer considered prolific to be publishing a book a year.

The rapidly changing publishing industry is creating havoc. Traditionally published authors aren’t certain they’ll have a future in it, and indie authors are scrambling to produce enough to find and sustain an audience. One of the buzzwords that authors talk about is “diversification.” This means not only writing novels and short stories, but writing for video games, other new media projects, television, movies, the stage, finding speaking engagements, and writing news articles.

I think diversification is great, if you can do it. But what happens if you try to do it all? I’m reminded of a saying, that someone trying to do it all is a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” My interpretation of that saying is that in trying to do it all, you are spreading yourself too thin, and not mastering the one or two areas where you can truly polish your skills and excel at it.

Become a master.

  1. Think about what kind of writing career you truly want. Do you want a long-lasting career? Or do you want to make a bucket-load of money right now? Where do you want to be in 20 years from now?
  2. What is the fundamental value behind that career choice?  Is it pride in self and your work? Is it acceptance? Is it leaving a financial legacy for your family?
  3. Look at all the potential projects on your desk that you think you need to do to diversify and make some money. Which of those projects speak to what you value about your writing career? Which ones show off your greatest skills and talent as a writer?
  4. Pick the one or two other projects that will advance your career and your legacy.

Once you set these projects as your writing priorities, you will have more energy, motivation, and focus on what you need to do. And when you have that energy and focus, you will become a master of your writing career.

What do you want your writing career to be? What projects are getting in the way?

Guest Blogging and Workshops and Books, oh my!

This morning I am blogging over at Savvy Authors http://savvyauthors.com/blog/ on Identity and the writer. In the article I talk about why we so often question ourselves being “real” writers, what we can do about it, and the positive results we experience when we embrace our identity.

If you like what you read in that blog, or here, consider taking my course “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” which I will be teaching online through Savvy Authors, running June 9 – 29. See what others have said about the workshop on my workshops page here.

Still not sure? Why not download the first four chapters of my book “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” for FREE, just sign up for my mailing list on my home page here, which will, in the near future, news about upcoming releases, special offers, and more.

And finally, if you are interested in exploring the idea of having a coach to help you reach your writing goals, to push through the writer’s block, to be more productive, I offer a no-obligation complimentary session. It’s a great opportunity to see if coaching is right for you, and if we’d make a good partnership in your journey. Just fill out the form below and I will contact you within 24 hours. I’d love to have a chat with you!

 

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 3)

Editing!

I’ve lost count of the number of writers who have said they loathe the editing process. I have a feeling a lot of this dislike for editing comes from our Inner Saboteur who continually ridicules us for not having perfect first drafts, convincing us that real writers don’t edit. Well, I hate to break it to you, but every writer edits their work. They may not enjoy it, but they do it.

I once read in a book on writing (I don’t remember which one, it was a long time ago), that said that no writer enjoys the editing process.

I do.

I love it.

There are times I enjoy it more than the first draft/creative exploration process of getting the words down on the page for the first time. And I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys editing. I have met a handful of other writers who love it too.

I want to share my thought process for drafting and editing, and the differences between the two. This isn’t the only way to enjoy editing.

The first draft: This is can include the outline, but essentially it is when we first have that enthusiasm for a story and get it onto the page. For me, this is very much an exploratory stage, getting to know the characters, the world, the plot, etc. This is when I get to immerse myself most in the story. It is new. It is shiney. It is mine. No one gets to see it yet. This is also usually a complete disaster with plot holes (even with outlining), and the most awkward sentences ever written. This is where I get to liberally spend my wordage expense account. I often find that as enjoyable as this stage is, it takes a lot out of me emotionally and mentally, in a very good way. This is often when I get that writer’s high as I’m writing. I get giddy after about an hour, and said giddiness can last a good 24 hours after. This is when I feel most productive as a writer because there are tangible results. An extra 1,000 or 2,000 words written.

Editing: I’m not talking specifically about fixing grammatical errors or typos here. I usually reserve that for the final polish. Editing for me often involves revising major chunks of the manuscript, filling in those plot holes, etc. The reason I love editing so much is simply this: when I edit, that’s when I get to develop and see the growth in my use of the craft of writing. This is where I get to play with the words, the sentences, to make each one say exactly what I want it to say in the most powerful way possible. Editing is where I get to really see the story take its true form, in all its beauty. This is where I get to take that rough piece of art and make it into a masterpiece. The structure, the core of it is all there. My creative self has done her job in coming up with a spectacular base. Now it is the true craftsman self that gets to truly bring it to life.

Did I always enjoy editing? Hardly. I have a few manuscripts in my drawer that are very polished first drafts. I thought that’s what editing was. But then I was challenged as I learned more about writing, to really dig and find the beauty in the story and bring it out. My first thought wasn’t that I didn’t like it (though I wan’t crazy about it), but that I wasn’t capable of it. It didn’t take long for me to discover I did have the tools to make my writing even better. When I realized that, I embraced the process.

What do you dislike about editing? What do you love about it?

The Importance of Caring for Yourself

I am taking a break this week from my series on Finding the Joy in Writing, to talk about Self-Care.

I have been reminded on more than one occassion in the last couple of weeks, of the tragedy and invisitilty that is mental health.

Having depression or some other form of mental illness is common among us creative types. Sometimes we can cope, other times we can’t. And when we can’t, most people don’t understand because it isn’t something that has a physical symptom. We are not on crutches or breaking out with boils on our face, or coughing and sneezing. And so we often suffer in silence.

The world around us, and even those who love us most, often don’t see the blackness and the turmoil and noise crowding our thoughts, they don’t feel our absolute hopelessness. And because of that noise and turmoil, we don’t see that there is hope.

If it is a mental health issue, burnout, or stress, I urge you to take care of yourself. Talk to someone about it. Someone who will listen without judgement, someone who can help shine that light of hope for you. Do something to make yourself feel good, if it is a massage, getting your hair done, reading a book, or taking a long bath or shower. Delegate your work-load until it is at a manageable level. Society demands that we do everything. We don’t have to. If you can’t do more than one thing at a time right now, that is OK. There is nothing wrong with you. I promise you.

As someone with depression, I have felt that hopelessness. I know the turmoil and the noise. I also know that with the right support, there is always a solution, there is always hope. It may not feel like it for a long time, and it may not be the most ideal at first, but you will be glad you hung on for a while longer to find out.

Take care of yourself. Find someone to talk to. Pamper yourself. Do something that brings you joy. And know that you are surrounded by love.

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 2)

The more we learn about the craft of writing, the more paranoid we become, worried that we are not going to get the wording just right. When we worry, we’re not enjoying the writing.’

I’ll talk about how this relates to the editing process in a later post. For today, I want to focus on the drafting process.

Everyone’s writing process differs. If you’re like me, you like to get everything down first, edit later. Some people edit as they go. Some people write a chapter or scene, edit it, then carry on. In all of these variaitions, at some point, the words need to get put on the page first.  It is when we are getting the words on the page that we can find the joy in writing.

How?

By extravagantly spending your word coinage.

You see, unlike our actual bank accounts, we can’t overspend our word coinage. That means there are no word limits when we are drafting. It doesn’t matter if you’re aiming for a 800 word flash piece or a 150,00 epic novel. Don’t be afraid to write down everything that comes to mind — description, conversation — everything that is relevant to the story. If you can’t come up with the exact perfect word at the moment, write down placeholders (make sure you note them so you can fix it when you edit).

When you feel free to play with the words, when you are free of word limits and restrictions, your creative self will relax and the creativity will flow. And isn’t writing more enjoyable when the words flow?

When we let the words flow, we are immersed in the story and the outside worries of what others will think, if it is publishable, if it is marketable, will fade.

When we are generous with our word coinage, we are more comfortable with allowing more of the necessary emotion into the story.

I’ll ask again, isn’t it more enjoyable then?

When you’ve finished getting the words down, you can edit to get the words just right and to take out unnecessary words.

Author Challenge:

How thrifty have you been with your word coinage account? Loosen up the purse strings and let the words flow. What difference does that make to writing the next scene or chapter in your Work in Progress?

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 1)

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that writers love to have written, not to write. We all know people who say they are writers, talk up a good game but haven’t written anything yet, or in a long time. Many people want the life of a writer, but not to sit down and write. Who wants to sit alone at a computer staring at the screen for hours, day in and day out? Well, it sounds rather ideal, but we all know how difficult it is to do it, to keep our butt in the chair, and put down those creative ideas.

What would help, we all say it, would be if writing was fun the way it was when we started writing.

For most of us, writing loses it’s charm when we start learing just how much we’re doing wrong. This usually happens when we start to get feedback, take a writing class or two, or even when those first rejections come in. Our desire to improve as writers takes away the joy of writing which is why we wrote to begin with.

This series of blog posts will focus on a few different areas that give us joy in writing.

The first is the characters.

I love hanging out with the characters in the novels I write. They often become my best friends.

As a child, though I made up stories all the time, I never had any imaginary friends. Well, I did have one, but she didn’t really serve any purpose other than just for the sake of having an imaginary friend, so I dropped her at the city bus stop one day after school and sent her off to Ontario. I’m sure she’s thriving there. I don’t know. We never stayed in touch.

The characters in my novels, however, I like to keep them around. So what makes them different? For starters, they’re usually the ones that have approached me to tell their story. I take the time to get to know them both as I write and as I edit. Sometimes they’re honest from the start, sometimes I catch them holding back.

One character, Melanie, of a novel that will never likely see the light of day, by choice, hounded me for months to tell her story. I didn’t like her at the start. She was crass, rude, had the foulest mouth, and had a very different moral compass to me. As I got to know her, hear all that she had been through, to make her the way she was, I found I liked her a lot. Every chance I had, whether it was a pause in a busy work day, doing the dishes, or going to a movie, I took the time to get to know her, see how she reacted, asked her what she thought in those situations.

Does this make me crazy? Well, maybe. But what it also does, is give me greater understanding of the characters I’m writing about, making them three-dimensional. It also helps me to know the best way to move the story along. But best of all, it helps me immerse myself in the world I am creating.

Most of us started telling stories as children because we loved being in imaginary worlds. When we worry so much about the technicalities and the business end of writing, we lose sight of the creative aspect of writing. Spending time socially with the characters helps restore what we loved most about books and about writing.

Author challenge:

Take your characters on a date. Invite them to a movie or to dinner. Ask them to keep you company while you’re doing the dishes or cleaning the house. What are they like when you get to know them outside of the struggles of the plot?

CBC’s Four Rooms Redux

Last night (March 23, 2014) was my National Television Debut as I mentioned in my last blog post. I was lucky enough to appear on CBC’s Four Rooms. I was there attempting to sell my painting of Gollum by the actor Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

Gollum by Andy Serkis

 

If you watched the broadcast of the show (Season 1, Episode 6), you will know now that I didn’t sell the painting.  And if you watched the broadcast, you only saw a minute of filming which in total was probably an hours worth of material. Even the sellers with more air time were cut way down.

So now I finally get to tell what really happened, and yes, there is some relevance as to why I’m posting this on my Coaching blog.

My first thought after seeing other episodes air and knowing that my segment was cut to one minute, was that I should have been more outrageous, made crazy demands or something, to get more air time, more exposure. But that would have defeated my purspose in being there, which wasn’t entirely to sell the painting. More on that in a bit. But I’m also a firm believer that as a writer and a coach, how I carry myself in every situation represents who I am. If I had been outragious or rude or made crazy demands, that would not have been a representation of me, who I am as a person, as a writer, and as a coach. And I want to be very clear here, I was never asked to be outragious. Well, they did want me to wear a costume, but I convinced them otherwise, and the producers agreed with me.

But I do wish I had been given more air time because there is a great story behind that painting. Two stories. So here they are now.

Story 1: From August 2005 to August 2006, I had the most amazing opportunity. I spent a year in Belfast, Northern Ireland volunteering at WAVE Trauma Centre. Due to the expansion of the European Union and the paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland, government funding was being cut to WAVE. They were on the verge of closing within a year or two and their incredible services for survivors of the trauma from the conflict in Northern Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, would end. We were contacted by a local businessman, John Andrews, and his friends, who wanted to help us fundraise. What started out as a black tie banquet fundraiser, turned into a Gala Ball, Art Exhibit and Art Auction. The art was supplied by members of WAVE, local artists, famous artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. Then patron of WAVE James Nesbitt and his agents became involved. They asked many of their clients to paint a canvas for us to auction. We had canvases from Joan Rivers, Jude Law, and John Hurt, among others, including the one above from Andy Serkis. My part in all of this was to organize the paintings, enter them into the catalogue, basically do a lot of the administrative end of it. I also got to help out at the art auction. But of course I had to have the painting by Andy Serkis. What Lord of the Rings fan wouldn’t? The art auction alone raised more money than any fundraiser had in Northern Ireland. The Gala Ball equalled funds raised. And I am ever so proud to hae been a part of an event that has kept WAVE open. I will never forget my time at WAVE. I loved everyone I worked with and all those who participated in our services. They were absolutely amazing people and they made much more of an impact on my life than I ever could have on theirs. One further note on WAVE before I move on to story 2. One of the groups they work with are the Families of the Disappeared. American media has tended towards the glamourization of the Irish Repoublican Army for their freedom fighting. But visit the website for the Families of the Disappeared. Any group who does this to their own people, never mind what they did to Protestants, are not to be glamourized. And fear not, I am not taking sides here. The Loyalist paramilitaries are just as bad.

Story 2: As I mentioned last week, I refer to my Inner Saboteur as Gollum and this painting has become my representation of my Inner Saboteur being captured and silenced, he has no control over me. If I’d had the rights to it, I would have used this as the cover to my book Silencing Your Inner Saboteur. As a writer, my productivity had increased since I’ve had the painting up and have used it to symbolize the silencing of my inner saboteur. Filming of Four Rooms took place in August 2014. I’ve had the painting down since then, and my productivity has tripled since then. The question is, do I put it back up? I’m planning on hanging it back up this week. It will be an interesting psychological experiment which I may touch on in future workshops.

And now back to a few more thoughts on the show. My producer Jackie was fantastic. She made me feel like a star. She’d hand me water while I waited to go on set and when it was time to film, she’d take it from me. Getting my hair and makeup done was awesome. Reshmi Nair was fantastic. We had a great conversation before I met the buyers, about the painting, and the stories behind it. While the buyers were harsh at first, when I met with them one on one, they were great. We had good conversations, even laughed a little. I knew going in that they were the wrong people to try and sell the painting to, but it was an adventure, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to take.

I am so happy I did it. I had a blast. I’m always up for an adventure and this was a great one to have. And now there is another story to add to the painting: As seen on CBC’s Four Rooms!

My National Television Debut

Here in Canada, our National Broadcaster is airing a new show “Four Rooms” based on the UK version. It is kind of like Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank meets Let’s Make a Deal. If you have something unique you would like to sell, there are 4 buyers. First you see one buyer, they make an offer, if you accept, you’re done. If you don’t accept, you can’t go back to that room if that is the highest offer in the day.

I decided to audition this past spring with my painting of Gollum by Andy Serkis.

Gollum by Andy SerkisI

If you’ve read “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” or taken my workshop of the same name, you’ve heard me speak of this painting as the representation of my Inner Saboteur being captured and silenced.

I know what you’re thinking. If it means so much to me, why would I want to sell it? It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m still technically under a gag order until after the episode airs on Sunday evening, so watch the show Sunday evening at 8 pm Central (If you’re in Canada) or at http://www.cbc.ca/fourrooms. I’ll post next week about what aired, and the behind the scenes, and my thought process going into it and after.

But I can tell you this: that as a writer, I love adventure and new experiences, and this was an opporutnity I coudn’t pass up.

I’d love to hear your comments on the episode this Sunday. You can leave your comments below, or join me on facebook or twitter at @sherry_peters.

Success & Productivity – On working with a coach

I am re-blogging a post by my client Rebecca Rowland, about her experience with me as her coach. I am totally flattered.  Here is the link to the original http://rebeccarolandwriter.blogspot.ca/2014/02/success-productivity.html?spref=tw. Check her out. She’s an amazing writer and I am so honoured to be her coach.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Success & Productivity

I had the opportunity recently to work with Sherry Peters, a life coach who specializes in helping writers. Before I started, I had only the vaguest idea of what a life coach did. Going into the sessions, I thought I was actually doing pretty good with my writing. I thought I was quite productive, and although I have made improvements in the craft over the years, I was looking for something to take me to the next level in my writing.

What I quickly discovered was that I was more burned out than I had realized. I needed some balance in my life, and Sherry helped me find that. And, she helped me come up with some visible and tactile reminders to help me maintain that balance.

Remember how I said I thought I was productive? I’ve actually beenmore productive recently even though I feel like I spend less overall time writing. Since the end of December, I’ve turned in a novel to my publisher, written over forty thousand words on a new novel, and written five flash stories. My goal for the year was to write two novels and twelve short stories, and I’m nearly halfway there even though it’s only February. I am accomplishing more than I ever imagined I could. I might even be able to move up my plans for world domination!

I think part of the boost in my productivity is being accountable to someone else. Every time I speak with Sherry, I tell her what I’ve been up to, writing-wise, and I don’t want to say, “Well, I ended up goofing off on the Internet in all my free time,” or whatever the excuse might be. Another part of the boost has come from talking things out with her. I actually had some fears left over from last year. I had done the whole agent search thing again, and not found an agent. Again. I had this novel that I believed in, but nobody wanted to represent it. So I considered alternatives for the novel and came to the conclusion that I would try publishing it myself. I like it, I believe in it, so I’ll stand behind it. But I was scared. Terrified, actually. I wondered if I should give up writing altogether. But after talking things through with Sherry, I came to a few decisions. And it was surprisingly easy to come to these decisions. I just had to move past my fear.

Moving past that fear has meant that I feel more confident in my writing. I’m still working towards that next level, but I no longer feel stuck, or like I’m missing something. I feel like I’m doing the right thing for my writing career, and I’m pleased with my progress so far this year.

Interestingly, my half hour sessions spent talking with Sherry seem to fly by. I’m normally one who feels uncomfortable speaking with people I don’t know on the phone, and I hadn’t met Sherry before we started these sessions. But she’s so pleasant, and asks such great questions, and makes such wonderful points that I find it as easy to speak with her. She’s extremely positive and encouraging, and I have found myself being more positive recently as well. I’ve enjoyed my sessions so much, and found them so beneficial, that I wanted to write up a post so I could share my enthusiasm.

If you’re stuck, or scared, or looking for something to give you a boost in your writing career, consider giving Sherry a try. Her first sessions are complimentary, so if you don’t think it will work for you, you’ve lost nothing. You can find her at http://sherrypeters.wordpress.com or send her an email at sherrypeters@outlook.com.

Good News Monday!

Here’s my good news for the day. I just received the following:

Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” is a helpful book not only for writers, but for anyone who has dreams of being creative, but is always finding reasons not to. The helpful life advice is nicely packaged in chapters that examine the problem of self-sabotage and rip it to shreds.
The book is well-written, and also well-documented, drawing on a number of references to drive home the point. The author also includes links (that work!) to many helpful websites and she documents her sources professionally and flawlessly.
Overall, a beneficial and entertaining book for writers and other creative types looking for a way to start as well as those who have their foot in the door, but need that extra push.

-“Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

What’s your good news? Let’s celebrate together!