Catastrophe and Transformation: One Writer’s View of Survival and Success

I am pleased to open up the Stories of Perseverance blog with a posting by Jason S. Ridler, PhD. Jason was a classmate of mine at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005. Our desks were next to each other and he never ceased to amaze me with his wealth of knowledge about the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, the books, the authors. He had so many ideas, and such a great sense of humour. After Odyssey, Jason and a couple of other classmates of ours challenged each other to write a story a week for a month or two. At one point he had 50 stories circulating the slush piles, and he racked up hundreds of rejections that first year.

When I asked Jay to guest blog for me, once again, I was blown away by what he had to say. Jay, you inspire me.

Sherry

CATASTROPHE AND TRANSFORMATION: ONE WRITER’S VIEW OF SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS

By Jason S. Ridler, PhD.

WARNING: This article will not end with me being rich and famous, having a bestseller or a million-dollar movie deal, or even being able to quit my day job. Nor will it instruct you on how to hit those targets. If those are your goals, please, go elsewhere.  It is inspired by the recent works of Rachel Nabors, Carrie Vaughn and Kameron Hurley on work, creativity, and careers. 

Summer 2013. My life collapsed. My marriage was ending. I was unemployed. And my mother was diagnosed with and then killed by four different cancers. I had three of the five most stressful psychological crises happening simultaneously. All certainty, stability, and normalcy shattered. Including my ideas about art, writing, and money. I say this because catastrophe, while horrific, can be transformative. It was for me.

Between 2009 and 2013 I struggled with my desire for a writing “career.” After ten years writing short stories, I quested to be a career novelist in the commercial marketplace. I thought I had what it took. My stuff is character driven, full of action and strong dialog, and dark. Much of that ilk was making a mint. Why not me?

But my relentless desire, efforts, and hubris to beat the odds blinded me to this goal’s external hardships (the nature of the marketplace, the Great Recession, etc). Worse, I struggled with accommodating market demands. My novels were afar from what the trade market wanted (novels about wrestling, fat kids, and a thriller with a female lead, which, according to some, might give the dominant male readership syphilis) that they weren’t really accommodations at all. There are other reasons, too. Agent shifts. Bad psychology. Private shit. Bottom line? These works did not sell, let alone generate a career. And it was my fault.

Navigating between what the market wanted and what I was driven to write proved, in hindsight, impossible. I actively despised much of the work I’d read in the genres where I was told I would “best” fit. So I tried to recoup a novel career by publishing my work online during the “Ebook Hysteria” of 2011-2013. Despite polemics about freedom from convention, everyone had a formula or myriad of rules for “success” in this world (series novellas, perpetual content, fantasy and thriller genres, covers with big boobs or chicks holding things, unending PR efforts, publishing everything you ever wrote with shitty covers, writing novels in a week). I tried my best. I wrote five novels in two years. Had covers made. Tried to crank the PR machine. The late Lucius Shepard liked and blurbed one of my novels, which for me was praise from Caesar. But my most common review remains “I never thought I’d like a novel like this one, but I did!” Hardly box-office gold. A few bucks, sure, but I’d made more cash with a pro short story sale. In this world as well, I was financially unsuccessful.

In terms of my career goals, I was fucked.

I’d written eight novels in three-and-half years trying to find the right book, books, or approach for success. I’d also finished 75% of a popular non-fiction book that would have had a real life-saving payday. None of them sold. I was burned out, at the brink, and terrified. I’d failed. Every major effort to make a living as a writer crashed. The amount of self-hate I’d generated was blinding.

Then 2013 happened.

All the writer-career-talk became piss in the wind.

Worrying about how to write a bestseller, or doing a blog tour, or using the advice of every Tom, Dick and Konrath about an ebook revolution. . . all of it is meaningless when you watch a loved one die, end a marriage, give up animals you cared for, or sell what you own to eat. For a blip I hoped publishing might help against the mess I was in. After all, these works were “assets” that I could play. Sadly, hope is desperation in disguise. My agent didn’t save me with a great deal in traditional publishing. My ebooks didn’t save me with those “free” samples generating sales. And no, reading fiction didn’t become a magical land where I could escape. Real life stepped forward, eviscerated me, and there was no magic in the written word. Writing didn’t save me. Family saved me. Friends saved me. And I saved me.

I jumped from grief, to desperation, to survival at mach speed. I juggled the numbing drudgery of finding employment (over seven hundred applications and interviews before one hit), finding a new home (that has no kitchen, but wasn’t decorated with bullet holes), and rebooting my existence in bad economic circumstances. I now viewed all publishing, traditional, indie, and self-publishing, as “The Machine.” The Machine wants what it wants. It’s not malign or benign. It has no personal vendetta. It simply operates under its principles of profit, desire, chance and internal contradictions. If you don’t have what it wants, the way it wants it, when it wants it, it just keeps rolling. In the wake of all these nightmares, I realized I didn’t lose my writing career with The Machine. I never had one to lose.

And I didn’t care. For a year and a half I worked between two and six jobs to regain the essentials of life. I never pined for the days when I had more writing time than most. I didn’t pine for writing at all. If that part of my life had fucked off and died, cool beans. I had to eat. I had to save. I had to keep myself from ending up on the streets or worse.

What little spare time I had went to improv acting, a new vocation. It was a perfect fit. Improv champions failure, working together, and the fun of making a difficult art. There is no Hugo or Nebula or World Fantasy Award for best improviser. And it’s rarely a career. It’s a vocation. All that matters is doing the work. Improv became my “escape” from fifteen-hour days, six days a week, and rekindled a love of art, collegiality, and performance that had suffocated in relentless attempts to become a successful novelist. One of improv’s greatest values is its ethos of “fail.” Failure is terrific. You find new things when you fail because you’re going where you hadn’t gone before. Failure is where things are interesting and unexpected. And failure isn’t done alone, but with a gang of artists that want your failure to be awesome. If you’re not failing, you’re not doing it right. In my old, dead life, failure at writing carried a heavy price and poisonous stigma regarding perceptions of self-worth and investment in the future.

In the wake of 2013, I realized: if I fail at writing, who fucking cared? I had no writing career, no relationship, and The Machine still didn’t know I existed. Being a ghost to that world made me feel like writing again. Back to my punk rock roots. Fuck it. Just do it because you love it, you bastard.

But do what?

There’s an old trick in psychology. If you’ve experienced trauma, do something new that has no relation to the context of said trauma. You generate new memories for your brain to chew on. Improv fit that pistol, and was life-saving. In writing, I abandoned the dead god of novels and moved to comic book scripts. I love comics, but had never attempted them because . . . if you think making money with novels is tough, it’s Shangri La compared to becoming a “professional” comic book writer. But I didn’t care about money, or a career. I had now stabilized my income to a degree where I felt comfortable easing off the gears of work and spending some time writing. I learned comic script format for fun. I found artists to work with, which was fun. And I failed all over the place as I learned the art, the business, and the challenge of working with artists. Some of this sucked bunnies, but I didn’t care. So long as I learned and got better, I enjoyed the challenge.

Soon, I worked with artists I dug. To see my ideas meld with theirs into fully realized comic book pages was like Christmas morning in my brain. We got traction with indie presses. And I learned to write pitches, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved working with editors to refine the ideas of a pitch into something better: the exact opposite of my experience with novels (pitches are hard, but take far less time than finishing a novel. So the investment of blood, sweat and tears are lightyears apart). This was a welcome revelation. Nothing has landed yet (please see the WARNING at the start of this piece). And I really want it to. But not because of a big payday. I just really want to write comics, work with artists and editors, and see what happens next. I also rekindled my interest in short stories, and have begun to create wild things free of any external validation or concern.

Novels faded from interest, with three exceptions. My small reputation as a writer of “wrestling” stories got me an invite to write whatever I wanted for the FIGHT CARD series. The result was RISE OF THE LUCHADOR, and I thoroughly dug it, though I haven’t retired to Monaco just yet. I also wrote a short novel for my newsletter group that explores my love of Saturday morning cartoons. I did it for free. It had only one lodestar: have fun. I also reclaimed interest in my ebooks, and worked hard to get them new covers that I liked. None of them have made a mint. But the result made me happy. It was worth the hours of labor teaching high school History and English, adult writing classes, creating curriculum, grading grad school papers, writing pop history articles, and all the other junk I do to survive. I’m also selling short stories again, but the joy is just letting them roll into the strange creatures they are. Rejections arrive, too, but are also meaningless. Keeping my creative life wide, diverse, and renewed, instead of hyper-focused and commercially driven has yielded far better returns and done my mind far more good than when I wrote in genres I hated for a paydays that never arrived. Life is too short to bleed for the wrong muse.

When my mother was dying, two images hit me. One was from the film A DANGEROUS METHOD, about Carl Jung’s relationship with Sigmund Freud. At the end of the film, Jung sits on a park bench in the throes of mental strain, knowing something awful will happen (the Great War). It is followed by a note that after this anguish, Jung emerged into a period of creative flourish and output that lasted until the end of his life. This image haunted me, and does still, because my mother was a passionate fan of Jung’s work (I was not), and I, too, was enduring compounded trauma. The image of Jung on the bench crashed into another, provided by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in one of her books on grief (I can’t return to those books, so this is from memory). Grief can be transformative. The struggle with trauma produces heroes as well as villains. It is awful, painful, and yet inevitable, so if you have your wits about you, it can be a catalyst for profound transformation. Ross noted that we are inundated with pictures of youth and beauty, even within struggle, but what of the Grand Canyon? Its majesty is the result of titanic forces of strife, wrestled within nature for millennium. Traumas caused it to be transformed, and it has endured. That is what makes it beautiful.

The last time I spoke to my mother, she shared a simple truth which I hold very, very dear. In the end, what makes this world worth anything is love. It is the only value that really matters. You can argue against me all you want. You can footnote your answers, dance around my simple statement with dense rhetoric, and even win. Go ahead. I don’t care. See who comes to your funeral, and, by the way, go fuck yourself. Love is all that truly makes life meaningful.

When 2013 destroyed my life, I made a promise. Whatever happened, I would not let the sheer volume of trauma destroy me. It came close. But I did not reach for the bottle. I did not retreat from the world. I did not hand the reins of my existence to anyone else. I let the awe be transformative. And in my creative life, my lodestar would not be money, not status, not stardom. It would be love, whatever shape or form it should take. Comics? Improv? Short stories? History? Spoken word? One-Man-Shows? Plays? Teaching? Even novels? Sure, so long as the love is true. So if The Machine wants to pay me top dollar, I’ll cash the check. If it ignores me, I’ll be too busy doing my thing to notice. But I will love what I make, generate a lot of it, and grab as many dollar-sacks as possible before I, too, am only a memory. If a “writing career” happens, cool beans. Until then, bills will be paid by other means so that I never write for the wrong reasons again.

Also, are you guys hiring?

Jason S. Ridler is a writer, improv actor, and historian. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. His popular non-fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Dark Scribe, and the Internet Review of Science Fiction. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada.

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Stories of Perseverance

I have been thinking a lot about what makes it so difficult for us to sit down and write. Why are we so willing to give in to our Inner Saboteur, even when we know that’s what we’re doing?

A lot of times it comes down to the thought “Why bother?”

Let’s face it, being a writer is hard. As soon as you tell family or friends you’re writing, they expect your short story or novel to appear in print within a month because that’s what happens on TV. They also expect you to be the next J.K. Rowling, raking in the billions.

They don’t understand, and they don’t see, the hours spent alone at the computer trying to figure out the perfect wording for the sentence, the hours agonizing over description, or dialogue. They don’t see the years of languishing in the slush pile. They don’t get that it can take years to land an agent, and longer still to get a book contract. They don’t see your $5 – $10,000 advance, 15% of which goes to your agent.

But we, as writers, know what it is to slog through rejection after rejection. We all face the changing publishing industry.

We love to share our ‘terrible rejection’ stories when we’re together. But we rarely celebrate successes. I suspect it is because we hear about someone getting the book contract or story sale and think “why couldn’t it be me?” or we think “Probably happened for them right away. Hack!”

The truth of it is, success comes in different ways for all of us. We all want that Sally Field winning the Oscar moment of “You really like me. You really like me!”  We should be celebrating each other’s successes, and think “It can happen to me too.”

I have asked a number of authors who have experienced their own success, to tell their stories of perseverance, what they went through to get to that success. This doesn’t necessarily mean their stories end there. Some will go on to bigger and better things, others will not.

And that’s OK.

What is important is that they believed in themselves and their writing enough to push through the tough times, the slush, the wondering “Why Bother?”

Let their stories inspire you to do the same!

Happy Writing!

An exciting new year!

Happy New Year!

2014 was an exciting year for me as a coach. I started my business and I received my certification from the International Coach Federation. I also published my first novel, “Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf“!

I want to thank you all for being with me through this first year.

2015 is going to be a busy and exciting year. I’m working on restructuring the format of my popular “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” workshop, and creating another workshop that is a greater in-depth look at the specific fears that are holding us writers back. I’ll be looking for your feedback soon on these workshops. And with your help, they will be better than ever! And your assistance will be rewarded!

As you can see, I have an exciting year ahead and coaching is very much a part of it as I continue to grow my business. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in exploring a coaching relationship, remember I offer a complimentary coaching session to discover each other, the coaching relationship, and if coaching is the right path to take. Don’t hesitate to refer friends! 

All they have to do is send me an e-mail at sherrypeters@outlook.com with a date and time that suits them best for me to contact them, and if they’d like to connect by phone, Skype, or google+. Or, they can fill out the contact form on this page.

Here’s to a great new year!

Happy Writing!

Sherry Peters

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!

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