Tag Archive | writing

Am I there yet?

Pilot gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wgMy husband is an aviation enthusiast and reminded me of this illustration. Before commercial or corporate pilots take off, they file a flight plan which includes, among other pertinent details, the destination and estimated time of arrival. Once they take off, however, wind, air currents, storms, turbulence, etc. work against the aircraft so that they must continually make corrections in order to remain on course and reach their appointed destination. Pilots understand the necessity of regulating the route, anticipating and performing the process to achieve their ultimate goal – a safe and punctual arrival.

This course correction is often needed throughout life, but too often I only recognize it after I’ve become discouraged that my project or goal is not working out right. For example, when I began my adventure into semi-retirement, I had so many ideas about what I would do when I grew up. I have many interests – Bible study, business, embroidery, friends, gardening, grandchildren and their parents, people, reading, sewing, teaching, writing and so much more – so I wanted to make my choice fit within the parameters of the things I enjoyed as well as discover a niche where I could concentrate my efforts so that I spent my time wisely.

I started out enthusiastically, doing a little bit in each genre, yet it didn’t take long to realize that I had too many things going on. I needed to prioritize my list. I thought that since I was good at multi-tasking in the workplace, I could come up with a workable solution if I concentrated on only three things. Not so. The three things were still too large, and I finally realized that I had to narrow my concentration further, yet with an interesting twist. One project remained my main focus while the other two became secondary. In other words, I did not give up on them, but I just take little chunks of time and do something that will advance their completion. It may only be reading an article, watching a video or jotting down ideas, but I am moving along in the right direction. Eventually I will get there – I will realize my goal. At that point it will look like an overnight success, but I’m not there yet, and it’s okay. This has helped my level of frustration.

Maybe when you’re asking yourself the am-I-there-yet question, knowing it’s acceptable to continue along your desired path, regardless of speed or apparent success, will help you as well. Just keep going.

Picture credit: gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wg

Can you develop claustrophobia from reading a book?

jam_up_caveDid you know that 5 to 7% of the world’s population are severely affected by an anxiety disorder that stems from a fear of being in closed or small spaces with no way of escape? Many others may suffer from occasional bouts of claustrophobia and are surprised when they experience a fear of restriction or suffocation. Their palms and body sweat, their hearts begin to race and their lungs feel as though they need air … now! Why am I even talking about this? And where’s the connection to reading a book? Glad you asked because I’m about to share a weird experience.

The other evening I was reading a book by John Ortberg called “the me I want to be.” In it, Ortberg was describing his friend Danny who had embarked on a spelunking adventure. Although thrill-seeking exploits that border on dangerous were not foreign to him, he did not enter the cave alone. He had employed the expertise of an experienced guide. Ortberg described Danny’s journey explicitly.

“The man guiding took him deep underground, then said he would lead Danny through a passageway into a spectacular chamber. The passageway was small enough that Danny had to stoop at first. Then as it grew still smaller, he had to get on his hands and knees. Eventually the only way to go forward was to lay on his back and push his body forward with this feet. Then the ceiling was so low that when he inhaled he could not move at all! He had to stop, inhale, and exhale, and only then was his chest low enough to allow him to move. By this point it was physically impossible to back out. If the passageway had gotten any smaller they would have lain there and died in that cave. … He was terrified. He tried fighting his fear, but he kept picturing his dead body moldering in the cave.”

Without realizing it, I was with Danny in the cave. In fact as I was reading, I began struggling for air. In my mind, I was in that cave and everything was closing in. It was a weird experience, but good writing and so was Ortberg’s main point. As Danny finally told the guide he felt he couldn’t make it, the guide told him to stop listening to the lies in his head. He told him to close his eyes, listen to his voice and follow his instructions. “Focus on my voice.”

When Danny did so, it freed him from panic and fear. Instead of listening to what appeared to be true, i.e. he was going to die, there was no way out, etc., Danny heard the voice of one who knew the truth and would lead him out. It worked, and Danny finally enjoyed seeing the spectacular chamber and a safe return home.

Do you have lies running through your head? I often do. “Who am I to do this? How can I accomplish that? I’ve wasted my time and now it’s too late …” Can you add some of your own? When these (and others) start shouting in my head, I find that spending time in the Bible can free me from the panic mode and set me back on track. As I hear God leading me through His word and apply it to my life, it is the same as focusing on His voice. He is the way, the truth and the life. I can’t go wrong with that.

What do you do with cracked pots?

Before you think I’m crazy or using the term loosely to refer to those who disagree with my point of view, I’d like to clarify. I’m really talking about all of us because in one way or another, we’re all flawed human beings, and these imperfections, whether congenitally- or experientially-related, influence our lives. The way they impact us, depends a lot on how we choose to view and deal with them.

Few of us would judge a little boy who experienced a double amputation of his legs below the knees if we watched him sitting in a wheelchair or on the sidelines watching other children compete in running games. We’d understand that he had a justifiable reason to watch the world go by. We’d have compassion on him.

This is the story of Oscar Pistorius, one of the South African runners in the 2012 Olympic Games, who experienced this situation because he had been born without a fibula in either leg (fibular hemimelia). Yet the scenario painted above does not reflect Oscar’s life. Greatly because of his mother’s influence, he overcame an attitude that could have crippled him for life. Instead, with the help of specialized Flex-Foot Cheetah carbon fibre transtibial prostheses he overcame his handicaps and went on to achieve great things. We could name others like Joni Eareckson Tada and the late Chuck Colson, who started outstanding ministries because of what happened in their own lives, results of accidents or poor choices. Although you and I may not have suffered to the degree that these folks have, the point is that these challenges helped them to find their niche because they chose to allow God to use it.

Life comes at us from all directions – health, finances, relationships …, and we can choose to be blown over or take courage and stand up again. What we learn from these experiences will help to define who we are as well as shape who we are becoming. And, it may provide another aspect to consider when discovering where we fit – our niche for business, job search, ministry, service, writing, etc.

So what’s in your past that’s changed you, created a new sensitivity or heightened awareness and passion? Write these things down and see if a pattern develops that might direct you to future endeavors. See if you can find a spot for your cracked pots.

Are all writers stackers?

For someone who loves summer as much as I do, Labor Day evokes some sadness. Yet along with the turning leaves and entourage of school buses, the coming of fall does seem to bring a semblance of structure and renewed purpose, and I can certainly use some of that. So on this day when we are supposed to honor hard work, I chose to perform some and begin the season with some organization in my office. My problem, however, is not getting organized, it’s staying that way. Does that problem resonate with any of you?

Because I enjoy writing for both fun and profit, I spend a lot of time at the computer. I find, however, that I frequently have stacks of papers, articles, and notes on either side of the keyboard representing various projects I’m working on. It seems if I put them into a file drawer, I forget that they’re there, and soon they all come tumbling through the proverbial cracks.

Interestingly, I have been talking with a few other writers who have the same problem. They want to work in a neat and orderly environment, but the stacks appear almost out of nowhere. (Maybe it’s not our fault.) Like me, they’ll block out time and expend the effort to start the reorganization, but it’s not long before the piles of files reappear. Is this a problem characteristic of writers or just those of us who have “messy” genes lurking in our ancestry? Is there a secret known to the rest of you who have pristine desktops? If so, please share and let the rest of us in on it so that next Labor Day, all of us can enjoy the day off.

Happy Labor Day all!

Picture credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zSVIqFYOHCk/S58ZNvyTMsI/AAAAAAAABiU/LTfvWqv38io/s400/stack_of_paper.jpg

Say what?

Do you get annoyed when you try to figure out emailed or written instructions that aren’t clear? Or how about when you receive a message requiring action that begs more questions than it answers?  If so, you’re not alone. The real question is, however, are you the one sending these messages?

In an article Ragan Communications posted today entitled Ditch these 5 business writing mistakes, Jenna Britton makes the point that these emails could be doing more than making your message difficult to understand. In fact, they could be punching holes in your credibility.

Clarity in professional writing can be a critical matter that has potential to make or break an organization – depending on the size of the organization and the level of importance of the document. Likely this is one reason so many messages are wordsmithed to death and reviewed by the legal department before they hit the cyber-waves. If you’re the fly in the email ointment, well, let’s not go there. You get the picture. Writing more than other forms of communication is taken more literally and can become a permanent record, so the import of saying it correctly also carries more weight.

Britton offers some valuable tips that may prove beneficial to your career. Try them as a checklist for your next email. Better to review your words one more time before you hit “Send,” lest you tarnish your record. It’s hard to take back the written word.

Creative types: Take heed

Do numbers scare you? Do they threaten to rob you of the joy you experience from the creative process? If you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer or involved in a home-based business, take heed.

One of the most important things you can do is accurately record your time and expenses on a regular basis. I know, I know. The creative juices need to have free reign so that ides will flow for your writing project and your eyes and ears need to be every ready when that perfect photo or paint-worthy subject comes into view. And of course you need to be unencumbered when the inspiration for a new musical score comes to mind. Believe me, I get that, but keep in mind, starving artists of any genre profit no one.

Consider these next few words of caution as a new opportunity for your innovative world. Taking the time to develop a workable plan to record your material, time and travel expenses can help put food on the table and provide the means for you to continue your work. I can’t say that I’ve arrived at the perfect method, yet I am well on my way to a system that works for me. You need to find one that will serve your needs and lends itself to your personality and field of artistic expression. Regardless of your creative outlet, you’ll have three key elements to consider, and they’re as easy as ABC.

A = Awareness

Look around you to see how you are spending your time and money. Are you traveling to the store to pick up supplies? If so, capture your mileage and time spent as well as the material expense on your phone, iPad, journal or some other recordable option. The key factor is to realize how you are expending your resources so that you can leverage them for your economic advantage at tax time. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ron Mueller’s book, Home Business Tax Savings Made Easy, is an excellent resource to open your eyes to the right items to track.

B = Buddy

I hate filing, but I understand and appreciate the value of keeping receipts, etc. and having them readily accessible should I need them to track a purchase, locate a vendor, or prepare my taxes. One of my buddies is my husband. We call him Mr. Clean because he is a master at keeping tings orderly. (I drive him crazy.) Nevertheless, I give him the important paperwork, and he files them away using an envelope system until he needs them. The envelopes, a Franklin Planner or other method can also be your buddy. The key is to find what’s right for you.

C = Consistency 

In order for your creativity to flourish, you need to be able to support your efforts as effortlessly as possible. Just as slow and steady won the race for the tortoise, so consistent tracking will provide what you need when you need it without stress and without monetary loss.

As you begin with these simple steps, you’ll see ways to tweak it to your needs and specific projects. The goal is to be proactive and eliminate the starving artist syndrome.

Take another view

My daughter-in-law and her closest friend are stepping out in faith to open a new boutique in a small town in the Adirondacks. They are working hard to open this Saturday, and I have no doubt they’ll be successful, but this is not an unpaid advertisement for Pretty & Chic. Rather it is an observation that may be of help to any who are moving from enjoying a hobby to developing a business.

My daughter-in-law excelled at sewing and began crafting aprons as gifts for family and friends. As the recipient of one of the finished products, I can testify to both their beauty and quality. Because of the encouraging response she received, she wanted to offer them in her new store, but this meant having a supply of them on hand on opening day and required a brand new perspective. Instead of making one at a time and finishing it completely, she had to change up her process otherwise it would not be cost effective. Beginning slowly she discovered ways to streamline the way she cut out the pattern and assemble the pieces. Concentrating on the more difficult aspects first actually made the whole job easier.

Whether it’s sewing, writing, art, music, woodworking, tinkering with a new invention or some other favorite pastime, the point to all of this is that when you move to the professional category, you must experience a change in the way you think and the way you do things. You do not need to sacrifice the quality of your product, but you will need to reinvent the process so that you can make an income from your endeavor.

This may stretch your creative mind in new and different ways and be totally different from the way you started. Keep in mind the first time through may not be the best. Just persevere and try again. You may need to stand back and think it through several times before you realize the results you hoped for.  Yet once you achieve them, you’ll be glad you took another view.