Dead Writing Days and Newton

on a clear day..What does a “dead day” look like to you?  The days that feel flannel gray “dead” to me are usually those I haven’t done what I was born to do: write.

Sometimes my creative juices flow into an editorial, blog post, short story or feature article.  Sometimes I write the lead column or bang out a newsletter for a couple non-profits.  Or I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  I’m working on a couple projects right now, including a children’s fantasy, a memoir and a travelogue.  I have several irons in the fire.

It’s okay to have a bunch of irons in the fire, the ones I’ve prioritized and am making actual progress on.  It’s also okay to enjoy that great review.  To bask in some hard-won recognition and rewards.  Just don’t stay there and set up camp permanently.  Or spend the rest of your writing career looking back over your shoulder.

Do what you were born to do: keep writing.

Look ahead.  Move forward.  Take the next step.  Knock on another door.  Look for another opening or opportunity.  Grab it.  Keep those creative juices flowing rather than flannel-gray.

1961 -with bookThis may mean stepping outside your comfort zone.  Doing something that’s a bit hair-raising for some artsy-introverted types.  But you’ll never get anywhere as a writer unless you’re willing to grow, reach out, and stretch a bit.

“What?” you say.  “I can’t do that!  I don’t even know where to start.”  That’s okay.  Assess your situation.  Think through some of your writing goals.  You may find it helpful to sit down and jot out a flow chart of where you are today as a writer, where you want to be next year at this time and some possible routes from Point A to Point B.

The best way to miss a target is to have nothing to aim at.

So aim at something specific and take it one step at a time, like:

    • Finding a reputable agent to represent your work
    • Becoming an indie author/self-publishing
    • Attending writer’s conferences, seminars, classes and finding other opportunities to polish your craft.
    • Getting a professional graphic artist to design your book cover
    • Joining a writer’s group and allowing others to critique your work
    • Opening up a Facebook page to showcase your talent
    • Enter a writing contest
    • Hosting a blog tour
    • Writing a review or sharing a link to another writer’s work

Newton Was Right

Newton was right, write?  A body at rest tends to stay at rest, whereas a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  So writer, don’t just sit there.  Move.  Create.  Write.  You can do it!

Looking upWriter, where do you want to be this time next year?  How do you plan to get from here to there?  Do you have a writer friend who could use some help along the way? Share this post with them.

Grab a  FREE copy of  my ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming the Writer You Were Born to Be, when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter!

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How To Avoid Sneezing By Email

By Anna Cervova

By Anna Cervova

The other day I got an out-of-the-blue request from someone I don’t know, have never heard of, and haven’t a clue how they found me.  It was a request to review their 330 page “you too, can get rich overnight with my proven 120-step technique for overnight wealth” type book.

Guess how long it took to zap that sucker into the big round file in the sky?

That request was followed by a 1,500 world email from someone else I don’t know and have never met asking for my take on the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

Later, gator!

 Warp Speed Delete

Another sure-fire way for an unsolicited email to wend its way into my Delete box at warp speed and a one-way ticket to my Block List: those that pretend to be a personal friend or associate when the message is obviously a bulk email sent to a list that’s probably the size of Alaska.

Another big no-no: emails from people asking me to do something for nothing.  By “nothing” I don’t necessarily mean $.  I mean people who aren’t willing to reciprocate.  They’re unwilling to do anything in return for my time and effort – no reciprocal link, a guest post, retweet.  Zip.  Zero.  Nada.

I have a response for that, too: Sayonara, baby! 

 Tortoises?

Another way to get my welcome mat whisked out from under your feet: flood my in box with a tsunami of unsolicited pitches hawking your latest product, book,  webinar, class or other self-serving commercial every time I sign on.

When I sign up for an email list, I do it at tortoise speed – and would appreciate it if the sender did likewise.  As in, Can you whittle that email tsunami down to once or twice a week, tops, instead of every single cotton pickin’ day???!!!

From In Box to Comment Section

Maybe you don’t get lots of dumb emails. But do you get dumb comments on your blog?  The kind that are obviously generated by an automaton in Outer Moldavia and read something like: “Great post!  I really love your site!”

Altogether, now: S-P-A-M.  Or S-N-E-E-Z-E.

Electronic Sneezing

Let’s face it.  Sneezing – whether in person or electronically – isn’t a great way to win friends or influence people.  Most people either turn away from or pretend to overlook a sneeze, even though it rattles their willies.  Sneezing interrupts the conversation, derails the train and makes you look less than healthy.

So think of dumb emails as “electronic sneezing.”

It’s amazing how much time dumb emails can gobble up.  Few of us have the time or want to expend the mental energy needed to wade through this stuff.  (Especially those of us with the attention span of a gnat.  You know who you are.)  So here’s my quick criterion for filtering out dumb email and dumb comments, aka: electronic sneezes:

RESPOND:

– Messages from someone I know or is a verifiable friend of a friend.

– Messages from an individual who expresses knowledge or interest in me as a person, not a two-legged product or potential profit.

– Messages from those who have something helpful and legit to offer that I can pass on to my readers.

– Messages from senders who are willing to give and take, rather than just take.

IGNORE:

– Messages that are focused solely on selling something or sniffing out potential customers.

– Idiot messages.  The kind that say something like, “Hey, I found this super cool resource at – Wherever Extraordinaire – and thought you would, too!” Not.

– Self-serving, mass-produced emails from someone trying to get me to buy their Latest and Greatest.

– Messages from entities that won’t process unsubscribe requests.  (My special *favorite.* Hmpf!)

The writers I know are busy.  Yep, staring out the window in search of inspiration is “working.”  Writers don’t have time to wipe hankies through In Boxes inundated with fluff or junk or sneezes.  How ’bout you?

50 - where's the partyDo you have a friend who’s prone to “sneezing” on line?  Share this post with them so they can avoid losing friends and subscribers and build their  e-list intelligently, too.

Winning or Wounding and “Smithing” Well

Geyser sprayNiagara falls.  Earthquakes.  Stars. Old Faithful.  Rainbows.  A pen.

Power.

Writer, maybe you’ve never really thought about it before, but do you realize the power you have at your fingertips?  The impact your words can have?  There may be no other profession that can persuade, convince, motivate or edify like writing.  Writers have the ability to create, enhance, improve, challenge, enlighten, embrace, entertain, or educate like few others.   We can also destroy, defeat, discourage, dampen, denigrate, divide and dispirit.

If you’re a word smith, smith well. And carefully, because the “power of the pen” is immense.

Oops

Example:  Awhile back I received a Dear John letter from a friend.  Let’s call her Sally.

Okay, it wasn’t really a “letter.”  It was more like a one-way ticket for an under-the-bus reservation.  Seems I inadvertently “hurt her deeply” by not immediately returning an “I’m dying, please call me” message she left on my machine.  While we were on vacation.  Out of town.  Tent-camping for a week in Incommunicado Land.

Her first message came in an hour after our departure for terra incognita.  The second arrived the next day, and with increased voltage: “I can’t believe you haven’t called me back yet.  I told you I was dying.”  (This isn’t the first “I’m dying” call I’ve received from Sally.)  I called her back when we got home.  No answer.  Left a message explaining we’d been out of town for a week, hoped she was feeling better, please give me a call and let me know how you are.

No response.

Several months later I received a four-sentence note from Sally.  “Please do not contact me again” she wrote, “I’m not interested in a one-way relationship.”

At Your Fingertips

Now, I could go several different directions here.  But to stay on target, here’s the point: If you’re a writer, you have enormous power at your fingertips. You can wound or win with your words. You can splash canvasses with color, wonder and intrigue.  Introduce readers to far-off lands, distant destinations, or, like Tolkien, create entire worlds and histories in your head and transfer them to the page.  You can inspire,  amuse and make merry.  You can also delve into the depths of despair, cut others off at the knees.  Alienate, isolate, separate and depress.

A good example of the latter: 1984 by George Orwell and Night, by Elie Wiesel.  If you’re really interested, here’s a list of the Top 10 Most Depressing Books.  (I do not agree with this list entirely, but they got 1984 right.)

I scoured the internet in search of a reasonable, sane listing of the Top 10 Most Inspiring or Uplifting Books ever written.  By “inspiring” I mean uplifting, engaging, poignant, powerful or laugh-out-loud.  A beautifully crafted, thoughtfully written work that ignites an “Aha!” moment(s), drawing readers into something bigger than themselves.

‘Most Inspirational?’

I must’ve read through like nine zillion lists, usually punctuated with, “You have got to be kidding!”  So, after I picked myself up off the floor, I decided to create my own.  Here in no particular order are my purely subjective choices for Most Inspirational:

The Bible

The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams

Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

The Notebook, Three Weeks With My Brother – Nicholas Sparks

The Christmas Box, Road to Grace series – Richard Paul Evans

The Gift of the Magi, The Ransom of Red Chief – O. Henry

The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom

These Strange Ashes – Elisabeth Elliot

The Applause of Heaven, When God Whispers Your Name – Max Lucado

A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Cold Tangerines – Shauna Niequist

The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

Secrets of the Vine, The Prayer of Jabez – Bruce Wilkinson

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

The Wizard of Oz – Frank Baum

For Those Who Hurt – Charles Swindoll

Woods Runner, Winter Dance – Gary Paulsen

The Mitford Series – Jan Karon

Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Walking With God, Waking the Dead – John Eldredge

Sunrise to Paradise – Ruth Kirk

That’s the short, short list of champion wordsmiths who’ve “smithed” well.  If you want the full list, check out my Book Shelf.

Kristine Lowder - close upWhat’s on your list?  Cite an example of someone who “smiths” well.

Oh yeah – grab a  FREE copy of  my ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming the Writer You Were Born to Be, when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter!