Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Creative Recycling

Everybody seems to be writing a memoir these days. I just finished one myself. And we have probably all heard memoir called The New Novel.

This is understandable of course. Memoirists focus on the most intense and dramatic and powerful periods of their lives. I did the same – told the story of my long battle with cancer and the people who battled with me – bless their souls.

Now that I have that out of my system I feel a longing to get fictional again. BUT – I still have lots of intense and dramatic and powerful personal material as yet untapped and unwritten.

There is the fraught and damaging childhood. There is the fraught and damaging first marriage followed by its fraught and damaging aftermath. I have fraughtness and damage enough to fill what might be a million pages. And so probably do all of us.

But what if we no longer wish to wallow? What if we do not even want to wade in to begin with? What if we love better the land of imagination and once upon a time?

Does that mean we have to jettison all of that great material? I say – absolutely not. Fraughtness and damage make very effective fiction after all.

But – does fictionalizing mean we are doomed to slog through the literal scenes of our most hideous history like damage déjà vu all over again? I say – absolutely not.

What it does mean is that we harvest the humanity of those heart-heavy happenings. We tap the trauma and drain the drama. Because – it is not the facts ma’am that matter most. It is the feelings.

All of that stuff we’ve been dumping on our shrinks for decades serves a powerful fictional purpose when recycled into emotional stories.

Get to the gut of it. Dredge up the details from deep down. Then tell the hell out of your best bad times in a tale that will knock the world off its feet with the power of the feelings imaginatively retold.

We all have an internal recycle bin filled to the brim and waiting to be written into the light. I certainly do. But – instead of wallowing – I’m in the mood to play. So let’s pretend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So Social

I was at another wonderful writers’ gathering this weekend. Liberty State Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime joined forces in New Jersey for a day of learning – lunch – and laughter.

I most love these events because of the people. I am back home again in the east and that means reunions – reconnecting with writers I have not seen in years with hugs and happiness all around.

These are professional gatherings because we are all in the business of writing and publishing. And we are all trying to do that business well and better. These are social gatherings because we are a community.

I meet new folks along with the old and add them to my neighborhood of that community. You could say I am making contacts. The hugs and happiness tell me I am also making friends and always have been.

During the afternoon panel discussion the moderator asked the panelist authors this question. “How do you use social media to promote your books?”

Caridad Pineiro had good reason to seize the moment as a marketing opportunity. The Claimed – second novel in her already highly regarded Sin Hunters paranormal romance series after The Lost – is out this month from Grand Central Publishing.

But instead of pushing that book she made this response. “We need to remember that it is called social media not promo media.”

In other words – we need to stop selling selling selling in every other blog post/tweet/facebook update. I say – that is what hyperlinks to our websites are for. Selling is appropriate there.

Meanwhile in those other media we hug one another – with our humanity – with our humor – or as I do here with service to each other.

We need to believe that our books – or in my case my writing workshops – will sell as a byproduct.

We should also keep in mind that too much pushing – no matter how great the product – can push people away. And that is the opposite of what we want to accomplish.

Personally I prefer to hugs.

By the way – Caridad does her appropriate selling at www.caridad.com.

Monday, May 7, 2012

One Day at a Time - Tell Me About It

I gave a motivational talk last weekend at the New York City RWA Annual Brunch. I had obviously heard the words before. Yet a few sentences in I realized I needed to hear them again. I suspect you might need to hear them too. So here is just a piece of that speech.
The strongest strategy for success in pretty much anything is to get yourself on an I Can and I Will path. And the first thing you must do on that path is fight back fear.
You must struggle against fear as relentlessly as the heroine of your story struggles against the obstacles in her path – in order to survive and then go on to thrive in the end.

Fight back fear by changing your thinking about now and the future – especially in terms of your goals for yourself. Stop thinking of your goal as far away. Stop thinking of your progress as painfully slow.

That kind of thinking ends in discouragement. That kind of thinking drains your hope. You lose what Ralph Waldo Emerson called the Power of Enthusiasm. Never relinquish your Powerful Enthusiasm. It is the energy you need to fuel you through testing times.

See your goal as right here with you now. See yourself as progressing toward that goal today. If you manage any forward movement at all – even a small step or two – this is a successful day.

One day at a time – know what you need to accomplish that day. Make sure it is a realistic goal. Do not defeat yourself before you start by filling your plate impossibly full. Beware the tyranny of the To Do List. It is the monster you create for yourself all by yourself.

Set a reasonable realistic self-sensitive goal. Pursue that goal each day deliberately – with intention – without anxiety – without rushing. Haste really does make waste. Haste wastes your ability to experience your achievements and your ability to savor them as they happen.

At the end of the day if you don’t think you achieved your goal – Look again. What did you achieve? How are you not in the same place as yesterday?

Measure that achievement by asking yourself this question. Have I done what I undertook today as well as I could? Be sure to factor in your circumstances – the obstacles you had to overcome.

If you can answer – “Yes, I have done what I could as well as I could do it.” Then you have succeeded. You have reached your goal.

Think of each day as a jewel on the thread of your life – a jewel on the thread of your career. Place it artfully. Never underestimate its worth. And – Never forget to admire its beauty.

I cannot seem to stop needing to tell myself these things. Probably because I cannot seem to stop forgetting them. How about you?