Archives for posts with tag: writer encouragement

Note: This post is for business-minded, entrepreneurial,
creative types.
If you want to make a living at your art, you’ve most likely heard the term audience.
(Be forewarned: This post isn’t the usual “identify your audience” banter.)

Regarding your audience, a well-known speaker said to me recently,
“Too many writers make blogs for other writers. That’s bad.
You need to write to the audience you want to sell to —
those who will buy your stuff.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit —
and I don’t believe the audience thing (or the whole social media thing) is that cut and dry.

Yes, as an artist of any kind, it’s important to build a social media platform.
People need to know you — who you are and what you do —
in order to like you, follow you, and buy from you.
(Buying is good. As we all know, this starving artist thing is real.
And I like to eat, don’t you?)

But there are many reasons to interact within social media.
Just think of the different social media outlets —
from Pinterest to LinkedIn,
Facebook to Instagram,
blogging to tweeting…

It’s not all about money.
(Thank God.)

Okay, I know —
Some blogs are clearly money-seeking ventures bleeding insincerity.
(Uhyeah, there’s enough insincerity and manipulation out there to
choke a dinosaur.)

Social media, once it becomes only money-and-sales-driven drivel,
turns us into takers
(and alienates people).
(we know this. we’re turned off by this. we need to avoid this. big. time.)

If we’re not careful, this Audience #1 — those who we intend our message to grip, grab, and bless the socks off — can become the Target Market that we hunt for the sale, with little regard for sincerity.

How does a healthy Audience #1 work? 
* Passion. We have something we’re passionate about.
* Benefit. Audience #1 benefits from what we share.
* Follow. Because they benefit, they follow. We now have a Tribe.
* Connect. Tribes like your stuff. But they mostly like us. They keep coming back because of us — the authenticity, the passion, and the willingness to be real while sharing the transaction.
(so, yeah. be authentic, passionate, and willing to be real.)
* Buy-Sell Transactions. Yes, interacting with Audience #1 involves selling something. A book. A work of art. A film. Audience #1 is willing to pay for that benefit, follow, and connection — in a transaction.

With Audience #1, the benefit goes both ways.
It’s both a hard and soft transaction.
(Hard = money; soft = benefit sharing)

But your Audience #2 has a different kind of transaction happening. 
Audience #2 is only about the soft transaction.
(We both benefit, and the benefit is intangible.)

How does Audience #2 work?
* Sharing Art. We create (make our art) and share it.
* Feedback and Support. By sharing our art, we receive feedback and support. while they receive positives from our art, too. Those with like minds cheer us on, keep us on our toes, and keep us sane. By sharing our art with those who wholeheartedly resonate, we form an intangible — yet highly beneficial — bond. And there’s something wonderful about resonating with a group, isn’t there?
* Personal Growth. Finally, that support feeds our spirit. Especially among artists, like-minded banter sharpens our thoughts and, ultimately, sharpens our craft.

What kind of audiences do you cultivate?
<<I contend that we need both.>>

I believe
when we aim ONLY for the target-market transaction,
the arrow may hit the mark, but we lose a bit of humanity.

(Not everything we do is about getting.)
(Balance your audiences.)
(We need a Clan, not just a Tribe.)

A Clan is your like-minded, life-minded people-group
bound by intangibles that matter.

Don’t think it’s a waste of time, to give freely to your like-minded peeps.)

* Thup

Is an MFA worth it?

Quite a few people argue against a Master of Fine Arts.
Too much money. Too much time. Not enough payback.

I beg to differ.

If your goal is to become an excellent writer
(or painter, or sculptor, or screenwriter, or whatever),
then an MFA might be your short track to get there.

(It is for me.)

As I sit in my dorm room for my third on-campus part of Western Colorado State University’s low-residency program, I’m reflecting. Before I enrolled, I fancied myself a pretty good writer. But we all know that good is arbitrary. Good is relative. (How good is good? Can good be better? Oh, yes. Much better.)

While in the program, my writing didn’t just take leaps and bounds; it jumped canyons.

  • There’s something about people who’ve been-there-done-that giving insider advice that I really like, that makes me better, faster.
  • There’s something about building relationships with other writers striving through the same exercises that boosts drive and focus.
  • There’s something about someone chopping up your work (nicely, of course) that carves precise meaning that (eventually) feels good.
  • There’s something about creating bonds with professionals that last into publishing and beyond.
  • There’s something about working hard with a goal that puts a lamp in your hand to light the pathway ahead.

Years ago, someone said to me, “Education is compacted experience.” I agree.

As with any degree, it’s not about the letters. Or the arrogance of a title. It’s about learning. Growing. Becoming. And, because of the hard work and experiences, being able to give back more.

(I love to learn. And give.)
(If I ever act pompous or arrogant, you have my permission to bop me upside the head and set me straight, fast.)

But the question remains:
Do you need an MFA to tell a good story?
To create a beautiful work of art?
To share your passion?
Of course not.

But an MFA may be just the spark to creating powerful, touching, dynamic work.
Work that makes a difference.
Work you’re proud of.
Work you can share with others,
to inspire, to encourage,
and to give a greater sense of living fully together on this big, blue earth of ours.


PS. James Scott Bell just posted a good post that dovetails into what I’m talking about here.
You might want to check it out here.

I don’t know about you,
but I thought summer was supposed to be easier.
As in sips of lemonade and lounging in the sun.

Beach days and sleeping in.


All of a sudden, the pressure’s on. Why?

I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines.

I hate deadlines. Because it’s as if a tiny little man with a tiny little pickaxe is chip-chip-chipping away at something in my head, morning to night (and sometimes showing up at 3 or 4 AM). As he chips, the story (or nonfiction work) unfolds. Sometimes in pieces. Most of the time in stops and starts. And often when it’s inconvenient to get out the computer (or notebook), to capture that thought.

(Authors, you’ll get this.)
I live inside the story that the little man sculpts. And on the outside, real life whirls and whizzes with its own noise and intensity, like papers caught in stormy gusts.

(The little man and the wind compete for my attention. All. The. Time. Which can be really. really. irritating. Like having a gaggle of people talk to you at once. I don’t need that. I have lots of kids who’ve been doing that to me for years. oy. Got kids? You know what I mean, then.)


But then, I love deadlines. (Bust out the smile, here.) Because deadlines thrust me forward … which means that stuff is actually getting done and coming to fruition. As in end result. Accomplished. Completed. And that feels glorious. Ideas have downloaded out of my head, cascading over the falls and into the pool of finished. And I look at the result and feel relief.

(Little man has, for a moment, stopped. He’s actually sitting on a rock, polishing his little pickaxe with a smile on his face.)


Problem is, when the little man does his work
and too many outside pieces whirl in the wind around my head,
Big Bad Overwhelm threatens to jump in the picture and taser me into something frozen.
(Please don’t sing Let it Go, here. Thanks.)

Overwhelm = the worst response to deadlines.
Because overwhelm stops me cold.
Staring at the page. Or at the calendar. Or at the wall.
Not sure which pressing problem to turn to, first
(which only increases deadline pressure).

Anyone else feel this?
I thought so.

So when the pressure’s on, it’s time to
step back,
take a breath,
organize the rampage of thoughts into little lines
(“take a number”),
listen to each one’s plea,
and DO.
(Just start on one thing.)


Do you have a deadline looking at you, right now?
Something happening soon that needs attention?
Something that you need to take care of?
Something you’ve been putting off?

Time to stop blogging and start doing.
(Time to stop reading and start doing.)

(See you later.)

* Thup

Ever heard of “coffee snobs”?
(If you are one, you’re grinning. Uh-huh. Yup.)

Definition, please…
A coffee snob is someone who doesn’t just know and love good coffee; the snob knows and loves the best coffee — and doesn’t accept anything less.

We’ve studied coffee, tasted all kinds of coffees, and become spoiled on quality coffee.

By definition, a snob believes that his or her tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people. And for coffee lovers, it’s not belief; it’s truth. (*Caution: Coffee Snob Crossing. ha.)

So for those of us who adore coffee, “just any old coffee” will NOT do.


Coffee snobs are the ones who drive across town
to get a cup of coffee at the “good” coffee place —
because no other coffee will do.

Coffee snobs not only know the difference between Sumatra, Guatemalan, and French Roast
(can there be anything more different?) —
we talk Indonesian, Yemen, and South American, too.

We use words like “espresso shots pulled,”
“berry, wine, and chocolate notes,” and
“intense, lime-like acidity.”
(And we get really excited about “single origin expresso.”)

And if someone offers us offee from McDonalds — oy!
Off with their heads!
(That’s not coffee. Get real.
It’s water with coffee-ish flavoring splashed in. duh.)


Who, me? (Yes, you.)
Snobs exist everywhere. It’s too bad the word has a horrid connotation, because we’re really nice people (most of the time).

Now hang with me here, because there’s a point to this.
(You know me. There’s always a point.)

Snobs exist in all activities. Within all phases of activities.

For instance, 
there are pen snobs, too.
I know. I am one.
(Oh, yes. We can be many snobs all rolled into one.
Wow. That conjures up weirdness.)

Yesterday, when working together with a fabulous young author and her work, I couldn’t find the right pen. All had to stop, until I found it. All was not right with the world — until the correct pen rested between my fingers.

You see, particularly for those of us who adore writing, “just any old pen” will NOT do.

We have to have the pen that feels good in the hand.
With the perfect weight.
And the perfect tip.
And the most perfect movement across the paper.
(I know…there’s no such thing as most perfect. The words simply felt right. See. There I go. I’m being a snob about word choice and rhythm, too.)

A good pen allows you to engage when you write. Really write.

Hear me again: Snobs are everywhere.


For those of us who adore painting,
“just any old brush” will NOT do.

And for those of us who create photographs as an art form,
“just any old camera” will NOT do.

And for those of us who play an instrument,
“just any old instrument” will NOT do.
(Don’t get me started on this one.)

There’s a message here.
When it comes to creativity and artistry,  each of us has preferences. But they’re not just preferences. They’re personal, comfortable habits of creativity that allow us to do our best.

We learn what works for us, and we refine the process over time. By using the best equipment, the best processes, and even the best coffee and pens, we slide into our creative sweet spot — getting to the artistry faster and with more excellence because we turned a creative preference into a habit that increased our artistry and productivity.

(That’s a mouthful. But a true mouthful, at that.)

What’s your sweet spot?
What tools, tricks, and processes help you to create at your highest levels of performance?
(Have you been attentive enough to know what helps you to create at a faster rate, in the zone with the brain, body, and soul working together at optimum speed and skill?)

Snobbery, if you will, in the form of your own special process —
where you tap into the creative —
where creativity takes hold of you and thrusts you into the ring —
where you flash the fists and fight and win —
emerging victorious, arm held high — and the winner is! —
held high by the audience, collective individuals experiencing your work, as the crowd roars —
Yes, this kind of snobbery benefits everyone involved.

(Application Button, please…)
Okay. Bottom Line.
Find the physical and mental tools that take you to creativity’s center.

Don’t let the tool become the focus, though. Fuse with the tools, to become the opponent who’s fully in the mental and physical game, to create at the highest pace and performance.

We’re all entering the ring to win,

Find what pulls you to excellence, even in the small things.
Like the right pen. And a good cup of coffee.

* Thup
* This post is dedicated to my husband, who kindly offered me a coffee from McDonalds and got more of an answer to the why not? than he anticipated. No matter how nicely it’s explained, it just sounds…snobbish. *sigh

What’s the value of connection?
it can be the difference between
yes or no.
Getting to the end or standing still.
Making it or not.

it can be the difference between
isolation and truly living.

* Thup

I’m convinced.

We’re all different. We all prefer different work spaces and work processes. But sometimes, for the best productivity of any creative venture, we need a block of time. And not just any block of time. A clean block of time.

clean from electronics
No phones, no email, and no buzzers. Of any kind. (Is this even possible?) There’s something about today’s screaming technology that siphons the life out of creativity.

Little electronic gnats follow us everywhere, even infesting our computers. Every few minutes or so on my Mac, a little window drops down on the top right of the screen telling me that an email just came in, or my hard-drive space is almost full (a writer’s problem), or that it’s now 9:00.

In normal, everyday work, I need the interruption, to get the job done. But when I’m trying to be creatively productive in a clean block of time, helpful reminders dirty up the art of creating.

To be uber-productive, I have to turn the reminders off. You might have to, too.

 kidclean of kids’ interruptions.
I know, I know. Moms and dads, this one’s almost impossible. BUT. To create in a mentally-free space, we have to clear our minds.

We have to get away — or work before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. (Remember, I have a ton of kids. I get this.)

There’s something about clean, uninterrupted silence that gets us into a place of high creativity. Little voices or taps on the arm whoosh us out of that space.

Yes, sometimes that interrupted time, or shared time with our kid sitting next to us, is the only thing we’ve got — so we’ll take it. But to be uber-productive, I have to find alone space. You might have to, too.

heartsclean of significant-other interruptions.
When it comes to getting to the inner place of creation, your significant other will most likely not get it. To those of you who are paired with creatives, you have a blessed life.

Oh, the not-getting-it isn’t intentional. On the contrary, the “Oops! I’m sorry! You were deep in thought just then, weren’t you?” moments are honest.

I have to work out that special block of alone time, with confirmation that it’s not about them. It’s about me. To be uber-productive, you might have to do this, too.

social mediaclean of social media.
I don’t have to go on about this one. Whether it’s Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, or Instagram, social media can’t exist in an uber-creative-uber-productive block of time. For all of us. With four fingers pointing back at me. (’nuff said)

worry  clean of worries.
None of us are ever worry free. Our minds swirl. Social, relational, financial, and job-related — it doesn’t matter where the concerns come from.

If I don’t have a quiet time where I release concerns in prayer or meditation, creativity remains wrapped and bound in shredded pieces of emotional cloth. I putter. I mutter. I flit. I do anything but go into the creative space. (Can you relate?)

It doesn’t matter who or what shut the door. It’s shut. For me, to be creative, that worry needs releasing.

To be uber-productive, you might have to do this, too. However. Whatever. Whomever. The clean block of time can’t truly happen with worry.

So. One more thing on this clean-block-of-time, super-productive thing.

For me, it has to be planned. Scheduled. Made happen.

It’s Monday. This just might be a good time to put something in the calendar, to ensure that this coveted uber-productive creative time happens.

(I am.)

Lifting my mug to you. Here’s to an uber-productive week.

* Thup


NOTE: The self-talk message today is brought to you by our valuable sponsor, Swift Kick in the Bum, who’s visiting my house and thought he’d share the wealth.

*clears throat*
Here we go.

The value of momentum can’t be overstated.

It’s not so hard to start a project, is it? Okay, procrastination aside, beginning a project is fairly easy. Ideas burst and jump in playful imaginations. Images holding near perfection float freely in our minds. Then we sit down to work, anticipation fueling our hands. This should be easy, we say. After all, we have an idea — and the idea feels alive.

So, with verve, the idea splashes onto the page. And we feel good.

The next day, waterfalls still play in our minds. The work continues, and we feel good.

The next day, idea rivulets move into tertiary streams. Ideas still flow, so we’re okay.

But then. Droplets. And dry spells. And maybe it even all-out-full-stops. GAH.

Maybe you were pulled away by schedule. Or relationships. Or health. Responsibilities in another area of your life fluxed and bulged, pressing and pushing time in a way that didn’t allow you to get back to it.

Whatever the reason, momentum stopped. And once it stops, it can be hard to get going again. Most of the time, the reason that I don’t begin again isn’t physical. I’m physically capable, even if it’s just putting in a little time. Oh, no. The reason I don’t begin again is emotional.

Frozen is  more than the title of a blockbuster movie. It’s our state, when momentum stops.

It’s time to get momentum going again.
With One. Little. Piece. Of. Movement.
One push.
Dig your heels in. (Go.)
(Simply get past the emotional and mental state, and let the physical momentum take over.)

Momentum is an asset that we can’t afford to be without.
* Thup

Most will not argue:
Clutter diminishes productivity.

With clutter, you can’t find it.
With clutter, you waste time.
With clutter, you’re distracted.
With clutter, you lose things.
With clutter, you’re embarrassed
when someone has to wait for you as you rifle through the mess.
With clutter, you lose focus.
With clutter, you get behind.

Maybe two minutes of rearranging is what’s needed,
before you begin today.


* Thup

Warning: Long Post.
Only read the following to the end if
you believe in the power of art,
you believe in the ability to learn,
you believe that you can grow as an artist, and
you believe that all people — young and old — can learn, grow, and become.


Yesterday, I was talking to someone on the phone about a writing teacher job.
(an “informal interview” or “pre-interview,” before the “real interview”)

What they said blew. me. away.
(And not in a good way.)

This person (we’ll call him “J”) is a former editor, a published author, and (more recently) an academic teacher of writing. He has a degree in English.


Back to what J said that left my hair blown back (and my jaw on the ground).
And, I quote,

“I don’t think you can teach writing fiction. It’s a gift.
You either have it or you don’t.”

My breathing s.t.o.p.p.e.d.
I paused. A BIG pause.

IF he’s right (a whopper-sized IF),
(is it only to weed out the haves from the have-nots?) and

(because then we should just test for “gifted” kids and throw out the rest) and

then I’m wasting a WHOLE lot of money and time on my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Fiction Writing.
Because MFAs are about someone teaching you how to write fiction.
(but that’s another post)

Question of the day:
Or is art only for a special population who are born with the artist-gene?

What about those who are starting out, with no clue?
Artists of any kind who are young or old?
They’re ignorant, but it’s not their fault.
(yes, I’m yelling)

Once a learner gets a chance to observe, listen, read, learn, and practice, then

Consider this, J:

1. 10,000 hours. Talk to Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote the book, Outliers. Gladwell believes people can become masters at a skill after logging 10,000 hours in the activity. Granted, when it comes to some sports, Gladwell’s claim is disputed. But what about Suzuki methodology, where little kids are immersed in music from a young age and, no matter the background, they become “gifted” musicians?

I’m trained in Suzuki methodology (see my bio) I’ve seen kids from all backgrounds become musicians. ALL backgrounds. With parents who can’t tap their foot on the beat if their life depended on it. I’ve seen kids from all around the world, transplanted into families through adoption, become brilliant musicians, artists, dancers.

Take my own young son, who was born in the mountains of Guatemala, who could’t clap on the beat and had zero musical input, who’s now a skilled dancer. And how about another son, from an orphanage in the Far East, who didn’t have a lick of art in his life, no paper and pen to draw with, who — after hours and hours of instruction and immersion — is on his way, someday, to work at Pixar or some other studio.

When we say, “you have to be gifted to do this,” you’re making a judgment. But YOU DON”T KNOW.

2. Leadership Theory. I saw it all the time when teaching leadership at a university for seven years. Invariably, when it came to leadership, students came in thinking, “You either have it or you don’t.” Wrongo. Leadership is learned. Yes, those with emotional intelligence grasp and use the skills faster (because transformational leaders exhibit high emotional intelligence). But EVERY SINGLE STUDENT who came into my diverse classroom, by the end of the course, exhibited new leadership skills. They all LEARNED.

3. The Mastery 7 Principle. For over 30 years, I’ve been digging into why some people learn and others “don’t.” What I’ve found, over and over, is that most people don’t master a skill because they’re missing one of the seven must-haves to learn the skill. (More on that in another post…)

The short of it: It’s not the student’s fault. It’s one of two things:
1) the instructor’s fault, in HOW it’s taught (not taught the parts of the task in small enough pieces, not enough repetition, not taught in the learning style, etc.), or it’s
2) that the information is missing an element (the information is incorrect).

It’s not the student! The skills can be LEARNED.
(J just might be missing something)

If you want to be a skilled writer and published author, YOU CAN.
If you want to be a skilled painter and published artist, YOU CAN.
If you want to be a photographer and published artist, YOU CAN.
If you want to be a dancer and professional gigger, YOU CAN.

Which reminds me. You might say, “Wait a minute! What about something like dance? What about those people who physically don’t have what it takes? What if that person is deaf, or in a wheelchair, or blind, or whatever? They can’t do it–they aren’t physically able!”

Don’t tell that to Beethoven.
(he was deaf when he wrote his Ninth Symphony)

Don’t tell that to VanGogh.
(reportedly, he was color blind).

Don’t tell that to my young son from Guatemala who’s a dancer…
a young man who has only five degrees of a visual field, with 20/125 acuity (translated: way legally blind)

who gets up at seven in the morning to stretch,
literally never complains before, during, or after a workout
(of which he’s in for over 20 hours a week),
watches dancers on YouTube and on TV “to learn,”
and works his tushie off to master his art.
(he puts me to shame)

No excuses.


* Thup

I had a whole different blog post swirling in my mind, for today.
But. Then.

Then a friend messaged me on Facebook
with words that I thought completely and utterly wonderful —
surely worthy to share with you all.

That’s a lot of adverbs.
(My MFA professors are rolling their eyes.)

This. Is. So. Cool.
(and spot on)

So, thank you, Dick —
And I hope you guys enjoy my friend’s note
and these words of Mark Twain as much as I did…

“Hi there, I have enjoyed reading your blog, *Thup. This morning, I don’t know how I got there, but I found myself reading an iBook I have of Mark Twain excerpts.

I came across this, and I thought, ‘I know somebody who would appreciate this!’ (You). Enjoy!…[Excuse me as I Break the Fourth Wall and say, Yuppers, he was right :)]…

‘A man who is born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience.

He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality.

He knows these people, he knows the selected locality, and he trusts that he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. So he goes to work.

To write a novel? No—that is a thought which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale; a very little tale; a six-page tale.

But as it is a tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book.

I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.”

From Quotations from the Project Gutenberg Editions of the Works of Mark Twain. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

So. Cool.
(I love Mark Twain, don’t you?)

Here’s to getting acquainted with your work today.

* Thup

%d bloggers like this: