Agony of the Undecided

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely.

Charles Dickens

People are often surprised to hear the I was a late bloomer. Despite my intentions and intuition of “knowing” I put off writing. I didn’t aim to procrastinate, it just happened. If your in that boat I’m going to insist that you read this so you can get yourself going. You may even get swept off your feet and find your passion.   UNdecided

You don’t know which story to pick

You don’t just have one idea, you have many and writing a book is a big commitment. You want to take time to carefully consider what you’ll be spending the next year or two or five slaving over. No sense rushing in to things, right?

The problem with that logic is that it leads to a stalemate. You like all the ideas you came up with. They’re your ideas, after all. When you start to think about picking one, you realize that would mean giving up on the others. Then you vacillate back and forth.

Remedy: Write the first chapter of each story. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a better appreciation of which one you like the most. And if you can’t finish a chapter, that’s telling you something. If you feel like you want to go on, then there’s your answer.

Stories are always more awesome in your head than they are on paper

Your hero, Geoffrey, had neglectful and disinterested parents. This made him overwhelmingly driven to excel. He’s the youngest Vice President in the history of his Fortune 500 company. One day, while having dinner with his wise-cracking friend Ryan, he meets Julia. She’s a funny and pretty, but makes a living as a cocktail waitress and is not outwardly “successful.” She’s content to take life easy. Will Geoffrey compromise his obsession with upward mobility to find happiness with Julia?

That’s the idea you had, anyway. But when you tried to write it, you got this:

Geoffrey first saw Julia at the restaurant. She looked inviting. Ryan was there, too.”

After a few incidents like this, you got gun-shy about writing. You’re reluctant to put it on paper because deep down you know it won’t be as cool as you imagined it.

Remedy: Okay, so it won’t be as great as you thought. But a story in your head isn’t a story. It’s a daydream until you actually write it down. So write it down. What’s the worst that can happen? If it stinks, you can always delete it.

You’ve been telling the story instead of writing it

Admit it.  You’ve been telling everyone your story idea. Friends, relatives, the mailman, and anyone else who didn’t  edge away while you rambled on. But guess what? That sapped your desire to actually write it.

You want an audience. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be a writer. The biggest motivation to write is the knowledge that someone will read it. But you already told the story to everyone you know and your need for an audience has been sated. So when you stare at that scary blank page, your subconscious begins calculating. “This is hard. Is this worth it? What feedback will I get? I already got opinions from the people I know, so anything beyond that will be from strangers. That’s nice, but I could be watching my favorite sports game or television show right now.”

Remedy: Don’t tell your stories to anyone. You’ll be more motivated knowing it’s a prerequisite to having an audience. Also, your friends will be able to give real feedback instead of vague opinions about your unimplemented concepts. And you won’t have to wonder if the person you’re talking to is genuinely interested in your story, or secretly hoping you’ll stop so they can escape the conversation.

You don’t know how it will end yet

You know that your protagonist will defeat the opposing powers that be, but you haven’t decided how. Will there be a revolt? Will there be an unarmed combat? Or will he use his rugged countenance to seduce? You just can’t make up your mind.

Of course, you’re nowhere near having to write the climax yet. You’re still working on Chapter 2, but you don’t want to write any more until you’ve settled on an ending. After all, everything leads up to that. It will affect how every part of the story is presented.

Remedy: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Don’t wait for an inspired ending to come to mind. Work your way to the ending and see what comes up. When you actually write it down, you start to see all the avenues. You’ll finish sooner and you’ll get more ideas for the ending along the way.

Hope that helps. Have I gotten your attention? Are you going to stop calling yourself a writer and actually live up to your title? What are you waiting for?

Share your thoughts, concerns and opinions, whatever they are. They are welcome.

Writing; a fun hobby; a professional …

I was asked by a neighbor recently about my writing. For those of you who don’t know I’m back in California so I have a lot of catching up to do. A decade is a long time. What I shared is that writing is something I have to do.

In my case, jumping into the corporate world was doable, working in the entertainment industry was doable, getting grants to work on independent creative projects was doable, being in commercials was doable, and even being a columnist was doable. When I say doable, I won’t pretend the path was easy—it wasn’t.  Nor was it clear; it was rugged; I encountered stones along the way but I was intent on removing obstacles, and it didn’t take an inordinate amount of time to achieve my goal.

The ambition to be a writer begins early in life and is inspired by our favorite writers. I shared my aspiration with my wonderful sixth grade teacher, Mr. Marshall. He praised me for it.

The reality, was that I do not gloss over my private demons and although you won’t find in me a dual life, or in a state of alcoholism, drug addiction, persecution, hypertension, obesity, depression, divorce, estrangement, chronic pain, or with thoughts of suicide staring at me out of the barrel of a gun tucked under my pillow, I have chosen to encounter my trials by other means. Those trials gave the determination to keep going today.

LindaLarocheMy writer’s story turned out differently than what I imagined. For instance, I didn’t imagine that while acting, I would be under the curse of “guilt” that would bring me to turn on the computer and try to catch up to where the literary world had evolved. Living in a European country where I never fully mastered the language, made the words pile up like a walnut lodged in my throat. I never expected that acting would flow. I spent years with uncertainty, not sure what to write about, and that delay kept me at arm’s distance.

Then I found my muse. Or I should say my muse found me. For the first time I was noticed! It inspired me and I knocked and doors opened. My spirit aroused, I wrote a screenplay and entered it into a competition. It didn’t win but garnered attention and a sale. The validation I needed was reflected by my pocketbook.

Equally satisfying was seeing my name in print. Writing for a city while living in it, I discovered the rich relationship a writer can have with her readers. Once that stopped, I mourned the richness of experiences. The loss of an audience, the loss of my words meaning anything to anyone. But with every closing door there were others opening. A chance to use my imagination, greater than I had in front of a camera, or in print. After licking my wounds it was like a dam had burst and all that had been stored for years just gushed out.

I went to writers conferences. I was instructed by a Literary Agent to start this blog and to share my posts on Facebook. Readers comments and participation I was told would give me a “platform,” a following that was crucial for the modern writer. I was reticent, wanting to keep my affairs private.

Then I began to teach creative writing, the joy of bringing others’ work out, to watch them stand at the podium reading from their stories gave me immense satisfaction. I was doing my bit to restore the middle class in publishing. It turned something in me too. Along with what I told my students, I enthusiastically tried all the publishing models available, traditional and new, and discovered that they all had their pros and cons, but as readerships’ were distinct, this lack of homogeneity helped plaster me all over Google, assuaging my guilt for having neglected “my gift.”

I faced a dark side too: the shrunken attention spans, and the need for that source of income to fuel this one. None of this had been part of my dream.

Having reader’s support my writing by engaging in comments on my blog has been a greater task than the average person who wants to be seen on Facebook. Sometimes, in life one only has to enjoy the ride.

Writers, take note: it doesn’t always turn out the way you had planned. But it can be a damn sight more interesting and surprising. Why go on a trip where every stopover is carefully laid out, predictable and boring? Where would the thrill of the unexpected lie? Isn’t that what writers try to create in our work – the unexpected?

Thank you reader for staying tuned. Share this post with a friend and subscribe to my blog. Your comments are welcome. So much of what I’ve learned in life comes from what others tell me about theirs. I’m here to listen.

Now is the Time

CarmenMirScience has proven gratitude can make you a happier person.  According to a recent study I read, and I don’t remember from where but saved the quote —“materialists are less happy partly because they have difficulty being grateful for what they have. As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier, we simply raise our reference point.”

I have witnessed many keeping up with the Joneses; only to remind me of what it must have been like for Sisyphus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus) pushing the boulder up the mountain only to have it fall back to the bottom. No matter how hard he tried, it was a meaningless escapade where there was no top. But we do not have to be Sisyphus destined to be cursed to continue struggling for an eternity. We can learn gratitude and focus on what we have instead of longing for what we don’t have.

Being grateful can do many positive things in your life. It keeps you cognizant of everything you have accomplished to be proud of; turning a negative outlook into a positive one. It can help keep your perspective on what is important in your life, and reminds you to be thankful in an affirmative way.

The finding suggests those who feel grateful show more willpower. And it made a connection between gratitude and long-term thinking, which may help people quit smoking, lose weight, and spend money responsibly.

So do your best to be consciously observant of your abundance and remind yourself what a precious (and short-term) gift life is.


Indulge

I’ve never been a napper, which doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them, I simply can’t engage no matter how exhausted I am. Probably stems from the time I fought naps believing I’d miss out on the day.  Ironic how that reverses itself from childhood into adulthood. But one thing I do wholeheartedly is to daydream. It provides future writing material. So with that, I say Indulge, reach for the stars and may these images inspire you along with Einsteins quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

naptime+7naptime+13nite+lites

You Make a Difference

What shall I choose?
What shall I choose?

One thing I pass onto students that I too have heard is that a blog must have a theme, a focus, a sort of statement that everything revolves around… but how do you figure out what that theme is? How do you choose what to make your blog about? If you don’t want to follow a theme such as party planning, cooking or pets, how do you figure out what to write about? Yourself perhaps?

It may be too specific but a blog about you is obviously harder to promote or find a target audience for than another topic— right?  Or wrong?

Personally I enjoy non-themed blogs and wish there were more of them.  I love going to a blog and not knowing what’s going to be posted there.  Funny stories about life incidents.  Home décor ideas.  Ethnic recipes.  To me a good blog is one that reads like a magazine, curated and edited by someone interesting and, I appreciate funny writers.

Let’s discuss a few problems and solutions of non-themed blogging.

Obstacle: A non-themed blog can miss out on some lucrative themed sponsorship.
We all know certain fashion brands that love the blogosphere, but if you’re not a fashion blogger, they probably won’t come a-knocking.  And if you’re not a beauty blogger, companies like Benefit and Body Shoppe aren’t going to fall all over themselves advertising with you.  When those companies are googling blogs, your URL won’t come up.

Remedy: Add some themed content – and make sure everybody knows it
You shouldn’t write about something specific to court specific advertisers or readers, but a themed series will give your blog a more cohesive, well-rounded feel. And it makes it more likely that advertisers and bloggers in that niche will link to you and advertise with you.

Obstacle: Nobody knows what my blog is about when they land on my site
Your friends may review your blog and shout-out: today you’re talking about spirituality and last time you were on psychological family issues. What’s going on?

Remedy: Write a clever tagline
Did you know that I’m a professional copywriter? This is where I can place my copywriter hat on for you (think  Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap).  If your blog is un-themed, then you need a clever tagline.  Something like “Every relationship can be adventuresome” or “On the internet since 2009.”

Obstacle:  My blog looks messy
If you’re writing about everything under the sun things can get visually overwhelming.

Remedy: Stick with a color theme and keep your header and sidebar simple. Unless I’m doing a current events post, I try to choose black and white photos that compliment my red header. I didn’t plan it that way, but instinctively went with black and cream since it exudes classic style and sophistication.  It’s also dramatic. You may choose soft colors, bright colors or neutrals, however if you refuse to be limited to a certain color palette, try a header/template that’s simple and crisp so your images will be bright and engaging, not busy and tacky. Remember—balance is key.

Obstacle: There are a lot of un-themed blogs out there, how can I stand out?

Remedy: The blogosphere is rife with ladies taking pictures of themselves in thrift store outfits, from their bedrooms, and promoting Etsy. Find and amplify your Difference. I love travel and wanted to share my smart and solo adventures that I went on in my 20’s and 30’s as an online diary.  At the time I was told, “you have guts.” By sharing them later, I got to write on travel.  I also love fashion, so I turned my dresses into conversation pieces, also known as anthropomorphism http://lindalaroche.com/blog/dress-you-up.html  http://lindalaroche.com/blog/bespoken.html.  Perhaps you live in Iceland or sky dive as a hobby.  You don’t have to make your point of difference the point of your blog, but play it up! You’re an expert at one unique thing that others will find fascinating!

Ready, Set, Go!

NY1

I love the start of a new year new as a new beginning— a chance to start over and make decisions, to take action. But actually, it doesn’t take a new year— to make a new goal, all it takes is keeping a self-promise.  Honor thy self-commitments.

Feeling stuck with your writing? Write something new or better yet what I often say to my students, finish what you’ve started!

Of course it’s easy to stay where you are, which is why so many of us get stuck in ruts—because it is easy. But if you really want to move forward, you can make the decision to get out of your comfort zone and make the leap into something new by having a goal.  

The worst thing you can do is to not try.  To be aware of what you want, but to not give in to it, to not attempt. And to wonder, years down the road, “If only…”

So this year, after the thrill of making a New Year’s resolution has worn off, remember that you don’t need an annual holiday to make a change. You can choose to redirect your life at any moment.

Make this your year—the year of making good choices. NY2