Thursday, February 24, 2011

This Writing Life

At times, I'm intrigued by the ideas people have about the life of a writer. Intrigued and amazed. I'd love to take a moment to dispel any myths, assumptions and/or rumors about the profession. Be warned, I have very little patience or tolerance for some of these "misconceptions."

1) Just because I'm a published author doesn't mean anyone can be. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "You're published? Oh, maybe I should try that too," I'd own an Aston Martin. It takes talent, a knack for and knowledge of the written word and a LOT of hard work. Not everyone can sing. Not everyone can cook. And not everyone can write.

2) Being a writer isn't code for "I watch soaps, eat bonbons and lounge in my pj's all day" or "I wear a black beret, drink the equivalent of four pots of coffee per day and hang out in trendy coffee shops." Some people do that, but writers who pull in a paycheck do not. At least not every day. I go to work in yoga clothes. I do occasionally watch TV while writing, and have found Dog the Bounty Hunter is great for background noise (though maybe I shouldn't admit that in print). I only eat bonbons if they're gluten free. I prefer tea to coffee and I don't hang out at coffee shops as often as I prefer.

3) There is a difference between the title "writer" and "author." An author has published a book. A writer
has not. Sound nit picky? It absolutely is. Until you become an author. <grins> In all fairness, the term writer can also encompass someone who writes magazine articles, technical publications, etc.

4) I write romance. I do research. Put those two sentences together and they don't mean what you assume. Ahem. Over the years, I've had various reactions, ranging from laughter to suggestions I would gladly scrub from my brain with steel wool. (No I will NOT make you a character in my book. And no, I won't call you Steele. Gross). I research professions. I research places. I research human emotion and motivation. Get your mind out of the gutter. Sex happens. If you have children, I assume you know this. It's also an integral, beautiful part of a monogamous relationship. If you disagree, you're a prude and/or a hypocrite. Possibly both.

5) Along those same lines, don't turn up your nose at romance, or any genre for that matter. I know more literary snobs than I care to admit. If you can acknowledge you are one, get help. No one likes a literary snob. Trust me. If we're talking profit, romance holds one of the largest shares of commercial fiction. Money speaks, my friends. Whether romance is your cup of tea or the furthest thing from it, keep your nasty comments to yourself. I don't read certain authors. But I'm also open-minded enough to recognize I can't disparage an entire genre based on one or a few authors.

6) Writing is not a "fun little hobby." This one baffles me. Hobby? The definition of hobby is "an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation." I receive a paycheck. Thus for me, it's an occupation.

7) Writing is my full-time job. Yes, I have the luxury of writing at any time of the day. That also means I have to be diligent and dedicated about setting aside time to write. Those who are self-employed know how difficult it is (especially if you have children still at home). I've heard little digs about my "fun little hobby" and "how nice that you can write here and there." Ahem. Some weeks, I put in far more than 40 hours. I also have multiple projects going at once. Don't be insulting or patronizing. That goes for any profession.

8) This last one is important--do not offer your opinion on writing if you are not a writer. I don't care if you've read every classic known to mankind. That does not, I repeat DOES NOT, make you knowledgeable about anything other than what you like to read. I've had a few friends try their hand at writing after I published my first book. Oh, did they have opinions. And arrogance. Not one finished a chapter before deciding they had better things to do. Which really meant it was more difficult than they realized, they were terrible writers, and they weren't mature enough to admit they didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Writing, like any worthwhile occupation, is difficult in the worst of times, and exhilarating in the best. Having the understanding of friends and family, regardless of your endeavour, is always appreciated. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to educate you about this particular process. ;-)


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Big Dreams, Big Results

I love to dream. As a writer, it's a pre-requisite. I daydream anytime I have a second to myself (mindless household chores can yield amazing ideas). Before you write these musings off as a waste of time, here's some food for thought: My dreams help to shape my goals. My goals carve my path. And once I know my path, I can work my way toward success. At least that's the condensed version.

I'm not about to trivialize the effort that goes into making your dreams reality. If nothing else, you can believe that any dream worth reaching, is worth a lot (and I mean a LOT) of hard work. I think this is exactly why most of us don't dare to dream big. I'm currently reading "Steering by Starlight" by Martha Beck, and I highly recommend it--she's brilliant. Ms. Beck says, "All we have to do to get magic on our side is to look up at the stars." What she's really saying is when you reach for your biggest dreams (shooting for the stars), you'll experience an almost magical sequence of synchronicity. Your path will clear, opportunities will open up and you'll achieve BIG results.

Think back to a big dream you had (one you could still achieve today--lead guitarist for The Eagles doesn't count). Maybe even one you've cultivated since childhood. Published author? Mother of five? Top Chef? Garden diva? Deep sea diver? Teacher? Resident of Brazil? Keep in mind, this doesn't have to be about your career. It can include your family, finances, personal goals or travel. The stars are the limit. Now hold that dream in your mind for a few minutes. Ask yourself, why couldn't you achieve this dream right now?

After you've given yourself a dozen practical reasons (excuses!) why it can't happen, ask yourself again, why couldn't you achieve your dream? Right. Now. Please repeat after me (compliments of the ever-optimistic Wayne Dyer): All things are possible.

*All things are possible.

I have recently embarked on a path that will take me through many years of schooling. The reaction from many family and friends has been, quite frankly, negative (and this is the point where most people would stop). If you're as contrary as I am, you'll do it simply because someone said you can't. Or shouldn't. Thankfully I have a few AMAZING people who go above and beyond in their support. (Much love to Travis, Sara, Sarah, Kathleen, and Maria!). This is a big dream I've cultivated for years. I'm only now deciding to make it happen. For me, the question of "why" is easy to answer. I have a harder time answering the question "why not?" Going after my dreams is a no-brainer. One of my goals is to look back on my life (at any point), and know I followed my heart toward whatever dreams I had. So far, I'm on track.

I hope you never, EVER, let the naysayers in your life dictate your path (even if that naysayer is you). I hope you always reach for the stars and dare to dream big. Better yet, I hope you make those big dreams your reality. I hope you realize the magic in your life and use it to create impossible, wonderful things.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Mother's Debate

Can someone please tell me--Why can't working moms and stay-at-home moms just get along? I've been on both sides of the fence and believe there are pros and cons to each (at least for me). But at the end of the day...(you might want to sit down for this)'s a personal choice with NO right or wrong answer. I don't care what Homemaker Hailey, Part-time Penny or CEO Sally does. They don't live my life, nor do I live theirs.
Let's think about this from a hypothetical point of view, and assume the children are all healthy and happy:
Scenario 1--CEO Sally works 60 hours a week at a corporate job she loves. Her family benefits from her generous salary and the kids look forward to their yearly vacation. They don't always sit down for meals, but relish the time they have together. Sally was recently promoted, which means her children's college tuition is paid for, eliminating one worry she has.
Scenario 2--Part-time Penny works 20 hours a week at a local gift shop. She has to work some holidays, but is able to spend most of her free time with her family. The extra income she brings in helps fund the kids' extra curricular activities and she loves her co-workers. The social aspect keeps her happy.
Scenario 3--Homemaker Hailey takes great pride in keeping her home and family tended, and never misses a sporting event. They've had to sacrifice financially to make it happen, but she loves the extra time with her kids and doesn't miss working outside of the home. Her kids love having her available when they need her.

Each of the above scenarios has benefits and drawbacks. Sally, Penny and Haley all love their children and do what they think is best for their families. You cannot compare one family to another. Each has different goals, personalities and dynamics. The bottom line is there is NO perfect formula for raising healthy, happy children. I would never presume to know what's best for another family or mother. Nor do I really care. If their kids are healthy and happy, they've found what works for them. Also, circumstances change. Life happens and sometimes, you have to quit work or go back into the workforce.

Please shelve the judgement. Nobody creates guilt better than a mother. Trust me, we don't need any help in that area. What we do need is support from one another. And respect. Respect that we are wise enough to know our family's needs and live our lives accordingly. Most of the moms I know do that to the best of their ability and it's wonderful to see!

For the record, any mother who follows her dreams (regardless of whether that's opening a spa, homeschooling her child, moving to a hobby farm in Pennsylvania, or going to medical school) is a mother who's doing what she feels is best. Not at the expense of her children, but by providing a strong role model for her children. I've never wanted anything but to follow my dreams, and prove to my children that they can too. You're welcome to disagree with my methods. Because, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

To all the moms who are doing the best they can, I applaud you. Someday you'll watch your children making the same decisions (with potentially different outcomes) and you can smile, knowing you raised them and can be proud of who they've become. In the meantime, let's acknowledge the challenge of being a mother. It's the hardest job in the world. And the most rewarding. I think that's something we can all agree on.