Being Famous on Social Media

Sharp, dead-on observations that are surprisingly liberating. Just MHO. Lida

The Art of Blogging

I already know what you’re thinking.

But what about all the influencers advertising all sorts of products on Instagram? What about the impact? The sales of their own products?

It’s almost a rule of the universe that as long as you’re being true to yourself, fame, fortune, and the latest Apple products will all be yours.

But the truth is not that easy. Not everyone who has a vlog and an over-the-top personality gets to win big. Not every guy who workouts six times a week gets to sell his programs or have his own brand of supplements.

For every Jackson Pollock, there were thousands of folks who were doing the same thing, yet never earned quite enough to make a living.

If only I could get noticed. If only I could get someone to read my stuff.

Yes, and I hope you do get thousands and thousands of…

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Pain

painEveryone who lives suffers, physically, emotionally, mentally. At least at some point in his or her life. But artists suffer pain that’s unique to us. If we are not creating, we are hurting. If we are not creating, it feels like our artist self is shriveling. I met a fellow at a party recently. He works in a combination of visual and electronic media. (Don’t ask me to explain, I haven’t actually seen his work.) He was radiating despair, a psychic pain that only artists know. His latest project had been complete for several months and he had no new ideas. He was a nice fellow with a lovely wife and child and surrounded by friends. Yet, he was lost in this valley of despond. For me, this is the absolute worst state to be in. I offered what advice I could. He already meditates, so that suggestion was not needed. I said, when this happens to me, one way I attack it is to remember a time in the past when I had a sudden flood of ideas and execution, and try to recreate the conditions that were in my life at that time. He didn’t seem convinced. When we parted, I took his hand and said, “I’ll be thinking of you.” Sometimes, maybe even most times, that’s all I can offer. I do believe that most artists eventually, somehow, find their way out of these fallow periods. I also believe that’s exactly what they are: fallow. They don’t mean we have lost our art or will never, ever have another idea again. Ideas, I believe, are like the old blues song says about street cars and men, there’s always another one coming along, even if we can’t see them coming down the dark street from a distance. I keep my eyes, my heart, my instincts, my mind always open, with hope and patience. I know there are writers out there who say they have so many ideas they could never live long enough to write them all. I’m not one of them. If you aren’t either, and for anyone else out there struggling with this issue right this minute, I’m thinking of you.

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A Writer’s Thanksgiving


TG5I’ve mentioned several of these before. But nearing Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the following:

 

 

 

Technology

  • Online submissions. Dangerous if you hit “send” too quickly, but mostly a huge advantage over the old days. And hey, a lot of snail mail submissions also went out with panic inducing errors. This benefit also often includes online submssion tracking.
  • Online thesauri and dictionaries.
  • Word processing software.
  • Editing software.
  • Writer’s guidelines and other information on markets’ websites. No more sending off SASEs for printed guidelines.

People

  • My writing critique partner, Stephanie
  • All the wonderful writing friends I’ve met online through forums and groups.
  • Writer’s conferences, like Bouchercon, where I can meet some of these people in person and also make new acquaintences.
  • All the established writers out there who are unfailingly generous with their expertise and encouragement.
  • Every one of you, my followers, readers, commenters and “likers.” You bring me joy. I wish the same for everyone during the holiday season and in all the days to come.

 

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Sine Qua Non

map and compassThere was a time when, like many folks starting out in life, I was struggling. Working multiple jobs, trying to get more education, fighting to keep the first home I had bought on my own. I was determined to hang on to the foothold I had on success and build on it, to do whatever it took. As part of that process, I developed what I now call my bottom line: what is/are the absolute minimum conditions I need to get me through the day. For me, those were: a clean head of hair and a full tank of gas. If I could secure those two things, I could handle whatever I needed to, whatever the day demanded.

Now I’m a writer. I need a new bottom line. What is the bare minimum I need to allow me, to encourage me, to make progress on whatever project I have at hand? At this point, here’s what I believe I need: first, one, or at least one, clear, concrete, next step. And two, some word or sign of encouragement from a friend or my critique partner. Sometimes I think I’m a wimp for needing that second requirement. Heck, shouldn’t I have the inner fortitude, the self-confidence, the chutzpah, stubbornness, whatever you call it, to do it on my own? Maybe I should, but I don’t. I accept that and find ways to secure that positive input. And if I don’t have an initial first step in mind, I end up floundering around for too long.

Yesterday, my one clear step was finding out from Bowker why I couldn’t buy ISBNs online. (Turns out their online ordering system was down and I had to print forms, fill them out and fax them in.) My other need was filled by a thumbs up from my CP on my latest creation. So, today, off it went. As so often happens, once I get that first step out of the way, it leads to more steps. Getting the forms off to Bowker and my CP’s “yes” vote yesterday freed me up to blog today, which will free me up to work on the next WIP. So, that’s my take. Now, what’s your bottom line?

 

 

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Damn, I Did It Again

pauseI’ve come up with what I believe is a new phrase for writer’s like me: “sender’s remorse.” This is the condition I enter just after I have hit “send” and realize I should have added to, changed, or edited my work in some way. Someone once defined a “split second” as the time between when the light changes green and the driver behind you honks his horn. Sometimes for me a split second is the time between when I hit “send” and the  instant when I realize I forgot to change the title, spell-check, or add that most appropriate quote. After my latest submission, remorse didn’t hit until hours later when I was lying in bed at night. I suddenly remembered I had wanted to add a mere five or six words to the essay. But, stupidly, when I first thought of that slight change, which would have made a great difference in the tone of the piece, I neglected to jot it down on the manuscript. I thought, despite all past experiences to the contrary, I would remember to make the addition. Of course I would. Only I didn’t. Not that the essay isn’t pretty good as it is. But it could have been better. Yeah, I know we writers are always editing our work, constantly seeing new ways it could be improved, even well after it’s been published. But this was such an easy fix. And I had plenty of time. The deadline, which had been Oct. 31, had been extended for a month. I could easily have waited another day or two before submitting. But I was just so darn anxious to add it to my submission log. Too anxious. And I pay the price.

This is one of my worst faults as a writer. There are two writers of my acquaintance, not well known names, who don’t have this problem. They work many months on each piece. And it shows. Their writing is the most brilliant I have ever read. I told one of them, I’d give my “write” arm to be as good as he is. [yes, it’s a terrible joke]. But that’s not what it takes. Thomas Carlyle said, “Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.” I don’t know if I’ll ever learn–to pause, to give it time, to control my impatience.

The problem is that once the manuscript is gone, it’s gone. There are a minuscule minority of online journals that allow re-submissions of the same piece. I’m lucky to blog at WordPress, where, the instant I hit “publish” I can go back and “update” a post if I want to. But that’s rare. So, I’ll just have to hope for the best on this latest work, absorb the lesson if I can, and focus on “next time.”

 

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Befuddlement

befuddlementI’m in the process of bringing out a new edition of my poetry book, Fault Lines. The original edition was brought out by a micro press that is now defunct. That version was not available on Amazon (print or e-book) or on other e-book platforms. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing. Despite reading articles on how to do this, I’m still lost. No way in the world am I going to try to do it myself. My wonderful friend, Jo, recommended a cover designer/formatter that she used. Thanks heavens for Karen. I need a lot of babying and slow walking during this whole process, and Karen is patient, understanding and flexible. She answers every question with all the information and links I need. It’s a journey. It’s a learning curve. I try not to look ahead at all the stuff I don’t know/understand yet. Just do what’s in front of me that I do know how to do. I’ve had nightmares over this, from fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of looking ridiculous. (And those fears are also ridiculous. After all, this is not my debut at Carnegie Hall.) But if I want it done, I have to keep moving forward. What I’ve noticed is that as I take each small step, the next step becomes slightly more intelligible. Like magic. And it’s a reminder that when I’m stuck, it’s okay, indeed mandatory, to ask for help. That takes humility. I have to admit that I’m not as far along or as tech-savvy as so many other writers out there. I have to admit that what looks easy for other people is a struggle for me. But nobody was born knowing this stuff and I’m good at lots of other things. Anyway, if you are looking for this kind of help, Karen is a good resource. “Karen Bangcot” karenuybangcot@gmail.com

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Morning

morningIf I’m going to get any writing done, it has to be in the morning. First thing. Sort of. I say sort of, because, first I have to feed the cat. Then, for health reasons, I can’t skip breakfast. Oh, how I wish I could be like my friend Anne, who wakes up, grabs her coffee and heads directly to her studio in a converted shed. Well, I can’t. But other than those two necessities, I’ve learned from experience, if I don’t get the writing done in the morning, it likely won’t get done. Because, one of four things will happen. I’ll inadvertently get caught up in some urgent, but non-writing project, like mailing my sister’s birthday gift. Once that happens, the next non-writing project will shove itself forward. Even getting breakfast can be dangerous. Once in the kitchen, it’s all too tempting to empty the dishwasher or start planning lunch. They seem such simple tasks, so quick, surely they won’t interfere with my work. Yet, that’s what ends up happening. One chore somehow leads to another. It’s like when dieters make a slip up and then think, oh, well, today’s diet has gone belly up, may as well give it up for the day. If I escape that blunder, but still don’t get the writing done first, the outside world will begin to intrude, with a phone call or email that demands a response. Beyond those practical obstacles, there are the psychological ones. One is that any ideas that seemed new and fresh upon awakening will start to seem trite or unworkable. Related to that, but worst of all, is that the longer I wait, the worse my internal demonic voices will get. The inner critic. I’m not good enough. I have nothing to say. It’s all a worthless endeavor. Better do something more useful. Once that happens, I can still approach the desk. but everything I try to do will be much, much harder. Writing is hard enough. I’d rather do it early, when I have a fightin’ chance.

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Rejuvenation

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Sometimes I just get stuck. Dead in the water. Any creativity I might have had has vamoosed. Many things help, but the one thing I can count on never to fail is a change of scene. And I don’t mean moseying from the den to the kitchen. So I took the opportunity of Bouchercon being held in Florida to combine it with a trip to my sister’s farm in North Florida. It’s a whole different lifestyle, an entirely different atmosphere. My sister and brother-in-law and their family raise goats, miniature donkeys and miniature horses. The sounds, the smells, the rhythms of the farm are primordially soothing. But also, since I live in Southern California, the rain, the lush greenery, the rivers and ponds were extremely refreshing. With that and with what I learned and who I met at Bouchercon, I came home with new ideas, more energy and renewed enthusiasm for my work. Let’s hope it lasts.

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The Only Fix

girl writingI’ve been wanting to bring out a second edition of my book of poetry, Fault Lines. I needed to correct some typos, update the bio, and add some credits to the “Acknowledgements.” Most importantly, the first edition, brought out by a local micro press which has since closed up shop, was not available online. That just won’t do these days. My friend Jo recommended a formatter, as I’m not quite up to doing it myself. All I had to do was send her the manuscript and cover art. But when I opened the Word document, I was dismayed to find that somehow all the front matter had disappeared. So, now, in addition to correcting the issues I was aware of, I will have to recreate both the table of contents and the information on the verso of the title page. It could have been much worse, of course. The entire manuscript lost or garbled. I got off easy

When I was in college, one of our dormmates came to the room I shared with Hannah. She had a five-page paper due the next day, and only had three pages written. She was stuck, couldn’t think of anything else to add. Meeting the page minimums was a problem for a lot of us. We commiserated with her for a while and then she meandered off. Once the door closed behind her, Hannah, a very astute woman, even at 18, turned to me and said, “There’s only one answer. Go back and grind out another two pages.” Gosh, that applies to so many things in life. So, I’ll just open the Word file and, step by step, (or Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott would say) recreate the lost material. No short cuts, no tricks. Just one more example of “butt-in-chair.”

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Neither a Borrower . . .

borrowI’ve never confessed this to anyone–until now. Decades ago, I borrowed a book from a friend. She was adamant that she wanted it back. She even wrote her name, address and phone number inside the front cover. Yet, I never returned it. Never. I’ve been wracked with guilt ever since. Why didn’t I return it? I never got around to reading it. As more and more time went by, I got more and more embarrassed about how much time had gone by. We lost touch. Then I moved away, packing the book up with all my other stuff. Wanting to avoid any recurrence of that guilt is one of the reasons I rarely borrow books from other people. Only from libraries. Another reason is the sense of obligation I feel as soon as the book is in my hands, the sense that I must read this book and no other, just so I can hurry it back to its owner. I’m not comfortable with the weight of that burden. I’m also afraid I’ll damage it. Once I borrowed a mystery from a friend. Brand new hardback with a dust jacket. I read it right away without any mishaps. But, just as I was putting it in the car to return to her, I accidentally put the tiniest tear in the dust jacket. I felt awful. She, of course, was forgiving. But I was full of chagrin. She had entrusted me with this possession, and here’s how I treated it. Yes, I know I’m a bit extreme about this, but because I am, it’s safer for me not to take the chance.

On the other hand, if I lend a book, it’s never really a lend. Since I know there’s a good chance I won’t get it back, I let it go.  Even if I haven’t read it yet, I say, “oh, just take it. Don’t worry about giving it back.” I don’t want that burden myself, so I won’t obligate anyone else. If it’s something I must keep, I won’t lend it in the first place. And when I do borrow, I try to be very clear. “Do you want this back?” I give myself a two-week time limit. Read or return. No exceptions. No guilt. And no more packing up and leaving town with other people’s books.

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