Vacationing in the Hybrid-Ease

Sun reflections in blue waterI’ve been on quite a long hiatus from this blog–my apologies to anyone who might have been hanging around for updates! Between work and family stuff and trying to develop new and interesting skills, I haven’t made time like I should have. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, life takes you to strange places, some wonderful and some terrible, others just plain bizarre.

Sometimes it’s all three…but when you return, you’re the richer for it.

You might be wondering about the title of this post–what the heck does “Hybrid-Ease” mean? Well, I’m awful about wordplay and punning, it’s true. While I’ve been away, I’ve kind of struggled with my compass spinning, and figuring out what it means to be a generalist in a world of specialists. I’ve always been this way, good or bad, helpful or not. Do I look like a flake? Yep. Do I seem like a butterfly, flitting from one topic to the next? Probably. Am I indecisive? I don’t know (ha ha).

In other words, I’ve been trying to make peace with being a hybrid. And honestly, I don’t know why that should be such a bad thing. I mean, hello, Leonardo da Vinci? Benjamin Franklin? Michelangelo? I want to be a Renaissance woman! Writer, artist, programmer, developer, designer, entrepreneur. Why do I have to choose? Finding a way to become great at all of those things and make a living doing it may not always be easy in an age of specialization, but it’s well worth the effort.

So like the Hebrides, those beautiful, wild, strange islands off the coast of Scotland that have inspired poets, scientists, artists, and travelers for centuries, I’ve decided that my career can be a unique blend of many things and still exist in the world. Perhaps not what everyone’s looking for–I’m no Fort Lauderdale or Cancun–but I’m sure to please those searching for something a little bit off the beaten path :)

Monkey

Monkey

Monkeys aren’t always this cute…

Cute little buggers, aren’t they? Adorable as they are, they can also stand for an addiction or a problem you just can’t seem to kick. A bad habit. A burden.

How do you get rid of the monkey, or at least keep it manageable? Like any problem, the first step is to acknowledge what it is. Although I have several that cling to me, correspondence seems to be one that I struggle with on a routine basis. Phone calls, letters, emails, tweets, you name it, I’ve let it slide. A few days or even a few weeks later, I’ll be playing catch-up and apologizing for my absence. That’s a serious problem, because writers need to keep those communication channels open and information flowing freely back and forth.

So that’s the problem. Probably doesn’t seem too daunting to you, but for me it’s a constant annoyance and something I want to change, because it could stand in the way of succeeding as a writer. I could lose opportunities to network, opportunities to submit or publish my writing, if I don’t fix it. The question is not only am I WILLING to change, but how COMMITTED am I? Here’s where you sit down with yourself and really think about what’s at stake if you don’t change. Is it important to you? Why?

Change can be difficult. Period. Please don’t go overboard and try for perfection, here! Set small, manageable goals at first and step your way up to where you eventually want to be. For example, my goal is to post a blog entry this week. Success! And I’m feeling pretty good about that. Perhaps I’ll add another small goal in another area, such as answering tweets within 24 hours, and see how that goes. If that’s too much, I’ll know I stepped up too fast and have to back that expectation down a bit. Even if you don’t make it, treat it matter-of-factly instead of chastising yourself—remember, the goal is not perfection and beating yourself up never helps. You might even want to stay at a certain level for a few weeks and allow that to become comfortable before bumping it up a notch.

And if you totally derail along the way? You’re not alone! Relapse is common when you attempt to make a change. Take a deep breath and give yourself the gift of a clean slate before trying again. Examine what got in the way of continuing your new behaviors and think how you might address that. If you need help, get it—pride’s great and all, but if whatever you want to change is important enough or damaging enough, throw pride out the window. I know it’s tough, how well I know—but you can do it!

All right, no more monkeying around—time to show this monkey who’s boss!

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of….This?

When you get right down to it, everything is composed of three things: energy, information, and a whole lotta space. But matter is, well, SOLID—I doubt you’ve mastered walking through walls, right? Sad as it is, that’s reality. “Wait a minute,” I can hear you saying, “I thought this was about dreams. What’s up?” Bear with me, and you’ll see it really is!

Dreams are wonderful. We see what we want, what we desire, the best possible outcome. The phone call offering representation by your dream agent, the slick feel of your first novel’s dust jacket, the person sitting next to you on the train reading your work. Giddy, heady stuff, isn’t it?

Buckle up, because you’re in for a rough ride.

Publishing is a tough business. We’re called upon to not only create but market the beloved products of our imaginations while coping with massive amounts of rejection. There may be times when you feel ready to give up, when you wonder if you’ll ever win the brass ring eluding your fingertips with every rotation of this crazy carousel. Near-misses and disappointments abound.

So why are you doing this, again? Be brutally honest with yourself, because the reason forms the foundation of your vision, your strategy, for actualizing your dreams and making them a reality. You’ll need to reach deep down inside yourself when despair comes a-knockin’ at your door and find the will to keep going. Will, or intent, provides the energy portion of the equation.

And information? There’s a lot of it out there, and not all of it helpful or accurate. Sift through it, study it, research. Pay attention to other writers’ experiences at sites like Absolute Write Water Cooler. Use sites like Preditors & Editors to protect yourself from scams. Follow agent blogs—learn what they’re looking for and how to write query letters. When you have the information you need, you maximize your chances of success.

Space, the final frontier. To go boldly where the successful have gone, you’ll navigate vast stretches of distance and time. The wait can seem interminable when you’ve submitted work and are chewing your nails to the quick. Writing is a solitary profession, which means you’ll need colleagues and friends to connect with during the journey. Find them on Twitter, find them on forums like Query Tracker Discussion Forum, find them at writing conferences. They’ll help ground you, keep you from drifting away from your dream, and support you when hopes are dashed.

With energy, information, and a way to manage space, your sweet dream is on its way to becoming wonderfully hard reality!

Changes In Attitude, Changes In Latitude

Anyone there? *crickets chirping* And here’s the subject of today’s blog post: Consistency with a big “C”. Without it, a writer is unlikely to succeed.

My graduate advisor, Kathy, once commented that school was like spinning china plates on sticks—focus on any one of them too long and the others will come crashing to the ground. I’d forgotten this valuable piece of advice while attempting to launch my career as a writer. Instead of writing a quick blog post, checking in on Twitter a few times during the day, and doing some writing or editing, I would devote every single minute to one task. “I’ll just finish X, then I can go on to Y,” I told myself. Imagine planting a garden of lovely flowers and caring for one while the rest of them wither and die. Ouch. Sure, it’s a beautiful flower, but you only have one—didn’t you want a garden?

Although I’ve put in a lot of hard work, I’ve also learned to work smarter. Here are a few pointers to stay consistent and productive:

1. Pencil yourself in. Draw up a schedule of tasks you need to complete every day. Divvy up your time between social media site upkeep, writing your blog post, writing, editing, querying, and submitting. Don’t forget to devote some time to exercise and fun, too!

2. Stay the course. Take a moment each day to assess how each is faring, and make any adjustments if you notice signs of neglect.

3. Take advantage of others. Benefit from others’ experiences, I mean! If you’re querying, for example, check out QueryTracker or AgentQuery. Both sites provide databases to search for agents, learn what genres they represent, and locate contact information, among other useful tools. Saving time on one task will allow you to keep up with the rest.

4. Be a butterfly. These delightful creatures flit from flower to flower, only staying long enough to sip the nectar they need. Do what you need to do, then move on.

5. Be alarmed. Set a timer or alarm clock to prod you into finishing the current task and starting the next.

6. Net assets. You thought I was referring to the Internet, right? Well, maybe. Whether on the Net or in real life, develop a network of colleagues who will not only support you but also give you a nudge when you’re drifting toward obsession with a particular task.

7. Some call me Bruce. Building your career as a writer involves a good deal of multi-tasking. Imagine how different things might have been, had Bruce Jenner focused only on running instead of all the events involved in the decathlon. No gold medal, no appearance on the Wheaties box. A social maven won’t go far unless she submits her work. A stellar writer won’t sell books unless people know about them. So be a Bruce!

That’s all for today’s blog post…next stop, researching agents. I wish you success, consistent success, on your writer’s journey!