Pro/crastination ≠ pro/ductive

Hi, my name’s Michele and I’m a Procrastinator. There, I’ve gone and done it, haven’t I? Taken an actual step toward facing one of my worst personal demons. I might call him Mr. Noitanitsarcorp, because trying to work with him inhabiting my soul is like working in reverse (and it’s kind of a cool demon name, you know?). How to exorcise a demon of this particular ilk? By discovering what powers him–and for me, that’s fear.

Fear is an extremely powerful human emotion and is quite constructive under many circumstances, except when it prevents you from being productive and prolific. Procrastination is one manifestation of fear, although there might be other reasons a writer puts things off or makes excuses not to write, submit, network, or promote his or her work.

So if you find yourself not sitting down at your computer/typewriter/laptop and not writing/editing/submitting/answering correspondence, stop for a moment and listen to what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. Are you scared? Bored? Frustrated? Write down the thoughts and reasons that might be contributing to those feelings, then address them.

Do you hear yourself saying “I’ll never make it,” “no one gets my writing,” “it’ll take too long to get a career going,” “what if I fail?” or other negative statements? Fight back! Talk back to that pessimistic voice–“I will make it,” “I believe in my work and so do others,” “doing what I love is worth the time I spend,” and “I will succeed!” Short, sweet, and positive–make it your mantra and thumb your nose at that cranky, grumpy, fearful, uninspired part of yourself.

A few excellent resources are “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and “A Writer’s Space” by Eric Maisel. These two books can assist you in recovering your creativity, productivity, and self-confidence using a variety of helpful exercises and techniques. And if you need additional help, don’t be afraid to seek it out–during my years of training in psychology, I went to counseling and found it quite helpful in rediscovering my most passionate dreams and working to achieve them.

Moral of the story: well, I try not to moralize! But seriously, if you love writing and creating, don’t let anything stand in your way. Identify what’s getting in your way and remove it however you need to (although anyone who’s not a Mythbuster or trained professional should steer clear of high explosives). May you be pro/lific and pro/ductive!

War of the Worlds: Frontlines has arrived!

A few days ago I received my contributor’s copy of War of the Worlds: Frontlines. Came at the best time, too, because I had a terrible day at work and wanted nothing more than to go home, shut the front door, and collapse in front of the TV set for a few minutes. Healthy and constructive, no. Quick and easy, yes.

But there it was, a small book-sized package waiting for me on the front porch. And I knew instantly what it was, dropped my satchel and tote and purse and simply ran from car to house to rip it open (carefully, oh so carefully, mustn’t damage the long-awaited prize) with mildly trembling hands.

Beautiful. Glossy cover, elegant font, and my name in the table of contents. MY name, you understand? Turning the pages, there was my story, “Tequila Sunset,” on page 150. Sounds silly to say, but I was goggling over having something I created in an actual, real, professional-looking book that other people will read. Maybe they’ll like it, maybe they won’t, but if even one person gets it, that’s enough for me!

As a kid, I was a voracious reader. Couldn’t seem to get enough of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and yes, even the occasional romance. I read the classics and I read complete and utter trash. Hell, I even read the backs of shampoo bottles (not that I’ve stopped, mind you)! There weren’t enough words in the world to fill me up. And now I get to feed others, which is a huge honor that I don’t take lightly.

I was listening/watching some clips on YouTube yesterday about writing and the whole business of it, and one author encouraged writers to think about why they want to write…to teach, to move, to stimulate thinking, to shock, to elevate? I thought about it and responded, “yes.” Maybe that’s not wise in this culture of marketing yourself and finding a niche, but then again, I really believe that successful writing involves using yourself as the tool. And I mean to achieve all of those things in the reader, maybe not all at once, maybe not every single time, but on the whole, that IS who I am. I trained to be a psychologist, so why wouldn’t all of those fit?

When I read my first published story, I see so clearly that writing from a place that’s solidly Who I Am and not catering to what’s Out There is working for me. I could chase after the latest pretty-vampire fad, but that’s not me. All I can say, gentle readers, is that many things become easier when you embrace yourself and your gifts (although many other things get more difficult, but that’s for another day). If you want a window into a little piece of my soul, think about picking up a copy of WotW: Frontlines and turning to the 14th story. And thanks for listening (watching) me ramble!

If you build it, will they come?

Today I’ve been thinking about marketing and advertising as I go about my morning tasks. That scene from “Field of Dreams” keeps popping up in my head–“If you build it, they will come.” It’d be nice if readers were like those baseball greats from the past who show up to play on this baseball diamond in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, but corporeal entities stubbornly keep insisting that you do more to advertise. I don’t even know if anyone will read this post unless I get the word out that it exists.

When I worked as a grad assistant for Women’s Services at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I was in charge of the programming and all the advertising that came with it. I did presentations to plug our workshops, flyers, posters, the whole traditional ad campaign thing. And there were a few times when NO ONE showed up, embarrassing and ineffective to say the least. Ugh, all that hard work for nothing!

The conclusion I’ve come to is that while I was wanting something from them (please please puh-LEESE come!), I wasn’t giving anything in return. The kiss of death when you want large groups of students to attend something! Large groups of anyone, really. What gets people to show up to things? It’s fun. There’s free food (not an option here). Everyone else is going. There’s free stuff. You like that person or their work, and maybe you’ll get their autograph or photo? In short, they’re offering YOU something valuable!

Takeaway lesson–offer your readers or visitors something useful or fun or cool. I like freebies and contests and swag as much as the next person and it motivates me, so why wouldn’t I give it away? So I am. Every month or so, I’m going to post free short stories on my site, and as I get things published, offer free swag or a free copy of the anthology or mag or book I’m in, maybe for those who visit and leave comments or get on my newsletter (when I have enough news, that is!). Part of me feels a little dirty using a carrot and stick to get traffic to my site, but hey, this ain’t Field of Dreams, folks. When I look at it sensibly, I can remember times that I’ve missed out on great artists and writers and musicians simply because I didn’t know about them. And that’s a shame, because we’re both losing out.

I’ll be posting my first short story on my website in the next day or so, and I’d love for you to swing by and play with me on my own Field of Dreams. Can’t wait to see you step out from between the rows of corn, bat in hand, and throw you the first pitch.

Bloggity blog blog blog

I’m sitting here, staring at the blank space where I should be writing  fascinating things but mostly stuck on how to get my website to look less like someone wrote the XHTML code with their feet and more like an actual professional designed it. I’m wondering if I should have swallowed my pride and used one of those prepackaged websites instead, like someone watching smoke billow out of their kitchen as the Chicken Kiev burns to a cinder and thinking too late that a bag of Bertolli’s might have been a good idea.

But the thing is, learning something new takes time. No matter how bright or skilled you are, the harsh truth is that you’ll most likely fail and, very probably, make a horrible mangled mess of what you’re attempting to do before you get better at it. Have I blogged much? Nope. Am I making a mess of it? Maybe. Who knows?

I went to my first writer’s workshop a few weekends ago at Ball State University, ironically enough where I did my internship for my doctorate, and listened to published writers discuss how to get serious about writing. Kelsey Timmerman, one of the speakers, said something that seems incredibly simple, but makes a lot of sense–the more you write, the less you suck. What’s the takeaway lesson? Keep going. You, gracious reader, may also be a writer or follow a different career path, but I imagine you’ve had brushes with burnt lasagna or birdhouses that should be condemned or speeches that left you wishing for a portable black hole to escape into, and can sympathize. So I’m going to keep going, and I hope you stick around as this little site and I evolve over time. Maybe you’ll find things here to keep you going, too.

Thanks for coming to visit, and for being patient.