Six Reasons Why I’m Pulling A Book Off Amazon’s Shelves (Or How This Little Darling Is Getting Killed With FROZEN References)
You’ve written a book! You’ve followed all the great advice! You’ve got your Facebook page and your blog set up and your Twitter account is up and running! You’re doing everything right, or at least you think you are. The Facebook likes are trickling in, you get a few hits on your blog and then there’s Twitter. You have few followers. You have few RTs. You aren’t making a lot of sales. No one has seen your awesomeness. Ever thought about why?
You COULD be making some serious mistakes that are pushing people away. I know, it’s hard to believe, especially since it seems like so many writers are out there. They do these same things, don’t they? Doesn’t it work for them?
The truth is, it doesn’t. Many writers unknowingly push readers away.
Here are ten common mistakes I see on a daily basis, what these mistakes really say to the world and what you should do about them.
1. Have a boring bio. What does this tell the world? “I wrote a BOOK! But there’s not much more to me than that!” If your bio has nothing but the title of your book, or the publisher or the release date or the name of your awards, you’re boring us to tears. Your bio is not your resume, it’s your handshake and smile to the world. Instead make your bio approachable. Use nouns that describe your whole life, not just your writing life, put in something that sparks readers’ curiosity about who you are. What will an interesting, human and approachable bio tell the world? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth following.
2. Plug your book ad nauseum. What does this tell the world? “I know how to schedule tweets!!!” Instead, tweet about what interests you, ask questions of others, and crack a joke or two. Develop relationships. As people learn to love you, then they’ll buy your book. Is this the hard and slow way? Of course it is, but if you do it right, you’ll have a reader for life. What will authentic interaction tell the world? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth following.
3. Make no effort to follow other people who share your interests. What does this tell the world? “I’m looking for customers!” Instead, follow real people who have similar passions. Me? I like homeschooling mothers of five, writers, readers, people who say something funny in their bios and former running cowards. It’s from this group that you will start your conversations, make friends and perhaps gain long term readers! What will these followers think about you? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth . . . wait a minute! Do you see a pattern here?
5. Don’t make lists. Okay, so the world doesn’t know or care that you don’t make lists to keep you followers organized. But you should. By the time your followers are in the thousands, you should at least have a few dozen folks that you like to check regularly. If you have to go through your feed just to find the photo they took of their dinner then you’re doing it wrong. Create lists: some for the BFFs, some for agents & publishers, some for those celebrities you love, and some for people who make you laugh. Then, check out other people’s lists and follow the folks on it. Lists can be very specialized and if you dig around, you can find a whole crop of people who share interests with you.
6. Don’t participate in chats or memes. The world also ambivalent about your chat and meme activity too. But what I’ve found is that both are great ways to meet people. I’ve gained followers, and more importantly, started conversations, with new people because of my engagement in chats and memes. My favorites? #MondayBlogs meme and #10MinNovelists chat on Thursday nights at 9PMEDT. The purpose of social media is to be social! Chats and memes are easy fun ways to do that.
7. Don’t use apps other than Twitter. How does the world feel about this?
Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are superior than Twitter when it comes to scheduling tweets, organizing lists and following memes and chats. If you’re going to get serious about your Twitter usage, then you need to play with the same toys the social media experts use.
8. Forget to proofread. What does this say to the world? You have got to be kidding me. Look everybody can have a goof now and then. But if you have consistently bad spelling and grammar, no one will take you seriously. This is especially important in your bio. This is triply important if you call yourself a writer. Or, as I actually saw someone put in their bio, “I’m a writter of romance.” Just do a quick read before you hit send. You never know who –such as editors, publishers, and agents — is reading your tweets.
9. Send auto DMs. What does the world think about this? I’ve asked all seven billion people on this planet personally and this is what they think: “Auto DMs are a scourge from the mouth of hell. Anyone who thinks auto DMs are a good idea should have their little toenails ripped off. Auto DMs make you look spammy, needy, and robotic, even cute auto DMs. Auto DMs should only be limited to needy robots who eat SPAM. DON’T SEND THEM!” So, what I’m trying to say is that they are ineffective and annoying. I never, ever read my auto DMs. If I didn’t have so much to do, I’d unfollow everyone who sent me one.
10. Use True Twit Validation services. What does this say to the world? “I think I’m so awesome that I want to inconvenience you with another step to take to find out how awesome I am!” Listen, we’re all going to get spammers and weirdos. These services just make people roll their eyes. I really, really think it’s the social media equivalent of offering to shake my hand and then insisting that I put rubber gloves on first. NO. Just remove this nonsense please and be real? Is that too much to ask?
These are the top ten mistakes I see writers on Twitter commit over and over again.
What mistakes have you seen writers make? What do you think of them?
She writes, “Hey Darla, way to go there, eating that whole box of donuts. You are SO self-controlled!” Or, “Hey Darla, I just LOVE the way you kept your cool in traffic yesterday.” Or, “Hey Darla, you should be SO PROUD of yourself for the way you ignored your kids yesterday.”
This really bothers me. It bothers me because I don’t think it’s really a good thing to post on Facebook. I don’t think that it’s funny at all. And it reminds me of the way that I used to talk to myself too.
The next time she does this, I’m going to say, “Hey Darla, this negative self talk has to stop. It’s not helping. Start saying positive things instead! We’ll ALL like that better.”
What we say to ourselves can keep us motivated and help us succeed or it can destroy all hope and make us miserable.
Slowly, I’m addressing them one by one, changing what I say and taking positive steps (like NOT buying a box of donuts to eat in one sitting) to make my life better and my soul happier.
Okay, this could be true. You maybe disorganized because you lack focus, or management skills or a plan. But all of those things are tools. Successful people have learned how to use these tools that they can stay organized. This is the secret that super organized people know — organization does just happen, it’s daily work! If your house, office, desk, ideas or life is super disorganized, find the tools the experts use and make them work for you!
What to say to yourself instead: Today I’m taking 10 minutes to get more organized. I’m starting small. Something is better than nothing. Go me!
What to do: Take 10 minutes, start with Pinterest and search for specific links, then create an organization board. Don’t get distracted. This is your starting place for the actual work. Or, take 10 minutes to make a list of the specific areas you want order in. Then, commit to ten minutes a day working on this area. You’ll see progress. You’ll find order. Try also Flylady.com (my personal favorite).
This could be true. You may not be a good writer. How do you get better? With practice. Writing is a skill and the most talented writers in the world still have to practice! They did not just spring up out of the ground as NYT bestsellers. They worked on their craft over and over until they grew in skill and confidence. Learn all you can about the craft of writing. Be teachable. Find a mentor. Take a class. And write every day!
What to say to yourself instead: Everybody has to work hard. I’m no different.
What to do: Take 10 minutes and write. Don’t evaluate it or edit it. You just practiced! Then take another 10 minutes and request writing books from your local library’s website, or search Goodreads for the best books and buy them, or go to Writer’s Digest website and spend ten minutes reading. You can learn to be a better writer on ten minutes a day.
Someone is not going to like it. This is a fact of life in the world of artists. If you choose to be an artist, then you’re choosing to have a bad review occasionally, you’ll receive a rejection letter or two and your skin will have to toughen up. But somewhere, someone will like it. This is your first fan. If you don’t write, you’ll never find them. It is for this reader (and all their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ people) that you write what you write.
What to say to say to yourself instead: What if someone does like it? That will be awesome!
What to do: Read all the one-star reviews of your favorite books on Amazon.com. Some of them are horrible, aren’t they? Notice how this negativity keeps these authors down. (Hint: it doesn’t!)
You’ll pardon me if I roll my eyes on this one. For nearly every other item on this list, I have great compassion, but I don’t for this one. The truth is you have time for everything you want to do. All you need to accomplish your writing goals is a minimum of ten minutes a day. I know that this is true because between my five children, my homeschooling responsibilities and my homemade bread baking, I found time to pursue my dreams in ten minute increments. It took me five years to write my first book, but I did it. I examined my carefully to find the time, made the time and then worked all the time!
What to say to yourself instead: I can find the time!
What to do: Spend ten minutes looking at your schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Where is there lolly-gagging time that can be devoted to writing? Where are you waiting for your kids? What Netflix show can you forfeit for the sake of writing? I bet you can find a lot more than ten minutes a day.
This excuse is an easy fix. If you are reading this, you’re on a computer or a smart phone. That means you have what you need. Don’t have word processing software? Put your work on Google.docs. Do a search for all the great writing apps for smart phones. Or go low-tech and buy a spiral notebook and a pen. You can get what you need to be a writer very easily. Don’t let this small problem keep you from pursuing your dreams.
What to say to yourself instead: Wow! That was easy!
What to do: Spend ten minutes finding a place at home that will be your workspace — it doesn’t have to be big or glamorous. (I spend years standing at my kitchen counter on an iMac.) Then set up a document, create orderly files, put that journal in your handbag, get a great pen. You can do this!
We’ve all failed. The first time you tried to walk, you fell. The first time you tried to eat solid food you spit it out. The first time you tried to read, you got it wrong. I can GUARANTEE that there are grammar and spelling mistakes in this blog post. Failure is a part of life. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I’m going to guess that it’s not the failure that’s the problem here, but the feeling of worthlessness that plays piggyback on that failure. This took me a long time to realize but the truth is, failure doesn’t define me. I am so much more than my series of mistakes. I’m going to fail in the future, that’s a given. But I’m not going to let it keep me down.
What to say to yourself instead: I’m going to fail in big and small ways, but so what?
Trying really hard not to eyeroll here, bear with me. Of all the excuses on this list, this one is the most cowardly. It’s bad enough that you have no confidence in your God-given skills and abilities, but then you take what you perceive as your weakness and compare it someone else’s strength and naturally come out lacking. It’s a double whammy against who you are and what you were created to be. You are never going to be as good as anybody. Do you know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU! If you have artistic inclinations, then you have a distinct point of view, a unique voice, a perspective that no one else has ever had (you’ll still have to work hard to make it shine, but still). The world needs you!
If you really, really want to believe that the success of other people is the reason to hide your talent under a bushel, then you should be ashamed of yourself. I want this post to be encouraging and hopeful but I’m half-tempted to tell people who actually believe this crap to stay on the couch, stay in front of Netflix, do nothing. Please. I want your future readers for myself.
What to say to yourself instead: Dangit! I have something to offer!
What to do: Put some blinders on. And for the love of Pete, stop comparing yourself to others.
This one is breaking my crap-o-meter. You are NOT too old. Life is going to pass you by if you don’t pursue your dreams now. You don’t want to come to the end of it and wish you’d take ten minutes every day.
What to say to yourself instead: My kids (and grandkids) need to see me pursue my dreams!
What to do: Read this Huffington Post article about writers who got published later in life. One woman was 99!
When it comes to writing and marketing and publishing there is a LOT to learn. The bad news is that there’s always an new app or a new social media platform or a new guru to read. The wealth of information is intimidating and overwhelming. Instead of thinking about how hard it is, choose the easiest thing or most interesting aspect of writing/marketing pursuit and only do that. The good news? Nobody knows and implements it all. The most successful people have put limitations on themselves so that they keep the ever growing information monster at bay. You can do that too.
What to say to yourself instead: My time is valuable. I’m going to focus on one aspect of my goals, like writing, and learn a little bit every day.
What to do: Find one or two blogs on writing to follow. Read one book at a time. Don’t panic over what is left, just do what you can when you can.
Deep sigh. Then a hug. Then another sigh. I totally get this. Sometimes the desires that we have to write are lonely. They don’t exactly have ideas to play with. Personally, I’ve found that ideas, for some reason, inspire other ideas. The act of creating sometimes can spawn new inspiration and then you have something to say, something you didn’t know was in you.
What to say to yourself instead: Hey Muse! I’m going to sit down to work, you’re going to join me!
What to do: Write for 10 minutes about anything. Sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts. Then, watch this Ted Talk about the creative muse by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is my all time favorite Ted Talk. It makes me cry every time!)
So, what else are you saying to yourself that could be keeping you down? What can you say to yourself instead? What can you do to change everything?
I posted this two years ago. In that two years, I’ve had more success in my writing career than I ever would have thought possible. Regardless of that success, I still need balance. Hope you like this.
Was it Stephen King? Or Anne Lamott? Or Julia Cameron? I don’t remember, all I remember is that it was suggested to me by some writing guru, that we should both mother and father ourselves as writers.
As I’ve ruminated over that concept in my mind, I envision part of me treating my writing like Phil Dunphy, when it should have been kicked around by Claire. Or maybe my writing has had far more attention from Homer and and not enough Marge. (Or maybe I’m spending too much time with my television, which clearly means I need more discipline.)
We need to balance the way that we treat ourselves. We should be equally disciplined (like a father — in general terms) and nurturing (generally like most mothers in a traditional sense — please, I don’t need to have any I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR comments . . .), so that we are comfortable writing, but not so comfortable that we forget our obligations to our art. Too much discipline and order and we get stressed out. Too much coddling and comforting and we get soft and lazy.
Go with me, if you will, into my mind, where the nurturing, soft, feminine side goes toe-to-toe with the task-oriented, masculine side. Which side will win? (And when do I start my counseling?)
Mother: Aww, you’ve written two hundred words today! You are so amazing! Have a cookie!
Father: Two hundred words? Come on, you can do more than that! You did 2K a day last November!
Mother: Of course the agents you query will love you. Just do your best. What else can you do?
Father: So what if you get a rejection. Buck up! Try harder! Rewrite that query!
Mother: It isn’t about earning money, dear, it’s about sharing your talent with the world.
Father: Why would you work this hard on something and not want cash?
Mother: Write from your heart!
Father: Write for the market!
Mother: If you get an agent and a publisher, then you’ll have credibility and people behind you, and your books will be everywhere. I can tell my bridge club to buy your book on Amazon!
Father: If you self-publish and get your own books, you’ll have control and more profit and your books will be accessible. I can tell my golfing buddies to buy a copy out of the trunk of my car!
Mother: Social media is not about fame, it’s about relationships.
Father: Social media is about sales, and avoiding those awkward phone calls when I don’t know what to say.
Mother: Nanowrimo is fine, dear. I can do all of your Christmas shopping for you. Just don’t expect me to understand when you leave the Thanksgiving table to get in your word count.
Father: Nanowrimo? If you can write a book in a month, why aren’t you writing twelve a year? You could be rich!
Mother: I loved your book! It was perfect!
Father: Which of the characters was me?
Mother: So, when you say you’re blogging, isn’t that the same as Facebook?
Father: How about those Red Sox?
So, what do you think? Do you overly mother yourself or overly father yourself? Or are you balanced? Are there any mother/father discussions about writing I’ve forgotten?
It’s time for you to judge me!
Naw, not really. But it is time for me to reveal to you some weaknesses and faults. There’s more where this came from. Here’s #101: I can’t get too much more personal without a box of tissues.
1. Eat popcorn without regretting it.
2. Put something away properly unless I’ve moved it around, stepped over it or stared at it for 4.5 days.
3. Say the “F” word.
4. Drink Diet Pepsi without gagging.
5. Watch my husband’s favorite movie “Wings of Desire” without falling asleep.
6. Sleep on my stomach.
8. Play any musical instrument with skill.
9. Stop picking my cuticles.
10. Find my Mary Kay moisturizer (I think I left it the hotel last weekend).
11. Tolerate small talk for longer than five minutes.
12. Look at my children without smiling
13. Follow technical directions without a picture.
14. Watch local or national news without feeling nauseous.
15. Endure animals of any kind.
16. Properly take care of plants.
17. Get excited about Google+
18. See without my glasses.
19. Completely trust others.
20. Give advice without sounding a little judgemental.
21. Take correction without getting just a teensy bit defensive.
23. Run. Yet. The ankle that I broke last March is still really sore.
24. Figure out an efficient system for keeping track of socks for seven people.
25. Tolerate people who have narcissistic tendencies.
26. Get excited about science projects in my home school.
27. Keep calm when I see a mouse in my house.
28. Remember much about my babies except how tired I was.
29. Express myself on holidays that require an emotional response, such as Thanksgiving or Memorial Day because emotional manipulation is a trigger for my PTSD.
30. Help feeling a little sorry for myself after reading this list.
31. Say the phrase, “You go, girl!”
32. Listen to pop music for even a second.
33. Get excited about “what dog I am” quiz on Facebook.
34. Imagine life without Costco.
35. Picture my husband with hair.
36. Ever get a tattoo. I know it’s trendy. I know I probably have a high tolerance for pain after five kids, but I think I would keep wanting to wash it off.
37. Wear pierced earrings for longer than a day without my ears getting itchy.
38. Visit my hometown without having an anxiety attack.
39. Drop my r’s like a Massachusetts native. “Mahc, pahk the cah!”
40. Find southern country sausage in local grocery stores.
41. Use an electric pencil sharpener without it eating my pencils.
42. Give up my Burberry handbag I found at a thrift store for $10. It looks more winter than spring, but it’s big and classy and I love it.
43. Balance a checkbook.
44. Keep from wearing my heart on my sleeve.
45. Remember to wash my kids’ faces before we leave the house.
46. Hold my alcohol. I’m good for two drinks. Then I get really sleepy.
47. Eat hot dogs. They make my stomach hurt. (30 fat grams each! No loss there!)
48. Eat bologna. Same reason.
49. Get excited about smoothies.
50. Tolerate artificial sweetener.
51. Watch “Frozen” again.
52. See myself without a specific faith.
53. Believe how enjoyable my children are.
54. Believe that my oldest kid may be taking college courses next year as a high school junior.
55. Make pizza from scratch without questioning if it is really worth all the trouble.
56. Look at all of my millions of freckles without suspicion.
57. Bear the thought of sending my kids to school.
58. Tolerate over-attachment to stuff.
59. Scrapbook. I have photos in chronological order. That’s the best I can do.
60. Read Better Homes and Gardens without intense skepticism. Particularly the articles about parenting!
61. Watch violent acts on television or in movies.
62. Look at the last 400 pages of Les Miserables as my cure for insomnia. Hm, maybe I can?
63. Swim well.
64. Feign interest in Harry Potter.
65. Enjoy myself fully in a crowd of more than four or five people.
66. Get to 2048. I got as far as 1024 a few times though.
67. Get all of the jokes or references regarding the Boston Red Sox that are mentioned at my church events.
68. Find a working ink pen in this house.
69. Hike for a while because of my ankle history.
70. Seem to get through a Sunday at church without someone sticking their stuff in my bag. “I’m not your locker, people!”
71. Enjoy orange soda and hamburger relish. Separately. And together.
72. Go anywhere without a notebook and a writing utensil.
73. Run my household without the help of my children.
74. Find matching comforters for my boys’ beds that I like.
75. Use my wedding china. It’s been in storage for seven years.
77. Seem to acquire enough shoes.
79. Go to my local thrift store without buying something pink.
80. Have a Martha Stewart Christmas — even though my intentions are good.
81. Stand Whoopi Goldberg
82. Send or keep Christmas cards.
83. Think about flying without getting a little anxious.
84. Enjoy a church service when my children are touching, grabbing or holding me.
85. Help but stick my nose in my daughter’s script-writing projects for her puppet shows.
86. Homeschool without the internet.
87. Identify any birds by their songs.
88. Buy my children socks and underwear for Christmas.
89. Wear anything with writing on it.
90. Actually type in ‘LOL’ or ‘ROFL’.
91. Tolerate the flavor of children’s toothpaste.
92. Work in my kitchen without wearing an apron.
93. Find my children’s birth certificates.
94. Help but suspect that all of my friendships are hanging by a thread and one careless word from me will destroy them forever.
95. Find any peace in that last statement.
96. Give myself a pedicure.
97. Afford a professional one.
98. Believe all of the nice people I’ve met through this blog. I am blessed!
99. Have sandwiches for lunch. We’re out of bread.
100. Touch my dining room table, my boy’s hands or handles on my kitchen cabinets without feeling a mysterious stickiness.
There’s a lot more. But I’m going to stop at 100. What can’t you do?
Oh, coffee! We love you! We love your dark, rich yumminess! We love your gentle ritual every morning. We love that you are a sensory delight. But do you know what we love even more?
Today I’d like to argue that my romantic comedy is better than coffee. Specifically a latte.
1. I am an independent publisher. By buying my book instead of that latte, you’re supporting small business, encouraging local growth and supporting the arts. If you buy a cup of coffee, you’re lining the pockets of corporate America. Vote with your conscience, people!
2. I had a reader keep track of all the smiles, guffaws, LOLs and giggles she got from my book. She stopped counting so she could enjoy the story. Has your coffee ever made you laugh? I think not. Unless it was made by a clown.
3. Coffee does wake you up and satisfies you for a short time. Yet a book entertains you for hours and when you’re done, you don’t have to go to the bathroom.
4. No delicate rain forest was harmed in the creation of my e-book. I didn’t even go near a rain forest. I didn’t even think about rain forests. E-books are environmentally friendly.
5. My book asks the question: Who has the most power in a relationship? The lady? Or the gentleman? My last latte asked me no questions at all, but I think it did look at me a little funny.
6. When you’re done with coffee, what do you have to show for it? An empty cup. It is so sad. What do you have when you finish reading my story? A happy ending! And then perhaps sadness because it’s over. And then maybe happiness because you can read it again.
7. My book has poetry in it. Mostly Tennyson. A little Frost. I highly doubt your coffee is so well-read.
8. You can read my book on your iPad or other reader. There are few places in this world that you can’t take your device. Coffee on the other hand? Can’t even take it through airport security. Or the library.
9. You can’t spill my book on your lap and sue me because it’s too hot. I’ve written and rewritten those love scenes. If anything, it’s not hot enough.
10. You rarely hear a barista say: “Making a good cup of joe has been my life long dream.” Whereas, the publication of this book has not only been a dream come true for me, but it’s opened up door after door for me as a writer. You’re not just reading a book. You’re reading my destiny!
11. Lattes are Americanized versions of an Italian drink. My book is written by an Americanized descendant of Scotch-Irish dirt farmers and misplaced Cherokee Indians. My people have suffered more.
12. Books are cheaper than coffee. For the price of a designer drink at Starbucks you can buy books from independent publishers from all over the Internet. So, put down your latte and support your local indepedent writer today!
If you do buy my book, please leave an honest review here. I’d appreciate it.
We are a single income family of seven, so it is no wonder that we buy the cheap stuff. One purchase, a box of store brand Grape Nuts, not only was good for our budget, but it also, proved to be very educational.
The back of it said, “The Internet and How It Works.” It went on to explain such unfamiliar terms as “email” and “emoticons” and “HTML”. My children and I read every word (and I totally regret in the telling of this story that I didn’t get a good enough photograph so you could see all of its glory.)
We mocked this. We mocked it over and over. What was the most fun, however was seeing my 12 year old son hold his head and shake in mirth. It was hilarious. “I didn’t know this!” He wiped the tears away. I could understand his perplexity. He was born as a result of his parents meeting on America Online back when they had to explain email to people.
We asked ourselves. Just how old is this box of cereal anyway? Does Market Basket sell boxes from 1994? Where’s the nutritional pyramid or the advocations of a cartoon animal wearing clothes encouraging us to get exercise and eat right? Why this?
Was it a marketing department’s modern solution to the prize at the bottom of the box? (Kids love the Internets!) Have you been to a Market Basket lately? They’re not exactly bastions of modernity.) But then I realized that maybe the problem wasn’t the cereal box, maybe the problem was us.
Then it hit me. The Market Basket people think we’re 70. Who else buys Grape Nuts? Most families like us buy either brand name sugar cereal or designer organic gluten free vegan pops from Whole Foods. Who buys generic grape nuts? The retired? People who may have a keen interest in fiber? People who don’t get on the Internet!
I get it now. The poor misunderstood designers of this cereal box are trying to educate the generation of people who neither need the internet nor care about it. They’re trying to make changes. They’re trying to get my parents to jump on Twitter. (#itwillneverhappen)
I wondered if future boxes would explain Tumblr or the necessity of Google+? Would the fake Cheerios tell us how to monetize Goodreads? Puffed rice would instruct us when the best time of day to pin stuff on Pinterest?
The back of cereal boxes could, be, if we really wanted to stretch it, kind of Wikipedia for the older set. They could get more information on important topics, like How Not To Alienate Your Adult Children and You Lived Mad Men, You Don’t Need To Watch It. Put This Box Aside And Talk To Your Spouse of Forty Years; You Never Know, One of You Could Be Dead Tomorrow.
What I thought was just a dumb idea, was in fact a brilliant one. The designers of this box are trying to tap into a untapped audience. Instead of mocking them, I should be following their example.
Just because it’s relevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s relevant to others. I put a lot of thought into Twitter on a daily basis. I blog. (Obviously) Social media/the Internets is always at the front of my mind. When I crawl out of my cave to talk to people in real life, sometimes I wonder why they haven’t interviewed writers in New Zealand or chatted with a BFF in the UK. What are they missing? Apparently, there are a lot of people who have happy, fulfilled lives without ever writing a tweet. I need to appreciate this. Not scratch my head in bafflement.
Just because it’s irrelevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to others. I don’t need to know exactly how the internet works (We all know it’s the LOLCats running in little treadmills.) But I suppose that there are plenty of people out there who really don’t know and want to know. Who really don’t know what it means when I say I DMed my friend in Ohio or am charging my Macbook Air or got repinned for the 800th time on that cake recipe and yet nothing on my writing stuff. If you read the back of a cereal box (which probably has more staying power than a copy of Reader’s Digest) to understand these things, then great! This is unintrusive. You don’t look stupid by asking your grandchildren. You are empowered just a little more. Instead of thumbing my nose at it, I should be applauding.
The creators of this appear to have figured out where to go to meet the needs of their core consumer. Am I thinking so outside of the box? (Or rather, on the back side of it?)
My apologies to you, Market Basket, for your daring public service on the back of your cereal box. Let’s hope that an entire generation of seniors (or at least Grape Nuts lovers) have their world expanded because of the happy wink.
Everybody hates the guy who tells them how to eat. Except it’s not usually a guy. Usually, it’s a conscientious, often neurotic mother, who while having very good reasons to monitor her family’s needs decides that everyone else in the world need her wisdom too. She may criticize your gluten, your sugar, your GMOs or your 99 cents a pound hot dogs. Her answer to everything is based on her research, her scouring of local farmers and her refrigerator full of raw dairy. And she’ll be happy to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
I’m going to be that mom today. I’m going to say, you should read more poems. It will be good for you.
Poetry is portable literature. Poetry is seasoned metaphor. Poetry is the literary equivalent of a take-out gourmet sandwich shop. Poetry is a vitamin-packed smoothie. Taste one! Sample it! Savor it!
What kinds of poetry should you read? Read anything you love. Subscribe to a poem website and get their daily poems. Commit them to memory. Start with the familiar and move on.
Memorize all you can. Memorize it for the sake of the discipline of it, of committing something to your soul, of tasting the words as they come off the tongue, of subconsciously realizing that these poems were put together with great care and craftsmanship. This is Longfellow! Tennyson! These aren’t slapdash inklings of a self-absorbed teen. This is something you can carry with you.
What do you take from a poem? If you have the literary nutrition of a poem daily, the you can appreciate rhythm, imagery, metaphor, meaning, communication, pathos, story telling and good craftsmanship. Analyze it while you thinking of it, much in the same way you would analyze a novel. What is the poet trying to say? Why did he make the choices that he made? What emotions are you experiencing as a result of the poem? What insight do you have that you didn’t have before? Why was this so important to this poet? What literary elements, like alliteration and repetition and assonance are used here? What does this poet want his reader to take from it?
I make my kids memorize poems. I pick long, rhythmic poems that have some sort of concrete elements to them, like the repetition in Charge of the Light Brigade or the story described in Paul Revere’s Ride or Ballad of the Boston Tea Party, and then Casey At The Bat just because it is fun and perfect for opening day. We’ve memorized William Blake, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, tons of Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. I knew I was on to something when my ten year old son looked at my bookshelf and said, “You have the complete works of Emily Dickinson, but you don’t have Rudyard Kipling!”
(Need a website to go to? Try PoemHunter. It’s easy to manage & create your favorites list!
The study of poetry is, sadly, a neglected one. And in today’s literature, a good dose of this isn’t such a bad idea. Novelists can benefit from the lessons taught by the great poets. We’re so busy making our characters likable and our plot points believable that we leave out the metaphor, the pathos, the art.
Poets also worked on their poems for months. I think in our rush to self-publish that we forget the necessity of the time required for good craftsmanship. As long as we don’t take a lesson from Coleridge and use drug use to create a Kubla Khan, (which I think should be an exception, not a rule.)
I think we’re so busy sometimes worrying about being clear that we make it too easy on our readers. A little nuance, a little subtlety, a little mystery a challenge may do them some good. We can learn this from great poems. Will we lose readers? Maybe. But my books weren’t for everyone anyway.
Why do we need it poetry? Because it is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of art out there. Writers who savor poetry become better writers.
We shouldn’t let our own voice sink to the lowest common denominator. We should, instead, nurture it with great words like those found in the poems of the past and present. We imitate what we have before us. If all we read is junk literature, the latest pulp novel, a sappy, uninspired romance, then our work will could potentially be stuck in the pedestrian and the common. One way to fight this is to surround ourselves with the wholesome, the healthy and the literarily nutritious.
Read poems every day. Your mind and your words will thank you.
I have a work-in-progress and I think it hates me.
Every day I sit down with this project and put in at least an hour. When I sit down with it, I feel it come alive. It is a non-fiction book, so it’s not like it’s alive in the sense of genre or character. It’s alive with the ease (or lack of ease) that comes with the drafting and sculpting of each chapter, the way it seems to fight against me. Some days, it is sterile and compliant; I’m the boss. I put one word in front of the other, much like writing a blog post, and by the end of my hour, I can see the work that was accomplished.
But most days, my work-in-progress is anything but sterile and compliant. It’s the boss. And me? I’m just the miserable minion that has to do its bidding.
Sometimes my WIP is a wild animal. It responds to me with claws and fangs. It hardly comes when I call it. It requires a chair and a whip and possibly raw meat in my pocket. I hold my ground with it, flicking the whip with confidence. I have to remind it that my name is on the contract. (Wait, no that’s not a strong argument. WIP’s name is on it too!)
Sometimes my WIP is a diva. It demands of me to rewrite the sentences that have been rewritten dozens of times. It has high standards that I’m not sure I can meet. It withholds affection from me and turns up its nose at the ideas I bring or the structure I’ve suggested. This IS a book about writing, it sighs to me. How original can you expect to be? And then the dark glasses go on its face and I am dismissed.
Sometimes my WIP is a spoiled teenager. I often sit at my desk wanting to be other places and my WIP (who lives in my computer and never goes out) rolls its eyes at me and whines. “Let’s go swimming!” “I’m so tired of this!” “How much longer do we have to work on this project?” I can beat teenagers at their eye rolling game. I say, “until it’s done. An hour a day in 10 or 20 minute increments.” “Stand up straight”, I tell the WIP. “Let’s get it over with. I’d rather read a book too. And you realize I have a delete button at my fingertips, don’t you?” WIP, in teenage fashion, slams the door behind it.
Sometimes my WIP is an exhausted toddler (which is the same thing as a spoiled teenager, only less articulate.) Tears are usually involved. I can see my WIP holding its fists in anger and screaming. “I DON’T WANNA!” I don’t tolerate this behavior. I didn’t when my five kids were little and I don’t now. I slip into my teacher voice and yank that WIP by the ear and say, “Sit down! Hush! There is no reason to act like that. We are going to get through sixty minutes of drafting and if you give me one more whimper, one more whine, one more tear, I swear to you, I will change the font to comic sans! Do you understand me?” Then the WIP wipes its snotty nose on my sleeve and sits up straight. When my hour is up, I pat it on the head and send it on its way.
Sometimes my WIP is a harpie. This is the worst one of the group. Its only attack is to mock me. Years ago, I would have responded by running away, by quitting, by believing all the lies that it was telling me about how this is a waste of time. It’s not going to sell anyway. How is this book different from what others are saying? They only asked you because they knew you’d work cheaply. After you finish this, you’re done, you don’t have any more projects in you. But I’ve changed. When I see my WIP cross its arms and hold its nose in the air, I stand a little taller. I’ve learned that most bullies back down because they’re cowards at heart. I slip into my best Dirty Harry voice: Get. Over. Here. And then I may or may not slap it upside the head, (depending on how graphic you want this story to be and how believable it is that I actually take a whack at my computer. Hmm. Not very.)
Despite my complaints, I’m blessed and grateful that I have this gig. I’m learning a great deal, growing in discipline and already meeting people who might benefit from this book. But this is hard work. Every day is a battle of will and discipline, and not just mine.
Someday this book will be done and sitting on the shelf beside me. It will be powerless to mock me, torment me or roll its eyes. Instead, it will bring in royalty checks and open doors.
And then the scars, tears, discipline, hard work and ridiculous metaphors will all be worth it.
On June 19, 2014, I led a Twitter chat about this subject. Now, these are just notes. The Q1, Q2, was part of the tweet to keep the readers organized. If you’ve got questions, just ask! This is only how to address the issues of time management — not what it’s going to look like for you. Join us every Thursday at 9PMEDT #10MinNovelists for more practical tips, encouragement and community for time-crunched writers.
SURVIVAL TIPS FOR WRITER MOMS
This is about evaluating your life, home & family, to maximize your time so you can write for at least 10 minutes a day.
I am a homeschooling Mama of five (now ages 8-16).Single income family. Lived in expensive urban Boston.
I’m going to explain how you can be PROACTIVE to find time and keep your home organized, rather than REACTIVE.
This takes 4 steps. Organize time. Organize expectations. Organize people. Organize personal vision.
I’m going to go through each step & explain how to do this. You could take a week for each step & evaluate your family’s needs
Organize your time. On paper, track your time. Little bits here an there can either add up or slip through your fingers.
Budget time in the same way you budget money. First thing to commit to is sleep.
Go through your schedule.
First thing you cross out is sleep. Do your best to get 8 hours. Don’t cut corners here if you can help it.
Work needs. Yours and your spouse. Include your commute.
School needs. (I’m fuzzy on this since we homeschooled. Our homeschool schedule was in stone.) You should make the school calendar your best friend.
What’s left over? Play, church, sports, etc. You should have a little wiggle room. If you don’t, you’re over committed! Stop right where you are and rethink this.
Organize your household expectations
1. What is your standard?
2. Know this and agree with your spouse on food, cleanliness, clothing, extracurricular activities, bedtime rituals, etc. We are freaky clean around here, but we have simple bedtime routines. All of our food is homemade, but we eat sugar, not too much dairy or nuts.
3. Make decisions about this. Your standards may be so high that you no time to do anything else. On the other hand, your standards could be so low, that you have no order, no plan and you just put out fire after fire. Think through this.
Organize your people. This is your greatest asset. Tell them so.
1. Explain your vision to your spouse. Ask for help. Work as a team.
2. Delegate to chores to children over 6.
a. Show them how.
b. Set them up to succeed
c. Be patient.
d. Encourage them
e. Model a good attitude — MOST IMPORTANT FOR THE LONG TERM
3. Train children under six to love chores.
4. Organize Your Personal Vision
1. Have low expectation. 10 Minutes a Day
2. Have a space that’s just yours.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have order so you can sit down and work with the less fuss as possible.