Excuse Editor: Inspiration, Coaching and Consulting To Take Your Writing To The Next Level

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Writing Fearlessly" an Admirable Goal, but Probably a Myth

We're all works under construction
“Live fearlessly!” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Until you actually try living that way. Your common sense gets in the way—Well, I must be scared of some things, like driving too fast or stray dogs, right? Or you basically fear what living fearlessly might LOOK like: What will they think of me if I shake my ass in Zumba?

These kinds of debates have been playing themselves out in my head for the past year, as I’ve been working on my memoir. Can I "Write Fearlessly?" I felt great in the beginning. I’d discovered a way to work, a type of flexible outlining Brook Warner calls “scaffolding” that seemed to set me out in the right direction—yes, direction! I suddenly had one. Great! On to writing.

I knew the story. I mapped out the scenes. But, I suppose it is similar to the Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey—we both knew we were a bit out of our element, but until we run splat into obstacles, we didn’t know how scary it would be.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Writing Lessons from a Salesperson: Part 2


Writers and entrepreneurs have a lot in common. If you are a writer who plans to achieve any kind of financial success from your talent, you have to play the business game. If you are an entrepreneur who wants to get people excited about your product or service, you have to play the sales game. If you are like a huge majority of people, this may make you cringe.

Watch a few minutes of “Shark Tank” on TV and you will see true rejection in action. Inventors, business owners and dreamers have put their sweat, tears, and often a whole lot of money into an idea they believe will both change the world and make them rich. Usually, someone tells them how wrong they are. It doesn't help that one of the guys is sarcastically called “Mr. Wonderful.”

As a writer, you are standing in front of that panel of critics every time you submit new work for consideration. No matter how great your product is, it is not for everyone. You could have the most amazing slant on zombie-aliens from Krypton, but that probably won’t do anything for the romance reader.
“But,” you may argue, “My story says something about the human condition that is truly important.”
The fact is, not every human cares.

Defining and focusing your audience/potential customer is important for both writers and sales people. It will reduce the number of doors slammed in your face, but not much. Be prepared. And continue to love what you do anyway.

When I started sharing Pangea Organics skincare, I assumed my audience WOULD be everyone. Everyone needs to cleanse their faces, take showers, and wash their hands, right? True, but not everyone understands why they should be avoiding chemicals from laboratories in order to do that, for one, and also: Not everybody cares.

When I wrote a personal essay about how a song my dad wrote helped to mend our relationship, I thought that I had a pretty good chance to get it published in a certain anthology. I submitted, and was rejected. That particular group had no use for it at that time. Later, however, the same essay (edited a bit) was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad.


Today's Excuse Editor's Lesson:
 Allow rejection to lead you to perseverance; perseverance encompasses every success.


Happy Writing (and selling, especially if you are doing so to support your writing)!

Tina

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writing Lessons From A Salesperson: Part 1

The Flower on my Pangea Organics business card

For an entire decade, a full one-quarter of my life so far, I worked at a manufacturing/distribution company.  The company made stuff and sold stuff. I was perfectly content to support the company with customer service, administration and inventory management throughout that time.  The thought of selling anything, however, made me freeze. Marketing?  Fine. Sharing information in a trade show booth? Fabulous. Asking someone for their money in return for a fine product? I’d rather chew glass and wash it down with turpentine.

That’s why I am so amused with my recent choice. I’m an Independent Rep with Pangea Organics skincare. It’s a skincare company focused on healthy solutions from natural, organic sources, so my diversion to the sales aspect would be more like washing a mouthful of chia seeds down with the blended juice of a cucumber, kale, and pineapple. You can read a bit about my decision here, but basically, I was impressed with the product and thought it would be a chance to make a little extra money. I had just begun a more focused attempt at a full-length memoir, and knew I would like some things that were not in my current budget: an editor, funds for writing conferences and retreats, and possibly a good cover designer. Besides, it would get me away from the computer and out into the world. I’m a non-fiction writer. That’s where material happens, where the creative pump is primed. So, I took a deep breath, and dove in.

The tools needed for this new endeavor are strikingly similar to what’s needed on the writing journey. For example:

Success is found outside your comfort zone. Sharing your writing, whether it is with a supportive writing group or sending a query to a top agent or publisher, can make some would-be writers freeze. But if a writer doesn’t share her work, she will never succeed in the fundamental reason for writing in the first place—to communicate her message to the world. If the writing group offers valid critiques, the writer learns to improve.

As you improve, you may feel uncomfortable “tooting your own horn,” but how else will people find you? Don’t assume you know what people are going to think. You will learn to believe in your writing more as you go along, and the hard work will pay off. When I sent out my first personal essays to Chicken Soup for the Soul, I worried that some unknown person would judge my story, and by extension, judge me as “unworthy.” But I sent them anyway. Not every submission was picked up, but none of them would have been if I hadn’t tried.

 When I started selling Pangea, I worried people would immediately judge me as a pushy salesperson, but I let them know what I was doing anyway. In return, I gained happy customers. They didn’t know about the product (or did and could no longer find it in stores) and now had a way to get something they enjoyed. I’ve received emails from people who have read my Chicken Soup stories who were touched in some way. I gained readers and my new readers had an experience they would not have had if I wouldn’t have taken that first step and submitted an essay.

Getting out of my comfort zone by getting into sales (which I usually still think of as “sharing--” my personal aversion to “selling” isn’t entirely gone) has shown up on the page as well. I am being more honest in my writing, and am sometimes surprised how personal my writing has become. I have to take another big breath and jump when I share in my own group, because I know that the risk has a chance to grow into a big reward.

Since my Pangea Organics business takes a good amount of my time, time I am also thinking about or working on my memoir, I’ve discovered many more similarities between this business journey and the writing life. I’ll share more in upcoming posts. In the meantime, continue to take risks with your writing, your writing business and your life. You will be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities that will follow!

Happy Writing! --Tina

P.S. You know I have to do it: tell you about this month's Pangea Organics Specials. In April, get Free Pyrenees Lavender Hand Soap & Italian White Sage Body Wash with $75 purchase. Better yet, sign up for the Organic Loyalty Program and get the same special for $60, since new OLPs receive 20% off all of the time (until we get 500 sign ups, then it is 15%) and the special just for signing up. Click here or contact me if you have any questions (tina at excuseeditor.com). 

Thanks to all of the Excuse Editor readers who are also new Pangea customers! To learn more, check out my site, HealthySkinParty.com.


 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stuck in the Muck?

Before my recent memoir writing course, I hadn’t heard of the term “the muddy middle,” but I had sure felt it. Some of my work is still there, trudging along in the muck like those quick-sand “walkers” in last week’s episode of the Walking Dead   And like the zombies, you can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away, you have to figure out how to move on. And for this you need the ABC’s of Muddy Middle Elimination:


A. Action. No matter how stuck you feel, the only way you are ever going to get any forward momentum in your work is to MOVE. Step away from the computer and take a walk to clear your mind, or turn away from the monitor and free write for 5-10 minutes, about the frustration, or how you may want to write the next scene but are afraid to commit to it, whatever. But stick to the action of writing, even if you take a few moments to move away from it, be sure to make your way back.


B. Believe. I get in those moods to cook unique things from magazines or on Pinterest. There are step by step instructions called recipes, so I usually feel pretty confident that I can create something edible. However, during the preparation of many of these recipes, the processes don’t make sense. Why do I need to boil this down? Why can’t I just throw everything together in the pot and turn on the heat; why so many steps? Of course, real chefs know the answer to this; I just want dinner.  But I know I need to trust in the process. It may not seem like the combination of spices, cooked in the order requested will make much of a difference, but if I don’t have that faith in the process, I will never know.When you are in that “muddy middle” of your writing project,  you may be unsure if the ingredients you are adding there will blend in an appetizing way as you make your way to the end. You have to trust it, and to help, you need to develop your own set of ingredients and steps. You need… 

C. Construction. I am an outline convert. Not necessarily a strict outline, but one Brooke Warner calls“scaffolding.” (Her intro to this concept here). To avoid getting bogged down like a member of the undead (does it seem like I am looking forward to the next episode?), give your work some structure. Just like those chefs that create culinary masterpieces from scratch, you, too, can add different spices and directions as you go along, but if you have the basics mapped out and written down, you have less of a chance of wandering into a direction that will make your writing project unappetizing. 

Happy Writing and Happy Holidays! 

And, (here it comes, my plug for my editing fundraising project) if you need some gifts, be sure to check out the great Pangea Organics skincare this month: Buy one, get one 50% off and free shipping (starting Dec. 3). Shop in this Virtual Party Link

And because of so many Walking Dead references, I'll share my meeting with Michael Rooker, the actor who played Merle Dixon. It's a bit blurry because he made us laugh, after an impromptu dance we all shared to "Brickhouse." This is why I write memoir. You can't make this stuff up. 


Austin Comic-Con Nov. 2013
  And to be fair to the other Dixon brother.... 


He stabbed his brother 7 times...He seemed perfectly nice to us...


Monday, November 4, 2013

3 Writing Tips For November And Beyond


Why November was chosen to be the month writers are supposed to rally all of their energy  to work on their drafts at a Stephen King (or another prolific writer) pace is beyond me. Holidays are coming up; also it's the end of the year, which sometimes means day-job goals; and it turns chilly in many parts of the country/world--what better time to cozy up with a good book--that somebody else wrote? Instead, the folks over at Nanowrimo have shifted many  writers (or would-be writers) to believe they can write a whole novel (or nonfiction book, or a collection of blog posts, etc.) in 30 days. Since I follow blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and Pinterest boards that are all about writing, I can't escape these messages. And the spirit is contagious. At least for the first week or so. In the spirit of Nanowrimo, WNFIN, and others, I have taken the challenge, in a way. Here's what I plan to do this month:


  • Write every day. This is not  uncommon advice, but when everybody else is trying to do the same, it acts like that pea in the princess' mattress of my mind. Have I written today? Why not? Everybody's doing it. I'm not a teenager, so peer pressure can now be used as a positive. 
  • Focus on my outline. Since this summer, I've been working exclusively on my memoir. It was originally going to be about a more recent time in my life, but once I started writing (and that writing was scattered and almost non-coherent), it became clear that I needed some direction. I stepped back from the wandering writing, and emerged with some themes--all of which originated in an earlier time in my life. With the help of my "Write your memoir in 6 months" class (which I will talk about more once I've completed the course), I created a rough map of where this thing is going. Now, when I settle into my chair every day, I know where the story is going.
  • Wake up earlier. Thank goodness for Daylight Savings. This morning was the easiest so far. I got a full night's sleep, and was still up earlier than my usual time. I am not a morning person, usually. But if I am going to get these pages written in the next month, with my goal of doing my own edits/rewrites before I send it off to a professional editor soon, I have to write before the rest of my responsibilities take priority.  
HealthySkinParty.com
Are you participating in these writing events? Please share. I plan to update my writer's page with my progress, so please stop by with any encouragement or peer pressure if I seem to be slacking! 

I can't stay at my desk all of the time, and allowing myself time to share Pangea Organics Skincare with people has helped get me out of my head-- so it's clear for takeoff when I return! It's a great way to earn money for holiday and editing expenses. If you are interested in learning more, email me at tina (at) healthyskinparty.com. In the meantime, check out how you can get $50 worth of products free this month. Click here. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lessons from Memoir Writing

Writing is always a journey. The difference between this journey and that road trip you may take this weekend is you really you can't plan out where the road will take you. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it.

I started an online class a few months ago to help jump-start the memoir I had been writing in my head for the last few years. Every time I would get a few scenes written, the focus would change, and I would go back to the starting line. Again. I was hoping the class would change that. It did, eventually. It would have changed it sooner if I would have allowed myself the chance to let the lessons sink in. No matter. Even the shitty first drafts will be of some use down the line, and now I have stopped crinkling the road map and throwing it under the seat of my writer's driver's seat. Instead, I've pulled over and I'm taking a good look at where I want this book to go. More details on the to come. In the meantime, at least one big lesson I've learned: writing is therapeutic.

This may have already been something I knew, on some level. I've been keeping a diary, journal, or writing morning pages since I was in 3rd grade. Something about that must have helped my sanity. During the gaps in my writing was when I acted the most crazy, so maybe I should have been better about keeping a daily habit. Or maybe not. There's some good material in those gaps.

During a recent conference call or class, someone mentioned the scientific studies (maybe this is one) that proved that writing your truth, even when you truth consisted of the most stressful time in your life, benefited your immune system. If you wrote about the hard facts of your life for 20 minutes a day, your health could potentially improve.

Well. Hopefully I can get into a daily habit while writing my truths for this memoir. Not all of it is the "tough stuff" (studies be dammed--that sounds like it could drag a person down), but I could do with a little immunity boost. I've been fighting the same cold since my flight was delayed in Las Vegas 3 weeks ago. I'm a writer, so I should be getting all the health benefits that come from taking to the page. This weekend, I'm doubling my healthy dosage: I am attending a yoga retreat and spending an extra night for some "alone time" with my WIP.

I SHOULD be able to fend off anything this flu season sends me. Right?

Happy Writing!
--Tina

Do you feel a change in your body when you write? If it makes you feel good, do you still find yourself avoiding it at times? Do you think it's like exercising--you know it's good for you, but, it's just so hard to get started?


  • I've been learning other ways to keep my body healthy--by paying attention to what I put ON it! It's as important as what I put IN it. I started selling Pangea Organics to fund my writing project, and now it's become a passion. If you would like to try a healthy line of products that smell fantastic and work even better, and support Excuse Editor along the way, please shop here. This month, you can get a free Skincare Discovery Kit, which includes Facial Cleanser, Toner, Cream, Scrub and Mask, with any order of $80 or more (all $100+ orders get free shipping). The holidays are just around the corner. Hand Cream, Hand Soap, Lip Balm and Body Polish all make fantastic gifts. Stock up on a few, and get a Discovery Kit for yourself. Writers deserve to treat themselves. If you have any questions about Pangea Organics or how I'm using it to raise money for next year's writing conferences and more, contact me: tina (at) excuseeditor.com. You can also visit my Healthy Skin Party Facebook Page. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pros and Cons of Treadmill Writing




I’m not here to discuss how great or dangerous it would be to have one of those treadmill desks (although I just came across a blog post where a writer found that while her husband and cats were perfectly willing to bother her while she had her butt in the chair, nobody bugged her while she was on the treadmill, so she started writing there); I’m talking about the process of continuously “writing in place.” Many times over the years I have found myself reaching a writing plateau and I need to find something to shake it up. Taking stock of my use of treadmill writing is one way to break free from the writing stagnation it sometimes causes. Let me explain:

  • Pro: Treadmill writing gets SOMETHING on the page. One of the most simple, yet true, pieces of writing advice is “Just Write.” Getting to the page eliminates the first obstacle, showing up.
  • Pro: Treadmill writing allows you to get your writing in shape. If you are just starting, you get a chance to discover your limitations. Set your writing treadmill to high, and sprint through a quick draft; how do you feel? Winded? Exhilarated? If you've been away from writing for a while, it serves as a rehab. Start off slowly. Remember how it feels.
  • Con: If you spend all of your time writing in place, you may discover you are not going anywhere. You have written pages of premises, possibilities, and ponderings—but your story, essay, or book lacks a real structure. By standing in one spot, you can’t take the journey. In writing, that includes (at minimum) a beginning, middle and end. Be aware if your “just writing” is keeping you from finishing.
  • Con: Treadmill writing, like treadmill running, is different than “the real thing.” If you go on a treadmill at the gym, at a level that mimics a “real running path,” your body gets a little bit of a shock when you go outside to run in the real world. If you grow too accustomed to writing without rules and structure, you may find it difficult to finish a polished work.

My own treadmill writing has served me well, and I will continue to come back to it often to get my writing engines fired up. But when it comes to getting something on paper that I want to share, I need to quit running in place and work on things that may seem uncomfortable at times. Just like I can’t stick to the treadmill at the gym for overall fitness, I can’t expect one practice-- “just writing” -- to lead to better results. Those uncomfortable planks and ab workouts? Those are the writing equivalent to creating an outline for my memoir. I had a general  idea where it was going during the treadmill writing phase, but to really get to the guts of the matter- I need to create some kind of outline. I may not like doing it now, but, like those planks, it will be worth it later.

Happy Writing!

--Tina

Do you have something you'd like to share about the writing process? I'm accepting guest blog posts! Email me: tina (at) excuseeditor.com
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