Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Forward

I'm not big on making New Year's Resolutions. I think most of them are doomed to fail because we make them out of pressure to start off a new year with a clean slate or at least a cleaner slate than the one we're bidding goodbye. I'd rather start changing something on the day that I realize it needs to be changed or, if I'm feeling contrary, procrastinate about it for awhile first.

The whole, "I resolve in 2011 to (fill in the blank)" just doesn't work for me. I'm much better with the mindset of, "I want to (fill in the blank) and I will begin on (pick a day)." The resolution then becomes a project. I'm very project-oriented. For someone who's usually a dreamer and and idea-generator, this method is quite concrete and detailed. It works.

I'm the same way with long-term goals. I do better when I break them down into steps that I will take to achieve the end-result.

Whether working on weight loss or working on a book, the big picture is often overwhelming. Instead of thinking, "I really need to lose a lot of weight this year", I'd rather focus on, "I can follow a healthy food plan today." I don't have to worry so much about completing a new book at the outset when, instead, I only need to write the first chapter, then the next and so on.

Several months ago for my day job, we spent a day with a coach who had us do a standard personality study. No surprise that I wound up in the "Creatives" category, but I also bled over a little into "Bottom-Liner". This is helpful because, as an idea-generator, it's also good to be results-oriented. Otherwise, what's the point of generating ideas if we don't use them to accomplish something.

Looking forward to 2011, I have lots of ideas for things I want to accomplish. Now I'm tapping into the other part of myself to formulate the plan.

What's on your agenda?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

News from the Woman Behind the Curtain

I know that it's been awhile. No, I didn't skid off of that high road and crash over the precipice. In addition to the usual chaos of the holiday season, I've been involved in a professional reinvention. Back in October, I talked about the restart of my career as a novelist. I figured it was about time to update everyone on the progress.

The cover artist has redesigned the covers for my books All Keyed Up and Key of Sea. We've agreed on the concepts and now he needs to finalize the designs. I'm really pleased with the new looks for the books and am looking forward to revealing them soon.

Likewise, I'm thrilled with the progress made by the company I contracted with to redesign my website. Again, we've settled on the design concept. Now I need to let them know what content to migrate from the current site, freshen up some material, and make some additional decisions.

So far, it sounds like other people are doing all the work for the restart. To some extent that's true. Now, I'm in the midst of my major responsibilities -- going through the books to fix a few things. Then I need to do the actual reformatting of the manuscripts to prepare them for electronic publishing.

Unlike some authors who do this when the books first come out, the last time I read them was when I did the final revisions for the original publisher. Frankly, the process of rereading them now feels a little weird. I bounce from pleased surprise, as in, "Wow. I actually wrote this? It's pretty good" to fretting whether the stories are truly good enough.

It's not unusual for writers to suffer from this fear and insecurity. I've read blog posts by fabulously successful, award-winning, New York Times bestselling authors where they proclaim that they suck. They don't, of course, they just sometimes think that they do, or are afraid that they do and they will soon be revealed as frauds.

Imagine for a second that the Wizard of Oz is a metaphor for a novelist's career. We'd be the guy concealed behind the curtain. The creative process would be Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City - sometimes the path is beautiful and filled with bright colors and interesting characters. Sometimes we creep through the dark forest, dodging apples thrown by scary trees, trying not to be captured by flying monkeys. Other times, it just gets so overwhelming that all we really want is to lie down among the flowers for a nap.

Well, I can't sleep my way through the process of checking my books. I've set goals and want these books to enjoy new life in e-publishing. To help the effort, I have already invested a good chunk of money in the covers and website. I want to, and will, push on and get the books ready to launch. I've gone through the poppy fields, gained entry to the Emerald City, and am putting my books through the buffing and polishing.

I've discovered a certain magic energy to preparing to release my books myself in the electronic publishing forums. Remember in the Wizard, Dorothy thought she had to do a whole bunch of stuff and rely on many others to achieve her goal.

Like her, I've discovered I have the power to get where I want to be all on my own.

Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Veering Off the High Road

When I was a kid and other kids picked on me or teased me (or were downright mean) to me about being overweight, my parents always told me to take the high road. That's a credo that I've attempted to follow all of my life, no matter how difficult it is to do sometimes.

The high road is not the easy path. For one thing, you have to trudge uphill to reach it. Once you're there, you have to slog your way through mud, rock slides, pot holes and other less savory things that are all intent on tripping you up during the journey so that you and your good intentions fall flat on your face.

It was particularly difficult when I was younger and, like most adolescents and teens, possessed less impulse control. I also had a temper, so every side trip to the high road was a lesson in not letting anger get away from me. There's good points and bad to that approach. Lashing out every time someone pisses us off isn't a constructive way to interact with others. Holding in the anger and trekking up that hill to the high road doesn't always achieve the best results.

Case in point, when I was 10, my family and I lived in France. My older brother and I went to a private school for American kids. There were a couple of girls in my home room who had been there for a few years. Since they were also on the far side of chubby, they were overjoyed to have a "new girl" to pick on. Smartly, they realized it was a glass classroom, so they didn't throw stones about my weight. Instead, they tried to make me feel bad because their fathers worked in the diplomatic corps and my father was, wait for it, only a doctor. Can you cross the t and dot the i in bitches along with me? I was incensed at the disrespect shown to my father. He only laughed when I relayed the tale of the grievous insult and told me to ignore them and, yes, take the high road.

I put more miles on that damned high road that year than a coast-to-coast trucker. Then February rolled around and the entire school closed for vacation, with most students going on school-sponsored ski trips. My best friend and I were on the same trip as my nemeses and the Fates had a good laugh when the four of us somehow ended up sharing a room. My high road taking must have frustrated them but, smelling fresh vulnerable meat, they turned on my friend. She was a quiet, timid girl who'd never gone on an away trip from her family before and was homesick. I warned them and warned them to stop teasing her, but they persisted until she began to cry great, heartbroken tears. When I ordered them to back off, they told me they could say and do anything they wanted -- including splitting us up because my father was only a doctor.

I snapped, saying something close to, "Your diplomatic fathers can't help you now." Then I picked up my heavy wooden hairbrush and went after the one girl. No, I didn't seriously beat her, but I got in several smacks before reason returned and I stopped. They never bullied me or my friend again.

Do I advocate violence as a solution? No. Do I think I would have been better served if I'd learned more effective techniques for conflict resolution other than relying on the power of taking the high road? Yes.

The thing with the high road is that it just removes you from the conflict. It doesn't take you to any definitive destination. You just keep walking until the conflict passes and then you resume your regularly plotted route -- until the next time something happens and you detour again.

I'm a long way away from that 10 year old. Most of the time these days, I can both take the high road and find an effective way to resolve a situation that doesn't involve beating someone with a hair brush. There are even times when I can shrug and release the annoyance.

Then there are times like today. Someone made some, I think, petty critiques of a volunteer project in which I was involved. Instead of immediately responding, I sprinted for the high road. Good thing because my initial thought, upon hearing the critique was, "Then you effing take on the project next time."

Securely perched up here on the hill, I'm giving myself 24 hours before I craft a written response. It will be diplomatic and calm and I will make my points without being angry, mean or bitchy. I promise.

Until then, I give myself permission to think of the road not traveled; the one littered with responses like, "Kiss my ass".