Thursday, 29 May 2014

Staying versus Quitting: It Can Be a Very Fine Line.

Aristóteles por Luis Alberto Costales.jpg

Image: Aristotle by Luis Alberto Costales

YaY! HooraY! "Staying Strong", my mini memoir of breakdown is ready for review. With one mighty push, I've got it ready for scrutiny before publication.

I'm not a quitter, even though some things take longer to complete than I'd like, and sometimes I wonder whether it's worth the time and energy. Who knows that one? Most of us in one life aspect or another. So I'm a stayer.

On occasion however, staying can be flawed and we need to know when to quit. Not easy I hear you say? I agree. There's a fine line between the two, and making the decision either way is often difficult, especially when you're under pressure.

We all know the scenario of  new writers envisioning fame and fortune. I did. At least, I was hopeful of some fortune. I didn't care for the fame, I'm too introverted for that. We write a book, thinking (knowing) it to be a masterpiece, self-publish it to Amazon and sit back waiting for the rest to be history. Nothing happens. We're shocked, become angry, disillusioned, and give up on writing forever. Yes, it does happen this way.

But how about this. What happens in the staying too long scenario? Let's take a look.

Let's say you wanted to be a full time stay at home writer, but instead you worked in the city. This job was highly paid but demanding and stressful and you hated it. It meant that everyday you had an early start and long commute, and when you arrived home late at the end of a long day you were exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. You snatched what time you could with your spouse and rarely saw your young children.

Weekends weren't much better. There were sports events and family outings and precious little time for you and your craft. Whenever you had a spare moment you would write. You would write because it kept you sane, because you loved it and you believed you were good at it. You would love to write full time but that would mean serious changes.

Time came when working in the city became unbearable and you made the decision to leave. You self-published your first book, and with great anticipation looked forward to the extra income you expected and needed. It was a success, but your success was short lived. Your next book wasn't as good and you had some bad reviews. You put on a brave face and wrote on, determined to do better.

Below the surface however, cracks began to appear. Writing had become a labour not a love but you continued writing because you had to. You had responsibilities. You had a spouse and family depending on your share. Guilt mounted, you had taken them down this path - they had put their faith in you. They had trusted you.

Now creditors called almost daily but you couldn't tell your loved ones, anyone. That was too embarrassing. And private. Besides, maybe if you re-wrote the last book with a new angle? But you were so tired, you could hardly concentrate. You had to carry on. You weren't a quitter. If you quit now, what else would you do?

Then unexpectedly your spouse's mother passed away. Your spouse who had been your rock now needed you. But you couldn't help. It was all too much. It was the final straw, the extra stress and worry tipped you over the edge. You broke. All your walls came crashing down into panic, anxiety and depression. You collapsed into a shuddering, sobbing mess, useless to yourself and all those around you.

You stayed too long.

And yes, this happens too. This brief story is not in the realms of fantasy. In fact many people find themselves overwhelmed by life. Such overwhelm takes time to build, and this is important. I'm talking about sustained, long-term worry, stress and pressure, not one-off events. Under these circumstances it's vital to take stock and get help to make some decisions.

Decide if you need to quit. It won't be the end of the world if you stop writing or whatever you do, for a short while or even permanently. You've given it a GOOD shot. Stop before you become unwell.

As an indicator of what too much stress is here's the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to give you an idea. Even though the study was done in the 1960's it is still relevant today. I did the test recently and found I was way over the stress limit during events in "Staying Strong."

Personality plays a significant role in how we cope with life situations and therefore affects our decision making. Check out The Meyers-Briggs Personality Test. Being in the smallest group has had a major influence on my life. Again, this is a recent find but explains much.

Therefore the question of quitting or staying is difficult. Writing one book then giving up because it wasn't a raving success is not giving your talent a good enough shot. I'd say it's more about not having enough staying power. Your talent, if you have it, never had a chance to develop, it never got beyond crawling. Maybe you hurt yourself a few times when trying to walk and decided that was too hard, and gave up too quickly.

In an ideal world we'd all be balanced people, yet the reality is that most of us fit somewhere off-centre. If you're near the extreme end of imbalance, GET HELP. For you, staying may not be the wise option, no matter what. And yes, I know it's hard to judge for yourself, I know you think you can go an extra round. If you've written and written and your career's going nowhere, get help, ask for advice.

There's no shame, no disgrace, no weakness or failure in saying "This is no longer for me." It's far better to be honest and to move on than it to stay knowing this is no longer your path. I say "Well done" for the knowing.

Whew! I wonder whether extroverts have this issue??

Have another great weekend folks :) Time for lunch for me. See you next week.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Perfect Plan for Indie Authors. Who's Got It?


What's your plan indeed? Everyone's plan is different, there is no "one plan fits all scenario", yet each of us is working on our own perfect plan and we take bits from here and there to suit us best. Joanna Penn has a good plan. and many useful links to further sites.

As an indie author I had BIG plans when I first started writing full-time a year ago. Since then I've published 8 books which is not a bad effort, although I know it could have been more, much more. I have CFS though which means I write when I can, and that amounts to about 6-8 hours a week including this blog. I didn't plan it that way, but that's how it happened. I wanted to write more, more, more, to allow all the ideas in my head to reach the keyboard and eventually the world wide web.

And of course, I had dreams of living off my new found wealth. That hasn't happened yet, but I'm only 8 books and 1 year in, so still consider myself a newbie indie.

Before publishing my first book I read lots of "How To" downloads and ebooks. This one was brilliant, and this

I set up this blog and several social media accounts which were a new experience for me. I informed myself straight up on the best way to set up a platform, to make myself known. I'm an introvert who likes anonymity, ha ha ha, so you can imagine the quandary I found myself in. Maybe it's a writerly thing? Leave me alone, I want to stay home and write, I don't want to be in the public eye?

But thank God or whoever for the digital age.You can hide, sort of, and be out there at the same time. And if it wasn't for for the e-age, I and so many others would never have had the opportunity to publish our work. I love having information at my fingertips and to be in control of my output. Now anyone can write and self publish. Of course, it helps to write quality, and not flood the market with crap. I hope I don't.

Everyday there are more avenues opening for our books. There's no longer just Amazon. is a great site with the latest on new stores and how to get your ebooks listed. And then yesterday this email arrived from one of the Google Circles I'm in. This is next on my "To Do" list. A step by step guide to getting you ebooks listed for FREE. ebooks stores are global now and it's easier than ever to have your books everywhere, and you should, to optimise exposure, readership and income.

Earlier in the month this came in from the same Google Circle. Another excellent step by step strategy to bring in the sales and the money. I've got this on my "To Do" list as well. When I get around to both these plans is unknown, but they are planned. CFS remember.

This week luckily I stuck to my plan. In the 6-8 hours of writing I've done more "Staying Strong" editing. I had hoped to publish "Staying Strong" by June, but maybe in June now. Such is the way with plans. They do need to be flexible, not set in concrete.

Also, the Crystal book is firing along quite nicely. It's different from "Staying Strong" in every way. I'ts a guide book, not a story, and it has no plot, characters or theme! But I had a crazy idea one day and it's being transferred into this book. Of all my boards on Pinterest, Crystal Healing is the most popular, so my idea stems from there. I can't say when it will be out either, but you will be kept up to date.

That's it for this week.

Happy weekend everyone,


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Creative Nonfiction is as Good as Fiction: Show it Well and Don't just Tell It.

 I'm a writer of Creative Nonfiction and I love it. It's not the dry, dreary, boring or poor second cousin of fiction, but when written well, is just as vibrant, exciting and page turning. I love making my stories entertaining and informative and hope to enrich and excite readers' lives through the reading of those stories. And surely this is what good fiction aims for too, especially if you show and not just tell.

Just telling a story is not enough, in fact it's downright boring and I myself will put that book down fast. When you show me a story, i.e. bring it to life in my imagination, I'll read it with all that I've got. 

This is especially true for creative nonfiction. I've read some wonderful stories long and short that, to me, are excellent examples of the what the genre is all about. Coming Clean by Kimberley Rae Miller is a memoir about a child growing up in a house of hoarders. The book and her writing style are very contemporary examples of creative nonfiction. 

As is this very short piece First Kiss by Sharon Lippincott. It's only 474 words, but speaks volumes and paints pictures and images so beautiful they linger much longer in the memory than the words alone. 

Let's look a little deeper. Creative nonfiction has all the Elements of Fiction: characters, plot, theme, setting and style.   

One of my first forays into creative nonfiction was a short ebook called Hi, I'm Winnie. Winnie is my very clever Labradoodle. She dictated the book to me and insisted it be written in her voice. The book became a series of 4 and  included Hunny, my other Labradoodle.

When I write my creative nonfiction stories, I use all of the Elements of Fiction. For example:
~ characters ~ Winnie and Hunny
~ plot ~ everyday funny, quirky happenings and challenges only dogs can have
~ theme ~ Winnie and Hunny's lives
~ setting ~ our backyard, our town, the beach
~ style ~ humorous, 1st person dog perspective

First and foremost I need colourful and interesting characters with issues, who readers fall in love with or hate, and whose personalities evolve and enrich reader's imaginations.

There needs to be a plot which takes readers on a journey and has an ending, a theme which is engaging and page turning, and a setting vivid enough in print to bring images to mind.

Then I like to use charming humour for these short stories because it's perfect for gorgeous fur-babies who've written their own books :)

Just as much effort goes into the work of my books, into creative nonfiction in general, just as much research, just as much blood sweat and, oh yes tears, as goes into fiction. Follow the same process and structure, write, edit and question what stays in and what goes. Edit more, fine tune again and again, and at some point there is a book which you're happy with and is ready and good enough for publication. 

The technicalities are the same, yes, and nowadays the products are pretty damned good too. 

And that's it. The essence of writing either fiction or creative nonfiction is the same. Whether the story is made up or whether it's true life doesn't matter, it must be able to show not just tell. Creative nonfiction does that now too.  

Next week: Updates on "Staying Strong" and the crystal book

Have a great weekend everyone


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Your Spare 5 minutes: Do You Write or Relax?

Yikes! As I got into bed last night (Wednesday 9.30pm) in Australia, I realised it was IWSG's monthly blog post and I has nothing prepared. I'd missed posting last month due to unforseen circumstances, and if I missed this month as well I could get the chop from the blog hop.

Fast forward 15 hours. I'm now sitting in hospital waiting for an MRI, having last night planned to write this post whilst waiting to see if I could fill the time productively rather than flipping through magazines and checking the clock to see how many 5 minutes I've been here. I wanted to see how much I could achieve in 5 minutes.

I have it on good author authority that every 5 minutes of spare time counts, and if you've got it, you could be thinking about, taking notes for, or writing your next article, short story, novel etc.

Personally, I dislike this idea. Firstly because I doubt anyone could do much creatively in 5 minutes. Prove me wrong if you can. It seems to me that it would take as long if not more, to get the ipad, iphone, tablet, or goodness me pen and paper out, then the thought processes organised, let alone get any constuctive work done, notes taken or words written. By the time I've ummed and ahhed and organised myself 5 minutes is up, game over. (sigh)

Secondly, I dislike the idea because we're already busy and pressured enough. Why fill life with more of the same?

Instead, I say, take 5 and relax, chill out, take some deep breaths, take a brief walk. I'm sure my/your creativity will benefit more from this activity than trying to squash in extra writing productivity.

So you've guessed it, I'm not into grabbing 5 minutes to write whilst waiting for a meeting to start or between train stops (yes seriously, author authority remember).

By the time I finished writing this at the hospital half an hour was up. I had chosen to take pen and paper although I could have taken my tablet or used my phone. I'm happy I made the old school choice as no one else was fiddling with any device whatsoever, as I suspected, and old school made me feel right at home.

Here then is to however, wherever and whenever we write.

Write on writers!



Thursday, 1 May 2014

Can Ice-Cream save the Great Barrier Reef? Will it? Decisions.

Can ice cream save the Great Barrier Reef? It would be a first, but why not? Stranger things have happened, like a government boycott on ice-cream. What the?

The Queensland Government's Environment Minister Andrew Powell has accused Ben and Jerry's of  "false and misleading" statements regarding threats to the Great Barrier Reef.  In fact, Australians are being urged to boycott the brand altogether. I believe Ben and Jerry's sales have sky rocketed in the past week. Good on ya Ben and Jerry's, I'm with you.

These days there are many worthy causes, fights to fight, opinions to voice, and serious decisions to make such as which side of the Great Barrier Reef issue do you take; do you Save the Arctic, the Whales, the Bimblebox or do you simply sit on the fence and take no notice of any of these?

Many of us take a stand in one way or another, often unawares that we do, and I don't mean voicing opinions opininatedly (I doubt there's such a word but it fits what I mean here). I mean that in every given moment of every day we make decisions about what happens next based on what happened before.

What happened before could be anything in our personal experience. For example, what we "learned" from our parents, teachers, friends or acquaintances in the form of love, advice, pain, habits etc. We tend to follow what we've always followed, and therefore decide what we've always decided. Life's comfortable that way.

But what happens when challenges come along and life throws a spanner in the works? It will happen, someday.

What do you do when say, The Great Barrier Reef is under threat of being poisoned by dredge spoil? Well, probably not a lot because for most it's on the other side of the planet. It's not affecting you, you can't see it, someone else will take care of it. If you live on the Reef's doorstep there's a higher chance of action.

What do you do if you currently live in Ukraine or Russia? I'm sure you'll be doing a lot of worrying if nothing else. You may have decisions forced on you, and have major decisions to make.

It's all relative. It's all about where we are at any given place and time. For some of us, decisions and actions are non-negotiable, they must be taken. For others, there is a choice.

In my own little world, I discovered this morning that my sweet Winnie woof probably has epilepsy, and that I may have some decisions to make regarding her future well being. She is only young at 2 and 1/2. I've been through fur-baby epilepsy before with another dog I had many years ago. Sadly, his fits became so bad I made the decision to let him go to fur-baby heaven. He too was only young.

Maybe medical advances will ensure a better future for Winnie, as I'm not wanting to make a decision for her based on one I made in the past.
Winnie's 1st birthday photo with birthday ribbon round her neck.

Now I'm off to have a chat with the vet. Then it's back to head down, fingers on the keyboard and onward with the Crystal Healing book.

Until next week, have a great weekend everyone, and enjoy some ice-cream.

Leonie, Winnie and Hunny.