Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

Archive for the ‘Encouragement & Motivation’ Category

RIP, Wild Oats?

Posted by Dahlia on November 19, 2011

CEMETERY © D2xed | Dreamstime.com

So, I know I’ve been MIA for a while. (I see your eyes rolling and I hear you sarcastically mutter, “A while? You’ve been off the grid for about three months!”) Allow me to take a few moments to explain.

I’ve been having moments of personal reflection lately. And during this period, I wasn’t able to blog like I should. I felt that my direction was wrong, so I stopped rather than continue down the wrong path. In regards to my writing aspirations, I knew the talent was there, I tried to stay on top of industry knowledge, I set up my blog and social media accounts to build this platform. I even have a novel and novella under my belt. But it felt all my effort was for naught because every step forward I took, I got knocked back several. My novel’s release had been pushed back an embarrassing number of times. So, I took my issues to God and waited for an answer.

After some time, this is what was revealed to me about the novel:

“Be original. This story’s been told already.”

And I’m like, “Okay, but I’ve been working on this story for years! I’ve invested time and money on this novel. I have a cover for crying out loud. Do I just toss out all those years of work and go back to the drawing board?”

Again, “Be original.”

So, I thought about it further and I had to admit that my novel was feeling like a combo of a few of favorite TV shows: “Sex and the city”, “Girlfriends”, and “Single Ladies”.  I had identified chick-lit as the genre and my writing steered in that direction. So, if chick-lit isn’t my thing and all the themes that lie therein, then what should I be writing?

“Who said you had to be in a box? Be original.”

So what does it mean for the story “I” had deemed to be my breakout? I really don’t know. It hasn’t been revealed yet. But I recognize that “I” was trying to force it through.

As I continued to meditate, I realized that my proudest and most humbling moments are when something I’ve written has encouraged, motivated, empowered, or inspired someone. Perhaps with my novel, I have focused too much on the (mis)adventures of my MC, the jokes, the shoes, the drinking, and yes, the sex, instead of what the core of what the story was about. What initially motivated me to even write the story to begin with.  Healing a broken heart. Or, how do you mend a broken heart? (I know, that’s Al Green)

So, I find myself at an impasse. I can put this story in a vault, never to be seen or heard from again. Or just set it aside for awhile as I have a few other ideas that could not only entertain, but also do those aforementioned things and return to the story once it has been revealed how it shall be told. Or do I wait?

Decisions, decisions…but I think that just may have been my problem all this time. I felt the need to hurry and make a choice. So this time I won’t force it. I will be patient.

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Posted in Books, Encouragement & Motivation, Purpose, Wild Oats, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Sky Is Falling!

Posted by Dahlia on August 29, 2011

Who doesn’t know the childhood fable of the chicken who believed the world was coming to an end and proceeded to shout that line over and over throughout the course of the story?  Thing is, there are real “Chicken Littles” that exist in our lives today. You know who they are, something is always wrong in their corner of the universe. That dark, gloomy, sky is always dropping on their head, and they feel compelled to let you know just how rough/dramatic/troublesome their life is. Man problems, child drama, daddy issues, job conflict, the list goes on and on and on…it just seems like Chicken Little is never having a good day. Furthermore, Chicken Little doesn’t want you to have a good day either. By the time you’re done dealing with Chicken Little, you’re likely exhausted mentally and sometimes, physically.

I knew this one girl that every time I found she was going to be around, I groaned. I remained cordial, even though every time she opened her mouth I wanted to scream, “Please go somewhere and get your life together!” She was a nice girl, but there was always some dramatic course of events going on in the background of her life and it drove me up a wall.

Now, we’ve all had our share of rough times. Some more than others. Her, more than most. Trials and tribulations are a part of life, and I completely understand it. However, it was as if she allowed her unfortunate series of events to overtake her life and the mood of the room would actually change as she pulled us into whatever issue she was having that day.

However, women aren’t the only ones who suffer from Chicken Little Syndrome. It can happen to men, too. There’s this one guy that whenever I’m invited to go around him and his family, I decline. I try hard to hold on to my peace and quite frankly, I do not have enough time and space in my life for joy-robbers. Sorry.

Oprah Winfrey has a good quote that I include in my email signature. It is, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” I love it because if we only surround ourselves with the Chicken Littles, what do you think will happen eventually? They’re like drama vampires — they suck all the joy and energy from you and then you become one. That’s why it’s so important to be around people who are going to motivate and encourage you, but it works both ways. Iron sharpens iron.

So, do you or have you ever had a Chicken Little in your life? What have you done to deal with him/her/them?

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Testi-Friday: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Posted by Dahlia on August 26, 2011

Monday, I went back to school for another year of taking my prerequisites for admission into a nursing program. This semester, I’m taking Anatomy and Physiology. I was admittedly nervous for a few reasons. First, I hadn’t made it through a real science class since 12th grade. 13 years ago. 
Side note: I took a science class during my first round of college, but it was an easy course about rocks and volcanoes (basically, if your major didn’t require you to take biology, A&P, or chemistry, you took this class) so I don’t count that as being hard-core science. 
 
Secondly, I attempted this course before. Last fall, I was riding high off my cakewalk through Patient Care Tech (basically CNA meets Medical Assistant meets Phlebotomist) training and *foolishly* assumed that I could handle the full-blown A&P course because I had always been a good student. Thing is, I couldn’t make it to class on time because I couldn’t get off work early. A few weeks into the semester, I walk into class and an exam is taking place. I was totally and completely unprepared. I had forgotten about it and I NEVER forget about a test. The next time I went to campus, I stopped by student accounts and dropped the course. I then convinced myself that I didn’t need this career change. Looking back, I punked out because my career path towards nursing got hard. Despite that I performed very well during externship and could really envision myself as both a nurse and a writer. Simply put, I gave up (punked out).

As I continued to reflect, I remembered being in a similar position in high school. Like I said, I was always a good student. However, I was particularly bad-ass in math. I took two math classes in 10th grade just so I could get into AP Calculus in the 12th grade. Turns out Calculus was the real bad-ass, not me. About six rounds (weeks) into the fight (semester), I got knocked out. I couldn’t get the concepts and my grades reflected it. So, I cried, screamed, begged, to get out of the ring (class) because I already had four belts (math classes) already. However, my school wasn’t having it. I had to fight (take math) each year. So, suck it up, take this ice, and get back in there. So, I did. And I survived. It actually got better. A lot better. Unfortunately, I had to repeat calculus in college because I didn’t earn enough AP credit. So, I didn’t win, but we’ll call it a draw.
 
So, here I am, years later, prepping for another fight (the rematch with A&P) and trying not to flip out and give in to the fear of failure and not being able to handle it. Trying not to let the pressure get me. For nursing programs, passing is NOT good enough. It’s very competitive because they’re limited-access. Applicants have to go in on point, game tight, stuff completely together.
 
Here’s what I realized with my calculus class. When I repeated it, I was prepared. I knew where I was weak, so I paid extra attention to those areas. And I took my bad-ass math championship belt back. This time shouldn’t be different. I know where I need to focus (the first being take the class on a campus closer to work). I’ve got my supporters. I’ve got faith. I’m ready to work. I’m ready. A&P, you’re going down!
 
Okay, so you may be wondering what does this have to do with writing or the stories I’m working on? Not much, honestly. It’s a moment of transparency, really. Because I think we’ve all had failures in some, way, shape, or form. This is just a story of how I dealt with one of mine. I hope that it helps someone who may be going through something similar. Failure can make us better, it’s just a matter of what you do with that failure. Do you crawl out of the ring or do you get back up and keep swinging?

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation, Testi-Friday | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Delusions of Superwoman

Posted by Dahlia on August 22, 2011

My son recently had his tonsils & adenoids removed. (He’s doing perfect, by the way). So of course, I took time off work in order to care for him. However, I assumed that I would be able to squeeze in some work on one or both of my WIPs during his downtime. I reasoned that he was going to be on meds and would sleep for longer than normal periods of time. He sleeps, I write. Right?

Wrong. DEAD wrong. I barely touched my computer. Why? Because I was exhausted. Perhaps a little delirious. Definitely deluded. I stayed in the hospital with him during his overnight and in between the nurses coming to check on him and the fact he kept wiggling out of the pulse ox meter attached to his finger which caused it to beep (loudly) every thirty minutes, I may have gotten about two minutes of sleep. Okay, maybe two hours, but not straight sleep.

About 10 days after the procedure, I’m talking to my friend about my writing plans gone awry. She says that she wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t able to do it. Well, I was! I had the best laid plans in my head as described above. I proceed to tell her that I AM capable of working, writing highly-anticipated best-sellers, going to school, having a family, rescuing kittens from trees, crocheting sweaters, and baking fabulous pound cakes in under 24 hours. Yes, she caught on to the fact that I was being a facetious smart-ass. (I’m still laughing over walking rescue-turned-therapy dogs in my sleep, thanks Yolanda)

Of course, my baby came first during this period. That’s my mommy instinct to make sure he was okay above all else. So I wasn’t really that upset about not being able to write. I just kinda wished I was able to. I recognize that I tend to do this – make these goals, that in any other situation would be attainable, but for me and the many hats I wear, can be unrealistic. And off I go on the midnight train to Deluded-ville…so far, I’ve been able to get a return ticket back to Reality City.

As women, we tend to play a lot of roles. Wife. Mother. Powerful working woman. Caregiver (of a parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.) Student. Community activist/volunteer. Mentor. Friend. Oh, and don’t let us have a dream/vision/something we’ve always wanted to do that doesn’t lead to a big payoff right away (i.e. write that novel, start that business, finally get in the studio and make that album,etc.) Sometimes, it can be hard to balance because we want “Superwoman” (the Alicia Keys version, not Karyn White) to be our theme song. Unfortunately, trying to juggle so much can at best, lead to the occasional dropped ball, and at worst, we not only drop ALL the balls, we trip and fall over them and bust our heads on the ground.

So, how do you balance? How do you set reasonable goals? How do you avoid boarding that train to that deluded place where Superwoman reigns supreme?

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation, Relationships | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Relax, Relate, Release…

Posted by Dahlia on July 27, 2011

I completed my novella’s draft about a few weeks ago (I’ve got an excerpt available here). I was a little tapped out creatively to jump right in and start revisions on it, so I decided to return to my other WIP that I’d placed on hold to write the novella.

However, I wasn’t able to flip out of one story into the other for a few days. My novella had taken on a more dramatic tone, whereas my novel is a bit more lighthearted. Two things helped me transition: One was an enlightening conversation about fear and vulnerability with a fellow writer friend. (I won’t name names 🙂 ). This conversation helped me see that I must see my novel through to the end, despite the internal and external obstacles. Second, I read the work of one of my favorite authors, Lolita Files. And I laughed. A lot. I won’t get into too many details, but I’ll never see a thunderstorm the same way again.

Then I went back to my WIP. I began to have an experience similar to Beyonce’s after she wrapped up Dreamgirls and started work on her second album, B-Day. She said in an interview that she’d been confined to her Dena character for so long that when she got into the studio, she was able to release and all this creativity just came out. I
had taken about a month to craft this novella that’s a bit out of the box for me because of the drama involved in it. I tend to like my writing lighthearted and fun. But, I needed to do something different because I was getting stagnant with the WIP. (When you’ve been working on it as long as I have, it can get that way sometimes). So, I took the challenge of being a drama writer and immersed myself in it completely. So, it was safe to say that when I finally got back to my WIP, I needed to release. And I did. Suddenly, I had all these ideas and ways to fill in the blanks of the chapters I needed to add and make adjustments to existing chapters. And for me, I found them to be not only lighthearted and fun, but funny. (I’ll find out soon if others agree with me on the funny stuff) I’d been through too much pretend drama in the past month. I
needed a good laugh.

So, you may not need to go as far as I did and write a completely different story to get a break from your current project. It just so happened that I had the idea and decided to run with it. Fortunately, it helped me return to my WIP with a fresh set of eyes and a bunch of ideas while at the same time, I was able to stretch out of my chick-lit comfort zone and dabble in drama for a bit. So, what do you do to release when you find that your WIP is getting a little stagnant?

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Toot! Toot!

Posted by Dahlia on June 14, 2011

Sometimes, you just have to encourage yourself. Writing can be arduous and daunting, often times a labor of love. Times when the words don’t flow, you get the umpteenth rejection, your plan to get up early to write goes awry because you slept through the alarm…and many other obstacles that can be discouraging.

However, despite the challenges and areas of improvement, there is something about your writing that stands out. A strength about the words on your paper or screen, be it descriptive setting, an awesome ability to show and not tell, a knack to pull the reader in immediately, etc. There is one author, Sylvia Hubbard, who is known as “The Cliffhanger Queen”. I would have to agree – her online stories, which are posted in sections, tend to leave you hanging on for more. It’s one of her strengths.

So, I want to use this post to celebrate my strengths as well as yours in writing. What are you or what could you be known for? If your poetry is beautiful, it’s cool to call yourself The Princess of Prose. Write fast-paced, hold-on-to-your-seat action scenes? The King of Kick-Ass may be for you. Love Scenes your thing? Consider The Sultan of Seduction or perhaps The Barry White of Romance. All these silly titles are for fun, but who knows, giving yourself a catchphrase just may push you through the rough spots. And you are what you believe. Go ahead, toot that horn and slap yourself a five because you rock.

So, here’s my little list of self-proclaimed titles based on feedback of my strengths. Beware, some are a little (or a lot) corny…
1. The Dialogue Duchess
2. The Conversationalist
3. The Voice Coach
4. The Discourse Diva
5. Auto-Tune (because I get that voice just right)
6. Collo-Queen

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

You are what you believe

Posted by Dahlia on April 4, 2011

The other day, I watched part one of Oprah’s Master Class that was recorded to my DVR. It was a really good episode as she discussed her childhood and the lessons she’s learned so far in life. She made one statement that really stood out to me: You are what you believe.

Call it my own little “a-ha” moment. Who else is going to believe what you are if you don’t believe it yourself? How can you convince others of a dream if you haven’t convinced yourself of it yet? How can you get support if you don’t support it yourself? I’ve had some challenges lately and had begun to question the direction I was headed in. Hearing those words put things back in perspective. You are what you believe.

If you believe you are a writer that is destined to make a full-time living putting the voices in your head (I mean the characters/stories you create) on paper, binding it together, getting it professionally edited, and then signing up with an agent for publication or proceeding with self-publishing, then that is what you are. Simple as that. This process can be daunting, exhausting, frustrating, and you have to deal with rejection (of not only the work, but possibly from others who don’t understand or don’t support your dream), writer’s block, the endless querying, rounds of revision just when you think you’re done, etc. It can be an uphill battle when it’s after midnight, you’re tired, have to work in the morning, but those last few paragraphs just don’t work and you can’t figure out why. You can lose motivation when no one else seems to care. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would be cranking out best sellers.

The thing is, you have to hold steadfast to that dream. Regardless of the obstacles. It may take time. A long time. A really long time. However, if you know deep down what your purpose is and truly believe in it, the obstacles won’t matter in the end.

You are what you believe.

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation | 4 Comments »

Houseguest: REACH OUT AND TOUCH…

Posted by Dahlia on March 11, 2011

The housewarming party is over. People have stopped in, said “hey, welcome to the neighborhood”, perhaps brought a dish or a welcome gift.  Now the house is empty except for its sole resident. For the most part, you enjoy your home. You know where everything is, you have your routine down from sunrise to sunset. Your neighbors know when you leave for work and the time you bring out the trash. But every now and then, it’s good to mix things up at the house. Plan a little get together and invite some people over. Houseguests can be fun to have and I’m happy to invite them over to hang out.

 Meet my very first blog guest, poet/writer Yolanda Washington. A native of Dayton, OH (Whoo-hoo! Midwest girl) now residing in Atlanta, she is currently working on her first poetry collection, Freedom, which has a projected Spring 2012 release date.  She also writes science-fiction and flash fiction. Her blogs reflect encouragement, insight, and motivation.  If you enjoy the post below, then head on over to her house at Y.I. Washington Writer/Poet to show some love and support.

*****

Reach Out and Touch

Once in a while, I take a trip by myself.  While my destination is usually to visit family, I go it alone. I’ve even gone to the movies by myself.

However, when I take these trips or go to the movies with someone else, it’s usually a lot more fun.  There’s someone to talk to when I’m close to falling asleep at the wheel. I can have a conversation regarding the movie while walking to the car (the movie was great or sucked a gigantic troll egg.)

While the process of creating a written work is mostly a solitary one, the journey of a writer should not be.  We need people that we can talk to about the expedition: the pitfalls, insanity, the triumphant publications, or the crappy rejections.  Sure, family and some friends are great and can throw encouragement our way.  But, I’ve found that having other actual writers to “hang out with” makes this odyssey a lot more interesting.

Purposing to create a village of like-minded individuals, who truly understand the roller coaster we are on, should be a priority for anyone pursuing a writing career.  The people you meet, most of which are very welcoming, are extraordinary.  Most writers aren’t overly concerned with being in competition with each other.  Why?  Because we understand how hard the publishing industry is to break into.  We get the complexities involved in creating just the right characters, scenes, conflict, and resolution. 

I joined LinkedIn, an online professional networking community, and participate in such fantastic groups as the Definitive Serious Writers Group, Fiction Writers Group, and Writer’s Out, just to name a few.  I’ve learned, shared, encouraged, been encouraged and met some very interesting and creative people.  Were it not for writers like Yves Brown-McClain, Terrence Brejla, VicToria Freudiger, Sharon Zanon, Mark Sheldon, Scott Lyman, Liana Giorig, B. Lynn Goodwin, Darlene Hartman and Charles Weinblatt, to name a few, I wouldn’t have the confidence, direction, and on some days, sanity to go on.

So, get out there.  Find other writers to link with and grow your network of “travel companions”.  After all, road trips are so much more fun with other people along for the ride.

***** 

NOTE FROM THE HOMEOWNER: In addition to LinkedIn, you may want to check out these other networking sites. They are either writing-specific or have special groups just for authors (both published and aspiring). However, this is a short list. Feel free to add any other great networking sites you are aware of in the comments. 

www.authorsden.com
www.meetup.com (for local, face to face networking)
www.goodreads.com
www.redroom.com
www.shewrites.com  

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation, Houseguests | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

I better get this copyrighted…before it gets stolen

Posted by Dahlia on February 24, 2011

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, I’m going to take part in the Catch Me If You Can blogfest. One comment I received back was the fear of a WIP being stolen. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this from a writer. There is a woman in the writer’s networking group I’m in that joined us a few months back. She was visibly nervous. She seemed scared to even talk about her book idea. She was afraid to join Facebook…come on, who isn’t on Facebook? Why was she scared? She didn’t want anyone to steal her idea.  Last month, the same topic came up to our guest speaker, who is a screenwriter. Even I have felt anxious about how much of the content to Wild Oats (my WIP) I should share with others or even if I should do an online story like 12 Days (which is another WIP). Even the thought of “What if the copyeditor I contracted takes my manuscript and tries to pass it off as her own work?” crossed my mind. Unfortunately, the fear of stolen work is on the mind of almost every writer at one point or another.  It’s not that we’re being irrational, it’s just that we’ve worked so hard and are so passionate about the story, it would be devastating if somebody had the audacity to take it.

However, I’ve learned that it boils down to this: Trust. At some point, writers just have to trust that another writer, editor, or agent won’t take it. The majority of us have pretty good morals. We don’t want that bad juju/karma to come back and get us. We don’t want to be sued.  So, in most cases, you can trust that you can share without fear of pilfering. And for those who are a bit crooked or shameless, then stamp your copyright ASAP. If you work with an editor, get a written contract. Make sure it has language about who the story belongs to. If your fabulous manuscript winds up on the Best Seller list or Oprah’s book club and your name isn’t in the byline, then you’ve got the paper trail (and probably a lawsuit).

Also, we need to understand that fear is a spirit that is not or should not be in us. It’s crippling and if you let it consume you, you won’t be able to write that story. Or, if you do finish, fear can prevent the world from knowing just how fabulous you are.  So, go ahead and join that critique group, hire that copyeditor, post a sample on your blog to tease your loyal following. Putting yourself out there is how you will discover your strength and weaknesses about your craft and can ultimately lead to a better story.

I dare you to try it…what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, I know it could get stolen, but do it anyway.

A few thoughts about fear…

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.
— Mary Manin Morrissey

Fear is faith that it won’t work out.
— Sister Mary Tricky

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
— unknown

Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.
— unknown

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

© 2011 by Yves Brown McClain 😉

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Networking & Support: A Genius Combination

Posted by Dahlia on February 12, 2011

Networking is an important tool/skill to have. It can connect you to other people, aid in promoting, and lead to sales of your product or service. As writers, we need networking. Regardless of our route to publication (traditional, self, eBook, etc), it is mostly on us to market what we do. We are our own best promoters. Blogging is one tool for establishing yourself online and can be used for many purposes, be it book promotion,  a “brain dump” of various subjects, an outlet to showcase creativity, encouragement/motivation, or a combination. However, in order to gain a following, people need to know you exist.

As much as we can blog, tweet, Facebook, set up LinkedIn profiles, and sign up for the many sites for books, writers, and writing, we still need support. Writing is an art form that can be frustrating, daunting (at times), but also fulfilling, exhilerating, and rewarding. We need that push, that motivation, that group of people cheering us on to keep going.

So, when I saw a tweet about the Second Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade by writer Rachael Harrie, it was worth checking into. It combines the networking AND the support. It’s a brilliant idea for any writer/blogger who wants to connect with other writers and build an online presence.

So, check it out. And if you’re game, join the Crusade.

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