Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writing Motivation: Draw Strength From Your Past

Want to know why you're getting rejected?
Then this is a must-read for you.


Writing is the toughest job I've ever had. This may also be true for many of you reading this. Sure, the craft can be learned, but it's a tough industry to break into, and one where the rules aren't easy to learn, except to learn the hard and long way. But when you love something, maybe its true value is best appreciated no other way than but the longest most brutal journey possible. 

Today I'd like you think about a moment to draw strength from, to give you the motivation to keep you inspired, to push you to keep trying, no matter how far or how close you are to reaching your personal goal. Today I hope to push you just one more day. And where maintaining and even building momentum is what makes a writer successful, another day is a hell of an achievement.  

Think of a time you were most proud of yourself--the day that against all odds you triumphed. A day that amidst the toughest days of your life, you achieved something special. That no matter your failures today, nothing and no one can ever take that moment from you. 

The day that comes to mind for me was the day I sat before my platoon of forty young police cadets, feeling defeated beneath the humid, midday San Diego heat, holding the elite position of Guide, and giving them a speech that would forever define me...and forever hold their respect. I never wanted to be elected Guide (platoon leader), to lead a group of others when I wasn't sure if leading was something I could even do. 

But that first day of boot camp marked the longest, toughest five days of my teenage life, I was commanded to the front of the platoon, after shouting my position. "Forty-two!" I'd screamed, standing a shy 5'1" 105 pounds. Maybe it was my bellow that despite my tiny form, was loud and clear, but I was suddenly commanded to stand before my drill sergeant, handed a tall pole with a colored flag on the end, and given the task of Guide. "Try not to get fired," he said to me.

I stared up at all 6'5" of the beefy man, and into those baby blues, cast on a face that looked shockingly similar to Val Kilmer, and made a silent promise that "No, I won't get fired..." No matter what.

So there we were, three days into boot camp, fatigue and heat seeping into our already waning bodies. A girl had fainted from the heat, forcing our drill sergeant to leave me watching over the platoon. They were staring at me, after having just seen me lift a 160 pound dummy across a lawn in less time than it took their jaws to drop. It was the adrenaline, I'm sure, that had helped me carry the massive doll. But they'd also seen me zip across an obstacle course and leap over fences and six foot walls, sprinting and dashing across the track, besting every girl (and many other boys in a class of over 100 cadets). I'm not sure how I did it. But I was in shape, after playing tennis for years, and even softball, my body was used to the workout. But never at this intensity had I ever been challenged. 

I don't know what compelled me, but I filled in the silence. Words were coming out of  my mouth that after looking into their grumpy, unmotivated, irritable faces, were full of hard encouragement to tough it out, to hang in there and to stop thinking of themselves as an individual in this platoon, but as a team. "When you see your fellow cadet struggling, push them, 'One more push-up, come on, keep going!' Look them in the face and don't let them stop--don't let them give up." Half an hour later, I shut up. Someone yelled from the crowd, "You should write a motivational book or something. That was awesome." 

I think that was the moment I saw the potential--the true influence--my words could have. 

Boot camp ended. I graduated second runner up as the top cadet of the entire class, bested only by a senior cadet who'd come in second two years in a row. My drill sergeant came up to me, shook my hand and said, "I sure gave them hell for not awarding it to you."  

That was all I needed, and I think he knew it too. Someone had fought for me. Someone had believed in me. And that was all I needed. (I did end up winning a fitness award--the most fit female cadet or other--which I was still very proud of.)   

Now I'll have this blog to reflect upon for days when I need a reminder that there have been many tougher days in which I have triumphed, and draw strength from it to motivate me to do more work today. 

I'd love to hear about your moment. And guess what? Now you have the weekend to use it to inspire and motivate you too...

Happy writing!

Yours, 
Anna


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[VIDEO] Writer's Toolkit: Evernote




Today, I discuss a must-have tool for every writer called Evernote. Add it to your writer's toolkit, folks!

(Note: There are annotations in the video but will not appear on mobile devices: (m.youtube.com, Android or iPhone & iPad)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If You Wish - Guest: Price Smith

Today we connect with my colleague and personal friend, Price Smith, who discusses Social Media, and how it is interwoven into her professional and personal pursuits!

*     *     *

Price Smith

Hello everyone!

My name is Price Smith, and I am the Social Recruiting Community Manager at VMware. You might be asking yourself two questions as you read these words. One being, “What is a ‘Social Recruiting Community Manager’?” and two, “What is VMware?”. If you already know the answers to these questions then a gold star in a stamped envelope is already in the mail on its way to you. If you do not happen to know the answers to these questions then no worries at all. Founded in 1998, VMware is a global technology company headquartered in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, California) that specializes in virtualization and cloud infrastructure. 

As the Social Recruiting Community Manager for VMware, I manage the VMware Careers and VMware University Relations social sites. In lamens terms, I dabble in all things social media for work. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Google+, Livestream, and Instagram; you name it and we are most likely there. On any given day I am in these communities engaging with people and collaborating on content with co-workers to share on these sites to tell the story of work-life at VMware. I see my role as the listener, connector, and content sharer. These social communities allow individuals outside of the company the opportunity to experience and connect with our employees’ stories. I greatly enjoy having a career in social media just for this reason.

Social media allows individuals who might have never had the opportunity to connect, connect. It is a platform for people to share their thoughts and ideas, and to engage with others on similar topics. You have the opportunity to “follow” people in these social communities no matter their race, location, career, or social class, and it is socially acceptable. You don’t event necessarily have to know them. How cool is that?

Outside of my professional career, I use social media to discover and express my personal interests. As I take each step on this journey of life that we are all currently enjoying, I write, photograph, and musically share (YouTube rocks!) my current pursuits in life on my blog, The Pursuits of Price. Not only did social media help me land my job at VMware (I applied to my job via Facebook), but I have and continue to use social platforms to connect with people who have careers or personal interests that I am interested in learning more about. Twitter is such a great tool to connect in this way! With 140 characters in a tweet I have scheduled informational interviews to learn from people I admire, life’s events that are taking place as we speak no matter the location are brought to my attention, and I myself have had the opportunity to share my thoughts on life.

I do not believe that there is one right way to utilize social media platforms. If you are new to it all, just take it one step at a time. Think about what you are hoping to gain from the experience, and then try to make those hopes into a reality. Building a following and connecting with a large group of people takes time, but it only has to start with one individual. How do you see social media aiding you in your life?

Following my pursuits,

Price Smith

*Connect and Follow Price on her Pursuits!
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Random Musings: Tumblr--The Death of My Blog?

Photo has been borrowed


I spent the last few minutes surfing one of my favorite tumblr posters—errr—I have no idea what to call these people. Bloggers? Tumblr–ers? I'm totally enthralled by the idea that you can have this ongoing, very social and interactive blog that is very unlike this blog. *sigh* People can "like" your blog without leaving a comment, they can re-blog your blog, and you can post the most random, inconsequential things--like Facebook...but not.

Oh man, tempting, sooo tempting. But in our current world of the social media giants: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, (and Tumblr) and now: Instagram, Pinterest, and god-knows-what-else I'm missing, do I really want another "social" media to obsess over? My god, am I that socially removed from real people that I need virtual people to make me happy? When does it become over-sharing? An irrational desire to be accepted and loved—virtually? Oh man, these are questions I shouldn't be asking. LOL Quite frankly, asking is redundant when the answer is clear. Nope. Not going to say it. *eyes averting*

With the addition of Fan Fiction and random forums I’ve recently launched into, I've suddenly developed this unquenchable need to be constantly plugged in—logged on—and staring at screens. I’ve compared it to OCD…where my thoughts wander to the media and I compulse via my iPhone—barring the reliability of 3G—to ease the anxiety.

Ahhh…This is normal right?

Okay…so no Tumblr.

Not yet. =)

On a positive note, my mind is buzzing with creativity; ideas, plots, scenes, characters shifting about, restlessly and repeatedly, looping like a broken record, until I can finally sit and write it all down, remolding it until it’s perfect.

Sounds like a fair exchange. Social media madness = imagination overload = a good writer’s problem to have.

Happy Friday! And happy writing


Yours, 
Anna 


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unstuck Creative Hump – Here's a Mid-week Inspiration

Kavinsky Nightcall Cover

Some days I need music like I need air. Today’s song obsession is: Kavinsky’s Nightcall. Fans of the movie Drive will recognize the deep, riveting beat.  

The past couple days I’ve been bouncing between soul: good ol’ Sam Cooke, Al Green, and Otis (the one and only), then I’ll listen to some really heavy electronics like Kavinsky, Plushgun, The Limousines; even alternative/dance like Rihanna, Nikki, and Katy. My mood was all over the place…and so was my muse. He was taking me to new places that had me sitting for seven to eight hours plugging away at a short story I had become obsessed with. How did this happen, you ask?

My novel is still with my editor and here I am trying to keep my mind off it, trying to keep my writing sharp. I recently discovered fan fiction. And it is officially my newest obsession. If you find yourself stuck in a creative hump I’d definitely recommend dabbling in fan fiction—where your characters and settings are already defined and you create the scenes (mini plots, scenarios). Talk about keeping your writing in top shape! I’ve been experimenting with it for the past two weeks and in short, it’s addictive. Don’t ask me to go into detail about the story I worked on; I had a guy friend who I asked to read it, only to stop halfway and tell me he felt like he was reading my diary, or stepping into the women’s bathroom where he clearly didn’t belong…(The genre was women’s fiction, romance/mildly erotic.)

I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone, doing a genre I’d never done before. And suddenly the plot—the scenes—where haunting me, consuming my thoughts until I finally sat down and poured it out of me.

Certainly it was a challenge incorporating the little I knew about the characters and yet weaving in a mini plot with enough suspense to keep readers asking for more chapters. To my pleasant surprise, my readers who I’d shared it with weren’t asking, but begging for the next installment. Talk about a writer’s thrill. Because of their amazing feedback, I was motivated—spending an entire day in some kind of writing meditation that I didn’t come out of for hours. That kind of state of writing is akin to a drug-induced high, a serious body shaking event, filling you with exhilaration until you can’t sit still and you can’t stop smiling like a goof-ball. Maybe it’s just me who reaches this state, but getting that kind of high from creative writing is what I live for. You sit there, re-reading your work and you gawk at the magic staring back at you. “Yes! You wrote this!” your brain screams back at you.

It was incredible.  

So do you need a kick-start? Try your hand in fan fiction! Create an anonymous page via FanFiction.Net, and let your imagination fly...


Listen to Kavinsky's Nightcall here: 







Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fight, Love, Live--And Then Write About It: Give What's Inside You

I read a twitter post from a renowned Writer's Digest contributer stating that passion is overrated (and instead thinking about what you want to contribute). I couldn't remember what came after "passion  is overrated" because I was so bothered by that line alone. I thought: we can write about passion, but we can't expect it of ourselves, because why? Because it's a fancy idea, and it's not for the common man? That it's reserved only for fiction?

I was so annoyed thinking about how ridiculous this was. If I'm expected to convince readers to feel passion in my work then I think it's only fair to ask of it from ourselves--from the world around us. Many things motivate me to write. is passion one of them? Hell yes...

Okay, so that's what I thought. But then I went back to the twitter post, clicked on the article and got slapped in the face with the true point of the statement, and that was: realizing that what you can contribute is as unique as you are, and that it is something that no one else can offer but you. And that you have a job to get whatever it is in you, out. It was about not being bogged down with the idea of doing something we were passionate about (and the stress of trying to figure out what that is), but that you should focus on what you can contribute instead.

Todd Henry, author of the article Reluctant But Resolved: A Challenge to Die Empty put it into perspective the way I haven't thought of before. And it's something you need to know.
Talk about a question to live by: When I lay my head down tonight, would I be satisfied with the work I did today? Something worthy of asking ourselves before the day begins, and not after. Then you have the entirety of day to ensure you'll lie down with a proud grin and a nod well done for your hard day's labor.

Todd was looking at passion as not something to be driven to do anything by, but of seeing ourselves as having actual value--and that should be what drives us. A picture made clearer with construct. Passion is not the propeller, we are the propeller--what greatness we can give of ourselves. I'm smirking right now, glad that I read the article, having a newfound appreciation for myself and not sinking into my hand-dug grave blathering on about why some people had the nerve to think passion was overrated...


Photo Above: I spent the week in the east coast, Ithaca, NY, and then Boston, MA. That's my co-worker and good friend, Meagan Shannon (left) and me on the right; having lunch and saying farewell to an amazing visit. 


Photo Above: Received my first copy of The Writer with a special supplement, Get Published. I'm subscribed to Writer's Digest, but The Writer was providing a free trial offer that I couldn't pass up.

Thanks for reading! (And please add yourself as a Follower!)

Yours, 
Anna 


Friday, February 3, 2012

Lacking Confidence? Look At it This Way

In my research to learning more about confidence (building and understanding it) I stumbled on an article in Psychology Today titled The Finest Audacity.

“Self-acceptance is one of those aspects of life that often require a long struggle. Some younger people appear to be self-possessed, but this is not the same thing as the confidence that comes with getting older. Self-confidence that is earned over the years, rather than simply claimed, is much more resistant to self-doubt. There is no substitute for having been tested by prior ordeals and having come out the other side more solid than before. Each time we stand our ground, each time we throw off comparison and envy, another layer of confidence is added.” ~ Wendy Lustbader, M.S.W.

I’m twenty-six years old. I’ve been working on my writing career since I was twenty-two. The rejections, the harsh, truthful criticisms, the reality of the economy and the publishing industry, have all done their damage to my confidence. At least that’s what I thought. But I was wrong. Because here I am still doing it. For the past three-and-a-half years the experiences haven’t worn me down. I guess if I dwell on it, it just might have. But I knew where I was starting and where I wanted to be. And nothing was going to stop me. Nothing should stop you.

There’s this saying I heard (in a cartoon of all places):

“The path before you is already set. How fast you decide to go down that path, is up to you.”

My point is that I know my path. At my youngest point of my writing career, I was going 100 mph. Now I’m slowing, more careful of the potholes, the springing deer, and dangerous storms. I read all the signs warning me of what’s ahead, and what to look out for. Do you know your path—where you plan to be—even if it’s still vague? Trust yourself. Believe in the path. Let that help you in maintaining and building your confidence. Small successes, inches gained, is progress. Progress maintains your motivation and thus builds your confidence. So keep believing…keep dreaming...

It might take a long time but like I said, if you have a goal, then the path before you is set…Don’t be afraid to floor it and enjoy the ride.

(Photos above: The first is of the Hudson Bookstore, found in airport terminals all across the U.S. I promised myself that one day, my book would rest among their shelves. 
Second photo: That's my company's Co-President's car...looks fast, huh?)


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