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wheatley

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Most things I do, experience, clean the dishes, revise budgets, edit my manuscript, have a distinct goal in mind. Money. Fitness. Clean counters.

But not for this. I have spent probably hundreds of hours creating posts for my blog with no clear outcome in mind.

Sometimes I think I am crazy for doing so. Or masochistic. Or stupid.

However, turns out I am actually just taking a proactive approach to navigating my career and personal development–or self-leadership.

“Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science, indirectly suggests how we could put self-leadership into practice today. Her advice is to “start something and watch what happens”. The “something” could be as simple as answering an email that, under normal circumstances, you’d delete immediately. (source)”

So yes, I don’t really know where this blog journey will take me—but I am developing skills along the way, creating relationships with new people, and generally seeping myself in all kind of positive career development-ness that will probably, but not certainly take me somewhere in the end.

"Abandoned sock" by LEOL30. Some Rights Reserved

“Abandoned sock” by LEOL30. Some Rights Reserved

Let me just introduce myself by saying that the piece I am about to read completely sucks. In fact, so do I.

I didn’t exactly put it that way at my writing group yesterday, but as one of my reviewers put it, by opening up my excerpt by confessing that my work is ‘low-brow’ young adult faction, “I threw it away before I even started.”

And it’s not the first time. Despite having told countless people in my life to stop apologizing and ‘put their sorrys in a sock’, as George Costanza once put it (okay technically he said to put them in a sack, but I prefer my version because socks are much more readily available than sacks), because it is generally unnecessary and only serves to undermine them I KEEP DOING IT.

I would like to blame my genre, but that would be unfair and cowardly. The truth is I would apologize no matter what I write because writing makes me feel special and opening myself up to others and to the possibility that one of them might tell me I’m wrong is really really scary. So of course to stop that from happening, I say it first and throw away my work, and myself away before any of it has a chance to shine.

Stupid.

From now on, I am going to follow George’s advice, and keep those damn sorrys in the sock they belong in—no matter how terrified I am.  Who knows, sooner or later I might actually start truly believing I really am as special as I like to think I am.

summer

So, when are you going to have the next one?” said my friend Dan yesterday, a half peeled banana in one hand.

I was standing with some friends outside of a school playground—none of us quite yet ready to face the buckles and straps waiting in our cars. Two held jiggling infants in their arms while Dan and his partner were taking turns watching their two boys playing with my four-year old on the swings.

Everyone was complaining about being tired and broke and as the only one of my friends who can actually sleep through the night and has only one daycare bill to cover every month, I suddenly felt like a complete wimp. And so of course I did the only thing a wimp could do: tried to redirect their attention to someone who doesn’t have any kids in the hopes that would make me look better.

It didn’t fool me, either.

The older I get, the more I feel myself being pressed into the two parent, two child family mold. It appears on the back of minivans and SUVs, often accompanied by matching stick dogs and fish. It is in the comments of another parent who joked about a mother overreacting to a gym fall because her child was an ‘only.’ It is in the very word ‘only’.  Only half a family. Only half a mother. And it is the question that haunts me every menstrual cycle when I think this could have been a baby. If I’d wanted one.

The truth is I don’t know if I do. Children take time and so does writing. Especially novels. And just because I want to have space in my life to  do the one thing that I feel most passionate about, that doesn’t make me less of a mother–‘only’ one with some different kinds of babies.

japanesecat1

I am not good at feedback. Whenever someone in my writing group says anything that is the least bit critical about my work  I  hate their guts for about 3 – 30 seconds, depending on how much cheese I have consumed.

Once I actually process said critique, I am always Incredibly Grateful for the insight they have gifted me with however that doesn’t make me any less homicidal the next time someone says ‘that character is flat’ or ‘you need to put a period there.’

I have been posting on this blog for over a year now, and yet not once have I dared experience the pain of feedback during that time. However, I figure if am going to show my mother why blogging matters, I ought to give it a shot. SO HERE GOES.

The following is the current opening paragraph of my YA thriller about three girls who are modeling in Tokyo and soon find themselves competing for something a lot more valuable than the next cover of Vogue: their lives.

Jess set her suitcase on the sidewalk. Several taxis were parked in front of the terminal, bottles of Absolut Vodka, Shiseido eyeliners, and Fuji cameras flashing across their sides. One near the end caught her attention. Unlike the rest of the taxis, the sides of his vehicle were black and plain. The front windshield was darker than the others so that she could barely see the driver—and yet somehow she was certain she could feel him watching her. Despite the warm night air, a chill ran through her. Tokyo was normally a pretty safe city, but lately things hadn’t exactly been normal and she was suddenly glad the agency had insisted on sending Hiro to pick her up. Jess turned away.

If you have any thoughts about this excerpt, I would (somewhat) love to hear them.

 

sunset

My mother has started making hats out of old sweaters. When I suggested she start a blog about her repurposed creations, my mom responded by scrunching up her nose like I just gave her tickets to an Eminem concert.

“Why would I do that?” she said.

I tried to tell her about all the amazing wool fanatics she could meet and all the fun hours they could spend sharing their crazy needle threading stories and how they could even start holding knitting parties on Google Hangout and that would be so AWESOME. However, I could tell by how quickly she turned back to her Sudoko puzzle I had lost her. I think I lost myself.

If I am going to improve my pitch, I figure I should start by figuring out why I do it. This is what I came up with:

1. I like to share how I feel and think because sometimes other people say they feel or think that way too. And that makes me feel normal.

2 .I like to share things I make (such as photos of pretty sunsets)  because I like it when people like them. It makes me feel special.

It’s a start, but my mom is  a pretty pragmatic kind of lady—hence her interest in making hats instead of unicorn saddles—and I don’t think these two reasons alone are going to convince her. So tell me fellow bloggers, why do you do it?

Why do you blog?

 

 

I wrote a memoir manuscript once. It wasn’t very good. I could tell when one of the teen readers I work-shopped it with scrunched up her nose and said she just didn’t connect with the voice. Years later I finally understand what it was lacking.

It’s the same thing that makes ‘evil-doing’ characters into ones that I like and in doing so, add an amazing depth to the stories they live in: vulnerability. And according to Brene Brown, it can do a lot more than enrich my latest novel–they can enrich my life.

In her TED Talk on human connection, Brown states that being emotionally vulnerable—saying I love you first, initiating sex with your partner—is the sole determiner between feeling loved, connected, and confident in yourself and well…not.

While I may be quick with professions of adoration, I definitely hesitation to be vulnerable in many other ways. Saying I don’t agree with something. Saying I don’t want to do something. Critique.

In the end, holding emotions in only leads to not liking myself for it, so like my old manuscript, I think I’m going to have to open myself a little wider from now on—and let a little of the that stuff in. I may just become a better person for it.

Seth Godin

I finally figured out why writing query letters sucks (and I mean aside from the repeated stick-in-my-chest rejections): boredom.

I have sent out twenty slightly-modified versions of the same query letter as of last week and frankly I’m tired of it. In fact, I think I may have a brown on my hands.

According to Seth Godin in Purple Cow,

Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible (source).

In other words, if my pitch doesn’t inspire and invigorate me every time I read it—then how can I expect it do the same an agent—someone who sees a heck of a lot of cows everyday?

I have been pretty fixated on trying to contact as many agents as possible over the last couple of months but I think I it’s time to  take a break from the ‘send’ button. Instead, I’m going to play a little. Have some fun. Think outside the bag. And in doing so, write a query that makes me fall in love with my manuscript all over again.

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