Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

Determined Meandering

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I had a very different idea for today’s post until I met with my writer friends to discuss my manuscript.

The good news is, the plot is much improved. The other news, I refuse to say bad news, is that there is still work to do, and I’m dedicated to doing it.

Never before have I felt so engaged by my work. While I love being a teacher, there are aspects of the job that are annoying. Not so with writing. Working on this book is a little bit like watching a beloved movie over and over again and noticing things I had never seen before. Each time through the manuscript I understand a little bit more about my characters, I see places that need to be consolidated or cut, and I clean up sloppy sentence structure. Each improvement feels good.

At first when my friends gave me suggestion after suggestion, my heart sank a bit. I was hoping the manuscript was closer to being ready for publication. But as I digested their comments and where they want me to go with the book, I began to feel renewed excitement. They think the story is engaging which makes me determined to keep working.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I long for the book to be finished. It’s a little bit like being on a teeter totter. Some days I’m up and some days I’m down. But isn’t that what life is all about anyway? Taking the challenges in our stride is what makes life interesting.

The other day I was checking into my Facebook feed, I’ve been taking a little break from it of late, and I followed a link to an article about a group of people living on the Greek island of Ikaria who are long lived, and extremely happy. They don’t have lots of possessions, many worries, or health problems. They sleep late, work in their gardens or at their jobs until mid-afternoon, then take a long nap. They eat simple meals and in the evening they socialize with their family and neighbors. As I read the article, I was thinking that’s the life for me! In the next moment I laughed at myself because for the most part, that’s the life I live, only instead of working in the garden, I write.

What can be more satisfying than to do what you love. You can have your rush to success. I’ll meander like the river and eventually reach a quiet cove, then be off again on another adventure.

P.S. I used to live on the Columbia River Gorge. I miss the reminder to go with the flow.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Allowing the Stretch

Temporary Book Cover
Temporary Book Cover

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” ~ John Wooden

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” ~ Bruce Lee

“There’s no limit possible to the expansion of each of us.” ~ Charles Schwab

“My ambition comes from my passion: finding what I love and then expanding on that.” ~ Miranda Kerr

In general I love learning new things except when I don’t think I have a facility for it. Then I resist the lessons. I have this idea in my mind of my skill set and for the most part I don’t want to stretch past that. Most of us don’t want to do things we don’t think we’re good at. But sometimes we surprise ourselves if we try to learn something new.

When I became a full-time writer, all I wanted to do was concentrate on the writing. I didn’t want to think about the marketing and promotion that I was inevitably going to have to do when I published my books. I’m not a marketing genius, nor am I a good salesperson. The idea of peddling my book made me cringe.

Knowing that at some point I was going to have to address this issue, because I plan to self-publish, I would from time to time read how-to essays by artists and writers about the ins and outs of getting their work noticed by the general public. Unfortunately, after reading only a short portion of the book or article, my eyes would glass over and the pit of my stomach would sink. The experts I read said you have to be aggressive, you have to get your name out there, you have to talk about your work on social media, you have to push, push, push. Ugh. I hated it.

I’m an introvert. I don’t want to do blast marketing where every hour a tweet or post screams at people to go buy my book. That’s just not me. It seemed to me that most marketing and promotion wisdom is created by extroverts who have no problem tooting their own horn. I have a difficult time doing that. But the problem of how to market my book kept nagging at me. I knew I needed to come up with a plan but what?

So, I meditated and prayed about the problem. I hoped that providence would send me a new way to promote myself and my work that wouldn’t feel awful. I was just beginning to despair when Hay House sent me an email about Jeff Walker, with an internet marketing scheme that intrigued me. His business is called the Product Launch Formula (trademark). I watched the first video and was surprised that he gave so much great information about how to market anything I might want to sell but, as he said in the video, not is a sleazy or used car salesman kind of way. A few days later another email with a video link came and a few days another. By the time I’d watched the three videos I had the outline of how to market my book in a way that fits who I am.

Jeff is all about giving good value to your prospect ahead of time and asking for their advice and comments. If you can get to know the people who are interested in what you have to offer, it’s easier to promote your product. I loved that! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for his six month course this time. But when I was poking around his site I discovered he had written a book (Launch) that contains the information I needed to get started. I bought it that very day and have since read it. As I read, all kinds of great ideas of how to promote my work popped into my mind. This method was exactly what I needed. Because of this book I feel like I can be an expert at building a list of followers without coercing them to buy. That’s something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do.

Before the Jeff Walker videos, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to build a list of followers. Part of my mind was closed. I didn’t want to have to market my books myself. Couldn’t I just have someone do it for me? However, the reality for authors today is that you’ve got to be actively engaged with your readers or potential readers even if your book is published in the conventional way. There are so many books being published, that it’s hard for new authors to get noticed and to gain a following. Jeff suggests you begin by using your email list to grow your customer base. You can start small by directing potential customers to an opt in page and you can also use word of mouth to attract new followers. I love that!

Even before learning about Jeff Walker, I made it a practice to avoid the best seller lists and read books by authors who aren’t as well known. If I like their book, I write a review on Amazon, iBooks, and/or Goodreads so that hopefully the author will expand their readership. Already I’ve made some online writer friends because I’ve written reviews, or retweeted the link to their book. It’s amazing how many new people I’ve met using this method.

Maybe I’ll coin a new phrase, “Karma Marketing,” in which helping others be successful will help me be successful too. That’s what Jeff Walker advocates. As you start your business, you make connections with people who resonate with you, and you support each other. He uses the term Mastermind Group, which is more than just a networking group. In your mastermind group, you hold each other accountable for improving your business by offering new products or services that your customers or fan base can use. Always give more value than they expect. It’s a new trend in business to be of service, rather than bilk your customers by selling inferior products and getting top dollar for those products. That’s something I can get behind.

Of course building a fan base takes time and effort, but it’s effort I’m willing to make if I can offer my readers something they will enjoy. Something extra I’ve created just for them. When I do this I may make some friends along the way. That’s always a good thing. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally someone who thinks like I do, and who is willing to help me build a business that is people friendly.

I’m going to do a little bit of word of mouth promotion for Jeff. If you buy his book, Launch, you get a step by step process that will help you begin your business, and access to a resource page with videos and instructions on how to do some of the technical stuff that an online business requires. This is what makes me excited. I won’t be alone as I step outside my comfort zone and stretch into learning a new but vital skill I will need to help me grow my fan base. Thanks Jeff and thanks Providence!

Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Never Give Up!

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William A. Ward

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Strength and growth come only from continuous effort and struggle.” ~ Napoleon Hill

There is a great deal that can be said for never giving up on something you want. There have been times when I’ve wanted to quit a project, or give up striving for that degree. But when I didn’t it turned out to be a good thing.

I’ve recently finished another round of revisions on my novel. This time I had to make some major changes. There might be people who would balk at the tedious work of going through their manuscript page by page to catch mistakes and to take big blocks of text and either eliminate them, or put then in a new place. Yet this is my passion so every word closer to publication is a victory.

The best most successful stories and the lives of real people who inspire us are the ones where the protagonist or the real person kept persevering even through all of the pain and heartache. If I could, I’d include a photo of the Sistine Chapel. Talk about being dedicated to your work.

So many people have told me how much they admire my stick-to-itiveness when it comes to working on my book. Many of them say, “I don’t think I would have the patience to stick with writing through all the years and all the meticulous work as you have done. I admire you.” It’s nice to have their admiration. However, when someone compliments me like that, it makes me more determined to keep working because my job isn’t finished yet. On the other hand, I hope that they find the one thing that they would dedicate their life to because it is a joyous feeling to wake up in the morning and know you get to do what you love.

That’s all I had to say today. I’m just coming home from vacation and don’t have lots of time to get this post ready for publication. Besides, I’ve got to go through my manuscript again to make sure the changes I made to it make sense then send it off to my writer friends for more comments.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

You can find me on:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
LinkedIn

Focused Attention

Cochise College Roses
Cochise College Roses

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” – George Eliot

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Last week I wrote about serendipity and how it has worked for me in my writing career. Trusting that serendipity will happen is a key element to being successful, but you can’t just sit back and let serendipity happen. Some say it takes hard work, but instead of hard work, I like to think of it as focused attention.

The reason I like to replace the words hard work with focused attention is because when we think of hard work, we equate it with stress and strain. However, I’ve learned from being involved in the theatre that hard work can be fun, fulfilling and energizing. If you like what you do, you can be focusing your attention on the task at hand, but it won’t feel stressful; it will be fun.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’m writing about. You’re doing something that captures your attention. You love every aspect of whatever it is you’re doing. It might be building a sand castle, skiing, playing with you children, cooking, or gardening. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it’s your feeling about it that makes the difference. Time slips by and suddenly you realize that you were so absorbed in what you were doing that it seems like only a moment has gone by since you started your project. That’s focused attention.

Our souls rejoice when we’re doing what brings us joy. Isn’t that a much better way to live than dragging yourself out of bed every work day and dreading being there for the interminably long hours before you can go home? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everyone woke up excited to get to the work they love? So why do so many people stress themselves out doing work they hate?

Many of us cling to the old idea that we have to support ourselves somehow. Most of the time we think that means sacrificing doing what we love so we can put a roof over our heads and food on the table. I’d like to challenge that idea. Everyone of us can live the life of our dreams. It may take some effort to transition from our old life to our new, but that’s where focused attention and serendipity can help.

Our minds are powerful beyond what we may think. Many people are convinced that events happen TO us, but science and the ancient wisdom traditions tell us that what we think creates our reality. If we think we must stay trapped doing work we hate for twenty, thirty, or forty years before we can do what we love, we’ll be miserable most of our lives. I don’t know about you but I didn’t want to face that prospect.

I won’t say I was always completely successful in my efforts to find work I loved. I loved doing theatre, but it didn’t pay much and took up a great deal of my time. I missed many a family gathering because I was in rehearsal. The day came when I had to decided what was more important to me, my relationship with my husband, or theatre. I gave up theatre. But then a few years later, I got a job teaching drama. Ah, I could do what I loved and still go home at night to my husband. Yet there were aspects of teaching that were stressful. Teaching drama was nearly the right match but not quite. While I was getting my Masters in theatre, I discovered that I loved writing, but not many writers make a good living. So I buried the idea of becoming a writer and moved on.

The thing is that through the years I continued to believe that I would find the work I was meant to do. I kept my attention focused on doing what I loved to do as much as possible. One day, I remembered that I’d wanted to be a writer, but somewhere along the way I’d become convinced I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved most. My mind was split in two and clouded with thoughts that only the most special people are lucky enough to be successful at the thing they love doing. I tried to stay close to my first love. Almost all my jobs throughout the years involved some aspect of story telling, but I was never the story teller and that’s what I longed to do.

Who knows why we block our own happiness. However, something inside me kept prompting me to keep searching for the thing that would make me deeply and completely joyful. One day my focused attention paid off. Something clicked in my head and I realized I just needed to make the decision that writing is what I was going to do no matter what and that’s when serendipity began to work for me.

I haven’t published my first novel yet. Who knows if it will sell millions of copies. If it sells one or thousand copies, my efforts will be worth the years of work. Something else wonderful has happened during this process, I’ve met other authors by writing reviews of their books. I didn’t know that they would contact me when I wrote the reviews, it just happened that way. So, I’m creating positive change by meeting and supporting fellow authors and by allowing myself to tune into something greater than myself as I write my blog and books. Every little positive ripple changes the world. Because I believe that is true, I encourage you to find ways to do what you love even if it’s only in your spare time. Who knows where that focused effort will lead you.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
LinkedIn

Follow the Story

All I want to do lately is work on my novel. For that reason I had a hard time thinking of what to write for today’s post. Then it came to me, share my writing process.

I’m not like some of my writer friends who create a detailed outline and then follow it faithfully chapter by chapter. Once I get the idea, I just start writing. Somewhere along the way I get a picture of the basic story and character arcs. I may write a story or character timeline, but I never stick to it, because I’m following some inner wisdom about how the story should go. I’m always thinking about what I’m working on and ideas come to me while I’m doing the dishes, or vacuuming, while I’m in the shower, or in the nether world between sleep and waking.

I find the more I write, the more I want to write. This is the first time I’ve felt like that about my work, except when I worked in the theatre. Being creative begets more creativity, a deeper self-understanding and joy.

For most of my life I’ve kept my inner life hidden, not willing to expose my true thoughts and feelings to the general public. When I was acting, I could hide behind a character. Now all those pent up thoughts are coming out in my storytelling. My personal philosophy comes out in my work, but when I write fiction, there’s also a bit of mystery about which parts of the book are from my real life, and which from my imagination.

Since I want to get back to working on my novel, I’m going to include a scene from it, which I’m sad to say will most likely be cut. I needed to write it so I could understand why this character, Chloe, would do such a terrible thing. As a former actor, I wanted to understand her motivation, this scene is what came out in the process.

Let me set the scene for you. The main character in the past, Morgan, is going to marry Jonathan, the town minister. The wedding is in two or three weeks time. Chloe, who as you will see, is a damaged individual, thinks she’s in love with Jonathan. So, she tries to get rid of Morgan in an “accident.” Here’s the scene.

After dinner Chloe announced her plans to take her evening walk. “Spring is in the air, Do you want to come Amanda?” she’d asked knowing Amanda would not come this night.

“No, not tonight. I’m tired,” Amanda said. It’s working out so perfectly. Herbert had been angry about something that’d happened at the bank. Amanda had taken the brunt of his rage. She’s so weak. Why doesn’t she fight back? Chloe never stood for such treatment. Her father had always been so loving, stroking and petting her. She’d been able to manipulate him and all his friends into doing her bidding. Herbert was no different. She could get him to do anything she wanted him to do, but he wasn’t very interesting and certainly not handsome. “Herbert, what about you?”

“No. Why would you ask me? You know I never go out for walks after dinner.”

Good. She’d be alone and unobserved. “All right. Goodnight then. I may not get back before you go to bed.” Amanda and Herbert muttered their good nights.

She walked out the door and took a nice deep breath of the evening air. Looking across the street, she noticed that the lights were glowing in the schoolhouse windows. “She’s such a fool,” Chloe assured herself. There’d been one frantic moment when Morgan had almost caught her planting the drug in her tea, but in the end, she hadn’t suspected a thing. “My plan is going to work,” she assured herself again. She took the large jar of oil she’d saved, little by little, from its hiding place near the wood pile. Stowing the oil under her cloak, she followed the path she’d scouted to the back of the schoolhouse.

When she got to her destination, she had to look to see if Morgan had succumbed to the sleeping powder she’d put into the tea. She peeked into the east window. Morgan lay on the floor in the aisle. Ah, she tried to escape. Not this time.

She’d been clever about that too. She overheard Seth ordering the tea and Martha mentioning that Morgan had begun to order it too. “Yes, I gave her a cup one day when she came to the office. I’m glad she liked it so much.” Seth had played into her plan like all the rest. And he thinks he’s so smart. I’ll show him. I’ll show them all. She’d purchased the sleeping powder from one of those nasty Chinese people. They didn’t even speak English, so she was safe.

Creeping to the back of the building, she soaked the pile of kindling she’d systematically stacked up, and the corner of the building in oil, careful not to get any on herself. She didn’t want to make a mistake at this point and get herself caught in the blaze. She lighted the edge of the pile. The kindling caught fire quickly. She stayed long enough to make sure the building caught fire. Then she followed one of her routes to the other side of the main road through town, disposing of the jar on her way.

Her heart was pounding. As she neared the other side of the walkway, she hoped the alarm would not be sounded too quickly. That was the one variable she feared. That Morgan would be saved and she’d have to start all over again.

The flames were just visible above the roof. It wouldn’t be long now. Just then Jonathan appeared and headed toward the schoolhouse. What’s he doing here? He said he’d be gone until very late. She wanted to scream, but the fire hadn’t been discovered yet. She held her breath as Jonathan opened the schoolhouse door and heard his yell down the street. The glow from the burning building was visible through the open door. She heard another yell and another. What are all these people doing out and about when they should be home in bed?

Seth came out of the newspaper office and ran toward the burning building, yelling at the top of his lungs. Max ran from the livery, and suddenly the street was filled with people. She stood there transfixed. Seth ran into the front door followed by Max. Good, we can get rid of him too, the dirty half-breed. Most of the building was now engulfed in flames. It’s so beautiful. The blue, yellow, orange and red conflagration rose up to the sky. But, what about Jonathan? Somewhere in her tiny heart, she knew he was safe. Once Morgan was dead and she told him what she’d done, he’d be so proud of her. But, he hadn’t come out yet. People were forming a bucket brigade. How foolish, it was obviously too late.

“Chloe, aren’t you going to help with the buckets?” Martha was pulling her arm.

“Oh, yes. But not too close. I’m so afraid of fire,” she said smiling to herself. She’d spread that around the last few weeks, how she’d witnessed a terrible fire and was deathly afraid of being trapped in one.

She let Martha pull her along to the end of the line farthest away from the fire, keeping a look out for Jonathan. Where is he? She took the buckets and passed them along as they were handed to her. Then she saw Seth with a bundle in his arms. It was Morgan! Damn him. He was yelling something. The sound of the fire was deafening and then the loud creaking of the weakening roof beams made Max dive out the door to land on the grass. Everyone else near the front of the bucket line ducked. There came a deafening crash as the roof collapsed. The kaleidoscope colored flames flared out momentarily over the heads of everyone on the ground. Screams filled the air as those closest to the fire crawled away from the extreme heat. The town’s people huddled together in the middle of the street. Only Chloe was standing separate, a forgotten bucket in her hand. She scanned the crowd. Where is Jonathan? She couldn’t see him anywhere. An unfamiliar sensation clutched her stomach. He not there. She had to find out where he was. She ran to Max. “Where’s Jonathan?”

“I couldn’t save him,” was all Max coughed out. Tears were streaking his smoke stained face.

“What! You left him in there? Nooooo…” she screamed. Something snapped in her head. He’ll be all mine if… She threw the bucket and ran toward the raging fire. “Jonathan,” she screamed. Hands tried to stop her, but she dodged them and ran toward the friendly flames. She didn’t care about anything but being with Jonathan. The conflagration seared her flesh.With the first inhalation, the flames filled her lungs. As her body collapsed, an unearthly light embraced her. There now, your pain is over.

This is a rough draft, but, I’d appreciate your comments about the scene if you care to reply to this post. I can use the critique. Thanks.