Monday, December 9, 2013

Writers & Insecurity

Portrait of author by @Siredodo

Dealing with insecurity and negative self-talk is generally part of the human experience, so I don’t know why we author types are especially known for having this problem. Don’t other artists struggle with the same uncertainties? Don’t musicians wonder if people will like the music they write and/or perform? Don’t painters, sculptors, photographers, weavers, knitters, cooks, actors and others have qualms about the quality of their art? Of course, they do, but it’s become a cliché for writers and authors to feel insecure. We all have an inner critic and our inner critics have a purpose (um…to help us self-assess and get even better at what we’re doing) but, that stern voice in my head telling me that I’ve got a problem with commas and semi-colons must be balanced with the confidence that I’m good enough to make it worth learning, improving and continuing.  The last thing we need is an out of control internal critic that tells us we’re no good, nobody wants to read what we write, and we might as well set aside our writing dreams to pursue interests that have nothing to do with stringing letters and words together. Seriously. I don’t need that kind of self-talk and neither do you.
I’ve seen a number of articles recently, addressing self-doubt and insecurity in authors, and I’ve been surprised at the lack of concrete coping strategies offered in those articles. At times, I’m insecure and, having little patience for it, I use the coping skills I learned in therapy and, later, as a provider in the mental health field. Let’s break the mold, shall we? Let’s show the world that writers know how to take charge of our mental health and work through insecurities to become happier and more productive! Down with crippling self-doubt! Up with insightful self-critique followed by more and better WRITING!

Towards those goals, here’s a list of tried and true strategies for coping with that pesky insecurity.

Affirmations- These babies are nifty statements that you craft for yourself. Write ‘em in the first person and make them present tense, then mutter them to yourself repeatedly to counteract your inner critic. For your reading pleasure, here are a couple of my fav’s.
“I am a good writer getting better.”
“My story is worthy of being shared.”

Reality checking- Just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true. If you find yourself thinking, “My essay/blog/article/story/book sucks and I’m embarrassed to have shared it” then it’s time to revisit the tweet, letter, e-mail or review you received about how much your writing touched a reader. This is the very best reason to keep a file of correspondence that includes compliments and encouragement you receive from others. Having concrete evidence that your writing doesn’t suck and is valued by others makes reality checking easier. For those of you who’ve been writing but not sharing your work, YOU NEED TO SHARE YOUR WRITING! Unless you’re really, actually and truly writing for your own eyes only and have no desire to ever let someone share what you’ve created, get thee some readers! Friends, family, beta readers, a critique group, social media pals, whoever. Readers will give you feedback, encouragement, confidence and a sense of community. Oh, and reality checking.

Thought stopping- Pretty self-explanatory. Catch yourself saying nasty things (aloud or in your head), recognize that what you’re doing isn’t productive and tell yourself to stop it. Then, get so immersed in affirmations, writing, or other (productive) thoughts and activities that your out of control inner critic gives up and goes to sleep.

Lean on a buddy- If you’re having trouble breaking through insecurity and doubt by yourself, let someone know. Allow someone to help you. Be open to support. Yes, I do this. I reach out to one or more people in my core group of family and friends, confide that I’m struggling and openly ask for a pep talk. I did this recently, while working on Magic Within and not only did I get several fabulous pep talks, but one wise friend actually helped me figure out what was at the root of my concerns (it was a plotting problem) and brainstormed solutions with me.  

Let go- Let go of worrying. Let go of wondering. Let go of trying so hard to sculpt and shape reality. Let go of imagining the future. Let go of what-ifs. Be present in this moment. Write in this moment. Trust yourself. Trust your subconscious to help you create art from words, and let go of over-thinking it.

I hope you’ll find one or more of these strategies helpful and I also hope you’ll share some of your own strategies for coping with an out of control inner critic!

May your day be wonder-filled.

Magic Within- Kindle

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lost, Stolen or Strayed: Why I'm Missing

I know I haven't posted for a while.  The photo above is the reason why.  I'm trying to finish this darling and publish it by the week of November 18th.  Yes, this November 18th.  ;-)
When it does go live, I promise to broadcast it here, on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, GoodReads and to all of you who are signed up for my email updates.  (Not signed up yet?  Send me an e-mail at
Then, I plan to sell paper copies of Book 1 & Book 2 at Juneau's Public Market!  If you're local, I'll be in booth #1 at the JACC.  Please come by and let me inscribe a copy of either or both books for you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Would You Halt The Seasons In Their Path?

Autumn View of Mendenhall Glacier

I had something already written to post here today but when I got on-line this morning, there was sad news awaiting me and my pre-written post went right out the window.  
My friend @PSprehe's beloved pibble Azul died this morning.  I sent a message of condolence but beyond letting my friend know that I love her and empathize, there's little I, or anyone, can do in the face of death.  Death is change and humans are notoriously awkward in the face of change.  We are so resistant to change that, given the power to do so, I suspect many of us would choose to halt the seasons in their path.
I like to talk about balance, but even I would be inclined to seek some ideal changelessness rather than embrace the waxing and waning of life.  If I could, I would run to my friend and her family and turn back the clocks of their lives until Azul was alive and healthy.  I would be like some character in a sci-fi story, changing the details until I could keep Azul from being poisoned.  And would any of you blame me?  Of course not!  We strive to avoid loss and grief.
Yet.  Yet, this is part of life.  The seasons cycle, change, loss and grief are part of the flow and are unavoidable.  I cannot imagine embracing death and loss on this level, but I can imagine a sort of peaceful acceptance of my inability to change this part of reality.  I can, barely, grasp at what the wise refer to as Radical Acceptance.  How close am I to this peaceful acceptance?  Not very close.  I prefer to call it RFA.  The R stands for Radical and the A stands for Acceptance.  The F stands for my grief and my resistance and my outrage that things like this happen.
So, today, I am thinking of Azul who lived a short but happy life filled with love.  I am thinking Azul's strong and resilient family who will weather this season of loss.  I'll be teary and stomp my feet and I will strive for acceptance.  Because I'm still alive.  And you're still alive.  And all we can do is keep going and make the best of it.

I hope that you'll find ways to make the best of it this week, notice some perfect moments, and practice your own brand of RFA as much as possible.  I am sending light and love out to you.       

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Vegan Looks at Alaska

A while back, I had the opportunity to actually meet some Twitter friends!  They came to Alaska for a vacation and, yes, we arranged a "tweet up", albeit a smallish one.
The Buck-White Boys
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Alas, Jeb and I didn't have an opportunity to meet the four-leggeds pictured above, but we did meet the two-legged Buck-White Boys and had a delightful visit.  It's remarkably fun to meet folks (in person) for the first time, whom you already like and are pals with.   To make the entire experience even more fun, we've been e-mailing back and forth and one of the Buck-White Boys has generously shared today's guest post about the Alaska trip. 

A Vegan Looks at Alaska
T. Clay Buck 

No, not that kind of Vegan, a LAS Vegan, as in from Las Vegas.  You know, “Vivaaaaaaa Las Vegas!”  That one.

There are three types of people that move to Vegas:  1) Those desperate to make it – at a slot machine, gaming table, in a show, with someone; 2) Those who are, at best, ambivalent about Vegas or, at worst, hate it, but they’re only here because they have to be (job, spouse, family, couldn’t stay in California/Hawaii/Other expensive state); 3) Those who really do love this valley and recognize it for so much more than its bright lights, big entertainment reputation.

I like to think I fall into the third category.  I moved here eleven years ago.  Fell in love, grew my career, bought a house and am now living the neon-tinged suburban dream.

Very, very few visitors ever get beyond the Strip.  And if they do, they might go to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon.  What so few people know about Vegas is its high desert topography.  We have Red Rock Canyon to the West, Mt. Charleston to the North, Valley of Fire and Lake Mead to the East – when you really look at it, it is a beautiful part of the country.

And there’s the weather – yes, it’s very hot here.  In July and August.  Triple digits.  Joke about it all you want, but it IS a dry heat.  And there is a difference, a very big difference, between 10% and 75% humidity.

But for the majority of the year we have clear skies, bright sun and you can see from one end of the valley to the other – a distance of about 25-30 miles.

And you reach a point where you realize that you can’t live without that kind of openness.  Trees, mountains, hills, cloud cover all make you a bit claustrophobic.  But you also crave water. 

We’ve been in a drought for the eleven years I’ve lived here, so you don’t very often see a lot of standing water.  Any time you do see water that’s spilled or running off from a sprinkle you think what a terrible waste it is.

You guys in Alaska have an awful lot of water.  That’s really the major first impression that hit me both times I’ve been.  There is so much water in Alaska, it just hangs around in the air and you call it fog.  You have so much water you can afford to let it freeze and sit on top of mountains for thousands of years.  You have so much that that frozen water spills over the side of the mountain, you call it a glacier and sell tickets for us Lower 48ers to come see it.

Good for you. 

Nearly everyone who visits Vegas says to a local, “Oh, I came for a few days and it was more than I could handle.  Just too much overload.”  Listen, in Anchorage apparently there are moose walking down the streets like it’s an episode of Northern Exposure and Vegas is too much overload?  We reached a point on our trip where it was just, “STOP!”  Ok, just stop.  I need five minutes without a glacier, an animal, history, something stunning to look at or a freakin’ salmon. 

Because you come to Alaska to feed your soul.  You come and you fill up on all of that water and beauty and scenery.  You breathe it in through your pores (really, great skin after an Alaska trip – could you bottle that?) and on those days in Vegas when its 111 and you haven’t left the house in 3 days, you have that memory, that beauty, that sustains you through the long hot summers of life.
Mendenhall Glacier
You can get to know The Buck-White Boys by going to their blog, visiting them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page!

I hope you find this guest post as charming and thought provoking as I do and may you have a week filled with perfect moments!

Magic All Around is available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon and can be special ordered for purchase at most brick and mortar bookstores.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cheese n' Waves

Sometimes, I don’t know what to blog about.  I don’t mean that I don’t have lists with a zillion ideas on them (yeah, a ZILLION!) but that none of the things on those lists is thrilling me and woe unto her who writes about something she’s not thrilled by, right?
So, I was brainstorming.  If I have to brainstorm for more than three minutes, there’s one thing I always do.  I call my friend Babs.  She’s my brainstorming partner.  I help her brainstorm her art projects (often textiles and wearable arts) and she helps me brainstorm my writing projects.  Babs suggested that I write a post about Jeb’s glowing eyes (I’d just texted her a photo wherein his eyes were glowing green because I’d had the flash on) or about my ten favorite kinds of cheese.  I have to say, the cheese idea had a strong appeal.  My brain immediately made that list (Brie, pepper jack, goat cheese, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, smoked gruyere, Colby jack, camembert, cream cheese and ricotta) and I had to go eat some cheese.  After that, I decided you probably don’t want to hear me go on for an entire post about how I love cheese.  I figured that you either agree with me about cheese (i.e. you love cheese, you love it sliced, diced, melted, served as fondue, served as dessert, cold from the fridge or eaten from the package fresh out of the grocery bag) and can write your own blog post about cheese-love, or you don’t agree with me about cheese and feel nauseated just reading this much about it.  At any rate, I needn’t go on and on more than I already have.
In fact, what my poor brain really wants is to get back to writing my novel, so I’m going to give my brain, and yours, a break and share photos (courtesy of Babs who lives in Ketchikan and took these pics yesterday) instead of more nonsense from my goofy noggin!
In a rainforest of evergreen trees, autumn colors are elusive.  The fireweed leaves turn fiery red (hence the name), then with surprising swiftness erupt in puffs of airborne seeds that abandon the now brown and mulchy plant.  Otherwise, most of our native leafy plants display subtle autumn colors and even then, the spruce, hemlock and cedar take center stage and hog the spotlight.  Southeast Alaska is not known for traditional autumn scenery.  For us, fall is heralded not by bright colors, but by high tides, increased rain, and wind.  It may look drab to some but it fills me with exhilaration! 

 May your day, week and autumn bring abundant joy!

P.S. Desperately seeking guest bloggers during this novel-writing time since multi-tasking is clearly not my strength! :-)
Topics may include happiness, joy, dogs, Alaska, writing and mental health.  If you have an idea for a guest post that you think would fit on my blog, please tweet or e-mail me!  

Magic All Around is available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon and can be special ordered for purchase at most brick and mortar bookstores.