Because Learning is Always a Good Thing

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There is no such thing as being done learning. You absolutely CANNOT educate yourself too much. Fact. There really should be no arguing with that statement (although there are those out there that will try).

I believe that I can always learn new or better ways to succeed in my writing, and I have been seeking some of this out through online avenues, books on writing, and a variety of different class or lecture style options. There are a large number of people who have done this all long before my atoms came together on this planet, and an equally large number of people who even started when I did, that have figured quite a few things out that I could stand to learn from them all.

While I believe that we should live our lives from the mindset of continuous learning I don’t believe that we should have to reinvent the wheel – so here are some of the resources I’ve found in the last week that I intend to look into. If anyone out there has found others I’d love to hear about them, feel free to share in the comments or shoot me a note and I’ll look into them and add some details for a later post.

Masterclass – from chefs to filmmakers to authors or musicians, there is a class for everyone interested in learning something new. I signed up for a one year all access membership for $180, and while that seems steep it covers unlimited access for a 12-month period. In addition you can choose to buy a single Masterclass that you’re interested in for $90 which makes the $180 a pretty great deal if it’s something you’re already interested in checking out. One thing I really like is that each Masterclass gives you downloadable lessons that go with the lectures from the presenter, so you have some concrete material to look at offline as well.

Less of a resource but still something I had fun with is a site that I discovered through the Neil Gaiman Masterclass called I Write Like. This site allows you to enter a passage of your writing and it analyzes the words against an algorithm and tells you what author your writing style compares with. This is pretty neat because it can be helpful when trying to understand your author’s voice – which is, ultimately, why Neil Gaiman shares it in his lesson. (I ran a few of my samples through, and was quite excited to get back Agatha Christie and Stephen King on mine.)

Some sites I find helpful when you are banging your head against a wall:

The Write Life provides some calming insight from those  who have been there, done that.

Carol Tice has a site called Make a Living Writing that gives new and experienced freelance writers a leg up towards success all the while talking about her own past struggles and triumphs.

And last, but not least, books that I have read, started reading, or have picked up with the intention of reading (and Amazon links – although there are a wide variety of places you can find them in print):

Stephen King’s “On Writing” (Find it on Amazon)

William Strunk and E.B. White’s “Elements of Style” (Find it on Amazon)

Zachary Petit’s “The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing” (Find it on Amazon)

Gabriel Pereira’s “DIY MFA” (Find it on Amazon)

Paula Munier’s “Writing With Quiet Hands” (Find it on Amazon)

These lists are by no means the be all end all of writer’s resources – I have a few new books in my Amazon cart already, and am always on the lookout for new sites that can help, because no matter where we are on our journey we can benefit from a helping hand.

Get Your Head Back in the Clouds

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Have you ever built a bookshelf? And about half way through the instructions you realize you have no idea where the part that corresponds with letter B1 goes? You track back through the previous several steps to see if you can make it make sense, but to no avail. It’s not that you don’t want the bookshelf, or that you are even thinking about giving up on building it. It’s just that you’re starting to wonder if you really have any business building it in the first place.

I think sometimes choosing the creative life is a bit like building a bookshelf. You think you’re fine until you realize that you possibly got part B1 confused with A2 and now the entire structure seems a bit … wonky.

Part of you considers tearing the whole thing down, shoving it haphazardly into the box and sending it back to wherever you ordered it from, leaving a scathing review about the instructions being hard to follow.

Except that in this case it’s not really a bookshelf, now is it?

And if you ever really had a choice to begin with you might have decided against starting on this path in the first place.

And this is where we transition from talking about the hypothetical bookshelf to talking instead about where you stand on choosing the creative life. You’ve trod down this path for so long that it’s just as many steps back to the beginning as it would be to see it through.

I can say I’ve walked both paths – choosing to focus on the creating as a reality more recently.

I started with the regular day to day career that everyone tells you when you’re young is sensible. Except they are telling you this at the same time as lamenting your inability to understand sensible if it hit you in the face. Seems silly to expect you to go down the sensible path to begin with, now doesn’t it?

But that’s what I did.

I followed the sensible path. The bills got paid. I shriveled up inside, withering a bit like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a very, very long time.

I like to talk about why it’s important to hold on to and follow the dreams you have. Albeit while making sure to consider how to pay the bills and stay out of the cardboard box under a bridge at the same time. You just have to remember to water the plants too.

I’m working on understanding what that balance is. How to do what I love while still paying the bills. It can be done.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Herman Cain

Accepting the Call

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Do you know what the most exciting thing about making a commitment is? It isn’t the fear of failure, or even the thought of success.

It’s the acceptance of the challenge.

Once you decide that you are indeed willing to do something all the should I or shouldn’t I fades away. It becomes a guarantee that you will do it, regardless of the obstacles.

It becomes the lighthouse, and your boat now knows how to get to shore no matter how choppy the waters before then may be leading up to that point.

You can now begin to identify what needs to be done, and the planning stage is where everything has possibility.

The commitment itself means hope.

When you make a commitment it makes change possible. Any change. All change. And no matter how big or small it gives way to:

New perspectives.

New outcomes.

New possibilities. 

I spent quite a while really standing on the precipice, unsure if I was ready to commit to a path that meant risk. Making this commitment meant committing to uncertainty.

Last week I shared with you all that I was ready to make a commitment to where I see my career moving. This week I wanted to share my excitement.

It’s been a tingling of anticipation this last week as I began to lay the groundwork for what comes ahead. I have lists and ideas. I have identified the sources to start with for establishing a writing career. I have thoughts on updating my business card and website to advertise this new offering.

I also have a lot of exciting thoughts about new things that I want to offer but haven’t seen anywhere else. New, like making the first step to commit, is a little scary. There isn’t an established baseline anywhere that helps be a guide post.

But I’m accepting this challenge as I’ve accepted the challenge to commit. I will forge ahead.

Because if I fail I just have to remember to get back up. Try again. Possibly fail again. Fail better next time.

And keep at it until I am failing so well that I can call it success.

So here’s to the joy of accepting the call and taking up the mantle as hero in your own creative journey, whatever yours may look like. We can forge ahead to what may be a brighter opportunity.

I’m excited about what the future holds.

Take My Pity Party Away

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It’s high time I stopped feeling sorry for myself and making excuses. I am never going to achieve goals or catch up on missed opportunities by sobbing into my ice cream or playing the ostrich.

TIME TO STOP THE PITY PARTY!

After last week’s post I spent some time soul searching – not climbing to the tallest peak of a mountain range in Tibet level soul searching, but enough to realize I needed some tough love. I realized it was time for me to stop making excuses, no matter how valid they might seem, and accept my part in holding myself back.

I am a writer because I write.

I am a writer because I write.

When I try to do other things the writing sucks at me, pulling at a corner of my soul until I return. It’s not the number of hours that confirm my dedication, it’s the follow through.

It’s not the falling off the horse that decides whether you should ride or not, it’s how many times you are willing to get back up and try again.

Miss writing a post? That stinks. Start the clock again next week.

Someone didn’t like your post (book, picture, design, etc. …)? Oh well. Keep at it for yourself, there will be others that do.

Receive unsolicited advice telling you not to quit your day job? Think about taking the leap anyway.

We never get ahead playing it safe.

If I had been waiting to have kids until I was ready I would never have had them.

And if I keep waiting to create until I am ready I may never create.

The secret to when will I be ready isn’t a certain time. It’s knowing that you’re never really ready. But you summon the courage to leap anyway.

It takes a leap of faith.

Faith in yourself.

Faith in your ability to get back up if you fail.

Faith that you DO deserve to succeed.

So it’s time for me to take that leap. What about you?