Heather Sellers

Birth of an Idea

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Lightning strikes. In a flurry of activity you quickly jot down every piece of information that has come to mind. Afraid to let even one tiny bit get away.

Having given birth to an idea you slump back, drained. Your eyes are now a combination of dry and itchy and glazed. Reality seems hazy. You look at your creation and beam.

In that instant you know you would do it again. 

Having had three children I very much can attest to the similarities of giving birth and coming up with an idea. The lightning strike is the day of birth. The many years of watching your baby grow are the months of shaping your story into something you will maybe someday publish.

The birth of the creative work – bringing a book into reality for someone else to read – no longer just hidden deep in the imagination.

The wonder held at that initial inception of idea is not the final payoff. Instead you look forward to the months (or in some cases, years) of writing after that inspiration has struck as the first few years of life. Your idea is rolling over for the first time, taking its first steps, speaking its first words. It’s the beginning of many sleepless nights as you run into the other room to check on it.

You have read all the books that are supposed to guide you on the journey.

Every.

      Last.

            One. 

And still, you worry about whether you are doing everything right.

None of the rules, guides, advice from others will matter as much as making sure you are following what feels right in your heart.

After all is said and done you have to care enough to be honest. With yourself. With your story. With your readers.

Then you have to let it go out and find its own way.

Or, to quote Semisonic –

“Closing time –

Time to open all of the doors and let you out into the world”

 

Remember When(sdays)

It’s always exciting, starting something new. A new relationship, a new career, and even a new decade. What does this new decade mean to you?

For me it has been an inspiration of sorts. I’ve been thinking about where we have come over the decades in terms of the creative works that have been released into the world. Books, movies, music, and so much more. As a result I started making a list of books that hold special memories for me that have been released since the decade I came into existence (because what better place to start than the beginning of my own story). As I started putting this list together I thought it might be fun to put it here and see where those stories have come together for this decade – some have inspired movies, or television shows, some have new books that are being released still, and some just hold a special place in our hearts.

For some this will be before your story begins, and others well into the second or third chapter. Either way I hope you enjoy my version of a throwback Wednesday.

Remember When in 1980 –

Imagine for a moment – bright lights, big hair, synthwave, and steampunk culture. Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum – big names on the paperback racks.

For me, it’s hard to pick a top 10 list, so how about a top

1980: Douglas Adams’ second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe came out this year on the tail of his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and while the number of movies and shows haven’t exactly been tripping over each other to get produced, it would make me a very bad sci-fi nerd to not call out the importance of this author.

1981: The book of this year that called to me the most is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Alvin Schwartz). Also, you might remember the movie that came out last year – although fairly polarizing because for a lot of people (I include myself in this group) it felt like a steaming pile of shut the front door on our childhood. Some people enjoyed the fun movie, and I don’t blame them … but it certainly wasn’t the beloved scary stories that you couldn’t believe you found in your school library.

1982: This is a hard year to pick … I narrowed it down to two books. One that is near and dear to my love of fiction, and one that is near and dear to my love of what literature is. Stephen King’s The Gunslinger was released and we were in love. This same year Alice Walker published The Color Purple – which, if you haven’t read any of Alice Walker’s work … stop what you are doing, please go look her up – she’s amazing, and I really need to write a blog post strictly to focus on my love for her as an author, it could be titled “My Love Letter to Alice Walker” … it’s a working title.

1983: Hands down, The Witches wins my pick for this year … not only is Roald Dahl just the best when it comes to children’s literature, but the movies based on his work have done an amazing job of emblazoning themselves onto our brains.

1984: There are a number of choices for books this year, yet oddly enough the one I can’t help but zero in on is What to Expect When You’re Expecting – I never actually read this book, but somehow I had at least five used copies somehow find their way to my coffee tables and book shelves, and night stand during my first pregnancy 20 years after it was initially published. That is longevity right there.

1985 – This is another of those years where I have a hard time picking a book that hits the marks … because there are too many. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published this year, and getting ready for season four of the show summer 2020. And my absolute, hands down, favorite book of all time (no, I don’t care that I’m well into my 30’s Tabitha, it’s my favorite!) is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – partially because this book is just endearing, and the fact that it inspired a series of lovable debates with my now husband about which is better – If you … Give a Mouse a Cookie or Give a Moose a Muffin. My vote – the mouse, hands down.

1986 – How many people didn’t want to ride the magic school bus or have Ms. Frizzle as their teacher (or as an adult wish they could find where she buys her dresses)? This is the year that The Magic School Bus #1 came out – and yes so many other books came out this year, but again – near and dear to my heart, this one is.

1987 – Stephen King was all over 1987 (mind you, he was all over the 80’s in general, but this year especially) with four books that I do enjoy – immensely, but he gets bumped because Toni Morrison also released a pretty amazing book this year … Beloved – and in 1998 Oprah Winfrey did a pretty spectacular job in the film adaptation, but we’re not done with the 80’s yet, so the film has to wait until another day …the novel uses some amazing literary techniques to tell its story, and keep you emotionally invested to the end.

1988 – Roald Dahl’s telekinetic, brainy (and well-read) little girl who could fit in very well with the X-Men was introduced in his book Matilda this year. (Also, I learned that in 2010 there was a musical … a MUSICAL!! … which is now in my must see list).

1989 – I am rounding out the end of the decade with three books – because it was just so hard to narrow it down (and even still was hard to narrow it down to just these three). Ken Follett’s historical fiction The Pillars of the Earth – which has had a video game, a television miniseries, and two sequels … and certainly did a great job of ripping any romantic notions I had about the middle ages right out of my brain (I’m ever grateful for this, in fact). Next – Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club which speaks to the mother-daughter relationships of Chinese immigrant women and their American born daughters and also had a movie released in 1993 (I cried when I read the book, and again when I watched the movie, even though I knew what to expect … yes I cry a lot, but seriously this story is a tearjerker). (Separate side note – Amy Tan and Stephen King were in a little band of literary types called The RockBottom Remainders for awhile … I missed out on ever seeing them live, but check them out on YouTube … one of those neat random facts you never know when it might come in handy). Last … but not least … R.L. Stine published the first book in a series that both gave me nightmares and daymares but also helped me to appreciate family trees in the beginning of books (although that didn’t really kick in until somewhere around book 20) … The New Girl: Fear Street #1. Maybe someday there will be a movie of these – after all, how many Goosebumps movies are there now??

A few honorable mentions …  The Babysitters Club, American Girl, and Sweet Valley High series’ began coming out in the 80’s. Anne Rice’s Vampires Chronicles picked up steam during this decade after the success of Interview in 1976. Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently was introduced to us in the 80’s (also, there is a pretty great series from BBC). And of course, Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Frank Herbert, and Tom Clancy basically owned the 1980’s.

What do you think? Did I hit or miss the mark? Any you think would have made better picks? What are your thoughts on the 1990’s? I plan to do a similar list next week focusing on the 90’s – any and all thoughts welcome!

 

 

 

Another Decade, Another Beginning

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I took a month off from writing, from blogging, from social media. I used this time to step back and take a breath, and get perspective.

I looked at the stars, I read some cheesy books, binged a lot of television. I watched my kids do kid things. I tried to ignore the very scary things going on in the world. I made it a priority to say I love you and hug and kiss those that are very dear to me.

Whether you believe it’s the only go round, or that there are many times through, I realized that we only get so much time on this one, and I need to make sure I’m making the most of it. Because of that, I’m starting some new adventures this year. Over the next 56 days I’ll be sharing more of that, and what that journey will look like.

Not like I’m counting or anything.

As for right now, I want to share news about immediate changes.

This week I am starting a new blog schedule. The regular Sunday Night Thoughts will continue, as always, right on time. But I’m adding two additional posts to the week’s lineup. Wednesday and Friday evenings will start to be filled with new posts about all things creative.

I’m very excited, and hope that these new posts will help me reach the point where I can post nightly. A long term goal I’ve had in mind for awhile, and I feel like that is still a ways off, but the possibility is becoming real enough I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I can touch it … or read it.

In just shy of two months we will celebrate two years of this blog. I’m looking forward to all of what that means.

 

Until Next Year …

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Me: Say Goodbye, 2019.

2019: “Goodbye 2019.”

See what I did there [I’m winking, since you can’t see me as I type this post].

My calendar this morning reminded me that there are only “10 days until Christmas”. Which means that there are also only 17 days remaining until the lights go out on 2019 and come on for 2020. What kind of plans have you got for the new year? Are there any lessons learned from 2019 to carry with you?

I’m looking forward to a fresh start as well as seeing through some plans that I have been hatching during the second half of this year. Which seems like I just started working on yesterday.

And then I’m reminded of childhood, hearing the adults go on about how fast time flies. Some would say “Time flies when you’re having fun!” while others would complain about how fast the months go by now that they have kids/are over 21/insert some other arbitrary statement here. And I realize it’s true. Time flies so fast compared to when I was young when the days seemed to crawl by in spite of my wishing it would go faster.

With the speed of time in mind, I’m thinking about how many things I planned for this past year, how many got done, and how many other things got added to the list instead and which items fell off of that same list. That’s how things go.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

We have to remember to be flexible.

Plan the things you can, sure. But accept that the best laid plans might just go awry.

And know that that’s okay.

So take some time now to just be. Don’t fret over what you didn’t do. There are still tomorrows to make those tasks up.

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the moment – be it with family, or just by yourself in quiet retrospect – and step forward into whatever comes next.

I’m going to be stepping forward with you.

In the meantime, I’m taking off the rest of 2019. See you on the other side of mid-January.

I Need to Eat, Too.

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So a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to provide my rates for inputs for a directory of sorts.

I filled out the form with my rates and roles, then didn’t let myself think anymore about what I was typing and clicked submit. Just hit the button to send the form off into the digital ether.

Immediately I began to fret. Maybe my rates were too high. Maybe they’d not include my information, astounded by my audacity.

Two weeks later and I am still finding myself wringing my hands.

Why?

Why am I not willing to accept that my worth could be those numbers? Why am I convinced that I shouldn’t ask for my value to be high enough to sustain my work?

And when I look out at the things other writers (and creatives in general, for that matter) say about their rates I am seeing that same feeling reflected over and over.

Now, I know I’m not a rocket scientist or brain surgeon and certainly don’t mean to imply anything one way or another with my next statement, so bear with me a moment.

Specialists, brain surgeons, subject matter experts, highly skilled engineers (and so on) don’t hesitate for a moment when providing the cost to employ them. They know their skill set is valuable and they ask for their worth.

And they get paid what they ask for.

As a creative we are highly skilled individuals in our specific areas. There are people who prefer a skilled creative to write the words, design the logos, build the websites, rather than do it themselves. Sometimes it’s even just a matter of convenience and other times it is because they just need a specific skill set they don’t otherwise have available.

But the point is that those creative skills are needed.

And … AND … you have a right to charge your worth to pay your bills.

Because, hey, starving artists should be an outdated concept.

Comfortably eating and having a roof over your head should be the new rage.

After Too Much Tryptophan and Not Enough Family Time

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The holiday weekend is coming to a close and I don’t know about you all, but I feel like while I got lots of good eats I didn’t get nearly enough of that good family time. If you did I’m green with envy (and also incredibly happy for you). In the meantime I’m going to try to soak up a few more hours of quality time before the week turns me into a pod person. In the words of our favorite Terminator, “I’ll be back” – for my regularly scheduled blog post next week. In the meantime check out this short story from last fall: Strange Pair, a short story and I hope you have a great week!

Where Do You Find Your Muse?

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Take a moment and consider what things we spend money on over and over again. And not the daily necessities. The things we don’t need, but are convinced we should spend that five, ten, or 15 dollars (or more) on over and over again.

The books. The movies. The games. The poster of that one movie you can’t actually remember seeing but it has a special place in your heart (and now also the back of your closet).

Maybe these items inspire you. They add to your creativity like a muse come to whisper the sweet nothings of ideas into your ear. Maybe instead it’s a reminder that things we love do exist and we can create something that aspires to that (or even surpasses it).

Perhaps it’s the 15 copies of American Gods, or yet another edition (this one has editor’s footnotes, I swear!) of Pride and Prejudice. Either way, these have some kind of significance to you, to who you are as a creator, to who you identify with as a person.

Love that dog eared paperback (even though your grandma told you that was book abuse – and you know she was right!), enjoy another viewing of your favorite movie (this time on blue ray), and lose yourself into another round of that video game. A creator somewhere was hit by a muse, and will appreciate you as the customer – but you can appreciate it so much more knowing where your own creativity was birthed.

On that note, I’m off to go make a cup of something hot and dive into a good story – maybe the muse will strike hard and fast (and so will the incoming snow) and I’ll find myself creating something of my own.

Not Even My Great Aunt Brunhilde

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I never could see any of the hidden pictures in the Magic Eye posters. Not a single one. And not for lack of trying. I tried every trick they tell you, plus some I made up on my own. Squinting? Check. Holding it to my nose and moving it away and back again? Check. Laying upside down while wearing a scarf for an eye patch? Check.

I think there is a little bit of belief that goes into seeing something your brain tells you is not there. Throw in a touch of perspective in with that belief? Now you’re cooking with gas.

I guess what I mean here is that if you believe the dolphins are going to be visible if you just look long enough, well then eventually you are going to see dolphins appear as if by magic. If you don’t believe – and I didn’t, not really – then there’s a very slim chance you’re going to see any dolphins.

What prompts the thought of Magic Eyes and perspective on this fine Sunday evening?

Perspective. Ours. That of those around us. All perspective and the variety of thoughts different perspectives can lead to.

Specifically the perspectives and thoughts of what different people think of things we create. Let’s say you write a story about a crazy old woman (maybe she lived in a shoe … maybe she didn’t). And maybe she has a particularly peculiar character quirk. Maybe she orders her water at a restaurant in a coffee mug. If the waiter brings water in a glass she sends it back every time. Now let’s say your Great Aunt Brunhilde also orders her water in coffee mugs. Suddenly G.A. Brunhilde sees similarities in this character in other ways. Even though there’s absolutely nothing other than this one quirk that they have in common.

What do you do? The crazy old woman is a great character, she’s spunky, cantankerous, and obstinate, but Auntie Brunhilde can’t separate her own sweet disposition from this character. Her thoughts have taken her in a wild direction.

Maybe you’re tempted to hide the crazy old bat away, never to be seen again in any other story. But darn it, she’s a great character. And she deserves to solve mysteries the likes that would make Miss Marple perk up to hear about.

We have to consider, as creatives, that we may type words that will lead the people in our lives to believe we are talking about them. Sometimes we can have an easy conversation that will help them see that though there are similarities (I mean, how many people insist on restaurant water in a mug, after all?), in reality it’s a fictional character. Sometimes, however, that won’t work. No matter how many times you try Aunt Brunhilde just sees herself in that story.

When that happens?

Please shrug. Write the best character you can. And remember your disclaimer at the beginning of your tale … “Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. And any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

(There was no harming to any Great Auntie Brunhilde’s in the making of this week’s blog post.)

When Others Just Get Us

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Conversations sometimes lead to the most interesting detours.

I was talking with my son, also a writer, this evening. He is still in high school and navigating his own journey with the W’s of writing. The what and the why, and who he wants to really be after all is said and done. How he wants to be portrayed in the world after he writes his first ideas.

And so …

He was asking me about what my blog is about. How I plan things out and how often I write.

I felt a little shy telling him. It was strange, this young man who came from me, who trusts me and looks up to me. I felt nerves grasping from deep within me as I answered these questions.

With each answer he was more encouraging. He pulled more out of me. Was more intrigued. More amazed. And with each positive feedback he gave I found myself more excited and wanting to share more.

Such awesome insight from a young man. He had somehow figured out what I needed before I did. And sometimes all it takes is encouragement from someone we love to remind us that we’re on the right path.

 

 

When Optimism is Just Out of Reach

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Being positive is kind of what I do. It’s a huge part of how I identify myself and how I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I joke that I’m a realist, or just a positive pessimist. In reality? I’m a 100% bonafide optimist.

Just. Well. Some days the optimist in me takes the day off. It pulls the covers over its head and says nuh-uh, not today.

Usually it’s because I find myself overwhelmed. Too much bad news. Too many people asking for more than I can give. Too many times I avoid saying no because I don’t want to let anyone down. I stop my routine of self-care.

It’s easy to forget to care for ourselves when we worry that it will be seen as selfish. We do the bare minimum (eat, sleep, clean, repeat). We ignore the things that feed our soul. We stop all things that we see as “extra” and instead replace those with priorities of those we see as our responsibility.

Not that this isn’t important. I know that for me my loved ones are part of what feeds my soul. And there’s the rub. How to balance all the parts of our soul?

I talked awhile back about Navigating the Whelms – and I have to accept that I’ve lost my perch on that precarious balance between overwhelmed and underwhelmed. Too many moving parts and not enough breathing room.

So when you feel overwhelmed know:

  • You can say no (and yes, even to family and friends). Try this: “No I can’t go to such and such event. I have a full plate and would love to get back in touch when things ease up. I hope you understand.”
  • It’s okay that you didn’t accomplish every goal on your to-do list today (100 items is unrealistic and set you up for failure to begin with).
  • Being underwhelmed does lead to feeling overwhelmed. It shows it’s face often in the form of being bored or unable to get started. So today was a bust? Tomorrow is another chance to try again.

Not every day is a huge success. And sometimes it’s even a failure. Acknowledge this and then move on.

Let your inner optimist take the day off, they deserve it too.

After all. Tomorrow is a brand new day.

(And yes, my inner optimist just couldn’t help herself, she talked me back into a positive head space after all.)

Plans Have a Way of Changing

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Ever experience that feeling when you sleep well into the middle of the day and wonder exactly where the time went?

It’s been one of those days in this neck of the woods. Heck, one of those years if I really think about it.

Today I meant to get up and plod around the house getting some chores done. Perhaps clean the oven so it doesn’t smoke the next time I preheat it. Maybe even replace the filter on the cat’s water dish.

I did none of those things. As a matter of fact I ignored the snow outside and burrowed deeper under the covers and pretended it isn’t Sunday. I pretended tomorrow isn’t the start of the work week. I let myself believe I have no upcoming deadlines that I am bound to.

I am also struggling with delays in other areas as well. Sometimes you just have to accept that best laid plans are going to change. Sometimes the timeline you are working towards isn’t going to work out. Maybe when you realize that you just pull the proverbial covers up over your head for a month or two (or six or nine), and let out a big sigh.

The best thing about plans? They don’t stop being your plans just because the timeline shifts. Sometimes shifting timelines are exactly what you need and other stresses can slide off the plate for a bit. You can buy yourself more time.

And with that … Sunday night is upon us. Tomorrow is coming whether we are ready or not. So here’s to getting ourselves into the right frame of mind for whatever Monday morning brings.