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”

 

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.

All You Have to do is Answer the Door

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What does it feel like when opportunity knocks?

Do you rise to accept the challenge, brazen and prepared for whatever the winds of change are blowing your way? Or does it feel more like your knees are knocking together and you wish you had a lovable (if always hungry) Great Dane to hide behind while you work up the nerve to do something with said opportunity?

What if the funniest part is that the opportunity doesn’t even have to be real? It could be imagined, or even just a job posting you happen upon, and it’s not really for you?

But it could be for you, right? All you have to do is open the door. Step outside. And look that opportunity in the eye. Show it first hand that you are exactly what it is looking for. Let it know that it can stop. Right here. Look no further.

Can you do it? Can you stand up and say: I. Can. Do. THIS! 

I bet you can. I bet – even if you’re shaking your head right now saying no way – that you can definitely do this.

Open the job posting. Respond to the email. Say yes to the dress. Scream from the top of your lungs … that yes, you know exactly what is going on and you can absolutely be the one to see it through.

Let today be the day you start looking forward to opening doors to opportunity, instead of cowering from the possibility of rejection.

Because even if you aren’t selected by this particular opportunity, you don’t have to be afraid to walk down the path to see what it could turn into. To see what new opportunities might be turn out to be THE opportunity.

Today really could be the first day of the rest of your life.

 

When You Can’t Find the Words …

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Oh, there they are.

This week I had too many conflicting thoughts about what to write about. What do you do when that happens? When the words that feel natural might not create the right impression? When your feelings may get in the way? When every single word you type comes out … wrong?

It’s complicated to try to navigate the tangled webs of the mind sometimes. You know, on some deep core level, the image of what you mean. Yet the words refuse to cooperate. Or maybe it isn’t the words, because the words themselves are always clear and concise. It’s the emotions that refuse to line themselves up into neat little boxes.

Ahhhh, it’s always the emotions.

Stubborn, hurt, prideful, sad, scared, excited, elated, nervous, ashamed, vicious … oh   round and round the emotions go. Where they stop no one knows.

And the many different situations you may find any combination of those emotions. Sometimes (scratch that, most of the time) taking the person feeling said emotion completely by surprise.

And yet … this is where being the adult sucks. Royally.

You have to overcome. You are supposed to be bigger than the emotion itself.

But what if you find that you just can’t?

Does that make you a bad person?

Does admitting, honestly, openly, how you personally feel really mean you are bad? How do you tell your children that honesty is always the best policy except in case a, or case b, and definitely not in case c … ?

This week’s Sunday night thoughts brought to you by the emotion confusion. The swirling feeling that comes along with trying to always do the right thing, even when you aren’t exactly sure what the right thing is.

 

Preptober is in Full Swing

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We are one full week into what is fondly called “Preptober” and this time last year I was drawing up a plan for NaNoWriMo. What is the plan for this year?

Some of you might remember that after last year’s National Novel Writing Month I was not so sure if I’d participate again. I felt drained, and underwhelmed by my performance during the experience.

I still stand by the fact that it was good for me to do, but I won’t be participating this year. At least not in the traditional sense.

I am committing to writing daily in the month of November. I will be continuing my piece from last year. I won’t be counting the words. I won’t be entering the efforts online.

And that’s what the whole effort is really about anyway. Encouraging consistent writing.

In the meantime? I’m working on a series of short stories to enter into a couple competitions. I’ve been dabbling with poetry a bit – something I haven’t really let myself look at since my cringe-ridden high school days. Not that all of it was cringe-y, but the raw emotion leant a certain desperation to anything I wrote then, and I’m glad to see that isn’t making a reappearance now (or at least I don’t think it is, hmmm …).

How is your writing going? Will you do NaNoWriMo this year? If so, good luck! I’ll be rooting for your success.