Heather Sellers

Spring is in the Air

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Spring is right around the corner and for me it felt a bit like it was in the air today. With the springtime we think of things like new beginnings, and what kind of hope is carried in with that mindset. This past week words like “Snowmageddon” and “bomb cyclone” have hit the news and that makes it hard to believe that spring will soon be sprung, but I am already looking forward to it being here very soon.

When I think about springtime, I consider the melt of snow and ice, fresh grass and new leaves on trees. I think about the new litters of baby bunnies, or tiny birds gingerly peaking from the side of their nests for the first time. I think about hope. I think about fresh starts.

The pessimistic side of myself (I fondly refer to this side of me as the dredges of my winter self) likes to point out that new beginnings doesn’t do much for completing projects. That I still have a large stack of things left undone from last year. If you are torn between appreciating the smell of spring and diving into something fresh and holding yourself back because you aren’t sure you’re ready to take on something new I want to offer one piece of advice. Don’t hold back. Tell your winter negativity to embrace the warmth of new projects and consider how much a new project can breathe fresh life into that project hovering on the back burner.

On the flip side – the spring brings with it a series of distractions that we don’t consider until the sun beckons us outside for the long hours that it stays high up in the sky. It’s easier to find things to do that take us away from our desk and into the fresh air and that can make it very difficult to find time to write. At least when I’m home bound due to snow and the chilly weather I can feel the draw of my laptop to create something.

This spring I really want to make myself focus on the goals I set in January and not let myself become distracted by the call of the great outdoors. I’m not quite sure yet what the plan is to avoid the intrusions on my writing time, but I feel determined to stick to the plan (or as close to it as possible, considering all those concerns that come with best laid plans).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you delve into creative efforts and avoid distractions in the spring. Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

Happy Blogiversary

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It’s officially been one year since I started this blog, and I talked about that a bit last week. I talk about the writing process, about celebrating success no matter how small, and this week I want to try something different; I want to share (timidly, I have to admit) my short story that I submitted to the Writer’s Digest Contest back in the fall.

The characters in this story are some of my favorites to date and they pushed me to create the first book that I started in my NaNoWriMo piece – although it’s going through some hectic edits (changing POV from first to third, diving deeper into world building, the usual things that keep us all up at night).

To avoid having it throw off the formatting of the blog front page the link to the short story in my portfolio is here – Strange Pair, a short story

I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to share feedback either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

What a Difference a Year Makes

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I like to take a step back every once in awhile and really look at how I’m spending my time and think about what I’ve accomplished. It’s hard to believe that in just over a week it will be exactly one year since I started this blog. Although I’m a few posts shy of one a week, it still comes out to 47 blog posts counting this one. Next week will mark my 48th post.

Over the past year I’ve done several book reviews, started (and gotten off track of) my podcast, created a YouTube video to represent how I see this blog, participated in NaNoWriMo, and entered a writing contest. While I know that the blog is still finding its way (a nice way to say I’m still figuring it all out) I can honestly say that I’m pretty proud of all I’ve accomplished over the last year.

If you’ve been following my past posts you know I feel pretty strongly about each accomplishment, be it larger than life huge or a speck on the radar tiny, are all important and deserve recognition and celebration. That’s because each accomplishment marks a place where you have been and the path you are taking to move forward. Some are the lighthouses that mark the way to save your ship from crashing onto shore, and the others that seem less important are actually the pieces that fuel you to keep going.

I have been trying to really identify where I want to see myself going forward. Things like updating this site, adding more of my own writing, trying to get myself back on track with my book reviews and podcasts. I know I have a few ideas on things I hope to accomplish over the next twelve months, and I look forward to what else the universe decides to throw into the mix. Sometimes the unexpected leads to the most interesting outcomes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on things that could be done differently, ideas or constructive feedback on my site, or even topics you’d like to hear about going forward. Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

 

Hitting a Crossroads

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What do I want to be when I grow up? It’s not really a question you should be asking yourself as an adult, we assume we got it all sorted out when we were still kids. And in many ways that’s true. It’s just sometimes we have to figure out how to get there.

When I was a kid it was not realistic to assume I could make a living writing. Everyone said so. So instead of sitting down and pounding out my ideas (we had a word processor at the time, maybe I would have been allowed to type stories on it, more realistically though, I was sitting in a corner with a pencil and scraps of paper from a school notebook), I was trying to decide on something that would be a “real” career that wasn’t housewife, school teacher, or nurse. I was battling the dreaded “d” word (domesticity) long before it was considered cool and these were the careers that struck a terror into my heart that left me awake most nights.

That was where I hit a road block. I didn’t have any idea what I was good at, or should focus on outside of reading, writing, and imagining things.  I had a highly active imagination as a child – that never really stopped, but I still couldn’t imagine a career that I fit into.

Fast forward a few years, past middle school and into high school. I still had no idea what the adult years held. No plans for college beyond basic core classes. I managed to graduate early, and just found myself working retail job after retail job, thinking maybe some kind of store manager was where I imagined my path taking off.

A few years later I woke up, a little, and found myself working an office position, that led to a higher office position, and somewhere in all of it I managed to get through college and land myself in a position I was somewhat good at. I wasn’t in love with it, but it paid well and I was told in all performance reviews that I was talented, a real go-getter, and had a promising and bright future.

Should have felt amazing, I found my thing. That thing I excelled at and paid the bills with.

It didn’t. It did nothing to make me feel like I was living my best life.

This brings us to present day – I am finally taking steps to realize that writing is a real option. I might have to work harder because I waited so long to get started, but that’s what led me to start writing this blog almost a year ago.

Hopefully no one else has to feel like they can’t see writing or creativity as a realistic career. If they do, hopefully anything I say here helps. Or at least helps with what not to do, eh?

If you feel up to sharing your journey in your creative endeavors I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

From Brain to Keyboard – Choosing a Topic

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Sometimes finding something to write about isn’t easy. Sometimes it is the hardest thing we will do in our week (okay, most likely not, but it is hard). Even when you have a blog that covers a specific topic it can be hard to identify a good topic that doesn’t just regurgitate the same material over, and over, and over.

Case in point. I was talking with my almost 14 year old son about what to write about for his eighth grade final literacy paper. We talked about past papers, and topics he felt strongly about. He didn’t want to write about topics he had already covered, wanted something new, but didn’t know how to go about finding something he felt strongly enough about to discuss, while also finding something that wouldn’t be too sensitive for a school paper.

The one topic he kept coming back to dealt directly with school, the changes due to budgetary constraints, and other rules that he has some pretty strong opinions about. He didn’t want to write about this, though, because he was afraid it would be too sensitive for a school project, and perhaps reflect poorly in his grade. I am a firm believer that if it is important to you then it probably needs to be written about and I asked him how he could take that topic and generalize it so it was less about his exact school and more about the broader issues. We brainstormed for a bit and realized that the recent Teacher’s Strike in Denver as well as other budget cuts that have hit the school systems make a great topic. He can take the time to look into how they impact the teachers and administrative staff as well as the students.

We talked about how you can broaden a topic to help avoid sensitivity concerns, but still making sure that the important notes get covered. That’s important to consider in all of our writing, because we all have important things we want to say but we get worried about who might read it. The end goal is to create a dialogue, to impact communication, to help people bridge the gap. How can any of that happen if we don’t take the time to consider the audience and how the words might be received?

It isn’t just about picking a topic to write about – if it were it would be beyond incredibly easy. Instead, it’s so much more. The impact of the topic, and making sure the words that go along with it say exactly what you want them to say.

What kind of sensitive topics have you considered writing about? Did you? If you did, how did it work out for the readers? Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

Knowing When is Half the Battle

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It has been said (by any number of people at this point, but starting with Heraclitus – that old Greek so and so) that the only constant is change. It is interesting that no matter how long ago this was said, we still fight against it. Can change really be positive?

Some people change their hair, or personal style any number of times in a week. Some people are uncomfortable changing any aspect of their routines for fear of what might happen as a result. How you feel about change can be an obstacle, or a chance to branch out and see things from a new perspective.

Consider that project you’ve been working on, you know the one. The one you’ve been struggling with for the last few weeks. It’s been sticking its tongue out at you while you pull your hair out in attempts to figure out how to get that character from point A to point B. Oh wait, that’s my project.

Well, with that sorted out … If you are finding trouble with any of your own projects, consider if you could change any of your processes. Would that make a difference? I know that making changes can add some stress – which I certainly found when I realized that I have to change my first person narrative to third person POV. Hours of work that has led to the very minor complaints above. Okay – maybe not so minor whining, but it should be considered that I did realize some important things with this change that made the story much better.

Knowing when to make a change is the biggest hurdle to get through. Once you accomplish that you can identify what to do to have the best outcome. Be it in your writing, or considering a new job, or just when to buy a new sofa.

Do you have a fear of change? Have you found things that you have changed that made a positive difference? Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

It’s Okay to Second Guess the Masters

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“Start with a quote” they said. “It will be more interesting, grab their attention faster,” they said.

The mysterious they. Such helpful advice. Or is it? Consider where the advice comes from (any I have given should be included in this). Consider why we go looking for the advice (myself included). We seek out the pearls of wisdom from those that have come before, those who have made the trek through the gauntlet. They must know better.

Absolutely. They absolutely, positively, 100% know better. About the exact situation they are discussing.

They know their position. They know the position that someone has shared with them. It is not a guarantee that the words they share is going to be reflective of any one person’s situation.

You may be wondering where these thoughts are coming from. Why I am pointing out that guidance is not a one sized fits all (especially since I like to think I can provide helpful insight, or … er … lack of a better word, guidance …). Because I believe that even the most well-intentioned advice may lead one down the wrong path, or at least several miles out of the way.

Remember Map Quest … not the current Google Maps, but the old Map Quest directions you would have to print out from the computer that often told you if you went past xyz street you have gone too far (only hours later you come to realize that you most certainly needed to pass that street to get to your final destination)? The company had the best intentions, as a site that touted themselves as an excellent source of maps and driving directions they certainly had nothing to gain by telling someone bad street names. Authors that provide guidance (in any field – writing, technology, art, you name it) have nothing to gain by telling their readers details that skip a few steps, but it’s important to note that they can’t fully comprehend every readers situation. And we shouldn’t expect them to. Because that’s insane.

The expectations we should have is to realize that the author is human (just like us) and as humans they are fallible. They are lacking in the omniscience that is required to document guidance on every level. They are guaranteed to leave something out. Oh. And they speak from a perspective of knowing how it all works. They are no longer the new and unlearned, they can no longer see things from the perspective of those of us that are figuring it all out.

The best people to write a training guide for a new job? The new employee. Why? Because they haven’t gotten settled in to how things work, they don’t know the ins and outs and are not capable of filling in the logic blanks. The new employee sees the gaps and wants to fill them. The master no longer knows there are gaps, they are able to walk through the office blind folded and avoid every desk and out of place shelf.

Be the new employee. Ask the questions. See the gaps.

Read the guides, the authors DO know what they are talking about. Just don’t rely on them as your sole source of information.

What kind of guidance have you come across that left gaps in your knowledge? Feel free to let me know, either in the comments or contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

 

Pondering Editing and Rewriting

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I’m currently firmly in the grip of the unfinished project. Sounds a bit like the title of a penny dreadful, or a scary story from childhood, or even an old school mystery novel. Although, the plot isn’t quite as interesting as any of those stories – more it’s me stumbling through my own project that I started back in November and now I’m trying to get myself back on task.

If only there were a sleuth-like protagonist to come along and sort out the clues and set me back on the right path. (Note – I am used to doing the sleuthing, so I guess I need to don my own detective’s cap and get a move on.)

If I’m being honest I know exactly why I am avoiding progressing forward with this story, and no deep dive for clues is required. I have stumbled across the realization that my series with the first person point of view is going to need to be transitioned to third person. It’s not an aesthetic choice either, it’s fairly integral to getting the correct elements of the story across. And it’s very frustrating that I wrote a good chunk of the first book before I realized this.

I have to admit that it started out easy to add in some new chapters – and was even a little fun starting to get the new details pulled together. I was getting to discover new parts of the story. Then it came time to start rewriting the existing chapters. Oh the dreaded rewrite.

And I am still muddling through. Although now it’s at a much slower and more frustrated pace.

As a result I have been shifting my focus to new projects that have a much more clear beginning and end to work towards. I can’t help but find that I am annoyed with myself for not diving further into the rewrites, for letting distractions easily pull me away to other activities.

I have spent the last week trying to come up with an effective plan to getting my edits done, and I am going to let myself focus on some of the shinier distractions through February and let March be my rewrites month. And I am not going to let myself get overwhelmed, and keep it to an hour a day of rewrites and edits so I stay supercharged to keep powering through. This schedule is realistic and still leaves me with plenty of time to focus on the articles, blog posts, and other activities that are happening.

Ultimately, at the end of the day I want to make sure that I’m still having fun with the characters, that I don’t start to dread the time I spend with them. I have a lot of stories of theirs to tell, and it would be a shame if I burn out too early on.

I’d love to hear about your own editing processes. Let me know, either in the comments or feel free to contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

Conquering Time

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Another Sunday night in the books. Preparing for another Monday morning. It always seems like time slips through our fingers so fast, so hard to hold onto each moment and always rushing headlong into the next one.

A few years ago, Valentine’s Day weekend (2015? 2016?) my husband and I were having dinner with some friends of ours with the kiddos in tow. At that dinner I announced this great idea I had to build a blog.

Life happened and the idea was put on the back burner, poking itself forward every so often, but I kept shoving it back. I didn’t have the time. I worked on computers all day, my eyes were sore and tired by the time I came home at night. I had three kids with school and activities. Excuse after excuse.

Then I went back to school. The plate was heaping. So much going on all the time, and in the middle of it all … I changed jobs. Not once. Not twice. THREE times! Signed up for volunteer efforts at the elementary school AND as a girl scout troop leader. The funniest thing? I ended up taking a class that had an assignment that required me to maintain a weekly blog.

This blog was the result.

Mind you it went through a few updates. Some functional, some aesthetic, but here we are. The plate is still too full (although I did finally concede and am taking some time off from school – definitely planning to go back, just letting that be a little later on.)

But why couldn’t I do the blog the first time I talked about it?

It was never about time. It never is. It was all about what I was willing to do, and I’ve come to realize that I was never willing to put myself out there until the class pushed me to close that gap.

Sometimes we need a nudge to help us along. Sometimes we just need to remember that we are our biggest obstacle. Instead of getting into our own heads we need to take a deep breath and leap forward, embrace the unknown. It’s amazing how the dark abyss has a glass floor that will hold us up if we just let ourselves believe and take the chance.

Was it as much work as I’d been afraid it would be? You bet.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

I’d love to hear about your own conquering of obstacles, and dealing with time. Let me know, either in the comments or feel free to contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com

Navigating the Whelms

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Sitting here today, stuck on topics (after having spent the first few days of January planning most of them out) and I have typed, and deleted, and typed, and deleted. It looked something like this (my husband called it a reenactment of a Doogie Howser episode, I realized after the fact he is right):

Knowing when … delete

Standing up … delete

BLAH

And here we are … 65 words in to the second post of 2019, and too many thoughts swirling through my head blocking out all the rest of what I intended to say this week.

With all of that said (and hopefully staying out of the way for the rest of this post) it’s a good point to consider – dealing with how to write a post, or article, or review when everything keeps insisting on taking you off track. Part of me wanted to just say no, this week is not happening, close up the laptop and call it a week. The other part of me, the part that digs in even when things seem bleak had other thoughts.

I’m in the process of planning out a new podcast series, researching a number of in depth article topics, setting up my reading list for book reviews for the year, and still working to plot out a story or two in my free time. While I am doing all of this on the side along with maintaining a full-time job, three kiddos, and being married it starts to feel a little overwhelming. When we get overwhelmed it’s easy to want to fold the cards, throw in the towel, just walk away and not look back – but that’s not who we want to be. I know that I have worked way too hard over the last year (this post marks post number 40) and we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of this blog. So instead, I want to consider how to minimize the overwhelmed, avoid the underwhelmed, and just be whelmed.

We don’t always get a say in how much ends up on our plate.  We can’t control how much, or how little, someone else might impact the load. These are a majority of what leads to that overwhelmed feeling, and knowing this ahead of time makes a huge difference. Let yourself panic – just keep it down to earth. Shake your fists, let out a groan of stress filled aggravation. Then take a deep breath and start to make sense of what has to be done.

Sometimes we have visions of projects that are going to be multi-faceted, contain many layers and that might lead to more than we can handle. Consider what actually has to be done. The bare minimum that will lead to success. Don’t stop there … just consider it for a moment.

Now, consider how to take that bare minimum and make the best impact possible while avoiding the opposite end of the spectrum … underwhelmed. You know what is needed to make what you have promised (yourself, a client, a friend, etc. …). Now raise that bar a little higher and make a list of things that you can add in that will make the statement really pop.

If you’re working out your blog posts for the year, keep them realistic. Consider how much time it takes you to write the post – is it an hour for 500 words? Make sure you know you have an hour every week available. If it’s a 2000 word article that will require intense research – make sure you give yourself a realistic deadline if you know you will have other projects on your plate.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed if we don’t plan. That’s when all the extra-shiny thoughts start to get in the way, and then it’s hard to focus on the point at hand. Bash the keyboard for a few minutes, type random words and delete, walk away and breathe – whatever you need to do to bring yourself back to the present and plan out a way to bring things back to a realistic and achievable point.

If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about how you have done with the whelms – over, under, and just plain whelmed. Let me know, either in the comments or feel free to contact me directly through the contact page or via email: hsellers@heather-sellers.com