Heather Sellers

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections for the New Year

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We have taken our first steps into the new year, and I have started looking at all that means. New Goals for the new year. Reflection on last year. Making an active choice for how I set the tone for 2019.

My last post of 2018 talked about success and failure, and how to see success in accomplishments, even if they don’t seem like it. I followed my last post up by taking the end of 2018 off to focus on family time, and to reflect on what I felt about the last year. To really think about how I could build on my successes to have more accomplishments, more successes, in 2019. Ultimately I decided that I ended 2018 with a positive outlook and I want to make sure I bring that in to the new year.

I have found that goal planning sometimes manages to open the door to negativity, to stress, and that is something that I really needed to take the time to think about what was causing this reaction. In order to break that down I want to share what my original goals looked like versus what I finally settled on.

My original goal was very simple. Write 250 words a day, every day. For 365 days. I thought this would be an easily accomplished goal, and at first I was feeling good about it. Then I took the last weeks of the year off of everything and began to doubt if that was a big enough goal to really challenge me.

Because, for me, a goal should not just be able to be completed, it also needs to push me to do more, to grow and really discover what I can do. And this wasn’t doing that.

After some careful meditation, I realized that not only did I need a challenge, and to show myself what I was capable of, I also need to take on projects that would capture my interest.

My new goals removed the 250 words per day – and added in articles, blog posts, and book reviews. I have things I’d like to make happen – more short stories, continue to work on my novel from November’s NaNoWriMo, and getting my podcast back on track – but these are the above and beyond accomplishments, and not the front and center spotlights of what I want to accomplish this year.

After changing my focus I sat down and chose how many articles and book reviews to write, and decided that at a minimum I want to do six of each. I have already selected topics for research and I’m excited for what is coming. I’m also looking at new book release lists for books coming out this year and I’ve already selected a few that are outside of my normal reading list which will introduce me to new authors and new topics.

The new goals made me feel better about where I was starting out in the new year, and I am looking forward to what’s coming.

If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about how you have done with your own goals – past and present. 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

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

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In preparation of the craziness that can sometimes go hand in hand with the holidays I took advantage of an offer to head up to the mountains last weekend, and took a couple of days off from the world. The kids loved the snow, and the outdoor heated pool in the snow, and the adults were overjoyed at a clean house that didn’t require extra effort on their part.

Now we’re back to the regular world, getting in the extra hours to pad time off for the holiday season, shopping for last minute gifts (welcome to my boat if by last minute it also means all of them), struggling through the uphill battle of housework, and realizing that I feel a little bit like a failure because not a single decoration has been put up. Sometimes it is important to accept that not being able to keep all the balls in the air does not equal failure. Asking for help does not render you incapable. Sometimes things are going to slide off the plate, it’s how we choose to handle these situations that define us.

We spend so much time measuring our success by how much we do, measuring our value by how much we make, and when those things do not align we convince ourselves we have to pile more and more on to the plate to achieve something that seems out of our reach. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Now look around you.

Did you write something this year? Not this month, or this week, or even today. This year. Success!

Are you putting one foot in front of the other and keeping the bills paid (even if just barely)? Success!

Be aware that sometimes little successes are just as important, and just as celebrate-worthy as the big ones. Sometimes even more so because they are the foundation for the bigger successes.

Failure is giving up. Letting obstacles set you back. Success is overcoming. See possibility instead of problems.

I submitted a short story to a Writer’s Digest contest a couple months ago (back in September, read about it in the post Now That You Know You Can), and I got my notification email on Thursday. At first it felt like I had failed. They thanked me for my submission, but I didn’t end up on the list of winners or those that would receive honorable mentions in the article.

I let myself throw a pity party. I drowned in my sorrow for a minute (two if I’m being entirely honest). Then I picked myself up, shook myself off and decided two things.

One. I had succeeded. I submitted something for the first time ever. Success! Two. I was going to keep pushing forward and realizing more successes. I didn’t accept this as a sign of defeat – instead I chose to see it as an opportunity to lead me to new successes. Bigger ones.

Don’t let one moment of setback put failure in your mind – not a writing rejection, not a house that could be cleaner, and not the lack of holiday decorations at home. Keep taking the moment to look around and see the little successes. Let them push you forward to the next one. Maybe next time it makes the cut. And if not, let it guide you forward even more.

If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about your own obstacles, how you overcome failure, or even some of your successes. 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

NaNoWriMo is Over – How Does it Feel?

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We’ve come to the end of NaNoWriMo 2018 and I just want to start this week’s post by saying congratulations to everyone that participated, it was a long road and you did it!!

Statistics time – what did the numbers look like?

The goal for NaNoWriMo winner’s is 50,000 words and I ended the month with 19,322 words so it was not an official win. What the last week’s daily stats looked like:

  • Monday, November 26th – 98 words
  • Tuesday, November 27th- 691 words
  • Wednesday, November 28th – 1493 words
  • Thursday, November 29th – 100 words
  • Friday, November 30th – 222 words

While I did not win the official challenge I feel like I accomplished a different challenge. I created better writing habits. Even on days where I only managed to eke out a paragraph I managed to maintain my writing time. I got to realize that working full time and raising kids doesn’t mean I don’t have time for my writing and that was a huge success for me all else aside.

I’ll be using my newfound appreciation for my writing time to actually finish the 50k words for my novel over the month of December and possibly even pushing into January if I find that my story keeps going. The new goal? Finish my novel and see what comes next.

What are some of the lessons I learned through the whole experience?

I have to say that I thought outlining would be my saving grace and in a way I definitely feel like that gave me a focus when writing was hard, but otherwise it seemed to be a piece of the process that got in my way. Do I think this will be a problem for everyone? Absolutely not. Some people work very well with outlines – and this was the first time I tried to use one, if I do another outline I will definitely make it a point to go more in depth with it, see if that makes a difference.

Some things I have heard people talk about during the month – sacrificing everything so they could win. This was a curious thought to me, because I certainly can appreciate having to give up things during the month to make my writing happen where I could. Things like binge watching TV, or playing cell phone games as a way to wind down. But sacrificing everything? This is something that seems not healthy, or even feasible in some ways.

The author’s I heard foregoing a good night’s rest to make their word counts? They now lose the entire month of December as they try to “catch up” on lost sleep. Other things that are difficult to give up for a month? Work, kids, school, relationships with those that are important (spouses, significant others, etc. …) – unless you were lucky enough to have time off for the month, or maybe have started your NaNo career before or after children, in which case this is a little easier.

When you get down to making the list of things to give up, make sure you sacrifice the things that really are just extra. Take care of yourself, get good rest, eat right, make it a point to do healthy activities. Unless you trained for the marathon you should consider that the steps you took are going to take you farther than the ones you didn’t take.

Do I think I’ll do NaNo next year? Undecided. It may not be for me, but I am glad I did it. If nothing else it opened my eyes to different ways of thinking and new processes that I can use to protect my writing time.

Did you win NaNoWriMo? How did it feel to participate this year? If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about how your NaNoWriMo went. 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

NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Coming to the End

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I am still pushing forward, trying to hold on to some steam, but as the month charges forward to its last week I am looking over the progress of the last several weeks and considering what it all means to me.

I don’t expect to count myself in this year’s winner circle for NaNoWriMo, and I mentioned last week that not winning is okay. And it is. Because we have to admit that winning isn’t just about the 50,000 words at the end of the month. How many words did you write in October? Or September? Or even this time last year? I know how many words I wrote in September only because I was tracking for my short story, but before that – or even after – I couldn’t really say for sure. This month has helped me find a way to track how much and how often I write. And it’s definitely more than I have written in one month than ever before. That’s a win in my book.

What the last week’s stats look like:

  • Monday, November 19th – 767 words
  • Tuesday, November 20th- 736 words
  • Wednesday, November 21st- 100 words
  • Thursday, November 22nd- 80 words
  • Friday, November 23rd- 123 words
  • Saturday, November 24th- 477 words
  • Sunday, November 25th- 1717 words

I’ve hit a total of 16,718 words so far over the 25 days of NaNoWriMo, and with not having even hit the halfway mark that could be a let down. I refuse to see it that way. Instead I am going to remind myself that hitting 16,000 words is a plus for someone who has never written a novel before. A couple months ago was the first time I’d ever written a story that was complete. This month is the first time I’ve ever created an outline. Maybe next month (or the next) will be the first time I write the first draft of a novel.

Make note of your writing firsts and celebrate them. If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about how they went. 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

NaNoWriMo Week Three – Recap and Some Perspective

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This last week has been kick your teeth in exhausting, and I can safely say I am not proud of my progress so far. Less than two weeks left and I am not sure if I’ll make the 50,000 words needed to “win” NaNoWriMo. I’ve been dealing with how I feel about that, and after much thinking I have decided I feel okay with it.

If nothing else it helped push me to write every day this month, and I’ll try to continue that through next month as well. After all, my real goal is to finish my novel. Since it’s my first one I have to accept that there are some growing pains, give myself a bit of slack for the learning curve.

This last week has been crazy at work, lots of long hours and a great night at an Evening With Neil Gaiman on Wednesday. While all of that factored in to low word counts I did make myself write every day – I have started hopping back and forth on different chapters so I haven’t finished as many this week.

Without further adieu, my week’s stats looked like this:

  • Monday, November 12th – 37 words
  • Tuesday, November 13th- 2311 words
  • Wednesday, November 14th- 82 words
  • Thursday, November 15th- 80 words
  • Friday, November 16th- 67 words
  • Saturday, November 17th- 1131 words
  • Sunday, November 18th- 555 words

Tuesday was the best night, I took my laptop with me and sat in the car while the kiddos were at practice. Chilly fingers flew across the keyboard and kept me busy while I waited, and it definitely was worth it! Lots more work to go, and while it would be easy to let myself be dragged down by my lack of progress I am instead using it as inspiration to push harder next week. With a four day weekend on the horizon maybe I’ll catch up!

Remember, even if we don’t win this challenge, it’s a great opportunity to let us see where we are in our writing habits and that is more than worth it! If you’re participating how are things going for you? I’d love to hear about your experience with NaNoWriMo. 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