I Almost Fell into the Trap

Let’s Get Working

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield.

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Whew. This morning I almost fell into the trap of thinking that I was stuck on my novel. I haven’t been able to work on it for a couple of days because of chores and teaching duties. When I left it last, I wasn’t quite sure what to write next, which precipitated my assumption that I couldn’t write today.

Thank heavens I remembered what Steven Pressfield, Elizabeth Gilbert, and so many other authors have said. Just sit your self down and start writing. It might not end up in the final manuscript, but that doesn’t matter. Once you begin writing you’ll get unstuck. So, I had one little idea which turned into a much bigger scene than I thought. That was nice.

Something I learned while acting and directing stage productions is that some rehearsals are just bad. There would be so many times I’d hit a roadblock on understanding, or being able to portray my character, or as a director I wasn’t able to make my actors understand what I wanted from them. The thing is, there are limited rehearsals. So, in those situations, it’s not possible to take a break, or do a retreat to work stuff out. You have to do it on the fly. You have to keep plugging forward.

Writing is sometimes like that when there is a deadline to meet, like when I’m working on these blog posts. In those cases, I just have to finish my piece as best as I can and call it good. When I’m working on my novel it’s a little bit different. I have more leeway in terms of time limits, but even then there are stages of writing that are more fun than others. I usually start off well, then after I exhaust my initial ideas, the writing gets more difficult because I have to find my way from point A, to point Z and I’m not quite sure how to get there. On the hard days I’d rather wait for inspiration, read my book, take a nap or even do housework, which I hate, rather than push forward.

To me writing is like building a house. You have to make sure you have a strong foundation. That’s the stage I’m in now with this new book. Even though much of what I’m writing won’t end up in the finished manuscript, I need to write it out. It’s like creating the blue prints. I can’t get to the sprucing up and decorating the story until I have written all the important details of the foundation that I can later pick and choose from for the final version.

I’m still young, in terms of being a writer, and I have to remember that every new project has it’s own set of problems; every first draft is crap. But as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “Done is better than good.” With each blog post, I write a rough draft, then revise it. But I have limited time, so done is better than good is my motto because I’ve pledged to myself that I will write and post once a week. I’ve done that since 2013, a fact that I’m proud of. I have now pledged to myself that I will write a sequel novel to The Space Between Time. My goal is to get the initial draft finished by next August or September, so pardon me, but I’ve got to go and get cracking on that project.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and will soon be available in a print-on-demand version at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Mind Shift from Amateur to Professional

Shakespeare - There's a Professional
Shakespeare – There’s a Professional

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

“At 20, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin.” ~ Rita Levi-Montalcini

About a year or so ago, I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it changed my life. Six years earlier I’d retired from teaching public school to follow my dream of being a writer. I thought it would be easy to work from home, another dream come true, but it wasn’t. Every morning I found all kinds of excuses and tasks to do INSTEAD of making writing my first priority. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but I’ve seen lots of people do the same thing when they attempt to follow their dream. What is it about humans that makes us sabotage ourselves? Anyway when I read Pressfield’s book I realized that there was a switch in my head that had not been flipped from amateur to professional. By the end of the book, I’d flipped the switch and I’m immensely happy that I did.

Steven Pressfield’s concept of what it means to be a professional is very simple. A professional puts the work they want to be doing first every day no matter what. For me that means that I have to set a time to be in my office everyday with my hands on the computer keys working on my latest project. Writing is my work, and I must treat it like any other job even on the days when the ideas don’t come easily, or when there is a shift from one task to another. At the end of the writing day, I may throw out all that I’ve written, but at least I stuck to my commitment.

Being creative is like anything else in life, sometimes it flows easily and other times we’re faced with difficult challenges and feel like we’ll never create anything wonderful again, we’ll never be happy again, and we’ll be stuck in our misery forever. Yet, if we are willing to do the work, we always come through to a happier situation. Our muse comes back and we find the solution to the problems we’d been struggling with.

I’m in a little bit of a lull period in terms of my fiction writing right now. My novel is in the hands of writer friends and I’m waiting to get their comments back so I know whether I need to do more work or if I can have my manuscript edited and published. That’s a completely different set of tasks. My fingers itch to be working on something creative, but so far all I’ve been writing are this blog and pieces I hope to use in marketing my book. It’s good to work on those types of writing too, but I don’t find as much joy in writing them as I do creating characters and the worlds in which they live.

As I was typing that last paragraph, I remembered a story Pressfield shares in the book about finishing his first novel. When he’d finished the first draft, he went to tell his mentor that he’d finished the book. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, but his mentor said, “Good. Now go start the next one.” Remembering that little story helps me realize that I’ve fallen down on my commitment to myself. I did what Pressfield’s mentor said when I finished the rough draft of The Space Between Time. I sat down immediately and started the sequel. But then I got caught up in revisions of the first book, which were rather extensive. I haven’t gone back to the second book even though I’ve got this span of time while I’m waiting for feedback. That’s not good. I need to be working on the sequel in addition to my promotional materials.

I’m convinced that every creative person has to find their own “voice”, their own method of creating and being a professional. Maybe it’s more about finding their own rhythm. I’m still new to this writing thing and still learning how to juggle the various parts of the process. For now, I plan to go back and do more work on the sequel to my first novel. Who knows perhaps parts of the sequel novel can be things I include in the promotional materials for this first book.

Thanks for reading. I hope you don’t mind that I used Shakespeare’s picture again this week. He’s my idea of the ultimate professional. If you’ve got ideas about how I can improve my creative process, feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

The Terror of Winning

“Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.” -Poet Antonio Machado

“Awards are so unnecessary because I think we get so much out of our work just by doing it. The work is a reward in itself.” -Natalie Portman.

“Awards are wonderful. I’ve been nominated many times and won many awards. But my journey is not towards that. If it happens it will be a blast. If it doesn’t, it’s still been a blast.” -Tom Cruise

 2013 Mayor's Arts Award Pottery Studio

This past Sunday, my husband won one of the annual Mayor’s Arts Awards in our city. Well, the pottery studio he founded won the award for Art organization that has made a significant contribution to the city and the surrounding county. It was a lovely event with five arts awards, and two humanities awards given to individuals and organizations.

It was lovely, and it made me uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my husband and his colleagues who make such a difference. I was proud of the way my husband, an introvert like I am, handled all the praise. He was gracious, humble and accepted the praise without deflecting it onto someone else. What made me uncomfortable is remembering how it feels to win an award, or even to receive praise.

I don’t do well with having huge amounts of praise heaped upon me, or having all the attention focused in my direction. If I’m teaching a class, or acting in a play, or some activity like that, I feel different about getting attention. In those instances, I’m encouraging learning, or I’m playing another person. So, the focus isn’t on me personally. But, when someone singles me out, especially in public to give me specific praise, I want to duck for cover.

I’ve just finished reading Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown, and I have to acknowledge that I do the “foreboding joy” thing when I receive praise of any kind. Foreboding joy is when something wonderful happens to you, or you feel great love or joy, and immediately you feel that some disaster is going to befall you if you lean into the good feelings. Even in little things, like when a student tells me they like the way I teach the class, I feel a twinge of discomfort before thanking them. When the praise is about a big thing, I almost feel physical pain. Here’s an example. I directed The Wizard of Oz last spring at a local elementary school. Almost all the children in the school were in the play, over two-hundred students. I got lots of praise, and it was easier to accept because of the personal work I’ve been doing, but when the praise came, I still deflected it to all the people who worked hard on the production. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due. Nevertheless, I have trouble acknowledging my own talents. It was a huge undertaking, no one involved, except me, had ever directed such a large theatrical production. It could have bombed, but it was a success, because of my years of directing experience, and because I asked for, and got lots of help. I love that collaborative process of theatre, because I’m not out there doing the creating all on my own.

Writing is a completely different matter. The words on the page come from me, or my muse, and no one else. I can’t hide behind a collaborative group of people.

As I write this post, I’m in the process of revising my first novel. It’ll be published later this year. Yes, I have readers and editors helping me, but I’m the one who created the work. I hadn’t been thinking much about getting an award for it. Then just last week, I got an email from our POD representative about this years IPPY awards. He was letting us know about the awards for independently published books, and that just happened to coincide with the pottery studio award that my husband was going to accept. Of course, in my fanciful mind, I went off on a tangent thinking what I’d do if I ever won an award for my writing. How would I feel? I know I’d cry and not be cool, calm and collected. I’d probably be like Jennifer Lawrence and trip up the steps on my way to the podium. Somehow after reading both Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, I’d be okay with that. Jennifer Lawrence, was cool, because she acknowledged how embarrassing it was to trip, and then she went on with accepting the award. She allowed herself to be imperfect. I liked that.

When Brené Brown was on Oprah’s Life Class, she said (I’m paraphrasing) “I’d mapped out a pretty small life for myself. Then my TED-X talk went viral, and I had to lean into vulnerability and acknowledge that I had to dare greatly and risk much so I could affect change and help people.”

Man can I relate to that. I’ve lived a pretty small and invisible life. And now I’m becoming a writer, and putting my work out into the world. I’ve had to embrace being vulnerable, risk failure, and criticism. My work may never go viral, but it’s still being read by people I don’t know, like many of you. That’s scary and exciting at the same time. And when people leave comments on my posts, I get a chance to examine my point of view. I get to expand my view of the world. Sure, I may get nasty comments too, but as my dad used to say, “People who hurt others are wounded themselves.” When I get those negative comments, I’ll allow myself to feel the pain, work through my process, and then move on.

Whether or not I win awards for my writing, I’m willing to come out of my shell, and offer my work to the people who will read it.  I hope that I can affect you and them in positive ways.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

Words, Words, Words

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”- Ann Landers

  Monument fire begins June 2011

Ack, that whole Duck Dynasty controversy! What a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I don’t watch the show, but, okay, so the guy showed us who he is. We all do that by what we say and do. He can’t be anything other than who he is and that goes for everyone else. Yes, he’s now a public figure. He’s probably not used to having everything he says and does scrutinized, and he’s not the first public figure to put his foot in it. I’m not saying I agree with him, but crimeny, what did the controversy accomplish? I was thinking about this latest media brouhaha, and then the other day in my writer’s group, we were discussing what can happen when you put yourself out into the world, and you get negative feedback.

One of our members has a new business, Love Based Leadership, with a book and newsletter of the same name. Recently, she began publishing short videos with leadership tips. During our meeting, she told us about some negative comments she’d received about her videos, and her process in dealing with them. Of course, at first she was devastated. We all want to be liked and supported. But here’s the thing, there’s no way we can please all the people all the time. At some point someone’s going to get rubbed the wrong way about what we’re doing, and they’ll say something. This is the thing we agreed upon, when someone says negative things to us, they’re telling us about themselves and their point of view. What they say has nothing to do with us.

Everyone has a unique perspective on the world. So, when I’m talking with anyone in private or in public, I have to remember that there will be people who won’t have the same viewpoint I do, and they may speak up and tell me what they think. The same goes for this blog, or my books. When I get a negative comment, I get to choose if I’ll react, or respond. As Wayne Dyer says, “We choose whether or not to be offended.” Does being offended by what someone else says, serve any purpose? Some people just thrive on controversy. However, there may be times, when speaking up helps raise public awareness, but most of the time it just causes a bigger fracas, which serves no one.

And another thing, when I’m challenged, I have a chance to assess the situation. Am I being challenged by someone who is open minded and willing to have a calm exchange of ideas, or not? If not, I steer clear of that person. They are energy vampires. For some reason controversy makes them feel more powerful. It’s an illusion, of course. What it really does is show their vulnerability and fear.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m not stung when someone makes a nasty comment about something I’ve created. My ego is just as fragile as most people’s. However, I have learned to take a breath and work through my hurt feelings. That’s what we were talking about in my writer’s group. How to overcome those terrible feelings when someone doesn’t appreciate what we have to offer. It takes practice to allow others to have their own point of view. It also takes practice not to be hurt when someone doesn’t like us, but it can be accomplished.

The bottom line is this: When we put ourselves out in the wider world, the negative comments are reminders that we’re doing something right. I mean, who wants to be a milk-toast and never get noticed? I have to remind myself, that what I’m doing is important, even if it’s just for my own soul development. Since that’s the case, I’m determined not to let anyone stop me from following my inner voice. I hope you won’t let anyone stop you either.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

Trust Yourself and Open Up

“One of the things that I’ve worked my way out of doing, and I knew I needed to, was comparing myself to other people. That just poisons everything…Your real job in the world is to be you.” India.Arie on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey

I was watching Super Soul Sunday last Sunday and I caught the last half of Oprah’s interview with India.Arie. I’d never heard of her before that interview, but as she talked about her creative life and her spiritual awakening, she might have been talking about aspects of my life. I’ve struggled to be creative on my own terms. I didn’t think I was worthy enough to share my deepest, truest feelings, and gifts with anyone except for a select few. I was a people pleaser.

I was insecure about my writing in the beginning, so, I decided to take a writing class at the local community center. I worked hard on the pieces I presented to the class. When I read over my selections, I thought they were pretty good. However, I was devastated when the teacher told me she thought my work was guarded. I could be sharing so much more of myself and capturing the emotions of the readers. I felt like I’d shared some very emotional experiences in my work, but she didn’t see it that way.

Her good opinion meant so much to me. At the time I was writing a memoir. I took what she said to heart and worked for two years to peel away the protective layers to reveal my true self. My memoir went through lots of revisions. When I thought it was finished, I gave it to a couple of people to read for a critique. They liked it. So, I thought it was ready for a real critique. I contacted my former writing teacher and sent her my memoir.

In my mind, it was ready for publication. But, again, she told me that my work was too guarded. In her opinion, I was detached from the events I was relating. I needed to take more chances to reveal myself, the good and the bad. There was one ray of hope, though. She said that I should keep writing. That I had talent and that from the little she knew of me, she felt like I was a warm caring person. I just needed to let that person show through my writing.

She did me a big favor. Though I was deeply disappointed, I knew I was being presented with a fantastic opportunity. I’d been a guarded introvert for most of my life. Maybe it was time to let the real me out of her box. On the other hand I wasn’t sure I was ready to be that vulnerable. The next week, I told my writer’s group I thought I’d eventually turn my memoir into a novel, because it’s easier to hide my true self behind a fictionalized story.

My feelings about the failure of my memoir were too raw to pick it up again. I set it aside. The beginnings of a novel I’d started years before sat in a file on one of our old computers. I decided to make a fresh start and work on the novel thinking I could maintain my anonymity in a work of fiction. How naive I was.

During that time, I stepped up my spiritual practice and as always happens, little by little I realized that I couldn’t hide who I was any longer. If I was going to be an effective writer, I had to slice through the armor I’d been wearing and let people see the real me. The best stories touch us because the teller has revealed a part of herself.

It’s a scary prospect to reveal the real me to the world, but I’ve decided to risk it. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog.

Not long ago I saw the movie, Snow White and the Huntsman. One of my favorite things to do is to use the Internet Movie Database app on my phone and find out as much as I can about the movie I’m watching. It’s all part of my process of analyzing the plot, characters and themes of the story. I don’t often read the user reviews. When I was reading information about Snow White and the Huntsman, I noticed the titles of some of the user reviews and was appalled at the negativity. I liked the movie and decided I had an opportunity to share my true thoughts and feelings by writing a positive review of the movie. It’s a good place to start, because a review is supposed to be written in a little bit of a detached style, but the writer’s opinion still comes through. I have to say, it felt good to share my opinion and let it go out into the world. I plan to keep writing book and movie reviews when I feel the urge. It’s good writing practice.

If you want to see what I wrote about Snow White and the Huntsman, here’s the link. http://imdb.com/title/tt1735898/reviews-673

I’m still working on my novel. I’ll let you read portions of it from time to time. You can tell me what you think about it. Please feel free to comment on my blog posts too. If you think I’m hiding my true thoughts and feelings. I want you to tell me. Thanks for reading.