Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Hundred Rejections

A rejection came in my e-mail box this morning just after the other one that arrived last night. Now they just roll off me like water off a duck's back. Rejections that is...Or rather, refusals--someone's decision not to use your idea, your story, hire you, _________ (You fill in the blank). No one likes them. We all get them. And as writers, we actively put ourselves out there to get them!

Someone in sales once told me: "Look to get 100 no's first." I'm still counting as I've run out of fingers and toes. It's not yet one hundred (Do I really have to wait?), but I must say, these refusals have been sporadically interspersed with "Yes's". So where does that leave me? Where does that leave us as emerging and even accomplished writers looking to put our voice out there?

It strikes me that while I wait for that "Yes," I should be writing more, not less. I should be working on my next great piece of writing that will get me a yes. For that just might be the creative piece that does it--and if I had sat there wallowing in my self-pity from the no's I'd gotten, then I would never write again. Writing is funny that way. For some reason, the creativity flows, despite the no's.

How do you handle your no's? Have you reached 100 yet? Does it make the "Yes" sweeter?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lists: a Give-Away and Fodder for a Blog Hop!

Lists: Grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists, invitee lists, checklists, listing pros and cons...Do you make lists?

There exists a legion of listy type books out there, devoted to all kinds of lists, what to list, how to make them, what to make of them. I found one I'd purchased at a second-hand bookstore recently, called Lists to Live By: For everything that really matters (The Third Collection) by Alice Gray, Steve Stephens and John Diest (2001). It's a handy little tome that got me thinking about my life as a list or as a series of lists.

We list things that are important to us. What is important to YOU? Here is a blog challenge. Become a follower here, then send me an e-mail (kelhowarth@yahoo.com) with the link to your blog with your creative list post by October 12, 2010. I'll then create a specific blog post, listing each of your links so people can blog hop to read your lists. Some themes to ponder: Self-Esteem Builders, Time Management, Being a good friend. Get creative! There will be no limit to what people can choose to list.

Each person who participates will receive via e-mail, my FREE pdf format Just Do IT To Do List, a tool I created to track tasks and projects.

Happy Listing!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Waiting to Worry

A friend sent me a most interesting e-mail...you know, the ones you find in your Inbox with some tidbit of wisdom. This one was different: it was an excerpt from a book called Attitude is Everything by Vicki Hitzges, who talks about the concept of waiting before you start to worry. Isn't that a wonderful idea? You tell yourself that Event A has not yet happened and that you will not worry about it until it does. When it happens, then you can worry! Chances are you'll be too busy handling it to worry about it. Or chances are greater that it will never happen.

Sounds simple and actually simplistic, doesn't it? Much of our worry happens because of the messages we tell ourselves--you know, that little 'nAgative' tape that plays inside our head. The idea to apply this act of detaching from the outcomes and thus from worry, to our every day lives, makes sense. It helps us conserve valuable life energy for what really matters in the present. So next time you're tempted to worry about something, take a deep breath, count to ten...and then shelve it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You listen...but do you REALLY listen?

Listening is a funny thing. We have two ears and one mouth, yet which do we use the most? Mostly our mouth. I want to speak here about active listening...so listen up!

What's so active about listening? You may think that all listening entails merely hearing. That's the biological function of our ears. Listening can actually be a very creative and intellectual endeavor. But it's not something to take lightly or for those of us who are not in the mood. Let me explain...

Active listening  is NOT: interrupting, judging, taking over the conversation, tuning out, giving advice or pretending to listen.

Active listening is:
  • Acknowledging
  • Paraphrasing
  • Reflecting feelings
  • Empathizing
  • Genuinely showing interest


We acknowledge our speaker by saying, "Go on," "Uh huh," or "Tell me more...."

We paraphrase, not parrot, by repeating in our own words, what the speaker has said: "So you're saying that..."

Reflecting feelings can be applied to both strong positive or negative feelings from our speaker. Example, someone slams the door. What are they saying? Rather than respond by telling them not to slam the door, you can say, "Seems like you're angry..." or simply, "You're feeling angry (frustrated, etc.).

Empathizing is not showing pity or sympathy, but rather understanding. Instead of saying "I understand," say what it is that you understand: "I understand that you are feeling worried about that..."

Be mindful that we often tune out when we disagree with what the speaker is saying. It's important to detach if you disagree, not take it personally. Understand that "the opinions expressed here..." --you know the drill! You need to be genuine and genuinely interested. Sometimes it's okay to let someone know you aren't particularly interested in discussing a topic. I do that with my DH when he talks about football because I just don't get it and don't wish to! Otherwise, I feign listening and my eyes glaze over. You know how that happens. We all do that at times.

Listening begets listening. Sales representatives know this--good ones anyway. When they listen to you, you often listen to them. When you listen to someone, you're giving them a gift. They feel good and cared about. When we actively listen, we relieve ourselves of the burden of solving other people's problems.

So next time you're tempted to say something, just listen...REALLY listen, with both ears and an open heart and mind.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To be or NOT to be

Is your writing bogged down by the verb "to be"? Words like "are," "were," "is," and other derivatives of "to be" don't contribute to moving your story forward. In fact, they slow it down or stop it dead.. The passive voice makes your story weak.

As writers we often suffer from To be-itis. This is no surprise, and it parallels the same disease that stops us dead in our tracks as we navigate our lives. The wanna-bes, the shoulds and should nots, the if only I could be's...all contribute to our life stuckness as well as the stuckness in our writing.

Consider this simple example: "They were at the party, dancing." Now, let's rephrase that to: "They danced at the party." Which sentence is more readable? Which one makes you feel like you also attended the party?


What "to-be's" do you use in your life and in your writing? Look closely and you'll find that the best way to move your story along is to use active verbs, the same action verbs that provide the fodder for a life well-lived.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What could you do with just 20 minutes a day?

Busy. Busyness. Running. Here and there. No time. Let's suppose you could carve just 20 minutes out of your day to do something you're passionate about. Let's suppose that passion is writing. Molly Peacock, poet and creative nonfiction writer (CBC.ca) talks about finding 20 minutes in your day to write. In fact, she assigns her students the task of writing just 14 lines of poetry in that 20 minutes using a timer. I love this idea! Just 20 minutes of your day...every day: part of a lunch hour, a fragment of a commute, a period of time spent waiting in the myriad of lines and offices (See my very first post called Wait Mode). Peacock even suggests that you can produce the material for a book with a year of 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week and 14 lines at a time! What a concept! What can YOU do with 20 minutes a day? Now go set your timer and get busy doing what you love for 20 minutes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

At Home Learning

Eighteen years ago we embarked on a special family journey and this past weekend I read about it in The Globe and Mail. It was the decision not just to keep our son out of school, but to actually unschool him--let him take the lead in his own learning using life as curriculum. We did this for his entire elementary and high school years.

At the time, I felt like a pioneer of sorts. Today this practice of unschooling or deschooling is becoming more mainstream, and according to this Globe and Mail article, schools are taking notice and learning from it.

It is said that you never regret the things you do, but rather the things you don't do. I have only one regret around unschooling: having second-guessed myself the whole time!

To learn more about our unschooling journey as it unfolded, visit At Home Learning, my web page dedicated to unschooling. If you're unschooled or unschooling, I'd love to hear from you! Tell me about YOUR journey.

Read The Globe and Mail article "More families are deciding that school's out--forever" to learn more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Color Purple

Purple is the color of passion. Purple can also describe the passion we apply to writing. Flowery descriptions can overshadow the message we're trying to convey. It's called purple prose.And it weighs down our writing. Next time you write a piece ask yourself if you can say it with less adjectives and adverbs. My writing colleague who graciously edits my work says, "Show, don't tell." Sometimes it's a matter of a well-placed metaphor rather than a long flowery description. Aim for economy of words to create a vivid picture for your reader--one of many colors, not just purple.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Baring it All

Today I'm wearing pink underwear with green polka dots. Can you see them? NOT! But if I tell you where I live, I may as well be showing off my underwear. We seem to have become a transparent society through the Internet. People show and tell all via various social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. I recently read someone's Facebook page, filled with their summer travels, followed by a post with an open invitation to a summer party, along with their street address. As much as I'd like to believe that people are inherently good, I draw the line at openly sharing personal coordinates on a forum where we just don't know who may be viewing them and for what purpose. I also notice the way proud parents list the names and ages of their minor children, complete with updated photos. It makes me wonder if this is prudent parenting, especially given what we know about predators trolling the Internet for vulnerable children.

While the Internet provides a fabulous tool for promotion and self-promotion, we need to guard our core privacy. That includes the privacy of our littlest ones who cannot speak for themselves. We live in an era where the media glamorizes and popularizes baring it all by the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and countless other celebrities. Some of us may fall prey to utilizing the Internet to carve fame of our own. Let's be real here--how much do we respect these people who display for the world to see, the not-so-flattering aspects of their lives? Learning that Paris has been caught with cocaine is no different to me than reading someone's Facebook entry about going on a drinking binge last night and feeling hungover today. It's just not enlightening.

What are you telling the world about yourself? Is it really what you want people to know? Are you inadvertently showing YOUR underwear?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Returning to School? Learn to Study Smarter, Not Harder

As the lazy days of summer reluctantly give way to the chill in the autumn air, new fall routines begin once again and these may include studying and school. If you're a returning student, you may quickly rebound, but if you're new to school and studying, perhaps returning after many years away, then read on. This article explores how to make your journey easier.

First of all, know that most adults return to studies because of some life transition. It is this life transition that can rear its head time and again throughout your studies, to challenge you so that you may lose sight of why you embarked on this in the first place. Be gentle with yourself.

You may find yourself walking into your new program of study asking yourself if you really belong there, questioning yourself and wondering if you can do it. YES, you can! And you will. Before you know it, you will adapt as it begins to feel like you've always been there. Again, be gentle with yourself.

I'm not here to tell you the obvious: be organized, set goals, manage your time, etc. You know all that and more! You've likely been running your life and household for years, so you know what you need to do. However, successful studying is not about quantity or studying harder. Rather, it's about studying smart. Some people believe you need to study a lot or often. Actually, it's about studying efficiently. Did you know that we spend six years of our lives waiting in line, waiting in general and watching television? Think of what you can now do with all that time in the face of your studies. Get into the habit of toting with you, your materials, books, notes...and use these times to read and reread. You'll be well prepared for exams because you won't be cramming (A little note here for writers who feel they just can't find the time to write: you, too, can use wait times to write!).

Know thyself! How do you learn best? Are you auditory and learn best by listening? Are you visual and learn best by observing or reading? Are you tactile or kinesthetic and learn best by touching or doing? Good teaching involves all three types of delivery of the learning. As learners, however, it is important to know how you learn and then use this knowledge to become a better learner. To understand your learning style, type into GOOGLE, the keywords "Learning Styles" and do one of the quizzes online. Also see my page above titled Multiple Intelligences to learn more about your natural gifts as a learner. When we know ourselves, we can get what we need. This takes the guesswork out of our learning.

You never stop learning; it's an endeavor you do from cradle to grave, both formally and informally. Whether you're taking a course for fun or for professional reasons, you are responsible for your success. Have a wonderful start to your new beginnings as a learner!

Have you had to go back to school and retrain as an adult? What tip or advice can you offer? What worked for you?