Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Member Tea

Austin RWA has a tradition I really like. The chapter holds a new member tea where new members can meet each other and board members and published authors in a relaxed setting. We get to laugh together, introduce ourselves and new members can ask questions—about the chapter and/or about how the publishing world works.

Writing is a solitary occupation. And we writers often see the world a little differently than everyone else does. It helps to have a support group of fellow writers who understand about the moments our characters start arguing with us and the moments when we doubt our own skills as writers. It's great to have people who can look at our work and tell us what's good as well as what we can improve and who can celebrate our achievements with us.

We all long—writers or not—for that sense of connection with others. Austin RWA has found a great way to help us achieve that.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cell Phones and Playing What If?

I keep my cell phones forever—until they die. This week my flip phone literally fell apart. So I went shopping for a new one. I was pleased to discover I could get one free that for now uses my current plan with my wireless company but will let me upgrade to all sorts of nifty features later—IF I choose. But I don't have to.

It made me think about how different people approach life. Some want the latest stuff—whether they can afford it or not. Some always choose the cheapest option—even if they could afford better and from an objective point of view they would be better off doing so. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, trying to find a balance in between most and least expensive based on what matters to us.

As a writer, of course, and because I'm teaching an online course on creating characters starting this Monday, I immediately started picturing different characters going into a cell phone store and the different phones they would choose.

It's a useful exercise for any writer about any kind of purchase. If your character went into a store to buy anything—food, clothes, cell phone, toy, etc.--what kind would they choose and why? To take it a step further, one could ask: What would the people around them (friends, family and/or co-workers) think and say about that purchase?

One of the great things about being a writer is getting to play games like this!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wise Sophy

I've mentioned my dog Sophy before. She's pretty smart. I knew that but this week she's taken things to a new level.
Sophy has tried a number of things to get my attention when I'm working. When she realized that sitting there looking cute wasn't enough, she tried pawing my foot. When I shrieked but went back to ignoring her she tried barking. When that didn't work, she tried climbing in my lap and since she's a fairly large dog that's quite a trick!

But this week Sophy discovered something new. Sometimes when I need to unwind I use my Wii. Naturally, Sophy disapproves since she thinks if I'm not working I should be paying attention to her!

She tried helping me with Wii Fit and seemed very surprised that I didn't appreciate her help so now she sort of grumbles but just watches. Mostly. She did, however, come up with a very effective method of stopping me from playing other Wii games. She climbs on my lap and starts kissing me! I start laughing so much that I put down the controller and pet her because who can be mad at someone who is being so affectionate?

Then I was thinking about how rarely we humans are as smart as Sophy. When one thing doesn't work with a fellow human we care about, how often do we keep trying new things and how often do we keep trying the same thing--maybe more forcefully? Above all, if we want someone to pay more attention to us, how often do we get angry and vehemently say so versus how often do we become more loving--as Sophy has?

Here's to smart dogs and the wisdom they can teach us!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Coping With Challenges

I've been think a lot about challenges this week. In part it's because of challenges facing friends and because of what we see on the news. It's also in part because I'm working out my class lessons for my Perfect Pitch workshop (and pitching to editors and agents can certainly be stressful), and because I'm looking at story structure in my Book in a Week class.

What I keep coming back to is the realization that the stronger we feel, the more sure of our self-worth (or the quality of our writing), the easier it is to face challenges head on.

This is true for our characters, too, if we're writers. If we're going to have our characters step out of their comfort zone and do something that has in the past scared them, our readers are far more likely to believe the scenario IF we show how in some way our characters have come to believe more in themselves and their capabilities.

So if we are facing a challenge of any kind, one of the best things we can do is make a list of our strengths and past successes. This list is a reminder that we have succeeded in the past and can succeed again. When we focus on the best we can be, we are far more likely to find the incentive and courage and resilience to become even better.

We can make a list of resources available to us—which for so many includes faith in something greater than ourselves.

We can make a list of things that make us smile and make a point of using that list to create reasons to smile every day no matter what is happening to or around us. Most of us weren't raised to think this way but truly it helps to build resilience and better health and encourages our ability to find creative solutions to our challenges.

How do you face challenges and/or what might your characters do to face theirs?