Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's on first, no who's on first, no....

Ugh--don't you just hate the word "priorities?" It seems such a prissy word and for us creative types it seems far too rigid, too much business and lists and no fun--and yet I now believe "priorities" is a power word--if used right.

If you're a creative person like me you may need to return to priorities often. I sure do! I've got so much great stuff going on and it's so easy to find more (I just thought of another short story idea! There's another class idea! and...and) that it's powerful to just stop and take a moment to ask: what's on first? What's closest to my heart? Right now, for me, it's finishing a close to final draft of my current w.i.p. When I remind myself of that, when I prioritize, my focus increases, my energy increases and I'm more effective and successful at getting everything done.

So: do you prioritize? If so, why? How often?

TIP: Turn off your computer games--it's amazing how much time we all waste on those games! (Yeah, I'm guilty of that, too.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

How to get Five Bucks...Redux

My upcoming class begins this Saturday, April 28th, so I wanted to give everybody another opportunity to get 5 dollars off the class--all you do is mention this blog! Easy!

For more info on my classes go to True North Creative Learning Center (and the five bucks off works for all my classes--what a deal).

I've got some fun classes for both adults and TEENS coming up this summer...more later...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Creating a sacrosanct time

Ooh, big issue for me this week. I realized that only one day this week did I honor my sacred writing time. Yeah, I gots tons and tons of reasons (read excuses) but none of them work because my writing time is early morning, i.e. when nothing's going on, nobody's open--so...? Why didn't I honor what is close to my heart, my soul, perhaps even my reason for existing?

For me: fear. Maybe for most people...fear of failure. When I get my current project into it's final draft (and I'm getting close) then I have to submit it! EEK! Never mind that I am already submitting it to various venues (more about that later) somehow it feels too real to get this close! So I distract myself. I tell myself I'm not a morning person. So? I tell myself I need to do X for the classes I'm teaching. So? I have the time.

And what if I succeed? EEK! What does that mean? Reaching a deadline and finishing anything creative sometimes feels like a death, or at the very least, letting your baby out into the world--even harder when a piece of mine sells--then it's not even mine anymore!

So, what are your roadblocks, excuses, distractions that are keeping you from honoring your true self?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Projection isn't just film

I've been working on my class and this is one thing that I've really been thinking about and thinking about shifting because I believe it gets in the way of happiness and yes, success! Projection, I do this all the time (although I suspect I'm not the only one) and sometimes it doesn't matter--sometimes it's the crux of my stumbling.

I project onto other people what I'm thinking and feeling. If that was only it, well, it'd be bad enough, and certainly common enough--but when I also project what I'm thinking about myself onto them, that's real bad. And real easy! It goes like this: a friend is staring in the direction of my pants and I think: "Ohmigosh! Aaah! She knows that I ate three candy bars for dessert for lunch! She's thinking that I shouldn't be an exercise instructor because I ate three candy bars for dessert! AARGH!"

And the truth is my friend isn't even seeing my pants or the inexistent guilty bulge of three candy bars, she just staring in a direction because she's realized she forgot to pay the electric bill and that's why the lights didn't turn on this morning. Or something else that has nothing to do with me!

So that's one form of me projecting--here's another: I haven't heard from a publisher or an agent about my submission what I think is way too long--so they must be rejecting me, right? Yes, yes, I know everybody (including me) is overwhelmed these days and that it takes time for people to respond, even in the age of e-mail...but...but...but sometimes all my projecting is completely wrong. Sometimes it's a long-awaited yes--and sometimes a rejection comes very quickly. So all that agony was for nothing.

When I catch myself "projecting" now, I tell myself "stop, you don't know--why waste energy thinking/feeling like you do?" And it always helps.

And I can ask my friend: "Are you looking at my big behind?" To which, and yes, I may be projecting, the answer might be: "Your big behind? I should have such a 'big behind' you crazy woman you."

Sunday, April 8, 2007

When to just say no, thanks

So, after my previous post, you may be wondering, did Conda just change her mind? Not that I don't do that sometimes but there are reasons to NOT workshop. Here are the ones that come to my mind:

First, workshopping replaces whatever creative endeavor you're doing. I've seen this happen with friends who instead of writing, writing, writing and then submitting, submitting, submitting go to workshops. "I'm waiting until I attend 'blank' workshop in June," a good friend used to tell me, "because I know I'll have learned such-and-such and any writing would be a waste of time." I never knew how to point out the fallacy of her thinking because I suspected that there was always another workshop and her novel would never be finished. Unfortunately, because she had a wonderful premise and a great start, I was right.

Second, if for any reason a particular workshop doesn't seem to fit you. If you're not excited by the prospect of taking a particular workshop, either in person, or online, if it doesn't resonate with you for whatever reason, don't take it. Even if it seems like it would be a good idea. Even if your best friend loved, adored, and is now successful from "X" workshop they attended, don't go. It doesn't matter why--maybe that particular workshop is just not you, not your tastes or style, or just not you at this particular time. And workshops do cost time and money.

And that brings us to our last reason for not attending a workshop. If you're on a tight budget of time and/or money like most of us are (after all, we're artists, we're supposed to be starving) then pick and choose what you use those resources for. Perhaps, if you're a writer, a conference might work better for you than a workshop. Or buy a book from a workshop instructor and give yourself an inexpensive version. Or just invest more time in your craft.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Why workshops aren't work

Sometimes I get asked: "You're a published author, why do you spend money and time on workshops?"

Okay, all you creative types out there reading this are moaning, I can hear it, loud and clear. But it's a great question, really, and not just an indication of the cluelessness of the asker.

So why attend workshops? What do I get out of them now? After all, I've been to a bazillion of 'em, and they worked--I'm published and published. So why spend the money and the time to go? Why not use the time, money, energy for something else--like submitting a manuscript or writing a new story, or buying more paper, or instead of Donald Maass' excellent, superb intensive workshop, going on vacation or buying a new computer!

Good points, huh? Or at least on the surface--only taking a workshop in writing, (like any other creative pursuit, I suspect) is completely different from taking a workshop in the newest version of Excel, or one in worker productivity in the workplace, or--well, you get the idea.

I think this is because workshops for creative endeavors are not only about something that is completely subjective--but because we learn differently when it's something creative. We use a different part of the brain, a part that almost needs to be disengaged from the "logical" side to engage. Read "Drawing on the Left Side of the Brain" for more of what I'm talking about.

All I know is, every workshop I've attended has done several wonderful things for me. I've always left energized and re-focused on my work. I've learned important things from each workshop that have improved my writing. My ideas come faster and stronger after a workshop and I'm more effective with expressing those ideas. And last, but not least, it's always a blast being with like-minded (crazy for loving to write) people.

So why not go to every workshop you can find? Something about that in the next post.

HINT: If you live in a remote place where it's costly to travel to a major city for a workshop and/or you're a starving artist like far too many of us, there are online workshops available that are inexpensive and excellent. No, it's not quite the same as pressing the flesh with warm fuzzy looney-people, but online workshops do provide even more one-on-one with an instructor through e-mail.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Making love to change

Change isn't a person, although it might be easier to deal with if it was! No, change is what we exist in, every day, all day, every moment. Of course, yeah right, simple. And yet, I like everybody else, struggle to accept what is so simple, so real.

Maybe it's because of the feeling of total lack of any control: I can change and affect some things, or so I try to make myself believe, for example, if I don't finish a manuscript and submit it, no way will it get published. It's not magic, I have control of those elements. The "magical thinking" comes into play with: This market will buy it because...writing is subjective and there's no true control once I've done my part.

But so many other parts of life don't even have that piece of "my control." The weather, for example, I'd like it to be nice to take my dog for a walk this afternoon, but it's clouding up and I can't stop that change in the sky.

I do know one thing that helps. The more I release the illusion of controlling change, the more I surrender to change, the happier I am. And the few times I've gone beyond accepting change as inevitable and embracing it for whatever it brings--that's when I've been the most joyous.

And here's a final thought: if we didn't exist in change, wouldn't that be horridly tedious?