Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: writer

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It’s funny how life has this way of pointing out our weaknesses. We have this delusion that we can keep doing things the way we always have and it will work…and that’s when the pressure piles up. I admit it. I am a control freak and a perfectionist.

I grew up in a family of chaos where the rules changed daily and the only thing I could count on was nothing could be counted on. My family was also rather stoic (likely because we are mostly military and medical workers).

I still tease my mom that she had a saying, “Come home with your lunch kit or ON it.”

Growing up, we went through a lot of bad times and crying was highly discouraged. Second place was the first loser. Failure was not an event, it was who you were.

When Life Lands in the Blender

I try to always walk my talk. When I advise getting out of the comfort zone? I mean it, and I do it. Starting WANA International was terrifying for me. What’s interesting was up until that point, life had been pretty uneventful, even awesome. We’d had wonderful, almost stress-free three years and I ran my life and writing with the efficiency of a Swiss watch.

Then it was as if the second I filed the LLC to start my own business? The Gates of Hell opened.

Now? I’m lucky to have my underwear on correctly. A lot has gone right with WANA International, but just as much has gone sideways. I’m learning a lot about just how much I don’t know. Seriously humbling. I also MUST stop comparing how I ran things before life changed. Sure keeping an immaculate house and meeting deadlines was easier when Spawn was in a PLAYPEN.

But just like our novels run our characters through a crucible to (hopefully) change them for the better, life can do the same to us.

While a lot of what’s happened in the past couple years has been HARD (even devastating) it’s amazing what I’ve learned and how it’s forced me to come up higher and grow.

Learning I am NOT ALONE

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff
Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

I began the idea of WANA (We Are Not Alone) because I knew what it was like to have a dream of being a writer and be alone with no support. Deciding to become a writer was probably the first time I stepped out in faith that I could DO something remarkable….and it was a beating.

That trial taught me how much support networks are vital for success. They keep us pressing and give us people we can lean on when we’re about to fall apart. I felt writers needed help beyond social media or craft. Writers are people with a lot of stress and life can make us give up the dream. And WANA was born.

We still need to keep stepping out and doing stuff that scares us. I have always been such a workhorse/caretaker that I forget to ask for help. I know none of you have this problem, but I will cop to it  😉 .

In May, (after six deaths in less than two years and two more pending) it all became too much, so I joined a weekly group at my church designed to help those dealing with grief. My pride had kept me away for too long. It’s been…weird. Stripping away the gallows humor. Learning to feel when I’m in the habit of running an endless list of things to do through my head to avoid feeling.

I remember when my dad suddenly passed away, I showed up for work the next day. My coworkers were horrified. WHY are you HERE?

Um, because I am scheduled to work? *confused* It never occurred to me I should stay home. I had obligations.

Control is an Illusion

SO ME!
SO ME!

Part of what I’ve learned is control is an illusion. Often it will get us sidetracked on things that really don’t matter (um, refer to above image) at the expense of doing things that are meaningful.

Yeah, I was in denial. I made jokes about being OCD or a control freak, but recently it’s hit me how BAD I really was (am). So, again, I made a decision to do things differently. So much energy had been focused on the sick, deceased or dying, I forgot to focus on the living. I began doing a lot more with The Spawn, taking him to the pool or the park and enjoying it, instead of working while he played. I joined martial arts with him so he’d have Mommy as a teammate. I abducted Hubby to learn to play D&D.

The Spawn LOVES "Mommy School"
The Spawn LOVES “Mommy School”

I made friends here locally and have become more comfortable asking for help.

It’s odd how we don’t honestly see ourselves and how that parallels with writing a good protagonist (they really ARE their own worst enemy in the beginning). Last Friday, I was in a rush and my foot met the wrong end of the glass shower door giving me a BAD puncture wound in my foot.

I rinsed it with antiseptic and taped it together and headed out for the church potluck because I promised I’d be there. As I was enjoying the food and the company, my new friend Shannon simply got up and refilled my drink and plate and tended The Spawn…and it stunned me.

People can help…ME?

Weird, I know. But even though I was hobbling around, my nature was to be up refilling and cleaning and helping everyone else. The fact that another person naturally did that for ME?

BIG eye-opener.

Confessions of a Yoga Nazi

Another thing I’ve done differently is I’m back going to yoga. I needed a place to relax mind and body before I imploded from stress. I came from two years of doing Bikram, which is Sparta of Yoga. Very strict.

I’m now doing gym yoga—hot yoga, which is only an hour and only 98 degrees. It’s a lot faster. But people come in the room talking away. Two days ago, I was in the middle of the workout and a woman next to me texted through the entire class. She had her cell on silent, but it did this weird strobe thing when a text came in, then she’d drop to the mat and text back. (In Bikram they would have booted her from the class.)

*me twitching*

It really took a lot of discipline to just let it go and not let her poor manners ruin my peace.

The hot yoga really is metaphoric for what I’m learning. Yes, structure is great, but true emotional or mental discipline doesn’t come from being told everything to do in a controlled environment. It’s having the ability to maintain the calm despite. It’s ignoring the people talking, laughing or texting inappropriately and still choosing peace. Because LIFE is anything but a controlled environment.

Having a Good Cry

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons
Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

What I REALLY like about this hot yoga, is the teachers will bring in lessons for the day. One hit home with me. It was about crying. When we stuff emotions and refuse to feel them, these emotions GO somewhere. They don’t vanish. She spoke about the benefits of crying.

Crying, in ways, doesn’t make sense. We feel sad or hurt and our eyes leak?

Apparently scientists tested different types of tears. Tears from cutting onions are very different from tears released when watching Bambi’s mother die.

Emotional tears are extremely high in toxins and hormones produced due to stress. It’s our body’s way of releasing the “bad stuff” and it’s why we feel better “after a good cry.” This made me think a lot about our society. Being emotional is discouraged. Crying is often viewed as weakness. Maybe that’s why a lot of us are too close to crazy these days. We are in a non-stop world moving from task to task to task and never stopping to feel or to even —GASP—cry.

Also caregivers are in a weird position. We have to be strong for others. If we aren’t careful we slap on a smile even when we’re crumbling. Often we aren’t even AWARE we are crumbling. I’m learning that it’s okay for me to recharge. I can’t help others if I’m empty.

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I left yoga yesterday and saw two quotes that spoke to me.

Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous

What to Take Away

When we step out to do something remarkable, expect disaster. Expect failures.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but like our protagonists face trials and threshold guardians when they accept the adventure, we will too. It might be life testing us to see how badly we want the dream, but it’s more than that. Failures and setbacks are simply logical. We’re doing something different and unknown. We’re learning. Failure is part of that. I like to say, Show me a person who isn’t failing and I’ll show you a person who’s not doing anything interesting.

Quitting is easy. Anyone can do that.

Additionally, life doesn’t PAUSE when we decide to reach for our dreams. We must learn to maintain peace in the storm and to remember storms do eventually pass.

Oh, and another storm will come eventually ;).

Resting doesn’t make us lazy. Asking for help or even crying doesn’t make us weak.

My dishes will always need washing and my e-mail will always be a monster. The Spawn won’t remember that the house was perfectly organized, he WILL remember a day at the pool playing Water Zombies with Mom.

Also, some setbacks or bad events in life are worth having a good cry.

Peace is a decision, not a destination.

I’ve learned that $#!& happens. Me freaking out that the AC overflowed and flooded the attic doesn’t change the hefty bill or the mess to be cleaned up. Besides, most of the crap we fret about 1) never actually happens or 2) does happen and in five years we don’t even remember it.

Never underestimate how important you are. The little things are the biggest of all.

The comments on a blog, the funny pics on a FB timeline are all the small actions that keep a lot of us together. Never buy the lie that your actions don’t matter because they are “too small.”

Remember to rest, to cry, to laugh and to BREATHE. Hey, it’s life. None of us get out of it alive 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Have you been through stressful seasons and realized you were too focused on the problems and not enough on the joys? Do you find yourself holding your breath? Are you a caretaker and feel guilty doing anything for yourself? Do you forget to ask for help? Are you overly critical of yourself and learning to give yourself a BREAK? Can you think of hard times that nearly crushed you, yet when you came out the other side, something in you had changed for the better?

Hey, I am right here with you. We can trade notes 😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform (HINT: Start as EARY as possible) here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

Announcements:

If you feel you might have the vapors after reading all of this, no worries, I offer classes to HELP.

July 19th is my First Five Pages Class  and use WANA15 for $15 off. If you can’t make the time, no worries, all classes are RECORDED and come with notes for reference. Upgrade to the GOLD level and I will look at your first five pages and give DETAILED analysis. This is NOT simple line-edit. This is a detailed, how to start your story in the right place and in a way that HOOKS analysis.

Also my Antagonist Class is coming up on July 26th and it will help you guys become wicked fast plotters (of GOOD stories). Again, use WANA15 for $15 off. The GOLD level is personal time with me either helping you plot a new book or possibly repairing one that isn’t working. Never met a book I couldn’t help fix. This will save a TON of time in revision and editors are NOT cheap.

A few weeks ago, I started a series that I called Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here, so let me explain. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. For those who choose to eat the puffer fish, there is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

Take a bite! I dare ya!

Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*

Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.

This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. You might have heard the saying, Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Well, I am saying, Don’t Eat the Butt. 

Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the Literary Puffer Butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.

Without further ado…

Don’t Eat the Butt Myth #4–Real writers never struggle.

It takes a lot of courage to write a book and even more courage to share that book with the world and open ourselves to criticism. Many new writers fall in love with their first book and, like a new parent, fall in love with their “baby.” Thus, when anyone criticizes our child we get angry, protective, defensive and eventually depressed (when we finally are brave enough to realize our baby has flaws).

It happens to most writers.

There is this pervasive myth that real writers are these born geniuses who gush forth brilliance and never need to rewrite, revise or, sigh…start over. It is a LIE. Yes, there are the odd outliers who write one book and they shoot to fame, but beginner’s luck is highly overrated and almost impossible to duplicate. Many times these writers are one-hit-wonders who are befuddled as to how to recreate the magic. They have a different curse, one that is similar to child stars.

 

Oh, dear.

For the rest of us, struggle is part of the process. Writers struggle because they are writing. Just because you are having a hard time, doesn’t therefore make you an aspiring writer. The aspiring writer is the one who says, “Oh, I’ve had some really interesting experiences that would make a good story. One day, I’ll write a book.” The aspiring writer is lazy and tries to solicit real writers to do the hard work for them.

Frequently, they will offer to share royalties if a real writer writes the book and they just furnish the “best-selling” story. One can always spot the aspiring writer—Genus-Species Scrivnus Aspirus Lazytuchus—by their key phrase, “One day…”

They say things like, “One day, when I have time…” “One day, when I get a better computer…” “One day, when the kids are older…”

Do not be fooled. The Scrivnus Aspirus Lazytuchus has evolved to get out of doing any hard work. The Scrivnus Aspirus mimics the Scrivnus Authenticas so it can have all the adoration of being an artist without any of the risk, pain or suffering that goes with creating real art.

The Scrivnus Aspirus (Aspiring Writer) is to the Scrivnus Authenticas (Real Writer) as the Viceroy Butterfly is to the Monarch Butterfly—they look a lot alike but they ain’t the same thing, honey. Both are butterflies writers, but only one is the real deal.

 

The Scrivnus Aspirus is a phoney, and oddly enough, many a Scrivnus Authenticas can be fooled into an identity crisis if not careful. How can one separate the Aspirus from the Authenticas?

You will know them by their works.

The Authenticas works. She writes words. LOTS OF THEM. Many an Authenticas believes that if she isn’t producing good words, published words or award-winning words then she MUST be an Aspirus. Untrue. It is a myth. Words are part of the struggle from the cocoon. Good words, bad words all count.

See, the Aspirus doesn’t care for struggle. Struggle cuts into reruns of The Big Bang Theory. Thus, this creature will always be a fake longing to be real and sometimes even self-deluding that it is an Authenticas.

But again, we can spot an Authenticas by her struggle. So don’t eat the butt and don’t fall for the lies.

All Scrivnum Authenticum struggle. It is how they grow stronger so one day they can fly. If you aren’t struggling, then you might be an Aspirus. Struggling is proof you are real. We aren’t born knowing three-act structure or how to layer complex characters or how to infuse theme and symbol into a work spanning 60-100,000 words.

All of that is learned through struggle.

It’s like lifting weights. No one gets muscles curling her grandmother’s one pound pink weights. If your writing has gotten easy, that might be a clue you need to stretch your wings a little more.

Maybe friends and family have you convinced you aren’t a real writer because you aren’t yet published and you haven’t won contests, do not listen. Only a trained eye can tell the difference between a Viceroy Aspirus and an Monarch Authenticas. So if you are suffering and hurting and feeling like your cerebral cortex is doing Ashtanga yoga as you pound out words–good, bad and UGLY–day after day?

Welcome to being an artist. Fly, little Authenticum, FLY!!!!

So are you a Scrivnus Authenticas who has been fooled into believing you are really an Scrivnus Aspirus? How did you realize you had been lied to? What tips do you have for little Scrivnum Authenticum?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

 

On Wednesday, we talked about the evolution of the writer. As the paradigm is shifting, writers must evolve or they simply will not survive. Those who want to moan and wish for the gone-by age will be replaced by writers who are hungrier and better trained and who are willing to outwork the competition.

Evolution of the Brand

One of the reasons writers have so much more power these days is that the definition of an author brand has changed radically. Until a couple years ago, an author brand could ONLY be created by books. Readers’ only interaction with an author was through her works of fiction.

These days, the Modern Author is much more dynamic. She can write in different genres and experiment with different types of writing. There are more and more Hybrid Authors emerging in the new paradigm–writers who have NF, short fiction, different genres for sale some traditionally published and some indie or self-published. Writers have a LOT more flexibility. How did we gain this flexibility?

Social media.

Writers with a social media platform have a far more dynamic platform than the writer that is relying solely on books to construct the brand. This is because readers (followers) interact with the author daily and real-time, so the brand becomes the person–the author. Thus every tweet, every status update, every picture, every comment, every blog post and finally every book are all part of our brand. Think of it like adding bricks of all different sizes to construct a massive wall–the brand. Yes, the books will likely be larger bricks, but this doesn’t mean the other stuff doesn’t add up.

It All Counts

This brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sacrifice. The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. Social media is a loaded gun that can be used to feed our family or to shoot ourselves in the foot.

When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?

All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on our fellow writers to help us, to share and RT and they are less likely to lend support if we spend half our time calling them names.

I had one writer I finally unfriended this morning on FB. He was a sci-fi writer who COULD NOT stop with the political ranting. Every post was about how X party (my political affiliation, btw) were all morons and thieves and creeps and how people of X faith (my faith) were radical haters and bigots and dogs.

In fact, I will just be honest. I am getting to where I don’t even want to look in my FB home stream. SO many writers are ranting on and on about politics, and it all just gives me indigestion. I don’t “friend” a fantasy author so I can listen to a non-stop political rant. If I wanted that, I would friend Ann Coulter or Jesse Jackson and at least I would know what I was in for.

If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.

What Brand are We After Anyway?

We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.

So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.

Yes, I Know It is Hard

We are in an election year, and I know it is hard to not be opinionated. I totally feel your pain. I have a degree in Political Science! I really do understand, but my advice as a social media expert is that we be very selective about what we put on-line. Every post is part of our brand, and, if we do too much ranting about social injustice, we are creating a political activism brand not a fiction author brand…and we can be alienating a lot of people as well.

Are We Running for Office or Wanting to Sell Books?

I support plenty of writers who don’t share my political and religious viewpoints. That is easier for me to do if I am not being called names on a daily basis. There is a reason that politics and religion can be dangerous topics. I know that I am even taking a HUGE risk writing THIS blog. I know that the trackbacks and arguments will surface, but I am willing to risk it so you guys are properly prepared.

Beware of the Frankenstein Monster

One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line is once it is out there…we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?

What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.

Controversy Never Dies

I posted a blog about What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? and SEVEN months later I still get mini-debates and have had over 200 comments….over a fictional universe. In this case the controversy is fun…but when it comes to politics and religion???

Prepare to deal with trolls…forever.

Brace for the Backlash

In fact, if we do blog about politics or religion, we should just prepare for at least a half a dozen blogs to spring up with the mission of calling us a moron, and their trackbacks will always keep a fresh supply of trolls coming to that one political blog FOREVER. Not saying it will happen, just that it is pretty likely.

Community Includes “Unity”

Also, we need to remember that our platform is comprised of people who are different than we are. Many of you follow this blog because you expect me to write funny blogs about craft, social media and life. But what if you showed up Monday for my essay about abortion or euthanasia or legalizing marijuana because I needed to get something off my chest?

Many of you would likely never come back, but many would feel compelled to comment–either to tell me I was brilliant or to tell me I’d lost my mind–and this is where we start to see the massive fracture, the fighting in the comments because everyone feels passion and everyone feels differently.

So, now not only have I confused my brand…but now a group that all once had fun and friended one another and enjoyed getting together in my comments section have been divided FOREVER. What was fun and a high point is now spoiled, awkward and downright weird. Not only that, but now I will likely have to step in and referee people who once got along, but who now only see red because I felt the need to take a left-turn with my blog content.

Personally, I care about all of you whether we share political and religious affiliation or not. To me, no venting is worth alienating any of you. That’s just me.

Social Media Requires Respect and Care

I am all for freedom of speech, and feel free to write about or tweet about anything you want. I won’t stop you. The only purpose of this post is to educate writers about the unintended affect being overly political could have. I’m not saying we can’t post a link here and there or a faith quote or an evolution blog. We just need to really be aware of those around us and be prepared to take the consequences, even the unintended ones.

We Are Not Alone…No Really

Think of it this way. Out at our ranch we all carry guns. There are packs of feral pigs that roam our land, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and all kinds of critters that can kill or maim. Having a sidearm just goes with having a place in the wild country of Texas. But that same gun that took out a six foot rattlesnake near the front stoop is the same gun that could accidentally kill someone.

We can shoot watermelons and beer cans for fun, but it is wise to check that there isn’t a house or a weekend camper on the adjacent land behind the tree line where we are shooting. We have to be aware that we don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences.

Protect the Brand

Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?

Yet, if we are kind, respectful, fun, engaging AND we write great books, that is wonderful and can be the formula for a long successful career. No one needs to give up who they are or what they believe, it just doesn’t necessarily all belong on-line. We can feel free to rub ourselves with lime Jell-O and run around in our underwear, but it doesn’t mean it needs a picture on Facebook ;).

So…*braces* what are your thoughts? Am I out of line and the poster child for censorship? Or do you run into the same problem? Are there people you want to support but they won’t stop ranting? How does that make you feel? By the way, I have no problem if any of you wish to disagree with me as long as you do it respectfully. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.

I really, really do LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Today, we are going to talk a bit about failure. All writers who dare to dream seem to have this same fear–FAILURE. It can seem larger than life and everything fades away in the face of this looming beast. I want to let you in on a little secret. For many years I was the best, the Big Kahuna, the Big Gal on Campus. I was positively THE most successful person…at failing.

A little about me…

I was a high school drop out at the age of 15, then again at 16. I worked as a waitress, but, to tell the truth, I was a really bad waitress. I lost my job and returned to school. I finally graduated high school at the age of 19. No one figured I would make much out of my life since it’s highly likely I graduated last in my class. I think by the time you get a GPA as low as mine was, I think they just start listing you alphabetically.

I came from a military family, so I decided to enlist in the Army…only I got sick in the middle of the physical and failed. Doc gave me a medical disqualification (DQ).

Great.

So, I dusted myself off and attended junior college. I figured I’d go to school and try the Navy. I come from a family of Squids, so that wasn’t so bad. I put in all my paperwork…then they found out about the Army. Sigh. Apparently a medical DQ lasted two years.

No Navy for me.

Back to the drawing board (school). I knew the medical DQ would run out, so I worked really hard and ended up winning a full military scholarship to become a doctor. I didn’t really want to become a doctor, but this was the best scholarship and I was broke, ergo not picky. I transferred to T.C.U. and began pre-med. I swore in to the Air Force (yes, I made my rounds of all the branches) and pledged my life to serving my country as a future military doctor.

Two years in, I was a shining scholar with a 3.79 average. Then, in March of 1995, Fort Worth was hit with an ice storm and T.C.U. refused to cancel classes. On my way to class, I slipped and fell and hit my lower back on a concrete curb…and fractured it.

Bye, bye military. Bye-bye scholarship. Bye-bye medical school.

I returned to school a semester later. I had to use a cane for eight months as my back healed, and there was no such thing as handicapped access to anything in those days. It seemed every class I had signed up for was on the third floor, too. But I did my best and took it one class at a time.

I didn’t want to be a doctor if the DoD wasn’t picking up the tab. Didn’t have the money. So I changed majors because I could no longer afford to be on a medical track. This was all well and good except that it set me back. Instead of being a junior, I was back to being a sophomore.

Felt a little like high school.

But, I had changed degrees and really loved political economy. I studied the Middle East and North Africa and felt I could make a difference. So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to help with a business development project in Syria. I would live in the Yarmouk Camp (a refugee camp in Syria) and help modernize a paper facility.

Well, that was the plan at least.

The day after graduation I hopped on a plane. I was full of hope, dreams and passion, and just knew I would make a difference. I would knock this project out of the park and it would look SO awesome on my grad school application (I was applying for a special doctorate program).

Yeah….um, no.

It was a great experience but pretty much a huge failure. No matter what we tried, we hit a wall of bureaucratic red tape and corruption. I came back to the States and gave up on grad school. The hallowed halls of academia were too far removed from reality, and I realized it was no longer for me.

I went to work in software sales and then paper sales and was dismal at both. I was a hard worker. I worked harder than anyone else, but it always seemed that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the competition was eating me alive. Thus, it was only a matter of time before my position—and me—would be eliminated.

I failed at high school, failed at the military, failed to become a doctor or a professor and now I was quite possibly THE worst salesperson on the planet.

…and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it.

My failures taught me far more than success ever did. Many of you reading this are terrified of failure. I want to let you in on a little secret–Failure is not the end. Failure is a teacher. It will guide you to who you should be. Too often we give failure too much power. We think it is the end, when in reality it is training us for a better future. What if I HAD been successful? What if I was now a military flight surgeon? I wouldn’t be doing what I love and I wouldn’t be here to help you guys, to let you know it isn’t as bad as you might think.

If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting.

Failing in school taught me to keep pressing on, even when that meant being embarassed. It was humiliating being a 19 year-old in an English class full of 14 year-olds.

Failing at the military taught me that some doors shut for very good reasons. Sometimes our prayers are answered, it’s just the answer happens to be “no.”

Failing in Syria taught me discernment. I jumped into a project before I thought it out fully. I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the gold in the world, but the project was doomed from the start. I should have done more research and planned better. But it prepared me for a future that I never could have envisioned at the time (for those who are curious, read this post Amazon–Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts).

Failing at sales taught me that trying to do everything myself was a formula for disaster. It taught me to form teams and that relationships are the most important possession we have. When I was in sales, I didn’t want to bother other people and I tried to do too much on my own. My failure was the end result of an inability to delegate and form a team I could depend upon.

I now understand that any success I enjoy is not because of ME, because I am anything special. It is because of opportunities, blessings and support granted me from other people.

Our success is only a culmination of a lot of team support. There are no self-made best-sellers.

We can’t do this alone.

Failure is scary, but failure is priceless to the person who can embrace it. Failure should be rewarded because it means we are taking a risk. Show me a person who has never failed, and I will show you a person who’s never tried anything remarkable. Nothing great was ever created in the comfort zone. Sure there are people who seem to succeed at everything they do, but the Midas Touch is not the norm (and most of us find those people annoying, anyway). I don’t know about you, but I want to learn from great people who failed yet pressed on and succeeded despite setbacks. I want to learn about creating wealth from Donald Trump, not the latest lottery winner.

Many of you who read my blogs want to be successful writers. If I can give you any advice, it is to learn to embrace failure. When we are in the middle of the storm, it is hard to see the bigger picture. It is tough to see how these setbacks and disappointment might actually be shaping a more brilliant future than we can ever imagine.

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a famous writer and teacher, but I was told that was a foolish dream. So I traded in that dream for more practical dreams—a military career, becoming a doctor, sales. And you know what? I thank God every day that I failed at everything I ever tried because eventually I failed so much I no longer feared it, and THAT is when success started coming my way.

I took bigger and bigger risks and was more willing to throw my heart and all my passions into something because I finally understood failure never meant the end…it just meant the beginning of something new and I would be stronger for it.

The strongest blades are forged in the hottest fires. Adversity is the fire that removes the impurities in our character. Failure is the forge that creates excellence. One of the strongest forms of steel in the world is Damascus steel. Damascus steel is fired, folded and hammered hundreds of times, and it is this fiery brutal birth that makes it so strong. What about you? Are you a failure, or are you on your way to being Damascus steel?

Fifteen years ago, I had the talent to do great things and reach great heights, but I didn’t have the character to stay there. Failure taught me to work hard, set goals and, above all, remain humble and value people. Failure created the person who could dream up a global community of service and support like MyWANA. YOU guys are my most valuable possession. You guys are my team and my support and I cannot reach my dreams without your help. It is my honor and privilege to keep your company, to hear your voice and to learn from you. If I can offer anything in return, it is my support and lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of doing just about everything wrong.

Failure is our friend. We all start out a hunk of metal, just like the Damascus steel blade. Adveristy and failure fire out the impurities and strengthen our character and resolve. Failure might sting now, but if you could see the bigger picture, I imagine you would dance for joy as well.

What are some challenges you guys have faced? What did you learn? Are you facing something now and feel as if you are losing your nerve? What lessons do you think you can take away?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Thanks for being patient with me announcing winners. 

Winner of Last Week of February’s 5-Page Critique–Stephanie Scott. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Winner of Last Month’s Critique (February) of 15 pages–Mollie Player. Please send your 3250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Winner of Last Week’s (first of March) 5 Page Critique is Yvette Carol. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

 

Happy Friday! I have a real treat for you guys, but, first, let’s have a quick chat. Be honest. We writers wear a lot of hats. We, of course, have the Writer Hat, but then comes the Mom or Dad Hat, the Employee Hat, the Maid Hat and Taxi Driver Hat, the Therapist Hat, the Friend Hat, the Police/Enforcer Hat (especially if you have small children, teenagers or needy pets), and on and on. We have many roles, and switching personalities so often and so many times a day can wear us out. In time, we might find that in the pile of all the “hats” we cannot find our Inspiration Hat anywhere. Likely it was put in with the whites and now everything will be pink. Sigh.

So when we do lose our inspiration, what can we do? How do we find it? My pal, and very talented writer Natalie C. Markey has some amazing solutions and is here to teach us to find inspiration from even the most unlikely places.

Take it away, Nat!

Thank you Kristen for having me back again! Last time I spoke about balancing writing with burp rags and Sesame Street.  Today I’m discussing writing inspiration. A topic that interests all writers, but still the toddler mom in me will sneak in a “Sesame Street” reference. Can’t you tell what plays on my office/playroom television more than CNN or the very fascinating History Channel?

I love quotes about inspiration. Dan Poytner once said, “If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” I also love, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see that I’m inspired at 9 am every morning,” said Peter De Vries. Or in my case, I’m inspired each morning at 4:30 am but everyone has his or her own routines because we are all different.

Writers are people. We have jobs, families and many other obligations. With that being said we must write whenever our schedules dictate, unless you are lucky enough to have tons of free time. I didn’t think so ;).

So what if a lack of inspiration is keeping us down? In truth, inspiration is not this complicated object that many have made it to be. Inspiration is all around us. I have found that sometimes the answers may be easier to find than you believe. “Relax, don’t over think it,” says my husband. And he is right but don’t tell him I said that! You can easily find inspiration or discover the answer to a troublesome scene by just living your life.

Just the other day I was stuck on a particular scene in a young adult fantasy manuscript. I write from home with my 19-month-old daughter so my writing breaks are always spent with her and the fun little monsters on Sesame Street.

Just the other day Snuffy (short for Mr. Snuffleupagus) said a simple word that lit a light bulb in my head. As I watched my daughter hum along to “Elmo’s World” in her cozy coup (because it’s more cool to watch “Sesame Street” drive-in Little Tikes style) I grabbed my iPAD, tapped on the notes applications and began jotting down ideas. It’s not the word that counts but the smallest thing that can set off your inspirational writer mojo.

My dog, Oscar is also very inspiring to me. Since I am a published author of a non-fiction dog book and working on another, he reminds me everyday about my audience and how I can make a difference. And he make a fantastic foot warmer while I write!

Always keep your eyes, ears and senses open as you go through life—not just when you’re in front of a keyboard. And I say senses because yes I was inspired by the smell of manure once but that’s another LONG story!

Staying open to your surroundings is especially important for the busiest of writers. Writer’s that must make the most of the precious writing time they get. If you’re a writing mom like I am, then I’m preaching to the choir. I’m returning to teach my month-long course presented by Write It Forward Workshops next month. It’s titled, Writing Moms: How to have it all without losing your mind. Hopefully it can help you manage the chaos and learn how you can fit your writing career among diapers, tantrums, homework, concerts, games, and your “paying job” if you have that too. Click here to learn more or to register.

I am giving away a FREE “seat” to someone who comments on this blog. Simply share your story of how something simple and seemingly unrelated created writing inspiration for you. I will put your names in my virtual hat and announce the winner on February 28.

Natalie C. Markey is a seasoned freelance writer including popular columns like The Mortal Instruments Examiner and Special Needs Dog Care Examiner. She is the author of “Caring for Your Special Needs Dogs.” Follow her on Twitter, Pen to Publish blog, and her website.

Thanks so much for taking time to help us out! I hope you guys will share your thoughts, feelings, stories because not only can you win this really cool prize from Natalie, but you also still get a chance to win my contest.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.