Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Living a "Precarious" Life of Writing

I was having a nerdy debate with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. It was one of those arguments that starts because your eyebrow raises when a friend uses a word inappropriately or in an improper context. He was saying that he lives a "precarious lifestyle." Now I have only ever heard the word precarious used to describe the positioning of things or something more tangible being unstable. I was under the impression it couldn't really be used to describe a lifestyle, or at the very least there were better words that could be chosen. The argument climaxed (as it often does) with a trip to an online dictionary (or three, just in case one or two don't agree with my perspective). Here is what I found about the word precarious and I think you will instantly understand why I am bothering to share this nerdy tidbit with you.

not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.
"a precarious ladder"
dependent on chance; uncertain.
"she made a precarious living by writing"
synonyms: uncertain, insecure, unpredictable, risky, parlous, hazardous, dangerous, unsafe; More
antonyms: safe
mid 17th century: from Latin precarius ‘obtained by entreaty’ (from prex, prec- ‘prayer’) + -ous.

So... did everyone else notice the second use of this word that means "dangerous, collapsing, insecure, dependent on chance, and uncertain" particularly targets writing in its second definition. Not just that, but "living a life of writing."

This month we are taking a look at the opinions about writers, writing, and of course living a life of writing. It's a tough life indeed, but it's ours. It's also hard enough without having to have constant reminders and negative connotations associated with our lifestyle. Living a life of writing might not be financially the most secure, but the antonym to the lifestyle is certainly not "safe." I feel like the contrary is actually true.

Writing is a safe escape for me. It's a safe place for me to go where I can feel free to express myself and my ideas. The second definition particularly targets "dependent on chance" and "uncertain," however I would argue that is only if that is how you choose to live your life. Saying your living is dependent on chance is as much of an extreme as saying "I'm quitting my job and I am going to wait to win the lottery." It's absurd actually. If you are passionate and you care enough about your writing, you will work hard to make sure that chance has as little say in your life as possible. Sure, we can't escape the fact that meeting the right people or having the right people read your work can in some ways be attributable to chance. But if the right people aren't reading your work or you're not meeting them is it actually just because you're not sending it to them, persevering, and haven't gone to any conventions, meetings, or writing conferences?

I won't argue that living a life of writing can be risky financially, but if you feel that and you do nothing about it, you should maybe question your desire to actually live the life of a writer. If that uncertainty affects you to the point where it seems insurmountable, then living a life of writing is perhaps not a healthy lifestyle choice for you... and there's nothing wrong with that. If you are one of those people who lives the life of a writer but doesn't just depend on it financially and so it's easier to feel safe and secure with your writing, then it will be easier to reach this point for sure. I guess what I'm trying to say, Ms. Merriam Webster, is that the life of a writer is only precarious if you let it be. Through your passion for writing and your faith in yourself, you can provide your own stability rather than leaving it all "dependent on chance."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Signing Advice

I recently had a book signing for one of my books.  This was when taken into context, a success.  Over the course of about 3 hours, I was able to connect and re-connect with at least 100 readers.  To me, this was part of the success.  I also sold 11 books in the same time frame, which is according to the bookstore manager an excellent day.

If you want success, be there early.
Before my signing started, I was there about 20 minutes early, and they weren't quite ready for me, but within 5 minutes my table was set up, and I was ready to go.  I just had to arrange my books the way I wanted them.

This turns out to be my advice number 1.  Get there early.  Again, according to the store manager most authors come right at the time the signing is supposed to begin, and aren't ready for their readers.  Being self-published, this can be a determining factor in book sales for the time you are there.

I was also in a excellent mood.  It was my first book signing in about two years, so I think I must have listened to a lot of happy songs that day or whatever.  I was saying hello or good afternoon and how are you to every customer who walked past me.  It didn't matter that they weren't looking for my book, all that mattered was they were in the store, and I was saying hello, after all, I wanted to be polite.  This made my signing a lot for fun, because there were more than a few readers who stopped to look at my book.

Hello, would you like to read In Search of the Lost Ones?
Advice number 2.  Say hello, and how are you? (and mean it.) Most people didn't expect an author to say hello, only to nod in their direction.  I had many of the staff comment I was one of the few authors who did this.  I suppose being in customer service comes in handy sometimes. Out of the 11 books I sold, at would say at least 7 came from this simple method of welcoming a potential reader over.

I spent much of the time standing—or moving around.  It captured a lot of great attention this way.  I was not jogging on the spot of anything like this, but just a simple back and forth movement ever so often.  I was visible to my readers, and although I had a spot at the front of the store, had I sat down, no one would have seen me.  I'm short but this doesn't mean I have to hide.

Advice number 3. Don't sit down for long periods.  With my book in front of me, I would have disappeared behind it, and some fixtures in front of my table.  Visibility is a key to selling books, so even with some challenges, I made it work.

I also was grateful to each person who stopped by and to the staff and managers at the bookstore.  They didn't have to do this for me, and they also didn't need to be as welcoming.  Yes, it would be awesome to have had a spot right up front of the store with the bestsellers behind me, but I was in the front of the store.

Advice number 4.  Be thankful, and say thank you.  A lot of people at the store were amazed I took the time to say thanks to them.  In fact, there should be a thank you note heading the way of the manager.  I also made a point that each person who stopped to chat with me got a word of thanks, because they didn't know me from the next person, and it was nice of them to take time to talk to me. It was even better if they bought a book, but there is always a next time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Writer's Playlist

Take the "5 Songs That Inspire You" Challenge

Whenever I need that little extra motivation I like to listen to certain songs that make me feel good. This is by no means a glowing gem of insight, but merely a slap back to reality for those people who push themselves to write for extended periods of time and exhaust their creative brain. We have been talking all month about how and why music makes us feel good and helps us write... well it's time to put this into practice and not just think in theory.

Music has profound influences on our health and well-being. Millions of starving artists don't struggle to make a living because they enjoy suffering and are just too masochistic to care. They do it because they can't imagine themselves doing anything else; it brings them so much joy that it overrides the other discomforts that may result from such a lifestyle.

I have spent much of my life singing and performing music, and have several friends who have made it their life's ambition to spread and share their music with others. As humans we are hardwired for music and the auditory ecstasy it provides for us. For those of use who haven't made it the "be all, end all" for our well being, we often forget about the power it can have. The good feelings and memories that rush back for example when we listen to "Stop" by the Spice Girls and remember our prom where even the jocks knew all the dance moves. How it unifies and brings us together. The hope and peace it brings to us without any tangible cause. I bet all of us can honestly say our writing could benefit from a little more of this type of inspiration.

So this week I tried something a little different for my playlist that I listen to on my way to work in the morning, and I am going to challenge you to do the same. Whether it is in the morning before you go to work, on your way to work, on breaks in your writing, during a meal, or during a workout find time to listen to 5 songs. Just 5 songs uninterrupted by the busyness of your day.

"But where do I find these songs?" You ask, enthralled by this revolutionary idea. Open iTunes and go to "Songs." From there I want you to find your 5 MOST played songs EVER. Not just the hits that are on the radio right now. Not just what you "think" you feel like listening to. Surrender to your own taste in music and trust it to inspire you... I bet you'll be surprised. Just because I dislike hypocrites and believe in the principle of "practice what you preach," I thought I would include what my 5 most played songs ever are. Try it and post your top 5 unintentionally inspirational songs here if you feel like sharing! Go ahead, get inspired!
  1. Love Song- Sara Bareilles
  2. I Saw the Sign- Ace of Base
  3. Wannabe- Spice Girls
  4. Sinfonia (From "Messiah)- Handel
  5. Ugly Heart- GRL

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