Friday, November 28, 2014

Shopping and My Christmas List of Books



By E.E. Kennedy


Don’t hate me—but I have all my shopping done.

Not everybody likes shopping, but I happen to love it, especially at Christmas. Recently, I embarked on an expedition to ferret out gifts in my favorite category: books.

Books make wonderful presents. They’re easy to wrap, easy to mail, you don’t have to know sizes and with a little thought, you can find the perfect one for each person on your list. You can find pages of books from Southern Writers Magazine’s first annual holiday catalog for your shopping needs.

They can be economical, too. If you’ve found the ideal book for a person, what does it matter if you found it at Barnes & Noble, on Amazon, Southern Writers Magazine's Holiday Catalog, in a thrift shop, a used bookstore or at a yard sale? I learned this from my sister-in-law. One year, she made a specific request for a hard-cover copy of Josephine Tey’s mystery, Miss Pym Disposes. I found plenty of paperback copies—I had two in my own personal library—but a used hardback copy was finally located online. It was such a satisfying treasure hunt; I decided to stage the same search for every friend and family member.

My dad is a musician and loves to sing the standards as he plays the piano. On Amazon, I found something called a fake book, which I learned contains the lyrics and music to several thousand standards and pop hits. He’s going to love taking requests at the family gatherings.

Next on the list is my husband, an engineer who enjoys military histories.  A nearby used bookstore called Mr. Mike’s yielded up two that will be perfect: Post Captain, by Patrick O’Brian (author of Master and Commander) and Mr. Midshipman by C.S. Forester, which introduces the character of Horatio Hornblower and kicks off a rip-snorter of a series. I’ll wrap them together.

I mustn’t forget the grandchildren. Fortunately, I have held onto a wonderful series of books by Beverly Clearly that my own children enjoyed and it’s time they were passed on to a new generation: Henry HugginsHenry and RibsyRibsy and Henry and the Paper Route, one for each grandson and Ellen Tebbits for my very feminine granddaughter. She will definitely identify with the prissy little girl’s hilarious efforts to stay clean, neat and ladylike.

Next up is my brother, an attorney and expert amateur chef.  As a teenager, he was inspired by a TV show, Graham Kerr’s The Galloping Gourmet. One New Year’s Eve, after our parents turned in early, he carefully prepared Kerr’s Steak Diane recipe for my sister and me. It was so glamorous and grownup; we ate at midnight. At our local thrift store (charmingly named The Guardian Angel) I located a Graham Kerr cookbook. It’s my way of saying I remember that sweet, long-ago evening.

My sister enjoys all things British. Earlier in the year at a yard sale, I found an elderly hardbound copy of P.G. Wodehouse’s humorous Joy in the Morning. The seller didn’t know the treasure he had; I got it for a buck. A critic once said that Wodehouse handled grave issues lightly and light issues with the utmost gravity. Either you get his humor or you don’t. My sister gets him.

My nephew, the outdoorsman, is next. He has a raucous sense of humor and if he doesn’t like the book I found at our local indie bookstore, I’ll eat my coonskin cap. A Fine and Pleasant Misery by Patrick McManus is a rollicking account of his childhood adventures in the wilds of Idaho and of his dream of becoming a Mountain Man like the legendary (though fictional) Rancid Crabtree.

My niece is a new mother and I ordered her present immediately upon receiving the baby announcement: Feed Me, I’m Yours by Vicky Lansky was a life-saver for me when my children were small. I was pleased to see that it’s still in print, albeit updated. This is the book that taught me how to make fruit juice gelatin cubes that saved many a long car trip. Her present is from one mother to another.

My daughter shares my enthusiasm for mystery, so I’ll be giving her A Presumption of Death by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, who fashioned a fascinating new mystery about the British home front from the late Sayers’ notes. Lord Peter, Bunter and Harriet Vane live again. It’s a few years old, but Amazon had new copies available.

My friend is new to writing, but as a retired nurse, she has a plethora of fascinating subjects swimming around in her head. This year, I’m giving her Mary Higgins Clark’s Kitchen Privileges, a light, easy-to-read autobiography to show her how personal stories can both amuse and inspire.

So now I’m done. All that’s left now is to break out the scissors, tape and brightly colored paper. I like to picture how Christmas Day will end at our house. The ribbons and paper will have been discarded, the carols sung, the stockings dumped out, the turkey consumed, the dishes washed and the only thing audible will be the soft, sibilant sound of pages turning.
_____________________________________________________________________ 
E.E. Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery series from Sheaf House. The third book in the series, Murder in the Past Tense, was released in September. She respectfully suggests it as an excellent gift for the mystery lovers on your list. Her website can be found at www.missprenticecozymystery.com



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for our Community of Authors and Readers


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine



Southern Writers Magazine says thank you to all our authors and readers! It's because of you the magazine is such a success. 

SWM's blog Suite T is rapidly approaching 2 million views and it's all because of y'all. Thank you!

We love our community of authors and readers who make it fun as we put together each issue. Our editors and staff are constantly working on ways to expand our services to benefit all authors, while creating interest to readers. 

Here's a little writing exercise. Put your thinking cap on and name these "turkeys" that are hanging out on my front porch. Remember, you have to name characters in your writing to make your characters unique. 

Or write a short paragraph of no more than twenty-five words. You will need to write a tight blurb about your book to entice readers to open your book. This writing exercise will help you hone your skills. 
Still stumped? 





Here's mine; the "Turkey" on the left is named "Perky." (Cross between a Pumpkin and a Turkey)....The "Turkey" on the right below is named "Wobble"(he ate too much at dinner) 







My twenty-five words blurb; "Pumpkins hang out on my front porch for All Hallows' Eve tricksters. A few metal attachments extend their time on my porch. Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all."


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writing 101



By Barbara Weitzner


God created the heavens and the earth, but even He realized He needed some kind of plan instead of just creating stuff willy-nilly.

Before you begin to type, read “Stein on Writing,” available at the library or Barnes and Noble. This is an easy to read guide for beginners with lots of practical advice.

Join a writer’s group at your local church or library. Don’t rely on family advice. They think everything you do is wonderful.

To help your creative stimulation, arrange a set time agreed by family to allow you uninterrupted silence.

Develop your own original style, or “voice.” When you have finished a chapter, read it aloud— you will hear your awkward sentences, repetitions and lack of cadence.

Listen to people— note their inflections. This will help you to write, “People speak,” and well-forged identities so your characters don’t all sound alike. This will also help you to eliminate “he-she said,” and develop distinct personalities.

Read Elmore Leonard, a master of dialogue. He also authored Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.


Avoid stiff, overly literary sentences with too many commas. Keep index cards with each characters statistics. This will avoid Susie having red hair on page 20 and blonde hair on page 200. Mentally put your arm around your protagonist and say, “I hear you, man. Because this is how I feel when I’m creating you. When I’m not typing I miss us hanging out together, and it gets lonesome.”

Keep a note pad with you all the time, yes, even at your bedside. Good ideas can be forgotten by the time you are able to sit down and record them.

Don’t try to impress your editors with big words. If you have to look it up, delete it.

Enter as many short story contests as you can. Start with the no entry fee college literary magazines. I found the editors favored themes with people who were unbearable, insurmountable or inscrutable. Ordinary folk didn’t cut the mustard. (But this is strictly my observation.)

When you are certain your story is complete, invest in a professional editor. Unless you are Phillip Roth, you need your work evaluated and polished. Be sure to verify his (her) credentials.

Last but not least, develop an interesting query letter. This is not a synopsis of your plot. The opening paragraph should be short and tempting. Editors read thousands of queries, so make sure yours will immediately catch their attention. My query for “The Most Glorious Thing Ever,” began with, “A couple meet in a bar. He buys her a drink. He can hardly believe his luck. She’s gorgeous and fun. Where could it lead?”

My query received twenty-two replies.

Don’t become discouraged. Believe in yourself and keep at it.

Good luck!
_________________________________________________________________
Barbara Weitzner's novels, The Most Glorious Thing Ever, The Parradine Allure and A New Start have been published by Solstice Horizons. Her short story, Please Wake Up was published in Soundings Magazine. Her article, Never Too Late appeared in the September issue of Southern Writing. Her articles have appeared in Breezes, a South Florida Magazine. Her short story, First Love appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Gemini Magazine. Her short story, On The Veranda will soon be published by Crimson Cloak Publishing. Her short story, An American Christmas will be published in November.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Authors, Let’s be Safe on Social Networking


By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine


Well, there is a new social network on the block! Some of you may have heard of it.  The name is Nextdoor.  Now according to my sources, this is a private social network for your neighborhood. When you join, you have to give your home address, which I understand is Google Map synched.

Yes it might help you get to know people in your neighborhood, and introduce them to the fact they have a real live author in their neighborhood…but do you really want your address thrown out  live on the internet?

Only you can make this decision.  As with anything, there are pros and cons in joining.  The biggest turn off for me was I don’t want my home address shared on any social media. Now call me nuts, but I prefer some things a little private, particularly, my address. Yes, I know, there are ways to find out our addresses, but I want to keep from freely giving it online.

Of course, this is just my feelings. But let me remind you that as an author, you have great sources to showcase your books, talk about your book releases, and book signings through Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, and your websites.

At any rate, I would love to know which ones you use and feel helps you the most.

Let’s face it, writers have to use sources to tell other people about their writings, and their books being published, but let’s be safe.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Why a Book’s Setting Counts as a Character


By Laura Childs


I think every author worth his/her salt constantly strives to create that all-important “sense of place.”  You want your readers to vividly picture your novel’s setting as seen through your eyes.  You want every word to be so filled with imagery that they drink in each scene – tasting the salt on the breeze, smelling the perfumed jasmine in the early evening dusk, and detecting that ominous crunch of footsteps on gravel behind them.  You want your readers’ hearts to pitty-pat a little faster and think to themselves, “Who’s that following me?  What’s happening here?”

When I set my Scrapbooking Mysteries in New Orleans, I hit the jackpot. Seriously, nowhere else in this country is there a spookier, decrepit, elegant, and highly atmospheric city all rolled into one.  Setting a mystery in New Orleans means you can borrow lonesome-sounding tugboat whistles from the Mississippi River or allow faint notes of jazz to bump along on the breeze.  You can impart the grandeur and old world elegance of the Garden District, the raucousness of the French Quarter, and the danger and solitude of nearby bayous.

But there’s so much more to work with. 

I particularly love the infamous aboveground cemeteries in New Orleans.  First of all, they’re bizarre.  I mean, you can’t even bury a body in New Orleans.  If you do, the water table will send it right back to you.  So there’s a nasty concept to play with.  The cemeteries are also a strange amalgam of stately marble crypts, tumbled-down tombstones, oven crypts (you don’t even want to know), and ancient statues whose faces have long since been eroded by hurricanes, rain, and relentless heat.  Yes, a cemetery in New Orleans is always the perfect setting for a somber funeral, a dangerous tiptoe-through-the-tombstones chase, or even a nighttime ghost sighting.

I particularly love the contrast between the French Quarter and the Garden District.  The French Quarter is where the city of New Orleans dug in hard and put down roots.  There are ancient warehouses that have been turned into lofts and apartments, narrow alleys, tiny shops, four-star restaurants, haughty hotels, a genuine cathedral, and cobwebs of wrought iron draped everywhere.  Some of the old brick buildings began life as absinthe bars, houses of ill repute, and voodoo shops.  Interesting enough, some of them are still absinthe bars, houses of ill repute, and voodoo shops.  There’s honest-to-gosh history here and it’s all there for the taking.  And here’s a tidbit that always makes me smile: some of the French Quarter’s interior courtyards are utterly breathtaking with their pattering fountains, marble statues, and riots of flowers, but they’re never seen by anyone except a small handful of privacy-minded residents. 

Even though the Garden District consists of big homes and big money, it is equally private and closed.  When I attended the Rex Ball during Mardi Gras, I came to realize that the real Mardi Gras takes place in these magnificent mansions.  All that hoo-haw down in the French Quarter?  The beads, balconies, drinking, and music you see on TV?  That’s for the benefit of the tourists and the cameras.  No self-respecting member of the Rex, Comus, or Bacchus krewe would ever throw open the doors to their float den, or invite the public in to their elegant parties. 

But there is a way you can partake of these magical, hushed settings.  An author who’s been there can put down the words, take your hand, and gently pull you in for a good long peek.  Are you interested?  Then come along, let’s both enjoy the spectacle of the debutantes, dine on oysters Rockefeller and crab etouffee, and step inside the drop-dead gorgeous mansions and drink twenty-four year-old Bourbon in Baccarat crystal.  Let’s crash this fine eccentric city known as the Big Easy.
___________________________________________________________________ 
Laura Childs is the author of the Scrapbook Mysteries set in New Orleans, LA, the Tea Shop Mysteries set in Charleston, SC, and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries.  Her books have been continually named to the New York Times Bestseller List and have been featured selections in the Literary Guild’s Mystery Book Club.  She is a former Cleo Award-winning advertising writer and CEO of Mission Critical Marketing. She is currently co-executive producer of two reality television shows. Her website is www.laurachilds.com Laura Childs’ newest Scrapbooking Mystery, Gossamer Ghost released in October by Penguin Random House.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Author’s Best Friend


By Jim Proctor


Social media is probably the most important tool available to the indie author for building a following, or building a brand. The important thing to remember when participating is that you are as much a part of your brand as your books are.

I’ve witnessed authors (and bloggers, too) treat their followers badly on social media, and I have observed the resulting backlash. In the midst of the turmoil, I’ve seen authors make things better, and I’ve seen them make things worse—much worse. You’re human. If you screw up, apologize. Make it right.

Since creating my first social media accounts to promote my brand, I’ve looked for advice on how to manage those accounts. People have recommended everything from posting things about yourself to show your followers that you are a real person, to keeping it purely professional, strictly talking about your books and writings. In the end, you have to decide how much of your real self you are willing to reveal to your followers.

From my personal experience, and from my observations of others, I can say that it pays to be nice to your followers. Always. Confrontation and negativism are neither attractive, nor endearing. Remember what social media is—a platform to interact with people. It’s not a television commercial or a billboard. It’s interactive. Don’t just post about your books. Find the topics that elicit positive responses, and then engage your followers. Be respectful, be helpful, and be responsive.

If you’re having a bad day, maybe it’s a good idea to stay off social media. Or, at least, limit your activities to posting neutral items and letting your followers interact among themselves. Don’t let your bad day influence the way you treat your fans.

When is it acceptable to be negative on social media? That’s a hard call. I try very hard never to do that. Some authors cultivate an image of being a “bad ass,” and put that attitude on display. If that’s who you are, and it’s what your followers expect, then carry on. Be yourself (or the image you have created of yourself).

On one popular social media site, when users were asked what they like most from authors, one of the most common responses was interaction. They want to engage. When they reply to an author’s post, they want their reply to be acknowledged. They want a response. It takes time and effort. Marketing always does, and that’s what brand building is—the foundation of marketing, and eventual success.

One last thing I have learned about social media—pictures of my dog are always more popular than anything else I post. Get a dog.

_________________________________________________________________
Jim Proctor has been an engineer and laboratory scientist for more than 34 years, working at a major university, a national measurements laboratory, and in private industry. After decades of writing and contributing to scientific papers, he began writing his first work of fiction around 2007. Using his scientific background, he brought realism to a science fiction tale of mystery and suspense. A fantasy novel followed, set on a planet where the balance of nature was anything but natural. He has written numerous short stories, and is currently working on a new science fiction novel. His books are Made in The Stars and  The Last Steward. When not writing (or reading), he is working for a living while thinking about writing. He can be found at https://www.facebook.com/IndieAuthorJimProctor 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing With All The Senses


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


High above the city of Lisbon rest the ancient site of St George Castle. St George is a beautiful and impressive fortress that stands watch over the Tagus River and the valley behind. To reach the fortress one must travel through the narrow streets of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood that lies between the castle and the water. You must work your way to the top to experience the beautiful view of the city, the river and the Ponte 25th of April Bridge.

I had the pleasure of enjoying these views during lunch at the castle. It was indeed breath taking. The river, where all the great explorers launched to discover the trade routes to the east, looks more like a bay. The Ponte 25th of April Bridge has such a close resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge it is referred to as Lisbon’s Golden Gate. The designs are indeed similar. And most breathtaking of all is the city itself with its many houses with red roofs. It is a beautiful and historic sight indeed.

The sights are available on many websites and all photos are excellent representations of the sites. I took many photos while I was there but none were planned nor as well done as what I have enjoyed on these sights. But there is one thing I have that cannot be shared in a photo and that is the physical experience of traveling there. The true feel of the city must be experienced firsthand.

We arrived on June 11th which is the day after Portugal Day. This is the day in which all citizens and Portuguese Immigrants around the world celebrate their nationality. This is the day of the death of their nation’s great poet Luis de Camoes. Camoes wrote what is considered the greatest work of Portuguese History and the great feats of the Portuguese Empire. The celebration was the day before but the after party effects were in the streets.

Apparently the Portuguese have cookouts on their National Holiday like the Americans do on our National Holiday. But unlike the Americans, that cook burgers and hot dogs, the Portuguese cook sardines on the grill. Tasty I’m sure but the smell the following day engulfed the neighborhood. Smelly as it was it was not a deterrent to our travels.

The Alfama neighborhood was a beautiful area. Unlike the downtown area of Lisbon with its international flavor, it had the feel and appearance of the traditional old world Lisbon. The people were friendly and open and ready with a nod or wave. We happened upon a wedding and lingered to watch the excitement and joy of the family. A beautiful bride and a large gathering was a joy to see.
Once you reached the top you could feel the summer breeze and hear the sounds of the city rising up. I could feel it was a moment to remember and I have done so many times since. As beautiful as the sights are, I think it took all the senses to establish that moment in my mind.

Having been fortunate to travel and share my experiences I have noticed that showing pictures of your travels tends to have the same effect of seeing the old slide show of our neighbor’s summer vacation. Many of us have suffered through those. I now realize although we see the great photos and see their excitement we have not experienced being there. It takes the combination of all the senses to get the full effect.


The same is true for us as writers. We need to write with all the senses. We must not only paint the picture but we need to allow our readers to smell the roses, feel the breeze, hear the sounds and enjoy the celebration. I am not saying we must spend page after page describing in great detail each and every scene but make the reader aware of their surroundings in the story. If we do this we can establish a moment in their mind. Hopefully it will be a moment they will remember time and time again.        

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

AUTHORS GO FORTH AND SIN…


By Ali Brandon


I’m one of those writers that we call “pantsers”…I write by the seat of my pants without a whole lot of prep. We pantsers run on instinct and flashes of brilliance, and we cross our fingers and hope it all works out. And usually it does, though not without a lot of sweat toward the end trying to wrap up all the loose ends.

This is as opposed to the “planner” types. You know who you are! You folks outline and write bios on your characters and pretty well have your story locked in before you begin. But, pantser or planner, sometimes we all have problems when it comes to establishing logical motivation for our characters. So what to do when this happens?

My best advice is to go back to the basics…and I’m talking WAY back. When you’re stumped for a motive, maybe when you’ve tangled yourself up in too complicated a background for your characters, why not go classical, even Biblical? Tap into The Seven Deadly Sins for the very fundamental motivations for humans since the beginning.

So, here you go. These sins obviously will apply to your villains…though, in moderation, they also serve as the necessary flaw in an otherwise likable hero or heroine:

·        WRATH – More commonly known as anger, Wrath is always a great motive. My killers all seem to be driven at least partially by rage of some sort, whether it is anger at the world for some perceived injustice, or anger at a particular person who they feel has done them wrong. As we all know—in real life, as well as in fiction—wrath can lead to murder, whether spontaneous or premeditated.
·        Greed – A staple of caper novels, Greed is usually--but not always--a motivation for theft. Greed, however, does not always have to be about money. Maybe your antagonist wants to control all the land in town, and your protagonist must try to stop his takeover. Or maybe said villain wants your hero’s great job, beautiful family, and overall successful life, and tries to destroy him or her to gain this.
·        Sloth --This sin is a bit harder to incorporate, but it’s still a useful one. Sloth can translate to a character’s deliberate inaction, which can result in something bad happening to a good person, setting the story line into motion.
·        Pride -- This sin can be a flaw, but it also can be a positive. In my BLACK CAT BOOKSHOP MYSTERIES, my protagonist, Darla Pettistone, has pride in her store and her employees, and this spurs many of her actions, including searching out murderers. But a villain overcome by Pride may stoop to all sorts of crimes, including murder, in order to keep his proud fa├žade intact.
·        Lust -- We all know about Lust! It can lead to many other bad things: cheating on spouses, sex crimes, even murder. I write cozy mysteries, so I haven’t tapped into this sin yet…but I might.
·        Envy -- When I envy you, I want what you have…but if I can’t have it, I don’t want you to have it, either. Envy is a sneaky little sin. It can appear as nothing worse than a bit of pettiness but, nurtured, it can lead to other, more serious sins…again, even murder.
·        Gluttony -- A 1st cousin to greed, and not only related simply to food. Gluttony is indulging in too much of anything. I may be rich, but I want to be richer! And sometimes the accumulation of wealth requires removing certain people from the picture.

And there you are. Now, next time you’re stumped for a motive for your bad guy or gal, simply reach for one of the Seven!
________________________________________________________________ 
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Book 4 in the series, LITERALLY MURDER, will be on the shelf September 30. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ali penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically reviewed historical romances, which will soon be re-released as eBooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association. Visit her atwww.dianestuckart.com, and be sure to “like” Hamlet on Facebook:www.Facebook.com/blackcatbookshopmysteries .


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Establishing Lyric


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


Frequent establishing shot from TV's Seinfeld
At the beginning of any story, the first thing the audience wants to know is what's going on.  Those first few sentences have a duty to satisfy that curiosity by identifying some sense of who, what, when and where. In a song or poem, where much has to be conveyed in even fewer words, it's especially appreciated when the scene is set up front.

Just like the establishing shot in a movie, a good opening lyric gives the listener an instant understanding of the current state of affairs so that they feel caught up on whatever they need to know to jump right in with us.

Consider the opening lines of these hit songs from various genres.  In each of the following examples, they provide an establishing setup, if not a backstory, for what will be the closing line of the song:

"Yesterday" (The Beatles)
     First line: Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
     Last line: Oh, I believe in yesterday.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (from The Wizard of Oz)
     First line: Somewhere over the rainbow,way up high
     Last line: Why, oh why can't I?

"All By Myself" (Eric Carmen)
     First line: When I was young, I never needed anyone
     Last line: Don't wanna live all by myself anymore.

"Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" (Otis Redding)
     First line: Sittin' in the mornin' sun, I'll be sittin' till the evening's done
     Last line: Sittin' on the dock of the bay, wastin' time.

"Heartbreak Hotel" (Elvis Presley)
     First line: Well, since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell
     Last line: I get so lonely, I could die.

"Sunshine of Your Love" (Cream)
     First line: It's getting near dawn
     Last line: I've been waiting so long to be where I'm going, in the sunshine of your love.

"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (Glen Campbell)
     First line: By the time I get to Phoenix she'll be rising
     Last line: She just didn't know I would really go.
 
"New York New York" (Frank Sinatra)
     First line: Start spreading the news, I'm leavin' today
     Last line: It's up to you, New York, New York.

Full circle is very satisfying, and a correspondence between the opening and closing lines offers that sense of fulfillment. But even more important is providing the listener with that helpful briefing up front. Giving them an easy invitation to follow along and not waste time sorting out what the song is about is music to their ears.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Consistency and Creativity: 5 Ways to Find Consistency and Maintain It


By R. H. Ramsey 


So often, we hear and read about consistency, one of the most popular phrases of all, is consistency is key.

I struggle with consistency. At one point, I worked out twice a day, watched what I ate, and kept a food journal. This went on for years, and I was able to do this, because I was in a place, emotionally, where I could conceptualize the goal and stick to it – I knew that I could stick to it. 

Now, I am ashamed to say, I have not worked out consistently in years. It has been sporadic, and it is nothing that I am proud of. I try not to make excuses, but I do have cluster headaches almost every day of the week, which seem to wipe me out and leave me with nothing but fatigue to my name.

When I feel that I am unable, or do not have the energy to commit, I procrastinate. I disappear. This applies to friendships, exercise, my eating habits, and school. The only exception is writing, as ideas come like floods, and if I don't have the time to work on the story, I know that I can at least jot down notes. Even this, my note taking process, I realize, is not what I would call consistent; it is more like organized chaos.

So, what do we do when energy is low, time is limited, life is demanding, and the things we once enjoyed are no longer, well, enjoyable?

Here it comes, that word thrown around so often it's nearly taunting, consistency. But I am not talking wake up at 5am, work out at 5:30am, eat breakfast before 7am, walk your dog at 8am consistency. I am talking about consistency on an emotional level.

Before I explain, take a look at this snippet from an excellent article I read on directcreative.com:

“People are driven to be consistent in all areas of life — in their words, deeds, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, habits, and promises. Once a person makes a decision, takes a stand, or performs an action, he or she strives to make all future behavior match this past behavior.
Dieters stick with diet programs they've paid for, even long after it's clear they don't work. College students become fanatically loyal to campus societies after they've gone through difficult and embarrassing hazing. Donors find it difficult to refuse appeals once they've donated to a cause. Consumers stick with brands they've bought before, even if they're more expensive.”

More often than not, the simplest of things inspire me, just like you. And in reading this, even though the author had a lot more to say on the topic of consistency, I was reminded of the pressure we put on ourselves and one another to conquer things that get us nowhere. I thought of our constant need to control and conquer time. Only time cannot be conquered, and sometimes, there is much more to consistency, than control.

Here are some of my ideas, some of the things that work for me, as I work toward paying more attention to my needs and priorities – and marrying the two.

1.    Be conscious of the things you are telling yourself about this new venture. If you are telling yourself, it is going to be hard, it is never going to work, it is just to please someone else, or that it is stupid, work on your self-talk. Before you begin this new routine of meditating, exercising, writing, taking more pictures, practicing an instrument, training your voice, or painting – whatever it may be – try visualizing the results. I write about visualization, often, because for me, it is equivalent to writing a list or an outline. Visualization is also a great way to confirm, connect, and build anticipation. We need anticipation and high-to-reasonable expectations of ourselves.

2.    Choose your time wisely. When starting out with new projects and goals, think about starting small. Many nights, I can write from the time my children to bed, until between 2 and 5am – five - eight hours straight. Yet making the decision to hop on the elliptical for an hour may bore me after 15 minutes, and I will find myself turned off altogether for weeks to come. What about, keeping your needs in mind, not slacking, making excuses, or treating the goal as if it is not a priority. Just keep yourself, your personality, your needs, in mind. Putting pressure on yourself, I believe, is a sure fire way to make what could be a journey that brings amazing results, into a chore. And many times, no one wants to be forced to do a chore.

3.    If you know that you are trying something you do not enjoy, or something that is challenging, or deep down, you feel that it is taking up too much of your free time, find ways to incorporate it in increments. Think of creative ways to ease yourself into it. Maybe in the beginning, you implement it “in doses” throughout your day. Devote fifteen minutes upon rising. Give fifteen minutes to the new routine during your favorite television show or while sitting outdoors in your solitude. Try diving in, again, while listening to fifteen minutes of your favorite songs. Then, what about another fifteen minutes while substituting something that could wait/is a bit less of priority, to work on your goal. You've got yourself an hour. Not bad, right? I think an hour is wonderful!

4.    Distract yourself: “You don’t need to rely on your id for everyday decision-making, like whether to order the chicken or the fish. But if you want to pick like a pro, distract yourself for two minutes before you deliver a verdict. The most effective distractions are completely different from the original problem, says J. David Creswell, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. His favorite trick to tune out: turn up your favorite music.” nbcnews.com ~I am a firm believer in distracting myself. When exercising, I distract myself with music. While editing and re-writing, I make time to distract myself and enjoy writing short stories. If I am having a bad day, and I catch myself before the mood spreads to “If I don't go to bed, soon, I am going to scream!” I distract myself with things that keep me centered. I think it's the same with new goals. As funny as it may sound, don't focus so hard on the hard part.

5.    Distract yourself with the outcome; distract with yourself from the voices that tell you you're going to quit – just like last time. Because guess what! If you do take a break, you've simply realized that now is not the time, and if you keep these rules in mind, you will come back and blow those voices away. For goodness sake! Stop being so hard on yourself. Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens when it should. You got this!

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R. H. Ramsey has completed several novels, four novels near completion and five short stories.  She has three self-published books: Just Beneath the Surface IUndone, and Into the Atmosphere, with many more to come. Just Beneath the Surface 2: Landon's story will be published at the end of 2014. Her books have been acquired by an indie publisher. Just Beneath the Surface 2: Landon's Story is her current work in progress.With a passion for people, helping and learning, she hopes to continue in her quest of learning from and inspiring others. Connect with RH Ramsey: http://arirjames.wordpress.com and  http://facebook.com/authoranisola and http://twitter.com/rhramseydreamer