Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wendy Who

Today I’m looking at writing and platform building through a Horton Hears a Who lens.

If you’ve read the Dr. Seuss classic or have seen the movie you might imagine where I’m headed.

I’m a Who. A Who writer. Without a bestseller, not selling millions, no lines waiting for me at book signings.

Years ago I asked myself what’s a Who to do in the megaphone world of broadcast yourself until your fingers ache from tweeting and posting?

And naturally I concluded…

Make noise of course.

A constant tension exists in the publishing industry. Pour yourself into your craft. Don’t get distracted. But as you improve your craft and ward off distractions, build a rock solid platform.

In recent years, my inner introvert has endured Olympic-equivalent training while exercising extroverted skills.

And at some point I became immersed in the tension, wading, then dogpaddling, until I dove deep enough all sound began to mimic the murmuring Charlie Brown waa waa—that under water half-registered reception of everything communicated above the water’s surface.

I grappled with the fear that if I didn’t make noise I’d be blown by the wind, disappearing altogether. Would anyone care about a Who? Would I exist as a writer? Tree falls in the forest kind of thoughts.

Gradually, I’ve grown to embrace that being a Who isn’t about the clatter. Surviving + thriving in this industry require me to trust there are folks out there who believe in me. I believe in me.

I told myself to write this post as I would my last. Not because that’s what it is—a finale but because sometimes I think about it…hitting publish on my last post. I envision the exit from social media much like Jim Carrey stepping off stage in The Truman Show. No more tweeting, status updates, dipping my toe in or swan diving in the social media pool. I’m not anti social media. Absolutely not. In fact, while I was visiting my mom in Florida last week I missed connecting online.

However, it’s proven invaluable for me to evaluate how my experience online has influenced me, and what the concept of platform building has done to my passion for writing. For me, platform building has a tendency to feel like blowing down a deck of cards only to rebuild it again.

During my time of reflection I slid inside Horton’s skin, took a step back to watch Wendy Who blowing trumpets, smashing drums, while stomping all over the Internet. I connected alright. I connected with such fervor there were times I lost my voice in the process.

When I quieted I was surprised to learn a thing or two about myself. My writing didn’t crumble. The seeds where I’d rooted myself weren’t sent sailing haphazardly on the wind. Instead, I regained an appreciation of what I value about social media. I also took an honest look at all the noise I was making, measuring it, sampling it, and spitting out what was unnecessary.

I realized what I’m made of—the fight in me still strong.

One more thing settled into my Wendy Who bones. I don’t have to scream for survival in publishing. People believe in both me and my writing. My words speak loud enough on their own.

I need not worry whether or not people are promoting or talking about Wendy Who. Because I know what it feels like to holler with such throat-scratching intensity my blowfish cheeks redden and my purpose stretches to the point it can get diluted and muddled. And thankfully, I’ve learned what it feels like to float along content on the winds of change.

This Who has resolved to enjoy the process while letting my writing reverberate noise. I’m reenergized to focus on my craft as I trust in what’s to come.

Have you ever thought about the influence social media (and/or platform building) has had on your life? Ever feel like a Who, either afraid of being unheard or as though you could be blown away to nothingness? What helps you to feel reaffirmed in your most valued roles?

Thank you for being a Horton in my life—for hearing me!

*photos by stock.XCHNG

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lessons of Survival Part 2

I gleaned so much from reading Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience I wanted to share
more of what I learned with you.

Throughout Surviving, Laurence Gonzales asserts the importance of not giving up. He writes, “Our ongoing survival requires relentless attention.” And Gonzales really started talking my language with,
“You have to believe you can influence what happens in your life.”

Does this mean I cling to the steering wheel of life, turning and careening to manipulate things to go my way whenever I’d like? Pft, anytime I try that I end up having to relearn humbling lessons, dust off pride, and cry uncle while simultaneously crying out for a do-over.

Nope, believing we can influence what happens in life is an expression of trusting God to move us through our circumstances—trusting God will move in us. It’s risking enough to step out of the boat and onto the raging waves despite the fact we know we could sink at any moment.

In Surviving Gonzales provides 6 ineffective strategies (what he calls immature defenses) people use in attempt to deal with difficult circumstances.

These are:
Projection—blaming someone else
Passive aggression—responding with anger
Acting out—examples include fighting, drinking, gambling
Fantasy—taking a leave of reality
Hypochondria—imagining you are sick all the time

Then Gonzales details 12 proven strategies for overcoming hardships and pulling through.

These are:
Recognize the reality of the situation. Accept it. Prepare to deal with it.
Remain calm (think, analyze, plan & know what you have and what you want)
Set achievable goals
Act on your plan (movement…I’m kinda a fan of this word)
Celebrate success once you’ve taken action
Count your blessings
Pray (I took notes on this part and I can’t read my writing. This is either play or pray. I’m going with pray b/c it’s worked for me but I don’t recall if that’s what Gonzales wrote)
Giving (find meaningful purpose)
Believe you can influence events
Do whatever is necessary to move forward. Let go of your fears.

I like how Gonzales highlights twice the amount of effective ways to navigate through the aftermath of tragedy than ineffective ways.

When we’re at our most vulnerable we’re more susceptible to buy into the lie that our influence here is insignificant. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, you matter. Your life here matters. Horrific circumstances have a way of stripping this truth from us. Without a shadow of a doubt, I’m here to remind you there’s a reason you’re here.


*Post dedicated to fellow New Englanders, Bostonians + loved ones
**photo by stock.XCHNG
***I’ll be sporadic online the next few weeks. Next post will be on April 30th
****I’m thoroughly enjoying my friend Susan DiMickele’s Working Women of the Bible. It’s been a blast to feature so many cool books my friends have written over the past few weeks. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lessons of Survival Part I

Reading Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience reminded me of times in my life when I’ve
walked through the fire. Times when I’ve looked back and been awestruck I somehow came out on the other side of tragedy. I should mention that what I’ve gone through pales in comparison to the shark attack, the bear mauling, the Holocaust accounts, among other horrific events portrayed in the book.

Even still, the insights I’m about to share (in two parts) have scooped me up out of myself on more than one occasion. I was engrossed in Surviving Survival and many of the coping techniques rang familiar. I’ve employed them. The chicken and egg conundrum asks whether I read about these strategies at some point and subconsciously put them to practice or if some of what I’m about to share kicked in naturally.

Are some of us just more naturally resilient?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m going for a medal in resiliency?

Because I’ve benefitted from the strategies identified in Surviving Survival, I’m excited to pass them on.

If you’ve endured a devastating life change and are struggling to move on with life (or you know someone in this situation), here are a few steps to take…

Sublimation—do something to channel your energy and anxiety
(I write novels. I paint. I run. I refurbish furniture. I create whatever, whenever.)

Altruism—doing something for someone else
(I was flooded with love and meals and kindness at a time of great loss in my life. I still swear to this day the only thing that pulled me out of this time of grief was finding someone else to shower with love and kindness and meals. Passing it on saved me.)

Suppression—not thinking about the trauma, distracting yourself from it
(This one is the most difficult for me. I’m a dweller. But running does wonders. Running and nature are great distracters from rough goings.)

Anticipation—seeing the future clearly and preparing for it
(I draft lists. I bounce ideas off trusted friends. I refuse to sit in the mire of my undoing. I act upon my dreams.)

Humor—Laugh at yourself (and the misfortune) to help heal
(Hands down my favorite coping technique. I must get a double dose of endorphin release when I crack up. I’m often caught laughing at myself while grocery shopping or driving in my car. I talk to myself in public too. All in the name of survival.)
Throughout Surviving, Gonzales depicts additional ways people overcame their difficult circumstances. Among them are: Focusing on positive emotions, exuding gratitude, finding something to laugh at, exercise, eating well and staying healthy, staying socially connected, and finally, “Above all, avoid self-pity.”

Gonzales quotes Tolstoy, “Ah, if only you might learn, through suffering, to believe that the only possible happiness—true, eternal, elevated—is achieved through these three things: Work, self-denial, and love.”

Truth is, we’ll all face a hardship that will threaten to sink us at some point in our lives. It’s not whether or not it will happen, it’s how we’ll choose to deal with it when it does.

What fascinates you about resiliency? Anything I shared today surprise you?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

**I’ve been having a blast featuring books written by some dear author friends of mine. This week I encourage you to check out Heather Sunseri’s Young Adult debut, Mindspeak!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Deconstructing Lowe’s “Never Stop Improving” in My Life

What I’m about to tell you next could shock you. Good, now that you’ve been warned I’ll continue. You know what I’m about here. Growth, improving, movement of all kinds.

I was watching a Lowe’s commercial the other day (one of my daughter’s favorites) and I got to thinking (yikes, there I go again) what if there are times in life when we are to still, to allow work to be done quietly inside us rather than rush around accomplishing, improving, bettering?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate of growth. I love how the Lowe’s commercial shows neighbors inspired by one another. Love that. But here’s something I’m also gleaning lately.

We can only control so much. We can work until the cows come home, pigs fly, and Chicken Little hollers the sky is falling but at some point we’re wise to lean in to the art of contentment.

Not a give up, sit here and do nothing idea of contentment. But a state of being where we find peace in the now. In the messy. In the not there yet. Peace amidst the chaos.

Three of the best methods I’ve found to help get me to this place of peace…

When I’m running on all cylinders it communicates more to me about my state of mind than my state of being. It’s as though my actions are screaming at me I’m overdue for a long sit down.

Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself when I’m not working—when I’m not in constant motion. And that kind of freaks me out.

When we rest we grant ourselves valuable time to let our bodies replenish and our minds to refresh. My perspective has a tendency to get all out of whack when I rob myself of rest time.

I’m not referring to long looks back, the stuff that zapped Lot’s wife into salt here folks. Instead, I’m referring to a good hike. Moments spent in nature or near a graveyard where we’re able to get a solid refresher of just how fragile this life is—how temporal. Time to remember what’s important to us. When we carve out time for reflection we honor life.

This is the most influential R for me. Our natural tendency is to steer off course. You know this. I’m not telling you anything new. No matter how long we’ve poured into faith we’re still bound to gravitate toward our own will. Our way. When I’m flooded with projects, insistent on completing one more thing, and crowding my calendar so it’s difficult to find time to breathe, I’m missing opportunities to realign. To remember why I’m here and that I can write another novel, plant another flower bed, or spring clean my heart out and I’ll still be loved the same as when I didn’t carve out time to write novels, had a black Grim Reaper thumb, and my house was in shambles.

I can’t earn more love by speeding up. I can’t make it so I’m loved more.
I’m enough.
For my God I’m enough.

Want to know the crazy part as I deconstruct this thought?

As soon as I’m able to rest in the realignment of where I stand with God, I find myself craving to work hard for him. To become more forgiving, less bitter, more patient…

And so inject myself in the cycle of Rs again so I’m not fooled into thinking I’m earning his love, his acceptance, or his approval by my actions.

I never want to stop improving. But I always don’t ever want to forget that I’m not loved for what I do but for who I am.


Do you ever have to discipline yourself to slow down? Are there times you fight your restless nature (like I do) and buy into the thinking that if you do more, accomplish more you are becoming…more? What helps remind you that you are enough?

 My beautiful friend Michelle DeRusha pointed me in the direction of this relevant quote recently:
"We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God. Or we can write the great American novel. But the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord, or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control." Madeleine L’Engle

*I’ve loved celebrating recently released books written by my rockin’ friends. This week I urge you to check out sweet supporter and friend, Susan J. Reinhardt’s, The Moses Conspiracy!

Taking Time

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