Writers and Risk Taking: My Role Models of the Week


One of the most heartwarming discussions I have ever had on this blog was when I asked, “Is writing with vulnerability a sign of low self-concept?”  The comments from my readers were full of wisdom and insights.

I especially liked the way Shakira Dawud of DeliberateInk.com linked vulnerability and risk taking to humility. She said:

“When we show our vulnerability to others, they get a glimpse of how much we love what we’re doing, and how much we care that it be the best. They see that we don’t care how good they think we are—that we’re human, and we can be better. There’s something to admire in that kind of humility, I think.”

And my friend Beth Buelow over at The Introvert Entrepreneur felt that, on the contrary, vulnerability tells her that the writer has a good self concept. Beth said:

“IMHO, showing vulnerability is a sign of high self-esteem and confidence in one’s self. You know you’re opening yourself up to judgment, yet you know you can handle it. You’re secure in your experience and feelings. You’re grounded in your truth and are willing to share it with the world for mutual benefit. That makes thoughtful (not whiny) vulnerability an extremely powerful thing!”

So why, then, is it so hard to push that “publish” or “send” button? I think it might be because we are never totally happy with what we have produced.  We want to it be good—no, we want it to be the best.

And we want it now.

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What’s All the Fuss About Headlines?

Ebook How To Create Sticky HeadlinesAs a blogging coach, I got many questions about how to write catchy headlines. So many that I decided to put all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over 20+ years of copywriting and editing into one place, my new ebook.

I am excited to announce that How to Write Sticky Headlines: Secrets of the Copywriters is rolling off the digital press today!

You’ve heard it before. Your headline is the gateway to your content. If it doesn’t make your readers sit up and take notice, they will never get to your main article or blog post. Whether you are selling a product or service or trying to get more traffic to your blog, your headline matters.

A lot.

You can’t judge a book by its cover?

Actually, that’s wrong. You can— and people do every day. At the Barnes and Noble megastores, at your neighborhood book shop, on Amazon.com. A book may contain the secrets to the origins of the universe, but no one will read it if the title doesn’t hook them.

Same thing with your blog post. When it lands in your subscriber’s inbox or their Google Reader, it’s competing with every other message, every other blog post, every other headline. Your readers will skim and scan, looking for the one that catches their interest enough to click through. If that doesn’t happen, you have wasted all the heard work you invested in writing the post.

In the business, we call it a “sticky” headline. It’s one that reader can’t get out of her brain. It intrigues her. It calls to her. Makes her just have to read your article.

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Rock Stars and Writers: How Our Hometowns Shape Us

kurt cobain

Late last year, the childhood home of Kurt Cobain, the tragic lead singer of Nirvana, hit the auction block. I followed the story with interest, mostly because  he and I grew up in the same town. And we were impacted by that— sometimes in similar ways, sometimes very differently.

Today, the home town we share, quiet little Aberdeen, Washington, celebrated Kurt Cobain Day, in honor of his birthday. It is hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since he took his own life.

How our hometowns shape us

In a novel, the setting sometimes has deep meaning—to the characters, plot and theme. And so it is with memoirists, except, perhaps, even more so.

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100 Writing Women Celebrate the Seasons of their Lives

seasons of our lives winter

Sometimes a project comes along that catches my eye. Several months ago, Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett over at Women’s Memoirs put a call out for stories for their Seasons of Our Lives writing competition.

I was in the middle of the first draft of my memoir and the timing was perfect. Matilda and Kendra asked for memoir vignettes about a turning point in our lives. An event that changed the way we see the world and our place in it.

I  wrote my story, emailed it and promptly forgot about it. [Read more...]

Why I’m Skipping New Year’s This Year

judy and bob

Every year it happens. The ‘New Year Crazies.’ The frenzy of The Best of and Worst of lists. The resolutions. The breathless waiting for the marking of the first second of the new year, as if nothing can be done to improve our lives until that precise moment.

Because, after all, it is a new year.

But when we are always looking ahead, we miss the important part, the living part.

Are we living or just marking time?

On the night before Christmas Eve, Bob started feeling a tightness in his chest and a slight dizziness. Because the last ferry to the mainland would be leaving in fifteen minutes, we took no chances and got him to the hospital.

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Things I Love Part 2: Some More Thanksgiving Inspiration for You


Did you ever write a post that connected with people in a way that motivated them to apply the theme or topic in a post of their own? Last week, I published a little post called Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes? This week I was delighted to see friends (and several ‘strangers’) step up to that very challenge.

My friend Gini Dietrich of the popular Spin Sucks blog heard about this little game and said this on Twitter:

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Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes?

Girl Kissing Boy

It’s November, and some people are taking the 30-day Gratitude Challenge, that is they are naming one thing they are thankful for every day through the thirty days of the month.

It’s a cool idea and I may try it one of these months (I definitely do not have to wait until next November). The thing about these kinds of events is that it makes you dig below the surface and recognize things you weren’t even consciously aware of about yourself.

An exercise I call “Name 99 Things I Love,” can help you in all kinds of ways, too.  You get a sense of what’s important in life, where your priorities lie and what brings you joy. For a writer—of memoir, fiction or straight nonfiction—it can also help you find your personality. Your distinct voice.

I keep this list on the wall by my computer screen. When I need a break from writing, it reminds me of all the things in life I take for granted. So, in a way, it’s a gratitude list, too.

 99 Things I Love

  1. Feeding peanuts to squirrels
  2. Watching 1930s screwball comedies
  3. The smell of a bold roast coffee brewing
  4. Writing my life stories
  5. Learning how to juggle
  6. Teaching something new, to anyone
  7. Going on a day car trip with Bob, with no business involved
  8. Painting with watercolors [Read more...]

Heroes and Anti-Heroes: Have The Characters We Love Changed?

Annex - Peck, Gregory (To Kill a Mockingbird)_02Two nights ago, Bob and I watched the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for, like, the bazzilionth time. In my opinion, it takes its rightful place on the list of the most beautifully-made films ever. In  Harper Lee’s powerful story,  Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the 1930s deep South is charged with defending a black man against the rape of a white woman. In the process, his children witness not only his love for them, but his compassion for the vulnerable, his ethics, and his unwavering commitment to standing up for what he believes in.

For some reason, in my physical and digital space the last couple of weeks, this film was on other people’s minds, too. At the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference, as we were discussing the development of our stories’ main characters, a workshop presenter posed these questions:

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Out of My Head: Three Days at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference

whidbey-island-conferenceAs writers, sometimes we stay inside our heads for days at a time. We squint at the computer screen, pondering the best way to write a scene. We stare at the walls, as if they have the answer we need to fix that hole in our plot. We pretend to look out the window, but we don’t really see anything—besides our characters and their wanderings.

While that kind of laser focus helps us meet our deadlines and finish our books, it causes us to miss so much: the camaraderie of other writers, the chance to pose a problem in our story and get feedback from others, and opportunities to learn, grow and collaborate with other authors.

Bob and I arrived for the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference last Thursday, the only attendees who had to take two ferries to get there.

We got there just in time for the speakers’ dinner, where we laughed, ate lasagna, sipped Chardonnay, and were entertained by an author at our table who told us stories of how growing up in the Midwest—rural South Dakota, to be exact—impacted his writing.

As I progressed through three days of workshops, keynotes and the fireside chats at elegant Whidbey Island homes that overlooked the water, I was hit with some sharable insights.

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Team NaNoWriMo: The Value of Perseverance

boys and baseballI have talked about the Princess Syndrome here before. It can be the reason people don’t publish on their blog regularly. It can be why people give up on blogging.

I wrote that post for others, but mostly I wrote it to myself, as a kick in the pants. Perfectionism still rears its monstrous head when I write.

I say to myself, “Wait. I can make that sentence better.” Or, “That word is not quite the right one.” Or, “That transition was weak. I must work on that.”

And so it goes.

The problem with my perfectionism is this. I will never finish the book if I keep fiddling with each sentence, each paragraph. I want to write that “shitty first draft,” as the acclaimed author Anne LaMotte calls it, but it’s a challenge for me.

It is still hard for me not to write three pages, go back and edit those three pages, once, twice, five times before I move on.

But here’s the deal:

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Why Writers Never Fell in Love with Social Media

Strange looking little girl using her laptop.I took a break from writing my memoir yesterday to check my social media streams. As I clicked the like button and shared friend’s posts on Facebook, retweeted a few writers’ updates on Twitter and plussed a few folks’ content on the big G, the pure ease of it struck me. In most cases, one simple click allowed me to validate somebody’s content and show at the very least that I recognize that they exist.

Or did it?

When I say, “I like what you said” or “I’m going to share what you said with someone else,” what have I really said? And what does it really mean?

It used to be that it required at least minimal effort to build and maintain relationships with friends, business colleagues, other writers. It involved taking the time to let people know what it was about them that we appreciated, to go beyond the superficial, to connect with them in personal ways.

Then along came social media.

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Write Your Book: A Guide to Getting Started and Staying Productive

Female Writer at Desk

Today I introduce a friend and colleague who has taught me so much about setting goals, managing my time, and making one of the most important projects of my lifetime, my book, happen. Please give a warm welcome to business and life coach extraordinaire, Kaarina Dillabough. And feel free to ask your questions in the comments following this guest post. Now, here’s Kaarina:

Have you been thinking about writing a book…seeing it in your mind’s eye, but never setting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard? That’s like turning to the final page of an existing book and believing that you’ve read it, when you’ve never even turned a page.

Remember this: Nothing was ever created and perfected in the same moment.

And yet, isn’t that what so many people believe should happen?

That when pen is put to paper, the words should automagically flow perfectly to paper the very first time?

That’s not going to happen.

There will be angst. There will be disappointment. There will be struggle. And there will be flow.

Flow…the beautiful place where the stars align and you write with abandon and freedom…where your thoughts outpace your ability to capture them as quickly in writing, and you’re in the zone.

But first, you have to start.

It’s that simple.

You have to decide to write. Then write. Don’t just think about it, dream about it or talk about it. Do it.

And to help you get started, or help you keep going, here are some tips and steps you can take to get you from where you are now to finished product.

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