2011: We’re focusing…we’re focusing…

Maybe some of you can relate to this… particularly you creative types about there.  I tend to get a bunch of writing projects spinning, because I don’t want to talk myself out of trying things or taking on new challenges, only to find myself managing all kinds of busyness without really having any way to measure how effectively I am saying the things I want to say with my life and my work.  Often I say yes to others’ projects and let my own writing goals sit and gather moss.

I’ve been sporadic about blogging, about some songwriting projects that are important to me, and about that screenplay I keep promising I’ll get to “sometime” but never do. Enough already!  I’m tired of being unfocused and unproductive… and I’m even more tired of never having a sense of completion when it comes to the projects that are closest to my heart.

The reason for saying all this publicly is to put “stake” in the ground.  To admit publicly that I’ve not used all the incredible resources and opportunities in my life wisely.  So hold my feet to the fire! 2011 is going the year where I stop shooting from the hip and lay out intentional, purposeful plans.  In fact, I’ve already started!

Now I know very well that the best laid plans can be disrupted at any moment with divine interruptions.  I accept that fully!  God has my full permission to interrupt my human ideas with His any day of any week!  But at the end of 2011, I want to know that if I didn’t meet my goals… I at least met His.  I’m tired of holding my own progress up because I didn’t have the guts to say “no” to this or that distraction.

Do you have projects you’ve been holding out on? Perhaps there’s something you keep promising yourself you’ll do “someday” but haven’t yet?  Please tell me what they are!  Surely I’m not the only one who wants 2011 to be the year where we stop with the ethereal air castles in the sky and start putting feet on our hopes and plans.

Anybody with me?

A (Short) Tale of Two Writers

There are two kinds of writers.  They’re described quite succinctly by the following quote.  For those of you who are writers (and for those who enjoy reading others’ work), I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

The moment I read the quote, I knew which kind of writer I tend to be… and several other writers came to mind for whom words come from a different place.  Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different.

I’ll admit, I tend rip most of my words from the gut, or I did before I had to start writing every day.  I see now that there is something to be said about pulling some things out of our pockets now and then — like when we’re on a deadline and have no choice.  Or when something needs to be said and we don’t necessarily want to go through a “gut-ectomy”. Pulling things from the gut just isn’t always practical or timely.  Or necessary.  Yet sometimes it’s important to process a subject, internalize it, really deal with it, before trying to express it coherently.

For better or worse, maybe both of these writers – the one who tears it from his guts and the other, who pulls it out of his overcoat pocket – need to co-exist within the same person.  Maybe experience can teach us how to be both kinds of writers over time.

Internalization could perhaps take one writer’s work to an entirely new level, or the ability to not hold so tightly and just lay out some words that work could offer efficiency and volume to our body of work.

I’d be curious to hear from you. Readers, what do you prefer? “Gut” stuff? Or “pocket” stuff?

Fellow writers, which kind of writer do you tend to be and how is that working for you?  Which kind of writing gleans the most response from your readers?

Why I Heart Twitter…

I heart Twitter…  Since joining the Twitter world over a year ago, I’ve actually met a number people in person whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  One of those people asked me just this week why I Twitter.  I’ve read others’ posts about why they Twitter, and it’s quite an individual thing. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit and for me, it’s not about building a giant following but about being myself.

So I heart Twitter because:

1. Twitter is helping me find my own voice.

For well over a decade, the anonymity that comes with ghostwriting, copywriting and creating web content has allowed me to do what I do best…. without being known. Writing voice-overs and documentary-style scripting has been another way I can enjoy the satisfaction of writing words that reach a lot of ears but are delivered, in one way or another, by other voices. This, I love. But over time my own voice has begun to emerge.  Whether anyone wants to hear it or not isn’t the important thing… it is that I’m learning to differentiate my voice from my work.  So I Twitter.  It’s like therapy, really.

2.  Twitter is helping me find my friends.

Some of the people who follow me just know my name because I work for – or with – someone more prominent they admired. If they stick around after getting to know me, then great!  But if not, I’m okay with it. Because I Twitter as myself, and no one else. In the process, I’ve gained some really cool friends and deepened my existing friendships (because I’m truly terrible at keeping in touch with all the people I enjoy).

3. Twitter is helping me stay focused (ironically).

Some call Twitter a time-waster. And it most certainly could be. But it can also help you decide what your message is and keep you focused on communicating what’s important to you.  Because of my wide ranges of interests I’ve had to work on this one.  But Twitter is now making me decide what my message is going to be.  Except, of course, during music award shows and American Idol.

4. Twitter makes me smile every day… and LAUGH my head off during Twitter parties.

I’ve laughed out loud more often during the past year than perhaps several previous years combined.  PART of the credit for my more joyful year goes to the irresistible exchange of thoughts during award shows, American Idol, webcasts, etc. shared among whomever is also watching and commenting.  Watching shows while a running dialogue of (often hilarious) comments scrolls by is just fun. It’s like having big viewing parties at the house, only I don’t have to clean the house or get dressed for company!   That’s not the only reason to Twitter, but it is pretty great!

5. With Twitter, I can learn from and enjoy some incredible people who may or may not like each other.

It’s is like having an on-going party, and brainstorming session, and support group, and seminar… all with my own personalized filter.  For example, I follow ‘Little Debbie’ because I grew up on her cookies and love them, while I also follow advocates of healthy gluten-free and sugar-free foods my son can eat (and who would be appalled by my “Little Debbie ways”).  I follow edgy, controversial people and conservative people… authors, agents and publishers to see what that whole world is like… pastors, speakers and spiritual leaders… people with Asperger’s Syndrome and other moms whose kids have autism spectrum disorders… and people who just seem like neat people.  I love following people who make me laugh out loud, and I’m equally partial to people who think I’m pretty funny.  I follow people with whom I sing at church and people I will never, ever get to sing with but whom I admire greatly.  All of the people I follow enhance my life somehow. And sometimes I get to follow groups of friends who encourage each other, and that’s nice to witness, too.

6. Twitter keeps expanding my horizons.

I could very easily get complacent and let the solitude that comes with writing keep me too self-contained.  Though I have an introverted streak, I really love people. So somehow Twitter keeps me growing, meeting new people with perspectives I need to hear – without me having to travel or neglect my spiritual growth, family, work or much-needed self-care.

7.  What I gain compared with what I give is an incredible value.

Twittering several times each day doesn’t take much time compared to the 40 years I’ve taken me to find my voice and express what I, alone, think and feel. And when I share what I’m learning or what is happening in my world, I receive in return so much interesting knowledge and inspiration from many others I want to learn from!

I could go on, but you get the idea.  So what about you??  If you Twitter, why do you do it and what are you learning?

Listening.

listeningThe volume of writing I have to complete during the course of any given week is comical.  And the speed at which I need to complete said writing is even funnier.  Although it would be humiliating, I sometimes wish I had a hidden camera on the “plate-spinning” fiasco that goes into the copy I turn out.  It would be entertaining, but I have to tell you… it’s usually not pretty.

Being in a position where the wheels of creativity don’t have the luxury of getting rusty or, Heaven forbid, grinding to a halt, I’ve had to rely on a handful of survival skills… the most important of which is listening. The moment I begin drawing from my own limited well of thoughts, the word flow quickly slows to a stilted trickle and, if I let it, doesn’t render a salvagable thing.

On a day when I have many, many deadlines in front of me, this morning I woke up keenly aware that I needed fresh thoughts and I ran across Isaiah 50:4… “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue…” [or pen… or keyboard…] “…to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught…”

Oh how I needed this reminder to tune in to a different frequency other than my own thoughts – even during the countless times when I think I don’t have time to listen.  Especially when I think I don’t have time.

My 10-year-old daughter is particularly adept at this listening thing.  She is a GREAT writer.  Her work is all over our home in the form of thoughtful notes, stories, poems and handmade signs on countless surfaces.  Although she is still learning about grammar, punctuation and other technical aspects of the craft, her words are moving because she listens and understands what her audience (our family) most needs to hear.  Just this morning, my husband found a welcome home note from her and it spoke deeply to his desire to be a great father.  This little note is a keeper.  It will make the family archives, without question, and he will undoubtedly pull it out whenever he is discouraged, simply because she has been listening to our conversations and even to our unspoken hopes.  Don’t tell her yet, but I believe she is in training to say some important things to her generation using that same skill – the skill for hearing things that others miss.

Skillful listening – to the world around us, to what the people in our lives are really saying, to the Voice of our Creator and even to one’s own heart – is the one practice that separates stale, uninspired copy from messages that have the potential to move and sustain our readers.  Stories, personal letters, descriptions, blogs, emails, songs, scripts – even commercials – and any other written expressions can nearly write themselves when the art of listening is combined with basic writing skills.

It is difficult to make time for listening because it’s not a tyrant.  It doesn’t scream at us nearly as loudly as the deadlines and the noise of a busy life.  But when you make it a regular practice, your work will become more informed and will most likely fly like a well-directed arrow into the souls of your readers.

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