Friday, December 22, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Can't or Won't?

I'm guilty. 

What about you? 

You can't write that chapter, or you won't?
You can't finish that book, or you won't?
You can't make time to write, or you won't?

You can't [insert activity here] or you won't

What would you do if you didn't have to do it perfectly?


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Throwback: What Should I Do with the Rest of my Life?

Previously seen on Katie Klein Writes . . .

On two separate occasions last week I was asked about life plans and the future (once from a writer friend and the other from a student), and I thought I would share some of the thoughts I offered to them publicly.

The question was:

What do I do with the rest of my life? Or . . . how do I know what I should be when I "grow up"? 

First of all, when my parents were coming along (Baby Boomers), they watched their parents enter one career field and stay with it their whole lives. Many of them tried to do the same, to varying degrees of success. We are not living in a Baby Boomer world, and I've read that, on average, the student coming of age right now will change careers about three times in his/her lifetime.

And yes, this sounds scary, but I also think it can be a good thing--that it's a sign of growth and development. I am not the same person at thirty-three that I was at eighteen (thank goodness!). I've grown. I have new ideas and beliefs. The core is still there. I'm still very much me, just Me 2.0 (or even 3 or 4.0). I definitely feel like improvements have been made in those new versions. Upgrades, if you will.

So it goes without saying that what was right for me at eighteen might not be right for me at this point in my life

But that doesn't mean everything I did at eighteen was a waste. No. I needed to pass through that stage to get where I am now. It was a crucial part of the process.

So . . . how do you know what to do with the rest of your life?

First, don't think of it as the "rest of your life." Think of it as today. Right now. In this moment. 

And what I've learned is that the most fulfilled people I know are using their gifts, in this moment, in service to others.

They're taking their talents and using them to give back to the world. The same is true for the artists and writers I know, and the accountants and administrative assistants. They're creating those images and writing stories that speak to others. They're handling paperwork so that the customers' lives will be a little easier. They're crunching numbers so that the business owner can concentrate on what he/she is good at: making and selling the product.

As you learn and grow, you may develop new talents and find other interests. That's when you adapt. Try new things. Make mistakes.

So if you're in a flux and you're not sure where you want to be or what you need to do, think about your talents. Think about what makes you happy. Think about a gift you have that only YOU can offer the world. Look for areas in your life and community to use these talents. And, if something isn't working, know that it's okay to re-evaluate your situation and goals and make changes. 

It's okay to "fail."

It's okay to start over.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. The idea of "what do I want to do with my life?" is ever-evolving, and this is a really, really great thing.

Be Brilliant!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On Resting

I'm noticing a pattern, and I wonder if this is something you've experienced, too:

You have one week where you are completely gung-ho about a project. You're writing (or painting, or creating) and new ideas seem to fall into your lap. You're sending out short stories and poems. Crafting new ones. Working on outlines. Drafting. Brainstorming new ideas and this lasts for days and days . . . until it stops.

And everything just pauses.

You feel like you should write (or paint, or create) but you can't. So you binge watch the Twilight movies, instead, and remember how horribly wonderful they are. . . .

Well apparently this is normal: sprint a mile, walk a mile, sprint, walk.

We need these resting periods, and should embrace them--that is, not beat ourselves up over not being "productive" because it's likely in a few days we'll hit another stride.

All that to say: It was nice reuniting with those sparkly vampires last week. ;)

Be Brilliant!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

How to Deal with Criticism

I can't take credit for these ideas--they come from Julia Cameron, who is an inspiration, by the way--but here's a nine-step process for anyone who is frequently (or who as ever been) on the receiving end of harsh words directed toward something they created.

(I'm looking at you writers, poets, painters, potters, crafters, inventors, and other Makers of Things.)

How to Deal with Criticism  

1. Go ahead and receive the criticism. Study it. Feel it. It's like diving into the deep end of the pool: immerse yourself all at once.

2. Write down everything about the criticism that bothers you (and maybe eek out a response to why).

3. Write down everything that seems useful about the criticism (and perhaps how it will help you in this and on future projects).

4. Love yourself. Go take the hot bath and eat the ice cream. Treat yourself to the massage, go for the walk, or read the book.

5. Remember that, even if the piece is bad, it's a stepping stone to bigger things. You need the ugly projects to get to the beautiful ones.

6. Look at the criticism once more. Are there deeper wounds being felt (such as from a parent, teacher, or old mentor)? Address these.

7. Write a letter to the critic. Defend your work but acknowledge what was helpful about the criticism provided. DO NOT send this letter.

8. Brainstorm your next project. Make a plan. Set a date.

9. Get back out there. Create.

Be Brilliant!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Possibility is far more terrifying than impossibility.

Freedom is far more terrifying than prison.

We say we are scared by failure, 
but what frightens us more is the possibility of success.

(wise words from Julia Cameron)

Be Brilliant!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On Killing Those "Darlings"

I'm working my way through Screenwriting for Neurotics by Scott Winfield Sublett, which has valuable information not only for screenwriters but for all writers. The chapters on plotting have been especially helpful, but he also says something truly wonderful about killing your "darlings."

Your darlings, they say, are those words or phrases or sentences (or paragraphs or entire scenes) that you've poured your heart and soul into and that you love more than life itself, despite the fact that they really don't add much to the story.  

Sublett says: 

“You might say, 

'What a pity that my inspiration should go to waste!' 

But saying that is misunderstanding the nature of inspiration: it’s not a scarce resource but rather a limitless river that flows through you. There’s plenty more inspiration in that river, so please waste it.

Building a table would produce sawdust and wood scraps

Would you glue them to the top of the table so that they don’t 'go to waste'?”

Isn't that a fantastic analogy?

No: you wouldn't build a table--carving and sanding--then heap the "unnecessary" back onto it, no matter how interesting or "beautiful" it seems. 

So go ahead. Tap into your limitless river, and don't be afraid to kill those darlings. There's plenty more inspiration where that came from. In fact, you are a well of inspiration, and the more you create the more creative you'll be.

If it really bothers you, don't delete the darlings permanently. Move them to a "darlings" file. Maybe you'll be able to use them somewhere else/in some other project one day.   

Be Brilliant!


Friday, May 26, 2017

On Risk-taking

Why take risks?

The more risks you take, the more confident you become.
The more confident you become, the more equipped you are to deal with rejection.
The more rejections you accrue, the more likely you are to embrace feedback.
The more feedback you apply, the more you grow

The more you grow, the closer you get to reaching those important goals you've set for yourself.

Take risks.

The more darts you throw, the more targets you'll hit.

Be Brilliant!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

GAILs: Limiting Beliefs

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

In this final post we tackle: 

A Limiting Belief is something we believe that limits us--or holds us back--in some way. They can be about others or the world around us, but they're usually related to our self or our identity. 

Somewhere along the way, we witnessed or heard or read something that became part of our core belief system. It's this idea hanging over our heads that we can't do *this* because of *that,* so why even bother?

I don't. I can't. I mustn't. I'm not. . . .

These are words/phrases to watch out for, because they're likely to precede a Limiting Belief, which look something like this:  

Because I'm a "math person," I could never write a book.
First novels don't sell well, anyway, so there's no need to promote myself too hard. 
As a guy, I can't write a good romance novel.
As a girl, I can't write a story narrated by a guy.
I don't read horror, so I could never write a scary book. 
Because I was raised this way, I could never write about that

The problem?

Yeah. It's pretty obvious that if we act with a Limiting Belief in mind, we're going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don't think we can write a book, so we don't try. We don't think a first book will sell well, so we don't promote. We don't read horror, so we never try to write a horror story. When, in actuality, if we put aside our beliefs for a moment, sit down and read the books and learn more about the subject and put our pens to the page, we could probably do the thing. 

The key? Know that a Limiting Belief is a false conclusion and recognize when we may be acting on one. Determine what the belief is, its origin, and replace it with a more empowering belief. 
To do this, we should ask ourselves: 

What is it that I believe that's keeping me from being my true self?
Where did this belief come from?
What does this belief do for me? 
What is it costing me?
How true is this belief really?
What would my life look like if I got rid of this belief? 
What step could I take today that challenges the Limiting Belief and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

And always: Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:


Friday, May 5, 2017

GAILs: Interpretations

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

An Interpretation is an opinion or judgment we create about a person, event, situation, or experience that we believe to be true. 

An Interpretation looks like this:

My agent hasn't called. She must have hated my new book.
My editor hasn't followed up since I sent in my revisions. They must not be what he expected.
My critique partner won't return my emails. He must not want to be friends anymore.
*BIG NAME AUTHOR* just unfollowed me. I must have offended her.
Random guy on Row F hasn't clapped once. He must hate what I'm saying.

The problem? Interpretations automatically make us think the worst of ourselves (and others).

My agent sucks because she hasn't called. I suck because my book sucks.
My editor sucks because he won't follow up. I suck because I suck at revisions.
My critique partner sucks because he's MIA. I suck because I need a critique partner.
*BIG NAME AUTHOR* has a BIG-@SS head. I suck because she hates me.
Random Guy sucks because suck sucks and I can't do anything right.

Do you see what's happening here? Our Interpretation of events is distorting our viewpoint, causing us to think something is wrong with them or us, when agent/editor/critique partner could really just be busy, or out of town, or dealing with a family emergency; and BIG NAME AUTHOR was hacked and had to open a brand-new account and re-follow people from scratch; and Random Guy has tingling in his right hand due to carpal tunnel which makes it hurt to clap. 

The truth doesn't usually show up in our Interpretations, so these can't be trusted. If we want the truth, we have to seek it out: follow up with the editor, agent, or critique partner. It's not always as bad as our imagination makes it out to be, and if we act on our insecurities we're likely to make some pretty ill-informed decisions. 

Because there's this thing called The Law of Attraction: what we imagine, we create. BIG NAME AUTHOR unfollows us, Interpretation gets in the way, we announce she has a Big-@ss head, she re-follows, sees the post, and BOOM. 

We just created what we feared.

The key? Recognize when an Interpretation may be distorting our world-view.
To do this, we should ask ourselves: 

What is my Interpretation of what's happening?
What's another way to look at this?
What might someone else (with a completely different viewpoint) say about this?
Is this me or my Interpretation talking?
How do I know this to be 100% true?
What concrete evidence do I have to back this Interpretation?
What price am I paying for believing this? 
What step could I take today that challenges the Interpretation and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

GAILs: Assumptions

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

An Assumption is an expectation that because something happened in the past, it's destined to happen again.

An Assumption keeps us from moving forward because we assume that because we had a previous experience that ended a certain way, we're likely to have that same experience in the future.

The key word here is assume

This is what an Assumption sounds like:

This agent rejected me before, so there's no need to re-query him about a new project.
That editor wasn't interested in my last book, so there's no way she'll want this one.
I tried writing that kind of article before and no one wanted it, so there's no reason to try again. 
Five other editors hated my book, so the sixth will, too.
That reviewer one-starred my last book, so I'm sure she'll hate this one. 

We put ourselves out there, we didn't end up with the result we expected or desired, so we created an assumption--rooted in fear--to keep us from moving forward. Because it happened once, it's bound to happen again. I can save myself by not trying at all. 

The problem? There's no logical way (that I know of, at least) to predict what will happen in the future. So what if 99 magazines rejected my story? It could be exactly what the 100th is looking for. Editor X might not have wanted my last book, but that doesn't mean Editor Y won't be crazy for it.  

What is an Assumption's purpose? To keep our feelings from being hurt when we're rejected the second, third, and thirtieth time we contact someone or attempt something. 

The key? Recognize the Assumption exists, then put it to bed.

Because when we avoid situations out of fear of what we think might happen, it becomes our status quo. And let's be real: eventually we're going to run out of magazines, agents, and editors to query. 

Instead, we should ask ourselves:

What is the assumption? (Write it down. Make it real.)
How is this assumption standing in my way? 
What is it keeping me from accomplishing? 
What concrete evidence is there to back this assumption?
Because this happened in the past, why must it happen again?
What would life look like if I let this assumption go?
What step could I take that challenges the assumption and moves me closer to my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Friday, April 28, 2017

GAILs: Gremlins

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

A Gremlin is that little voice inside our head that tells us we'll never be good enough--no matter how hard we work, no matter what we try, we're destined to fail at it, so why bother?

A Gremlin is the worst possible critic because the voice seems rational because it's coming from inside us. We hear the voice and think that maybe there's something to what it's saying. 

We think it's our voice--even our "voice of reason." 

Maybe there was once a real voice attached to it: 

A parent who told us that writing was a waste of time. 
A teacher who thought our poetry read like a Hallmark card.
An agent who didn't find our plot believable.
An editor who didn't find our voice authentic.
A reviewer who thought our work was trite, and the topic overdone.
A writer who preached the impossibility of ever "breaking out". . . .

And we believed them. 

And somewhere along the way, that voice became OUR inner voice--our Gremlin. 

The problem? That voice, which is rooted in fear, can lead to some serious self-doubt and keep us from maximizing our potential. 

Its purpose? To trap us in our comfort zones and keep us from taking risks. 

The key? Acknowledge it exists, but don't give it the credibility it thinks it deserves.

Instead, we should ask ourselves:

What does my Gremlin tell me? (make a list)
In what ways is this holding me back? (make a list)
What might my life look like if I refused to listen to the Gremlin?
What step could I take today that challenges the Gremlin and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On Habits

“The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you've spent your time along the way. 

The habits we groove become who we are, one minute at a time. 

A small thing, repeated, is not a small thing.”

~Seth Godin~

Friday, March 17, 2017

Throwback: "The Why"

Previously seen on Katie Klein Writes....

I first began to take writing seriously--as something I could do forever--in college. (I blame Dreamland by Sarah Dessen--a book I needed SO MUCH in high school but didn't have access to at the time.) But . . . I didn't think I had it in me to sit down and write an entire novel. Because, when you think about everything that goes into creating a full-length work, it can be paralyzing. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. Scene development. Story arcs.

What. The. Heck.

I did the reading and I did the outlining, and I realized NONE of it mattered if I couldn't get 50,000 words onto paper. It seemed like such a huge task. I didn't believe I had what it takes, because every time I sat down to write, I just couldn't get to "the end."

But then, just before my last semester of college, I realized I had to scrap the details. Characters and scenes and description could be fixed later. I needed words. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.

That summer, I wrote my very first book. It was pretty bad. I'm sure it will never see the light of day. But I wrote it, and it was all mine, and I realized that I could tell a story in 50,000 coherent words. It was possible. After that, I never had trouble with word count again--characters, arcs, description--those still frustrate the hell out of me, but never word count. I've got that covered. I beat that block as soon as I wrote that first "the end."

But what I've learned along the way is this:

If you want to do this--if you REALLY want to be a writer--you have to find the "why."

Why do you want to do this? Why is this important? Why do you feel this pull? Why do you think it matters?

You're going to need to know the answer, because it's not going to be easy. You're going to start all determined, and then you're going to hit the "messy middle" and you're not going to know where to go. You're going to want to give up. 

If you don't want this to happen, it's going to come down to the "why."  

Why do you need to tell this story? Why do you need to write it right now?

Why do I write?

I write because I have stories in my head that need to get out. I write because I want to make a difference. I want to create characters that speak to readers--characters they can relate to. I want to take readers away from the world for a little while. Make them squeal with joy. Make them cry. 

I write because I don't see the world in black and white. This annoys some of the people around me, but I see gray--things that aren't so easily defined. No one, simple answer. I like playing devil's advocate. I can find the humanity in anyone--remember that we ALL have stories, no matter who we are or what we've done. I believe anyone can change. I believe anyone can make a difference.

I write to offer a new perspective--to try to make sense of the world we live in and who we are as people.

The "why" is one of the most important parts of my writing.

If you want to be a writer, if you're already a writer and struggling--if you're not a writer but there's something else you feel compelled to do--sit down with a sheet of paper or a new computer document and spend some time working on the "why."

You'll need this.

Your "why" is your motivation.  

And knowing this is just as important as getting that story out of your head and onto paper.

Be Brilliant!