Tag Archives | LA

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss, and Neither Will Your Writing

 

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This stone clearly has no momentum.

 I’m in LA, visiting a friend.  I’m distracted by good food to eat, events to attend (yesterday a book signing for a fabulous cookbook and a Native American Thanksgiving ritual).  And yet I’m writing every morning.  I’m a rolling stone, merrily cavorting down the long hill of novel writing.  I’ve achieved the vaunted state of momentum, where even if I wanted to quit writing, I probably couldn’t, because I’m caught up in something bigger than myself.  

 

For the record, this is my favorite state to find myself in.  When I’m in it, I feel most like myself. When I’m not in it, I want to be, desperately.  When I’ve achieved momentum in my latest project, I’m in love with my writing and my world.  It’s an amazing state, one marked by energy (getting up at 5 to write every morning is not difficult in the least), focus and joy.

And it’s not always the easiest state to arrive at.

I’ve written before about the tasks that will help you achieve this vaulted state of momentum, such as: 

Taking good notes to prime the pump, moving your body, reading (I highly recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel), and writing every day (which is why Nanowrimo is so popular, because it gives people a structure to help them do that).

These activities are all well and good–and important, but they are often more easily done once you’ve established momentum.   So what underlying mindsets will help get you there in the first place?

Discipline.  Which is not a dirty word.  We writers like to think it’s antithetical to creativity, but truth is, its not because creativity doesn’t exist without it.  If you can’t muster the discipline to get your butt in the chair regularly, no book will flow out of you.

Gratitude. Yes, gratitude.  The concept is much written about this time of year, with Thanksgiving soon to be upon us.  People on social media are busy making lists about how they are grateful for family and friends and pets and their glorious lives. But it’s a practice that is well applied to writing also.  Be grateful for the words you’ve written.  Be grateful you’ve got a good brain to think with and two strong hands to write with.  Be grateful that you’re a writer in the first place.  It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy–and warm and fuzzy is much more conducive to momentum than anxiety and angst.

Positivity.  This is easy in theory, harder in practice.  At its simplest, focus on what you’ve done, not what you’ve not done.   I wrote 773 words this morning, so it would be easy to bemoan the fact that I didn’t quite make it to 1,000.  But I’m actually quite happy about the words I did get on the page, because I was in a bit of a difficult spot that I had to write my way out of.

Connection.  Whether through journal writing or prayer, connect with that thing that’s bigger than you.  It might be God, it could be the goddess, or Allah, or Buddha, or even the great nothingness of the universe.  Find it

Courage.   Courage to go to the dark places.  Courage to labor away at something when you’re not sure what the outcome will be. Courage to get up every morning and face the blank page.  Because that’s what creativity demands of us–courage.  (Which is why so many people never, ever do anything creative.)

Those are my ideas on the subject, what are yours?  How do you get to a place of momentum in your writing?  Please leave a comment.

 Photo by frumbert. 

 

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Off I Go Again

I'm heading to LA tomorrow.  Coconuts_trees_tree_221641_l

Yep.  Swimming pools.  Movie stars.  Just like the Clampetts. 

Except I'll be working the entire time, attending a two-day business intensive that is part of the Suzanne Evans 10K Coaching Club.  Together with 98 other women, I'll be designing a plan for the next stage of my business.

Frankly, I'm terrified.  And excited, too.

Some days I just want to be a writer.  I am a writer, it is the basis of all that I do, every single thing.  But sometimes I want to go back to the days when that was all you had to do.  Before you needed to do nearly all the marketing for your career yourself. Before social media and coaching and blogs and websites.

Some days all I want to do is write novels.

And instead, I'm designing classes and products and writing newsletters and blog posts.  I'm coaching clients and critiquing student work and attending networking groups.

Truth be told, I love everything that I do.  I love all the extra stuff almost as much as I love writing, and I know that if I decided some day to stop it all and just write, I'd miss it.  (And of course, that day will never come, because the world has changed now.)

But still, some days I just want to write.  And that is good.  Because it is what drives everything.

A couple notes:

Patrick Ross has requested that I write a post on ghostwriting.  Meant to get to it today, but I ran out of time to do it justice, so expect this brilliant expose next week.

I'm taking registrations now for the Book Proposals That Succeed Teleclass.  It is going to be rockin' so don't miss out.  Check out the page here.

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The Writing Life: LA in November

LA in November is warm and sunny, though everyone here insists is it freezing cold.  As I write this in Pasadena, it is 75 degrees, which, let me emphasize, is NOT COLD, though it was chilly enough this morning to have to cover up with a blanket during the daily writing session on the porch.

LA in November is green and brown, much like LA in August.  When I left Portland last week, everything was yellow and orange and red, leaves covering streets and lawns and sidewalks, everything glistening in the rain.  There were still quite a few leaves left on the trees when I departed, and I'm hoping the trees are not completely bare when I return home mid-week.

LA in November features soft light and incredible Saturday night traffic jams that require the navigational skills of several people using the GPS on my Iphone.  You know traffic is bad when every major freeway reads red on the Google map.  I provided the phone only, no navigation, since the geography of LA is still such a vast mystery to moi.  Although, this trip the plane flew in to Burbank at a different angle, from the west, in such a way that I could see the whole of the city laid out before me–downtown, the west side, the ocean beyond.  Expansive views like that help to set my navigational map down here.  But not enough to dodge around major traffic jams.

LA in November is seeing friends and hearing about their screenwriting projects or television deals and making me thankful I'm a novelist.  Dealing with the publishing industry is difficult enough, but Hollywood is a whole other level of stress and angst.  (Now, if only I would hear back from the wonderful agent who is reading my manuscript and then I could truly crow about how great the publishing world is in comparison…..)

LA in November is attending a great weekend workshop on an energy clearing modality (more on that in a future post), hanging out with friends, eating Mexican food, and even better, amazing home cooking from a gourmet organic chef.  It is sleeping with ear plugs in so that the five cats who live here don't wake me up…and taking walks in Eaton Canyon...and spending lots and lots of time reading manuscripts.

But mostly LA in November is being grateful for friends, old and new, and the time to hang out with them. It is being grateful for the fact that I am a writer, and my work is transportable so that I can leave Portland in the dreary days of November and come down here for a break.   The writing life, I'm telling you, it is the best thing ever and damn am I glad that it is mine.

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The Writing Life: Letter from LA

Sitting in the garden at the Pasadena coffee shop called Zephyr, I whiled away a few good hours talking New_LA_Infobox_Pic_Montage_5 with my screenwriting friend Brian.  We discussed the movie biz and the publishing world while a gentle breeze rustled the ivy covering the patio walls and handsome Armenians smoked hookahs at a table nearby.  Russian literature reared its head for consideration, as did the economy (what current conversation is complete without touching on that?) and other mysteries of life.

That was on day six of my trip to LA.  I was in Pasadena, to be exact, staying with my friend Suzanne, who told me all about her new modality, Reference Point Therapy, and took me through a couple sessions.  I had a tarot reading on day seven, which forecast many good things ahead for me.   I've had tarot readings when such was not the case, that's for sure–which is, perhaps, the beauty of the cards, which are difficult to fake.  Sort of like plotting a novel is difficult to fake–if it doesn't work, the problems are obvious.  (Less obvious, of course, is how to fix it.)

This trip turned out to be a much-needed bit of R and R.  After the year I've had, I needed it more than I realized.  I regret that I was unable to do many of the things I usually do when in LA, such as visit Julie or see Diana.  But I'll make time for them next trip.   This visit was strangely free of meeting with clients, though I did attend one networking event.  And, as usual, stumbled over my tongue when it came time to explain myself:

"And what do you do?" said the bright-eyed young woman.

"Oh, I'm a writer," I replied airily.

"That sounds so exciting.  What kind of writing do you do?"

This is the dreaded question.  "Well, I um, do a lot of ghostwriting.  You know, for business owners who need a book to promote themselves.  And I also do copywriting, like for websites?  And, let's see, I teach creative writing, too.  Because you know, my true love is writing fiction. And my main goal is to get the novel I just finished published."

By this time the bright-eyed woman has turned away.  I hear her asking a middle-aged man what he does.

"I help people maximize their business profits by teaching them to pay attention to their bottom line."

I really need to develop the art of the elevator pitch.  Its a good thing I'm not a screenwriter, required to take meetings with producers and pitch a one-minute synopsis of my novel ("It's, um, Bridget Jones meets Something's Gotta Give?")

But I did manage to have a lovely conversation with a chiropractor who immediately got how important having a book is to promote your business, despite my bumbling attempts to convince him.  And then I went home to a pretty good bottle of Syrah, so that made everything okay.

Yesterday, Suzanne and I went to see Julie and Julia, a most wonderful movie.  Neither of us had been to see a movie for months, and going to the theater to see movies is one of the things I love to do.  It took us about three hours to get there because we kept screwing up the showing times and having to drive back and forth to various theaters.  But it was worth it.  I loved the film.  What's not to love when Meryl Streep nails Julia Child, like totally nails her?  And Amy Adams plays a blogger who hits the big time. 

Now, at this very moment, I am sitting in the San Francisco airport.  I have a three-hour layover here, despite the fact that a direct flight from Burbank to PDX is only two hours.  But it gives me time to ponder southern California, and the strange hold that LA seems to have on me.  I don't miss it when I'm gone from there, but as soon as I get there, I start plotting when I can get back.  Can somebody explain this to me? Plus, I'm a Portland girl, through and through.  I like rain and greenery.  I like people who walk places (I can't tell you how many times I nearly got run down by Very Big Trucks on my morning ambles through Pasadena) and bicyclists and citizens who take public transportation and eschew their cars. I like pale skin, beaches you can walk along and not see many other people, and ice-cold ocean water.  I like people of various shapes and sizes and levels of beauty.  So can somebody please tell me why I keep falling in love with LA?

A couple of non-LA related notes:

Please go vote for Whimsey, my friend Julie's dog.  Because A. he's adorable and B. it would really help her out.

And don't forget the exciting contest that is coming up right here in this very spot next week.  Stay tuned!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.

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It’s Sunday: Do You Know Where Your Niche Is?

I just found mine.

It wasn't really lost, in the sense that it was something I desperately missed.  It was more like it was buried under the multitude of interests and ideas that crowd my sometimes-mushy brain (too much going on in there!) 

It wasn't even something that I felt I needed.  The experts, however, say otherwise.  It took quite a bit of convincing, and reading a book to get me searching for my niche.  And then, as is so often the case, I found it right under my nose.

Are you ready?

My niche is information about creating a writing life while writing your book or waiting for it to sell. Or, in short, creating a life devoted to writing.  That has a nice ring to it.  Right?

I know.  Duh. Like I haven't been writing about just that already.  But you'd be surprised how difficult it can be to decide what it is exactly that I do.  Because, like many writers, I do many different things.  I'm terrible at networking events because my 20-second elevator pitch goes something like this:

"And what do you do?"  (Woman dressed in killer designer suit with beautifully lacquered nails.)

"Um, I'm a writer."  (Me, in my usual writerly outfit of gypsy skirt and lots of jewelry.)

"What do you write?"  (Killer woman.)

"Well, I ghostwrite.  And I teach writing.  And I coach writers.  And I run a writing program.  And I write this blog that talks about writing.  And then there's my own writing, the novels and short stories."

I'm telling the last part of it to the woman's back–the suit cuts a gorgeous line from the rear, too–because I've lost her.  She is off looking for someone who can tell her succinctly what he can do.

Since I'm not a big fan of networking events anyway, except for one I belong to in LA, I've managed to convince myself I don't really need a niche.  I have now seen the error of my ways and will spend the next year repenting. 

Actually, I'm really happy about this because identifying my niche gives me permission to do more of what I'm already doing.  I'm going to continue writing posts about craft and creativity and how they apply to making a life devoted to writing. 

One of my twitter friends, Mary, asked me to define "writing life" after I proudly tweeted about my niche.   And so here goes.  Creating a life devoted to writing can mean actually making a living writing, supplementing your income with writing, or just learning how to make contacts and attend events relating to writing, even if you don't need to earn a living from it.  A life devoted to writing implies that you make time for it regularly–another thing I talk a lot (some would probably say too much).  Creating a life devoted to writing means that the written word (and you practicing it) is front and center in your life.

So, there you have it, a niche, found.  And now excuse me while I go practice my elevator pitch.

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I Find Myself Once Again in Portland

Having left LA last Friday and flown up the coast, I am adjusting to the relative cold up here (oh who am I kidding, forget the relative part it is flippin' freezing, 50 degrees colder than it was when I left California). 

But this morning was one of those foggy autumn mornings that I love, and when I stepped out back to make sure Igor, the blind pug, got himself off the deck okay I saw one of the 50 spider webs that ring our house covered in dew.   So I grabbed my cell phone and took a photo.  It is not the best of photos but I am happy with it anyway.   Pretty  awesome spider web, eh?

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I'll be returning to southern California next month, to keep Robert Hoyk company while his wife is out of town, and also to meet with clients.  I love my clients.  They all live in LA, every single blessed one of them.  And that means I get to return to LA often.  Here are some of the recent reasons I have enjoyed LA:

An Empowered Woman.  An amazing networking group–and more.  Let me tell you, I've always hated and resisted networking groups but I love attending events put on by An Empowered Woman because they are fun. Good shopping, interesting speakers, a fabulous collection of women, what could be better? Desiree Doubroux, the founder, is a force of nature.  She's amazing, and so is her group.

One of the event was held at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air.  I think that's where it was, I still get confused in LA.  It is on Sunset Boulevard, right off the 405, okay?  That's as specific as I can get. And wherever it was, I loved it.  That is how I think I should live all the time: men fluttering around as I arrive, lovely outdoor seating areas, a gorgeous lobby.

As always, staying with my wonderful friend, Suzanne, who is an healer extraordinaire.   She celebrated her birthday while I was there and besides eating at Maria's Kitchen (amazing Italian food and the best staff in the business–thank you, Joshua, we love you) we also drove up to the Mt. Wilson Observatory.  Fabulous views of the entire LA area, even though the valleys were all covered in smoke from the fires.  Fascinating place–the observatory was closed but it is quite an installation, the peak is covered with transmission towers and the like.  Not exactly sure what all goes on up there, but I'd like to find out.  I think.  The full moon rose on the drive back down the mountain and the sun set brilliantly red from the fires on the other side.  Amazing.

Another evening we drove up to Chantry Flat, then hiked down into Santa Anita Canyon.  Walking back up was a bitch, but it was worth it because at the bottom of the canyon there are cabins.  They are only accessible by foot and to get supplies in you have the packed in on burros.  Is that cool or what?  We only saw  a couple of them, but apparently there are many more still in existence and a whole camp at the bottom of the canyon.  You can see photos of it all here.

And besides all the fun, there was work, too, such as meeting with prospective clients, who shall remain nameless, and meeting with fellow writers. If you are in the Pasadena or Alta Dena area and you need help with marketing or marketing writing, you should call Don Simkovich.  He'll be happy to help you out, and he'll do a great job for you. 

I also spent a great deal of time critiquing the novel of my screenwriting friend Brian, who despite my best efforts does not yet have a blog or website that I can link you to.  And I spent time working on packets for the Loft.   I even got some work done on my novel while I was there. 




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Ah, LA….

where it is illegal to look different from anyone else.

It is a requirement here that you be thin, tan, have long hair, wear sunglasses and pout, AND be young.  Thus if you are not young it is required that you go get plastic surgery really, really fast.  And then you look like you are trying hard to look like everyone else, even though everyone knows that you went under the knife to do it.

Ah, LA.  I love it so, and I'm not even sure why.

Being here always makes me muse on the nature of identity and true self.  These are important topics for writers because letting that ole true self out in words is pretty much the key to it all.  You will find success only when you find your voice and you find your voice by writing enough that you can let it rip, and open a direct line from your deepest inner being, through the arm, out the fingers, and onto the page.  Or keyboard.  Or digital recorder.

My friend Deidre, who lives in Silver Lake, says that everyone in LA strives to look alike and act alike and be alike and then the one person who is not like everyone else arrives and they are the one who makes it.  So why does everyone else persist in attempting to be like everyone else?

And once you hit 40, forget it.  Actually, it might even be 30.  Soon it will probably be 20.

Lat night I had drinks with a friend who is an entertainment attorney and he says its a hellish culture of youth here  (my words, not his, but they have a ring to them, no?)  As an attorney, he is expected to be wise and mature so he doesn't have to worry about the the age thing, but if you are flailing about on the creative side trying to make it, you gotta be young.

The hell part is, of course, that everyone ages.  Even Hollywood Goldenboys.  Then they have to dye their hair and pretend they are still young.

I realize that none of this is news, yet it continually perplexes me every time I come down here. Why do we all persist in trying to make ourselves just like everyone else, when there's only one of each of us in this whole world?  I'm veering dangerously close to getting teary eyed and talking about snowflakes here so forgive me, or better yet, explain it to me.

I'm reading Harriet Rubin's latest book, The Mona Lisa Stratagem: The Art of Women, Age, and Power, and she talks about how if a famous actor is on stage and a cat is on stage, all eyes will be on the cat. Why?  Because the cat is uniquely, gloriously, himself, no matter what.  Animals just are.  (This might help to explain why the most popular photos on my yahoo home page are always of animals.  So we're not as simple minded as I feared.)  Its the same thing with babies.  Ever notice how nobody can keep their eyes off them? 

Somebody ought to tell all the 20-something wannabe actresses that story.

And yet, despite my horror at the preponderance of clones everywhere and the cult of youth here, there is something about this place that keeps luring me back. 
Maybe I like coming here so much because I can flee back north to
Portland, where everybody seems desperately determined to not look like
anyone else, ever. 

Or maybe its just the palm trees.

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A Day in the Life

6:30.  Rise, stumble to the coffeepot, take coffee with me to the journal, sit and write for an hour.  Best part of the day.

7:30.  Check email; try not to get too engrossed in letters from friends or the latest celebrity gossip news.

8:00.  Walk with my friend Sharon.  We’ve been walking together, three times a week for over 20 years.  Damn, even I’m impressed by that.

9:00.  Eat breakfast, laboriously work on the Sudoku puzzle, pat myself on the back for being brilliantly close to solving it and then realize I’ve screwed up.

9:30.  Back to work.  I know, total grossness–no shower.  Lately I’m lucky if I get in the shower by noon.  Such is the life of a writer.   Spend the next couple hours working on marketing, which always takes tons of time and is a pain in the you-know-what.

12:00.  Sneak in a little more work on my new project, which mostly exists in the journal and is way too raw to talk about.  Suffice it to say I’m excited.  There’s a shower in here somewhere, too.

12:30.  Lunch.  Oh yeah, that. 

1:00-ish.  Realize I’ve missed a call from a client, call her back and we talk about a ghostwriting project for quite awhile.  I’ve just finished one book for them and we’re in the process of shaping the next one.

2:00. Return a call from a new client.  She’s got a book she wants me to write.  I like the sound of it.  We’ll see what happens but I hope we move forward.

2:30.  Panic.  Two big jobs and another couple I’ve got to follow up on.  When will I have time to work on my own things? 

2:45.  Breathe deeply; feel better.

3:00.  Work on a  critique for students who live in Las Vegas.  I love these two–they are a husband and wife who write children’s books together.

4:00.  Email critique off, head out to bank, PO and Fred Meyer for food.  Buy shrimp for dinner and a whole salmon on sale at the unheard of price of $2.49 per pound,  plus a cedar plank to cook it on.

5:00.  Read a little of a manuscript, swear I’m not going to have a glass of wine so that I can stay sharp and work tonight.

6:30.  Pour myself a glass of wine and take it and manuscript and journal outside.  Talk to Lewis instead of doing any work.

7:00.  Realize I never called Candace back and call her while I fix dinner.  Steve is going to be home late, working on a project for the Abu Dhabi folks, anyway.  He’s going back there in two weeks and I’m heading to LA around the same time to meet all those new clients.

8:00.  Release delusion that I’ll get more done tonight and go fart around on the internet.  Burning question: how does Twitter make money?  Answer:  A. they don’t, yet, because they don’t have to, and B. they don’t know how they are going to, when they finally do have to.  Not sure why this fascinates me so.

9:45.  Panic, redux: realize I’ve not written a blog post in several days.  Sit down and have at it.

10:00.  Time to crawl into bed with the wonderful book I’m reading, The Tenth Gift.  Its about pirates.  Did you realize that millions of Europeans were stolen by pirates and sold into slavery?

2

It’s Hot in LA

I flew down to LA on Friday and at the moment I'm staying in Pasadena.  It is probably in the mid to high 90s at the moment, but yesterday and Friday, the temps were around 106-107.  Gee-zus.  This is way too hot for an Oregon native like me, especially given that we've not had much of a spring in Portland.  (I know, I know, its now summer.  We kinda went right from winter to summer.)

Even though Suzanne's house is air-conditioned, it still gets hot.  And yesterday my Vaio just couldn't take it, and kept blue-screening on me.   Poor little thing is over three years old, which must be like over 100 in computer years.  And so yesterday I ended up getting nothing done.  Suzanne and I tried to have a yard sale, hauling stuff out front to sell, but nobody came by.  It was too damn hot.

So today I was determined to get some writing done and this morning I got up and worked on the novel.   I did what I always tell people not to do, which was fuss over the beginning.  (I reserve the right to give contradictory advice.  And at least for me, the rest of the piece, no matter what it is, simply won't flow until I've got the beginning right.  I wrote about that somewhere.  Let me see…ah yes, here it is.) 

I fussed over the beginning and then wrote a wee bit more.  By a wee bit more I mean maybe a paragraph or so more.  But it doesn't matter.  Cuz I loved getting up and getting to the novel first thing.  I had a good bit of momentum going on that last week, but what with the need to hop on an airplane, work on a yard sale, and survive the heat wave, I had lost it.  Now its back.

Of course, the hell part is that I'm going to lose it again, as tomorrow I'm going down to Laguna Beach to stay with my mentor and friend Julie.  I'm stopping in Silver Lake to pick up another good friend, Deidre.
Together the three of us make up the west coast contingent of the Novel Goddesses, a group which also includes Linda, and two writers who do not yet have websites but will need them soon because Maryann is about to have her first novel published and Katy is working on a kick-ass one.

Losing momentum on the novel is going to be well worth it.  I'll get back to it when I return here on Wednesday. 

By the way, I'm working on the new book review site, which I don't even have a link for yet but will soon, and if you are interested in reviewing, please email me or leave a comment.

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