Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Everyone is a Writer

You are a writer, whether you know it or not.

§ If you’ve never pulled up a blank screen up on your computer and just rambled, you may not know it. If that’s the case, believe it or not, the writer in you is ready to emerge.

§ If you know you can write, but your audience is limited to your hard drive or desk drawer, this is your chance to reach out and touch a real reader.

§ And, if you get paid for writing, but you feel stuck, now is the time to get unstuck, take a risk, and move to the next level.

The key is simply to WRITE!

W is for Write!
If you’re not writing, you’ll never test your talent or your potential ... you’ll never know how good you could be ... and one will ever read your words Say it out loud, or write it down. “I am a writer!” Remember, the intention gives birth to the act.

R is for take a risk.
Being a writer is risky business, benign, as it may seem. It takes a lot of courage to put your work out there for others to read and judge.

I is for ignite your passion.
Whatever you’re wild about is your passion. Passion is a spark that refuses to be extinguished.

T is for try everything.
— every kind of writing, every possible subject, every experience. If it’s new to you, so much the better. Try a new genre every week.

E is for experience life.
What does that mean to you? It means wake up! Stop sleepwalking, and open your eyes. As a writer, you can’t afford to miss what’s going on around you or inside you. You have to pay attention to everything.

My challenge to you is this:
Take some time every day to view the world attentively, to be completely aware of what is going on in your internal and external universes.

For one minute or one hour a day, totally and completely experience life.

To write is exhilarating, liberating, creative, cathartic, and calming. It will amaze you and stretch you. It will put you in touch with aspects of yourself you never knew existed and ideas and insights you never dreamed were there for the taking.

I hope you will take three ideas away with you today.

1. Everyone is a writer, and now you know that very much includes you.
2. Wherever you are in your writer’s life, this is the moment to risk moving to the next level.
3. The tools to help you make that move are embodied in this powerful little word:

W is for write.
R is for risk
I is for ignite your passion
T is for try everything
E is for experience life

These are the keys to the Writing Life!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Finding My Calling

I never really planned to teach. After my disastrous experience with a third grade class in Urbana, Illinois, I vowed I would never step into a classroom again.

Then, many years later, I decided I wanted to develop a seminar on how to write a book. I planned and organized and made a beautiful Power Point presentation. The only problem was I had no idea what I was doing.

So, I enlisted the help of two professional speakers who wanted to become authors. Our deal was I would help them plan and write their books if they would give me feedback. Eventually, they did write books, though not the ones they originally planned; and I did get lots of feedback.

That was the beginning of putting together a class, instead of a seminar. I started teaching a noncredit course for the St. Louis Community College in the Spring of 2004. I had pages and pages of notes, very little confidence, and a packed classroom. It was frightening but exhilarating. I remember all of the students and their topics, but doubt that anyone actually wrote anything.

Nonetheless, I was hooked. The more I taught, the more I loved teaching and the more I improved both my skills and the class. I wrote a workbook, which is now in its fourth edition. The community college offered a follow up course for my previous students. We called it the graduate program.

Teaching is the most satisfying thing I've ever done. I tell my students I will fall in love with their ideas long before they do, and it's true. When those ideas don't turn into books, I feel a real sense of loss. When they do, I am so proud. Many of my students become close friends.

Sometimes, it takes years to find one's true calling. When it happens, it is magical. I am so lucky to have found mine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Long Road to Now

Writing has been a 40-year journey so far, and I'm still amazed at all the places I've visited along the way. Every time I thought I knew where I was headed, I'd come upon a fork in the road and go off in some totally unexpected direction.

My first published article was a humor piece about handball; my most recent, a book on writing. In between, there has been an alphabet soup of written projects, from annual reports to websites — enough to fill 18 three-ring binders and a shelf full of published books..

When I began, all I wanted was to be a serious (as opposed to humorous) feature writer. That was my only plan; but, as the saying goes, "Man plans, and God laughs." My career must have been the source of endless mirth, because, no sooner had I become somewhat competent at one kind of writing, when I had to learn something completely new and mysterious. I must admit, often I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into my new responsibilities, scared and unable to see how they fit into my plan.

In the early years, there seemed no rhyme or reason to the paths I took. Suddenly, I was an editor; then a corporate communicator; then a marketer; and, for a few years, even a sales rep. (I knew I had lost my way in that job.) I learned to read contact sheets, then to take the photos. I stumbled into design and layout for newsletters and brochures. With great trepidation, I wrote my first little book, and then another.

It took years to see any kind of pattern to my travels. It wasn't until I became a fully independent writer in 1989 that one began to emerge. Everything I had ever done, no matter how inconsequential, became a skill I needed as an entrepreneur. It all came together like a perfect map, guiding me toward my ultimate destination: exactly where I am right now.