18th Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children

04-green-streepsI’ve been juggling two boys under two and working on an upcoming article for Hawaii Business magazine. Plus, I’m still writing for Psych Central. I won’t lie. It’s a lot. Some days feel near impossible. But there is joy and pleasure in pursuing the written word so I do so happily even if I have to muster stored energy (which may or may not require a cup of Jo).

This weekend I got to do something thrilling. Taking a break from dirty diapers would be a vacation in itself. But I also got to attend the 18th Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children: Imagining Worlds, Fictional and Real at Chaminade University. I only had time for one session and it was a good one.

I attended the Saturday afternoon talk with Kailua raised author Graham Salisbury. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the guy behind the book turned movie Under the Blood Red Sun. I found him humble, and inspiring in his down to earth, practical wisdom on writing a book. I hope his savory bites of wisdom will inspire you to keep writing as well.

The most important part of writing a book is answering the question why?

For most of us wannabe writers, we’re zoomed in on the what. Salisbury says that the why, (e.g. why are you doing this book/ideas/project?) is the key to not only persevere through reject and blocks, but to create successful work.

Play with possibilities.

Instead of just one action or ending, Salisbury says he writes up plausible situations on three by five index cards.

Keep a notebook and pen by your bed.

When you’re not sure what to do next, ask a question before bed. Salisbury says to leave a notepad and pen on hand. If you wake up with an inspiring thought, keep your eyes closed while writing it down. He believes that once you open them, the idea will be lost.

First drafts suck.

For all those that want to give up after the first draft, you need to hear this. Salisbury says, “First drafts are a struggle cause you’re creating something that doesn’t exist.” After three hours of working on the initial draft, he’s burnt out. After he reads it, some of his thoughts are: “Nobody’s going to want to read this junk. It’s garbage.” Sounds familiar? Yep me too. Thank God it’s normal and not more reason to give up.

Revision is magical.

Salisbury says he enjoys the revision process because “things happen that didn’t exist the first time.” Working to make your first draft into something publishable is where all the magic happens.

Listen to your characters.

How do you know which point of view to use? Salisbury says, “The person you hear the most” is the best person to tell the story.

First pages are everything.

Writers make sure you spend adequate time on that first page. Salisbury says, “By page one, you’ll know if you’re in the hands of a good writer.”

Writer’s block doesn’t exist.

Salisbury doesn’t believe in writer’s block. When he feels stuck he does two things: 1) He writes anyway even if it’s drivel. 2) He’ll read other people’s work and mark passages that work well. That will get him from stuck to inspired.

Lastly, he shares this: “If you just want to write a book-that’s just words on paper. Passion is needed to make you put your feet on the floor in the morning.”

Grammar: Friend or Foe of Freelancers?

{Photo by Patuska via MorgueFile}
{Photo by Patuska via MorgueFile}

Guest post by: Nikolas Baron

Every writer knows that grammar is important. However, grammar is the strongest determining factor in the success or failure of a freelance writer. If you are thinking of a freelance writing career, grammar can be a friend or foe. Here are three reasons why:

1. You are the only one on your team.
Let’s say you’re a staff writer for a widely-read magazine. You might start writing an article by telling your assistant what to research. Once you receive the report, you work your magic and crank out a stunning page-turner on the subject at hand. The manuscript lands on the desk of an editor who checks the facts again, proofreads and corrects errors, and polishes the piece to a sparkling gleam.

As a freelancer, you are the assistant, writer, and editor all rolled into one. Many clients expect work that is ready for the presses. When it comes to grammar, you had better know your stuff. If not, your clients will not be happy with your work.

2. Your reputation speaks louder than your resume.
There are several online companies that connect freelance writers with clients offering short-term assignments. After each job is complete, the clients may express how satisfied they were with the work. Other potential clients view the profiles of numerous freelancers along with the reviews that accompany them in order to decide whom they will hire. Would you rather your review focus on poor grammar or wildly creative prose? As an employer, which type of contractor would you seek to hire? Even if you have a great university education and years of experience, online and word-of-mouth reviews carry weight.

How can you make sure that your reviews reflect the high quality of your work? Always complete at least two checks of your material. For the initial check, use a professional grammar checker like Grammarly. Proofing software will save you time by quickly detecting basic errors. Perform a second check personally or hire a professional editor to do so. If possible, wait at least a few hours between your last draft and your edit. The waiting time will allow a fresh perspective to develop. Ideas that need clarifying and grammar issues will be easy to identify if you let your mind rest between drafts.

3. You are not just another pretty face.
A large majority of freelance writers work at home. They communicate by phone, email, and web conferencing. The writer and client may never meet face-to-face. In a virtual relationship, it is difficult for a client to get to know all the wonderful qualities that you possess. All too often, the only thing the client sees is the work that you submit. Perfect grammar is a beautiful thing!

Properly used, grammar is your friend. A body of well-written work will serve as your reputation. Your online clients will leave good feedback that will lead to more jobs. If you do not thoroughly proofread each writing assignment you undertake, grammar will be your worst enemy. Clients will judge you unfavorably, and you will lose out on repeat work. As a freelance writer, make sure you stay on the good side of grammar.

NickNikolas discovered his love for the written word in elementary school, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at Internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

Expert Tips from Barbara Walters: 3 Ways to Interview Better

{Photo from here.}
{Photo from here.}

Nonfiction writers can glean insight from Barbara Walters advice on Oprah’s Master Class. After years of interviewing celebrities and past presidents, she shares a few of her inside secrets for a successful interview.


Curiosity may have killed the cat. But it makes an interviewer’s career. Walters says, “I think that the interviewer/correspondent should have curiosity. If you don’t have curiosity, you’re not going to make it.


Good listening skills are a dying art. We’re often so busy trying to think up the next genius question, we miss out on important revelations, body language and the truth behind what our subjects are really trying to say behind their often politically correct words.

“The most important thing that a journalist or an interviewer can do is to listen…If you don’t listen, you’re not a journalist,” states Walters.

Be present.

We stand in the way of the success of our pieces when we stick to our own agendas. Walters beckons us to be present and again listen. But not just to what our subjects are saying, but how they are saying it. Being in the moment with them can tune us into what we should ask next.

“It is not the first question. It’s the second. Too often we write the questions down and no matter what the person says we go onto our second question and our third question cause that’s the way we’ve written it. We shouldn’t. The first question gets asked and the second question should be, “Why? How come? Tell me more.”…”I have written 50 questions and after the first question I rip the rest up and I just go with it and listen.”


The Power of Writing Badly

{by guest blogger:  Marcia Zina Mager, The Write Coach}

{Flickr photo by aptmetaphor}
{Flickr photo by aptmetaphor}

One of my all time favorite quotes about the writing process comes from one of the world’s greatest painters, Vincent Van Gogh.

“Mediocre I do not despise at all. And one does not rise above that mark by despising what is mediocre. In my opinion one must begin by at least having some respect for the mediocre and know that it already means something and that it is only reached through great difficulty.”

Whether you’ve written for decades or are just beginning, Van Gogh’s insightful wisdom can take you far in your writing life. To be able to write badly – to be able to give yourself the freedom, the authentic permission to spit out words, sentences, and ideas that fall short of your expectations is an ability that will ultimately nourish your creative spirit.

Over the many years that I’ve worked with writers, one of the most common myths they believe is this idea that “other writers” must write really great first drafts – these blessed “others” sit down and the words just flow – brilliant ideas tumble easily onto the page – everything somehow comes out ordered and whole.

Well, as we say in Brooklyn, that’s a whole lotta horse @&$!!!

The process of finding the perfect words, expressing that great idea, sculpting that magnificent paragraph is just that – a process. The bottom line is that we must be willing to initially (and maybe for a while!) write badly. We must be willing to put down on paper the mediocre stuff.  But even more importantly, as Van Gogh urges, we must be willing to honor our own tender, imperfect efforts. If we don’t, we will ultimately undermine the entire discovery process. Writing a first draft is never about being an editor; it’s never about what your audience thinks or what your mother thinks or what the publisher thinks. Writing a first draft takes enormous courage because it is about leaping in, picking up the paints, and tossing them wildly on the canvas to see what colors stick. Writing the first draft is about listening to that nagging impulse, that gut feeling. It’s about breaking rules, not following them.

Did Michelangelo start chiseling away at the marble in search of David, only to throw his hands up after a few sweaty hours to lament, “This crappy lump doesn’t look anything at all like a man’s hand! I suck as a sculptor!”  No, he worked tirelessly, draft after draft, willing to form “bad” lumps and bumps in that impossible stone, until one day something glorious emerged.

So it is with all creative processes. We must be willing to trudge through the slush of our terrible ideas, our clumsy words and awkward transitions. We must be willing to follow that goofy impulse down that dead end. We must be willing to explore that crazy idea no matter where it leads. In other words, we must be willing to give ourselves the spaciousness to write badly so we can discover what we’re looking for, even when we have no idea what that might actually be.

If we’re brave enough to honor our own mediocre attempts, here’s what Van Gogh promises:

“Your work is unbeautiful, alright let it be unbeautiful.  It will grieve you but it must not discourage you… It is the experience and hard work of every day which alone will ripen in the long run and allow one to do something truer and more complete. You will not always do well, but the days you least expect it, you will do that which holds its own with the work of those that have gone before.”



Mother's chickenMarcia Zina Mager is an author, journalist, performer, award-winning poet & mixed-media artist. Her fiction and non-fiction books have been translated into ten languages. Her international best-seller, BELEIVING IN FAERIES: A Manual for Grown-ups, is now available as an e-book, along with the trendy 31 Words to Create an Organized Life. Listen to an excerpt from her latest book THE HIDDEN KINGDOM: Discovering the Divine Presence in Nature. Marcia is the founder of the original Write From The Heart, a national seminar series on creativity taught all across North America. She studied improvisation with  Academy award-winning actor, Alan Arkin which brought new energy to her writing career. This past November Marcia guest starred on Hawaii Five-O. She brings her diverse creative skills as The Write Coach to anyone with a desire to express themselves.            Find out more at www.321write.com.



Why Every Writer Should Hire an Editor

by: Carrie L. Lewis

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{Etsy badge by beanforest}

People involved in the writing business are lovers of words.

Let’s face it.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, are an agent, a publisher, or an editor, there’s something about the written word that really gets you fired up. The way each person responds to the written word is different, of course, but they all share a common interest.

Writers are most interested in creation. Getting their thoughts and ideas on paper in the most compelling manner possible.

Editors, while intrigued by language, usually also have a passion for detail and accuracy, something the writer may or may not be as concerned about. A good editor looks at everything. The big picture, the small picture, grammar, punctuation, and all the rest.

Not everyone who loves words is good at every part of the process. I can tell you from personal experience that I love putting words on paper. Getting the words in the right order and making sure the punctuation and grammar are all spot on is another matter.

Most writers are like me. We’d rather create than edit.

Which means most of us writers really need an editor to help us fine tune our creations.

So Just What Will An Editor Do For Me?

As I already mentioned, a good editor looks at all aspects of the manuscript. Three key areas are:

  • Accuracy in use of language
  • Clarity
  • Engagement

Let’s take a look at each of these.


You’re probably thinking this is a no-brainer, right? Spelling errors. Grammar errors. Punctuation errors. If you happen to be good at those things, you might think you don’t need an editor.

But you’d be wrong. There’s much more to accuracy than just spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

For example, a good editor is going to notice if you mentioned the Atlantic Ocean, but your story is set in California.

She’ll also notice if your character’s hair color or eye color changed part way through the story or if you changed a name in some places, but not in others.


How well do you say what you mean? How easy is it to know what you meant by reading what you wrote? Is your writing clear and easy-to-understand or is your logic, well, illogical?


Engagement doesn’t involve romance. It does involve catching and holding your reader’s attention. Engagement begins with the first line (or it should) and it should continue all the way to the very. Last. Word. If it doesn’t, you’re in trouble and your editor is just the person to tell you. If she has difficulty maintaining interest, for example, you need to know that.

Quite often, your editor will also be able to offer suggestions for solving the problems she finds in your manuscript. That is never a bad thing!

The Best Reason of All

For me, the absolute best reason of all to hire an editor is the fresh pair of eyes. I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve finished my book – whether it’s a novel or an art instruction book – I’m so familiar with what should be there that I totally miss what is there. Details fall through the cracks. I miss things.

Trust me, some mistakes make it all the way from first draft to polished manuscript even if you do sixty drafts in between. It’s a fact of life.

You can let your manuscript sit idle long enough for it to “go cold” and you will be able to look at it with a new perspective afterward, but that’s still not the same as letting someone else read your manuscript.


A professional editor – a good professional editor – is your best option for dealing with each of these potential problem areas and a number of others. There are good editors for every budget, so you don’t have that excuse. If you’re truly interested in publishing the absolute best book possible, editing isn’t the place to skimp.

Carrie LewisThis professional post was penned by Carrie L. Lewis. You can follow her @CarrieLynnLewis.

For over thirty years, Carrie’s writing took a backseat to full-time work outside the home and to her small business painting portraits of horses and other animals from across the country.

In 2008, she rediscovered writing and, in late 2009, became a full-time artist, which provided time each day to pursue writing. She writes political thrillers with a touch of Old Testament prophecy.

She also is an active critique partner for other authors, both published and unpublished.

She has published art books under the name Carrie L. Lewis and has plans for additional books on art techniques.

Carrie partners with Danielle Hanna to maintain and write for Indie Plot Twist, a blog devoted to chronicling the journey to independent publication. Indie Plot Twist and includes regular writing and publishing clinics.

Carrie’s personal writing blog can be found at http://writing-well.carrie-lewis.com/. She also has an author blog at http://carrielynnlewis.wordpress.com/.

Carrie’s art website and blog is http://www.carrielewis.com/.

Overcoming Self-Doubt in the Writing Process

{via pinterest from etsy.com}

This post came at a perfect time! After just spilling my guts about how I sometimes fake it as a writer, I received the post below from author and editor Sarah Nagel who I’ve been following on Twitter. It gives practical advice to overcome the self-doubt that writers and all creatives face. I’m so grateful to have her here. You’re going to gain a lot from this post.

by: guest blogger

The first time I saw my name in print, I was ridiculously excited. I yelped and called my sister over to the magazine rack to show her the quiz I had written for a teen magazine. My heart was pumping. I couldn’t stop smiling. We laughed and hugged and danced around like a couple of goofy kids, and then she snapped a photo of me holding the magazine article so we could remember the moment forever. It was a rare thrill, but my excitement quickly faded as doubts crept in. I wondered if the article was really something to be proud of in the first place. If any of my friends read it, would they secretly look down on me? Would editors at other magazines be impressed by the article if I used it as a clip? Was it any good? I’ve written many articles since then and have even worked as a full-time editor myself, and although the highs and lows aren’t always as pronounced, I continue to struggle with self-doubt and worry. Can you relate? It’s tough being a writer! Even when we achieve worthwhile milestones, we can still hear the voice of rejection ringing in our ears. But like so many things in life, it’s a learning process, and there are steps we can take to bolster our own emotional well-being and find glimmers of contentment along the way. I’ve gathered a few tips for overcoming self-doubt from a book I recently put together for Blue Mountain Arts titled How to Be Happy No Matter What! Keep these in mind for the next time you need a positive boost on your writing journey.

Free yourself from worry

Self-help author Susan Patton Thoele describes the act of worrying as “falling into the future hole.” Instead of focusing on the present moment, we analyze all the possible outcomes that may happen well into the future.

Writers are particularly guilty of this. Before we’ve even put pen to paper, we envision our name on the New York Times bestseller list and imagine the witty repartee we will exchange with Jon Stewart when he features our book on the Daily Show.

Although writers fantasize about positive outcomes, we also dwell in negative ones. The thought of facing the rejection and judgment of our peers can be completely paralyzing.

So what’s the solution? Try your best to stay out of the future hole. Focus on this one day you’ve got right here, right now. You can handle it. In fact, you can probably do something pretty fantastic while you’re at it, even if it’s just a small step.

Appreciate the simple things

Being a writer is all about process. It’s not about the celebratory party you have when you reach the summit of your career; it’s about the journey you experience along the way.

One way we can let go of anxiety and self-doubt is to focus on the simple act of writing. It’s a joy in and of itself. Writing is an act of discovery. It’s a chance to map out the way you think about something. It’s an opportunity to say something you care about.

Slowing down and appreciating the simple things — the sense of completion we feel when we build a logical argument, the satisfaction of crafting an elegant transition, and the joy of becoming immersed in the state of creative flow — can help us to continue to enjoy the writing process even as we face self-doubt.

Practice gratitude

As writers, we need to let go of what we can’t control and focus on what we can control. We can’t control how other people will react to our writing, but we can control our own mindset.

Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to lower the volume of our own self-doubts and worries. When we’re feeling discouraged, gratitude is one of the quickest, most effective pick-me-ups around.

It’s good to remember that other people have contributed to our lives in incredible ways. Just by being alive, we have all been given many beautiful, priceless gifts. When we stop and appreciate them, our writing fears shrink down to size.

Even when we remember to take these steps, our self-doubt may never disappear completely, but we’ll be more empowered to take on our writing goals with a smile.
Sarah Nagel is a writer and editor at Blue Mountain Arts, an independent greeting card and book publishing company based in Boulder, Colorado. To find more nuggets of inspiration, check out her latest book project How to Be Happy No Matter What! Connect with her on twitter @SarahNagel.

For Freelance Writers: Make the Most of Twitter with Only 10 Tweets a Day

By: Guest Blogger Danielle McGaw
Cake toppers from Pinterest

Freelance writers often ask if Twitter is worth their time.

It is – if you use it consistently. If you stop by Twitter a couple times a week, read a few tweets, maybe send out a tweet about your latest blog post and then leave, not to be seen again for many days or maybe even weeks…I’m sorry but you’re just wasting time.

But that’s not to say that you need to dedicate hours of your day to using Twitter. You can manage your Twitter account very easily in 15 minutes a day or less.

Set up a BufferApp account

Your first step (assuming you already have a Twitter account set up) is to sign up for the BufferApp. BufferApp.com is one of the most amazing tools I’ve ever used. It is as close to automation as you can get without losing the personal touch. You’re still choosing what to tweet and who to mention – you’re just spacing out those tweets so that you don’t go overboard by tweeting 10 times in 15 minutes. This will help you get more exposure to a wider range of Twitter followers.

Consistently, at least 5 days a week, start your day off (or end your day) by filling up your BufferApp times. With your free account you can set up 10 tweets a day and you can choose the times that you want them to be tweeted. That is more than enough for most users. There are Pro accounts but you likely don’t need this unless you have several Twitter accounts or are managing Twitter accounts for other people.

So, now, what are you going to tweet?

Tweets 1 & 2: Tweet two self-serving links.

A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to Twitter is that no more than 20 percent off your tweets should be focused on you. So, let’s start there. Choose two blog posts that you are going to tweet each day. You can choose your newest one and an older one or if you haven’t written a blog post today, just choose two older ones. Yes, you can tweet your old blog posts! Why not? Chances are, not everyone has read them. In fact, the chances are that most of the people that are following you on Twitter haven’t read them.

You can post other things that can help you besides your blog posts. If you’ve been article marketing (for promotional purposes or for residual earnings) tweet one of your articles. You could tweet guest posts, a link to your Facebook Page or your LinkedIn account and other self-promoting links, too.<

Just remember the 80/20 rule – no more than 20% of your tweets should be self serving.

Tweets 3-5: Tweet three of someone else’s blog posts.

You are reading other people’s blogs right? Well, tweet for them! You can do your tweeting directly from their blog if they have a Twitter link in their blog post (and I hope all of you do!) or you can use the Buffer link that you have installed in your browser bar. By using Buffer to tweet you will be able to have the tweet sent out later in the day.

Tweets 6-8: Retweet three people.

Go directly into your Twitter account and once you have signed up for BufferApp you will notice that you not only have the option of re-tweeting but you have the option of Buffering someone else’s tweet. Once again, this will be added into your timeline to be tweeted later in the day.

Tweet 9: Ask a question

Ask someone a question about what they do or a blog post they have written recently – use the @ symbol. Try to connect with people that can either teach you something or could become potential clients. If you have a lot of knowledge about real estate, target real estate agents. If you are trying to market yourself as a job search expert, ask a question of someone else that is a bigger expert than yourself.

For this tweet you will not need to use BufferApp. Just put your message directly in the space for tweeting at the top of your page.


@bloggerperson – what WP plugin are you using on your blog to allow people to leave their Twitter link in the comments?

Tweet 10: Answer a question or respond to a tweet

People ask questions all the time on Twitter. You can look in your twitter stream or you can use the Twitter search function to find people that are asking questions on a specific topic. Those you answer questions for often become followers. When those you follow see that you have the willingness and the ability to answer questions they will remember you when they need to hire a writer in that niche! You could also comment on something they have said or a quote that they tweeted.

If you really want to benefit from Twitter you need to be consistent. BufferApp is the perfect tool to help you with that. In just a short time, you can get all your tweets ready for the day. And if you want to change the order of your tweets and what time they will go out, once you are done setting it up you can go in and change the times around.

And just a reminder – don’t forget to reply to people when they send you @ messages or retweet your content. You can do this after you’ve sent out your 10 tweets.

Danielle McGaw is a freelance writer and a big fan of social media. She’s recently launched her first ebook for Twitter newbies to guide them through using Twitter in 15 Minutes a day or less and is currently working on some great additions to it.  You can find her blogging at The Social Freelance Writer.

How Coaches Help You With What You’re Really Afraid Of

The number one thing preventing you from completing that manuscript?


Getting your words on paper is one thing, but dealing with all of the scary feelings you have about doing so is another.

No matter how many online or in-person classes you take, you will never accomplish your writing goals unless you first deal with that dreaded four letter F-word.

Creativity coach Robert Ressler, Ph.D. says, “Fear is behind all the things that we sometimes describe as our problem.” These are problems you might label as writer’s block, procrastination, the inability to complete a project, being undisciplined. Ressler says that underneath that is our fear of being judged, ridiculed, humiliated. 

If you have ever been made fun of in school, you understand what he means.

I had a high school teacher who used to read every student’s paper aloud including their names. He would then rip the paper apart the one’s he hate (we believed he particularly dislike girls), attacking each sentence one by one. Sometimes when he really hated it, he would pause, frown and say, “Oh, this is really bad!”

He particularly hated me and my writing. Once he called me to his desk to not only tell me that I was a “bad writer,” but that I was an “airhead” to boot. On a happy note, on that same day I also received a journalism award and a scholarship. Kung Fu Panda chop that Mr. Mean Teacher!

The good thing about coaches is that they help you deal with all that stuff, the baggage that keeps you from being as successful as you want to be.

Writer coach Marla Beck talks about how creative blocks and self-sabotaging thoughts are all linked with the limitations we have for ourselves. Unconscious or conscious they can prevent us from achieving our goals. Beck says the key to dealing with any challenge is “knowing what’s possible.” Sometimes we feel stuck because we don’t see the hidden door.

“I find that a lot of the blocks disappear once people get very clear about what they would like to accomplish and once they start to believe that it’s possible and once they take action. And coaching provides people with the accountability and the structure to do just that.” – Marla Beck

So what do you do with all your “gremlins?” {Something Beck defines as “writing blocks or other creative writing blocks.”} Awareness of what’s scaring us is one part of the process. Being conscious of the part of ourselves that is just trying to protect us from our own inner Mr. Mean Teachers can take the mystery out of our inhibitions. According to Beck,”Once you know this type of blocks that rise for you and when they happen and what conditions correlate, you can start responding differently and take charge and not be ruled by them so much.”

Ressler helps creatives do so by using “various imaginative techniques to become more aware of the source of their fears and inhibitions and to see them as misguided efforts to protect themselves from embarrassment or harm.”

Beck works “with concrete strategies and systems helping [writers] to create systems that work for them. A lot of the work that I do with people is also the inner work giving them different ways to reframe a situation so they feel positive, confident and empowered, giving people permission to play on the page.”

They both have their unique style of coaching. But ultimately both and all creative and writing coaches share a common purpose of supporting you and your creative endeavors.

Have you ever used a coach in a past to help boost your writing confidence? Support you on your journey as writer? Feel free to plug your favorite coach here.

Also, if you would like more information on their services, please visit Robert Ressler, Ph.D. on his website Creativity Support. He offers phone and in-person coaching and teaches workshops and classes in San Francisco. Writer coach Marla Beck offers various coaching packages, services and teleclasses. You can check out her website here. Thank you to both of them for providing such informative answers on coaching!

Chatting with the Experts: Debunking Coaching Myths

flickr photo

Finding the perfect writing or creative coach can feel as effortless as looking for a needle in a haystack. Type “writing coach” and you will suddenly feel inundated with too much information.

If Google could only use its keyword magic to help you find “the one” that will help you get your writing on track, get that manuscript completed, out the door and give you the oomph you need to start on that project you’ve been meaning to get working on.

Instead, I’ve done the next best thing and wrangled together two coaches, a writing and a creative coach to dish out the facts about how coaches can help fuel your career.

Debunking Those Writing Coach Myths

First up, let’s address those commonly held misconceptions of coaching.

1. Coaches aren’t big, bad, meanies who enjoy pumping you up (although they can be). Coaches have all kinds of styles and specialities. Six year writing coach Marla Beck, for example, has a MFA in Creative Writing and a soft, supportive voice. But more than that, she works with writers specifically on life and career coaching for writers. “I help writers to take their freelance writing career more seriously and that means treating it as a real business, putting structures in place, learning to make sure their business is viable,” Beck says. This brings me two myth #2.

2. Writing coaches aren’t necessarily coaching you on how to write.

I’m betting a few of you were confused about this too. Although there are coaches who could help you write better and can coach you on the technicalities of the written word, not all do.

Robert Ressler, Ph.D. is a 12 year creativity coach with an office in San Francisco, California. He works with both artists and writers who are “encountering some internal conflict about the writing they’re doing or their aspirations to write.” Ressler’s focus is helping creatives uncover the deep dark, psychological issues that comes up in the minds of anyone willing to take that big leap and write.

Very different from a coach helping you to become a freelance writer so be clear about what you want to get from a coach before you set out to hire one.

3. Coaches don’t steal big chunks of your time.

I know one of the reasons why you’re reading this. Perhaps, you’ve hit a wall with your writing or maybe you are frustrated because you have a great idea for a story, but don’t have the time to write it.

In that case, why hire a coach right?

The job of a writing or career coach isn’t too consume all of your time. What they do in spend maybe an hour a week working with you so that you can eventually depend less on them and more on yourself. In fact, one of the things Beck does is, “help writers, freelancers and writers in other professional careers really busy people with a lot of responsibilities to make the time and structure they need to write and complete their projects.”

In this case, they may even save you time, money and help you finally get you started on that project you saved for “some day.”

“One of the hardest things for writers to do is to overcome the inertia to get going on a project, to have something start or to resume it after a long absence from it. It’s like overcoming inertia is a big part. There’s a lot of start up costs to writing and once you get rolling it’s easier to keep rolling then to start from a dead stop,” Ressler says.

Sometimes you just need a push or a shove in the right direction.

4. Coaches are not therapists.

Ressler has a Ph.D. in Psychology, but he’s not offering any therapy. And you shouldn’t expect that from any coach either. Even though Ressler assists artists and writers on the psychological blocks that prevent them from being creative, he nor does any coach work on psychopathological issues. Beck says, “[T]his isn’t therapy, we don’t have to go into the how or why this happens or the roots of things.”

That’s a whole lot of info for a post so I’m going to “To-be-continue” this mother. Stay tuned for part II when we talk about creative fears, benefits of coaching and how to know when it’s time for you to start hunting for a coach.

5 Social Media and Common Author Mistakes You Might Be Making

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You’ve worked really hard on writing that book, conceiving a new idea or blogging, but you still haven’t seen results with your efforts. Literary agent Kevin Small who I interviewed in part I of this post, sets us straight this time with the unintentional mistakes you could be making that’s sabotaging your career.

1. You’re undisciplined.

Yikes. Has Mr. Small been reading my blogs? Yes, folks. He didn’t quite say that us writers are “lazy.” In fact, he said he wouldn’t use that word, but that we have a tendency to be “undisciplined.” I would like to add that this probably applies to all creatives.

Then, I couldn’t help, but nervously laugh when he said this about authors: “They don’t even know what they’re having for dinner tonight let alone what they’re going to write about tomorrow.”

Yep. That sounds about right. But he believes that it’s a big, big mistake not to do so. One of the easiest things writers/bloggers/authors, etc. can do is to create a content sheet of potential ideas for your blogs. Not doing so, he said, can be likened to writing a book without the table of contents.

Here are a few specific takeaway tips he offered that might help you:

  • Create an excel sheet with columns labeled with date and then ideas for your blog, tweet and e-newsletters.
  • Then, make sure to space out your best ideas so they’re not all in the same week.
  • And if simply creating a document seems too much for you, there are a lot of sites that offer free blogging calendar downloads like this one, and there’s even a free editorial calendar plug-in from WordPress, so you really have no excuse (guess I don’t either) not to do so.

2. You’re trying to do it all yourself.

You’ve got that 9-5 job going and the writing and then attempting social media. Maybe that works for you. But maybe it’s eating away at your real passion, writing.

After you’ve created your list of blog ideas for the week, Small suggests asking this question: “Do I have the time and energy to fill that up or do I need somebody who will help research and take the burden of 50% of the writing for me?”

Gads! I didn’t even think of hiring someone to do that. Small’s company ResultSource actually hires research assistants to help find relevant information on any given topic to beef up blog posts and articles. This can save a writer’s energy so they can focus on writing quality content instead. Maybe Kevin’s last name should have been Smart. Seriously. I had no idea.

3. You’re either spending too much or not enough time on social media.

Small said one of the challenges with social media, which by and large is a good thing, is that people have opposing and often disadvantageous views on it. “You have people on one end of the spectrum that are absolutely going, ‘I don’t think this blogging or this tweeting this is going to last’ or ‘this doesn’t make any sense to me.’” At the other end are people who don’t do anything else. Like Goldilocks, the key is to find the happy middle, where everything is just right. The problem? It’s difficult to find.

  • Small defines this space as knowing who your audience is and finding ways to connect with them.
  • Paying attention to your numbers is key. “I think the most important thing they can do is measure their success as first by the size of their followership and so they should make it their sole focus to engage an audience.”

4. You’re not committed enough.

Obviously, marketing your book or your business is not easy. In fact, it may feel like a full-time job in addition to your full-time job. But the commitment must be there in order for you to succeed. Small expects as I’m sure many literary agents do, that level of commitment. And if creating a blog content sheet, writing blogs, e-newsletters and articles seem too much for you, you may want to consider opting out or having someone else step in.

  • Self-awareness of one’s strengths are important. Say you are committed and want your business to be a success, but you feel you’re missing the two T’s (time and talent) to come up with 140 characters on a daily basis. That’s a task you might want to hire out to do. You can still be committed, but wisdom and success comes from #2, dispersing responsibility so you don’t have to do everything.

5. You’re not taking advantage of every opportunity.

In the case of authors, Small feels the number one mistake they’re making is not “creating a really top notch speaker reel.” For anyone else confused as I was about what that is, a speaker reel is a video of you doing your speech sent to convince companies and individuals to hire you. “That type of work is the easiest, it’s the highest return for the lowest amount of time and energy expended which could then allow them more time for writing.”

In the case of all writers and entrepreneurs, I would argue that with everything you do, there lies a potential for great opportunity. Your blog posts that you think nobody reads or an e-newsletter or e-book you think maybe modest in its readership, do matter. In fact, Small said that he sometimes pitches ideas to writers for a book idea because he found them on a blog or liked their e-book.

You never know what’s out there, so you might as well give it your best shot.

*Thanks to Kevin Small, literary agent, founder and managing partner of ResultSource. For more information on his services, you can visit his website.