Monday, May 07, 2012

Why Won’t My Skeletons Disappear?

Ever made a wrong decision, a bad investment, or simply made a mistake?  Join the club of humanity.  We are ripe with failures.  There’s no one on this earth who has not messed up at one time or another.  That puts us all on the same playing field.  What makes us different, and what proves the caliber of player we are (not who we think and say we are), is how we handle those mistakes. 

I’ve watched time and time again a player boast of their abilities, their talents and their skills right up until the moment the game starts.  That’s when the truth of their abilities (or lack thereof) became apparent and the truth was revealed.  Granted, sometimes a player had a good day and sometimes a bad.  However, if you watched enough games and the player long enough, you’d see their true potential, their true talents and their true skills.  The truth lay in the evidence of the results. 

I’ve also seen players who have been endowed with great natural talent, but lacked wisdom and knowledge on how, when and where to execute the right use.  In fact, their ego and lack of understanding of the rules were often their downfall; the time-bomb that killed their best efforts with a foul or a play at the wrong time.
What I’m trying to get at is this:  We are fallible, and sometimes do stupid stuff – thereby stuffing skeletons in our closets.  We ALL have them.  But, I’m observing a trend in our society that really frightens me.  Time and time again I see people avoid their skeletons, instead of facing them.  They wait to be bailed-out, to be rescued, to be forgiven for their mistakes, but take no responsibility to remove the skeletons from their own closets.  They just keep shoving them in, cramming them together, and expecting someone else to clean them out, some even going as far to proclaim they are entitled to a clean closet.
The bankruptcy rate in this country (the world in fact) is at the highest level ever recorded.  In the writing world – many writers are too eager to get in print – which they forgo the time, and effort to really study their craft, in their impatience self-publish and put out a bad manuscript. Then, they expect their readers to forgive, to support and to bail them out of their bad decisions by continuing to buy their books.  Yet, they don’t take the time to go back and clean up their mess and remove the skeletons they’ve created.  Or, they publish a decent book, but make the mistake of not properly marketing and networking to get the word out, yet expect someone else to come along and do it for them.  That’s like people who run up bad credit card debts in their ignorance, which they can’t pay, and yet expect the debts to just disappear, or for someone else to absorb the debt because forgiveness has been asked - then are shocked back into reality when they start to get their lives back on track to find out the ‘mess’ they created is still there for them to clean up.  What’s most surprising is the bad debtor gets angry that the skeleton is still in their closet.  They’re confused and don’t understand why it’s there.

Where did this mindset come from?  Where did personal responsibility go?  What happened to the concept of making amends or reparations?  Does the world even know what those words mean anymore?  I’m sorry doesn’t mean – “I feel bad because I messed up or I got caught”.  We are all sorry.  It means – “I acknowledge my mistake and I will do whatever I can to make amends, and change my habits so I don’t make it again.”  It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing, yet expect a different result. It’s just as insane to keep trying to help people with that mindset.  It’s naive of us to sit on our butts and wonder, “Why won’t my skeletons disappear?”
It’s time to get off our butts and start cleaning out our closets.  We ALL have skeletons, we ALL make mistakes, and we ALL are responsible for our own skeletons.  Learn to apologize, but most of all, learn to quit making the same mistakes. The only real entitlement we have is to our guilt and repentance

Friday, May 04, 2012

Another Line on My Resume

It’s not like I don’t have anything to do - with two books of my own in final editing, two more in writing process, another in the outline stage, an almost complete screenplay, two books in editing for two other authors, on an active book tour for my latest release, upcoming scheduled speaking engagements and writer’s workshops, working as the social media specialist and website manager for myself and my publisher, posting blogs almost on a daily basis, and an active member in my writer’s club.  And all that is just what I’m doing as a writer.  That doesn’t include all the personal stuff that involves being a wife, mother and friend. So far, I have a full and busy life.  Yesterday, I added a new line to my current resume. 

I am officially the new Book Reviewer for the West Georgia Living Magazine, a bi-monthly print publication of the Times-Georgian, a division of the Newspapers of West Georgia.

I’m really excited about this new endeavor, and can’t wait to see my first review in print.  Hmmm … I wonder if this means I get a free subscription since I’m a Contributing Writer.  I’ll have to find out.  But, I want to encourage all of you to subscribe.  It’s just $24 a year – that’s $2/month.  Why should you subscribe to West Georgia Living Magazine?  Because it’s a wonderful publication that covers a variety of artistic topics like: Life, Garden, Art, Food, People, Poetry, Short Stories and now Book Reviews. 

For all my writer friends out there, a little bird told me that West Georgia Living is currently accepting submissions for short stories (1,000-3,000 words).  If you’d like to send in a submission, here is the address:  Submissions – Amy K. Lavender-Buice c/o Times-Georgian, 901 Hays Mill Road, Carrollton, GA  30117. 

Well, I must get back to work on some of my other projects.  Keep checking back for my first review.  I’ll post it here after it’s released in print.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New Idea or Old Idea Made Better?

There’s a huge debate that has waged for ages among the literary elite, much like the way politicians today bicker about policy, where both sides believe their opinions and stances are the best.  One side argues that to be deemed ‘original’, a writer must write something, (a concept, an idea, an illustration) that has never been done before, and the other side argues that there’s nothing wrong with taking an established idea (formula, event, story foundation.) and write it better, making it an original work.  

I find they both are correct.  There have been many great stories with an original concept that were well written, but through years of advanced technology, broader wisdom, easier access to information and study, that same story – mixed with this new information and technology, can be transformed into a new work.  This new story would be classified as original, because it (in its entirety) hasn’t been written before.  
I like both concepts.  I’ve used both; sometimes within the same body of work. 

Don’t let those who are follow the idea of one or the other change what you desire for your story.  It’s YOUR story, write it the way you want it – and let everyone else worry about their own works.  

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Enjoying the Tedious

A writer really has only two choices to consider in their literary journey:  (1) to either pick and choose which moments to enjoy, thereby causing emotions, dedication and determination to rise and fall worse than a roller-coaster, or (2) choose to enjoy all the moments, including editing, revision, rejection, negative reviews, and isolation.

I can hear the pessimists groaning at the latter portion of that statement, but it is something that I’ve come to embrace and apply to my writing life over the past year.  I can’t even begin to express the difference it has caused, not only to my writing style and application, but to my life in general.  

I’ve learned not to allow my ‘feelings’ to lead and determine when, how and why I edit, seek, research, or write – believing that I must move when inspiration hits me, allowing my gift to flow through me.  I determine those moments, those times and those processes, and find that my ‘gift’ is there to meet me. I set a schedule and become dedicated to it, and I’m beginning to see the productive results.  Things move; perhaps not in leaps and bounds, but in a steady forward motion.  I’m farther than I was yesterday from the beginning, and will be closer to my ultimate goal tomorrow than I am today. When feelings are allowed to dictate, great leaps may occur in spontaneous bursts, but most often are followed by long periods of stillness. There’s no guarantee of progress, because progress is left to which ever period happens to be longer.

I’m also learning that it’s not just my imagination where my gift(s) spring forth, but it dwells in EVERY area of my writing life.  Writing a story is only (1) one part of the journey, and a small part at that.   My gift(s) as a writer flow when I’m booking speaking engagements, author appearances, designing marketing materials, editing, encouraging others, speaking to fans, building networking opportunities, making friends, writing blog posts, etc.  

So, I’ve decided to enjoy all the moments involved in the process.  Right now is a great time to practice, since I’m currently in the process of editing (4) four novels.  I choose to enjoy the tedious process, because I know it’s all part of the bigger vision.  

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, April 30, 2012

Personal vs. Professional

Once established as a writing (or insert any other type of profession) personality, that personality must be treated as a product, a separate entity, or as its own company.  A clear line must be established between the personal and the professional to ensure success.

Why?  Since I’m currently a writer, I will use this profession as the example to express this point.  However, I will draw on my years of experience as an entrepreneur and business profession to help illustrate the topic.  Perhaps it is from having this experience that has helped me better understand the importance of the matter.

When you become a writing personality, either through writing books, blogs, reviews, etc.; your name (or pen name) become a product - one with an audience, a customer or a follower.  For authors, this audience is readers and fans of their novels.  For bloggers, it is their followers.  For a feature writer of a magazine or newspaper, it is the customer, the subscriber and the general community.  These become the audience.  The writer’s words become the product, not the writer themselves, even if what they write are personal opinions or stem from their personal education, understanding or skill.  Just as in a corporate world, the employees’ personal knowledge, skill, understanding, integrity and educational degree play an important role in the decision-making process while on the job, and the company they work for hired them because of those traits.  However, the employee is still an employee, and the employee represents and works for the company – regardless of their personal thoughts, beliefs and ideals. 

I’ve watched many writers alienate a portion, if not a majority, of their audience because they do not separate their personal identity from their professional one.   The same thing goes for anyone in the entertainment and artistic community.   Ever quit watching a certain television show because one of the actors on that show were being overly political, religious or outspoken on a topic or issue that you perhaps disagreed?  I have, like many, many others.  I’ve seen careers destroyed because of personal opinions.  I’m not saying you can’t have a personal opinion.  On the contrary – I ‘personally’ encourage everyone to have and form their own opinions about everything.  However, there is a time, place and platform in which to express those opinions, especially those that deal with touchy subjects like religion and politics. 

In a perfect world, EVERYONE would be fair-minded, weigh and give considerable thought to every ideal, and would withhold judgment and prejudice until all the facts have been clearly and fairly examined. We DO NOT live in a perfect world.  So, we must use discretion, wisdom and patience in deciding when to speak or when to remain silent.  If you are a public personality, such as a writer, then it is advisable that if you feel strongly in areas of politics and/or religion, use a pseudonym for your work, and keep it separate from your personal life.  It would be a shame if your hard work and talent becomes hindered because your personal opinion alienates, separates and offends a portion of your target audience.  As a reader, I don’t care what your politics are when I’m reading your book, your article, your review or your feature.  I’m interested in your work.  However, if your personal opinions and political diatribes overwhelm and consume your personal presence, I won’t be able to ignore those ideologies as I try to read your work.  I’m human.  I’m subject to prejudice and judgment.  I simply will stop reading your work.  There are too many other writers out there where I won’t have to fight through such issues.   If you want to be overly political or religious, then write for that particular audience.  That way, those who WANT to hear your opinions, will, and you won’t lose huge portions of your audience. 

I have, at times, let my personal opinion escape at the wrong time, in the wrong place and on the wrong platform.  I’m learning.  That’s the whole point of this blog – to share those idioms of wisdom.  I have opinions, strong ones, in fact.  But those opinions are for me, my family, my friends and my personal life.  I don’t want to alienate my readers by overly expressing them in the wrong format (such as my website, Facebook (under my pseudonym), blog or at public appearances).  Again, don’t misunderstand me.  I am who I am, and I don’t change who I am no matter where I am, or what platform I stand.  Who I am today, at this moment writing this blog post, is genuine to who I am should we be standing face to face.  I have no problem sharing my thoughts and opinions (I’m a writer – duh), I’m just learning when it’s appropriate. 

If you’re overly opinionated, and don’t care about the consequences of expressing those opinions regardless of the audience, then by all means - proceed.  However, don’t be surprised when you face difficulty gaining or maintaining a general audience.  You’ve shot yourself in the foot.  You may have an audience, but it’s a specific and targeted audience, often filled with the same ideals and thoughts.  Ever heard of preaching to the choir?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray