Tag Archives: writing

Amazing the Room

My dad always said I keep my thoughts to myself unless I think I can amaze a room.

It’s too true.

I’ve written very little this month, and there are several reasons for this. I am hampered by several factors right now, and I’m starting to envy those who blog anonymously. I always want to write authentically, but right now there are only a few things I can discuss without the cloak of vagueness. So why blog at all? I can hear you asking.

I don’t know. I have missed blogging this month. The less I blog, the more pressure I feel to amaze a room with my next post. That’s probably the worst thing about not blogging for me. I get out of the practice of writing, and begin feeling pressure the more I don’t post to ONLY come back if I have something unique, something thought-provoking to say.

Clearly I don’t have anything like that to say today.

Mostly, I just miss everyone. I know I’ve been a terrible commenter, and for that I am sorry. Blogging was always more about community for me. The sense of going to a virtual coffee shop and discussing issues at a roundtable, with smart, opinionated people.

So, since I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say, I’ll ask you guys, oh wise ones, if you are still here at my virtual coffee table. Do YOU have problems when you stop blogging restarting again? Do you feel your next post has to be so amazing that you just give up and don’t post? Would you rather post anonymously?

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17 Comments

Filed under What Say You?, writing

Project Dreamcatcher: Goal Schedule

In which I admit I am struggling with my deadlines. No Ted Talk this week.

My iMac is being rebuilt at the Genius Bar. It’s taking longer than I expected. And I am struggling: I’ve been writing longhand in my pretty journal, but it’s not the way I prefer to write and it’s slowing me down. I haven’t had as much time to write as I thought I would.

I have admittedly put myself on a pretty tight schedule with tight deadlines (see below). And when I start to miss looming deadlines, my risk-aversive brain starts going into escape mode. What cupcakes can I make? Can I go to the gym instead? Or, shamefully, I discovered “Scandal” was streaming on NetFlix and decided to see what the fuss was all about one valuable free night. Four HOURS later!!
šŸ˜¦

This procrastination then leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of shame and guilt. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the hugeness of the goal I have set (30,000 perfect, ready to be published words! In 2 months! With no computer right now!)

Anyway. That’s where my head has been. I reached out a Project Dreamcatcher member and admitted all this. She told me that I tend to be negative toward myself (true) and while I am positive about what I get done and accomplish, I’m very hard on myself when I’m in a nebulous territory.

That’s when I realized that I have some tools for this.

First: the have dones. It helped me to look at what I have accomplished this week.

1. Diagnosed, backed up and saved data then dealt with and got cheapest fix possible for iMac. Brought iMac to Genius Bar. Followed up.
2. Received changes from one editor for 1st half of book. In process of reviewing changes.
3. Got final bids for transcription services. Got closer to making final decision.
4. Began and made it halfway through research and writing of newest profile.

I mean, this is not where I want to be, but it IS progress.

I also started imagining a stop sign when I started berating myself. Weirdly, this helped to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks.

Finally, I remembered that I could be honest here, with you guys, who have been so supportive of this project. And that would help me, too.

So. Want to see my aggressive timeline of deadlines? Of course you do šŸ˜‰

Week of June 17th: send story to profile subject for approval. Finalize transcription service. Begin next profile. Review edits for completed chapters.

Week of June 24th: complete second profile, send to subject for approval. Get completed transcriptions, send to editors. Begin to investigate cost of cover art and PDF conversion of document to Kindle.

Week of July 1: complete third profile, send to subject for approval. Review changes to transcriptions. Choose vendors to get quotes from. Investigate legal fees/language and reprints of poems/song lyrics.

Week of July 8: complete 4th profile, send to subject for approval. Review proposals from vendors of art, PDF format. Investigate cost of hard cover books.

Week of July 15: vacation. But: write 5th profile, send to subject. Send approved profiles to editors.

Week of July 22: write 6th profile, send to subject. Finalize cover art and PDF vendor. Decide on hard cover book. Resolve legal issues.

Week of July 29: Write 6th profile, send to subject. Write introductory chapter.

Week of August 5: end of Project Dreamcatcher. Write 7th chapter, send to subject.

Rest of August:
Write 3 more profiles, get approvals.
Forward and Afterward
Get all edits done and back
Pick cover art
Get finalized document to Kindle vendor
Deal with Amazon

Not included in all of this of course? The many tweaks and changes that will occur as I proceed. This is a working document that will constantly be fluid.

Ugh. It’s a lot. But it’s worth it. I know it is.

I want to tell you all that I am here for you too: if you need advice, encouragement or just a little reassurance. I’m on Twitter at @2manyfish2fry and I’m Too Many Fish To Fry on Facebook or just email me at jessicacarroll@hotmail.com.

For everyone/anyone: do you find providing yourself with a timeline of deadlines is helpful to getting a goal accomplished? Or do you think it stresses you out too much?

And sorry for a lack of links and or typos: I’m currently using my phone to write blog posts. :/ I will update with links tomorrow!!

8 Comments

Filed under getting published, Project Dreamcatcher, writing

They Help Us To Do The Hard Things

Esperanza and I were talking today about our love of a good memoir. I’m taking a hiatus from reading so I can focus on writing, but as I write more profiles I’m thinking: what makes these stories so compelling to me? Because each person I profile I admire very much. And I’m wondering, why we are so drawn to certain stories?

Esperanza is reading two memoirs I recommended, by two bloggers actually. The first is “Heaven is Here” by Stephanie Nielson. I’ve talked about Stephanie’s blog before (NieNie Dialogues: I’m a fan) but the book is something else entirely. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, once upon a time there was a beautiful young mother of four children, married to a handsome loving husband. A Prince Charming if you will. She was, as Esperanza put it, “so, so happy”. She’d created art out of her own life on her blog, and the beauty she generated from her cooking, decorating and photography led to acclaim from Martha Stewart Magazine and Conde Nast. Stephanie’s blog was inspiring to many women who aspired to be the kind of devoted mother and wife she was. Stephanie attributed her approach to life to her deeply held Mormon beliefs. In 2008, she was truly living the dream. She had everything.

Which is why what happened next was so shocking. She and her husband were in a terrible plane crash. They survived but their friend who was also in the plane did not. Stephanie was burned over 80% on her body (including her beautiful face) and was in a coma for 2 months. The pain, the injuries, the horror: it’s almost unimaginable. Yet, she survived and thrived and eventually even gave birth to another baby, Charlotte. How? How could you recover, mentally and emotionally from such a thing? In the book Stephanie credits her Mormon faith with much of her recovery in every way, and also her love of her family.

In the book, she attempts to hike a local trail to mark her recovery and gain a victory of sorts, even though every movement hurts. On the trail a child she has never met cheers her on, relating the message: “You help me do the hard things.”

The other book I recommended is “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. Kelle’s a fun-loving photographer and mother-of-one whose world is rocked when her second child, her daughter Nella, is unexpectedly born with Downs Syndrome. The book tells the story of what happend next with honesty and sincerity. Kelle relates the depression she felt immediately after Nella’s birth and then the fierce embrace of her daughter and the decision she made to celebrate the “small moments”, the triumphs and the beauty of Nella’s life. Kelle eventually creates her own pretty unique approach to parenting: one of optimism and expecting the best of a situation, not the worst. The gorgeous photos help to tell the story as well. Kelle’s gang of girlfriends (she calls them “the net”) are at the root of how Kelle adapts to her new reality. Their love and support and words of wisdom are really at the heart of what allows her to fully embrace her new role as Nella’s champion.

After discussing these books with Esperanza, we decided we seek these stories out because they are about women dealing with hard, hard things. Life is full of hardships. It just is. So we seek out words of wisdom from those we think perhaps have answers we don’t, the key, so to speak of what is resilience. And how we can develop it on our own.

What stories speak to you, and why? Do you seek out memoirs?

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Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing

Project Dreamcatcher: Define Your Steps

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So. I’m typing this from the library because my computer has died. I’m taking my poor old beloved iMac to the Genius Bar tomorrow to try to get it fixed. Not having a computer? Not ideal. The computer station I was using got stolen by this rude guy. (Yes, entitled rude man with your headphones in so I don’t confront you: I’m talking about you.) Now I’m in the undesirable computer room with a bunch of teenaged math students who are loudly explaining cosigns. ISN’T THE LIBRARY SUPPOSED TO BE FREAKING QUIET? So basically: First World Problems.

(BTW, the library limits the amount of time you can use on a computer to 60 minutes a day. So this may be rushed and have typos. Apologies!)

The Ted Talk by Jason Fox I chose for this week was about using the video gaming model to achieve a goal. I thought that comparison was very interesting because who hasn’t gotten totally addicted to a video game? Candy Crush or Farmville, anyone? My personal kryptonite was the old school Super Mario Brothers game. Why is the video game model so addictive? Well, it fully engages your brain. You gain new skills at each level, learning to get past the dragon or jump over the brick wall. You achieve: moving on to the next level once you acquire the jumps and bounds needed. And you become fixated on making it to the next level and the next level and beyond.

I would love for us all to become just as fixated on making our goals come true as we are in making it to level 36 of Candy Crush.

How do we apply that model to our dream goals? Well, I think pretty much all of the goals include gaining new skills: whether it’s how to best plant vegetables for optimal growing and harvesting, plotting a plant grid to inspire a backyard for a family to enjoy or plan the best way to achieve your writing goals or learning how to take care of yourself (through clothes, food, self-esteem). The thing about gaining new skills: it can be difficult, but once you master a task (getting to the best mile time, learning to use a light meter) it CAN be addictive and confidence-building.

The other thing that you do in games? As Fox says: “Failure. Failure is really important in games…and it’s good because you learn.” I suck at failure, YET I tend to perserve in a game environment. Dang if I CARE if I fail a level in Angry Birds. I want to keep going!

It’s the CHALLENGE. So visualize your goal as the last level!

Here’s the best tip I learned from the Ted Talk: Make a list of HAVE DONES as you progress toward your goal. Each week, list your HAVE DONES. For Example:

1. Rewrote, polished and sent existing chapters to my editors for grammar check.
2. Sent interviews to be transcribed.
3. Determined length of book and chapters and word count to be done.
4. Set up timeline of profiles to write and editing schedule.

That’s significant progress. It’s easy to focus on what is left to be done, but to think about what HAS been done can make you feel as if you are really on the right path.

So, in closing: keep going, keep trying, keep getting to the next level, keep failing and keep listing your HAVE DONES.

In addition, this week I am putting together a master timeline if you will of EVERYTHING that needs to be done to get the book on Amazon. I will miss goals, I will fail. But I will keep trying to get to that FINAL LEVEL. I will save the princess. And so will you!

One more thing: I will be featuring more tips, motivational quotes and fun stuff on my Facebook page. Become a fan! NOT just for participants, but for everyone. And don’t forget: it’s never too late to join in.

I will be updating this list as more posts come in.

Do you think listing “have dones” is a good idea to help keep us motivated? Have you ever been addicted to a video game? Do you think the gaming model is a good way to look at achieving a goal?

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Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing

Dealing With the Naysayers (In My Head And Beyond)

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I am working on a top secret project that is really exciting. Mostly I feel driven and passionate about it and very motivated by the general interest it has provoked. Mostly. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk publicly about it soon.

The reason I’m not saying more here? WELL. Things were going really, really awesomely for a while, so I opened up to some, er, people I know about the project. I knew it was a mistake pretty much the minute the description of the project escaped my lips. (You know when you can see the words you just uttered in a bubble above your head? And you wish you could just shovel those words back into your mouth? Well, that happened.) Ever since I opened my big fat mouth about it, I’ve had to deal with non-stop comments about how I am DOOMED TO FAILURE, either because of the insignificant size of my platform and/or my topic area (Sample comments: “You need 77,000 followers to do ANYTHING worthwhile.” and “No one will care about your topic.”)

Then I actually ran into a real obstacle. It is not an insurmountable hurdle at all: in fact, the incident helped me decide upon a crucial point I had been endlessly debating.

But the lingering sting of rejection and the naysayers are getting me down. I’ve never been great at accepting the answer “no.” My (very few) modeling days were fraught with insecurity and I obsessed over the negative things people said about my appearance, not remembering any of the positives. (My lips were too small and needed collagen injections was the most frequent criticism I got. I was 16! So no, I wasn’t going to get collagen injections. I used to put an icepack on my lips to try to get that bee stung look. It didn’t work.) I was scouted multiple times by multiple agencies (including a very prestigious agency in NYC) and in most cases I didn’t even get to the answer “no” because I couldn’t handle the answer “no” so I didn’t even pursue opportunities. I kind of regret that now. On the other hand, I’m sure the answer WOULD have been no.

The thing is, writing and modeling (and acting for that matter) are kind of similar, right? Lots of people want to do these things for a living. Ergo, there WILL be a ton of rejection. You can give up, or you can never surrender, to paraphrase Galaxy Quest.

I was bombarded by rejection during infertility treatments. I probably would have given up sooner had I not been under serious pressure to make it work.

What’s worse? Chasing a dream? Is that wasting your time? Is being surrounded by naysayers detrimental? Or are they around to keep you focused on the ground, where you actually live?

I don’t know the answer, as usual. So I’ll put it to you, oh wise ones. How do you handle naysayers and/or rejection? Does it prevent you from pursuing your dreams? Is it a waste of time to even pursue dreams? Should we stay grounded to the earth?

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Filed under writing

Being Original

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First of all, thank you. Thanks for the incredible response and the dialogue in the comments box on the last post.

I am floored.

A lot of the discussion got me thinking about why originality matters so much, since this seems to be a key issue in this next generation of bloggers. What makes writers or artists truly a special snowflake?

I’ve been thinking about two special snowflakes in history in particular: my favorite American composer, Aaron Copland, and Emily Dickinson, whose writing was edited right after her death to fit more in with the norms of the day. To the detriment of everything that made her poetry so unique and punchy. (Thanks to Outlandish Notions for reminding me of my affection for Dickinson.)

As a writer, I am not as original as I’d like to be, in great honesty. I think Faces of ALI is probably my most “original” idea, and even it is a careful retelling of other people’s stories. There’s probably a few reasons for this. At my middle school and high school (as I’m sure was the case for most people), uniqueness of any kind was jeered and shunned. I had some mild mean girl experiences and learned to keep quiet and not make waves in order to survive. At my beach-y, paradise college, I played up my mellow, fun side to maximum effect to fit in. (Which was not terribly difficult, I must say.)

It’s fascinating for me to see a world where originality is awarded and closely scrutinized. Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs: all of these places are outlets to “express” creativity, yet so few writers/artists truly do have anything new to say or show.

Another reason I have been thinking about this a lot is that my daughter shows signs of having no interest in following trends, whether it be clothing, hair, music or, well, anything really. The way she dresses is starkly different than her friends: she cut her hair into an artfully styled bob (and actually set a trend with that), she loves fashion from the 20s and 30s. I cannot dress her. She won’t let me. I try really hard to not mold her but instead allow her to heed her artistic whims. Even though my instinct is to not let her do that.

I guess the instinct to conform is itself deeply rooted in my personality. Or it was, at least, until infertility hit. By no longer fitting into the norms (all my other friends were mostly building their families according to exact plans), I became “other.” Being different was somewhat liberating. I sort of went in an eccentric and reclusive direction, becoming a mysterious figure.

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This is a small example, a seriously small example of being different, but no one I know bakes much. I was a hostess for a baby shower and I wanted to do something thoughtful and cool for my friend who is awesome. So I baked the cake and cupcakes myself, from a frosting I’ve perfected from another blogger (NOT ORIGINAL!) and I graduated the favorite color tones of my friend who was being honored into different cake layers. (Confession: that terrible photo has been photoshopped.) This is not unique either: you could argue (successfully) that if anything, ombre is on its way out. But no one at the shower could believe that I had made (BAKED!) this really cool cake. It blew their minds. It also tasted really good, so that helped. I think they thought it was REALLY WEIRD (original?) that I had made that cake.

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Anyway, I think it takes a lot of time and energy to truly think long and hard about making your work, whatever it is, stand out. Emily Dickinson didn’t have much of a personal life and lived with her parents. She rarely left her home after her early twenties. Aaron Copland traveled and studied with various muses and with different mentors, and even he struggled because his music very much went against the grain during the Depression. Emily Dickinson was never recognized during her lifetime. Aaron Copland had a very brief period in the 40s of writing brilliant music that blazed a new trail. Originality, it seems, has a short shelf life. Unless you are Picasso.

Do you strive to be original? Or do you prefer to write within accepted norms?

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Filed under Blogging

What On Earth To Say?

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If you read me regularly, you’ll know this blog has been fragmented since this summer. As fragmented as the cheap kaleidoscope lens I bought my son, which was quickly broken, then lost, as most of the twins’ toys are.

The truth is, I have no idea what to write anymore. How to write. Do I craft short, escapist posts of happiness and photos or long heart-wrenching missives pouring my heart out? I’ve had some middling success with this blog in the way I hoped: as an advocacy tool, an educational mechanism. The truth is, in some ways, my wounds of 2006-2010 (two losses and infertility) have healed. The truth is, those wounds will never really fully heal. The bell has been rung, I’m forever changed by the experiences. The truth is: I’ll face worse, because I won’t live forever and this world is destined to delight and depress people and all we can hope is that perhaps we experience more delight, but that’s not a given. The truth is I’d like to write about things other than infertility, too. The truth is, I don’t know that anyone wants to hear about those other things. And, fair enough. I started off writing for myself, but along the way, I began to write for others. Those I knew. Those I didn’t know. Those I wanted to reach. Those who needed to hear stories of others, ordinary but extraordinary tales of loss and love and resilience and brokenness.

I know that some of you have been bewildered by my meanderings (Fashion? REALLY?) and probably hurt by posts about my kids, something I refrained from doing before. I understand: my audience is a mix of different people, some in the trenches, some living childfree not by choice, some parenting, some having nothing to do with infertility.

I don’t know why I feel “better”, but it’s a fragile state I don’t take for granted. In fact, if there’s one phrase that defines 2012 for me, it’s gratitude. I feel lucky. Sometimes grouchy, sometimes angry, but always grateful. Just grateful for my husband and my beautiful twins. That gratitude was always there, under the surface, but it got lost along the way as I grieved for my children who would never be, for the star-crossed road it seems I alone was dealt amongst my charmed friends and acquaintances. But of course I was not alone. Because I had YOU.

And dear, dear readers: this brings me to my question. What would YOU like me to write?

– Would you like me to finish Faces of ALI? (I had at least two more profiles planned.) Do they matter?
– Do you want me to create a separate blog for all things fashion and lifestyle? Because the truth is the other thing that has made me happy in 2012 is rediscovering the superficial side of myself that was submerged for many years. I rediscovered my old love for everything sartorial: mostly this passion was reignited by my daughter, who has taken her interest in clothes to a new level by sewing and crafting.

A friend’s father once told her that she was two sides of the same knife, one that makes shallow cuts and one that delves deep. He’s Romanian and old world and survived the Holocaust as a young child, and I think there is great wisdom in aspiring to this. For me, I think the key for surviving this world (for the time I am given) is to be both: both perfunctory and possibly profound.

I really appreciate and look forward to your comments as always. I know I have not always pleased you, you have not always agreed with me, and I am sure that some of my posts made your eyes roll into the back of your head as you clicked out of my blog šŸ˜‰ But please know: I have deeply valued your time and your comments over the last two years.

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Filed under Parenting After IF, personal style, What Say You?, writing