Lacking Inspiration?

Feeling inspired?

No?

You’re surrounded by inspiration, as ever-present as the air you breathe.

Okay, sometimes you have to reach further to find it, but it’s there, believe me.  All you need is an open mind, a little creativity, and a good analogy.

Okay, maybe the analogy doesn’t have to be that good.

Glancing around my workspace, I can see a pencil sharpener. That pencil sharpener is like me working on my latest manuscript  – I carve and twist and sharpen my point to perfection, but really, will anybody need that pencil? Nobody uses pencils anymore.

Depressing? Yeah, kind of.

Here’s an even more depressing one from PG Wodehouse:

“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”

Do you suppose he was looking out the window at his garden when he came up with that one or maybe there was a brochure for the grand canyon on his desk?

Maybe you read that and thought, who thinks like that?

I would assert – anyone and everyone.

You, for instance.

You are surrounded by potential analogies. They’re everywhere.

My oldest child is a creative soul. This made him both a pleasure and a pain to raise.

DSC00350

He is also smart. His standardized test scores came in very high in every area, except one.

Analogies.

These questions he would miss with alarming regularity. The problem was that he could always see two sides of everything.

analogies

He could absolutely understand how a bear could live in a hotel or a table could be used to sleep or a car is part of a kitchen or that something that is right is very wrong.

Look around you.

What does that lamp look like? A snake? A butter churn? An alien?

How could whether or not you made your bed this morning be an analogy for how you live your life?

What about your dog? Is he living the life he always wanted or is he a prisoner in a foreign land who has adapted well?

The truck rattling down the street — where is it going? What is it carrying? What has it seen? Who’s trapped inside? Did it runover the walnuts covering the street, the sound of the shells cracking like bullets exploding?

There is inspiration all around you, free for the taking.

inspiration

My cat has been slowly destroying my laptop. Whenever I leave it open, she nests on it. Her relentless plucking has removed key after key, her efforts so thorough most are unable to be snapped back on. This week she tore off the control key. I’m annoyed with her, but I’m sure there’s an essay in there. (I’ve lost my control….)

IMG_3490

Being open to possibility is the first step to discovering inspiration.

Sometimes when I’m journaling and can’t think of what to write, I’ll open a nearby book and randomly place my finger on a word or line. Then I’ll either continue the sentence or write about what that word or line brings to my mind. Other times I’ll look out the window and see what first catches my eye and explore why.

You can find inspiration on billboards, click bait, cereal packaging, or sales circulars. You can find it in the dirty laundry on the floor or the gunk in the sink drainer or the sarcasm in your teenager’s remark. There are analogies to be had in being late because the cat threw up or being lost when your GPS fails you.

Inspiration is everywhere. The place is lousy with it.

Breathe it in, and see where it takes your mind.

Need a chuckle? Check out these hilarious analogies written by high school students.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Advertisements

Sometimes It’s Brilliant, Sometimes it’s Cleaning Vegetables

“If every time you sat down, you expected something great, writing would always be a great disappointment.” -Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones)

This is the third post I’ve written for the blog this week. (Do notice that it’s the only post I’ve actually posted.)

The magic just wasn’t happening.

*sigh*

Maybe it’s the sore shoulder. (Writing injury. No lie. I won’t bore you with the entire post I wrote about it.)

Maybe it’s the gray-gray-gray of the never-ever-ever-ever ending winter. (We still have to get through February? March? The dental hygienist reminded me that April can be iffy, too.)

Maybe it’s the lack of puppies. (I own that addiction.)

Maybe it’s my new (depressing) resolution not to eat after 6pm (including wine?).

Whatever it is, when I sat down to write, everything that came out was boring and trite and no-help-to-anyone.

Those days happen. They’re part of being a writer.

Now here’s the part about being a professional writer….

I still wrote. Every. Day.

Even when it was horrible.

Because you know what?

IMG_1899Every time I put what’s on my mind and in my heart onto the page, it makes room for the bigger, better thoughts. Kind of like cleaning vegetables. I shucked the skin and cut off the core and picked out the seeds. Necessary work to get to the good stuff.

So maybe when I sit down to write next week, it’ll be clear sailing. Nothing but brilliance in prose form.

And if not?

I’ll write anyway.

How about you?

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

1,000 True Fans: Myth or Legend?

If you’re an artist or entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard Kevin Kelly’s famous assertion:

To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only one thousand true fans. (Kevin Kelly)

I went back and read his original blog post from 2008 this morning. While his words make complete sense, as a traditionally published author, I think I’d need more like 100,000 true fans.

Here’s my math logic: Continue reading “1,000 True Fans: Myth or Legend?”

Embrace the Yuck

Last post I was ready to take on the world.

This post, I’m thinking maybe it would be best if I just slunk away and holed up somewhere with my dog. Maybe on a mountain, out of cell-phone range.

mountain

Writing, especially publishing, is much like ping pong.

Writing-is-like-ping pong

You’re amazing – You suck – You’re brilliant – You’re an idiot – You’re happy – You’re devastated.

Maybe it’s the nature of an artist (is that what I am?) to feel such high highs and such low lows.

Today it is gray, cold, unwelcoming.

My agent informs me that my re-written manuscript (the one in which I was certain I’d finally nailed it) is still not up to snuff.

I began to re-read my in-progress manuscript, remembering how fabulous I thought it was when I started and realized it’s horrible. Plain horrible. I don’t even want to read it.

The article I’m working on keeps spinning in circles. I can’t find a flow, a structure, or even, really, a point.

Several of my latest efforts to ‘try something new’ to get my books out there, have been met with technicalities, false hopes, no-thank yous, and hidden (impossible) costs.

Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads, the major marketing tools of most authors, have once again, changed the rules and I’m too untechy-savy/late-to-the-game/old to figure it out.

Ugh.

I need a pep talk.

I can (still) do this.

But maybe for today, I’ll need to embrace the yuck. Let it have its way. Eat the leftover apple cobbler, stay in my jammies, and lay around reading books written by real writers who know what they’re doing.

Just for today, I will not try. I’ll hang out with my dog. Embrace the suckiness of my situation in all it’s awful glory.

Tomorrow, I’ll get back at it.

Promise.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Is There Any Reason to be Reasonable?

Every new year I make a list of resolutions. This year’s list is long. I’m not going to share it here because that would mean you might hold me to it. I’m gonna hold me to it, so you don’t have to. But also because some of my resolutions are deeply personal. I’m digging deeper this year.

2017 was fine. Lots of good stuff happened. I learned quite a lot. I adopted a puppy and bought a convertible, so I really can’t complain.

But 2018….this is gonna be my year. I’m going to make it so.

When I first scratched out my list, I thought, yeah, right, you are so overshooting. But then I thought – why can’t I overshoot? Why can’t I reach for bigger stuff and bigger dreams (and maybe a smaller waistline)? Why can’t I want it all?

I’ve read a slew of new year’s posts full of very nice resolutions and advice. Make it reasonable. Make it doable. Make it measurable. Pick one word, one resolution, focus on that.

Why?

I see no reason to be reasonable. Our world has seemed incredibly unreasonable this past year. No one else is staying within the lines, why should I?

And doable? Well, there’s no way to know if something is doable until you try to do it. So I plan to.

And the thing about measurable is that it’s restrictive and reeks of judgment. It’s more or less a pass/fail situation and that doesn’t leave enough room for really great tries or hitting it out of the park. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss,  you’ll land among the stars.”

shoot for the moon

I’ve made ten resolutions. Ten big ones. For a great part of my life, I’ve been practical; I was learning, growing, practicing, trying, but you know what? I don’t know how much life I left (neither do you), so enough rehearsing, it’s time to act. It’s time to make this thing real.

How about you? What are you resolving to change? Cause if you don’t get moving, you’ll surely get runover just sitting there. It’s time, people.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

I Told You So….

I’m generally not one to say, I told you so.

But, I told you so.

I knew when Amazon bought Goodreads they would ruin it.

amazon logo (2)

PLUS

goodreads

EQUALS

trainwreck

I’ve always loved goodreads because it was a place to talk books, meet readers, access authors I admire, discover books I loved, and keep track of what I’ve read and want to read.

Slowly, Amazon has been sinking their money-lovin’ fingers deeper and deeper. Pop-up ads funded by the big publishers pushing the same authors and their same books have steadily increased. Buy links to purchase from Amazon are in every comment and recommendation, attached to every picture, and slathered up and down the side bars. And paid goodreads campaigns arrive in my email box for one NYT best-selling book after another.

Fine. It’s fine.

I know that the people with the money control everything, story of my life.

As a reader, I can generally look the other way, but as an author, I’ve had entirely enough.

I tried to believe that, although the game is truly rigged for the writers with the big publishers and the big bucks, I could still utilize goodreads to promote my books and connect with readers.

One feature of goodreads I especially love is the giveaways.

I’ve noted in a previous post, I have NEVER, EVER, NOT-ONCE won a giveaway, despite the hundreds I have entered. As I watch a good friend win copy after copy, I’ve scratched my head, but accepted that playing the lottery will never be a money-making proposition for me and when something says ‘odds are one in a hundred that this will happen,’ it’s more like ‘odds are one in a wando-mega-gazilllion to one that this will happen’ for me.

[And no, this is not another post speculating on how goodreads giveaways could possibly be rigged.]

No, this is a post reacting to the recent email I received from goodreads about their all-new, even better giveaway program for authors.

It may be new, but it is decidedly not better.

For example, one new feature works like this: Instead of giving readers the choice of entering your giveaway AND adding your book to their TO READ list, it automatically adds your book to an entrant’s TO READ list, whenever he or she enters your giveaway. This, they proclaim, will help generate buzz alerting the entrant’s friends and followers that they have added your book to their shelves.

Great, right?

No. I don’t want someone to be forced to add my book to their shelf. Maybe I’m overly sensitive because I’m one of those people who opposes being forced to do anything. (Same reason I still don’t like veal or eggplant, and I never follow-thru on chain emails or FB message forwards.)

Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I am thrilled when someone adds my book to their TO READ shelf, and yet I hate the idea of goodreads doing it for them. And I hate the idea of someone adding my book to their TO READ shelf only so they can be entered to win a copy.

Is it crazy to want readers to add my books to their shelves because they want to read my books?

Okay, enough whining. That’s not the big reason I’m angry about the new program.

Here’s the real reason—goodreads is now charging authors to giveaway their books. So not only am I (or my publisher) fronting the cost of the book and the mailing, but now I (or my publisher) will have to pay goodreads for the privilege of giving away my books!

And it’s not cheap. There are, of course, different packages, one more expensive than the other (they start at $159 a year).

So here’s one more way that authors and publishers are losing money to Amazon. And here’s one more way for books with big publishers and big budgets to get an advantage.

Enough!

I’m done.

I have no idea if either of my publishers will play the game and buy a giveaway package, but I’ve listed my last author-sponsored giveaway on goodreads before the policy changes with the new year.

After that, I’m gonna do this crazy thing and give away my books without the help of goodreads.

So, here we go.

How’d you like to win a signed copy of one of my books?

All you have to do is make a comment on this post right here on the blog or on Facebook, and you’re entered to win a signed copy of any of my books (you choose). I’ll even toss in a couple swag items with the book!

And starting twelve days before Christmas (do the math), I’ll be giving away one book EVERY DAY to a person randomly selected from my newsletter list (if you aren’t on it, sign up here) for the twelve days of Christmas!

Yes, I am more than aware that goodreads will not even register my little dissent and protest.

Which is fine.

I’d consider it an act of solidarity if you now went to your own goodreads dashboard and added my books to your TO READ list (but only if you want to read them.).

Take that, Amazon!

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my writing and books, please visit CaraWrites.com, or connect with me on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram. You can win great stuff, get book recommendations & a monthly most awesome recipe, be bombarded with puppy pictures, and keep up with all my adventures, by signing up for my newsletter.

Best,

Cara

p.s. I LOVE to hear from readers (and writers), feel free to email me CaraSueAchterberg@gmail.com

 

 

Falling in Love Has Nothing to Do With It

“You have to make a conscious decision to love someone.”

My mother told me this at some point in my young adult years. At the time I remember thinking that sounded like something an old person would say. It really poked all the fun out of ‘falling in love,’ something I experienced again and again and rarely acted on until I was nearly thirty.

I’ve reflected on those words many times in the years since she said it. In fact, my novel, Practicing Normal, explores that very idea. It holds up the concept of falling in love, against the reality of choosing to continue to love even when it isn’t easy. I’ve come to believe my mom is right. Love does require a conscious decision.

No more so than in marriage. I’ve been married now for twenty-two years. I’m here to tell you it’s not all fun and games. There are plenty of times when it requires serious work. And when you are bogged down in parenting or building a career you simply cannot coast on that euphoria of new love any longer. You have to make an effort. Even if you feel you’re carrying the larger load. Even when the bills and the laundry pile up, you still have to consciously decide to love this person who drives you batty at times.

The day we got married, I had a stomach flu that leveled me so badly my friends and sister-in-law had to dress me, do my nails, hair, and makeup. The limo didn’t show up and we all crammed in a friend’s mini-van to get to the church. The service started nearly twenty minutes late. Anything that could fall out of the sky, did fall out of the sky that November day – rain, sleet, snow, hail. My bridesmaids had barf bags wrapped around their bouquets, just in case.

And yet, my wedding was perfect. All the obstacles, whittled the event down to one thing for me. All I focused on, all I cared about, was being able to stand up and say my vows. Instead of worrying about my appearance and the million details I’d obsessed over for months, our wedding was about what it should have been about – making a conscious decision, even a declaration, to love each other. Forever.

23472240_10155081858092405_7778913747833910032_n

In Practicing Normal, Cassie, a hospice nurse expounds on my mother’s words:

“Love isn’t romance. It’s a grind. It’s being there every day, even when you don’t want to be. I see it all the time. I watch these people who sit with their dying spouse or friend or parent. They clean up their shit, spoon feed them their dinner, bathe them, read to them, take care of them—because they love them. It’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not something you’d ever find in a romance novel. Love isn’t some grand thing that you luck into; there’s not magic chemistry involved. It’s a decision. A conscious decision. You have to decide you’re going to love someone and then you have to make that decision every day, every hour, again and again. Even when it sucks.”

I’m pretty sure my husband is forced to make the conscious decision to keep loving me much more often than I debate my own love for him. I know I’m not easy, and maybe that’s one of the things that makes me grateful for him. He tolerates my moods and whims and unilateral decisions about how many animals to bring home.

Just like sunscreen and thank you notes, mom was right. Loving someone is a conscious decision. One we all make every day, every hour, and if we’re lucky, for a lifetime.

Best,

Cara

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my writing and books, please visit CaraWrites.com, or connect with me on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram. You can win great stuff, get book recommendations & a monthly most awesome recipe, be bombarded with puppy pictures, and keep up with all my adventures, by signing up for my newsletter.