There Had Been an Accident

Writing Memoir

2014-05-30 Pink Roses @pender

Roses with Thorns

I belong to a writer’s group on Saltspring Island. We meet every two weeks to read each others work and provide feedback. We all write memoir stories. I started to publish those stories on Medium.com, a site that permits for longer submissions.

I just posted my latest effort. You can read it here.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – A Book Review

A practical and Enjoyable How-To Book for Artists

One Friday night, at around 8:00 pm, I decided that I wanted to read a book. I scanned through a few of the unread books I own but did not find anything that particularly interested me. So I went to Amazon.ca and poked around the site for a while. I could not decide what I wanted to read; whether I was interested in reading fiction or a business book or a memoir. I clicked on self-help books because a surprising number of business books can be found there. I filtered the list of 3,000 or so by selecting books with a review rating of 4 or more stars, knowing full well I might miss something interesting but at least someone else had done the work to shorten this list.

Up near the top of the list popped Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work. The contents seemed interesting, the price was under $10 and the reviews were good so I did the 1-click purchase, which is part of the reason I like Amazon for books, downloaded the book to my Kindle app on my iPad, and started reading. I read the entire book in one sitting that night and I found myself madly highlighting numerous passages. The reviews were right; it is a 5 star book.

Mr. Kleon works and lives in Austin, Texas. He is a New York Times best selling author with three books. He has a special interest in creativity and how artists make things and the processes they use. His blog posts at http://austinkleon.com are prolific and I particularly like the way he uses lists and photos and, of course, his drawings to add interest to his work.

Mr. Kleon’s premise for the book is that artists do not need to actively self-promote, instead an artist can create conditions where their work is findable. He believes the best approach to being findable is to share your work and, in particular, your process of working, with others. In a world of social media and the Internet, the barrier to establishing a place to share one’s work is low and therefore, quite doable for any artist.

What I liked about his book is Mr. Kleon provides an approachable method for becoming findable. As I read through the pages, I felt his encouragement and his permission to share, to put the work out into the world. I would agree with his assessment that many artists have a hard time sharing their processes and maybe even their finished projects because there is so much time and effort personally invested in the work; days, months, and years in some cases.

I particularly liked his advice about dealing with criticism. Everyone has an opinion and their own tastes so it is not realistic to think everyone is going to like what you do. There are certainly people in the world that take pride in pointing out the flaws and problems in someone else’s work. It is pretty easy to critique but much harder to do the creating. The best critiques come from the people who have done the work themselves and understand the process. Mr. Kleon’s advice: focus on feedback from the people who have done this type of work or from those people whose opinion you value and ignore the rest.

The drawings and illustrations are unique and quirky. The pictures break up the narrative and highlight main points making the book a pleasure to read. I bookmarked several of them. He calls himself a writer who draws – which is an apt description.

It sounds like Mr. Kleon has a sensible wife. He quotes her a few times in the book and his affection and respect for her is obvious. He is fortunate to have such a supportive partner.

What did I dislike? Perhaps my criticism is more of a difference in opinion. As someone with a background in marketing, I disagree with Mr. Kleon when he says you should not ask for likes or for friends on social media. If the artist won’t ask or at least invite people to look at their work, how can anyone know about what the artist does? Social currency in the form of “Like” or “Retweet” in social media is a powerful influencer. It means more people will come see the work. Creatives send invitations to book launches and art show openings all the time and not always to people they know. As Mr. Kleon notes, it is not about becoming human spam but once in a while the artist should extend the invitation. Folks may not know there is a party going on if they are not invited.

Perhaps his objection is to the blatant “ask,” where the individual is not subtle about building their social media empires. I do find that kind of approach distasteful. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the quality of those people who become your fans. The trick, perhaps, is to send those invitations sparingly and when you have something of value to offer.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who does work that involves a creativity process. I recently attended a book self-publishing workshop and it struck me that while many people in the workshop did want to learn about the process of creating a self-published hard-copy or e-book, a great deal of the questions that were asked related to what I call marketing. What the workshop lacked, for these participants, was the next step: how do you let people know you have book available. Mr. Kleon actually provides concrete steps for showing the work, becoming findable, and letting people know the artist has something of value to sell. Perhaps those people will eventually buy.

If you like Amazon.ca – you can buy Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Associate Link).

After reading Show Your Work!, I bought his first book – Steal Like an Artist. I will write a review of that book in a future post.

I wrote an abridged version of this review on Amazon.ca.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC

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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Today is My 3-Year Anniversary

Today is the 3 year anniversary of leaving my 9-5 job. It’s a significant milestone.

I remember when I first made the decision to leave. It was more than a year before I actually left and it was as if a light bulb had gone off. The “aha” moment was as sharp and clear as a well-composed digital photo. So, why am I still here in this job where my ideas are not valued, my work duties are slowly being eroded, and my work is being marginalized by people who do not have the training and expertise that I have? It may have been a case of being in one place too long or maybe I was just tired of the hypocrisy I witnessed everyday. If I sound bitter, I was, and I was exhausted. Something needed to change and I knew then that I would leave.

In preparing to leave, I had a vague concept of what I might do and I even wrote a business plan. That business plan was okay but was born at a time where I was still thinking like a manager and an indentured servant. My plan was to be a consultant which was another way to become an employee again, only now, I would have many bosses instead of one. I knew that I would make a living doing consulting, but in the process I was ignoring my true calling.

I worried about money and making ends meet. I worried about what my friends would think. I was particularly worried about my family especially my husband. Could he support me, spiritually and financially, in leaving a well-paying job to follow my passion? I even worried that I would be homeless in a few years. Doesn’t every entrepreneur have that homelessness worry at least once a month?

The one thing that kept me from chickening-out and staying in that job was this overwhelming desire for autonomy. I no longer wanted to write a script for someone else and have my words become swallowed in the corporate morass. I wanted to write my name at the bottom of all my work. I wanted to have the say on what I published. I no longer wanted to maintain programs and structures that were ridiculously bureaucratic. I wanted to dream, teach, entertain, tell stories and do interesting writing projects that allowed me to continuously learn my craft. I wanted to be crazy and explore ideas that seemed impossible. I wanted my work to be fun again.

So I have become an artist who uses words as my medium. Despite the doubts I have and the fear that I will someday starve, I still get up every morning excited to sit down at my computer and write.

Three years ago today, I left my 9-5 job and I became writer.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

The life [simplified] letter: Transitions

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Transitions published on January 1, 2015 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Beautiful Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

Potential

The ghosts of the past and the seduction of the future

I get discouraged sometimes when I think about what I used to be able to do. I used to be able to run 5 km, for example. Even though I was slow, I could do it without stopping. Running that standard distance made me feel accomplished and I was proud of the races I finished. Over time, I eventually gave up running, due to spraining my ankle and other physical ailments. I can’t run 5 km any more nor do I have a desire to return to running.

My mind likes to tell me that I’m the same person that I was 25 years ago. I know that I’m not the same physically or perhaps mentally, but my memories don’t seem to age the same way my body does. By looking back to what I could do when I was younger, it sometime screws me up in the present. The problem is that I start to make comparisons and because I can’t do some things like I used to do, I start to berate myself.

Comparisons are a dangerous game. I fall victim to it more times than I would like to admit. I compare my home to other homes, or my smart phone to new phones, or my career to others. Even though there are times that I’m smug and assume that my home, phone, or career is better than someone else, the truth is, there is no “better”. It is just different. It may be clichéd but the grass is not greener on the other side.

In addition to using the past to judge me, I sometimes succumb to the seduction of the future. I bet you know what I’m talking about. Someday, when I’m 20 pounds lighter, have more time, money, or energy, I’ll do all the things that I long to do. Maybe I’ll write that novel or I’ll volunteer with the SPCA, or I’ll [insert any and all kinds of items on my wish list].

When I make the comparisons to others, or to my past, or when I long for the future after certain conditions are met, I miss the opportunity to see the potential of where I stand right now, right this minute. I might not run anymore, but I still take my dog for a walk and the walks bring us both great joy. I like to hike with friends and walk around the island I now call home. I have everything I need right now; I don’t have any unfulfilled needs so I don’t need to look to the future for fulfillment. Rather than listen to the ghosts of the past or the whispered seduction of the future, I need to focus on the present by asking: “What is the opportunity I have right now, today?” The answer to that question is my potential.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

The One Month Frame

Some time ago, I wrote a letter about the one inch frame, a concept that I borrowed from Anne Lamott, an author that I’ve come to idolize.

As I was planning the relaunch of my email letter for January 1, 2015, I started to think about the one inch frame. Anne Lamott’s concept is that when the writing task seems overwhelming, just start by writing only what you can see in a one inch frame. Maybe it is a short description or a tiny little bit of dialogue that will get the writing mind relaxed enough to keep writing.

My idea was to take the one inch frame and expand it to a concept of the one month frame and use it for managing projects. I tend to have illusions of grandeur when I start planning a new project and believe I can do so much more than I actually can. I’ve been known to plan out months in advance on some projects. In hindsight, I’ve come to understand that no one can predict the future so far in advance. Inevitably, I can’t meet my unrealistic goals, get frustrated and usually quit.

I’m not good at working without a goal in mind. I need some structure and I need to do some planning. I’ve tried to work without any goals or plans but what happens is I get distracted and the next thing I know, I’m watching Elementary on streaming video from my computer or wandering around FaceBook reading cute status updates.

Even though I need some kind of plan and a goal at the end, I can hold the plan lightly and only plan a few weeks ahead. So much of what I do doesn’t have a hard and fast deadline. I can create deadlines but I don’t find it necessary to get the work done.

The one month frame seems about right. I can set up some challenges for myself, a goal, that can reasonably be completed within a month. For example, I can challenge myself to finish 30,000 words for the email letters by the end of the month. If I write every day, that is only 1,000 words per day and I can reasonably handle that amount, maybe even get ahead by having a few days where I write 2,000 words. I’ve set up a method to track my results in an excel spreadsheet chart. The visual representation is really helpful.

I’ve also built in rewards along the way. At the 15,000 word mark, I might reward myself by buying a new e-book to read. I can also create a reward after I finish my daily quota. Instead of using the streaming TV video as a distraction, it becomes the reward AFTER I finish the daily word count.

I’ve also come to realize I need one additional feature in a one month frame. At the end of the month, I need to assess where I am. Did I succeed in completing what I set out to do at the start of the month? I can also review what worked well and what did not work at all.

As I look ahead to the next month and start the planning process all over again, I can start with a fresh challenge. Maybe I didn’t quite reach my 30,000 word goal. Maybe I only wrote 28,596 words. No matter, I can start again and reset the timer, so to speak. I’ve decided that since I work for myself, why not? I’ve still accomplished something in the previous month and I can have a fresh start for the next month. Besides, I’ve found there is always a next month.

What do you think of a one month frame for project planning? Share your thought in the comments.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC

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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Website Reno

I’ve just spent the last few days revising this website. The process was a bit like emptying out a room in the house and giving it a new coat of paint, followed by moving in some old decor and added a few new additions.

The timing was right.

It has been almost a year since I moved to Saltspring Island, BC. The move was stressful and I left behind an interesting teaching job and good friends. Yet, it has also been an adventure; developing new routines, making new friends, and settling into our new place. Our new home is beautiful and the island has a certain charm. Yes, charm; there is really no other word to describe it.

My career path has changed, too. I’m moving away from doing consulting work to writing novels and other types of stories. Creative writing is something I’ve wanted to do for many years but always felt I needed to follow a more responsible path. Many others late career novelists have gone before me so I don’t pretend that what I’m doing is special or magically; I just need write.

In redecorate the website, I wanted to incorporate some of my new direction. I introduced a new header photo of Ganges Harbour which is the view from my office window and I rearranged pages. I pulled the blog forward to the home page to give it more presence on the website when people come to visit. Writing is what I do now so it should be highlighted.

Even though it has been a year and half since I last wrote an email letter, I decided to pull those letters into the website. As I created blog posts for each letter and read through the contents, I was reminded that I did some good work in those letters and I still want to maintain that legacy. To that end, I’ve decided to relaunch the email letter starting January 1, 2015.

I’ve still have some pages on the website for the consulting business even though I’m feeling more and more removed from that work. It still pay the bills occasionally, plus I also don’t want to alienate my former clients. Those clients were there for me when I decided to leave my 9-5 job and it was their work that allowed me to explore this burning desire to be a writer and a novelist.

There will be a period of transition since I have yet to publish a novel. When I do publish a book, I’m going to do some more updating on the website and likely a small remodelling job.

After all, a new published novel will require its own landing page.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

The life [simplified] letter: Owning My Age

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Owning My Age published on June 30, 2013 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations. Email subscribers get each edition of the letter four days prior to it being posted here.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada

The life [simplified] letter: New Job, More Complexity

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter has just been sent to my subscribers. Enjoy! If you would like to get your own copy the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location:Edmonton, AB
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

 

The life [simplified] letter: Friendship

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Friendship published on February 14, 2013 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations. Email subscribers get each edition of the letter four days prior to it being posted here.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada