Thoughts

#IndieApril

We’re coming to a close on another month, and it has been a real indie author storm over on Twitter this month, with the hashtag #indieapril.

From what I can tell, it began with an indie author looking to show support for her fellows while raising awareness for the indie publishing movement that continues to make so many changes to the industry.

I love the idea, and have both promoted and requested titles from other authors over the past couple of weeks. The result: close to a dozen new books on my ereader that sound vastly entertaining.

The stigma against indie, or self, publishing, has significantly decreased over the last couple of years. When I made my first foray into the business in November 2013, a few people had already made it big and the nose-turning-upping had toned down quite a bit, but there were still the questions and condescending “ah, yes,” when I told people I had produced my own books.

These days, you can find a course for every step of the process, there are countless numbers of how-to books on the various ad platforms, cover design, editing, marketing and promotion… everything available to make the quality of your book the best it can be — ideally without breaking the bank.

I’ve been in the business almost 6 years now, have learned a lot and am still learning.

I take pride knowing that I’ve put my best effort into any given project, and that everything is under my control.

As I’ve previously mentioned, even organizations like our municipal and provincial grant programs have started recognizing indie authors — this as recently as within the last year!

I love that now, when I go out to events, if I tell people I do it all myself, I rarely get the patronizing nod, but often amazement or, my favourite, “oh hey! You’re self-publish” from someone not in the business.

It means word is getting out there that quality doesn’t depend on your publishing imprint.

It means that going indie is becoming recognized as a viable option for people who want to take the time and money to do it.

So happy #IndieApril, my fellow self-pubbers. May the playing field continue to grow even, the resources and opportunities continue to grow, and our imaginations continue to venture out into the world.

Thoughts

Wrap up on “Flow”

Of all the types of books I read at various times, the pop psychology/non-fiction/motivational/psychological texts always take me the longest.

Intentionally.

There’s a lot to take in, think about, absorb, and I like to give it ample time to soak into the brain matter.

So this week I’m wrapping up Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi’s Flow, the book that, essentially, attempts to home in on the meaning of life. The root of all true happiness.

An impressive claim?

Perhaps, but I really can’t argue with him.

Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I’ll get right to the recommendation. If you enjoy the sort of book that gets you inside your own head and helps you see the world/your actions differently, you’ll enjoy it. It’s dense at times, but interesting, and as it’s referred to in so many more recent books (this one came out in the 90s and is the definitive work on the subject), it’s a great starting point to give context.

My previous post about the book breaks down his definition of “flow,” and the various criteria required to enter into this optimal experience.

For the rest of the book, he goes more into depth with the various criteria and how they come into practice with examples, like the man who’s worked the same welding job at a company for thirty years, but still loves going into his job because he finds new ways to challenge himself and then goes home to invest new little devices and features for his rock garden as a hobby.

He discusses the fact that research shows people enter the flow state significantly more often at work than their do in their leisure hours, but society focuses so much on the value of working solely so you can enjoy your leisure time that, although less happy people want more of it.

The exception to the rule? People to whom leisure is an active hobby. Something that engages the mind in a way that matches the criteria previously mentioned.

Physical — running to beat your time or master a new form, taking up a new sport, getting into shape; cognitive — learning a new language, taking a course; creative — building/invention something, making art; or social — people? what? — activities can all get you into the flow state.

Passive activities like mindlessly watching television, travelling just to look, enjoying other people’s work without adding any of your own … don’t.

Where people are most affluent, it can actually take more effort to get into the flow state unless is an effort is made to get involved in your surroundings, to keep growing as a person.

He discusses how, without that effort, can people even forget how to set their mind to active thinking. Leading to say, less critical thought while watching the news, taking the opinions of media mavens and your neighbours without taking the time to reason things out yourself (things to consider as we enter the 2019 election prep in both Canada and the States).

The best way to develop the flow mindset, this state of perfect happiness that both grows the self while separating the ego from the self, is to practice it.

So the next time you have a day off and you’re wondering how to fill your time, call up a friend, crack open a model set or a jigsaw puzzle, download a language app, go out and work in the garden.

Life your best life — it starts in your own head.

Thoughts

Finding Your People

I chatted a few posts ago about using social media to network, and how it can be a great way to find like-minded people.

Social media, the use of hashtags and groups, can certainly introduce you to people you never would have met otherwise, and those introductions can lead to endless amounts of support and opportunities that can change your experience in your chosen artistic arena.

But I’ve noticed a returned trend in some of feed that really disheartens me: the obsession with numbers.

The number of followers you have doesn’t matter.

The ratio of followers : following you have doesn’t matter.

Do you derive pleasure from having your chosen people in your feed? Good! Keep them! Your feed is yours to curate. It’s how I’ve managed to keep my temper and my mood level despite all the nonsense in the news.

I’ve seen people try to play guilt games with people who unfollow them, and personally I feel this is silly. If their feed/interactions with you don’t bring you joy, you are under no obligation to continue the connection.

That is the joy of the internet. Set your own boundaries, decide the tone/mood/quality to want your timelines and feeds to hit, and be merciless in maintaining it.

Last year, I wiped out my Facebook profile. I had to keep it to host my author page, but my profile is down to 0 friends. I regularly clear out my Twitter follows, and will soon be doing the same with my Instagram.

Think of it as spring cleaning. The joy of logging on to your various accounts with the dread of what dumpster fire you’re going to walk in on.

This is how you find your people. The ones who matter to you; the ones who can educate you or learn from you; the ones who become a bright spot in your day when your job/hobby/passion (pajobby? COINED IT.) is driving you up the wall.

So if your feed is starting to bring you down, it’s time to Marie Kondo that following list and make your world a personalized, happier place.

Thoughts

EXTREME BUSINESSING

Most of the posts I write will be about looking before you leap, especially if you’re looking at taking your business/hobby/passion to the next level.

In order to know where you’re going, to first need to be looking in that direction.

In order to make adjustments for sudden changes, you need to know what all your variables are.

All of these things are true, and making plannings and preparing specifics will always have their place.

But sometimes, you just need to jump out of that airplane.

Have a parachute with you, sure. Extra savings, a strong support system, someone on the ground with a giant mattress. These are all good things.

But take the risk.

The result could end up being a smelly heap of garbage (hopefully with no actual broken bones), but it will always be worth it. As a wise man frequently reminds me: there is no such thing as a good or bad experience—there is only experience.

It’s possible the risk you take will send you flying straight to your goal, or into the notice of people who can propel you where you want to next. You can make new friends, have a few laughs, rake in the cash.

Or everything could crash and burn, but you learn some incredibly important lessons along the way.

To fail, to miss your goal, is necessary in business as in life. Success feels really great, but it doesn’t teach you nearly as much as making mistakes (as long as you’re willing to pay attention to what the mistake actually was), and the best way to make mistakes is to take the risk.

Is there a course you’ve been on the fence about taking because it’s a bit on the pricey side (within reason; please don’t bankrupt yourself)? Have you been hesitating about showing your latest work in process to anyone because you don’t feel it’s ready yet? Do you know someone who could possibly help you move to your next goal, but you’re too nervous to make the first move in speaking with them?

Do it.

Embrace the pounding heart, the clammy palms, the uncertainty.

You’ll never know what gold you’re going to find on the other side unless you do.

Thoughts, update

The Art of the Direct Sale

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sharing a table at the Ottawa Geek Market at the Nepean Sportsplex, and my experience once again reminded me how much I love direct sales.

I really do.

On a normal day, I have my people quota. It’s quite low. I prefer socializing in groups of 3 or 4, max around 6, and depending on the group, I have a limit of a couple of hours. Then I get tired, conversation gets difficult, and I just want to go home to a cup of tea and a book.

But you get me behind a table covered in my books and ask me to be “on” for an 8-hour stretch?

I am there.

And I’m good at it.

Want to know my secret?

I genuinely, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, enjoy it.

As an indie author, there’s a huge push for online sales.

This makes sense! People around the world have access to our books. I have readers on pretty much every continent, and much as I would love to get to all of those places and meet them in person, it’s not feasible at the moment, which means I need to learn how to connect with them via the wonderful world wide web.

This part…I’m not so good at and continue to study so I can improve.

In person, however, there’s nothing I find easier.

I love the personal element to it, the chance to chat about books in general and find out what someone else is reading/enjoys reading/doing in ones spare time.

When I work the market in the summer, I love finding out where everyone is from, whether they work downtown and are out on their lunch break, or in from another city/country. I like to hear about what they’ve seen in Ottawa, where they’re heading next, and what their favourite part of their trip has been.

My goal when a reader comes to the table isn’t a sale. Sales are nice, of course. Sales help fund the next event, the next book, the next internet bill, but they’re not the be-all and end-all.

My primary aim is the connection. Getting my card in someone’s hand and hopefully continuing the conversation either over social media or (even better) at my next event! Having return people show up when I least expect them is always such a nice surprise, and each time I feel like I get to know them a little more.

So if you have trouble with the idea of direct sales, that they’re too intimidating or nerve-wracking, try changing your perspective on it! You’re not in it for the sales, you’re in it for the chats (and the people-watching in between).

Want some practice? Next time you go grocery shopping, ask the cashier how their day is going so far–and mean it!

Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wordy Babble, writing

“Flow” with it

My progress through Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow* is coming along. It’s not really the kind of book I rush through. More the type I take in bite-sized pieces so I can ponder what he’s saying.

And so far, I’m hooked.

I just finished the third point out of seven of what creates that “optimal experience,” this sense of being so wrapped up in what you’re working on that you lose all sense of self, of time, of your past or future.

The first point is the idea that the challenge must require a degree of skill. There is a window that lies between frustration and boredom, determined by the degree of skill. If the challenge sits too far above your skill level, you get frustrated, if it’s too far below you’re bored.

Sounds about right, really. I’ve experienced both those states at various jobs, as I’m sure many of us have. It’s not fun. That’s how you wind up spending your day scrolling on your phone and either lose said job or run through all your monthly data.

The sweet spot is right in the middle, where there’s enough you don’t know to keep you learning, keep you questioning, but enough you do know that you’re capable of completing the task.

He points out that the process of completing the task isn’t always sunshine and roses, but that after you rise from the zone, there’s a rich sense of achievement and a desire to tackle it again.

The second point he discusses is the merging of action and awareness. The idea that become so immersed in what you’re doing, so mentally involved, that you almost…lose the sense that you’re the one doing it.

Each movement, each thought, each step, becomes natural, instinctual. There is no room for self-doubt or second guessing.

He notes that it’s only when you rise out of the zone that your sense of self returns with a stronger, fresher zeal. As though in order to learn what makes you you, you first half to forget yourself.

The third point is that you must have clear goals and feedback. The goal part I’ve always known, but the feedback took me by surprise for how obvious it was.

What I found interesting–or I should say, what resonated with me–is the fact that said feedback comes in very different ways depending on what you’re doing. If your goals are something tangible, than your feedback comes from someone’s reactions or the completion of a task. In the cast of writing, however, that feedback isn’t always obvious with every writing session.

I don’t have someone sitting behind me providing notes with each first draft chapter (frankly, the idea is both tempting and horrifying), but I do have my own emotional reactions to each day’s output as well as my word count goals. These forms of feedback are enough to keep me satisfied at the end of a day’s work.

The fourth point for this post, and final for today is the concentration for the task at hand. Similar to the second point, is the idea that nothing else is going through your head except for what you’re working on.

Stressed about money? About what to make for dinner? When you are in this zone, in the “flow,” money and dinner don’t exist. For as long as this perfect storm lasts, there is only the challenge in front of you.

I find this all fascinating. I love how the mind works. I love how it’s primed to allow us to find our own fulfillment and satisfaction and happiness just based on a few tweaks of mindset and circumstance.

I have certainly experienced these things through my writing, but he points out that you can achieve this flow state no matter what you’re doing. As long as there’s a balance of stimulation and interest, any task can provide this optimal experience.

What about you? Does any of this sound familiar to you? Any tasks you take on that trigger this loss/discovery of self?


*if you missed it, you can find my first post about this book here.

Thoughts

The Magic of “Flow”

You may have noticed, if you pay attention to my Goodreads Books in the sidebar, that one of my on-the-go books is always some kind of…thinky book. Sometimes self-help, sometimes inspirational/motivational, but more often than not, it’s something with a research/pop psychology vibe.

I love it. Gaining a new perspective, picking up different theories on why the brain does what it does or why people behave the way they do. Just like with my craft/business books, my goal is always to get at least one thing out of its pages.

But one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that all of my go-to authors (Daniel H. Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Duhigg), reference one name and one book in particular: Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Because his work is referenced so often, I’m super excited to dive into the source material myself.

From everything I’ve read, “flow” is that state of mind where nothing else in the world matters. You are in THE ZONE. Food doesn’t matter. Sleep is unnecessary. Even bathroom breaks are left more or less forgotten.

It is the ultimate state of fulfillment–or, as he believes, happiness.

The whole idea is that happiness and success are not concepts that can actually be reached, they are a side-effect of the optimal experience, of finding yourself in the flow whatever it is you happen to be doing.

It’s a fascinating idea and hopefully one that will help me lose my need for “perfect” and focus on the enjoyment and fulfillment I get out of my work on a regular basis.

I’ll keep you posted as I read and let you know what I get out of this one.

Have you read any non-fiction books recently that have really blown your mind?

Thoughts, writing

Editing: The Personal Touch

PLUS you get a very small sneak peek at on of my WIPs

I had an interesting experience this week that really brought home how important it is to have a strong personal editor-writer rapport.

Along with working to build my own client list, I’ve been applying to positions to do some proofreading/copyediting for external companies. I see it as a great way to bring in a steady income while also developing the skills I want to put back into my own business.

This particular job would have been great. Working from home, choice of projects, ability to choose my own hours… but no client interaction. Everything would come from the company-as-mediator.

This sort of raised some questions for me, but I figured I would apply for it anyway as it couldn’t hurt to see what the process was like.

Part of the application was a series of mock assignments based on the various types of projects that would be coming in. Technical papers, English assignments, blog posts, etc.

But as I started it, I realized how much of a double-edged sword having the company-as-mediator would wind up being.

Now, to be fair, I come at projects very much with a creative-editor/writer mindset, where keeping the voice and authenticity of the piece clear is just as crucial as ensuring it’s typographically/grammatically clean. This company, I suspect, is looking for more of a technical editor. Someone who just dives in and makes changes at will.

But as I was working through these assignments, there were moment where I was left with questions. The meaning of the sentence wasn’t entirely clear. Was there more to the point they were trying to make? A sentence that started, but never really ended, arguments that never seemed to reach their point.

I suppose the point of the test was to prove that I could edit these sentences in a way that made them sound complete, however possible. But that would just be rewriting someone else’s work, which, I guess, just isn’t in me to do. I want to be able to foster relationships with my clients, just as I foster relationships with my editors. I want to be able to leave comments in track changes requesting/suggesting clarifications, just as I love when my editors do this for me. It allows the weaknesses to be caught without losing the authenticity of the piece.

It takes a great deal of trust to send someone your work. Ego is involved, money is involved, and your faith in the final product before it goes out into the world. More than anything else, you want to make sure that you’re working with someone who cares about your WIP as much as you do, who wants to make sure that the best version of it goes out into the world.

To date, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the editors I’ve worked with. They had turned the pages of my WIP black and blue, but I have walked away with the absolutely confidence my book was stronger for it.

If I can be that and offer that for someone else, then that just makes every comma question worthwhile.

What do you look for in an editor?

Thoughts, update, writing

Happy New Year!

design-2019-to-reach-new-yearWishing everyone a fantastic start to 2019.

I have quite a few business-related goals this year, most of which involve keeping on top of my administrative tasks (a goal I make every year. This will be the year I achieve it*!), but my primary focus is to find ways to feed my soul, as it were.

I begin this year on the search for a new dayjob contract to help my husband and I save up for some renos we want to do around the house, but I’m going to be choosy this time around.

I’m looking for a job that best suits me, and I won’t settle for anything less. The way I’ve always seen it is that life is too short to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Yes, yes, bills need to get paid and responsibility and adulting and all that fun stuff, but I don’t see where “misery” comes into any of that. Even if it’s not your dream job, it can still be satisfying, fulfilling, social, and — sometimes — fun. Food for thought for 2019…

Another possibility is that I fill my schedule with proofreading contracts, which would also thrill me to my fingertips.

So if you’ve got a book coming out this year that you want polished to a fine sheen, shoot me a message. I’d love to work with you!

What are your goals this year? The wild, the crazy, the realistic? I want to hear about them all!

Thoughts, writing

Lie vs. Lay

It’s not a pet peeve this week, just a tricky one that often gets me thinking twice, too. And lately I’ve been seeing it in all kinds of trad pubbed books as well as indie.

The dreaded Lie vs. Lay

lying-lion
This lion is lyin’ down. Ha… ha…

WHICH ONE DO YOU USE AND WHEN? It’s the frequent cry I hear in my dreams as some writer somewhere in the world stumbles upon this dilemma and proceeds to tear out their hair. WHY ARE THESE WORDS SO CLOSE BUT NOT THE SAME?

I know, my friend, I know.

So I’m going to attempt to help clear things up by sharing the tip that finally made it click in my own head. If you hear the same click in yours, huzzah! If not, it’s all right. Your time will come.

Lie is more of an active verb; lay is passive.

You lie down on the bed, but you lay the socks down on the dresser.

I lie in the grass, but I lay the blanket on the sand.

BUT WHAT ABOUT IN THE PAST TENSE???? you might scream in frustration.

A good question, because this is where grammar really hates us.

You lay down on the bed, but you laid the socks down on the dresser.

I lay in the grass, but I laid the blanket on the sand.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAST PARTICIPLE???

All right, all right, this one is a will be easier if you’ve gotten the past tense down:

You have lain down on the bed, but you have laid the socks down on the dresser

I have lain in the grass, but I have laid the blanket on the sand

Lie          Lay         Lain

Lay         Laid        Laid

If you want or need more tricks to try to make it stick, the Grammar Girl has got you covered!

Did you hear the click? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!