Posts Tagged ‘attitude’

My nephew recently made a comment that struck home with me. He said “I wish to be better at being myself.”

His comment inspired me to think about many things, including how I could apply it in a writing-related post. Examining the term “voice” seemed a natural choice, but I covered that topic in depth on April 9, 2010 and can’t think of anything new to add. Instead, I’ll discuss comparisons.

My daughter and I are similar in many ways. In fact, as she was growing up I often felt a sense of déjà vu when I looked at her. Now, I feel like a faded reflection of the girl I was; a totally different woman. Now I see in her the things I’m not; the differences rather than the similarities. And I’m fine with that.


Me and Lisa


Ads and television glorify the beautiful people, not the ordinary ones. Success is generally equated with how much money or fame a person has attained. We compare ourselves to our friends, our co-workers, the neighbors, published authors, etc., etc., and that comparison may stoke our egos or leave us frustrated.

What I remind myself of when the comparisons make me feel inferior is that I can only be the best I am capable of. Those other people have not lived my life, and don’t have the same responsibilities and experiences that I have. They are different. I am different. We may have similar goals, but we are not equally equipped to meet them.

As a child, my dream was to be an astronaut or a stewardess. Health issues and a fear of heights changed my aspirations. Then I decided I’d be a science fiction writer, and I devoured science fiction books and magazines about space and astronomy. Later I discovered sociology, and human relationships became more exciting than science. I wanted to save the world. Reality and love changed my mind, and I became a mother instead. (Of all my dreams, that one turned out to be the most challenging—and the most satisfying.)

Recognizing our strengths as well as our weaknesses can help us set realistic goals, but sometimes we need to work on areas of our lives that interfere with our attainment of them. Sometimes we need to set short term goals in order to improve our chance of success in the long term. And sometimes we need to accept the fact that we will never achieve our dream. In which case, we need to remember that doesn’t mean we should give up dreaming—we just need to focus on a different one.

At this point in life I aspire to write. My long-term goal is to complete a historical romance novel and have it published. In the short term, I work on learning as much as I can about how to accomplish that goal—and I write. Realistically, I know the chances of becoming a traditionally published author are slim. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. Maybe I’ll be successful, and maybe I won’t, but without trying, failure is assured.

We each have experiences that shape our lives, attitudes, and beliefs. Combined with our innate personality, these experiences help define who we are and what we will become—a unique individual. Let’s embrace our uniqueness. Let’s focus on being the best we can be as we strive to achieve our dreams.



For more encouragement specifically for writers, see agent Rachelle Gardner’s post entitled Comparison Doesn’t Work, and editor Lynn Price’s post Play to Your Strengths.

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As 2013 begins, I hope to move forward in areas where I have been lax, such as writing blog posts. I’ll maintain the writing-related focus of this blog and, while I make no promises, I plan to post a minimum of once a week.

I’m at a crossroad in life and am not yet sure of what I want to do. Sort of like my cat.

Safety first!

Safety first!

He’s kept indoors 99.9% of the time and when let loose outside never ventures beyond the safety of the deck. He nibbles on the grass growing next to it, but won’t step out of his comfort zone to see what he could see. I don’t want to be like him.

I want to jump off the deck and wallow in the grass, figuratively speaking. I want to revel in whatever the new year brings me; to do things I’ve never done before—in reality, and in my writing.


Looking for adventure!

Looking for adventure!


Look out world; here I come!


What about you? What are you hoping to achieve in 2013? Are you setting specific goals or making any changes? Are you looking forward to anything special this year?

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I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog for the encouraging comments and support. Blogging is my favorite hobby, and I feel very blessed that so many of you have signed up to follow my posts via e-mail or have returned repeatedly despite my haphazard posting schedule. I’ve been distracted by family matters during the last few months, but things are settling down and I’m hoping for a more normal posting pattern in the upcoming year.

Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution post with promises to myself that I probably won’t keep, I’ve decided to list a few of the blessings I’ve received during the past year. Being grateful for what I have and for what I’ve accomplished is more important to me than listing things I wish I could change. So, not necessarily in order of importance, here are the top 10 blessings 2011 brought to me:

I’ve learned to trust that God’s plans are better than my plans.

My husband survived a delicate heart procedure.

My kids have been home to share the good times as well as the tough ones.

I am physically in better shape than I’ve been in several years.

My family and friends have been unwavering in their support through some difficult times.

There is currently nothing I really need that I don’t have or can’t get.

The future looks bright for my 3 children.

My 91-year-old mother is in good health.

I’ve made the decision to focus on the positive in every situation rather than on the negatives, and so far I’ve been able to stick with that decision.

I’ve realized that some things just aren’t important enough to waste my life worrying about.


None of these things relate to writing—that’s somewhere farther down my list of blessings. Due to the fact I haven’t been writing anything, I have no accomplishments to list in that area. However, I do still have a passion for the book I was working on last year, and I’m determined to devote more time to writing during 2012.  (That’s not a Resolution! It’s a goal. 😉 )


At Grandmother's house


What are some of the things you’ve been blessed with during 2011? Do you have some goals for 2012 you’d like to share? Did you have a pleasant holiday season this year?

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I attended my first conference last weekend, and loved it. (I would’ve put an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence to emphasize how much I loved it, but Jerry B. Jenkins said only use them in dialog, and then sparingly. So here are some smiley faces to express my excitement and enthusiasm. 🙂 🙂 😉 )

The Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference provided some excellent speakers and workshops. There were sessions discussing fiction, nonfiction, and the publishing industry in general. It wasn’t possible to attend all of them, but the ones I went to were well worth the time and money I spent. I highly recommend this conference, which is held every November.

Looking back, there are a few things I want to remember for the next time I go:

1. Don’t stress over your appearance. While the registration information recommended business casual, people wore whatever they liked. Some were in dresses and high heels, others in jeans and sneakers, but most wore casual slacks and sweaters. No one seemed to care what others were wearing.

2. Don’t buy a big purse to carry all your stuff in. The conference staff provided large canvas bags with packets of information for the attendees, so another bag was unnecessary. Some classrooms were so crowded that the bags were in the way.

3. Make sure you know where you put anything important—like your reading glasses. I bought a big purse (really big) and it had so many pockets that I couldn’t find my reading glasses when it came time to consult with my chosen faculty member. How embarrassing not to be able to read my own questions, which I’d typed out in advance and couldn’t remember.

4. If you have to leave the conference building for some reason, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get back. Yes, I learned that one the hard way. I’m requesting a GPS thing for Christmas.

5. Be friendly first. I went by myself, but by initiating conversations with the people around me I became friends with several wonderful women. Everyone I spoke to was pleasant and helpful.

6. If the high temperature during the day is in the forties, expect thick frost on your car the next morning. At home I always park in a garage, so it didn’t occur to me that I’d need extra time to scrape ice off my windows.

7. Be friendly to the hotel staff because they can be very helpful. For example, I’d asked my son to clean out my car before I left, so my ice scraper and gloves were no longer in my trunk when I needed them. The receptionist loaned me a scraper, and gave me directions to where I wanted to go. (Someone else told me a plastic rewards card works as a scraper in an emergency.)

8. I am not alone. The people at this conference shared my values and my interests, which is something I don’t often experience. I understood exactly where they were coming from and what they hoped to achieve. It was awesome.


conference site


What do you wish you’d known before attending your first conference? What do you hope to achieve by attending a writing conference? Who would you like to meet or learn from if you could choose the staff for a conference?

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All week I told myself I’d clean the house, and all week I put off doing more than absolutely necessary to keep the place livable. At 6:00AM on Friday, I actually started cleaning. By 10:00AM I’d done 3 loads of laundry, scrubbed the bathrooms, cleaned the kitchen—including the oven and microwave—and vacuumed the floors.

Why did I finally do what I’d intended to do all week? I got motivated: my daughter said she was coming home for the weekend. I wanted everything to be perfect for her visit.

Motivation is what causes someone to take action, or behave in a certain way. Sometimes the motivation is intrinsic, coming from within. The person gets pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction, from completing a task or achieving a goal. At other times, the motivation may be extrinsic, which means something external induces the person to behave a certain way. Without motivation, there is little reason for people to take action, or to react to what others do.

In fiction, as well as in life, motives aren’t always clearly defined. There may be more than one motive involved, or a deeper one than what the person reveals to others. Figuring out a character’s motives may motivate readers to keep turning the pages, but if they can’t imagine the main characters behaving the way the author portrays them, they won’t relate to the story.


What are some common motives for the way characters in your favorite genre behave? Does knowing the motivation behind their actions affect the way you relate to the “bad guys” in a story? What motivates you to read a particular book? What motivates you to write?

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While tone reflects an author’s attitude toward what she’s written, mood refers to the reaction, or feeling, that readers get from the written work.

In fiction, the tone, theme, plot, setting, and characterizations all help set the mood. Each scene should reflect the point of view character’s emotions, and focus on details or actions that help readers relate to them. For example, a scene may feel suspenseful, romantic, mysterious, or humorous, depending on what’s happening to the characters.

Even though the mood can change from scene to scene, one mood should be dominant throughout the story. There can be elements of romance or humor in a suspense novel, or suspenseful moments in a romance novel, but each genre requires a particular element to be emphasized.

Even though nonfiction books and articles are based on facts, readers will react to the mood they create. The subject, the details that are focused on, the author’s tone, and the style of the writing all work together to create a particular mood.  


So, what was your mood after the last book you read? What do you do to put yourself in the mood to write, or to make your reading experience more enjoyable? Do you ever get angry while reading a story?

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When we speak, the words we use, the details of what we’re saying, our body language, and the inflection of our voice lets listeners infer how we feel. If we’re being sarcastic, feel angry, happy, or bored, it will usually be evident by the way we express ourselves.

Readers infer an author’s attitude by the way a story or article is written. Word choices, sentence length and structure, imagery, and other stylistic clues convey the attitude, or tone, of the writer. The tone can change with different scenes, helping readers to understand how the author intended them to be interpreted. For example, a suspenseful scene will have a different tone than a romantic or humorous one.

In nonfiction, the tone may be affected by the subject matter and intended audience. A research paper will usually have a very different tone than a how-to article or memoir. An article about computers will have a different tone if it’s intended for consumers than it will if it’s written for technicians.


Does the author’s tone affect your enjoyment of a book? Do you think about what tone you’re projecting when you write? Is the tone of the writing something you notice or think about when you’re reading?  

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For some of us, writing is just one of many activities we enjoy; for others, it’s the most important one. Its importance and priority in our lives may change as we deal with other things—like family issues, jobs, or health problems—but since what we write is directly related to why we write, I think it’s important to figure out the reason(s) we write.

Some people write (in no particular order):

1. because they have a story inside them that they feel the need to share with others.

2. because they have a message they think others need to hear.

3. because it makes them feel better to write down what they are thinking, feeling, or dreaming about—regardless of whether or not others read it.

4. because they think it will provide them with money, recognition, or both.

5. because they have to (I hear this one a lot, but I’m not exactly sure what it means).


If our writing fulfills the purpose we have in mind, I think we can consider ourselves successful whether or not our work is published.

This quote by William Faulkner sums up why I write:

I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.



Why do you write? What reasons can you think of besides the ones I’ve listed? Where does writing rank on your list of priorities? How do you measure success?

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I read a post on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog that nagged at me for days. To summarize, a guest blogger suggested that authors should write for individuals rather than a wider audience. She even said writers should know what books the person we are writing for keeps on her or his nightstand. Not many people responded to the post, and the few who did weren’t all in agreement. I didn’t reply, but I thought about it enough that I decided to share my views here in a 3-part series.

My Thoughts on What Makes an Audience

An audience is made up of a group of individuals, so whether our writing is presented to many people at once or read by one person at a time, we are indirectly writing for each reader. 

Can we know each of those people well enough to know what they keep on their nightstand? I don’t think so. Besides, not everyone has a nightstand. (There’s a bookcase next to my bed, and a sewing machine next to my mother’s.)

Can we know them well enough to understand what they are most interested in? Yes, I think that’s possible, and important if our goal is to write for others. And I think that’s basically what the blogger was saying, too.

Each person who reads our writing has a unique set of experiences that influences the way she views life and what she looks for in a book, short story, or article. Factors such as age, religious beliefs, values, and mood also affect what people are looking for when they choose something to read.

Even though no one’s life is identical to anyone else’s, there are common threads that run through our lives and connect us in ways that allow us to relate to people and situations we’ve never met or experienced. If we can visualize the type of person who might be interested in what we have to say, that is our audience. We can write for her or him because we know there are similar people looking for similar things to read.



What type of person do you think would be interested in your writing? Do you write in a variety of genres or stick to one? What underlying themes do you find cropping up in your writing, or in the type of writing you like to read? What would someone seeing your nightstand think about you? 😉


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I’ve come up with a great idea for a story about Mr. Chair. Here’s a picture of him.

Mr. Chair

Right now my idea is sort of vague, so you may have trouble telling him apart from his brothers. After I give him a few unique characteristics, I’m sure he will be a guy you’ll enjoy as much as I do.

I think he needs to be a little older to fit the story I have in mind, and perhaps a new wardrobe will make him stand out from the crowd. A few accessories that help readers infer something about his personality, a distinctive setting, and a plot that wouldn’t be as interesting without him will all help Mr. Chair serve a useful purpose in my story—as well as on my deck.


Here he is, full of life and ready for the spotlight. He has a supporting cast, a setting that fits his personality, and a sexy, off-the-shoulder shirt that will entice passers-by to give him a second look. A combination of rugged strength and a hint of softness add to his appeal. Maybe I’ll even change his name to Reed Decker. Wouldn’t he look great on the cover of a book?

Reed Decker

Do your characters blend in with the crowd, or are they easily recognized by their unique qualities? How do you come up with distinctive character traits? What characteristics make a protagonist likeable or unlikeable? Can villains have some of the same traits as heroes; and if so, which ones?

(Yes, I realize this is a silly post. Blame Barbara Ann.)

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