What’s Weighing You Down

This past week has been one of tremendous ups and downs.

bunkejer4Photo bunkejer4 on Flickr Creative Commons

Ups, because I returned from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference bubbling over with ideas, inspiration, markets to pursue, and leads to follow,

Downs, because

  1. I had way too MANY great ideas, leads, and inspirations to pursue, and was struggling not to feel overwhelmed, and
  2. Because, well, conferences are physically and emotionally exhausting, and it was taking me a bit to get back into the swing of things.

But I read this fantastic book a few months ago thanks to the recommendation of creativity coach Sue Mitchell called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: the Kaizen Way. The philosophy explained in this book is that change can be overwhelming—in fact, that the human mind is programmed to resist change, which it perceives as threatening—but that there’s a way around that automatic resistance:

Make incredibly SMALL steps toward change.

This thinking has helped me in the past, so I decided to put it into practice. What small change, I asked myself, could I make to decrease stress?

I picked a few very, VERY small steps I could make.

  • I finally scheduled the hair appointment I’ve been putting off for the past three months. My hair had reached that point where it was WAAY too long, bothering me even when I pulled it back in a braid or ponytail (which I did pretty much all the time at this point).
  • I returned one phone call. (I hate talking on the phone.)
  • I dusted one room, thus making progress toward the goal of getting the house under control again.
  • I wrote one scene.

Okay, I wrote way more than one scene, but only because I wanted to do so. And why did I want to do so? Because all this WEIGHT had been lifted from my shoulders.

Sometimes, we carry around the so much metaphysical weight in the form of undone tasks that it’s hard to get ANYTHING done. All our energy is wrapped up in these things we feel we need to do. And, if you take a good look at whatever’s weighing you down, it’s often something so unmanageably huge that of COURSE it’s weighing you down.

Things like:

  • The house is a mess!
  • My book isn’t finished!
  • I’m way behind on paying bills!

With problems this huge, our minds tend to leap to huge, overwhelming solutions:

  • Clean all the things!
  • Write all the chapters!
  • Pay all the bills!
  • Or, as my 13-year-old (and resident meme-expert) likes to tell me, “X all the Y!”

cleanallthethings1

Image from Hyperbole and a Half

It’s no wonder the poor brain shies away from these solutions.

There’s a trick to get past feelings of overwhelm—the trick explained in One Small Step

You can lift the weight of undone tasks by taking miniscule steps toward the goal. Not huge steps. Not massive to-do lists.

TINY steps.

You have a plan. You’re in control again. And the weight lifts.

And instead of writing one page, maybe—like me—at the end of the week you will find yourself with three new chapters, two dusted rooms, and a clean desk.

Or maybe you will only accomplish those small steps, but maybe that’s more than you would have accomplished if immobilized by overwhelm. You’ll be in a much better position for facing the week ahead.

Who knows what you might accomplish?

Small vs Big Six Publishers: What’s the Difference?

Earlier this month, I polled you all about my new blog series, and was delighted to learn that I’m not the only one who is interested in learning more about publishers who accept submissions direct-from-author. So I’m kicking off that series this week to help us all along that road to publication.

Agnes_F 1 Photo Credit

But I’m not kicking it off by discussing a publisher right off the bat, because as I started to dig into this question I began to realize that there’s a wide, wild range of publishers out there these days. I thought it would be helpful to start by identifying some categories.

Big Six Publishers

The Big Six New York publishers are the best known in the publishing world:

  • Hatchette Book Group
  • Harper Collins
  • Macmillan
  • Penguin Group
  • Random House
  • Simon & Schuster

You’ll see a lot more publisher names on the shelves of your local bookstore, but most of those names are imprints, or divisions of a larger publishing house. For example:

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Ten Keys to Your Best-Ever Writing Conference!

Last week, I blogged about some of the reasons writers should attend writing conferences…and then I headed out to my own conference experience with the Pikes Peak Writers, in Colorado Springs Colorado. It was fantastic! Fantastic for all the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post, and for half a dozen others as well.

Agnes_F

Photo Credit

The Conference Experience

It got me thinking about the conference experience, and how it’s changed for me over the years. I get a lot more out of writing conferences now than I did eight or five or even three years ago. Why is that? In part, it’s because I know more people. It’s a lot easier—and more fun—to go to a conference filled with familiar faces than it is to go to one where I don’t know anyone. It’s also because I am more confident in myself as a writer and person than I was even a few years ago, much less when I was taking my first tentative steps into the writing life.

Those things come with time, but they aren’t the only reasons I get more out of conferences today than I did at my first few conferences. I also benefit more because I know how to glean more benefit from those crowded, crazy, and often-stressful days. I’ve discovered some great conference “keys.”

Are you going to a conference this year? With a little preparation, you can make this your best conference experience ever!

Know your purpose.

Even before you decide which conference to attend, take a look at your current needs as a writer. What is the most important thing you need to get from a conference? Is this conference the best place to meet that need, or should you look at others? Is there a particular editor or agent you’d like to meet? Are you searching for a writing buddy? Maybe you need a healthy dose of inspiration or encouragement. By identifying your primary goal in attending a conference, you can prioritize your time, session choices, and social activities.

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Off to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m enjoying a weekend of inspiration and learning at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, in Colorado Springs, CO. I’ll be back next week, and plan to kick off the new Friday series—profiles of publishers accepting unagented manuscripts—with information about Belle Books/Bell Bridge Books.

If you have any specific questions you’d like to ask of publishers in the upcoming weeks, please give me a shout.

Have a fantabulous weekend!