Posts tagged novel
Self-publishing is a big industry right now. Which means big money. Not necessarily for authors but for companies who sell self-publishing services to authors wanting to self-publish. One contender, Balboa Press has been calling my cell phone every month or so. Writers Beware!
A class action complaint has been filed against Balboa Press’s parent company, Author Solutions, for its sketchy dealings that are bringing in the big bucks. The class action complaint breaks it down:
4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).
5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.
6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.
7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.
8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.
The apple doesn’t land far from the tree. I’ve had a pretty shady experience with Balboa Press so far. I’ve checked them out and everything I’ve read indicates they are ripping off their own customers. If you want a prime and horrific example look no further than this author’s experience:
The illustrative sketches and colorization were a disaster. It was apparent that there was a problem with adherence to the RAD/character description form. Pictures that were provided, or the coinciding text (page number and line number) from the manuscript provided to aid the illustrator were obviously ignored or subjectively reviewed. It was so evident, to the point where I was wondering if anyone bothered to read, or if they even couldread the RAD form. There was clearly no oversight of the illustrator’s work before remittance to me. I had continued to write, please call if you have any questions…
After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD and characterization forms. The little girl’s bed looked like a cot out of an army barracks or prison. Angel wings on a helicopter were inverted, objected to, and objections to the CIAC remained ignored – a lame excuse was offered.
My own experience with them so far has been subpar at best. They called me up and tried to rope me in by getting me excited about my novel’s potential. They told me how great my ideas were and how much I deserved to get my book out there. They wanted to help me achieve my publishing goals. All they needed was to relieve me of $999 to $7,999 of my money, and we could get started. Even if I had that kind of money lying around I wasn’t totally sold that first call. No deal.
A few months later someone else called again. But this person had no clue about me or my novel. What was my book about? No idea? Back to square one. Apparently no one at Balboa ever cares enough about what potential clients say to make any file notes. No points gained there. * Click.*
And on it went. For a few years now. (Yes really.)
Which brings me to another call today. Same thing. Starting from scratch with another clueless representative from Balboa. I wasn’t buying. *Click.*
Then I get the following email. Then it hits me. Not only did they pack this letter so full of stupid writing cliches that it reads hilariously, but they are preying on the dreams of writers’ with this letter and others like it.
Subject: Believe in Yourself
Be proud of who you are as a writer. An author’s voice is unique and no one will tell your story like you do. Don’t lose your voice. Stand out by having your own style. And your book doesn’t have to have an outrageous plot to be important. Simple can be good. Stick to who you are as a writer and your message will always hold significance.
Financial stability is a challenge nowadays. Money is something achievable but it will depend on you. It will depend on how committed you are in publishing and sharing your message to the world. Money comes and goes in life. If it is meant to be, it will happen. We can’t just wait for it to happen though. We need to do something about it. Dreaming for success is for everyone but putting it to reality is for those who are brave enough to take the next step even if there is fear of the unknown. Let us take this one step at a time.
Why make excuses when you can start your dreams? Why do nothing when you can begin something? Look, you have a lot more power within you that you’re revealing to the world. We all do. But because of distractions and interruptions and responsibility and excuses we sell to ourselves, we coast along at the same level for the best of our lives.
Only few have the guts to make A LEAP – a leap to new habits, new routines and a whole new story about their new place in the world and their service to it.
The Gandhi’s and the Mandela’s and the Zuckerberg’s and the Mozart’s were just ordinary people who had an idea, protected it from the voice of dissent, advanced it via tiny wins and got up every time they got knocked down.
You have this power too, but power unused deteriorates and potential not expressed turns to PAIN.
Now is your time to fly and to shine and to rise up. This is the day to show the world who you truly are.
I would like to assist you with your dreams. Yes, publishing will ask you to shell out money from your own pocket, but what I can assure you is that Balboa Press can expose you and your book to the rest of the world. This way you truly get to say to yourself, “I’ve done my part, let the book speak for itself now!” It is not easy to invest in something that you’re not sure of its future, but nothing is ever certain. What you can do as a writer is to invest in your dreams and believe that you can be someone that you never expected to be. Your sacrifices can result to a life changing journey if you give your book a chance.
All the best,
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE
[Contact Information Redacted]
This email is an advertisement.
So I’ll be staying away from Vanity Presses. There are ways to legitimately Self-Publish but using Balboa Press isn’t one of them. If they contact you, remember it is called a vanity press for a reason. They play to your vanity and emotions. I know they tried to get me that way. It’s enticing to think that the only thing standing between you and your dream is your savings. But it’s a gamble. And Balboa Press is the house that always wins. The only way to beat them at their own game is to not play.
Since I was five years old, barely sophisticated enough to write a few words into sentences, I have been captivated by poetry. Poems just seemed to come to me as if I had plucked them right out of thin air and was merely the recorder of the words that would pour through me. It hasn’t been that way lately though. As my focus has moved on to my two novels, I haven’t tried to write a poem with any semblance of a rhyme scheme in quite some time. I’ve been feeling rather out of practice.
However, today was my church’s Ward Conference, a day of spiritual nourishment. It was just wonderful listening to my local leaders speak to us young adults on the topics that were of the greatest importance to us. Feeling more spiritually fed, and pondering some of the themes discussed today, I decided to try my hand at a poem. The following is the result:
The void left by burning desire;
At times nearly extinguished inside;
All but lost the inertia required;
To move and be moved to His side;
But then I close my eyes tight,
And pray with all my might;
All I am, was, and will be,
I am through Him, now I see;
And my covenant burns bright;
The unquenchable light inside;
My hope, my comfort, my insight;
To move and be moved to His side.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
When that scripture is usually quoted it’s typically in reference to helping bring others to Christ. But today, I thought of it in a different context. Because today was truly a joyous occasion for me. Today, Friday, March 7th, 2014, marks the 4 year anniversary of the day I entered the waters of baptism and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day I know with every fiber of my being that decision to get baptized was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. That day, March 7th, 2010, I brought my own soul unto Christ, and I have never been more joyful!
It began with a quest like many good stories do. My quest was to find a close connection with Heavenly Father. My problem was I wasn’t really sure He existed. But I wanted to believe so badly. My quest, which originated in the Reform Jewish Synagogue of my youth, took me to lots of different places and to many congregations. Never feeling complete or satisfied. Always searching for something more. I was interested in college in how my Christian friend cultivated a close and personal relationship with Christ and would occasionally attend her college group prayer meetings at her church to see if I could glean how they went about it and apply it to my own quest. I told them straight up that Christ wasn’t for me. I remember that kind Youth Pastor prayed with me that I would find my own truth in my own time. Whatever it was. I appreciated that a lot.
Years later I was going to a Universalist Unitarian Church, but I still hadn’t found what I was seeking. At the same time, I needed to hire a caregiver. I had been in a wheelchair for over a year due to multiple autoimmune diseases causing extreme pain that made it impossible to walk. The new caregiver I hired was Mormon. We would talk about religion all the time. Sharing about our different background. Her being raised in the Church. Me being raised Jewish, Bat Mitzvah’d, Confirmed and having taught Temple Religious School, but still searching. I admired how close she was to God. How personal it was for her. How it was such a source of strength, peace and hope in times of stress and darkness. I wanted that for myself on some level but I didn’t believe. And I couldn’t just suddenly believe in something I didn’t believe in just because I wanted to.
However, she convinced me to start praying on a regular basis. I’d never said a personal prayer before. I didn’t even know how to go about it until she explained it to me. It felt super awkward at first but slowly more comfortable.
It wasn’t until I decided to try an experiment that things started to shift for me. I decided to try adding “In the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers, just as an experiment to see if it felt any different. I was amazing to realize there was in fact a subtle but significant difference. It brought a sense of calm and peace, love and comfort into my heart.
I remember telling my caregiver, “I wonder what kind of miracle it would take to get me from not believing in Christ as the Redeemer of the World to accepting Him as the Savior of all Mankind. What would it take to change my whole belief system?”
So when my caregiver asked me yet again to attend Church with her and to get a blessing for healing I finally agreed.
I loved Church. I remember feeling such a sense of peace and warmth come over me the entire time. Then it was time for the blessing of healing. From the moment the two missionaries giving the blessing put their hands on head, I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me so intensely I thought I might pass out. The way I experienced His love for me was so all encompassing and so complete, it was just sooo awe inspiring to know that I am that loved and that known by God. And that He is real. And that He lives.
In that instant I knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience if I wee not the in the right place to have it. I knew it was a signal from God to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I started taking the missionary discussions and was baptized 6 weeks later. And I walked into the baptismal font (with the help of my caregiver) having started walking the same week of the blessing. My baptism was held during the 3rd hour of Church, so my whole Young Single Adult Ward attended it. My Dad and his girl friend were also able to attend. My baptism was so special. I’ll never forget those tender and elated feelings I had coming out of the waters of baptism, feeling more pure than I’d ever felt before. I will treasure those memories always.
The last four years, haven’t been the easiest, but they’ve been richer and more joyful with the gospel in my life. Through the hard times and all the hospitalizations especially, it’s given me so much strength to endure. In the happy times, it gives me so much more context in which to enjoy each moment. The gospel truly is the greatest gift in my life. I’ve learned so much, gained so much, my life has been so blessed in every way!
I’ve received my my Patriarchal Blessing, a piece a personal scripture and revelation that is individual to each person who receives it, given by men ordained of God to give such blessings. I’ve held multiple callings (or volunteer positions) in my Ward at Church. And I’ve gone to the Temple, the House of the Lord.
To celebrate, today I went to the Los Angeles Temple with a dear friend and spent some quality time there. There was no place I felt that would be more appropriate to send commemorating my baptism, than in the House of the Lord where I can reflect, seek peace, calm, protection, and revelation from on high.
I am so grateful for this gospel and this Church. I’m grateful for my baptism. I am so thankful for the chance we all have to repent of our sins, enter the waters of baptism, be cleansed, and start fresh. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and the chance I have to return to Him through this work.
I consider myself a very productive person. I get a lot of things done. I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life. I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then. My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things! However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis. Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me. That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.
Enough is enough.
I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way. Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done. It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD. But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:
Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD. The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD. But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.
The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with. In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term. Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything. The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed. Why? Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.
To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially. (This is just to get started. After these are going well I will add more.)
- Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
- Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
- List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
- Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area. For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.” For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.” Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
- Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
- Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas. For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm. During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete. See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
- Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
- Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete. They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty. Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it! Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc. Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”. Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.
Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…
Starting is always easier said than done.
I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.
Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life. This is mine:
Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area. I’m constantly working on my list.
Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times. The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area. Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes. As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item. And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon. So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later. Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.
When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.
I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity. And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life. In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time. Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well. GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively. The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life. Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!
Give me a helping of work every weekday. Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends. A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky! Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!
Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon! Get an email reminder when it comes out! Subscribe to the newsletter!
I hope you enjoy the Downloads below. The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post. Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them.
It’s been a long nine weeks. Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU. I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally. I’m hesitantly relieved. I don’t want to be disappointed.
Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard. Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.
And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me. They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial. I can’t thank them enough.
When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say. Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:
- Call or text ahead.
Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time. For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
- Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in. Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all. Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
- Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday. My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times. I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff. She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall. That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me. Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well. They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more. My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star. My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor! It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me! I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
- Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit! A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
- Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
- Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience. They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes. They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader. Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
- Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time. And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off. Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
- Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial. It only makes the patient feel like a burden. Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
- Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself. The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU! Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act. They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member. They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you. The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
- Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either! They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial. So bring them home!
I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more! They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay. It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!! I am especially grateful to God and Christ. They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit. I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday. But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope? A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find. But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope. And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.
When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control. I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.
Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole. But I could only handle so much. The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.
Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time. She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah. She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme. And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful. And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.
I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist. I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling. I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope! But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again. I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind. I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.
So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper. I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside. I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway. Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.
Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope. I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it. I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.
I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence. I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.
Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:
I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING
I WILL GET THROUGH THIS
Then it was time to fill the box. Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.
Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school. I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer. But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections. In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!
I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11. All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing. But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.
Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade. I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope. It reminds me of the power of hard work. And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.
Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day. I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal. I was searching for a knife to cut myself with. Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further. I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.
I cried when I read the letter. It quite possibly saved my life that day. I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it. I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day. The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.
I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.
Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it. But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it. I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here? Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.
I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses. At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received. I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble. For most people that box is figurative. But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it. I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.
Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar? Please share and post about it in the comments!
It is a common misconception that constructive criticism is easier to take than unfoundedly mean spirited criticism. More often than not, this isn’t the case. While it can be fairly easy to ignore and move on when criticism doesn’t resonate, when it rings true, pain really sets in. It’s hard to see your reflection and dislike what you find. And when someone else holds the mirror, it’s even worse. But I found that I can be resilient in the face of such genuinely painful critiques.
Last week, in my writing group, I discovered just how much the truth can hurt. I’ve been working so hard on my second draft of my novel The Particulars, and I really thought I was making good progress. So when it came my turn to submit to my weekly writing critique group, I was excited to hear some feedback. My group usually loves my writing, so I was caught completely off guard. Though their critique of my opening chapters was very constructive, it certainly wasn’t favorable.
It was rough, listening to nearly two hours of how my writing wasn’t working, so when I finally got off the Skype call, I broke down. I cried more than I had in a long time. I was just so frustrated and disappointed in my writing and in myself. I felt stupid for thinking it was good when it wasn’t. And the worse part was I really didn’t think I knew how to fix it.
Once the tears stopped flowing, though, I had a choice. I could choose to be resilient in the face of a difficult situation. Here’s some tips that helped me:
- Don’t read into it.
The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with a harsh critique is to read into what it means about who you are as a person. I could have told myself that because the opening of my book wasn’t working, that I was a terrible writer or that I’d never be published, but there’s nothing productive that will come from thinking those things. Besides those things aren’t even true.
- Get right back on the horse.
The very next morning after the critique, I forced myself to start again because I knew the longer I waited the harder it would be to start again. So don’t wait. No time like the present.
- Look for the opportunity.
I realized I could choose to be burned by this critique, or I could rise for the ashes a stronger writer. This was my chance to grow and improve, if I choose to use it that way.
- Start fresh.
Since my writing wasn’t very effective in my first draft, I gave myself permission to come at it from a different perspective and tried something totally new. I scrapped the first three chapters of my novel completely and started over from scratch.
- Don’t give up.
The only way you can really lose in these situations is to give up. There would be an upside, if I stuck with it.
So I rewrote my first three chapters, and what I came up with was so much better than what I had. At least I was pretty sure it was. But to make certain I had to submit myself to one more critique. I asked one of the group members to read it again for me, and to my relief, she absolutely loved my new direction. And the fact that I was able to do so despite my pain and sweat and tears, made the victory all the sweeter.
Here’s the new opening paragraphs of The Particulars as it stands now:
Veril Maloit picked up his manuscript and dumped it into the trash. It was no use. It was no good. He was no good. He kicked the overflowing waste bin. There was no evil worse than writers block. He glared at his desk. It looked so empty without his novel cluttering it up. Two hundred thousand words in, and he didn’t even know what it was about yet. What a waste of trees.
He took a deep breath and gagged. What was that strange odor? By the smell of it someone had just run over a skunk with a truck of herbal medicinal supplies. He coughed and pinched his nose closed with two fingers.
Ninety thousand one hundred and ninety words after starting, I completed the first draft my second novel The Particulars. The final two words were “the” and “end”. Yes I know I’m a tease (there’s a real excerpt at the end of this post). I’m super excited. And yes I left room for a sequel.
I really don’t know what else to say. I’m sitting here in shock. I’m done. Well with the first draft anyway.
I’m not sure what my next move will be, but I’m excited to take the next step having completed phase one.
Here’s a little excerpt from the middle of the novel:
The scent of musty damp earth permeated Veril’s nose. Despite the bright blueish glow emanating from his cell phone, Veril could barely make out his surroundings at first. He stood at the bottom of the stairs blind and and helpless. All he could see was the glow of Logan’s cell ahead of him. He couldn’t hear anything either but the sound of his rapid shallow breaths and the rush of blood past his eardrum. He wiped his sweaty palms on his slacks and waited for his pupils to adjust to the low light.
When he could somewhat see again, he crept forward towards Logan’s light looking around. Straight ahead was a door where Logan waited for him to catch up. On either side of his path were rows of large rectangular boxes made of some sort of rough ancient stone. They looked large enough to hold a fully grown man.
He shone his phone on them to get a better look and nearly dropped it as he jumped back. He clamped his hand over his own mouth stifling a scream. What were all these coffins doing down here?
He wasn’t about to hang around to find out. Shaking, he rushed over to where Logan stood waiting.
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs.” Veril reached for the door knob but Logan caught his wrist.
“Wait!” Logan said.
“Wait for what?” Veril tried to pull his arm away, but Logan’s grip was iron tight.
“I just don’t know if we should be doing this. What if you get caught? This is such a bad idea. I just know it.”
Logan was right. This was a terrible idea. Knowing his luck he’d probably get caught and end up in jail for breaking and entering. His head started to spin at the thought of himself in some prison somewhere. He wouldn’t last a single day in a place like that, and Sam would probably leave him there to rot. He shivered. His legs felt like lead weights. He just wasn’t cut out for this type of thing.
Maybe if Sam were here by his side helping him, he’d feel differently. The thought of Sam made his chest ache. He had to stop being such a loser if he had any hope of a future with her. Besides, Tracy needed his help.
“Look,” Veril’s tried to sound as stern as he could, “one of my students is trapped up there.”
“Can’t you just call the police or something and let them deal with it?”
“And what should I tell the police? That I have a semi-invisible student being held captive in Doctor Cameron Johanson’s library? I’ll be lucky if all they do is laugh at me.”
So there you have it. The Particulars.
Cross posted from http://particulars.laurensoffer.com/2012/04/completing-the-particulars/
Sometimes I’m just really so grateful for my life. And though everything is ultimately all in God’s hands, I also know that God doesn’t want us to sit around and wait for Him. Going forward with faith, it’s really clear to me that there’s so much I can do to create what I want my life to look like. And so much of that has to do with attitude and structure.
I can chose to be apathetic, bored, isolated, or depressed about my life or I can choose to be excited, engaged, connected, and grateful about my life. And then I need to put that into a structure that reminds me and helps me fulfill on how I’m choosing to be about my life.
To give a concrete example, here’s what I’ve been doing recently. I’d been wanting to change how I’m being about my writing in my life. So now, most every day (six days a week), I get up and start my day at 8am by checking in via Skype with my writing buddy Yudit. In our conversation, we talk about where we are with our writing and what we are going to write next. We also talk about what’s going on in our lives and how we want our attitudes to be for that day. We put how we are going to be into words. For instance, today I’m my attitude has to do with being in touch with divine light in humanity, joy, and connection. Then we write until ten-thirty when we check in again to see how each of our writing projects went.
As a result, not only has my relationship to my writing transformed, but my whole life has transformed. I’ve gone from inconsistently writing about a thousand words a week to writing nearly a thousand words a day consistently. I’m now rapidly approaching the end of the first draft of my second novel, The Particulars. Things have shifted in my life as well. I start out the day now feeling so accomplished that my productivity has increased in every area of my life. I’m getting more website development done. I’m making more progress on the Alternate Reality Game I’m designing. I’m fulfilling on my spiritual goals by reading my scriptures and doing my callings.
And life is just plain good as a result. No, good doesn’t even begin to cover it. Life is wonderful. Life is miraculous and awesome. And I can’t help but feel so very grateful for the wonderful blessing of being alive to enjoy it.
In my life, I’ve found that everyday is the perfect day to make a resolution. Everyday is a perfect opportunity to commit to something that will transform my life into whatever I am determined to make it.
The key word for me is commitment. Doing what I say I will do when I say I will do it in the way it was meant to be done. This is no small feat. Days are busy and intense, and what I’m committed to often gets buried under layers of things that seem more urgent but are in reality less important.
Fear, too, can be commitment’s nemesis. Like so many people, I am afraid of change. I am sometimes afraid to commit to the very things I ultimately want. But it would be tragic to let fear of abandoning what’s not working but is comfortable determine what I am willing to commit to. So commitment takes courage. The best definition of courage goes like this: courage isn’t the absence of fear but a willingness to act in the face of fear.
So what am I committed to?
Three things immediately come to mind. Writing, health, and faith.
I call myself a writer. And writers write. It’s not hard to realize that I need to write. I have two novels I’m working on. One is a first draft and one is a second draft. I am committed to finishing them and getting them published. It’s great that I say I’m committed, but that is not enough. I need to take actions towards my commitment and be accountable for them. So over a week ago I set up a structure in my life to help me meet my commitment. I got in touch with one of the members of my weekly writing critique group and told her my commitment. I told her that I wanted to be working on my writing for 2 hours every weekday. And I asked her to be my accountability buddy in this commitment. She agreed and requested that I be the same for her. So last week, everyday at 8am we’ve checked in via Skype to talk about what we’ll be writing over the next two hours. The we’ve written until 10am at which point we’ve briefly checked in again to discuss how it went.
It has been a great experience so far. And it’s given me insight into a pattern of steps I need to take to meet my commitments. They are:
- Say it.
- Do it.
- Account for it.
“Say it” is just like it sounds. It’s declaring what I’m committed to and what actions I’m going to take to meet that commitment in a formal fashion so that it is clear what I’m committing to and what I’m going to do about it.
“Do it” means following through on those actions I committed to.
And “Account For It” means to in some way set up a structure of accountability for what I am committed to. That could be another person I ask to hold me to account or it could be something entirely different such as a reward structure for when I meet certain commitments.
So far I have a great structure in place for my writing. I’ve started to setup something similar for my health, but I’ve come up short in the “do it” and “account for it” departments. That doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up for not following through. It’s merely an opportunity to re-commit to my structure. And finally I plan to figure out some sort of structure to support my commitment to my faith.
So this year isn’t a year for New Year’s resolutions so quickly out of sight, out of mind. It’s a year of commitments. Commitments I recommit to everyday, every hour, every minute.