It’s not bleeding enough: why 2017 is taking me away from the things that keep me safe

If it bleeds, it leads.

In journalism, what’s most important goes first—on the front page, in the first words of a headline, in the first sentences of a paragraph. Find what will hook the reader and then let the information fan out through the story, all the way down to the least impactful (but still relevant) information.

The last two years, after looking at pages of manuscripts, I’ve told my fair share of established and budding authors: It’s not bleeding enough. 

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A Colorado writer's cottage and a dream

Over on my personal blog I've been writing about (of all things) writing, reinvention and new paths for the future.

The main message has been: I don't know where I'm going, but I know who I'm going with. I'll marry Lee this December and our internal ticker will officially begin: not for having babies, but for moving to Colorado.

We are big dreamers, he and I. One thing we have in common is a deeply rooted desire to live in unmatched beauty, away from sweltering, neverending summers. Whether we move in year one of marriage or year three, we don't know. But we have a few criteria:

  • a just-the-right-size house with few frills and lots of natural light
  • close to good schools and medical care
  • land, land and more land, but not too much that we can't be friendly with our neighbors
  • a working garage, a vegetable garden, a flower garden
  • a cottage for guests

This list is the product of a lot of conversations, and nothing is set in stone. But these are the things we know will fulfill us. I'll spare you the details of how we developed this working list, but the cottage on that land is REALLY IMPORTANT to me.

Dreaming big, ridiculous dreams

This is a very vulnerable place to be. When you are known as a woman with an action plan and the "forward motion" person, having a dream can feel much like being naked in the middle of the state fair. It's just not something someone like me seeks out to share (but others do?!). Lately I've been in a place where my whole life has (rightly, happily) centered on everything but my own little dreams. Planning a wedding and combining your life with someone else's sort of makes that a necessity.

And OH BOY how I've missed my little dreamy states. When I'm not dreaming or creating, I get into a dark place and it's not pretty. In an effort to lap up the happy juice from dreaming about my next big dream, I'll tell you something I want THAT I HAVE NO PLAN OR GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL COME TRUE. Ahh ... what if this never comes to fruition? What if people see me as a failure and NO ONE EVER HIRES ME AGAIN? Sigh. This vulnerability crap is the pits.

When I'm not being dramatic and when I am dreaming big without any fear in sight, here's what my dream looks like. It would SOMEHOW combine all my favorite things: writers, cooking, hosting and they would all revolve around this cottage/writer's retreat. To bring this dream to REAL LIFE life, I saved some photos from Pinterest for you to scroll through.

 
 

In my wildest, unhinged dreams we would live on 10 acres in Colorado that was no more than 1.5 hours from Denver International Airport. This cottage would be a writer's retreat to end all writer's retreats, designed for the writer looking for part-retreat, part-kick-in-the-pants, part-customized-writing-prompts, part-soulful-conversations. In my mind, this is what an itinerary would look like:

4 Weeks Prior to Arrival: Manuscript review and 2 weekly writing coaching calls

2 Weeks Prior to Arrival: All writing STOPS.

Week of Visit outline looks like this:

  • Morning guided meditation
  • Morning breakfast and conversation
  • Secluded writing between meals
  • Lunch outside or near sunshine
  • Nature walk or gardening for one hour after lunch
  • Dinner with family OR queued writing inspiration
  • Evening tea, wine or dessert
  • Evening outline writing for next day's writing plan

Here are a few of the things that I think could really set this writer's retreat apart:

1. Homemade, organic, nutritious meals that can be catered to celiac, gluten, vegetarian, dairy, allergies preferences. (I'm proficient in ALL of these cooking styles.)

2. Customized writing prompts that I create and are timed to push the visiting writer to their next stage of writing (or not, if they need more time).

3. Conversations to discuss the "inner doubter" that all writers possess.

4. Guided meditation to set our intentions each day and promote spaciousness in our minds. [I've applied to be certified in 2017 to share meditation instruction!]

How will this ever happen?

Honestly, I'm not sure when or how this will come to fruition. I suppose I could create a KickStarter once we move to Colorado and raise funds for building, decorating, outfitting the entire space (in exchange for time in the cottage, perhaps?). Or maybe we'll win the lottery.

This is where I want to be. Somewhere beautiful, creating beautiful places for weary travelers and writers alike to escape and rejuvenate and find a happy home away from home in the Colorado mountains. I never knew what home felt like until I saw a mountain range from my bedroom window. There's nothing quite like it, so stay tuned folks, and let me know if you have any ideas on how to make this even better! 

The value in unpopular blogs

Have you ever published a blog that no one paid attention to?

I have.

It's one of the most disheartening experiences, especially when I feel like I'm really putting my soul and guts on the line. Two likes and one share from my aunt in Michigan later, this blogging thing can really get a gal down. Despite being a cheerleader of content marketing for the past four years, it has seemed like my own personal blogging efforts have been quite useless. Some of the people I admire most online have thousands (if not a few million) followers. If their simple two-sentence share gets 45 comments in a three-hour timeframe, why can't my bleeding-heart blog get me anywhere?

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When pressing the reset button won't do ...

For the last two years, entrepreneurship has been a wild ride. I relished the personal freedom to work from my living room or desk at any hour of the day, but for all the perks of independent working (and trying to create a business that could scale and grow), there are some obvious challenges. Never knowing where your next pay check is coming from, and recruiting, training and organizing talent, to name a few. Over time, the cons of business ownership began to outweigh the good. To solve my problems in life, I have the habit of pressing the reset button, when in reality, sometimes things need to die in order for them to be reborn.

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Effecting change and using discernment in storytelling

If you glance at a list of TED talks about storytelling, you’ll get any subject from Twitter fiction to “a better way to talk about abortion,” and everything (and I mean everything) in-between.

In other words—even the so-called experts have a hard time defining the concept of storytelling, why it’s so powerful, and most importantly—how and when to do it.

How do you define something humans have done since the beginning of… humanity? 

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Tips for Proofreading in the Age of Distraction

I have the great pleasure of writing, editing and proofreading for AB Editorial.  It’s one of my dream jobs.  This introvert loves to settle into her quiet home office, steaming mug of coffee in hand, and break out the mental Red Pen.

Most proofreaders are avid readers in general – but that’s not to say that the job is always easy.  You do enough proofing and editing and you can find yourself skimming without paying much attention.  This goes double for particularly dry content.  Beyond considerations such as style and grammar, I’m concerned with clarity and whether the message is cogent.  Naturally, this doesn’t allow for a wandering mind.

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At the intersection of professional passion and utility

In 2007, we were first hearing the echoes of "follow your passion" in career circles. At the time, to my peers it sounded like a great idea, if only because following our passions meant that we weren't suffering quite so much in our current jobs. Senior leadership was, admittedly, a little cautious about encouraging young employees to chase their passions because it was a little far fetched. 

How do we find the balance between having fulfilled employees and growing a business? Here are some things to consider:

1. Passion matters, but it should only be a data point.

"Following your passion" sets everyone up for some serious disappointment. I've never found a good answer to the brazen young man who only wants to eat pizza and play video games all day.

"I'm following my passion," he could say.

And he could stump me, if I only ever advocated everyone being happy all the time in their job. By telling people to only follow their passions, we also empower them to have a me-centric world view. "Following your passion" turns employees into anything but team players and also feeds contempt of management when they're asked to perform jobs outside of their "passions."

2. The guiding compass of your professional career should be utility.

When I meet young employees, I tell them, "I want you to be fulfilled in your work here, and I need you to be useful to our team." If someone is passionate about mathematics, it's only logical that I won't put them in a designer role. But if someone is passionate about typography but actually possesses thorough editing skills, I'll probably assign him a manuscript to proofread and later give him a chance to edit the book's layout alongside a senior editor. In this instance, his passions carved a new opportunity for him by employing his skills and being immediately useful to the whole team.

3. When passion and utility intersect, that's when we see things grow.

As a business owner, I set myself up to fail if I make my employee's happiness my highest priority. Happiness is fleeting, but fulfillment is not. Together, if we can find a way to employ someone's passions and skills for the greater utility of a business objective, then we've found our sweet spot.

In this context, the sweet spot is being a creative agency that attracts top talent because people are (1) challenged in their skillset; (2) held accountable for their outputs and contributions to the team; and (3) prioritized as an integral part of business growth.

What traditional publishers don't want you to know

"Carol's website has 1 million unique visitors per month," I told my friend at dinner. "She doesn't need traditional publishing anymore. If anything, traditional publishing needs her, which is why she had five different book agents come to her in 2015, begging her to write a book."

My friend, a retired publishing veteran, slowly sipped her coffee and smiled at me, nodding in agreement.

It's time to talk about the big secret in traditional publishing

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Why self publishing is attracting established authors

In 2009, five employees and I hauled 10,000 copies of a self-published book to an air-conditioned U-HAUL storage container.

We were publishing my boss's book. A human factors engineer, he was intrigued by the idea of becoming a publisher, so he hired a team to produce a book about human error (of all things). 

It felt like we learned everything the hard way. 

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