A little book-spiration…

I checked out “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” from my local library.

I didn’t have the intention of reading the whole thing. I’m hardly at a point where I am ready to get a book published. I’ve got at least three fiction novel ideas swimming around my head. I am actively working on three and allowing the cream to rise. I feel like one will want to be written more than the others, so I am giving my work the time and space to emerge.

Without my own book even close to ready to be shopped around, this book had to come home with me from my local library. I read through some of it and came away with two things:

  • According to the authors, I have one solid habit of a good writer. I read. I visit the library at least every other week (gotta get those 14-day loans). I also download books on my library’s e-reads system. I make good use of the library too, always getting put on the best-seller hold list. Hopefully, I’ll get to read “Nest” before Christmas… I scour what’s hot on iBooks as well as the New York Times‘ Best Seller list. I have a very good writer’s reading habit according to “The Book Doctors,” which is comforting, maybe since my coworkers love to tease me for my overzealous library habits.
  • I’m not worried about my social media game. A lot of writer’s books preach the importance of social media, creating a platform, strategy, promotion, SEO, how to tweet — the works. I’ve been on Twitter forever, though it’s not the same platform it used to be. I’ve been an early adapter of all social media. Perhaps it’s  my years of radio broadcasting and journalism.

But there is something I need to do. I need to blog about writing more. Like most writers, I like to write in the shadows. I write privately, all alone. I hate to share what I am up to with my writing, although I do let a friend read what I’ve got once in a while.

That may be a habit I should let go of in order to promote my work. So I’ll have to work on that.

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Such the book fiend I am, my friend brought me this flyer so I took a photo of it to put it in my phone as a reminder… I’m trying to cut back on buying books! I swear! I keep giving them to friends and trading them in. But we all know…there will always be more books!

If you love books and writing too, follow me on Twitter, @heatherlarson

 

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What “The Artist’s Way” is doing for me

I’m on week eight of The Artist’s Way now. So I thought I’d share what this program is doing for me as an artist, writer, etc. It’s the “etc” that I didn’t know was there. There are many issues TAW brings up that you never quite knew were there. I knew some of the issues obviously, that I was a blocked creative and that this needed to be fixed. I also knew this was likely due to a few life experiences that stood out in my mind. But I had no idea how far this would take me and I love it!

I’m great at morning pages and awful at artist dates. I choose to do my pages on 750words.com.

Yes, I’ve dealt with some of those unsavory life experiences and early childhood scars that became on barriers to my creativity. Fun stuff!

I’m allowing myself to play again. Play guitar, play in general… I’m unemployed, so you’d think this wouldn’t be a problem. But like a typical blocked artist and recovering addict, I quickly moved to fill up my schedule. I have a part-time job at a recovery center, I have my own freelance writing business now, and I am still running You Deserve Reiki.

I have found my creative energies seeping into YDR. I have redecorated my therapy room:

Much creative energy has gone into redecorating the Reiki room at White Dove, including the energy it took to manifest that lovely Mayan tapestry on the wall!

Much creative energy has gone into redecorating the Reiki room at White Dove, including the energy it took to manifest that lovely Mayan tapestry on the wall!

I have new ideas for the blog. They are not posted yet. I’m deciding to take the blog into a new direction and write more posts about self-care, which is the idea behind me getting into Reiki in the first place three years ago. Self-care is the idea behind the name, “You Deserve Reiki.” I also believe self-care is essential to our survival as human beings! So more posts about it are about to happen. I can give people Reiki, but I think I will give clients more if they receive some self-care ideas as well.

Like I mentioned, I am giving myself more time to play guitar. I am even seeking out some lessons.

My guitar is a pink Dean rescued from a pawn shop on Bell Road in Phoenix for $169. I love her.

My guitar is a pink Dean rescued from a pawn shop on Bell Road in Phoenix for $169. I love her.

I also found this fun app I am just getting into called Yousician.

Thought I'd try a new medium for learning.

Thought I’d try a new medium for learning.

I haven’t gotten too far into it yet. I think when I do, it will require some in-app purchases. That may be OK. The point is to have fun and enjoy playing the guitar without my pesky perfectionist tendencies popping in. Also, the point is to get back into playing like I did in college when I was 18 — right before quitting the guitar altogether for a full-time radio job. I had to drop out of guitar class because of the hours I worked, so I put it down completely. Total black and white/all or nothing thinking! I got carried away in career, life and addiction. Now it’s 18 years later. I AM GOING TO PLAY GUITAR NOW.

Another screenshot of Yousician, which is kinda like Guitar Hero.

Another screenshot of Yousician, which is kinda like Guitar Hero.

There are other silly things too. I’m putting a lot of creative energy into a new wardrobe because I have a new life that requires a dress code for my job at the recovery center. I’ve also lost 30 pounds since September by eating an auto-immune-friendly, anti-inflammatory, mostly-Paleo diet. I’ve had a lot of fun hitting thrift stores to create a new look. It’s risk-free since I’m being thrifty about it. I’ve found some really awesome clothes for a fraction of what I’d pay for brand-new. It takes the anxiety out of rebuilding a wardrobe since I don’t have to worry about the money aspect of it. This is all a part of self-care too — especially the diet which is presided over by a doctor.

I put a lot of energy into organizing my writing space at home. Sometimes, the closest thing to an artist date for me has been coloring a mandala (adult coloring is a trendy new thing now) or watching Orange Is The New Black on Netflix. Giving myself time and space to play has been one of my biggest challenges!

One of the most important things is the writing. That’s the reason I am doing this. I am tackling issues about the creative writing (or lack thereof) in my life. Now I’m actively working on one of my three novels. I just started a short story. I’m always writing poems. In an effort to get more serious and focus about where this is all going, I also purchased a stack of books from Writer’s Digest.

Do you see where this is going?

Do you see where this is going?

I fiercely defend my writing time. I’ve turned inward a lot because of this. I’m hyper focused on myself in a selfish way. But recovery is a selfish act. Yes, this is creative recovery as described in TAW. But I see this also as a larger part of my recovery from addiction as well. There was a point where I lost myself. More likely, I lost myself again and again over the years. Now my job is to get myself back more and more (I thought I had already but more was revealed). My job is to give myself back my hopes, dreams, my ability to play, and those original yearnings I had towards fulfilling my purpose.

I am getting to know my characters.

I always had this fantasy I’d create these amazing characters for my novels. I’d pull out of my ass all kinds of fascinating things about them! I’d have the perfect characters! Larger than life! They’d be perfect and astonishing in every way. All my characters would be so fascinating. So original, so full of wow factor, brimming with life…

What a ridiculous motivation.

I’m getting really into an idea I’ve been working on since Fall 2013. Only, to be honest, I haven’t been working on it all this time. It’s been sitting on the back burner for six to eight months.

To be even more honest, I have been beating myself up over that too — like every other writer filled with guilt and shame. What are we? Living charmed lives in which everything is taken care of for us? Are we independently wealthy with maids and people to manage everything from our laundry to money? No. We are real people with real lives. Do we sometimes go days, weeks, even months without working on our creative projects? YES! Should we feel bad about that? NO!

I’ve been busy all year doing something I felt very compelled to do. That took precedence over this. I started my own business as a Reiki Master. It’s called You Deserve Reiki in Wichita, Kansas. I rent a little room (still under construction, like most of my life) at White Dove metaphysical book store/yoga studio at 2947 E. Kellogg. I’m there Tuesdays noon-4 and Wednesdays 3-6.IMG_0139

 

I also work a “real job” or what I like to call my “corporate job” because it’s an honest-to-God full-time job with benefits. I have a desk and an office and everything.

So that’s 50 hours of my week right there.

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No, I am not going to whine that I am too busy to write. It would be a great and valid excuse as I am finally blogging here after six months only because I am on vacation and carved this day out to be a “me day.”

I am glad I have been working on other things besides writing all this time because now I am going back over the rough draft of the idea I was passionate about and realized why it had to marinate a while. I wasn’t ready to write it. But now I am. You see, I was going to create these perfect knockout characters. They were going to be flawless once again, like every other idea I’ve began. But now they are not going to be like that. Now I see deeper into their layers and into the themes of the story I am giving birth to. I am getting to know these characters, these bitches with ulterior motives! Oh, I love and hate them at the same time. I see their flaws now. I see beneath their surface and can’t wait for the reader to do that too.

I wasn’t ready to write the story yet when it came to me last fall. But I am ready now. Now I know without a doubt that I have to “go there” with this story and make it dangerous. The characters are telling me that is their truth — that they are dangerous.

Do your characters talk to you too? What do they say? How do you get to know them?

~Heather Larson, Writer and Reiki Master

Should I get an MFA in creative writing?

I really hope someone will see this post and comment openly and honestly. Because I came across this blog started by some ’08 MFA grads and it’s really got me thinking.

I really just want a master’s degree. I could get it in anything. But getting an MFA in creative writing just sounds so fun to me. I work full-time in radio as a morning personality and my writing has therefore taken a backseat over the last six months. I just now started freelance writing again for HalogenTV.com. I usually write general interest-type features. This marks the second time I’ve written about a vegan lifestyle, which is one of my interests. I wrote a “How I Went Vegan” piece years ago for Veg News magazine. (See it here on my Media Bistro profile).

I like writing for HalogenTV.com because Halogen — the cable channel and website — is all about social good. As someone who wrote “bad news” for so long (local, national, and entertainment gossip) it’s really refreshing to write about topics that affect society in a positive way. I’ve done journalism for broadcast, online, and print. It’s a great skill to have and I’m certain it makes me a better broadcaster.

As a morning personality, I have a responsibility to my city to be responsible on the air. If you’ve heard our show, you know we play a lot of music and have a ton of laughter happening every morning. But every once in a while some major newsy thing happens, like the day Bin Laden was killed. And we can’t go on air our normal joking selves on a day like that. It’s then that Journalist Heather Larson snaps to attention and comes on air with proper presentation of the facts so our listening audience is served properly.

So again, journalism is a good skill to have. I wouldn’t get a degree in it these days just because of the job outlook on that. I think now if you want to do journalism for a living you should get a degree in new media or just learn how to make tablet apps.

But really, why get a master’s degree in creative writing? 

It’s probably worse than the bachelor in liberal studies I obtained from Boston University last year! Every time I tell someone I have a BLS, they ask me if I can say, “would you like fries with that?” in Latin. But how many of us actually use the degree we have in our career? Radio personalities certainly don’t need a degree in anything. I know many in my industry who have no degree at all.

So this decision I am struggling to make isn’t about a career move, although I’m sure a master’s degree of any kind can’t hurt a person no matter what their chosen career path is. Wanting to get an MFA in creative writing is about feeding that part of myself that actually liked to attend creative writing class in summer school. As a kid in Scottsdale, AZ, I used to love the long bus ride in summer school in 100+ degree weather just because it took me to my creative writing class. And sadly, it was the only true creative writing class I ever had. I have taken screenwriting at the community college level (twice!) and every English class I could lump into my schedule. I love language classes too (you mean I can sign up for Arabic next semester? Let me just register for that right now). I’m the type who has a box of old journals — a really big, heavy box — stored in the darkest recess of my home. I swear, I will do something with them someday… You also may have noticed you are reading WriterHeather.wordpress.com. Enough said!

So I think my desire to do an MFA program is really about taking my creative writing side to the next level while getting a degree. Is that a good reason to dedicate a huge chunk of time in my life to getting an MFA in creative writing?

Because let’s face it — school is for people who need to be taught. 

I can write creatively on my own. I can write on my own time and figure out how to publish. Anyone can do that. It’s like people who take classes on how to blog… Really? You paid to take a blogging class? All you have to do is open a Blogger or TypePad or WordPress account and get it done. You do read blogs don’t you? I mean, I don’t want to be that person who has to be taught something that can just as easily be figured out with a little curiosity and independence.

But if I enroll in an MFA program, I’ll be around other writers! I’d be in a community, an environment! I’d feel like I was a part of something. I’d feel like I had peers. I’d have professors who would encourage me. Right now, I’m writing in what little spare time I have (like right now, on a national holiday). No one encourages my writing, save for my Halogen editor who is awesome and just doing her job.

Sorry for the long posting today. Thanks for reading down this far! I’m really not sure if I will enroll in the MFA program that has caught my eye. I’m just a year out of BU and still remember all too well how much time and dedication it takes to balance work, school, and life while doing a degree program. At the moment, I really am enjoying lazy Sundays with coffee, a gluten-free bagel with vegan cream cheese and HBO. Maybe in seven more months, I’ll be adding homework to that Sunday morning ritual…

Follow me on Twitter @heatherlarson or leave me a comment here, please!

The power of blogging

I have this friend who has the ultimate slash career.  He’s a teacher/radio DJ/wrestling ring announcer/wedding DJ/comedian/actor/small business owner/entrepreneur.  He’s doing pretty well with his businesses but he has a new one he wants to spread the word about.  But he says he doesn’t know how.  I told him he needs to go online to market this new business, called Arizona Top Secret Chefs.  I explained to him that a good blog with a few SEO tricks thrown in could help drive traffic to his site.  I told him to get on Twitter and Facebook.

I also told him that blogging opens up a whole world of fun.  You blog and people find you.  You can blog about something obscure like CJD as I do.  My Cure CJD blog has helped quite a few people get in touch with me as they lost someone to the disease or afterwards.  Sometimes people comment on the blog, other times they email me privately.  It makes me feel good that I can help someone else find answers and that I can share my experience.  I shouldn’t have had to suffer through watching my mom die of that horrific disease for no reason; my words can help others.  Emailing with complete strangers about the disease still helps me heal to this day.

Promoting my blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn helps get some page views.  But I find on my blogs that people come across them because they’re looking for a certain topic I have written about.  It always amazes me what gets the most page views over a period of time.  The analytics WordPress provides on each of my blogs are fascinating.

So I encourage anyone to blog about their business, passion in life, or just the life they live.  One of my friends has a blog about expat life in Germany that I love to read because of her stories about adjusting to German life.  She posts tons of travel information and great photos.  You really get the feel for what her new life in the country is like.  The blog also helps her to keep in touch with family and friends back home.  Sure, you could post the same stuff on Facebook.  But at the end of the experience, will Facebook provide you with the same kind of “scrapbook” a blog will?  Probably not.  Your photos and experiences will be buried in everyone’s Farmville and Mafia Wards updates.

I use my blogs to show that I can blog, that I do blog, and though it should be obvious — I know how to blog. Journalism pays the rent, but it’s not all I know how to do.  I began blogging in my SEO content writing days with my first blog about CJD.  I’m not just a journalist or a radio on-air personality.  I’m a journalist and DJ who can blog too! But it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in.  You’ll probably find yourself blogging at some point.  Maybe you’ll have to be the public, expert face your company puts on a blog.  Maybe you’re like my friend who wants a new way to promote his business.  But give it a try.  It can’t hurt and you don’t need any prior experience to do it.  Do you have ideas to share?  Can you write and use spellcheck?  Go for it!