Tags: adversity

Finding A Room of My Own

by Michelle McCann
Published on: March 7, 2012
Comments: 1 Comment

For months I’ve been struggling to find time to write in my working-mom-juggling life. I’ve tried writing at home, but there are too many interruptions and distractions. I’ve tried writing at a coffee shop, but I feel guilty if I stay more than a couple hours, which is about how long it takes my brain to get moving.

I have been intrigued by the strategy of fellow Scriva, Liz, who also has kids and a busy work-at-home life. She has a full writing day once a week, away from home. She begins her writing day with exercise (to clear her head and get into the writing mindset), then she walks to the library and writes on her laptop—undisturbed by phone calls, emails, children, husband—for eight hours!

Doesn’t that sound glorious!?!

Well it did to me, so I thought I should give it a try and see what happens. But I had a number of challenges to solve: what to do with my kids and where to do my writing.

First, I found a Boys and Girls Club in our neighborhood and discovered that for $5 a year my kids can take the bus from school to their facility. There they do their homework, play in the gym, read, whatever until my husband picks them up. My clearly sheltered kids were a bit horrified by this option when we took our tour (“Mom, it’s so loud and crazy!”), but they’re on week three now and so far they haven’t been stabbed or gotten lice. I keep reminding myself, “It’s good for them!”

Second challenge—where to write. Lucky Liz lives close to the downtown library with its wonderfully quiet Writer’s Room, so she can walk there and doesn’t have to pay for parking. Not an option for me, so I found a library close by that has street parking and plenty of tables to write at.

Challenges solved, I packed up my laptop and some snacks, and I headed off to write. My plan? To sit, butt-in-chair, and put words on the screen from noon (when they opened) until 8pm. The first trip was a learning experience. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Be thoughtful about your snacks. Within a few hours I craved something besides the gorp I’d brought, which of course distracted me, so I had to waste time walking to a store for new snacks.
  2. Don’t forget the coffee. After I drank the cup I’d come with, it was pretty much all I could think about. Yet another reason to stop writing—must go buy cups of coffee.
  3. Bring an iPod. While there were plenty of tables to sit at, none were empty. I was always sharing space with someone who was either watching TV on their laptop (why come to the library for that?) or playing a videogame. I was easily distracted by the soccer game or sitcom next door.
  4. Think about your butt. Those chairs at the library are unpadded. After a couple hours my butt cheeks were numb. Another excuse to get up and browse the library shelves instead of writing.

Yet even with the distractions, I was amazed at how much writing I got done in eight hours. The next week I went back armed with a grocery bag of snacks, thermos of coffee, butt pillow and iPod mix. Lo and behold, I got even more writing done.

It’s working!

And even though my kids grumble a bit about the two hours they spend at the Boys & Girls Club on Wednesdays, when I mentioned a new editing project I’ll be starting soon, they asked in worried tones, “You won’t have to work on Wednesdays, will you? How will you get your writing done?”

So if you, too, are having difficulty making the time and space to write, why not give it a try? Just don’t forget your butt pillow!

Make your writers group a place of inspiration and hope in addition to a workshop of craft

by Amber Keyser
Published on: January 30, 2012
Comments: 2 Comments

Every year, the Viva Scrivas hold a goal setting meeting.  Scriva Addie usually leads us in a series of activities designed to reflect upon the last year and create a plan for the new year. In the past, we’ve prioritized projects to work on, analyzed work-life balance, or identified strengths and weaknesses in our writer=small business owner activities.

This year, we ended up more like group therapy. There is discouragement among us.  The economic downturn has been hard on many of us – lost day jobs, fewer book sales, fewer school visits, glacially-slow acquisitions.  Many of us have had personal struggles.  We needed to vent, to share, to cry, and to re-focus on why we write when it is hard and hardly pays.

To start us out, Addie handed us each nine little slips of paper with the following words:

I really admire/am inspired by the way you…

The word(s) that come to mind first when I think about your writing are…

If I could wish anything for your writing life this year, it would be…

She asked us to fill one out for each member of our group including ourselves.  We put the slips of paper into envelopes and took them home to read later.

Wow!  Between our conversation yesterday and these slips of paper, I came away more focused, less troubled, and ready to take on the challenges of building a sustainable (both emotionally and financially) writing life.

I thought I’d share the list of words my Scrivas used to describe my writing.  I hope some of them will share their lists as well.

inspirational, on, more, razor-sharp, relevant, precise, powerful, strong, amazing VOICE, empowering, exciting, cutting-edge, passionate, intense, thought-provoking, cinematic, soulful, gut-wrenching (in a good way), visceral, brash, fast-paced, adventurous, edgy, creative, punchy, tight, interesting

 It’s important to remember why we do this AND that we can do it well.  Remember!


Optimists of the World…Make Room for Everyone Else!

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: August 12, 2011
Categories: Challenges, Other Topics
Comments: No Comments

Dr. Seligman, I owe you an apology. I thought you were one of those positive thinking guys. Instead, you have your Ph.D., Penn professorship, professional colleagues and profuse research all in the science of optimism. You’re not into people merely repeating “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better,” whether it’s true or not. Rather, you desire to help people change habits of thought that will concretely improve their health, happiness, relationships, work… and even WRITING! For this, I thank you.

At a pivotal meeting in late 2008, the Scrivas discussed personal obstacles to writing. As I remember, these fell into two broad categories that likely all creative types can recognize: 1) life—demanding jobs, young families, lack of time; and 2) doubts about ourselves and our work—showing up in questions such as, “Am I good enough?” “Do I have anything to say?” “Does my work matter?”

Here’s the rub. What we believe affects what we do—or don’t. Aptitude and motivation are not enough, Seligman says. Optimism is also required. “A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize. Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

People can have general or localized pessimistic tendencies. The good news is that optimism can be learned. As Seligman puts it, it’s not what happens to us (“Adversity”), but how we explain it to ourselves (“Belief”) that matters, affecting how we feel and what we do or don’t do (“Consequences”). Here’s an example. The A is the same in both instances. The differing B is what determines the C, action or lack of it.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: I’m a terrible person. I can’t ever do anything.
Consequences: Why bother at all? I give up.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: My goals are unrealistic. I need to come up with more realistic goals.
Consequences: OK, there’s something I can do. Let me revise my goals.

This is merely an amuse gueule to whet your appetite for the multi-course meal of Seligman’s book Learned Optimism. You’ll want to read his full ABCDEs, and learn about permanent, pervasive, and personal explanations (pessimistic), and their optimistic opposites.

For myself, having Learned Optimism, I’m moving on to Authentic Happiness. Yes, that is finally within reach! It’s another Seligman title, now waiting for me on the hold shelf of my library.

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