by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: Word Branch Publishing
Last week I attended Judy Ketteler’s online conference: Expand Your Influence. The focus of the conference was on brand extensions—blogs, social networking, podcasts, etc. What can I say? The information was great; the speakers were knowledgeable, and the content was inspirational.
Of the nine speakers, I was familiar with Peter Bowman, among other things the author of The Well-Fed Writer, and Angelo Surmelis, designer and star of some of my favorite home decorating shows. Of course I was wowed by them, but the other seven speakers were fantastic as well. Designer Amy Butler and literary agent Joy Tutela were really insightful speakers, and Jeff Goins’ energy was catching. All nine were really wonderful and had such apt things to say.
After the second day, I noticed a consistent theme—go with your heart. All of the speakers are successful in their fields and either entrepreneurs or independent workers, but they weren’t touting business plans and career testing. They didn’t focus on education, background or contacts. They all said the secret to entrepreneurial success isn’t a secret after all; it’s passion for your work.
This probably shouldn’t have come as such a revolutionary idea to me, but it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. My career path has often been a tug-of-war between doing what I really love and what I did to pay the bills. As I look back, I see that I naturally drifted back to what I loved to do and leaving it was always filled with regret.
I’m not saying that it’s wise to leave your comfy job and follow your heart without a plan, and neither did any of the speakers. All of them worked long and hard to get where they are and made sacrifices along the way. They all had great ideas and devoted a large portion of their time and resources to give wings to their dreams. As for me, I studied English at the graduate level, have taught writing for 20 years, have been a professional writer for more than a quarter of a century and have worked for an international publisher for four years. But if you have that burning in your soul do what you need to do to achieve it—find a mentor, work in the field, get an education, actively pursue the dream.
When I take a long hard look at what really makes my heart sing, there’s no doubt that it is writing. I have had CRT Commercial Media for four years, and I have recently started an e-publishing company: Word Branch Publishing. I love both of these ventures for different reasons. CRT appeals to the analytical researcher in me—I truly enjoy commercial writing, but Word Branch is quickly capturing my heart. The possibilities and the excitement of getting in on a new technology and medium is very compelling.
So gentle readers, here’s my sage advice for the day: be practical, be smart, but always follow your dreams.
Because of a bout of flu then a visit from my daughter, I haven’t written the Word Branch blog in a few weeks. This brief hiatus gave me a fresh perspective though, and I want to get away from the usual nuts and bolts of writing for a blog or two. I’d like to talk about the drive that all writers feel whether a novelist, a journalist, or a technical writer—the tingling breathless feeling when you are a million miles away. I’m talking about being in the Zone with a capital Z.
We all been there—it’s that place you come to after staring at a blank page or screen, after all of the niggling thoughts and preoccupations melt away. It’s when your mind has a direct connection to your hands, and they seem to dance across the keyboard of their own accord. It’s when you forget about mechanics, and it all falls into place. You aren’t aware of breathing, and you notice nothing around you—the world is on a piece of paper and it comes to life.
That’s the magic moment of writing; that is where we always want to be. But, as any writer can tell you, that isn’t always the reality of it. A lot of the writing process is the drudge work: researching, compiling data, editing, proofreading. But I think it’s the Zone that keeps us coming back to writing. We are compelled to chase it down.
Sometimes getting to the Zone is the problem. Distractions, worries about the outcome, fatigue, or external stimulus can all keep us from getting there. Try living in the moment; the editing and proofreading will come later so don’t worry about it. Analyze your own roadblocks—are you trying to write like someone else? Is your environment distracting or not stimulating enough? Are you focusing too much on a market? One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard was from Stephen King. He said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open” meaning write the first draft for yourself and rewrite for your audience.
However you get to the Zone, hold those moments close. Let the feeling wash over you and give into it. It’s that rare and amazing gift that writing gives to those who create—enjoy.
True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist—Albert Einstein
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