Five Years to Independence: Year Four – The Year of Sustainability

Wow, sustainability is a buzzy word, isn’t it? Was this taco sustainably produced? What about that triple-spice latte? It’s an overused word in these times of growing awareness, but it applies here.

If you’ve followed along in my sustainably-produced diatribe, you know that Year One was the Year of No Regrets, Year Two was the Year of Confidence, and Year Three was the Year of Accomplishment. All these years are aimed at helping you, the hidden artist, bring your talent to the fore, that you might live your life as the creative individual you truly are.

So, here we are at Year Four, the year with the trendy name. What does it mean? How can talent be sustainable. It’s not like coffee, after all.

This whole five-year program is about building and counting artistic success. You stopped denying that you were talented, you adopted that talent, and then you went out and proved to the world that you are an accomplished talent. I am so proud of you.

The Year of Sustainability is all about doing it again. And again. And again. This is the year in which you make your artistic existence real. It’s a subtle, but very important difference from the Year of Accomplishment.

In that year, you did the big thing – in my case, I leapt away from the world of never-ending, soul-stealing customer service jobs and became a technical writer. A writer, a real writer! Look! It’s on my business card!

The Year of Sustainability is the year in which you prove that your success wasn’t a one-off wonder, a Looking Glass/Brandy hit. This is the year in which you build the structure to keep repeating that success.

In my Year of Sustainability, I proved to the world that I really was a writer by getting myself hired as a technical writer. But then I had to prove it to myself and the company that I was worthy of the title. I did it by staying really focused, being willing to learn, and always open to growing in the job.

That’s your job this year. You must embrace your accomplishment, and make it repeatable, reliable.

Where we go from here is The Year of Independence, in which you let go of the previous you and launch into the abyss of success. Whoa, there’s an image, huh?

Now, the Year of Sustainability, like the Year of Accomplishment, may take more than one year. While it may have taken you a while to reach your accomplishment, it may equally take a touch more than a year to make your success sustainable.

But, the whole point of this exercise is to get it into your head that you are a successful, talented person. You can be the creative individual that you’ve always thought you were. You can do it.

So, get your head around that fact that you have made a huge accomplishment, but it was just the first of many. This is the year in which you prove, to yourself and the universe, that you are a successful, talented individual. Your art is your life.

Okay, true story: my road from empty customer service rep to fulfilled writer has a caveat that we may as well look at.

I’ll admit it: technical writing is not a glamorous job. It does not fulfill my need to tell the stories in my head. It doesn’t sell my novels, and doesn’t bring me fame and fortune.

What this job does, and the reason I count it such a big success, is that it establishes me, my name, my talent, as those of a writer. Yes, it’s technical writer. But the second word in that title means everything.

In this job, I’m surrounded by writers, most of whom are journalists. I speak the language of writers. My work, albeit assembly instructions, is read all over the world every day.  These are not the stories that I want to tell, but they are stories that I am paid to tell, and they make my house payment and send my kids to college. That to me is a success.

When I look in a mirror, I don’t see a customer service rep. I look at a writer.

When you look in a mirror, this year I want you to see a writer, or a dancer, a singer, a painter, an actor… I want you to see the you that you know you are. Even if, like me, it’s just a version of who you want to be.

I’m very proud of you. Keep going!

Five Years to Independence: Year Three – The Year of Accomplishment

Welcome to year three of the Five Years to Independence program. Or system, or scheme, or deal… what it’s called isn’t as important as what it is. What’s in a name?

Name notwithstanding, this is not a self-help program, or a get rich quick scheme. This is just a different way to view the road you’ve traveled, and to adjust your thinking to find success in the way ahead.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered but is true: although this program is meant to help you if you know you’re talented, have spent your life hiding from it, but now realize you must become who you are,  this scheme actually works if you’re living on your talents, but want to move up to a higher plateau. I know this because I developed this thing to turn my own life around, and am now using it again to further my products (the novels Droppington Place and Marigold’s End). You marketers: did you see this shameless plug? Shameless.

Year one, as we recall, was the Year of No Regrets, in which you stopped whacking yourself upside the head for not having explored your talents when you were younger. You changed the way you looked at the past, recognizing that the road you took led you to this new road.

Year two was the Year of Confidence, in which you viewed yourself as the creative talent you know yourself to be. If you dance, in this year you become a dancer, or a writer, or a painter, or a videographer. The Year of Confidence is the year in which you stop hiding behind the ordinary to finally be the extraordinary person that you are.

The secret behind these two years of mind-changing is that you were also practicing your art: working on your talent, albeit behind closed doors. You did this so that, when you announce to the cosmos that you ARE a singer, you’ve been singing for at least as year.  That’s the keystone to this whole project: stop hiding from your talent, stop regretting that you’ve waited so long, and USE IT!

If we do a bit of math… let’s see, carry the one… that brings us to Year Three: The Year of Accomplishment.

Here is where the chicken hits the road. In this year, we move our art from inside ourselves out into the world. Yes, into the world.

Years ago I worked for a major international bank, helping people find solutions to their mortgage problems. The management catchphrase in use there was “if you didn’t document it, it never happened.”  Essentially, if no one saw the transaction, it never took place.

In my revision of myself, I realized that a writer who thinks about writing but doesn’t do it is not a writer – he’s a thinker. A writer writes.

But that’s not quite right, is it? If I wrote beautiful poems every day, but kept them hidden in a closet, or burned them, is that writing? A writer’s work needs to be read, just as a painting needs to be seen and a song needs to be heard. A song sung to one’s self may be beautiful, but does not further one’s career.

So, this year, we stop singing to ourselves, and we put our talent out there. Out there on the world stage, come what may.

The glory of this age in which we live is that you now, finally, have a world stage at your fingertips. Now you can do your stand-up before a world audience – every nation in the world can see you dance, hear your song, read your words.

That’s an accomplishment, to get your work out there into the world. I’ve advocated doing that throughout the previous two years, if you’re brave enough. If you haven’t been brave enough to do it before, then this is the year you overcome that fear and let ‘er rip.

So, here’s how I faced my fear of the  World Stage: It’s a busy place, with a hundred million voices all clamoring for their moment in the sun. Being one in a hundred million is a pretty safe, anonymous place to be. (For example, my books (see the shameless plug, above) are out there, waiting to be read. and have only sold 17 copies so far).  That’s a nice comfort. On the other hand, I’ve sold 17 books so far, which means that a shaft of sunlight DID shine on my work, at least 17 times.

So, that’s your job this year. Put yourself out there, either in the safe and comfortable way of YouTube or Instagram, or, as I did, pushing my online published work to literary agents (can you spell “rejection letter?”).

Do it. Don’t hide from it. If no one sees your dance, how can you become known to the world as a dancer?  Don’t forget, that’s the point of this whole exercise.

You’re a talented individual who has hidden from that talent all your life. You can keep hiding, or you can become who you really are.

“Be brave, little Piglet.” Owl’s stentorian tone emboldens little Piglet to hold on and endure the flood of the Hundred Acre Wood, according to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

You and I, we must be brave. What is talent, except the bravery to do the unusual, isn’t it? The talented have a vision, a world view, that needs to be shared.

You’re talented. Let’s get out there and share it!

This is really long-winded, I realize, but it’s important.

Ideally, by the end of the Year of Accomplishment, you’ve exhibited your talent in a place that will get you noticed. Ideally, that shaft of sunlight will illuminate your work, and you’re on your way.

The first time I ran this program, my Year of Accomplishment took two years, at the end of which I made the leap from under-employed customer service rep/novelist to technical writer/novelist.  I became a writer.

I’m in another round of the program, with the goal of accomplishing the title change from technical writer/novelist to novelist/technical writer.  I’m in year two of that accomplishment.  The accomplishment will be to get seriously published: that’s a big one.

Like the speed limit on the freeway, the five-year structure of this program is just a suggestion: it may take you seven years, or six months.

Thanks for staying with me. Two more years to go!

Oh, and, visit my Smashwords page, or my online home.

Five Years to Independence: Year Two – The Year of Confidence

If you’re just tuning in, this series of posts is about a self-improvement (ick, I hate that term) a self-developmental program that I’ve put myself through twice (yes, twice) which I call Five Years to Independence. If you follow the steps, yes it takes a long time, and no, no harm will come to you, and, in the end, you’ll feel better about your talents, and will find yourself accomplished in your field.

This plan works for you if you are not currently using your chosen talent to support yourself. If, for example, you are a fine painter, but you spend your days checking tax returns for a living, this plan is for you. I myself spent half of my life trapped in a succession of customer service positions before I figured this out.

Year One was all about not looking back, about honoring the road you’ve chosen so far in life. Although it hasn’t led you to success in using your talents, it has led you here.

And here is where we begin Year Two – The Year of Confidence.

Although this year is about self-confidence, it’s not the point. The point is that this year you express, believe, and totally embrace confidence in your talent. Whatever it is.

If you dance, this year you are a dancer. If you write, this year you are a writer. If you act… and so on and so forth.

This is the year in which you give yourself permission to be who you really are. You stop making excuses as to why you’re not that person: you be that person.

It takes a lot of courage to stop thinking of your talent as “well, you know, I dabble in watercolor,” and to instead refer to yourself as a painter. But that’s what this year is all about: courage.

One of the key parts of last year, the Year of No Regrets, was that, while you stopped kicking yourself for never having trusted your talent, you also worked in your art. You wrote, danced, sang, built a resume, even if only you saw it, which says Yes, I Am That Artist.

So, in fact, you are that artist. You write/dance/sing/act/paint. Whether anyone has seen it or not is immaterial. There is now artwork in the world, which you created. Artwork, by its very definition, is created by an artist. And that’s you.

Now, if you skipped the working part of the first year, it’s okay. Start working now. Now. Don’t put it off, or you’re wasting your time.

So, yes, that is who you are, but it does take some courage to admit it. You don’t have to go get new business cards. You need to tell your heart of hearts every single moment of every single day that you are a practicing artist. If you doubt yourself, look at the work you’ve accomplished.

If you are a performance artist, your road is both more difficult and more rewarding. A painter’s painting is a forever thing, but that moment when you catch the audience’s heart – that is fleeting. If you’ve ever done it, you feel it in your soul. For you to practice your art, you need to put yourself in front of an audience so you can pursue and perfect those moments. It’s harder, because you need to be cast in role – I recommend acting classes, either in workshops or for college credit, or both. Community Theater is always a very useful option. But it is so rewarding, because those little moments are such emotional highs. I know, spoken like a true actor. Funnily enough, I chose writing instead.

So, do you now what to do here in Year Two? Be it. Live it. Stop dreaming of it and become it.

So, here is my caveat about the Five Years to Independence: you have to define success. You don’t quite see my name on billboards, or find my novels at Barnes and Noble (yet).

Here’s how the plan has worked for me: I spent literally twenty-eight years in the customer service industry. Starting as a simple rep, I worked my way up through the ranks until I was a corporate director. When that company was sold, I moved on to become a partner in a service business, where my primary function was customer service. All the while, I dabbled in acting, in voice-over, in writing. The Great Recession crashed my business, and I found myself working part time at Bank of America helping people negotiate their failed mortgages.

It was then that I started this program, having built it as I went, and figured out who I really was, and what I wanted to be. I wrote my brains out in the Year of No Regrets, and sold my work for pennies to a number of online publishing sites. In that year, I became a writer.

In the next year, I decided to focus on a practical use for my writing, and learned how to be a technical writer. In the summer of that year, I got myself hired as a full time technical writer.

That, to me, is a huge success. I make my living, pay my bills, support my family, through my art as a writer. I no longer say that I dabble in writing – I do it every single day. It’s not prose or poetry, but it’s my art. And I love it.

To be sure, there’s much more to come – I have two novels, Droppington Place and Marigold’s End, that I’m marketing right now (for you marketers out there, did you notice how I slyly built two links right into this post? I know, I know, brilliance at it’s best).

The caveat, then, is that you must define your success. Getting to where you want to be requires mapping a road. Now that you are confident as an artist, you need to start thinking about where you can ply your trade.

That comes next, in the Year of Accomplishment!

 

 

 

 

A New Year, a New Heave-Ho

I have no idea what that title means – what exactly is a “heave-ho?”  Is that, like, a prostitute that throws up? That might be a “heaving ho.”

What I was trying to say is that a new year is a chance to do something new. Do you think that’s true? Out with the old year, in with the new? A chance to clean-slate your life?

Whoa, a clean slated life? Ditch everything that came before? The past? Just skip it. It’s a new year! A New Opportunity!

What a buncha hooey, right? Isn’t last year like, you know, last week?

No, no my authorial friend, it’s all right here, right now. Beyond getting a new calendar and changing your computer settings, a new year is a chance to change your mindset to success.

Yes – you. Success. All you have to do is focus on success, try your hardest to achieve it, and who knows what can happen. If you shoot for the stars, you just might make it to the moon.  You might also crash in flames, but we don’t talk about that.

Gee, Mr. Reinhart, what in God’s name are you talking about?

I’ve been working on a five-year plan, but I’ve run off the rails. Here’s how it works:

Year One: The Year of No Regrets. Leave whatever happened in the past in the past, and don’t look back. Accept that now is now and make it the best now it can be.

Year Two: The Year of Confidence. Now what the past is in the past, be confident and move boldly into the world, doing what it is that you do best.

Year Three: The Year of Accomplishment. This is the year you use your skills, talents, and confidence to accomplish great things.

Year Four: The Year of Sustainability. Now that you’ve made this great accomplishment, this year you build the structure that makes your success repeatable and reliable.

Year Five: The Year of Independence. This is the year you use the structure you built last year to move out of the traditional working environment and roll on your own.

So, right now I’m in Year Four, sustainability. The problem is that, while I made a huuuge stack of accomplishments last year, none of them was of the type that I can build upon to build a sustainable income outside of the traditional working world. Rats.

So, this has to be Year Three-A, The Second Year of Accomplishment. This year is the year to achieve that amazing thing, that huuuuge accomplishment that establishes myself as a creative guru, an unmistakable with oodles of cash pouring through the transom. That’s gauche, I know, but, really, wouldn’t that be the coolest? Tell me, in your heart of hearts, couldn’t you go with a future like that?

So, back around the long circle to the beginning – this is the year. This is it. Take a look. Go hang out at your local bookstore and watch for my novels to appear. I might even do a book-signing or two.

This year. Watch.

Better: this year. You do it, too!

A New Boss

You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You settle on a project, or maybe two, and you burn the midnight candle until it’s just a smoldering stub, and you tell everybody what your project is and how it’s your end-all-be-all raison d’etre and stuff…

But it isn’t. You fight the words and wrangle them into place. You beat yourself silly trying to find that structure, that style that sets you apart.You work until your mind bleeds to find the description that’s never been made.

But it doesn’t come.

It’s all the same hack.

I know. I’ve been hacking at the same project for, like, ever…

What to do, oh what to do.

Here’s something terrible that I shouldn’t tell you, but maybe you’ll see it.

I invented a producer, my writing boss. I gave her, (she’s a she) the complete and total task of managing my writing.

With Sydney (her name’s Sydney) in charge, I can mentally offload the task of managing my production to her. It sounds crazy, and I’m certain that is, but it has made my writing much easier.

Sydney’s a breeze to work for, because she doesn’t really exist, which means she hardly ever yells at me!

Yes, it’s nice to have a boss in the writing biz, even though, and I know you’ll agree, it’s crazier than a bag of wieners.

Now I just have to figure out to hit her up for a raise!

Do that Thing that You Do

 

You. Put down those fish crackers, I’m talking to you. Serious – this is a serious talk. No goofing around about anything. Just drop the crackers.

So, what do you do? Me? I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Technical writing, a little marketing, a little blogging, a couple of novels, a couple of short stories. It’s what I do. Working on a screenplay right now.

In fact, thank you for asking, it’s a screenplay based on my own novel, Droppington Place. It’s a funny story… well, okay. You’re right. We’re being serious here.

Have you seen Kubo and the Two Strings? Lovely picture, although a tad sad. It was made by LAIKA, a film studio in Oregon that makes handcrafted, stunningly animated movies. What could be a better fit? What better film company to make a major motion picture out of Droppington Place?

As you know, I’m a proponent of Gorilla Marketing – do little, expect lots. In this mode, we ask ourselves why we must go through all the hassle of selling millions of books. Why could we not simply approach LAIKA directly, make the motion picture, and then sell the millions of books? You know, it’s not really putting the cart before the horse: it’s more like they’re side-by-side. Boom. Anything could happen.

So I set myself out to write a screenplay from the novel. Piece of cake. I know the book forwards and backwards. What if I simply move these scenes around to make it more, you know, cinematographically friendly?

Well, three things happened. Three. You were expecting two, but, hey, it was three. Sorry to disappoint.

First, in reordering the book for cinematographic friendliness, I found a much better flow to the story. Rats. Now the book needs a rewrite.

Second, in retelling the story for the large screen, I found some motivations for characters I hadn’t seen before. Rats. See above.

Third, I had a revelation. A very sad, very tawdry little revelatory affair that hurts to write about, but you’re a writer. You know how it is.

Shakespeare is quoted as having written, “to thine own self be true.”

I was on an airplane, struggling with the screenplay, when the words came to me. Poop, I thought. I don’t want to hear these words.

The words came as clearly to me as if I had written them myself, but I’m not this good. It was simple poetry, and it hurt to read. It said, “write what you want and it’ll be great.”

Write what you want and it’ll be great.

Stop plotting and planning and pushing and prodding. Stop massaging and manipulating and maneuvering and marketing. What’s in here (taps on chest) is what’s important.

“Your lungs?” I asked.

I have written what I hope will sell, and hope you will buy. I haven’t written the Great American Novel. I’ve written something clever and fun and creative, and that I think you’ll like. I like it.

But the calling is to write what’s inside, and I don’t think it’s about my lungs.

What is the story I was created to tell? What can I give to you that will be great enough to make you think, wow, my life is now better? What epic saga lies inside here (taps on chest)?

Poop.

So, compadre, we have to saddle up another horse. It’s a long ride ahead, and now there’s another wagon to pull. Please don’t put the saddle on the horse that’s supposed to pull the wagon – you’ll just confuse things.

Okay. You can go back to your fish crackers now.

Tips from a Marketing Guru

marketing-product-jobs

Gosh, that’s a selling title. Sadly, I sort of have the opposite in mind, but you can’t make a headline that says “I Need Tips from a Marketing Guru”, because no non-marketing guru will read your blog. And, although my children believe me to be an ATM, I was sort of hoping to get some advice on the cheap.

Here’s my bass-ackwards marketing plan, which needs serious consideration. WARNING: don’t do as I do, for I don’t know what I’m doing.

In the new world of publishing, the reader chooses the author, not the other way around. One way to build steam for your book is to offer it for free, or at least parts of it, to get it out there in the big old WWW. You build interest, you build potential readership, you build search linkages, yada yada yada.

In the new world of publishing, you must be brave, little Piglet, and put yourself into the market. But you needn’t do it all at once – it might be better to have a little cache of readers behind you. That’s the theory I read somewhere.

In my case, I’m a chicken. In my brave new world, we put chapters out and sort of test the waters. You sort of tentatively do things in tiny fits and starts just in case you’ve done something majorly idiotic. Hey, it could happen.

So, when you have a minute or twenty, if you wouldn’t mind, would you be so kind as to visit my pages and read the first and seventeenth chapters of my recently completed novel? I promise you’ll be entertained. Promise. Pinky-swear.

I also promise to keep you apprised of new happenings in this wacky adventure.

Especially if I hear from a marketing guru!

 

 

59,534 Words

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59,534 is a pretty big number. Way bigger than six, even fifty-six. It’s so big that, if you wrote it out in word form, well, you couldn’t put a postage stamp on it. Although, really, what with email, that postage stamp business is kinda getting old school. I mean, really?

But that’s not the point. The point is that 59,534 is a milestone – no, not a millstone, although one could make the argument that if you never finish anything, but simply count numbers of words, the writing of one’s novel could become the thing itself, and the poor novel would never be finished because really we’re just churning out words to be counted. Sad, sad.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I set out to rewrite this novel of mine to 60,000 words. I’m still a good 15,000 words from the end of the rewrite and I’ve hit 59,534. On the one hand you could say, gee whiz, you bozo, you didn’t hit the mark. But, on the other hand, you could say, dude, you like, totally obliterated the milestone. Shredded it. Like a cheap taco, you know?

Oh, and these are good words. Full of passion and verve, with only one passage so far that my daughter has pointed out as dullsville. I’m headed over to dullsville next week, taking the slow bus, to fix up things there. As long as she stays awake I’m good.

But that’s not the point. The point is that, as writers, particularly budding novelists – oh, how I hate that word “budding”. Makes it sounds like all you need is raindrops and sunshine and lovely windy days and, badda boom, etc., look mom, I produced a novel! Bud this. Novels are nothing but the results of blood sweat and tears, and more than a lot of all three of them except the blood part. They are hard, hard work that, even though it’s fun to write and when you’re in the moment there is nothing sweeter than your characters telling you what to say and what they see and you are really there, really in that place, the sweat dripping off your nose because the steam engine is just six inches away, and the smell of the grease fills your nostrils, and the bossman keeps bellowing “shovel, you lazy dogs!”, they are angst-filled folios cobbled together from hopes and dreams and genuine, genuine art.

But that’s not the point. The point is this: although nobody reads my stuff – if your are reading this, be a pal and turn out the light before you go – I am celebrating almost hitting my goal of 60,000 words. Yaay me!

Tomorrow I’ll cross the 60,000 words no prob. But by then the goal will have shifted to completion. Completion of the 7th and best rewrite of what started out, so long ago, as a simple short story meant to describe a warm day. I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

Droppington Place – A New Neighborhood

Droppington

I’ve often wondered, but have been too lazy to explore, the link between the words journey and journalist. Both have the same root word, which means “day” in French.

Root words notwithstanding, this site has taken a most interesting road to get here: Droppington Place.

It began as a blog about a garden railway. My wife and I bought a house that had a working G-scale railway in the backyard. It was pretty cool, but rough, and not very well designed, which made running it with our young kids a bit of a challenge. The kids grew older and lost interest, and dogs and cats and nature all took their toll.

The blog chronicled the restoration of the railway from its semi-buried condition to an operational railroad. Along the way I realized I don’t like G-scale: at 1/18th scale, more or less, it’s too big for my taste. I say more or less, because the actual scale of G-scale is rather ambiguous, ranging from 1/18th to 1/32nd. Give me HO, at a constant 1/87th scale.

The URL for the blog, called  PoolsideRails.com, was devoted to chronicling the conversion of a G-scale garden railway to HO scale. Experts shook their heads and clucked: you can’t do HO outside. Well, it turns our they are correct. I found out that I don’t have the engineering finesse to pull off an outdoor HO railroad because, really, I don’t like model railroading. I like the miniatures.

So, away went  PoolsideRails and in came a new URL called Papertecture – an exploration of HO scale paper buildings with a whole section devoted to HO scale vehicles: I like little cars.

While all this was going on, I began working on a novel called Droppington Place, about a disenfranchised twelve year old who finds himself in a paper world run by a homunculus, a paper alchemical copy of a human being. It’s a pretty cool book.

Papertecture didn’t go anywhere. PoolsideRails didn’t go anywhere. The blog didn’t go anywhere. Because they were meant to come together here: Droppington Place.

Your reward: according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, journey comes from the twelfth century French word for “a day’s travel.” Journalism has at it’s root the word journal, which is a French word for a day, jornal in the 14th century. Some time in the 15th century it became synonymous with the word “diary.” Go figure.