Archive | September, 2017

Guest Blog by Sharilee Today

26 Sep

I have a treat for all of you today, a guest blog posting by my friend Sharilee Swaity. I’ve known Sharilee for a number of years now and I greatly admire her as a quality human being, my highest praise of anyone.

Without further delay, here is Sharilee!

Pursuing Impossible Dreams

Have you ever had a big goal? So big it seemed like an impossible dream? Maybe writing a book or changing careers? Or moving to a big farm in the middle of nowhere and living off the land?

I have friends with impossible dreams, too. One of them has an absolutely amazing voice that touches people every time she sings. She writes passionate, intense songs with perfect cadence and depth but she thinks the goal of becoming a professional singer is unrealistic.

One of my teacher friends is incredibly talented as an artist. Her bulletin boards are outstanding and she once had a small business drawing unique cards that no one else was making. She thinks that making money from her art is completely unreachable. I understand these friends because for many years, I thought my dream was impossible, too.

I have always loved books and the thought of having my name on a book was the coolest thing I could imagine. It also seemed like the silly fantasy of a young girl. Authors were another breed of individuals. Like C.S. Lewis and Shakespeare, they were disciplined, talented, prolific, even wise. I was just a girl who wrote in her journal, sharing stuff about my depressing life that no one would ever see.

Eddie the Eagle’s Big Goal

One guy who had an seeming unreasonable target was Eddie the Eagle. He wanted to be an Olympic athlete. The only problem was that he was short-sighted and poor, without the elite background that most athletes in his position enjoyed.

During the 1988 Calgary Olympics, he gained both popularity and notoriety for showing up to compete when he really wasn’t that good at it. In fact, he placed last, far behind the other athletes in his events. As an Albertan who lived close to Calgary at that time, I remember seeing his story in the local papers. Some of the writers criticized him for making a mockery of the sport while others applauded him for showing up and trying.

Eddie first tried to get to the Olympics through the sport of ski racing, and managed to place well enough to get on the team. He wasn’t part of the elites, however, and the authorities found a loophole to disqualify him from competing.

Discouraged but undaunted, Eddie switched gears and decided he would learn ski jumping. Yes, that sport! Where crazy daredevils jump off ramps as high as skyscrapers. The sport where athletes have to train from the age of three to have a hope of even placing.

Eddie traipsed all over Europe looking for places where he could get some jumping time in. He slept in his vehicle in -25 C weather and even lived in a mental institution for a while because it the only housing he could afford.

When the tryouts for the event came along, his time was just on the cusp of not qualifying. He made it to the Olympics and no one from his team wanted him there. He was an embarrassment to the dignified British sports establishment. Yet, in spite of all these obstacles, he still managed to add “Olympic athlete” to his resume.

My Impossible Dream

Eddie was criticized and stonewalled from all sides. Sometimes we can feel like this with our dreams, too. We may hear, “Why are you wasting your time?”  Sometimes the criticism comes more from our own heads.

Whether it’s writing a book, a blog or copy for businesses, the publishing field is not easy to explain or justify but we dream anyway.  We may write a blog but dream of writing a book. Or write books on the side and dream of living off the royalties. Perhaps like me, we write in a journal but dream of impacting thousands with our words.

Four years ago, I took a small article I had written and thought about expanding it into a book. I kept going until it reached 12,000 words. Seeing that many words altogether on one topic made me hungry to finish it. The impossible had become a possibility and the journey from that first little article to a printed book in my hand taught me some valuable lessons.

Life Lesson One: Big goals are possible

The most important thing I learned was that the impossible was actually possible. Growing up, I struggled with confidence. I was the timid kid on the playground reading a book in the corner. I had many ideas but almost zero confidence to pursue them. The most common comment on my report card was “not working up to potential.”

 

When I decided to write a book, years later, it was difficult to tell anyone what I was doing. I was sure that people would scoff at me for pursuing something so lofty. Somehow, though, in spite of my fears, I kept to it and in April of 2017, my first book went live on Amazon.

 

Three months later, I held the print book in my hand. I put author on my resume and the most impossible dream I could imagine – becoming an author – had come true. So-called impossible dreams become possible for people every day.

 

Life Lesson Two: Big Goals Take Patience

If I had $10 for every person who told me, “everyone always tells me I should write a book,” I would be able to afford a very nice dinner. When I tell people I have written a book some of them indicate that they, too, would have written a book if only they wanted to. The point is, though, is that they haven’t written a book – because writing a book takes a long time, months, sometimes even years. Like any big goal, it requires sticking to it through the obstacles, both external and internal.
The lesson I learned in writing my first book was that a big goal takes patience. Just when you think you are almost done, you realize there is something else to do. Another chapter is needed to complete your ideas. Your editor sees a load of mistakes after you think a piece is almost perfect. You search for research details that you can’t find anywhere. It seems endless but you grow in patience.  If your dream is big, it is guaranteed to require patience to complete.

 

Life Lesson Three: Big Goals Require Learning

For years, one of the things that stopped me from writing and publishing my own book was formatting. I had read articles about how technical and complicated formatting was to learn.

Gradually, though, through talking to other self-publishers and joining author Facebook groups, I started to see through the veil. Formatting took some time to learn but others were doing it.

So, I learned how to format an eBook. And then a paperback for Createspace, all without buying any programs or paying any experts.

If you have abandoned your big goal because it seems like too much to learn, know that almost everything is learnable. In today’s age, especially, with YouTube videos and websites, you can learn almost anything. Whether it’s life skills, marketing or better grammar, you can develop expertise in the areas where you struggle. The old saying that a teacher appears when the student is ready is even more true in today’s Internet age.

 

So, what about you? Do you have a supposed impossible dream? Are you willing to revisit it? Or are you busy making one come true right now? What lessons have you learned along the way? Tell me below!

 

 

 

Sharilee Swaity met Bill Holland through Hubpages (where she was known as prairieprincess) and has admired him ever since as a person and a writer. She blogs at Second Chance Love, and has recently finished her book, Second Marriage: An Insider’s Guide to Hope, Healing & Love. She has an audiobook version of her book coming out soon. To get her free mini eBook on connecting with your spouse when you have no time, sign up here.

 

 

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Everything We Do Matters!

19 Sep

 

“Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath
and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

“Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep”

Lyrics by Dan Fogelberg from his song “Ghosts”

THE HEART AND SOUL OF A WRITER

That song is not about writers, but it has always spoken to me.  I think of my muse when I listen to it, how she speaks to me constantly, demanding of me that I record memories from my past, insisting that I create new stories, stories which will capture sixty-eight years of experience, pleading with me to choose just the right words so that my story becomes a story every reader can relate to.

We’ve all heard it said that there is a bestselling novel inside each of us.  That may be so, but not everyone can tell it properly.  A writer can.  A writer has the ability to take seemingly mundane occurrences and turn them into a captivating story.  A writer understands the common threads which weave through all human beings, and a writer uses those threads as connective tissue, bringing us all together, cementing our bonds, and adding to our common history.

It is magical when it happens, as you all know, and I feel blessed that it has happened to me, as you all surely understand.

SOMETHING REMARKABLE HAPPENED RECENTLY

I know a young man who recently took care of his father-in-law in a hospice situation.  He sat by the dying man’s side for two days, seeing to his needs, taking care of some really disgusting bodily discharges, and generally provided invaluable comfort to the man.  It was a remarkable display of humanness, an example of empathy we all could learn from.

I mention that because I believe the really good writers have such empathy. They understand the raw emotions inherent in our species, and they find a way, through words, to awaken those emotions.  This is the connective tissue I mentioned earlier.  We all have, and understand, emotions.  We all have, and understand, the five senses.  These are the things we, as writers, must use in order for our stories to be truly memorable to the reading public.  Without empathy, without an intense understanding of emotions, our words will fall short of our goal.

Remember that the next time you sit down to write.  Your words are not meant for a vacuum.  They are meant to be injected into the subconscious of the reader, and the only way you can accomplish that is to find the common thread we all share.

A FINAL NOTE

I’ll leave you with something my dad told me once which has stayed with me for fifty years.

My dad and his parents

“Everything you do matters, Bill,” he told me.

I try to remember that when I sit down to write.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

Vision-Hopping

12 Sep

Eerie!

That’s what a sky filled with smoke from nearby forest fires is like.  Eerie!  The sun, when visible, is red.  The air hard to breathe . . . ash falls from the sky, coating everything with a fine sludge . . . the sky seems to be falling, closing in on you from above . . . there is an ominous feeling of the supernatural at work that is hard to ignore.  People move slowly, unable to cast off the unseen chains of concern.

Observations from last week in Olympia, Washington.

For whatever reason, most likely some imprinted animal memory, I am taken back to my twelfth year, in Tacoma, Washington, ten at night, a cold night, and the Jackson home burning to the ground, a chimney fire consuming the house of five, all residents safe, the flames towering, the neighborhood aglow, and that ever-present stench of charred memories which seemed to hover above our block for months afterwards, reminding us all of dust to dust and the fragile nature of life.

Two weeks later my older sister gave birth to her third child, a girl, healthy, hopeful, radiant with happiness not yet stained by the struggles of life.

That same year a young girl by the name of Ann Marie Burr went missing, disappeared from her bedroom, eight she was, or perhaps nine, I don’t remember, round face, beautiful smile, here one moment, gone the next, a family shattered, never really to recover, her body never found.

Dust to dust!

Our paper boy that year, one Ted Bundy, who would go on to fame as a serial killer of young women.

Dust to dust!

The mind of a writer is a fertile ground.  Was my childhood all that remarkable? I don’t believe so.  I think most people, if they really concentrate on the past, will find inspiration awaiting them.  All they need to do is become receptive.

Writer’s block?  You’ve got to be kidding me!

A line from a song keeps playing in my mind today:

“Death is there to keep us honest,

And constantly remind us we are free.”

 

Maybe you’ll find some inspiration from that line.  Maybe not!

Someone I follow, another blogger, is contemplating giving it up and quitting writing.  Discouraged she is.  Can’t find a reason to continue, she says.  I find that sad.  What we do is important despite the lack of sales in this highly-competitive world.  Writers make a difference!

Have a great week of writing unless, of course, you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Writers Matter

5 Sep

The State of Montana is known as Big Sky Country.  I never really understood why until I went camping one time along the Yellowstone River.  Our campsite was located a good twenty miles from any real town or city, so ambient light was non-existent where we were.

That first night, laying on the ground in my sleeping bag, looking up at the stars, I finally understood why Montana had that nickname.  I had never seen so many stars in the sky as I saw that night. It was one of those sights which leave you gasping, and it was one of those sights which also leave you humbled.

I felt that way again three days ago when I received notice that my articles and stories have been viewed one-million times.

Unbelievable!

This isn’t a pat-on-the-back sort of post.  This is a “HOLY SHIT” sort of post.

There’s nothing special about me; at least I don’t think there is.  I’m just a guy, one of over seven billion on this planet.  I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and really lived a very “under the radar” sort of existence.  I never made the news.  I really never did anything that I consider noteworthy.  I’ve stumbled and bumbled my way through life, just like everyone else.  I eat, I sleep, I work, and I love.

So the realization that my words have been read over one-million times is amazing to me.  Thank God for the internet, right?  It has allowed a nobody like me to have friends in over fifty countries and in fifty states without ever leaving my writing studio.  It has allowed me to work on my craft and receive unbelievable support along the journey.

For an introvert like me, we are talking a huge bonanza I never expected.

My message to my writer friends: what we do has an impact.

When I first started out writing, I wrote a lot of articles about alcoholism.  It was only natural that I do so since I’m a recovering alcoholic, closing in on eleven years of sobriety.  Now I mention that because those articles were written seven years ago, and I’m still receiving emails from complete strangers, thanking me for those articles and telling me how much they have been helped by my words.

Complete strangers, helped by my words!

We make an impact with our words!

So treat this gift of writing with the respect it is due.

One million times!

Who would have thunk it?

Thank you, all!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”