Changes

Labor Day, the unofficial transition between summer and fall, is a time of change. Kids go from the carefree days of summer back to the reality of school and the changes that happen every year. For adults, it means the end of vacations and back to the grindstone. If you live here in the north, leaves start changing and slide into winter begins.

This Labor Day has marked a number of changes for me. Right before I left for Labor Day weekend, a reorganization at work has me managing people for the first time in my career. Second, and more importantly, my wife and I took my son to college this past weekend so we are now officially “empty nesters”. This Labor Day has been a clear demarkation between the way things used to be and a different reality.

So What The Hell Does This Have To Do With Your Writing?

It has everything to do with my writing. In The Reluctant Captain, Malcolm has to deal with the change of becoming captain. And in a perverse sense of life imitating art,  I’m beginning that same journey. In the next book, The Reluctant Agent, I think you can deduce from the title that yet another change is in store for Malcolm. This change is not necessarily to his liking and echoes frustrations that I’ve had in my career. My story is going in one direction while Malcolm’s is propelled in the opposite direction. People like to say that when visualize something, you bring it into being. Maybe my work on The Reluctant Captain and now The Reluctant Agent has brought that change into my life. Or maybe it’s just serenedity.

So What’s Up with The New Book?

I’m still revising. I got detoured in August getting ready for my son’s departure. I think I have one or two more passes through before I’ll take it out for others to see. I’m shooting for a Spring 2018 release and I should be able to do it now that I’m an empty nester. Or the new job responsibilites will suck up my time. Time will tell!

Anything Else?

I’m planning on participating in Indie Author Day again this year on Saturday, October 14. I don’t have any definitive plans, but watch for more news here.

And again, please sign up for my email list! There’s a handy dandy sign up just to right over here. I want to keep in touch with anyone who reads my books and blog. So please sign up!

Happy Journeys and Embrace the Change!

Mike

 

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The Relationship Between the Author and the Reader

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, I listen to Sarah Werner’s podcasts Write Now!  and its companion,  Coffee Break regularly and am a big fan. On the most current episode of Coffee Break (available here), she interviewed author Ryan Dalton. In their discussion, Mr. Dalton mentioned that he was disappointed when a writer he followed tweeted about a crappy day at his non-writing day job. He felt that it broke the “brand” of the author and was inconsistent with the image that writer typically portrayed.

What Should the Relation Be Between an Author and Reader?

While I get Mr. Dalton’s point, I don’t share that opinion. I follow a couple of authors on Twitter and on their blogs. I love it when I get to peek behind the curtain and see the big time authors have the same struggles as me: finding time to write, struggling to get words out…the whole topsy-turvy world of writing. As a reader, I think we often put our favorite authors on mental pedestals. I like getting to see the glimpses that they wish to share with their readers.

Building a Community

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I read Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.  The other night, I noticed my copy of Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir and the parallels between the two books really struck me. Both books describe how Ms. Palmer and Ms. Day built communities where they shared their projects. They both interact with their fans and encourage interaction with their fans. I think the only way you can have that kind of community is to share yourself with your community. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I think if I can build a community, that would be my definition of success as a writer.

In The Spirit of Sharing

I just got back from a weeklong vacation in the Adirondacks with my wife’s family. It was the perfect balance between relaxation and activity – something I don’t always achieve. The Great America Road Trip of 2016 was certainly all activity as the goal was to visit the colleges and other attractions in the three weeks we had….Alright, who am I kidding, it was a three-week excuse to do Star Trek activities. We did some of the typical tourist attractions, rode a boat up the lakes. And most importantly to you (I hope), I finished the first revision of The Reluctant Agent, my next book. It still has more work to go, but I have it in a form that has mostly complete sentences and real words (while I’m a writer, I’m a terrible typist). I’ve been back to work and I’m not going to complain about that simply because complaining about work is universal. While work certainly helps define who I am, I don’t let it define me completely. I’m an engineer, but I’m also a musician, a writer, a father, a son, and many other things. There’s a great line in the musical Working (adapted from the novel by Studs Turkel) where one of the characters says:

“Jobs aren’t big enough for people. When you ask most people who they are, they define themselves by their job. I’m a doctor. I’m a radio announcer. I’m a carpenter. If someone asks me, I say, I’m Amanda McKenny. At certain points in time, I do things for a living.”

In the spirit of community, please join my email list. You can do it at the handy dandy signup are on the right. I certainly won’t inundate you with email because right now, I have approximately four people in the list. To the four people who did sign up, thank you! And please feel free to leave comments – I try to approve them as soon as I can, but if you leave a comment during the East Coast workday hours, there’s a good chance I won’t get to it until the evening. But I’d love discussion and feedback, so feel free to leave comments.

Until next time,

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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The Writer’s Equivalent of Winning the Lottery, Part II

With San Diego Comic Con right around the corner, I remembered this post from two years ago: The Writer’s Equivalent of Winning the Lottery. In it, I wish for my book to be a best seller, getting to do signings, seeing it made into a good movie, and getting to speak at some sort of conference. I wrote this only four months after my book came out.

So I decided to re-examine that dream. While I still would love to have all of that come true, the past two years have shifted those dreams.

What Do I Want Now?

Here are things that I think are my equivalent of winning the lottery:

  1. Having a Community of Passionate Fans – I follow a bunch of writers on Twitter and I watch their fans interact with them (I’ve been known to interact with a couple myself). And reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, I’m struck by how she built her success by building a community. Interacting with people and sharing our passions. This sort of covers the desire to do signings and speak at a conference. It’s really the chance to interact with people. I think that I would enjoy that more than being a best-selling author – but please note, I’m not turning that option down. That would be good too!
  2. Having Time to Write Consistently – This past Spring, I was able to make time to write on a more consistent basis, but since June, that hasn’t happened. Some of it is the season – I play in two community bands and then attend the Music At The Park concerts in the park across from my house. There are three nights of the week gone. Work has also been demanding and we’re preparing to send our son off to college for the first time.
  3. Taking Writing Retreats – I did this for the first time in the Fall of 2016 and I really liked it. I was truly by myself and got a fair amount of work done. I think I would love to go on one of those workshop/retreats where you spend the day writing and then gather with everyone else to talk about the day’s work. But with college tuition on the horizon, I think these may be few and far between.

What Am I Going To Do About This?

Since these are relatively modest goals, I think I can take steps to make these happen:

  1. Blog More and Reach Out On Social Media More – If you try to follow this blog, I’m horrendously inconsistent in blogging. I don’t tend to write if I don’t feel I have a topic. But I’m going to commit to writing more on the blog, even if it’s to discuss books I read, movies I’ve seen, etc. I want to encourage a discussion. I’ve also joined an online writing group and I’m trying to be active without feeling like I have to comment on every single thing. And I think I’m getting the hang of the Twitter thing, so look for me to be more active there.
  2. Writing More Consistently – This will be the hardest of the three tasks. I just need to make some iron clad time in my schedule to write. Maybe start writing first thing in the morning. I’ll keep you posted as to how well this works.
  3. Writing Retreats – This may have to wait, but in the mean time, I’ll keep saving my pennies. Since I often get paid to play music, I tend to funnel that money back into my writing, so I might be able to swing one through that. If not, I’ll look for mini-retreats on the cheap – like a day at Barnes & Nobles. I live in the middle of nowhere, so there aren’t many options for coffee shops.

I still haven’t given up hope that Felicia Day got my book, might yet read it and give it Joss Whedon. I think it has to have a better chance than winning the actual lottery.

Felicia, I hope you can make it happen! Until then, I’ll aspire to more modest goals.

Happy Journeys!
Mike

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The Fraud Police: Who the Heck Do I Think I Am?

And once again, I look up from my keyboard, and three months have passed since I wrote a blog entry. This summer seems more hectic than usual: first, there were preparations for my son’s high school graduation and party. We’ve now also entered the time when my second artistic career (musician) kicks into high gear with community band concerts. And we’re planning for the departure of my son for college.

But in the middle of this, I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY NEXT NOVEL!!! It took over two years of inconsistent effort, but it’s completed. Now the fun of editing! No ETA as to when it will be fit for human consumption, but I’ll let you know when I know.

And now to start the blog proper…

The Fraud Police

This blog post was inspired by a convergence of events (which often seems to happen). I’m currently reading The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. While I’m reading that, I also caught an episode of Sarah Werner’s podcast Write Now entitled  Self-Writing and Self-Talk available here and wherever fine podcasts are available.

Who Are The Fraud Police?

Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help grew out of her TED Talk of the same title which you can see here. In her book, she describes The Fraud Police; her visualization of the imposter syndrome. Here’s her definition:

“The Fraud Police are the imaginary, terrifying force of ‘real’ grown-ups who you believe – at some subconscious level –  are going to come knocking on your door in the middle of the night, saying:

We’ve been watching you, and we have evidence that you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING. You stand accused of the crime of completely winging it, you are guilty of making shit up as you go along, you do not actually deserve your job, we are taking everything away and we are TELLING EVERYBODY.”

This passage really hit home with me on so many levels. I feel like I’m constantly trying to elude capture by The Fraud Policy. This feeling hits me hardest when I’m playing in the pit orchestra for a musical. Almost everyone else in the orchestra is or was a music teacher meaning they took years of music classes. I feel like I’m largely self-taught because due to freakish timing, I had 6 different band teachers in 6 years. My music education was messed up to be sure. I strongly considered going to college to be a music teacher, but I found computers and that was that.

So, I sit there, surrounded by all of these professionals and I wait for The Fraud Police to take me away because I don’t have all of that training. I can usually rise above it, but when thrown into a situation like that, I almost feel like I have to apologize for being part of the group.

And Now The Other Shoe

Right after reading about The Fraud Police, I listened to Sarah’s podcast. The message of that podcast was to treat yourself the same way you would treat someone else. Don’t call yourself an idiotic, untalented hack. You likely wouldn’t say that to anyone else, why should you say it about yourself?

And that’s when it occurred to me how the two are interrelated. The Fraud Police are definitely inciting the riot in your mind that tells you that you’re no good, no one wants your work, and to quote Chris Farley’s character, Matt Foley, you’ll end up “living in a van down by the river!”

How Do You Evade The Fraud Policy?

I’m not sure I have any real answers because I feel like I’m constantly being chased by The Fraud Policy in all my endeavors. Here are things that sometimes work for me:

  • Join a group – I’m not much for joining discussion groups, but one thing that’s helped me on the writing side is joining the I Am A Writer. group on Facebook. Meeting people who are at various stages of their writing journey had helped me see where I am on my writing journey. It made me realize that I had learned a thing or two so maybe I wasn’t such a fraud after all.
  • Give Yourself A Little Love – This is where Sarah’s podcast comes in. Try to remember that you should talk to yourself the same way you would talk to someone else. I know this sounds a little Stuart Smalley (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”). In Sarah’s podcast, she suggests trying to write yourself as a character, treating yourself fairly, adding the good and the bad. In another podcast, Sarah suggested getting business cards that say you are a writer…and that’s exactly what I did. I gave them away at the local Arts Festival, but I have one sitting on my desk at home and my cubicle at work to remind me.
  •  Just Keep Swimming – Dory’s quote from Finding Nemo is truly words to live by. Just keep trying. There’s something about that phrase “faking until you’re making it”. If you just keep doing whatever it is, you will get better, and very slowly, you begin to see The Fraud Police as a figment of your imagination. I’ve now finished writing two books. In my head, that means, yes I’m a writer. Writing a book could be a fluke, but finishing the second one to me means that I am a writer.

You Have the Right To Remain Exactly How You Are

I hope that I’m not alone in my fugitive status from The Fraud Police. I try to follow my own advice and most of the time, it works. But there are days when I do get caught by The Fraud Police and I just wallow in despair.

But today, I’m Mike Tefft – a geek, a musician, and a writer.

Happy Journeys!
Mike

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Hi Diddly Dee, the Writer’s Life For Me…

“So I’ve decided, I’m going to become a world renowned writer.
I shall write great books and earn barrels of money and I will give you all
everything you’ve ever dreamed of!”
Jo – from the musical Little Women

I’ve been horribly remiss in posting here. I really have no excuse other than I’ve been struggling with writing. I haven’t had as much time as I had hoped to write and when I have, it’s been hard to get words onto the paper. I don’t know why – I’ve really wanted to write but when it was time, I seemed to be earning my title of “Reluctant Author”. The words that came out, came out slowly and haltingly.

I also just finished playing in the orchestra for a production of the musical Little Women. Every night, I heard Jo give the above line. And every night, I heard that line and couldn’t help but laugh. It also reminded me of the scene at the end of Down With Love where Renee Zellweger launches in to her monologue about how she would make Catcher Block fall in love with her by writing a New York Times best seller.

It just sounds so easy – “I’m going to write a best selling book!” And while I had no illusions that I would write a best seller, The Reluctant Captain came out of a single batch of condensed writing – about three months from start to completion of the initial draft. I think I had the beginner’s attitude that it looks easy and you just have to do it. I’ve experienced this in other areas of my life where I tried to do something new. I thought I knew what I was doing and I just did it. Later, I realized just how little I knew and when I tried to do it again, I found myself second guessing myself and somewhat paralyzed by knowing what I didn’t know.

Maybe that’s been my problem; maybe I don’t like where the story is going; or maybe I’m just being lazy. I think I’m working through my reluctance. In the new book, I have more work changing scenes and getting characters to and fro and I’m finding it taxing. I think I’m getting past this and that I’ll be able to drive to the end. Then of course, editing starts!

But despite how miserable it feels to stare at the screen and barely get a couple of hundred words out, I don’t think I’d change it. Pamela Slim, a respected business writer, once told me that writing a book is hard; having written a book is great (I hope I got that right Pam). I have to agree with her – the work can take you back to your high school or college days where you had a paper or essay due and all you had was an empty page and no idea where to begin. Some days it’s magical and the words can’t get on the page fast enough; other days feel like sheer drudgery. I shouldn’t complain because it’s not like I’m doing back breaking work, but it is tiring.

So here’s to powering through to the end and following Jo’s lead to become a world renowned author!

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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2016: It Was The Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times

So another year is almost over and I guess I will bow to the tradition of reviewing the past year. And when I think of 2016, it could be best summarized by the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities.

The Worst of Times

I know I’m not alone when I say that much of 2016 was just plain awful. We’ve lost so many talented actors and musicians this year that it borders on the ridiculous. The election process was absolutely painful with all of the divisive, hateful rhetoric.  For the first half of the year, I was working tons of overtime and not feeling very appreciated at work which made me feel stressed and miserable. And of course, that led to little time or energy to write. I tried many times to change my situation at work with no results. In many ways, I couldn’t wait to see the back side of 2016.

The Best of Times

But starting in the summer, things changed. The biggest change came with The Great American Road Trip that I detailed in this blog. I saw sights that I’m not sure I would ever see like Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Crazy Horse Monument, and Old Faithful. The time (and probably the distance) gave me a different mind set and certainly did much to reduce my stress and change my mood. In addition, we also traveled to Kingston, Ontario as part of the college visit process and got to have haggis, just like Malcolm.

This year (in which Star Trek and I share the same “anniversary”), I indulged my love of Star Trek to an unprecedented degree. We toured the Star Trek:Exploring New Worlds exhibit at the Experience Music Project in Seattle; made a pilgrimage to Riverside, Iowa to visit the future birthplace of James T. Kirk; and travelled to the Intrepid Air & Space Museum to take part in the Starfleet Academy Experience to celebrate my birthday.

Professionally, things finally changed with a promotion and a slight shift in responsibilities. Now, I don’t loathe going to work. Don’t get me wrong; if I won the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn’t be sticking around very long. But I’m not unhappy – which for those who know me, is a very new thing.

And on the writing front, I didn’t finish The Reluctant Agent. In fact, I’m barely past the halfway point of the first draft. But I had my very first signing at a Barnes & Noble, I took part in the inaugural Indie Author Day, and I had my very first writing retreat. So, it was a big year for me as a writer, even if I didn’t write as much as I hoped.

And What of 2017?

What about 2017? I’m not going to make resolutions for 2017, but I have a few goals for 2017:

  • Finish and publish The Reluctant Agent – I am having a writing retreat at home to begin 2017 (my family is at a student theatre festival) so I’m hoping that it will be the catalyst to finish the first draft.
  • Post more frequently (and predictively) on this site – time will tell…
  •  Be mindful of life and take advantages of all of its gifts and opportunities – with all of the deaths this past year and the significant milestone I reached this year, it really reminded me that life is never guaranteed.

I’d like to end the year by thanking everyone who read my blog this year; I hope to see you again 2017!

And I’d like to close by wishing everyone an exceptional 2017! Let’s make 2017 kick 2016’s sorry ass!

Happy journeys,

Mike

 

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