May 152019

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!


Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

Apr 302019

With the ability to stream TV classics from almost any era, I’m not dating myself too much when I think about Ally McBeal’s quirky characters and their various adventures with theme songs. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a litigator who wasn’t ready for court until he heard bells… and someone who needed the attitude adjustment that came from channeling his inner Barry White. I did some work with Mark Victor Hansen, one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys and saw him come to the front of the room to either You’re Simply the Best or Soul Man.

So I recently asked a bunch of Facebook followers what sort of theme song they might recommend for a person who had a goal in mind but needed a little extra support in the “gigantic butterflies in the stomach” department. They’re some interesting folks and came up with some pretty good additions to a playlist. Or, maybe an entire playlist. You be the judge. And I’ve included a crazy number of links in this post; if you can stand all the YouTube ads, you can hear each of the songs.

What's YOUR theme song? Click To Tweet

Whenever I post about developing confidence or taking motivation to a higher level, I’m not surprised when Avon Superstar (also known as Captain Platinum) Lisa Wilber jumps in first. She gave us Reba’s  I’m Gonna Take That Mountain.

Some of the contributors offered deeply spiritual music: Thirty-one Gifts consultant Patricia Darley chose Made to Thrive.  Roslyn Evans — the co-owner and designer of exquisite jewelry at Earth and Moon Design — is inspired by This Little Light of Mine while another artist, Heather Maria, added Walk on Water.   Rachel Keiffer, the HealthNut Girl introduced some of us to a Hebrew song called the Song of Ascents.

Some of the women turned to their spiritual sides for musical inspiration. Click To Tweet

Intuitive healer and coach Robin Ann Reid offered This is Me.  and Suzie Cheel from down under tossed Happy, as well as Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s beautiful version of Over the Rainbow, into the mix.

And Lore Raymond from Florida’s gulf side led the charge for Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.  I don’t know about you, but “you can bend but never break me, ’cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal” rings true for so many of the important women in my life. And Vatsala Shukla reminded us of another “you’ve got this” anthem: such Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

You can bend but never break me... Click To Tweet

When it came time to pick up the tempo, Colleen added Sly and the Family Stone with You Can Make It If You Try while Michelle dished up a little Uptown Funk.   Author Beverly Golden joined Etta James to advise:  Trust Yourself.  And we can always count on Barb Parcells to bring us classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone.  I hope you like Josh Groban’s version as much as I do.

Many of these women have wonderful projects going; I’ve linked to their sites or Facebook pages so you can get to know them if you choose. In the meantime, I’m off to iTunes to buy a couple of these songs for one of my “you go, girl” lists!


Apr 262019

In a two week period, my good friend Nancy Blanton and I had tables at two of our favorite reader events — the Amelia Island Book Festival and, the following week, a similar event at the main branch of the Jacksonville Library. And, while displays and travel and schedules are a lot of work, there’s nothing quite like having the opportunity to check in with other readers and writers. “In the face,” as a favorite kiddo used to say.

So what is it that connects a writer of 17th-century Irish historical novels to someone who writes non-fiction? Aside from friendship, there’s the obvious connection of being sounding boards for one another. While there are writers who prefer feedback exclusively from those who write in their same genre, Nancy and I have found that sometimes a person who is completely on the outside sees more clearly and can give the most useful feedback.

There's nothing quite like having the opportunity to check in with other readers and writers. Click To Tweet

There is other, wonderful input that, while it comes too late for building an individual book, warms an author’s heart and inspires her to do more and better. Book festivals and ‘meet the author’ events can result in emails and conversations worthy of back cover placement. Readers are complimentary and very kind.

But despite a great love for others working to find the right lane within the publishing field, connecting with other authors can be difficult. It is especially difficult when we trade books.

It is heartbreaking to pick up a fellow indie author’s book, only to discover that her name has been misspelled… on… the… COVER! Or that there are major typos in the first two or three pages. Or that the majority of the story stayed in her head, never making it to the page.

That’s something that doesn’t have to happen but there are lots of indie authors who only request input from family and friends. Those folks tend to either rip a manuscript to shreds or offer feedback such as “I like it,” or “it’s good.” The intent is both loving and supportive but does nothing to help the writer avoid pitfalls, both major and minor.

What you may not know is that most members of the indie author community are co-operative and collaborative. We have figured out that, unless our ideal reader is one who only ever reads a single book, other authors are colleagues, not competition.

Nancy Blanton and David-Matthew Barnes are two indie authors I admire and love. Click To Tweet

Nancy Blanton and David-Matthew Barnes are two indie authors I admire and… well, actually, the best word to finish this sentence is “love.” Over the years of exchanging critique, advance reading, attending events, and otherwise just lifting and holding one another up, we have become friends. And, over those same years, so many of our conversations have revolved around how best to support other indie authors: how to improve the quality of what’s being published while steering writers with less experience away from some of the predators and pitfalls we’ve run into along the way. Eventually, the three of us formed Amelia Indie Authors: a slow-growing “passion project” for each of us. It’s a place where “this is good but it could be better” is a form of love.

So what’s a reader to do? How can you better support indie authors? First, if you run into an indie publication that has major issues, you can contact the author and let him know — privately and respectfully — about your concerns. You may not get a response or, if you get one, it might be defensive, but at least the information is available. People don’t know what they don’t know.

Second? All of the Amelia Indie Authors with blogs are listed (and linked) on the right-hand side of that site. Check them out. Read their blogs. Leave a comment. You might even enjoy their books!




Apr 232019

What do birdseed, potato eyes, and peach pits have in common? Not much — unless you share my obsession with letting things (and animals and people) grow to their highest potential.

For years I have kidded Favorite Husband about being the king of compost. He builds bins and saves scraps and carries the mess out of the house every day. And, when it’s time to plant things, he willingly shovels the stuff to its final destination. If not king, his efforts are worthy of some sort of title.

When we first moved to the South, my gardening efforts were, at best, pathetic. Aside from an abundance of painful sand spurs, I didn’t know what would grow. The Florida sun and I burned up a lot of plants. I struggled with the idea of my growing seasons having been turned virtually upside down. This former New Englander had a hard time learning to protect my plants in summer months and forgetting about the process in the fall.

I subscribed to an online permaculture group that encouraged me to take my time and to build soil where there was only sand. Not a patient person by nature, I found some solace in the fact that the fried plants could receive a second life by becoming part of the dirt, helping others to grow.

I found some solace in the fact that the fried plants could receive a second life Click To Tweet

Isn’t that a lot like what happens when humans begin to undergo a radical change of some sort? Initially, we rely on trial and error, going solo, and making a lot of needless mistakes. Like brandy new gardens in the South, there’s lots of getting burned. But, also like the garden, those mistakes eventually become food for growth. And, if we’re smart, we make our way to others for guidance. Ultimately, those who have been helped can provide shelter for others — perhaps to help them burn a bit less while they are beginning the journey.

But, also like the garden, those mistakes become food for growth. Click To Tweet

But you’re probably wondering about the birdseed and the peach pits. I sure would be.

Usually a competent gardener, I grew frustrated when it looked like things wouldn’t grow here. I tired of throwing good money after bad in search of seeds that would help our pitiful soil-building efforts. Well, those permies were right. Things eventually began to grow. I finally noticed that the seeds dropping from the bird feeder — the volunteers — seemed to develop a life of their own. Regardless of the feeder placement, those seeds sprouted and grew — sometimes even turning in to sunflowers.

The volunteers seemed to develop a life of their own. Click To Tweet

So, pragmatic at heart, I decided to sow birdseed on every single bare spot in the yard. And it worked. The effort was rewarded with tall seedy grasses, lots of sunflowers and a bunch of bees.

Finally on the right track, some of these rogue plants were tall enough to shelter other, smaller seedlings. Marigolds began to poke up through the dirt as did several herbs. Sprouted sweet potatoes and eyes from baby whites encouraged us to try more and different types of planting.

And the peach pits? They come from a prolific little tree, surpassing all expectations after recently moving to a less squirrel-friendly part of the yard. The fruit is tiny but delish; we can’t seem to let go of all of those lovely, fresh pits. Although we probably won’t be creating a peach orchard, we’ll figure out how to start some of them and give the tiny trees away to others.

Because you see, when a person or a thing is determined to grow, the best we can do is get out of the way and let it.



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