Are You a Writer or an Artist?

I got my first paid writing gig in 2007. For $5 a piece and a modest revenue share, I wrote about breast feeding, not breast feeding, diapers, binkies, playdates, teething, crib bumpers, carseats, carriers, and anything else that might attract ads in the crowded but coveted parenting space.

That writing wasn’t art, but the discipline of doing it taught me a lot about structuring online content, and SEO, and affiliate marketing, and HTML.

Along the way, I also learned about real writing. The arty stuff.

About a year in, a member of my writing group commented on a new new essay I’d submitted for critique– probably something about abject guilt over missing a piano recital.

He said, “All this Internet writing has made you a better [real] writer.”

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I tell the story to remind you, to remind myself: All writing counts.

Email, grocery lists, strongly worded notes to your children who don’t seem to know how the garbage disposal works.

Wordy and cliched journal entries.

Bulleted lists and doodles you make while you’re waiting for the conference call to just please end already I beg of you all.

All that is writing. Even when it’s not art.

It all counts.

But when you really want to communicate, whether an email to your boss or the first chapter in your personal act of literature, you need to practice getting your words and doodles and misbehaving thoughts pulled together.

That takes practice.

Elizabeth Ayers says that The Writer is the one who observes, records, scribbles snippets in a cheap spiral notebook (the only kind that’s worth a damn for writing by hand).

The Writer lives in right brain territory. No filters, just write.

But for material to become something that other people want or need to consume, The Artist has to get involved– to shape, translate, and transform.

The Artist imposes order. Hello, left brain.

This concept of The Writer and The Artist trashed my idea of right and left brain activity, of creative and logical work, of what is art and what is merely self-indulgence. (Not that there’s anything wrong with gazing at thy navel.)

When I learned the difference between The Writer and The Artist, writing finally made sense.

Some people get frustrated with writing because they expect The Artist to write their first drafts.

When these misguided writers’ thoughts hit the page, all out of sorts and messy as life, they tell The Writer she is stupid and she really should have saved her spiral notebook money for something more practical, like matches she can use to burn all those other stupid notebooks sitting in the drawer, holding all those other tangled ideas of hers.

That’s unfortunate.

Let The Writer write. And then let The Artist make art. Or silly stories, or well-crafted Facebook posts, or really badass emails.

The Writer gets to play.

The Artist needs to work.

But to get anything done, you’ve got to give both space, respect, and hold them accountable to DO something.

I’m not always an Artist. But I’m always a Writer.

 

Would you like to write and you don’t know where to start? Do you think the accountability and camaraderie of a writing group sounds like fun? Check out Second Story Writer’s Workshop. Guaranteed to get you writing.  


Lela Davidson

Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

We absolutely guarantee you that writers — new, old, lapsed, and those currently only dreaming of writing — will leave workshop sessions with ideas and drafts that are seeds for stories, poems, essays, articles, or entire books. Writers will also leave with concrete skills and tools they can use over and over again to keep the words moving onto the page.
second story writers workshop
Image Source: portrait by Jeremy Scott

Photo Credit: dgrosso23 via Compfight cc

Lead a Charmed Life

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My daughter finds four leaf clovers. Anywhere she goes, she can walk up to a patch of clover and find a four leafed one. Sometimes she’ll find a fiver or a sixer, as she calls them.

It’s rare, this gift for finding the exceptional clover, but to my daughter, this is an ordinary act. She is baffled that other people cannot see the special specimens.

“It’s easy,” she tells me. “All the other clovers only have three leaves, so you just look for the ones with four leaves.”

Gaby found her first four leaf clover on the playground in elementary school.

She found her first four leaf clover before the world told her not to get her hopes up.

She expects to find four leaf clovers, and so she does.

I was reading an old interview with Ariana Huffington the other day, where she introduced me to this Rumi quote:

“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”

My daughter’s four leaf clovers remind me that our fortunes are out there, just waiting for us to see them and pluck them up.

I hope they do the same for her.

 


Lela DavidsonI’d love to visit your group!

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: portrait by Jeremy Scottkaibara87 via Compfight cc

Who Gets to Be a Writer?

When I was a kid, I liked the idea of writing. I didn’t understand that most of writing is re-writing, so when my stories were plain and terrible, I stopped writing.

Somehow I always came back.

I was talking to a writer yesterday who said this thing she has said to me many times:

“All I’ve ever wanted is for other people to read my words.”

That definitely makes me feel like NOT a writer.

Because having others read my words is not all I’ve ever wanted.

I’ve wanted to create something and point at the finished product.

I’ve wanted to entertain and educate.

I’ve wanted the attention that comes from tapping into what others are thinking and showing it back to them, shined up and delivered with a laugh.

I’ve wanted to make sense of my own confusing thoughts.

I’ve wanted to vent on the page and come out the other side calmer.

I’ve wanted to master a craft that seems impossible, and at the same time I’ve appreciated that I’ll never be as good as I want to be, so I get to keep practicing forever.

Writing has been a lot of things to me. It’s the one thing that never gets boring. But having others read my words has never been my sole driving desire. There are so many other things to want, after all.

But a writer is someone who writes. Period.

You don’t have to write every day, or make money from writing, or even get published. Although all those things are nice, and I want them all the time.

My writing is not as consistent as it was when it was my JOB, but it still follows a similar pattern.

Every year, throughout the late fall and holidays, I get more creative. I spend more time writing, planning writing, playing with writing. Probably because I have more time to spend.

The rest of the year I’m pretty good at getting things done, at results, hitting deadlines and making logical connections in my writing. But in the fall I am more creative. I go deeper and bring more out of myself. I can accept, and also get past, the place where I write things like “bring more out of myself” which I would never say with my actual mouth but that somehow comes out in the shittiest of first drafts.

I get closer to my own voice. I get out of my own way. Plus all that other crap writers say.

And then January happens.

Every year it’s the same. I vow to be more creative, to write more in the coming year.

In March I open my journal to see it’s been months since I’ve written anything. Cue the the self-berating.

Why don’t I commit to writing? Do I even really want to write? Who am I trying to kid?

I’m no writer.

When I moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2004, the first thing I did was sign up for a class and join a critique group. I also sneaked out of work early every other Tuesday for an informal gathering of ladies who wrote together at Barnes & Noble.

While the more official writer’s group taught me the mechanics of writing and editing, the Tuesday group was focused on actual writing. We wrote together, on demand, and then shared that writing with each other, all of us responding to the same prompts. Those ladies got me because they were facing the same blank page I was.

Who knew what might come out?

I wanted that group experience again, so I started Second Story Writer’s Workshop.

That was the only way to get what I wanted the way I wanted it. I’m bossy like that.

The first class sold out, and the people who showed up were all kinds of writers: Newbies, old pros, those who wrote for pay and those who wrote to understand their feelings about an ex. Or a teenager. Or a best friend who no longer was.

Together we wrote about printer jams and mangrove trees, traveling preachers and homeless fantasies. We wrote about things we wanted and things we wanted no part of. We wrote poems and stories and plays. We were smart and sweet and vulgar. We wrote hundreds of pages between us.

When I look at my notebook now, it gets spotty in April, after the first Second Story session ended. But I’ve been writing more this year than in a long time.

I know others will continue to read and hear my words, even while I’m over here wanting all these other things. I never really know what’s next for me.

But I know I’ll figure it out on the pages of a cheap spiral notebook.

Would you like to write and you don’t know where to start? Do you think the accountability and camaraderie of a writing group sounds like fun? Check out Second Story Writer’s Workshop. Guaranteed to get you writing.  


Lela DavidsonSecond Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

I can absolutely promise you that writers — new, old, lapsed, and those currently only dreaming of writing — will leave workshop sessions with ideas and drafts that are seeds for stories, poems, essays, articles, or entire books. Writers will also leave with concrete skills and tools they can use over and over again to keep the words moving onto the page.
second story writers workshop
Image Source: portrait by Jeremy Scott

 

 

Have You Used Your Selfie Face Today?

This is part of the series “How to Have the Life Your Facebook Friends Think You Have” because why shouldn’t real life be as good as what we post to social media? This is also the basis of a talk that can be delivered as a keynote at your conference, or an interactive session. Guaranteed to get your group laughing and learning about work, life, and Faking Balance.

My closest friends and I get together once a year or so to conduct a Life Audit, which, if you have the chance, is a wonderful exercise, either with a group or on your own. You spend a few hours assessing and organizing all those things spinning around in your head, all those things you’d like to accomplish if you could only find the time, money, or grit to just get it done already. You look at long and short terms goals, as well habits you’d like to create. A Life Audit a great way to get focused and intentional. Playing with Sharpies and Post-It Notes is just a bonus.

The first time we got together, one friend identified smiling as a habit she wanted to practice. Awww, I thought. Poor thing. She’s unhappy. So she’s not smiling.

I didn’t get it.

Not until I ran across this quote (yes, I’m a sucker for quotes) attributed to Mother Theresa.

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~Mother Theresa

Well, duh. My friend wasn’t concerned about her personal happiness level at a given moment. She wanted to smile more, for other people. So simple. Such a noble pursuit.

And we do it every day for social media. Right?

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We are living in a selfie culture. Each smile flashed onto your Facebook profile meant to show the world how great a time you’re having. Posed, poised, taken, re-taken, and edited to reflect your momentary bliss and overall celebratory nature.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

We owe huge gratitude to social social media for teaching us which angles and expressions make for the most attractive and engaging images. Now, what if we used this new expertise for a slightly different purpose?

What adventures can a smile spark?

What would happen right now if you walked up to your spouse, your mother, your teenager, your boss– and flashed them your very best selfie smile? Your smile on steroids, infused with all your charm just for them in that real world feed of your actual day?

Sure, they might freak out the first time, but after that I guarantee you good things will happen.

Do try it, and report back! I’m dying to know what adventures your smile can spark.

Want a fun speaker that encourages your group to use their selfie faces with the people in the room? I have limited dates to speak to women’s groups in 2016. Contact me today to schedule this program!


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: portrait by Jeremy Scott

Frame the Shot

This is part of the series “How to Have the Life Your Facebook Friends Think You Have” because why shouldn’t real life be as good as what we post to social media? This is also the basis of a talk that can be delivered as a keynote at your conference, or an interactive session. Guaranteed to get your group laughing and learning about work, life, and Faking Balance.

 

My two favorite quotes about perfectionism are delightfully contradictory.

“Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

This one is attributed to Voltaire, but the idea was around long before he took credit for it. Too many of us are so paralyzed with the fear of creating or doing something imperfect, that we procrastinate doing anything at all. Too bad really, because so many things are good and so few things are perfect. And in my experience those perfect things are rarely made by puny humans. (Except, of course, whomever invented chocolate with salt in it.)

The other one that all of us virtuous Type A personalities know is from Jim Collins:

“Good is the enemy of great.”

Damn it, this one’s true too.

We can be so lazy.

So how to we balance our striving for great and also accept when something really is good enough?

It’s all a matter of perspective. Not only do we need to practice selective memory, we’d also be happier if we learned to frame up the shots of our own lives.

One girl’s spring picnic with the most adorable dogs in the world…

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Is another’s fast food on the side of the highway…

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Maybe, you hold out for the city park instead of a median, but in a pinch, any patch of grass will do.

You can absolutely find the fun and the “fine living” in just about any situation. It just depends on how you frame the situation.

Want a fun speaker that encourages your group to frame the shots in their memories as well as they frame the shots in their Facebook feeds? I have limited dates to speak to women’s groups in 2016. Contact me today to schedule this program. 


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: portrait by Jeremy Scott, I found those side-of-the-highway images here and would love to track down their rightful owner (possibly the Jon Henshaw referenced in the post? 

Curate Wisely

This is part of the series “How to Have the Life Your Facebook Friends Think You Have” because why shouldn’t real life be as good as what we post to social media? This is also the basis of a talk that can be delivered as a keynote at your conference, or an interactive session. Guaranteed to get your group laughing and learning about work, life, and Faking Balance.

Jack Kerouac said, “Be in love with your life, every minute of it.”

Total crap.

It’s just not a practical standard.

There’s a local business I frequent that uses the tag line, “Never settle for good enough.”

Please.

How do they know when anything is done?

The key to a having a great life–the life your Facebook friends think you have, the life where you are happy, active, and flying your freak flag in an attractive and not too freakish way, where you have all the friends and all the fun– the key to all this is curation.

Curation of your own memories, of what you spend time reviewing in the feed of your own imagination.

I don’t believe social media has not taught us anything new.

In 1944 Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters told us to “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.”

Today, we call that curation, and our newfound cultural obsession with sharing every detail the attractive details of our private lives has provided us plenty of opportunities to practice.

I recently went on a girls’ weekend. Here are the faces we showed to the world while enjoying a leisurely brunch:

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What we didn’t share:

  • The half empty off-brand shampoo bottle at the rental. (I’m trying, Airbnb, I really am.)
  • Mild to moderate disagreements about how to spend our time.
  • Searching for an ATM.
  • Searching for a parking spot.
  • Searching for our Uber driver.
  • Third world bathroom adventures at a “dancing establishment” which shall remain nameless, to protect the innocent (and those of us too advanced in age to be spotted there).
  • Mild to moderate foot pain from not packing the appropriate shoes.
  • Guilt about everything waiting for us at home, aka that line in between my eyes.

Not to mention our breezy Sunday morning walk, past shot-out store windows and fragrant men who were clearly in between homes.

I asked that we document this less glamorous moment of our journey.

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But of course, we smiled for the shot.

I assure you, these faces were arranged in a different way the moment before.

I love these women. I love that we got away from our daily routines and spent time together, making memories and enjoying each other’s company. I love that they alerted me before I went out in public that I had two pair of glasses on my head, and that I chose to keep both.

I was not in love with every moment of the weekend. (I didn’t even love the breakfast burrito.)

But I don’t have to remember all the moments that weren’t any fun. I get to remember all the moments that were. That’s curation.

Want to learn how to curate our real life memories as much as you curate our Facebook feed? I have limited dates to speak to women’s groups in 2016. Contact me today to schedule this program. 


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: Lela Davidson, Jeremy Scott

Stay on the Bus

City bus in Daejeon

I recently learned about the Helsinki bus terminal theory. It’s Finnish photographer Arno Minkkinen’s advice (he’s kind of a big deal) about attaining success in a creative career. The theory compares a body of creative work to the bus lines in Helsinki.

All the busses leaving the city travel a similar route through the city. Only after traveling a ways, stopping and starting again, do the busses branch off onto their unique paths. Artists are like these busses, Minkkinen contends, all traveling similar routes, learning from established forms, imitating our heroes even, until finally, after slogging along for a while, do we start to perceive and travel our unique route.

Stay on the bus.

Minkkinen says too many of us get frustrated when our work fails to be unique, or special, or deeply satisfying, early on in our pursuit of our craft of choice. But we don’t realize that everyone else is on the same bus route, so to speak, that we’ve all got to pass through the same terrain to get out of the city. So instead of staying on the bus, riding out our creative commute to get to the good stuff, we get off the bus, head back to the station, and get on a different bus, in search of our true journey, only to find ourselves on a similar route again.

Stay on the bus.

Some artists do this over and over, Minkkinen says, always starting something new, never getting past the same familiar ground that has been covered by countless others. He advises us to stay on our busses. We have to keep moving past the things we create that are similar to what others create, past our teachers and those we admire, past the easy, the obvious. We have to keep at our craft until we get to what is really ours and ours alone to create.

Only by traveling through the mundane and not so original, do we break free into our true journey.

Stay on the bus.

I like this theory.

Here’s the thing: Riding a bus in the city is the worst. Utter hell, on wheels. The diesel fumes, the people of various states of grooming, that weird sticky summer seat situation that makes you wonder why you’d ever allow any portion of your bare thighs to come in contact with a public surface.

So take precautions. Take one of those weird Michael Jackson face masks, an extra pair of earbuds, and for god’s sake, wear pants. Do what you have to do to endure that city bus ride. Do not be afraid that you got on the wrong bus. If you did, you’ll know. When you get out there past the city limits you’ll see where you are. You can get off and Uber back. It’s not a big deal. It’s not so scary.

It’s just art, kids.

Kindergarteners do it every day.

Stay on the bus.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Got Confidence? Quotes That Might Help

confidence quotes

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with giving us one of our most enduring quotes about confidence:

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

It’s true that all else equal, confidence can be the difference between success and failure, moving forward and staying stuck, or sending of hundreds of submissions only to receive what feels like thousands of rejections. Confidence is the difference between hot pink and beige.

“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”

This one is good to remember when you’re wondering if you need to speak up for the sake of speaking up, or if you (and everyone else) are better served keeping your mouth shut. Not that I would know anything about that.

“Confidence isn’t about ‘I know they will like me.’ It’s ‘I’ll be okay if they don’t.'”

I heard the author Claire Cook speak once at a luncheon. She told us, “I really, really, really want you to like me. But if you don’t, that’s okay too.” It’s okay to want to be liked, even to an excessive degree. What’s dangerous is a need to be liked. And since I am still slightly focused on Madonna, here’s another one of her quotes, which to me is very much related:

“Power is being told you’re not loved and not being destroyed by it.”

And finally, because I do love a good fried fish,

“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you.” Zig Ziglar

Go forth and be confident, friends. Think big.


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson speaking

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

I’m Not the Best at Anything, Just Like Madonna

not the best

I’m obsessed with Madonna lately because I got to see her in concert this month. I’ve been a casual fan, at best, over the years, but I’ve always admired Madonna. I’ve actually lived by a quote of hers since 1991. These words have shaped me, encouraged me, set a path for me to follow. The quote represents a quarter century of influence.

“I know I’m not the best singer, and I know I’m not the best dancer. But I work the hardest.”

What amazing advice. What a freeing outlook. Who cares about raw talent? Take what you’ve got and run with it. Take advantage of every opportunity to do all that you can to pursue your dreams. This was my mandate, direct from Madonna to this young Madonna-wannabe.

Except, she never said that, exactly.

For 25 years, a Millennial’s entire lifetime, the time it takes to grow a damn fine tree, I’ve had the quote all wrong.

Typical me.

The actual quote goes like this:

“I know I’m not the best singer, and I know I’m not the best dancer. But I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in pushing people’s buttons, in being provocative. In being political.”

Oh.

That’s very different.

Fortunately we did not have the internet in the dark ages of the turn of the 90s. If we had, I could have Googled Madonna’s exact words and then used some app to make a snazzy image with a fishnet background and a crucifix centered over the text. I would have posted this on Instagram and declared to the world that this was the quote I’d live by for the year. Or 25, as it turned out.

Instead, I heard what I needed to hear.

I heard that it wasn’t critical to be the very best at anything. Success was for anyone who worked for it. Here was Madonna, dominating American pop music, and she believed she was not the best singer and dancer. She told me that I didn’t have to have ridiculous talent to make pursuing my dreams worthwhile. (Ridiculous goals still required.) She told me there was room enough for all of us to be successful, not just the super talented ones.

“I know I’m not the best singer, and I know I’m not the best dancer. But I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in pushing people’s buttons, in being provocative. In being political.”

All those years I thought the quote was about working hard for things, wanting them so badly you figured out how to make them happen.

As I interpret Madonna’s words now, they seem to be about defining success for yourself, and I wonder if this new and improved (old and accurate) quote will mean as much to me over the next 25 years.

At the concert, just before performing an acoustic version of “Who’s That Girl?” Madonna said something to the effect of still being a “confused soul,” except she used a much more fun and colorful word for soul. She asked if we aren’t, all of us, always just trying to figure out who we are? I wish I’d written it down, but I was too busy being moved.

Also, I’m not good with quotes, apparently.

Maybe I got this one wrong too. Maybe Madge was talking about drag queens or the Illuminati. I don’t know. But I’m fine if I heard it wrong. It made me feel better. Not because Madonna was admitting she didn’t have it all figured out, I’m pretty sure none of us do, but because she had the courage to stand on a stage and say it out loud. You might say she has nothing to lose, but I’d argue she’s got plenty.

I was never the best analyst or the girl who knew every IRS code. But I was damn good at those jobs. I’m certainly not the best writer or speaker, but what a boring world we’d have if only the best used their voices. And we’d be crushed if only the best stepped up to lead, or to parent. So I try, I do, I fail, I repeat.

I don’t have to be the best anything. Pressure’s off.

Express yourself.


I’d love to visit your group!

Lela Davidson speaking

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs.

 

 

 

Image Source: Lela Davidson

Attention Book Clubs: Choose a Funny Book and Invite Me Over

Choosing a funny book for book club is the best way to ensure you will be the most popular hostess in your book club. And what better way to improve your social standing? Smarts AND smirks. There are plenty of reasons to choose a funny book for book club. I wrote three whole books to help you do just that. Why? Well…

  • Do you ever wonder how a spreadsheet might aid in the conception of a child?
  • Have you been banned from a dog park?
  • Is frozen lasagna integral to your idea of work-life balance?

You might need to read my books.

And invite me to your book club meeting. It’ll be fun, I promise.


I’d love to visit your book club!

book club meeting

Need a fun visitor for your next meeting? Invite me to join via Skype, Google Hangout, or whatever fancy tech you know how to work. I will bring my own wine and the stories behind the stories. You didn’t think I shared everything in the books, did you? Hit me up and let’s get your book club meeting on the calendar!