Thursday, January 16, 2014

Joyce Alton shares Why She Writes

My friends at Agent Query Connect are doing blog hops this month.  I've agreed to visit two folks, and a couple of them have some posts for us here.

Today's guest is Joyce Alton, a Moderator for the Speculative Fiction Group at AQC.  She hatches all sorts of fun things for the members of Speculative Fiction group.  I am honored to have her visit The Write Time and share with us why she writes.

 Why Do You Write

Why do you write? Two or three reasons probably pop into your head right away. I get asked the question and I draw a blank. At first anyway.

Some of the usual answers you get from others are: to get published, to share their ideas, they love books, it fulfills a need, or they want more of a certain kind of book.

I went to a writers’ conference as a child and the one piece of information that has stuck with me through the years since is that there are no new ideas. We play off each other, twist tropes, create new angles, or spoof others’ stories. I hated this concept, by the way, and wanted to reject it. That’s probably why I remember it so well. It’s why I try my best not to make my stories like other ones I’ve read, seen, or heard.

With thousands of other people putting down their stories and trying to share them these days, I suppose the question of “why do you write?” comes up a lot. To start with, I don’t believe the question should open up competitiveness, condemning one person’s reason in order to justify someone else’s reason.

I draw a blank because I didn’t have a reason at first. I’m one of those annoying people who’ve been telling and writing stories since they could first communicate. I grew up in a home where my mom wrote, I had aunts and uncles who wrote, and great-aunts and uncles, second cousins … you get the picture. Genetics had more to do with it than anything.

As a child writer, I enjoyed making up stories and sharing them with other people. Mom always read her stories out loud to us; so again, I recognized that stories were meant to be shared. Other children and teachers were the best audiences. They enjoyed what I wrote.

The downside to having literary minded relations is that you don’t get such adoring feedback. You get challenged, stretched, and grow as a writer. An older cousin—my best friend—also wrote and we beta read for each other. I learned the concept of critiquing and being critiqued from her. We even wrote a book together. I’m chagrined now to realize that she drew upon the works of other writers for her inspiration and I naively thought she was so original and brilliant. She was certainly more well-read than I in those genres. Not that she plagiarized, but reading through the material now, I can see where other authors heavily influenced what she wrote. She also had great voice and style and she pushed me to develop a voice of my own.

I was in my teens by then and I wrote stories to try to get a flawless critique back from my cousin. As I gained other writing friends, the same reason drove me. I wrote to please my audience and what they wanted. But at the same time, I was starting to ask myself what I wanted to read. I read certain genres but gravitated toward others when I sat down to write. Why was that?

In my late teens to young adult years the answer to that was: because I don’t care much for what has been written, even though I enjoy the elements of those genres. I wanted to write what someone like me would want to read. And I did. These were my most prolific years. And I found that I could still please and surprise the other people who had read my work, however, I also discovered that what I like to read and what others like to read aren’t always going to be the same thing. I had detractors who subjectively didn’t like my style, my scenarios, or even my characters. They were few, yet I’m grateful to them for helping me understand this side of the nature of writing and sharing.

Then I left home and I didn’t write for a decade.

I think I jotted down a couple of story ideas during that time. I didn’t have a computer, I was working two jobs, going through school, trying to be a responsible adult, and experiencing the fullest social life I’d ever known. I didn’t read much during that time either, unless textbooks and other nonfiction count. I was living, storing up ideas, always intending to go back to writing, but never actually making it.

It wasn’t until that decade had passed, I had become a wife and mother, and my life had taken another set of turns that I picked up writing again. I’ve been going full steam since. I write now because it’s therapeutic, it helps me escape, it helps me deal with the grimmer realities of life, because it gives me power. It’s a thrill one moment and makes me a slave the next. I’m always anxious to be working on my writing and I’m always brainstorming. I have a good life balance worked out now but if anyone were to ask me what I wanted to do for fun if I could do anything, the answer would be writing. I love to create and explore. I love the challenge of trying to reach an older and tougher audience. And there’s still nothing as satisfactory as having someone read your work and then say, “Give me more!”

My reasons for writing have changed through the years and I expect they will continue to the older I get.

And as there are no wrong answers, why do you write?

Visit Joyce Alton's blog  Yesternight's Voyage.  She has all kinds of great advice, ideas, and general information.

Thanks for hopping over to my blog, and the best of luck with all your endeavors.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Dr. Alan Zimmerman puts out a weekly Tuesday's Tip.  I've been late posting because I've been trying to come up with setting goals in a way that makes sense.  Dr. Zimmerman has a very good post on such a topic, so I defer to his wisdom.

Dr. Alan Zimmerman's Tuesday's Tip 

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
In 1994, I remember watching Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in their movie, "Dumb and Dumber" and thinking this is really stupid.  Why am I wasting my time watching something so idiotic?  Perhaps you felt the same way.  But that did not stop the movie from making lots of money, so much so that the sequel called "Dumb and Dumber To" is coming out in late 2014. it hit me ... sometimes I'm just as dumb as the characters in that movie.  And as strange as it may seem, that's what success can do to you -- make you so dumb that you think you can skip the fundamentals in life or in business.
For example, I speak to a lot of sales audiences.  And invariably there are some people in the audience who have become so successful they think they can skip the tough things they used to do when they first got started ... such things as prospecting, cold calling, rapport building, and relationship building.  They think they can sit back, take it easy, and just wait for the orders to come in.  DUMB!  If they take that kind of approach, they will soon find themselves with fewer customers and fewer sales.  You've got to keep practicing the fundamentals.
And sometimes I've been too dumb to do that.  For instance, I believe in goal setting.  And I teach it with passion because I know that the person with goals will achieve a great deal more than the person without goals.  Indeed, the people who attend my "Journey to the Extraordinary" are constantly telling me how my goal-setting process has changed their lives.  
Despite all of my academic knowledge, real-life experience, and thousands of testimonials from my "students," it's hard to believe how stupid I can be ... once in a while.  Occasionally, I've fallen into the trap of achieving so much success that I fooled myself into thinking I could skip the fundamentals of figuring out my goals.  I just kept on working and assuming that everything would fall into place.  Well, life doesn't work that way.  
And I don't want you to fall into that dumb and dumber trap.  So there are two things you've got to do when it comes to goals and goal setting.
1.  Assess where you've been.
Before you even think about the goals you want to achieve, take a moment to assess your life, work, relationships, goals, and achievements in the last 12 months.  Take a look at when you were on course, living the life and doing the work you truly wanted, and when you were off course.  

The following "Yes-No" questions will give you a quick answer.  Take a moment to write the word "yes" or "no" by each question.
  • When I think about 2013, did I experience personal renewal and revival in my life?
  • When I think about 2013, did I experience as much joy, fun, and pleasure as I would like?
  • When I think about 2013, was I living in a state of peace?
  • When I think about 2013, did I see time as a blessing rather than a curse in my life and in my work?
  • When I think about 2013, did I make enough time for rest, relaxation, prayer, and reflection?
  • When I think about 2013, were the relationships with my friends as good as I would like?
  • When I think about 2013, did I experience enough depth and intimacy in my closest relationships?
  • When I think about 2013, did I keep my promises?
  • When I think about 2013, did people find it easy to trust me?
  • When I think about 2013, was I actively involved in mentoring, coaching, or helping others to grow and improve?
  • When I think about 2013, was my family happy?
  • When I think about 2013, was I eating and sleeping well?
  • When I think about 2013, did I have a positive vision for my future?
  • When I think about 2013, was I living "with" success rather than dying "to" success?
  • When I think about 2013, did I take enough risks in pursuit of the better things in life, at home, and at work?
Obviously, the more "yes's" you had, the better your life was.  And chances are you had some specific, meaningful, written goals that helped you achieve your high levels of success.  If you answered with too many "no's," chances are you weren't goal focused.  
Answer those questions, and then find a few minutes to take a deeper assessment of where you've been.  Use my colleague Joel Weldon's 7 questions.  Ask yourself:
1.      What was your biggest success in 2013?
2.      What was the best decision you made in 2013?
3.      What was the most important lesson you learned in 2013?
4.      What made you the happiest in 2013?
5.      Who had the greatest positive impact on you in 2013?
6.      What were you most grateful for in 2013?
7.      If you could re-live 2013, knowing now everything that happened, and everything you did to make things happen the way they did, what would you do differently?
Take an assessment of where you've been so you're ready to...
2.  Set your goals.
For years, I took a day during the last week of the year to sit down ... or walk the beach ... and think about my goals for the upcoming year.  Once I decided on my goals, AND ... AND ... AND ... wrote them down, I almost always achieved them.  Every one of them.  My financial goals, health goals, relationship goals, business goals, educational goals, and spiritual goals.  

When I became super successful, however, I got sloppy.  I told myself that I didn't have to go through the mundane task of assessing where I had been in the previous year and writing down my goals for the upcoming year.  After all, I had it made!  Whenever I did that, however, my results and my achievements always took a nosedive.  That's how stupid I had become.
But not anymore.  I know I have to write down my goals ... and so do you.  If you don't know how to do it, come to my "Journey to the Extraordinary" program this May 1-2, 2014 in Dallas.  But get started NOW by answering these questions.  Some of them come from my esteemed colleague Art Sobczak and some of them came from me.  Your answers will lead you towards the goals you want to set for 2014.
  • What will you do to improve your physical health in 2014?
  • What are you going to do every day to keep your attitude at a high level?
  • How much time are you going to spend each day improving your professional skills? What will you do?
  • How are you going to maximize the use of your time? Where will you cut out the time-wasters in each day?
  • What have you been putting off that you will take care of within the next two weeks?
  • Who can you help to feel special every day?
  • What challenge, wish or desire--that you've never attempted before--will you finally achieve in 2014? How will you do that? Why?
  • In which areas will you improve your personal, family, and spiritual life?
  • Where are you going to write all of this down so you can review and revise your plans regularly?
  • What will it LOOK like when you accomplish everything you've just been thinking about?
  • How good will it FEEL?
  • What will it SOUND like when you achieve these things?
  • Which of the energy suckers in your life (certain people, relationships, tasks, etc.) are you willing to eliminate or resolve this year?
  • What will you do to live your life "on purpose" instead of by accident?
You and your life and your work and your relationships are too important to be left to chance.  So don't do it.  Don't become a part of the millions who could star in the movie sequel "Dumb and Dumber To."  Take time to set your goals now.
Take the "yes or no" quiz listed above.  What is your gut reaction to your answers?  Do you feel like celebrating or do you feel like it's time to make a change?

Copyright © 2014
Zimmerman Communi-Care Network

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Five Lessons for the New Year

I've seen these lessons before, but I received all five in an e-mail.   They seem appropriate for the new year.  

1 - First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor
gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student
and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the
Cleaning woman several times. She was tall,
Dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if The last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor.. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello.."

I've never forgotten that lesson.. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway, trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A
special note was attached.

It read:

"Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along.

Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's' bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."


Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those who serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, A 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table.. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.
"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient..

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins.

"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies..

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 - Fourth Important Lesson. - The obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.

Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by
And simply walked around it.. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables.. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had
been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts....

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood
transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing

the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Live with no regrets, Treat people the way you want to be treated, Work like you don't need the money, Love like you've never been hurt, and Dance like you do when nobody's watching.