Speaking and Writing

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The backs of my knees felt sweaty. My stomach heaved. I caught my breath in quick, short hiccups, even though I tried to slow it down. My notecards stared up at me from my desk as if mocking the very idea that I planned to stand up in front of the class and speak.

My idea seemed perfect when I planned it at home. But that day in class, my plans fell apart. Or rather, ran apart.

The assignment was to demonstrate something I knew how to do. I couldn’t think of anything special that I knew about and my classmates didn’t. However, I was an expert on cats and their care. And my cat took a regular pill that only I was able to get down his throat. I decided to show how I accomplished this feat.

Except my cat had other ideas. We didn’t own a pet carrier back in the day, so my mother wrapped our unsuspecting kitty in a towel and drove him to my school. Everything proceeded according to the plan until she approached the front doors with him in her arms.

Then the bell rang.

You know what happened next. That’s right, the cat leaped out of her arms and dashed away. But in his confusion, he ran toward the building instead of away from it. At that instant, somebody inside happened to open the door and he ran through it, down the hall, and into the first classroom with an open door. My English classroom.

While waiting for class to begin, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brown blur fly in through the door and across the floor to the overhead projector cart. My heart took an immediate elevator ride to my stomach. I identified the blur in those spit seconds.

After quieting the resulting uproar in the classroom, the teacher suggested I be the last speaker in order to give my kitty time to settle down.  By the time she called my name, the cat sat purring in my lap. But my nerves refused to settle until after the dreaded speech.

I received an A on that speech, probably more for bravery in going through with it than the quality. But a cloud of terror hovered over me when I even thought about public speaking for years afterward.

When I realized that writers also need to speak, it was almost enough to make me give up on writing.

However, today, I love to speak. What changed? I took some deliberate steps that you can take, too, if speaking is just not your thing.

  1. I sought good training. I had attended CLASS writing conferences, so a CLASS Speaker Training seemed like the logical next step. It made all the difference in my confidence level.
  2. I found a topic I am passionate about. When your topic makes a difference in people’s lives, and you know they need to hear it, you become motivated to speak it.
  3. I added some fun and some bling. Nobody wants to listen to a boring speaker. When I worked for Premier Designs Jewelry, I learned how to bring the party. I incorporated some of those ideas into my speaking. I ask questions the audience is probably thinking of, and then tell them how to find the answers. I use visual aids. I create vivid mental images with my words–just like when I write. I employ humor. I tell stories. Someone has said that if you can make an audience laugh and then make them cry, they’ll never forget what you spoke about.
  4. I practice.
  5. I make sure I look good. There is an amazing level of confidence that comes from knowing you look your best.
  6. I Pray. If the message is from the Lord, and you ask Him to bless it, He will.

Does public speaking terrify you–or at least make you nervous? If so, take comfort in my story, and employ my tips. You might even learn to like it.

KathrynGraves speaks and writes about beauty in all areas of life. Her website and blog is Chasing Beautiful and can be found at KathrynGraves.com. 

Photo: Pixabay

 

 

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How to Get Started Writing: Hamster Wheels and Hurdles

type lettersOf all that a writer can and should do—how, actually, does one get started?

It would be possible, in assembling writing advice from just a handful of the people who are giving it, to come away with the impression that making it in this business requires doing everything all the time.

You must, people say, build and maintain a platform. Start or re-start your website. Pin to boards. Make things that other people will pin to boards. Attend conferences and conventions. Join groups. Pitch ideas. Hone your message. Know your audience. Study writing books. Edit incessantly. Post blogs. Find a writing schedule that works. Tweet and re-tweet updates about all of this. Plus string tens of thousands of words together and hope somebody will see fit to make a book of it. That’s just phase one.

Phase two is its own hamster wheel. With a book in publication you must, people say, promote like crazy. Speak at events. Do interviews. Pursue interviews. Write accompanying articles. Track reviews. Deal with disapproval. Build friendships with booksellers. Have catchy marketing stuff. Improve on sales. Aim for bestseller lists. Figure out your next project. Pin, post, platform-build, edit, update, and speak some more. Promise to tweet and re-tweet, always and forever.

The general question: Who can possibly manage all that?

The specific question: How, possibly, can I?

The general answer is that likely nobody can manage it all, when trying all of it at once. The other answer is that you, specifically you, can work toward all of this by doing so incrementally.

You will not start out on bestseller lists. You’ll begin at the beginning, with the whole unrelenting shebang left to do. Tweet This

There will be potential failures and rejections at every corner and turn. But if you begin—if you sit at a computer or a typewriter or even a small slip of paper, and if you start putting words down and then keep putting words down, you will be writing. Often it is as simple as that.

hurdleHere is a personal example. After having published three books by 30 (two as author, one as collaborator), late last year I didn’t have a single writing project to speak of. I wasn’t sure I wanted any, because being submerged in the mire again—see above paragraphs—seemed exhausting. Other concerns demanded my focus and time too, namely: my husband was on a seven-month combat deployment to Afghanistan, we had moved our lives across the country twice in less than a year, and I had just given birth to a baby, our first. Some days, accomplishing just laundry and dishes seemed out of my league.

But I knew that God had given me a love for writing and the opportunity to publish. He was percolating words in me that I wanted to put down. So on one harried morning, I dared draft an article query. On another day I bravely emailed some book ideas to my agent. It was just a baby toe stepped back into the pool, but from where I stood it was the all-important start, a jump at the big, looming hurdle.

That was trajectory, finally, and in a matter of weeks and months I was actually writing again: ideas flowing, plenty of potential projects on hand, a few materializing, and even (always miraculously) another book contract waiting in the wings. Perhaps more importantly, I was learning to chip away at this job, little by little, reminding myself that it would not be accomplished in a single swing. The laundry and dishes were waiting longer than before, but I figured I could deal with that.

Have you wondered, frustrated, how to get started writing? The solution can be as simple as a little trajectory. Tweet This

Stop trying to figure out how to start writing; instead, start. Aim at a goal and have the courage to start imperfectly and incompletely. As you get a handle on one area, add another. You will likely surprise yourself with all that can be attempted and accomplished. Writing is far more doable when you’re doing it.

To Market We Go. . .But Why?

I admit, I’m a bit of a marketing geek. I find trends and patterns fascinating. Behind every great or dastardly marketing campaign lies a motivation—a why. And I want to know it, understand it, and pick it apart.

Why did it work? Why didn’t it work?

Some campaigns are obvious from the get go. Take Netflix’s recent adventure of separating streaming video from disc. We witnessed their invention (or misguided intention) of Qwikster. The name didn’t work, nor did there seem to be any reasonable point for separation. Their “why” just didn’t make sense. Thankfully they abandoned the idea before they got neck deep. In fact, I give them kudos for having the courage to admit to their customers that it would have made things more difficult.

Here’s an example of my latest fascination. Honestly, I stood in the mall laughing at this one.

I freely confess that I’m an Apple geek as well. Microsoft’s obvious attempt to copy Apple could be taken as a compliment, but I could only wonder, is it effective? How effective does our marketing become when we’re simply copying what the other guy is doing?

Yes, we’re talking about similar products and thus overlapping markets. Not identical markets though. And then I’m curious as to how the everyday consumer perceives such a clear attempt to piggyback on another company’s successful model?

Of course, there’s the other side of the argument. Why reinvent the wheel? It worked for them, why not do the same? That’s fine to a point—to use a successful model as a launching point. But don’t we still have to come back to the beginning? Back to the “why?”

I find this especially amusing because of this:

The Apple store is directly opposite this soon-to-be Microsoft store and has been there for years. Their Genius Bar and staff have been serving people for many a season with their gadgets in hand and uniformed colored shirts and badges. (Uh hem. . .)

It’s all about service and Apple makes an art of it. Never been in one? Take a field trip one day and check it out. We can learn a lot from Apple’s successful model of creative marketing. To them, it’s not just about the product. It’s about the costumer and how they’ll use it, right down to the feel and experience. It’s all about the “why.”

I wonder if Microsoft thought through their campaign beyond the “well it works for them” to their customers and who they’re trying to connect to. Or are their customers just potential collateral gain or damage in the race to be number one?

So this brings me to my point (yes, I do have one other than finding this Microsoft imitation so very amusing). Do we think about why we are marketing our books or do we just do what everyone else is doing?

And finally, does it work? Now there’s the real question. What do you think?

An Author Needs A Web Presence

One of the first marketing tips a writer is given is to make sure she has a web presence–and do it before she’s  published.

Three years before my publishing contract, I created a blog and used it as my author site. For the most part, I was quite happy with it. I updated the site on a monthly basis, along with a newsletter reminder, and had formed a nice reader base, so it served me well. When I received my contract from Zondervan, however, I realized I wanted more. I had two choices–pay someone to build a website, or do it myself.

So began my journey. I began visiting author sites and kept track of those I liked best, paying attention to colors, layout schemes, page descriptions, and author photos. I also studied web designer sites and their client portfolios. For learning purposes, my favorite sites were:

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From there, I requested price quotes. And that’s when my enthusiasm began to waver. Some of the designers were charging over two-thousand dollars–and I’m sure worth every penny, as their client pages were gorgeous! To add to my dilemma, I’d heard it said that your website must look professional–an outward reflection of who you are as an author (or in other words, not cheap & dowdy). Well that’s great, if you have the money . . . but this gal from Kansas didn’t have that kind of money to spend.

With a sigh, I began searching for less expensive alternatives. I considered updating my blog. Blogs are free, and I already knew how to manage them. But I really wanted a new look. So I set my chin, determined to figure out a way to make it work.

That’s when I discovered a host program called Homestead. Several of my author friends used the program and were quite happy with it. I began studying the tutorial and realized I could create an author site with nearly all the functions I’d requested of the designers–and for a smidgen of the price.

Of course, I would have to design the pages myself–which would take time and creativity. Fortunately, Homestead’s design program has an easy learning curve, and it turned out to be quite fun. Plus, I had the added advantage of being able to update my site whenever I wanted–an option I might not have had if I’d paid a designer. The company also offers a free trial period, to make sure it fits your needs. After 2 weeks, I’d designed a Website that was a reflection of who I am as an author.

Check it out here.

I went into this venture desiring the best, settling for less, and being quite satisfied with the end result.

For those who enjoy the creative aspects of web design (and who are working with a limited budget) this may be a nice option for you, too. Next  time, I’ll visit with you about publicity photos. Until then, enjoy the moments  . . .

Hope for Shrinking Violets

If you follow industry blogs you’ve probably seen advice on how to promote your book or author brand.

You get it. You also probably know social networking is critical to self-promotion these days. If you know this, and you haven’t yet jumped into the fray, could it simply be you aren’t comfortable with it?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.n

A Myers-Brigg personality study tells us half the U.S. population consists of introverts. Surprising, right?

Not really.You just don’t always notice them next to the more conspicuous extraverts. Introversion isn’t the same as being shy, though. It’s a natural preference for solitude and reflection. We live in a fast-paced, “noisy” world that expects everyone to keep up. You see the conflict.

It’s not hard to imagine a good number of writers cringe at self-promotion—not because they don’t know what to do, but because the idea is emotionally draining to them. And maybe a wee bit nauseating

While introverts may have a harder time making small talk (hmm, Twitter?) or new friends (ahem…Facebook?), they do enjoy activities with long stretches of solidarity (writing, anyone?). If it makes you nervous to comment on a blog—if you write, edit, then rewrite your Facebook or Twitter posts—if you feel like you must say something witty or nothing at all—if it seems everyone else is having a grand old time with social media but you—you might be an introvert.

You’re not alone. Heck, I’m there right now. But here’s the thing about introverts—we’re in our own heads a lot. We know if we want to succeed, we have to venture out of our comfort zone, like it or not. Fortunately, social media can work in an introvert’s favor:

  • Need time to process information? Great! Rather than being forced to think on your feet, participate in conversations at your own pace. Mull things over to your heart’s content before you engage. Just don’t get stuck there.
  • Enjoy people but prefer them in small doses? Easy! All one has to do is Google to find a number of applications that allow future scheduling of pre-written updates for sites like Twitter, rather than facing them everyday. Or, you could begin by engaging in a site you feel most comfortable with (GoodReads worked well for me), then feed your updates to Facebook or Twitter to help you appear more ‘talkative’ while remaining true to yourself.
  • Trouble making small talk or accumulating friends? Start small. ‘Like’ someone else’s post. ‘Retweet’ a relevant article. Share a link or a picture on tumblr. You don’t have to talk much to say a lot. Just be sure you’re being thoughtful about what you share—no problem for an introvert!

Remember, every move you make in the social media realm makes the next ones easier. The trick is to get moving.

Why not start now? Tell us, what’s holding you back from engaging in social media? If you’ve already passed that hurdle, what worked for you when you were getting started?