riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


13 Steps to a Writing Milestone

As some of you might have recently read, the essay I wrote for Narrative.ly published last week. This was only the second time my work has been published somewhere other than on the blog, so it was a really big deal for me both personally and professionally. It also turned out in a way I never anticipated. Here’s what happened:

1 – The (blind) pitch

I’m new to freelancing, so pitching is still a new and scary process (does that ever change?). I pitched the idea for the essay at the suggestion of a friend. Usually pitches are sent as emails directly to editors. This one was an online form, which added to the “shot in the dark” feeling. When I didn’t hear back for a few weeks, I figured that was it. Then I received an email from the editor saying otherwise. My first thought was:

2 – Pitch accepted?! Holy shit.

Within the span of a few minutes I went from elation to panic and back, until I was somewhere in the middle. Of course I wanted to write the essay, but actually writing it was a different story. I reached out to my writer friends saying “yikes!” They replied with so much encouragement, I finally started to calm down. I had asked for this, and I got it. Now it was time to deliver.

3 – Procrastination Preparation

For several days I did nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I was thinking… and reading other essays on the site… and thinking. Once I had a sense of how I wanted it to go, I started writing.

4 – Procrastination Scheduling

I tend to thrive under pressure, but there was no way I was going to self-sabotage by writing the essay the night before the deadline. I set a few preliminary deadlines so I would have time to write a bad draft, time to make it better, time to send it out for feedback, time for folks to actually read it, and time to edit.

5 – Mind Games 

The only way I could write freely, not obsess over every single word, and not chicken out was to pretend like no one would read it but me. Ever.

6 – Mind Games, cont’d

On the other hand, I was on a deadline and had certain parameters, so I couldn’t write with total abandon. A part of my brain had to remain objective. So, I took turns between wearing my writer vs. my editor hat. First I wrote to my heart’s content; then I read it as if I didn’t know the story or the writer.

7 – Feedback

I’m not at the stage where I can send something to an editor without having some other eyeballs read it (and not sure I ever will be). I sent the first draft to my writer friends, all of them award-winning, trusted colleagues. We have a joke that we’re the Shitty First Draft Club. In all seriousness, I cannot stress enough how important it is – and how fortunate I am – to have a safe place to send the first shitty draft.

8 – Editing

After receiving some feedback, I did another few passes, double and triple-checked everything, then sent it to the editor. We call this moment “thumb slam!”

9 – The Waiting Game

I admit, waiting is not my favorite thing to do, especially when it’s something important. To ward off the swirling in my head, I forced myself to stay busy with other things and told myself that even if the editor hated it, I wouldn’t get discouraged because I’m still learning.

10 – Response!

When the editor said he loved it, my heart started beating really fast. “Oh my g-d, this might actually get published.” He had a few minor changes and gave me a gentle nudge to go deeper with the essay (which I needed).

11 – More Editing, Thumb Slam #2, More Waiting

I sent the final pass, then again waited to hear back. At any point, the editor could have said, “Sorry, this isn’t going to work.” Instead, I received word the essay was a “go.”

12 – Anticipation 

The days leading up to this very personal essay going out to thousands of people, I was filled with terror nervous excitement. One non-writer friend said I shouldn’t share the essay on Facebook. Another friend told me “but that’s what Facebook is for.” I decided to only post the essay on professional pages and see what happens.

Within hours of the essay going live on Friday morning, people (who don’t know me) started tweeting me, sharing it on Facebook, and leaving the most beautiful, heartfelt comments. By noon, I decided to post the essay on my personal page. Then I sort of held my breath as… one by one, friends and colleagues shared the essay and showered my page with supportive comments, all of which totally blew me away.

13 – Conclusion

On Monday, an author friend of mine who had read and loved the essay made an email-introduction to her book agent in NYC. On Tuesday, the agent and I spoke on the phone — by the time we hung up, she was my agent.

So, there you go. From blind pitch to book agent. It was a crazy, emotional, awesome and truly humbling ride.

Now there’s a ton of work to do, and I can’t wait to get started. As The Alchemist says: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

One week to freedom!




Social Media vs Social Life

If you’re relatively new to blogging or social media, you might feel uncomfortable talking about yourself or your business, especially to strangers. You might even think it’s rude. Or perhaps you think it’s more important to develop your craft and professional relationships in person rather than waste time trying to build your virtual presence. “I’m so great, the public will find me,” you tell yourself. Fabulous! Except the public won’t find you because the public doesn’t know that you exist.

Here are some typical excuses I hear from people as to why they’re not on social media (and my responses):

“I’m too old to start social networking now.”

Are you dead? No! Unfortunately, that means you’re excuse is a non-issue because You’re. Never. Too. Old.

Yes, this stuff takes time to figure out, but the more you do it, the faster you get. And the sooner you start the better.

“I network in person at events, lectures, parties and bars.”

And how much time are you spending doing that? How many new people are you meeting at each event? Don’t get me wrong. It’s great, perhaps ideal, to meet people the old fashioned way. You should be out there with real people!! But you should also be out there virtually with people you don’t know.

“But that’s just it, everyone’s on the internet so why would anyone notice me?”

What happened to “I’m so great, the public will find me”? You are great. You are unique, and you do have something to offer, whether it’s your art, your service, or your opinions on how to make the world a better place. The world needs to hear from you!

“I don’t know where to start.”

Start with the basics. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. Get an account on at least three, not necessarily all at once, within several months, not years. If you don’t want them to be personal, make them about what you do. But get on there and add everyone you know to your network. There’s also Pinterest, MySpace, GooglePlus+ and many others. But if you’re new to social networking, I would only have a few accounts to start off.

“I AM on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, but I don’t know how to use them.”

That depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to promote your business? Are you looking for work? Are you trying to build a fan base? Are you trying to get the word out about something important that will Make The World a Better Place?

You can use all these accounts to slowly build your case. Not by screaming at people all day long “Buy my product or service!” “Read my book!” “Listen to me! I’m trying to make the world a better place!!” Rather, by sharing little bits of information and gradually letting the world know who you are. Networking online is no different than networking in person. It’s all about sharing information, learning about others and finding commonalities. Remember, relationships take time on the internet just like in real life.

Also, there are seminars (usually free) on how to get the most out of almost every social media service. Do a little research and you will master it in no time. It’s not a science beyond your capabilities, and everyone has had to learn from scratch. As far as I know, no one is born knowing how to tweet or use Facebook.

Speaking for myself, I don’t have the time, energy or money to attend every event in my field at the moment. Honestly, I’d rather not talk to people. I’d much rather be writing my television pilot, editing my book, writing this blog or preparing for the play I’m directing this spring. When I’m not doing those things, I’d rather be hanging out with my dog, friends and family, or experiencing art. When I have something tangible to promote, you better believe I will be out rubbing elbows with whomever. Until then, I’m happy to pop up occasionally, and do the rest of my networking at home in my pajamas.

The point is, whatever it is you do, don’t be shy about promoting it via the matrix. As an older colleague recently told me, “There is no shame in shameless self-promotion anymore. The days of handing out flyers are over.”