Sunday, September 15, 2019

How To Eat An Elephant

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

How do you eat an elephant? It's an old joke but you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  It the same way to accomplish any huge task—one action at a time. Recently I began to write another book.  It doesn't matter that I've done it over and over through the years. Each time it looks daunting to write an entire book manuscript. No matter what others will tell you for everyone getting started is hard. The writing in the middle is hard and finishing is hard. Yes the task is difficult and looks impossible. So how do you get it done? One bite at a time.

What is the deadline for completing your book? If you don't have a deadline, then I suggest you set one. After you have a deadline, how many words a day are you going to write to complete the deadline? Make sure you build in some extra days for the unexpected (happens to everyone) but make sure you hit your deadline.

Or maybe your goal is tied to your social media. You want to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter or a certain number of connections on LinkedIn. Are you actively working on these networks? Are you posting a number of times each day? Are you connecting with new people? Without your regular actions, then it will be hard to increase your presence and meet your goals.

Do you want to do more speaking? Are you pitching different conference directors and leaders? From my experience you have to be proactively promoting your speaking skills to get more speaking meetings.

Do you want to appear on more radio shows and talk about your latest book? There are thousands of radio stations and programs which use guests on their program. These bookings do not happen just sitting back and waiting for them to call. Your phone will be silent if you take this action. Instead, you need to be actively pitching the producers of these programs.

Or maybe you want to write more magazine articles or appear on more podcasts? Waiting for the phone to ring will likely not happen. What proactive steps are you taking to either go ahead and write the article then submit it to the publication? Or you can write a query letter and send it simultaneously to different publications and get an assignment?

Many are surprised that I have written over 60 books through the years. There are several keys in this process but one of the most important is consistent writing.  It is a matter of writing one paragraph, then another paragraph which becomes one page then another page. It is the same process as eating an elephant—doing it in bite-size pieces.

Do you break your writing into smaller pieces? I'd love to have your tips and insights in the comments below.


How do you eat an elephant? Learn the secret in this article from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, September 08, 2019

What Is Writing Success?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Success is a pursuit for many writers, authors and publishing professionals. If we are honest, each of us will define success in different terms. In this article, I want to give you some ideas which hopefully will encourage you to keep going with your writing.

Occasionally book authors will ask me about success or becoming a bestseller. When asked, I attempt to give them my best answer—and basically it will boil down to that author's marketing activity and drive to sell books. There is no single path for each author. If there were such a path, then every book would be a bestseller and we know that isn't the case.

For me, I write about topics and people which interest me. Thankfully I have a broad spectrum of interest so there is never a lack of possibilities for my writing. I learn a great deal with each article or book or writing project. Each one has built a great deal into my life and the richness of that experience. I hope writing brings that sort of experience in your own life.

I've been promoting my book about Billy Graham every day for over four years. I post different messages and links and images but have been doing this process over and over every day. Last week one of my long-term friends added a message to one of my Facebook entries about Billy Graham saying, “Wow I didn't know you wrote that book.” She purchased the book and is reading it and has told me she is going to write a review of it when finished. I'm grateful this friend discovered my book and is reading it. This one exchange is success for me and one of the reasons I wrote that book.

As authors (from my experience), we don't get lots of feedback from readers of our work. Yes you may see an occasional review or get an email or comment. For every review or comment, I expect there are many more readers who never reach out to the author.

It's the same with these articles in my blog. The people who comment are rare (outside of the spammers which I delete). Yet each week for years I continue to write and post a new entry in The Writing Life. I see these lists of the top writing blogs—and mine is not on it. These lists come from well-known and respected writing magazines. Yes I have an email subscriber list of about 500 which goes up and down but stays around that same number.

Last week I got an email about this list of ranked writing blogs. To my surprise, The Writing Life blog was the fourth rank of 100 blogs. Notice this ranking includes several criteria for the ranking—including followers. It was encouraging to see my followers and be listed on this ranking.

My encouragement to you:

1. Follow your own path with your writing and persist to reach the right publisher and right readers.

2. Understand that success varies for each piece of writing and some writing will reach people you have no idea that it reaches.

3. Continue to move forward in spite of rejection, doubts, fears and other emotions. The journey is a key portion of the reward.

Success is different for each of us and I hope in this article, I've given you some insights and motivation to persevere and move ahead with your writing. Enjoy the journey.

What is your definition of Writing Success? Let me know in the comments below.


What is Writing Success? Get some ideas from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, September 01, 2019

Get Inspiration

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Where do you find inspiration for your writing? For me, this inspiration comes from many different sources but as a writer we have to be aware and watching for it. I love a good story and find myself returning to these stories mentally and thinking about them over and over.

I've mentioned in the past about listening to audiobooks through Overdrive. It is a free resource through the public library. You can easily check out audiobooks, download them on your phone then listen to them as you walk (through earphones) or drive (through bluetooth) or many other means.

I love listening to memoirs and self-help books. Recently I listened to actor Michael Caine's memoir, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off. At 85 years old, actor Michael Caine has lived an amazing life. Like you would expect, his life is filled with ups and downs—and both aspects are captured in the pages of this fascinating book. I listened to Caine’s narration of the audiobook version cover to cover and enjoyed the book.  It is filled with stories and life lessons. To give you a taste of some of these insights, I tracked down the introduction to this book and wanted to include a few paragraphs:

“THE FIRST TIME I was in the United States, when I had just made Alfie, I was sitting on my own in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel and heard the sound of a helicopter landing in the gardens opposite. This, the porter told me, was strictly illegal. He and I stood at the door to see who was so flagrantly flouting the law—presumably the President, of the United States or at least of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Across Sunset Boulevard, out of a swirling sun-flecked cloud of dust, six foot four and in full cowboy get-up, strode the unmistakable figure of John Wayne. As I stood there with my mouth open he caught my eye and altered his course to come over to me. What's your name, kid? he asked.

Michael Caine, I managed to croak.

That's right, he agreed, with a tilt of his head. You were in that movie Alfie.

Yes, I said. I wasn't really keeping up my end of the conversation.

You're gonna be a star, kid, he drawled, draping his arm around my shoulders. "But if you want to stay one, remember this: talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."

Thank you, Mr. Wayne, I said.

"Call me Duke. He gave me a chuck on the arm, turned around and swaggered off.

It was a mind-blowing Hollywood moment for an ambitious young actor on his first visit to the city of dreams. And it was great advice for anyone who was going to be acting in Westerns and delivering all his dialogue from a horse. Talk low and slow so you don't scare the horses, and say as little as possible before the horse runs away. But it was not such great advice for someone like me, an actor who was going to play all kinds of characters with tons of dialogue, and mostly, thankfully, with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

I am often asked what advice I have for actors starting out in this business. And for many years my answer was Never listen to old actors like me." That was because, until John Wayne offered me his words of wisdom, I always used to ask older actors what I should do, and the only thing they ever told me was to give up.

But as I've got older, I've been reflecting on my life, as older people often do. And I've realised that, over my sixty years in the movie business and my eighty-five years of life, I have been given a lot of useful advice—by Marlene Dietrich, Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier among many others—and I have learnt a lot of useful lessons, from my many glittering successes and my many disastrous failures. I started to think I could do a bit better than never listen to advice. In fact, my advice would be, don't listen to that advice.

This book is the result of that reflection. I wanted to look back on my life from the Elephant and Castle to Hollywood, and from man-about-town Alfie to Batman's butler Alfred, with all its successes and all its failures, all its fun and all its misery and struggle, its comedy, its drama, its romance and its tragedy, and find, among it all, the lessons I've learnt and want to share, not just for aspiring movie actors but for everyone.

A few of my 
lessons are quite specific to movie acting. But I hope that most of them will speak, somehow, to most of you. You won't all have to audition for parts but in some ways life is always an audition: everyone has moments when they have to put themselves out there for what they want. You won't all have to learn lines but everyone sometimes has to make sure they're properly prepared. We all have to deal with difficult people and we all have to learn how to balance our professional and personal lives.” (From the introduction of Blowing the Bloody Doors Off.

I just gave a taste of the profound material in this well-crafted book. I highly recommend Blowing the Bloody Doors Off (which was the last line in the entire book). I hope this example has given you some ideas about where I find inspiration—and you can too.

Where do you find inspiration? What are some of your sources? Let me know in the comments below.


Where do you find inspiration? Get some ideas from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

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