Tag Archives: writing advice

The Artists Guide to Finding Time


I wear many hats, but my purpose in this lifetime is to write and to publish compelling stories with characters many would not pause to consider or feel compassion for—people on the fringe of society, whose inner light is rarely acknowledged. This is my passion. Yet it seems that all my other ‘work’ demands my primary focus. Intention plus Attention, Manifests. Yet most of my Attention, for years, has been drawn in too many directions. I am a single mom who has been raising her two boys solo for nine years. I am the author of three novels seeking representation, as I desire to publish traditionally. I am a freelance journalist who writes for magazines. I am a yoga teacher who has taken 5 yoga trainings and led a yoga and writers retreat in Greece, hoping to run more! My ex lives in Europe and I have no family help, so I have few weekends off to re-charge, and no help when a kid is sick or there is an emergency at school. I guess you can say I am a master juggler. Yesterday a friend told me she can’t find time or motivation to write/create her blog because she has too many demands, yet she has no children or full-time employment. Our demands, are our demands, however. What we focus on, grows. If we focus on fear and lack, we will scramble in too many distracted directions and lose our willpower.

I am finally mastering the balance and carving out more time to focus—even within my hectic schedule. Trust me, between school runs, lunches, dinners, homework, soccer games and practices, violin performances, Taekwondo, volunteer requests, yoga classes I teach, etc…My daily life can become a blinding, dizzying, depressing grind that used to relegate my passion for writing to a mere 30 minutes a day—and that was on good days! I’ve now cut out the major fat, the time-suckers and distractions and am working on my fourth novel. If I can find more time—trust me—you can too. I want to help. Here is the first of a five-part-series on how to find the time to create:

First, cut out ALL the distractions. By that, I mean, ALL SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TO GO. For a year. It’s been seven months of no social media for me in my first year cleanse. During this period, I finished my 3rd novel (click here for excerpt), edited it four times, attended a writers conference and submitted the novel to agents who are currently considering it. Also during that period, I taught yoga classes, helped manage a studio, worked with private clients, attended a meditation retreat, raised two humans by myself and dealt with health issues. If I had stayed on social media, I would have been sucked into its time-wasting trap—losing momentum, motivation and self confidence—while wasting valuable time better spent writing. Now I know all authors and artists need a “platform” to sell their art. But while you are still struggling to create & produce art and then garner an agent or deal, social media needs to go. Here’s why social media is not only a waste of time for budding artists and writers, but it actually makes us less creative, less authentic, and less productive:

  1. Social media thwarts momentum. Why? because it turns the focus outward and not inward. You may be half -way through that novel, or composition or mural, and suddenly you become overwhelmingly self-conscious and fearful and less sure, losing your drive to move forward. We lose our ability to connect deeply to our core and hear our intuition (the birth place of creativity) and our desires, when we focus on others: on what they are doing, how they are doing it and and on how others feel about us and what we do. To create, we need to turn inward, tap into our inner power, our inner passion, our inner purpose and JAM.
  2. Social media drains our Motivation and lessens our Gratitude—which can spur bad habits that actually suck more time away from our projects becoming successful. Looking at what others are doing, can thwart us from realizing our dreams and we can become filled with thoughts like:  Maybe I should be going out more? Those drink looks good, I need a happy hour. I need to have a spa day, why don’t I get to have a spa day? I love her dress and shoes, I haven’t had a new outfit in years. etc etc. Yes we all need balance, but spending more, getting hung-over, or spending money we don’t have or time with negative friends, will NOT help.
  3. Social media lowers self-confidence by comparing our lives and our projects with others. This is an expansion of the last point. Artists often live with less before they are published or discovered. If we compare our lives by what we have or own and are constantly filling our minds with visions from Instagram or Facebook of ‘friends’ new houses, new cars, new relationships we can develop thoughts of fear and lack, that dissuade us thinking in affirmative powerful ways that manifest. Thoughts like: I should be doing more. Or I’m not as good as him. Or I need to focus on money-making projects or pick up more part-time work in order to get a date like his. etc …
  4. Studies have shown that even a mere 20 minutes of social media photo sharing or scrolling increases anxiety, depression and feelings of lack. Studies proved social media lowers self-esteem and it creates disrupted sleep patterns (likely from light erupting from a phone by the bed). One study says that not only does social media foster addiction, but it re-wires the brain to become more addictive and reactive in general. All thwart inspiration to create authentically and powerfully.
  5. The more time we spend on social media, the less we take ourselves and our art and our passions seriously. Sure, you may post a pic of yourself painting or writing, and love the 100 likes you receive, but are you really delving into the project for hours, connecting to your inner voice, inner guides and moving forward in a powerful way? Answer this truthfully.

So, my advice, drop the Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook for a year and gain back the two—or more hours a day—to focus on your art, your potential, your inner fire.

Next installment covers what to replace those two hours with. SO GOOD.

Have a beautiful day!

If you liked this article, you may be interested in:

Is Social Media Bad for You? BBC, January 2018



Voice, Authenticity & the Right to Write


Is it OK for a writer to create main characters of the opposite sex, sexual orientation or with a different ethnic background from her own? Is it believable? Will the readers trust the voice of the protagonist? And IF I write a novel where the characters live in another country, is that stepping too far outside of my zone of authenticity? Since both of my novels that I’m currently selling to agents have crossed these barriers, have I now become an author that is too hard to sell in todays restrictive fiction marketplace?

These are questions that kept surfacing for me while at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference this past weekend. First, let me say Wow! What an amazing four day journey! The SFWC had more than 100 workshops, pitches to agents, meetings with editors, authors, publicists, experts and lectures by famous authors, poets at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. There were hundreds of authors from all over the globe with manuscripts in hand. The level of creativity was intoxicating. I highly recommend writers go next year!

What I heard from agents, and a few published authors, however, was confusing. Two agents (after hearing my short pitch) told me I would be ‘hard to sell’ to top 5 publishers because my main character of Between Thoughts of You is a Japanese-Hawaiian woman and I’m not Hawaiian. Yup. These comments were made before reading a word of the manuscript and without asking me why I chose this character, or how much research I did, or how I felt compelled to create this person who is a strong, yet gentle and spiritual female—the perfect combination to be the hospice nurse to trigger an old man who misses the love of his life, a Japanese woman he met after WW11.

A published author who spoke at the conference, expressed her trepidation over crossing ethnic and socio-economic barriers in her first novel inspired by an NPR story. Because her protagonist was a woman from Mexico and she, a college-educated, middle class woman from San Francisco, she said she feared whether she had the right to create her. “I worried. Who am I to write about someone from Guatemala or Mexico?” she said to a large audience of writers.

As a journalist who studied with the BBC in London, researched documentary journalists such as John McPhee, and who studied and published with the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine, where I was asked to live with islanders and sailors for months and write about them, I was dumbfounded by her statement. I sat in the audience and thought, “Who are you NOT to write about a Mexican immigrant?”

IF a writer is inspired by a true story and wants to fictionalize the experience to create more awareness, the writer is hearing a calling. IF a story beckons to the writer, it will become inflamed with passion and purpose. And IF, even in the face of fear and doubts, the writer can’t kick the idea of the story, much like a buzzing of a bee at his ear, then the writer must follow the calling and write the damn story. The mission, then, becomes to open the eyes and hearts of the reader so that they can become compassionate towards a human whose experience they might not otherwise care about. I would then say that it becomes imperative that we cross those borders, of ethnicity, walk that tightrope of place and voice as an author, to enter into the international language of emotion. And, of course, much research needs to be done to make the voice of the writer and the sense of place and location believable. But this is achievable.

It’s not surprising that my first novel Lucifer’s Laughter, a murder mystery and my MFA thesis when in New York, has a main character that is a lobsterman in Maine. I lived there and documented that region and had been a crime reporter for years prior. My second novel, Uriel’s Mask, is inspired by a newspaper article I read back in 1991 when I was a reporter in North Carolina. I kept the newspaper clipping with me through multiple moves, knowing I would write about this character, an illiterate daughter of a freed slave, who created masks in honor of the spirits who visited her while she sat by the French Broad River in Asheville. See, I knew that I’d write about her one day, but I didn’t know exactly how. It was a story that called to me. In Uriel’s Mask, her masks (like in real life) are sold in New York, allowing all her grandchildren to become educated. One of the main characters is a southern black man, a talented musician and her grandchild, who becomes one of the first black students at University of North Carolina. As a southerner, Uriel’s Mask, may be easier to ‘sell’ to agents, but I am not black, nor am I a man or the grandchild of a freed slave. And, to make things more complicated (I write with a laugh) I also created a side character who I adore. He is a gay man having an affair with a married man in the closet. Once inside Chris’s head, we see his heart, so full and kind. At the children’s library where he works, he is more patient and compassionate with the children then most of the strict, uptight southern mothers.

When we step outside our comfort zone and allow ourselves to see another viewpoint—to enter into the heart and mind of another human being—we accept the fact that there really are no chasms too great to justify our differences, our racism, our sexism, our superior judgements.

So my reaction to the agents who want authors to look like their main characters is this: Give us a chance. If a writer does a lot of research, like a documentary journalist, there is no location too far, or background too different, to write about. We would not have Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (as Michael Larsen, Co-Founder of the SFWC so kindly pointed out to me) or The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,or even the JK Rowling Harry Potter series.

To write Between Thoughts of You, my latest novel and the one I pitched at the SFWC, I returned to Italy, I travelled four times to Hawaii, and I researched WW11 documents regarding northern California internment camps for the elite of the German, Italian and Japanese forces to await trial. So much research went into this book that called to me simply from a conversation with a dying old man I once loved. Our conversation in Tuscany was one where he pondered how his life would have evolved, had he followed his heart, and not his fear, after the War. If he had married his true love, what would have happened? Another inspiration for the novel came from conversations with an 89-year-old German woman whose father was high up in the SS. She, her mother and father were sent to a Northern California camp after the War…Both stories merged in my consciousness and birthed the idea behind Between Thoughts of You. It is the story that called to me. It is the story that only I could tell. And it is one fueled by the power of love, the destructive forces of fear, and the dying desire to follow one’s heart.

These are universal truths no matter sex, sexual orientation, or ethnic background—for the characters & the writer. 🙂

If you enjoyed this conversation, you may also be interested in the following articles:

When Authors Create Title Characters of the Opposite Sex, HuffPost.

The Four Rs of Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender Writers Digest.

Whose Life is it Anyway? Novelists Have Their Say on Cultural Appropriation The Guardian.

Should Authors Write Characters Outside Their Race? The Good Man Project.