Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The reason that commands you to write

Find out the reason that commands you to write;
see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart;
confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

There is only one of you in all time

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy...
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique. And if you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium and
it will be lost. The worlds will not have it.

--Martha Graham

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

I've recently weathered some setbacks, and stormy times, but today I was reminded by someone that Thomas Edison made more than 10, 000 different attempts before he was able to create the incandescent light bulb.

Now how many people would have given up after 100 tries, 50 tries or even 10 tries?

Over the years it is this sense of "faith" or "determination" that has made me refuse to give up and throw in the towel. I am referring to my current writing project which I started in 2004. The actual writing did not start until a few years ago after interviews and translation had been done. Today I also picked up Think and Grow Rich and as I flipped through it, I found some inspiring quotes, like this one:

"Faith is the only known antidote for failure."

I hate to admit this, but lately I have gone from energized and engaged to exhausted and overwhelmed. I am most definitely not giving up, but I have been forced to reflect and take a hard look at where I am now, how I got here, and where I want to go. I have realized that I need to focus on where I want to be in clear detail, and to stay on track to achieve it. The question is, how do I get back to being energized and engaged?

In answering this question I've thought about how I became exhausted and overwhelmed. Indeed, it has already been a very long journey (I started working on this project idea in 2004). I've been working on writing a biography and so first few years of the project involved interviewing the subject of this particular book. Once most of the data was collected, I ended up translating the interviews (which were done in Taiwanese). I choose to do the translation primarily myself with the help of others, rather than paying a translator. I did this because I felt that working on the translation myself was part of the writing process. After all I was the one who had conducted the interviews and knew the line of reasoning behind the questions asked in the interviews. Translation can be very arduous and it is certainly NOT my forte since my Taiwanese is not all that strong. I almost always had a native Taiwanese speaker with me at each interview. Going through the translation and transcription process felt mind numbing to me, and definitely does not seem to stimulate my creativity. While in that process, I found myself nit picking about word choice and wrestling between literal translations, ones that flowed better or those that captured the essence of what the speaker said. In going through all of this I think what happened is that I moved away from the joy of telling the story. I had become exhausted by all of the translation work. There is less of that now, so I need to shift my mindset to focusing on enjoying the process of making this personal story come to life. This is where the creativity happens, though with works of nonfiction, there are of course certain parameters to be respected.

I've also realized that negative thoughts and a sense of defeat- from my inner critic and others- have influenced me and more specifically my state of mind. I had gotten stuck in the cycle of Automatic Negative Thoughts (aka ANTs). It's only human. I suppose to some extent most of us are susceptible to the influences around us good or bad. What's important is to recognize that if this happens, you can decide how to react to them and to not focus on them. I'm working to challenge these ANTs by asking myself where they are coming from, what they mean and whether or not they are actually true. Here's another quote from Think and Grow Rich that speaks to this:

"The subconscious mind will translate into reality a thought driven by FEAR just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by COURAGE or FAITH."

So one thing is clear, I can and should choose what to focus on. I may not have control over a lot of things in life, but I do have control over one thing, that is my thoughts, perceptions and reactions.

I will end with this final quote and thought:

"Just keep in mind, and remember when your plans fail, that temporary defeat is not permanent failure."

Does Facebook yield measurable results?

I'll admit it, I'm a social media seminar junkie. In the past month I've attended a record number of expos/conferences/conventions, call them what you will. The first was the NYXPO in early May, then it was the Small Business Expo, the Book Expo, and finally Word Camp this past weekend. My favorite workshops are always the social media ones. I feel that there's always so much to learn about the ins and out of each platform- Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest- what strategies will grow your following, what are the effective ways to use and manage social media, how to understand analytics and what works in terms of monetization.

After hearing what all of these experts have to say, I've noticed a recurring theme, which is that Facebook does not really seem to yield reliable, measurable results. True, it's not clear how to measure the return on investment (ROI) for most social media platforms. One of the speakers who has successfully used Twitter for her business shared what happened when she promoted one of her  networking events by inviting people to a Facebook event she had created. Hundreds of people RSVPed, but less than ten people actually showed up to the event.

I have to say that I've had a similar experience. I recently promoted an event on Facebook by inviting people from different Facebook groups to attend. Since more than one group was involved, I had to create identical Facebook events had to be created, one for each group. Plenty of people RSVPed, to the various Facebook event pages. But even with more than one Facebook event page, not even half of the people who responded actually ended up coming to the event.

For some reason, people's RSVPs on Facebook are not always reliable. I think there are a number of reasons for that. For one thing Facebook's  event page format has changed. It used to be that you could message your invited guests to give them reminder or a special message. But you can no longer to that. Now you can only write on your event's wall with special information or updates for your invited guests.

Also, perhaps people simply respond "yes" and "maybe" to event before actually deciding or checking their calendars to make sure if they will be able to make it. And so these events never actually make it onto people's personal calendars. I also find that there is this phenomena of people responding yes or maybe simply "in the spirit of" supporting you. Consequently people forget about the Facebook events that they've been invited to, or maybe they just don't login to Facebook frequently enought or check their Facebook events.  For some reason, people's responses on Facebook are just not that "sticky."

I recently gave it a second try. This time, in addition to setting up a Facebook page, I personally invited people via email and e-invitations. I made sure that I frequently posted messages to the Facebook event wall requesting firm RSVPs, reminding people that the event was coming up and enticing people to come early by letting them know that the venue would be offering complimentary drinks and appetizers for early birds.  In addition to this I used an e-invitation and emails to send additional information about the event and reminders. This method seemed to work much better. I had quite a respectable turn out and I'd say that 70-80% of the people who RSVPed did in fact show up at the event. Perhaps it was because this time I was constantly in contact with people and personally checking to see who was coming to the event. So it seems there is nothing that can quite replace the "personal touch," which I don't think people get from being simply invited to a Facebook event.

I think a lot of what I've described above is also because everything on Facebook happens so real time, and in the immediacy. There is a fleeting quality about the exchanges and interactions on Facebook. You can't write messages or schedule your status updates or any posts in advance. Everything is written real time. As a result, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle if you are not actually logged onto Facebook at the precise time that something has been posted or people do not read their Facebook messages if they are not logged in.

It's hard enough to keep up with all of your friends' status updates on Facebook, but it can be hard to keep track of activity within just one Facebook group. I am a member of a very active Facebook group that has 100s of members who constantly post on the group's wall and I've noticed that people's posts quickly get buried underneath the most recent posts. Who has the time to go and scroll back through everything that's been posted previously?

Why am I getting into all this? Because despite all the fun time I've spent on Facebook, I'm going to have to say that I agree with much of what's being said in this article, Why Facebook won't survive the decade