Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Monday, January 01, 2007

May your every day in 2007 be blessed!

And so ends another year, Beloved Reader.

You started out my Gentle Reader and have now become Beloved.

Without knowing you individually, I have come to feel as if I know you - and have this .. calling .. to share something that will, hopefully, enrich your life or inspire you (and me!) almost daily.

Readers tell me they start their day with my blog, so I belive it's important for me to be here for you!

Website statistics report there are tens of thousands of visitors from 61 nations tuning in to my blog, though you tend not to leave comments. I hope you'll let me know what you're thinking this year!

2007 is going to be the greatest, most wonderful, fulfilling and successful year ever for me, so as I told you a couple days ago, I have decided to share my good fortune by becoming a volunteer teacher/coach at a school for homeless kids in Seattle called First Place.

I want to contribute what I can to enhancing the lives of these youngsters. Several years ago I ran a very successful program for at risk kids using my camera. Kids love to see themselves on TV. They work and try harder when they know they are going to be captured on camera as they give a report, share their math homework, whatever.

While I've not been homeless, my family moved 17 times by the time I was 17 (military brat, me), so I know what it feels like to never have a place to call "home" on a map. But I learned that my home is where my heart is - where ever I happen to be.

But I *have* learned to nest, living in a personality-filled cottage nestled in a little known woodsy area of North Seattle for nearly 15 years.

My New Year Resolutions are already kicking in! I've already completed some (like getting a new kitten from the animal shelter!) and am on a roll with all the others.

Meanwhile, I figured out:


Reading Stephen King's book On Writing - I realized something his mother did for him that surreptitiously set him up for financial success: she paid him to write.

Yep. When he was a kid, she gave him a quarter for every entire story he wrote on his own.

He had been copying stories he loved - something I advise my writing coachees to do when they're starting so they can get the feel of using words and punctuation, a writer's style and/or vibe that they appreciate. And copy only the best to get that feel in your body, heart, soul and mind through your fingers.

You can do that as an experienced writer as well. It's not plagiarizing because you can't submit it to anyone - ever, it's just an exercise.

It feels great to channel a superb writer's use of words, phrasing, story, etc. And I suggest not doing more than a couple pages, because you only want to learn something from the writer in order to enhance your own personal style and work, you don't want to start writing like that particular writer as a habit!

I've been paid for my writing as a professional journalist since I was 18, so I've taken getting paid for that sort of writing for granted. Of course I should get paid.

But the idea that we *should* be paid to write a book, a screenplay, play, or create any artistic work, is often not even considered in a career path. It's *assumed* that we write for nothing until we are "good enough" to be paid.

I don't know about you, but I've seen so many horribly written books published, screenplays and plays produced - paid for - that I've learned being a phenomenal writer alone isn't enough.

Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone be paid for slapping together unprofessional crap by a publisher, producer, or other professional outlet.

I'm suggesting that we, as artists, create a system of understanding that payment is part of being a career artist. So we can get it in our heads - understand that our work has worth - even if it is the most original, independent, obtuse creation - guaranteed never to sell tickets or become part of a valued collection.

At least while we're alive.

It's all part of having a professional attitude toward our work. If we're professional, if we realize that being paid is the end result of our fine work, I think most people will kick up their standards.

Interestingly, I apply professional standards to everything I do - whether I'm paid full fare, or it's work I'm doing on my own dime, a volunteer gig for someone else or something for which I'm being paid less than standard rates.

So here's what I'm suggesting: Find someone to pay you for something you write for which you're ordinarily not paid: a blog, a story, a book, a screenplay, play, whatever.

You can give them the money yourself to pay you, but even if it's a dollar, have them hand you cold, hard, cash for finishing your work!

I'll give a friend 10 one dollar bills, instructing her to pay me one dollar for every blog I finish and publish. All she has to say is, "This is for Monday's blog," and fork over the bill. "This is for Tuesday's blog." Forks over the bill. Etc.

Likewise, any story, screenplay, article, column or other work I write for which I'm not already paid? I'll arrange to collect some dough, baby!

This is a great idea for other art as well.

Finish a painting? Write a monologue? Compose a song? Perform a dance? Create a sensational sculpture? Type "The End" to your script? Do a killer audition?

Say out loud to your willing payment partner: Pay me.

Then collect your money. Even if you've lined up the cash on your desk to collect from yourself! But I think it's better to have a real person fork over the bucks! In fact, you can do this for someone as well. You pay him a dollar for the new chapter he wrote for his book, he pays you for finishing another 10 pages in your screenplay.

To make it *really* professionally complete, I'd also suggest submitting a "bill" to your payer. In essence, that's what King did: he submitted his story to his mom, who, upon reading the original, completed story, paid him.

This could be the start of a phenomenon that alleviates the standard "starving artist" mentality from which so many of us suffer!

It's not that we won't "starve" somewhere along the line, it's that we will prepare ourselves to create a personal system that recognizes we are to be paid.

Expecting it will happen "for real" some day, we'll subconsciously seek out more and different, successful ways to be published, shown or produced because that is the way we see ourselves using this system!

Interestingly, I've read the comments several authors have made about King's book, but none seems to understand: this kid thought his writing was worth being paid for because his mom showed him he was!

Because she gave him a quarter for every story he finished on his own, King developed two fantastic writing work habits: 1) he continued to do what it takes to become a great writer - keep writing and writing and writing. When you've done *that* much writing? Write some more.

And 2) he gained the belief that his writing was worthy of payment! So of course he was going to go about the business of figuring how to get paid for his work when his work left his house!

2007 is all about reaping the rewards!

Unimaginable, fantastic opportunities are meeting all our preparation!



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