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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Odd Gifts

With the holidays pressing on me, I was knocked off my feet by a stomach virus that would not go away. Day after day I endured dizziness, weakness, cramps, and nausea. I thought I would never feel normal again. Instead of lying in bed, I wanted to be decorating, sending out holiday cards, seeing the lights, attending holiday gatherings, and cooking for my holiday party. Instead, my little poodle curled up with me under the bed covers while I waited for the worst of the cramps and nausea to pass. The doctor warned me it might take ten days.

Today at last I’ve come through, and I’m back in my office. What a logjam of unfinished work I have to attack! I must sort through and decide what is urgent, what can be done later, and what can be skipped. It’s one of those odd blessings. I never wanted to be sick, but if I hadn’t been sick, I never would have had the opportunity to rethink my priorities. Being ill shook me to my core, but I made it through, and now that I have my health back, I feel even stronger, less cluttered with unnecessary obligations, and more determined to move ahead and be strong.

The financial world is going through a virus of a sort, as well. As we go into 2009, reports of our sick economy clog the news. I’ve seen my clients getting struck down. One produces a magazine focused on real estate, and its advertising revenue practically vanished. The company will have to regroup, refocus, and make some difficult decisions.

We all are tightening our belts; it’s what we do when the economy is ailing, but at least we have stomachs under those belts, and we have hearts still beating in our chests. America has always come through its fluctuating financial times. A sick economy may shake us, but it will heal, and when it does, we will be stronger and more clearly focused. Our priorities will be clearer and our futures will be bright. We will have learned how to exist on less and rely on each other more.

The ailing economy is a gift we may not have wanted, but we will benefit from it.

What does all this health and financial information have to do with writing? Everything. Yes, we’re watching publishers pull back and ad revenues drop, but some companies are finding ways to make a profit anyway. For one, I’ve seen a rise in companies that help people self-publish. The self-publishing industry is refining itself, offering more benefits and services to its customers, and hand-holding clients who need guidance. Writers are learning to become their own promotional agents, investing in their own future. E-books are emerging as a feasible future for a portion of publishing.

Although I used to spurn self-publishing, I no longer take a dim view of it. It definitely has its place, especially in a weak economy, when traditional publishers are buying even fewer manuscripts than ever.

The economy has changed everything. We are all examining our priorities, refocusing, and learning what it takes to be successful writers.

We will survive, and when we do, we will be stronger than ever.

Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, and fulfilling holiday season.

Yours in writing,
Bobbie Christmas (Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or bzebra@aol.com )
Author of triple-award-winning _Write In Style_ (Union Square Publishing), owner of Zebra Communications, and director of The Writers Network

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waiting for Inspiration

I kept waiting for inspiration before writing this message, until it eventually occurred to me that I was going against my own advice to other writers: don’t wait for inspiration, just put your butt in the chair and write! Oh, though, I thought some particular incident would set me off and give me the perfect subject for my letter to you, but alas, nothing spectacular took place.

Instead I kept going to bed at night, dreaming, waking up, dressing, walking the dog, editing manuscripts, writing reports, staying in touch with friends, and then going to bed at night again. Sure, Thanksgiving happened, and I, like countless other Americans, endured DFS (dysfunctional family syndrome), but this year I had no expectations, so I wasn’t as disappointed as usual. Aging helps.

I do have high expectations for Christmas Day, though. For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve held an open house on December 25, Christmas Day at the Christmas House. I cook for two or three days and open my house to friends and family members who want to come over and fill their bellies, get hugs, and exchange happy chatter (but no gifts). Feeding others and providing a gathering place: those are the ways I’ve learned to have a happy holiday, and without disappointment. If guests have the urge to spend money, I ask them to give it to a charity. The rest of us have all that we need and can get anything we don’t have, and for that we can be truly thankful.

Meanwhile, I live in the limbo many writers feel during the chaos of the holidays. I plod along and get my chores done, but I don’t feel particularly inspired. I know some great idea will hit me later, and I’ll get back on the “gotta write about it” track. For now, I’m happy to wait for the next train to come along, and it will, as long as I keep paying attention while I wait.

Here’s wishing you an inspired holiday season.