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We all make excuses, excuses that keep us from doing those things we want to do, perhaps even those things we <i>need</i> to do.

Reaching for our dreams is risky because, to achieve them, we would have to make ourselves vulnerable.

Each of us has a special fear, but a big one for writers is rejection, having agents and editors — and, ultimately the reading public — tell us our writing is dreadful and our ideas unworthy of the hard drive space they’re stored in.

Let’s identify the excuses we use and ditch them.

(The following list was made by Tommy Walker, see below.)

<blockquote>
1. You can’t afford to take a risk right now.

If not now, then when?

This excuse is fear of the unknown.

The reality is, you can’t afford <i>not</i> to take a risk right now.

If an idea really benefits people, pulling on the reigns doesn’t just inhibit your progress…it prevents people from improving their lives.

<b>2. Someone else is already doing it.</b>

Which came first, Copyblogger or Problogger? Dyson or Hoover? Groupon or LivingSocial?

Does it matter?

Not really.

<b>3. You don’t know where to begin.</b>

The human brain isn’t designed to process information in a linear fashion.

This is why when you dream, it doesn’t start “at the beginning” and you only remember how the dream ended, but never how it began.

If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, usually “the beginning” will make itself apparent, regardless of where you start.

Even better, because the way you process information is unique to you, your “starting point” could help you form a very unique perspective that people love.

Also consider the other people who “don’t know where to begin.”

By simply picking a place and chronicling your journey, you can inspire others to learn with you.

<b>4. You’re afraid of what your colleagues will say.</b>

Peer validation is rarely the deciding factor in any entrepreneurial story worth hearing.

If you’re concerned with what your industry peers will think, don’t worry about it.

Sometimes disruption is exactly what your peers need.

<b>5. Nobody will buy.</b>

If people will buy the “Pet Rock” people will buy what you’re selling.

You just have to figure out how to position yourself, and why they need you.

<b>6. You haven’t done it before.</b>

This is my favorite excuse, because it’s such a cop out.

Let’s look at some of the common milestones in your life that you got through just fine

– You went to school (hadn’t done that before)
– Had your first kiss (hadn’t done that before)
– Learned to drive a car
– Took up a new hobby
– Learned to read

Or really anything beyond lying on your back and flailing your limbs uncontrollably.

You hadn’t done anything before you did it. It’s simple, but it’s true.

This excuse is rooted in fear of the unknown.

Now it’s perfectly fine to be afraid, but “inexperience” is by far one of the worst excuses.

Life is built on a series of “firsts” and making the choice to limit your experiences only leads to dissatisfaction.

<b>7. You’ll get to it later.</b>

No you won’t. You never do.

Get to it now, or at least schedule it to get done.

Then do it.

You’ll be a lot more satisfied when you’re finished.

8. You don’t want to be boring.

What’s boring to some is addictive to others.

People process information differently. If you skew towards boring it’s entirely possible to still find the right audience.

However if you skew towards boring, and you don’t want to, find <a href=”http://www.copyblogger.com/how-to-be-interesting/”>ways to become more interesting</a>.

Take an improv class, do some live Q&A’s, go bungee jumping… spice it up.

<b>9. If you can’t get it right the first time, why bother trying?</b>

Perfection is a myth.

Nobody actually “does it right”. That’s why there are so many grocery stores, soda brands, religions, and blogs.

It’s not about “doing it right” so much as it is doing it to the best of your ability.

Giving it everything you’ve got, regardless of the outcome, that’s the only way to do it right.

<b>10. Failure would destroy you.</b>

Anyone who’s ever “made it” will tell you they’ve failed more times than they’ve succeeded.

Being destroyed by failure is a choice; the choice is to quit.

If you fail, fail.

Give it everything you’ve got, and let it become a disaster.

Watch it burn.Let it destroy you.

Then recoup, learn from your mistakes, and rise from the ashes.

Failure never completely destroys you, only the parts that weren’t doing you any good.

With every catastrophic failure, hindsight allows you to see where you went wrong.

When you rebuild, you’re that much closer to perfecting the system.</blockquote>
This list of 10 was taken from Tommy Walker‘s article, 106 Excuses That Prevent You From Ever Becoming Great.

Excuse number 7 is one I use all the time. Today I’m not going to procrastinate, I’m doing it now. (I don’t quite know what I’m doing, but whatever it is, I’m doing it now! 😉

Do you have a ‘favorite’ excuse, one that keeps you from achieving the things you dream about?

Seth Godin is a new discovery of mine. I had heard his name for years and kept meaning to look him up on the net, but never got around to it. Then a friend of mine said, “Yea, I love Seth Godin’s blog, you should read it, I think you’d like it”.

So I did.

He opened up my mind to a new way of thinking about community, about what it means to be part of a group, a tribe.

I discovered this video Seth Godin made and want to share it. In it he talks about his book, Unleashing The Idea Virus, and says:

Ideas that are free spread faster and ideas that spread, win.

So, free ideas win.

You might be thinking, yea, sure, you can say anything, what is he giving away for free? For starters, he’s giving way Unleashing The Idea Virus as an ebook. You can get it from his site, here.

Here’s a video where he talks about how he came up with these ideas:

Derek Haines loves StumbleUpon and here’s why:

My blog completely froze and gave me a ‘Page Cannot Be Loaded’ message. So off I went on an immediate hunt to find out why. It took me some time because I was looking in all the wrong places, and even if I had an inkling of the problem I wouldn’t have known how to go about remedying it anyway. Therefore I didn’t find the problem and decided to try another alternative. Wait half an hour and see what happened.

During that half an hour I popped into Stumbleupon by sheer chance. There at the top of my page was my problem. My server had been hit by over 1,500 visitors in less than fifteen minutes. Yes, from Stumbleupon. As my site is on a very normal everyday type server, this was a bit too much for it to handle. But what a nice problem to have.

Read the entire article over at Derek Haines’ blog, The Vandal: Blogging — The Stumbleupon Effect.

I have studied ways to drive traffic to my blog but hadn’t seriously considered StumbleUpon and, if not for Derek’s article, likely wouldn’t have for quite some time. Thanks Derek! I think that reading other writer’s blog posts is the most useful thing I do all day.

Another site that is worth checking out, if you haven’t already, is reddit.com. I mentioned fark.com to someone the other day and they rolled their eyes at me.

No one reads Fark anymore,” they said with pitying condescension.

We’ll see about that! I thought and marched home where I compared reddit.com to fark.com using Google Trends.

They were right! Well, not completely right, as you can see reddit.com is trending down as well, but, nevertheless, the result surprised me and I learnt something.

My goal for the day is to learn more about StumbleUpon.

Here are more of my SiWC notes, these are from day two, Saturday. I’ve mentioned Robert Dugoni before, but I don’t think I’ve been able to communicate … well, how inspirational his workshops (and keynotes!) are. Every time I walk away from a talk he’s given I feel: Yes, I can do this!. If any of you ever have the opportunity to hear him talk, I recommend it.

My apologies in advance for the fractured nature of these notes. I repeat certain tips and the notes themselves are less organized than I’d like. My instinct is to tuck this post away until I have time to do it properly, but I know that’s not going to happen, especially not during NaNo! So here my notes are, in all their imperfection.

What is the primary purpose of the novel? It is to entertain.

Your CHARACTERS entertain, NOT the author. If author tries to entertain then the story stops.

1. Backstory
Sometimes there is the temptation for the author to say, yes, we’ll get to the story, but let me tell you about this first. You need to weave the backstory into the story.

2. Too much description
Sometimes there is the temptation to stop the story and describe a character. You don’t have to describe a character unless it is important to the story.

AN EXCEPTION: If something is a marker, then you need to describe it. For example, if your character is wearing a Channel dress, that’s a marker. If your character pulls up in a hummer rather than a VW, that’s a marker. If it isn’t a marker, then you don’t need it. Most readers don’t care. If it isn’t really important don’t stop the story to describe it. Also could sprinkle description throughout the book. Give us the description as it becomes important to character.

Have character moving and talking as you give the description.

RESEARCH: It is important if its important to the characters.

Be careful about giving your characters your personal opinions. Guard against your own attitudes and beliefs bleeding through to the character where it isn’t appropriate.

Ask yourself: Are the characters entertaining or am I intruding into the story? The best authors are internal to the story.

Journeys
Your story is really the journey of your characters. The physical journey they take is the plot.

Emotional journey. Emotions get people, and your characters, to do things. Emotions give motivation. Basic human needs. Love, greed, protection.

Most books are about basic things.
– To win (a game) ( a contest) (the love of another)
– To stop (the world ending) (the abuse)
– To escape (a bad situation)
– To retrieve something (think Indiana Jones)
– To destroy something (Lord of the Rings)
– To save something or someone

Right now, write down the physical journey your character is on. What is their motivation for doing it?

Good. Now write down the emotional journey your character is on. What is his or her motivation for doing it.

Raising the stakes
Don Maass’ books are great. Read them.
– How would you raise the stakes? You have a victim, how are you going to raise the stakes? How about revealing that the victim is the hero’s brother? That’s one way of doing it.

The hero has to care. What happens if the hero fails in reaching the goal? Raising the stakes means making the hero lose more, makes the loss more painful and less likely that the hero can recover. Make the goal more personal to the hero, that’s how you raise the stakes.

Your goal is to establish the TONE of the book early. Each kind of book is going to have a different tone that will cure the reader that the books is, for example, a mystery, or a thriller, or a romance, etc.

Early on, introduce who the story is about, your readers need to meet the protagonist.

Also, you need to introduce the story problem early on. For instance, in the Lord of the Rings, the story problem is that the hero needs to take this ring a destroy it. Give your readers the story problem at the beginning of your story.

Hooking the reader
Classic openings in literature:
a. Everyday hero. Their everyday life. If your hero is a housewife, you see her going about her day, if your hero is a trial lawyer, you see them arguing a case, etc.
b. Action scene. The hero in action.
c. Emotional scene. Outside action opening. Da Vinci Code. Don’t start with the hero. Start with the killing.
d. Prologue. Start in a time or place different from the rest of the book.
e. Flashback opening. Water for elephants. Take scene from the book and put it at the beginning. Like a scene out of sequence.

Warning: Readers don’t like prologues. If you absolutely must have a prologue, call it chapter one.

Remember to write scenes where you use all your senses.

Some people say never start a book with your hero on a plane, train or in a car. Why? Because it’s a static environment. It is difficult to have action or dialogue. You will be tempted to have your character thinking and thinking and thinking. That’s not very interesting.

Goal
Your hero must have a goal. For instance, let’s say that your hero can’t be late or she’ll be fired, but she also HAS to have her morning coffee. She peers into the coffee shop, there’s no line up! She rushes inside and an elderly lady steps in front of her and she takes forever to order. The elderly lady is an obstacle that creates suspense.

Okay, so now your hero is late for work. She goes to the office. Her boss isn’t there. She looks down the hall, but her boss isn’t there either. Perhaps she’ll be able to make it to her office and her boss will never know she was late! Her hero walks into her office and there’s her boss, standing in her office.

How, should the boss say, “You’re fired!”? No, at least, not until the next chapter. You need to keep the story moving forward.

Chapter Breaks
One thing you should ask yourself is: Does this chapter have a better question for the next chapter (a question the next chapter has to answer) if I take out the last paragraph? Often an author will summarize the chapter in the last paragraph, this is bad because it’s boring. Your job is to get the reader to turn the next page. How do you do this? By raising story questions.

The first word of every scene
Use the first word of every scene to hook the reader. Raise a question. Readers are curious people by nature. If you raise a question in the first sentence they will want to answer it.

Flirt don’t tease. Don’t go 35 pages without answering a question you’ve raised.

Make the first sentence of every chapter great. Don’t throw away the first or the last sentence of any scene.

Give the reader something interesting right away, as soon as your story begins. An interesting character should appear right away. Like going to a cocktail party or a book-signing. Unusual people, even people you might think are a bit crazy, are very interesting. The worst judgement you can make about someone is that they are boring.

Settings: Third element
Your settings help you tell the story. For instance, in a scene lets say you have a few tarantulas in a terrarium in an elementary school classroom. The teacher is putting some papers into her briefcase and her principal walks in. The teacher glances at the terrarium. The spiders are gone.

Opening scenes: Don’t over-populate your first scene.

If a scene doesn’t advance the story then cut it.

Here is a link to Robert Dugoni’s home page.

My notes from other workshops I attended:
SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Two: Don’t Flinch: Robert Wiersema
SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Three: The Psychology of Plotting, Michael Slade
SiWC 2011 Day One, Part Four: The Inner Journey, Donald Maass

Okay, I’ve spent a couple of hours doing things like answering emails and reading posts and now I have half an hour to compose a blog post. Can I do it?

Yes I can! By talking about three things that seemingly have nothing to do with one another.

It was my birthday last week and thank you to everyone who said happy birthday, I really appreciate it! I worked on my birthday — I’m talking about my day job — so my friends are taking me out today to celebrate. I’m going to Society.

That’s later, in a few minutes I’m heading off to a NaNoWriMo luncheon and information session. I’m excited! As I’ve said too many times, this is my first year doing NaNo and the ‘bright shiny’ hasn’t worn off. I talk to other, veteran, NaNoers and they look at me pityingly with memories of bleary, bloodshot eyes and waking up at their desk, gripping a half-empty can of Red Bull.

I’m time-starved, so I know something is going to have to give. Sleep, of course. Showering … hmmm, probably try to keep that one. One thing that’s probably going to fall by the wayside is Dragonvale, a delightfully addictive game featuring … er … dragons. You get to mate them and build them houses and feed them. Okay, it doesn’t sound super addicting but, trust me, it is.

Okay, gotta run!

What is technorati.com? According to Wikipedia it is a massive search engine for searching blogs. Okay, that doesn’t sound exciting, but apparently getting ones blog registered with technorati is a very good idea. The first I heard about all this was at the last Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I took a workshop conducted by none other than Vancouver’s own miss604.com! (Yes, my notes will be posted shortly!)If you’d like to register your blog with technorati, here’s what you do:

1. Create an account at http://www.technorati.com
2. Confirm your account by clicking an emailed link
3. Go to your account and enter your blog URL in ‘Start Claim’ – at the bottom of the page.
4. Enter your blog details (including RSS feed URL)
5. Create a blog post with your verification code.
6. Click on ‘Check Claim’ and then ‘Verify Code’ once your blog article is posted to complete the process
7. Your submission will then be checked by the Technorati faeries and if they like it, you’ll be added.
What is Technorati all about?

A few minutes ago I took the first few steps to registering my blog with Technorati and I got my code, VSWRUMW5B2JK, so in publishing this post I will have (hopefully!) finished my registration. Yea!

I wonder, has anyone else heard about Technorati? Has anyone else registered their blog? I’m curious, because the workshop at SiWC 2011 was the first I heard of it, but it seems like a great service.

On Saturday, Vancouver resident Brian King was reading in his living room when a bedbug crawled out of the book and onto his hand.

“Out of the spine walks this little red creepy-crawly thing and I said to my wife, ‘Hello what’s this?'” King told CBC News on Wednesday.

King said a Google search informed him it was a bedbug, and a quick search of the book turned up several more.

“So I squished two or three of them. I caught a couple of them live and put them in a pill bottle securely, and there were also in the spine maybe two or three already dead.”

. . . .

Vancouver Public Library spokesperson Jean Kavanagh says it’s the first report of a live bedbug in the Vancouver system. Staff are in contact with Vancouver Coastal Health and continue to monitor the situation.

But because of the size of the Vancouver Library system, they haven’t decided yet whether to mount a full-scale inspection for bedbugs, and they have no plans to close any library branches, said Kavanagh.

“We have over 10 million items, so I think we have to look at the situation seriously, but also practically.”

Meanwhile, King said it appears his home is bedbug free.

“No sign of any bug infestations at all. There hadn’t been and there still isn’t,” he said.
Bedbugs found in Vancouver library book

When I read this article my first thought was: Of the list of positive things about ebooks I would never have have thought to put “bedbug free” on the list!

Reading this over I’m worried that I come across as being rabidly pro-ebook or, worse, against paper books. I love books of any description, but I must admit I think ebooks are cool in a way that paper books aren’t. Perhaps it’s the Star Trek dweeb in me (Trekkie? Trekker?)

When I first watched Start Trek: The Next Generation the idea of a holodeck and the portable hand-held computer/readers Picard used captivated my imagination. “One day humanity will have things like this,” I thought, but it never occurred to me that I’d be alive to see it happen.

Okay, we don’t have a holodeck (yet!) but my iPad seems pretty close to Picard’s hand-held tablet.

I remember watching the episode, from the original series — I think the title of the episode was Court Martial — where Krik is falsely accused of negligence in the apparent death of one of his crewmen, Ben Finney. It’s a great episode, one of my favorites, but what stayed with me was Kirk’s lawyer’s refusal to use digital books in his law practice.

In one scene, Kirk walks into his lawyer’s office, one Samuel T. Cogley, and looks around. Bookcases laden with dusty tomes line the walls. I remember feeling that if I ever had an office, that was the kind of office I wanted. Kirk is surprised by all the paper books. He says something like, “You can have all these books on your computer, why keep them around?”

His lawyer replies that books, real books, have soul. I loved this! “Yes!” I thought. It was wonderful to think that people in a technologically advanced future world would think that in some ways our society was better. I know, I know, it was a fiction, a fantasy, but still.

I still think Kirk’s lawyer’s speech was magnificent. That said, my skin tingles when I think about my iPad being able to hold thousands of books. Think about it! Any electronic reader or tablet can hold an entire library and it’s weightless. Portable. It’s like having the library of Alexandria in your hip pocket! If that’s not some kind of spooky magic I don’t know what is.

I guess this rambling post has been a stab at an explanation of why I am enamored of ebooks, why I write about them, why I’m tickled by unexpected new qualities (for instance, immune to bedbug infestations). It’s not that I want to put down or belittle paper books — I still love paper books — it’s just that the geek in me thinks that ebooks are so darn cool.