KEEP CALM and BLOG about KINDLE SCOUT – Day 2

SEVEN More Critical Lessons to Share ABOUT Kindle Scout Campaign Experience

(campaign page here: Https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H)

First, thanks to everyone who nominated The Happy Hammock already. I hope we succeed as a team effort, meanwhile…

Let me tell you what it feels like to have a Kindle Scout campaign for Day 1 and into Day 2… nerve wracking. My husband says as a Theatre major I have a tendency to overdramatize, and I admit I can go there. So the overall lesson to this learning is keep calm. I have already learned a ton about KS and documented my lessons here:

1) The time zones. One thing I didn’t realize was that because the campaigns start after midnight on the day of your campaign – this is East Coast time, that on the West Coast (where I live) your campaign will become live at just after 9pm the day before it is scheduled. News to me. Anyway, I had a few screw ups in getting excited and getting dates confused and my intended preprogrammed blog post went out too soon, so the link was not live. Did I keep calm, no I freaked out and swore at myself and tried to take things back, which didn’t work and may have made things worse. While I am trying to correct this at just after 9pm, I get an email that it is live now! Lesson: East Coast time, wait for the email.

2) Your first day stats. Lesson two in staying calm was that I couldn’t see the votes that my husband and first friends made in my campaign page. Well you are not given vote counts and YOU DON’T GET ANY STATS UNTIL DAY TWO. It said this in the info but I had to have my husband keeping me calm enough to have the presence of mind to go back and reread this. It shows views not nomination votes and all your stats come in Day Two, nada in Day One. Not good for drama queens. I will discuss these stats later but more on keeping calm.

3) Can’t vote. Lesson 3 in keeping calm is a good friend in Canada said her Amazon.ca account wouldn’t let her vote. Well I asked everyone and their dog that I knew if that could be true. I sent a message to Kindle Scout and posted a query on kboards (I’ll talk more about kboards in a future post). They all said no that wasn’t true and sure enough late in the day my friend said she had gotten through. KEEP CALM. Kindle Scout said that some people may have to use another browser or delete their cached browser but that’s rare. Lesson: Ask your person who says they can’t get through to try later &/or try another browser.

4) Hot and trending. One thing I did know was that I did not skyrocket to the Hot and Trending list but Martin assured me I’d get there just by virtue of having a good product. Thanks Martin for keeping me calm. I did notice the types of books that went direct to hot and trending and my book is different so we’ll see, and I wouldn’t have it any other way as I am not writing to be conventional, nor unconventional. I’m just me. Like it or not.

5) Views. More important was that I did have over 400 views in one day. Some of these did nominate me but by staying calm and reading the info KS gives you I found out that they add to your stats anyone who liked you enough to click another button marked Save For Later. KS considers you have piqued enough interest to consider that a win. I did not know that.

6) Challenges make you creative. As we speak, the other side of the wall to my normally serene home office writing sanctuary has drills and power tools going off with a reno happening next door. And yesterday I was in the dentist, so why the universe wants my first two days to include drilling I am not sure, but it has driven me to my fave cafe where I have friends, peace and good Wifi. I also know the owner who has let me put after a chat and his interest let me put this poster up in the café (the new Cuppa Joe currently changing names from Swift on Rosser Ave. in Burnaby – its awesome and very writer friendly, say hi to Monty for me). Monty and I laughed that in brackets I said: author regularly seen in this café.


7) Blog about it. I also learned that blogging about this whole experience not only helps you keep calm but also really great community writer guys like Steve Vernon will repost your blog on his blog! This is among other ways Steve helps the community (see next post where I will talk about kboards). Thanks Steve!

I sure appreciate everyone who has supported me so far and has been sweet enough to let me know. I’m a people person but like all writers I have an introvert side and being the popular kid in school, so NOT, so the popularity aspect always makes me nervous. But, necessity is that I am still chasing the “hot and trending” list and you can help me since the majority of my views are not my own network but stats say they are people who go to KS normally. My contacts I have been messaging, Facebooking, tweeting and of course, this, blogging. Today I actually start emailing and hope people will forward some of the emails too. The results could show up in Day three. But I am chilling as much as possible for the weekend… I said as much as possible. Post again next week.

In case you want to check this all out, and not even nominate my book but save for later, here, again, is the link:
https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H


 

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My Kindle Scout Publishing Journey – Day 1 – What is Kindle Scout?

So what is Kindle Scout exactly and how are you, me and the proverbial lamppost supposed to use it to publish our books? Well I am going to show you in real time because my Kindle Scout Campaign was just approved to start, GULP, today!

 

YES, YOU COULD BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO NOMINATE MY BOOK

 

USING THE LINK HEREhttps://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
But you may want to read this as well.

Kindle Scout is for fiction writers to possibly get a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing for ebook and audible book rights only (guidelines link here). You retain the print rights to your book. Since my book, The Happy Hammock, is based on my life and real estate foibles in Mexico, but it is fictionalized, it counts in the general literature and fiction category and a few other genres like romantic comedy as well.

In essence a Kindle Scout campaign gives you 30 days to accumulate NOMINATIONS (votes) from readers on the Kindle Scout website in order to win that publishing contract.

For readers, they will get a FREE kindle copy of a book they nominate when/if it is successful, yes, including mine. To be a reader who can nominate, FAQs are here, but essential things to know:

  1.  You will have to have an Amazon account or sign up for one
  2.  You only have three votes to use on different books per cycle – so do look at my page today or before Sept. 29 before casting all your votes – you have a 5000 word preview.

My campaign is from August 30th to September 29th, 2017 (my birthday is on Sept. 30th so going to be a tense birthday waiting for a yes or no email that day)


My goal: try to get as many daily nominations- consistently- over the course of 30 days and stay in the hot and trending category for as many hours as possible.

That means different people click the blue, nominate me button on my page everyday. The goal is not only to get a lot of votes as it is to get a consistent flow of votes daily as the mysterious algorithm that Amazon uses to make choices is based on your ability to promote yourself consistently. One big spike of voters is not going to do it. And voting isn’t the only thing. Kindle Scout Editors will be reviewing my entire manuscript and deciding if it is ready enough (before they ask for edits). Oh yes. This is an actual publishing contract with a $1500 advance, some work you do to polish and some guarantees of modest income (that can go much higher with your royalty being 50%).

I will check in and blog regularly and show you my stats in screenshots from my campaign dashboard that normally I am only privy to. A little scary. What are the kind of things I have to do to be successful? This is what I have done and am planning:

1) Have a kick-ass cover – I always pay a pro to do this! Looks good doesn’t it. Don’t think I haven’t checked out who wins these contracts and noticed that those with awesome covers often win, because they do.

2) Also important your 500 character max book description and 45 character tag line.


This is what mine is now and frankly I could have tweaked it even further. Two days ago I begged them to let me change my tag line before launch (see the old one in the first picture and the new here) thanks to a late night review with Martin Crosbie’s help (thanks again Martin). About half the people voting very likely will be strangers who regularly go to Kindle Scout and they will use my description, tag and then the sample pages of the first 5000 words of my manuscript to nominate. So this is a great way to broaden or build a readership.

3) Have my social media contacts primed:
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

4) Plan Blogging…
My Blog – my link
Guest blogging – link to VSW blog – and I am open for more invites form bloggers, hint hint – after all I have been cultivating my fascinating stories for just such invites.
Ask others to interview me on their blog – again open for invites BLOGGERS. Some good questions you might ask me:

  •  When and why did you decide to do a Kindle Scout after publishing so many other books independently?
  •  What happens if you don’t get the Kindle Scout deal?
  •  How did writing this book happen?
  •  Do you really have  a Mecca for writers in Mexico?
  •  Your campaign page says The Happy Hammock is book one, what’s in book two and how soon will that be coming out?

5) Order some cards made up, bus. card sized, to hand out with the link to campaign page.

6) Facebook Book promo groups – there are dozens of them out there but only some of them let you join and start promoting yourself so be careful, better to tip toe into it and read the rules and descriptions.

7) Joint ventures as with people like Gary Bizzo of Biz Publishing and a twitter influencer who is doing this experiment with me and we will be launching promoting his new book soon (but not using Kindle Scout as it is non-fiction book) but when it is published and launched as it hits Amazon soon. @garybizzo,

8) Networking online and off – friends and friends of friends, the word has to get out there BUT over 30 days not all at once. Remember, consistency is key!

9) Emailing – always good to build an email list.

10) Students and public speaking – since I teach writing and publishing and am out there I will mention it at those events in Vancouver and give our cards over the next 30 days.

Okay, that’s all I got for now. I hope this enlightened you and I am sure I will be learning as I go along, so look for my regular posts from today, Day 1, to Day 30 and beyond. Phew! No turning back. Feel free to ask me any questions here and I will try to answer them or find the answers.

If you want the link again to check out KS and my campaign page and nominate me if you like what you see Here It Is again: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H

 Thanks! Kathrin

Top Ten Best Writing Books

Recently, someone asked me for My Top 10 Best Books for Writers and so here they are with a sentence or two on why. You can click on the covers to learn more about each and perhaps give yourself an early Christmas present.

Okay let’s start with the classics:

1) Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones

    

Natalie’s book is where I first understood the zen of writing by enjoying the process, keeping your pen moving, “I remember”, and other great exercises. She is the woman who long ago gave me my inspiration to teach writing. Also, try her first biography, The Long Quiet Highway.

2) Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

Who among us has not appreciated Anne’s simple wisdom that all of us should, can and do want to write “shitty first drafts.” She tells the tale of a writer’s true journey and what she has learned.

3) Stephen King’s On Writing

I know that we are not supposed to be alcoholic and drug addicted just because we are writers any more, but you have to take a peek into the life of one of the most successful writers of all time and see how he redeemed himself. Even if you don’t like his genre you will appreciate his stick-with-it-ness. It turns out art can save you as well.

4) Susan Shaughnessy’s Walking on Alligators 


Little inspirations for writers which I patterned my own inspiration and exercise book after, The A to Zen of Writing. This is the kind of book you fold down the pages so you can read that one quote or passage again.

5) Strunk and White’s  The Elements of Style

A 1959 classic now in its umpteenth printing is a reference that you return to when you have to get it right. No one dares argue with Strunk and White on the matters of grammar, style and syntax. Easy examples make it a treasure. BTW, did you know that this classic guide was self published at first? Another truth in self publishing – its been around much longer than you think.

6) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Right to Write

Interchangeably, I think we can put both Julia Cameron’s books on the list. Her break-out book The Artist’s Way stimulated a whole collection of people to write morning pages and go on artist dates. I get tired of some of the never ending exercises but I do appreciate some of what she has to say to writers in Right to Write.

7) Brooke Wharton’s The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to) 

This is your legal knowledge book. Some of the info may be out of date –so make sure you get the most recent version– but for those of us who are writing screenplays or think our books would make good movie material, you want this book at your side. Besides which, I think it is one of the best titles ever.

8) Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey 

This is a look at the history of all great stories and mythology from a writer’s perspective as Vogler uses Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to decipher how all great stories operate using archetypical characters and the repeated dilemmas and themes. He references most great movie screenplays. This to me is a must have for fiction writers or storytellers of any kind.

9) William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell?

Speaking of Hollywood and screenplays … for sheer joy, entertainment and wisdom I love reading William Goldman. I already adore the man, if only because he brought us The Princess Bride as an adaptation. Both the book and the movie are on my shelves. The story of how that book and movie came about is a lie that is almost as entertaining (and fascinating) as the movie itself, and What Lie Did I Tell? is all the stories about making screenplays into movies and laughing and crying at the Hollywood machinery. It’s all about persistence people and letting go.

10) Kathrin Lake’s Writing with Cold Feet

I searched my unabashed self-promotional conscience and discovered that I have no trouble plugging my own book which has been going strong since it was published in 2013. Why I think it belongs on my writers’ book list is that it is not just written for reluctant writers but all writers. Even published authors have praised it for tackling the things that all those other books don’t want to talk about, which is mostly in the subtitle: The Secrets of How to Write When You Are Not Writing. I had to write this book simply because nobody else had and I needed to get all my years of writing coaching and the accumulated wisdom as a reluctant writer into a book. I think it rounds out this list nicely.

Other Crucial Online References:

A good baby name resource.  People used to ask me why I, a motherless woman, had baby name books on my shelf. I simply needed a way to name characters and find out what those names mean. You can get unexpected insights from finding out the meaning of the name of a character you’ve already named, and occasionally you will decide to change their name… in a way I am a mother. Try Baby Name Wizard.

I love my Word Origins book and also have a resource on the internet, but let’s face it we need a good site for Thesaurus, and Wikipedia is a blessing we can no longer live without, as well as several Quotations sites like Brainy Quotes.

PLEASE TELL US your FAVORITE WRITER BOOKS and resources and we could have a nice catalog here UNDER COMMENTS!

 

Would Henry Miller Have a Blog?

I did one of those things we do less and less of in this day and age. I took a book off my book shelf to read. Okay, right there one wonders if in the not too distant future that will become an archaic sentence. Will we have books and bookshelves that insomniacs thumb through in search of something to fall asleep by, or stay up by, in my case the former, but there’s more. The book had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, decades, in fact. I kept meaning to get to it. Vaguely remember who gave it to me, even glanced inside to see if he had written his name. It’s a classic you see, Henry Miller’s The Tropic of Cancer. Not for the easily shocked or faint of heart, it has the reputation of being repeatedly on one of the most banned books list. Certainly, in 1934, it’s sexually explicit words were instantly censored. Yet, at that time it was published. Why? Because how Miller wrote, not what. His style is a poetic prose of his chaotic and yet amazing writer’s life in Paris.

One of his first gems is: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am.”  He goes on to say that, all that is literature “has fallen from me” and that he does not write a book, he writes a “prolonged insult” and several other vicious labels for what is about to come. In short, Miller is free. He doesn’t care, he revels in his words and spins magic with them. He goes to the dark side and to the sublime in a blink.

The question for me really isn’t would the great writers of history have blogs and eBooks, because I think many would, but would we find them and single them out as great writers? That I don’t know. I know that when I work with writers coaching them, I ask them to find writers that give them permission to be more daring. You don’t have to write like Miller, you just have to get your truth out, push your boundaries as much as possible. Use someone else’s courage to find your own. Find your freedom, wherever it lies.

Unfortunately, there is the age-old conflict of finding your artist within and yet living outside the confinements of “making money.”  We hope we can do both, but there is a risk, a downsizing, an adjustment of expectations. Not many of us, like Miller, can proclaim, from that, “I am the happiest man alive.”

Even now, I am telling my authors (see the VSW Blog on Dragon’s Den), how all writers are entrepreneurs. It’s true, but it’s also the balancing dilemma. There perhaps isn’t the reverence of the artist and the patronage, and the community, there was in Miller’s day. Who would be helping Henry Miller get out his eBook, or learn the technology, if he didn’t have it? Let alone put a roof over his head. I am almost certain, no one, or maybe a few small presses would publish him. He might be self published. He might find his community online or through MeetUps, but who would see his words in the crowds of techno words online? In the future, it is doubtful that anyone will be stumbling around in the half-light looking for an appealing title only to rediscover Miller because he has been sitting on your shelf for decades, instead, more likely, the future upgrades in technology may ensure our next Millers will be deleted or lost forever.

Strangely, Miller has now become “literature” and that may be making his ghost laugh. In our material world, in our search engine world, we are often stepping away from that. If you don’t know what you are looking for exactly online, in the age of eBooks, if it has not already gone viral, who finds it? That is the tragedy and the challenge of our future as writers. Perhaps it always was, in some ways, but it has become a self-help world, where time is the largest luxury. We have to create or recreate our communities and make them stronger despite our temptation and necessity to stare at screens.

Yet, whatever the future holds, the simplest triumph is still available. Always find a little freedom in your writing, or a lot, even if you can’t be the happiest man alive.

Blog for Blog’s Sake or The 99% Decade

I haven’t blogged here since last year. I have two unfinished  blog ideas in my drafts folder that no longer inspire me. My blogger friend Lorraine (aka Raincoaster) would be ashamed of me. Every three days to a week is more her schedule. At very least every three weeks. But what is up with me?

potential mock-up cover for my new book

On the weekend I was at a party and the weird subject of disposing of a cremated loved ones ashes came up -only at a good party can such subjects come up- and I told the whole hilarious and profound story of disposing of my mother’s ashes that had everyone engaged. I realized I could not have done that if I had not written a blog post about it a number of years ago called, The Mystery of Mom. That’s when it hit me that I had not blogged for a very long time. I went from about once a month to every three months to every six months and now once a year.

On the upside I have a new book I have finished a first draft of, The Happy Hammock (I am still seeking beta readers if you are interested in reading the first draft – please contact me). However, some of the chapters of the book-which is about our misadventures and wacky community in our small Mexican town-are taken from some of my blogs, albeit expanded and sweetened. So how could I stop doing this important exercise? On the one hand, I am still writing, perhaps more than ever, but on the other hand I am not sharing enough. My last blog statistics were horrendous. This is not good for my marketing efforts which let’s face it are more haphazard than I care to admit.

As a writing teacher/coach my students have heard me said that after teaching writing for about ten years I figured out that I wasn’t really teaching people to write. Sure I gave them the technical tools in story structure and dialogue and all of that, but what I figured out I was really doing was empowering them to share their writing. That is the scary part. That is the part that holds people back. So, my friends, under that wisdom I can’t argue with because it is my own, I say today I am blogging for blog’s sake. I am not even doing it on a separate Word doc first. I am putting it direct into WordPress as I think it. I am live.

to-blog-or-not-to-blog

I know I am not all that crazy and carefree an artist however because I noticed that I am hitting the “save draft” button fairly regularly. The point is I haven’t been inspired to blog (remember the two unfinished draft ideas) but I am doing it anyway. Hoping something good will come of this pondering.

Pondering is great for the ponderer but can be boring to read, you maybe have to switch it up. So here goes. A scene between two writers talking:

A: “Do you remember that part in the book Eat, Pray, Love, where she and her Italian friends are figuring out the one word that sums up each city? Rome is sex, Naples is fight, Stockholm is conform…”

B: “Sure. That’s a great part.”

A: “What do you think our city’s word is?”

B: “Hmm. I have a feeling you already know, so are you going to tell me?”

A: “Well I am torn. The first idea is technically two words and it is Real Estate.”

B: “Yeah, our city is obsessed with that.”

A: “Even I’m obsessed with that.”

B: “What’s the other word?”emily_-carr-in-studio

A: “Airbnb”

They start laughing.

B: “Yup, that’s about it these days.”

A: “I am coining this The 99% Decade – where most of us are battling depression, trying not to think about Donald Trump and are madly trying to make ends meet. We are not the 1% and we don’t know any other way to fight it than Airbnb.”

B: “But this is everywhere, not just our city.”

A:”True. And for writers and artists and women it has always been thus.”

B: “What do you mean?”

A: “I keep thinking of Emily Carr who took in boarders to make ends meet so she could keep painting. She had a little studio in her house and hung chairs and various things up on the rafters with ropes and pulleys to bring them down when she needed so she could have enough room for her canvases.”

B: “You mean there have always been people struggling and we have always been pragmatists.”

A: “I guess so.”

B: “And there have always been the very rich too.” She pauses. “So what’s the outcome of this?”

A: “I guess, just keep blogging, painting, dancing, doing whatever you do however best you can. And if you need to airbnb, you airbnb.”

B: “Right.”

A comfortable silence is broken.

B: “Should we just accept the 99%dom then?”

A: “I don’t think anyone wants to emulate the 1%, do they? What does it say about you if you want to be mega rich? That you are selfish? We should hang on to our values when we struggle and be proud, 99% proud. They are 1% rich but they can be 99% as miserable as anyone else.” Another pause. “One thing I know for sure is no one is friends with us for our money.”

They laugh again.

B: “You are an optimist.”

A: “No, I just create characters who are optimists.”

B: “Still, it’s a good thing you blogged today.”

And so ends my blog for blog’s sake with a neat little snapshot of this corner of history right now. Maybe it is good I blogged today.

075a0286Kathrin Lake helps writers write all over North America but particularly in Mexico where she holds writing retreats every January.

Contact at kathrinlake4@gmail.com

2nd Place at the Vancouver Story Slam

Tuesday night, April 12th, I went to The Vancouver Story Slam group which meets every second Tuesday of every month. Sometimes I watch but this time I was a participant.  For those of you who don’t know, this is story telling competition. I came in a humble second as well as receiving the line of the night award which if you listen, starts with “Every siesta time we are  now having…”.  This is from the book I am currently completing called The Happy Hammock about our hilarious and profound adventures in Mexico.

 

The Vancouver Story Slam Info

Where: The Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R2

When: Every 2nd Tuesday of the month, get there by 7:30 if you want to get a good seat, starts at 8pm – 10 pm.

What: 10 storytellers tell 4 – 6 minute stories that you get to vote on, plus warm up story and awards of $75 for first prize, $50 for second prize, $25 for third prize. and various other prizes

Cost: $5 (and patronage at the Bistro of food and/or drinks)

Sign up to be a teller, rules and other info:  https://www.facebook.com/VancouverStorySlam/

 

Thanks to JP LORENCE for giving me the video AND WHO WON the competition that night by the way, for his story about the birth and the death of a story, and its possible resurrection.

Third place went to a first timer, Devon More, for her story of how language barriers in a movie theatre can result in something being lost (or added!) in translation.

 

Bonus picture:

HH Sex gasoline

The Purpose Puzzle: What Is My Purpose?

There are a lot of people wandering around looking for their purpose in life which I call the Purpose Puzzle. If you are pondering the Purpose Puzzle then the first thing you may wonder is if you are in a position to pursue your purpose physically and psychically. We can look at Maslow’s hierachy of needs pyramid and see that the top is self actualization, fulfillment or your higher purpose. But first you have to make sure all the other physical and safety needs are met, and all those other needs piled on top of them.  But is this fair?maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

The thing that doesn’t work for us in Maslow is: 

1) It’s set up as a hierarchy as if you are moving through all these stages, climbing to self-actualization or fulfillment like it’s a destination on the life train express. However, sometimes these stages come and go in our lives, many things we are working on simultaneously and it truly can be two steps forward one step backwards and some periods are whole hog backslide. So my two cents worth is, you are probably ready for your purpose if you are thinking about it.

2) The other thing that trips up Maslowian progression is that many of us don’t know the difference between really having our basic needs threatened and worrying about having our basic needs threatened – this is where Buddhism, Sufism and other practices on consciousness can help where you work on your mental state and being free from suffering such things as worry.

3) What Maslow also doesn’t answer-but Jungian analysis that often lasted years was supposed to-was, that no one but ourselves can say what self-actualization or self-fulfillment actually is. And this is a little of what today’s blog is really about.

If you are a life coach or have been to a life coach, the question, “What do you want?” followed by, “What do you really want?” is standard operating procedure. And then the probing comes. It sometimes lasts for a long time. You think this, you think that. Almost always Maslow’s lower needs of how am I going to pay the rent while I do this or that comes up too.

Essentially, when it comes to finding your purpose, I have found that everyone falls into one or sometimes more than one of these three categories:

1) You know what you want to do to feel fulfilled, but are afraid.

2) You don’t know.

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

  1. You already know what you want…

Some people already know, or believe they know, what their purpose or passion is and have known for a long time. They know what they love to do, but it scares them silly. It scares them because they don’t know how they are going to make money at it (or that’s a popular excuse), or it scares them because they don’t know if they will be any “good” at it. That is a combination of a fear of failure and a fear of success, which are really both sides of the same coin.

If this describes you, we could be very harsh and just say, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake. There is never going to be a right moment or a safe time. You CANNOT figure it out on the sidelines.” However, to get beyond your anxieties we suggest you get some help, from professionals, from books, watch videos, enlist coaches & mentors, sign up for courses and then, and only then, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake.” After all that help, rest assured that there still will never be a right moment or a safe time. You will still never be able to figure it out on the sidelines. You don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to figure it all out because you can’t. Or as Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Also, consider this, you are lucky that you know what it is. So many are in the next two groups.3purpose

  1. You don’t know…

You are not sure what your purpose is, or haven’t chosen or created a purpose yet. Let’s assume you have thought about it, maybe searched, and even tried a few things but nothing was “it.” Maybe you have a few more ideas but are still not sure. Consider this, other than our loved ones as a purpose for meaning in our lives, we choose a purpose or create one. When you choose and then commit to that kind of purpose it has to mean something to you and it often has to serve a specific group. But for now, make a choice, a choice you can see yourself doing for 10 years+, even if you are not absolutely clear where you will be in that ten years. My observation of those that do really have “it” is that they simply chose AND they added a firm measure of commitment to it.  The message here is, if you are a wishy-washy person you are bound to suffer OR you should start accepting that you like variety and take up and drop purposes as you see fit. You may be one of those people who like to have multiple ones and you may even have one foot in the next camp…

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

I wish more people liked and valued this category and recognized that they belong here. On this planet and the way our culture is going we stress the self in self fulfillment. We think of ourselves as lesser or lesser expressed if we are not the spearheads, or the innovators, or the sole creators. As a writer, I certainly fall into this trap. Also, I am amazed at hearing people say, all the time, “I can’t change anything.” But they don’t offer help to others that can. I am thinking of all the wonderful volunteers who have helped me and all the volunteering I did to help others. I am thinking of how change has always happened in history with groups of people, not solos. So if you recognize you are not a leader, not a solo artist, not an entrepreneur then I ask, have you knuckled down to helping someone or some organization in their fine pursuit? You can do this and do your “day job” and you can help more than one organization. Help them the way they need help OR help them using your own strengths and talents. Again, the feeling of purpose comes with the level of commitment. And after ten years you may move on to something else. I never regretted much of the volunteering I did or helping others, but there was always a point to move on and I did that too.

Maybe this blog post has helped you in your own Purpose Puzzle, a little. Maybe it has just re-stated what you already understood. Or, maybe you are ready for something deeper and you need to be knocking on Buddha’s door.

The Human Dance in the Void

This Saturday, I am down at my local Starbuck’s at English Bay cashing in on a gift card and doing what people do there. People watch.

This is the scene I see happening before my eyes. Two young men are sitting outside at a table and I am sitting inside. Along comes an elderly woman with the look of a poverty line statistic, who, without a word, pulls up the chair across from them, shakily sits down, and lights up a cigarette. It is obvious they don’t know her. It goes without saying she is not carrying a Starbuck’s product (which I secretly admire her for). She just wants a place to sit, rest and smoke. With my front row seat through the glass I feel the young men squirm. One looks into his phone the other keeps checking out the summer babes crowding the sidewalks.  The old woman draws on her cigarette, her hand shakes all the way from hand to mouth for that precious drag. What will happen?

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Not a word is spoken. Is this tolerance, apathy, social disconnection, generation gap? I am glad no one chases her away. Even though if it were me sitting outside, that cigarette would make me a little zoodles. How long will this social contract to ignore each other go on?  Will anyone break it? Will anyone acknowledge the void? I am waiting for the men to leave… or maybe the woman. Care to hazard a guess?

 

5_social disconnection

One young man leaves without saying a word to the other. I had assumed the two men were friends and clearly they were strangers sharing a table and nothing more. Does my assumption reflect the story I want to see? Then the woman leaves, unsteady and plodding. Then the other young man with the phone moves off.

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The dance is over. I present it here to make of it what you will but consider that there are millions more dances like these happening everywhere all the time.

Magic 8 Ball: My Relationship with the Future

2KathrinAsFortunetellerI have an uneasy relationship with the future. I am not the only one. If I were, there would be no such thing as divination in the form of astrology, tarot cards, chicken bones and of course the Magic 8 Ball.

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Last week, I bought a Magic 8 Ball. Why? Because I never had one before and it held for me mystery and nostalgia. Everyone else around me seemed to have had one at some point. Can anyone ever forget the episode of Friends where Ross repeatedly consults his Magic 8 Ball in regards to Rachel?

The Magic 8 Ball has been around since the fifties thanks to Mattel, but I don’t recall it being in vogue in my ‘hood until the late 70s (we were still lost in our Ouija boards).

So, I wanted a Magic 8 Ball, but not urgently just curiously.  I even asked for one for my birthday to my sensible husband, who promptly ignored the request and got me a pedicure, a meal out and flowers. I didn’t miss the Magic 8 Ball. But, suddenly I was invited to a grand opening party of my friend Gary’s newest toy store, The Toy Box (Toy Jungle chain) and the opportunity presented itself.

The way the Magic 8 Ball is packaged you can use it in the store and test it before you buy it. So, I decide to ask a stupid test question: will it still be raining when I leave the store? Its answer: all indications pointed to yes. I realized right there that this was a stupid question because since I was at a party I wasn’t sure when I was going to be leaving, so it was not a question I could verify a correct answer to right away. It also meant I would have to buy the Magic 8 Ball in order to see if the question was correct or be caught for shoplifting. So I buy it. I leave the store an hour later and it is still raining. All things look good, except for the fact that it really is raining hard and I have no umbrella. However, I do live in Vancouver and the weather forecast is probably about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball and rain is always a good bet. A better bet is to carry an umbrella.???????????????????????????????

As I took my treasure home, the quintessential adult kid with a new toy to play with, I start to ruminate on my first, big, important question. My first thought was I’d ask: will my screenplay be bought? It is currently under option so it’s important to me to go to the next step and sell it and see it produced. My next thought is, what if the answer is negative and the answer influences me negatively and I give up on trying to sell the screenplay. Better not ask that question. I should ask questions where I have little influence over the subject.

So I went down that path, trying to find a question that was important to me but I have very little control over the outcome so if the answer is negative I won’t be influenced to change my ways, possibly in a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way.  If you are following this, I salute you. Now, I suddenly realize how many things I actually have influence over.
Will my book sell well?
Will I have a good meeting next week?
Will I be able to help my family with their present problems?
All of these kinds of questions I have a lot of influence over and I wanted to think positively about them and keep that power. I did not want the Magic 8 BaMagic8Ballll to come out with an answer that may affect  my thoughts or actions in a detrimental way. Clearly these questions were off the table.

So I moved to questions where I had absolutely no control over. At least I was thinking I did. If you ask, for example, will I win the lottery, the very minimum you have to do is buy a lottery ticket. And, don’t you have to buy the ticket first to ask a question? You again have influence, or an active role at least in the outcome. Was I going to rush out and buy a lottery ticket just to ask the Magic 8 Ball if I was going to win it? No. Truth be told I don’t even think I want to win a lottery. That is not my idea of fulfillment.

Other things that were both important to me and I thought I might not have influence over the outcomes, were for other people. Will my friend, who has the big “C,” ‘s health return? Do I really want to ask that question? Would the answer influence how I talk to them, or even if I wanted to talk to them? Would they know on the phone by the tone in my voice that I had a psychic indication positive or negative? Was I supposed to put my friends health in the frivolity of the Magic 8 Ball?

Pretty soon after going through all the questions that really make a difference to me, but I have no control over, I came back to one. The one I started with. The weather. Anything considered an act of God. Once again, I was pretty sure we had weather forecasts for this exact reason. And even if forecasts weren’t always correct, they weren’t vague either. That’s right, I went all the way from desiring the Magic 8 Ball, to finally getting one and realizing I could not use it.

The silver lining was seeing, not into the future, but seeing that I do have an influence in life, however great or subtle it is, over, many, many things and I use it everyday without even thinking. And you do too.

Maybe I always knew the Magic 8 Ball was going to be too good to be true, because I never took it out of its package. I will not take it back to the store. It is not defective. But perhaps I will give it to someone who needs to learn that the future is at their feet more than they realized.

cropped-a556288-r2-023-10.jpgKathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing http://vancouverschoolofwriting.com/events/writing-retreats/. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information.

The Unlikely Yoga Teacher

I am leading my yoga class in my version of “the tree” and as I balance, I look out at two dozen students at various stages of balance and imbalance. Is this a dream? Me, a yoga teacher? It doesn’t seem possible.

Three years ago I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I attempted yoga. I always hated going to a new yoga class. Why? Because inevitably the same thing would happen. At the first forward bend, the yoga teacher would come running over quite distressed at what she saw me doing, while the rest of the class – in sexy, spectacular forward bends – looked at me with pity.

You see, I have spectacularly short hamstrings. I cannot do a forward bend without bending my knees, a lot, really a lot. I discovered this in my first gym classes where I started a history of humiliations. Although quite normal for a lot of men to have short hamstrings, women usually have longer hamstrings, shorter legs and often no problem kissing their knees. Whereas I can’t even sit up straight on the floor with legs flat out in front of me without needing to lay back like a backwards jack-knife.

Yet, everything else about yoga I really enjoyed, so over the years I wandered in and out of classes and built a wall around my ego every time the forward bend, straight legs, upright back came up and the yoga teacher would come running over. If I had a few dollars every time a teacher would look at me and say, “you know, you can improve on that if you work at it.” To all those yoga teachers, I would like to say, “You were wrong.”Yoga Over 50 WE Kathrin

What happened three years ago was, I developed a “frozen shoulder.” I had never heard of this mysterious, painful condition before. My therapies were both expensive and not working, until I spotted a “Yoga for Over 50” class at my local rec centre. I had just turned 50, so technically, eligible. It was there that I started my new love affair with a gentler yoga.

First, nearly everyone in this class was, on average, 20 years my senior, so it didn’t matter what I physically did in that class, I looked great! Second, technically, there wasn’t any teacher to come running over. There was only Nan, a senior student in her 86th year with a brash Scottish brogue, who took over for the teacher “temporarily.” Lilo had left in her 90s unable to feel up to teaching twice a week. The class has been going for over three decades! I started to wonder if I had stumbled onto a fountain of youth class.

Age differences aside, I developed a great fondness for everyone in the class. Not only that, but the gentler yoga cured my frozen shoulder within a month. Yet there was a problem, the rec centre was saying they needed a teacher who was certified. So they found us one, Sandra Leigh. We gently schooled her on how we did things and she listened, compromised and she was great; we lucked out.

The trouble was, she was always in need of a substitute from time to time and particularly over summer. I found myself drawn to the idea of leading the class. The fact that I had short hamstrings no longer bothered me. The fact that I was quite dyslexic however, made me think twice. Could you get a more unlikely yoga teacher?IMG_0485

An opportunity to do a Chair Yoga certification came up for me, and with Sandra’s blessing and mentorship I did it. Of course, my husband, friends and family were as shocked as I when I started teaching yoga classes.

“Really?” They’d say when I told them what I was up to now. I still enjoy the look on their faces. Yet, here I am, the dyslexic yoga teacher who doesn’t really care if knees are straight or bent, whether you wear sweats or LuLu Lemon, or whether we are all doing the left side at the same time. Now you hear my joyous voice in the studio saying, “Now the other side!”

Who knows? Stay open and maybe you too can be an unlikely… whatever you want!

Kathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information or http://vswonline.org  to sign up for Writing Retreats in Mexico and other writing and publishing classes in Canada, United States and Online Classes in writing and publishing available worldwide.