Going Beyond the LIKE to the SHARE!

Going Beyond the LIKE to the SHARE!

About a year ago I was having lunch with friends catching up on lots of things. I don’t really remember how the topic of TV programming came up, but one of my friends was complaining about the cancellation of one of her favorite television shows — Last Man Standing. I told her that happened to be one of my favorite comedy shows as well, but I admitted to her that I would often forget to watch it when it was on.

One of the curses of living in the central time zone is that the evening shows begin at 7 p.m. And even though I’ve been in this time zone for decades, I still don’t think about plopping down in front of the TV that early in the evening; especially on a Friday night.

One of the other friends sitting with us said, matter of factly, as if she’d been given the inside track, “They cancelled it because of his politics. They didn’t like that he was an outspoken Republican” My other friend agreed with her, saying that’s what she heard too. I dare not to ask where they exactly heard this, but instead asked them a fair question. “So, when’s the last time either of you watched it?”

There was a long pause, so I filled the blank during the temporary silence. “Seldom will a network cancel a show that’s making them money.” I then reminded them that the lead character’s politics had always played a role in the show from the start. It was what made the show — Tim always praising the politics of Ronald Reagan and most other Republican presidents and policies, while frequently taking a jab at the Clintons, Obama, and Democrats as a whole. Additionally, the family’s dynamic of having some “liberal” kids and some “conservative” ones, with a wife who tried to stay in the middle, was a large part of what made the chemistry of the show work. It was part of what made it funny. So I definitely wasn’t convinced that the network would pull the show simply for politics; no matter who was in the White House.

After the silence lifted, it turned out that neither one of my friends had even watched the previous season, and admitted they were not regular weekly watchers of the show prior to that. Like me, life came first, and without a DVR, I couldn’t even say that I recorded it to watch later. And neither did they. I told them that many people are too quick to blame politics or religion whenever their “favorite” show gets cancelled, as a lot of Christians and churches did when Touched by an Angel got cancelled, without looking at the data, the ratings, and other factors that may have contributed to it, as was the case for Touched by an Angel. If everyone who liked the idea of that type of family show being on air actually regularly watched the show, it would have last even longer on air than the many years that it did.

Recently, Last Man Standing returned to network TV on Fox, who announced their pick up of the show almost exactly a year after the cast learned that ABC was cancelling it. Once again, it’s airing on Friday nights in the same time slot. So of course I forgot it was on the first night it aired, and only watched the end. When the second show aired, I remembered it was on about 10 minutes into it, and tuned in. I texted one of those same friends, asking if she’d been watching the show now that it’s back on. I expected the answer I got…”No,” but wanted to ask anyway. “I thought you were so upset when it got cancelled last year?” She said she was more upset when she thought they’d cancelled it because of his political views.

Sure, I messed with her a little, but also reminded her that if people don’t watch it, it’ll be gone again. The entertainment industry is a business. And businesses are about making money. That made me also think about the recent response on Facebook and Twitter when it was announced that Toys ‘R Us would be closing. Hundreds, it not thousands, of people went online to share their stories about shopping at the store, getting their favorite doll or board game there; or just loving the commercials and the song with the giraffe. People had fond memories, but when poised with a similar question by someone online, most of these same people who grew up visiting the store, admitted to now doing most, if not all of their shopping online.

You can’t get mad about a store being closed or a show being cancelled, if you’re not willing to support it before that decision is made. Whether it’s a small retail store or an independent coffee shop in your community; a favorite TV show or radio program; or even an online shop, public support is essential to that person, that organization, or that company’s success. Support comes from watching, listening, or reading; as well as visiting, buying, and the all important part — sharing (word of mouth) about that business or entrepreneurial effort.

Several friends and acquaintances of mine, and some people at church, have commented to me over the years that they enjoy my writing. They like the way I write. I used to do a lot more creative writing — poetry, short stories, even plays — before I moved to Nashville and got involved in the music industry.  After shifting from music to academia several years ago, I started writing again. Over the past six years, I started three different blogs. The most recent one, Grieve With Me, I started earlier this year as a means of working through the grieving process I found myself still in over a decade after the passing of my mom and dad less than three years apart. I also had observed some of my close friends as they were going through their own process.

Several years before that, I launched my primary blog, Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, That’s the blog most of my friends were referring to when they commented on my postings. As the closing sentiments of my blog page suggests, my desire for this blog is to inspire, encourage, and share suggestions, tips, and new discoveries of ways to live life to the fullest, even when the pantry, bank account, gas tank, and perhaps even your physical and mental reserves are close to empty!

I have enjoyed writing and sharing, and appreciate the kind words when people tell me they learned something or relate to something I’ve written. It inspires me to keep writing. What’s curious to me, however, is that many of these same people; some of whom say they read the blog “pretty regularly,” are not subscribers to the actual blog.

Subscribing to someone’s blog is a commitment that goes beyond reading it when you remember to check for updates. It’s being alerted to those updates. And more importantly for the blogger, it’s a way of building a community of followers, which help to provide the means for continuing the work and time that goes in to blogging.

Imagine how a blogger’s community would grow if everyone who liked a post, were to also share it with their followers. Or the people who say they read it, actually became a blog subscriber, and maybe told other people about it — the growth from word-of-mouth to friends, family, and co-workers.

An entrepreneur with an Etsy site cannot grow their business if the majority of the people who land on the page, only looked around; complimenting them on the workmanship of their crafts, but never purchasing anything, or telling other people about it. 

I blog because I enjoy writing. I enjoy sharing information with people. I enjoy knowing that something I said, something I shared, or something I suggested actually helped someone. It’s a passion of mine that I don’t think will ever go away.

Like the comedy Last Man Standing, Toys ‘R Us is getting a second chance. It’s heading back to a retail outlet next year, under a different name. I wonder how many of the same people who complained about its closing, will remember their disappointment, and come out and support it once it returns?

 

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Motivated to Do Better. Inspired to Do More.

Motivated to Do Better. Inspired to Do More.

As I mentioned previously, last weekend I spent my Saturday at a Creative Writing conference. You know something has impacted you when you can’t stop thinking about it, or what you learned from it. I’ve had many moments this past week, in between my prepping, teaching, and grading commitments of my teaching job, where I would think about something that I learned; something that was shared during the event.

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I have to say that of the five years that I’ve been attending this conference, this year’s keynote speaker was one of the best I’ve heard. Some might think that’s not a fair statement to say. But in fairness, I’m speaking of my own take-away, in terms of what was shared, how it was delivered, and the impact it had on me personally.

Ruta Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, sat at my table during lunch prior to her keynote address. I didn’t know how to say her name, and felt better when she jokingly talked about the fact that most people have difficulty pronouncing it. She was pleasant, and we hit it off from the start. Then I found out that Ruta used to work in the music industry. Maybe that was part of the reason for my instant connection with her.

To borrow a little from her bio, Ruta is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction. She is published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. Historical fiction isn’t really something I’d ever considered writing. I wouldn’t say I’m too lazy to do the appropriate research, but I will say that I find research, in general, a difficult challenge for me; hard to focus on. Add history to the mix, and you’ve lost me a bit.

IMG_7568Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist, a term I’d never heard before applied to writers, but it’s because her books are read by both students and adults.

Even before she spoke, I felt like I was going to want to take home one of her novels. They had all three on site. Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are both New York Times bestsellers. Her latest novel, Salt to the Sea, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the Carnegie Medal. 

I settled on the one whose description spoke to me the most — Out of the Easy.

But back to the other part. Ruta spent 20 years in the music industry working as an artist manager. Yes, that caught my attention. How did this former music industry executive go from managing artists to successfully writing fiction; especially historical fiction? I was also curious as to how she managed to write her first two novels while still working full-time; keeping her “day job.”

Her story is too long and interestingly detailed to try to include even close to everything about it here. And after hearing her speak, and the motivational encouragement I got from it, I certainly regret not taping the session.

I will say this. Her books are tied into her heritage, her family’s history, and Lithuania. If you’re curious, start by researching the history of Lithuania, and what happened to the people there during WWII. She writes about her family’s history in her novel Between Shades of Gray. I haven’t read it yet, but after hearing what she shared, I think it’s something I would spend the time doing. On her website she describes some of her inspiration to write it like this:

During a trip to Lithuania I visited my father’s cousin and learned that after my father fled from Lithuania, some of our extended family members were deported to Siberia. I was shocked, but learned that my family’s history was not unique. There are millions of people whose lives were taken or affected during the Soviet occupation. Yet very few people know the story. I wanted to write a novel to honor the people of the Baltics and also to illustrate the power of love and patriotism.

Also curious to me was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff near the end of WWII. They never taught that to us when I was in school. This is what Ruta had to say about why she thinks the story is unknown to so many, which ties into her current novel, Salt to Sea:

When the ship sank, the Nazis tried to conceal the story (and the fact that they were losing the war.) The Soviet submarine commander who torpedoed the Gustloff was dishonorably discharged shortly after, so the Russians weren’t drawing attention to the story. And after the war, Germany didn’t publicize the sinking as they felt it was inappropriate to speak of their losses during the war considering the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Her presentation was very inspirational. Whether she was sharing her process on researching history, how she creates characters, or sharing words of encouragement about how she started writing, and came into doing it full-time (she gave up the day job to focus solely on writing), I left the conference motivated and ready to lock myself into a room for 12 hours at a time, and just write.

Of course, that didn’t happened. The reality of teaching, grading, working towards tenure, and lots of other non-classroom academia requirements, hit me first thing that next Monday morning!

But how did she do it? 

One of the courses I teach is Artist Management. So I know how time consuming that work is. But she somehow managed to carve out the time to follow her other passion. She got the research completed. She got the writing done. She landed an agent, a publishing deal, all while she kept on building her management company.

That… That is part of what inspired me most about being in the audience that afternoon. It’s not an impossible task. It’s not a “that’s for someone else; I could never do that.” If she could do it, and do it well, then what was holding me back?

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I have to say it’s been a while since I’ve felt so determined to complete what I’ve started. 

 

The Black Box Assignment

The Black Box Assignment

I recently attended a Creative Writing conference at MTSU. This was the fifth year for me to attend; something I look forward to each Fall. This year’s theme was The Writing Life, because “being a writer is a full life experience.” The table centerpiece was a tree of inspiration, both inspirational quotes and writing prompts designed to encourage the creativity of writing.

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I’m still trying to digest everything I took in today, and decide what I’m going to do with it. One session I attended, which was called Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone, stands out in my mind. During the session we were asked to visualize something in the room or in our homes, and then to use 10 different adjectives to describe what we had chosen. The leader, an accomplished writer and poet, didn’t tell us what we’d be doing with it until after we’d selected both the object and the adjectives. Then she told us to write a poem using all 10 of the adjectives, and that the poem had to be about a loved one.

No problem, right?

Of course, it’s challenging enough to write under the pressure of time; especially an unrealistic time frame positioned in the middle of an already short session, and surrounded by a group of strangers. But for me the pressure added to the excitement of accomplishing something on the spot, rather than spending a lot of time rethinking and second guessing everything.

We set off to just writing.

I think that was the point. Getting out of our comfort zone starting first with not doing things the way we always have; not using the same words and phrases and other habitual behavior that we can easily get caught up in.

But had I known where she was going when she asked us to select an item, I’m certain I would have chosen something else. Yet, as I sat and just allowed myself to write, free flowing thoughts, using the prompts I already had listed, it felt good being creatively forced to utilize words and descriptions I would likely have never incorporated into a poem. At least not this type of poem.

When the time was up…I had created something. It wasn’t the best something, but it my something.

My writing. My creation.

To be honest, it wasn’t until I got to the end that I realized where my mind, and those prompts had taken me. And as I read back over it, both a smile and a tear appeared, as emotions I wasn’t expecting took over.

I don’t know why I raised my hand in agreement to read mine out loud. But that was another hurdle I was okay with having jumped over in this process.

I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it more over the days, while it’s still at the forefront of my mind. But for now, it is what it is.

And I’m okay with that.

The Black Box

A large black box.

That’s what they see.

Flat. Electric.

Just sitting there.

Until the power comes on.

Then it comes to life.

Informing.  Confronting.  Engaging.

It talks. It tells. It asks questions;

some questions you’d rather not hear.

It steals. Yes it steals, time.

Teasing you for the moment,

and in the next moment, hours have passed.

For me, it’s comforting; a connection.

Plopping down on the soft cushions,

watching the old shows you used to know.

The music; a theme song.

The characters we laughed at together.

Inspirational.

Sometimes sad.

Because of you.

Because of time.

No longer sharing what was once our time;

together

Your time, alone.

Forever gone.

fullsizeoutput_4292Here I am with author Kamilah Aisha Moon, holding one of her book of poetry, Starshine & Clay.