Publish or Perish? Really? (part 1 of 3)

Beloved author, Paulo Coelho has many fine quotes, as the prolific writer he is and I dedicate this series to the themes within this statement:

“Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Act because you need to act.” ~Paulo Coelho

In an age when it is easier to self-publish, why not help yourself to it?

The name of the game this week for me is stay on task. Not only is there a manuscript to edit there is another to format and much to read and comment on. In this day of self-publishing, yes anyone COULD write a book but who actually does?

It is NEVER too late to start. There are many late blooming writers. Sometimes we first need the right dose and variety of life experience that helps us define our purpose clearly. And sometimes it takes big events and changes to catalyze the writing urge in us.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. And while there may be a variety of do-it-yourself means to publish yourself, the fact remains you still must generate the idea, then the manuscript, thereafter the book, the play, the blog post before you can “publish” the beauty. There is a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction when writing is completed. It could be a singular blog post or a larger project and I say celebrate your writing with others.

I am a cheerleader and champion for writing for yourself. And while I also ghost write and act as “the journalistic medium” for those who are challenged to do for themselves with any consistency, I love, love, love being the editor to an excited author.

If I had my way all the time (smile), I’d turn every ghost writing client ultimately into a writer for themselves–for it empowers you deeply to write and speak as yourself, for yourself and with enthusiasm and self-confidence. A ghost or journalist can do a great job too but the closer to the source a message is born, the more potent it may be.

What stops you from communicating with EASE for yourself about your business, your passions, your hobbies, your causes, your personal writing projects?

I know what can stop me and what I work to keep out of my way. And it is my mission to help as many as possible get out of their own way too.

Call me Catalyst.

For the past 18 months I have been hosting a writing group that meets each Tuesday to TALK about writing and blogging and creativity and overcoming fear and resistance to writing for one’s self and one’s ventures, professional and personal.

Each week I am given the opportunity to “creatively unlock” not only myself but as many as two dozen attendees. Many come weekly and some since the beginning. One regular, calls the time her group therapy. We all laughed the first time. Now when someone new comes claiming they don’t “blog”  basically another term for writing) for who would care what they had to say and whatever would they write about, we regulars glance at each other and declare it time for a “creative intervention.”  And in shortly thereafter (most of the time) our reticent or would be writer is clear they have a perspective worth sharing with others. After which some jump right in and return reporting they are now officially blogging or getting set to start.

Gratitude is abundant in our weekly time together and the most striking feature these days of “Circle” as some call it or “Tuesdays with Deborah,” is the community blog of the same name spawned out of Tuesday conversations. What is striking about it is the variety of posts and the enthusiasm of the contributing writers. That enthusiasm is what it is all about cultivating for me.

The secret ingredient to the success in this instance is “community support.”  We are better individually for how we interact as a group. We are a growing and extended family. We come weekly wanting to write authentically, boldly and consistently. Or we come to find the motivation to try to begin. We are all at different places and stages. And all are welcome wherever they are in their Writing Pilgramage.

The act of writing is not always easy even for the natural writer (like Me!). And support makes all the difference. Let me say again, “Support Makes All the Difference.”

Again I ask, in an age when it is easier to self-publish, why not help yourself to it?

More to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3. And if you are thinking you want to write but don’t have a clear sense of your voice and vision and purpose for your writing, may you seek out support from someone and soon. I am actively listening for one!

Memories of a Memorable Thanksgiving Day

It was 1991.I was living in San Francisco in the Richmond District to be exact. So close to the Palace of Legion of Honor Museum, the Rodin sculpture garden was my neighbor. I shared a flat with two women; one I barely communicated with and one who became a dear friend. Marilyn, she who only left communications via whiteboard and post it note was gone for the long weekend. Melissa and I had the entire flat to ourselves. We would spend the greatest amount of time in the front room with its tall trio of picture windows facing a partial view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We had determined what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving and it did not involve turkey and traditional side dishes and overeating of anyone thing.

We devised a long weekend of retreating. We would collage. We would walk walk gently as often as we wanted and needed to day or night, fog or wind or rain. We wanted to fast. We began with a pre-mixed Lemonfast product that was made of lemon, honey, cayenne, turmeric and tasted as awful as could be. We gave up on the Lemonfast after a day and agreed to support each other on tea and water and a little fruit juice when absolutely necessary. We figured for four days we could hold each other up and take turns being the one in a crazy moment of hunger that might drive us to make toast or something else.

We had collected over four dozen magazines and I added stock photo books to the resources, being the advertising person I was in those days. We had scissors, paper, glue, pens and markers. We set up an alter to put items intentionally in place to support our creative retreating as we created four themed wish collages for love, career, relationships, travel, home, and partners. We were going to Vision for the coming season and the year to come.

We lost track of time. We clipped and snipped and arranged and affixed images that invoked our hearts’ desires for Love, Work, Relationship and Big Dreams.  We cared not what hour it was. Sometimes we watched a movie for background noise and inspiration or to distract us from our growing hunger. Sometimes we recognized we needed a gentle walk to refresh our mind, quell our hunger and release the energy that collected in body points after sitting for hours hunched over a collage in the making. We detoxed our bodies and revived our sense of sacred self and connection to a source always more knowing than we.

Walking the neighborhood — sometimes well after midnight, we walked about as if in a gentle trance feeling completely connected to the earth and the air we passed over and through. It was as if we could see the buildings breathing like the people who inhabited them. The inanimate objects seemed as alive as we felt alive. The buildings and the streetlights seemed to watch us with eyes unseen as we walked by in silent communion.

We felt light and expansive and giddy and crystal clear all at the same time. Day one we were stronger and more energetic and willing to walk longer. We circled the outer limits of the Richmond District with intentions step by step. Day one we were shakier so we slowed our pace and made it more about the time we were out. Forty-five minutes a time was more than enough to move the kinks and aches from sitting for hours and warm our hungry muscles and tissues. Day three we hit the wall and nearly broke down and ate solid foods but our pact held steady and the bagels and brown rice we each craved was untouched. We passed the test and then came the most peaceful and dreamlike period of those days.

Imagine feeling so light and light headed that you can feel the hearts of others.
Imagine feeling also full of belly and bright of mind and strong in conviction to simply be.
Imagine sensing the company of spirit guides who had but one role: to support us for the next 24 hours on our quest.
Imagine thinking, we might extend this fast by a day, the way we are feeling now.

The Wish Collages reflected solid tangible representations of what we wished to manifest in due course. Melissa wanted a partner. Deborah wanted to travel to Scotland. Melissa wanted a body she loved to take care of. Deborah wanted to run a marathon. Melissa wanted a fulfilling career beyond the work as a housecleaner she did; in the film and movie industry. Deborah wanted a family to call her own. I could go on. Each image was potent and important as it was symbolic of our personal description of a joy-filled, purposeful, and happy life.

We were in Bliss:  Naive and inspired and Present for those days.

Some Thanksgivings have been about family and a feast and dishes that took hours to do. Pearled onions, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and three kinds of pie and coffee for the adults and hot cider for the children each smelling “heavenly” and each seasoned with cinnamon for an extra special touch.

Some Thanksgivings have been about reflecting all that I had to be grateful for with a quiet and intimate immediate family about me. Myself, my daughter, her father and her half sister. Forever a family in one way or another.

That Thanksgiving with Melissa was long before the birth of my daughter. It foretold of the Thanksgivings I dreamed of surrounded by family and friends.

It remains one of my most memorable on this day of semi-solitude. Shortly I will be again with my daughter who has pie on her mind and is single-minded of purpose to have pumpkin pie and apple pie with ice cream.

With her and her father this holiday will I break my daylong fast and enjoy fully the sweetness of pie and ice cream and youth.

She is Blissed: Naive, Pure of Heart and That is Inspiring.


A Collection of Recent Thoughts on Writing

A songwriter and musician was captured on a radio interview, saying, “A lot of people are visited by the muse and forget it.”

I agree with this. I wonder why we as “writers/artists” don’t seize the moment and at least get a note or three down that we might recall our great insight to fill in the rest at a later time.

Creativity can be mighty spontaneous with me. It shows up at the oddest moments sometimes for me at least. Therefore I can always be found with pen and pad or digital recorder nearby. I know I can also plan writing time but it is the writing I do when the spirit moves through me that I am most happy with and most eager to share.

And, saying that, I also have planned writing that I am intentional about. My intentions for my writing time are to be a clearing for Creativity to flow through. I may have themes I write on and it could even be time to spend time doing research to write a better article. The point is I set a schedule but also allow for movement and shift in my focus, so long as it is helpful. What qualifies as helpful? If it moves me closer to my desired end writing goal, it is helpful.

I’ve taken to writing my observations when I am out and about again. I’ve been inspired first by the two writers I write with Thursdays AND by reading again the advice of Julia Cameron, Brenda Euland, and Ray Bradbury on Creativity. Some I know love the prose and ramblings of Annie LaMott, Bird by Bird, in particular. She is a keen observer as many a good writer is. Pick your mentor and invite in the Muse is all I am saying.

I realized that had actually lost my edge on observing the inner dramatics of life in a coffee house or cafe or an arboretum. My attention to background detail felt downright sloppy and I vowed to work on it. I got back into the habit of heading out and parking myself for several hours and I fell in love again with writing about what I was literally seeing and feeling and experiencing.

Coffee houses and cafes offer “the garbage collector” as British author Doris Lessing referred once to writers (collectors of details that they are) a chance to practice observing for detail and mystery and many an overheard dialogue has worked its essence into her stories. I heard her say this at a Stanford Lecture I attended back in 1990. She remarked that being a non-descript looking person, she could get away with being herself and taking in what was going on, undisturbed. That remark has stayed with me for over twenty years.

We all could watch what is going on about us.
We all could listen for the things not said by people.
We all could seek to understand more by observing without an agenda.

Have you ever tried this as a writing exercise? You can take in five minutes but you might be tempted to keep watching and waiting and listening to all that is going on around you.

Saturdays I spend at least an hour at the Taste Bar at Macy’s waiting for Bronte while she takes a class currently on improv. The prior class schedule had me there for four hours and a lot of life passes through a cafe in four hours. At first I tried creating a bubble and getting some work or writing done. But, inevitably I would take an interest in the other patrons around me or the interaction of the core staff that works the cafe. Myrna and Jay particularly are enjoyable to simply watch. When I realized I was missing a grand opportunity to practice observing and sharpen my wits, I started making a point to sit back, sip my coffee and take first mental notes and then notes for posterity.

All around me is dialogue, spoken or not, and sometimes it is down right outrageous.

Take Saturday morning for example. I thought I was witnessing a bit of a crazy person with a lot of personality issues but I now believe I was wrong. Those involved (a man and two women) were all quite unaware of the impact their loud conversation was having on others around them. They were literally unconcerned and doing their own thing. So I eavesdropped for the sake of stretching myself as a writer…

Macy’s Café, November 19, 2011 11am

Everything is not as it seems: Episode #1 — The Loud Talkers

Robert: You are so bossy. (He shouts into the echoey café at the woman in line with another, ordering coffee drinks and food.)

Okay bossy, where do you want to sit? One table or two?

I’m too sexy for my cane, I’m too sexy for my cane,” says the man in a tightly wound tenor of a voice that cuts through even the “white noise” from the woodfire oven and the seasonal music piping into the Macy’s Tastebar..

Melanie: Just sit down…Just sit down! (she barked still standing at the counter paying.)

Robert: Hi, how are you? (Said to a passing person he doesn’t know who gave him a quick and odd glance)

Melanie and the large young woman she is with join Robert in the corner window table and as the triangle continue a conversation. I cock an ear to hear what is the subject matter.Ah, boys, relationships…it always comes back to relating with us humans. I ponder sometimes if rocks and trees have conversations that are about processing feelings. The 20something appears to have a boyfriend issue. Robert and Melanie have their opinions and advice to give. They are determined to make her aware of something important. So I am privy to their dialogue and a small debate between Melanie, gruff and tell it like it is, and Robert who seems not to care who hears him play barking at Melanie?

The simple fact they are seated in the triangular corner near the entrance from the corner of 3rd and Pike means anyone who focuses can hear their conversation word for word.

Reflecting on this tonight, I am amused that upon seeing a surly and weather worn 50+ year old man in a plaid winter parka and black skull cap on his head, shouting unself-consciously at his companions in line ordering, I presumed he was angry or mentally unstable or both. 

I appear to be wrong again. Things again are not as they seem. He is simply a loud talker with his loud talking friends?

They are friendly while being surly to each other and I am about to stereotype them–if I am not mindful.

Outspoken need not be judged as obnoxious. There is a lack of gentile finesse to their language and the tone and delivery of the questions such as “Who does she live with? Where does she live?” Someone is being deeply scrutinized.

Melanie: You cannot tell me…when a woman is heavy, it is hard for them…that is why she is…(darn that the clarity fades in and out like cell phone reception being affected by simply traveling through a neighborhood.)

In the background a tune catches my attention: the sound of a trio of women with Dean Martin, singing  “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on that…” fills in the background entirely but briefly.

Melanie: I want her to understand…(outside a Transit busses roars loudly, drowning out the clarity a moment.)

Robert: I have never cheated on her and now she thinks everything I say is a lie.

I did my best to make sense of the crumbs of conversation I overheard for the sake of my exercise, but it is futile with the bus engines combusting the conversation. I will have to “make something up” should I use this trio in a future piece.

Their dialogue continues bouncing all over thematically but orbiting about a woman they all know whose problems are greater than there collective comments allude to. I find myself wondering how would they feel knowing someone was talking about any one of them? How would they feel if they knew I was recording some of the things I was overhearing that are causing me to smile and cock my head to hear a little better?

They never catch on that sitting in the windowed corner as they are, with the acoustics being what they are in this café, that everyone who chooses to tune in can hear it all, as though they are sitting really close –at the next table and not ten + feet away tucked in a corner. (I’m grateful for the chance to test my listening…smile.)

THEN a memory flashes through me of being at the San Francisco Exploratorium, sitting inside a big round concave white plaster sculpture with a seat in the center to sit upon. Vertically situated, it placed you up enough and set back into the concave “bowl.” Two bowl like sculptures face each other 20+ feet apart, and if you have a friend sit in the seat opposite you, you can literally whisper and the sound carries over as if they are whispering into your ear directly. I thought that particular exhibit was so darn cool when we took a High School fieldtrip to the Exploratorium. (Why has this memory flooded back now?

Acoustics is an art and science that I am glad to be aware of. People sometimes forget that sound carries and say some pretty darn personal things in public. You never know when a writer might be listening in and inspired by you, so by all means, keep on talking and I’ll develop my craft.

To the Loud Talkers, thank you for creating a moment for the Muse to visit me!


Divine Kismet and the Writing Coach

Today at the Unity Service I attend, I was reminded that what I have to contribute matters. And what YOU, reader (aka dormant writer) have to contribute also matters.

We simply need to believe that. It takes more time for some than others to reach this AHA point.

Divine Kismet put me at the same service as a woman with a book in her who had set the idea on a shelf. She’d previously come to workshops that I facilitated and was getting excited about an idea for a book that she had. Then life stepped in or time or a distraction or forty and she dropped out of communication.

Today, she dusted off the idea again and she begins again her quest to write.

There is always time that can be found to write in the spaces between the other important to dos. I  am always in possession of a note pad or journal myself. Heck, napkins, post its, coffee sleeves all work to catch notes for later exploration.

We’ll make time for what is important to us. We create space for it and look forward to it. One client I know started with stealing five minutes of time in between tasks at work and that writing demanded being done after hours for it energized him. It all adds up!

Remember: An article or a blog post or bigger still, a book gets written one word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, page and thought at a time.

If there is a voice in you asking to be expressed, I invite you to honor doing so.

If you are the sort that works alone and sticks to your plan, more power to you.

If you are clear about your voice and your story and your value proposition, bravo.

If you routinely let your thought patterns get in your own way, know that working with a writing coach for even a brief time can reset you and develop your confidence. An accountability partner is there to prompt you to write the words you want to daily and weekly. A developmental editor is there to help you develop your true voice.

So thanks to the Writer I bumped into today who was reminded in seeing me, she wants to turn her thoughts into words and her words into a legacy piece.

I was reminded of how it is I make a difference to those I work with and champion. I was thanked for being a motivating inspiration who knew how to draw out the best and enthusiasm in a person.

Getting to do and be what I love best of all as artful expression “for my livelihood” leaves me both flabberghasted daily and humbled as well.

If there is a writer in you struggling to get out, my wish for you is that you have the support you need. You deserve it!


Early Morning Lessons

Seagull on green grass

Snowy grey landing with grace

More rain to come today


Plump crow on a fence

Takes time to taunt a squirrel

Minding his own mind and path


Speckled gull and black birds

Of a feather feast upon

Human offerings  left on a park lawn


Raindrops drip from gutters to ground

Leaves whisper before they fall

Early morning silence is silenced by a crying seagull


The Chinese woman won’t smile at me

Walking past me with a mask of a hard life


The path of leaves that camouflage the sidewalk is ablaze

With mottled pieces of fire and gold and crimson

Expressing a beauty that combusts the biting cold


Nature can be cruel beauty in odd moments

Always honest being what is season by season


My prayer this early hour is for gratitude for the approaching storm

That comes to cleanse and nourish as much as it comes to disrupt and energize

That I accept all that comes  and pass the tests before me with grace.

Deborah Drake


9am – Crossroads Park, Bellevue

Writing Practice: What’s the point anyway?

What is the point of developing a Writing Practice?

Lately, I have been using The Right to Write by Julia Cameron as my source for writing prompts to flex my own writing muscles. Surrounded by a pair of equally devoted writers every Thursday night we gather to take on short and long writing prompts that stretch our creative selves and let us play too.

There is a lot of writing I have done that may never be published outside of the journal I write it in. It is that body of work  that keeps me excited about writing for business and pleasure. From time to time I revisit my writing much like re-reading a favorite book and sometimes I am surprised at how I respond to my own writing later.

When to begin a Writing Practice?

My writing life and practice began in a pink plaid Hallmark Diary that locked with a “golden” key. I was 8 years old. Boxes of journals, beautiful, basic, black, brown, leather and fabric later, still I am writing the story of my days and nights and dreams and poems and secrets.

Words have been my friends for as long as I can remember. Journals have been my confidantes when there was no one to tell. Words have kept me vital and brought me peace and made me cry and laugh and kept me going through the meanest, toughest, darkest and also the loveliest moments of my life.

How now do I write after all the years of pursuing a writing practice that was my best friend so often? The ability to write in a fluid manner made it easier for me to write for school, write for college (except that one BIG paper…story later), write for my future career, and write for my legacy.

Each time I hear someone say they were never a good writer or didn’t like writing and as the adult they avoid writing for they find it that hard, I wonder, “Who told them they weren’t capable and creative, how young were they when that occurred and what can I do to restore the enthusiasm I KNOW they once had about creating.”

Maybe it was mudpies or maybe it was stories but there was something; there was something.

Restoring that childlike enthusiasm for creativity is fundamentally what a Writing Practice does for me. It maintains my momentum and it feeds my love of exploring language.

Care to begin but need a champion to help you stay accountable? THAT can be arranged. You need only ask for it.  Ready. Set. Write On.

Authentic Writing Provokes every time!