3 Steps Toward Building Your Legacy

Seniors, That's Life, Writers Comments Off on 3 Steps Toward Building Your Legacy
Jul 072011

Your legacy should be a life-long project. It's never too soon to start working on it. We may have many years ahead  – but then do we? Youngsters in their 20s and 30s are just as prone to dying as elderly citizens of retirement age. 

When I talk about legacy, I'm not interested in the bank accounts and house and private yacht you'll be including in your will. I'll leave that to the lawyers and the counselors.

  1. Think about the personal things that define who you are, your experiences, beliefs and contributions to your family history and society. I'm talking about the everyday things what we all take for granted….the things that cause irreconcilable conflicts among family members when we're no longer there to moderate. I'm talking about such things as Mom's prized nicknacks and favorite African Violet, Dad's fishing pole and bowling ball, the paintings on the living room wall. If these are uniquely identified with you, you can be sure that someone will want it for sentimental reasons….and you can be sure that these are the things your heirs will fight over when you're gone. Consider making a list of such items. (If there's a story connected with this item, consider writing it  down and save the story to be passed along with it.)  On the list designate the individual you want to have each item.  Better yet, if it's something you are keeping but no longer use, consider passing them on now.

    If the prized possession is a book….Mom's favorite cookbook, Dad's collection of Mysteries, consider inscribing a personal note on the inside cover – a brief note about what they enjoyed most about the item or where they go it, can add much in the way of value.

  2. Then there are the hundreds of dozens of photos you're keeping. Are they all tossed in a trunk or a drawer haphazardly? Are all the people in those pictures identified? What about the date, the location and the event? Two years from now – or when we're gone, will anyone remember? Simply write the notes on the back of the picture, And then file them carefully by date. (Your filing system doesn't have to be fancy, a shoe box will do nicely, and eventually you may want to move them into archival photo albums.  Putting them in the photo album before they've been sorted, may make it very difficult arrange everything in order.)
  3. As you go through your photos, you'll recall people and events that are very special to you. Consider writing this information down. The easiest way is to just take a pen and paper and write down everything that comes to you mind  as you look at the picture. If you do it in the form of a letter. Nothing fancy here, just allow yourself to relive the moment. When done fold the paper and file it  with the picture.

    This can be done anytime: while you're sorting  the photos, or whenever a stray thought pops into your mind. The important thing is that you want to be as detailed as you can be and you don't want to worry about whether it's perfect. These are your memories.

These are very simple activities. They can be done a little at a time, or when you're bored or feeling a little bit depressed. They're magical activities. They are great for lifting your spirits. They afford a sense of accomplishments and remind you about all the wonderful experiences you've had throughout the years. But more important your documenting an era – a lifetime – that generations will appreciate long after you're gone. This is the information they won't find in history books, or learn in school.

Keep building. At some point you may want to write and publish your memoirs. When that day comes, you will have done all the heavy lifting and will be well on your way to publication.

OK, I hear you, I didn't do anything special, I don't have children, Nobody cares.

Stop right there! If you've lived during the last 100 years, you've lived through – and contributed to – the development of the advancement of a rapidly changing technology-focused era. You've witnessed – perhaps even been part of  – the Hippie Generation, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the assassination of one of our greatest Presidents. You've used outhouses and and you've used toilets that flush themselves. You've seen a man walk on the Moon and have talked face-to-face family or friends hundreds of miles away without  anyone leaving their own easy chairs.  You know the history of the Batchers' house down on the corner.. probably even still call it that – although the Batchers moved away 45 years ago.

Don't worry about finishing. Add as you go and enjoy the journey.

This is the stuff that history is made of. You've lived it. Future generations want to know.

Do You Want To Write? Forget The Stereotype!

Writers Comments Off on Do You Want To Write? Forget The Stereotype!
Jun 202011

Interesting, isn't it, how we all tend to think in terms of stereotypes? But stereotypes can be ever so deceiving.

Today I had a follow-up visit with my doctor. It was fairly routine except that prior to seeing him, a new practitioner came in to do the initial screening. She reviewed all my vitals and asked all the normal questions about how I felt. I mentioned that in the past two days I'd been awake almost all night and didn't get to sleep until about 6:00am while before that I'd been sleeping almost all the time. The conversation we had from there was really quite an eye-opener.

I mentioned that actually working through the night wasn't terribly unusual for me.

She asked, Are you retired or are you employed?

"Statistically, I suppose I'm retired but I don't accept that category. I am self-employed," I responded.

"What do you do?"

"I'm a writer, editor and webmaster," I responded without thinking.

"Oh, that explains it," she said. "You're a typical writer. Whenever I think of a writer I see someone working in the middle of the night at a desk with a lamp,  pen in hand."

I laughed. "Why do you say that? Am I that transparent?

"Well, yes, I guess then I am pretty much the typical writer. The difference is that I pound a keyboard rather than writing with a pen. But, I also learned a long time ago that, when I finally got my children and spouse to sleep I had a perfect uninterrupted time to work."

We both had a good laugh and proceeded with the appointment.

Later I recalled that conversation and started analyzing my personal work patterns. When do I write?  The answer, I discovered is: every minute of my life.

There have been times, when I've been given an assignment, did a bit of research and set the project aside for 4-5 days.

                                    (This confused people to no end:
                                    At first they'd ask, "What? I thought you had a job to do."
                                    "Yes, of course, it will be done right on schedule," I'd respond.
                                    Usually those projects seemed to flow relatively quickly and effortlessly because
                                    I allowed the thoughts to germinate and take form on their own.

                                     …Eventually, they stopped asking.)

Other times, I may sit down and start writing. I might do the traditional act of putting words on paper working feverishly for 15 minutes – or for hours on end, allowing nothing to interfere with the "flow", losing all track of time. Times like that, I eventually come to a point when I felt a natural time to stop. Then I set my work aside and go on to other activities, talking to a neighbor, doing some needlework, reading a novel, washing the dishes…vacuuming the living room…cleaning out a closet… taking a nap Or, I'll take myself and my camera out for a walk. It doesn't matter the activity, the goal was to get away from the keyboard and clear my head so I can go back and tackle what I'm working on with fresh eyes. Those times away from the keyboard allow my subconscious to work it's own unique magic…a step I find essential to the finished product. 

Then it's back again to the keyboard, perhaps to read what I've written, check the spelling and the logic. Sometimes, I delete the entire day's work and I start all over again; sometimes, I send it one its way.

That's my personal rhythm. I frequently lose track of the march of time as day merges into night and night into day.

Other writers may work differently. I'm sure there are still writers who do use pen and paper. I'm sure that there's writers who work at specified times of the day, say 9am-5pm. I work best when I feel somewhat close to nature, windows and curtains all open, birds singing outside. Others may prefer to work in a dark attic. I've been told that helps a creative mind to focus.

One internet marketer says, "Writing is the doing part of thinking." Actually, that's a pretty accurate definition. Writing enables us to clarify our thinking and challenges us to examine what we believe and have written. It helps us put bones and skin on our thoughts.

This is why it's so difficult to rely on stereotypes to understand people and their work. A writer writes. We understand what they're doing when we see them creating words on a screen or on a piece of paper. But we can't see the creative process that it takes to get to that point. And we frequently forget that a huge part of writing is going back to what's already been done, editing, proofreading, polishing and shaping the words so that they do a proper job of conveying ideas.

This is why businesses have such a difficult time trying to manage creative pursuits like writing. How do you, after all explain the work that's done while driving the car or cleaning house or visiting with a neighbor? And yet, frequently those are precisely the times when manuscripts spring to life.

If you want to be a writer. find your own personal rhythm. Just be prepared to discard the stereotypical image.

The Creative Arts Open New Horizons For Seniors

Business - Not As Usual, Seniors, Writers Comments Off on The Creative Arts Open New Horizons For Seniors
Jun 122011

Writing, painting and other creative pursuits are probably some of the most misunderstood occupations a person can aspire to…and yet, I encourage all seniors to try their hand at these pursuits.

At a time when ageism is rampant and most seniors find it next to impossible to find viable employment and to secure little more than opportunities to volunteer their services, they need to find activities that are challenging and that offer a feeling of accomplishment. The arts afford seniors a unique opportunity to express themselves and contribute something of themselves.  Pursuing the arts is a natural and worthy outlet guaranteed to counteract the feeling of worthlessness that so many employees that have no place to go experience.

The arts give seniors a new lease on life.

Whether working with wood or paint or yarn or words, seniors who take up new interests soon discover that their creative efforts give them a new lease on life. The challenge of learning how to create something of beauty that will last for years – even generations – enables them to keep their motor skills nimble and their brains focused on beauty and accomplishment. Beyond that, the practice involved in perfecting an artistic pursuit, no matter what that might be, gives seniors a sense of accomplishment and usefulness that in itself combats the feelings of uselessness and boredom that is foisted on too many by retirement.

You don't have time to grow old when you're focused on creating something of beauty.

Retirement is a time to explore and enjoy all those activities you couldn't pursue when you were working 9-5 and raising a family. All that extra time you have now might be better spent doing something you love or something you've never before had time enough to try.

If you're actively learning and practicing new skills and challenges, you really don't have time to obsess about how the world has chosen to put you out to pasture. You don't have time to worry about all the negative feedback you've been getting from the workplace. And, you may discover an occupation that will set you on a new path of productivity that you never dreamed possible.

Don't forget the example of Grandma Moses who began painting in her 70s,  Master carver Ito Susumu, now in his 70's, who began his apprenticeship in his 60s, and Dolores Durando who published her first novel, Beyond the Bougainvillea, at the age of 90.

The arts are waiting for you and world welcomes your creativity at any age.

Get Perspective in Marketing and in Writing

Business - Not As Usual, That's Life, Writers Comments Off on Get Perspective in Marketing and in Writing
May 172011

What do you see?

Dandelion Garden This isn't a trick question. Think about it…..

It's a field of yellow flowers, right? It's actually quite beautiful, isn't it?

Would you be surprised if I told you this is a vacant lot in a run-down neighborhood just west of Chicago filled with weeds?

Here's what John Constable an English landscape painter (1775-1837) would say:

“I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may
– light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful”

Actually this is a picture of a field filled with dandelions. Have you ever looked at a dandelion…really looked at it up close and personal? Now in Illinois, dandelions are considered obnoxious weeds. They're particularly unwelcome when they appear in the middle of well-manicured Midwestern lawns. Dandelions arrive early in spring and continue to flower throughout the summer. If you take the time to look closely at a dandelion flower, you'll notice that the flowers are really quite beautiful. The flower rapidly goes to seed, each flower producing a ball of white cottony seeds that children love to blow into the air, scattering them in every direction.

I remember, when I was a child, seeing groups of elderly women in house dresses and babushkas walking beside the roads picking them and placing them lovingly into gunny sacks. I was told that when the plant is young people gathered the plants to make dandelion salad. The petals made excellent dandelion wine. Native Americans and herbalists in China and in Europe prized dandelions for their medicinal properties. All parts of the plant are have been used for generations to cure such ailments as eye and skin infections, fever, diabetes, diarrhea, appendicitis, breast problems and kidney disease and more

So what's your point, you ask?

Simple. Writers and marketers need to remember the lowly dandelion. As prolific as the plant is, that shouldn't be too difficult.

It's very easy to approach marketing and writing from our own single perspective. I have my own personal opinion of the plant, you have yours If you start trying to sell me ways to get rid of this pesky weed – even with the most brilliant marketing message – you're not going to win my heart or get me to open my pocketbook if I am looking forward to a cup of dandelion tea. And, if you write glowing description a hill full of golden dandelions you need to understand that I may actually detest those ugly plants that invade my otherwise pristine green carpet of a lawn.  

Another way to look at it is this. I want you to picture a house. I can tell you it's a white house and leave it there. Will you see the kind of house I'm talking about? Maybe. Maybe not. You may well have a picture in your mind of a New England clapboard cottage surrounded by a white picket fence and an English garden. I, on the other hand, may be talking about a white-washed flat-roof adobe sitting out in the middle of the dessert. 

The challenge is to transfer that precise image you have in your mind to me so that we're on the same page, or at least, find something in common that we can both relate with. Until we have some meeting of the minds to begin with, we may find our discussion ending with very little accomplished. The trouble is, it's all too easy to assume that everyone sees the same things we do – and have the same image and feelings that we do. Fact of the matter is, all communication, all interactions between people and all efforts at marketing and sales demand precise use of language if they are to be effective.

When planning communication and marketing strategies, it pays to take time to gain a little perspective. Step back put a little effort into the exercise, examine all angles, in different lights, close up and from a distance to gain a little perspective. Effectiveness depends on point of view.

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