Looking Back on 2018!

I stopped sending Christmas cards about a decade ago, and the end of annual newsletters came not far behind. I’m not sure I was ever any good at either and I know few people who do them well.

Too much to brag about, too much to complain about; the best and worst are often invisible or too hard to capture in a single photo or a few words anyway. Or they’re way too personal or too few people even care… the list of reasons why they’re so inadequate is long…

But I guess one still needs to somehow reflect on the last day of the year right?

2018 has been a roller coaster of note, and I’m struggling to wrap my head around everything that’s happened – planned or otherwise. I’m sure to the outside world we appear totally crazy and I often wake up wondering the same thing.

But I guess the bottom line for me, what I want people to know the most, is that in the quiet, prayerful moments when I remember what we are doing and why, I feel peaceful and content and ever so thankful. I’m not good at explaining much of it, but I do want people to know that there is reason and method in all this madness somewhere and that it isn’t nearly as random as it may appear.

I realise this all appears rather cryptic and I apologise for that. I constantly think “if I can just get enough sleep, enough time to write properly, enough days in one spot, enough this, that or the next thing… then I’ll regain an appearance of control of my life again and it won’t appear to be a complete zoo!” … but I’m not sure I’ll ever get any of those things and if I did manage to get them, I doubt I’d actually be in any more control than I am now?

When I look back on 2018 I’m not sure I’d do a whole lot differently? Ok, I take that back, I’d do lots of things better, slower, less thoughtfully (I tend to over think things, try too much and too hard), I think I’d have let go of more, been a little more “selfish”, tried to fix less things and allowed more people to make their own mistakes?

I’ll save what I hope to do differently in 2019 for the next post, but for now, thanks to all of you so much for reading, commenting, supporting, and putting up with me! Thanks soooo much for all the encouragement and personal contact! Thanks for all the amazing new friends and experiences, thanks to our amazing children for putting up with us! Thanks to everyone who contributed to this year in such positive ways.

No thanks to those who didn’t. I’ll not comment on those who tried to steal from us or derail us, those who tried to bring us down or make our choices all about them. It’s shocked me (even though it shouldn’t) how selfish people can be … from total strangers to those among the ranks of what were once our greatest supporters…. I’ll leave the negative at that.

It’s been a year of grandbabies and travels and changes and celebrations and losses and exhaustion and on the very last day of the year I think more than ever I need to retreat a little bit more and nurture myself better… whatever that means…

And as always, I’m off to cuddle and celebrate and be thankful with my pre iota babies and their families…

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith
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Redeeming Rhythms

One of the very first steps to our second half is all about “redeeming our rhythms”. Most people look at me blankly when I tell them this and you’re going to hear about them a lot, so maybe I should explain…

Redemption: The action of regaining or gaining possession. Or, the action of saving or being saved from something.

Redemption is a rather old-fashioned word, but I love it. It is about claiming, reclaiming, ownership, and in a very positive way, taking back control. We plan to regain possession of our time, to set aside many traditional constraints, but also to reign in and save ourselves from the ways in which life could disappear.

For us, this Second Half concept is extremely intentional. It would be so easy, the moment we “retired”, to just go with the flow and follow where life leads us. There is a lot that is wonderful about that, but unless we are purposeful, we could easily find ourselves a couple of years down the track, feeling quite lost. We don’t want to be collecting seashells, we want to build purpose and meaning, and unless we prepare well, that won’t happen on its own.

Many of the rhythms of life are chosen for us, by our work and family commitments, our sleep patterns and our health, and even our social lives and the people we hang out with. Life feels out of control for many of us exactly for this reason, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

On the other hand, by retiring, when many of these rhythms are stripped away, we can do the opposite and float away aimlessly. Through the decades we have had so many problems with the lack of balance in Doug’s life and they have come at great cost to all of us (including him), and we want to change this, but not go the other way.

He has started studying, we love to travel, and there is much healing work to be done. We want to see more of the children and grandchildren, and we need to “find ourselves” (though I struggle with the term). We thoroughly enjoyed publishing my first book and part of the great mission of our Second Half is to tell our story and to publish it. It’s a redemption story itself, so watch this space! I have been writing full time for the last couple of years but that has all been put aside the last six months as the packing up of our lives has unfolded. We are both busting to get back into it, to publish the first three books over the next year or so. And in case you didn’t know, he’s an amazing publisher.

The two days since “retirement” we have been completely discombobulated with jet lag, exhaustion, emotion and excitement, illness, stress, and more, and so for both us, we are keen to begin the process of redeeming those rhythms ASAP.

Structuring in Quiet Time, exercise, writing time… setting the odd deadline and expressing and sorting through our goals. Neither of us grew up in worlds where we were allowed to express our needs, so we also have ways in which we are learning to do this. It’s harder than you think when you don’t know how to do it…

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

All the Things to Write (and read)!!!

img_9246-1I am thoroughly spoilt that I get to write pretty much full time, and yet most days I feel terribly behind. In the night I think of wonderful things to say, and believe it or not, I usually remember most of them in the morning. Some are blog topics, others are great ideas for my next book (or the one after that, or the one after that). But I already have a writing to do list longer than my arm, and so some days it is easier to just ignore it all and read instead! Especially when my “to read” list is longer than my “to write” list.

And I am not just talking about reading for pleasure. I read because I like to keep up with my peers, and support fellow authors and I try to beta read at least 2 books a month. And I hate letting them down. Then there are all the books about how to write, publish and so on. It never ends.

I think that I need to streamline my writing a little bit and somehow slow down. But once the bug bites that is it! No turning back… How do you balance your time? Writing, Reading and everything in between? I would love some tips on how to keep a balance!

Where Jennifer hangs out: 
@JPeaSmith 
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Infiltrate or Collaborate?

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-12-42-17-pmTwo completely different words, with completely different meanings, and yet some people get them totally mixed up! As you know, I am all about collaboration, “paying it forward”, and being a genuine part of a community. If an author wants to sell their books they need to build a launch team and if they want people to join them then they need to be a part of a community (a few of actually). And if you want to be a part of a community then you need to contribute. It is as simple as that.

But I need to make it abundantly clear so that you know where I stand. Joining a community that you aren’t prepared to genuinely participate in, congruently contribute to, and stay in for the long haul, is not collaboration! If your sole purpose is to use members for your gain, then you are simply infiltrating, and that is worse than doing nothing at all.

Many years ago I had the privilege of mentoring a young woman who’s husband struggled with addiction. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but as we sat in a coffee shop in the middle of a New York City winter, a couple of weeks before Christmas, she poured her heart to me. You see, the movie “Thanks for Sharing” had recently hit the big screen, and the main actor had done a brilliant job in one sense, of showing what sexual addiction was actually about (it is nothing like it is commonly portrayed I can assure you!). Her problem wasn’t just that this poor woman was dealing with a husband just like the character in the movie, she was now dealing with worse.

It turns out that the accuracy of the movie wasn’t a coincidence. The actor had joined her husband’s addiction group and as there are loads of other actors and famous people in many addiction groups, especially in places like LA and New York, no one thought anything of it, and the confidences were respected at every level. But it reality, the actor wasn’t a sex addict at all, he just wanted to experience being in an addiction group so that he could do his movie realistically! All the secrets he told were lies, all the hours over weeks and months, that he poured into those relationships were all fake. He betrayed the other members of the group at such a deep level that many of them, like this woman’s husband, stopped going.

Some of these men had only been going in the first place because it was part of their treatment and because they were assured of secrecy. No one broke the secrecy, no one did anything “wrong”, but this small group of broken, struggling men, were betrayed at one of the deepest levels. Over a period of months, the actor learned, got what he wanted, and then he left. He heard the others bare their souls, but he only pretended to bare his.

I know that that is an extreme example, but the point that I want to make is that joining a community needs to be real if you ever want them to support your stage, your writing, your blog. So don’t be an asshole like Mark Ruffalo and screw people over just so that you can make your million!

Where Jennifer hangs out:

Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A Perfect Launch Team Member

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Does this sound like a perfect launch team member to you:

Someone who reads your book over and over again, each time helping with thoughts, corrections, and ideas, bringing out the best in you. They tell everyone they know about your book, they write reviews on every Amazon site, on Goodreads and they write an independent review. They buy your book with their own money, they share every Tweet Facebook post you make about it and they email every single person on their email list.

Well, if you do you then you may just be right. Except, that if you know someone like this then it is probably your granny. Which is lovely, but the reality is that not only are their few people like this available to you but believe it or not, this kind of person can also work against you. If they over do it, never shut up about your book or cover their entire social media in it, then people can so easily get sick of it, stop following her, and at the very least roll their eyes and move on, without even clicking on your book never mind buying it.

So what then makes a second best launch team member? Someone who at least buys, reads, and writes a review on Amazon and Goodreads right?

Well sort of. The reality is that we need ALL kinds of people on our teams! I learned the hard way that not everyone has a “certified” enough Amazon account to write a review. And not everyone has the time to proofread and not everyone has the social media links to spread it. If people love you they will do their bit, but it is most likely that their bit will be quite different to the next person. And you need them all. I had to learn that they all had something different to offer. Even the people who have no time, expertise or capacity to do much, they at least downloaded my book on “free” day and it counts as a sale.

And that is why you need numbers and you need them from far and wide. Only a quarter will leave a review, a small handful will finish a proofread, and tiny proportion will even tell their friends. Keep going, keep digging, and round up those friends … but don’t expect too much from them and don’t forget that they are doing you a FAVOUR!

Where Jennifer hangs out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Interview with Blogger Sushmita Thakare Jain.

1: It is lovely to meet you. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write about?

It’s lovely to meet you too Jennifer.

I am a Biotechnologist by qualification but truly an Entrepreneur and passionate Motivator by heart.

I have my Businesses one is into trading of Jewelry & Perfumes while the other is into Business & Finance consultancy. I am planning to expand my first business and enter manufacturing so currently looking for interested Investors.

I write about Business & Finance related blogs on my website and wide variety of topics sharing my experiences, personal stories about how to go out and make your dreams a realization and about thought-provoking topics.

2: How long have you been blogging, and why do you blog?

I have been blogging since past 6 months.

It began in order to promote my company’s website; it was my husband who suggested me to share my writing when one fine day he went through my journal.

Before blogging I used to write my journal where I used to share my thoughts and experiences and short stories now it is fun to share it with an audience who interacts with you.

I love to blog for the audience, love to connect with them and grow myself as a writer as the audience is everything as the audience associated with us grow so do we!

3: What are your three greatest highlights of blogging so far?

To be frank I just have a steady audience on both my blogs which I want to grow so still on the journey to have highlights hopefully will have some in coming time.

4: What is your greatest writing dream for the future?

My greatest writing dream is to become a Published Author which I have started working on, fingers crossed!

I will be starting my book writing journey via Wattpad and will be beginning with short stories and then after them will take it ahead with novels.

5: What is one piece of advice for anyone who is starting out with writing or blogging?

The best advice for a newbie was shared by Bill Gates and I try and implement it!

Content is King

What would you like to share most strongly with your readers?

I love to share my experiences and advice about what to do when feeling low. When experiencing the slump I shift my perspective and use the obstacle as a stepping stone to achieve even greater heights. There are many tips and advice on how to cultivate a change in attitude but one key way to do this is to begin a gratitude practice.

Be grateful.

There is always, always, always something or the other for me to be thankful for.

First I find it. It always helps me come out of the quicksand of negativity.

Life is better when I’m smiling. I don’t believe that being positive in a negative situation is naive; it’s a sign of leadership and strength.

When I refocus and recharge myself with motivation and if required re-plan my goal, it helps me to fully develop my inner strength and become resistant to negativity.

People may say, the problem is that the bad is utterly debilitating that the bad knocks the life right out of you; it can leave you gasping for air amidst a pool of cold loneliness. But to that I say:

Know this my friend — you are not alone!

Whatever you are going through, no matter how difficult, sad, unfair or turbulent, countless others have felt that depth of despair. Countless others right now, this very second are feeling that level of depth and despair. This I am saying is not to take away from or minimize the gravity of your pain; I am saying this is to let you know that you are never alone.

I feel the wisest, most loving, and well-rounded people I have ever met are likely those who have known misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing something or someone they loved and has found their way out of the depths of their own despair.

These are the people who have experienced many ups and downs and have gained an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, understanding and a deep loving wisdom.

Friends people like this aren’t born; they develop slowly over the course of time.

I don’t believe that anyone is punishing you. We all agree we can’t predict the future or can we? Do we know with certainty what will the future offers us?

So why to be discouraged just like in order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present same way we must take the negative slump in our life to shine brightly ahead.

Thank you Sushmita! You can find and follow her on any of the links below:

https://twitter.com/sush_t27

https://www.facebook.com/sushmita.thakare

https://in.linkedin.com/in/sushmita-thakare-jain-81413486

https://plus.google.com/113075794335895690382

https://in.pinterest.com/sushblues/

https://www.instagram.com/sush_t27/

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Where I hang out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon
@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Author Stage or Author Platform

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Many people who are new to writing are doing exactly what we are all advised to do: Build an online presence, an online platform, and get the word out there. We have to sell ourselves, and we have to sell our books. But the biggest question I get asked over and over again is how do I get people to come to me and listen to what I have to say. This is the hardest part in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is actually the easiest, but you do need a few key ingredients: Humility, Patience, and Community are just three of them but believe me, you can’t get far without ALL of them. Here is why:

The first mistake we make is to go out, buy the wood and build ourselves a little stage in our back yard. We stand on it and wait for the crowds to come. It is heart-wrenching when no one turns up! So we fork out the cash for advertising, we stick posters on the lamp posts, and we tell all our friends. Some of them come, but still, there is no crowd and few of our books sell. It feels so unfair.

The problem is that many of us build a stage before we build a platform. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all great tools, but they are just that, they are tools. They are the loudspeakers and the flyers and the billboards. But the problem is that they are lost in millions upon millions of almost identical loudspeakers, flyers, and billboards. At one end we have a FABULOUS product (aren’t all of our books going to be the next best seller?), and at the other end we have the advertising, but there is nothing in between. There is nothing to connect us and make us stand out. Even our STUNNING front cover is lost among thousands of other stunning covers!

So in comes humility and patience. Humility to ask someone else if we can perhaps have a seat at their table, to get to know them, and to one day accept a teeny corner of their stage. Over and over people tell me that they don’t have the time to meet people, to get to know them before they ask for help, or even then, that they don’t want to stand on someone else’s stage! They want to stand on their own stage. I get that. We all want our own stage to shine, but we can’t force people to come or to buy.

Another option perhaps is to build your own stage by all means, but for the first season, don’t stand on it other than to introduce our guests. Invite others to come and speak on it instead. Bring in people who you know others would love to hear. It is still your stage. But if you spend a season being the host, welcoming people, giving others a voice and a place to stand, then after a while, when people love and trust you, they will turn to you and ask you ” do you also write? I love to hear your voice at the beginning of each show, I would love to hear what else you have to say”.

These things both take time, they both take humility, and they take a whole lot of “paying it forward”. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is actually a whole lot easier than embarrassingly standing on a soap box and shouting “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!” at the top of my lungs all day, every day.

We need to build an online presence and an online platform, but we must be a little careful of confusing it with simply building a stage…

Over the next few posts, I will dig much deeper into these things and answer any questions you have. Please feel free to join the closed Facebook Group on the subject of building ethical launch teams if you would like to ask your questions in a more private space, by clicking HERE.