About the 100 choices list

When you’re trying to solve a problem, you have to ask the right question. For the 100 choices list I posted yesterday, I began by thinking about how all of us could probably use a few extra bucks about now.

I posed the problem this way: How can I make money this year as a freelancer despite the state of the economy?

The first thing you’ll notice is that I limited the problem in a way that limits my options. If I want to make more money as a freelancer, then I’m not going to be looking for a staff job. In some ways, this thinking is useful, because it clarifies what I want, not just what I’m willing to settle for. But at the same time, it might rule out some potentially good answers, such as finding a staff job with flexibility, so that I get some of the benefits of being a freelancer (being able to take an afternoon off when I need to) with some of the benefits of employment (regular, reliable income).

Also, adding the disclaimer “despite the state of the economy” makes the situation seem dire. But the state of the economy simply means I need to be more creative in my thinking, not that it’s impossible for me (or you) to make more money this year.

So I decided to recast the problem in a way that’s less restrictive and allows for freer thinking: How can I make money this year?

You could argue that I could reframe the question in another way, such as How can I meet my financial obligations this year? because some options would come up (such as moving to a less expensive house) that don’t turn up in answer to the question How can I make money this year? That’s a valid argument, and one answer is to create a list of various questions that get at the issue of making ends meet and then create a list of 100 options for each of those questions. But I’m not going to do that right now because it would make my head explode.

Birth and rebirth

A friend of mine who is forty-something recently had a baby. This is the third child she has welcomed into her life; the other two are school-aged. I met her for coffee recently, and had the chance to hug her sweet new baby and marvel at how calm and relaxed the new mama was. My friend is always a fairly laid-back person, but this time motherhood seemed to make her particularly tranquil. I was – and am – very happy for her. I know there will be plenty of challenges ahead for her and her family, but this seems to be exactly what she wants for this time in her life. It was one of those rare moments when you feel like things really do work out just the way they’re supposed to.

This doesn’t mean I want to have another child myself (despite my daughter’s assurances that it would be a lot of fun!!! if I had a baby). Just that I can see how fulfilling this might be to someone entering the second half of her life.

When one of my sisters was this age, she became a grandmother (making me a great-aunt, thank you very much). I couldn’t help but smile at the different choices women make in their lives – the different choices that woman can make in their lives now that they have more control over them than probably at any other time in the past.

When your second act can include becoming a mother or a grandmother (or potentially both), anything is possible.

Finding a Teacher

A blogger I follow — Laura Young at No Safe Distance — recently posted on the importance of carefully choosing role models. This got me to thinking about all of the teachers I’ve had over the years who’ve helped me to understand how to accomplish various goals. They’ve also helped me see the reality of various goals I’ve set for myself. When I actually talk with successful novelists, for example, it helps me see that there’s nothing magical about their lives, so I don’t expect to somehow be transformed into a carefree, happy-go-lucky charmer if my next novel makes the New York Times Bestseller List. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like it to happen. I just know that the reality is, I will still have to deal with rejection, editors who change jobs, royalties that take a while to arrive and all of the other usual challenges of the writing life.

I’ve found teachers in various ways over the years. Here are some suggestions for how you might find yours:

Consider who in your life right now might be a good teacher for you as a writer. If you have someone in mind, consider yourself an apprentice. It doesn’t need to be a formal relationship. You could offer to buy the teacher lunch if he or she will give you some pointers about writing.

If no one pops to mind, then keep yourself open to finding a teacher. Don’t force the issue, but do pursue opportunities that you may have disregarded before. For example, take a writing class at a nearby college or arts center. Attend a writers’ workshop. Join a writers’ organization and participate in local meetings. Go online and take part in writers’ listservs and bulletin boards. Hit the library and find books by writers you admire, and books about writing that can guide you. Let others around you know that you’re open to finding a teacher or mentor who can help you shape your writing and your writing career.

What are some ways you’ve found a teacher?