When Benjamin was very young he didn’t communicate much at all. He simply did as he was told, as much as he knew to do so. We would use single words to tell him “sit”, “stand”, “walk”, “washroom” etc and he would do it. Questions were met with no response, but we talked to him in complete sentences when we were having a one-sided conversation with him; as if he understood everything, in hopes that someday he would.
If we needed a response from him or he just ‘wasn’t with us’, we’d say his name and tell him to “Stop”. Sometimes it took several attempts and louder voices but eventually he’d stop. Then we’d walk over to him and hold his head until our eyes were directly in line with his and say, “Look at my eyes”. Once we had his focus on our eyes, he seemed to understand that we wanted to talk to him and he listened. After a while, we simplified things and just said, “Eyes”, and he would stop and look at us.
By doing this, we were trying to make a connection between our world and his; a way for him to see us and to step into our world for a short time to hear something important. We would do this, for example, when we needed to do something potentially dangerous like crossing the street. We would say, “Cars. Hand”, and he would hold our hands and cross the street. Without this strategy, Benjamin was prone to walk in straight lines regardless of traffic, people or brick walls. So this technique was, I believe, a linking of souls which otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate in typical ways.
Who would have thought that this little boy would one day become a published author and public speaker?
Ben’s prognosis at this early age wasn’t high, as far as communication skills went. But as he grew, we learned to listen to the clues he gave us about the way he learned. He taught us so much more than any book could (we didn’t have the internet back then, and very little support except for our amazing pediatrician). Children with, or without Autism, show us their unique design if we take the time to listen and watch.
Do you have a collection of something you treasure; art, books, old coins, stuffed animals? Most of us do. Our collections say a lot about who we are – our personalities and what we hold dear. I have a collection of books which belonged to my husband‘s parents.
In it are yellowing pages bound in fraying covers and tattered spines. Some are old children’s stories, some are poetry, and one is even a much dated ‘Household Management’ book with instructions on how to set a formal dining table for 12 guests. (I don’t pull that one out very often!).
These treasures are very dear to me because they remind me of the dear people who owned them, and also they link me to authors from long ago who had a vision of telling others what was close to their hearts. These family heirlooms I will not give away or sell, but will someday pass on to my family so they will tell stories of their grandparents to their children too.
Prompted by my daughters, I’ve recently ‘de-hoarded’ much of my home and given away what I thought would be useful to others. In the process, I realized I had collected notes and half-written short stories and poems. I felt compelled to share the literary treasures I had found, and have since turned some of the short stories into blogs or compilation pieces, and collected enough notes to write another e-book!
Do you find yourself hoarding your literary treasures? Is your notebook or laptop full of fascinating gems you haven’t done anything with yet? Share some of those gems with your audience every day. Let them see who you are and what inspires you.
I ‘follow’ several authors whose work I admire, but before I ‘liked’ them on Facebook or subscribed to their newsletter, I researched them online and got to know them as individuals. Once I liked what I saw, I followed them and even bought a book or two. Their online presence sometimes mentioned other authors they were inspired by, and I often bought their books too – all because they shared something that they treasured.
Now I do my best to pin or post one of my treasures every day. It’s not always about my work, but rather a gem I’ve discovered from someone else. I’ve collected a piece of their collection, cherished it, and then given it away for others to do the same. Check your notebooks and archived files. Are you hoarding treasure? If you are, start giving it away and see what happens…
I thought I would spend the entire winter improving my social media and using it to market my books. Then I’d sell a lot of books and become successful, right? It turns out that all this social media takes a lot of time and drags me away from what I really want to do – write! How can I become a successful author if I don’t have time to write any books? It’s like a giant cake sitting on my laptop, and – though I like cake once in a while – I couldn’t eat a whole one without being, well – you know!
What do I get from all this social media stuff anyway? As time-consuming as it may be, I’ve realized through it all that I have in fact gained something. I’ve gained an online writing community. I’ve gained friends and colleagues along the way and followed mentors. So that’s what this blog is all about. Success doesn’t come overnight – for most of us anyway. We need to take it one bite at a time, savour the morsels of small successes along the way, and share a piece of the cake with someone every day. The task isn’t as daunting that way. Let me explain…
Each day, if I follow my writing schedule, I will have worked on one of the following:
My blog is where you’re at now. You can see what I’ve written in my past posts and you can follow me if you like. You can also follow my Facebook page and Pinterest boards. All of these social media sites are an interest/hobby and I can share a piece of my cake there without it taking a lot of time. I’m doing a small piece of marketing while having fun. It doesn’t seem like much effort or need to take up too much time (although do set your timer for an allotted amount of time if you tend to get carried away!). Occasionally someone will like what I’ve posted/pinned and buy one of my books because of their interest in what I’ve shared.
If you’re a writer – share a sentence from the novel you’re writing (no spoilers!) or an excerpt from an ebook you just published. How about pinning a picture that inspired part of your book? Or make a 30 second YouTube video of you reading part of your published book, as a teaser.
If you’re an artist, share a part of your sketch, or the colour scheme of your latest design.
Remember to keep it about your work – not what you had for lunch. (Unless you’re a blogger or author of recipes). Whatever your work is, that’s your focus. Each thing you share with others becomes part of your collection. Your collection becomes who you are as an author.
Even one minute each day to pin or post something will be 30+ things you’ve shared at the end of the month.
Turn each one into a couple of paragraphs and that equals a 30 page ebook!
How do you respond when you meet someone for the first time?
Generally we shake their hand like a soggy fish, force a tired smile and say something like, “Nice to meet you” or “Good to meet you”.
Sometimes we really aren’t sure how we feel or we’re disinterested and simply say “Hi”.
How does it make you feel when you meet someone for the first time and they seem genuinely happy to meet you?
Great – right?
They smile, shake your hand firmly and say “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
What if you could make everyone who follows you feel this way?
You can – at least you can do your best.
Not everyone who reads your work will be pleased to meet you, but those who are deserve to meet the real you.
Some will decide you’re not the kind of person they’re interested in following, some will follow you for a time until they lose interest, but others will stick it out for the duration because they’ve found you to be interesting and likable.
These are the ones you want to give something of yourself to so that they will say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
So how do you get them to know you well enough to put a smile on their face from a distance?
Lets go back to the old school of communication – you tell them something about what you both have in common. If you’re new to writing you need a way to connect with your followers in that common thread.
Start out by showing them what you’ve already written.
Do you have a blog of your own?
Do you use Pinterest to showcase your work?
Do you send out a newsletter?
If you haven’t published any books yet, a blog is a good place to start. This will get you noticed online and you’ll start to get followers. The more followers, the more sharing online and the further up you go on the searches. This takes time, so do a few things and do them often.
It took me about six months before I got the hang of it. I’m constantly learning from other writers I follow.
Share something about you first.
-What’s your passion in life?
-Do you feel comfortable sharing a few notes about your personal life? No details here – just where you grew up and a few places you’ve lived, not necessarily your current town if it’s small.
-Are you married, do you have children or pets? You get the idea. Remember what goes on the internet can be read by EVERYONE!
Let your followers get to know who you are before you expect them to follow your work. Treat them as pen-pals. (Under 40? – ask your grandparents). I had several pen-pals growing up. We exchanged names and addresses through school. Honest!
Then start to show them what you do.
Write an introductory blog about your writing goals. Again, don’t share specifics of a work in progress, rather an idea of work.
What inspired you to work on this particular project?
Share some excerpts that don’t give away any spoilers. You want them to buy your finished work.
Open a Pinterest account to showcase your work and any pins related to it. I have a personal Pinterest account where followers can get to know me, and also a business Pinterest account where I showcase my own work and the work of fellow writers.
If you plan on going to events to sell your books/art, or you intend to be a speaker, a newsletter may be of benefit. I use Constant Contact because they make the guide quite easy and they keep track of your open rate.
Tweet. I don’t because I think I may become too ‘addicted’, but if you have good self-control, go for it.
Use your blog and Pinterest analytics to find out what your followers like, then write, post and pin like crazy. Set yourself a social media schedule so you don’t get carried away and forget to write! I generally collect ideas and file them into categories for each social media venue. Then it takes me less time to actually share it.
Here’s a great example: In 2013, Commander Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, wanted to connect with people on Earth and show them what real life was like on a space station, so –
“During his next five-month mission, while performing all his regular astronautical duties, he tweeted, answered questions from his followers, posted pictures he’d taken of Earth, recorded music, and filmed YouTube videos of himself…” – Austin Kleon in Show Your Work
The best part of all this social media sharing is, you get to meet some really interesting people and they get to meet you. Remember to always give credit to those whose work you share on any social media; a link to their own blog, accredit to their Pinterest boards, link to their website to buy their books.
If all this seems daunting, take heart. I learned it veeeeery slowly and I’m still learning, as you’ll come to realize 😉 You can take classes at your local college, at a local business advisory centre, or hire someone to do it for you Webrite Design and Social Media.
Next time we’ll look at different topics to share.
Finding your writer’s voice –
So you’ve decided to become a writer.
How do you decide what to write about?
Start with what compelled you to write in the first place. Chances are, you have a passion for something and want the whole world to know about it. You want to share your passion. That’s what you write about. Even if you decide to write an autobiography, it can be full of passion. After all, aren’t we passionate about ourselves? I hope so! So write about your experiences, good or bad, that link to your passion.
Herein lies your writer’s voice.
It’s not an audible voice, but a recognizable pattern of words which will speak to your audience and connect you to your readers. They’ll come to hear you in the way you write; the influence of dialect, the grammar (or lack thereof) and style, as if they were listening to spoken words. So be yourself. Let your audience get to know you. You don’t need to be famous, but you do need to be authentic.
I started out as a writer after three people told me I should write a book about raising my son who’s on the Autism Spectrum. Many people knew my journey through short stories I’d spoken, but encouraged me to write them down to share with others who didn’t know me. Until then, I hadn’t thought of being a writer. But looking back, I remembered I used to love to write fictional stories and poetry. I had simply forgotten. It’s funny how life can get you so far off track.
Maybe you have a similar story to tell. Have others encouraged you to write? Have you always been a writer, even if only in notebooks no one else reads? We all come to this point from different paths. It doesn’t matter how you start out. It just matters that you start.
So discover what inspires you and type, type, type like crazy. If you want to write a fictional story, check the ‘Inspiring Imagery’ on White Rose Writers’ Pinterest for some ideas. It’s the board where I pin pics of fantasy and sci-fi and scenes in nature around the world, to encourage writers to get those creative juices flowing. I love the creative mind.
Find books on topics you’re passionate about and read, read, read. Search online for blogs to follow from people who have the same passion. Can you ‘hear’ them in their writing? Do you recognize their ‘voice’?
Write a few blogs, a magazine article, a review of someone else’s work for practice. Save them in docs and don’t worry about editing them. Organize them and file them away for now. We’ll look at what to do with them next time. Just immerse yourself in the process and let it carry you away. Find your writer’s voice.
I’m not sure if that’s a declaration or a question.
I’ve been writing for about two years. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve been writing since I was about four – I’ve been writing professionally, that is to say, being paid for what I write, for about three years. So I’m classed as a novice writer with a lot yet to learn. I was told recently by a seasoned author, that we never stop learning as long as we never stop writing. I’m beginning to understand that.
Something else I’ve learned recently about the life of a writer is – to share what I’ve learned with others. I already knew this from a general perspective as a life coach and workshop host, to pass on knowledge to the next generation of people so we, as a global community, may improve life for those to come. It didn’t occur to me to apply it to my writing. I thought I should guard my work against the world until it was acceptable to read, without flaws. And isn’t it self-defeating to share my work, in case someone beats me to the finish line? I’ve learned the answer is “no”. What does it matter if someone steals my idea and creates something from it? Remember – share for the next novice to learn from.
So as I embark on an adventure of literary discovery, I invite you to join me; to wade through these sometimes murky waters, to experience the flow of a river of creative thoughts and ride the waves of joy and excitement with me as we blog, journal, research and publish together.
What I learned first:
• You can’t call yourself a writer if you’re waiting to get better at it. If you’re waiting – then you’re a waiter, not a writer. So just start writing!
• Practice calling yourself a writer. If you’ve written your first sentence of a 300-page novel – congratulations – you’re a writer!
• Don’t let anyone steal your dream – not even you. If someone says you can’t make a living at it or pretty much gives you the impression of “who do you think you are”? don’t buy into that. Ignore them or have a good answer ready. I know many people who earn full-time pay for writing.
• Research what you’re writing about; whether it’s a novel, a series of blogs, a magazine article or a collection of thoughts you don’t yet know what to do with, you need to be able to link, accredit and support what you say. If you’re writing a historic novel, for example, you’ll need to know all you can about the aspects of life at that time in history. Keep your information in a file specific to that piece, for future reference. Fans may be interested in where you learned about your storyline.
• Set a schedule for yourself. Be realistic in how many hours a day, how many days a week, you want to devote to writing. Use a filing system online, on your PC or laptop, or a calendar pinned to your workstation with different couloured sticky notes. Whatever works for you. Be prepared for unexpected intrusions and don’t get your knickers in a knot over them.
I would like to end this first Building a Writing Platform by sharing from a book I recently purchased, “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. On being an amateur writer, Kleon writes; “Don’t worry, for now, about how you’ll make money or a career of it. Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you”.
So how did I do?
As you start your literary journey, I hope you’ll keep in touch. Let me know if this post helped you. Leave a comment or a question.
I’m currently updating my first published book, the story of being a mother with an autistic child. I thought it would be good to share with you my first blog from four years ago, which is an excerpt from the introduction of the book. You can still get a copy of the first edition but some of the links are no longer available.
My son, Benjamin, was non-verbal as a small child and was later identified as having High-Functioning Autistism. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as he grew older.
The passage describes my feelings as I watched him, detached from my world…
Where do you go to, My Sunshine?
You have the most beautiful blue eyes, my handsome baby boy. Why can’t I see you behind them? Where do you go when your eyes wander away from me?
I hold you in my arms and stroke your tiny face, run my fingers through the yellow strands falling across your brow and I search for a glimpse of soul connection, but you are nowhere to be found.
If I let go of your small hand you’ll run away or you’ll walk in an endless straight line and not care where you’re going. You won’t see the people on the path in front of you or the tree that blocks your way. You won’t run excited to play with the other children on the swings because they’re not there in your world.
We walk by the lake. I point at the birds, gracefully gliding, skimming over the lapping waves. A young puppy barks and, for an instant, I see a puzzled frown on your tiny forehead, then it’s gone.
I show you the delicate, colourful blue petals of the Forget-Me-Not and we stop for a while to listen to the rustling of the birch. But you walk where I walk and stop when I stop only because I hold on tightly to your little fingers so you don’t slide down the bank and disappear. You have no response to these wonders around you.
I tell you how God made all these things. How He loves you and created you as part of His masterpiece too. How you have a purpose inthis life and how I’ll do my best as your Mummy to help you find that purpose He has planned for you. But you don’t seem to hear a word. You just stare into the distance.
We walk back on the path and I sing to you “Forever Young.” You don’t sing along or dance in circles around me giggling. But oh how I love you my Sunshine.
Where do you go to, my sweet baby boy, when your eyes wander away from me and you’re lost in your autistic world.
Benjamin is now 30 years old and a published author himself! My book talks about the struggles we both had as he was growing up, the highs and lows of his formative years, and the blessings he has brought to my life.”
For a closer look at autism from Benjamin’s perspective and to see what he’s up to now, visit his blog at