Do you seek clarity first?


Clarity…

When I started writing I was semi-clueless about the craft especially when it came to producing content for an audience. All I knew is that I enjoyed writing, strike that, I had a passion for writing.

The first writing project I dedicated my time and efforts to was writing my autobiography. I had envisioned a best seller. An epic story that helped the masses discover the treasures that are hidden in the tragic events that are common experiences for the majority of us.

After two years of pecking away at the keys on my keyboard I got up the courage to reach out to a writing coach for some professional feedback.

Brandon, read the first few pages and then he asked me a question that I hadn’t anticipated. “Who is your intended audience or your target market?” He inquired.

I revealed my almost pearly whites and said. “Anybody and everybody that might benefit from the positive things I have learned from the tragic events of my life.”

“That’ a pretty broad net you are casting.” Brandon smiled, and asked. “Do you fish?”

I scratched my head and responded.“I love to fish but what’s that got to do with my writing?”

“Any good fisherman will tell you no matter how large a net you cast, you won’t catch any fish in an empty lake.” Brandon observed the perplexed look on my face and then he inquired.“What’s the message you want to get out?”

Ouch… I shook my head and looked across the table at Brandon, thinking that I had wasted two years of my life. If he couldn’t grasp the message I had worked so hard to convey the first few pages I had written must have sucked.

After ten or so minutes listening to me ramble on about my message Brandon took a few minutes to express his thoughts about the few pages he had read of my manuscript. I was happy when he said I had captured his imagination as well as his heart. When he finished sharing his encouraging words, he suggested that we meet again the next week. After I had the opportunity to do some soul searching and some research to define my intended audience.

Even though my first coaching session didn’t go the way I expected I learned a valuable lesson. When you are writing it is as crucial to know who you are writing for, as it is to know the message, or thought you wish to convey.

It’s been about five years since my first coaching session, since then I have become a writing coach and volunteer mentor for writers myself. The first thing I share with my writing clients is the importance of clarity. Not only clarity of their message, but clarity as to who their audience is.

Do you know who your target audience is?

Before you sit down to write, it is a good idea to determine who you are writing for. Do the research and write in a style that will appeal to that audience. Recent study’s conducted by several organizations including the National Center for Educational Statistics or NCES have revealed that the average Adult in the United States reads at a ninth grade level. Further more it has been determined that the average reader would rather read at a level two years below their skill level for entertainment purposes. That said most likely the members of your target audience prefer reading stuff that has been written at a seventh grade reading level. So much for “five dollar” words… I am not saying don’t use them, but consider this. Would you enjoy reading something if you had to google every other word in order to understand what it is the author is trying to say?

Do you have clarity about who you are writing for?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I appreciate you and am grateful for your taking the time to do so. With luck you found some of the information useful.

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How shall I begin?


Isn’t it funny sometimes how things turn out even when we put forth the effort required to make things happen as we intended them to? January is over and I have yet to post anything on my blog this year even though I have been working on this post for weeks.

Oh come on now Joe you’re a paid writer. Do you mean to tell me that you do the research and write 600-700 word articles for your clients in a matter of hours, but a simple post for your own blog has taken almost a month to write?

Not to make excuses, but the dead of winter is an emotionally challenging time for many of us, and this winter has been especially challenging for me. The fact is I’ve been hesitant to share what’s been on my mind.

As I stood among my friends the Aspen, Cottonwood, and Spruce a couple of weeks ago on a frozen mountainside I caught site of a lone bird sitting on a bare branch. The crooning of the lonely songbird invoked a deep mourning for one that I loved and missed dearly.

You may not know it, but last January my son Dennis passed away after a long bout with the a demon I know all too well… the devil that lurks inside of the bottle.

I searched for the silver lining in the sorrow I was experiencing while a ferocious arctic wind pummeled my face with ice rain, sleet, and snow. With frostbite about to set in from the waterfall of tears cascading down my frozen cheeks it dawned on me that tragedy was the perfect segue into my upcoming series about writing.

Tragedy… After all a series of tragic events was the impetus for me to write something for the first time since I left high school.

What was so tragic that I would pick up the pen and express myself in writing? A better question might be why did I pick up the pen?

It was February of 2007 as I sat in my car during a freezing rain storm. I stared at the bottle of Wild Turkey 101 I held in my hand, and contemplated whether or not it might be better for those I loved if I stepped in front of a truck. I was about to pop the cork, when out of nowhere a poetic thought came to mind.

Fortunately I chose to set the bottle down and followed the urge I had to drag the backpack that contained my laptop out of the back seat. I snatched the laptop out of the bag, fired it up and watched the letters appear on the 15” screen as my fingers hit the keys. When I finished reading the poem that I had just written, a wave of emotion overcame me. I felt so happy to be alive, that I took a walk and let the freezing rain wash away the tears.

Several poems and a few months passed before I started my first major writing project. Even though I spent the next year writing a story that will most likely never be published, I knew as I wrote my life story that I wanted to become a paid writer.

So how does one become a paid writer? Especially when you don’t have a college degree.

First of all you have to love writing enough that you are inspired to learn how to write in a way that reaches an audience. Learning to write for the audience you want to reach doesn’t require spending thousands of dollars, and sitting in classes for years. It does require study and dedication to learning the craft of writing though. I have spent at least four hours a day over the last eight years learning the craft and if I were to guess I will spend the rest of my life studying the art of writing.

My first mentors William Strunk Jr., and E.B. White, authors of The Elements of Style opened my eyes to the simple truths of the importance of style and grammar in my writing. No I don’t personally know either of these two masters of the craft, none the less they have mentored me by sharing their wisdom and knowledge.

Over the next few months I will be sharing with the cherished readers of this blog the adventures I have enjoyed with the many mentors I have had the gift to learn from over the years. Some of them are known to many, Masters of the craft like William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Nora Roberts, and Stephen King to name a few. Then there are those that you probably never heard of like Brendan Schemrie, who taught me the importance of writing for a specific audience. Or Shauna Edson, who spent an hour every Wednesday for a year coaching me and teaching me the mechanics of writing dialogue. Then there is my friend, editor, and co-mentor of the Veterans writing group at the Salt Lake V.A. Hospital, Peter Muller who has taught and inspired me in ways that the masters would admire.

Thank you for stopping by and allowing me to share my thoughts with you. Until next time please keep being beautiful you as you are the change we need to make our world a better place for all we share it with.

Namaste with love,

Joe Bradshaw

Held Hostage….?


Hello world, although it was my intention to share a post on here a few days ago, I encountered some technical issues. Imagine waking up the day after Christmas, and discovering that you were locked out of your word processing software.

“Arrrgh,” I growled knowing that I had a couple of articles due the next morning for one of my cherished clients. I shook my head and cursed the day I upgraded from Microsoft Word 2010, to the new and improved Microsoft Office 365. It seemed like a good idea at the time since the upgrade was included with the NetBook I got as a gift from my brother last year for Christmas. Little did I realize that a year later my life’s work would be held for ransom.

I suppose that’s a little melodramatic but I am a writer and a good story requires a little drama doesn’t it? Yes I know that I can use Microsoft Office 365 Online for free, or I could use Google Docs, but what about those times I have no internet access? I often write at the beach, in the mountains or at a park because I find those places inspirational and there are limited distractions.

So what’s a free spirited freelance writer to do when his work is being held hostage? Pay the fee?

Hell no! Being the rebel I am, and being as angry as I am, I have decided to search for a word processing program that won’t charge me a monthly fee for the privilege of accessing my own work. Although I love Microsoft’s Word program, I don’t like the notion that I should have to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use it even if that fee is less than what I pay for a couple of cups of coffee. What’s next a subscription fee to use my laptop?

So the search has begun, a simple Google Search revealed that there are a number of great word processing programs out there including many that offer the same features that Microsoft includes in Office 365. I don’t mind paying for the software in fact I paid for Word 2010 unfortunately when I upgraded I apparently lost access to that program.

After doing some research I realize that as a professional writer I may be swimming upstream as I try to get away from Microsoft’s new subscription service, but there are some great alternatives available on the market. I have narrowed the list down to three programs that were rated highly on TopTenReviews.com, Corel’s WordPerfect Office X8, SoftMaker’s TextMaker 2016, and Ability Office 6. I am downloading trial versions of the fore mentioned word processing software, and intend to give them all a fair shot by using each one to polish up a chapter of my latest manuscript.

Additionally there are a few free offerings that also look like they would be up to the task such as Libre Office which I just installed on my NetBook. Another promising possibility is Open Office Writer 4.1.3 which I am currently using to write this post on my trusty Lenovo laptop. What word processing software do you use?

How do you feel about monthly subscriptions to access your own work?

Distracted… By my virtual Valentine


You have taken over my mind
Distracted feeling quite sublime
Feelings and thoughts transcending time

Thoughts racing bouncing here and there
Should be focused yet I don’t care
Wish my fingers were running through your hair

As you speak
My knees get weak
Your body in bed I seek

To feel your flesh skin on skin
The thoughts that rage within
With you naked we begin

Kisses tenderly
Passion building bursting free
Your legs wrapped around me

Slowly the rhythm builds
Quivering as your depth you yield
Our bodies melting as it is filled

Clenching squeezing contracting
Your inner works reacting
From the depths of me extracting

Our magical attraction
Cosmic reaction
Mutual satisfaction

Distracted by thoughts and dreams
Making love with you on my mind it seems
What a lovely distraction your sweet smile brings

My virtual Valentine
You are on my mind
Can’t wait to meet you in space and time

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For the first time since my first kiss… I have no Valentine to share this Valentines Day with. I am a romantic kind of guy and figured I would throw my thoughts out into the Universe and be surprised with what it shares with me! I actually have a lady I desire to make my Valentine she really made me feel so sublime yet I have only just met her and she lives quite a ways away. It may seem kind of … Scary maybe to show up and take her for dinner out of the blue. So I decided to just chill and wrote a poem expressing how I feel. Happy Valentines to you all and my virtual Valentine, maybe next year I may once again have one that is real!

An Immortal, a Sorcerer and a thousand years of love…


Jake exited the Lincoln Tunnel entering the urban jungle of concrete, steel, and flesh, the “Big Apple”. He turned onto Tenth Ave. abruptly slamming on the brakes just avoiding a collision with a redhead that had a body like Marilyn Monroe.

“Damn it” he cursed, as his coffee cup erupted like a volcano. He looked at the traffic signal making sure he had the green thinking; it’s suicidal for someone on foot to try to cross against the signal, during the morning rush hour.

What the hell, is she doing, he thought while searching for a napkin to clean up the murky pool that now graced the seat of his jeep ” Betsy”. He retrieved a napkin and looked up from the spotless consol to find the road hazard staring into his eyes as she walked towards him.
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The smell of overheating brakes, burnt oil and scorched tires wafted through the window assaulting Jake’s nose as he rolled it down “What the hell are you doing, are you crazy?” he shouted over the cacophony of horns, now blaring simultaneously, by the conductor- less, orchestra …the five lanes of stopped traffic that now surrounded him.

“I came to find you Jake; we need to talk, and you haven’t got much time.” She said before asking rather smugly.” Are you going to let me in or leave me standing here to get run over?”

“What are you talking about, do I know you?” Jake queered, as he pondered whether he should let her in or not. What harm could she do he muttered in his mind. She is half my size and doesn’t look like an axe murderer. Even if she is there was no way she is hiding an axe in that outfit. . She was wearing a perfectly pleated paisley dress which revealed her shapely body, and highlighted her auburn hair, and enchanting green eyes. He unlocked the door and told her “get in.”

The flowery spring like fragrance of her perfume preceded her entry, making him feel somehow lighter, and full of joy. He smiled as climbed in and sat next to him. “My name is Sandra; I have been a friend of yours for close to three thousand years.” She said as her full lips proclaimed, revealing her brilliant white teeth and creating a warm smile.

“What?’ exclaimed Jake” Three thousand years is a long time. In case you hadn’t noticed I am not that old, even though I am forty-three I don’t feel in any way ancient. You, my beautiful friend, can’t be a day over thirty, thirty five at the most.”

“Do you believe in reincarnation?”She retorted, then before Jake could answer she continued”We are spiritual beings, souls that have chosen to take a physical body.


The song just seemed to fit! “The Talisman of Immortality” coming soon to a book store near you!

Fiction with feeling.. My heart screamed.


Mike was sprawled out on the bench, a collapsed toilet paper box hid his head from the sun and those that passed by. I looked at him laying there his pants covered in vomit, frying like an egg on the sidewalk in the late morning sun. The empty vodka bottle he grasped with a death grip as his arm hung lifelessly over the side of the bench.

The stench that permeated the stagnant air was a mixture of vomit; body odor and shit made me want to gag. The only other time I recall my nose being so offended was when I made the mistake of taking a late morning walk down Fulton Street. Have you ever been to the fish market, after the fish guts, and waste have been rotting for several hours in the mid summer sun. I had to throw away my favorite shoes when I got home; there was no getting rid of that smell.

I wish I had a hose to spray mike down with and a bar of soap, I really wish I could have given him a place to stay that was equipped with a shower.

As I looked at him the Stoli bottle spoke to me, like a wine bottle with a message that had washed up on a beach. The message although unwritten told the same story. “SOS” I am lonely and alone, surrounded by the ocean, in Mike’s case it was an ocean of people that didn’t even see him.

My heart screamed, I wanted to help him somehow. I had spoken with him several times, he shared his story. His wife kicked him out a few years back; he couldn’t deal with his reality and had turned to crack cocaine. It provided a temporary relief and escape from the pressures of his job, his wife, his family and society that wanted him to fit their expectations.

I understood how he felt, I was going through a divorce hated my job and felt pressured to conform to the expectations of family and society. The 85 dollars left from my paycheck after the child support, taxes, and alimony were taken out of my check was not enough to pay rent on an apartment. The only reason I wasn’t sleeping on a bench next to Mike was I had a car. I also had a different attitude and I chose not to hit the bottle.

It was Wednesday one of the days I got to spend the evening with my children. I had left the shop I worked out of after learning there was no work for me that day. As a carpenter for a Union shop in NY work was sometimes spotty. I had been lucky for the greater part of twenty years working steady, times had changed.
No steady work meant even more arrears in my child support and less for me to live on. I was just a few dollars away from the bench next to Mike.

I reached in my pocket and took out the last of my cash a crumpled up five dollar bill and stuffed it in Mike’s empty hand. He fidgeted and dropped the bottle as he woke startled to have somebody touching him. The cardboard feel to the ground as he jumped up, he looked at me with bloodshot eyes and looked in his hand at the five. He smiled and said “thank you” before sitting up straight. I suggested he should get some breakfast and get moving before the morning police patrol arrived. Then I headed for the subway.
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An experiment and having some fun being creative as I prepare my contribution for this weeks Veterans writing group. A short story with a little punch, I have been working them over with my almost complete novel and thought they might enjoy something different.

What do you think? Certainly not what you expected is it? If nothing else I am becoming a better writer, thank you all for stopping by and for your much appreciated support. My next Novel may be a take off of this short story if it piques enough interest..lol

Namaste!

Taking the time to smell the flowers!


 

I wanted to share a few thoughts. It is my first post of the New Year; In fact it is my first post in a few weeks. I was reminded recently of my past, I lived a fast hard life during my twenty’s and thirty’s. Work consumed my time and money was all that was on my mind. So much so that I missed out on smelling so many roses… Have you ever stopped to think about and feel something that really brought you great joy? I have observed as I talk to people and help them step into the life they dream of that it is easy to remember the not so pleasant things that happen in our lives. I also have noticed as I step into my dream life, and implement the things I have learned and teach I had the same problem.

Funny how other people’s story can remind us of our own story, the good the bad and the ugly. I read Stephen Kings memoir “On Writing” recently. I had been told it was the number one guide to becoming a better writer, to master the craft of writing this book is a must read. I agree it is a must read for any writer, as a writer you have to be a reader. Some of the characters in his story were very reminiscent of some of the characters in my youth.

One or two of his characters along with their situations, and experiences hit quite close to home for me. The truth is they would probably hit quite home for most of us. One of the stories he shared was about two girls and a boy that were in some of his classes while he was a teacher at a High School. They were not wealthy students; one of the girls wore the same skirt and shirt all year. By the time it was winter the skirt was faded, the shirt was stained and for the most part translucent. The kids all picked on those unfortunate students because they were basically stuck with what they had.

One of the motivating factors for my obsession with making money and having the means to buy my children the finest of everything materially was my own childhood memories. When I was in fifth grade I was given the nick name “K mart”. I had one pair of shoes to wear through the school year, plastic ones that were always a size or two larger than my feet at the start of the year so I could grow into them. One pair of jeans and a couple of homemade shirts completed my wardrobe. The shoes were what they used to call K Mart specials shiny patent leather knock offs. Most other kids I knew wore them on Sunday to church.

I got my first job at 13 so I could buy myself clothes that were more in style, and lose the nick name. I never wanted to hear the name” K mart” again especially if it was what I was being called. I was determined to make a million dollars and know my children would never be ridiculed for the clothes they wore. I would never again feel like I was poor!

Here it is 2015, I was speaking with a friend about a seminar we had recently attended. It was a Law of Attraction seminar and the speaker (A close friend) was talking about the visualization process. Find a memory of a time in your life when you had great joy and success. Feel that moment remember how you felt. Bask in that moment!

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It was that moment that I realized… How important it is to stop and smell the roses. I had the hardest time finding a moment that truly resonated with that feeling of joy. Not that I have not known or experienced joy, there have been many times in my life that I have. I was trying to think of a financial moment as it was again money on my mind. There was a time I got a check for twenty thousand dollars, I will remember that moment and the feeling I told myself. I suppose that is where I am going with this post.

I don’t remember the feeling, I don’t remember the joy, I don’t remember celebrating, I remember telling my former wife to deposit it. I remember going to work a fifteen hour day, coming home and checking on the balance in my checking account before I went to bed. Ten years later I can’t say how I felt about something that would have made “K mart” jump for joy, laugh, dance and sing.

I start this year with a great smile, and the intent to bask in each moment, find the joy and feel it savor it just like it was a rose. I have changed my life and path, choosing to do what I love. I am writing, painting and creating things with love and joy. I believe and know just like I did when I was 13 that I will make millions. This time doing what I love and savoring the moments, not neglecting the most beautiful part of life.

Do you live in the moment, do you smell the flowers? Can you recall the first time you felt love? The feeling you had when you had your first kiss? I had to dig very deep to remember those feelings. Isn’t that a shame?

I encourage you to stop and smell the roses, savor the moments in your life that bring you joy! Bask in those moments, and remember them when you start to think about the not, so pleasant things. That change of perspective will brighten up a cloudy day. The more you remember how beautiful that rose was to look at, the smell, and how it made you smile… The more beautiful your life will become!


Thank you for stopping by, thank you even more for being you!

Namaste