“Success is outliving your failures” – Erma Bombeck

 

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 (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996)

 

When I think of someone like Erma Bombeck, who was so naturally funny and seemed to just slide into the world of writing and fame, it is difficult to believe that she ever failed. But, fail she did, and quite publicly. And yet, she saw it for what it was and moved forward, in spite of whatever setbacks she might have felt.

In 1975, many years after she had begun writing her newspaper columns and published a few books, Erma started appearing regularly on the TV show, Good Morning America. These spots began as two or three minutes of her zany twist on life and evolved into longer interviews with celebrities and soon she became a TV staple and a roaring success. This lasted for 11 years.

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else. ~ Erma Bombeck

Eventually, because of her popularity, many different offers began to come her way. One was to adapt her 1976 book, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, for a television movie, which, if successful, might lead to a permanent sitcom slot. On October 25, 1978, that TV movie starring Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin aired on CBS.

Unfortunately, critics hated the show, according to Erma’s biography on the University of Dayton’s ermamuseum.org page. 

Even so, a year later, ABC asked Erma to develop another sitcom idea. And so, she came up with the concept for a show called Maggie, about an ordinary family from Dayton, written from the mother’s point of view. Although Erma had no experience writing for television, she agreed to write and executive produce the show.  Continue Reading…

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Remembering Erma Bombeck

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(February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996)

Hiking into the hills with my dog Buddy gives me a chance to empty my mind of worries and focus more on things like who I am and what my future may hold. Deep thoughts, I know, but as I put one foot in front of the other, breathe harder and climb higher, I begin to feel like I can do anything I want, if I just decide to do it.

The other day, on such a walk I was thinking of the people who have inspired me as a writer, the ones who have stood as examples of success and encouragement, and who taught me that that I can “just do it” if I have the desire. Of course, the first to come to mind was my father, a writer himself who was a constant source of encouragement, loving critique and guidance. Even today, two and a half years after he died, I find daily reasons to believe his wisdom and teachings are still with me.

Then, Erma Bombeck popped into my head. I’ve been thinking about her a bit recently since I entered a story in the annual “Erma Bombeck Writing Competition” last month. It pains me to say that a whole generation of people don’t even know who Erma was. Erma was an author, syndicated columnist, a feminist and a truly funny woman who was a great inspiration to many. Through her writing she captured ordinary life in a extraordinary, humorous and unique way.

One of the most inspiring stories for me is the one Erma tells herself of how she was encouraged to be a writer. Three words – “You can write.” – uttered by her college professor gave her the confidence to go forward with her dream of writing. She talks about it here .

Remembering Erma
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Rejecting rejection

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I recently entered a writing competition in which I thought I might have a fair chance of at least getting a small recognition. 
 I didn’t actually think I would win the whole enchilada, but I hoped that perhaps I could get an honorable mention, or squeak into a top 10 list.

Alas, it was not to be. I didn’t win. I didn’t place. I didn’t even show up on the radar.

My carefully chosen words and heart-felt story were rejected.

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else. ~ Erma Bombeck

I don’t like rejection. Never have, never will.

One rejection that is still on my top 10 list of painful moments was when I published my second book and threw a book launch and signing party that was meagerly attended by a couple handfuls of people. I had worked on the book for a year, researching, writing, promoting and finally getting it published, only to be met by a public that seemed to say, “Meh.” Continue Reading…

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Our lives as a highlight reel

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Have you ever sat at lunch and listened to a friend go on and on about all the wonderful things that are happening in her life? She just got back from a glorious trip to Tahiti, ran a marathon, lost 10 pounds, got offered a killer job, and gave a speech in front of a crowd of 500 to a standing ovation. Oh, plus she just bought a to-die-for house next to a trout pond in the perfect area of town and  threw a great house warming party…so sorry she forgot to invite you, but everyone else had a fabulous time!

As I click around social media and read about people’s awards and trips and the parties they’ve attended, I reflect on my sometimes  ho-hum life, where the highlight of my day might have been picking up the dog poop in the back yard.

At that moment you think of the pounds you gained over the holidays, how you haven’t had a vacation in 2 years, that you can barely find time to walk your dog around the block, and although you were working the weekend of her party, it sure would’ve been nice to be invited anyway. Gosh, compared to her, you are rather booorring and perhaps a bit inadequate.

I’ve done it, and you probably have done it too. We take our private, behind the scenes life, the one with all its warts and weaknesses, the one that only we know about, and compare it to someone else’s spiffed up, shiny public highlight reel with all of its cherry-picked successes and wow factor.

And, as expected, our B-roll usually comes out looking a bit inferior.  Cue insecurity.

When I first read the above quote by Steve Furtick, it opened my eyes to a concept that I hadn’t really considered but totally makes sense. It explains why sometimes a visit to Facebook can leave me feeling out of the loop. As I click around social media and read about people’s awards and trips and the parties they’ve attended, I reflect on my sometimes  ho-hum life, where the highlight of my day might have been picking up the dog poop in the back yard.

What I need to remember is that everyone puts their best self forward and leaves the embarrassments, insecurities, and failures behind closed doors. So, when I compare my whole self — warts and all — to these public snippets of perfection, I will never measure up.

Furtick’s quote is a great reminder that ALL of us have sparkly, impressive highlight reels worthy of celebrating and bragging about, and we all have the boring, behind-the-scenes  B-rolls that feel unimpressive. The trick is simply not to compare ourselves to anyone else, ever. We are all individuals who have been given our own special gifts and opportunities, and it is up to us to be the best “US” that we can be, no matter what reel is playing, at the moment.

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Navigating the Road To Success

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“The road to success is always under construction.” ~ Lily Tomlin

Not too long ago I was invited to give a talk to the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at Boise State University. The group wanted me to speak about how I got started in my career in public relations, the ups and downs, what I’ve learned and how I got to where I am now, which is the owner of a PR company, a freelance writer and author.

Like most people, my career hasn’t been pristine and perfect, so I decided to base my talk on the flops, fiascoes and failures and how these disappointments all played a role in where I am today.

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

As the old proverb says, “A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.”

Bumps in the road
My background includes dropping out of college, being rejected numerous times for positions I really wanted, working as a grunt, being overworked and underpaid, being stuck in jobs I detested, feeling utterly incompetent and being mercilessly fired. The last point was the best thing to happen to me because it forced me to put on my Big Girl Panties and start my own business. Continue Reading…

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Finding your own voice

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(Martha Graham)

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

“You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”~ Martha Graham

Who among us has not pondered question, “Who am I and why am I here?”

As a writer, I always thought I knew what I wanted to do. My entire life I carried a subconscious belief that one day I could write the next Great American Novel. I adopted that dream from my dad, a lifelong journalist, who for as long as I can remember would say, “When I retire, I am going to write the Great American Novel.” One of my greatest joys was talking with my father about writing and our goals for the future, and we even conspired to perhaps write the GAN together.

When we understand who we are not, it allows us to become who we are.

When my dad died, I lost my writing mentor. The voice that had helped push me forward was silent. Somehow, I had to find that voice on my own. And so, I pressed on and a little more than a year after dad’s passing, I finished my second book. It wasn’t the Great American Novel, but it was my labor of love. I worked hard to promote it and launch it. Getting to that point had been difficult in that year of mourning, but I had hope that a modicum of success would energize me forward.

A sense of failure

Unfortunately, the book launch party was less than stellar. As the minutes ticked by that night, my heart and spirit sank. I felt a dreaded sense that perhaps this evening was not meant to be. For two hours, I waited for the 50 or so people who said they would be there to show up. In the end, only a handful of people stopped by before we quietly packed up the table full of uneaten appetizers and went home.

Sometimes discouragement and difficulty is the leaping off point toward more clarity.

After a year putting the book together and working to near exhaustion to bring it to life, I felt deserted and devastated. My confidence was shaken. In my mind I felt like I had been rejected as a writer. Quitting sounded like an option.

Finding our Life Force

But, if there ever was a time to try and find what Martha Graham referred to as a Life Force, this was it. This unwelcome heartbreak caused me to pause and think about who I was – really was – as a writer, and what direction I needed to go to fulfill my own unique expression.

I discovered that some of the past expectations I had been carrying around were no longer relevant to who I was. I didn’t have to want to write the next Great American Novel, or any novel for that matter, and that didn’t lessen the value of my work. I took stock of what I was good at and loved doing, and realized it was in my best interest to nurture those talents rather than compare myself to others and  feel incomplete over not being something I’m not. I was finding my own voice.

…if we just give it time, the Universe nearly always shows us a new path.

A shift in perception

A mental and emotional shift in our identity is like waking up and discovering we’re not really who we thought we might be. But, it can be the enlightenment that  liberates us from the anchors tying us down to misguided perception and expectations. When we understand who we are not, it allows us to become who we are. We’re free to focus our energies on what is and what can be, rather than spinning our wheels trying to be a square peg in a round hole.

Sometimes discouragement and difficulty is the leaping off point toward more clarity. I’ve found that by just giving it a bit of time, the Universe nearly always shows us our path.

For me, that has meant a new freedom and interest in my art. I’m no longer bogged down in some self-imposed, woulda, coulda, shoulda expectations. I am who I am.

 

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Monday Musings and Motivation

Be fearless

 (Fantastic whimsical artwork and greeting cards by Pamela J. Zagarenski - www.sacredbee.com)

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

 

 

 

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