Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2016

Monday Motivation: Transcending Fear

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Sometimes, the toughest thing to do as a writer is to get out of your own way.

As this is a Monday Motivation post — meaning I’m trying, deliberately, to give some inspiration to some writer somewhere who’s having trouble, and thinks he or she is the only one in the world who’s ever suffered this — I figured I’d talk about one of the biggest problems writers have: transcending fear.

“But Barb,” you say, “why write if it’s so hard to get past your fear of what’s going to come out?”

I’m not sure why I write, entirely, except that I need to do it. (Stories to tell and miles to go…all that.) However, because I want my writing to reflect as much “real life” angst and heartbreak and agony — along with love, compassion, and kindness, natch — I have to be willing to put everything I have, everything I am, onto the page. Without judgment, without second-guessing, without…I don’t know…Editor Voice getting in the way and saying, “You can’t do that.”

So there is some fear involved, with writing, if you do it right. You may not think about it much, at the time, but it’s still there, waiting for the moment to pounce.


We’re all bundles of ego and nerves, you see, and when you’re creating something new, it’s agonizing. Or exhilirating. Or nerve-racking. Or all of it at once.

And I’m not the only writer in the history of the world to think this, either. (Far from it.) Ralph Keyes thought so much about this idea, he wrote a book called THE COURAGE TO WRITE: How Writers Transcend Fear. In Keyes’ book, he discusses many different reasons as to why writers worry so much about what other people will think of them, their writing, their descriptions, their everything…and why, ultimately, you should listen to your own “inner voice” and throw all of that out, so you can get on with the job of writing.

Ultimately, Keyes’ point is that writers are gamblers by nature. We take risks, and we need to take them, because that is how we’re made. And one of those risks we take, every day we sit down to write, is in how what we write is going to be perceived.

It’s something I know, that fear. I push past it, because I have to do it; maybe it helps that unlike many of my fellow writers, I was trained as a performing musician, and thus have had to deal with my own nerves, and my own fears of failed performance in action, from early life onward.

But you, too, can get past your own fear. You can get out of your own way, and write…you can find a way to silence Editor Voice, at least for long enough to do what you need to do.

So, just for today, don’t be afraid of what comes out when you sit down to write. Give yourself room, and time, and watch the words flow out, no matter what they are.

That way, you get past your fear, and you do what you were born to do.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 28, 2016 at 6:13 am

Presidential Recount in WI — History in the Making

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During the last couple of weeks, as I recuperated from the move (and all the sturm und drang thereby), I’ve been watching the United States and its politics with more than my usual share of bemusement.

Why is that? Well, we had a Presidential election where one person, Hillary Clinton, was fully expected to win. Yet she was not the winner; instead, Donald Trump somehow came out of nowhere and took the election away from her.

(Yes, I’m phrasing that precisely. Give me time, please.)

Because of the many statements Mr. Trump gave over the past eighteen or so months, (he confessed to disliking and mistrusting Muslims, to name just one example), many ordinary Americans were concerned at his election to the Presidency of the United States. Marches ensued, most of them peaceful, to show Mr. Trump and those who stand with him that the United States is not a racist, sexist, misogynistic, or LGBTQ-hating country.

Now, to Mr. Trump’s supporters, these marches seem nonsensical. Why protest something that hasn’t happened yet? We’re supposed to give every new President-elect time to show his or her true colors, and we usually do as a nation.

And yet, this was far from an ordinary election. Mr. Trump said many incendiary things. And people are already concerned about Mr. Trump’s apparent lack of impulse control…plus, when you add in all the statements Mr. Trump made about the election being “rigged,” that gave many a cause for concern.

Including Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, of all people, who was one of two people to file for a Presidential recount in the state of Wisconsin after raising millions of dollars in just a few days to do so. The Green Party has said they don’t expect to find many improprieties, but they do want to know what happened in Wisconsin.

As a Wisconsin voter, so do I.

I don’t know what happened in Wisconsin, but I would’ve bet money — a lot of it, if I had it — that Donald Trump could not win this state. Considering Democrats were highly motivated to vote, and there was and remains a sizable #NeverTrump faction as well, I don’t understand at all how he won here.

A recount should answer that question, once and for all.

And lest you think I’m only asking for this as an avowed Hillary Clinton voter, think again. I am all for recounts. I’ve even taken part in one before as a neutral observer — the recount of the state Supreme Court race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. What that recount found was that there were uncounted votes out there, and it did narrow the gap between Prosser and Kloppenburg slightly — not enough to swing that election, mind you, but enough to show that there were indeed some additional votes that hadn’t been properly tallied the first time around.

This time, though, may turn out to be different.

Already, in three Wisconsin counties, votes have been taken away from Mr. Trump — enough of them that Mr. Trump’s lead over Mrs. Clinton has shrunk by 5,000 votes. (And when you only win by 27,000 votes to begin with — less than 1% difference — that’s a sizable difference right there.) This is before the recount; this is what county clerks have found on their own, without prompting — errors much bigger than any found during the Prosser-Kloppenburg recount.

So, if the county clerks are already finding problems before the recount, just how many other problems are they going to find during it?

Before you ask, I fully believe that the county clerks of the state of Wisconsin are reliable, sober professionals. Regardless of their party affiliation, they want to do a good job. (Kathy Nickolaus, former county clerk of Waukesha County, did not seem to know what she was doing. But thankfully, she’s out of office now.) They certainly don’t want anyone to believe that the vote was tampered with — or if it was, they want to know about it first, and figure out how to stop it from happening ever again.

But something odd happened here. Something that does not sit right with me. I am a long-time political observer who’s called at least 25 elections successfully, and yet this one, somehow, I didn’t? When there was no raw data to suggest silent Trump voters before the fact? (And considering how loud and proud some of those Trump voters have proven to be nationwide, the whole idea of silent Trump voters seems like an oxymoron anyway. Just sayin’.)

So I’m happy we’re going to have a recount of the 2016 Presidential election.

No, I don’t expect it to flip the state of Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton. But if it does, I’d not be entirely surprised, either…because it’s been that sort of year, hasn’t it?

Anyway, expect more posts on this subject, as I am vitally interested in the results. (And I do intend to be a neutral observer, again, if I can. Why not?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Moving, Writing, Editing, and All…

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Folks, my move has finally been completed.

The reason this took so long is because the person I used to live with decided to go into an apartment. I helped her move, along with other friends and family members, as well as move whatever of my things that I could, downsizing where need be of course.

As you might expect, writing has been scarce. Mostly I’ve been concerned with moving, a little with CHANGING FACES (about to go in to my publisher), a little with editing, and otherwise with letting my friends and family know that I’m still alive despite all this hard physical work.

I’m partially disabled and walk with a cane, as most of you know. Carrying boxes, even boxes made intentionally light, is not easy for me. Going up and down steps over and over again to try to figure out what needs to be taken to where, what can be donated to do some good elsewhere, and what needs to be scrapped was exhausting.**

So why did I do it, if it was so incredibly difficult? Mostly it’s because to refuse to help would be beneath contempt.

When someone needs my help, I try to help if it’s in my power. (If it’s not, I do what I can to pass them along to someone who can.) I don’t say, “Not my problem” or “You made your bed; lie in it.” I don’t see the point to that ninety-nine point nine percent of the time.

Yeah, there are few people I’d go to this limit for, but there was a reason for it. (I can’t say what it is, but someday, maybe, I’ll be able to do that.) And because I saw that reason, and understood that reason, I figured I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try as hard as I could to improve the situation and get my former housemate into that new apartment as best I could.

Anyway, my hope is that now, life will calm down a little, and I can get back to what I do best — writing, editing, playing music, and enjoying life as best I can.

Some days it’s harder to do all of that than others, but I am going to give it the best shot I can — as that’s what makes the most sense to me.


**On the plus side, I guess I didn’t need a gym membership the last few weeks. (So there is that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Election 2016: My Personal Essay

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Folks, I’m going to try to do something that right now is hard for me, but necessary.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I am a left-leaning Independent voter, and that I’ve supported Hillary Clinton’s life and career for years. I believe she’s an honest, hard-working, capable, and extremely intelligent woman who’s been badly misunderstood over the course of her lifetime. I was proud to vote for her in 2008 in the primaries, and again this year in both the primaries and in the general election.

I am deeply saddened that we will not have Hillary Clinton as our next President.

There is much about Donald J. Trump that scares the willies out of me. That he has no experience at all running a government is the main objection; that he can say intemperate, rude, vulgar, sexist, and bigoted things are my main secondary objections. I did not believe he was fit to be President. I also believed the American people would reject him.

They did not.

Instead, they have largely embraced him. Which to me feels utterly alien, because I had thought we’d gotten past much of what Mr. Trump embodied already.

But we obviously haven’t.

At this point, I hope that Donald J. Trump will prove to be a far better person than he’s ever shown, and that he will somehow become a better President than I fear.

I admit that I am scared. I am a low-income, disabled, widowed woman writer, already without much in the way of a safety net. Trump by the words he’s mouthed over the course of the primaries and general election will take what little safety net I have and rend it asunder.

He does not appear to care about people like me, at all. I’ve known that all along. That’s why I opposed him, strongly.

Instead, I believed in Hillary Clinton and her promise of incremental change. Change usually does come by increments; you have to work hard for change, for improvement, for anything at all.

As a writer I know that; I start out with a blank page, and by the end of my efforts, I have something brand-new. But it takes time, thought, effort, more time, thought, and effort; write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, write, edit, etc., until the final product is in and done.

I understood how hard it is to make any positive changes whatsoever. I thought the United States, as a country, understood that as well.

Either they didn’t, or the hatred of Hillary Clinton was a much bigger factor than anyone ever thought.

Anyway, Donald J. Trump is a very wealthy man. He has never stood in my shoes. (Hillary Clinton hasn’t, either, but I at least felt she could empathize.) He does not know how hard it is to get from day to day, what happens when you have only one car and it has a major repair you can’t pay for (thank you to all who backed me in 2014 so I could get my car repaired, BTW; without GoFundMe and some very good friends, I’d have been completely out of luck then). He doesn’t have any idea what it’s like to lose a home to foreclosure, or to lose your whole retirement because of the 2008 stock market crash (as many did), or to have to struggle and scramble and fight, day after day after day, so you can continue to do what you believe you were born to do.

So, my analysis is simple: I’m going to keep doing what I need to do. I’ll create, and write, and hope for the best. I will continue to do my best to spread optimism, light, and help to all I can, because that’s how I’m made.

I realize even a President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been able to help me with much of that. But her policies would’ve led to a more optimistic country, by and large; I firmly believe that.

Now, all bets are off.

This is not what I’d hoped for, and I am afraid.

But I will keep going.

My late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff would not expect any less.


On Pins and Needles

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Folks, like many of you, I’m waiting on pins and needles for tonight’s election returns. And it’s not just for the results of the Presidential election, as we also have an election in Wisconsin for the United States Senate that’s been hotly contested from the start.


Well, it’s not every day that you have a former U.S. Senator in Russ Feingold (D) running against a current U.S. Senator in Ron Johnson (R).

As you might expect, voter turnout in Wisconsin is incredibly high. I heard yesterday, while listening to WTMJ-AM radio, that 800,000 people voted early/absentee. (I was one of them, by the way.)

I’m glad that so many people are voting in Wisconsin, and all over the nation. We need voters to be heard, unequivocally, so no one can doubt that the vote is “rigged.”

My view is simple: We need Hillary Clinton as our next President, because she’s competent, qualified, responsible, and will govern well.

But I don’t insist that everyone vote the way I did, as that would be both silly and stupid. I know other friends of mine are voting for Gary Johnson, Donald Trump, and Evan McMullen, and I respect that.

So long as you have made an informed choice, that’s all anyone can ask.

Anyway, if you haven’t voted yet, make sure you do. Don’t sit this election out — granted, you should not sit any election out — only to complain later.

‘Nuff said.

Friendship Matters

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It’s time for an update post, folks. But I wanted to do it a little differently this time, and start out by thanking my friends.

Because friendship matters, you see. People who support you when you’re down, when you’re frustrated, when you’re wondering if anything you do matters, and when nothing seems to be going right are worth their weight in gold.

I am very fortunate to have a number of great friends. They are supportive, encouraging, sometimes inspirational, bracing, funny, kind, and give me a great deal of advice — most of it good, some of it exceptional.

2016 has been a rotten year for me in many respects. Living situation, health, and finances all were not what I wanted them to be. I haven’t been able to help others the way I wanted to, either, which is frustrating as Hell…because I figure if I’m here on this Earth, I should do whatever I can to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Yeah, that’s a catchphrase. But it’s also true. I want to do what I can to help other people. Some days I’m better at that than others, but that is always my goal. And this year, I don’t think I’ve met that goal at all.


Anyway, as for the update part of this post: CHANGING FACES is nearly done. (Don’t celebrate yet, but do think good thoughts that I can finish up the few remaining bits, will you?) I’m happy about that, and happy with the progress I’ve made on it.

As for an estimated time of arrival? If I can do what I need to do this week, I might have a shot at it coming out in mid-December of 2016 — this according to my publisher. All of it depends on me finishing this book ASAP and getting it to my long-suffering editor to read over as well as whatever first readers I can finagle or bribe find who can read my novel in a hurry and give me some sort of honest reaction.

Writing this year has been a struggle because so many other things around me that were completely out of my control went wrong. But if I can finish CHANGING FACES well, that matters to me…and I hope it matters to you as well.

Stay safe this week, folks, and do vote, regardless of whomever you’re voting for. (I voted early, so I’m done with that mess.) Voting is important, even in a year like 2016 where we’ve seen more mud and vitriol and nonsense than perhaps ever before — I say “perhaps” because 1876 was a pretty bad year in that regard, too.

More updates as I have ’em, and more blog subjects this week await. (As always.)

Have an excellent week!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 6, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Refuse to Give Up

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Folks, I only have a few words for you today, but here goes:

Refuse to give up.

As my ongoing housing crisis continues, I’ve struggled to finish CHANGING FACES. I believe in this story, and have been working on it in one form or another for the last fourteen years. The stress has been enormous to do everything that needs to be done, yet continue to write as that’s vitally important to me.

If I do my job well, no one’s going to care in a year, or ten years, or whatever, that I endured hardship and travail while finishing up this novel. (Nor should they, as the hope is the work stands or falls on its own merit.) And that thought is slightly heartening, oddly liberating…but it’s not as important as the one I already gave you.

In your own lives, you probably have endured much difficulty and stress. Writing — doing something creative, that comes from your heart and soul and mind — is not easy when you’re going through all that. But providing you find a way to keep doing it as you’re able, the journey is worth it…and the end result should be worth it, too.

So, if you’ve learned nothing else about me in all the years I’ve written this blog, know this:

I refuse to give up. And so should you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 2, 2016 at 2:12 am