Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

Monday Inspiration: How “The Grit Factor” Can Work For You

leave a comment »

Recently, I read “The Grit Factor” by Bob Carney in Golf Digest. “The Grit Factor” talks about many qualities that are needed for self-improvement, including mental toughness, resilience, and a willingness to work on all parts of your game — not just the easy stuff that you already know you can do, but the toughest things, too.

After I read this, I had one of those “aha!” moments similar to when I read The Inner Game of Tennis years ago. “The Grit Factor” has many of the same precepts, to wit:

  1. The real struggle is inward, with yourself, rather than outward against other players.
  2. Your principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety; once you can get a handle on those, or at least are prepared to deal with them, you can concentrate better on what you’re doing.
  3. You must believe that everything you do, no matter how long it takes, leads toward your goals.

Mind, there’s a lot more going on with “The Grit Factor” than that, but those principles seemed to make the most sense in a writing and editing context.

Consider that writers spend a great deal of time lost in thought, working either outwardly or inwardly on our works-in-progress. Because we don’t have a way to measure how well we’re doing at any given time, it can be easy to give in to self-doubt (“Is what I’m doing worth anything?”) or anxiety (“Will releasing my next book make any difference?”). So it seems obvious that managing these things is essential…or at least acknowledging these things exist could be beneficial.

Why?

Well, if you think that you’re the only writer on the face of the Earth who sometimes struggles with anxiety or self-doubt, it’s easy for that self-doubt or anxiety to stay inside you. Internalized, it sabotages your creative process at a deep level, and it can be hard to get away from that.

What I’ve found that works for me is to admit that yes, I’m anxious about certain things. (For example, right now I’m worried about how long it’s taking me to go over my final edit and come up with a revised first chapter for my second book, A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE.) But so long as I’m making any progress, even if it’s very slow and I can’t necessarily always see it, I have to count that as a win.

Providing I can admit that I’m nervous, I’m able to do a great deal more than when I try to shut it off and just refuse to talk about it. And that’s something I learned way back when I first read The Inner Game of Tennis.

Mind, that doesn’t mean “everything is awesome” (hat tip to The Lego Movie) when it comes to writing. There is a need for honest criticism. Without that, you can’t improve. (“The Grit Factor” discusses how just giving people ego-gratification all the time doesn’t help, though the author puts it a completely different way.) But you don’t need to beat yourself up while you’re working your heart out to improve, either.

If you take away one thing from today’s post, please remember this: As I’ve said before, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Be resilient, be persistent, don’t give up, and keep working on your weakest areas.

That’s the best way to win, as a writer or at life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2015 at 6:43 am

Why Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Matters

with 3 comments

Only rarely do I find it necessary to talk about a previously unknown individual’s suicide, but the death of Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Ryan Alcorn), 17, has touched me deeply.

Leelah, you see, was transgendered. Apparently her parents, especially her mother, did not like this. At all.

And that is upsetting, for more than one reason. Parents should love their children as they are, not as they want them to be –whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, that person deserves to be loved by his/her parents. Period.

Unfortunately, Leelah Alcorn did not feel that love. And because of that, she committed suicide.

Why has her death touched me? Partly because of her suicide note on Tumblr, which I’ll get to in a bit. Partly because she was a human being who obviously felt she’d be better off dead. And partly because one of my novels, the forthcoming CHANGING FACES, discusses transgenderism in an unusual way, so I’ve at least considered the issue before.

Here’s some of Leelah’s own words in her suicide note, published posthumously (her words were as she wrote them, but I did bold one section for emphasis on my own):

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

Ultimately, Leelah Alcorn believed that she would never be happy in this world. Because she couldn’t start transitioning, because she was continually called “Josh” or “Joshua” when she already knew she was Leelah inside, because her parents believed that “good Christian values” meant that she should be happy as God (monotheistic, male) made her — as a male, not as a female — Leelah Alcorn took her own life.

This young woman knew in her heart that she was female, just as I’ve always known my entire life that I, too, am female. The only difference between me and Leelah is that I was born female. I never had to fight to become who I was in that regard (fight in other ways, yes, as we all do to become ourselves). And I never had to worry about saving enough money to start the transitioning process, or any of the other things Leelah was obviously worried about in her suicide note.

This is a heartbreaking story, one of the most heartbreaking I’ve ever read. Leelah clearly believed nothing she would ever do was right in her parents’ eyes, and she clearly believed that not being able to transition until age 18 or later (after she’d saved up enough money) would make it impossible for her to find love.

What bothers me most here is that she obviously didn’t know some of the stories I do from pop culture. The role model here that strikes me the most is Chaz (born Chastity) Bono, because he came out to his parents as lesbian early on, but only came out as transgendered (and male) much later. So why didn’t Leelah know the entirety of Chaz’s story? (My guess is that Leelah only had seen Chaz’s “It Gets Better” commercial and maybe one of his dances with pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer on Dancing with the Stars and that’s about it. But it’s only a guess.) Why didn’t Leelah know about Christine Jorgenson, born George? Why didn’t Leelah know about transsexual tennis star and ophthalmologist Renee Richards?

All of them — all — transitioned to their proper sex later than age 18. And all did so successfully. All found at least a few lovers and friends who accepted them. And all of them, eventually, found their faith — whether it was in themselves or in God/dess is immaterial.

Leelah Alcorn did not have to die. She did not have to feel like a failure to her parents. She did not have to believe she’d be “Satan’s Wifey” (the original name of her blog on Tumblr, though apparently later she changed it to Lazer Princess) by dying and declaring exactly who and what she was.

She did not have to feel unloved, unwanted, bereft of hope and friends.

And for those who dismiss this as a typical teen suicide story and believe she would’ve grown out of it — well, you’re probably right, but how does that change anything?

A young woman is dead today at least in part because her parents apparently would not accept her for who she was. Her friends were not strong enough to accept her, either. And she, herself, was ultimately not strong enough to stand up to years of unrelenting criticism from her parents, so-called friends, and idiotic “therapists.”

Somehow, as Leelah Alcorn herself said, we must do better than this. No more LGBT youth should be treated this way. Ever.

Lest we have even more heartbreaking stories like this.

Please Remember Those Who Grieve During the Holidays

leave a comment »

Happy holidays, folks!

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, or as more often is the case in the United States, Christmas, I hope you are celebrating the holidays as you see fit.

But I’d like to ask for a moment of your time amidst the merriment, because I want you to please remember those who grieve during the holidays. For those who’ve lost loved ones, whether they’re beloved spouses, parents, siblings, or friends, this time of year can be brutal.

We miss our loved ones so fiercely, you see. We want to talk about them. We want to remember what they said, what they did, how they laughed, and how they enjoyed the holidays because their lives mattered. Their vital, bright spirits were here for a reason, and they loved us…but now, they’re gone.

But never forgotten.

I’m not sure why it is, but in American society, many people don’t seem to know what to say to a widow. Or to someone who’s missing her father. Mother. Brother. Cousin. Special friend.

And when those important people are left out of the conversation, those who are missing their lost loved ones feel even more bereft than before.

God/dess is love, I firmly believe. And part of that love is to be kind to those who grieve, especially at this time of the year — and most especially with people who are enduring their first major holiday without their beloved family member(s) or friend(s).

So while you enjoy the holidays — and you should — please remember those who grieve. Talk with them about their loved ones, and what you remember about them. Make a point to say to them that you care, that you haven’t forgotten, either, and that it’s important to remember the love they shared with us.

Because it helps. (Really.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 24, 2014 at 4:47 am

Craig Wayne Boyd, Persistence…and You

leave a comment »

Folks, it’s no secret that I am a fan of Southern country/rock singer Craig Wayne Boyd. His time on NBC’s The Voice was in some ways magical, especially considering his eleven-year odyssey in the music business. And that he made it all the way to the end, and then actually won The Voice, was just that much more special.

What I found in Craig Wayne Boyd’s story were a number of things. Persistence. Faith, not only in a higher power, but in himself and his talent. And the drive to succeed against all odds.

Consider, please, that Mr. Boyd has said in several televised interviews that he considered quitting music altogether not too long before he auditioned for The Voice. And he knocked around Nashville and the touring circuits for eleven long years, singing his heart out, with talent and drive and dedication — but all of that garnered him very little.

Or so it seemed at the time.

Because in retrospect, what Mr. Boyd was learning all that time was to have faith in himself and his talent. He was also learning to perform, and the limits of what he could do and what he could — and couldn’t — control.

This is something we all need to learn. Because like Craig Wayne Boyd, we cannot control what other people do. We can’t control who will take notice of us, who will show up at our gigs, who will buy our books and/or recordings, or who will care about what we’re doing.

All we can control is what we do and how we do it. That’s all.

And that’s why being persistent is so very, very important. You don’t know when the next audition you do will result in a major breakthrough (as was the case for Craig Wayne Boyd). You don’t know when someone will read what you’re writing and decide it’s wonderful and tell all his friends, because you don’t know when your big break will come.

The only thing you do know is this: Once you stop trying, you have absolutely no chance of doing whatever it is you want to do.

That’s why I’ve said over and over again that you cannot and should not give up. Because you don’t know what’s around the corner…for all you know, it might just be your big break.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2014 at 5:35 am

More Thoughts Re: Craig Wayne Boyd on “The Voice”

with 2 comments

Folks, I am glad Craig Wayne Boyd has lasted another week on NBC’s “The Voice.” I’d told myself if he made it through, I’d write about him again…but this time, try to explain just what I see in Mr. Boyd, and why I think him continuing on is a positive example for everyone — not just other singers or musicians, but everyone.

First, I believe someone who has talent should be encouraged. Mr. Boyd has talent — loads of it. He has a huge, yet smooth baritone voice, and he only rarely goes off-pitch (and then, seemingly, only for a microsecond; just long enough to let us all know he’s human, then he’s back on again). He is a consummate musician who does everything right.

Second, Mr. Boyd’s success to date on “The Voice” shows that sometimes, you just need the right opportunity.

Third, and by far the most important, is that Mr. Boyd is persistent. He refuses to give up on himself and his talent. And because of that, he’s finally getting his time to shine.

You see, persistence matters. Without it, Mr. Boyd wouldn’t finally have been able to grasp this opportunity — the right opportunity for him — and he wouldn’t be on the cusp of major stardom.

I think we all could learn a lot from Mr. Boyd’s career to date. He’s had ups and downs. He’s been an opening act, he’s toured the country (see this article for more details), he’s been little-known, and he probably wondered what he had to do to get a break.

Now, he finally has one.

As Blake Shelton, his coach, said last night during “The Voice” results (my best paraphrase, as I don’t have a transcript in front of me), “I don’t know how Craig isn’t already a star, how he was overlooked.”

I don’t, either. But I’m glad he hung in there and seized his opportunity when it finally arrived.

Because he deserves it.

Let that be a lesson to everyone in the value of persistence, along with the stalwart refusal to give up on yourself. (As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Boyd is right up there with Vinny Rottino in that regard…fortunately, music is unlike baseball, and Mr. Boyd should be able to have a long career.)

——-
Edited to add:

I’m not the only one who feels Mr. Boyd should never have had to go on “The Voice” and should already be a major star (as I said in my prior blog on this subject).

Take a gander at Lyndsey Parker’s column over at Yahoo Music:

Craig is untouchable in this competition. He’s a pro. He’s a golden god. He should have landed a record deal years ago, and it’s almost downright embarrassing that he had to go on The Voice in the first place.

Amen, sister!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

Country Singer Craig Wayne Boyd Tears it up on “The Voice”

with 7 comments

Folks, I’ve never before written a blog about NBC’s “The Voice,” but tonight, it’s warranted. After watching singer Craig Wayne Boyd sing the Hell out of the song “Some Kind of Wonderful,” I had to come straight here and discuss what I’d just heard.

For those of you new to “The Voice,” it’s a show featuring singers who haven’t yet broken through to a wide audience. Craig Wayne Boyd is a man in his prime with a great big baritone voice, a huge stage presence, and charisma to burn. He’s someone who once you listen to him, you’ll wonder why he isn’t already a huge star — because my goodness, he ought to be.

I’ve seen two good articles explaining what Craig Wayne Boyd did tonight; the first is an overview of the entire show by writer Vicki Hyman for NJ.com, complete with links to the video performance, and the second is by Kenny Green for starlocalmedia.com, which discusses Craig Wayne Boyd in-depth and gives this excellent quote from coach Blake Shelton (who was talking directly to Mr. Boyd) during tonight’s airing of “The Voice:”

“I am going to go ahead and call it. That was the performance of the night, dude. That was so much power and muscle in your voice and just your stage presence. You got passed around, and that was stupid on my part. I can’t believe I got the chance to have you back,” Shelton said. “You are beating the odds every time you got out here and I think America is going ‘holy crap,’ this dude is the real deal.”

I agree with Blake Shelton, though I have thought from the beginning of this year’s season of “The Voice” that Craig Wayne Boyd was a potential power to be reckoned with. I didn’t say anything until now, though, for two reasons:

1) You never know how a musician is going to perform under pressure until he goes out and takes the stage. This is the most pressure-packed gig Mr. Boyd has ever had; to boot, he was placed in the final position, which could’ve sapped his strength.

Instead, he kicked serious butt.

2) While I was extremely impressed with Mr. Boyd throughout the previous rounds, because he has been coached by two different vocalists (Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton), I wasn’t sure what to think of that.

Now, I think Mr. Boyd actually got the better end of that deal, because he has not one but two coaches in his corner. And with both of them, Mr. Boyd impressed them with his professionalism, his attention to detail, and his willingness to take direction. (It was at Ms. Stefani’s urging that Mr. Boyd cut his hair, for example, and got rid of his fringed jacket for a more modern one in black leather instead.)

Remember this name: Craig Wayne Boyd. He’s taken what could’ve been lemons in having two different coaches with two disparate approaches and learned from both. And he’s come out the other side with an even greater and richer musical palette to work with…I just can’t say enough about this man, and I hope he continues on “The Voice” for weeks to come.

————-

Before I forget, Adam Levine and his group Maroon 5 also performed their controversial song, “Animals” at the top of “The Voice.” (I’ve already weighed in with my take on this song previously; let’s just say I prefer the version they did on Saturday Night Live, but this one was fine, too.)

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Two Coaches…But Not Manager Ron Roenicke

leave a comment »

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

This past Friday, in a press release, Milwaukee fired two coaches: first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron. Hitting was a major concern for the Brewers down the stretch, so firing Johnny Narron wasn’t at all surprising. But firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

Of course, if the Brewers had fired Roenicke, it’s very possible that every single one of the coaches on Roenicke’s staff would be looking for work right now rather than only two of them getting their pink slips. But it still looks very strange that Roenicke stayed while Johnny Narron and Iorg had to go . . . especially when you consider that Johnny’s brother Jerry Narron is still employed by the Brewers as their bench coach. (What sense is there in firing one brother but keeping the other?)

Overall, I am extremely disappointed that the Brewers retained Roenicke. But I am even more disappointed that the Brewers didn’t even have the guts to call a press conference; instead, they sent out a milquetoast press release on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one would be paying attention to the fact that Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio has thus far refused to hold anyone significant accountable for the Brewers’ historic collapse.

My view is simple: Roenicke should’ve been fired, and someone else — perhaps former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux — should’ve been hired instead.

But that’s not what the Brewers did. Obviously, Milwaukee hopes that fans will forgive and forget the Brewers’ historic collapse. But my gut feeling is this:

No. We won’t.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,266 other followers