Hiding in Plain Sight

As an author with two published novels and a third one on the way, people always ask me what inspires me in my choice of characters. Okay, so no one really asks me that, but if someone did, this is what I would tell them. Everything and everyone is fair game when it comes to creating, developing and naming those who show up in my books. Mean girls from middle school, unrequited crushes from high school, the odd colleague from a part-time job, the woman in my water aerobics class; any and all of these people from my past and present might show up in one of my books. Maybe even as a main character! Random expressions, physical quirks, silly stories and vague recollections become the stuff that my novels are made of. If you are in the least bit memorable, and believe me that’s not all that easy to be, as I don’t even remember what I ate for breakfast, there is a solid chance that you could recognize yourself in one of my stories. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll change bits and pieces, as the last thing in the world I want is a lawsuit for defaming your character or ruining your reputation. You’ll probably have a different name, except for one of you who left such a huge gaping hole in my poor broken heart when I was 22 that I used your real name so take that, you jerk. But for the most part, blondes become redheads and brunettes might be bald. Canadian accents will be modified to a Texan twang and you might even change genders!! But you will be there, hiding in plain sight, in all your glory for the world to see and enjoy or snicker at.

Please don’t take this personally. It’s not you, it’s me. Seriously, I have been around the block a time or two and it’s definitely not my first time at the rodeo if you catch my drift. I have lived and loved and had my share of wins and more than a few losses. But for whatever reason, you made an impression on me, at one time or another and it’s my job as a writer to get it down on paper. I can’t guarantee you that my memory is all that accurate. Actually, it’s not, not at all. So maybe you weren’t really that mean or that dreamy or that weird, or maybe you were. Somewhere in the dark and dusty recesses of my brain, a small part of you lives on and once it’s in a published piece of literature, you will be immortal. You should really be thanking me instead of threatening litigation. Who doesn’t want to live forever?

So go on, live your life and follow your dreams. Just remember, if we have crossed paths in the past, or ever do so in the future, you should read all of my books at least once just to see if you or some part of you made it into my story. And you should probably recommend my books to all of your friends and family and colleagues to read. It’s entirely possible that one of them might recognize you, even if you weren’t able to do so. When that happens, don’t even try to deny it. Learn to cultivate a mysterious smile or a nonchalant shrug. Your cover’s been blown and flying under the radar is no longer an option. You’re welcome!!

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Just ‘Showing Up’ Isn’t Enough

“80% of success is showing up.”

I have a problem with this quotation attributed to actor/director Woody Allen. In truth I have other issues with Woody Allen, but that’s one for another day. Although it is probably true that it is next to impossible to be successful without showing up, is showing up anything more than just the first baby step in the overall path to success?

Is being 80% successful even a thing? Can you actually be anything less than 100% successful? Is that like being 80% pregnant? Or getting 80% promoted? And just where are you expected to show up? I’ve never seen any places labeled ‘Find Success Here’ on a map. Without any clear direction, is is possible to be successful if you show up, for example, at a convenience store or a sports bar? I guess that would depend on your definition of success.

“I showed up and grabbed the last loaf of bread at the mini-mart. Yessss!!!”

“I showed up at PJ’s Bar just as they brought out the hot wings. Score!!”

Can you show up late and still be successful? Can you show up drunk or hungover? What about being prepared? Keeping your nose to the grindstone? Minding your p’s & q’s? I’m not sure about that last one, but the first two should count for something. Oh, and can you show up, but leave early? Will that impact your ability to be successful?

In the classroom, it is certainly possible to show up consistently and still fail the course. Doing your homework, studying for exams, participating in discussions- those are the behaviors of successful students. Attendance usually counts for no more than 10% of the overall grade. In the workplace, good attendance is expected. Those who fail to show up are usually not long for the world. Can you imagine getting a performance review where the only measure is attendance?

“I showed up; therefore I should keep my job, or get a raise or a promotion.”

“Did you contribute to the bottom line? Assist your department in meeting its objectives? Increase market share or customer service rankings?”

“Well no, but I have perfect attendance, so…..”

And finally, what about in relationships? Is simply showing up for a 1st date a guarantee that there will be a 2nd one? Don’t you have to make a bit more of an effort? As a parent (arguably the hardest job in the world) simply being present is never enough. “My parent was um, present,” said no well-adjusted person ever. That’s because parenthood is not a spectator sport – active participation is required. Life is challenging, but ultimately extremely rewarding, and the rewards are reserved for those willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard. Be involved. Get down and dirty. Work up a sweat. Contribute. Give a damn. Make a difference.

Just showing up for your own life? Not an option. You can do better than that!