Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thinking about Our Skills to Write About

We like to play to our strengths. We don't sit around and say, "What am I bad at? I think I'll do that again today."

I certainly don't think I'm the best storyteller around, but you would definitely want to hear my stories more than you'd like to eat my cooking. Or have me clean your house. Or give you driving directions. I could go on.

Image by Angel Nichols.
Recently I thought I would work on a self-help piece, for fun, in between fiction projects. I have a breezy writing style when it comes to how-to writing, and I don't mind making fun of myself. The combination works well in self-help writing, and I used it in a book on caregiving in the 1990s and in some of my books and articles on writing and publishing.

So, what do I know enough about to help someone else who wants to do it? The first thing that popped into my head was "moving." No, not yoga or jogging. Going from home to home.

I didn't plan to move as often as I have, but I've learned how to get organized, pack and unpack, and learn a new town. If I had to pick one word to describe moving success it would be listmaking. And doing the items on the list, of course.

I moved to Iowa because I wanted a lifestyle where I needed less money to live and had more time to write. When people would ask why I picked that state, I'd say, "Cleaner, cheaper, safer, quieter." This is not to insult my native state of Maryland, it's just that housing costs in the DC suburbs are astronomical.

Since moving to Iowa I've married and we've also lived in Indiana (and then to Iowa and back to Indiana) and Illinois. In each place, I moved from apartment to house or house to house. I'm probably certifiable.

Learning the Ropes

As hard as it is to get organized and complete the move itself, diving into a new town is what's challenging. Friends. I need friends.

In my new book, Fitting in After Fifty: to Your New Town, I talk about becoming acquainted with a town and its people in several groupings. You'll want to get to know your neighborhood and the larger community. You'll also want personal friends, maybe even want to date, and perhaps you'll volunteer.

Why the "after 50" in the title? In my humble opinion, it's easier when you're younger. Your job may be welcoming, kids' schools or sports involve meeting other families, and you have more energy. Of course, fifty is the new forty, so I remember having lots of energy at that age. :)

If you move to be near other family or to find an area in which to retire, you have to make your own reasons to meet people.

Getting to Know People in Your Neighborhood

To give you a sense of the kinds of information in the book, here are some ideas for making neighborhood acquaintances:
  • Smile and nod. That gives others an opening, should they want to engage.
  • Be willing to introduce yourself and stick out your hand, but don't be offended if your actions are barely (or not at all) reciprocated.
  • Attend announced events, such as block parties, as well as informal activities, such as rummage sales.
  • Buy what local kids sell – within reason. Some schools still raise money through direct sales (think cookie dough and wrapping paper), while Scouts now tend to set up at local shopping centers.
  • Become aware of local sports teams—school and professional. Sport pride and the weather are neutral topics in grocery store lines, which is where you'll see your neighbors.
  • Ask Suri or Alexa what's going on. I never thought I would talk to a round piece of plastic (I use Amazon's Alexa on an Echo Dot), but these devices (which require an internet connection) are handy for weather, local news, and activities.
Don't get discouraged if you don't have people to do more than nod to after a month. Everyone is busy and your neighbors are probably involved in their jobs and kids. Just keep at it.

Beyond Your Own Block 

I love being in neighborhoods where people are friendly and do things together. However, you can't know how that will work out. And you'll probably want to be involved in the larger community.

Have a look at the chapters in Fitting in After Fifty.

1. Reasons for the Move and Getting Started
2. Deciding How Involved You Want to Be
3. Getting to Know the Immediate Neighborhood or Complex
4. Beyond Your Street or Building
5. Deciding Whether to Volunteer
6. Making Friends or Dating in a New Place
7. Holidays: Do You Stay or Do You Go?
8. What about Major Life Changes?
9. Keeping Those New Friends

Each chapter has a resource listing at the end, mostly links to web articles, since that makes it easy to to go the info mentioned in the ebook. The resources would help the 'movee' as well as others who want to help family or friends learn a new town.

This won't be a book that people pick up to read for fun, but I hope they'll find it when they need it.

Almost forgot. Special Preorder Price of 99 cents until July 10. Maybe you'll want to give it to your friends...

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To learn more about Elaine or her writing, go to www.elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter.

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