Writing Success

“Isn’t it the wrong time of year to prune roses?” said my neighbour, two weeks ago, as we both took our bins out. “Should I be pruning mine too?” he asked with the willingness of an eager apprentice. He is a long-time house husband. He has run his house and children and acted as a support person for his wife’s busy career as competently as any housewife could. However, he is not quite so happy with his garden. Although respectable, he says it is lacking in comparison with other gardens he admires.”No, don’t prune your roses,” I said. “It’s still summer. It’s hot. It’s the wrong time of year but you know me; I garden by instinct.” I had been on a big gardening clean-up which followed on from a big, post-Christmas, house clean-up. My current garden is small but for many years I had a big garden. As my children are spread out in age, I learned to garden quickly and efficiently because of the time constraints of having young children. Most of the time, it worked. What also worked was to keep planting things. Whatever grew; great. Whatever died; take no notice. Keep moving forward. Remain true to what your personal preferences are in gardens but don’t be demanding and rigid about what the garden should look like. Go with the flow; not only of the seasons but also of the way a garden will take on a life force of its own.As the neighbour and I parted company, I added by way of explanation about my untimely and severe mass pruning, “I want all the plants to get a second life in Autumn.” He was about to re-ask if he should do the same thing but then realised we were on a circular route. He did recall with humour how one of our older Greek neighbours would get his chainsaw out to prune the roses and would spend five minutes wildly hacking off all the branches. Job done. I asked about his resulting roses.”Beautiful,” said my neighbour. “He had bloody beautiful roses.” He frowned as if to complain that the gardening gods were neither logical nor consistent. He then shrugged and decided to go with the conventional gardening scheduling rather than my irregular one. We both knew he would be watching my garden to decide upon the success or failure of the unconventional method.

To me, success in writing is similar to success in gardening.

Stay true to yourself and your own loves. Say what you have inside you. Say it bravely and with good intent.

Keep planting. Take only momentary notice of what dies. Use failures and flops as learning devices. Trust your own destiny.

Write instinctively, disregarding what others think or do. Your instincts may be quite different to other people’s.

Don’t be egotistical. Don’t look for fame. Share your work simply because you want to share. Don’t say, “I’m not interested in fame. I share out of the goodness of my heart!” Show by your consistent actions that you are interested in sharing for the benefit of others’ well-being. Frankly, all egos are interested in fame so don’t be too hasty in declaring your innocence of it, unless you truly are. And as the saying goes, Those who know, don’t say. Those who don’t know, say.

Do your best. Sometimes your best will be better than at other times. Do your best, one day at a time. That’s good enough.

Give something of value. Be honest. The first person your writing should be valuable to is you. After looking at something you have created, ask yourself if YOU think it is good. If you don’t think it’s good then make something else that corresponds to your highest sense of what you feel you are capable of creating at this point. Don’t compare yourself to author, Paulo Coelho, who has the highest following of Facebook authors with a thirty-million-strong audience. Give what you are authentically capable of giving. Don’t pester your friends on social media for support. They may support you, out of pity, but pity does not a writer make. If you are asking for support from your friends (no matter how you phrase it) then you are not in a position to be giving them anything. They are giving to you. Better to have two genuine followers of your work on any platform than five hundred friends who feel sorry for you. If all you honestly have to give, at this stage, is appreciated by only two independent followers then accept that, be grateful, and grow yourself in any and every way you can think of, with humility.

Enjoy your writing as you would your garden. It’s never finished. It’s ongoing. So relax and enjoy the beauty and life which is in it today, right where it is at. You don’t know who else may get value from something you have said or done. Frequently, many more people than you realise are blessed by something you do. It spreads out like a ripple in a pond. We only get told a small fraction of the effect we have on other people. When we get the occasional compliment, we can take it as a reminder that there are people out there benefiting from something we have invested ourselves in.

Be careful of your peers. No offence to writing groups but that is the last place I would want to go for help with my writing success. Like all peer groups, the bottom line is that they are fine so long as you are no threat. If you are intending to do well in your chosen career, I would be very careful about spending too much time with peers who are struggling. Writers, like most groups of artistic people, put enormous effort and great love into their work for, generally, very little in return. The ego, no matter how sweetly it dresses itself, cannot help but feel that one person’s success is another opportunity taken away from them in a seemingly intensely competitive market.

Likewise, against common opinion, I am a little sceptical about agents and publishers. They are surely doing a far better job than I could in a difficult business but I have several concerns. Many people who work in publishing are there because they would like to be successful writers themselves but they couldn’t make it work. This tells me that while they are capable of seeing what has been successful in the past, they usually cannot easily see what could be successful in the future. If they could, many of them would be writing it themselves. Make an effort with the publishing industry, of course, because it may be for you. However, if you have tried and got nowhere (which will be the case for the vast majority of writers) then disregard that path and form your own. With today’s technology, there is no reason not to and every reason to. The world is accessible as never before and it will only become more so at a rapid rate. Besides, in such a struggling industry as publishing in a fast-changing world of communication, do you even want to be involved with conventional publishing? Maybe, maybe not. Did you know that for every ten books publishers produce; seven will be a financial burden, two will break even, and one will hopefully make enough of a profit to support all the others. You certainly don’t want to be the author losing money for your publisher or even the one breaking even. But do you want to be the one supporting everyone else? Maybe, maybe not. The world is changing, We can too.

This morning, two weeks after speaking with my neighbour about the untimely pruning, I glanced at my roses and noticed that, indeed, soft little shoots were bravely making their way through hardened, dead-looking wood. In no time at all, the bare wood will be covered with fresh life. My neighbour will be sneaking peeks at it, telling himself that there must be a secret code of gardening that he is not privy to and next time he will do whatever I do. That could, quite possibly, end in the death of his underperforming but beloved roses!

Career Clusters, A Bridge Between Education and Career Planning

Since 1960s, career cluster resources have been used as career exploration and planning tools in schools, learning communities, and organizations across the nation. Career Clusters is a system that matches educational and career planning.

Step 1: Identifying Career Cluster Interest Areas

Career clusters are groups of similar occupations and industries. When teachers, counselors, and parents work with teens, college students, and adults, the first step is to complete career cluster assessment. The assessment identifies the highest career cluster areas. Career assessments show teens, college students, and adults rankings from one of the following 16 Interests Areas or Clusters:

1. Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources

2. Architecture & Construction

3. Arts, A/V Technology & Communication

4. Business, Management & Administration

5. Education & Training

6. Finance

7. Government & Public Administration

8. Health Science

9. Hospitality & Tourism

10. Human Services

11. Information Technology

12. Law, Public Safety & Security

13. Manufacturing

14. Marketing, Sales & Service

15. Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

16. Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Step 2: Exploring Career Clusters and Related Careers

After pinpointing the highest career clusters, teens, college students, and adults explore the different careers and create education plans. Career cluster tools used in career and educational planning include:

  • LISA: A comprehensive career cluster database
  • Models
  • Brochures
  • Pathways
  • High school plan of study
  • Interest and Skills Areas
  • Crosswalks

After completing a career cluster assessment, teens, college students, and adults look at web sites, career models, brochures, pathways, and high school plans. One of the most unique comprehensive career cluster resources is the Louisiana Integrated Skills Assessment (LISA), an Internet program. LISA lets you explore career clusters, careers, abilities, training requirements, and more. There are 3 steps in the LISA program:

STEP 1: Click here to select a Career Cluster

STEP 2: Click here to select a Career Group

STEP 3: Explore Occupations within this Career Group

In Step 1, when you choose a career cluster, you will see a description of the cluster. When you select a career group in Step 2, you see different careers. Finally, in Step 3, you see a wealth of information:

  • Job descriptions
  • Educational and training requirements
  • Crosswalks, for example ONET, DOT, GOE, and other codes
  • Abilities
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Tasks
  • Work Values
  • Labor Market Information

Even though LISA is an awesome program, in classroom or workshop settings, you need printed materials. When using printed materials, the career model is the best place to start. Models provide excellent overviews listing the cluster definitions, sample careers, pathways, knowledge, and skills. Visual models show career clusters, the cluster subgroups, and related careers. Models are an excellent way to introduce career clusters.

For presentations, workshops, and group discussions, the career cluster brochures provide additional information. Adults and teens read about the different careers that are available in each career cluster. Teachers, counselors, and parents use the brochures to solidify adults’ and teens’ potential career or educational decisions. The brochures cover topics such as:

  • Definition of career clusters
  • Careers
  • Career pathways
  • Employment outlooks
  • Skills
  • Credentials

Teachers, counselors, and parents use career pathways for more detailed information. The career pathways are subgroups or areas of concentration within career clusters. Each pathway contains career groups. The career groups have similar academic skills, technical skills, educational requirements, and training requirements. Career pathways are plans of study that outline required secondary courses, post secondary courses, and related careers. The career pathways are essential tools that teachers, counselors, parents, and other adults use to give educational planning advice.

Several web sites feature High School Plans of Study. These study plans show required, elective, and suggested courses for each grade level. The school plans also match the career clusters to related careers, career pathways, and post-secondary options. Teachers, counselors, and parents find that these school plans are guides for selecting the right high school courses to match potential careers. Beyond high school, the Utah System for Higher Education has created a College Major Guide. Parents, teachers, and counselors can use the guide to match college majors to Certificate and Degree Programs.

Additional Resources for Counselors and Teachers

For planning curriculum and educational programs, there are detailed Knowledge and Skills Charts and Cluster Crosswalks. The knowledge and Skills expand upon the information listed on the career cluster models. For each knowledge and skill area, there are performance elements and measurement criteria. Crosswalks show the relationships between career clusters and other career models:

Career clusters build a bridge between education and career planning. Different types of career cluster resources are available: videos, web sites, booklets, brochures, activity sheets, and workbooks. Teachers, counselors, and parents use career cluster resources to successfully complete career and educational planning.


American Careers Career Paths, Career Communications, 6701 W. 64th St., Overland, KS 66202, 800-669-7795

Career Click, Illinois Department of Employment Security,33 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60603, (312) 793-5700

CIP Code Index by Career Cluster, Adult & Postsecondary CTE Division, Bureau of Career and Technical Education, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126, (717) 772-0814

Cluster and Career Videos, Career One Stop, U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210, 866-4-USA-DOL

College Major Guide Utah System for Higher Education, Board of Regents Building, The Gateway, 60 South 400 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1284, (801) 321-7100

Find Careers (Videos), iSeek Solutions, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Wells Fargo Place, 30 7th St. E., Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101-7804

High School Plans of Study, New Hampshire Department of Education, 101 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301-3860, (603) 271-3494
Introduction to Career Clusters, Career Education, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, P.O. Box 543
Blacklick, OH 43004-0544,

Louisiana Integrated Skills Assessment (LISA), customized Internet version of OSCAR, a product of the Texas Workforce Commission/Career Development Resources, TWC/CDR, Austin, TX 78753

Maryland Career Clusters, Maryland State Department of Education 200 West Baltimore Street Baltimore, MD 21201,

Rhodes Island’s Career Clusters, Rhode Island’s Career Resource Network, 1511 Pontiac Avenue, Cranston, RI 02920, 401-462-8790

School to Career Clusters, State of Connecticut, Department of Labor, Job Bank, 645 South Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457, (860)754-5000

States’ Career Clusters Initiative (SCCI), 1500 W. Seventh Avenue, Stillwater, OK 74074
Career Pathway Plans, Career Cluster, Knowledge and Skills Charts

VTECS Cluster Frameworks, VTECS, 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA, 30033,404-679-4501 ext 543

What are Career Clusters? Career Prospects System, New Mexico Career Resource Network, CAREER TECHNICAL AND WORKFORCE EDUCATION BUREAU (CTWEB), Education Building, 300 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM 87501, (505) 827-6512

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