What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life's challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author's life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind:
• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each other
To make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.
While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.
Where to buy the book:
Shelia Payton is an entrepreneur, former newspaper reporter, corporate manager and educator who spent all of her early life and much of her career in a time when people of color and women in this country were pushing for greater inclusion at all levels of society, and seeking greater opportunities to live life to the fullest. Like others in her generation, Shelia had to face and overcome barriers to entering and succeeding in non-traditional jobs, and create a place in civic and leadership settings. Also like others in her generation, Shelia’s motivation has not just been about what she can accomplish for herself, but also how she can open up opportunities for future generations. Shelia’s current focus is on creating books, plays and music that build human connections by breaking down barriers and stereotypes.
Visit Shelia's website: http://www.
There are many books out there about living a better life. What makes yours different?
I think there are several differences. One is that I intentionally decided to use short essays rather than write chapters on a subject because the pace of life today is a lot faster and people—especially young people—are more accustomed to getting information quickly. By writing essays and grouping them by topic the book can be used as a real time quick reference guide when dealing with some of life’s more common issue. I also tried to use stories from a range of different people to provide real world examples of what the reader can do to have the kind of life they want. Finally, before I published the book, I had young people read the essays and give me feedback to make sure the way I was saying things was understandable, that it made sense to them, that there wasn’t some important subject that I had not covered. I did this by talking to young people in small groups; and was fortunate to have a school English teacher use the book in his class to teach his students how to read material in an analytical, thoughtful and critical manner. Near the end of the semester I visited the class to talk with students and write down their comments about my book.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
I don’t know that I’ve ever had writer’s block, but I do occasionally have pauses in the flow of ideas. I make this distinction because I can’t remember a time when I’ve gone for a whole day without being able to put something down on paper that I felt o.k. about. Because I usually do a lot of research before I write, reading through the research often helps me come up with ideas about what to write next. When I do hit a pause, I usually get up and walk around. Something as simple as leaving the room where I’m writing can help me find the word I’m looking for or the next sentence or scene I want to write. Other times I may have to take longer breaks—walk to the door or window and look outside; do something else that doesn’t require my brain to totally engage (like wash the dishes, do the laundry, straighten up a room). If none of this works it means I’m tired, so I shut down for the day, get some rest, and resume working the next day.
What is your background (writing)?
My first job was as a newspaper reporter for The Miami Herald. All of the jobs I’ve had since then have involved writing in some way. When I left the Herald, I took a job as a speech writer for the executives at Miller Brewing Company. Even though I had not written speeches before professionally, I talked my way into the job using the argument (which was true) that, as a newspaper reporter I had spent much of my time listening to people talk. Therefore, I had an ear for human speech patterns. I eventually became a public relations person (and later a public relations manager for two of Miller’s brands). This job entailed (among other things) writing news stories about the company and its brands that were sent out to newspapers, magazines, and television stations; and, as a manager, developing ideas for and coordinating events associated with the two brands I was responsible for. While at Miller, I heard the local public television station was hiring freelance producers for a new program. I had no experience as a producer, but talked my way into the job by highlighting my background as a reporter—which meant I knew how to find a good story, conduct interviews, and write the story. The station taught me to use the editing equipment to do the rough cut of each story. I sat next to the professional editor to provide input as the final version of the video was created. When I left Miller to start my own marketing business, I continued to use my writing skills to do many of the same things I did at the brewing company. The first book I wrote happened because a book publisher contacted a local book editor to help find writers for their middle school Cultures of America series. Each book in the series began with a chapter on the cultural traditions in the homeland of the racial or ethnic group the book was about. That was followed by chapters on how those traditions were carried on by the descendants of those who came to the United States. The book also talks about the contributions each group made to American culture and history. My book focused on African Americans.
Where do you write?
Normally I write at home in my home office or on the dining room table. When I really need some uninterrupted time or I’m trying to meet a (usually self-imposed) deadline I will take my laptop with me on vacation and spend some part of each day writing. Lately I’ve been traveling by train to my vacation destination. I’ve found trains provide a relaxing atmosphere for writing. It could have something to do with the train’s swaying motion. Also, people who ride trains seem to be more relaxed. Trains also provide a number of options for where you can write—your assigned seat, the lounge, the observation car, and the quiet car.
How do you decide what your next writing project will be?
I keep a running list of ideas. Sometimes out of nowhere a thought will cross my mind and I think “that would be a good book or a good play.” I take time to not only jot down the general idea but, if I have some ideas about the story, the characters, or pieces of dialogue I’ll write them down too and save them on my “future book” or “future play” disc. If, later on, another idea for one of the books or plays come to me, I’ll add that idea to my notes on the “future” book or play disc. I also read a lot (including news and magazine articles and non-fiction books). I listen to public radio and watch public television. Sometimes I attend a workshop or presentation at the public library or local college or university. Why? Ideas can come from anywhere, so I try to expose my mind to as many opportunities to learn something new as possible.
When I’ve completed a project, I go over the ideas on the discs and notes and see which one attracts me. That’s the next one I start working on.