Inspire Me!

September 17, 2019

I got into sports at a young age, and my mother gave me three small posters that I framed and hung on my bedroom walls.

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“You must believe to achieve.” 

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” 

“I can let things happen or I can make them happen.”

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Those posters now hang in my home office, along with hundreds of inspirational quotes I have collected over the years. Since quotes abound online, I’m only including one here. I found it on Twitter; it’s by Jennifer Lee:

 

follow that dream

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. Don’t get influenced by what people tell you should be your dream.

 

 

Here are my three favorite motivational movies. I’d love to hear about movies that motivate you.

Akeelah and the Bee – Little Akeelah Anderson competes in the National Spelling Bee.

The Pursuit of Happyness (yes, that’s how the movie title is spelled) — Will Smith is great as a homeless Chris Gardner pursuing career options.

Rudy – Daniel Ruettiger is determined to play football at Notre Dame.

 My friends also provide inspiration, especially when I’m feeling discouraged. The beauty of nature always lifts me up, whether it’s flowers, trees, mountains, lakes or oceans. Finally, and foremost, my faith is the most important aspect of my life – it brings love and acceptance and encouragement and so much more.

I’ll end this post with a poem you may have seen before. Enjoy.

OUR DEEPEST FEAR

by Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Where do you find inspiration?

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Here It Is! I Found It! In the Candlelight.

September 3, 2019

I shuffled through the bedroom to the adjoining bathroom wondering why it was so light in the room. Squinting at the bedside clock, my eyes opened wide. The digital clock was blank. I looked around the room suspiciously, wondering if one of my cats had somehow pulled the plug.

Shaking my head, I continued to the bathroom and flipped on the light switch. Nothing happened. I groaned, completed my morning routine and ventured into the kitchen where my boyfriend was reading the paper.

His head appeared over the newspaper. “Power went out an hour ago.”

Glancing at the clock, I understood why it was so much lighter in the bedroom. I grunted, got out a bowl with oatmeal and opened the microwave door. “Oh. Duh. Let’s go out for breakfast.”

“OK, the power will probably be on by the time we get back. It never goes off long here.”

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He was wrong.

That evening, as he found our flashlights and battery-powered radio, I lit candles throughout the main floor rooms. The candles imbued a dreamy ambiance. The only problem was that I kept tripping over our black cat.

“This is great.” I plumped up the cushions on the living room and settled in with a thick book. “How often do you get to read with no other demands?”

He raised his eyebrows. “You’re not going to write?”

“Nah. Still not in the mood. I’m only about half recharged from our train trip.” (My earlier post – Big Sky, Blank Paper – explains how I had run out of creative energy, was unable to write, and needed to recharge.)

The next evening, I got home from work to find the power still out. We went through the same routine as the previous evening, except I was all read out.

“Why are you pacing?” my boyfriend asked.

I shrugged. “Dunno. Restless.”

I looked around the quiet, peaceful room with its multiple candles flickering from the slight breeze wafting in through the open windows, and I was compelled to sit down and write. My calico cat curled up next to me and I breathed in the scent of the rose candles on the mantle. With my writing pad on my lap and my favorite gel pen in hand, I wrote. I was calm. I was thoughtful. The words flowed.

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The third evening, I again lit my candles and settled down for an evening of writing. And then we heard a click.

The lights and fans turned on. Through the open windows, we heard the neighbors cheering and we joined in with delight. Relief mingled with disappointment. Writing would not be on the agenda that evening.

The fridge and freezer needed to be cleaned out, laptops and phones charged, candles and flashlights put away… writing would have to wait for the following day.

As I threw away spoiled food, gratitude welled up. Losing electricity had prompted a personal recharge (and an appreciation for all the things electricity provides). I had found my way back to my happy writing place.

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What is My Main Character Doing Now?

August 20, 2019

I’m a pantser when I write; I’m a plotter in most other aspects of my life.

When I wrote the previous sentence, I believed it; however, by the time I finished writing this post, I realized it’s not true, so I left it and added this sentence. Just like a pantser.

People in the writing industry know the terms “pantser” and “plotter”. Early in my fiction writing, I went to a writing conference session led by Dr. Stanley D. Williams. According to his web site, he’s an international award-winning video producer, filmmaker and show creator.

Although Williams is a movie guy, his expertise translates easily into book writing – it’s all about the story, after all. During his presentation, he mentioned pantsers and plotters. My writer friend and I immediately said to each other in unison: “What did he say?”.

In my own words:

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“Pantsers” begin writing with only a few ideas of what will happen in the story They may have a main character and conflict and determine the rest, or they may just sit down and write, see what character is formed, what conflict develops. This is the way I write.

“Plotters” outline the entire book from start to finish. They know all the characters, all the conflicts, in what order these conflicts will occur, who will do what to whom, and how the book will be resolved.

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There are variations within each. Most people are somewhere in the middle but lean toward one or the other.

A thousand years ago when I had to write papers in college, all the professors insisted we turn in an outline first. They didn’t care (or didn’t believe me) when I told them I didn’t use outlines. I wrote all my papers well ahead of the due dates so I could then write the outline from the paper. I guess all my professors were plotters.

I don’t like word counts – I often say “it’ll be as long or as short as it needs to be” although when I’m writing a novel, I do keep an eye on word count so I know when to put in conflicts or resolve them. I’m guessing that plotters know the exact page on which they introduce or resolve a conflict. I have no idea how to do that. Plotters probably can’t conceive of how I write either.

According to Williams, there are drawbacks to each approach. Again, in my own words:

A pantser may have to rewrite if the story goes somewhere unexpected. They may have to change or add characters, add foreshadowing, change some plot lines. I once had a character change from a bad guy to a good guy halfway through so I had to change all the bad guy foreshadowing early in the manuscript.

I’m often surprised by what the people in

my stories do.

A plotter may be so bored by writing what they already know is going to happen that it can be difficult to see the writing all the way through. Also, if they want to change something, then they have to change the whole outline.

So, how do these terms translate into other areas of my life? Ten minutes ago, when I started writing this, I would have said I’m a plotter. But I’m not. I do a general plan but leave some things open. Exactly like I write.

When I vacation, I book the flight and hotels and a few activities. I leave plenty of time open for the unexpected. I once took a train across country at the last minute – one of my best trips ever.

My work is strategic planning, marketing and outreach. I begin with a definite plan and, even though I have years of experience determining what motivates people to buy or give or come back, you can never say for sure what people will do. So, I allow time and room to adapt the original plan after it’s launched.

As for relationships in my life, well, um, you can’t plan those, can you? Lol.

When people are involved, you can’t plan in detail. At least I can’t. Just like in real life, I’m often surprised by what the people in my stories do. This can be good or bad, but it’s most always fun – at least in stories.

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Photos by Fabian Grohs, Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

 


Encouragement or Disdain

August 6, 2019

When I first contemplated writing fiction, I had no idea how to do it. Nevertheless, I forged ahead, rising early every morning and writing ferociously. In my quest to figure out what the heck I was doing, I pulled out a book on writing that had been on my bookshelf for a long time. It was the perfect book for me to read at that time.

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner is a great book for new or doubting writers.

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Lerner got me. She knew what made me tick and why I felt the need to write. She understood my initial fears and the pain from derisive friends. “When I asked the readers of my blog,” she said, “if they remembered any hurtful things people had said to them about their writing, the comments poured in.”

Silly me. I thought everyone would be excited for me and encourage me. Instead, some of them laughed and even rolled their eyes. A common response was, “Yeah, I’m gonna write a book, too.” I was shocked at the disdain I encountered.

A few people encouraged me and those were the ones I clung to as I continued writing. My favorite piece of encouragement: “It’s about time you write a book!”


When I first began telling people I was writing a novel, many of them laughed or rolled their eyes.


As I wrote, another surprise emerged. In my writing, I was revealing a lot about myself – not in an autobiography or memoir but rather in the way I see the world and weave life experiences into the story line. When Lerner describes different types of writers, I immediately identified with the one who was worried about what other people would say.

What would my family and friends think? Was I revealing too much about myself? The fears were quick and unexpected and fierce. Fear of not being heard. Fear of being misunderstood.

“Writers tend to censor themselves,” she said, “for fear of what other people think, especially those at home.”

Now, I don’t care. I write what I write. If I’m revealing things about myself, so be it. If people see themselves or are critical, I don’t care. I’m not setting out to hurt anyone. I am writing from my life experiences, which are not like anyone else’s. Yet, my hope is that my readers will say, “Oh, I feel like that, too.”

Persistence in this craft was another unexpected necessity. If you receive nothing but encouragement, wow, that’s great. But I think most of us experience something different. The criticism of so-called “well-meaning people”, who tell you writing is an unattainable ambition, combined with your own self doubt can cripple you. That’s when ego and persistence come into play. I’ve always had plenty of both, which has brought me some trouble in the past but for which I’m now grateful.


Criticism, combined with your own self-doubt, can cripple you.  That’s where ego and persistence come into play.


Lerner addresses this: “…the degree of one’s perseverance is the best predictor of success. It is some combination of ability and ego, desire and discipline, that produces good work.”

She says writing is a calling. If you have to do it, you’re a writer. “Asking whether you’ve got it, whether you should stick with writing or quit, is a little like asking if you should continue living,” Lerner said. “For most writers, being unable to write is tantamount to suicide.”

When I got to about 40,000 words, people stopped rolling their eyes. Up until that point, I felt very alone. I received about 10 percent encouragement and 90 percent discouragement. So, I stopped telling people what I was doing.


For most writers, being unable to write is tantamount to suicide.”


And then when I didn’t have instant success, like I expected, more derision. And I beat myself up. Could I do this? Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Nevertheless, I kept going. I’m still going. And Betsy Lerner’s book helped me persevere.

Lerner also gives practical advice about agents and editors (this may be outdated by now), but it’s the first part of her book that appeals to me. If you have any doubt about your life as a writer, read it.

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What books on writing have encouraged you?

 


Big Sky, Blank Paper

July 23, 2019

I don’t feel like writing. Creative writing, I mean – the novels and short stories I write that bring me such pleasure. It’s not writer’s block, at least not how I understand writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around in my head that I’m itching to write down. I’m not avoiding or procrastinating. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, yet I sit down and do it anyway. This is different. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

As I’ve struggled to find my way back to my happy writing place, I read a blog post that helped. It’s titled “Motors” on “Andrew’s View of the Week”. He has a clever writing style using metaphors interspersed with engineering terms. Anyway, I think I’ve run out of creative energy and I need to recharge my batteries.

How do I recharge? People. I’m an extrovert, so social situations energize me. I’m very high energy, and I like new and different stimuli – people, places, food. Cities are filled with energy. So, what better place to recharge than going to two new cities on vacation?

In my last post, I talked about going to Portland. Here, I’ll talk briefly about Seattle and our train journey across country. I was especially looking forward to the train where I’d meet all new people and recharge. But first…

Seattle has hills, not quite San Francisco hills, but big ones! I’m sure we lost weight. We stayed by the Space Needle, but the highlight for me was the Chihuly Glass Garden. All I heard was there were amazing glass sculptures. A perfect description.

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Was I inspired to write? No.

The waterfront tourist area was fun; we had some great seafood. We especially enjoyed Pike Place Market, where we watched them “throw fish” and had the very best clam chowder and seafood chowder at…. Pike Place Chowder! If you go, it’s well worth the wait. And DON’T waste your time and money on an underground tour. That was stupid.

I still wasn’t in the mood to write, but I had high hopes the train journey would alleviate that.

After a couple days in Seattle, we boarded the train for our 50+ hour journey across country. We got a roomette, which is a sleeper room about the size of a dinner booth. Really.

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Meals in the dining car are included in the roomette price, and since there were just two of us, the hostess would seat us with other travelers at the booths for four.

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When we went to dinner the first night, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, a feeling I attributed to being tired. However, I felt the same way the next day at breakfast. I put on a happy face and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be by myself.

I strive for balance in my life and that includes some solitude, but I’d never felt the need for it on vacation. The new people were draining me. For a description of this feeling from a self-proclaimed introvert, check out Quaint Revival, where Shelley describes how an introvert feels in social situations, an eye-opener for me.

So, there we were on the train with hundreds of strangers in close proximity. And, I admit, we were a bit disappointed by the view. We were in the Great Plains. The flatlands. There’s nothing there except some distant mountains we saw for about 10 minutes.

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I had gone back to the roomette after an energy-draining lunch, while my boyfriend went to the observation car. I decided it was time to write, whether I felt like it or not, and I definitely did not feel it.

I pulled out the small table, and retrieved my writing tablet and pen. My arm felt like dead weight. It was all I could do to lift my arm and rest my wrist on the table.

I stared out the window determined to find some beauty. Gratitude welled up within me for seeing the country in a way I never had before. I continued staring out the window looking for something… anything. And then I looked up.

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It was like being in a snow globe. The sky went on forever. BIG SKY. Images of cowboys and campfires and roundups flooded my brain. The clouds were amazing.

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I saw submarines lined up. I saw a pig relaxing on its back. Go ahead, you can think I’m crazy. None of my friends saw anything other than clouds. (And do submarines even line up???)

I went a little nutty snapping pictures of clouds. And I started writing… not a whole story, just fragments.

Then the rain started, bringing contentment with it.

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The desolation frightened her a bit but the new life she was steaming towards had to be better than the one she had left behind…

What had she done? Where was the town? Her mother had told her repeatedly not to do this, but she was determined. Having grown up in the city, she hadn’t known there was this much unpopulated land. Arrgh. Then a dark-haired man strode through the rail car, his boots clomping. She caught her breath as he tipped his cowboy hat her way revealing bright blue eyes. Maybe this would be okay after all. (yeah, yeah, mostly cliché but it’s a start)

Big Sky country. Montana. I want to go back. Stay on a dude ranch. Ride horses.

North Dakota boasted the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, a sky almost as big as the Montana sky. And then I saw the rainbow. God’s promise. The sight filled me with joy.

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We traveled through a few more states, and I wrote a bit more. By the time we returned home, my batteries were about half charged. I’ll continue to seek out solitude and big nature, and I’m confident I’ll be back in my happy writing place soon.

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