Permission to Write

notebook

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writer’s conference in Niwot, CO, hosted by Rachel Weaver, founder of  Colorado Writing School. I went with enthusiasm for what I might learn and came away with so much more than that. I came away with a head chock full of knowledge, a soul with renewed energy, a heart with renewed passion for the craft, and most important of all, validation for why I do what I do. A hall pass.

We writers are an insecure lot, and if we’re not making a lot of money at what we’re doing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if our time spent writing is frivolous and if we should be doing something “important” instead. Despite five published books, another due out by the end of the year, it’s a rut I fall back into frequently, like the gutters my bowling balls rolled into when I used to bowl.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft (a book I highly recommend for writers of all levels) states that only approximately 5% of writers can support themselves and their families with their writing. Considering his book was published in 1999, eighteen years ago, that the number of writers has grown exponentially with the boom of self-publishing, and  the cost of living has gone up, that percentage is likely even lower today. Does that mean those of us who fall into the less than 95 percentile should pack it up and stop writing? Absolutely not!

Going to conferences or writer’s workshops gives me permission, if you will, to do what I love to do. My day job is a job. It’s my vocation. Writing is my avocation. My passion. And being in a room filled with other writers, those who find joy and fulfillment in the written word and telling stories, doesn’t only make that okay for me, it makes it healthy and good. And  Lord knows we can never have enough goodness.

Conferences and workshops provide the power of brainstorming with each other, the room alive from the electrical energy of so much creativity in one place. In one of the sessions I attended, the writing prompts and exercises produced the synopsis for book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries. That, alone, made it a success. 🙂

Lunch was spent with Kerrie Flanagan, author, presenter, and writing consultant, who shared invaluable insight. Another was an agent panel with Becky LeJeune and Shana Kelly, who also had invaluable advice when querying. A writer cannot get these nuggets of gold camped out in an office with the door closed.

IMG_3280

Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In a profession where most of us are introverts, finding comfort within the walls of our home office or tucked comfortably behind a computer screen, conferences and workshops offer a way for us to interact with people to “get” us. They provide connections to others in the industry. And it’s even enjoyable for us introverts!

So write on.  Go create. Get your stories out into the world. Permission granted.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.           W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

 

 

The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of The Golden Rule:
e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you-e2809d.png
While the idea is good to shoot for, it may not be good enough.

Simply stated, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else is. We’re often our own worst enemy, constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, where we fail. This, in turn, can cause us to be more intolerant of other’s shortcomings, because we expect from others what we, ourselves, cannot even do to our own standards. And yet, ironically, we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

  • Thin people sometimes see someone overweight looking back at them in the mirror.
  • We’re not smart enough or pretty enough. We don’t do enough or have enough. We’re simply not enough.
  • We say things we wish we wouldn’t have, do things we wish we could erase, and beat ourselves up when we can’t.
  • We feel we don’t deserve happiness, forgiveness, or peace, because of what we’ve done in the past.

The other day when I was driving home from work there was car in front of me going sooooo sllooowww. Not only was this person driving slowly, s/he stopped for yellow lights, then allowed not one car from an incoming street to go in front of him/her, but two. Impatient to get home, to put the work day behind me, I was having all kinds of negative conversations with myself about the driver of this vehicle.

When I was finally able to pull into the next lane, I drove up next to the car, wanting to see the driver, sure s/he was talking on a cell phone rather than pay attention to the road. To my surprise, it was an elderly woman. A slightly confused elderly woman. Thankfully, she was oblivious to my impatience.

I felt oh, so small. I would be heartbroken if that woman had been my mother and someone else was as impatient and intolerant as I had been. God taught me a lesson in judging and patience that day.

On another occasion this past week, a young man called me at work. He was confused about his legal situation and I had to repeat three times the process of what he needed to do. I found myself getting impatient, but God’s voice spoke above my impatience. A little voice in my head asked, “What if this was your son calling, needing help with a process that’s confusing to someone not in the justice system, even if he needed to hear it three times?” My heart softened and I found patience I didn’t know I had, as I had to repeat the process yet another two times, wanting to be sure he understood completely before we disconnected.

How people treat me doesn’t affect me as much as how they treat my loved ones. I want my loved ones treated with love, with respect, with patience. In fact, when I’m mistreated I get over it. But seeing my loved ones mistreated? Well, that breaks my heart in two.

God spoke to me in a way I could hear loud and clear.

The Golden Rule I now strive to live by has changed a bit. e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-your-loved-ones-e2809d.png

The Joy is in the Journey

to an

We as a whole are a results-driven society.

  • We work so we have financial freedom, success, recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.
  • We raise our children with the goal of creating loving, responsible, productive people.
  • We create a date night with our spouse to keep the spark alive in the midst of daily chaos.
  • As writers, we write a set number of words (or minutes/hours/paragraphs, etc) to produce the finished product.
  • When reading a book, we often rush through it to get to the end in anticipation of what happens to the good guy/gal—or the bad guy/gal. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
  • We diet to reach a desired goal.

I could go on indefinitely.

While striving for our desired results isn’t a bad thing, if that’s our focus, we’re missing out on the process.

The process is where the gold is discovered. It’s in the process that we’re refined and made stronger.

It’s the process of achieving results that’s the teacher, showing us how to get from point A to point B while revealing the necessary seemingly little steps that eventually lead to the final result.

It’s in the process that we learn patience, perseverance, and self-control. When things aren’t going the way we’d planned, we learn to pivot as needed, taking the longer route if necessary, learning that our way isn’t the only way. It opens us up to bigger, broader horizons if our eyes aren’t stuck on the goal.

It’s in the process that holds the joy. Detours are often more scenic, more relaxed and enjoyable. We can either get to where we’re going by hurrying, scarfing down meals on the go, potty breaks only as needed, or we can sit back and enjoy the ride, take the time to taste exquisite cuisine, wander a bit in nature, getting to the same destination but with more to show for it.

Results are out of our control. Joy is not. Set your sights on the process and get to where you’re going joyfully.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

 

 

 

Faith in Humanity

Love One Another

As news channels cover the heartbreaking devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in its wake in Houston, Texas, followed closely by Hurricane Irma in Florida, there was a message that spoke louder than the news anchors I listened to.

That message?  How tragedy can bring a country together.

For far too long, anytime I turned on the news it spewed about all the hatred and divisiveness of our people. You name it, people were hating. Whether it be race, sexual orientation, gender identification, political beliefs, personal beliefs, job choice and the action it requires, misuse of power and those not allowed to use their power…well, I could go on and on. With each broadcast, the news seems to polarize our country with half-truths, pitting people against one another. It had gotten to a point where I was seriously wondering if we, as a country, could ever turn things around again. All the hatred was suffocating everything good.

Listening to the news about the hurricanes, I finally felt a glimmer of hope for our nation and the amazing people who live here. My faith in humanity has been restored. As I hear the countless stories of individuals sacrificing what they have for the needs of those who lost, companies offering time, money, and resources to help a fellow man/woman/child/city/state, and friends and family reaching out to their loved ones in the affected cities, I see God at work. In fact, it occurred to me that this is what Christianity looks like.

  • Unselfish acts of helping another.
  • Accepting and loving, rather than judging, regardless of whether you agree with someone or not.
  • Tolerating others’ views and opinions, different as they may be from yours, accepting that your way isn’t the only way. Even proclaimed Christians have destroyed one another due to intolerance.
  • Forgive even when you don’t “feel” like it. You’ll “feel” so much better after you do!
  • Being of service to others, whether it be time in your already busy life, money that you don’t have in excess, services that you can provide to those who can’t.
  • Being a prayer warrior for those who so desperately need it.
  • Taking just a moment to write a letter of encouragement to someone who feels hopeless and alone.
  • Bringing a meal to someone who doesn’t have the physical capability or the resources to make their own.
  • Putting others needs before your wants.
  • Spend time, even if just an hour, with someone who doesn’t have anyone.

Simply stated…

Love

Above all else, love. The rest will fall into place. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we turned on the news and we heard more stories of love and hope? Stories of  people pulling for each other instead of battling against each other. Stories of people loving one another rather than killing? Stories of people accepting one another’s differences rather than hating because of them?

It IS possible. It CAN be done. But only if we all do our part. Time is at our advantage if we start NOW.

What can YOU do, TODAY, to start a revolution of loving one another?

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu

▶ 4:42

 

 

 

The Miracle of Change

The Miracle of Change

Why does something that’s so healthy, so good, so necessary, elicit such enormous fear? In fact, the only certainty in life is change, and while comfort typically accompanies certainty, that’s not so when it involves change. In reality, the beauty of it is we have the power to determine what changes we make, changes that will take us where we want to go and make us who we want to be.

  • Caterpillars change into butterflies.
  • Green leaves change to reds, oranges, yellows, purples.
  • Winter changes to spring changes to summer changes to fall…
  • Acquaintances change into friendships.
  • Seeds planted grow/change into healthy vegetables and brilliant flowers.
  • A date between the right people changes/grows into love.
  • A broken heart (can) change into a valuable lesson learned and can lead into a healthier relationship.

We change our minds, our jobs, our situation, and our goals.

Change is what allows us to grow, to follow dreams and change course when we’ve veered off. Change is our hope when we feel we have none and the light in the darkness. It’s change that gives us second—and third and fourth—chances when we blow the first. It’s what we can hold onto and count on when we feel defeated. Change isn’t out of our control, it is in our control. And it’s in our control how we use change. It’s the one thing we can count on.

How are you going to use change to turn the world around you into the world in which you want to live? The opportunities are endless. Go forward and change what you don’t like into what you do. Change what isn’t working for you into what does.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Beauty in Brokenness

Nature in its Perfectness

I spent a lot of time in nature this past weekend and marveled, as usual, in all of its splendor. The perfect creations as well as the stunning beauty in the broken.

IMG_2831

IMG_2834

And I started thinking…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we appreciated people as we do nature, in all of their brokenness and all of their flaws? If we truly accepted people exactly as they are, broken and bruised, and simply admired them for what they have to offer the world?  After all, we’re all a little broken, but each of us is so unique, so beautifully and wonderfully made.

Next time you see glass that’s broken or cracked, hold it up to the light. It’s those cracks in the glass that lets the light shine through. It’s not the perfectness, but the cracks, that create a brilliant light show you otherwise wouldn’t see.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

Broken and Beautiful

This week may we look for the broken and choose to love them exactly as they are. Don’t judge or try to fix, just accept. Acceptance is the key to greatness and that greatness unlocks the door to bountiful love. And love, pure love, is what the world desperately needs.

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”                   –Terry Tempest Williams

And now it’s off to the final week of Camp NaNo with its virtual cabins, campfires, and s’mores, and 30,000 words into Shear Murder, book 3 in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries.

Camping

 

And in the Beginning…

Beginnings

For those who have read my bio, you know my writing years began at the tender age of four. I took my fat little crayons in my fat little fingers and decided to experiment with words on the knotty pine walls of the living room. My parents were not impressed! But even back then, I had something to say and writing was the natural way for me to say it.
As the years went by, that didn’t change. The only thing that did change is that I graduated from crayon on walls to pen on paper. For that, my parents were grateful.

In my teen years, it was writing that helped me work through the tumultuous teen emotions and heartbreak. Many summer days, I lay in our little fishing boat, tied up to the dock, rocking as waves rolled up against the shoreline and lapped the bottom of the boat. I clutched my pen and paper and wrote poetry like there was no tomorrow. The words flowed endlessly. When I wasn’t in the boat, I was perched on the end of the dock, my feet dangling in the water, or plopped on my bed in my basement bedroom, crafting more poetry.

Fishing Boat
Fast forward a few years. I was still writing when I got pregnant with my first son. I penned 2 ½ novels (yup, not just 2, but 2 ½), which are still in boxes in my home office. I took a few writing classes, too. Then came my second son. The writing stopped. There was no spare time.

When my second son was in high school, I got my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. While everyone else was impressed, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. My heart longed for the days when I was a writer.

When my second son graduated from high school, I followed my dream. I got back to writing and haven’t looked back. While I still maintain a day job in the legal field, my true calling, my avocation, is writing.

As I think about the journey to where I am now—five published books, two more in the works—there are three suggestions I have for beginning authors.

1.) Find a writing community, or even one or two other writers. Non-writers, family and friends included, think we just sit down, write and voila! A book appears. A non-writer can’t possibly know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a piece of creative fiction—or non-fiction. And if that’s the only mindset you’re subjected to and hearing on your writing journey, you’ll start believing it yourself. Eventually you’ll start to think of yourself a failure when you’re unable to just sit down and magically produce a novel.

Additionally, the non-writer can view writing as a waste of time unless the writer is making a lot of money. You may hear that you should be spending your time on something more worthwhile, something “important,” whatever that means. “Important” means different things to different people. Writing is hugely important to me. And if you’re a writer, it will be to you, too. It’s not about how much money we make (though, I imagine you wouldn’t catch any of us complaining if we made a dollar to two), it’s about a need to express the creative side that’s burning inside of us. And it’s work. Hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

That being said, not all non-writers think this way. And if you feel they are, it’s important to ask yourself if there’s any validity to your feelings or if it’s your own insecurity and self-doubt that makes it feel that way. We writers are frequently tormented with self-doubt. It’s what many of us do best. Either way, let it go. If you don’t already, you’ll soon have a writing community reminding you you’re not alone. 

2.)  Plan your week and schedule in writing time. When first starting out, set a timer and just write. Don’t get up under any circumstance. Not for anything. This exercises your butt-in-chair muscle, even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time. And don’t open the Internet to check anything. Your email will still be there when you’re done with your writing session, and your Facebook likes will still be there waiting. Even hard-core social media addicts can stay away for 15 minutes. If not, invest in Freedom. After you’ve created a habit of writing, play around to discover which method most accommodates your lifestyle—continue with timed writing sessions, decide on a set number of pages per day, word count goals, etc.

3.)  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the writing industry. We all have mentors and people we admire in the writing industry (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Joanna Penn) but don’t strive to be just like them. You are you. And you are fabulous. You have something unique to contribute to the reading world. And it would be a waste to deprive the world of that because you’re trying to be like someone else. As well, comparing yourself to other writers is the kiss of death. I struggle with comparisonitis as much as the next person, but I recognize it for what it is and kick it to the curb as soon as I realize that it’s trying to sink its fangs into my writing life.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

And now it’s back for week three of Camp NaNo and more virtual camping.

Bonfire-Brainerd

Carpe Diem