Sandcastles

Building Sandcastles

When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.   Shannon Hale

I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. Justifying the time it takes as well as the lure of everything else “out there” that sucks me in. All it took was meeting with my writing bestie, Karen Whalen, today to turn that around.

Women often base their worth on how much they accomplish and how productive they are. Cleaning, cooking, taking care of family, working (for those of us who work outside the home), church obligations, laundry…the list goes on a mile long. And what about saying “no” to a request someone has of you? Gasp!

Sometimes when we get caught in the vicious cycle of doing, doing, doing, all we need is that someone to issue a gentle reminder that it’s okay to be. It’s okay to take some time to do what we love. To nurture the side of ourselves that brings joy. Writing is not wasted time, but treasured time. Not to mention extra income for some.

During our conversation today my passion was re-ignited, writing projects planned, and Camp NaNo next month is one of them. For those who aren’t familiar with Camp NaNo, it’s a spin-off of NaNoWriMo in November but much more flexible. While NaNoWriMo requires writing 50,000 words in a month, Camp NaNoWriMo allows the writer to set their own word count goal, hourly goal, or page goal. Also, where NaNoWriMo means working on a new piece of work, Camp NaNo allows you to choose to work on a novel, short stories, poetry, revisions, etc. It also includes virtual cabins so you can check in with your cabin mates each evening for support and encouragement.

I’m setting a word count goal of 50,000 and beginning a new novel, book two in the Whispering Pines series. If anyone wants to join in and share a cabin, let me know. We can share virtual s’mores, sit around a virtual campfire, and maybe tell a ghost story or two. Too busy? Even if you set your goal at 10,000 words or 10  hours over the course of the month, that’s 10,000 words or 10 hours you didn’t have before. That could be the beginning of your beautiful sandcastle.

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Write on!

 There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

 

 

 

 

Job, Career, or Life Mission

Living Your Best Life

Do your days consist of a job, a career, or a life mission? Or are you one of the lucky ones who have combined all three?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “job” as:

1. a: a regular remunerative position
b: a specific duty, role, or function
c: something that has to be done or an undertaking requiring unusual exertion

It describes a “career” as:

1. a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life

2. a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling

Life Mission isn’t defined in the dictionary but, to me, is by far the most important. Rachel Dresdale wrote an article, How Your Life’s Mission Statement Will Guide You To Greater Work-Life Balance, in which she states:

A personal mission statement can act as your “north star” throughout the twists and turns of life.

The good news is, your job and/or your career can align with your life’s mission, but first you must take some time to know what that mission looks like. Once you’ve figured that out, write it down and post it somewhere that you will see it often. Often as in every day.

Helping other people and being of service to those in need is top of my list. My “job,” what I do every day, is help victims of crime. My “career,” what I went to school for and for which I got my degree, is a paralegal. As a paralegal, I help victims see justice at the lowest, often most painful times of their lives. Knowing I’m helping them, serving the greater good of the community by helping convict the “bad guys,” makes me one happy camper. Not to mention fulfilled, because it serves my life mission. It also explains why I’ve stayed employed at the DA’s office longer than any other “Job” I’ve ever had.

Add to that my avocation, defined by Merriam-Webster as:

1: a subordinate occupation pursued in addition to one’s vocation especially for enjoyment.

My avocation is writing. When I’m not spending time with family or necessary obligations, evenings and weekends are spent pursuing my avocation. Writing is what fills my energy and mental tank, and gives me another avenue in which to serve, but this time by entertaining people. My avocation aligns with my life’s mission, which isn’t surprising since avocations are driven by passion and passion drives our life mission.

My challenge to you is to take the time needed to come up with your life mission. If your job and/or career don’t align with that mission, maybe it’s time to change. We spend so much time at our day job, and if you’re not doing what is important to you, you’re not living your best life possible. And living your best life is the best gift you can give yourself and everyone else in your life.

Your Monday morning thoughts set the tone for your whole week. See yourself getting stronger, and living a fulfilling, happier & healthier life. 
― Germany Kent

Carpe Diem

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

What may appear to be a small difference between two things can lead to a significant difference in the ultimate enjoyment of something.

Examples that immediately come to mind include:

  • While a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a cup of Folgers are both coffee, there is a distinct difference between the two.
  • Nikon and Canon cameras both have obvious similarities, yet each has characteristics unique to each.
  • A Kindle and a Nook are both e-readers, but each has their distinct differences.
  • Liking what you choose to do vs. choosing to do what you like.

When I was a new mom I signed up to take an online journalism/short story writing course. I absolutely loved every moment of that course and should have kept my love for that in mind as I traveled blindly on the highway of life over the next couple of decades. However, since I already had my cosmetology license, it was more practical to find work in a salon and make instant money as I raised my children. Since money is an obvious necessity, especially while raising children, making instant money made sense and was the responsible thing to do.

As life passed by and the needs of my family changed, my boys’ dad worked, earning enough money to support our family.  I was able to stay home with my boys and provided daycare for a few children to supplement that income. While the children napped or during quiet times, when I could have been writing, I found myself whiling away the time by doing other things like cleaning up after a house full of children. Necessary? Yes. But I could have squeezed in a few minutes of writing throughout the day or after my children were tucked in for the night. Instead, I only thought about it.

As my children grew, I changed jobs to best accommodate their schedules. Never did I think to practice my writing skills by actually writing. Rather, I spent that time with even more dreaming of the day that I could write again.

As my children continued to grow, I survived through a divorce by working where I needed to in order to best accommodate my children’s schedules and to make instant money. It never occurred to me to actually write simply because I enjoyed it. Once again, I pushed that dream to the back of my mind for a later date when I would have the time.
That “time” never appeared as I continued my education for things that were more practical. Things I had a tendency at which to excel.  I took a medical transcription class not because I  loved to transcribe medical terminology, but because my typing skills were fast and accurate and because I wanted to work out of my home. That worked until life circumstances pushed me to get a job outside of my home.

When I landed a job in the legal profession and learned I had the capacity to do well at that, I decided to go back to school to receive my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. It was a wonderful opportunity that made sense, because my job provided a  tuition reimbursement program, which meant as long as I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire program was paid for with the exception of books. So, essentially, I received a free degree. It was something I did because I could. Not because it was my dream. And while that education is something no one can ever take away from me and something I can always use, it wasn’t what I loved. I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

Since then, I work at a job that does not require that degree. A job that I truly like, nonetheless, but it’s a job that I chose, not a job that chose me.

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The difference is, in addition to my paying job, I now choose to write, the one thing that truly brings me joy. It’s something I’ve done–or dreamed of doing–throughout my entire life. Something that breathes air into my lungs and gives me life. Not something that takes my energy away, but something that gives me energy. And that, in turn, has breathed life into the job I do by day. And, hey, now that I’ve pursued my passion of writing, I even make money at doing what I love. Bonus!

It’s important to like what you do, but it’s critical to do what you love.

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Permission to Write

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

I Am a Writer

photo (15)There, I said it.  But those words do not come easy.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit to being a writer.  To be able to own it.   It almost feels like arrogance as I fight to make that claim out loud.  Claiming to be a writer sounds like I’m admitting to being good.  Published.  And even though I have, enough to be called a writer?  And what is the required amount of  published articles before one can be called a writer?

It’s not hard to admit I’m a runner.  I run a lot.  Not marathons, but I run.  Therefore, I am a runner.

Or that I’m a Christian.  Now that’s a title I wear with joy.  Being a Christian is a fundamental part of who I am.  I’m not a perfect Christian by any means, in fact a constant work in progress, daily.  But I am a Christian none-the-less.

A person who loves books and reads a lot is not only a reader, but frequently labeled an avid reader.  Someone who takes a lot of pictures is a photographer.  Maybe not professionally, but still a photographer, yes?  Or a person who draws or paints is an artist, true?photo (19)

In fact, if it were professionally, it would be a job.  A vocation versus an avocation.  But that’s all that would change.  That wouldn’t change the fact that the writing is happening.

Writing may not be considered a justifiable activity to non-writing folk, especially if a financial outcome isn’t the reason it’s being pursued, which makes it critical to have other writers in your inner circle.  If your writing makes the difference in even one life, then it’s justifiable.  Worthwhile.  A gift to behold.

Writing is what brings me peace and joy.  Well, usually.  And it’s something I practice and work at daily.  That makes me a writer.  And I can own that because it’s what I do.  A lot.

I am a writer.  And being able to claim that feels good.

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All is Grace.