Connections

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I did an author reading from my latest book, Shear Murder (Book 4 in the Melanie Hogan mystery series) this past weekend. While it was fun to participate in an author event and hang with other local authors–one of them dear friend Karen Whalen who did an author reading from her new release, Peaches and Creamed, a dinner club murder mystery series–it also left me feeling a little…melancholy.

The event was held at Welcome to the Bookstore, an independent bookstore that has been extremely supportive of independent authors like myself. Welcome to the Bookstore hosted its last event this past Saturday before closing its doors. Like most physical bookstores. This particular bookstore is where I got my start as an author. It was there that I held my very first book signing, met other independent and traditionally published authors, hosted events solo and organized events with other authors. Sometimes people in the community, upon hearing my name, would say, “Hey, I saw your books in the bookstore!” Music to an author’s ears.

Whether it’s books or friendships, it seems we’re losing the physical connection as technology booms. E-books vs physical books. Online shopping vs in-store shopping–including groceries. Text messages vs telephone calls. An extension of that, we have telephone calls vs meeting in person. Facebook vs in person communication. I’m not convinced, however, that convenience isn’t doing more harm than good. It’s enabling people to hide behind a screen instead of getting “out there” and fully connecting with the world.

Trust me when I say there’s no finger-pointing going on here. I’m right there with the “convenience” crowd. I shop for so much of my needs online–with the exception of groceries. I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I want to SEE the produce and other perishables I’m buying. I find it easier and faster to check in with friends and family via text or Facebook rather than pick up the phone or schedule a coffee date. And yet, I’m never as satisfied after a stint on Facebook or text messaging as I am after a coffee date. Nothing quite compares to connecting with friends and family face-to-face.

The bottom line? It’s worth making the effort to slllooowww down in the rat-race of life to support local businesses and nurture relationships. Each day is purely a gift that we have the luxury to savor if we so choose. We never know what the next day may bring. Circumstances change in the blink of an eye.

Today, may you go out and live completely and without abandon. May you recognize each moment for the miracle it is. I challenge you to pick up the phone and call a loved one without hurrying to get off the phone because of something you need to get done. Better yet, I challenge you to call and schedule a coffee or lunch date with a friend. It’s never wasted time to nurture the important relationships in your life.

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They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
— Carl W. Buechner

Simply enjoy life and the great pleasures that come with it. –Karolina Kurkova

 

Passionate Writing

Not passion as in romance. But rather “passion” as described in another of Merriam Webster’s definitions:

A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity.

Writing Longhand

As I was journaling the other day it occurred to me how much I enjoy writing longhand. From the feel of my hand sliding across the smooth surface of the paper, the ink pen gliding effortlessly, the different colors of ink on the page, and even white ink on black paper–all of it brings a new love of writing to the surface.

I began to wonder why I’ve only written by computer for so long and it came down to one thing–productivity. I can type far faster than I can write. And while productivity is good for a writer, so is keeping the passion for the process alive. Writing by hand and typing on a computer stimulate different parts of the brain. The part of the brain stimulated by hand writing is calling for my attention. (I found this article and could relate to more of it than not and wanted to share it with you.)

Anyone who has followed my blog knows how much I love Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Though to be honest, July is my absolute favorite because it’s literally camping season. I get out my lantern and the s’more ingredients and “camp” in the comfort of my home office.

My original plan for Camp next month was to edit and revise book five, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. However, the neglected part of my brain has decided otherwise. My plan has changed to writing, by hand, with my fun-colored pens and a fun notebook, a Christmas novella in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. Instead of the light from the computer screen competing with my lantern or toting my laptop on vacation with me, I’ll be carrying my notebook and pens. Much lighter and without the lure of the Internet, oftentimes a writer’s time suck. At least this writer’s.

I’ve got my notebook selected, my pens ready to go (this is going to be a multi-colored project), my lantern is down from the shelf, and the s’more ingredients on my grocery list.

There’s nearly a month to go before Camp begins, but I’ll be prepared. In the meantime, I can plot and outline–by hand, of course.

What about you–do you prefer to write by hand, typewriter, or computer? Does it depend on the project?

I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.  ― James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack

 

 

Camping and Writing

It’s Sunday, April 1st, as I write this. I saw (or at least noticed) my first Robin today.

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Watched a squirrel busily building his home.

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And got all settled into my virtual cabin with my awesome cabin mates at Camp NaNo.

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It’s off to the races. Additional family plans have been added to my calendar at the last minute, and family always comes first, so my Camp NaNo goal has changed from 50,000 words to 40 hours.

If anyone is interested in Camp, it’s not too late to start. Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, you set your own goals for Camp which is in April and again in July. You can set words, hours, minutes, lines, or pages as your goal. It’s a perfect way to get that project out of your head and onto the page. If you want to try, go to Camp NaNo and sign up. If you decide April won’t work for you and you want to try July, let me know if you want to share a virtual cabin. When the time comes I’ll start a cabin and send you an invite.

And I’m off to camp! Hope to see you there.

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Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. Tumblr. Snapchat. Pinterest. Flickr.

These are only a handful of the dozens of social networking sites and apps. One study predicted  the number of those using these sites and apps is likely to cross the 2.6 billion mark by 2018.

And here we are. It’s 2018.

But is the facination with social media a good thing, a bad thing, or individual?

We are, by human nature, made to connect with others. People are relational. With so many options and opportunities to connect, we should be an enormous group of connected, people, right?

Yes. And no.

We have relationships that begin, flourish, falter, and end on social media sites.

The more social media we have, the more we think we’re connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other. JR

We as a society have become so busy multitasking and striving to use every free moment to be productive, that we have absolutely no free moments left.

We have no time to connect with family and friends in person anymore. And personally spending time with friends and family has been radically linked to better health and happiness.

Social media has its perks. It allows for keeping in touch with long-distance friends and family. However, a telephone call works here as well. And social media allows for quick connections in an age where we’re chronically short on time. And because of how busy we are, it allows for more frequent check-ins with our loved ones.

In-person perks include deeper, more meaningful relationships. The handshake, hug, and physical touch that social media doesn’t afford. Not to mention the health benefits of friendships. It saddens me when I’m in a restaurant/coffee shop and see people spending time together physically but each is connecting to someone else on their smart phones.

Do you feel more inspired after a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a friend or a quick social media check in? What about meeting a friend at the gym or connecting to work out via Skype. And is social media really more time-saving? I know I can spend an easy hour or two surfing Facebook feeds before I realize what happened. And I’m not a particularly fast texter, so calling someone often is much more time-saving. And yet, I default to whipping out my phone and shooting that text message.

For me, personally, social media is convenient, but I feel so much more fulfilled when I meet with someone face-to-face. Actually see the smile of a loved one rather than through an emoticon. Get that parting hug rather than the texted cyber hug ((((((Hug))))). Though I have to admit I often don’t take the time for it. It’s easier to take the quick route. However, it’s critical for me–and people in general–not to allow social media to fully replace face-to-face connections, because that would leave us relationally bankrupt.

Please share. What is your preferred connection style–social media or in-person? Or both? Do you love social media, hate it, or are you indifferent?

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My Least Favorite Four-Letter Word

Busy

B-U-S-Y.

It’s one of my least favorite four-letter words.

No matter where you look, people are busy. And the typical answer when asking someone you haven’t seen for a while how they’ve been, is “Busy.”

People are busy. Work is busy. Life is busy. Everything and everyone is busy. We’re busy at work and then busy when we get home as we try to get everything done before we fall into bed, exhausted, only to start it up all over again as soon as the alarm goes off. And when we’re not busy? We think something is wrong.

Too many people base their value on how busy they are. If they’re getting things done (aka: staying busy), it means they’re proving their worth.

I like to think back to when I was a kid. I woke up in the morning, got ready for school, ate breakfast, then caught the bus, riding an hour each way to and from school. While on the bus, I either talked with friends or read a book. I didn’t have a cell phone or computer. After school I made supper. When my parents got home from work we sat down at the table and ate together as a family. After dinner was dishes–by hand, homework, perhaps a little TV, then off to bed.

These days every moment of downtown is absorbed by iPhones, iPads, televisions, and computers. Texting, emailing, checking texts and emails every couple of minutes, YouTube videos, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and checking off the multiple items on one’s to-do list. And have you ever really paid attention to what’s on your to-do list? It’s typically things you have to do, not things you want to do. Trust me, if you enjoy something, you will remember to do it. Give your to-do list some white space so you have time to breathe. Only jot down what has to be done that day.

Don’t be so busy that you don’t enjoy life. Learn to say ‘no.’ Make a list of what’s really important to you and focus on doing more of those things. While I’m not suggesting shirking your responsibilities or letting your family fend for themselves every evening for dinner, what I am suggesting is to be mindful of what you’re keeping so busy with. If it’s not something that has to be done, consider cutting it from your list. Take a break from electronics and let your brain rejuvenate. Base your life’s worth on the quality of the relationships with the people who mean the most to you, not on how much you’re getting done.

Many people, at the end of their lives, have been known to have regrets about neglecting what or who is important to them. I’ve never heard of anyone having regrets about not being busy enough. Strive to be a human-being rather than a human-doing.

With text messaging and e-mails buzzing in our pockets, our constant availability for phone calls, and hot new apps and social media on our phones, we are more distracted, more unfocused and more enmeshed in sweating the small stuff than ever before. And this leads to many of us feeling like we’re sprinting every day but really not getting anywhere.
― Dean Graziosi, Millionaire Success Habits: The Gateway To Wealth & Prosperity

Be Still

 

Back to the Basics

I’ve decided to take a week-long “partial” leave of absence from electronics.

I received an email the other day that contained a series of pictures, each with a brief caption beneath it, that had a profound effect on me. Let me share some of them with you here:

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A day at the beach

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Out on an intimate date.

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A visit to the museum

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Enjoying the sights

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” -Albert Einstein

What affected me the most about this email is the truth that lay within. It’s a rare occasion that I don’t see several people talking on their phones or texting while driving. And there is no finger-pointing going on here, as I’m among the ones talking on the phone.

One of the weekend magazines in the paper I read this past Sunday had an article called “Massive Media,” and one of the sentences popped right off the printed page as I read it: Media went from a series of choices and a schedule of events to the air we breathe.

That same article also stated: With only 24 hours in a day, it isn’t possible to make a dent in everything that demands to be seen, listened to, read.

But how hard we try!

Some days, I’m so busy checking blog stats, Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds, emails (on two home accounts as well as my work account, and each email opened leads to further reading/link-clicking and mindless wandering), Internet surfing, checking for text messages, etc., that I miss the majority of the blessings in my day.

So what does a “partial” leave of absence look like?

For me it means taking a complete break from social media and engaging in social human interaction. It means being present with the people I’m with, rather than being unaware of their presence while I socialize elsewhere.

It means beginning my day with my good old-fashioned Bible rather than surfing for devotions online, which almost always ends up with me reading something completely unrelated.

It means keeping my cell phone on vibrate or silent so I’m not checking every beep I hear;  and checking for text messages once or twice a day is sufficient. In fact, rather than send a text, perhaps I will make the old-fashioned phone call to humanize the connection.

It means checking emails once per day, rather than every half hour which I have been known to do. No joke.

It means not checking my blog stats for an entire week, and get back to posting because I love to write and share; and connect with wonderful like-minded people.

It means no Internet surfing unless it’s research on my novel.

It means living with intention rather than mindless living.

I want to say that again, to get it into my own head if for no other reason: It means living with intention rather than mindless living.

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Here’s to writing a new page in my life’s story for seven 24-hour segments in a row. Perhaps it will be the start of something marvelous that will continue on.

And now it’s back off to Camp NaNo. 🙂

All is Grace.