Writing In the Summertime

Writingoutside

My outdoor writing space

It is hot here in Portland, mid to upper 90s all last week and more of the same this week, with temps predicted to reach into the 100s by the weekend.  We usually get some hot hot weather during the summer, but this is very early for a heat wave and it is lasting a long time.

My office is upstairs (I'm in process of moving it downstairs, but that project is taking forever) and that automatically makes it hot.  (We, like many Portlanders who live in older homes, don't have air conditioning.) But it also gets stuffy, the air stagnant, and because it is full of boxes (the afore mentioned moving project), its not a very inspiring space at the moment.

In self defense, I moved my computer and all my notes downstairs last weekend and then one early morning around 6 AM I got the idea to move my operation out back.  I set up on the outdoor table on the deck and listened to the birds sing and wrote my heart out.  I started out a few weeks ago setting my Iphone timer for 15 minutes and telling myself I was just going to write, simply as a way to get to the page.  But now, I think it is safe to say that these daily outside writing sessions are turning into my next novel–and that my daily writing practice has transformed my writing life.

Firtreeoutback

The tree above me

I now set up outside every morning and it has quickly become my favorite time of day.  It is peaceful and cool and quiet aside from the occasional dog barking and I am getting a lot of writing done every morning.  It is amazing to me what a change of venue can do for your writing.  Some people love to go work in coffee shops, but me? Not so much.  I'm far too distracted by people and noise and activity.  Besides, I do my best work early in the day, in my pajamas, and that doesn't work so well anywhere but home.

By 7:30 the sun hits my back and lights the screen and I can't see so well and I'm starting to flag anyway.  But the point of all this, besides encouraging you to look at where you write and how well it is working for you, is to share a few tips I've learned (relearned?) as I start writing a long project (i.e., a novel), again.  

1.  Call it Daily Writing Practice.   Some times the daily writings  are just random scenes, sometimes they actually turn into a scene for my WIP, and sometimes they become me obsessing about where I am in the WIP.  But gradually, the daily practices have turned into real, consistent work on my next novel, and the sessions have lengthened out considerably.  But at the beginning, I just called it daily practice and all I had to do was write something, anything for 15 minutes. Whether or not your writing sessions pertain to your WIP is up to you—but if it doesn't, that's okay.

2.  Keep a Writing Log. I've started a daily writing log, wherein I write about my feelings and thoughts on what I'm writing.   I wish I'd done this during the writing of my most recent novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery.  Now that it is finished, that novel exists in a sort of magical haze for me, and I've convinced myself that writing it went smoothly from the idea to the end.  But a few days ago, I opened, by chance, one of my daily writings from last summer–and read a whole long rant about how stuck and frustrated I was on the progress I was making.  Because, the thing is, when a novel is done, you forget the day to day grind that went into it.  Because the Bonne Chance was somewhat magical in origin, with the entire story essentially downloaded to me in the shower, it has been easy to forget the hard parts. Instead, I labor under the delusion that the writing of it was easy and sure in every letter and word.  While parts of it were, much of it wasn't.  And it is reassuring to remember that as I struggle to start anew.

For a look at how a major literary figure used a diary, check out this great Brain Pickings piece about the journals John Steinbeck kept while writing the Grapes of Wrath.

3.  Set Word Count Goals.  Once you get beyond the random daily writing practice (and its okay if you never do, truly), it is fun to set yourself some goals.  I was hitting 1K words a morning with ease, so today I notched it up to 1,500.  It helps to give me some kind of framework for what I'm doing.

4.  Give Yourself a Place to Go the Next Day.  If you are working on a long project, write a sentence or two about what happens next, so that you know where to start the next day.  If you are doing random writing, choose a prompt so that you don't go in search of one on the internet and get distracted.

 5.  Stay Organized.  For some dumb reason that I will probably regret, I like to save each days' writing in a separate file, labeled with the date.  I think I like to see the files pile up in the folder I've created for them.  What I will likely soon do is put all these pieces together into a file labeled "full manuscript."  But I am notoriously terrible at organization, so you can probably figure out your own system that works well for you.

Okay, that's it!  I hope you are making progress on your WIP or enjoying writing something.  Do you have any tips for sustaining a regular writing practice?

Do You Need to Recover Your Writing Equilibrium?

NEWS FLASH! Okay, when I started writing this I knew that good things were afoot–but now I can make the announcement: Erin Niumata of Folio Lit has agreed to represent me!  She will be repping my novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery, and future works as well.  I will write about the process (which has happened fast–like in a week) in a future post.  So now the following will make sense: Scale_gram_kilo_239552_l

I'm buzzing with excitement over new developments in my life, so much so that it is hard to come back down to earth.  But there are words to be written and work to be done.  What to do? How to move forward on the page after a big event has happened in your life?  Read on.

2015 has been a great year for me.  We're only one month in, and things are happening! And, I'm aware that not everyone is so fortunate.  I've had downer winters, believe me.  And if I had read about someone leaping about with happiness during one of those downer times, I probably would have wretched.  So forgive me if that is where you find yourself–my aim is to inspire, not depress.

But here's the thing–either great excitement or great discouragement often has the same result: you feel disconnected from your writing, unable to work.  And yeah, it feels way, way better when you're wandering around with your head in the clouds because good things are happening but it can be just as distracting.  (It is funny how often the good and the bad result in the same feeling inside. Excitement and nervousness, for instance–pretty much the same feeling in your stomach and chest. Remember that the next time you're really nervous about something.)

What you need to do is root yourself back in your life.  What do I mean by this?  Often when I'm reading a manuscript, I get the feeling that the characters are floating in the air.  They talk and move about but I have no idea where they are.  There's an easy fix for this–drop in a hint or two about the physical location to keep the reader grounded.  And so that's what I need to do–come down from the air where I'm floating and reconnect with my life!

Some suggestions (for me and you):

1.  Give into it.  I'm a great believer in celebrating–and wallowing.  Whether your news is good or bad, you likely don't feel like writing.  So, don't.  I know, shocking.  I never say that.  But in this case, trying to write while you are excited or devastated is fruitless.  You'll just stare at the computer screen.

2.  Get away from it.  This week, I've given up.  I'm not writing–instead, I'm working on cleaning my desk off and packing up my office to move it downstairs, a long-delayed project.  It is really, really hard for me to step away from the computer, but allowing myself time to do something else feels good.

3.  Do something for someone else.  At times like this we I tend to be totally focused on me, me, me.  After you have celebrated or wallowed, try focusing outward and see what happens.  Give a homeless person a Starbucks card, or offer to walk your neighbor's dog.  

4.  Indulge in some self care.  And now we get to the polar opposite of #3.  What can I say?  I like contradictions.  In truth, we think of self care as selfish, but it really isn't.  And if you are in a time of great or bad things happening, you're in a time of stress. I've been writing about self care this week, so I won't repeat myself here.  Besides, you know what you like.  (For me lately, its a massage.)

5.  Write your way back into it.  I know, I know.  The issue at hand is that you're too distracted to write. But you can, and maybe should, journal.  Pouring your heart out on the page can sometimes be the most helpful thing of all–and it just might lead you back to your beloved WIP.

Okay, that's all I've got.  What is your favorite way to come back to earth?  Leave a comment!

Image by Pontuse.

7 Practices to Create Your Best Writing Year Yet

Fotolia_74702492_XS (2)I write a lot about motivation here.  Yeah, ostensibly I write about writing, and I do, but when I look back over all the articles I've posted, many of them are about techniques for getting words on the page.

That's because I have a cement-firm belief, based on my own habits and years of teaching and coaching writers, that the hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair and keeping it there long enough to rack up a word count.  You can be the best, most elegant and clever stylist in the world, and if you can't get yourself into a regular writing practice, nobody is going to read those elegant words.

Last year I wrote a lot.  I finished a 90,000 word novel, wrote 25,000 words on another fiction project, and completed lord knows how many words total in blog and newsletter articles.  At the same time, I worked with writers one-on-one through coaching and teaching and in workshops.  So along the way I've figured out a few things about how to write regularly.  (Though these are subject to change–after all writing is a process, a vital, fluid process.)  So here are my recommendations for best practices to make 2015 your best writing year yet:

1.  Plan.  I mean this in two ways.  There's overall planning for you career.  What kinds of books do you want to write–memoir, romance, mystery, fantasy, YA?  What book will you commit to write this year?  And second, there's planning for individual scenes.  I've found that I get way more writing done when I know where I'm going.  You may be a pantser, and god bless you if you are, and swear to me that you can just write and see what happens, but I am more productive when I know what's up.

2.  Pre-write.  Often it is as important to write around your project as it is to write on it.   Write in your journal or do Morning Pages.  You may resist this, thinking why should you take your precious writing time to work on something other than your WIP?  Because you need to get all the distracting crap out of your brain, for one thing.  Jettison the carping voice of the inner critic in your journal and you'll be in a much better frame of mind for writing the real stuff.  And because you also will be amazed at the ideas and information that will flow through your fingertips, including tons of good stuff for your WIP.

3.  Schedule writing time.  As I've written a gazillion times, I love to get up and write first thing in the morning.  I write Morning Pages and then go right to my WIP. (Lately I've also been scheduling at least one two-hour block of time on an afternoon as well.)  My buddy J.D. is a night-time writer.  If he tried to rise at 5 as I do and write he'd be miserable.  And if I tried to write at night like he does, I'd be asleep at my desk.  So figure out what works for you and do it.

4.  Separate the writing process from the rewriting/editing/revising process.  They are two different stages of writing.  Period.  You'll make yourself crazy if you try to perfect every word as you go, and you'll lose sight of the bigger picture, too.  Later, after you've gotten all your words down into one gloriously messy first draft you can have fun honing and perfecting your scenes and words.  But only later.

5.  Write fast.  This is my single best tip for success, guys.  Once you know where you are going and are working in rough draft mode, let it rip.  Don't read over what you've written, don't stop, write as fast as you can.  I believe that we all know way more about our stories than our conscious minds let on–and if you write fast you're going to get all that good stuff from your unconscious out onto the page.  Writing fast is also how you will discover your voice.

6.  Find the joy.  It's supposed to be fun.  Lord knows, most writers don't make enough on their books to quit their day jobs, so enjoy it for goodness sakes.  It is easy to get into the grind of a writing practice and see only the daily word count.  But pause for a minute in the midst of writing and remember how cool it is that you are a writer.  Because it's the coolest thing in the world to be, bar none!

7.  Rewrite.  I know, duh.  But you'd be surprised how many rough drafts I've seen through the years–words on the page obviously written fast (a good thing–see #5) with no attempt to go back and straighten things out.  I do see writers getting stuck in the Rewriting Forever Syndrome, loathe to let their babies go out in the world, and that's not good either. But it is the rare piece of work that does not need at least one rewrite.

That's all I've got for you.  It really is about sitting down and putting words on the page–that simple and that difficult.

What are your best recommendations for a regular writing practice?  Please share!

Image from fotalia.

How to Establish a Regular Writing Practice

I love headlines and titles that promise me they are going to teach me something basic, like a few years ago when a book came out titled, How to Think.  Now that's basic.  So I was going to title this How to Practice but then I thought perhaps that was too vague, because one can practice a lot of things besides writing.  Like the ukelele, or meditation, or making perfect. Practice-makes-perfect-concept-23764447  

So here we go with some advice on how to establish a regular writing practice.

The impetus for this is an article by Antonya Nelson about her tips rules for writing that a friend sent. The rule I keep pondering is this one, #8:

Be tolerant of dry spells. Understand that being a writer is not illustrated solely by the act of typing. Mulling, reading, meditating, lollygagging, cooking, joking, traveling, watching television—all activity, as pursued by a writing sensibility, is potentially the stuff of writing.

I am the first to acknowledge that creativity comes in cycles, and sometimes you just have to wait it out until it comes back again.  But I also know, and have observed in myself and others, that "being tolerant of dry spells" too often turns into Not Writing.  Period.  And that those dry spells you are so happily tolerating can stretch for months and then years and then a lifetime and then there you are–you've become that person who put her unfinished novel in the drawer and there it sits for your children to find after you are dead.

So that's why I think that a regular writing practice is a good idea.  You don't have to be writing brilliant words on your potential bestseller of a novel regularly.  You can write in a journal, or just free-write on prompts, or scrawl a one-stanza poem every day, or nearly every day.  In my humble experience, writing, no matter what kind, leads to more writing.  And if you're a writer, as you and I are, you are not truly happy unless you are writing something.

So, write already.  Here's help for how:

1.  Follow your natural rhythms.  I'm a morning writer.  I love getting up at 5:30 and heading straight to the page.  By evening all I want to do is down sip a glass of wine and watch TV or read.  My brain is not alive enough for writing.  But you may be the opposite–I know plenty of people are. Go with what works best for you.  I know, simple advice, but I myself have spent years trying to twist myself into what others think best and I suspect you have, too.  Because that's what we humans do, crazily enough.

2.  Define what regular means.  Maybe regular to you is not once a day, but two or three times a week.  Or once a week.  Whatever.  My whole life and my coaching are built around encouraging people to discover what's best for them and then do more of it.  But here is where I step away from that platform and remind you that in defining regular, you need to commit to more than once a year. Or even once a month.  Because practice means "the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use." (I got that from consulting the Google.)

3.  Set a reasonable goal.  I know, I hate the G word, too.  I really do.  I start squirming in discomfort when I read books written by logical, left-brained business types about accountability and all that.  And sometimes I rebel against my own goals.  But I still think they are useful.  Set yourself a word count or page goal and have at it.

4.  Lower your standards.  You don't have to write the whole novel in one week, nor should you. Books get written one word at a time, so all you have to do is get yourself to the page and write a few of those words.  Julia Cameron talks about how three pages a day doesn't seem like much–but at the end of the month you've got 90 pages, which is one-third of a novel.  I read a book last summer (forgive me, the name of it has escaped into the ether) in which the author recommended a writing practice of a few hundred words a day.  That, my friends, is achievable by anyone.

5. If all else fails, give up.  Walk away from it.  Throw up your hands and say forget it.  Release your dream of being a writer.  Because here's what I think: you really do want to be a writer.  And writers write.  So if you give it all up and are able to stay away from it and not write, then you're not really a writer.  But if you really are a writer–and I'm certain you are–you will not be able to stay away.  And you'll figure out a way to make it a regular practice in your life.

What are you best strategies for making writing a regular practice?  Please share in the comments!

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #5

Here's the latest collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#32  She fell down on her knees and prayed.  "Oh God, please…."

#33  You have all the courage you need to do what you want.  Now that you know this, what will you do today?

#34  A person you love is dying.  From his deathbed, he beckons you to come closer.  ”I know where the treasure lies,” he says.  ”To get it, all you have to do is…”

#35  She flew through the air, reveling in the sense of freedom, but when she landed …

#36  "The horror! The horror!  Avert your eyes!"

But he couldn’t, the scene was just too compelling. 

Write what he saw and what happened.

#37  I attended the funeral of a dear friend yesterday.  Flash back eighteen months ago, to the day of her diagnosis.  You (or your main character) has just been given a year to life.  What do you do?  No, I mean really.  How do you live your last wild and beautiful days on this amazing planet?

#38  It rained.  Oh, how it rained.  And the rain was such a blessing that….

 I know you're going to write something wonderful and fascinating from one of these prompts.  Please come back and share when you do. 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #3

Here is my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my daily Tumblr blog.

#18 Sometimes she looked for the answer in wine and sometime she looked for it in food.  On bad nights, she searched for it in cigarettes.

#19 It’s Monday morning.  What’s the first thing your main character thinks of when she opens her eyes? What is the first thing she does after she gets up? Continue on, following her like this, throughout her entire ordinary day.

#20 Don't stop now.

#21 It was all over but the shouting.  But what happened next was even more incredible.

#22  It was a typical Thursday morning at the coffee shop, with groups of people chatting at some tables, and others working on computers.  A long line waited to order.  And then, the shouting began….

#23  I'm doing it because I want to, and not because you tell me to.  (In honor of my sister, who said this to our parents all the time when growing up.)

#24  The full moon rose over the glassy lake, casting night shadows that were a little spooky.

Enjoy!  And if any of them spark a piece you'd like to share, come back and comment!

Writing Tip: The Process Mindset

Years ago, I attended a creativity camp in Taos, New Mexico put on by Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way fame.  (Yes, it was as cool as it sounds.  To say something is life changing is a cliche, but in this case, it truly was.  Fromt that point on, I took myself seriously as a creative person. I also met friends with whom I'm still close.)  

Process

My Taos Creativity Camp pillow.

Every morning in camp, we listened to Julia talk and did exercises from the Artist's Way and her other books.  Then, after lunch, we were free to wander the grounds of the San Geronimo Lodge, wend our way into town, or engage in creative classes, like fabric painting, doll making, drumming and others I've forgotten.

Having always been a textile person, one day I chose to do the fabric painting.  The deal was we'd paint a pillow and at the end of the week it would be sewn and stuffed and ready for us to take home.  I was filled with excitement about what I was learning on the creative process and I painted my pillow with two phrases that had resonated with me at the camp: 

Do the work, don't judge it.

Process is everything, product happens.

I have beleived fervently in these ever since.  And I have instituted them in my life with varying degrees of success, sometimes totally into the concepts, others, not so much.

For whatever reason (the position of the planets? the stretching exercises I'm doing? the yogurt I'm eating for breakfast?) I am currently in a huge process mindset phase.

And let me just tell you, it is glorious. 

The process mindset is about putting words on the page.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Put words on the page and don't worry about how good they are, what they sound like, if you should add more here or subtract some there.  

And when you approach the work with this mindset, a funny thing happens.  You start to put your true self on the page and later, when you read back over the words, you realize that they are kinda good.  But it really doesn't even matter, because you know that soon enough you'll be in a revision mindset phase and then you can go over the words and make them really good.

The best way I know to get myself into a process mindset is to tell myself that, it's just writing practice. As I wrote in this post, writing practice is any writing that is not related to your WIP.  And that takes the pressure right off, and if your experience is anything like mine, away you will go, writing like crazy. What's really cool is that writing practice can function as either a warm-up–write 300-500 words and then switch over to your WIP, or it can segue right into the WIP, as happens with me more and more.

But the key is the process mindset.  If you're loose and easy and tell yourself all that matters is that you get words on the page, it makes all the difference in the world.

(I wrote specifics about how to do a daily writing practice in the above-mentioned post.)

Do you have a writing practice that helps you get words on the page?

How to Write More Than You Thought Possible

That title offers a pretty bold promise, huh?  But I really do believe that what I'm going to write about today will help you write more than you imagined possible.  What might this mystical thing that I'm going to write about be?     Gandhi

Are you ready?

Wait for it.

It is writing practice.  Also known as free writing.

We will define it, for the purposes of this post, as any writing that you do that is not strictly related to your WIP.  It is the writing that you allow yourself to write with abandon, that you likely do to a prompt, that you for sure do fast and without worrying about what words you are putting on the page.  It is, at heart, writing for no purpose.

I've been doing writing practice for the last week or so, inspired by a book I bought on a visit to one of my favorite bookstores.  The book is called Writing From the Senses, and it focuses on "using your senses as prompts."  I like the short chapters and the writing prompts at the end of each of them.  

But what I really like is the permission the author, Laura Deutsch, gave me to do my practice on the computer, and to keep it short, like 300 words.   I, like many of you I presume, have always done free writing by hand.  Don't get me wrong–I love writing by hand and find it very freeing.  But I also never took the time to transfer any of my handwritten free writes to the computer and lots of good stuff got buried in my spiral notebooks.

But Deutsch says it is perfectly fine to write on the computer.  And, yes, 300 words is plenty.  I find that these little short bursts on the computer act as warm ups that lead me directly to my current WIP and allow me to work on it with just as much abandon as I do the free writes. 

I find that this writing for no particular purpose other than to do it takes the pressure off, which allows the words to flow.  And once they are flowing, it is easier to get into the flow with your other work as well.  This, in turn, makes me eager to get to the page.

I am reminded of a quote I read long ago from Mahatma Gandhi.  (I don't have the exact quote and have searched and searched for it.  If you happen to know it, please send it to me.)  He said, in effect, that he had a busy day, so he better spend an extra half hour at his spinning wheel.  In other words, he's making the counter intuitive choice to take time to make time.  By taking longer at the spinning wheel, he knew he'd be much more centered and ready for the day.  

So, too, with your writing.  By taking time to do some writing practice, you'll be better able to make good progress on your current project, because you'll be centered and in the flow.

Some simple guidelines:

1. Start with a prompt, just because it gives you a way in.  I've got tons here on this site, or you can get books full of them, or you can consult the Google.  (For my newsletter subscribers, I also always include a new list of prompts each issue.)

2.  300 words is fine.  500 would be plenty.  

3.  You don't have to stay on topic.  Go wherever your hand takes you.  Let it rip, let it flow.

4.  Keep writing no matter what.  Its much better to get something, anything, on the page, than to stop and gaze off into space.

That's it!  Do me a favor and try doing writing practice and then move right into your WIP and see what happens.  

Do you have a favorite activity that encourages your writing?

 

What Makes You Stop Writing?

Stop_symbol_plate_238801_lThe other morning, I had a lot on my mind.  Tasks to finish, things to get organized before a trip, stuff to do.  I rose early, as I always do (my eyes pop open at 5:30 pretty much routinely), got my coffee and went to the computer.  I looked at email but didn't answer it because I was going to get right to my writing.

Except I didn't.

Something caught my eye on the internet and I clicked on it.  And from there I saw something else that interested me.  And on and on.

After a few minutes, I stopped and told myself I really should get to my writing.  But then there was that other fascinating headline….

And after a few more minutes, I realized my mistake that morning: I knew I was overwhelmed with to-dos in my brain, and even so I didn't have a clear plan for writing.

If I'd known what I wanted to work on (one of my good curses at the moment seems to be too many projects) I would have had a better chance of getting to it.  And, if I'd realized ahead of time that my brain was a bit overloaded, I might have thought things through a bit more.

All this made me start thinking about what stops me from writing.  Because once you know your enemy, you can figure out how to fight it.  My anti-writing enemies are:

1.  Overwhelm.  As above.

2. Tiredness.  When I'm worn out, my brain doesn't work well.  Sometimes I have the actual time to write, but not the mental energy.  Writing requires hard mental work.

3.  Other work.  As in, the necessity to make a living.  Oh yeah, that.  I'm lucky in that I love my other work–teaching and coaching and some ghostwriting.  But it is still not my own writing. (Though when I dream big dreams and envision my life devoted solely to my writing, with no teaching or coaching it makes me happy for about two seconds.  Then I realize I'd really miss it.)

4.  Laziness.  Sometimes, honestly, I just don't feel like writing.  I want to loll on the couch and watch TV or sit on the back deck with a glass of wine.

5.  Fear.  Of what?  Of everything.  That my work won't be good enough.  That it will be really good. That I won't be able to write it the way I want to.  That I'll go in so deep that I won't want to come back.  That people won't like my work.  That they will.  That….well, you get the picture.

6.  Distraction.  As in, mindless internet surfing.  (Do we still call it that? Sounds a bit archaic now.)I think we all battle this.  We've got so much information coming at us all day every day.  But I tend more towards distraction when any of the above listed elements are present.

Those are my top six that stop me from writing.   What are yours?

Photo by brokenarts.

Thursday Obsessions

OrchidMy granddaughter, the lovely Olivia, who at 14 months is learning to walk quite efficiently, is here today and so no deep thoughts on writing.  While she naps, I'm compiling this post of things I'm currently loving (with thanks to Beverly for the inspiration).

1.  Suddenly, I'm all about writing practice.  I'm working on a whole post about this for next week, but in the meantime I'm reading this and this and I just got this and haven't yet had a chance to dive into it. From what I've seen of all these books, all are highly recommended!

2.  This kid's book: A Walk in Paris.  When my grandson, Henry, stayed with us last winter, I fed him honey from my Air BandB lodgings the previous summer.  This led to a discussion about how someday I would take him there.  Which has led to him, every so often, stopping whatever he is doing and saying quite seriously, "Henry go Paris with Nonni." This book allows  me to show it to him.  (I'll be back in France this summer–and you could join me!  Click here for more details.)

3.  The fact that the University of Glasgow is actually calling for applications for a knitter-in-residence. My current knitting consists mostly of log cabin cotton washcloths, because they are easy to take along when traveling. And they are uber cool besides.

4.  My chiropractor.  And the fact that she has got me walking without pain for the first time in a couple of years.  

5.  Buzzfeed.  Whatever you do, do NOT subscribe to any of their email lists.  You'll never get any writing done.

6.  Resonate wine.  I'm in love with this deep, luscious red by Enso.  While they are a local urban winery with a cool tasting room, they also ship all over.

7.  The wonderful Sandra Pawula's Living With Ease home study course.  Highly recommended.  I took the live class in the winter and found it very helpful.  I also did an interview with her that you can read here.

8. Alegria shoes.  Fantastic walking footwear.  I found a pair of Mary Janes at Goodwill before I realized Alegrias were a thing, and I have a pair of sandals on the way.  Because, you know, one must look good when walking around Paris.  (Refer to #2.)

9.  My local library.  It's the second-most-used library system in the country and I'm sure that's because of me.  I love that I can put books on hold and then its like Christmas when they all come in. If I get a book I don't like, I don't have to feel guilty that I spent money on it.  (And all that being said, I am still a huge book buyer and believer that we need to support other authors.  You should see how many titles I have on my Kindle.)

10.  Mahi mahi.  I'd never eaten this fish before a couple of weeks ago when I had it at my sister's.  I've cooked it a gazillion times since then.  It's inexpensive and delicious.  Grill it with butter and garlic, that's all you need to do.  Oh–and serve with mango salsa.  Amazing.

11.  Orchids.  I'm a lousy gardener (the raised-bed vegetables on my driveway that don't seem to grow being exhibit A) but for some unknown reason, this spring I've been blessed with three orchid plants that have re-bloomed.  (See above photo.)  They are spectacular!  I just wish I knew what I've done to make them bloom again.

12.  The conference I will be attending next week.  Being around like-minded, positive people feeds my soul and that in turn powers my writing.

What are you obsessed about this week?  Writing?  Stories?  Beer? Cats?  Calculus? Water-skiing? Tell us in the comments.