Your Most Important Priority (A Love Letter)

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Last week amongst the flood of junk interesting emails in my inbox, I had two that stood out. Each one caught my attention separately, but since they were variations on a theme, their messages really caught my attention.

The first was from prolific author Chris Fox. His message? You don’t have priorities, you have one main priority. Or should. And, of course, he and I both think it should be writing. Because if you keep saying you want to write, but then you don’t do it, writing is not a priority.

Here’s more from Chris on the topic: “…you don’t have priorities. You have a single priority. The word was originally singular, but somewhere along the way we expanded it. And the problem with having more than one priority is that if eight things are important, nothing is. Establishing your priority is critical. If you make something a priority, then I guarantee you it will get done.”

Those words really resonated with me, because since August I’ve had a host of distractions from my writing. There was the month in France  in September (not complaining about that one), surgery in November (not complaining about it, either), and then, of course, Christmas. With all of that behind me, I’m ready to focus on new priorities. Oops, I mean a new priority, singular. Which is actually an old priority. Writing, of course.

Because I’ve had the experience over and over again that when I make writing my number one priority, everything else falls into place. There is magically time for the blog posts, the client work, the teaching, the creation of new products. When I’m writing regularly, there’s enough of everything—time, energy, and most of all, joy. When I’m not writing, all of those things feel in short supply.

Which is why the subject line of Skye Warren’s email caught my attention as well: “When You Want Something You Will Find a Way.” Um, yes. Turns out this part of a quote from Rachel Hollis: “When you want something you will find a way. When you don’t want something, you will find an excuse.”

Oh, ouch. Are you squirming uncomfortable like I am? Tough love (for all of us), babe. Years ago I read in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a story that illustrated this maxim. It went something to the effect that when a man is interested in a woman, he will find the time to contact her. Okay, that story sounds a bit dated in today’s current cultural climate, but those of us of a certain age know there is truth in it. It’s really very simple. If you really, really want something, you’ll make time for it. This goes for exercise, or cooking healthy meals, or spending time with loved ones, or, oh yeah, writing.

For me, thinking of my writing as my priority makes everything else fall into place. It illuminates what is most important to me, and from that all else follows. I hope making writing your priority will do the same for you.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

Somewhere, beyond the horizon they sailed.

Happenings

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.

The Importance of Your Writer’s Ethos (A Love Letter)

Let’s all be as enthusiastic about our writing as this dog is about his ball.

I have long held the belief that the practice of writing involves two tracks: the writer’s craft and the writer’s ethos, or mindset. And, honestly? In many ways, the ethos is more important.

Here’s a definition of ethos for you: the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution. (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

So, think about it. What are your distinguishing characteristics as a writer? Are you cranky and negative? Gloomy about the state of the publishing world? Glum about your odds of success as a writer? Do you shun the company of other writers, and knock their work? Do you work when the muse strikes you, and oh well if that is just once in a blue moon?

Or, are you dedicated to your craft, working every day or as close to it as possible? Cheerful (most of the time) about your writing, because you are aware of how lucky you are to be one who writes? Do you network with other writers, and do your best to support them as much as you can? Are you open to new ideas, to learning?

Be honest—maybe you are a little of each. Most of us are. But I submit that those writers who fall more into the latter category will find more success in the end. Yes, it is cool to be cynical and sophisticated, especially in our current social media climate, but give me enthusiastic and positive any day—even if that enthusiasm edges toward naivete.

Because the writer with the enthusiastic, positive ethos is the one who will get their butt in the chair every week. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who will keep going when she gets discouraged, knowing that every writer faces fear and resistance and rejection. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who keeps honing his craft. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who is willing to learn something new—marketing? Publishing? Master a new genre? Social media? The enthusiastic writer may not be the most talented, but she will keep at it when others with talent in droves give up.

The writer with the positive, enthusiastic ethos is in it for the long haul. And that is what this business takes. Sure, there are flashes in the pan, but they tend to burn out quickly and are never heard from again.

This kind of writer—I’m certain you are one of them—is the one who will ultimately snag that agent, finish that memoir, get that novel published. And that is why honing your writer’s ethos is as important as honing your craft.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Happenings

Virtual New Year Retreat—There’s still time to sign up! I’ll be co-hosting this two-hour retreat with the wonderful Patty Bechtold. It’s free, and you can find more about it here

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more. 

Plant Your Butt in The Chair, Already (A Love Letter)

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

(Warning—this has turned into a loooong letter. But I hope it has some helpful tidbits in it.)

It’s 2019 and this is your year! You’re going to write that novel, finish that memoir. You start out with the best of intentions, fresh-faced and eager. You’re ready to go! But then things start popping up to derail you. I’m not going to bore us all with a list of what they might be—because you know damn good and well what they are.

But even though you know exactly what they are, you still let them stop you from getting to the page. From planting your butt in the chair and writing.

Because that is really all it takes. Somebody asked me on Twitter how I dealt with writer’s block. My answer was that I wrote. I don’t think he liked my answer because I never heard back from him. But that is the simple, universal truth of it: in order to be a writer, you must write.

So why do we make it so hard? As we start this bright, shiny new year, how do we truly, once and for all, make this the year that we do finish that novel or memoir or short story or essay collection? You’ve probably read the same five million articles on getting things done in the new year that I have. They are mostly all variations on the same theme—because ultimately the way to get anything done is to do it. The way to get the writing done is to write.

And yet I constantly talk with people who are having a hard time doing that. (And, um, that never, ever happens to me, of course. Hahahahaha.) But I do have some expertise in this area, based on long, hard personal experience, much study of productivity, and years of teaching and coaching writers. So if I were coaching you (and I kinda am, through this love letter) here are some things we might explore:

–Is it lack of time or lack of energy that’s stopping you? Let’s face it, lots of us have the time. We come home from work and plop down in front of the TV after dinner. Not judging, I do it, too—because my brain is often fried and I don’t have the mental energy to do anything else. Not one more thing. But, theoretically, I could write during that time, if I felt like it. So quit telling yourself you don’t have time. You do. Try tracking your energy levels and fit in your writing sessions accordingly. Because I’m brain dead in the evening, I like to get my writing done first thing in the morning. You may be the opposite. Figure out what works for you!

–Are you telling yourself that it is your non-supportive family that is holding you back? It’s a bitch when the people around you don’t support your goals, no doubt about it. And that gives you a whole other layer to wade through before your get to your own personal stuff. But only you can let them hold you back. Worried the kids won’t have lunches or your husband will miss his bus because you’re writing instead of dealing with them? If they go hungry or miss their ride once or twice, they’ll figure out how to do it themselves. Okay, so maybe that sounds a bit harsh. Sorry. But there is huge truth in it.

–Always know where you are going next. This is when I get writer’s block resistance: when I have no idea what I should write next. I’m stuck trying to figure out the next scene. Or I don’t know some aspect of character. Something is puzzling me. Antidotes: Hemingway famously ended writing sessions mid-sentence, so he’d always have a place to go. You could try that. Or make a note to yourself of what comes next before you end your writing session for the day. Use free-writing (see below) to delve into your subconscious and get your thoughts moving again. Try—gasp—outlining, even a loose list. Momentum is the most wonderful feeling for a writing project, and it will occur when you know where you are going.

And here are a couple of assignments I might give you for those times you are experiencing resistance to your writing. (I think I am going to banish the phrase writer’s block for 2019.)

–Pick a prompt, set a timer and write for 15 minutes. Keep your hand moving across the page. This is key. I once taught a workshop in which we did this and looked around the room and half the people were staring off into space, pondering deep words to put on the page. Don’t let this be you. It is not the point. The point is to break through the resistance that is always at the ready and let the words out. Also, don’t roll your eyes at this advice, it has been known to set many a writer back on the writing path. You can use it in a million different ways—as a warm-up, as the way you get your novel written (spurts!), as a way to figure out where to go next (see above). Trust me, it really works—if you just freaking do it.

–Mind map. This alternative way of outlining is like a mainline to your subconscious as well. Put the topic in the middle of the page and start writing what occurs to you around it, connecting the words with lines. Use the whole page. It’s really helpful to do this, then do a free-writing session. Watch out! You’ll be spewing words on the page with this technique.

My New Year’s wish for you is that you will write all the words you possibly can and by the end of 2019 you’ll be thrilled with your output. It’s my wish for me as well! May we all achieve it, easily, happily, and gracefully.

 

Leave a comment and tell me your best strategy for getting butt in chair and words on the page!

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

List all the reasons you can’t write today. Now list all the reasons you can—and must. Now go make a list of starters for whatever project it is you want to write. Set the timer and write on it for 15 minutes.

Happenings

Virtual New Year Retreat—There’s still time to sign up! I’ll be co-hosting this two-hour retreat with the wonderful Patty Bechtold. It’s free, and you can find more about it here

France 2019—As I write this, it is gloomy and gray outside my window. Easy to dream about the warmth of southern France. Wouldn’t you like to study writing there with me? You can! Find all the details here. 

Coaching—Speaking of coaching, and I was, in the letter, I’m taking on a few new clients in January. I’ve already committed to several people, and don’t have a lot of room for more, so if you are interested, send me a email and we will talk.

Facebook Group–And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going. 

On Refilling the Well in the New Year (A Love Letter)

One of the best things you can do for yourself if refill your writing well. (I am rebelling against using the term self-care, because itis overworked to the point of meaninglessness.) There are many ways to refill the well, and only you can decide what works best for you.  Some suggestions:

–Reading

–Walking

–Gardening (at least come spring)

–Knitting (pour moi, a biggie)

–Yoga

–Meditating

–Driving

–Cooking or baking

In pondering the past year, one of the themes that came up for me over and over again was connection. It is one of the chief ways I refill my well . Through connecting with family, and connecting with friends. And connecting with other writers.

I co-lead a bi-weekly writing workshop here in Portland, andI teach one-day workshops throughout the year. Then there are the two week-long workshops in France every September. And this year, a week in Astoria. I coach writers one-on-one. Many of the writers I teach are also close personal friends.  Friend and student alike, they help me refill my well.

Another way I refill it is through connecting with friends I’ve met through business networking and online.  One of these friends lives in Portland and I get to see her in person regularly. One lives in the Seattle area but is in the process of moving to Montpelier, France—so I will get to see her on my annual jaunts over there.

And one of these friends is my dear Patty Bechtold, a gentle and wise therapist from Santa Rosa, California.

I mention her not only because she is so important to me, but because she and I are doing a virtual retreat together to start out 2019.  In some of our phone conversations (we’ve never actually met in person), we’ve talked about how tired we are of the race to keep up, to do more, to have the most successful business around.In one of the podcasts we did together last year, we did some expressive writing together and one of the phrases that came out was “the glow of the gentler lifestyle.” This was on the eve of my month-long writing sabbatical in France last March, where a gentler lifestyle is very much possible.  But that phrase keeps coming back up in our conversations. And so finally we decided to do something about it.

Which is taking the form of a free two-hour virtual retreat to welcome in 2019 in a gentler manner.

Read some of Patty’s wise words about it:

What if the start of this new year could be different?

  • No need to sort out the past year
  • No resolutions to make
  • No goals to set

Instead,just a simple, gentle process to unearth your own unique rhythms and bring you home to yourself.

Perhaps you’ve grown a bit weary of predetermined plans.

Or the constant pressure to know where you’re going.

And, even if you do find end-of-year/beginning-of-year planning helpful, maybe there’s something more that you’re longing for.

Something more to center you as you cross the threshold from one year to the next.

And that something is exactly what we are going to be doing—hosting a retreat to center and anchor you as we enter this new year. On January 17th at 5 PM Pacific, we will share reflective writing exercises, some thoughtful prose and poetry, maybe a meditation or two. You can find all the details and sign up here, and best of all, it is FREE!  A recording will be sent out afterwards if you can’t attend live.

I hope you will join us. But even if you don’t, I hope you will take a few minutes to ponder what refills your well—and then go do it. Writing takes a lot of mental energy and you don’t want to deplete it.I’m convinced that mental fatigue is the cause of what many consider to be writer’s block.

And, when next we talk, it will be 2019. So Happy New Year!

Happenings

France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. I’ve already committed to several people, and don’t have a lot of room for more, so if you are interested, reply to this email and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook  group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.   

A Love Letter About, Well, Love Letters

It’s two days before Christmas, and whether you celebrate or not, odds are good you are caught up in a swirl of festivities. So, I will keep this missive simple.

I’ve been thinking about writing letters.

Recently, after my surgery, I wrote thank you notes to people who had sent me flowers or care packages, and I wrote one note to a dear friend who had a devastating diagnosis.  Nearly every person I wrote to expressed their delight at receiving a hand-written note. And I vowed to write more of them in 2019. Because for as much delight as they had in getting the note, I received more in writing it. That sounds schmaltzy, but it’s true. I was so touched at the love and support I got that I truly wanted to return it.

I also took part in Amnesty International’s Write to Right campaign, in which I wrote letters in support of unjustly detained or people otherwise in urgent need of help. (You can read more about it here.) And even though my hand was sore after all that writing, it gave me all the feels that I was helping someone in a far distant land. Those letters were love letters, too.

And then, by happenstance, I learned about a site called More Love Letters.  You can sign up to write letters to people who have requested them. Love letters. What could be better, right? Of course I am signing up to write letters in the new year!

Such thinking about letters brings to mind this letter that I write every week. So, let me tell you what I think this blog is really all about. It’s about love—love of writing, love of creativity, love of life. That’s why I call them love letters.  I feel all the feels when I write to you guys, too, even this blog comes to you electronically and not hand-written.

All of this reminds me of one simple fact: words have power. We can and must wield them wisely, with love, be it in a letter, a Christmas card, an article, blog post or novel. Words of love. Love letters, all.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

I am writing this love letter because….

Happenings

A very cool teleseminar! Called, Writing Into the New Year. I’m going to be sending out full information on this to all of you soon but on January 17, my dear friend Patty Bechtold  and I are doing a special expressive writing workshop.  It is called Writing Into the New Year, and it is FREE! Sign up here. 

France 2019—It is not too late to ask for a trip to France to study writing for a Christmas present. Right? We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. I’ve already committed to several people, and don’t have a lot of room for more, so if you are interested, reply to this email and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.   

On Constant Companions and Distraction (Tis the Season)

When I was younger, I smoked. It’s been twenty years now since I quit, but I still remember how much I loved smoking. (For years, I swore that once I hit my eighties I was going to take up smoking again, because at that age, who cares, right? But I no longer have any desire for it.) In response to a writing prompt recently, I wrote about how smoking had been my constant companion. The hardest thing about quitting was missing my best friend, cigarettes. They were with me always, through good times and bad, ready to soothe me whenever needed.

But when I thought about it more, I realized that my true lifelong companion has been writing. I’ve been scribbling in diaries and journals, writing poetry (that’s gone by the wayside) and reports and stories and articles and novels and blog posts and newsletters, some form of writing, all my life. Literally, since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand. And writing has been far more of a soothing comfort and BFF than smoking could ever have been. I’m grateful for it, so grateful.

Even constant companions get boring sometimes, though, and then it is easy to stray from them. Especially at this time of year, during the winter holidays, when everyone is shopping, wrapping presents, hanging out with family and friends, and so on. There’s a lot to get distracted by.  What’s a writer to do? I just happen to have some suggestions, based on hard experience.

Remember the value. Your constant companion, be it writing or drawing or painting or knitting or lawn mowing, is important. (Okay, let’s not lump smoking into this one.) Remember, not everyone has one.  This sounds dorky, but I feel like it is an honor to have one. I always have a place to go, no matter what. I have a place to go to bitch and moan, to celebrate, to laugh, to fall apart. Come to think of it my writing companion fills many of the same roles as a human companion without any of the other issues. (I will admit, I am a dedicated extrovert, so people are quite important to me as well.) And because I value it so highly, I will treat it with respect. At least most of the time.

Kaizen it. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that advocates small improvements, baby steps at a time. So often we think we have to do all the things, all at once, when, really, we can accomplish a lot a little at a time. Like writing, for instance. Because writing is accomplished one word at a time. The trick is to honor and congratulate yourself for every teeny, tiny step you take. It will add up!

Go back to it. The cool thing about constant companions is that they are always there for you. At least constant companions of the writing sort are. Stay away from your journal for a month and it makes no judgement about you when you return. It is just there, waiting for you, ready to take up where you left off. You don’t have to explain, or apologize, or get defensive about your absence (unlikely with a human). All you have to do it pick up your pen and start again, one word at a time.

Just relax and go with the distractions. Ha! I am so terrible at this. I planned a lovely four weeks of lazing about the house after my recent hip surgery, and that lasted about four days. I can barely get myself to take a nap, or enjoy an afternoon off. I’d rather torture myself by sitting at the computer staring at a blank page than giving up and doing something else. But maybe you are better at this than me? If so, I hereby give you permission to go for it. Allow the distractions to sweep you away, and most important, enjoy it while they do. Because, tis the season, the best time of the year, so you might as well have some fun.

So, in this festive season, I hope you have a constant companion that pleases you. And I also hope that if you are neglecting it amidst the current hustle and bustle, that you are not feeling guilty about it.  Because if it is a true constant companion, all the distractions in the world will ultimately not keep you from it.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

The most constant companion I’ve had in my life is….

Happenings

 A very cool teleseminar! It is called Writing Into the New Year. I’m going to be sending out full information on this to all of you this week (if you’re not on my list, click the button to the right to join), but on January 17, my dear friend Patty Bechtold  and I are doing a special expressive writing workshop.  It is called Writing Into the New Year, and it is FREE! Sign up here. 

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, email me and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

 

On Planning and Setting Goals (Or Not), A Love Letter

I’m such a sucker for reviewing and planning at this time of year. I’ve tried a million systems, some expensive, some not, some helpful, some way too detailed and structured to work for me. I’ve bought programs from Michael Hyatt, and calendars from Leonie Dawson.  Often I buy expensive planners that promise to make me more productive and focused. By February, they are abandoned.

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

I tend to make elaborate plans, complete with ambitious, unattainable goals. Mid-year I look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking. I don’t want to do that this year, and yet I do love the process of planning (probably too much) and I don’t want to skip it. And so this year I am doing my my best to keep the process loose and open.

And still, I am a sucker for any post or article about end-of-the-year reviewing and planning.  This year, I’ve found some good ones, and luckily for me, they are pretty simple. You might be interested in:

The Max Daniels planner, which is a short PDF, and for $10 a great starting point.

I loved this post from Cynthia Morris, also very short and simple.  (I highly recommend getting on her list to be notified of when her next Devoted Writer program comes around).

Jeffrey Davis, who is running a month-long program on planning that it is not too late to join.

Michele PW has a good blog post on goal setting in a different way.

Taking a little bit of this, a little of that, and much inspiration from the above resources, here’s the plan I’m following (loosely, as always). And I’m still in the middle of it, so the jury is out as to how well it will work. Come next July I’ll know for sure!

–I’m using plain sheets of computer paper, though usually I prefer to work in a journal or spiral. But for this I felt I needed to see a bigger picture.

–I turned the paper sideways and drew a line down the middle, then labeled each half a specific month. With the help of my 2018 calendar and the photos on my phone, I was able to note what happened in each month. This is the first time I’ve done it this way and it was really helpful.

–Here is a wonderfully helpful tip from Cynthia Morris: review your year in terms of your values.  How did what you did align with what you hold most dear in your life? I loved this idea and it became key for me in mulling over my year.

–On a fresh piece of paper, brainstorm all the things you want for 2019. Note your writing-related goals. What projects do you want to finish? To start? Which ones need to go out into the world? Are you going to indie publish or look for an agent? Maybe you want to try something new, like writing memoir or essays rather than fiction or short stories. Write it all down.

Then there’s the personal, of course. The usual—lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, meditate, fun stuff, travel, hobbies, etc. This is an initial brain dump, off the top of your head. You can organize it later.

This may take more than one sheet of paper, and if you are so inclined you might also want to do it mind map style.  (Write 2019 in the middle of the page and draw lines out from it for each area of goals.)  As you do this, consider your values. Is what you’re writing on the page in line with what is most precious to you?

–Take a break. Go eat chocolate. Or drink wine. Or a nice hot cup of tea.

–Look at your brain dump. What are the things you really, really, really want to spend time doing? To quote Marie Kondo, what sparks your joy? Cross off everything else. (This is the hard part for me, and I’ll be honest, I’m not good at it. I want to do all the things.)

–Then create the same matrix of months as for 2018, only label them for 2019.  Write down all the things that are already scheduled, and then add in the things you want to make happen.

–From here, you can transfer these intentions/goals/desires to whatever you like best to work in—a bullet journal, a regular old-fashioned journal, your phone, a Word doc, one of the many gorgeous planners that are available. I’m partial to the Erin Condren planners, but at the moment I’m using my phone and a minimalistic bullet journal (no fancy hand-drawn spreads for me) to organize my life, time, and goals.

Et voila, there you have it—your year, planned, without too much muss and fuss.

Leave a comment and tell me how you like to review and plan at this time of year. Does this “system” appeal to you, or do you follow something else?

News Flash!—We’ve had a cancellation for the February Astoria Workshop. It filled up quickly, but one person had to back out for personal reasons. So there’s an open spot! Is it yours? Check out all the information about it here ,    and if you’re interested, reply to this newsletter.

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, reply to this email and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

This newsletter contains affiliate links.

 

On Beginning Again, A Love Letter (+ November Round-up

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

I’m two weeks out from my hip replacement surgery, and, as noted last week, I’m doing well. I jokingly tell people I’m a little disappointed—I thought I was going to have at least a month to laze about, reading and recovering. And now I feel like doing all the things!

Including writing.

Sort of.

Because, funny thing, the desire is there but I haven’t actually had a lot of luck getting words on the page. I write in my journal every morning.  I managed to write a post on Medium (see below), and I’ve now put together two newsletters. But every day in my journal I write about how eager I am to get back to my fiction. How today might be the day.

And then it isn’t.

While I am frustrated with myself, this gap between desire and action isn’t fully a bad thing, because it puts me right back into how it feels to be a beginner. When I was a young woman, I wanted to write stories so badly. And yet I had no idea how to do it. I’d open a page in my journal and feel blank. I didn’t know how to get started. I didn’t know what to write about.

Eventually I fell back on my education in journalism and started free-lancing articles. But I still wanted to write stories. Fiction.  It took me a long time to find the confidence to do it. And if I had known then, what I know now, it might not have taken so long.

Because now I know the secret: the only way out is through. The way to solve the problem of not writing is to write. Something, anything. Set a timer for 15 minutes, put pen to paper and write without stopping. (I mean it. Don’t stop.) Make yourself do it. (I’m telling myself this, too.)

The relief and joy you feel will far outweigh the earlier pain of procrastination. And then all you have to do is start over again. And again. And again. That’s how all books, essays, stories, blog posts, anything, are written.

A Prompt

Here is your prompt of the week:

Oh no, we have to start over again?

 Links

 I wrote a blog post about how surgery is like long distance travel on Medium. Read it here.

November Round-Up

Reading

Winter in Paradise, by Elin Hilderbrand.  A good read, but be aware—there’s a cliffhanger at the end that leaves you hanging until the next book, which isn’t out yet.

 

10% Happier, by Dan Harris. The benefits of meditation, mixed in with entertaining stories about the broadcast news business.

 

Sisters First, by Jenna and Barbara Bush. I never in a million years would have read this book. But my sister went to hear Jenna Bush speak as part of a lecture series she patronizes and brought me the book. I actually enjoyed it, and it made me respect the Bushes a whole lot more.

 

The Christmas Camp, by Karen Schaler.  Predictable and corny, but it was fun. And I was still in a bit of a haze from the anesthetic. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Solace Island, by Meg Tilly. Yes, that Meg Tilly—the actress. I really enjoyed this romantic suspense novel, set in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Oh boy, this one is a bit of a slog. I love Kingsolver’s writing style—her style is a joy to read. But every scene in this book turns into a polemic about a current or historical political or social problem. It gets a bit tedious.

Watching

All the Hallmark Christmas movies. Honestly, they are pretty much interchangeable and so are the actors and actresses and the names of the films, (hence why I’m not listing any). But I don’t care, I love them in all their tackiness anyway.

And Don’t Forget

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

This post contains affiliate links.

Coming Out the Other Side + Holiday Special (A Love Letter)

Years ago I read a science fiction novel, the name and author of which is long lost in the mists of time and my brain. A female scientist (I think), living on another planet (of course), was studying an alien life form that appeared in the form of lights in a lake. The lights blinked on and off, saying I am here. I am alive. I am here.

I’m like one of those alien light forms. I am here! I am alive! I am here!

I made it through surgery with flying colors.  I woke in the recovery room, looked at the nurse, and said, “That’s it? It’s all done?” I was so amazed to remember nothing after being wheeled into the operating room—and then wake up two hours later, with nothing but blankness in between.

That was a week and a half ago and I’m doing great.  I’ve got very little pain, less than what I had before the surgery, to be honest. I’ve ditched my walker and am getting around easily with just a cane. (My advice to anybody getting hip replacement surgery: find a doc who does the direct superior approach. It is far less invasive and offers a much quicker recovery.) I’m working hard at physical therapy, doing my at-home exercises, and trying very hard not to do too much too fast.

And I am grateful. So, so grateful. It is such a gift to be given a second chance—an opportunity to live without pain. It’s a cliché bordering on the ludicrous to establish a gratitude practice, but the last few nights I’ve found myself spontaneously listing what and who I’m grateful for as I fall asleep.  My surgeon, all the nurses who cared for me, family, friends, and of course—you.

You who read my weekly missives, join the Facebook group, and read my blog posts. And so, in the spirit of this past weekend’s Black Friday/Small Business Saturday and the upcoming Cyber Monday, I am offering my own mine-sale.

Here’s the deal: two options, listed below. Please be aware that I won’t be booking any appointments until mid-December at the earliest. But you can grab the discount prices now and use the sessions any time over the next year. Prices good through Wednesday, November 28th at midnight Pacific time.

Also, please be aware that my rates will be going up in 2019.  I’ve had coaches yelling at me for years to raise them and it is time. So take advantage of one of these deals while you can!

You can pay direct by using the buttons below. Thank you!

 One Hour Coaching Session, during which we can talk about your work (you can send me up to 10 pages), brainstorm plot ideas, or talk about how to get your writing practice back on track.  $100.

 

Three Months Coaching at a killer price.   12 sessions of coaching, consisting of me reading 10-15 pages and a 30 minute phone or Skype conversation. $1,200. (You will NEVER get this low  price again.)



 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

(No photos today because for some reason the media library is not accessible.)

 

On Taking Time Off (A Love Letter)

One of my favorite images on Instagram is one that reads, being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. Because, it is, isn’t it? This is not necessarily a bad thing. I was always the nerd kid that loved homework and writing reports. But it can be a tiring thing. Because from the moment I wake up, I’m thinking, when am I going to write? I should be writing. Why aren’t I writing?

Photo by Aleksandar Cvetanovic on Unsplash

Most of the time, taking time off from writing is not an option, because it is such a compulsion. And those feelings tend to extend to all the related things I do as well. Since I’m always trying to find more time to write, I’m usually playing catch up with client work, writing blog posts and newsletters, into the weekend.

But all that is about to change.

I’m having surgery in three days and I am bound and determined to take time off.  For real time off. I’ll write in my journal or on my novel if I feel so compelled, and I have a couple long manuscripts to read, but beyond that, I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to relax and heal and read and do some drawing, knit and watch a whole lot of TV. (For starters, I plan to watch Outlander from the beginning.)

I’m not going to worry about blog posts or social media or anything along those lines—unless I want to. Which may or may not happen. I will most likely return to writing newsletters post haste, but don’t expect anything from me next Sunday. That will be four days post-surgery, so nope, nada. (Yes, I could easily set a newsletter up, as I did when I was in France, but for some reason that doesn’t feel right. If I’m taking time off, I need to really take time off.)

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

It will be interesting to see how this works out for me. I’m not good at taking time off, so we will see how long my grand plans last! But I truly do want to use this time to ponder and be open to new ideas, to think about where I want to put my precious time and energy from here on out.

I’ll end with a quote I just found in my journal: writing is my companion and I have a hard time letting it go. So at the very least, I will likely be journaling throughout these days to come! But we shall see.