Ah yes, the holidays (A love letter)

If you read this on the day I’m publishing it, which is doubtful, seeing as how it is Christmas Eve and you likely have a million other things to do, you may be any of many things:

–Snug in the comfort of a family holiday, feeling happy and joyous, or barely surviving the holidays with your family, convinced once again that you were switched at birth.

–Feeling all the feels, or feeling about as blue as a person can be.

–Happy and excited about what the fast-approaching new year will bring, or dreading it.

–Thrilled with what you’ve accomplished in 2017 or frustrated with yourself once again.

–In love with the hoopla of the season or just wanting it all to be over.

Maybe you feel a little bit of all these things—I know I do. But mostly I am feeling the feels of the season and loving it.  There are things I didn’t accomplish this year that rile me, and the year itself was awful interesting, but Christmas is a time when we get to pause, at least for a day or two, and forget all that.

So whether you love this time of year or despise it, I recommend that you allow it to take you wherever you want to go.  Enjoy the season in the arms of your family or curl up alone at home and binge-watch your favorite show.  Celebrate or grumble. Whatever your choice, I hope that writing will be a part of it. Because I know for me, that whatever is happening in my life, good or bad, writing makes it all worth it.

So my wish for you is for a very merry Christmas, if you celebrate, and peace and joy if you don’t.  Well, how about merriment, peace and joy for all of us?

Best wishes of the season!

Write On, With Confidence and Hope, Even Through Christmas*

My color-changing tree in full color.
My color-changing tree in full color.

Yes, I know.  It is the holiday season, and whatever holiday (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, a pagan solstice celebration, your own made up day) you celebrate, odds are good that things are a bit, shall we say, busier than usual.

And, if you are anything like me (I presume you are, because we writers do tend to have certain traits in common) when things get busy, what’s the first activity to go? Yep, writing.  This is clearly ridiculous because writing is the most important thing in the world to me (besides my family, of course).   So why do I let my writing practice lapse at the first sign of being busy? Let me count the reasons:

  • Because writing takes concentration, and when I’m busy I don’t have enough bandwidth in my brain to work on my project.
  • Because in the crush of Christmas activities, writing easily becomes the least urgent item on the to-do list, so it doesn’t get done.
  • Because going out to Christmas parties and staying up late wrapping presents throws me off schedule and it is hard to get up as early as I usually do.
  • Because people visit from out of town and expect me to be at their beck and call, and really? I want to be. I want to spend time with them.
  • Because I ate too much sugar/drank too much wine/insert favorite Christmas vice here and now I don’t feel so good. Surely you don’t expect me to write?

You probably have a few choice arguments of your own to add to the list.   But I’m here to tell you why you don’t want to pay any attention to those arguments and carry on with your writing throughout this season, and how you can accomplish this.  First the whys:

  • Because for me, this is one of the most creative times of the year. The dark days of December engender all kinds of new thoughts and plans and ideas. If I didn’t spend time writing, I’d lose all those.
  • Because when I’m Not Writing, I’m an anxious, miserable mess. I feel like there is something missing.  I feel weird and out of sorts.  Now, listen, the holiday season messes with our emotions enough—do you really want to add an additional layer of anxiety onto it?
  • Because I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when I start writing again. I want to maintain the momentum I’ve created by writing every day or nearly every day.
  • Because it will make me feel better.
  • Because it gives me an outlet. When Great-Aunt Matilda tells me my hair looks awful for the tenth time, I can put my anger on the page and let it simmer there instead of inside me.

 Yeah right.  This is all well and good, but how in the universe am I supposed to accomplish keeping up with my writing.  Funny you should ask.  I have a few suggestions.

  •  Lower your standards. Of course, your writing is brilliant and you must labor over every word to make it so.  But cut yourself some slack this time of year.  Allow yourself to write crap.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Do just a tiny bit. So you usually are a writing machine and you devote mountains of time to it every day.  This season, write a pebble’s worth.  As in, make yourself sit down for five minutes and be satisfied when you are done. Because…
  • You need a placeholder. By lowering your standards and lessening the amount of time you require yourself to spend, your keeping your hand in. You are maintaining the momentum and upholding your intention to write regularly.  This will serve you very well when Uncle Ralph leaves and your schedule returns to normal.
  • And also bear in mind… One of the things I love most about my Christmas tree this year its color-changing lights. When the push of a button the lights switch from colored to white.  This appeals to my fickle nature.  And you can make the concept work for your writing, too. How? By switching the lights.  Try writing in your journal every day during these busy times instead of writing a scene.  Write to a prompt, or write a memory
    My color-changing tree with white lights.
    My color-changing tree with white lights.

    from your childhood.  Let the writing be different and fun for a few weeks and see what comes out.

And please, if you have any of your own tricks and techniques for maintaining your writing, share it in a comment


*My knitting readers will realize that this quote sounds familiar, and it is—I based it on the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman  quote, “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”

**By the way, in my last newsletter I offered Complaint Free bracelets to the first 10 people to ask.  I still have a couple left.  If you want one, hit reply and send me your address!

Thanksgiving: No Whining on the Yacht

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a day to eat too much turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, and show our gratitude for, well, everything.  And because of that, I highly doubt that many of you are reading blog posts or newsletters today.  So I'm going to keep things simple today, with a reminder that nearly all of us can appreciate: Tatoosh_paul_allen_794745_h

No Whining on the Yacht.

I get that there are many people suffering all around the planet.  I am deeply, truly sorry for their pain and wish I could wave a magic wand and have it all go away.  However, for most of us–likely you who are reading at this very moment–things are pretty good, at least comparatively speaking.  We are passengers on a yacht and rather than appreciate it, we complain.

Things are good are for me, too.  Yes, I would love to lose a few pounds.  And gain a few dollars. And I wish to God my house were more organized.  But, honestly?  Beyond that I am rich in blessings.  I have great health, a satisfying career, a wonderful family and a passel of amazing friends.  I have a warm house with a fire we light on cold nights, and a big backyard with a deck we enjoy on warm nights.  I have hobbies I enjoy.  Two fat cats and two adorable grandchildren. 

I get to rise every morning and write, which besides the afore-mentioned grandchildren, is my biggest blessing in the world.  I am rich in blessings. I am dripping in them. I am immersed in them.

And sometimes I forget that.  I think we all do.  Instead, I like to bitch and moan about things. Kvetch about the state of the world.  Go on…and on…and on about what's wrong and why it is so unfair to me.  

But more and more these days, I am working to catch myself when I do this.  Because, complaining is really nothing more than a bad habit. And so, on this day designed to remind us to count our blessings, I offer you this: 

A Complaint Free World.

Will Bowen started this project as a little thing his church could take on and it mushroomed into an international movement.   You can order his bracelets (cheap and well worth at $10 for 10) and wear it to remind you not to complain.  Every time you do complain, you switch the bracelet to the other arm.  The goal is to go 21 days without complaining.

A brief aside: one thing I've noticed about my efforts to quit complaining is that I may not always be able to stop myself from complaining, but if I catch myself I can then ask myself why I'm complaining.  And sometimes that reveals a deeper concern that needs to be addressed.  (And sometimes often it just reveals me being bitchy.)

So go forth and quit complaining.  No whining on the yacht, guys!  

I'd be grateful if you left a comment telling me what you are grateful for!

Photo by MC Hart.

Happy New Year and Welcome 2013

Firework_fireworks_night_229277_lI'm probably about the last one to say it to you, but Happy New Year. 

Here's what I'm hoping for this year (in no particular order):


–a successful book release

–health, happiness, safety and success for my loved ones

–that I continue to enjoy a deep journaling practice every morning

–that I make good on my commitment to write at least one hour a day

–that I get to spend lots of happy times with family and friends

–success and happiness for my wonderful clients and students

–shaking lose a few pounds

–expanding outlets for my writing

–continued spiritual studies

–success and happiness for my wonderful blog readers

–a literary agent

–that all of us remember to replace fear with love

That's my list.  I'll probably add more as the year goes on.  What's on your list? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

PS–If you're in the mood for some more fun reading on this lazy New Year's Day, check out my friend Doni's post here.

Image by brokenarts.

Advent for Writers

Stil-life-apple-45710-lFor as long as I can remember, December has been a creative time for me.  This used to puzzle me.  Why would the darkest time of the year be a rich, fertile period?  For so many, the gloomy short days are depressing and anything but creative.  Wouldn't it make more sense for my wildly creative time to be in, say, mid-summer, when the days are long and gardens (and life) is fully abloom?

But then I remembered the season of Advent.  For many in the Christian tradition, the month of December signifies a period of waiting.  A time of preparation.  A run-up to the big event–the birth of Jesus on Christmas day.  (Never mind that even the Pope himself says we got the actual date wrong.)

This realization helped to explain things.  No matter what faith you practice, or whether you are religious, or spiritual, or agnostic, this time of year is imbued with the energy of preparation.  And preparation can be crazy creative.

Coincidentally, however, it's also a crazy busy time of year.  There are trees to decorate, presents to buy and wrap, family dinners to arrange.  So how best to balance a need for creative preparation with the demands of the holiday?  Here are a few suggestions.

1.  Take time to make time.   One of Mahatma Gandhi's forms of meditation was spinning (yarn, not partaking in aerobic activity).  One day when he had an especially busy schedule he told his aides, "It's a busy day. I better take extra time to spin today." (This is a paraphrase.  I have searched and searched for the exact quote.  If anyone knows it, I'd love to get it from you.)  It can be counter-intuitive, but taking time to meditate or journal might well be the best way to fly through your duties.  Such activities center and calm you and enable you to release your worry and angst over getting things done, thus giving you extra time to work on creative projects.

2. Simplify.  I'm crazy about Christmas traditions.  Probably a bit too crazy.  I love the holidays and put a lot of pressure on myself to do them up right.  But the last few years I've realized that what I love most about the holidays is spending time with friends and family.  And so I've allowed myself to keep some of the holiday decorations in their boxes.  And I buy far fewer gifts for people.  I enjoy the holidays a lot more and as an added benefit, I actually have time to write during this season.

3.  Dive in.  Or, make every minute count.  Whatever you're doing, do it well.  Do if fully.  Do it with a whole heart and a whole mind.  (Except for those times you're standing in line at the post office or the grocery store.  Then, do this.)  Chunk your creative work down into easily doable sessions.  You can get a ton done in a few minutes if you are focused!

4.  Remember who you are.  Who are you?  What's most important to you?  2013 is my year to be a novelist, the job description I've wanted all my life.  But as I get wrapped up in my teaching and blogging and other duties, a day or two can go by without me participating in activities related to writing novels.  At this time of year especially, I can forget who I am.  Remind yourself of who you are often and that will lead you back to your center.

5. Bring love to it.  You've got two choices in how you can respond to a given situation–with love or with fear.  Though it's not always easy, responding with love is far and away the better option!  It is that difficult and that simple.

What are your strategies for remaining creative during this time?  How do you enjoy the gifts of the Advent season?

**If you're having difficulty finding time to write this holiday season (or any time of the year) why not consider the gift of coaching for yourself?  There's no faster way to make progress on your writing than to work one-on-one with a coach.  Learn more about my coaching here.

Photo by benedeki.

Give Thanks for Being a Writer

Everyone and their uncle are writing thank you posts and sending out newsletters telling about how grateful Everystockphoto_162217_m they are today. 

Don't get me wrong,this is a good thing–I'm all for gratitude, especially now that I've figured out being grateful doesn't mean settling.  (This is generally where I get hung up on my spiritual journey, misunderstanding the basic tenets of it.)

The only problem I have today is how to say something original about being thankful and full of gratitude.  It is not yet even Thanksgiving, and I've read a gazillion posts and emails and newsletters that say essentially the same thing: we're so grateful for you, our customer reader, its all about me you, I'm going to give you something that costs a lot of money if you read the fine print free, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

All these people are well-meaning, even if some of their emails are thinly veiled sales pitches.  But from a writer's point of view, they tend to repeat the same old platitudes.  And let's face it, even the sweetest among us get tired of platitudes after awhile.  I'm not in the least bit sweet, and I get damned sick of them really fast.

But before you accuse me of massive curmudgeon-hood, hold up a minute.  Because I have lots and lots of things I am grateful and thankful for, not the least of which is you, my wonderful loyal readers.  But I'm not going to say that because everyone else already has and I need to be original.  But if I were going to say it, I would truly, deeply mean it because I do so appreciate every one of you.

What I am going to talk about being grateful for is the fact that I am a writer.  How I had the great, good fortune to get a career that is centered not only around words, but on pulling words up from the deepest levels of self to share.  A career that is about making meaning of life through story.  A career that enables me to spend my days doing what I love most–putting words on paper.  And, let us not forget, once in awhile I get to go out in the world and share my love of writing with you, and I love that, too.

Sometimes, even after all these years of doing this, I sit at my computer working away and the thought overtakes me: I'm writing.  I'm writing and it is the best thing ever.  I know people who write for a living and hate it (I'm not naming any names, you know who you are) and the thought is simply unfathomable to me.  Just as the thought of being alive and not writing in a journal is unthinkable to me, or not coming up with fifty million ideas for novels I'll never have time to write.

I've recently had the wonderful experience of someone coming up to me and saying, "I want to be you."  And in general, when I stop to think about it, I'm pretty happy being me–because I get to write. So besides the fact that I'm grateful for my family, my friends, many of whom truly are family, and so much else in the world this Thanksgiving, I want to state again, how grateful I am to be a writer.

It is a privilege, an honor, and a thrill.  I hope that all of you out there think of it the same way, no matter where you are with your writing, a beginner or an old pro.  And don't forget to give thanks for it.