Monday, May 20, 2019

How to Become an Anything Girl 101

A few weeks ago I told you about Cadence, a little girl of maybe three or four who confidently introduced herself outside of a mall bathroom, “Hi, I’m Cadence, and I can do anything.” In ways she could never imagine, this child and her gotcha-world stance stuck in my head.

I aspire to adopt Cadence’s attitude toward life every day.

Then there are days I end up sending my daughter texts suggesting the life of a prairie dog could suit me just fine. Whenever the world starts to royally freak me out (I get flipped off by a road ragey driver, or I make the mistake of watching the news for too long) I begin to fall seriously in love with the idea of never stepping foot outside my home again. Prairie dog living sounds ideal. Hide out, then pop up from time to time just so everyone knows I still exist. That pretty much defines how I’ve handled social media lately. After my confessional text to my kid about wanting to be a prairie dog, within seconds we both shot each other an identical GIFs. #wildfun

Here’s the truth: I’m not merely an Anything Girl wannabe. She’s inside me, and like the prairie dog analogy, how I remind the world I haven’t petered out in some hole somewhere, the Anything Girl pops her head up from time to time. It’s a welcome surprise. I like her. She’s ballsy, uninhibited, and
her voice matters. (I’m enjoying addressing myself in 3rd person a little too much. Stopping now.) In time I’ve learned how to coax the Anything Girl out of me on a whim. If you’re intrigued and tempted to show the world the Anything Girl in you—pay attention.

The following are all things I’ve learned to create the best environment for the Anything Girl in me to thrive

  • The sooner you embrace life is a tangled knot of pain and joy, the better off you’ll be.
  • Learn how to not take rejection too personally.
  • Establish a circle of trust (nod to Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents). Stick close with the people who encourage you through hard times, celebrate your accomplishments, and those who’ll remain loyal to you through all things. At all times.
  • Laugh at yourself as frequently as possible.
  • Don’t stuff your emotions.
  • Don’t embarrass easily.
  • Be willing to try new things and adventures even when they (not if because they will) scare you or you’re afraid.
  • Do not—by any means—ever—compare your life and losses and insecurities and dreams and wants and hurts and chin hair or knobby knees or cellulite to anyone else. We are all supposed to be different. And only you can do you (feel free to make a T-shirt with that on it…giving you full permission here).
  • Try hard not to control or judge others. Reflect upon and seek to improve your own sloppy ass life first before you rattle on about someone else’s mess. Even better, don’t entertain yourself with rumors or gossip at all.
  • Swear occasionally. (See don’t stuff emotions above.)
  • Get with your spouse often (you’re welcome, SGM).
  • Don’t let the past or your idea of what the future is supposed to look like have more power than your present.
  • Find something to be grateful for every day, even if it’s just that you didn’t have to clean toothpaste art off the granite countertop in the kids’ bathroom for once.
  • Practice kindness with strangers. And loved ones.
  • Seek to understand. All people. All things. And consider staying quiet until you reach a point of deeper understanding.
  • Do not consider anyone of a higher or lower worth. Treat everyone with an equal measure of compassion and love.
  • Admit faults readily, but use discretion online. Trolls will slay you. Even people who are otherwise reasonably cordial have a tendency to grow claws when their fingers reach the keyboard. Guard your heart. And your head space.
  • When your thought life gets exceptionally ugly remind yourself of the limited time you have on earth. I often hear Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in my head telling me it comes down to a simple choice. Get busy living or get busy dying.
  • Don’t be content with who you were yesterday. Every day strive to improve.
  • Understand—I mean really understand that your worth does not come from others’ impressions of you or how tidy or messy your life is.
  • Know you will be tempted more times than you could possibly conceive to give up on a dream—that thing inside you sense you’re on earth for. Don’t give up. 

I’m sure I’ll be writing more posts like this one. I hope the list above inspires you to be an Anything Girl (or Guy). The world needs more thoughtful and purpose-focused people leading others toward effective and healing change.

You ready?

*My prairie dog kid ready to hit the dance floor at prom this past weekend—an Anything Girl in training. And if you look closely, you might spot the shadow of a rare enormous prairie dog on the left.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kermit Is No Joke

I’m not an artist. However, I love to paint. My mom knows this and she surprised me this Mother’s Day by sending me six canvases to try my hand on. (Isn’t that cool my mom sends me gifts for Mother’s Day?) Immediately one of my daughters came up with something she wanted me to paint.

Kermit the Frog. With a cowboy hat. Wearing a Supreme shirt.

Always up for a challenge, I got to work. I sketched, erased, and sketched some more. I dabbed my brush in greens of this shade and that. I even figured out how to tackle the hat (this is turning into a Dr. Seuss post).

The final product –

 Looks exactly like Kermit, huh? ;-)

The point is that I had a fun creating this. I didn’t hold back out of fear. I simply went for it. And I learned that cartoonists have real talent.

Have you tried something out of your comfort zone lately?

Monday, May 6, 2019

Creativity, Craft & Cadence

Hiatus is over. I’m back. After spending some much needed time in self-reflection and goal-setting, I came to some conclusions about this blog.

I’m here to stay.

And I know what I want to communicate.

From this Monday on, I aim to dissect the many facets of creativity. I’ve been paying attention. In particular to the way I choose to live day-to-day, and I’ve noticed one common theme in my life. An undeniable thread sewn through everything that I deem important—everything that excites me. I’m attracted to (and quite possibly addicted to) all things creative. For this reason, I’m going to be highlighting all aspects of creativity that catch my eye, set me sail, or light my thoughts on fire.

I’m also going to continue to share what I’ve learned when it comes to the craft of writing. Last Friday, I completed the rough draft of my sixteenth (maybe seventeenth?) novel. I’ve lost count. I’ve worked with some fantastic agents and have received hopeful feedback from readers and editors through the years. What’s more, I’ve tucked all kinds of helpful hints in the folds of my brain. And I want to pass along the goods.

Finally, I’ll be writing about girls like Cadence. The other day, while my seventeen-year-old and I were checking out prom dresses, a little girl came up to me outside the store. Boldly, she beamed up at me. “Hi, I’m Cadence, and I can do anything.” It was a random introduction. I’m not sure what it was about me that made this girl want to say hello. And say it with such assured confidence. Nevertheless, her greeting stuck with me. That’s when I realized I want to write about anything girlsfemales who live their lives with the hope of bettering the world—of making a lasting impact on others.

It is with great sadness that I share the world lost an anything girl this past weekend. Rachel Held Evans kindly wrote a guest post for this blog nine years ago. In the years since, I’ve watched her career skyrocket and her voice empower many. She inspired me in ways I could never find the words to communicate. I’ve hidden away a lot in recent years, tucked inside myself. I suppose there are many reasons for why I’ve done this. Rachel led the kind of life that reminds me how beautiful and poignant it is to speak our truth. To stand up for something we believe in. And to leave a legacy of, above all things, love.

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”
Madeleine Albright

Monday, March 25, 2019

Blogging Hiatus

I need a break. It dawned on me the other day that between cranking out a new manuscript (very excited about this one) and taking care of things at home, I’m feeling a bit depleted. I considered areas of my life where I could make adjustments.

And I landed here.

I love blogging, and have remained committed to it for over ten years. However, I’ll be taking the month of April to reassess my blogging goals.

I do plan to return in May. I’m just not sure what that return will look like. I’m anticipating my social media presence to be spotty over the next few months.

Thanks to those who’ve been faithful readers. Many of you have encouraged me on this writing journey, and words are inadequate when it comes to expressing my gratitude.

In the meantime, be kind to one another. And enjoy this picture of my dog. She’s a nut. A lovable nut.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Crocus Mode

When the world gets dark, I tend to go the way of a crocus. I close up. Hide out. Sign off.

This natural behavior in plants is called nyctinasty. Scientists provide many explanations for why certain plants do this. I know why I do it.

The world can be a scary place. People freak me out on a regular basis. Not just the mass murderers, but even people on the road or those yelling hateful slurs at others in grocery stores. The last two docuseries I’ve watched remind me just how disturbing it can get out there. Two men sharing their account of being deceived as children. Another child taken in the night.

See, the thing with me is that I feel things deeply. Since I was little I’ve had a tendency to absorb, imagine, and empathize to the point of anguish. I never knew quite what to do when I witnessed others in pain. I quickly began to feel it. I remember there was a boy in my school who had a sibling with cancer. When other girls my age probably fantasized about kissing this boy, my thoughts tangled up with how I could help, how I can ease his pain. It’s always been like this for me. And I’ll be the first one to admit, it’s a little awkward to be like this. I eventually figured out I could stuff a lot of emotion in my stories—my characters. That resolved some of the empathy overflow.

But I still anguish for others. I grieve the current condition of the world. I grieve how it’s always been.

So, for self-protection, restoration, and a way to channel and/or preserve my resources, I close down sometimes when the world gets dark. I nyctinasty. Only for a little while though. Because I’ve also learned the great value of remaining open to the light.

*Miss you, Dad.

Monday, March 4, 2019

After You Put Down the Pen

Writers, every second of every day you make choices that either contribute to the survival of your main characters or decisions that slowly deteriorate them. Bet you’ve never thought about it this way before. How you live your life—what you do after you put down the pen has great implications for what plays out on the page. Another way to frame this is to consider the most effective ways to avoid the proverbial writer’s block.

Here are ten things you can do to ensure you are giving you’re all when you create your characters and draft that future bestselling novel.

Step Away from Social Media Wars
They will suck you in, toy with your emotions, tempt you to comment, then delete, then comment again. Don’t be persuaded or seduced by these Twitter rants, the Facebook vents, and the article comments that rouse your impulses. Your time is far better spent nailing down your main character’s greatest fear. Or contemplating their weak spots in order to create that perfect ending.

Go to Bed
Umpteen thousand studies have proven the benefits of a good night’s sleep. This spills over to who we write. Our characters thrive when we thrive. They chase the rabbit down that trail when we’re going on two hours of sleep, blinking to stay awake as the screen blurs in front of us. Sleep. It does a body and characters good.

Pour Water on Negative Thoughts
Negativity. Lies. Complaints. When it comes to writing, negativity in us can transform quickly into nesting dolls. Our yucky thoughts become our main character’s messed up thoughts, which may not adequately represent them. Work hard not to let negative thinking get out of hand. Like the Wicked Witch, throw a bucket of water on them and melt those suckers to the ground.

Don’t Compare Their Green Grass to Your Brittle Brown
Comparison has a way of stifling creativity like nothing else. Don’t entertain trap thoughts. They got a four book deal. They won an award. They got an agent. They write six books a year. Blah. Blah. Blah. Every writer is tackling their career with a unique slant. Joys and hardships come to us all. By the way, your grass isn’t brittle brown. It’s wheat and it’s beautiful.

Remain Engaged
I get it, this world can be pretty overwhelming at times. I watched a documentary last night that had the potential to slay me for a week. Here’s the thing, we need to tap out every so often. To recharge and forget the world for a while. But then come back and invest in conversation. Listen to dialogue out in public. Ask questions. This will bleed over into the lives of your characters, adding a more authentic voice to your work.

Reflect and Hold Yourself Accountable
The more self-aware you are, the better you’ll be able to understand what’s going on with your main character. Why are they so amped up, and how does it relate to something you’ve been struggling with? Limit the things in your life that drag you down, that squelch your creativity. Be ruthlessly honest for the sake of your MC’s survival.

Study Up on Psychology
Psychology is gold for any writer. Because it opens up the world of motivation and weakness and temptation and hope and loss. Understanding the whys behind actions and emotions for existing people will do wonders to help your characters exist.

Create a Soundtrack
Oh, music. It feeds the soul. Coordinate a list of songs that encapsulate your novel, the arc of growth your character goes through. Have fun with this one.

Read a Book Your Character Would Enjoy (Research)
Invest in what your characters are interested in. Writing a comp to Silence of the Lambs? Buy a book on butterflies. Main character is a teenager? Get excited about reading YA. Expand your horizon by sharing a vested interest with your character. Never know what you’ll learn.

Let Your Imagination Go Wild
Things can feel limiting when we’re unknowingly placing restrictions on ourselves. There is no one right way to go about crafting a book or fleshing out a main character. Step out of the box on this one. Dress up. Act out scenes. Attend a renaissance festival as your character. Beatbox with the best of them. Write a letter to all your secondary characters in the voice of your MC. Get in the car with no destination in mind and see where your MC takes you. We only limit ourselves. The potential is out there. We just need to remain open to finding it.

Writer’s block can be short-lived or nonexistent. We have tools and resources already available to us. Our characters are depending on our ability to be resourceful. To uncap the nesting dolls of negativity, to sleep, and to sing a new song at the top of our lungs.

Our books and main characters could become so much more if we would only get out of our own way, and give them the space and freedom to do so.

*be back next Monday, March 18th

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Letter for D

Hey there D,

Been listening to this song lately and thinking of you. I know you’ve had a rough go of it lately. I remember the stage of life you’re in. Feeling everything with such intensity. Such raw emotion. Memories of friends making the conscious decision to turn away still burrow deep.

But there are a few things I want to remind you of . . . your worth is innate. Intrinsic. The world is blind. Fickle. Many will love you one minute only to forget you the next. They’ll dare you to cower. To hide. To shut off and shut down. {Because they’re afraid of your light.}

Do so. For a while if you have to. But then . . . then we need you to do the exact opposite. See, because this world needs your love. The world needs people like you. A thoughtful soul. Your light is important here. It pierces through the phony and the shallow. It radiates kindness.

When you’re ready, step out from the shadows. Survive. Endure. Search for love. Abide in hope.

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. Numbers 6:25

How to Become an Anything Girl 101

A few weeks ago I told you about Cadence, a little girl of maybe three or four who confidently introduced herself outside of a mall bathro...