Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How We Prepare



We’re all preparing for something.

Here are glimpses of people you’ll recognize preparing…

For life. For the Olympics. For the unknown. For writing through memory and pain.

Preparing to live fully right where you are…

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
 “One writes not to be read but to breathe...one writes to think, to pray, to analyze. One writes to clear one's mind, to dissipate one's fears, to face one's doubts, to look at one's mistakes--in order to retrieve them. One writes to capture and crystallize one's joy, but also to disperse one's gloom. Like prayer--you go to it in sorrow more than joy, for help, a road back to 'grace'.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I want first of all... to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact--to borrow from the language of the saints--to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Michael Phelps




Michael Hyatt


“I learned many things about how to confront conflicts and unexpected challenges. The most important was this: If you want to increase safety, you must move toward the challenge.”

Be Curious
Take Small Steps
Learn Mastery

Elizabeth Berg

Preparing as a child…
“Day after day, I lay on that small hill and watched the shifting patterns of clouds and listened to the birds. I could not identify the birds themselves, but I did recognize their calls. Sometimes I made my own sounds to call back; whenever I did there would follow a moment of abrupt silence during which I assumed the birds tried to identify me…

Whenever I was at that place, a sense of peace came into me like a religion. I wanted to tell everyone what it felt like to be there…This happened with many things I saw, or heard, or felt. I wanted to share them.”

Preparing to write as an adult…
“I also work out of a backyard shed, which is plain and simple, stripped down to the basic elements…”

“I might have coffee and a treat at the bakery, then wander into the hardware store…”

“For me the best times are always those that are closest to what I felt as a child when I visited that gully, when I lay on that long, green grass and looked up into the trees, and felt the wide ache of wanting to be able to share with someone all that lay inside.”

Stephen King

On how he prepares to write after being struck by a van…
“I didn’t want to go back to work. I was in a lot of pain…I couldn’t imagine sitting behind a desk for long, even in my wheelchair. Because of my cataclysmically smashed hip, sitting was torture after forty minutes or so, impossible after an hour…Added to this was the book itself, which seemed more daunting than ever—how was supposed to write about dialogue, character, and getting an agent when the most pressing thing in my world was how long until the next dose of Percocet?

Yet at the same time I felt I’d reached on e of those crossroads moments when you’re all out of choices. And I had been in terrible situations before which the writing had helped me get over—had helped me forget myself at least for a little while…

That first writing session lasted an hour and forty minutes, by far the longest period I’d spent sitting upright since I’d been struck by Smith’s van. When it was over I was dripping with sweat and almost too exhausted to sit up straight in my wheelchair. The pain in my hip was just short of apocalyptic. And the first five hundred words were uniquely terrifying—it was as if I’d never written anything before them in my life. All my old tricks seemed to have deserted me…There was no inspiration that first afternoon, only a kind of stubborn determination and the hope that things would get better if I kept at it.”

Ann Voskamp
“Out the kitchen window the sky rolls out. Apple blossoms fill the orchard. The morning dove warms her bluing hope. I can hear Him, what He is telling the whole world and even me here: this is for you. The lover’s smile in the morning, the child’s laughter down the slide, the elder’s eyes at eventide: this is for you. And the earth under your feet, the rain over your face upturned, the stars spinning all round you in the brazen glory: this if for you, you, you. These are for you—gifts—these are for you—grace—these are for you—God, so count the ways He loves, a thousand, more, never stop, that when you wake in the morning you can’t help turn humbly to the east, unfold your hand to the heavens, and though you tremble and though you wonder, though the world is ugly, it is beautiful, and you can slow and you can trust and you can receive each moment as grace. Eucharisteo. Eucharisteo. Eucharisteo.” ~ One Thousand Gifts

~*~
As for me, I write novels. And I keep writing them. I’ll save the rest of the story for another day.

We are all being prepared for something. 

What are you preparing for? Which of the above resonated with you today?

*photo by stock.XCHNG



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Brain as Grand Central Station



I can remember how mesmerized I felt the first time I took the train to New York and walked the squeaky floors of Grand Central Station. Head tilted back, my eyes struggled to register all the sights fast enough. The rushing crowds—that’s what left the greatest impression on my young soul.

Yesterday I read a National Geographic article (because I sit down to casually read those all the time) that stated Grand Central Terminal “attracts some 21 million tourists annually.” The article also revealed that 750,000 thousand people pass through Grand Central daily with that number rising to one million during the holiday season.

The idea that our brains act as receptors of information much like Grand Central does for traveling people isn’t an original thought, I realize. However, as we’re bombarded with cognitive input I began to wonder if there’s not a greater takeaway rooted in this metaphor.

What if we all have one core belief that runs the train schedule?

One predominate belief that influences every individual notion that passes in and out of the station?

Every single thought enters in, coalescing with this core belief, bumping against it, then exits coated with this core belief.

It’s easy to spend our days caught up in the crowds, the rush of thoughts, instead of taking a moment to focus on the squeaky floor where we’re standing.

I’m going to be brave and share some core beliefs that have served as my Grand Central during different years of my life…

I’m not good enough.
Pain (befitting of my maiden name).
I need you to like me.
Why?
There’s a reason for this.
I might never know the reason for this.
Thirst for the creative.
Grow.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 13:9
Much to learn.
Lyrics filtered through thought channels, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”
Fear not + Risk.
Hope.
The best is yet to come.

Pessimists may naturally find their core beliefs gravitate toward the negative. While the optimist likely walks around with an “I will grow from this” attitude no matter the circumstances they’re facing.
This isn’t a post about positive thinking or a ten step how-to. I happen to simply believe in the benefit of knowing where you are in order to help you get to where you want to go.

Where are you? In other words, what is your present core belief at the intersection of all your thoughts?

*photos by stock.XCHNG
**Can’t you just hear Cat Stevens singing, “Ride on the peace train…hoo ah ee ah hoo ah…”?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Quiet, A Change



There’s a lot of noise out there. I’ve made a decision to cut down on the bustle.

I’m moving my thoughts that move trademark to Tuesdays.

After four years of posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m making a significant change.

I’m now going to post solely on Tuesdays.

And I’m excited about it. I want you to be excited too!

Here are some factors that influenced my decision…

It’s a Blog Eat Blog World
There are more blogs now than there are stars in the sky. Okay, maybe not that many. As I pay attention to the fluctuating climate of publishing, blogging reminds me a bit of Britney Spears. Rock star. Rise to fame. Spiraling down. Misunderstood. Makes a comeback with will.i.am. It all makes me want to “scream, and shout, and let it all out.”

My stats are strong and climbing. I love this despite the fact people aren’t commenting around the blogosphere the way they used to.

My plan going forward is to post Tuesday strong. I hope you’ll join me.

I’m Gainfully Employed
Walked in my favorite local coffee shop not long ago with hopes of helping out as a barista. Walked out with the owner creating a special projects position for me that could not possibly supply me with better hours.

The Desire for My Words to Leave an Impact
Sometimes less really is more. Offers more. There’s only so much we can retain in this age of newsflashes, hyper-alert blasts, and brain juggernauts. I’m slowing it down for your sake. And for mine.

My Novels are Hungry Baby Birds
I want to protect how I divvy out my creativity. I love blogging. Always have. I’m confident I still will. But by making this decision I’m showing those squawking baby birds I love them more by responding to their, “Feed me. Feed me.”

Facebook Calls
I’ve made a concerted effort to increase the amount of time I spend interacting with you on my Facebook writer page. I like it. Meet me there.

When was the last time you felt inspired to make a significant change?

*See you Tuesday

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Colorful Personalities Brighten Book Club Conversations


What distinguishes an average book club from a stellar, can’t-miss one?
Rich conversation, right?
And what’s one of the best ways to ensure a roomful of book lovers will eagerly engage in book talk? (Besides good food and wine.)
Invite a blend of personalities.
Recently I read an email highlighting the unique impressions certain colors can have on individuals. I thought I’d have fun matching these colors to book club personalities, offering examples of how everyone brings something special to the club.
Blue (Has a calming effect and creates feeling of serenity.)
The blue member nods her head, is excellent at mirroring, and adds to the intriguing points shared in the group.

Green (Brings balance to your mind and smoothes out your hectic day-to-day routine.)
Ms. Green always makes you glad you came, come three feet of snow or high basement waters. She has comical and entirely revealing facial expressions. Greenie also has a cool affirming way of speaking to everyone.

Orange (Makes you feel more optimistic. A pick-me-up when you’re sluggish.)
The orange member is gifted with bringing up overlooked aspects in the novel. She makes book club brains go from “I need a nap. My thoughts are muddy slop.” to “I’m at the circus. My thoughts are flaming hoops.”

Red (Increases your energy level and stimulates your heart rate.) 
Ms. Red has a wonderful way of challenging thoughts in a non-combative, conversation-fueling manner. She weaves one stimulating point into the next and asks mind-popping questions. She makes book club memorable.

Purple (Generates creativity.)
Purple helps the group to see characters in an entirely new light, triggering women to reveal varying perceptions. She has a knack for connecting books to the club member’s lives with a fresh relevancy. 

Yellow (Inspires an upbeat, positive attitude.)
Yellow is good at simmering unnecessary brewing tension. She spins the conversation so the group appreciates the value of respectfully disagreeing, then moves everyone along on a new, exciting topic.

Indigo (Thought-provoking. Cultivates deep thinking.)
Ms. Indigo transitions the group from wine and cheese social hour to actually talking about the book. She’s the last one asking questions and has a tendency to come up with multiple answers for each question asked. Definitely not your black and white thinker of the bunch.

Violet (Much like purple, this color inspires peaceful, confident feelings.)
Ms. Violet gives you that peaceful, easy feeling (Hello Eagles) every time you get home and think back on your experience with the group. She makes you excited for the next month because you know she’ll be the first one to encourage your thoughts along.
Which color do you bring to your book club? Which color would you like to bring?
*the first five descriptions came from the email I mentioned (not sure the source, but sounded good to me…or at least good enough to craft a post from) and the influences of the last three I made up all by my lonesome
**photo by stock.XCHNG
 
 
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sincere



It must have been at least ten years ago I heard a pastor share the root meaning of the word sincere.

The word is derived from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax

The pastor shared the widespread understanding of the word’s origin. Dishonest Roman and Greek sculptors would fill in cracks with wax in attempt to deceive anyone who saw their work. They wanted their work to appear flawless.

If I remember correctly, our pastor went on to make the connection how we are like those flawed pieces of art. He emphasized how we can allow God to shine light in those vulnerable areas and let His radiance and grace shine through.

I liked this message. Still do.

But I’m beginning to wonder how much it holds up to the light today.

Especially when it comes to our “online” selves.

No one wants a downer. And yet everyone feels skeptical when every picture posted is plastered with smiles.

We don’t know what to trust online anymore. It’s as though we’ve all become sculptors filling in with wax. Or if we’re not being blatantly dishonest, we simply choose to avoid the internet on particularly sad or emotional days.

I crave the sincere.

I crave glimpses of light shining through the vulnerable cracks.

I don’t want to encounter you online and wonder if what I’m really seeing is wax.

Have you witnessed the tension I’m referring to when it comes to vulnerability and online behavior?

“And I go back to Eden, in my mind, to imagine what it is going to be like for you and me in heaven. I suppose it will be a new and marvelous paradise, where love will exist in its purest form, where the beauty of diversity will be understood for the first time, where self-hatred will fade into an agreement with God about the splendor of His creation, where physical beauty will no longer be used as a commodity, where you and I will feel free in our sincere love for others, ourselves, and God. And I suppose it will be in heaven that you and I actually understand each other, all the drama of the lifeboat a distant memory, all the arguments we has seeming so inconsequential, and the glory of God before us in all His majesty, shining like sunlight through our souls.” ~ Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

*photo by stock.XCHNG

Friday, February 8, 2013

Moving Thoughts Friday



Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What has been your most meaningful interaction or connection via social media?

*photos by stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

8 Dream Slayers—Two Sides, Same Sword



Have you ever given thought to the words or false beliefs that kill your dreams before they have a chance to grow? No surprise, I have. What’s the saying, knowing is half the battle? I’m going to unsheathe this sword coated with all kinds of reflective discouragement.

Let’s have a look at eight common dream slayers…

I Can’t Do This
Defeated, discouraged, staring at the mountain ahead with dropped jaw and drooped shoulders. One of the best ways to guarantee you’ll freeze in place, paralyzed and unable to take another step, is to tell yourself you can’t move.

I Can Do This All on My Own
Flip the I Can’t Do This sword and you have the stubborn, “Back off, I’ve got this” mule-spirited, “I’m the only one who’ll do it right” belief that at the base of the mountain reveals nothing more than…a braying ass.

We all need help.

I Don’t Have the Right Tools or Enough Knowledge
Weakness. Fear. Inadequacy. Feeling less than. These can all be altered, adjusted, melted down into more useful and motivating feelings.

I Don’t Need to Learn Anything More as I Pursue this Dream
Flip it and you get…youch. Danger zone. Every single second we’re alive offers an opportunity to absorb, to acquire life-changing knowledge—dream-charging knowledge.

It’ll Take Too Much Effort
Okay, Eeyore, I get it, life gets hard sometimes.  Walking from one room to the next can feel like you’re carrying a million monkeys on your back. Time to fling off the monkeys. One at a time. Or as my good friend Bob would say, “Baby steps.” It’s how things get done.

I’ll Lean on Others to Carry Most of the Load
Come on and take a free ride, freeloader. This side of the sword paints the image of someone dumping bricks on all those around them as they build. No one likes to have bricks toppled over their head. They remember things like that. As my good friend Samwise says, “Share the load.”

This Will Take Too Long
For all those in the publishing biz, I smile with you. It’s a long and wiiiiiiiiiiiiiinding road for sure. One of the most rewarding things I’ve done during the wait time is remembering how enamored I am with writing. I work hard to appreciate writing for what it is and what it does and who it leads me to be before any publishing rewards come. We are here in the now—might as well make the best of it.

I’ll Make it Happen in a Cinch
Ha. Laughing with me yet? Easy peasy lemon squeezy my left foot. Dreams require work, time invested—heart and ruthless determination sometimes.

Delayed gratification. Releasing control. Expecting obstacles. Trusting God. All of these are good for the soul. They change us (for the better).

Can you think of some more dream slayers?

*photo by stock.XCHNG




Monday, February 4, 2013

Three Insights for Creating Pop-Up Characters



Remember opening a book as a child and experiencing that ‘whoa cool’ feeling whenever you the entire thing sprung to life before you?

We can do that with our novels—with our characters.

I’m providing the equivalent of three unique crafting scissors today to help as you work to cut out and build irresistible, can’t-stop-reading characters. (Or if you love to read, I’m hoping this will help increase your appreciation for what goes into creating such characters.)

As authors, we’re wise to understand and explore each of these three interwoven components in order to shape believable 3-D characters.

In order to make a character come off the page we must know:


Her Fears
Not just what makes her afraid, but what drives fear into her. Physical fears as well as emotional ones. What’s the monster from the past that keeps following her into her future? Discovering this can take the form of an archeological dig as we carefully brush away the outer layers of dirt until we get to the real deal.

It’s also important to know fear’s counterpart, which brings me to…

Her Hopes
This goes way beyond wishing for a sunny day or wanting to get a certain birthday gift. What charges her, excites her, makes her believe in tomorrow? What form does her faith take when things go smoothly, when they take a turn for the worst? Does she share this hope or is she alone in it? Does it inspire or frustrate her—or both? Does her understanding of hope change, taking on different forms throughout the course of the novel?

And the sad counterpart to hope—despair, when does she feel that most?

Her Self-concept
This is one of my favorite explorations. It’s amazing how our perceptions can differ from how the world sees us. What is her self-concept and how did she establish it? Perceiving her self-concept in relation to how others react and respond to her is one of the best tools for designing a pop-up character. Is she self-aware or completely ignorant of her inconsistencies? Is her thoughtfulness and altruism rooted in the desire to people please? Is she desperate or secure? How does each of these answers influence her actions?

Finally, as you can guess all three of these bleed together constantly. Her hopes, fears, and self-concept play off each other in a complex network that mimics that of a DNA double-helix (remember those twisted ladders from middle school science class?). Forever going on behind the scenes. Until, after the author has done her job, the character leaps from the page and thrills the reader.

Do you think it’s essential to understand a character’s hopes, fears, and self-concept in order to craft a pop-up character? Why, or why not?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Moving Thoughts Friday



Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Kiteboarding or hot air balloon ride?

*photos by stock.XCHNG

10 Things Anyone Can Benefit from Doing this Holiday Season

It’s a mad-rush time of year. Lines are long. Tempers flare short. Traffic stresses. To-do lists feel endless. These are the best times ...