Expanding the Hug

Food trucks, a DJ and a few venders were circled around my local market’s parking lot. The music and enticing aromas attracted me to investigate, so I strolled over and chatted with a couple of women promoting their fitness group. One woman wore a bright yellow button.

That button spoke directly to my heart. It said: I am enough

I asked, “Where did you get your button? I want one!”

She unpinned it and gave it to me. I tried to decline, but she insisted and said that if someone admired it, I was to give it to them. I said, “But what if someone wants it right away? I’m not ready to give it up.” I felt like hiding it. I couldn’t give it up, it was mine and I needed it, I loved it!

She smiled, “You have to give it.”

I nodded, pinned the button to my t-shirt and walked away feeling as if I’d just been hugged, feeling better than I’d felt all day. My grasping thoughts dissolved and I realized the only better feeling would be to pass the button on to someone else, expanding the hug.

Goals are good

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It’s good to have goals and strive to improve, move forward, move faster. Don’t we all spend a lot of time at that effort and reap well deserved rewards? But, once in a while, isn’t it heavenly to rest in the thought that I am enough?

I’m happy to pass on my cheerful yellow button to the next person I meet who wants it, and in the meantime, I’m passing it on to all of you in this post.

What does “I am enough” mean to you?

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Motivation and Magic

I keep a notebook of spiritual and motivational advice that helps me navigate this life with as much grace and dignity as possible. I need it because I often fail at the grace and dignity part. I get lost.  It used to embarrass me that I needed a prop to find relief from negative thinking. What if I was a self-help-aholic?

That changed when I read an interview with the Dalai Lama a number of years ago.  He said he has to manage his motivation every day. Reading that interview was a gift. No wonder it was so difficult for me to stay positive and respond to life’s challenges with grace and dignity, even the Dalai Lama had to work on it.

Each morning I page through my ring binder to “manage my motivation” before starting the day. It’s filled with affirmations and advice from wonderful authors, and religious and spiritual leaders across all faiths. It opens my mind and heart. Magic happens. The alchemy of the day transforms from fearful to fabulous.

How do you manage your motivation?

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Get Real with your Writing

Knowledge and memory are okay, imagination is great, Google is primo, but hands-on experience is hands-down the best way to get real with your writing.

Most people know this, but how many writers live it? The best ones, I’m guessing. I’m a reticent person, a borderline introvert, and imagination is my favorite tool. All I have to do is travel to my own head. It’s great for inspiration, but when real-life details are needed, when knowledge, memory, and Internet search engines don’t quite cut it, it’s time to interact with the real world.

Sometimes all you have to do is seize an opportunity.

For example, friends wanted to show me their restaurant remodel before the grand opening. We started the tour through the dining area with its stunning textures and artwork. Then we checked out the brand new stainless steel kitchen and my inner eye—always tuned into my writing—popped open.

Coincidence or something else?

In a scene in my novel, my protagonist is locked into a restaurant walk-in freezer. When creating the scene in my imagination, the kitchen area looked similar to the one I was currently touring, but the freezer wasn’t quite like this one. I’d even Googled walk-in freezers, but looking at the one standing before me opened up a novel way to show how my protagonist couldn’t get out, even with an emergency button.

My friend shut me in and my chest tightened, goosebumps rose on my arms. Even though I knew I could punch the button and open the door, the feeling of what it would be like to be enclosed in an ice cold box unnerved me, if only for a few seconds.

Do you have examples of how getting out of your head and away from your desk has brought your scenes to life with real details and visceral emotions? I’d love to hear them.imagesCAN9WY1A

The Boot Camp Approach to Writing Discipline

What if, instead of butt in the chair, trusty cup of coffee, perfect space and muse perched above your laptop while you sit for a specific amount of time writing your novel, you take on multiple challenges simultaneously and get your butt kicked? In a good way.

Shoehorning everyone into that old-school scenario no longer works for most of us in today’s short-attention-span culture. That’s why I’m using the cross fit/boot camp/functional fitness method of writing practice.

In my physical workouts, we never do the same thing twice. We don’t concentrate on one muscle for sustained periods, slowly repeating the same movements. We repeat, but almost always at a rapid pace. We get our heart rates up, rest, and keep going until we can’t anymore. We go through lots of different activities in different sequences to keep our minds engaged as well as our bodies. We have to count. Sometimes we work with a partner or a team and sometimes we’re on our own, at our own pace. We get tips on how to feed our muscles through good nutrition, and coaches offer motivational advice. We don’t know what to expect on any given day, but we know it will kick our butts and will be well worth it.

How it translates to my writing practice

This morning, I checked FB, email and Twitter, and honed in on a couple of blogs. One gave me ideas for a creative process to give my writing a boost and a branding site helped me with a strategy for publishing my book. I wrote a scene in one of the novels I’m working on and edited a chapter in another. I wrote a review of a friend’s book on Amazon and commented on a blog post by another. I wrote this blog. After that, my brain turned to jelly so I stopped.

With this method, I work hard and produce results without burning out on one project while neglecting others. I’m constantly getting new ideas and am stimulated to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

There’s more than one way to work those writing muscles, and for me, surprising myself is what makes it fun. What works for you?

A Story’s Setting

Why do so many writers set their stories in hometowns, even if they haven’t lived there for many years? Because in those formative years, whether small town, city or suburb, so many of life’s firsts happened—when we were most aware and all our senses alert.

After nearly a lifetime of experiences, the first ones are still seared into my soul:

  • First smell of lake. Skin puckered and eyes bloodshot from staying in it from morning till dark, you smell like lake too. You are lake
  • First love. You grin so hard and so long your jaws ache, you kiss so hard your mouths bruise
  • First disappointment when he doesn’t show up; first heartbreak when you realize he’ll never show up
  • First taste of sugary doughnuts your palsied great-aunt Emma made in her kitchen. You thought she was an angel because she wore a white apron, white kerchief and lived in a cloud of white flour
  • First loon’s call. You think it’s calling to you, and it is. It’s all calling to you—the breeze unsettling the birches, canoe paddle slapping the water, conversation of Mergansers floating under the dock, a peeper chorus
  • First reflection.lake

I hope this blog post prompts a few memories of your own remarkable first experiences. I’d love to hear them…