Writing Inspiration

14586353-mmmainI think we all need inspiration from time to time. I found some this past weekend when I had the pleasure of listening to Doug Allyn, a mystery writer from Michigan.

I had never heard of Mr. Allyn until I signed up for the conference and I am glad I went. Mostly because I found some new perspectives about writing and the writing life.

First of all Doug Allyn has sold 120 short stories. For me, this is nearly an impossible number. I would be happy to sell one. Of course, I would have to actually submit stories, but that is another post.

He has written 11 novels and has won the Edgar Award  twice. This makes me want to read his work even though I am generally not a mystery reader. I seem to have a difficult time waiting for the end because I have no patience.

As I listened to his story a few things have stayed with me:

This is a business. All too often I’ve looked at my writing as only slightly more than a hobby. I think because I have a blog and I have actually completed a novel that this is more than a hobby for me. I’m not sure that I had moved it from that to an actual business just yet. It is a business complete with deadlines and contracts. Treating my writing like a business will help me to succeed in whatever capacity my career takes.

He has sold 120 short stories. This is an interesting statement to me because he stated it as he sold them, not just published 120 short stories. I’ve been focused on “publishing”. I guess I had thought to get my name out there and not about the money. However, writing is a product and products sell. Its a lot of work to get a piece polished and to the public and deserves compensation. Though selling my work isn’t necessarily a new concept, this goes along with the thought that writing is a business. Taking myself and my work seriously is another way to succeed in this business.

Mr. Allyn repeatedly stated that his career has been fun. He has had a full and varied career, apparently enjoying every minute of it. I am inspired by his words.

I purchased one of his books, Icewater Mansions, from  Amazon and am looking forward to reading it. It is one of the few of his novels that has a female protagonist. I will be looking to see how he handles this from a male perspective Most, if not all, of his work, is set in Michigan so it will be interesting to see stories set in my own backyard.

As I said in the beginning, Doug Allyn has given me something to aspire to as a writer. Though I have a long way to go, I will keep his words in mind along with other writers whom I admire.

Stephen King gives this advice to writers:

Read a lot.
Write a lot.

It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Friday Five: Best Summer Moments

It’s officially fall and fabulous time of the year. Days have been mostly warm with some cold nights. This is the best sleeping weather.

Summer is such a short season I thought I would dedicate a Friday Five list to some of my favorite moments of the summer:

1.   Papa and Caleb building a climbing wall. The little man had such a good time building and then climbing on the swing set his mom played on when she was little.


2.   Camping in Northern Michigan during mayfly season. It was, at the very least, an interesting trip.

3.   Taking the time to watch the sunset in the middle of all the busyness.


4.   I was chosen by this little beast for a forever home. Pippa has been a nice addition to our lives. She provides much needed comic relief.


5.   Just these two.

  
I can’t wait to see what the next season brings.

Happy Fall!

What were your favorite moments of summer?

Happy Birthday, Abel

My youngest grandson recently turned one and we celebrated. It is a gift to watch someone come into the world and then watch them grow up.

His feet the day he was born:

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Now he is a big boy getting ready to walk.

So cute!

How about some brotherly love:

They grow too fast. As Abel is taking his first steps alone and his brother is running after the big kids, I find myself wishing things would slow down. Probably no more than their mommy.

This moment is filled with joy and just a bit of sadness that neither of them will be tiny again. They will continue to grow and change. It will be difficult to keep up.

I will do my best in the moments I have.

So, Happy Birthday, Abel. Though you won’t remember today I hope there are many more you will and that each one is just as happy as today.

Illusions of Control

Friday Five: Living with Ambiguity

 If you are like me, keeping life under control is one of your goals. At this moment in my life, things feel pretty out of control and I am struggling to regain the control I always thought I had. I believe that most of us struggle with this every day.

We decide what we eat and wear, what kind of phone to have or car to drive. We work to make sure things fit onto the neat little pegs we’ve decided on. Even in our relationships, we work to make sure we have control of something or someone, such as the cap on the toothpaste or who does the dishes on what night. Making life work is all about the control we have over it.

Until that day comes when there is no control.

Until the day, we realize that control is an illusion.

This is a lesson I tend to forget. I kid myself into believing that I am working on my “control issues.” Some days, I even believe this is true. But this is also an illusion.

It isn’t just having control of things that is an illusion, it is the belief that we can let go of this need to control.

I believe that the need to control our lives is very human. This is one way we’ve survived for millennia.

We couldn’t control the elements so we moved into caves. The weather got cold, and we built fires. Getting around with animal power was too slow so we created machines that move us along the ground and through the air. This need to control our lives continues to this day.

Since we’ve very firmly established through previous posts that I believe that life is about lessons and everything is repeated until we learn what we need to learn, I’ve come around to control again.

At this moment, I am waiting. Waiting for changes and decisions, of which I have no control over. Yet, I am still sitting here wanting to shake someone to say, “come on, do something already.” I still have not learned this lesson of the illusion of control.

If I had my way, there would be no waiting, I would have what I need to function normally, except that is an illusion also. There is no normal. And, I wouldn’t need to go through the pain of learning to live without the answers, without control, again.

There is pain in this learning of the lesson again. It seems that the more I am forced to repeat a lesson, the more pain there is.

You see, I also believe the outcome is inevitable, it has already been decided. No amount of fretting or worry will change what will happen. It is a matter of waiting. And I’m not very patient.

This post was supposed to be a Friday Five so here I go with some things I will be doing to help deal with learning this annoying lesson again:

1. Attending a 1-year-old’s birthday party. It is impossible to worry when you see a little one covered in cake.

2. Writing – I intend to write whenever I have spare moments. Not that this alleviates my anxiousness or my need for control, it does, however, make me feel as if I’ve made progress.

3. Organization – I began some organizing projects in my house a few weeks ago which will continue, again. Regardless of the whatever happens in my life, this still needs to be done.

4. Attacking the weeds – This year my husband and I didn’t grow a garden, however, what we did grow was a large, healthy batch of weeds. As I am getting ready for company, the weeds need to go, or at least be beaten back enough that the yard doesn’t look like a jungle.

5. Breathe – Yes, this is a bit redundant. We breathe every day, it is necessary for life and we do it unconsciously. What I had in mind was the conscious breathing that makes me step back and not get caught up in all the external happenings in my life.

A friend of mine likes to ask me: “can you live with ambiguity?” Usually, my answer is some kind of grumble because I know she is right. I just don’t want her to be. The fact that she has to repeat it should be my first clue that I haven’t learned the lesson.

I often repeat the mantra “it is what it is.” I even try to live every day like that. Being human, I tend to slip just a bit on occasion. Well, the truth be told, more than a bit.

This week, I will take up this mantra again. I will remember to breathe and that life will continue regardless of what will happen in the future. For me, this is the only way to get through each day.

“It is what it is.”

The Importance of Posture

body-143798_1280I’ve been writing for a while now and have discovered that my body is suffering a bit.

Last year during November, I realized that when I was immersed in writing my story and sitting in my normal office chair, my posture was terrible. My office chair is not stationary and tends to spin if I’m not paying attention. What would happen as I wrote is I would turn my torso and one shoulder would end up more forward than the other. While this caused no pain at the time, it has had some longer reaching issues.

The shoulder that would be forward has been troubling me for some months. Apparently not enough to see my doctor sooner but it also didn’t get any better. I have this fear of losing the use of my body parts so I’ve finally taken action.

The good news is there is no permanent damage, only inflammation and irritation. The cure for this type of shoulder pain is physical therapy. This is my second round of shoulder pain and physical therapy, just the opposite shoulder.

I’ve had a couple of appointments and I am happy to report things are on the mend. My physical therapist sent home some exercises to complete which I am trying my hardest to complete. I often struggle with doing those things I am supposed to do.

Another thing that he talked about was the importance of posture. Having your chair at the right height to the desk you are using is important. The idea is to have your arms at 45-degree angles to the desk so there is no strain on your back and shoulders.

This is harder than it seems.

I am short. Not horribly so but I must admit that I need to shop in the petite section. This causes problems when the world seems to be built for average sized individuals. I’m not sure what “average size” is, but I know that I don’t reach it. So I must adjust.

At this moment, I am writing from a hard chair with only a cushion on the seat for comfort. The chair works for my new desk, which is a vintage piece of furniture that fits perfectly in my new writing space. My arms are at the correct angle and the writing is going well.

The only problem is my legs and feet. For those who are short, you know what I am talking about. My feet do not sit flat on the floor. While I am used to this problem, it is very uncomfortable to stay in this position for long periods of time.

I wanted to change out my chair for one more comfortable, but the chair was too short for the desk. It would have been hard on my back and shoulders. So my solution, albeit a temporary one, is to put a spacer on the floor under my feet. This small wooden box is nearly the correct height to keep me from dangling my feet.

While I don’t know if this will be permanent, it is what is working for the moment. As I continue on with my PT and my writing I’m sure changes will need to be made. Nothing in life stays the same.

I will keep working on a healthier workspace both at home and at my job. I would hate to struggle with the things I love.

Friday Five: Stress Busters

balance-110850_1280Stress is a crazy thing. It comes, we process, and, if we are lucky, it goes. We aren’t always that lucky.

One of my old professors once said, “there is no such thing as no stress.” I am beginning to see this in my own life. Beneficial stress, often called eustress, still can cause havoc in the body just as “bad” stress can. The question is what to do with it.

In recent months, I’ve been dealing with the effects of stress on my body. I have discovered that even the act of writing this post causes a few issues that have built up over time.

The pain that this build-up has caused sent me to the doctor. Currently, I am seeing a physical therapist and massage therapist and, though not healed, I can feel a difference.

It is not enough.

Now, I must deal with the causes of this pain. The process isn’t easy. I’ve known for a little while that my life is out of balance. My body gives me these cues and I can no longer ignore them.

Relaxation is high on my list of priorities. Here are five ways I may be using to help me with this priority:

1. Yoga – This has a two-fold benefit. One, yoga automatically stretches the body helping it to work better. Two, yoga is about breath, which can help with stress levels. There are many more benefits, but these are the ones I will focus on for now.

2. Walking – Again, there are lots of benefits besides getting my butt up off the couch – or writing chair. Physical movement can help release the tension stored in the body.

3. Hot Baths – I’m not normally a bath person, but a good soak with salt and essential oils can do wonders for a body.

4. Unplug – I’m hearing more and more about turning electronics off. I’ve even heard the recommendation to turn off the WIFI at night. I can do this – not sure if everyone can – I just forget to do it. One way I have added this to my life is that my new writing space doesn’t have electricity (yet) nor can it receive the WIFI signal from my house. I don’t spend a lot of time out there, but for me its a start.

5. Do Nothing – This one may be the hardest of all. after all who has the time to just sit and do nothing? Doing nothing may be a relative term. Doing nothing may be a few moments of sitting outside and watching the world go by. It may be that you pick up that book, find a comfy chair and read for a while. It may be some form of doodling. The main point for me is telling myself it’s okay to not worry about my to-do list at the moment. Yep, that’s the hard one.

Each of these is a doable option. Your list may look different, but I believe everyone should have one. Our bodies, and minds, can only take so much before we begin to break down. And, I’ve discovered it happens quicker as we age.

It’s time.

Challenge: Create your own list of doable ways to help you bust some stress.

New Writing Space Blues

  I’m sitting in my new writing space listening to a storm coming through. The tin roof amplifies the sound and I can hear nothing else. The noise doesn’t hinder my words, in fact, it helps to block out all other thoughts.

The rain is loud and hard, I made it just in time. For the moment, I am trapped inside my writing room. If I were to leave now I would be soaked to the skin before I made the house. I am warm and dry and I am thankful.

I have discovered, as I’ve begun using this new space, a few things about my new building:

I am never alone. I may be in this space by myself, but there are others around. My building lies in a small town with few people, but there are enough that the presence of humans is always felt. I can see the lights from my neighbors when I am sitting inside after the sun goes down. I can hear trucks and cars go past the crossroad that marks our town. I can hear the cows from the farm across the street and the hum from the equipment that runs continually. In this space, I am by myself but never alone.

I’ve decided there is a creep factor when I am in my building at night. Even with all the sounds in this small town when the sun goes down, things are quiet. I’ve seen the fog roll over the fields and small animals scurry to hide in the pines that stand between the house and my writing space. I sit in this small room with kerosene lamps my only light and feel fully exposed. I’m finding this difficult to block out yet I keep trying.

It is a nice place to wait out the rain. I’ve taken a little-used chair out of my house to place in my writing space and it’s a great reading spot. I’ve tucked it between a couple of windows and once I put my feet up, I can relax comfortably until the rain is over.

Though my building is unfinished, I am able to use it. I knew when we began building that it wouldn’t be completely finished all in one shot. The outside is done, for the most part. I believe there is a bit of trim yet to be done and various decoration to be added.

The inside is the unfinished part. As of now, it is simply a room with bare stud walls and coverless floor. The strange part is I am happy with this. When we are able to finish the walls, I will be happy with that too, but for now I am taking advantage of this rough space.

In the next few months, my life will become a little crazy. Can you say National Novel Writing Month? I have begun the process of planning the novel I will write during November. That coupled with my normal life makes things a little more stressful than I prefer. It is fun and I wouldn’t change much. It’s all about finding balance.

Balance is always key.

Challenge: I’m struggling with a name for my new writing space. Any suggestions?

Friday Five: September Favorites

leaves-18051_1280

Fall is my favorite time of year for lots of reasons. For many years, I looked forward to September mostly because it was back to school time, both for me and my kids. Though I’m not in school any longer, I still look forward to fall and September for other reasons:

1. The weather is often cooler – In Northern Michigan, August is normally the hottest month while September tends to have more ups and downs. For the most part, things are simply more comfortable. By the end of the month, our wood stove is usually started and things are much more cozy.

2. Back to School Time – Although I am not in school, the supplies are still on sale, and, I can stock up on all of my favorite office supplies.

3. The colors are beginning to change – The trees are beginning their yearly process of shedding their leaves. Throughout the month of September, the change is often gradual and by the end of the month, the trees are full of color. The beauty is wonderful to see.

4. It’s apple season – Apples, and all things associated, are bountiful this time of year, though October is more traditional for them. Heading to the local apple orchard for code and donuts is one of the best things about fall.

sunlight-867222_12805. Crisp mornings – Since I am so often up very early, I am able to experience
the cool, crispness that marks fall. Watching the sun rise over a lightly frosted field gives me a feeling of coming home. I’m not sure how else to explain this feeling of contentment I have during these moments. These mornings are my favorite time of day.

I know that September marks the beginning of some not as good things, though there is something good in every season, including the season of snow. But, stopping for this moment and enjoying each day as it comes is simply a part of life. I’m learning to take the good stuff with the bad, for there are always two sides.

What are your favorite things about fall?

It’s That Time Again!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for another edition of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

This month is a little different in that the insecurities and anxieties are a little more real this month.

I have finally ventured into the world of publishing. An article of mine is about to be published in a local magazine. As a matter of fact, I believe the magazine is going to print today.

I spoke last month about the fear of success being cause for writer insecurity. This month I know it is real.

As my article goes to print I am realizing that more people will be reading my work and my anxiety goes up. This may seem a bit crazy since I write a few blog posts each week and have been for over six months. I’m not sure I can describe the difference, but there is one.

I think the difference comes down to the fact that I can frame this article. My words aren’t just out in the ether of the web but in black and white. I can hold them in my hand.

I can also walk down the street and watch someone pick up a copy of the magazine and read my words. This is the one that will be a bit surreal to me.

What do you say to someone who comes up to you and says “I just read your article.” And then they say nothing else. Outwardly, you just smile but inside you are screaming “AND??????”

This is a whole different level of insecurity.