Feb

5

2016

Eat Your Noodles and Toss Your Balls

Filed under: Check-it-out, Freaky Friday, Pondering, Writing

Yes, I’m a day late on this blog post. But I’m here now. I’ve been working really hard to return to being a consistent and diligent blogger. Why? It makes me feel good. So, because of unexpected obstacles in my yesterday, you are getting a Thursday blog on Friday. How do you like them apples? That’s what I thought–you probably don’t give a flying fig. You’ve got plenty of things to sidetrack you from your own goals. I am only the center of my own universe.

But I’m not alone in that, we are all the sun and the planets of of life orbit around around us. We are jugglers. For gravity we have two hands–only TWO HANDS–to keep three or more balls in the air. Then some monkey starts throwing extra balls at us. It’s SO easy to get sidetracked and drop a ball or two.

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When this happens, because it will, do not self flagellate with wet noodles. Seriously, it’s a waste of noodles.

Go home.

Make some sauce or if you’re really tired, drench them in butter and grated cheese.

Have a good meal.

Pick up your balls. Yes, even the one that rolled under the radiator where the dust bunnies live.

Then toss them back up into the air and move on with your juggling. That’s all. Just do it.

It is a good practice for everything in life. Spend less time worrying about what you didn’t do and just move forward doing the things you need to. Last time I looked, complaining about not writing a blog post doesn’t produce a blog post. And trust me, staring at all the laundry you didn’t do this week only makes your kids have to turn their underwear inside out. Eat your noodles and toss your balls.

But digging in isn’t just for the laundry pile, it also is a strategy for your creative life–especially for writers. You WILL get sidetracked on your journey to create.  You’ll be led astray by good things and bad things. Your balls will drop, roll and scatter at the most unexpected times.

Know how to pick them up and how to get home…

 

TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s Friday and I’m pretty excited about getting this blog post out to you. I’m also going to write today, too. Although I’m still pretty iffy on the laundry. Hey–nobody’s perfect.

How do you combat dropping your balls and being knocked off course? What’s your wet noodle of choice when beating yourself up? What’s your favorite way to eat noodles? Gosh, I want pasta now.

Happy Friday all–have a fabulous weekend and don’t forget to eat your noodles and toss your balls!

 

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Feb

2

2016

2,000 Miles!!!!

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, In the Wild, Pondering, Running, Stuff I Love

Woo Hoo!!!! On Sunday (January 31, 2016) I hit a HUGE running milestone. I’ve officially traveled over 2,000 miles since I started running. I’m probably irrationally proud of this feat, but I don’t care. If you’re a runner you probably understand, but if you’re not, I’ll try to show you how epic this felt to me.

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First off, I didn’t start running until May 21, 2010, which means that I didn’t start until I was 40 years old. So, yes–you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Over the years I’ve grown as a runner, and my runs now are much longer than they were in the early years (especially when my kids were younger–#runlikeamother) but ultimately I reached this goal in 403 runs and averaged 4.9 miles in the approximate 6 years and 8 months that it took me to do it. This was something I’ve stuck with, even when it was hard and it often was. Sometimes it still is.

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I was also able to learn some other interesting things about my almost 7 years of running…

*I wasn’t fast, but I wasn’t slow either–averaging 10’15” miles.

*I burned a grand total of 204,241 calories which was still not the right amount according to my butt and my fascination with chocolate.

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*I’ve run on every single day of the week, but Monday is my get it done day. And I don’t have a graphic for it, but I believe I’ve run more outside miles than treadmill miles.

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*I’ve also become a morning runner which was not what I preferred when I first started. Now it’s how I like to start off my day, especially in the hotter months.

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And the big question…how far would running 2,000 miles actually get me???

The closest match I could find would be an epic run from New York’s Empire State Building to Albuquerque, New Mexico which means that I could have passed out after getting a high five from my fellow writer/runner bud Caroline Starr Rose <3 How awesome is that????

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THIS!!!!!! SERIOUSLY—THIS!!!!!

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And since I’m still having fun and don’t plan to stop, here are my future running goals…

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*It’s 326 miles to the 2nd and my next Purple Milestone.

*It’s less than 1,000 miles until I hit 3,000!!!! Hopefully it won’t take me 3 plus years to get there.

*It’s 1,103 miles until I hit the black level on Nike+running.

And…

*It’s another 3,106 miles until I hit VOLT status. *shakes with intimidation*

But what the heck–I’m planning on giving it a shot. If you had once asked me if I could run 2,000 miles I would have said you’re out of your mind. But I did it. So, I’ll keep shaking those rocks out of my socks and keep on moving. I wonder where it will take me next…

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Jan

28

2016

The Universe’s Librarian

Filed under: Audiobooks, Family, Pondering, Reading, Stuff I Love

Over and over again, I’ve had the strange and slightly mystical situation of having books show up in my life–demanding I read them. When this phenomenon happens, it always makes me feel as if the Head Librarian of the Library of the Universe has a book recommendation for me.

It always starts off with the book I need to read, catching my eye in a very subtle way. Then, with increasing frequency, I’ll begin to hear people talking about or I’ll keep bumping into blog posts or reviews or social media posts referencing said book. If I continue to be dense about picking the book up, I’ll find that it continues to keep popping up in front of me in different locations. I’ll see it on a shelf, I’ll notice someone reading it or it will stare back at me from a magazine I’m reading.

Sometimes, I’ll go so far as to be compelled to pick up the book and flip to the cover flap, and yet I still won’t understand why I’m supposed to read THAT book. I must drive the Universe’s Head Librarian bat shit crazy sometimes.

It seems accurate that I always picture the Head Librarian at the Library of the Universe as Yvonne Craig in the roll of Bat Girl. It’s hard enough to be a Librarian at a book and mortar building and get people to read. Imagine being an unexplainable force of book nature. The Universe’s Librarian must be a little bit of a super hero to help the people who rationalize everything, understand that what we need shows up. And sometimes it’s a book.

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One of the most memorable examples of Bat Girl, on her motorcycle, doing a high speed chase after me with a book in hand was with Malcolm Galdwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

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This book was IN MY FACE. I saw it in magazines. I saw it on bookshelves. I couldn’t turn around without bumping into this book. From time to time I’d pick it up and contemplate it. I’d let my fingers run over the description before deciding that even though I’d read a couple of Gladwell’s books and was fascinated by them, I wasn’t ready to pick this one up at the moment. The wording didn’t overly resonate with me

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

I wasn’t going to read it. At least not now. I convinced myself the book was showing up everywhere because Mr. Gladwell had some mighty fine marketing people. I thought it was a coincidence that this book kept stepping in front of my face. I was so naive.

I can remember the moment that book won the battle and I made the decision to read it. I sometimes wonder if maybe I subconsciously agreed to read it, in order to shut the Universe’s Librarian up. Either way, I was in my local airport and attempting to grab snacks for a family journey. As I stepped off the escalator and walked to the shop–there is was–directly in front of me. AGAIN. I picked up the book one more time and then sat it back down, telling the universe that it could relax because I was going to purchase it as an audiobook–ASAP.

And I did. And a couple chapters in, a lightbulb went off in my head. THIS book was filled with profound thoughts on dyslexia. That book that I didn’t think I would connect with, moved me, supported my instinctual thoughts, it enlightened me, it gave me a dialogue to share with my husband and my dyslexic kids and it added to a spark that had been growing inside me in regards to a manuscript that was forming. I needed that book. I love that book. And I reread it often, because it unfolds for me differently every time I return to it.

Thank you Bat Girl–for not giving up on me so easily. But because of the memorable persistence of that particular book, I have never taken the all knowing Librarian’s book recommendations so lightly again. You don’t have to hit me with a Bat-a-rang over and over again…forever. Now I listen closer and watch more carefully.

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t have to work quite as hard to get me to pay attention. The Gift of Big Magic.

And most recently, When Breath Becomes Air, found me. I saw the cover on iTunes and without reading about it, I acknowledged that the title and the cover spoke to me, but I was in a rush and I’d have to check it out later. Then I opened a magazine and there it was. Immediately I understood it was for me and I had to know what it was about.

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For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

I dropped everything and bought it on the spot. I’m reading it now. If you aren’t aware, my lovely mother-in-law was just diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. So, today I wanted to acknowledge the Universe’s Librarian for always having my back. I appreciate you.

What books has the Universe’s Librarian persuaded you to check out and read?

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Jan

26

2016

Draftvision

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Chasing Adaptation, Check-it-out, Critique, Drafting, Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

On mornings when I’m not running or running errands, after I get the boys all off to school, I look forward to plowing through my emails and knocking out a blog post so I can spend the lion’s share of the day working on my WIP. Doesn’t that sound delightful? Yeah, yeah–I know it’s not that easy. After all it is Monday (I wrote this yesterday) and every person in the house managed to drag a laundry basket upstairs in retaliation for my subversive parenting techniques…no one eats chips or watches football until their clothes are put away, their rooms are clean and their bathroom isn’t gross. So, now I have chores to do in-between my projects. But that’s not my only problem, there is also this guy…

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By rights, he should be in a snow coma at the moment. He’s been outside non-stop for two days playing in the snow with the kids or by himself if every other human was exhausted. I figured by today, his get-up-and-go would most likely be his got-up-and-went and he’d pass out quietly in the corner, providing me with a quiet writing day.

No such luck.

Why doesn’t the dog understand that I NEED this writing day!!!!  I’ve been a bad, bad writer and I’m in the middle of DRAFTVISION????

Wait, you don’t know what draftvision is? You do–your just blocking it out. It’s when you’ve drafted 75% of a manuscript and because you’ve struggled with some aspect of plowing forward to the end of the draft, you’ve started to revise the front end while still drafting the back end. Draftvision. It can be a cold mess. Ugly on the scale of the 2016 Blizzard Jonas.

I do have good news. Besides the fact that Jonas only dumped a mild 10 inches in my yard. (Thank you mother nature for the pass) I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer stuck on my work in progress, spinning my wheels on the big expanse of white page. I know what to write to get out of draftvision. But here’s the thing, even when you’ve finally been able to plot your escape–you’ve still got to shovel yourself out of that shit. There ain’t nobody coming along with a word plow who’s going to do it for you. Which ultimately leaves you with lots of work to do on your WIP, plus a blog post and mountains of laundry to climb and whether you want to be or not, you ARE outside with the frisky snow pup who just wants to play ball.

My compromise is to brainstorm my blog post while running the dog silly. Sometimes this means “mind-writing” a topic I’ve already been thinking about. And other times, like today, it means I’m hoping to be struck by inspiration while I’m hanging out in the good old outdoors.

Today my connections started firing when I tossed that first neon orange tennis ball across the field and into ten inches of snow. I hadn’t really thought it through. White snow. Orange ball. This was going to be easy. That’s what I thought until this happened…

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Gone. I hadn’t expected snowball hide and seek. And it quickly became apparent (to me at least) that playing ball in the deep snow was a lot like struggling through draftvision. One minute your tossing your best stuff into the air and the next minute–BOOM! Ball is gone and you can’t find it anywhere. But you don’t panic because the snow is pretty pristine and there is a ball shaped space letting you know where to start digging to fix the problem.

But the dog isn’t close to being done yet and you realize you are still playing ball in the snow and the more you play, the more foot prints, dog paws and old ball holes there are lying around. Take your eye off that ball for a minute and you suddenly have to change your strategy for finding what you need. Now you have to begin looking for new clues to solve your problems. But eureka!  You realize that as the snow packs down, initially it’s harder to see where the ball went, but now it’s easier to search by color. You wander around until you spot what you need to throw the next ball.

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But now your sweating. Deep snow is tiring to trod through and the whole yard is starting to look a bit off. It’s just when you’re on the edge of leaving that ball out there until the spring thaw that you have to dig deep. You must get in there and start poking around until you find what you need. You do not have time to let that manuscript sit for a few months and lose momentum. Start moving stuff around until you make some progress. If you stumble around long enough (trust me–i know) you’ll eventually find something you can toss around, under all that mess.

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And incidentally, as if finding these disappearing balls isn’t hard enough, you should also know that the balls you’re throwing  aren’t traveling as far as they usually do. I’ve never been a major league pitcher, but momentum has always been my friend. I’ve relied on a little bounce, bump and roll to get some distance. But in draftvision, that ball stops where it lands, without getting a lot of milage or tiring out the dog and now you still have to go find it. Grrrr. After awhile, you may realize that even though you’re trying very hard, nothing seems to be working. In this case, you just might want a little help.

You NEED a critique or two to help you sort out what you’ve got going on. Sometimes that critiquer will tell you things you didn’t know, which is pretty freaking fabulous. Yay for new insights that solve old problems. But usually, the critiquer will do the same thing you are doing and tell you what you already know. Yup–it works like that sometimes. Believe it or not, you’re smarter than you know. But even though you’re a bright light, the black hole of draftvision has sucked the illumination out of your life. There’s no shame in it, some times it helps to have someone else flip your switch. It can help to see your process laid out from a different perspective…

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Oh, that’s how you do it????

See–it isn’t magic. Do the work and you end up with a cold, orange ball at the end or a finished manuscript–whatever you prefer. Either way, you too, can get everything you’ve ever wanted. Be persistent. Believe in your story. Be willing to try different approaches as the rules for what your throwing on the page keep changing.

And so you’re aware (because tough things exist even if we don’t acknowledge them) none of this process guarantees you anything, other than the completion of your art to your satisfaction. No matter how hard you work at writing or how diligently you learn your craft–publishing is a wild card. No one can predict it. You can work hard to stack the odds in your favor like an arsenal of snow encrusted tennis balls and that’s a great thing to have in the fight to get published. But it’s important that your goal is always to write the best book you can write, regardless of where that takes you.

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And there’s  another important reason to have your own measuring stick for your work. Sometimes we do not know when draftvision turns to revision, which then turns into TOO MUCH revision. It can be a slippery, ice encrusted, slope and once we are on it, we start moving ass-fast downhill and don’t know how to stop sliding and get off.

At the end of my blog post plotting, I pocketed both bright orange balls for another day, trading them for a large stick that I tossed up into the woods. Somewhere between the toss and the run to find said stick, the pup forgot what he was looking for and spent the next umpteen minutes looking for his ball in every conceivable place. He was completely unaware that the orange ball part of his story was already over.

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It’s important to know that all good games of fetch and stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Looking back I’ve realized that sometimes draftvision is completely unavoidable–like snow. It’s one of mother natures challenges. But when we find ourselves walloped by the blizzard of draftvision, it’s great to have some tactics to help you shovel out of there as quickly as possible…

  1. Look carefully at what you already have for the clues you need to move forward.
  2. Be tolerant of where you are in your writing and forgiving of how you got there.
  3. Then be positive about where you are going.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go digging, no matter how big of a mess it makes–journeys are important.
  5. Keep your eye on the ball. But if you lose track of it, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you. Perspective is key.
  6. Know the real reason you are playing ball in the first place. Understand what is in your control and what is out of your control.
  7. Don’t keep playing when the game is clearly over. There is a time to stop or you end up chasing the wrong things. Send that work out when it feels done, not when you think it’s perfect. There is no such dog.
  8. Drink hot chocolate–it makes everything better.

Have you spent time in DRAFTVISION before? What are your tips for getting out? Do you have a dog that makes you throw balls in the snow? What other pets mess with your writing time? Aren’t you glad dogs don’t wear clothes and don’t add to the laundry pile?

Hang in there and keep tossing balls in the snow and words on the page.

 

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Jan

21

2016

Her Door Was Open for Thirty-Three Years

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Family, Pondering, Stuff I Love

Last night, after thirty-three years of service as a secretary in the school district I grew up in, my mother-in-law Joanne had her retirement party. After the facility ran out of parking spots, a parade of people who love and respect her got up to speak. But there was one young woman who made my heart catch in my throat. She stood up and talked about being a high school student who once did student filing in Joanne’s office. She choked up as she talked about how it had been a safe place for her–because surviving lunch was hard. She talked about how much it saved her to be in that office with my mother-in-law. She then went on speak about how, as an adult working in the same school with her now, Joanne has continued to be a bright spot and a safe place in her life.

Over all these years she was someone who mattered and had a big influence on her life.

Long before I married or even dated my husband, back when I was in Joanne’s high school, I watched with my own eyes as so many students found their way through her door and discovered what they needed. I know there were countless stories like the one above. I watched–I witnessed. When I think of the importance of what she did and who she was, I am reminded that we do not always know our own impact until a later hour in our lives. We do not always understand how important it is to open our door to others.

To my lovely mother-in-law…thank you.

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Jan

19

2016

The Gift of Big Magic

Filed under: Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Dancing, Pondering, Reading, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing

I’m going to start this blog post by giving you a GUSH ALERT.

Gush Alert!!!!

If you choose to continue reading, you will hear me gushing about a book I read last week–a book I’ve been dying to share with you. In fact, as I finished reading it, what came to mind was…this is a book that all the humans should read! So, if you can’t handle my enthusiasm, this might be the time to slowly step away from your lap top.

You’re still here? Excellent! Then I’m so excited to tell you about BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

This book called to me. Certain books do. The ones I’m supposed to ready will pop up in my direct and peripheral vision over and over again. People will casually and even directly mention them to me until I pick those books up. Big Magic was one of those books that demanded I read it. And as always–I’m so glad I did.

I grabbed Big Magic in audiobook form after being pummeled with hints from the universe. Right off the bat, I was thrilled to hear that the delightful voice I was listening to, belonged to the author herself, Elizabeth Gilbert. If you decide you want to try the audio version–I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, I feel as if Gilbert brings something extra to the reading through her connectedness to the content.

BUT…my one disappointment as I devoured Big Magic, was that I wasn’t able to underline quotes that I wanted to return to. I wasn’t able to write little notes in the margins–I always do that with books that will clearly be my companions over and over again though the years.

Here are some of the ones that I would have wanted to highlight as I was listening…

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

While adding to that list of quotes, I quickly realized I could keep going for pages. Make no mistake–I want to, but I won’t–for your sake. But if you do want more, you can click the link and see all the quotes that effected people on Goodreads.

But even though I was able to find the inspirational words that (I missed being able to grasp more tangibly by reading the audio version) I still wasn’t satisfied. Then I remembered this…

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I had received a Barnes & Noble gift card as a thank you from three of my little ballerina’s this year. I hadn’t used it yet, because when you receive a special gift from special people–the purchase should be just as memorable as the people who gave it to you. I finally knew what to do with it. My ballerinas bought me a copy of Big Magic, which is it’s own kind of magic. Next time I see those girls, I’m going to have them write something in the cover because very quickly, little magic grows into big magic, and I always want to be reminded of that.

I know this post and my gushing is now all over the place. And I’m aware that I may not be doing the best job in explaining why YOU should read this book, but perhaps the best way I can explain why I think you should explore Big Magic, is to share why I believe it spoke to me so strongly…

I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by IDEAS. Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-forms. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us–albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have a consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. (I’m talking about all ideas here–artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody–say, you–who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention.

This is how my writing process works. When I wrote my debut YA novel, Touching the Surface, I had this niggling fear that once I was done with it, I would have no idea what to write next.

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Life altering mistakes are meant to alter lives…

But I didn’t have to worry. Once the story became fully formed in my mind, the next idea landed. I was still revising and working with my editor, but I knew I had captured the truth of my story and it would one day soon have wings. And as that happened, there was room for the next idea to perch along side me and begin to take shape.

This happens every single time. In fact, I was never as joyful as I was recently, when the next new idea flew at me. I have been “struggling” for quite a long time on my latest book. Dare I say it has been much like a dyslexic reader trying to attack War and Peace. It is a great idea–a worthy idea. It is an exciting and fulfilling idea. But it’s also been less then flexible at times–like a cold lump of clay that has had to be worked over and over again to find it’s shape. So, when the next new idea for a project began to relentless peck at me, I did a happy dance. I was a roller coaster that had reached it’s highest point after slowly chugging along for what felt like an eternity.

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There is still track to ride, but I now have momentum to move me along. I have finally captured the essence of my current project. And I know I’ve done it according to the idea’s expectations, because it’s now inviting another idea to work with me. I feels as if my former employer had given me an outstanding letter of recommendation.

What I’m trying to tell you is that I didn’t fall in love with Big Magic because it told me things I didn’t know. The opposite was true. Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to me because she put into words all the things that I already knew to be true about ideas, fear, creativity, hard work and magic. I resonated deeply with what she said. Magic has always been discretely woven throughout my books, like delicate, shimmering threads that wait for someone sees the glint. But outside of that, my thoughts on magic have mostly been deep held beliefs I’ve been afraid to say out loud. What if no one else has these kinds of thoughts or experiences and I’m just a big weirdo?

But I’m not.

And you’re not either.

And that’s the gift of Big Magic.

So, go read it because there are ideas out there waiting for you. They are trying to get your attention.

Have you read Big Magic? Is it on your TBR list? What is your proof that big magic exists? How do ideas find you?

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Jan

14

2016

Flow, Frequency and Continuity

Filed under: Pondering, Writing, Writing Style

I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say life is hectic. Hell, it’s bat shit crazy for most people most of the time. I ain’t special. There will always be something or multiple somethings that will dig into your writing time and often your sanity. I’m a firm believer that if you wait for things like inspiration or the perfect conditions to write–you won’t get a lot done.

Straight Jacket

But even knowing that, over the years, I’ve noticed the way I balance my writing with my cray-cray life, tends to change over time. It’s a fluid thing. Sometimes I find myself being rigid with structure because I need that self imposed task master. Other times I find I’m forgiving of my inconsistencies because, at that moment, I need that too. Some days life has beat me up and I really don’t need to add to that. It thrills me that I’ve arrived at a point in my life where I can reinvent myself every day if I need to. I’m very proud that I’ve discovered the benefits of flow. I spent many years of my life being flowless and struggling with the need to seek a perfection that I’ve discovered does not exist. I’m more flexible than I’ve ever been.

Yesterday I had a kickass writing day. And the day before yesterday I had a kickass writing day too. *fist pump* And what I stumbled upon in my post-holiday-back-to-focusing-on-writing-spree, is that at this moment in time and with this manuscript, the thing I need the most (to finally complete what I’ve working on for so long) is continuity. I finally know my story. It’s inside me–I’m not searching for it any more. And I understand how to make it happen. And to do that to the best of my ability, I need to be immersed in the world I’m creating. Long periods of time would be ideal, but more importantly, if I don’t have that option (remember the bat shit crazy life stuff) I think it’s necessary I be there frequently. It feels necessary to keep my wheels greased and moving in order to keep all the bits and pieces of my story in my focus. So–right now–my goal is to visit this story as much as I can every day. And if I can only stop by for a brief period of time, then I shouldn’t berate myself. Instead I should be really proud that I’ve showed up that day, despite all the other really important things that are happening around my writing.

My focus is to have flow, frequency and continuity until I send this piece out to my critique partners–and to be proud of it–the work and the way I made the writing happen.

What is your writing strategy for 2016? Does your approach to writing change with the place you are in your work and with the outside forces in your life? Are you too hard on yourself or not hard enough? Do you have your own version of flow that helps you navigate a bat shit crazy life?

 

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Jan

12

2016

Passion Planner Mini Me

Filed under: Check-it-out, Critique, In the Wild, Pondering, Stuff I Love

Last year I bought a Passion Planner and optimistically blogged about it. You can read my 2015 Passion Planner post HERE. But now, it’s 2016 and I wanted to let you know how  my planner worked out for me.

First of all, I had every intention of purchasing another one. I really love it a lot! But I became very excited at the end of the year,  when I learned that there was going to be a mini passion planner on the scene in 2016.

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The size of the planner was one of the main things I struggled with. I loved the space to write, but it took up way to much personal space on the counter near my computer. I tended to close it up and leave it behind my laptop, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the planner accessible.



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Look at me now!

With the compact planner, it’s just the right size to keep next to me and accessible. I will admit that unfortunately, the writing space often feels a little squished. But there’s nothing I’d like to sacrifice on the page to get more space, so I think I’m going to pull out a pen with a finer point and see if that helps. In fact–one of these might do the trick…

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And using these pens in my planner will make me happy because I had to STOP using these pens in my planner. I know, you’re confused, but I can explain. I LOVED sitting down and color coding all of my weekly events with my fabulous new pens! I really did, but it took up too much time. Time I didn’t have to fart around with–even when I was enjoying it. On a good day, it was time I didn’t need to waste.

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So pretty! *pets page*

And on a bad day, when I didn’t have the time, my planner tended to look like this…

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I wasn’t really good at finding a middle ground. Not helpful anyway you flipped the pages.

Instead of setting myself up for failure, I’m using one pen at a time and one pen only. No excuses!

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But as I was writing this post I joyously realized that I could rotate through my gorgeous fine tipped pens and mix up my colors seasonally or as the mood strikes me. Best of both worlds. *high five please*

I’m also consolidating some of my other calendars. In the past, I have a tendency to place a printed monthly calendar on the cabinet in front of me to track my writing progress. That calendar is ALWAYS changing. Some days I need to tightly track my word count. Other days I need to acknowledge that I’m revising but not track word count details. Some days it’s a mix of several things I’m working on. My needs and my accountability is fluid with the calendar.

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I also keep a white board calendar in a different location, reminding me of my blogging days and author related activities. This calendar used to be above my desk (where I did my writing.) But once I moved to my new house, it didn’t quite play out like that. So, in 2016 (since this mini version) is right next to me) I’m keeping track of all of this stuff on the monthly pages of the planner. It’s a work in progress–I’m just starting to dabble with it, but I think I’m going to like this even better than what I was doing before. And then I’ll have a place to keep that info without papers being lost–because if you know me–you know I stash them in the oddest of places. You know, to keep them safe.

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Overall I’ve found that the more accessible I keep the planner and the simpler I make my process, the more I use it. And the more I use it, the more I get out of it. So, despite some design incompatibilities (for me) and a lot of operator head space on my part–I’m still a HUGE fan of my Passion Planner and I’m always finding new ways to alter it to best suit my needs. I anticipate a January 2017 update coming your way next year.

Anyone else using a Passion Planner? Do you have another planner that works or doesn’t work for you? What are some of your best planner organizational tips? Do you LOVE colored pens as much as I do??? Tell the truth.

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Jan

7

2016

Taking the Extra Step

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, In the Wild, Pondering, Running, Uncategorized

Usually, taking the extra step is a good thing. It’s about attention to detail and getting things done. It’s all about taking it to the next level, unless your me. *sigh* A couple days ago I headed up to bed, in the dark, carrying an armful of stuff. It’s dangerous to leave junk on the stairs where people can trip, right?

Well, it’s also dangerous to put it away.  The only way I can explain how it went down, is to suggest that my internal navigation system for climbing the stairs was off line. Clearly, the auto-pilot button was in the off position.

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I thought there was ONE MORE STEP. And I took that step. Which really threw me for a loop (literally) when my foot came down and that extra step wasn’t actually there. I sort of lost my balance.

The good news is I didn’t fall down the stairs. Instead I bounced across the landing while smacking my left hip against the corner of the next set of steps. The other good news is that I didn’t drop a thing–not even the mushy wet bowl of cat food I was carrying. Impressed with that feat, I stood up, shook it all off–I’m a Bumble–I bounce.

Bumbles

Fast forward a couple days…

My butt cheek has a bruise that looks like a rorschach ink blot test. The chiropractor is observing one leg being a wee bit shorter than usual making me kinda crooked. And I’m not supposed to run until the whole compressed and rather tight area in my lower back gets a little break.

Not cool at all. I’ve been in the mood to run. Instead…I’ll be stretching and resting my backside. Haha–I guess it’s the extra step I need to get back on my running feet again.

Looking on the bright side, I’ve got more time to keep those blog posts coming.  You have noticed how diligent I’ve been in keeping up in 2016? It’s not really a resolution–more like me stepping up LOL!

What’s the most entertaining thing you’ve managed to do when your internal navigation system went off line?

 

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Jan

5

2016

2015 A Bookish Year In Review

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Audiobooks, Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, In the Wild, Publishing, Reading, Stuff I Love, The Class of 2k12, The Ladies Noir, Wolf Pack, YA Books, YA Story Sisters, Young Adult (YA)

Here’s my 2015 Bookish Year In Review. Want to sign up for the 2016 challenge on Goodreads or learn more about the books I read in 2015…you can check it out HERE. One of my favorite part of this years reads is that the lion’s share were books by my peers. Represented were some of my closest writing buds, The YA Story Sisters, The Class of 2k12, The Apocalypsies and Michelle Wolfson’s Wolf Pack!!!! 

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Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.11 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.23 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.34 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.47 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.00 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.11 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.23 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.35 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.47 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.58 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.48.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.48.33 AMWere any of these on your 2015 book lists? Which ones did you miss that you want to read in 2016? Did you read as much as you wanted in 2015? What’s your goal for 2016?

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