A Sweet Milestone & a Giveaway

Celebration time! This post marks the 500th blog post I’ve published on this site. It’s a sweet milestone. One I wasn’t sure I’d ever reach. But big or small, bitterly won, or sweet–milestones should be celebrated.

image of fireworks to help me celebrate a sweet milestone.

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.

–Nelson Mandela

Looking Back 

When I sat down to write about my 500th blog post, I reviewed this blog’s history.

Listing your personal milestones is like storing a pocketful of sunshine for a rainy day. Sometimes our best is simply not enough…. We have to do what is required. 

–Winston Churchill

I’ve learned a lot. About writing. About discipline. And about blogging.

Jump in With Both Feet

I took an online blogging class from the incomparable Kristen Lamb in the fall of 2011. I learned a lot. But some things I ignored.

She recommended we have a month or two of blog posts ready to go before posting. I couldn’t wait. 

My first blog post went live on October 14, 2011. Mostly because I had no idea what I would blog about from day to day.

It’s not a bad method, but you need to understand that you’ll experiment with lots of ideas. And many of those ideas will be failures.

Blogging and internet savvy experts would say get rid of those posts that were failures. I say that not all failures are the kind to hide under the rug. You can learn the most from your mistakes. At least, I know I do.

Life Happens

In 2013, life had several surprises in store for me. The good included an illuminating Master Immersion Class with Margie Lawson. The unpleasant surprises included my husband’s struggle with multiple health issues that grew larger and more life-threatening at every corner. Caring for and being there for him, maintaining a full-time job as a pediatric nurse, writing my novel, and writing a blog became too much. Overwhelmed and out of spoons, I quit blogging. Even my fiction writing slowed down. 

My husband’s health still has its ups and downs. And I’ve retired so I don’t have outside obligations. I’ve learned different ways to cope, and I’m kinder to myself when I miss a blog post or a day’s writing.

An Incredibly Support

Oh my gosh, my classmates during that blogging class were and remain an incredibly supportive group of individuals.

Some of them found that blogging wasn’t a good fit for them but have done amazing things. 

Others have unbelievably popular blogs. Many have found a level of success that works for them. Others, like me, have had to learn our lessons more slowly but are finding our own successes.

And many of them—big or small—continue to express their support, for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you WANA 2011—you know who you are.

Having Readers Is Motivating

Image of a first prize trophy--like the one I feel like I've won when you read my posts.

When I started building my email list (way later than recommended), I discovered that it’s easier to post regularly to the blog. I have readers! You may not keep track of every blog post, but I sure don’t want to disappoint you. It’s incredibly motivating. You give me strength. You make me feel like I’ve won a grand prize every time you click on a post, click on a link, or comment. Thank you.

Write to Your Strengths and Your Weaknesses

I love history and science and everything about reading and writing. Those topics are easy for me to write about. 

One of my favorite posts is when I talk about a flaw of mine. I am consistently inconsistent. I’m not proud of it, but I am human. 

I’ve also shared when I’m discouraged or my routine’s disrupted.

Blogging Helps You Know Yourself

It took several years for me to get to where I can blog about what I want to blog about. Is that selfish? Maybe. But I tried writing what I thought readers wanted me to write. That doesn’t work for me—or for most people. Through my mistakes, I’ve learned who I am as a blogger. An ongoing process, I assure you.

If you’re a blogger, especially when starting out, you have to do it for you. Readers and comments don’t come quickly. Maybe not at all. But, I’ll tell you what, when readers comment–that brings a special kind of joy.

Another Milestone

In addition to the 500th blog post, I’m celebrating my first time being interviewed. You might have seen this on Facebook if you follow me there. I was invited to be a guest on Mysterious Goings On, a podcast by Alex Greenwood. Alex is the author of the Pilate series of mystery thriller novels. His podcast focuses on reading, writing, and creativity much like my blog does. I was pretty nervous about doing it, but Alex is a great host.

Grateful

Hands forming a heart over the pink & gold sunset symbolizing my gratitude for you--my reader.

 When we celebrate a milestone, we are reminded to give thanks for the rest of our everyday moment.

–John Stahl-Wart

Reaching the milestone of 500 published blog posts wouldn’t be possible without you. And what fun is celebrating without including you?

So From now until October 14th I’m running a giveaway at KingSumo. Grand Prize is an autographed copy of both My Soul to Keep and Fellowship with a surprise gift bag. There are also runner-up prizes. 

Current newsletter and blog subscribers are welcome to enter (No worries—you won’t get two copies of every email from me. And if you enter, you’ll be credited with having subscribed). Enter here:

https://kingsumo.com/g/5j0ysz/win-autographed-books-and-a-willow-tree-figurine

ETA: Sorry early viewers. King Sumo didn’t allow me to start the contest earlier than 12:30 CDT.

Most importantly, please accept my heartfelt thanks for reading, for commenting, and making this a sweet milestone possible.

5 Ways to Support Your Creativity

The weight of political divisions, racial injustice, gender or ability discrimination, and natural disasters can be overwhelming. Particularly in 2020. Choose your meme, but many express dismay about the ongoing issues. And many creatives feel the impact of these important issues in a way that diminishes their creativity. Do you have a creative support network? Maybe it needs some reinforcement. Here are 5 ways to support your creativity with a support network.

A lit light bulb plugging itself is sort of what the 5 ways to support your creativity do for you.

Supportive Peeps

Mentors

You need mentors. People who are more advanced in their craft, who can share their experiences. Mentors come in many forms. They can be one-on-one in person, but they can also be teachers in your creative classes, a memoir, or in how-to books. You may find a mentor in your genre related creative organization. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) has one such program.

Peers

Image of four writer friends, Peeps, Rob, Lynette, Bill, and Shandra

Peers who understand problems, frustration, and successes are vital. They be in person or classmates, critique partners, co-authors, or online friends. You can use twitter chat, forums, zoom, and writer groups online or on your favorite social media site. Make certain you choose peers who give more positive interactions than negative. And that you dish out more positive than negative.

Mentees

Your mentees are important for two reasons. One, so you can give back. That effort not only helps fulfill a need we all have, it also helps you. It reminds you of how far you’ve come. You solidify techniques and skills when you try to explain or teach them. Where do you get mentees? You can teach a class, write a how-to article or book, engage with critique partners who aren’t at your skill level, or join a mentoring program like the one from SFWA.

Refill the Well

By the well, I mean you—spiritually, creatively, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Creativity needs a source from which to draw. Make certain you give yourself the opportunity to have those sources all the time. (Okay, within the 5 ways to support your creativity are an additional 5 ways.)

Spiritually

image of zen stack of flat rocks in the middle of a sand raked in a circle, a spiritual  refill is just one of the 5 ways to support your creativity

No, not religion. (Not that I’m saying religion is bad.) There are many interpretations of spirituality. Replenish your inner self. Use meditation, prayer, sit or walk in nature, read spiritual or religious guidance and inspiration, read poetry, or listen to music. You’ll know you’ve used the best source of spirituality for you when you feel rested and at peace afterwards.

Creatively

There are many, many ways to refill your creativity. Visit museums (even online), read books you enjoy, learn or practice a different creative outlet (music, art, writing, gardening, etc), have an inspiration stash… Pinterest, Instagram, make a physical scrapbook, make a mood board, or change to a different media (if you use computer, try pen & paper, if you normally use pen & paper, try dictation, try crayons, if you normally do paper sculpture try clay, etc.) You may have other ways.

Physically

a black and white illustration of a man riding a bike--one of several ways to recharge physically listed in the 5 ways to support your creativity

There are several ways you should refill your physical well or wellness. Creatives rarely like this recommendation. But it’s important to get enough exercise and rest. If you are physically stronger, you will be more creative.

Set your workstation up for the best ergonomics. Mayo Clinic has some recommendations with illustrations of good office ergonomics.

Set a timer so you take regular breaks. Calisthenics can work, if that’s your thing. But exercise can also mean take your dog for a walk, dance, play tag with your kids, ride horses or motorbikes, or simple stretches in your office.

Emotionally

Bright green letters on dark green background states believe in what you do

Creatives are often emotional beings. Your emotional state affects your creativity. Prepare for those days when the emotional thunderclouds come. Create your own book of encouragements (book reviews, quotations that encourage you, copies or photos of your work, or letters you’ve written to encourage yourself.)

Friends who understand your creative work and are supportive are priceless.

Find examples that inspire you. A certain book writer used to keep a horribly written book on her desk because if that that author got published so could she.

Keep a journal of positives. Re-read them on those not-so-positive days.

Watch a short video for a refresher on being childlike.

Mentally

Refueling yourself mentally is perhaps the easiest of these tasks. You can learn new skills, language, or information. If one part of your craft is suddenly difficult — take a fresh approach. For example, if you normally write on the computer, try dictation or handwriting or drawing. Read a how-to, practice single parts of your craft—nonstop writing, doodling, copying masters, flash fiction, making the same stroke, etc.

Creative Space

an artists desk crowded with pens and pencil and brushes and sculptures and books--a designated work space is one of 5 ways to support your creativity

Give yourself and your creativity the gift of a dedicated space. Use part of a room, a whole room, a closet, a she/he/they shed, or go to a favorite shop or library. Your space can be portable or temporary. The setting up of your space will be the wake up call your brain needs to be creative.

Not only do you need a regular place to work, you need the right tools. Pick out tools you need and that you’ll love to use. If you can’t afford the tool you want at the moment, make an inspiration board to keep you motivated and working toward acquiring that tool.

Layout your space in a way that’s not only ergonomic but pleasing. Surround yourself with what you love AND your best work. Inspire yourself. Again, it might not be affordable to do it all at once—but aim for it.

Minimize the Negative

 Minimize the things, events, or people that drain or kill your creative energy. If you must have contact, try to schedule contact with the negative for a time at the end of your creative day.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Here are six ways to set yourself up for success. Yes, there really are more than 5 ways to support your creativity.

1. Attitude—know yourself and have a positive attitude

2. Routine—schedule your creative time during the time of day you are most creative.

3. Comfort—Get a good chair meant for the job you’re doing.

4. Light—Have light for the job you need to do. Daylight bulbs and computer glasses may help.

5. Minimal distractions—This is highly individual. Do what will help you focus.

6. Music, nature sounds, or silence—Again, a highly individual choice. Try out different things. Journal how that music or sound or absence of sound worked for you. Finally, choose what works. Sometimes we have to choose second best, that’s okay. Choose whatever will support your creativity.

Support Your Creativity

There are endless ways to inspire yourself and support your creative endeavors. You may find there will be times when you need more or less support from any of the 5 ways to support your creativity mentioned here. Do you have a good support network for your creativity? If you use something not listed here, please share with us in the comments.

The Mystical Adventure of Reading for Pleasure

Science has shown that reading helps memory, empathy, and language skills. But reading does more than that. It opens new worlds in your mind. It allows you to experience things you might never encounter in real life. There is a mystical adventure of reading. And here are the quotes to prove it. 

The mystical adventure of reading for pleasure shows a young boy reading in bed by flashlight with the Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quote "to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark."

On Learning to Read

Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!

 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943

When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.

— Mem Fox

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.

—J.K. Rowling

The Magic of Reading

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

—Stephen King

There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away

— Emily Dickinson

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person …

—Carl Sagan

A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom

—Robert Frost

The Value of Reading

a black man experiencing the mystical adventure of reading for pleasure.

You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me.

— Strickland Gillilan

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.

— Walt Disney

Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them.

— Neil Gaiman

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.

— Jorge Luis Borges

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

— Frederick Douglass

On Having Lots of Books

 corner library in an attic space with book sstacked on the table, too attests to the mystic adventure of reading

I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books.

—Abraham Lincoln

Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

—Arnold Lobel

Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.

— Dr. Seuss

The Need of Reading

To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, reading is a need. If your house has stacks of books in all the crannies and all the nooks, you feel that need. And most likely you feel the mystical adventure of reading for pleasure too. You can read about the book I got hooked on reading in my post “The Movie That Wasn’t.” Which book hooked you on reading?