Wake Up the Happiness

Are you normally full of joy and Christmas cheer and anticipation of the new year, but not this year? Has the sadness of recent tragic events overwhelmed you? Financial worries, crowds at the mall, parking lot show-downs, to-do lists, and all the other practicalities of life weighing you down? Then, how do you wake up the happiness in you?

Too often we have expectations that somehow our lives, our holidays, will have the perfect holiday endings just like the movies. Most of us don’t have that kind of life.
I know I don’t. For my family, the past year has been a lot more downs than ups. And I am well aware that there are many others in the world who have suffered much more than we have. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by the tragedies, the problems of the past, and fears for the future.

It’s a Choice

Instead of allowing myself to focus on all the bad stuff, I remind myself that I have a choice. Most of us have a choice. We can choose to continue to look at the negatives or turn things around. Opening our hearts see things in a different light isn’t easy, but it can make a world of difference.

Today I can

Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health or I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns or I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn my lack of friends or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or I can appreciate that I have a place to call home.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.

What today will be like is up to me. I get to choose what kind of day I will have! — author unknown.

The Struggle is Real

If you are struggling with emotions, hardships, loss. Those are heart-wrenchingly difficult things to have to try to deal with, especially when every television show and commercial and decorated street and shopping mall is telling you, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Those of you who are struggling with losses and hardships, my heart goes out to you, and if you cannot choose happiness today, it’s okay.

May God grant you a tomorrow when you can choose happiness.

Neither the perfect life or the perfect Christmas of the movies reflect real life. And try as you might, you cannot force anyone else to feel, or act, the way you wish they would. So, for today, make a choice to take charge of your feelings, of the way you view the world.

Wake Up the Happiness / Shake Up Christmas

Today, I chose to be inspired by this song and the awesome A Capella singing group, Eclipse. Today I choose happiness and gratitude.

You, my readers, have given me gifts all year: gifts of your time, comments, support, and encouragement. I am so very grateful to you. Thank you. And to you, I send my warmest wishes for Peace and Happiness at Christmas and for the coming year.

It’s Christmas Eve! Please take a moment and share how you’ve chosen to “Wake up the Happiness!”

A Very Small Heart with a Lot of Gratitude

It’s a holiday week here in the U.S. Thanksgiving is coming! Some Americans believe Thanksgiving is celebrated to remember the Pilgrims or Plymouth Rock, or simply to stuff a turkey and oneself. Being small, being human and getting caught up in things we think we should do, we often forget what’s important. Gratitude is what it’s all about.

What Thanksgiving is About

Thanksgiving isn’t about Pilgrims, or a rock, or a turkey.  It’s not just about Americans.  In Korea, the harvest and thanksgiving celebration, Ch’usok, is in October. It’s called Thai Pongal in India, and it’s the Yam Festival in Ghana and Nigeria. Where ever you are, whenever and however you celebrate, be glad that this day (or one like it) comes around every year. It’s a reminder to give thanks, to enrich your life with gratitude.

How can we look at our world and not see miracles?

Sunset with gratitude quote by Albert Einstein

How can we look at each other and not see that at heart we’re the same?
Photo of child laughing, with quote Be grateful for those who make you happy from Proust

How can we be grateful for all the misery and strife in the world?

I hope and pray that peace and plenty prevail, but in the meantime, here’s a bit of advice from someone who saw plenty of strife in her short lifetime:

Quote from Anne Frank about the beauty that remains over a photo of a peace rose

How can we forget what true success is?
Photo of mountain peek with Danny Thomas quote

(Photo credits: sunset by Matthew Stinar; child laughing by cheriejoyful; peace rose by Vicky TH; Mt Holdsworth by Brenda Anderson)

Someone Who Does for Others

I’d like to introduce you to someone who lives by this philosophy, Louise Behiel. By her own description, Louise is ‘busier than a one-handed wallpaper hanger.” She is the manager of Interpretation and Translation for the Health Authority in Alberta, Canada, has a private practice as a psychotherapist, is a grandmother, mother, and writes romance novels. Read about how she juggles these parts of her life here.  Whew!  Just thinking about all she does exhausts me!  Yet, with all she has to do, Louise is one of my most constant supporters, and I know she takes the time out of her very busy schedule to support many others. She gives of herself, her time. There is no more precious gift. Thank you, Louise. To help me thank her, please join the conversation on her blog, you won’t regret it.  And read her novels, Family Ties, and Family Lies.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart,it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Louise isn’t the only person whose support has meant so much to me. My cup overflows with gratitude to my family, my friends, and each and every one of you who read this blog. I deeply grateful that you feel the words I write are worth your most precious gift to me, your time.  Thank you.

If your heart is full, please share a moment of gratitude in the comments below.  

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

Powerful Words

It starts as a childhood wish: When I grow up I wanna be . . . . Sometimes, you try on a lot of dreams, a lot of roles. One day, you discover your true dream. I discovered my love of powerful words. My dream was to write fiction.

 

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. — W.B. Yeats

 

Many years ago, I had decided I would make my living as a writer. The first person I shared a story with was a family member. She thought they were cute, like the little stories I had read as a child.

I had sold several stories to magazines. The pay wasn’t great. So I decided I would teach a ‘How to Write Fiction’ class at a local community center.

I prepared an introduction to myself and the course, a syllabus, ten lessons, in-class exercises, homework, and reading assignments for each class. I rehearsed and rehearsed. I was ready!

The Question

Finally, the day arrived. Eight students, ranging from a high schooler to a gray-haired woman of undetermined age, waited for me. I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the class. I welcomed them to the class, introduced myself by name and declared “I am a professional writer.” A hand raised. A question already?

“When did you start calling yourself a professional writer?” the student asked.

When? Intellectually, I had prepared an answer to that question, but emotionally? Not so much. I couldn’t even admit to myself that I had just said the words out loud for the first time. Instead, I answered with the information I’d prepared. I told the student that I had been a professional writer since I began writing with the intent to sell what I wrote. I said that every time I send out a story or a query with the intent to sell it, I am saying that I am a professional writer. I think I even quoted the definition of professional to the class.

I was being truthful, my answer fit the definition of professional and my approach to writing fiction. But, as truthful as that answer was, I didn’t believe it even as I said it. Still, my answer seemed to satisfy the questioner.

Powerful Words

I ended up teaching in that community center for a couple of years. My classes grew in size, I had many students who took every class. I defined myself as a professional writer in written and spoken words over and over again. The more I defined myself that way, the more I acted that way.

Life happened. I made other things a priority while my writing took a backseat to the traumas and banalities of life. But the dream was still mine. I continued to write and submit what I wrote. Sometimes I could only do a little, sometimes a lot. I kept saying that I was a professional writer to anyone who asked (and some that didn’t) because I’ve learned those words were powerful words.

Don’t Listen to Naysayers

Everyone has a dream. Maybe your dream is to be a writer, a chef, or a plumber. No matter what the dream is, sometimes it is hard to believe it will ever happen. Self-doubt can be a monster if you feed it. Don’t be your own worst naysayer. Don’t call your dream a dream or a hobby or ‘something I dabble in.’ Don’t say someday. Say today.

Maybe you or your parents, your partner, or your friends call your dream cute, or a hobby, or call it your ‘little’ whatever. You excuse them because it’s not really _bad_ stuff they’re saying. Yes. It. Is. Stop the negative energy where ever it’s coming from. Ask for the support you need.

Be Positive

Make a mantra, “I am a . . .” fill-in-the-blank. Write it in big letters. Pin it up somewhere you’ll see it every day. Say it out loud. “I am a –.” Repeat it as many times a day as you need it. There is power in the spoken word that grows with repetition. Feed yourself power, not negativity.

Follow through with your statement. Take classes. Improve your craft through practice.

Don’t let your fears of not being successful, of not being perfect, be an excuse not to try. Don’t let anyone keep you at the childish wish stage. Use the powerful words. Change I wanna be a . . . . to I am.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.
— Henry David Thoreau

A Home Grown Power Plotting Weekend

By Kristin Nador

In my not so humble opinion, character’s and their distinct voices are strong among my writing talents. But plotting stories — not so much. Having been a pantser from day one of my writing career, the plot has been a second or third step. I carved a plot slowly, one excruciating revision after another. So when I read Ginger Calem’s glowing report of a power plotting weekend she participated in early this spring, I was pretty envious. Short on budget and time, I decided to devise my own power plotting weekend with the help of my writers’ group. We have just concluded our first Power Plotting weekend and I think each of us would highly recommend that you try it yourselves.

The Set-up

Based on Ginger’s experience, I bought the book, Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells and read it. Then, read it again. I had a couple of email conversations with Ginger. Then I sat down with my writer’s group and explained what I wanted to do. I have to say, my writer’s group is a terrific group of people with a wide variety of education and experience. They were open to trying as long as I took the lead on this one.

I used information from a number of sources: Mary Buckham and Dianna Love’s Break Into Fiction, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering, The Script Lab and a number of other sources. I wrote up an agenda, forms that could be used to help develop your plot, and examples of how those forms would be used. We discussed these things briefly at one of our regular monthly critique sessions. We also discussed that we would try not to critique the ideas but to ask leading questions or make suggestions in as positive a manner as possible. No one would be forced to participate more than their personal comfort level would allow. We wanted to nurture these ideas so they could be grown into full-blown stories. Our plan was to meet a minimum of three different times during the weekend. Each person would go home and work on our stories independently between each meeting.

We planned to meet at a restaurant for the first evening, then meet at our usual location for our monthly critique sessions for the rest of the weekend bringing potluck meals.

Execution

Most of us submitted at least a paragraph of a story concept via an email group a day or two ahead of time. Each time we met, each author had a brief amount of time to present his or her story concept. Group members asked clarifying questions and asked structure-focused questions of the author. It was enlightening to see how the others came at their stories and even more enlightening to have questions asked that forced one to focus the story better. I think we each left each meeting with our brains buzzing with information and ideas. Each time we met again, the author had a stronger and stronger vision of his or her story. Characters and situations were fleshed out. Structure problems were identified and in some cases resolved. Story logic was developed or reinforced.

It was one brainstorming session after another and it was glorious!

My homegrown Power Plotting Weekend was a brainstorming session extraordinaire. You can do one, too!
Image: Brainstorm by Christos Georghiou @cutcasters.com

In the End and in the Future

Scene-by-scene plotting was not accomplished this weekend. Each of us agreed that there had been a lot of value in the weekend’s activities. Looking at story structure, plot, was helpful to all of us. In fact, we’ve decided we’ll be doing it at least once every year!

This worked for us because we respected each other’s ideas and abilities. It worked because each of us was willing to do the work on our own. It worked because we attempted to meet each author’s needs for his or her particular story.

We will set up our time a little differently next time. The restaurant was too noisy and distracting. Perhaps next time we’ll end the weekend with a meal at a restaurant or a pizza party instead of beginning there. We will keep the format of the author presenting his or her idea and the problem he or she would like to work on. We’ll use the question/suggestion method of exploring the author’s story problem. But we won’t call it a Power Plotting Weekend, we’ll call it a Writer’s Weekend.

I’d love to hear what you think. Would you be willing to discuss your story ideas in a small group like this? Or do you keep your stories secret until they are on the page?

If you’d like more information on story structure you might want to read How to Construct a Solid Gold Story and Re-Visioning Your Story.

And don’t forget. Next week our first stop on my Going to Mars, Word by Word series. I’ll be commenting on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars

The Hero of Your Story

A few years back, I decided I would make my living as a writer and would teach a ‘How to Write Fiction’ class at a local community center. It was an awesome experience but I never expected a lesson about being the hero of your story.

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet.
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

~W.B. Yeats

I prepared an introduction to myself and the course, a syllabus, ten lessons, in-class and at home exercises for each lesson, and reading assignments.  Once the lessons were written, I rehearsed and rehearsed. Finally, I was ready!

Finally, the day arrived. Eight students, ranging from a high schooler to a gray-haired woman of undetermined age, waited for me. I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the class. I welcomed them to the class, introduced myself by name and declared “I am a professional writer.” A hand raised.  A question already?

First Question

“When did you start calling yourself a professional writer?” the student asked. Intellectually, I had prepared an answer to that question, but emotionally prepared? Not so much. I couldn’t even admit to myself that I had just said it for the first time. Instead, I answered with the information I’d prepared, that I had been a professional writer since I began writing with the intent to sell what I wrote.  I think I even quoted the definition of professional to the class.

I was being truthful. My answer fit the definition of professional and my approach to writing fiction.  But, as truthful as that answer was, I had never believed it enough to say it aloud until that night.  Still, the answer seemed to satisfy the questioner.  And despite my anxiety, I got through the rest of that evening.

Fact is, I had nearly 100% attendance for all ten classes. I ended up teaching in that community center for a couple of years.  My classes grew in size and I taught my students skills they could use to improve their writing.  I know I learned a lot.

Life Happens

I made other things a priority while my writing took a backseat to the traumas and banalities of life.

I’ve had to relearn the most important lesson I learned when teaching at that community center course: how to stand up and be who I am.

Watching the Olympics this week I am awed by the dreams we are watching. The athletes proclaim their dream with every trial, every race, every practice. Many of them are fortunate enough to have the support of their loved ones.  But most of all, they NEVER let go of their dreams.  To my mind, each Olympic athlete is a hero of his or her story.

Be the Hero of Your Story

Everyone has a dream. Maybe your dream is to be an Olympic athlete, a writer, a chef, or a plumber. No matter what the dream is, sometimes it is hard to hang onto your dream.  You may have a hard time believing in yourself. Your parents or your partner may be the person who belittles your dream.  It could be they call your dream cute, or a hobby, or your ‘little’ stories.  You excuse them because it’s not really _bad_ stuff they’re saying. Yes. It.  Is.  Stop the negative energy.

Believe in yourself.  Believe in your dream. Make it a mantra: Mine is “I am a writer.” Repeat it as many times a day as you need it. Declare it. Own it. Be your own champion.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

Live the life you have imagined.

~Henry David Thoreau

Won’t you take a moment to share your story with me and my readers? Who or what challenges your belief in yourself? Tell us about your dream. Shout it out. We’ll cheer you onward as the hero of your own story.