Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

Revisiting Imperfection

As November peeks around the corner, I always find myself thinking about NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. In honor of that and my continued quest for imperfection, let’s have a flash back to April 2012….


“Embrace exuberant imperfection”  (Chris  Baty, No Plot, No Problem)

For years, I have been intrigued by the Zen concept of beginner’s mind. In its simplest explanation, it is the ability to allow yourself to be a beginner at something you have done a million times. This is a skill that I think most of us have lost by the time we enter high school. As young teens, we are so worried about what other people think of us, and so quick to act as though we know it all, that we miss out on the joy of being a beginner. Sadly, this way of thinking, acting, and living follows most of us throughout our adulthood.

I have tried to cultivate this again in my life by taking classes in new subjects like quilting and yoga, and starting violin lessons in my late 30s (adult beginner violin teachers have a special place in heaven!), but I have really learned to use this in my writing.

For most of my life, I have had a secret desire to write. In my teens, I would carry a spiral notebook around and let my angst spill all over the page in poems and letters that I would never send. But somewhere along the way, I stopped carrying my notebook. I stopped writing down my inner most thoughts and feelings. I stopped writing completely.

During this time, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now, I certainly haven’t done any scientific experiments in this area, but I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between this diagnosis and my inability to put words to paper. I have read many books on spirituality, depression, and writer’s block.  I have come to believe that the reason I stopped writing is fear; fear that It would not be perfect, fear that someone would read what I wrote, and fear that I might write something that would hurt someone else’s feelings.

once upon a time2

When I learned about beginner’s mind, I decided to apply it to my writing. I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and pledged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For those who have not tried it, this is not an easy task, but with dedication and persistence it can be done. The trick is to approach each day’s writing with a sense of wonder, to let your mind go and release your expectations for the finished product. It will most likely suck, but the point isn’t to make it perfect; the point is to get it written. Somehow, I have done this and “won” four times and counting.

Unfortunately, as soon as I won, I promptly put those novels away and never looked at them again. My husband asked me why I never tried to get them published. I have given this some thought and realized that I hid them out of fear. Not fear that they wouldn’t be good, but fear that maybe they were good.  If they were judged good, then people would expect me to be able to do it again.   And what if I couldn’t?

There it is again. Fear of being a beginner. Fear of floundering around in imperfection until I manage to find my way. Fear of not knowing what I am doing, of looking like I am anything less than an expert. We all have areas in our lives where this fear keeps us from doing something we really long to do. I am slowly learning to embrace this fear, and do it anyway.


In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg writes “…beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.” I believe this is a good way, not only to  writing, but  to approach life.

With each passing year, I believe more and more that perfection is highly over-rated, and in seeking perfection, we miss so much joy. The beauty of living is in the imperfection. It is not the destination, but the ride.  It is in letting our inner critic go and embracing the experience of being a beginner over and over again.

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

Advice from the Pros

Have you ever noticed that people are always willing to tell you how to do something? This is especially true for writers. Everyone has an opinion. Show don’t tell. Write what you know. I am sure you have all heard it before.

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, many people are thinking of attempting to write a lot of words in a very short amount of time – 50,000 words in 30 days. Many of these people have never actually tried to write a book, and these are the folks that NaNoWriMo was made for! It is the single best way I have found to sit down, shut up and get the story written. I let my inner critic have the month off and just go for it.

So all of this advice should be saved for AFTER November. Don’t worry about it for now. There will be plenty of time to take or leave this advice after the frenzy is over and the dust has settled.


Stephen King has written a ton of words over his lifetime. He wrote a book about the craft of writing, On Writing, that has some down to earth advice for those of us crazy enough to pursue the perfect scene. If you are looking for words of wisdom from one of the most prolific writers of our time, read it, repeatedly.

Some bits of advice that I gleaned from him:

You can’t please all of the readers all the time. If you do your job right as a writer, and have a little luck on your side, there will be people who love your stories. There will also be haters. Maybe they don’t like to read in your genre. Maybe they are offended by something your main character said. Maybe they are closet writers who think they can do better. Read the negative reviews, but do not dwell on them. Learn from them if they offer something and then go back to writing your next story.


Writing isn’t about making money. If you don’t love what you are doing, don’t do it. Most writers do not get rich writing. The Stephen Kings, John Grishams, Danielle Steeles and JK Rowlings’ are few and far between. Writing may never pay the mortgage, but if it fuels you, you should keep doing it.

Read a lot. Write a lot. This one is obvious, but it is actually easy to ignore. When I am writing, I tend to not read a lot of fiction. My brain can’t juggle too many stories at a time. But when I am not writing, I read voraciously. I would love to find a middle road here so that I am always reading AND always writing simultaneously. I think that would help my writing.


Avoid distraction. Another obvious one, but a difficult one to follow. There are so many ways we get distracted these days. Social media is a huge time suck. I am an admitted Facebook-aholic, and when I am writing, I have to force myself to not even sign in. TV, surfing the web, chores, life, all sorts of things creep in and distract you from writing. On days when the words are coming slow, I find myself distracted by dust motes and things-I-really-should-be-doing-right-at-this-very-moment like cleaning out the lint trap and picking cat hair off the couch.

Ignore the would-be censors. Some people like to tell you what you can and cannot write. They like to tell you what is inappropriate for whatever age group you are writing for. Ignore them and write your story. If it is inappropriate subject matter or language for kids, you will know it when you revise. At that point, you have written a book for teens or adults. Market it accordingly, but don’t not write it.

Now go read Stephen King’s book! Learn from it. He knows what he is talking about.🙂



Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

The Tingle of Magic

Two months ago, I pulled out the manuscript for Book #2. I hadn’t looked at it in over five years. It was time to dust it off and start with the revisions.

I like to think that if I let my stories languish on a shelf or thumb drive, marinating for a number of years, they will get better with age. Sometimes it is good to let the magical vibes that went in to writing the story sit and simmer for a while before you read it again. I remember the premise of the story. I have a memory of the barest plot outline, but don’t recall the details. Yet, this is the story that has been singing a siren song and pulling at me for the last six or seven months.


So, how do you dive back into a world you haven’t visited for five years? Where do you start when you can’t even remember the characters’ names?

You start at the beginning.

I had waited an equal amount of time between writing and rewriting my first novel. Five or six years seems to be my instinctive timeframe for letting stories rest. I started the second book the same way as the first. I printed out my very rough draft and started rewriting from word one.

As I typed the words again, I made notes. Lots of notes. Each place that corresponded to a note got a big “XXXXXXXXXX” in the document file so I could find it again. This was the fun part! I let my mind wander and play, questioning plot points and character arcs, asking what ifs and letting my characters lead the way. By the time I made it to the end, there was a LOT of Xs!🙂

Then came the real work. By rewrite #3, 4, 5, etc, I got down to specifics. I cut large chunks of narrative and rearranged scenes, renamed characters and places and focused on the overall plot and subplots. This is where I made the story bits from the first draft into a cohesive novel.

So what now?


Now, I work with my beta readers and polish polish polish to make the manuscript as clean and perfect as possible before sending it to my editor for the first pass. By the time it goes whisking off through cyberspace to her, I will have entire sections of it memorized. I will be so sick of my characters that I will happily take a few weeks away from them. Everything about the story will seem stale to me.

Months from now, when the third pass of editing is finished and I am ready to build the book, I will start to feel that magic grow again. When I get the final cover design in place and have formatted the pages for each type of e-book and print book, I will have butterflies in my stomach. When I assign an ISBN number, file for copyright and pick a release date, I will be basking in the glow of the story again.


This is how it happened before. It will happen again. This is the process of letting the magic take over, taming it, wrapping it into a package that I can share with the world, and then rediscovering that tingle again for myself. Perhaps this is why I let my stories simmer so long before rewrites. I know there will come a brief time where I will have to lose the magic I first felt when I spilled words onto the page. I will just have to keep reminding myself that the magic returns on the other side of the process.🙂

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

This is a book.

booksI came across a beautiful ode to books the other day. It is called “A Father Introduces His Newborn Daughter to Books,” and it was posted on a wonderful site for readers called

Go on, I will wait while you zip over there to read it…🙂



book6This new dad has an obvious love for books that shines through as he explains to his baby girl that “Books give  you a way of decoding this crazy muddle of life. They will give you a way of describing the world, a way of finding your way through the extraordinary and the everyday. They are also a much needed refuge and escape.”

He goes on to say that books explain our world and reflect it back to us – the good and the bad. “This world you’ve inherited is more unfair and cruel, more complex and fun, more beautiful and generous than you dare imagine. If you want proof, read.”


book8It made me think of all the books I have absorbed in my time here on earth. There have been too many to count. There were books that I looked to for wisdom, and others that I waded through because my grade depended on it. There were books that taught me how to do things I was interested in doing – knitting, quilting, photography, writing, cooking. There were others that showed me different viewpoints on various topics like spirituality and history.

But I think the vast majority of the books that have passed through my life, both those that I have forgotten and those I never will, were ones that I looked to for escape and the pure pleasure of spending some time in another world.


My fiction tastes run the gamut – kids books, YA, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, fantasy for young and old, mystery – you name it and I have probably dipped my toe in and tried a few titles.


Ever since I first read Go, Dog, Go, I have been addicted to words. I posted about this love of reading here. Go check it out. It will make you want to dig up a copy of the books you loved as a kid.

My love of a good story transcends the boundaries we all place on books. It doesn’t matter to me if the book was written for 4th graders, teenagers or modern soccer moms. If the story is good, it will whisk you away from this world and the cares of your daily lives. So go ahead. Immerse yourself in them! Wallow in them!! Those stories have stayed with me all these years, and I will probably still be reading them when I am 90!

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