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.

A Gentle Reminder from the Past

Facebook has a lovely feature that shows you your posts from prior years. This blog post from a few years ago recently appeared on my time line and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

See, lately, I have felt like life has been getting in the way of my dreams, and I was definitely getting derailed. I was letting Book 2 sit, languishing in a corner in first draft form with no hopes of a rewrite. I mean, who has time!? The mere thought of diving back into it was causing me heart palpitations. I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to devote to it and do it justice. And so it sat, waiting…

Now, I am finally getting ready to attack my novel again. It isn’t so much that I have freed up time. I was truly chasing my tail on that one! But my heart and soul are burning with the need to pursue something creative and all mine, something that I am doing just for me and not because anyone else is expecting me to or paying me to. And that need is roaring in my ears, blocking out all the have-tos and should-dos and making my list of things I need to get done in my “real” life a memory.:)

Sometimes the dreams won’t wait for the perfect moment. Sometimes you have to follow them anyway.

Letting Go vs. Rescheduling Your Dreams

Recently, Gwen Hernandez, a writer and Scrivener guru I follow, posted that she was having to reschedule the release date for her newest novel. She was mere weeks away from the big debut into romantic suspense when she had to put on the brakes. She had done everything right with this novel – had it edited, had people beta read it, designed the cover. So what happened?

Some of her trusted writing friends read the book and had some valid points about things that should be fixed. As much as she hated to postpone, the desire to publish quality won out over the desire to merely publish.

letting go

This type of thing happens a lot in life. We are cruising along toward a goal and have put a self-imposed deadline or due date on it. Suddenly, we hit a bump in the road. Our schedules explode and we have no time to dedicate to the project; our day job gets super stressful; our kids get sick. Something derails our intentions.

Unfortunately, many times when this happens, we let the entire project get derailed and fail to pick it up again. We let a minor obstacle or a temporary detour throw us off the path for good. The next thing we know, months or years go by and we don’t give our dream a second thought. It lays dusty and neglected in the corner. When we see it one day and dust it off, we no longer feel the passion we once did for it and wonder why we ever tried. Or, worse yet, we think that it is now too late to try again.

It’s important to put realistic timeframes on our dream projects. I initially thought that publishing my first novel would be easily accomplished by this fall. But in hiring an editor to work with me on the project, I realized that it would be impossible to do the editing process justice and still meet that deadline. So, I moved my goal date to January 2015. While it is something to aim for, it is not written in stone. I realize that non-book things can and do come up that may affect the work I plan on putting into my novel.

I also started my next certification class for my day job. While the course is entirely online, which is convenient, I know that I will still be putting in close to 80 hours by the end of the course. Not to mention the 5 1/2 hour board exam that awaits me at the end… This has led me to revamp some of the other small steps that I had laid out to reach my publishing goals. I realize that I need time to focus on class as well as my writing and my blog, so I tweaked the schedule.

Letting go of our schedule and letting it be more fluid is a much better approach toward dream building than letting go of a project completely even for a few days. A few days have a way of turning into a few months. It is too easy to lose momentum. We must learn to let go of the right things – the deadline, not the dream.

letting go2

Don’t let life get in the way of your goals. Be flexible in setting your own deadlines. And remember — Baby steps…:)

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.

When the Battery is Dying

I don’t know about you, but I can only sustain high energy and laser pinpoint focus toward a project for so long. Between my day job, and keeping a house running, and squeezing in some down time, I get tired. I get so tired, in fact, that when I actually have a day off, I can’t seem to do anything but nap! (read here and here for examples):)

I have come to understand that this is not a bad thing. Even the most driven of us need time to recharge their batteries. This may mean you nap the day away with a cat on your chest, or you have a pajama day and watch old movies all day. Maybe you read a book and do absolutely nothing else. These are all good healthy things. And we need to stop feeling guilty about it!

Too often, I try to cram all my creative work into my recharge time. I get a day off and think, okay, now I have to write the next five chapters, or edit that story I wrote last month, or read that book on dialogue. This doesn’t do me or my creativity any good. Recharging time applies to our creative work as well as our day jobs!

Some ways to recharge:

  1. Read a book. Now if you are a writer, you know that reading and writing go hand in hand. I find that my to-read pile is so full of books on craft and self-publishing that I have very little time to wallow in a book simply because it is a good story. This is the best way to spend the day in my opinion. There is nothing like reading purely for the pleasure of it. stack-of-books
  2. Take a class. Now I know that it may sound like more work, but taking a class that is completely unrelated to your day job or your creative dream is a wonderful way to stimulate your brain in all new ways. Take a photography class. Learn Italian, or how to make artisan bread. Sign up for an art class. Even a one-night lecture on a topic that has always interested you is a great escape!photography
  3. Get out the crayons. These days it seems you can’t go anywhere without seeing adult coloring books for sale. Dig out your crayons or finger paints and go for it. Make a mess and splash some color on the page.crayons
  4. Take a walk. I do not mean to get out there and walk ten miles at a fast pace. Go slow. Breathe deep. Take in the world around you.woods
  5. Make some noise. Playing a musical instrument, even poorly, is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and rejuvenate your brain. Reading music and playing an instrument utilizes areas of your brain that often get neglected in the hustle and bustle of life. If you don’t have an instrument, crank up some tunes. Think Mozart Effect!chamber-music-practice-540x280
  6. Go some place new. Many times you may only have a day or a few hours to recharge. Go somewhere you have never been. Is there a tiny town within an hour’s drive that you have always wanted to explore? A nearby park that you keep meaning to visit? A local museum that you drive by and overlook?road
  7. Have a lunch date. Meet a friend for lunch and promise each other that you will not talk about work. It’s tougher than you think! Try something a bit eclectic that you would never make at home. Indulge the senses. Laugh. A lot!Lunch
  8. Make something. If you normally work with words, play with fabric. If you are a number cruncher, bake some cookies. If you have a physical job, pick up a paint brush. Make something that you don’t get to make in your day to day job. Make something unrelated to the creative dream you are pursuing.sewing
  9. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Go horseback riding. Play hopscotch. Catch fireflies. Draw on the driveway with chalk. Rollerskate on your street. Get out the hula hoop. Build a fort. Play in the sprinkler.sprinkler
  10. Allow yourself to nap. There I said it.:)

How do you recharge??

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.

Practice Practice Practice

There are a lot of people who will tell you how to get really good at something. They will tell you “Practice makes perfect.” They will say the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. People will quote various studies telling you how many hours you need to do something before you become an expert.

Now I have read many times that to make something a habit, you have to do it for 21 days in a row. I don’t know if there is any scientific basis to that number. I would imagine that 21 days would do it for some people, but others could take longer. It probably depends on the habit you are trying to form as well. For instance, it would take a lot longer than 21 days for me to get in the habit of eating brussel sprouts.:)

Having a habit, of course, is a long way from being an expert at something. But they both rely on consistently doing something. You cannot become an expert at anything unless you make it a habit first. If I want to be an expert pianist, I would have to practice long hours and make that daily practice a habit long before I reached that high level of expertise.

practice

The same holds true for anything you are passionate about. Even though I have been writing since grade school, it is different than writing. Writing fiction, poetry, even blog posts, is something that needs to be practiced.

I am always envious of those authors who say they write every single day without fail. I get in ruts where it takes every once of energy and concentration to step away from daily life and show up at the blank page. Then I berate myself for not writing every day. This is where all the advice about how to form a habit comes into play.

So how do you start a habit? Author, James Clear, has five easy steps.

  1. Start with an incredibly small habit. Make it so easy you can’t say no. …
  2. Increase your habit in very small ways. …
  3. As you build up, break habits into chunks. …
  4. When you slip, get back on track quickly. …
  5. Be patient.

And once you have made your passion your daily habit, how do you become an expert? I have often heard that you must practice 10,000 hours in order to become proficient. Again, I would think that this could vary from person to person and from skill to skill. Certain skills might take me a lot longer to learn – ie. hitting a ball with a bat – as I have very little athletic ability!:)

chamber-music-practice-540x280

But is 10,000 hours a good place to start? An article on Brainpickings.com, debunked this as a myth. It stated that if  you practice 10,000 hours but are doing it wrong, you won’t get anywhere. If you want to learn to play the violin, spending 10,000 hours playing scales will not get you there. You will become very good at playing scales, and that is about it. Finger placement and bowing to form a single note is just one tiny part of playing the violin. 10,000 hours of scales alone will NOT get you to Carnegie Hall!

It isn’t really the quantity of time, as it is the quality of time. There has to be a certain level of focus as opposed to just going through the motions. If you spend 10,000 hours trying to do the same mechanical movement over and over, you won’t necessarily improve. If you don’t step away from the scales and start practicing a song with dynamics and rhythm, you will probably not enjoy the practice much either! Without the willpower and desire to strive for greatness, we all reach the point where we are “good enough” and stop trying to get better.

And what is an expert anyway? In some fields, it seems obvious, but in artistic pursuits it is very subjective. Everyone has the potential of being an expert to someone who is just starting out. I am no self-publishing guru, but I have self-published a book that I am proud to have my name on. I created my own path to birth my project, and there are things I learned in the process. Someone just starting out could learn from me. I am not an expert in that area, but to that beginner, I am much further along.

A person who is learning to paint may not have much experience with watercolors. He may be struggling to get the paint and the brush to behave like he wants. His painting may not be what he envisioned. He could learn a lot from someone who may not be an expert painter but has put in many hours working with watercolor.

practice3

So, if I make daily writing a habit, and then I write for 10,000 hours, always striving for improvement, will I be an author? The answer is yes. I would be an author in that first hour. Would I be a best-seller? Who knows? I don’t necessarily strive to be an expert, but to improve my skills. I think even the most prolific writer can find room to improve.

 

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.

How To Get Out of Your Own Way

A post in Terrible Minds last month had me green with envy. For those of you who are not familiar with Chuck Wendig and his most excellent writing advice, be forewarned – he does not mince words. He doesn’t sugar coat and he doesn’t wrap you up in warm fuzzy bunny slippers and a cloud blanket and tell you it will be okay. But what he does do is give it to you straight, and most of the time, say the thing you know deep down to be true.

In the post last month, someone wrote in and said that he didn’t have a problem with the idea for a story, or the spewing out of tens of thousands of words. His problem was more in the unfolding of the story. He would get ten thousand words in and realize he had no idea where to go with it.

meaningless-words-300x300

First, let me say… I am jealous! I seem to get stuck with the initial ideas and finding time to get the words down. At least that is what I tell myself. After reading Chuck’s response and giving the whole idea/problem a lot of thought, I am realizing that maybe I do have ideas, I just dismiss them as bad ones before ever putting pen to paper.

Am I alone in this?

For some reason, I have led myself to believe that “real writers” have ideas that spring from their minds fully formed and that ergo, I am not a real writer. My ideas come to me in hazy blips and fizzles. I don’t bother writing them down because I don’t see their potential. If they do not come to me all fleshed out in three acts and tied in a pretty bow, I haven’t been giving them the time of day.

So maybe, I shouldn’t be jealous of this random writer’s ability to spit out idea after idea, but rather I should envy his belief in each germ of an idea. Here is a writer who takes a little baby idea and kicks out ten thousand words before proclaiming it to be a non-story. Maybe if I could give myself that kind of space and leeway, I could find that my non-story ideas can be cultivated, watered and allowed to rest in the sunshine, and maybe given enough time and energy they will sprout into full-fledged stories…

typing

This might be a game-changer. This might be my way through to the “tangle of thorns in which we find ourselves happily ensnared!”

Mr. Wendig’s post went on to address the writer’s issue – story idea vs. plot. And happily – I learned at the end that there is a new book on the horizon to address this very thing. Coming next year – Damned Good Story by Chuck Wendig!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,490 other followers

%d bloggers like this: