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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Here - it's for you!

Here – it’s for you!

Today’s post will be short – just two tasty morsels of writing-related goodness:

 

A Secret Source of Inspiration

I subscribe to way too many email newsletters. I read hardly any of them. There is one, however, that arrives in my inbox daily and is so brief that I can usually read it right from my email program’s preview pane without even opening the actual email. The Great Work Provocation emails arrive compliments of Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of a neat little book called Do More Great Work, and leader of the team at Box of Crayons.

Although the “provocations” are written for a corporate audience, I find that they are just as applicable to any creative endeavor. By interpreting them in the context of my own work, I squeeze all kinds of inspiration out of them. Here, for instance is today’s email:

box of crayons

Doesn’t that make you think? Doesn’t that put a little more perspective on your day?

 

A Wee Bit of Advice

trapeze readyThe other tidbit I’d like to share today is this: Every great accomplishment in your life begins with one tiny step.

You will take hundreds of thousands of steps to reach the one which will change everything, but even so, it’s that one step that will make the difference and set you firmly on a new path or take you past a hurdle

Last night, my daughter and I attended our second trapeze class in two weeks. We had “flown” before, but it had been nearly a year since the last time we’d climbed up to platform, gripped the bar, and taken that one, tiny step off and into the air. I am not a daredevil, so – believe me – trapeze flying is not something that comes naturally. In fact, each time I find myself twenty-four feet up and preparing to launch myself out over the nets, I wonder what the hell I’m doing up there. My heart beats like a rabbit’s the entire time, but I jump anyway. I take that step, and then … I’m flying!

Today, I’d love for you to not only think about what baby step you can take to move you closer towards your writing goals, whatever they are, I’d love for you to actually take that step. It’s only a little one … just one foot in front of the other, the easiest thing in the world. What step can you take today?

I took a tiny step this morning. After spending part of yesterday afternoon (and evening) perusing (over and over again) the latest workshop and class offerings from Grub Street, I registered for two evening workshops. I’ll figure out who will hang out with my daughter and other logistical details later. She’s already excited for me, (“Mom, it’s like we’re going back to school at the same time!”) and I didn’t let fear make excuses to keep me from stepping off the edge of the platform.

And that’s a good thing. Because you can’t fly unless you take that one step. My form may not be perfect, but I’m working on it, and that’s the thing that matters.

trapeze catch
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Cupcake Photo Credit: Symic via Compfight cc

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robin williamsActing Out Optimism

My daughter and I had just returned from our first trapeze class after a year’s absence from “flying.” It was late (we’d stopped for dinner on the way home), and I was whirling around the kitchen, simultaneously shooing her into the shower, feeding our two cats, and having a quick catch-up call with my beau. In the midst of the chaos, I heard my beau say, “It’s awful about Robin Williams, huh?”

Before I could answer I had to pause to holler up the stairs at my daughter (again), and aggressively tap the remaining bits of canned cat food off the spoon I was wielding. “What?” I asked. He explained. About the death. About the suspicion of suicide. None of it registered. I made some meaningless response, something about it being a terrible tragedy and such a shame; and then I said I’d call back later and hung up.

Early the next morning, still tucked in under the covers, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in an effort to come fully awake. As I read the dozens of posts honoring Williams and grieving his death, I began to cry. Even now, as I sit here typing this post, tears are welling up.

I’ve come a little unglued.

After all, I did not know Williams personally. I have been a fan since his Mork & Mindy days, but I haven’t even seen all of his movies. I admired him and his work; but I if you’d asked me a week ago to name my top ten performers, he wouldn’t have made the list. And yet, knowing he is gone broke something in me. Like so many other people I’ve talked to, I find myself unexpectedly touched by his sudden absence.

I’m still processing my emotional response to this loss. I’m still trying to figure out why of all the heartbreak in the world, the loss of this one entertainer has left me so bereft. I need some private writing time before I can share my thoughts with more clarity. There is one quote of Robin’s, however, that I would like to share. There are so many making the rounds on the Internet now that he is gone. I think the one that I’ve seen most often is “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lost it.” Though I love that one, there is another that I find more intriguing, “Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Despite all the death and injustice and sorrow in the world, despite being locked in constant battle with his own demons, despite the intense pressure of life that we all feel – whether we are Hollywood icons or simply a member of the PTA – despite all of this, Williams chose laughter. He chose joy and kindness and generosity. In the face of all the darkness, he chose light. And he shared that light with the world. This, to me, is the highest purpose of any art – to express hope and optimism.

I think Zelda William’s said it perfectly in her lovely statement about her father:

“Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls Ive ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”

 

What I’m Writing:

tweet conv professionalsI continue to swim upstream against a strong current of crunchy deadlines for fairly intense projects. I’m grateful for the work on my plate, but that gratitude does not dispel the stress that comes along with juggling multiple clients and projects.

Last week, I had a quick little Twitter exchange with fellow copywriter, Donnie Bryant. I had never met Bryant, but a quote he tweeted caught my eye, “Amateurs wait for inspiration; professionals do it with a headache.” It just so happened that on the morning I read that quote (as retweeted by Craig McBreen) that I was sporting a doozy of a headache and was working off of only four hours’ sleep. Though I felt physically awful, Bryant’s quip made me smile.

Though I am now and always will be a work-in-progress as an author and storyteller, I earned the right to call myself a professional writer years ago. It wasn’t the caliber of my clients or the monetary value they placed on my work that gave me the confidence to call myself a pro. It was the fact that I always got the job done. No matter what. A hobbyist has the option to say, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow.” A dabbler can decide to go to bed early instead of staying up to meet the deadline. A poser can happily act the part without actually producing anything. But a professional? A professional must deliver. An MIA muse is not an acceptable excuse. A sick kid is not an acceptable excuse. A headache is most definitely not an acceptable excuse. If you’re a professional – paid or not – you get the work done. Period. End of story.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

What about you? Do you call yourself a professional? Is that even important to you? What’s your take on being a pro vs, being a dabbler?

 

What I’m Reading:

faerie magWhen I’m not so exhausted that I’m falling asleep on the way upstairs to bed, I am still managing to fill any remaining nooks and crannies in my day with small but still joyful moments of reading. I am not, however, finding making enough of these moments to get through some of the bigger reads I have on my plate at the moment.

So, while I continue to enjoy those in bite-sized morsels (and will share here once I’ve finished off the last, delicious bits), I’ll share with you today a little diversion that arrived at my PO Box this week: Faerie Magazine.

It happened like this: I was scrolling through Facebook (geesh, I seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook), and saw a picture of a beautiful fairytale cottage. (It may have even been fellow Live to Write -Write to Live blogger, Wendy, who posted it. I’m not sure.) Anyway, the image had been shared from the Facebook page of this beautiful print publication. It was rather late at night and I was struggling with the day’s final deadline, so – of course – I decided to take a little side trip via a click to the magazine’s site. A few minutes later, I was a subscriber.

The reason I share this with you is to illustrate the power of the niche audience. This is a beautifully produced and written print magazine (supposedly a dying breed) that is on its 27th quarterly issue, so it’s been in print for nearly seven years now.

If you have a passion for a particular topic or genre, there is a publication out there that is serving other people who share your passion. In fact, there are probably multiple publications (especially if you consider both digital and print) catering to the exact audience who would most appreciate your writing on that beloved topic. Find these publishers. Get to know their work and their readers. You never know when you might find a perfect home for the writing you love to do best.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

spark madness williams

Here’s to hope and optimism and finding the courage and joy to let your spark of madness shine. 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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We met Katherine at the Vermont Bookstock Festival where fellow Live-to-Writers Lisa, Deb and I spoke on a blogging panel. Katherine has already published two books and is currently working on a third. When she asked if we would let her do a guest post on Live to Write, Write to Live, there was nothing for us to say except “Yes. By all means, Yes!”

Enjoy.

Is the Right Writer Writing?

By Katharine Britton

I tell people it took me between two and fifty years to write my first book. The manuscript itself took two years, but I’d been gathering stories and getting to know my characters (the book was inspired by my mother and her sisters) for most of my life. What might it take to drive sisters apart, I mused, as I listened for years my mother talk about her childhood on the South Shore of Boston, in a weather-shingled house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And what might it take to bring them back together? Her Sister’s Shadow was published in 2011.
blog2Then it was time to write another manuscript. What, I wondered, as I sat, fingers tensed, staring at a blank computer screen, could I write about? “You’ve used up every one of your good stories,” I heard myself say. “You’ve exploited every single foible a character could possibly possess and exhausted every topic of interest to anyone. (And all the good lines, too.) And, by the way, you don’t have another fifty years to come up with more.”

 

My fingers began to cramp; the page remained blank. “It was all a big mistake, that first novel. Eventually someone will figure that out. Not a chance you can write another one.”
Who Asked You, Anyway?
This wasn’t writer’s b–ck (that which must not be named). It was that the wrong writer was trying to write the first draft. Every author needs an internal editor. This persona is as important to subsequent drafts as a copy editor is to the final one. Just don’t let her “help” with the first draft. They say that writing is revising. But first you’ve got to get something down on paper. It’s a bitch to revise a blank page.
Have Fun for Heaven’s Sake
For the first draft, you need to employ your generative side. Invite your kid-self to climb up on your lap and bang away at the keys. Give her plain white paper and colored markers and watch her mind-map her way to a plot. Supply her with colored index cards and see how quickly scenes present themselves. (Pink for romance, green for adventure, blue for drama. Why not?)

 

 

Strew your desktop and office with toys, open the windows and listen to birds, take her for a walk down a city street or out into nature (maybe in the rain, why not!) and see what she sees, take her out for ice cream or to a movie, and listen to what she hears. Let her mind roam free. Start transcribing.

blog1
Later you will be grateful when that voice says, “That “fabulous” metaphor that you forced into a sentence on page 212, and then shaped into that really awkward scene? Take it out. It doesn’t work. Yes, the whole thing. Out. It. Doesn’t. Work. (Any more than Aunt Betty’s old armoire belongs in the dining room, where it’s blocking half of one window, by the way. Get rid of that, too, while you’re at it.”)
But for now, ignore her. Instead, sail blissfully through your first draft, your mind as open as a summer day. Be a kid, have fun. There’ll be plenty of time to grow up later.
Katharine Britton’s second novel, Little Island, came out in 2013. She is having fun with her third.

***

IMG_0014Katharine Britton is the author of two novels, HER SISTER’S SHADOW and LITTLE ISLAND (Berkley Books, Penguin, USA). She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont, and has taught at the Writer’s Center, Colby Sawyer College, and the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth. She was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. She writes reviews for the New York Journal of Books.

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pin voicesThere are voices in my head. And, not the good kind.

As a writer, you are probably used to having voices in your head. You are probably even grateful that they are there – the voices of your characters telling you what they want, what they need, where you’ve gone wrong in your story, and how to get it back on track. No matter the time of day or night, the world inside our skulls is always filled with the murmur of these voices playing out myriad lives in the space between our ears. For a writer, this is not an inconvenience, it’s a necessity.

But, then there are the other voices – the crazy ones that talk over your characters and inner muse. These voices are rude. They are disruptive. They kind of suck. I’ve written about them before in a post aptly titled Must. Stop. The Voices in which I covered the three types of inner dialog that plague me: Distraction Mind, Inner Critic, and Eternal Editor. Bunch of blowhards.

This week has been very taxing in terms of both the quantity and complexity of my writing tasks. Amidst the joyful insanity of summer chaos (including my daughter being home without any camp and the two of us having to scramble to keep up with all her dog walking clients) I had to hit two major deadlines: a 5,000-word ebook on a complex, “thought leadership” topic and a half dozen hybrid case study/personal stories for a medically-focused project. I got it all done (well, the personal stories are almost done …), but I had to battle past The Voices each step of the way.

While the part of my mind that was under my control tried to focus on getting the next word down, the unruly part of my mind split itself in two and commenced an unremitting barrage of unwanted commentary. On the one side, a boorish and disdainful voice kept up a ceaseless drone of disparaging remarks about my abilities. This voice tried, by any means necessary, to convince me that I didn’t have what it took to even finish the piece, never mind do a half decent job. It played out imagined feedback from my client telling me that this wasn’t at all what he had in mind, that he was sorry he made the mistake of hiring me, that the whole thing was a mess and we’d have to start from scratch.

In the other corner of the ring, a much more supportive, but still unwanted voice tried valiantly to undo the damage of the first voice. This kinder, gentler voice quietly reminded me of my past successes, my experience, and my skill. It encouraged me to, “Buck up, kiddo,” and have faith that I would not only meet the deadline, but deliver a draft that was as close to perfect as could be expected for a first draft. This voice assured me that the client would be duly impressed, complimentary, and thrilled to have found a writer who “got it” as well as I did. This voice did everything short of picking up a pair of pom-poms and giving me a rousing cheer.

I felt like a child trapped between two warring parents – one telling me that I’m a useless, talentless, hopeless excuse for a human being and the other telling me that I’m incredibly smart, creative, and capable. I hated them both. I wanted to put my hands over my ears and scream, “Shut up! Just shut up!” But, try as I might, I didn’t seem able to drown them out. It was like they couldn’t even hear me screaming, they just kept talking over me – sparring with each other and completely ignoring my presence.

I share this story not because I can provide a cure. I can’t. I share it because I don’t want you to think that you are alone, or perhaps crazy. You’re not. These voices are totally normal. I cannot remember the source, but the best bit of advice that I ever heard about dealing with these intrusive voices was to take a moment to acknowledge them, but only long enough to pat them on the head, tell them you understand what they are trying to say, and then inform them – gently but firmly – that they must run along now and let you get your work done.

And if that doesn’t do it, put on your headphones, roll your eyes at them, and just get back to work.

 

What I’m Writing:

Matt Cheauvront's dog, Cowboy

Matt Cheauvront’s dog, Cowboy

I have been beating myself up a bit over how often this space in the Weekend Edition is filled with lame excuses about why I’m not doing much writing. Part guilt and part shame, this feeling is like a little rain cloud in the otherwise bright blue sky of the time I spend writing this weekly post. And then, earlier this week, I read a piece by Matt Cheuvront (@mattchevy) called Look at It With Their Wonder. Matt reminds us how important it is to pause and look at our accomplishments with the eyes of someone who doesn’t take them for granted:

Whatever it is you’re building – creating – making – and/or working toward, you’ll undoubtedly have moments where you’re absolutely sick of thinking about it/working on it. But once it’s out there for the world to see, create a ritual for yourself similar to my own.

Set aside time, even if for just a moment, to admire your hard work, experience it, and look at it with their wonder.

With that in mind, I decided to take an informal inventory of the writing I have done so far this year:

  • 15 columns for my local paper
  • 47 posts here on Live to Write – Write to Live
  • 15 case studies
  • 2 marketing ebooks
  • 7 point-of-view papers
  • 3 ghost-written articles
  • 7 brand messaging briefs
  • 12 architectural house descriptions
  • 5 websites

All told, I have cranked out in excess of 100,000 words since January 1st. (And that doesn’t include all my journaling which would add about another 100,000 words, or the bits and pieces of fiction practice I have managed which would probably add another few thousand words.). Also – because all but 10,000 of these words have been for paying jobs – I have been able to support myself and my daughter with this work.

Does this writing represent my legacy? No. Is it the novel I want to write? No. But I shouldn’t let those truths besmirch the accomplishment or belittle the value of the writing. I should look at that list and that word count with wonder and appreciation and gratitude. And I should stop beating myself up for “not writing.”

What accomplishments do you need to inventory? What have you done – writing or otherwise – that you need to look upon with wonder in order to appreciate its value? Go do that now. You’ll feel less guilty, and – interestingly – more inspired. 

What I’m Reading:

book short guide happy lifeLike writing time, reading time has been hard to find these past few weeks while the workload has been so heavy. Though I’ve stolen a few minutes here and a few minutes there, I haven’t had the chance to sit down for a real read this week. This morning, before I sat down to write this post, I decided to treat myself to a quick reread of a favorite “tiny book” that was calling quietly from the bottom shelf of the bedroom bookcase.

The book is called A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and it was written by novelist and columnist (not to mention Pulitzer prize winner), Anna Quindlen. My friend bought me a copy of this slim tome when she went to see Quindlen speak at a local college. I wasn’t able to join my friend, but she kindly not only purchased a copy of the book for me, but stood in line to have it signed. I have wonderful friends.

The book is very brief, but it is what they call a “little gem.” The text is an essay about learning to appreciate life and really live, instead of just existing. There are no earth-shattering epiphanies in Quindlen’s words, but the earnestness and truth of what she says always strikes me at the core. I also love the design of the book – its small format, rough edges, and the collection of beautiful photographs that she chose to complement her words. The book is a lovely and perfect little gift that you can open over and over again, and always be filled with delight.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin instructions for life

Wishing you a week filled with listening (but only to the right things – the things that matter and make you happy), seeing (with wonder and gratitude), and telling all about it in your writing (whatever kind of writing you do). Have a lovely weekend. See you on the other side! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Illustration behind the Mary Oliver quote is from a vintage children’s book called In the Middle of the Night, written by Aileen Fisher and illustrated by Adrienne Adams.

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One day to live

play moneyHave you ever played the if-I-had-a-million-dollars game? It’s fun to fantasize about what you would do with your life if you won the lottery – where you would live, where you would travel, the things you would buy (for yourself and others), and – perhaps most important to literary types – how you would spend your now ample free time. (It goes almost without saying that our days would be filled with long, luxurious stretches of reading and writing and exploring the world through the senses of a writer.)

The possibilities are endless. Money is no object; your time is suddenly free and clear – all yours. You can do almost anything.

But what if, instead of buying your freedom with money, you bought it with your life. What if, instead of winning the lottery, you drew the short straw and learned that you only had a year to live, or six months, or one day. Getting such tragic news would grant you a freedom of a different kind. Instead of suddenly having countless options, you would have to limit yourself to only the things that mattered most. You would have to make hard choices. You would have to give up your dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower in order to realize your dream of seeing Galapagos. You would have to let go of your desire to learn how to salsa dance so that you would have time to learn how to scuba dive. Or maybe, being a writer, you would finally sit down and write that story you’ve been thinking about for years.

Having all the money in the world may seem to buy you time, but all it really buys you is the illusion of time. There is a danger in that kind of temporal wealth. You start to believe that your time will never run out. You begin to lean on doing things tomorrow, because – well, you know, there’s always tomorrow.

Until there isn’t.

I like to daydream about a carefree life on easy street as much as the next girl, but while those kinds of musings are pleasant enough, I don’t find them terribly motivating. They are, if anything, a distraction from the things that really make me happy. Though some might consider it morbid, I find that asking myself what I would do – how I would spend my precious time – if I knew I only had a little time left a more inspiring exercise. When you look at your life and your dreams through that smaller lens, you are suddenly able to focus with great clarity on exactly what you want to do – what you need to do – in order to live a life with no regrets.

I do not like to dwell on my own mortality, but I do like rediscovering my sense of purpose and passion. I like feeling a sense of excited urgency about my work. What about you? What would you do if you only had a year, six months, or one day to live?

What I’m Writing:

grub street typewriterThis past week was the first of three camp-free weeks for my daughter. For the first time, we’re experimenting with having her at home while I continue to work on my deadlines. I have to admit that I was somewhat apprehensive about the challenge of keeping a ten year-old entertained (and relatively quiet) without needing to lean heavily on TV and electronics. I’m happy to report, however, that we sailed through the first week with flying colors. She spent the first few days listening to audio books and painting, and the latter half of the week giving herself henna tattoos and playing, among other things, big sister to the three year-old boy next door.

Still, my working mama’s brain continued to search for fun projects and activities to keep my daughter’s nose out of her iPod. And, you know what? I found an idea that is not only giving her something to do, but it’s helping me get some writing practice in.

We – me, my daughter, and my mom – are collaborating on a story. I created a Google doc (in what Google now calls drive), and I wrote the intro to a story. I then shared the document with my daughter and mom, inviting them to pick up the story where I left off. Now, the three of us can go back and forth, each of us adding bits to the story. I’m having so much fun with it, and I am very impressed by my daughter’s imagination and writing voice.

Here, for anyone interested, is the intro to our story:

Things you should know before beginning

There are two kinds of people in the world – those who believe in impossible things and those who don’t. Nearly everyone begins life as a believer, but the insidious pressures of modern life are a stealthy and cunning pack of predators. They first appear as mere shadows of obligation and responsibility, but all too soon they have circled and there is no escape. Fairytales fade, daydreams die, and the language of the wind and the birds is lost forever.

There is nothing extraordinary about this tragic transformation.  It is, however, quite extraordinary when a person reverses the journey and makes her way, usually quite by accident, down twisting byways – back to a world that is brimming over with impossible realities. Sadly, most people develop a proverbial blind spot which shrouds the signposts that mark such paths.  A person might, for instance, catch a glimpse of an unexpected appendage on a fellow subway rider or be given a particularly pointed look by a stray dog; but odds are that her logical brain will explain these anomalies away before they have a chance to upset the balance of the Real World.

This is the story of a young woman whose life was upset just so. Fortunately for you, dear reader, she was so bored with the Real World that she chose to keep her eyes wide open. Instead of ignoring the improbable events of her fourteenth birthday, she became curious. She hadn’t had anything to be curious about in ages, so it took her a while to remember how to go about it. Thankfully, curiosity, once set in motion, is a force to be reckoned with.

What I’m Reading:

breakfast bookMy reading time took a big hit this week, and that was particularly bothersome since I just started reading two great books, one fiction and one nonfiction. Since I’m not ready to share those with you, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ways for sneaking a little reading in on even the busiest days:

  1. Read while you eat. If you eat alone (as I often do during the day), invite a book to be your dining companion. I used to grab lunch while I worked, but I never really got much done. I figure my time is better spent feeding my brain than trying to get a few more emails out the door.
  2. Use a reading break as a bribe. Many writers swear by the Pomodoro Technique – a time management method based on working in a focused way for twenty-five minutes and then taking a five-minute break. Guess what you can do during your five-minute break?
  3. Read while your waiting in line. At the bank, school pick-up (soon, soon, can’t wait!), at the DMV – always have a book on-hand (or loaded on your Kindle app) so you can get in a few paragraphs anywhere, anytime.
  4. Read before bed. I used to miss out on this opportunity because I was so tired at the end of the day, I figured I’d just fall asleep. Experts say, however, that it’s really important to “unplug” before bedtime. The typical rule of thumb is to get away from all screens (computers, tablets, TVs, smartphones, etc.) at least a half hour before bedtime. Switching to a good old-fashioned book is the perfect way to segue between the chaos of your working day and sleep.

What’s your favorite way to shoehorn a little extra reading into your day?

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin joy success

Here’s to finding your joy and letting it lead you to success. Happy reading. Happy writing. See you on the other side! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Monopoly Money Photo Credit: Giovanni ‘jjjohn’ Orlando via Compfight cc
Breakfast and Book Photo Credit: Silvia Sala via Compfight cc

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We’ve talked about getaways and writing retreats and taking time for ourselves as ways to recharge, get back in touch with the muse, and just to enjoy life — because what’s life if you aren’t enjoying it, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a fabulous opportunity to join a group of other active older adults who enjoy group outings through Boomerang Adventures. This one involved an island, a ferry, a golf cart, tai chi, yoga, kayaking, walking, cycling, and dining on fresh-from-the-ocean lobster, mussels, and clams.

NightAtTheMuseumHave you ever seen the movie Night at the Museum? It’s from 2006 and stars Ben Stiller. It’s a fun movie about a museum security guard who discovers the museum exhibits come alive at night.

Anyway, back to my adventure weekend. It was on Peak’s Island, Maine (a quick ferry ride from Portland, ME). I’d never heard of the island, yet it was only 2 hours from my home.

The island itself has a lot of civil war history – and at one time it was considered the Coney Island of Maine with hotels, entertainers, amusement parks, and more.

Currently on the island (among many things) are 2 military museums – the Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Hall and the Eighth Maine Regiment House and Live-in Museum & Lodge. It’s amazing how much history is preserved on this beautiful little (4 mile) island on the Maine coast.

8th Museum and LodgeThe Boomerang group stayed at “the 8th”, and, wow! It’s really a museum! Part of what is preserved is the kitchen and dining hall (both in the basement). The main floor has an enormous fireplace and is open space – it’s where the civil war soldiers gathered (and slept) when they met at the lodge for reunions. Descendants still come and stay at the 8th.

I signed my name in the visitor’s log that dates back to 1924. How cool is that? The building is only open during the warm months, and the log book shows the influx of visitors – when the reunions happened, and now that the museum is open for reservations, it was fun to read the dates people have visited and where they’ve visited from.

8th Dining Hall Thankfully, the museum didn’t come alive at night, but I felt the history and saw it at every turn. Eating is a community event – visitors are assigned refrigerators (modern) and cupboards (original) for their food and tables so they can meet new people. Everyone chooses their own dishware (vintage and old) and silverware from the kitchen, and, most important, everyone does their own dishes! It’s how the soldiers did it, so it’s how current visitors do it.

There is still so much I’m absorbing from the trip. So much I’m writing down so I can remember. So much I plan to write about. So many people whose essence lingers and whose stories I would love to learn!

Peak's Island landingToday, I wanted to share how rejuvenating a totally different type of getaway can be. It wasn’t a writing-related getaway, I’m not a history ‘buff’. The trip was unique – and that attracted me.

New experiences – and sharing it with new friends – can rejuvenate and recharge you in ways you can’t imagine.

If you have a chance to try something new, go somewhere nearby you’ve never explored before – even for a few hours – I hope you’ll do it. An open mind is a great asset for any writer.

And if you can get to Peak’s Island and even stay at the 8th for a night or two – it’ll be a unique experience!

(I’m not a paid sponsor for any of the places mentioned. I just personally recommend them. And I do think the 8th Maine would make for a great unique writing retreat location – as there are lots of places to sit — inside and out — and large spaces to gather and share writing projects as a group.)

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She highly recommends getting a change of scenery now and then as a way to rejuvenate – and if you can turn it into an adventure, so much the better! You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

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What if writing is about more than the story?

heart book pagesEarlier this week I published a post called Your Author Brand Needs to Answer One Question. Though the title might make it sound like a piece that’s very focused on the marketing side of your writing life, it’s actually about something much more personal than that. Thinking about it now, perhaps making your marketing personal is the point.

In the post, I write about the importance of really knowing your audience – not just demographics, but psychographics. It’s infinitely more important to know what makes a reader tick from the inside out than it is to know how old she is, where she lives, or what her household income is. I also wrote about the importance of writing for yourself first and then letting what you write guide you to your “tribe,” as Seth Godin calls the group of people who share your values, interests, and inclinations. This will always lead to more enduring work than trying to “write for the market.”

Phil (aka “philosophermouseofthehedge”) and another reader whom I know only as FairytaleFeminista struck up a great conversation in the comments. I was particularly struck by these additions to the topic:

cmnt fairytalefem bubble

cmnt phil true

They got me thinking.

What is a story isn’t just a story? What if it’s a beacon to help us find our “tribe” in the great, wide world? What if it’s another whole language that lets us communicate with our tribe once we find them – a secret language that only we can understand? Or, perhaps I’m just stating the obvious? Maybe you have already figured this out and I’m just finally figuring it out?

Though I haven’t yet finished it, I am fascinated by Jonathan Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal. The comments from Phil and the FairytaleFeminista made me wonder if perhaps stories aren’t the truest way to share ourselves, and therefore the most authentic way for us to connect with others. Could it be that the fictions we create and consume might be the most real part of who we are?

In a post on her blog, Lessons from the Flock, fellow Live to Write – Write to Live blogger Wendy Thomas wrote about how stories permeate and even perhaps create our lives. She mentions the movie Big Fish (a favorite that I’ve been meaning to re-watch) which is a beautifully rendered tale about how stories can become reality and sustain and connect us in ways we would never have expected.

I honestly don’t have any answers here. Just asking questions. There’s no question that stories are more than mere entertainment. But now I’m wondering just how deep their influence and magic run.

 

What I’m Writing:

... is it really?

… is it really?

I won’t beat around the bush. I’m writing a lot, but it’s all the stuff that pays my bills. This past week has been the beginning of what looks to be a three to four week stint of excruciatingly busy days. As is often the case, all my clients needs seem to have converged during one, short span of time. More troubling than the weight of the workload (for which I am, by the way, extremely grateful) is the fact that for these next three weeks, my daughter does not have any summer camp plans. What was that you said about work/life balance?

The most painful side effect of being as busy as I’ve been recently is that my morning pages routine has ground to a temporary halt. Between staying up (very) late to meet deadlines and getting up (pretty) early to get my daughter to last week’s riding camp on time, there just wasn’t any time to squeeze in my usual first-thing-of-the-day writing practice. I’ve missed it SO much! Next week, I am looking forward to resuming my daily routine. My fingers are fairly itching in anticipation and my brain feels about to burst with the tension of so many unrecorded thoughts and musings. It’s no wonder I’ve found it difficult to concentrate this week, what with all that extra baggage rattling around up there instead of being spilled out onto the page at the start of the day.

Has the chaos of summertime stolen away any of your writing routines? How are you coping? 

 

What I’m Reading:

book flora ulyssesMy daughter and I finished another fun bedtime read this week, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.  I have to admit that I have wanted to read this book for a while. In fact, I’ve picked it up off the “new arrivals” shelf at our local library several times, only to be shot down by my daughter who wrinkled her nose doubtfully whenever I showed her the cover or read her the blurb.

I’m so glad I decided to ignore her ambiguity and just get the book.

In the end, she loved it at least as much as I did. The book is both laugh-out-loud funny (especially some of the illustrations or, as the cover refers to them, illuminations) and extremely thoughtful. It deals with superheroes, child/parent relationships, divorce, and the possibility of the impossible. The story is told via a split narrative – half Flora and half Ulysses, the superhero squirrel. Love courses through the story like a river through a canyon – strong and undeniable, but sometimes zigging and zagging.

Flora and Ulysses is one of those wonderful “children’s” stories that can be enjoyed on several levels, and DiCamillo’s writing is – as always – such a pleasure. to read. Whether you have kids or not, this is a story worth reading. Who knows, you may even discover your own inner superhero.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin all that we see

Here’s to creating your own reality and, through it, connecting with others who share a similar world. 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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