CHEERS TO THE HOLDAYS

images_271This is the most fun-time of the year. Family members snooping in closets, under beds, and anywhere they can remember, from last year, where presents were hid. And yes, the trips to stores to drop gifts, unwrapped, off at the places for families who need gifts. This is the important part of the holiday season…sharing. Giving rather than receiving.
I remember years ago, my parents driving me and a backseat full of gifts to parts of town I did not know existed. When we stopped in front of homes, some of them did not have lights, but candles. I thought this was neat, until my mom told me the truth about their candles. Even today, I have problems with lighting candles, except at church.
Still we all know there are discrepancies in the lives of people we know and people we do not know. It becomes our cheer to give to those whose lives are not as fortunate
as ours.

One family we encountered had two little boys….all I could think of was balls, toys, warm clothes, until the oldest kept looking around and shaking his head. When I asked if he was okay, he nodded and turned to go still looking around. “Did you loose something?” I asked. The answer came back in a whisper…”No, guess Santa never heard me.”

“What did you want from Santa?”

“A new coat for my mom, and a puppy for my brother.”

My heart dropped down to my knees. He wanted for his mom and his brother but nothing for him. “Maybe, Santa had his sleigh full and couldn’t get these inside. If he doesn’t come back tonight, we will search for him tomorrow.”

“Really, you’d help me?”

My dad turned his head around and surprised me….”Of course, but you need to keep this a secret.”

The little boy’s eyes widened as he shook his head up and down.

“If we can find Santa tonight, we’ll be back; but if we have to wait until Christmas Day, we may be a little late.”

“Okay.”

No other response. This little boy believed both of us.

“Dad, what are we going to do?”

“Everything except the puppy. They can’t feed their own family, and certainly not a dog. But, you, my daughter, will take him to the Animal Shelter and let him play with all the dogs he and his brother can handle.  AND…This will be once a month for the next year.”

I noticed the change in my Dad’s voice and I knew what he meant. A promise is your word to another person and it cannot be broken.

The next day, we drove by their house. The candles were all lit, singing came through the cracks in the doors and windows. It was a happy sound, and next to me was a huge hairy dog. We opened up car doors and started toward the house. The singing stopped, and the family members met us on the rickety front porch.

“We found Santa,” my dad hollered, but he only had a few things left. “A new coat for mom, a new flannel shirt for dad, clothes for both of you boys, and a new part-time pet. Meet, “Big Boy.” We will bring him by every so often and my daughter will take you with her to help at the animal shelter. Santa smiled as he got his sleigh off toward the North Pole.

“Merry Christmas to all who believe.”

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LISTENING

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This is a skill a lot of us still have to study. How many times do you hear one thing and reply before the speaker is finished? It goes back to learning the basics of being a good conversationalist. Listen. Listen. Listen.
As writers, we will sometimes be asked to read and talk about different writer’s article, manuscript, short story, or poem. This is what we do when we critique. You must be fair, clear, concise, and think before you speak. These words came from the heart and though we might not agree, a gentle answer will help more than the writer. It will also help you, as another writer and reader. Be friendly and look for the good things the writer has to say.
Friends have all kinds of problems. We have friends, who are bubbly all the time, and then those who can only talk about negative feelings. We are not all alike and we have to keep an open mind. Be authentic when talking with different people. We all have problems, but we do not need to share them with everyone. Sometimes, negative feelings and talk bring our spirits down. This is when listening can benefit the person and where you need to stop and think before you speak. Try to be affirmative and not criticize.
Be respectful of another person’s point of view and keep an open mind. It is the various friends who enter our lives that make everything interesting. If you are listening, face to face, look at the person and not around the room. This signals full attention on the other person and lets them see your compassion. If you are on the phone, keep your voice soft and gentle. This shows you are listening.
During our lives, we will run into many different types of communication. All we can do is listen, show respect for the other person, and keep our minds open. I remember a statement from eons ago…We have only one mouth to talk, but we do have two ears to hear.  LISTEN…LISTEN…LISTEN…THEN SPEAK.

Where is your concentration?

images_074 Yes, here I am searching for my concentration. As you can see, there is a lot of scraps of paper, twisted paper, eyes staring into space, and nothing getting done. I am in that lost phase of work. I can’t focus and my mind strays to other projects, which are not complete. What is going on? OVERLOAD. One word says it all, but why? We will look into this situation and it is shared by many. A study from Microsoft, about a year ago, discovered we have an average attention span of eight seconds. EIGHT? So, I began counting 1, 2,…..up to 8. Sure is not a long time. Our brain takes in most everything and do you realize how fast it works to keep us going on different projects? No wonder we get lost, confused, when there is so much to do and so little time. We need to step back…STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.
With the stop part, look around where you are and count the ways of instant gratification.  I can name just a few from my desk:  television,  channel changer (or whatever you want to call it), microwave, cell phone, coffee maker, any device that helps us get something faster and faster. Our brain picks these up and gets habituated to the stimuli. This is where we need to STOP from time to time and maintain your concentration. Give the brain a break. Take some deep breaths and slow your thoughts and heart rate down. Inhale in slow motion, and exhale in slow motion. LISTEN to yourself as you list the tasks you need to do. There are scads of them, but do they need to be done immediately? If there are a lot, make a list and do it the ‘old’ fashioned way…prioritize. When you stop to make the list, you are in a sense giving the brain a breather. As you prioritize, the list may get smaller and you can incorporate some tasks.
We have wrapped ourselves around multitasking and then find we need to go back and make corrections. A cell phone is a nightmare when it is turned on 24/7. You may not answer, but always look to see who is calling or who has called and this distracts you from what you are doing. Then we have to look back to what we were doing and sometimes the thoughts are not there or we cannot put them back in the same pace. Bless our brain, it can’t handle more than two big tasks simultaneously. A part of out brain is designed to work on one task while another part of our brain focuses on another task. There is no room for a third task.
Yet we can help ourselves by deep breathing and keeping our mind in the present instead of letting it wonder. This can be accomplished by turning off the cell phone or putting it on a ‘do not disturb’ notification, and then hiding it in a drawer. You will not fall off the earth. Now, think again at the difference between your days and your nights. (It might be backwards if you have a night job.) We all know to dwindle down the TV, the computer, and begin to relax before we fall into bed. At night your breaths become less labored, more relaxed, and your brain gets energized. You wake up to a new day with energy and the ability to make this YOUR CONCENTRATION DAY. How many times have we been told….stop and smell the roses. With our level of activities daily, now is the time to give those roses some sniffs.
This also applies to exercise. We need this to keep our bodies and mind working and in good order. Sometimes, we work frantically hoping to gain the results of a slimmer body, more curves, bigger biceps. Then after a couple of weeks, the gym doesn’t look so inviting. We want instant gratification.  But, do you stop and ask yourselves, how long it took you to get out-of-shape? No. Slow down and get your only body in shape physically, mentally, and spiritually. Time is a great healer of all ails, but it takes time, perseverance, and you will gain results as well as your brain.

Happy Concentration. Healthy You. A Happier You.

 

RESEARCH? YES. NO.

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Yes, I believe we all do research to a certain point. We need to know the place where our story takes place and the surrounding area. Or do we?
As creative writers, we create, and in fiction we can make our characters our own. But does everything have to be accurate? Our creativity can come alive in a make-believe place. This is the place where our characters will live, love, argue, be torn apart by some event, meet again from our  own creative thoughts.
I enjoy making up my village, town or city.  I can name the streets whatever seems right to me and my characters. It can be in the mountains, by the ocean, a hot desert feel, and the stores are from creative imagination. It is like making a blueprint for your surroundings.
Sometimes, making up the place the characters become alive. Not the cookie-cutter characters. It is like you are giving them freedom to be who they are. Soon they realize this and watch out. Their actions and spontaneity are off the page. They like being unleashed.
They are in a new place, meeting new and different people, and they love the independence you give them. As a writer, you create emotions and your characters show your fingers which keys to hit. Go with them and see your story take twists and turns. The writer has an idea of who, what, when, and where the story/novel should go. When it takes off on another path, our characters run with the story and it is hard to keep the fingers moving so fast over the keys. (Don’t worry. You can edit later.) Let them have free rein to romp, run, and roam. Your story has changed because of the freedom you are giving your characters. You are writing fiction.
On the other side, Non-Fiction research is necessary and important. You need to know all the facts you can, and still give the characters a chance to show themselves as real people in a period unfamiliar to others.
HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY CREATING.  HAPPY CHARACTERS.
                                            HAPPY YOU.

 

I NEED INSPIRATION

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Have you ever plopped your tush in the chair, found the keys on the keyboard, and nothing entered your mind? You know what you want to do…write…but your mental and emotional energies are not connecting. Why? Are there problems in your life that need attention before your writing? I know, as this has happened to me. My head says ‘WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.’ but the emotional side is in turmoil. Knowing you should write and not allowing yourself the attention you need to be healthy, will not improve your writing. I’ve tried this and my writing comes back like a stranger playing on the keyboard. The writing is unacceptable, terrible, and the spelling is at a first grader’s level. Still, I keep plugging along hitting the keys until the DELETE KEY is my only salvation. Today, is my day to take care of me and I shut down the computer.
Inspiration is not forced, it is waiting for you to find this part of your writing. Sitting at the keyboard is not the way to go. Get yourself out. Yes, out of the chair, out of the house, and explore an area of town that is unknown to you. Stop in at a coffee shop and watch the special coffee show pets. Imagine this…dogs on leashes sitting beside their owners and not growling at another dog. Or Fluffy sitting in a patron’s lap. No hisses. No claws out. Just a relaxed cat snuggling up to its owner. Each pet is so thrilled to be out on a “date” with their owner and no keyboard around.
I had kept myself glued to the chair, wanting to write, and nothing happening. Getting out and about, I find as a writer, I need to play, live, be with others, and absorb living from everyone.
Get out of the box you made for yourself and visualize your writing  in a new corner of your neighborhood. Take yourself to an afternoon movie and sit wherever you want. Splurge on a box of popcorn and notice the difference in the taste. Take yourself to breakfast. I love the WAFFLE HOUSE. Food is fantastic and you can eat breakfast at any time. Coffee is always fresh and hot. The order language is foreign, but works. I always get what I ordered. Customers and staff are friendly and informative, if you ask questions.
You need to balance your life with whatever you like to do. JUST DO IT! Do not write without checking for the balance and you will see your writing take off. New ideas hit the waves and the creative juices fill your passions for writing. Have fun.
Now, a thank you to all of my readers. Your comments are always welcome, and I would like to hear from you about stories, articles, or what you want to see on my blog. What do you want? I consider this our blog and welcome your suggestions.
On a personal note, I received an invite to a Cancer Survivors’ Celebration, from Piedmont Cancer, for a picnic, parade on the baseball field on Sunday June 12, before the game, and see the Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs. Will I be there? You bet your dollar I will. It’s been a hard row, but with faith, friends, family, and all the wonderful doctors and staff at Piedmont Cancer, we’ve made the journey.

 

 

Treasures. Where?

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If you hunt for treasures, you know they come in different places. Some of the best are the neighborhood garage sales or yard sales. You drive by and something grabs your attention. The next thing you know, you’ve parked and meandered up the driveway. Maybe this diversion will unblock the sticking point in your story.

As you look around, you see the same things from other garage sales:  clothes, dishes, ornaments, and tables filled with gadgets. Still, something nags at your mind and you continue walking around. Nothing. Then as you start to leave, in a small trash basket is a photo album. For some reason, this makes a special call to your heart and mind. You look at the sticker, 25 cents, and you pay the cashier as you walk out. There is a tingling in your hand as you carry this purchase out to your car. What is in here? You cannot wait to drive home, but sit in the car and open this album. Heartbeats are rapid as you look and see pictures and more pictures from years ago of a family. Your mind registers and you think…stories and more stories.

You hurry home, park, run inside and know you have found many treasures in this old album. But there is a problem…no names, no dates, no hand written information. As you continue through the photos, they are not the same people. Now, you are confused, but excited. You look at faces, landscapes, clothes, and know these are not all from a certain era. The excitement continues as you make notes and search the internet. Nothing comes up that will solve your questions, and you do different searches. Nothing.

You hear a whisper and your muse tells you a secret. “Here is your chance to make these people come alive again. Study each picture and give life to this album. It is your opportunity to celebrate each picture from the past with stories of the future.”

As you begin to study and write, each picture brings to you a sense of family and reality. You continue to write and write and write. All other avenues are closed, only the current street is open for you. Where you stopped on your story is where this story picks up. They are connected and you reach out and touch the album. Where you once felt excitement is now replaced with a respect and solitude for all of the people in the pictures. Your writing is tighter, the warmth you bring to each page is from your heart, and as you continue the pictures smile back at you.

Treasures from the unknown are giving you and your writing a push forward from the past. You keep writing and know that this Garage Sale is one you and each of the people pictured in the album will continue into the future.

Listen to your heart, use your head, and keep your hands on the keyboard or notebook. You, as a writer, make characters come alive and live today.  Keep Writing.

Happy Writing.  Happy You.

 

 

REVIEWS?

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Reviews are part of the writing process, whether good, bad or indifferent. What writers do with them are sometimes a shrug of the shoulders. Let’s take a this to a different level. I have noticed more and more questions coming in from social media. What to do? How to handle emotions? Ignore? This is why I will take a stab at my own observations.

We write because of a fire that burns inside us. Stories we want to share. After months and months of research, writing, editing, searching for an agent or publisher or deciding to self-publish, we still keep plugging on making this the best book we can. Edits, edits, and edits are done over and over until the publisher or the author thinks this is the best.

The next steps are the cover and the ‘blurb’. You  look at the cover and decide if this entices you enough to look at the ‘blurb’. Then you notice your book is in the general “Romance” section, and you know it is romance and suspense. Sometimes, our books get into sections of a bookstore, or even online where we do not expect to see them.

A writer writes what she or he sees, feels, imagines, or has experienced. This may take a year or years to get the experiences onto the computer screen. Then  a publisher or agent comes in with their view points. Next, the bookstore puts the book into a different section.

As writers, we know our work is good, but we cannot please every reader. Each reader has an opportunity to express their thoughts on a particular book. However, I have found a lot of social medial avenues are not reviews on the books. Sometimes the reader has not even read the book, but wants to get their information online, so others will see their names on social media.

As writers, we have the option of reading and responding or not responding to these reviews. Why, we can see they have not read the book, ignore the content, or the genre of the book.

Just remember, a reader took time to bash your book and another reader took time to share a good report of your book.  Move on without a conversation on either the good or the bad. Reviews and Reviewers are part of the process. Your  part of the process is to KEEP writing.

HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY DAY.  HAPPY YOU.