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.

 

Inspire Yourself

images_032How do you inspire yourself when your thoughts seem to be made of clay. Nothing sticks together or when it does, there is no form or clarity to the mold. Some days, my computer screen stays empty. No matter what I write, my words make no sense. Okay, maybe a new sheet of paper will inspire me to write by hand all my thoughts. Oops! Another blank page. Music, this will give me a different inspiration. Soon, I am busy changing stations or channels on the television. Nothing begins to form. And then I get an uneasy feeling–something is not right.

When we need inspiration, we need to get out of our rut by getting out of our writing space. Exploration is a great way to begin. We need something different, or we need to ‘people’ watch, or be with other people. Sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen or blank notebook, is a lonely life unless you include others into your space. Balancing your life is one important part of the inspiration process. You need a regular schedule that includes, exercise, fun, checking out new places, and getting out with friends. This means getting your life back in balance and when you do, your writing will improve and the blank screen will be full of new words.

Remember, you do not have to go around the world for inspiration, this will come naturally when you become alive and do what you like. When you get outside your writing world, there is another world waiting for you to explore. This other world is your inspiration for writing.  Confused? No way.

Obstacles are there to make certain you know how to overcome them and live your passions to the fullest. Writing is a passion and your creative passion can fulfill your dreams.

Live life. Enjoy life. Be passionate and your writing will show this.

HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY INSPIRATION(S). HAPPY 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Fortune Cookies and Writing

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You’re kidding. What do these have in common with writing? Words . . . not just any words, but words with ideas.
Late one afternoon, a few of my book club members decided to go out for an oriental dinner before the meeting. Some of the members are writers and others readers of books. After the last course, Fortune Cookies became the centerpiece of the table. A ‘savage’ grab got our fortune right in front of us. One by one, we read our fortunes out loud. Voices got softer as each cookie not got read.
“Stop,” one in the group hollered. “These are all about kidnapping, murder, and death. Who did this sinister trick, and no, it is not funny.” We looked around the table. No fingers pointed to another. No eyes stared at a specific person. One lady, a writer of mystery answered, “This helps me know which character will go over the edge.”
“Why not put all of our fortunes together and see what we have,” I said. “We might be on to the beginning of a fantastic book.” All I got was silence and big eye stares.
After our review of the book for the evening, I returned home and begin thinking about fortune cookies and writing. They do have a lot in common. First, someone has written all of these proverbs, humorous sayings, statements, predictions, advice, and messages. Fortune cookies are not new and have been around for a long time, and remind me of words at play. Isn’t this what a writer does? Play with words until the right ones enter the mind and the fingers make this known on the keyboard. Here you get a good meal and at the end, possibilities for a new story.
The next time you open a fortune cookie, keep your message. No you cannot borrow or exchange your cookie with others. This was the message YOU picked up. It is YOUR personal message. Think of this as a prompt for your writing. Start keeping these fortune cookie messages in a jar, box, envelope, or what you have handy. Now, you have your own Fortune Cookie Prompt Jar. When you get stuck, dig in and find a new message. If you’ve used it before, replace and get another. Think of all the story starters these create and enjoy your Fortune Cookie Treasures.
Happy Hunting. Happy Fortunes. Happy Writing.
                                 HAPPY YOU.

 

 

 

 


					

IS YOUR WELL DRY?

Have you ever sat down to write and nothing happens? The screen stays blank. You continue to stare at all the white space without seeing even a squiggle or a flicker. Why? You are ready to write and write and write, but you feel you have a leak in your head. Everything up there is escaping. Air whistles in your ears like a locomotive on the railroad tracks, but does not send thoughts into your fingers. “I’m lost,” and you decide to turn the computer off and give up. WAIT! Not so fast. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities and causes of this dry well. It did not happen overnight.
Sometimes, we have so much in our minds, on our to-do-lists, problems at work, problems with the vacuum cleaner, problems forgetting to say ‘no’ that we are over extended. But, you need to get the submission out, you forgot to answer an email, and you listen to your overloaded mind give you all the excuses you want.
Yes, you are right. We do all of this to ourselves to get more done, more completed, more new thoughts, more new beginnings . . . and you can name them for yourselves. But, does this get results or more problems?
We are not machines. We load so much into our thoughts, we need a mental reprieve. Stop for just a moment and ask yourself what is the worst that can happen, and then take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, and look around. Better yet, get up and walk around. Your space might be huge or extra small, but a few steps, with the knees lifted high, is better than sitting in a chair with our legs crossed, tension running up and down our spine. Get up and take a walk in the rain, snow, cold sunshine, and if you have a pet, this would be a great time to walk the dog. Do not hurry and observe everything you see, hear, feel, and smell.  We get so bogged down with writing, we forget to be human. Our chores become routine, and before we know it, they take over our lives. Guess what? The well goes dry. This little walk, refresher period, or nothing time becomes the most important part of your day.
Think about how the air smells. Do you detect a scent of cinnamon, a big juicy burger, or strong caffeine from a coffee shop. In this short time, you bring your senses forward, your listening sharpens, and your head feels less empty. The well is working, not at full speed, but working.
Back home, do not go directly to your computer, but feel your body come alive with new thoughts and new senses. Tomorrow, you will watch your fingers fly over the keys with words you never imagined.
Never get bogged down again. Take a much needed walk. See. Feel. Smell. Enjoy. The well will fill up again.
Happy Walking. Full Well. Happy Writing. Happy Reading.
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A Happy YOU

 

FEAR OF FAILURE

unicorn danceYes, we all want to be successful in whatever field we choose. Success is just two steps away. You can feel it, but something happens and you remain in the same spot. Why? Behind the big forceful smile, a thought lurks. “What happens if I become successful and fail?” Like many others, you get back on your feet, start over, and try again. But this would mean getting out of your comfort zone and the self-imposed prison you created. Take a look at all the times you stopped whatever you were doing because the prison felt better than knowing what was on the outside.
Fear is such a short, four letter word, and we panic at the thought of getting out of our comfort zone. This is no easy task. Start small. Watch a baby wobble from the knees and try to move forward. The child makes quite a few wobbles. Back and forth. Back and forth until it becomes familiar and the hands and knees will move together. The baby discovers table tops that need to be checked out. Soon the hands reach up and the feet become still as the legs straighten up. There is so much more to see standing up. Then comes the fun of running and each room has something new to explore. The big world outside is next.
What’s so different with ourselves? Failure will always be a part of living, but it does not have to consume your life or your world. Start small and keep going forward know matter if the steps seem huge to you.
Find ways to break down your fear and try it on again and again. But, you do not feel you are good enough, smart enough to continue. Why? This is where you talk to your fear with conviction in your voice. Stand in front of a mirror and state all the reasons why you can do anything your want, within reason. Does the mirror crack? Does the person in the mirror split apart? No. Guess everything is okay. Face your fear and you will defeat the thoughts rolling around in your head.
Fear is only distress, anxiety, panic, worry, and terror. All of these can be overcome with a little practice in the real world, but remember you will always have the mirror to help you.
Fear can destroy your employment, your friends, even your family. Yet fear can be a good feeling as it sometimes trips the alarm inside you. Always listen to yourself and your feelings. You know yourself better than anyone else. Rely on these feelings.
Now, put fear to bed and learn something new. Walk into a room of strangers and come away with new ideas and new friends. you are on your road to FREEDOM OF FEAR.

 

HAPPY FEARLESS YOU.  HAPPY WRITING.

 

WILD AND FUN WEEKEND

WheeeeeeLabor Day weekend filled Atlanta with many activities. Dragon Con had its convention in downtown Atlanta. Costumes captured all of the characters and the parade down Peachtree Street gave kids and adults the sights they were waiting to come to life.

Then, we had the 10th Annual Decatur Book Festival. This opened with the keynote speaker, Erica Jong, and another author, Roxane Gay at Emory’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. A new stage opened and is part of the Georgia Grown Culinary Village with cooking demonstrations and authors of cookbooks giving out their secrets and food. There were stages for authors in many genres–The Atlanta History Center, Science Track, Romance, Poetry, Mystery and Thriller, Art, and characters mingling with the people, and the Children’s & Teen Stages.

Venues were set up all around the city of Decatur. The Old Court House opened for different authors to share their work. Decatur is just the town for this event and opportunity to meet neighbors and make new friends. Decatur is home to history–Emory and Agnes Scott Universities. A vibrant city with an appreciation for the arts and books.

The Atlanta History Center offers author programs during the months of September, October, and through November. These are award-winning authors, best-selling authors of fiction and non-fiction, and even authors of cookbooks sharing seasonal recipes. This gives people a chance for discussions and meeting other enthusiastic readers who share the love of books.

What a way to celebrate Labor Day and then back to business, but not in the usual way. I find myself energized with new ideas, meeting other writers from all over Georgia and other areas and states.

The difficulty of my publishers’ bankruptcy announcement is still fresh in my mind. All of the authors of Secret Cravings Publishing are pulling for each other. Our Authors Only site is filled with tears and new beginnings. I keep writing and, in time, will republish Breaking Point and other books. Just not certain in which format. I’ll keep writing new stories and using the words from my head fill the screen.

The day this happened, I glanced at my horoscope, which I never read, but guess the ‘gods’ were trying to guide me.  “This morning you’ll open your eyes with a fresh perspective on life. Then, you’ll figure out what really makes you happy and prioritize your life based on that realization. It is truly a great day.”

Writing and I’ll keep writing until words cease to float through my head and my fingers are too stiff to move over the keys.

HAPPY YOU.  HAPPY DAY. HAPPY WRITING.

WHAT DAY IS THIS?

The OtherlifeThis is the look of my days, not quite night, definitely not morning, and my eyes are red from writing and reading. Sometimes, I feel like there is no in between and it is hard to decide upon AM or PM. One thing for certain, the challenges for each day push me forward into uncharted territory.

This past Saturday, I attended my Georgia Romance Writers meeting and came away with new thoughts, new visions, and new ideas. Why? I was surrounded by writers. Some struggling to keep everything together and some celebrating new books and trying to balance their time and others hitting the blank spot of the brain. I realized none of us have it all together and this made me feel good. Do I like it? Nah. But, we keep surrounding ourselves with other writers and gather support. This is so important when you are struggling with a page, a chapter, a thought, and know you have others you can bounce these thoughts out there and get feedback.

I have found out that writers jump on the wagon and either pull or push you forward. It is the momentum from their hard work that propels new writers forward. Then, it is our turn to do the same to other new writers. Writer friends are friends we turn to in times of questions and they understand our problems. Why? Because, most of them have been in the same situations and managed to break through to publication and above.

Make certain you have life-lines to throw out to all of your writer friends, and they have the same coming your way. Beta Readers, Critique Partners, and Writing Groups are the best life-lines writers have. They may not be perfect, but it is a starting point. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be yourself. But . . . never compare yourself to another writer. We are all different and our needs are different. Keep your avenues open for everyone. Make sure your bridges to others are always open.

My big happening this week, I received my book in print and can hold my ‘baby’ in between my hands. And, it was not an easy birth, but I am busy on two other books. Maybe these will be a little easier to produce. No matter what happens, I will continue to write, write, and write. And you, as a writer will continue to write and write and write. Once a writer, the need to write, share, and publish never goes way. Good Luck to all of you writers.

A saying, I believe in and maybe you will too, is from Eleanor Roosevelt.
“The future belongs to those who dream.”

Happy Dreams. Happy Writing.