Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 9

Do all things from a place of love.

  • Love – love God. Love the gift that He has given you. Show love to others by sharing your gift. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How Your Life is Like a Shelf

The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.
This morning, I read this article by James Clear. And I loved it, mostly. I followed the steps. I wrote down my top goals/priorities. (He suggested writing down 25, but I could only come up with 15.) I circled my top five. Then according to the article, I was supposed to eliminate number six through fifteen. But as I considered those ten doomed for the dung-heap goals, I realized something. Those  that were about-to-be eliminated actually enhance and enable my top five.
(If you want to take a moment and write down your top priorities, please do so.) 

Here's my list. They're in order of importance.

1. Spiritual strength
2. A large, loving family
3. A peaceful home
4. A healthy body
5. A writing career that blesses millions of people
6. A loving circle of friends
7. Financial freedom
8. Travel opportunities
9. Meaningful conversations
10. Thought provoking and entertaining books
11. Entertaining movies
12. Beautiful outdoor places (spending time outside.)
13. A well-organized home
14. Service opportunities
15. Good music

Look at the top priority, spiritual strength. It can be enhanced by almost everything else on the list: good music, service, spending time outside, books, movies, friends, writing, etc. But it can also be derailed by the wrong sort of music, books, movies, friends. The trick is to pick out and focus on those that help me gain spiritual strength.

Second priority--my family. Again, the secondary goals can strengthen this top priority as we share meaningful conversations, watch movies together, spend time outside doing things we enjoy together, travel together. Conversely, my family can be hurt by the wrong sort of conversations--gossip, criticism, backbiting, comparisons.

This same exercise can be applied to everything on my list. I'm healthier when I'm spending time outside. My home is more peaceful when it's organized. My conversations are more meaningful because of the books I read and the movies I watch. I can only provide service if I have resources to share. The list goes on.

I once heard that we should consider our lives as a shelf. If our lives are full, we have to eliminate something to make way for something new. Every day, we have to decide what gets to spend time on our shelves. That's why I put spiritual strength at the top of the list, because sometimes only God knows what should stay and what should go.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 8

“i thank You God for most this amazing” by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings
These are the deer that frequent my dad's garden. Sometimes I wish I were with them.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Win a Kindle Fire and 30 Fantasy Books

Click on link to see bargain books
including The Highwayman Incident.

Celia Quinn's business lies in ruins at the hands of Jason West, the latest in a long line of scoundrels. As she seeks to restore her family's livelihood, Celia stumbles upon lore about the local Witching Well, whose water is said to cause hysteria and psychosis. When a mysterious stranger slips Celia water from the well into her drink, she’s transported to Regency England. Her timeless adventure spans miles and centuries from modern-day New England to Merlin's Cave in Cornwall, England. Only Jason West can save her. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 7

Yesterday, I took the train from my home in Orange County to Chatsworth to visit my son and his family. At the L.A. train station, a twenty-something girl sat down beside me. I was working on my novel and paying her little attention until she began to speak on her phone. From her conversation, I learned that she was a creative writing major at Chapman University and working on a novel, so, of course, we had to chat.
She reminded me so much of myself, and yet, our life experiences were totally different. Still, I was touched that God or circumstances would bring us together for even such a short time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 6

 Joyce Carol Oates is a runner and a writer. I like that about her because I also like to run. Often I exercise with friends, but I find when I'm on my own, I usually think my very best thoughts. I started running in college. Although I have five siblings, I had a fairly solitary childhood as my siblings were all much older than me. (My mom had five children in seven years, eight years later, she had me.) When I went away to college, I was used to extended periods of alone time. Even though I loved my roommates, there were times I really needed my own space. I found that running. I went to school in Utah, where the winters are harsh and cold. If I said I was going anywhere else, usually a roommate would want to tag along. But if I said I was going running in sub-zero weather, no one would volunteer to join me. I would put cotton in my ears, wrap a bandanna around my nose and mouth, put on several layers of clothes and run Provo's sidewalks. It was the only uninterrupted time I could find. It's nice to know that I'm in good company with Joyce Carol Oates.

"Ideally, the runner who's a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting."  Joyce Carol Oates

Mustering the Muse, Part 5

At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to enter a few contests. At that time, I believed that my dad would be celebrating his birthday in Washington in the summer, and so I decided that I would enter the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) literary contest. I had done so before and what's great about it is every contestant receives feedback on the 25 pages submitted. Not to mention, if you win you get to walk around the conference wearing a winner's badge--that would have been cool--plus, you get to meet with editors and agents.

But here's the thing-- I'm indie-published. I don't need to meet with agents and editors. Feedback would be awesome. A winners badge would be fantastic. But the conference is expensive, and when my dad decided to hold his party in Utah and not Washington (where he lives) I talked myself out of entering the contest and attending the conference--because who wants to travel to Utah and Washington in the same month? But the last day to enter the contest was a constant internal argument. Enter the contest, whispered a little voice. No, it's expensive, whispered reason.

I listened to reason.

And a few weeks later, my dad decided that he wasn't up for a trip to Utah and his birthday party was rescheduled in Washington, four days before the PNWA conference.

Sometimes we win and sometimes we fail--but we never get to wear a winner's badge if we don't enter the contest.

I looked over the schedule of the PNWA conference, was impressed with how many classes being offered on indie publishing, and decided to attend, after all, because it's not really about winning. It's all about enjoying the process and learning to trust that little voice inside of you that whispers, this is right.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mustering the Muse, part 4

I love this quote by Friedrich Nietzsche. It's fascinating to me because Friedrich spent the last ten years of his life out of touch with reality. It's believed that his sister, care-giver, and a well-known anti-semite, rewrote much of his work to fit her own beliefs, making Nietzsche  prophetic when he stated, "All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth." 

Nietzsche also wrote the famous quote, "God is dead." But he wasn't as atheist as you might think. Here is an expanded version of the quote.  "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?"
Here are a few more of my favorite quotes by Nietzche.
There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 3

Today's sentence: The water was warmer, the air thicker, and the sun not as direct, but the vastness of the ocean was the same.
Brock knew that the Pacific and the Atlantic differed, but they both made him feel small—in a good way. He liked knowing he was just a drop in a sea of the universe. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mustering the Muse, Part 2

A thoughtful professor offered this insight: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, God’s work in your life is bigger than the story you’d like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you’ll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him."

What's the story you want to tell? Do you ever think that maybe the story you're telling is different from what you thought or how you imagined it? There's a line in the movie Marley and Me (oh, how I loved that movie! And that house!) Where he says, this isn't how it was supposed to be. And his wife says, but this is so much better. Aimee Bender once said that the story in your head is not the story that ultimately gets put down on paper. (More on that here.) The trick is to learn to love and appreciate what you have created and not mourn for the story you thought you were going to write. 

Because as long as you're still writing, there's always another day and another story.

Today's sentence:

Grace wished she could siphon off a smidge of her anger and implant it in her sister’s spine. It would do us both good, Grace thought. Guilt quickly set in. Heather was perfect just as she was. And Grace? She wanted to pick up the heaviest book she could find and use it on someone’s head.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mustering the Muse Part One

A few days ago, a writer friend was experiencing some self-doubt (as we all do, whether we're writers, painters, carpenters, accountants, etc.). To cheer her, I sent her a couple of quotes I find motivating. (You can read them here) She replied, "I could use one of those quotes daily."

And it got me thinking. We all need daily affirmations, so why not create a space for that to happen? I probably won't be able to do it everyday, because LIFE (and I have a big one.) But I write most days, I read everyday, and I could certainly use a positive thought or two or a zillion everyday. So, here's my first affirmation:

Although criticism is often seen as necessary for improvement and might effectively point out what’s not working, it never represents our creative vision. And our vision is always our best guide. The remedy for The Inner Critic rests in a perspective of life that knows our goodness, whose interest is solely in the dynamism of the creative act, not in its evaluation. This outlook sees our endeavors as fun regardless of the result; it’s excited; it likes us and is always rooting for us. We find our voice in writing (and in life) when we listen for it. We listen for that which assures that there is never any threat in striving to create what we love; and we listen for that which appreciates us for all we have to give. 
Jennifer Paros

In addition to the positive thought, I though I would offer a space where friends can share either a link to their work or a favorite sentence. I'll admit my goal with this is selfish. I try to write fast. They call this "being in the flow." (You can read about that here) But sometimes, as I'm writing fast, I forget those sentences--the ones that sound and feel just right (writely.) And so, I think if, at the end of my writing day, I'm looking for that writerly sentence, maybe I'll create a few more. Here's my sentence for today:

“It’s a real place,” Grace told her. “In Oregon, near the Washington border,” she added as if that explained everything from the stupidity of the name to her grunge clothes.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How Writing is Like a Bathroom Remodel

Today, there are people destroying my bathroom. We had a leaking shower pan, so the bathroom tile had to be ripped out, and since we're already ripping everything else is also going in the rubbish. Out with the old, in with the new. It will be nice to have a new bathroom, but in many ways I feel I'm on the cusp of change--and not just my bathroom.
Things are going to get tumultuous, and I'm not sure how I'll balance my writing with my real life. I'm not even sure when, or if, the dust will settle. If I want to write, I'll have to stake out the time--and protect it-- to make it happen. This will mean going to the library or finding some other quiet space where I can't be interrupted...or tempted.
And so because I can't see how things are going to go, I have to decide what I really want. It's not so different from picking out the tile for the bathroom. Ricardo, the tile guy, told me I made a good choice--which is nice to hear. But the truth is: not very many people will ever see my bathroom. It's not a place where I invite guests. The bathroom is pretty much just for me and my husband. Still, I want it to be nice. (And I do not want a leaky shower pan.)
Writing is somewhat like that (for me.) It's lovely to have Ricardo's and who-ever's tell me I've done a good job, but in the end the opinion of others is not why I do it.

John Green said it this way:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.
Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

And I love this quote by Andy Warhol

And this poem by Lewis Caroll

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

And in the upcoming months or years where I'm sharing my space, home, and time with people I love and my hours are not quite as much of my own, I hope I'll find the time to write of shoes, ships, and sealing wax. And in the end, I hope I'll be happy with what I've done.