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Soul Full Eye by Artist, Lisa Redfern

Soul Full Eye
by Artist, Lisa Redfern

I have to admit, I’m a lover of fantasy. I love the idea of going after the dream, wishing on a star, and clicking my heels three times to achieve my deepest desires. But that’s not gonna happen any time soon. So what am I left with? Reality. I’m left with the realization that I have to do something, anything, to make things happen. No fairy godmother is going to come along and wave her magic wand and make me or my life what I want it to be. Talking about it, planning for it, making lists, researching, none of these things really advances me toward my goals in a substantial way. Oh, they may be necessary aspects of beginning a new project or adventure, but they don’t have the same effect as getting off my duff and actively doing the nitty-gritty work necessary.

 

When I talk to groups of people who attend my writing workshops, I always start by asking where everyone is in their writing journey. At least half, if not more, of the class talks about how they want to write, how they have always wanted to write, which is why they’re in my class. Beautiful! Wonderful! But I then ask those same people, why they haven’t started to write yet? That’s when the excuses come into play. They’ll claim that they haven’t had time, or the self-confidence. Some will claim they need to learn how to write before they begin. I then ask if they know how to use a pen and paper, or computer to put words down into sentences. Everyone nods their head and laughs. Of course they do, but they want to learn how to begin. I tell them it’s really very simple. They just start writing.

 

babies walkingEver watch a baby learn to roll over, crawl, walk? Ever watch a toddler climb, begin to talk, feed itself, and all the other astounding things they do each and every day? No one teaches a baby or toddler to do these things. They just decide to do it, and they keep making mistakes and trying again until they get it right. Yes, they will fail, and they might cry in frustration, but then they’ll get over the tears and make another attempt, until they get it right. Then once they’ve mastered that feat, they begin to tackle another in exactly the same manner. Try, fail, fall down, cry, try again, fail again, fall down again, cry again, then get back up and do the whole thing over again, until success is reached. No one has to teach them any of these things. Oh, we as adults can encourage and praise, but that’s all. The rest is up to the individual child to discover what works for him/her and find their own way. So it is with writing. You can take all the courses you want, make incredible outlines, plan to your heart’s content, but until you actually plant your butt in the chair and begin writing, you aren’t a writer.

 

That doesn’t mean the learning curve isn’t huge, because it is. Yes, there are guidelines and things to learn, and tons of ways to fail, but the words on the page are what writing is all about. Nothing else. This writing gig is a loooong battle that never really ends. I’m learning that for myself the hard way. As I continue to slog through revision after revision of my latest WIP, I could get discouraged, and sometimes I do. If I’m to move forward though, I have to get back to the business at hand and write. It doesn’t even matter if what I write in the first or second draft (or third or fourth) is particularly good; that’s what edits and re-writes are for. The key is to sit down and write.

 

It has often occurred to me that life is exactly like writing, or anything we wish to accomplish in our lives. At some point, the rubber must hit the road for the car to move forward even one inch. It doesn’t matter what challenges you’re faced with, to move forward means doing something. It’s okay to stop and consider the options though, and in fact, it’s extremely advisable. We were given brains to use them in constructive, creative ways, so we might as well use them to figure out ways of getting what we want.

 

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Everyone has different dreams and goals. Each person is unique unto him/herself, and we can all learn from each other. We can all be inspired by others and apply what we learn to our own lives, or just admire the doer for their innovation and creativity. Anyone who regularly visits this blog knows I interview other writers, primarily because people fascinate me. I began interviewing other writers from around the globe at various stages of their writing journey for another blog, Christina Hamlett’s You Read It Here First.

Through Christina, I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of “meeting” so many incredibly talented people over the past year. People who are taking their dreams and running with them at full speed. People who seek new ways to express the deepest part of themselves, and help others along the way. Talk about inspiration! Each one of the individuals I interview shines a light into an area I had never explored before. Although I may never choose to climb a mountain, like fellow writer, Jeff Rasley, be able to create stunning pieces of visual art, like Lisa Redfern, take a love of animals and turn it into unique stories told from a dog’s point of view, like Carol McKibben, write wonderful, witty plays like Christina Hamlett, translate an admiration for another person into a series of books, like Tony Lee Moral, trek around the world and write about my adventures, like Janna Graber, or gather my family and head out to parts unknown to experience new cultures and ways of life, like my up-coming interviewee, Michelle Tupy, I can be inspired by them to keep playing my own tune and following my own dreams.

 

I find it reassuring to know that people can do literally anything they choose to, and do it with skill, finesse, and a lively sense of humour about trials and tribulations they encounter. I love knowing it’s okay to make mistakes, to fall down, and then get back up to try again. In fact, since I started writing, I’ve come across scores of people who are launching themselves forward into their lives with gusto, and with a look over their shoulder to see who they can help along the way. How cool is that? In talks with other writers, like ML Swift (watch here for his interview in the coming weeks), who chose to dedicate the last years of his mother’s life to helping her get through the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, then wrote about that experience, I realize that we all have something to give, and get, from other people. Perhaps we should retain more of the dogged determination of infants who watch, learn, internalize, then gather the courage to get out there and DO something, damnit!

 

So yes, learn all you can about whatever it is you want to go after, but at some point be prepared to put yourself out there, risk humiliation, overcome fear, and HAVE FUN with the whole messy business of living your life while going after your dreams! And if it helps to close your eyes and wish upon a star, cross your fingers, click your heels together, whatever, then go for it, because we can all use whatever help God, the Universe, Allah, Buddha, whatever you want to call it, can give us.

Wish Upon A Star

Wish Upon A Star

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Letting Go

Letting Go

We all deal with issues in our lives where we want to hold on to someone or something. Sometimes we want to hold on to the past because of what it represents, especially idyllic memories of childhood. Then of course there are things in the past that were hurtful or harmful to us, yet we still hold on to those memories as well, rather than moving on. We hold on to the stories we’ve told ourselves about who we are and our place in this world. We hold on to grudges and refuse to relinquish them without a fight. We seem to feel we are entitled to hold onto things, no matter what they are or whether they are good for us or not.

 

How many times have we prayed for something to come true for us? How many times have we claimed we need a certain thing to happen before we can be happy? In western culture we cling to our material possessions as if our very lives depend it. They don’t. We work ourselves to the exclusion of all else in an attempt to gain more stuff, more recognition, more power over others, yet continue to feel empty and lost.

 

But what would happen if we simply let go? What if we let go of our determination to own the future, own more things, insist on forcing our point of view on others? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to strive to better ourselves as human beings. Far from it. It doesn’t mean we should simply accept the subjugation of our will to others, or let others determine our path in life. Far from it.

 

It means letting go of expectations for the future. It means letting go of expectations from other people. It means letting go of the intense desire to control everything around us. When we expect something, we become disillusioned and disheartened when things don’t turn out as we want them to. We give our expectations such importance that it can affect our relationships with others, and our relationship with ourselves. How sad. What a waste of time and effort.

 

As a writer, I’ve begun to learn more about letting go of things and expectations than I ever dreamed. I know I can do my best, but at some point, I have to let go and allow things to unfold as they will. I cannot make others understand why I write. I cannot make readers want to read my stories. At some point, I have to let go and allow the universe to unfold as it will. In the meantime, I continue to do my best. I continue to write, to query, to connect with others on various levels. I continue to believe in myself and what I am attempting to accomplish; which is to connect with others via any medium open to me. Writing is just another form of communication for me, and I love it. I love hearing that people have enjoyed what I’ve written. I enjoy hearing from people from all over the world on social media, through this blog, family and friends who take the time to tell me they’ve liked my work. I’ve loved teaching the creative writing workshop classes I held at a local art centre this summer, and look forward to doing more in the coming months. I find great pleasure in talking to groups of people at book readings, public speaking engagements, and so on.

 

But at some level, I always have to accept that each of these endeavours leads to a point where I have to rest my expectations and step back. The work I’ve done will have to stand on its own. The talk I’ve given will either be well received, or not. I can continue to learn and grow as a writer, a speaker, and as a human being, but I cannot own the outcome. No one can. That’s a hard lesson to learn, because we are hard-wired to try to control as much of our environment as we can.

 

Writing has taught me many things, including the necessity for letting go. I want so many things for my life, and I’ll do my best to ensure the best shot possible at my dreams. I can only control me, my reaction to situations, my relationship with others, and my own determination to continue walking this path. I control nothing else. As my mother has often said, “Let go, and let God”. Its one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received, because it allows me to relax and trust that things will work out exactly as they are supposed to, and that whatever happens, I’ll be just fine.

 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

If we allow it, letting go and believing in the great, unknown possibilities is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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Indecision

Indecision

If you are a writer, or a reader who has a curiosity about writing, you might understand this dilemma. You see, I’m experiencing a bit of a conundrum in my writing. Having just sent off the draft edits for the sequel to my debut novel, I’m faced with that dreaded, “what next?”.

 

I’m torn between starting a new series based on the two previous books right away, or taking on an entirely new project in the romance genre, but very different than the first two. I already have ideas for both, but wrestle with which to tackle first. I’ve even considered writing the two simultaneously, but I’m not sure my old brain can do that.

 

The truth is, both hold equal appeal, I’m just not sure how or where to start. As a woman who has passed the age of fifty, this type of situation has happened many times before in my life, separate and apart from my writing. So I acknowledge the need to stop for a bit and let my heart lead the way. Unlike my personal life, if I make a wrong start, I can simply put the current work aside and make a new beginning.

 

But wait, isn’t life like that too, to some extent. We’ve all heard of people who’ve made some pretty horrendous mistakes in their lives, and for a variety of reasons, chose to take a different path to find the peace and happiness they seek.

 

Years ago I divorced my first husband and chose to seek my future without him. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’d made up to that point. I was barely thirty-two years old and the mother of two young children. I had no job, and things at home had reached a melting point. I didn’t know what my future would hold as a single parent with very limited financial resources, but I knew I had to make a new start for myself and my children. The relationship wasn’t a healthy one, and rather than stay, I chose to take on a new direction. I made the right choice.

 

Love rules

Love rules

Years later I met my second husband and fell in love. He had three teenaged children and by then my own children were teens. That made five teenagers that we were considering putting together as a family. No, insanity doesn’t run in my family; it seems unique to me. I didn’t know what the future would hold in this proposed new scenario, and I could see the pitfalls ahead. But I was in love with this man, I cared very much about his children, and so I followed my heart. Now, we have five grown children and five incredible, beautiful grandchildren. It certainly hasn’t always been easy, by a long shot, but I’m happier for having my husband and our combined children than I ever was alone. Together, we’ve created a family that bickers, and loves, much as biological families do. I made the right choice.

 

When I was fired from a job as a medical office administrator for standing up for myself against another staff member with more seniority, I came home devastated. I cried, ached and felt such shame for being fired from a job I’d taken pride in. Then my husband asked me if I’d ever wanted to do anything other than work in an office, as I had since I was seventeen. I was stunned. No one had ever asked me that question before. I took it seriously and really thought about it. I was forty-one years old, the kids had mostly grown and gone, and I was in a new space in my life. I’d always wanted to get into real estate, so I told him I wanted to take the required courses, obtain my license, and go with my gut. Keep in mind here that I hadn’t even finished high school, having foolishly quit school two months before graduation in order to marry my first husband. The thought of taking an extensive course and begin the formal learning process again was daunting, for sure. It was also exciting. I completed that course, got my license and thoroughly enjoyed selling residential real estate for the next seven years. I made the right choice.

 

After those seven years, I was tired of long days and nights and little time away from work. I realized I had started missing out on so many family functions and important personal time with my husband due to work requirements. I’d gotten disillusioned with real estate sales and the sometimes cut-throat attitude of so many of the agents I’d encountered. I’d also met some wonderful co-workers and clients whom I truly enjoyed. But I was unhappy, so I wondered again, “what next?”.

 

After serious consideration, and in talking with family and friends I trusted, I made the decision to move into residential mortgage sales. It seemed the ideal fit based on my years in real estate and my basic knowledge of mortgages etc. I still wasn’t sure it’s what I should do, but I went ahead and took the courses to obtain my license and went to work selling mortgages. I should have listened to my gut instinct. I’d grown weary of commissioned sales and had only shifted the focus from real estate to mortgages, with little to no real change in the type of work I was doing. After only three years I was left dissatisfied and unhappy with where my career was going.

 

So it begins

So it begins

I remembered my husband’s question all those years ago about what I wanted to do with my life. I had always wanted to write, but had put it off. It was such an “out there” thing to do, and I was afraid to tackle the commitment I knew it would take. I hummed and hawed. I agonized and chewed it over for weeks. Then one day while I was off for Christmas break, I decided to just go for it. I went upstairs to my computer and sat down and began to write a story I’d been mulling over, along with my indecision. Approximately eight hours later, I came downstairs beaming. I hadn’t written anything stellar, and most of it I would later re-write completely, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, I’d crossed a line. I’d taken hold of an old fear and once again chosen to go with my gut feeling. By the time I came downstairs from my office, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I had my, “what next”.

 

It’s been three more years since then, and during that time I continued to work. Last November, with the release of In The Spirit Of Love, my debut novel, I already knew I’d found my place, so decided to quit my job and write full time. In truth, writing is where I probably should always have been. I’ve learned so much this past year, and the years before it. I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to my instincts. I’ve also learned that, just like in writing, I can choose my path. If it isn’t right, I’ll stop, listen, wait, and go with my gut.

 

I know I still have so much to learn, and I’m still not sure what I’ll do regarding my next project, but that’s okay. What I do know is that I’ll keep writing. In movies I’ve heard characters talk about the possibilities “tomorrow” holds. I think of Gone with the Wind and Scarlet O’Hara, who vowed to go home to Tara and figure out her future. I think of Little Orphan Annie who sang brightly of “Tomorrow”, and I think of all the songs and films and talk shows that encouraged me take chances and dream big. It isn’t even all about “making it big” (although that would certainly be nice). It’s about finding myself and my true passion and letting it lead me to new experiences. I guess what’s next for me, is simply to write.

 

So, what’s next for you? What dreams or aspirations have you followed up on, or wished you had?

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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