Last ditch efforts: are they worth it?

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About six months ago, I attended my first writers’ retreat in a tiny idyllic town bordering the Puget Sound. Since then, I’ve joined numerous online workshops studying the writing craft and then: poof. The desire to write anything at all escaped in a puff of imaginary smoke—all my ideas and excitement and dreams tamped out as if they’d never been. A few weeks ago, I received a second invitation to register for yet another course. With one quarter left until a new year begins, I figured that if I plan to end 2019 with a bang, then it’s now or never. The phrase “last ditch effort” flashed behind my eyes. And now here I am, four of 12 lessons in and, for the first time in a long while, I’m having fun writing again. The moral of this post? Last ditch efforts might not prove successful every time. But it only takes once if it’s meant to be.

Could your life benefit from a last ditch effort?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Jokers to the left of me, clowns to the right of me: reality’s call

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Since I attended a writers’ retreat last month—see “The power of networking…”—a mirror image of me moves throughout each day disconnected from reality. The crux of the matter is that my mind and heart still reside in the space I created 1,527 miles away. Yet my body continues to travel on autopilot through the motions of everyday life. Like the old song lyrics go: I’m stuck in the middle… Because if I evaluate my circumstances from the outside in, I observe a 50+ woman striving to serve as a productive member of society, love her family and friends, care for her health and make a difference in her small corner of the world. But the reality is that—even so—from the inside out, I’m stuck on pause as I contemplate my next move and attempt to answer reality’s call: Is this as good as it gets? It’s in this crossroads, I’m certain, where it’ll all begin to make sense.

Are you stuck in the crossroads?

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The power of networking: why a writers’ retreat pays off

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Calling all writers and storytellers: published, non-published, pantsers or plotters and more: If you’re passionate about all things literary, and you’ve always wondered if you should attend a writers’ retreat… go. While they each tout their own merits, it’s not the XYZ annual writer’s conference or your weekly writer’s workshops or critiques I’m extolling here. Writers’ retreats are a different creature. Not only do you immerse yourself into the entire writing experience—aka you write—but, at least in my situation, I was privy to the do’s, don’ts and the how to’s of the craft presented in fresh ways. And, because retreats often limit the number of participants, you get to know your tribe intimately and practice the power of networking. Maybe it’s because I’m still riding the high from my own writers’ retreat (see “How a life-changing adventure works”). Or maybe it’s because I want to share this newfound insight with my fellow peeps. Either way, what have you got to lose?

What’s your networking “go to?”

Finding your support system can make all the difference

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You’ve hit the reset button and started the arduous, oftentimes painful and slow, process of reinventing yourself: your thought patterns, habits, goals. You’ve purged the old to make room for the new, and now you want to share your plans with someone you trust. Someone who will understand (at least) the basics. Beware: those who don’t “get it” may look at you like you’ve sprouted a third eye, and/or say things that challenge your convictions. But, those who generally understand will rally around you to champion your quest. Unfortunately, though, even the most well-meaning friends can inadvertently choke the life from the tender seedlings of progress we’ve begun to nurture. That’s why we must learn to discern our closest allies—the tribal few who know when to provide an ear, or a (virtual) hug or a word of encouragement, when needed. And, of course, to celebrate our successes. Growth isn’t easy, but a support system offers vital nourishment to help us flourish.

Who are your closest go-to allies?

Image courtesy of lekcha at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What matters is the doing: replacing fear with freedom

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Deadlines. Some people flourish under these heavy-handed task masters. Others freeze. I dwell somewhere within the pages of both extremes, depending on the hour. Most recently, under deadline for a 20-page submission earmarked for critique at an upcoming writers’ retreat, I struggled. With doubts, fears, frustrations. I hollered self-recriminations like “fraud” and “you suck” into the recesses of my monkey mind. I contemplated canceling my reservation. But, in the end, my goal was to write. And I did. My goal was to make deadline. And I did. And, for the most part, I had fun. Except when I didn’t. In my experience, I can attest to the truth that I am my own worst critic. Even though, I know my submission lacked passion. It lacked voice. But here’s what I learned: It doesn’t matter how I feel about doing something. What matters is the doing. And I did. In spite of fears and doubts and jitters. Which leads to freedom. Because I survived.

What are you afraid of?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Take your dreams to the next level: establishing a vision

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Earlier this month, I attended a vision board workshop with six other women and our host/facilitator. The session began with meditation and “smudging”—the burning of sage to clear negative energy that might keep us stuck or stagnant—to jump start our individual intentions for growth or change or whatever we desire to manifest during the year. Then the eight of us proceeded to converse and flip through magazines for pictures that resonated with the words and images we conjured up. Complemented by red wine and sparkling water and margherita pizza, visions were borne. Today, my vision board hangs on a wall in my hallway at home where I see it daily. Although I can joke and say that my new year begins Feb. 1, the truth is: each day is a new opportunity to do something our future selves will thank us for. I seized my dreams and created a vision (board). Now it’s time to crush each and every one.

How do you manifest your vision?

The only guarantee in life

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If you spend too much time
thinking about a thing,
you’ll never get it done. ~ Bruce Lee

In my recent post—“Are you ready to do the thing?”—I talk about the one thing we’ve always dreamed of but have never done. For each of us, that thing probably looks different. Yet no matter how many good intentions we entertain, it won’t happen unless we make it happen. Or until we’ve run out of time. This, for me, is the catalyst. Because if I imagine a future in which I never did “the thing,” I could never forgive myself. I’m at a point where I’ve exposed my fears—of failure, of wasting time, of not being good enough (you name it, I’ve thought it)—and simply run out of excuses. And here’s the bottom line: There are no guarantees. We will never know if we’re good enough, or if we’ll fail. But there is one certainty: we won’t know unless we try.

What are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A new way of thinking: what I learned on ‘sabbatical’

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After my last post, penned two months ago, the mojo I’d regained (see Change up the rules…) suddenly vanished without warning. I felt uninspired. Specifically: unmotivated to read or write. Worse yet: I feared I’d lost my love of the written word; hence, my sabbatical of sorts. But I never strayed far. I attended a writing workshop for six weeks to keep my finger on the pulse of creative plotting strategies. I also wrote an article for an online trade magazine. And, during it all, I picked the artistic minds of several writers and learned a new way to approach my writing: with permission to play. Not only does this concept eliminate the pressure to “get it right the first time” (be honest, does that ever happen, anyway?), but it also inspired a vision for one, three, five plus years down the road. Most importantly: I’m reading and writing again. As a wise yogi once said: Whatever we practice becomes greater.

What do you need to practice more?

Image source: http://www.mindylacefieldart.com.

Back off baby: slow down!

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NaNoWriMo day two (see “Jump right in…”): 2,068 words down, 47,932 words to go. And I’ve already learned something about myself, and my writing. I realized that in the not-so-distance past when I’d sit down and compose, I’d navigate from A to Z in a straight shot to arrive at the “good parts” quicker. This hit home as I drove through my neighborhood recently and a vehicle raced up behind my car. Back off baby, I thought, right before the driver swerved around me, only to be forced to stop at a red light. It seems we’re always in a rush to get to the “good parts;” consequently, we oftentimes miss the magic that unfolds during the detours and roundabouts, the hills and the valleys—in life and on the page. As I plunge into this month of writing, I promise to allow myself to slow down, explore new territory (whether planning/plotting or pantsing) and simply tread water for a bit.

When do you need to back off?

Walk the talk: conditioning your mind, body for success

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This past Sunday, I woke up conflicted: workout, yoga or hike? My response: When in doubt, hike it out. The moderate-to-difficult trail proved to be exactly what I needed as endurance training for an upcoming trek of mine categorized as “hard.” And, it afforded me three hours of solitude in which I mentally sketched out revisions for a book I wrote earlier this year, as well as prefaced my next work of fiction. The time I spent strategizing in the mountains served as an effective tool to condition myself for this approaching season jam-packed with writing commitments—including two back-to-back online workshops, as well as NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month)—carrying me well into the new year. Because whether it’s a hike, or a writing workshop, training and planning go hand in hand. If I’m willing to condition and equip myself on the trail, then I should do the same for my vocational aspirations. In other words: walk—or hike—the talk.

How do you “train” for success?

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