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.

Visualize it to become it

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I teeter on the edge—close to abandoning my passion once again. But in the quiet of morning—that fuzzy space when daybreak balances in the silence—my husband’s body presses against mine, his arm draped over me. Sheets askew, strips of sunlight strain to penetrate the shutter seams. And his mouth brushes my hair as he speaks: I haven’t seen you write lately. It isn’t how these words string together to form meaning. It’s what he doesn’t say: I notice you; there’s something missing. As I often do with my hopes—my feelings—I tamp them down; the ashes turn cold from neglect. Yet even though I pretend I’m okay, that I’m happy, soon the need to seek solitude and inspiration along the mountain trails will become a tangible draw. But it’s now that I see a glimmer among the dust motes: the spark of resolve as it ignites. I visualize myself as a successful writer. A published novelist. I’m back.

What do you need to visualize?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Defeating the demons: pressing in to get your head (and heart) unstuck

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In my recent post, “Make peace with the past…” I contemplate the choice to salvage the Someday mentality [“Someday my dreams will come true, I’ll accomplish X, Y and Z or fill-in-the-blank”]—or to let go of the one-sided dreams. You know the type—where the outcome centers on circumstances beyond your control. Today, I’m at a crossroads as I fight a few familiar demons: rehashing old habits, rethinking past choices, dwelling on the old. Yet the only way to reclaim my reality is to dig deeper, to press in to those areas which best define me: my passion and my purpose. To pursue, with greater intent, life’s simple pleasures and the transformative power of prayer, the mindful practice of gratitude and self-compassion. And to finally release those things which I cannot change in order to appreciate the life that’s smack dab in front of me. Not a million miles away. Not within the pages of a fairytale. But here, and now.

How do you defeat the demons?

Image source: askideas.com.

Do what you can: how to cultivate discipline

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On the heels of my previous post, “Persistence, determination…,” what if you don’t see the results of your consistent efforts right away? Or even within months or years of “showing up” each day? How do you fight the discouragement and keep on keeping on? That, my friends, boils down to the question: How badly do you want it? If it’s something that doesn’t occupy your thoughts 24/7 or make you excited to jump (or crawl) out of bed each morning, then whatever it is may no longer be worthy of your attention. And that’s okay. But if it is a dream that defines you or your purpose in life, then you must work through any disappointment or obstacles and chalk them up as growing pains. Maybe up your game, reprioritize. Simplify along the way. According to “Consistency Beats Talent…,” ‘Do what you can with the hours you have. Cultivate discipline. Master your time so you can maximize your production with what time you have.’

How do you cultivate discipline?

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Attaching labels to the dreams we chase

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A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily,
because she has amazing talent,
or because everything she does is golden.
A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope,
even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise,
you keep writing anyway. ~ Dunot Diaz

Is there a dream you’re chasing? One that is synonymous with how you define yourself? For me, it’s writing, or identifying myself as a writer. Several weeks ago, I attended a ‘write your book in a weekend’ workshop where I penned more than 50,000 words that evolved into a book of sorts—but mostly it resembled keystrokes of gibberish splashed across my laptop screen. Although I didn’t accomplish what I’d hoped for, I learned two things: 1) that particular technique to birth a book is not for me, and 2) that I possess what it takes to earn my label… because I keep writing anyway. Therein lies the promise.

What does your label look like?

Image courtesy of jennythip at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

It’s never too late to dream a new dream, to start something new

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never-too-late
I’m a firm believer in C.S. Lewis’ adage that it’s never too late to dream a new dream, to start something new. When I began Always The Write Time, it was toward the culmination of my undergraduate studies as a non-traditional student. Once I hit the half-century mark last December, the words ‘always the write time’ rang truer than ever. As 2016 draws to a close, I’m thrilled about my plan for 2017: to start something new because I dreamed a new (and bigger) dream. This includes 1) attending more writing workshops, 2) joining one or more writing associations and 3) completing my MFA application which, if (and when) I’m accepted into the program, will mark the commencement of my graduate studies in creative writing. And just when doubt might begin to creep in, the timeliest issue of Poets & Writers lands in my mailbox—reminding me, yet again, there’s hope on this side of 50.

What is your dream, but you think it’s too late to start?

No more apologies

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No more apologies
In my last post, When change steals your dreams, I touched on the recent writers’ conference I attended in Las Vegas. Although there were a multitude of takeaways, one I put into practice today: Write. Oh sure, I write when I squeeze it in between tasks or in lieu of watching TV. I write when I’m on deadline or a blog idea rattles around in my white matter. Yet, until the conference, I’ve always felt guilty for shutting out the world while I indulge in what oftentimes feels like a selfish passion. But not anymore. I finally committed to a set [amount of] time each day to devote to writing. Another takeaway is it doesn’t matter what I’m writing, as long as my butt is in my chair and I’m putting words on paper. Even if I’m not laboring over the “next great American novel,” any writing I do is honing my craft, one word—one essay, blog or article—at a time. That’s my dream. No apologies.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The excuses stop here

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The excuses stop here

 [Image credit: Stuart Miles]

No sooner had I figured out it takes time to see change (just like it took time to get where I am right this minute), then I experienced self-realization once again: If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work, or effort. It is a passion that stokes the fire, wakes you up and ignites an excitement within. Once we pinpoint the “what,” then we must fashion our goals around it—to be single-minded on the prize. For me, that “obsession” is writing, but I also look for excuses not to write (so I’ve been told). Although I want to deny it, I can’t ignore the reality: I’m not writing… I talk about writing, I plan my writing, I dream about writing. It’s not that I can’t do it (I wrote a book in 30 days earlier this year—see Quit talking, start doing). It’s that I make everything else more important than my writing. But that stops today.

What’s your biggest excuse in life?

Taking the first step

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taking the first step

[Image credit: arztsamui]

It’s always too early to quit.
~ Norman Vincent Peale

New Year’s Day came and went and I could easily use a do-over.  It’s called “too much of a good thing.”  But, thankfully, every day is a new beginning in itself.  So the next day I began with my goal of writing that book I’ve been dreaming about for longer than I can remember.  I wasn’t necessarily ready to get up earlier to write.  And I didn’t log in as many words as I had planned.  But I started.  I took the first step.  And then the next day I took my second step.  And so on.  That’s all I can ask of myself because life will inevitably happen.  I’ll have to work late, my daughter will stop by unexpectedly to visit and I’ll need to make an unscheduled stop at the store or doctor.  I need to be able to accept these detours and move on.  Or I’ll never reach my destination.

What is your feel-like-quitting remedy?

The first day of the rest of your life (story)

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Today is the first day of the rest of your life

[Image credit: Ohmega1982]

One day your life will flash before your eyes.
Make sure it’s worth watching. ~ Unknown

So how did the year go?  Can you look back on the last 366* days and pat yourself on the back for a job well done?  Or did your enthusiasm start with a bang and end with a fizzle?  My year was filled with starts and stops and ups and downs.  Many of my goals were accomplished, even ones that were not a glimmer on January 1st.  Now tomorrow is another New Year — a chance for a clean slate and for us to continue writing our life story.  The cool part is that a story writes itself and, as it plays out, the ending is always being revised.  May your story play out exactly as you dream, with delightful surprises woven throughout each chapter.  And when you reach the final page, I hope you’ll be truly satisfied with how it turned out.

What are your plans to celebrate the advent of 2013?

*Leap Year (thanks for pointing that out, Big Sister!)

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