Inspiration for Monday, March 14

lucas quote

What are you focused on right now? What is the reality that you’ve created for yourself? What is the reality you would like to create for yourself?

I’m a person who often gets carried away by big dreams and big goals. I start off with a lot of momentum but when that doesn’t get me where I’d like, or my wheels get stuck in the mud I start focusing on the mud and being stuck. I start focusing on how my life isn’t where I want it to be yet, and upset because I don’t know the steps in between to get myself there.

Finishing my first novel was a huge step for me. It was not only exciting to have a completed novel, it was exciting because it told me that I could do it. I could actually finish this large goal I’d set for myself and wanted to accomplish for most of my life.

I’ve heard that Michelangelo believed his sculptures were finished already, but that he had to cut away the marble to reveal them. I feel like a lot of my adult life has been cutting away at the marble to uncover the sculpture hidden inside. I tried different things in order to figure out if they were right for me and when they weren’t I had to learn to cut them loose. It freed up energy to do this because my focus has become sharper and my goals more precise.

One way I’m trying to focus my attention is by creating a career that circles around writing. I’ve worked for the past few months at a restaurant to make some extra cash but now I’m beginning to offer editorial services (under my real name!) for academic writers (since that’s part of my day job) as well as self-publishing fiction authors (since I love fiction!). It’s one more way for me to focus on my fiction career by reserving energy that would otherwise go into other ways to pay my bills. So, if you’re a self-published author, or academic who is seeking a copyeditor or a proofreader, I’d love to talk with you about your manuscript!

Inspiration for Monday, March 7

shes a dreamer

I love this quote. Not only is reaffirming that possibilities are endless, it also reminds us that dreaming is great, and thinking is important, but doing is the thing that turns these possibilities into opportunities. I think this is a great quote for writers to remember, and it’s certainly something that I relate to.

I’m fortunate. My creative life is manifested in multiple ways. I love to cook and be creative in the kitchen. I like to paint and draw and am pretty decent when I put my mind to it. I’m creative at making arts and crafts and I love to make my home more beautiful. I also love to tell stories and create new worlds. This is the passion that has sustained me throughout my life. And it’s the one that is closest to my identity. Even when I wasn’t actively writing and not actively trying to become a writer, it was the thing that I thought of myself as. It was the only job I ever truly, truly wanted for an extended period of time.

As much as I love having multiple outlets of creative expression, it can get hard when deciding where to focus energy and attention. It’s been a long and hard process of pruning my creative and professional ambitions until I figured out what path best fit me and my goals. I’ve had multiple jobs that could have gone different ways if I’d dedicated my attention to them. But, I kept coming back to the underlying knowledge that writing stories was my big passion and I needed to figure out a way to make it happen while also paying my bills.

Saying no to the possibilities we see everywhere can be hard. It isn’t fun to cut away and close doors and tell yourself that while painting is fun you need to focus on work. It isn’t pleasant to fail at other ventures, or to realize the time and effort you put into them is ultimately a waste because it doesn’t meet your needs. But, saying no to some things leaves you open to others, and those chosen paths, the ones you actually set forth on, and the ones you actively keep clear of obstacles can produce the sweetest results. So I’m focusing on the doing of the thing, and less on the dreaming. That might mean I spend less time posting, but I hope I’ll be able to find a balance between all of the balls I’m currently juggling. In the meantime, keep seeing possibilities but also focusing on your own goals.

Inspiration Monday

Inspiration Habits

Whew! It’s been so long since I posted Inspiration Monday. 21 days! I didn’t realize it had been that long, and I feel pretty bummed about it. Sort of. See, I have a bad habit of going big and then fading out. I don’t like doing that, but I think I might have bitten off a little too much to chew with this blog for now and my other work. I still have some big ideas but I don’t have the time to execute them. So I’m working on getting myself that necessary time, and also cutting back a little on posting so that I have room to breathe.

I’m also in the middle of living a crazy personal life, which is so much fun and so much growth as a human who happens to be married to another human. Man, marriages make a lot of work don’t they? Mine is great, and we are happily, stupidly in love after 4.5 years of marriage and nearly 7 years together. Yet, as with all of life comes growth and sometimes that growth is painful but important. I’ve been doing a lot of that these past couple of weeks and so this blog hasn’t been on my mind as much. I feel like I’ve been embodying the quote above and although I’ve neglected some of my work it’s been such a welcome break from the everyday life I’d been living that I appreciate it. Sometimes you need to escape from the everyday. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re waiting for something to happen. That is a lesson I’ve spent 32 years coming to understand because I am a consummate waiter. I wait for the future and I wait for when my life will resemble what I imagine and then I go and get disappointed when it’s not working. I like making plans and goals that I work towards but I don’t want to get so focused on the future that I forget about right now. I’m trying to break that habit (slowly but surely!) by being more of a doer. And right now it’s hard but fun to change my path.

Inspiration Monday: Laura Benanti

You know Oprah’s motto, “Live Your Best Life Now”? I have a feeling this lady is doing just that.

L B

Laura Benanti is a Tony award winning Broadway star also seen on TV shows that I love, like Nashville, the short lived Go On and currently Supergirl. She’s also hilarious on Twitter and in real life. But why is she my inspiration for this week?

Because she looks like she is comfortable in her own (admittedly gorgeous) skin, and comfortable being her goofy, witty and endearing self. She’s such a professional but she seems like she’s having a blast doing it. Because she has come forward talking about the issue of going through a miscarriage and wanting to talk about it.  And because she is open, and expressive and energetic. Last week I was feeling pretty tired and trying to get my word count for the day but I needed a midday pick-me-up. So I watched her performing with The Skivvies and was instantly revived and ready to get back to work. She’s got such an enthusiastic spirit that I admire. As I get older and feel more comfortable with myself, someone who has talked about feeling younger and being herself as she gets older, she is my newest role model for living my best life.

Now go watch her videos!

 

Inspiration Monday

Dewston 1

The Dewstow Gardens and Grottos in Wales are deceptively beautiful. Built in 1895, the surface looked like any normal estate garden as you can see in the photo below.

grounds-of-dewstow-gardens

But just below lay a secret world, full of water falls and fountains and lushly green ferns. It was a fairy land. An unexpected world for discovery and daydreams.

Dewstow-Gardens-Carousel

During WWII these underground gardens and grottos were covered by tons of dirt and weren’t rediscovered and renovated until 2000.

Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have discovered this fanciful masterpiece under the garden you were fixing up? I’ve always loved discovering the past that lays just under the surface of our world. I think it’s one of the reasons I write historical fiction– because I’m always wondering what people’s lives were like as they stood in the same spot I am standing and look out over the same vistas I am seeing.

Ever since I was a child, living in a house built in 1910, I’ve been fascinated with digging down to discover the worlds below. And I’ve been fascinated with the possibility of fairies living secretly, just under the flower petal, or beneath a mossy hill. This garden, for me, would be the most magical thing my childhood self could come across. Even now, I’m wondering how to work it into a story, or my next trip.

Inspiration Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

MLK Jr quote

This is one of my favorite quotes from an imminently quotable man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, which, if you know anything about our current situation, is irony at its most depressing. I don’t want to get into it in an Inspiration post (#BlackLivesMatter), but I do want to talk about why I love this quote.

It comes from his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” which was given in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, and it is frighteningly prophetic.  He had just been attacked and nearly killed in New York City, and so he is talking about how, like Moses, he has seen the promised land, but might not get there with everyone else. He is encouraging his listeners to keep up their efforts and to keep the movement alive, even though he’s also telling them he will probably die. And even as he talks about the struggles they have gone through, and will go through, and the mace, and dogs and violence against them, he holds fast to his principles, saying “it’s nonviolence or nonexistence”.

This is a powerful speech. Not only because it outlines the economic boycotts they will impose, or its prophetic qualities, or even his rhetorical skill. It’s powerful because of the inspiration and encouragement he gives. And that is why I love this quote so much, because of the truth behind it, and the context in which he says it:

“The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding–something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee–the cry is always the same– ‘We want to be free.'”

Even today, over 40 years later, we still face so much confusion and trouble. And we must keep marching forward, arm in arm, focused on that statement, and that goal: “We want to be free.” It’s a beautiful quote, and it means so much to me as I watch the efforts of groups like “Black Lives Matter” and more trying to use their voices and continue this struggle forward.

But I also love this quote for the encouragement it gives to all struggles. I say it to myself when I am stuck and frightened, or worrying too much and can’t see the answer. I remind myself that only when it is dark can we see the light that leads us forward. When it is dark we can see the light shining from the people ahead of us, or the ones who love us so fiercely that they light up with it. And we can see the light of all the good things that we do have in our lives.

We can see the beauty of the stars, and that is a gift too. I begin thinking about the people who watched the stars all those years ago and how far we have come. We have used science to shoot ourselves up into that darkness and learn about the stars and planets that shine down on us. That is proof of progress right there. These are the thoughts I have when I’m trying to remind myself that it’s just one more step, just keep going one more step.

I hope you are encouraged in your struggle today. I hope you take heart from Dr. King, and look at the stars when it is dark. I hope you think for a while about how far we’ve come, and I hope you take a step further today, both in your work, and also in your efforts to make this country one that Dr. King can be proud of.

If you would like to watch the full speech you can do that here.

 

Inspiration Monday

 

If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives -- Lemony Snicket

Today I got an email from an agent I’d queried over the summer. Although she had some positive things to say about aspects of my writing, she passed on the novel. I think her reasons for doing so, and the criticisms she gave are completely accurate, and it gives me some great things to work on in my current project.

While I’m disappointed, I’m not devastated. I think this is for two reasons:

  1. I worked hard on the novel but at one point I let it go out into the world to see what it could see. I didn’t turn it into a precious object so that when others gave me feedback or rejected it, it wasn’t so much a part of me that it was rejecting a baby. I do love parts of it very much, and it’s special to me, but I’m not so blind that I can’t see where it needs work.
  2. It was my first novel and I’m hard at work on others that might be so much better. I let this one out so early, perhaps before it or I were ready. But if I waited, I’d be waiting for ever to see if I would get better. Just like Lemony Snicket says, I’d be waiting my whole life. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to see what I and my novel were made of right now. And now I know. It was made of some very good stuff, and some stuff that needs work.

She did say she’d like to see my future work, so there’s always that! In the meantime I need to write. And I need to start compiling a new list of agents.

What were your first failures like? What got you through them and were are you now? I’d like to know!