Let’s Finish What We Started

You can do it.

 

finish what started motivate
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The feel of the soft yarn as it slides through my fingers. The rhythmic clicking of the metal needles against each other. The almost magical formation of an article fit for wearing from a piece of string.

I paused and examined the hat I was knitting, satisfied with the way it was turning out. I placed my project in my bag for the next time.

But the next time never materialized.

finish what started motivate

I’ve been knitting on and off for about 10 years. I recently took somewhat of a hiatus to focus on some writing, but recently decided to get back into my wool stash.

It got me thinking that knitting is a lot like writing. 

Well, in some ways that is.

They both frustrate the hell out of me sometimes. 

Writing, because the words get all jumbled up in my head and when they do decide to form themselves into beautiful prose, they come out all jumbled up on the computer screen anyway. 

Knitting, especially designing (I’m too flaky to follow most patterns), lends itself to all sorts of jumble-ness too. I can easily create a beautiful design in my head that I can’t seem to translate into the finished piece.

finish what started motivate
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But most of the time, I do love them both. 

Writing and knitting both have provided me comfort and a purpose. 

Like many folks, I turn to my art in times of distress or grief. Sometimes, the best creations are born out of the toughest times.

Our art also provides us a sense of identity. I am a writer. I am a knitter. 

A painter, a furniture-maker, a bonsai enthusiast.

On the one hand, focusing on getting the right words down or counting stitch after stitch provides a concentration and a focus for the mind. It’s like brain exercise for me. Coming up with just the right word and phrasing. Figuring out if I need a left-leaning or a right-leaning decrease.

On the other hand, both activities can have a tremendously relaxing and meditative effect. Letting the mind wander as words flow effortlessly onto the page. Words that are not destined to be read by anyone but myself. There is no pressure, no deadline, no criticism. 

The same can happen with knitting. Certain stitch types (endless garter, for you knowing knitters out there) can provide a kind of solace as your hands, using muscle memory, allow the wool to flow through them creating a soft and squishy fabric that will eventually become an item fit for your head, hands or neck.

finish what started motivate
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Sometimes, as I’m writing something, I pause and look at it as I read it. My head nods ever so slightly as I decide that this could work.

The same happens in knitting. I’ll just begin knitting without a project really in mind, and pause and look at it and think the same thing.

I will continue to write. Writing is a lot newer to me than knitting, and I’ve enjoyed it so much. 

I’m also excited to get back to knitting. I can and will do both.

They will both continue to frustrate me at times, and both will continue to be a part of me and encourage and comfort and define me.


What have you placed away “just for now” or “until the next time” and that next time never came?

Is there a book you started writing, but never got around to finishing? Maybe, like me, you began a craft project that has been waiting patiently for you to pick it back up and finish it.

I’d like to encourage you today, right now even, to go and find that book or project. Look at it and let it speak to you. Allow your mind to remember what it was about it that excited you or motivated you. What did you enjoy about it? 

Perhaps the frustration you were feeling with it was too much, so you needed time away. Hey, it happens to all of us. But now that time has passed, you can look at it with a new eye. You can get excited about it, and begin again.

I feel it’s so important to finish what we’ve begun. This hasn’t been my strong suit recently. But that’s changing. 

I’m finishing my hat.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Reading Personal Growth Books

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Several months ago, a friend recommended a book called E-Squared by Pam Grout. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Or even read it?

personal growth books glasses
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I was seeking suggestions for reading material as I had been in a reading funk. (And I really wasn’t in the mood for the Harry Potter series…again. I mean, it’s one of my favorites, but you can only read it so many times in a lifetime, right?)

My friend explained E-Squared was basically about manifesting the reality you desire and the Law of Attraction, the theory that our thoughts are made of energy and we attract what we focus on.

I’d heard of the LOA before, but never gave it much thought.

So I checked E-Squared out from the library and read it. I was going through a difficult time and figured it might shine some hope my way.

I admit it, I loved it. So I followed it with E-Cubed (by the same author). And then, I may have become slightly addicted to the “self-improvement” genre.

personal growth books

I devoured several other books after the “E” ones: Thank and Grow Rich(again, by Ms. Grout), You are a BadassThe Game of Life and How to Play It,The Four AgreementsHelp Thanks Wow, and You Can Heal Your Life, among others.

As I read each book, I began noticing something. While from differing perspectives, the message always seemed remarkably similar. This isn’t a criticism. I was intrigued that these authors were able to describe basically the same concepts, but in their own unique — and entertaining — voices.

The following are the main concepts that I extracted from my reading, and my understanding of each one.

Self-love and self-worth are paramount.

They are the foundation on which we build all of our relationships. In general,we don’t allow others to treat us any worse than we treat ourselves. If we have a very low self-worth, that sets the bar low for conduct from others. Loving ourselves creates a high standard of what kind of treatment we will allow from other people.

personal growth woman hands heart
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This is not the same as conceit or ego or selfishness, which is usually based on fear that others might see us as less than worthy. Developing and maintaining positive self-worth on the other hand is realizing and understanding that we have as much right as anyone else to exist and that we are loved unconditionally by the Universe that created us.

Self-worth can be created and grown. But it takes practice. Most people are so used to diminishing their own worth by telling themselves they’re worthless, not good enough, too fat, to quiet, to this-or that.

A simple — but difficult at first — method to self-love is to tell yourself affirmations every day as often as possible, all the time. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you are loved, how beautiful you are. Some of my affirmations are sweet and nice; other times, I give myself the proverbial tough love when I need it. It all works for me.

Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. — Brené Brown

It will seem silly at first, but with practice, it will become second nature. Even if you don’t believe the affirmations at first, keep at it, and eventually you will become to know they are true. If you were willing to believe the destructive lies that you told yourself, you can certainly learn to believe the truths that you are in fact priceless and loved beyond measure.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude.

At first, this can be difficult in practice. Society constantly tells us what we need, and we always need more or we can’t be happy. The news and media consistently remind us that we have very little to be grateful for.

personal growth woman sunflower
Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

But when we are thankful for what we already have, we don’t feel like we need more, more, more.

Practicing gratitude provides us with a sense of contentment and peace (and an uncluttered living space as a bonus). But it goes further than that. When we are grateful for what we have, it compels us to want to provide for and be of service to others.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. — Gilbert K. Chesterton

We create our own realities and everyone’s is different.

This concept basically states that we all view things from different perspectives. Folks view situations based on their preconceived ideas and the judgments that have been ingrained in their minds during their lifetimes.

So whose perspective is “right?”

Take the old woman/young woman optical illusion. One person will see the young woman. Someone else will see the old lady. Both folks are looking at the exact same picture, yet both see completely different subjects, and both are correct. This proves we all see things differently and we can all be right.

An extension of this concept is that we can actually control and change our thoughts and preconceived ideas. We control our thoughts, not the other way around.

This too takes practice, but once it’s mastered, it opens doors to the insights of others as well as ourselves. Furthermore, we can create or change our realities simply by changing or controlling our thoughts about our situations.

We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us. — Epictetus

And our thoughts are energy. According to the Law of Attraction, we can attract love, compassion, wealth and a multitude of other positive experiences by expressing these things ourselves.


I’ve implemented these concepts into my life and have experience positive changes. Perhaps they can help you as well. ❤

How to Overcome Writing Obstacles as an Introvert

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Hello, fellow introvert.

So, you want to write and share it with the world, right? You’ve set up your blog or your account at Medium.com. Now what?

I mean, after all, sharing your writing with an unfamiliar audience is kinda like stepping up on that stage while trying not to trip over the hem of your dress and giving the all-important speech while your confidence slowly ebbs away. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…

No worries. I’ve been there. Heck, I am there. Every time I write something and hover that little arrow over the publish button, my introversion rears it’s feathery, azure-eyed head, and I tremble into a wobbly ball of anxiety.

But there are some methods introverts can use to overcome the obstacles of sharing your writing. You just need to find a few things first.

overcome writing obstacles introvert

So let’s go on a scavenger hunt. As introverts, we’ll look for, and find, three things that will help us write our very best.

Find Your Voice

As a beginning writer, you will find it difficult to find your voice at first. You may try out different voices as you struggle to find the words and style that reflect YOU. Maybe you’ll try imitate your favorite author or blogger. You might get so worked up on finding just the right words or phrasing, that you’ll be in editing mode forever.

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That’s OK. At first. That’s why you practice. And practice some more. And even more. As you continue your practice, you and your voice will get to know and become more familiar with each other.

It’ll be like a first date, where you’re not sure you want to spend more time with the person, but hey, it was pretty good, so maybe we’ll try it out again. The next time, you become a little more comfortable with each other, more relaxed. Then the time after that, it will become yet a little easier; you continue to become more comfortable, and eventually the words and phrases flow easily.

Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul. -Meg Rosoff

I find it helpful to ignore most of the advice from the “experts.” Yes, grammar, vocabulary and syntax is important, but sometimes rules are made to be broken. For the most part, I find the best practice is to write how you speak. Let your personality shine through. Don’t try to sound like someone else, even your favorite author.

Are you a bubbly type? Or a more serious personality? Writing like you speak will make you more genuine in your readers’ eyes.

On a related note, do you publicly share your initial attempts at writing? I think it’s a good idea to do so, and even encourage it. The reason: you may never start otherwise. If your goal is to share your writing with others, if you think your writing isn’t good enough, not quite yet, you’ll procrastinate until not quite yet becomes never. As long as you’re publishing online, the Edit button will always be there for you.

Find Ideas

You may think that everything’s been done and said before, that there are no new ideas.

That’s true.

The good news is no one’s heard your version yet.

As an introvert, where can you collect your ideas? Many suggestions stem from being out and about in the world, surrounded by other people, folks you pass on the street, overhear in the coffee shops, etc.

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As an introvert myself, I usually actively try to avoid those places. Situations like those can cause mental drainage at the best, and anxiety at the worst. As an introvert, you probably spend much of your time in your own home, alone or surrounded by your family.

Additionally, you’re not likely to be able to focus on obtaining writing ideas and collecting notes if you keep checking your watch for the time you get to go home and recharge.

So, where can you find great writing ideas? There are plenty of sources, but I suggest ignoring the advice to write what you know.

Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t. …If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy. -Nikki Giovanni

The most important source of writing ideas for introverts is the imagination. As a general rule, we’re a creative bunch. So, sit back, relax, and pull from the center of your mind secrets, desires and motivations with which you can use to create a character or construct a blog post.

Other sources of inspiration include your family and your close (small) circle of friends. Perhaps your neighborhood will provide ideas. Look out the window. What do you see? Your neighbors? Write a soap opera (changing the names to protect the innocent of course). Woods, deer and birds (in my case)? Let some poetry materialize. Is your view of a bustling busy skyline? Try to creatively describe the shapes, colors, angles and other things you see. These ideas may or may not turn into masterpieces, but they will be useful as some helpful practice.

Find Courage

Fear. This may be the single most debilitating obstacle for an introvert who wants to share his or her writing.

Fear keeps us stuck in a quagmire, right where we’re at, right now. It keep us from moving forward.

And guess what? Most folks stay in this very spot.

What if you fail? Ray Bradbury once said you fail only if you stop writing. And he’s right, you know. As long as you persevere and keep on practicing your craft, you’re not failing. Seems pretty easy right? All you need to do is KEEP WRITING.

But, but, but…what if I offend someone?

I’m going to tell you right now: It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

I promise if you publicly share your writing, you WILL offend someone, somewhere, sometime.

But, who cares? I understand though, because I still struggle with this. Others will have differing opinions and views, but it doesn’t mean you (or they) are wrong. It’s OK, and even desirable, to sometimes be forced to look at things in a different way.

And about hateful comments from strangers? They don’t mean a thing. The support and love you receive from your longtime and loyal readers, friends and family: that’s the important stuff. Learn to ignore the haters. They’re not worth your time.

Then there’s that pesky fear of not being good enough.

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Whoa, stop right there. This comes from comparing yourself to others. Quit it right now. Every single writer in the history of the world started at the beginning. Some folks are far along in their writing journey, while you may be just beginning. In a year, or five, you’ll be farther along in your journey than someone will be just starting out.

Think about it; when you’re writer extraordinaire in a few years or after a lifetime, you may be encouraging the next newbie.

Maybe you’re afraid of actually succeeding?

Why? Because it’s comfortable here. Change, even positive change, is scary.

It’s hard to let go of the grip on comfort, on familiarity. But if you want to move forward, to grow, to become inspired, you’re gonna have to let go. Don’t be afraid.


As in introvert, once you find your voice, ideas, and courage, the rest is a piece of cake. You’ll encounter plenty of stumbling blocks along the way, but you’ll have no problem navigating them. You’ll be well on your way to becoming the best writer you can be.

It’s a lifelong journey, but one that is well worth it.

Motivation Monday: Stop Not Writing

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The other day, I came across this tweet from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott:

If you’ve ever read any of Anne’s works, you’ll know that words seem to come to her as easily as I can burn a pancake.

But they certainly don’t come easily to me. Perhaps they don’t for you either.

But that doesn’t matter today. Today is about what Anne expresses in her tweet. Don’t think about it. Sit down. Open your laptop (or pull out your notebook and favorite lime green pen). Type (or write) words. One after another. They don’t need to be good. In fact, they probably won’t be.

writing motivation monday

No editing allowed today. You can edit tomorrow. (That’s not procrastinating, I promise.)

I suppose if you’re reading this while brushing your teeth or letting the dog out for his nightly business, so you can go crawl into bed for a great night’s sleep, you have my permission to wait until tomorrow to get your butt in the chair and write some words.

But if you’re reading this as a procrastination technique to get out of writing, stop it right now. Do as directed above.

If you have no ideas on what to write, no matter. Just write words that pop into your head. Write awful sentences. Write about what you did today. Make up a character that is part human, part humpback whale, and part chihuahua and explain how he was able to go into the local bank branch and open an account despite not being able to fit through the front doors.

If you need more motivation from Anne, I highly recommend her book, Bird by Bird. The title refers to her father’s advice to her brother when faced with the daunting task of writing a report on birds that was due the following day, after putting it off for a couple of months. (Now, that’s procrastination.)

So, go write. Let us know in the comments how you did. What did you write about?

How New Day’s Resolutions Can Help You Accomplish and Organize Your Goals

Coffee mug on planner
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

 

Well, the first month of the year is already gone. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Not so great? Me neither. In fact, I didn’t even make any. But I never make New Year’s resolutions.

I prefer New Day’s resolutions.

New Day’s resolutions consist of tasks, actions, activities and goals that I expect to achieve just for today. If I can make it through this new day succeeding at the goals that I have planned for myself, I consider it a win.

Then I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Some of my New Day’s resolutions are the same every day: Drinking a glass of water before having my coffee. Taking a walk. Reading for at least an hour. Feeding the sourdough starter. Making the bed.

These are arguably minor daily goals, and I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t manage them. But that’s the beauty of New Day’s resolutions. You have another chance tomorrow.

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

New Day’s resolutions can and should also include more important or bigger goals as well. They may not look exactly like the previous ones, but they are those activities that move you toward a larger goal: Doing something for your new business. Writing a page of your book. Plan these ahead of time.

For example, each night before bed, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary writes three tasks on a sticky-note that he says he must accomplish the next morning before anyone else wakes up. This seemingly insignificant action of writing his plans down can greatly increase productivity.


Author and psychologist Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit, describes a hierarchy of goals. The top-level goal is achieved by accomplishing mid- and low-level goals; they’re a means to an end so to speak.

Perhaps your top-level goal is to start a small business. Your mid-level goals would include writing a business plan, registering your business with the government and IRS, purchasing insurance, setting up financial accounts and creating a website. Minor goals and tasks can then be planned to accomplish those mid-level goals. Seemingly trivial tasks like making the bed each day can contribute to your top level goal because it increases your productivity and motivation.

So, each night before bed, write down three assignments that you will accomplish the following day that will move you toward that top level goal of starting the business.

If low- and mid-level goals aren’t aiming you toward your top-level goal, it may be time to re-evaluate them.

I find it helpful to use a diagram of a hierarchy of goals to see which goals are supporting other goals. It also makes it easier to see those goals that may not be contributing to your top-level one.

Goal hierarchy
Angela Duckworth’s Hierarchy of Goals

Maybe your top-level goal is to start a successful blog. Your mid-level goals could include writing 1000 words on one day, and editing and publishing those words the following day. Rinse and repeat.

Low-level goals to support those mid-level ones could include the ones I previously mentioned in addition to perhaps waking at an earlier hour or consuming a healthier diet.

Can you have more than one top-level goal? Yes, but don’t spread yourself too thin. A top-level goal in your professional life and one for your personal/family life are usually sufficient.

Can your top-level goal change? Of course. Finding one’s passion can take a lifetime and passions and interests change over time. But many folks give up too easily, too soon. The most successful people, as described in Grit, are those that can sustain their passion over a long period of time.


I find it much easier to stick with New Day’s resolutions than New Year’s resolutions. Many people give up after breaking the New Year’s ones. They feel guilty and feel like it’s not worth it to start again.

But by creating goals for each day, you can create a new sense of accomplishment each day. Will you screw up? Of course, we all do. But each day is a new opportunity to get back on the wagon. 

I highly recommend Kevin O’Leary’s productivity trick and Angela Duckworth’s goal hierarchy chart. Try them out and watch your productivity skyrocket.

What are your favorite productivity tips?

My Writing Process is Better than Yours

I wake up early and refreshed, while the family remains blissfully asleep. With my hot mug of black coffee and freshly toasted, cream cheese-slathered blueberry bagel, I settle with my laptop at the desk in my office, which has a gorgeous view of the autumn forest in the backyard. The morning sunlight filters through the trees and falling leaves creating a visual wonderland, while the deer family saunters across the yard munching the grass. Inside, my houseplants, oil diffuser, and salt lamp surround me to create a calm and serene atmosphere. The radio softly plays my favorite music in the background. Inspiration – images, phrases, poetry – flows through me with the ease of the changing seasons. I stretch my fingers out over the keyboard as Zen overtakes my spirit, and beautiful words and ideas flow from my soul through my hands onto the screen, creating stunning, captivating and visually enticing prose in a perfect, harmonious flow.

Not.

Writing Process

Are you one of those mythical unicorn writers that are able to pull this off? Perhaps you’re able to profusely bleed your soul and creativity all over the screen or notebook, but in a non-messy sort of way. Maybe you come up with the most appropriate content at exactly the right moments. (#jealous) Do you have a secret? (It’s the salt lamp, isn’t it?)

Believe me, I’d give my analytical left brain to be able to function like this.

 

So maybe that process doesn’t work for you either. If you’re unable to create like this, agonize no more. I’ve created an alternative. The following is my actual writing process in a convenient, easy-to-follow, step-by-step process. Feel free to imitate it if it works for you.

  1. Set yourself down in front of a television sitcom or drama and allow some vague idea to pop into your head when a character says or does something stupid or funny. This also works with superhero movies or your in-laws.
  2. Go to bed and wake up at 2:00am with your head full of unique, subconsciously-created sentences and phrases so breathtaking that Thoreau himself could have crafted them. Don’t write them down; they’re so amazing, there’s no way you’re going to forget them.
  3. Wake up late and bleary-eyed the next morning, promptly forgetting the inspiration that materialized during the middle of the night.
  4. Go about your day, executing all your life stuff, job stuff, parenting stuff, house stuff, etc.
  5. Sit down in the evening and word retch all over your laptop monitor. Make sure you do this while one kid is crying over her math homework and another is arguing with you about unlocking the computer for more screen time. Bonus points if the parakeets are angrily chattering with each other and the dog is staring at you while performing his trademark “Chihuahua Shake.”
  6. Edit the hell out of what you just wrote: chop 25% to 40% of your writing, spend a ridiculous amount of time with the thesaurus searching for the perfect word, and rearrange sentences until you’re cross-eyed.
  7. Change the ending of your story or essay or blog post because the right side of your brain just now decided that it has a better idea. Then rewrite the rest of it too because now nothing makes sense with the new ending.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 ad nauseam.

I hope this is helpful. Now, please excuse me while I go and revise this entire post.

Why I Finally Started Sharing My Writing

As a kid, I read a lot and wrote a little – I knocked out a few acceptable essays and poems, some for my own pleasure, others for school assignments. But then adulthood, kids, jobs and life happened.  Then life threw me a damn curveball, and suddenly, my entire universe was turned upside down. While I’m grateful for my devoted family and circle of friends, and otherwise content and happy life, I felt a pull to do something more. I just wasn’t sure what that something was at first. Then I decided that – without possessing any real experience – I was going to write and share it.

But I didn’t know how to start.

Pen on Paper

Fear, The Almighty Barrier to Creativity (and everything else)

What propels you to take action or begin a project? Why do you get to work on time? What motivated you to start your blog? How did you decide it was time to take that karate class? What is it that provides that kick in the backside?

I’m capable of inventing plenty of reasons why I avoid sharing my writing, but procrastination is my go-to excuse. But procrastination is only a pretext for other, deeper pitfalls. Those may include perfectionism or poor time management.

But I believe in most situations, the underlying force behind our procrastination is fear. It’s possibly the most fundamental cause of failure to grow or progress. Fear that we’ll be criticized or laughed at. Fear that we’ll get it wrong and appear the town joke. It’s scary out there, and it’s intimidating to put yourself out there where everyone can see you at your most vulnerable.

So how did I get over this fear? Well, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t completely. But I did get one of those proverbial kicks-in-the-butt one day while listening to the radio.

The song “The Motions” by Matthew West was playing and it spoke to my immobilizing fear of sharing.

This might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

It will hurt and it’s definitely not safe. You will be judged; and not everyone will appreciate your content or creativity. Some folks will even let you know about it.

For introverts, this can be downright terrifying. I’m the most introverted introvert ever. Not that being an introvert is the problem; it’s not. The problem is when you let it impede you from moving forward, connecting with other humans and sharing your gifts.

I composed enough prose and ideas to fill journal after journal before sharing anything. Hell, I’m still petrified of the Publish button. Fear is a powerful obstacle. It takes a miraculous amount of strength to ditch it.

But what’s the alternative to remaining fearful? Stagnation. No forward motion. And no growth.

So yeah, you might break, you will be judged, and you will most certainly screw up sometimes. But that’s OK. We move on, and the world even keeps turning on its axis.

A Word on Perfectionism

You don’t have to be perfect.

Which is great news, because guess what? None of us will ever reach that level.

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” –Margaret Atwood

Not that we shouldn’t strive for constant improvement. Striving for better is what keeps us growing. It’s what generates progress, innovation and development.

As you practice and spend time with your craft, progress will occur naturally. But don’t wait for perfection. Go ahead and hit that Publish button. Once you do, you’ll immediately realize that something could have been better. Oh well, you’ll know better next time. And that’s ok.

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

It’s time to command those voices in your head to beat it; you know, the ones that tell you no one will want to read what you have to say, or appreciate your art, or that it’s all been done before. It’s time to let your heart have a turn for once. The trick is to muster up all your strength, kick fear to the curb and forget the regrets. The voices in your heart are the ones that tell you that the world requires, even demands your unique point of view. And I guarantee there is someone out there who needs to hear your message or identify with your creativity, and his or her life will be changed for the better because of it. And that makes it all worth it.

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

Don’t spend the rest of your life just “going through the motions.” Find the source of your passion; perhaps it’s God, your family, or somewhere deep inside your soul.

Or perhaps it’s a song you heard on the radio today.

Some Musings on Gratitude

It’s that time of year. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is quickly approaching. It’s got it all: food, family, rainy weather, football. And we make a conscious effort to be grateful. I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. It should be a habit, not something we think about only once a year.

Many of us take our gifts for granted, myself included. I have an exceptional family and small circle of friends, a comfortable and beautiful home, plenty of food, and I am fortunate to live in my favorite place on Earth. The list goes on and on.

Make gratitude a daily habit

But sometimes I forget to be thankful. Because gratitude is more than just a feeling of thanks. Gratitude is an action. A verb. It’s the activity of professing our thanks to God for our gifts. Refraining from complaining about what we don’t have. It’s teaching our children and others to be grateful. And it’s service to others in a pay-it-forward kind of way.

Teaching Gratitude

It’s been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it.

It can be challenging to teach gratitude to our children – a crucial lesson as ungrateful kids grow into ungrateful adults – when we live in such a culture of abundance. Every need and want seem to be so available, and society tells us that we deserve it all. We’re sheltered in our cushy little bubbles of plenitude and can be blind to the scarcity and lacking that exists.

But it’s important that kids learn and practice gratitude. For younger ones, this can be as simple as saying grace at mealtimes. Older kids, mine included, are usually happy to donate their time at the local church to help out with programs that benefit the homeless. Frequent conversations about what we’re grateful for is another valuable exercise. Tonight, my teens were thankful for sharp steak knives and air. Hey, it’s a start.

Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude can feel painful on occasion. During one of those times, a friend suggested that I keep a gratitude journal. I was dubious, but it forced me to realize – even in the midst of the greatest pain – that I have plenty to be grateful for.

We don’t need to look far to see that many folks in the world (including our own communities) lack enough food. Or shelter. They are cold or lonely.

On the other hand, most of us have plenty of food and shelter and heat. We have networks of friends and family that support and love us. An abundance of gifts that we shouldn’t take for granted.

How do you express gratitude? I thank God every morning for the new day. I thank Him each night for my family and providing for me that day. I tell those that I love that I am grateful for them.

More importantly, being grateful moves one towards an attitude of service. When we have the awareness of being abundantly blessed, we want to use those blessings to help others.

Are you blessed with an affluence of financial of wealth? An abundance of time? A valuable talent? Sharing your gifts with others who are not so fortunate is a way to manifest your gratitude.

For me, an important aspect of gratitude involves focusing on today. Of course, planning for the future can be a good idea, but when it turns into worry, it can sap the gratitude right out of your life. Did I have enough to eat today? Is my family happy today? Is it raining today (hey, I love rain)? Thank you.

Sometimes it’s not so easy…

Sometimes life just flat out sucks and you want to throw this whole gratitude thing down the deep abyss of The-Universe-Can-Kiss-My-Ass. All of us have choppy waters that we’re wading through at any given time. Perhaps a job loss or family estrangement. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one or dealing with a chronic autoimmune disease. Am there; doing that. Everyone is going through something.

Society doesn’t really provide many opportunities for gratitude either. Turn on the television, open a magazine or newspaper, or click on any news site, and we are exposed to a surfeit of reasons to be ungrateful. It seems the media is out to convince us to be as grateful as we would be for a thorn in our big toe.

That’s why practicing an “attitude of gratitude” is so important to exercise during the good times. Making a habit out of gratitude makes it easier to continue during the turbulent times. Because we are called to be grateful even during the tsunamis of life.

And being grateful even during the rough times has changed my outlook on life. Because I truly do have so many things to be thankful for. Focusing on the gratitude and the things I am grateful for have a healing effect during the crappy times.

Eventually, it turns into a cycle. Gratitude allows happiness, abundance and service for others to follow. In turn, gratitude then follows happiness, abundance, and service.

So for now, I leave you with this song of thankfulness from Jason Gray. Be grateful. It’s good to be alive.

 

 

Become a Better Writer (For Beginners)

You can improve your writing skills even if you have little or no experience. Writing, just like any activity, can be improved by lots of practice.

Become a better writer - for beginners

 

Learning to write better is not easy, but it is simple. 99% of it is self-motivation. Not procrastinating. Setting up a routine that you follow every single day. So what are you waiting for? Do the following. Yes, right now.

Read

Read anything and everything. Trashy romance novels. The instruction manual that came with your slow cooker. Re-read the Harry Potter series for the tenth time. (Is that just me?)

Most folks read only for entertainment purposes or to learn. But while you’re improving your writing, focus more on reading like a writer. Notice what works and what doesn’t work. You’ll begin to notice the differences in writing styles of different authors. Look out for grammar, spelling, punctuation. There is fantastic writing out there and some horrid writing. The more you read, the greater your awareness will become on what good and great writing looks like.

Read as often as possible. In bed at night, or on your morning commute, or while sitting in a relaxing bubble bath. (Don’t forget the scented candles and calming music.) Strive for a few hours of reading each day.

Write

Write a lot. About anything and everything. Writing can only be improved by a tremendous amount of practice.

Practice. Every. Single. Day. The experts recommend an activity called “free-writing.” This involves setting aside a specific time every day, setting a timer, and writing without stopping as long as your timer is going. Your writing doesn’t have to be good or make sense, because no one is going to read it (unless you want them to). This is not for publication. Write whatever comes into mind, or repeat nonsense if nothing does come to mind. Just the simple act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) will improve your writing over time.

Keep a Writer’s Notebook

Keeping a writer’s notebook will ensure that you don’t forget those ideas that pop into your head while you’re struggling to stay awake during that meeting or waiting for your kid at his parkour class. I keep mine next to my bed because I invariably wake in the middle of the night with the brain on overdrive.

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, fanfiction, or a blog post about air fryer recipes, a writer’s notebook can help keep your ideas organized in one spot where you won’t forget them. Of course, this can be accomplished with a computer as well, but I find it’s easier to carry around a notebook. Its contents can be transferred to a file on your computer later of course.

A writer’s notebook is also a great place to build your Word Hoard. I first discovered this term in Barbara Baig’s book, “Spellbinding Sentences.” She suggests building a collection of words that you come across in your reading or conversations that you like or find interesting or don’t know know the meaning of. This is a great way to build up your vocabulary.

You can improve your writing even if you are a beginner. It’s not easy, but it is simple. What other methods do you use for writing improvement?