Crowd of Awesomeness

crowdI’m not complaining. Keep that in mind as you read this. It’s just I have too many ideas for books, movies, articles, and more, and choosing which to work on seems almost impossible some days.

Though it doesn’t seem like a curse, this is the bane of many writers: too many beautiful, compelling stories shouting out how engaging they are, how clever, how they’re the most fun, most striking, most worthy to be put into physical form. At this very moment, I have eight solid ideas in my head – five screenplays, a novella that may turn into a series, and two non-fiction books – and that doesn’t include the blog posts, short stories, poems, or memoir pieces that are malingering in my head or on my computer in various states of completion.

Out of sheer necessity, I’ve developed different ways to chose one story from my crowd of awesomeness to work on.

To begin with, I follow my passion and work on the project that calls the loudest. The problem with this can be that one project may be deafening on Day One, another on Day Two, another on Day Three – which means I have to practice crowd control. These are my crowd control tools:

Ask myself: which project is my top priority in relation to my long, or sometimes short, term goals? Short term trumps long term only if it’s a firm commitment, like a deadline. Why does long term usually have priority over short term? If a short term goal doesn’t support the long term goal, it shouldn’t be there to begin with.

Ask my writer support group what they think. The right writer support group is a profound resource. Hint for Success: If you don’t have one, get one. Then ask them.

Ask a writing mentor friend, someone who has been there and done that. If I don’t have a writing mentor friend in the discipline I need, I hire one, and talk to them about what project might have the most potential. And I really listen, even if it hurts. Note: it usually hurts.

Work on more than one project at a time. I can do two in a day, and sometimes three, with a couple hours on each project. Sometimes, to keep my brain from completely frying, I diversify the form of writing. For example, today I am writing a blog post, editing my current script, outlining my novella, and thinking about a non-fiction book. And though I’m not complaining about the writing related activities, I will complain about the bookkeeping I have to do. Ugh.

There is one more thing that I do, and not just as a last resort, simply because I like it so much. This activity solves all problems, not just this one: walking and talking… but that is an entirely new blog post, one I definitely want to write.

Someday.

When it starts shouting at me.

Magic Realism Realized

I knew Gabriel Garcia Marquez was from Colombia, but until I went there, I didn’t realize how his homeland must have influenced his work. They call Colombia the land of magic realism, and it’s very fitting. Colombia is very REAL, and by capitalizing it, I mean more expressive, more colourful, bigger, and louder than the understated colours and culture I’m accustomed to. But it also has an otherworldly magic to it, a surreal energy that is entirely it’s own and very hard to describe – so I’ll describe it with an event.

On the jungle hike, we had a half day to do whatever we wanted. Instead of swimming or accompanying Brad on adventures, I wandered down the Buritaca River and found a big boulder that had been sculpted and smoothed by centuries of river currents. I meditated for a while, then lay back, fitting my body into the boulder’s gentle curves, shut my eyes, and allowed the rush and tumble of the river to carry my thoughts away.

I’m not yellow butterflysure what made me look up but minutes later, I did, just in time to see a flash of butterscotch yellow. A butterfly.

A moment later, a second butterfly, this one creamy yellow. Then another, again yellow, but brighter.

I sat up. Facing upstream, I saw them coming. Not in hordes or flocks or whatever you call masses of butterflies, but one by one, like sparkling yellow jewels, each one precious, each unique, each incredibly luminous in the sunlight as they flew toward me.

Brad’s morning wanderings eventually carried him downstream as well, and we sat on the boulder that was as much art as rock – and we watched dozens, then hundreds of yellow butterflies pass by, letting the updraft from the rushing water carry them along. A butterfly highway.

To this day, when I think back to that morning, the entire world seems just a bit more lovely, a touch more wondrous – but there’s more to the experience than remembering the beauty. When I’m feeling down or going through a difficult situation, and I remember that in the jungle, glowing yellow butterflies fly en mass along a rushing river, it is as if each butterfly picks up a bit of my sadness and stress, and flutters away with it.

Magic realism? Residual magic? I don’t know. But it is REAL, at least to me. And I am infinitely grateful for that experience.

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you are interested in following my haphazard posts, sign up here. Thank you!

The Hazards of Personal Mind Games

Aztec RuinsThere once was a person who wanted to create stories, and so she did. Her first novel was purchased by a publisher who liked it so much they asked for more. Overjoyed, she wrote more novels for them that they also loved. Other publishers in other countries published her books as well and soon she quit her “day job” and became a full time writer. Happy day!

The publishers wanted new books quickly, so she wrote two or three books a year. She developed tricks to manipulate herself into doing the writing required and never missed a deadline for years… for a decade… and then longer.

But what she didn’t realize as she tricked and cajoled and rewarded herself through writing those books (stories that she loved, BTW) was that she was reacting to these manipulations of self the same way she would if anyone else was manipulating her – and because she, the creator, was being used and dominated and treated as less important than what she created, she eventually lost the desire to write.

Yet she couldn’t stop writing. This was now her job. She had contracts. Obligations. Fans.

To ease the pain of sitting down to write every day, and because it was her habit, she continued for a time to try coercing herself out of not liking to write, plus she took on a writing partner to do half the work and to keep her on track. But of course, nothing worked because she wasn’t addressing the core issue.

She decided to work on getting back the joy she once had for writing. It was difficult at first. She started small, like appreciating a certain combination of words she’d written, or enjoying a character in her mind. Baby steps. Next she stopped using the timer and the schedules. If she made the deadline, good. If not, she’d be close enough.

And so it went, step by step, dropping rule after rule, until one day she truly felt the joy again, and with the joy came the realization that the root of her angst was that she didn’t like to be manipulated, even by herself. Maybe even especially by herself. She understood that the creator is more important than the created. She was more important than her novels. Her uniqueness, her individuality and spark were what made it all happen, and that was what she needed to value and cherish and encourage. Only then would she reach her full potential as a creator.

And that, my friends, is why there haven’t been many blog posts lately. However, there is a NEW MOVIE IDEA! I’m sure the joy will return to the blogging again, just as it did this morning, with this little story.

Blessings to you on your own creative journey!

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you are interested in following my haphazard posts, sign up here. Thank you!

ROAD TRIP and FREE BOOKS

Winnies1 FrontCoverSo excited to be off on a new adventure in the morning. I am full of anticipation and dread, a lovely road trip combined with being the only driver for almost 8,000 km. Yikes! But hey, all things are possible, right?

Before I go, I want to do a shout out about my good friend, Ev Bishop, who happens to also be a very talented writer. If you’re into warm hearted romance, I can’t recommend her books enough. Her understanding of human nature simply brings her books to life. 🙂  Even sweeter, the first in her RIVERS SIGH B&B series, Wedding Bands, is now FREE as an e-book, so you can give it a try without risking a penny.

And hey, I guess I should tell you about my book too. The first book in the WHINNIES ON THE WIND series is FREE right now at most e-book sellers. Search for it – Winter of the Crystal Dances – on your favorite e-book site, and if it isn’t free, let me know. I’m happy to contact the seller.

Wishing you all a joyous  spring, and for those of you who are travelling, maybe I’ll see you on the road!

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you didn’t catch my first impressions of beautiful Colombia, click here.

Ciudad Perdida

Two days later, we hiked into Ciudad Perdida. The trip up to that point had been amazing: the cloud forest vegetation and flowers, the river, the indigenous dwellings, coca plants, and so much more.

The second day of hiking, we passed an elderly indigenous woman on the trail. She asked with hand signals for a hiking stick from a woman in our group, then with stick in hand, flipped a scorpion out from beside the rock at her feet, and proceeded to pound it to death.

Weird Catepillar

Weird Neon Catepillar

Another time, Quapak, our guide, told us that a snake had bitten a mule right there – and he pointed to the creek bank I was standing on. Two days later, when Quapak hiked back, the mule was still at the water’s edge, but it was dead. Needless to say, I crossed with exceptional care.

I was pretty happy to not see a snake close up, or a tarantula, but I was a bit disappointed that there were none to be seen from a distance. However, we did see this strange creature, which to me, looks like it could be related to a nudibranch if we’d found it underwater.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

 

Finally, on the morning of the third day, we crossed the Rio Buritaca, and climbed the 1,200 stone steps into Ciudad Perdida, gaining 400 meters (over 1,300 feet) in less than a kilometer.  It was a brisk climb but not as challenging as that first day when we climbed 640 meters (2,100 feet) beneath the blasting afternoon sun. Now, trees, some with hundreds of pounds of epiphytes attached, towered over us, vines hanging to the ground.

At the entrance to the city, we made an “offering” to show respect to the indigenous culture. I gently tossed a leaf into the sacred circle, and after a shared minute of silence, we walked into the city, which consisted of stone walled circles, filled with earth, the platform foundations of the houses that had once been there.

The city was abandoned about 400 years ago, though the local people continued to use the site for ceremonial purposes. Only the Mamo (the medicine man) and his family continue to live there, a short distance from the main circles.

Circles and stairs.

Circles and stairs.

These days, thirty more people also live nearby – soldiers. An observation post is on the mountain above the highest circle, and the soldiers keep watch, fully armed and ready to protect the visitors.

The stone circles became bigger as we moved higher on the ridge. As in countless civilizations around the world, the more successful families had the biggest circles and the best views. When the rest of the group stopped at the biggest circle, the one reserved for community gatherings, Brad and I kept climbing, up and up, from circle to circle.

Finally at the top, with only the military post higher, we looked back to see our group grown small below. Oropendolas built hanging nests in some tall palms nearby, their tail feathers flashing yellow in the sun. A pair of green parrots flew by, and then a red bird, and one so blue it looked startling against the blue of the sky. Beyond the stone city itself, the expanse of mountains and valley stretched to the horizon, the first mist of the day starting to gather among the trees.

I was standing in a lost city in South America, something that a year ago I would’ve thought was impossible and, considering our financial situation, irresponsible. Okay, so maybe that part hadn’t changed.

A beautiful view.

A beautiful view.

 

 

But the sight before me, the almost audible hum of energy in the air, the cry of the birds as they enacted their eternal dance, the vines swaying rhythmically to the hot breaths of wind, even a hiker’s laugh from down below – they combined to make that experience far more “real” than the cost, and in that moment, the cost became permanently irrelevant.

So I guess at the end of my life, I’ll die a few thousand dollars poorer, but that’s okay, because I have no doubt that I became much, much richer during these few hours at Ciudad Perdida. And that’s what I call good value.

Cuidad Perdida or Bust

Mules passing me on the chalk trail.

Mules passing me on the chalk trail.

I seriously thought I was going to collapse. Hills should not be this high or this steep. Three hours up? In 35 degree C  heat? With no shade? Come on!

The rest of our small group had shown us their backs a while ago. I’d already guzzled most of the water by the time the trail turned to white chalk dust, reflecting the heat back into my beet red face. Dust poofed into the air at every step, sticking to my sweat and coating my heaving lungs. And yet, there seemed no end. Up, up, eternally up.

Earlier that afternoon, we started the three day hike into Ciudad Perdida, a “lost city” in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. It had been a wonderful day. Meeting our hiking crew that morning and driving out to El Mamey, the town with such a bloody history it was nicknamed El Machete, where we would start our hike. The peaceful little village that greeted us did not live up to its past reputation, thankfully. We’d seen a massive iguana (or I think it was an iguana – it was a huge lizard in a tree, anyway) and the two snow capped peaks in the Sierra Nevadas, the two biggest mountains in the world at sea level. Incredibly impressive!

The hike itself started out easy-peasy, with gentle uphills and the occasional downhill. It was hot, that was for certain, but it was also shaded. The surroundings were beautiful and exotic, creeks bubbled past, strange fruit hung on trees, and the flowers… oh, the flowers! They’d drive me to poetry if I wasn’t careful.

Anyway, it all seemed amazing, even for a little while after the gentle slope turned into a not so gentle slope. Then the shade vanished, the sun got hotter (I swear), we hit the chalk dust – and the hike became a trudge.

Brad stayed with me, encouraging me and dutifully offering to carry my pack every once in a while. No way, I thought. I’d rather die, right here, right now. I may be suffering the ego-beating of being agonizingly slow, but to have someone carry my pack? No way, dude.

Just a random awesome flower in the jungle.

Just a random awesome flower in the jungle.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to carry it?”

“Yeah (gasp) I’m sure (gasp, stumble).”

Trudge, trudge, trudge.

“Here, let me take your hand.”

“Aw, you’re so (gasp) romantic.”

“Uh, yeah.”

Pulls me up the hill.

“You know, I can carry your pack for you.”

“Grrr.”

Waits one minute.

“Do you want me to?”

“I’m (gasp, pant) fine.”

“Okay, just let me know.”

Washing off the dust

Washing off the dust

Well, I must admit, the time did come, and then I had the added pleasure of seeing him carrying both our packs up the last of that massive hill without even breathing hard, as I panted and wheezed alongside.

But you know what? That was an amazing day. I loved the challenge and the exertion and the heat and the wiping of dusty sweat out of my eyes and the chalk breathing – and later that day, washing said dust/chalk off in the river while getting nibbled on by little vampire fish.

That hill was a profoundly satisfying experience. I may not have conquered it in style or even reach the top with my own pack on my own back, but conquer it I did. And that makes me happy.

 

Fun and Mind Games

Mind GameI don’t normally find myself blocked from writing, so the last couple of days have been good for me. Haha! From a certain point of view, anyway.

I’m trying to write the opening of the new novel I’ve been outlining. Though I haven’t completely finished the timeline, I do think it’s time to write something. Just a modest start, and honestly, it doesn’t even have to be at the beginning. A page, a paragraph or two. It’s not like I expect much. But it hasn’t been happening.

And I know why.

I have people looking over my shoulder. Not literally of course. Only Cedar, my collie, is here, a vision of perfect relaxation as she snoozes on the floor. However, every time I sit down to write my first words in this novel, I feel every critique partner it will have, every publisher that I hope gives the novel a chance, and every possible reader looking over my shoulder and saying “This sucks!”

Being somewhat logical, my next question is: Why am I assuming the publisher and readers will be negative? The critique group will be – or at least I hope so, since that’s their job – but why am I imagining them all disliking it with such force?

No reason but my own far too persistent insecurities.

So, I’m going to keep telling myself that if I write something I love, someone else will love it too. I’m going to visualize that it’ll even be fun to write, that the characters will practically leap off the page, that they’ll be heartwarming and engaging, that the story will be exciting and appealing to more than just me.

So yes, writing is fun! If I make it that way. The cost? The sometimes huge effort it takes to push aside doubts and fears and disgruntled, pessimistic, judgmental  imaginary editors.

Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. ~Norman Vincent Peale

Creating Gold

poolTravel seems to be on my mind lately. I don’t mean the how of travel, or the when, or the where. It’s not even the why, though that comes the closest.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber

That kind of travel. The destinations that we don’t know we’ll reach, that we don’t even know exist, because in some way the only reason they exist is because we’re there, and something happens, some strange reaction. Pure alchemy between the physical place and who we are in that moment, that illuminates new places in our thoughts and attitudes and world view. By the time we leave, we are forever changed. Wiser even, or simply more aware of our ignorance. Or both. Usually both.

I just got back from Texas where I experienced a faux-move. I helped my daughter and her wonderful family transplant their lives to an apartment in Dallas – and not just any boring apartment either. It’s a huge complex, with lounges everywhere and BBQ’s all over the place. A gym, a pool (complete with fountains), a games room, a business center, and to top it all off, the world’s most amazing coffee machine. Like, ever!

As soon as the moving was done, I settled into resort living, fiddled with a novel outline, and enjoyed the amenities – a lot! Total indulgence: not what anyone would call a spiritual undertaking. I embraced being pampered (especially by that amazing coffee machine!).

And the alchemy happened anyway.

Since a lot happened beside that pool in Dallas, I’ll leave the rest for future posts, but before I go, I want to leave you a link to another traveler, someone who is much more adventurous than I.

Mars One pulled “Miss Miral” out her door and set her on a crazy path. I’ve followed her adventures for a while because I know her personally, but now she’s entering the web arena. Do me (and yourself) a big favor and follow her blog at https://eowynmiral.wordpress.com/. 🙂  She has two posts up now, and both are amazing!

And I’d love to hear your travel epiphanies, if you are so inclined! Start a conversation?

Gratitude in Advance

gratitudeI’ve been doing something lately, totally spontaneously, and then today I find out it’s a thing!

Isn’t that the best experience ever, realizing that something that makes your day have more magic and meaning, is actually making a lot of people’s lives brighter around the world.

And what is this thing?

Advance gratitude.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton

Being grateful for your day, for your life, for an experience, for the beauty, for the people and animals and flowers in your life, for what you see, think, say, hear – all before you even experience it. All before it presents itself to you in all its wonder and glory, whether good or bad (which really is only a judgement call anyway, but that’s another blog post).

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha

Some people use advance gratitude to bring luck to their day, and according to them, it works. Some use it to turn difficult life events on their heads, to learn from them, to see the positive side these experiences have to offer no matter how small (an incredibly brave thing to do, but that’s another blog post too). Some, like me I suppose, just enjoy the rush of being more aware than I otherwise would be of the beauties around me and the experiences that bless me, again whether “good or bad”.

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

If I could give any advice to anyone willing to try this, I’d say, look for the details. Instead of being grateful for something in general, notice and be grateful for the specific.

Instead of being grateful for someone you’re close to, think about how they smile when you greet them. Instead of being grateful for your garden, be grateful for that single glorious bloom by the fence, for the way the sunlight shines off a single leaf, the creative curve of a branch, the blue flowers bursting from the gumboot planter experiment you tried this year. LOL! Yes, I’m looking out my window right now. And feeling grateful, this time in the moment.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

Enjoy the beauty in this day!

My Weirdness is My Strength

Weird happy huskyI had this realization a month ago. It came to me very definitely and strongly, like someone had reached into my head and manually adjusted my thinking. Then, just in case I didn’t get it or wasn’t paying enough attention or didn’t trust myself enough, someone I deeply respect told me the exact same thing about two days later.

We were walking the Roche Cove trail, the sun was sunning, the raindrops glittered like diamonds as they fell, and my walking companion said that she’d had a realization about my writing… I need to embrace my weirdness. No one looks at the world like I do, no one draws the same connections. She even said that I’m an original thinker, and instead of quietly just thinking my thoughts, I need to get them out there, let them be known. My weirdness is my most important asset when it comes to writing.

Sooo… these last few weeks, I’ve embraced that. Whenever I find myself getting stuck on a story, instead of researching or thinking of the “right” ways to solve plot or character or theme problems, I trust myself and write what I want. Oddly enough, the most difficult thing about the whole mindset has not been to come up with original solutions, but has been to stop myself from slipping back into old patterns of thinking.

I’m opening up, bit by bit, and I’m loving every step of the way – and I can’t help but feel thrilled that my weirdness is turning into my biggest, most unapologetic strength. Now that’s awesome!