Three Years to “Sweep Off”

frodoI’ve been wanting to read Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert for ages, and yet it sat by my bedside table for far longer than I care to admit, mainly because I’d seen the movie and so it was hard to justify the time to read it as well. Thank you “42 books” goal for that justification!

I have now read it, and I must say that I absolutely adored it! Elizabeth Gilbert’s emotional honesty is inspiring, her journey is heartfelt, and third, the woman can WRITE!

Fourth, and best of all, some things that didn’t make a lot of sense in the movie finally made complete sense, including the romance at the end. In the movie, I wondered why they had to add a romance to a perfectly good adventure, as if someone thought that was the only way a “woman’s” movie could possibly end. However, the book explained it very well. The last challenge for Elizabeth to fully heal after a devastating divorce was to prove to herself that she could be in a new romantic relationship and not lose herself.

I know from experience that it’s very hard to write a good script from an existing book, especially when (as in the case of Eat Pray Love) so much of the story’s power is expressed through the protagonist’s thoughts. You can’t put a thought on a screen, and unfortunately, what you put on instead sometimes doesn’t carry the same emotional integrity. As an aside, if you’ve ever wondered at the process that a lot of script writers and a growing number of novelists use to create their stories, click here: The Simplest Tool for Fast, Fun Screenwriting.

What I thought about while reading this book:

I CAN DO THIS!

Yes, I can eat, pray, and love, but that’s not what I mean. It has been a long-time dream of mine to be a nomad, and as I vicariously enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey, I gathered an even stronger belief that I too can travel, learn, explore – when the time is right of course.

To repeat one of my favourite quotes:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

~ J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings.

I look at this as a promise. Maybe that’s why I take my passport with me everywhere, even if I’m just going to the grocery store or to pick up the mail. One of these days, me and my “company of adventurers” will simply sweep away on our own mega-adventure. 🙂

When we do, I’ll keep an account of my travels here. I promise.

So Many Supers!

whisperI picked up Whisper, by Phoebe Kitanidis, from my daughter’s shelf. She is fifteen, so as you might guess, Whisper is a Young Adult novel. The story was entertaining, fast moving, had a nice mix of action and drama, plus family and friend relationships, and even a budding romance. My daughter loved it and I was entertained by it, so it was a win!

What I thought while reading: Like most YA novels these days (including some of my own books: the Whinnies on the Wind series, the Horse Guardian series, and more), Whisper featured a teen who has an extraordinary ability – and I couldn’t help but wonder yet again, why do such a high percentage of YA movies and books feature superhuman teens?

One can say that all demographics enjoy this genre, and that’s true – but the genres available to older readers are far more diverse. We have plenty of non-super protagonists to read about. In YA, the majority of novels include teens with an unusual ability of some sort.

My first thought: having super powers puts protagonists in previously unheard of situations, and therefore may create story interest out of novelty. But then I wonder, after a while wouldn’t reading about a non-super teen become new and fresh? Also, wouldn’t a “normal” character be more relatable?

Maybe the attraction to the super teen is an indicator of how some teens feel powerless in their lives. In the pages of a book, a reader usually feels as powerful as the protagonist, so that very well might be the draw. But do that many teenagers feel powerless? I hope not.

Another option: the super teen phenomena could simply be boredom with the world as it is. Yikes, and almost as sad as the feeling powerless theory. Especially since there is plenty to see in the world when one takes the time to really look.

Maybe it’s because teens are in the process of finding and realizing their own abilities, including those things they’re gifted at. In that case, reading about superhuman teens would be research. And as an aside, it is possible to have a super power. Here’s a list of 50 real-life superhumans.

Then I moved on to the other side of the computer, so to speak. Why do writers write about teens with super gifts?

I can’t speak for other writers of course, but I have tried to infuse my teens’ superpowers with a deeper message. In the case of Evy in the Whinnies on the Wind series, that truth was that we, as the dominant species, need to have compassion for all living creatures and treat them kindly. If, by reading my books, one person does something kind for an animal that they might not otherwise do, then Evy’s superpower has served its purpose.

In Whisper, it is possible that Phoebe Kitanidis also intended to show a deeper truth. Her protagonist’s superpower – to hear others’ thoughts as whispers – gave encouragement to the reader to be authentic to themselves.

Isn’t that something that we all want to hear – or dare I say even need to hear? I believe that on some level, we all know that honoring our most authentic self is how we reach our greatest potential. To me, to be personally authentic is a true super power – and I believe it is to young readers too.

The Foundation of Success

I had a new blog post all written and ready to post, and then I came across this video. It’s only 10 minutes long, and I recommend it to anyone who wants success for themselves or their children. Yes, it’s that important!

Enjoy!

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.

Star Trek and the Ego

kirk and spockI’ve been thinking a lot about ego lately, and just recently came to some intriguing thoughts. I think ego has been getting a bad rap in some ways. Let me explain:

Ego has an important and even life saving job: to protect us in a sometimes cruel world. In childhood the ego works overtime to build these protections around us, keeping our tender, beautiful selves safe from the harm that a sometimes unkind world may inflict. It does this with little direction from the interior self – because most of us are weak as children, whether that weakness is based on having no cultural power or being in an abusive situation or simply due to our own naiveté in a confusing world. To use a metaphor, the ego builds a structure around us to shelter us, a fortress, a house, or for those who grow up in a kinder environment, maybe a cottage.

Then, when we enter on a spiritual path, whatever that path may be, the ego – which has been doing the best it can to protect us – is suddenly the bad guy. We want to get rid of it, disenfranchise it, diminish it to the level of a barely tolerated pet, if we want it to continue existing at all. We tear down the structures it built around us as fast as we can (though it can take years or even decades), and think of the ego as opposed to soul.

I honestly think that for a while, ego might be opposed to soul. I mean, how would you feel if your lifetime’s work was being torn down by a boss who hasn’t been much of a boss until now. It would suck.

But I believe there comes a time when soul and ego can pretty much look at each other and realize they are stronger together. The ego’s job is to protect, and it can only do that job well under direction of the soul, the higher self, the spark or fire or blazing inferno within.

And where does Star Trek come into it?

Captain Picard and Riker. Captain Janeway and Tuvok. Captain Kirk and Spock.

The Captain and their Number One.

The ego is Riker, or Tuvok, or Spock. The Number One is the one who makes things happen in this world. Without it, the Captain is handicapped. The Captain is the one with the wisdom and vision. Without the Captain’s guidance, the Number One does things that are detrimental in the long, and sometimes short run. They need each other to be the strongest they can both be.

Just a weird thought that I thought I’d share. I’d love to hear what you think of the relationship between Soul and Ego – or whatever labels you use. I’ll use your labels too, if you tell me what they are. 🙂

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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!

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!

The Importance of Purple Hair

AvatarThis is my avatar on a site I share with writing friends. A while back, I changed my hair from brown to purple, just having fun, and then the jokes started about the power of the hair. Well, this week the purple hair feels limp and faded. “Bad” stuff has happened, but because of my commitment to live as if all things are possible, I did my best to embrace the experience.

My theory for this choice: if I fully feel my sadness instead of trying to force it into becoming happiness, and feel the loss and betrayal instead of trying to deny it, then I’ll move through the emotional shock faster. This meant no hiding from the sadness, no making futile efforts to make things appear better than they are, no pretending that the situation isn’t serious, plus accepting that my relationship with someone I love may never recover. It was (is) hard. I felt old and tired, beaten and dejected, like a big lump sluffing around. Believe me, it was uglier than it even sounds.

However, by yesterday morning, it seemed like I may have chosen wisely. I felt lighter and slightly more energized than the days before. I was still really sad, but still, life seemed a touch sunnier.

Then today, after encouragement from my husband and friends, I went for a walk in the rain – and had an epiphany. This is it:

When things get tough like this, I need to remember to set my own value and not react to the value others put on me. I need to treat myself kindly and take care of myself psychologically, spiritually, and physically, to keep myself strong during challenging times. Just as important, I need to do if for the right reason. If I try to patch up my psyche just so I can be of further use to others, I’ll always be weaker than if I do it out of self respect and self care.

And finally, I need to remember that I may never have a good relationship with this person – because she chooses her own value and her own life path. She may never accept me. Her choices are hers, mine are mine, and our individual value is not determined by anyone but ourselves. While it really hurts to think she may never want me in her life, her choice is not a statement on who I am.

Since I choose my own value, I’ll try to see myself honestly as I work to be my best self – and maintain that bright, shiny purple hair, of course – even when things get tough. Fingers crossed.

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: growth in living without past resentments and programing, overcoming fears, achieving career goals, developing stronger, more loving relationships, and acting with more open kindness (click here to read an amazing true story of kindness). You have just read my Week 7.  Thank you!

Week Six

First of all, my apologies and thank you to those who let me know you were unable to comment on my blog posts. The problem is now fixed (I think). 🙂

Second, so many of my thoughts, perceptions, and long held beliefs seem to be in motion right now. If you can bear the rambling, here’s a snapshot of my last two weeks.

braceletpileIt all started with a bracelet for Christmas like the ones in the photo. My inspiring words are: “Make It So”. I thought over the next few days, why did I choose that saying? Other than the fact that it’s cool because of Captain Picard, of course. Anyway, I couldn’t seem to answer the question, or the ones that followed. How much of what I experience in life is me “making things so”? How much is others making things so? What should that balance ultimately be?

From there, I moved on to wondering if life is not as much about making things so, as it is about making the most of what is so. Not passivity, but complete faith; what is here, is good or for my good. In that case, it isn’t me making it so. It’s the unifying force, God, the universe, the Great Spirit – I can’t list all the names here but you know who I mean. While I mused on active faith, the idea of “making it so” myself seemed not only limiting, but even somewhat tacky.

Then I watched the movie “Pawn Sacrifice”, a movie about Bobby Fischer. One line at the end stuck to my psyche like glue: when Bobby Fischer (played by Tobey Maguire) says, “chess is a game of unlimited options, but there’s only one right move.” Whoa! I thought, but my thoughts didn’t obey. Off they went… Is that true of life as well? Is there only one right move in each unique situation? And if so, how do I discern which one move out of unlimited options?

Then, a day later, after a conversation about personal responsibility with a very smart woman: what am I actually responsible for when it comes to other people? And if I am responsible for others, how much responsibility do I have? How do I judge how much to give and how much to keep back so all benefit the most? Gut feeling? A theology? Advice from others? And another biggie with responsibility: how do I see true need in others and not be fooled into feeding their pathologies, or mine for that matter? My head was really hurting by then.

And then something happened. All the thoughts pulled together into something bigger than all of them, something I can barely put into words at this point. In fact, I’m hoping that the act of writing it here makes it clearer in my own mind.  The thought was…

I don’t need to worry about making anything so, nor do I need to make the most of whatever comes my way. Searching for that one right move among unlimited options is a waste of energy. Responsibility to ourselves and others in every situation can’t be covered by any rules.

Yet, at the same time, the opposite is true too. I can make it so. I can make the best of what life gives me. I can find that one right move and accept the perfect amount of responsibility. And the best thing is I can do them all by doing one thing – by living as powerfully as I can in each moment. By powerfully, I don’t mean the power of the ego; I mean a much deeper power, the power of the heart, the power of my inner guidance, the part of me that’s connected to spirit.

Because I’m basically a normal person (or at least as normal as a human can get), and I feel this inner guidance in myself, I believe that everyone who desires a meaningful life also has that inborn sense of what their every moment calls for. I also believe that we all naturally follow that voice to an extent, and when we don’t, we feel disappointed in ourselves. And no wonder. We can be so much. Examples abound of those who followed their guidance to greatness. They’re the giants among us. The ones who inspire us, the ones we go to to seek wisdom and understanding. They are the leaders and heroes that we never forget, though some lived thousands of years ago.

But I too have the capacity of living powerfully, in every moment. You do too. We all do – but I’m not going to speak for anyone else here. What I need to learn to do: stop worrying about the details. Keep connected. Live powerfully. Every moment that I do that, the world is a tiny bit better. Every moment I stand up and live by the code written in my heart, I am a success.

It’s that simple – and that hard.

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