Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year! And congratulations! I know 2017 got off to a bit of a slow start for you, but man — you picked up the ball and ran with it. The last eleven months have been full of hard work, new challenges, and amazing accomplishments. You might not have gotten everything completed on your resolution list but you achieved a lot! You’re better positioned to live your dreams than ever before. And maybe more important than WHAT you’ve done is the ATTITUDE with which you’ve done it. Wow — you are an inspiration to all you meet.

from luna---belle.tumblr.com

from luna—belle.tumblr.com

Eleven Months Earlier

Things didn’t look so good. The best of intentions at New Year’s ran smack dab into the harsh wall of reality. It was kind of funny actually; it was like the moment you got serious all the little monsters and bugaboos crawled out of the woodwork and made you set aside your big dreams to deal with them.

By the end on January, things were ‘back in hand’ but you were exhausted and wondered if you could ever regain your momentum and make this the year that mattered and that changed everything.

by David Hirst

by David Hirst

How You Made 2017 Into a Rocket Ship

As the calendar turned to February, you started to feel excited again. Unreasonably excited. Sure, you were still tired, still bruised from your battles. But deep in your heart you started wondering if those January monsters were not just guardians at the gates and now that you’d bested them, you were in exciting, new territory. The year was young, the year was yours. And you were ready to fulfill the promises of January 1st.

All you needed was what every adventurer needs — a faded but trustworthy map; a bag of food — fuel for the journey, a mind for exploration, and heart full of gratitude for this chance, this trail. You looked about yourself and gathered:

THE MAP

You had a list written and printed out, that clearly defined where you most wanted to go this year and step-by-step for how you would get there. You took this map and placed it where you would see it every day and could check it off as you got closer and closer. It was so exciting as the months passed to see your progress. Standing at your destination at year’s end, you couldn’t imagine how you would have made it without it.

THE FUEL

You can’t get anywhere on an empty stomach. So you found new inspiration — from a blog, a book, a new Pinterest board, and new friends. Maybe you read these wonderful books —

from the American Library Association

from the American Library Association

from Amazon.com

from Amazon.com

A MIND FOR EXPLORATION

As you watch the clock tick down the minutes until 2018, ‘Champagne’ glass in hand, you realize that most of your success this year came from changing your attitude. In fact, you’re a little angry it took this long to learn how to live your dreams. It’s not easy, but it sure seems simple now. You take a breath and realize that now is right on time. You were finally ready this year to become the champion you’ve always known you could be. So what if it took awhile to reach this place — it was SO worth it. You realize that the best things about your new mindset were —

  • finally embracing failure as a stepping stone
  • forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself for everything
  • seeing hard work as essential and exciting
  • seeing play as essential and exciting
  • knowing 100% that you were capable of becoming this amazing person you’ve now become
  • learning to laugh and enjoy the adventure

    from fodors.com

    from fodors.com

A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE

I know. Back in late January you didn’t feel so grateful. It was cold (sometimes). You got sick. And mostly, your dreams felt at a standstill. But then you realized how lucky you were. Very, very lucky. You had amazing talent, unerring taste, and a dream that you never stopped thinking about and working toward. And you were now in a position to be able to follow that dream — even just a little bit — every single day. You had the drive and determination to turn your goals (your map) visible. And people now STARE in disbelief. They think you got lucky. And you get a little teary-eyed because you did get lucky, you got you — this amazing, able, fantastically dedicated person who said ‘Screw it; I’m going to be the exception. I’m going to be exceptional.’

And every day after that, all throughout 2017, you thanked yourself each day for being the person who went for it and chased after your dreams so hard. And you were also thankful to everyone and everything else that made 2017 such a success.

CONGRATULATIONS! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Now it’s time for those 2018 goals…   🙂

Struggle As Adventure

from quotesvalley.com

from
quotesvalley.com

Strug·gle
verb

  • make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.
  • strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.
  • have difficulty handling or coping with.
  • engage in conflict.
  • make one’s way with difficulty.

Struggle doesn’t sound like fun.  Maybe, it doesn’t even sound right — if you’re strugglin’, did you take a wrong turn somewhere, make a mistake, or overshoot your abilities?  At best it sounds like something to be borne, and then quickly gotten past.

And while I consider myself very lucky and have never known true hardship, there were early days in my adulthood of struggling to make ends meets and then figuring out how to build a new life with my sister after my mother suddenly passed away.  My sister Sarah and I also had to fix up our childhood home to move back there — water pipes and electrical outlets needed fixing, and new fences for a dog pen had to be built.

These times were not fun — hardly any of it.  Back then, we dreamed of a unknown, rich uncle showing up out of the blue and whisking us away to live on his Frisian horse farm in Spain (he was a Gary Oldman/Sirius Black sort).  We didn’t choose any of that struggle, and yes, we wished for it to be over.  And yet, around the edges we still found bits of fun.  I vividly remember digging post holes with Sarah for the dog pen while pretending to be characters from our favorite sci-fi shows (Earth 2 and SeaQuest DSV) and laughing our heads off.  And that moment was important.

“I’m-thankful-for-my-struggle-because-without-it-I-wouldn’t-have-stumbled-across-my-strength.”-–Alex-Elle-760x760

The other kind of struggle is the struggle you choose.  Now, it beats the other one, hands down.  But… it’s kind of like choosing to jump into a raging river to save someone’s life instead of being pushed in: you get the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing but that’s little comfort when your lungs are full of water and you’re thrashing around in the water.  For me, this type of struggle has defined 2016.

Ahh, 2016.  I just keep expecting it to turn a corner and get easier and yet I’m pushing against all barriers and really trying to reach a new reality with my dreams of health, fitness, having less stuff, and taking my writing career to the next level.  It hasn’t been easy, really none of it, but the results are real and the progress is visible (and now I can say I’ve cycled 65 miles in a day).

Publication1

But is it enough to just find tiny moments of joy and appreciate what we gain from struggle?  Isn’t that kind of gratitude akin to ‘Mmm mmm, these Brussels sprouts really taste like they have a lot of vitamins!’  Whether chosen by us or chosen for us, this state of increased difficulty can last months or even years — shouldn’t our lives be full of joy and adventure even in the midst of challenge and change?

I just read ‘Peter Pan and Wendy‘ for the first time.  One of the striking things was that Peter never really seemed to seek comfort and peace.  Oh sure, he and the Lost Boys enjoyed coming home in the evenings and having Wendy mother them, but that was just so they could rest and renew for tomorrow’s adventure.  And sometimes in a battle, if the tide turned and Peter’s forces were easily winning, he would switch sides and start fighting the Lost Boys just to up the challenge.  Most of us can’t imagine asking for more of a struggle, but Peter gleefully embraced it, found it interesting, and even became bored if triumphs came to him too easily.

Back in the real world, how can we re-frame the struggle as adventure?  Our struggles are as unique as our lives, and some of them may seem joyless and insurmountable.  But whatever our challenges, we always have control over our minds and how we perceive ourselves —

How to See Your Struggle as the Greatest Adventure of Your Life

  1. Be grateful for the chance.  Whatever you’re doing, where ever you’re going, someone somewhere wishes they were in your shoes.  Whether you’re in debt, want to lose weight, working your way through school, or fighting cancer — somebody wishes they had that fight.  A person hit and killed by a bus yesterday would love to have your today — it may not be easy but there’s a beautiful breeze whispering through even the hardest days.
  2. Know that you’re getting a chance to show off your badass-ery.  The biggest fights show the hero off to their greatest advantage.  In ‘The Princess Bride’ our hero Westley is dueling with a very accomplished sword fighter, Inigo Montoya.  He’s been really challenged by their fight and THEN Inigo makes known a devastating secret — ‘I’m not really left-handed.’  Inigo switches to fighting with his dominant right hand and we wonder if our hero is doomed.  Instead, Westley deftly switches his sword to his other hand too and reveals, ‘Neither am I.’  He’s as good as the best in the world.  And so are you.  People run from struggle.  Most lives are carefully built around its absence, so just being willing to wake up every day and resubmit yourself to many punishing challenges qualifies you for a lot of kudos and admiration.  That’s not saying everyone will notice but many more will than you realize (you may be inspiring your teacher, parent, or child without even knowing it).  So remember, you’ve got the tools and you’re got the talent — and you’re handling on a daily basis what would scare the shit out of lesser mortals 😉
  3.  Redefine what you’re looking for in life.  Do you really just want that lee in the storm?  A warm beach and a cold drink?  When we’re tired, peace and relaxation sounds like the best things life has to offer.  But again and again studies show that our greatest satisfaction and even happiness in this life comes from working toward goals that deeply matter to us.  Life should have pleasures and we should enjoy them — but pleasure isn’t what makes life worth living.  Get out of the mindset of desperately seeking easy street — that place where your job is perfect, your family life carefree, and to-do list done.  Goals are very important to our satisfaction, but remember that John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’  This wild, turbulent time is exciting and full of possibility — enjoy the race more and look toward the finish line less.  Because what you will remember later is always the race.
  4. Own your struggle.  You chose to be here.  Yes, you did.  Because ‘here’ is the struggle and you could have just laid down, given up, or exited out.  You decided to be here and you decided to fight for what you want.  One of the most important things I ever learned about having a job was that I chose to have a job — no one coerced me do it; it was a decision I made to have money for the things I wanted.  In the same way, you can get ahead of your challenges and at least feel like you’re choosing this life instead of having it forced upon you.  Be proactive about taking care of the issues you can control (pay your bills on time if you can instead of adding late fees on top of your other money woes), develop a plan for going forward, and trust yourself to be able to handle any challenges that come your way.  For myself, I know I can always quit fighting, and go live a life of fast food, reality TV, and mediocre achievements — but I chose to keep fighting: to create great art, to find my fans and embrace them, to get the body and live the life I want, and to never settle until I have the man of my dreams in my arms.adventure
  5. Embrace uncertainty.  A lot of the trouble with struggling is fear.  We’re fighting for freedom or to make our way forward.  We have hopes, goals, dreams, or even just the desire for a little peace and quiet.  During the hardest times of moving into our old house after Mom’s death, I remember hanging a poster on wall of my bedroom by the artist SARK and thinking that that poster would still be there when things were much better, and so it connected me to a future I desperately wanted to come to pass — and it did.  And then it passed by, and became the now.  The point is, whether or not all our dreams come true, we’re still moving forward and everything will be all right, in the end.  If we release our fears, then struggle looks a lot more like just acting out our deepest goals and desires in an exciting, unfamiliar place.  We’re having a dashing adventure, sword fighting with pirates.  Or we’re exploring lands no one has ever laid eyes on before.  Or we’re risking it all in a ‘hail Mary’ shot that will either fail spectacularly or land us in the company of legends.

When my sister and I talk about ‘adventure’ movies versus ‘action’ movies, we often say how — No matter how hard, difficult, or dangerous the path is, there is nowhere in the world the adventurer would rather be, and there’s nothing they’d rather be doing.  Because here is where your gumption’s tested, where heroes are made, great discoveries of knowledge, treasure, and secrets revealed, and you’re living the story that will be recounted joyously a hundred times around a hundred campfires when you’re safely back home.  The adventure is where you are most alive, using all of your talents to escape traps and outwit enemies, in awe of your abilities and fortitude, and where — when you catch your reflection in a quiet moment, in a lull in the battle — you find yourself with the biggest grin on your face, shocked at your good fortune and strength, your trials and triumphs, and astounded at the recognition that this is the best moment of your life and that you were so blessed to be gifted with this struggle, for inside it, you found yourself.

from piccsy.com

from
piccsy.com

 

The Inelegant Balance Between Being Right and Becoming Better

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Now, we all want to be right — to be smart, admired, to think for ourselves and not let anything sway our convictions.  But at a certain point does certainty inhibit progress?

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I’ve been asking myself this question a lot in 2015.  Firstly, as I move forward toward becoming a professional writer, I have started thinking more about what audiences want — and deserve.  A little background: I’ve been a follow-your-vision, write-only-what-interests-you, write-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-follow type for years and years now.  And as I started to discuss the idea of writing more toward the audience’s desires with other writers, I heard my own arguments returned to me again and again.

“I think you’ll be more successful if you just follow your heart.”

“It’s more interesting to just create what you like.”

“Doing what others tell you and chasing popular opinion is no way to live your life.”

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True.  True.  True.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that just being self-satisfied with ‘being me’ wasn’t — actually — helping me get better.  I wanted to take the confidence (and experience) of listening to my inner voice and pair it with something more — with the tumultuous seas of outside opinion.

Rarely has the universe responded so quickly as it did now. 😉  Within weeks of seriously starting to think about this issue, I was challenged with a huge question — Did I want to be right, or better?

I had sent my newest novel, the 1810s-set Society & Civility, out to several friends for feedback.  But this novel — you have to understand — it had become such a favorite with me.  Ever since I’d started it last fall, I had enjoyed its world and characters so much, reread it several times almost just for fun, and thought it was a huge step forward for me as a writer.  It was a lark, a love story — and the best thing I’d ever written.  SO.  When the reviews came in there was a lot of love (most rated it 7 to 8.6 out of 10) and a BIG problem.  Toward the end of my story it totally breaks with the whole Jane Austin genre.  I knew that might be a problem, which is why I’d sought feedback before completing any more drafts.  People didn’t understand or like ‘the twist’ (as it came to be called).

I held out hope that my sister (the last of my beta readers) would feel the same way as I did and ‘get it’ as it were.  Then the crushing blow came — she felt the exact same way as the other readers.  So my perfect novel wasn’t considered by others to be perfect at all — now what?

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Well, here was the puzzle of pleasing the audience writ large: they loved the book except for the twist.  Did I hold fast and complete it as was — the way I loved it — or should I change it?  I knew I could just brush off the opinions of these smartest, kindest friends — all creators and lovers of this genre — and tell myself that *my* audience would totally get my choices — whenever and under whatever rock I’d find this mystery group.

But– but.  In my heart of hearts I knew these were my readers — and I’d let them down.  I could always have a copy of *my* edition, but now what?  Didn’t I want to challenge myself and make a story everyone could fall in love with?  Didn’t I want to become BETTER that I was?  The answer — after only thinking about quitting writing six times in one morning — was yes.

fatfreedom.net

fatfreedom.net

So far the rewrite is going well.

So when you come up against that question, that challenge — should I listen to others or go my own way? — I would ask yourself:

  1. WHO is giving you this feedback?  Are these people you respect, people you want to emulate, or people who have valuable experience?  There no point in following someone down a road you don’t want to travel anyway.  In the example above, I had every reason to admire these readers and believe that they would give good advice.  In a different example, a co-worker was recently applying for a job I’d previously held for two years and I offered to help them out and answer any questions they had.  They pretty well blew me off, believing they already knew ‘everything’ about the position.  I was someone with insight and a desire to help — and that could have been a powerful resource to help them if they’d been willing to listen.
  2. WHY are they telling you this?  Some people just like to complain, nitpick, or put others down and you should never be using these people to judge your work or your life.  But if you’ve asked someone for their advice, you should listen because you probably thought they had something valuable to say — you know, before they told you what you didn’t want to hear.  And if you are creating products you want people to buy, consume, or love — you need to listen double-hard.  Most likely, they are disappointed — and now they are trying to help you — maybe imperfectly, maybe in the human language of anger or frustration — but what they take the time to tell you are the words a hundred other customers may have walked away with still written in their hearts.
  3. Are YOU 100% happy with your results?  If the answer is yes, you’re done.  Stand firm.  Tell the rest to go to hell and hold true to your path.  Discover your fans and let them discover you.  But… if in your heart you know you could be better, then listen.  Acknowledge that you may be very good — you’re at least very smart and full of potential — but you not as good as you could be.  So learn a better way to jog, take a class to improve your painting skill, and be open to starting anew on that book.  If you see a gap, you owe it to yourself to bridge it and get better.  Even if the gap is just between the audience’s expectations and your design.
  4. Are you EXPERIENCED enough to weed out the noise?  This is high-level stuff, this balancing of being true to yourself and listening to others, and I want you to side 100% with your heart and intuition until you’re ready for this level 16 challenge.  Keep in mind that you always get to decide in the end — listening to others and getting feedback is nothing more than offering you more options to choose from.  And like I said, beware unsolicited advice, negative people, and anyone who truly doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re trying to do.  You really are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff here (okay, not really 🙂 — what you are looking for is that small bit of advice that interests you, challenges you, and makes you say ‘Damn it — they might be right’.
  5. Will this help you get BETTER?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the critics are right or wrong if their advice hurts your progress.  Weird but so true.  With young writers, my secret feeling is ‘Yes, you are not there yet, but all you need is ten years of enthusiastic hard work.  Then you’ll be great.’  No one really wants to hear that, they want the shortcuts — but you can still bleed from those cuts.  Don’t wound yourself upon the opinions of others if you’re not ready.  I loved my first critique group but then came a time that I felt I must withdraw, and grow in secret like a mushroom, pushing out of the leaf litter and into the sun only when fully formed.  And now I’m ready to face the light.

I believe you can get 95% of the way to your goal under your own steam, keeping your secret counsel, and trusting your instincts.  But when it comes time to finese the final pieces, to push yourself further than you know how to go, you have to seek, to see beyond your own faith and fallacies, to press and push yourself ever upward — to become more than you are, more than you thought you could be.

To stop being good and to become truly great.

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

 

The Defining Moment of Your Life

Welcome to Awesomeville

Population: YOU

Found on blogs.disney.com

I’ve been MIA from my blog for a little while, for a few reasons:

  • I’ve been launching a website for ‘How to Come Alive‘ (see last post)
  • I’ve been hitting it hard in terms of exercise, eating right, cleaning, and novel writing (more on that soon)
  • I wasn’t sure what to write

WHaaa-aat?  Yes, I felt clearly this spring that I and my posts were changing.  It was time for the dawn of a new era.  I first thought I should just power through, and do what had worked before, what I had enjoyed immensely since launching this site three years ago.

But instead, I took a step back.  Till I was ready, renewed, excited — till now.

Found on etsy.com

Because part of the slow-up was that I too — in my life — had hit a wall and now had to change.

My ‘perfect year’, which started on ‘Black Friday’ 2014, now has moved into Phase Two — starting May 1st, I have gone paleo for six months, am exercising a bunch, have plans to clean the whole house and give away a ton of stuff, and am moving forward with my writing.

And I have been following the idea of ‘What if THIS is the defining moment of my life?’  Up or down, yes or no — the life I’ve dreamed of or a sad mirrored distortion of my hopes and plans.

Found on andersonandgrant.com

I’ve also been on a success streak this year —

  • My sister Sarah and I got our first tattoos
  • We finished the state park ‘climbers club’
  • We started cleaning the whole house
  • I trained Sarah so she could join me on the Twilight Gambler Fun Ride (a 34 mile cycle ride) for the first time and she finished with no problem.

So these small successes propelled me forward.  I asked myself — what’s next that I want to accomplish?  The answer was: I want to reach my ideal shape/weight/strength.  Oh, I’ve been improving, but like a lot of us, I’d have ‘big plans’ that didn’t quite happen in the eating right department.  So I decided that I’d use the successes of this year to build a ‘perfect shape’ plan.

And it’s working.

It.

Is.

Fucking.

Working.

It’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — but that doesn’t bother me one bit because I look great, feel great, and can’t wait to see where the next day finds me.

Found on fitbie.com

Now, you may want the details — but you may already know them.  You may have heard them your whole life.

That’s right: exercise and eating right.

I know I’ve heard them my whole life.

So what’s different?  Focus.  Like I said, absolutely-defining-moment-of-my-life.  I’m not trying to make this work in addition to everything else, this is the whole fucking show.  My main goal right now is Perfect Shape.  Everything else is a hobby, an interest.  Every day I want to be better at the end of the day than the day before.  And this goal is super-important because, aside from health and happiness, it will prove my ready-aim-fire planning success at one of the biggest goals I’ve ever taken on, a goal a lot of people never reach.  And when I reach that goal . . .

Found on othertees.com

I’ll be ready for THE defining goal of my life, my reason for being.  Starting after my birthday in November, my #1, most important, all-consuming goal will be PROFESSIONAL WRITER.

I wouldn’t bet against me.  And a big part of what makes writing this blog fun is making YOU impossible to bet against also.

So go visit the website version of my book, How to Come Alive.

Get ready for an exciting NEW level of awesome in your life.

And in my next post I’ll dig into the hows and whats-its of my new perfect shape success.

Just know this — my focus has made my current life more exciting than ever before, and I’ll do everything in my power to help you make this the defining moment of your life too.

Back — and Better Than Ever

Hi there.  Remember me?  Sorry for the long absence since my last post, but I hope once you hear what I’ve been up to,  you’ll approve.

Found on graphicdesignjunction.com

First  of all, I want to say thank you to each and every person who follows this blog.  When I started writing here, I was imaging you all — you wonderful, creative, and inspiring individuals who I’m honored to write to — but I had no idea how fast this would come together or what fun I would have.
And I feel like this is a big moment of change for a lot of us.  My life is changing more than it ever has and in wonderful ways (more on that in my next post), and I feel like our journey together is also beginning an exciting new phase . . . if you’re willing to continue adventuring with me that is, and I hope you are.  It’s going to be very exciting.

One reason I’ve been MIA recently is that I made you a present.  Oh, I know, I shouldn’t have.  But you guys are too awesome and I just want to share everything helpful I can with you.
So, without further ado, I present my 2013 self improvement book, How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living Your Dreams — now available as a FREE WEBSITE with fun links and awesome quote/pictures.
Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean
madnessofart@gmail.com

My book will still be available on Amazon as a paperback or an ebook (and it’s a charmer), but I want everyone to be able to dig in, see how they like it, and share it without the awkwardness that comes from trying to turn a work of love into a dollar sign — and I do love you all and want to see you succeed beyond even your wildest dreams.  And if my book can help you in even a tiny way, then it will have succeeded in its purpose.
In a nutshell, How to Come Alive is the twenty-five ideas that have helped me most in living the life of my dreams.  Even though I have big goals I’m working on right now, I’m already tremendously happy in my life and it’s not just luck — it’s moving continuously toward those very things that make me feel most alive.
A word about consumerism: I love buying things from people and companies that I love and that do great work, and I do think it’s a shame if we start to believe that everything should be free.  That said, I hate the fearful, mercenary attitude that I see in some creative self promoters.  They are afraid they can’t make a living at this, so they get ‘tough-minded’, and you feel as if they are asking to turn out your pockets to pay for their coffee habit.  Nobody wins.

Found on laurenconrad.com

For myself, I reject the status quo.  I’ve worked hard on my craft for 16 years.  I love writing.  And you know what?  I’m going to be just fine.  In fact, I’m going to be awesome.  This is what I was put on Earth to do, and one day you’ll say you knew me when — and none of that awesome success is dependent on me tweeting ‘AVAIL ON AMAZON 99CENTS NOW!’, asking a few hundred nice strangers to buy my book, or trying to guilt people into helping me mainline caffeine.
What I want, much more than money, more even than to make this calling my vocation — what I want most is to share the magic, joy, beauty, and perfection of life with you.  This world is amazing, you are amazing, I am amazing.  So if you get a chance, visit my ‘Come Alive‘ site, look for something that moves you, and start living the life of your dreams.  Cause if I can do it, flippin’ believe you can do it.
I will ask one thing — if you enjoy what I do and know of someone else who might enjoy it, share it.  And I promise to keep sharing on this website the awesome, magical things I find that inspire me, and together, we’ll keep moving forward toward a future so bright it burns our eyes.
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Thanks again for making the first two years so enjoyable.  I look forward to many more.
Now go enjoy your present — inspirationlivingdreams.wordpress.com.

Follow Your Excitement

from Oprah.com

When you decide to change your life, improve your world, or reclaim your dreams you will come to a time when you get really excited about something you consider ‘silly’ or ‘trivial’ — and in that moment, you have discovered magic.

Think about it — how often do you get excited in the day-to-day?  Not pleased, not happy — little kid excited.  Won a trip excited.  Finished the race excited.  And more importantly, what do you do with that information?

Found on rachelgadiel.com

Hopefully, you are already feeling happy pretty often, and doing fulfilling things sometimes.  But excitement — telling strangers, breathless squealing excitement — true, rousing joy, how often does that happen?

But don’t tell me it doesn’t happen.  You may just have ignored your passions for so long that they can only whisper to you.  More likely, you think the things you love are silly, pointless, or a waste of time.

For myself, television writing is like that right now.  I love, love LOVE watching great shows, and the bit of teleplay writing I’ve done has been very scary and exciting.  But I love novel writing too (and blogging!) and maybe do see prose writing as more serious or legit.  And teleplay writing scares me, it scares me to death.  I wrote half of a pilot, reread it, and it terrified me — because it was good.

Fear doesn’t necessarily accompany this excitement, but the voice of ‘reason’ often does.  What moves you is probably something there’s not enough of in the world, at least in your mind, but if you start telling a friend how you spent eight solid hours decorating one cupcake, you may get a lot of push back.  Or a look of incredulity.

That’s okay.  What you love isn’t for everyone, but if you love it passionately enough, you will transcend ridicule and find admiration.  Maybe not from everyone, but if you’re madly into something, there has never been been a better time to find and connect to all the people worldwide that share your passion.

from Examiner.com

Because, while you don’t have to transmute your excitement to anyone else, many passions (and most of our great art, writing, invention, etc) plus lots of great careers, begin with a desire to share, to inspire (the root word of enthusiasm).  So when something excites you more than other people, know that means that you would be willing to work longer, keep perfecting, and dream about this thing more than the average person.  And as you know, there’s no traffic jams on the extra mile — there’s only people doing what excites them every day and living out their dreams.

So don’t worry about if your passion could be your paycheck — if it contains any kind of true magic and genius at all, it will probably look like the opposite for quite a long time.

That’s all right, because when you follow the things you love, you’ll be grinning like an idiot and having the time of your life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a teleplay to write.

Found on sendcere.com

Attention: You’re Awesome and You’ve Got This

Recently my sister caught up on reading my last few blog posts and, with a moan, called them ‘challenging’.  She wasn’t against the content or the ideas — I think it just seemed like a lot to take in after a month of busyness and bad eating, and sitting here in our unheated house with intermittent water issues.

The journey can seem long and our goals mighty, but what I don’t probably talk enough about here is how freaking amazing, fantastic, gorgeous you are (all of you, not just my sister 😉 ).  You are improving, learning, and growing all the time — and you’re still pursuing your hopes and dreams with amazing tenacity.

So here’s ten fantastic, encouraging things you need to hear right now —

1. Change your life today —

Found on feedproxy.google.com

 

2. Trust the process —

Found on shinystarrlight.tumblr.com

 

3. Stop comparing yourself —

Found on carrieonblogs.com

 

4. This quote forever —

From my sister

 

5. You have no idea how amazing you can be —

By The Mincing Mockingbird

 

6.  Be passionate, Be present, Be you —

Found on youtube.com

 

7. Let’s sail beyond the horizon —

Found on girlmeetslife.com

 

8. You are more beautiful because of what you’ve survived

Found on beartales.me

 

9. The time has come to actually see the person in the mirror —

Found on theblondevegan.com

 

10. Take a deep breath (you’ve got this) —

Found on vi.sualize.us

 

And finally, say to yourself —

Found on pokememes.memebase.com

 

The Things That Make You Scared Are the Things That Make You Dream

― Ellen Johnson

Quote by Ellen Johnson

Since Black Friday, I have been working hard every day to launch myself forward toward the life of my dreams.  Exercising, yoga, and especially doing a lot of writing (it is my passion and life’s purpose after all!).

What I didn’t plan on, was how freaking scary it was going to be.

Found on loveandlaceblog.com

Found on loveandlaceblog.com

It’s scary.  It’s scary not to know how you’ll look in a year or where you’ll end up living or what job you’ll be doing.  Or who you’ll be with.

As soon as I realized I was creating all this forward momentum, I realized I needed a destination.  Boy, then did it hit the fan.

First a little background.  Ever since our parents broke up and then my Mother died (about ten years ago) by sister and I have sought stability.  Just making things calm, and safe, and comfortable for ourselves and each other.  And we’ve been spectacularly successful.  Now though, it’s a time of change.  And when I started thinking about my future, I realized I wasn’t sure what I really wanted.

Was I still a novelist foremost?  What about my inspirational and self help writing?  What about my unceasing love of TV and intrigue with the idea of writing teleplays?

Did I want to travel most?  Settle down in an amazing new place?  Or stay in Athens, GA?

Was I ready for a big new step if I fall in love?  Or did I just want to run around the world for a while and have adventures?

Clearly, for all I’d dreamed about my life after retail and working as a full time writer, when faced with the idea of it actually coming to pass, I simply had no idea.

Found on glogster.com

Fear is a natural response to the unknown.  But, we are not living in the wild.  There are no bears and wolves around (for most of us).  Fear should not be a red stop light, a firm ‘No!  Go back, you fool!’  Instead, it just tells you that you are stepping onto unknown ground.  For me, in the weeks since this started, there have been five main types of fear (see if you too recognize these as you step off the well-worn path toward the life you were destined for) —

Five Fears That Prove You’re Doing Something Right

  1. Fear of Failure.  Right off the bat, I thought “What if I set this big goal, tell people about it, and can’t do it?  What if I belly flop?  And most importantly, how will I stay positive if I’m a failure?  This is probably the fear that stops 90% of cool, amazing, incredible things from being made and stops more discoveries of best friends, soul mates, and mentors than any other.  But the truth is, even big failures don’t really get much traction — my Athens Writers Association had a reading once where almost no one showed up.  It wasn’t fun at the time, but we learned something about how to do it better, and it doesn’t mean much when held up against all our successes.  The best advice for this kind of fear is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’  The only way to do anything worthwhile is to realize the price of failure is small, no one’s getting eaten, and the rest of the world isn’t really going to pay your one act that much mind.  What they’re responding to is that you’re living a life of action.  I fail in tons of ways all the time (eating habits, not being as perfectly kind as I could be, trying to cheat by counting reading ‘The Hobbit’ as ‘writing time’) and yet many people tell me I inspire them.  People will forget the minute and remember that you did something they were afraid to even try.

    Found on onelifewords.tumblr.com

  2. Fear of Success.  Now this one may seem silly on the surface, but it’s actually quite reasonable: our whole lives are constructed around things we know how to do, and to handle.  Think about it — you do what works.  You know how to drive but not a stick-shift, so your car’s automatic.  You don’t have to like your job, but you probably could do it with your eyes closed.  Even bad situations, like being in debt, you’re probably comfortable with.  You only change things that fall outside your comfort zone.  House’s drafty?  That’s fine.  Roof fallen in?  You’re gonna call someone (my roof is fine BTW 😉 ).  So when the idea of wild, mad success comes around (and that’s the kind that falls into your lap when you start living the life of your dreams), of course it’s scary.  You don’t know how to do that.  How would having a great husband or wife fit into your routine, your relationships with other friends, your alone time?  Would you like working at your dream company?  Would you be good enough?  If it all was going great, would something horrible happen?   I recently was reading part of my new novel Society & Civility to finish up my writing time late one night.  But then I still had a bit of time left and so opened up my teleplay from the summer, called Family Lines and about a family of demon hunters.  I’d only written 20 pages (for an hour long pilot) and had quit, thinking it wasn’t going well and I sucked.  But I reread those 20 pages that night and — they scared the crap out of me.  They were good, very good (in my approximation).  So what does that mean for my future?  The best way to dispel this fear is with feelings of gratitude and excitement: you are in this wonderful, unique spot to change your life and make the world a better place (following your dreams always makes the world a better place).  And the truth is, you can be comfortable in loving relationships, working your dream job, and having a life of adventures, or you can be comfortable with just what you’re doing, right now, for the rest of your life.  Your choice.

    Found on whisper.sh

  3. Fear of Looking a Fool /Upsetting People / Inconveniencing People.  I’m not cheating by rolling all of these fears into one, I recently felt them all from a single act.  I wrote to someone who’s an inspiration to me, someone I’d actually like to be friends with — and then I felt really uncomfortable.  I wanted to let them know their work inspired me, but did I go too far, sound over the top?  Did I scare them by being weird (I’m on a journey to be more open and honest and that seems to be a little unfiltered and frightening — at least to me)?  And worst of all did I seem unhingled?  A hanger-on?  A stalker? (I’ve been a stocker for years in big box stores, but that’s spelled a little differently).  In truth though, I am none of those fears, simply someone inspired, and whether or not they respond, they probably don’t think anything bad about me.  This fear is about staying small, nondescript, and not making waves.  Your friends, your family, strangers you accost on the internet — they all have a way they’re most more comfortable with you being and that is just how you are now.  If you get fit, what does that say about their lives?  You move across the country for that dream job, where does that leave Movie Night?  You express your feelings (for any one in any way) and suddenly they have a new issue: how to respond to you (and their day was already full up).  The only thing I can say here is, treat others how you would want to be treated.  Having my friend get fit would be great; having them say ‘You’d look so much better 20 pounds lighter’ would not.  Having someone write that I inspired them would be a boon to me; having a ‘fan’ say we must write a novel together, share a house (and more) would get a quick trip to my banned email list.  So don’t worry, just be daring and send some good into the world.
  4. Fear of Hard Work.  Now, I’ll expound all day and all night on the importance of working hard, but even I have my limits.  And that is what I’m trying to change.  I’ve been hitting this exercise/yoga/writing goal for weeks and that’s going okay, but the thought of digging back into editing my two new novels scares me (and writing for TV, well, we don’t even talk about that…).  This is related to fear #1 but a little different.  It’s knowing you can do something, but being unsure if you want to put into it the Herculean effort required.  I’ll never forget how when I started editing my first novel, I was convinced I was doing something wrong; the editing was making the book much better but it was too hard.  Surely I’d missed a step, or didn’t know a trick?  Truth is, everything you love was created with an inordinate amount of elbow grease.  You want to create something people love and will cherish?  That’s reason enough to work past this fear.

    quotes.lifehack.org

  5. Fear of Leaving People Behind.  As I mentioned in fear #2, this could be moving across the country, but I’m thinking more in an emotional sense.  I like the people I work with at my ‘regular’ job.  I love my friends.  I worship my sister.  And if I change, what happens to them?  Will they like who I become?  Will our paths diverge?  I feel that this period of growth will unsettle a few relationships (just as a child can feel ‘growing pains’ as their legs lengthen), but I also feel strongly that the best thing I can ever do for them, the kindest act I can bestow, is to become as wonderful and amazing and perfect a me as I can be.  I didn’t start this.  My friends and mentors inspired me to greatness, and I hope to inspire others.  Think of yourself as leading the charge into a wonderful new adventure.  I’m reluctant when plans suddenly change and my day is altered by a friend’s suggestion, but I’m always happy (after a bit of grumbling) to leap on board and then I have an amazing day, usually one of the best of the year .  Give your friends the same time to adjust and a chance to join in the fun.

In the end, it all means that, when you get serious about living your dreams, the world gets big and exciting fast.  I’ve only been at this for a few weeks and already it’s getting crazy.  What will a few more months bring?

The most exciting thing, the thing I wish I could transmute to you, is how fast you can start to change your life and that each challenge and fear can be met and mastered.

I don’t have all the answers yet.  Heck, I don’t even know most of the questions.  But I am so scared and so excited.

Because I’m living a life that matters.  And I’m getting braver every day.

And Now Introducing… The Point System!

I didn’t want to tell you guys about this till it’d been working for a while, but my sister Sarah and I have been having so much fun with this point system we invented over a month ago and so I wanted to share it with you because it could help make your life even awesomer.  I have never been quite as productive as I have this last month — it’s insane.  So, without further ado —

What is the point system?

It’s a reward system where you earn gold coins and blue coins (i.e.points) for doing positive things that are moving you toward your dreams.  Then you can use your coins to ‘buy’ treats and things you want.  It part of the gamification of life — i.e. to make ordinary tasks as fun, rewarding, and addictive as video games do with their lights, sounds and, well, coins of achievement.

How does it work?

First you decide what type of things you want to be doing daily to get to your perfect, dream life.  For me it’s exercising, keeping the house clean, and most especially writing.  So when I write for thirty minutes, I get one gold coin and one blue coin.  Cycling two miles also gets me one coin of each color (I tend to call such things earning a coin, but as you’ll see different colors have different uses and every activity offers one coin of each color).

And if I have a ‘perfect day’ in which I do all the coin-earning activities that I have written down, I get an extra coin!  Yowza!

What do these coins do?

Well, gold coins are for food treats like dining out or getting a shake, or even buying a carton of ice cream to take home.  That’s right, my base is no sweets and no eating out.  BUT you don’t have to go all out like that.  Even saying you’re earning your Big Mac by taking a walk around your block would still be a great thing.  You decide your point system — just know, if you want it — you gonna have to earn it.

Blue coins buy you non-food related goodies — albums, movie tickets, fun clothes or jewelry.  That’s right, I don’t get those things unless I earn them.  The flip side, if you earn it, you don’t feel guilty about buying it.

So, how’s it been working out?

Fantastically.  It means that just doing simple, good things like cleaning the house or doing yoga (things I didn’t do every day) suddenly are reward situations.  I’m earning points right now sitting here writing to you!  It’s limited the amount of indulgences while increasing the activities that will lead to the life of my dreams.  We all know steps that would get us where we want to go; this helps us follow the path AND feel rewarded instead of deprived when it comes to treats and snacks.

Here’s how you do it —

  1. Figure out your dream life.  Are you fit and healthy?  Is the house clean?  Are you closer to your family members?  Have you written a novel?  Imagine an average day in your perfect life.
  2. Break your dream life down into daily steps.  Want to be healthier?  Take a daily walk.  Have a dream job?  Improve yourself in 30 minute stretches to own that role.  Want to write a book?  Write every day.
  3. Choose four or five areas of improvement.  Mine are writing more, exercise, yoga, and cleanliness.
  4. Choose five or six (or more) activities that can earn you points.  I wouldn’t make these denials (i.e. no sugar before 12:00pm).  Instead make them as positive, enjoyable, and fun as possible (after all, you are replicating a day in your perfect life, so if you love cycling but hate calisthenics — cycle!)  The idea is to enjoy this stuff as much as possible.
  5. Decide what activities you need to do to earn a ‘perfect day’ bonus point (it’s a powerful motivation if you’re close to getting that extra point).
  6. (Optional) Decide if anything loses you a point.  I only mention this because I’m a little sporadic about brushing my teeth as often as is optimal, so I made a rule that if I fall down on my teeth brushing regimen, that day I lose a point.  After you’ve cycled two miles to earn a point, believe me, you won’t want to lose it.  So these are some shiny teeth.  If you chose to do this, I’d make it about a tiny activity that take no more than five minutes out of your day.
  7. Decide how many coins you earn for each activity and how much treats cost you.  This is a matter of trial and error — you want to feel like you get treats pretty often if you’re really hitting it.  If it take too long to earn anything, you’ll lose heart and if it’s too easy you might not push yourself at all — play around with it and see what gets you the best results.
  8. Buy a whiteboard and a dry erase marker.  Write your name at the top and then ‘Gold Coins:’ and below that ‘Blue Coins:’.  Update it each day.  You can also keep a lifetime total if you want to.

Some notes: You can call it one coin or 100,000 coins if that motivates you more.  It’s only an imaginary unit of measurement.  Also, I did let myself go ‘into debt’ a couple of times if something big came up and I didn’t have the coin right then to buy it.  Just make your whiteboard say something like ‘Gold Coins: -25’  and then work your way back to a positive number.

I can’t begin to say how much I’m enjoying this.  There may be a lot of reasons I’m so productive right now (it’s ‘Go Big or Go Home’ time) but I don’t know how I’d make it without the point system right now — it’s that important to my progress.

Best of luck!  Let me know if you have any questions, and tell me about your successes!

Remember: If you earn it, the cake is not a lie.

Katherine’s points (for reference):

Do Richard Hittleman’s 30 minute yoga program — 1 coin (actually one of each color, by I call it one)

Write for 30 minutes — 1 coin

Go cycling — 1 coin for each 2 mile stretch

Clean the house (one load of dishes and ‘pick up’ around house) — one coin

‘Just Dance’ video game done on ‘just sweat’ medium program (10 minutes of dancing) — one coin

Go for a hike/walk — one coin for each mile walked

My perfect day (earns a bonus point):

At least two hours of writing

Yoga

Cleaning

At least one form of exercise

Some treats (and their cost for me):

 Gold coins —

32 oz soda — 5 coins

Candy bar — 5 coins

Shake, Starbucks, or Smoothie Planet drink — 10 coins

Carton of Ice cream, package of cookies — 15 coins

Eating at Mcdonalds, Wendys etc — 10 coins

Eating at a nice sit down restaurant — 20 coins

 Blue coins —

one MP3 song — 5 coin

one album — 20 coins

Movie ticket — 25 coins

DVD — 20 coins

Other items: 2x — 3x coins to each $1 spent

 

Remember: This is a game!  Play around with it and find what motivates you.

A History of a Writer

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I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember and, as I’m turning 35 in a few months, it looks like the odds are good I’ll be telling them for the rest of my life (not just gonna yell ‘That’s it!  I’m done!’ as I blow out my birthday candles).  But how did I grow into the writer I am today?  Here’s what I remember (note: these ages may be off a little) —

423440_10150723496996095_1852258631_nAge 6 — Some of my first memories were playing with He-Man figures, though I remember liking the villain Skeletor better than the hero.  We also had an Apple computer and played ‘Choose Your Own Adventure: Cave of Time’.

Age 7 — Loved listening to stories but couldn’t hardly read at all till one summer my sister and I got excited about the Athens Regional Library’s Summer Reading program.  I think I read about 50 books including my first ‘big’ novel — Black Beauty.

Age 10 — Wild Ponies! Wild ponies everywhere!  I loved The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, Smoky, and all those horse stories and so I made up a lot of tales of wild horses while running around a 50 acre property my mother care-took.

Age 12 — Huge TV fan.  We never had cable (still don’t) but for a while I’d watch 2-3 hours a night and tape many programs (tape, ha ha, the memories!).  I once even pretended I was the head of a network and invented 50 series (each with a log line) and then rolled dice to see which were successful and got ‘high ratings’).  Few of the people who call me intelligent and thoughtful today know just how many episodes of The Nanny I’ve seen.

Age 13 — ‘Sisters’ the TV show premieres.  I’ve watched better shows with my sister and mother (Quantum Leap!) but something about this show makes me start telling stories about people instead of horses (mostly just Teddy & Falconer [a young George Clooney!]).  Adolescence has begun.

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Age 14 — I’m reading a lot of Stephen King and Dave Barry.  Also, SeaQuest DSV and The X-Files debut followed by Earth 2 a year later.  My sister Sarah and I spend untold hours playing out ‘episodes’ of the shows that we ‘write’ (as well as Chicago Hope).  We even have props, like a bicycle tire gage that serves as a syringe.

Age 15 — I start my first book, pretty much called ‘If Dave Berry Had Written Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.  I write a few chapters, enjoy it, and still remember a scene where a road crew is placing giant, brightly-colored fish in the highway, like stones in cobblestone.  My adventures in literary greatness have begun.

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Age 16 — I make an epic sci-fi / fantasy love story called Move to Fathom about the assistant to the president who is destined to be the soul mate to an invading alien king.  Strangely enough, I only write down the dialogue, not the whole story.

Age 18 — I decide I’m serious about screenwriting.  Later, when asked why, I said, “I was just enamoured by Hollywood I guess.”  I take a 2 day workshop lead by Michael Hauge.  As a home-schooled-off-the-radar person, it is my first formal training.  I go on to complete two feature length screenplays — ‘Murder in the Movies’ which is about a murder on a murder mystery set, and ‘Divining Grace’, which is about an angel earning his wings by helping a human girl.

Age 19 — I get first job just so I can buy an amazing desktop computer with my sister for gaming.  It was AWESOME.  Suddenly, Duke Nukem 3D, Unreal Tournament, Arcanum, X-COM, Civ II, and Myst start to inspire me.

Age 21 — Watch High Fidelity and then start reading Nick Hornby.  My favs (in time) become About a Boy, High Fidelity, and Slam.

417713_10150723505716095_955974438_nAge 22 — I take a three week trip to England to watch the world’s largest dog show (why do other people go?).  I also fall in love for the first time (well, first time recipatated) with a handsome English bloke.  I come home determined to finally start my story ‘Other Gods’.  I try it as a novel instead of a screenplay because I want to flesh out the world and make it deep and meaningful.  I fall instantly in love with novel-writing.  I also join my first critique group and learn about the evils of -ly words.  And I started watching LOTR and the reading the book for the first time.  Yowza!  I realise I have to take my writing to a whole new level.

Age 23 — Go to my first Writer Conference.  I have a fifteen minute session talking to Patrick LoBrutto, who ruins me for talking to any other agents/editor/etc types — he’s so sweet and nice and helpful.  I’m probably here today because of him (at least partly)!  Also see 28 Days Later — the era of my modern movie love has begun.  Suddenly Rain Man and Titanic just don’t seem quite as great.  Hello (in time) Danny Boyle, Zack Snyder, Guillermo del Toro, Neill Blomkamp, Darren Aronofsky, and Alfonso Cuarón.

Age 25 — Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 game) comes out. DA-mn.  Never gonna forget that world.  Time to up my game again.

Age 27 — I watch Deadwood, my first cable show.  I know it only as ‘That show that won all those awards and people curse a ridiculous amount”.  After watching the first episodes, I know it as the show that changed my idea of TV forever.

Age 29 — I finally finish my first novel ‘Other Gods’.  The story of two servants of the god of Darkness (one willing and one unwilling) on a journey to destroy all of the gods on a desert planet.  It clocks in a 140,000 words but I’m very proud — my first book!

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Age 31 — Start my second novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’.  I had been trying to write a sequel to ‘Other Gods’ but the timing just wasn’t right.  So I decide to pick a short, sweet idea, and ‘Let my romanticism off the hook’ for the first time.  A love triangle starring a man trapped in a cage is born.

Age 33 — I start People Who Have Come Alive, to inspire others to live their dreams.  I also met Rob White, an Athens-area writer who has inspired me in many ways including founding the Athens Writers Association that year.  I also wrote my first non-fiction book ‘How To Come Alive: a Guidebook for Living Your Dreams’ and self published for the first time.  Yow!  Things are getting busy!

Age 34 — Finish and self publish ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’.  Will finish (soon!) 12 year project — ‘Fall Street’ novel.  Am writing a teleplay.  Soon to start next novel …

Taken on day #5

Still crazy after all these years.