#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, personal journeys, the writer's journey

Is there such a thing as ‘controlled busy?’

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Dreamstime.com |  Creative Commons Zero

As life unfolds at an accelerated pace, I’m asking myself this question. Things have been racing along lately—home projects unfolding, decluttering efforts gaining momentum in the spring. Different parts of my life are opening up and blossoming now that I’ve made space for them.

Writing is progressing steadily, with the latest draft of my novel Spellfire’s Kiss finished and off to my critique partner, a kind and thoughtful no-thanks-for-now from an editor, whose suggestions I am mulling over as a couple beta readers mull over the manuscript, and a new(ish) novel just begun. I’ve always toyed with the idea of setting a series of novels in Foster Springs, Virginia, where The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key, my two novelettes, are set, and this idea came to me, demanding to be told. It’s about a tarot reader and a strange faerie man who comes seeking a tarot reading. There are three sisters, and I’m enjoying their dynamic so far. I’ve also joined an online chapter of RWA and attended my first meeting of a local writers group too!

And teaching English as a second language is expanding as well. I’ve moved from one class a week to two, and we’re even expanding to include some computer literacy training for the students.

On the home front, hubby and I have about a zillion projects to finish, and there are other life things that we’re doing as well. Now that the weather is warm, hikes and long walks in the woods are once more high priorities, and we took a weekend trip to Pennsylvania to visit family and attend the PA Fairie Festival. I’m also getting back into a yoga routine after a hip injury sidelined me for a while.

So, yes, it’s a lot. It reminds me of the Chariot card in tarot. Whenever I draw this card, the phrase that pops into my head is “life unfolding at an accelerated pace, but maintaining one’s stride.” (I believe that’s how Anne-Marie Ferguson, creator of the Llewellyn Tarot, puts it.) Or, as Biddy Tarot describes this card…

You will be successful at pursuing your goals, so long as you maintain focus, determination and confidence in your abilities. You need to focus completely on the task at hand, get in the race and win it. … You must cultivate the ability to withstand the rigours of what is required. In fact, striving towards your goal can be as satisfying as attaining it. This is a time to be strong and in control. You must also draw upon your willpower and self-discipline.

It’s a wild ride. I’m trying to just enjoy it. The rejection stung, but it was also beautiful, in part because the editor was so encouraging and made it clear that she saw a lot of potential in my story, and in part because it showed that I had the courage to put my work out there.

I’m trying to take it one thing at a time, and to build downtime into my schedule. Morning coffee is reflection time, and I aim for a cup of tea and some chill time in the evening. Reading tarot cards helps me find my center and reflect, distilling those little what-if questions into something tangible. Best of all, each of my endeavors is something I’ve consciously chosen. Writing books filled with magic and romance. Teaching the English language to a group of dedicated students. Creating a tidy, whimsical home I love. Adventures with my husband and our animals. Time with family and friends.

Sometimes it is indeed the chariot. It’s wild; it’s a rush. It’s busy and beautiful and blessed.

What about you? What do you do when you’re swept up in the busy-ness of life? How do you create the right level of busy-ness—not so much that you’re stressed, not so little that you’re bored? How do you build downtime into your day?

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Insecure Writers Support Group, the writer's journey

#IWSG Post: How I’ve Learned to Deal with Self-Doubt in my Writing Career

How I_ve Learned to Deal with Self-Doubt in my Writing Career

Self-doubt is a part of most people’s lives, but those of us walking a creative path are particularly susceptible. Self-doubt has the potential to stop us in our tracks, to paralyze us. It is, without a doubt, the number one cause of writer’s block.

So, is there anything we can do?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI am no stranger to the doubt monster, that creature that rises out from the corner and looms over me, trying to scare me off my writing path. I spent a year where I made little progress on my larger projects, but through grit and faith, I managed to finish a few smaller projects that helped me to grow as a writer. One of these is a short story that has just been accepted for publication.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m not you, and what works for me won’t always work for you. But here are the things that helped me weather the Doubt Storm and come out the other side.

If doubt stops you cold in your writing tracks, find ways to continue to grow as a writer.

During the Doubt Storm, I found myself unable to work on my larger projects. But I wrote short stories and poetry. I read blog posts and books about writing and, more importantly, creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic was especially helpful, but books such as those by Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and Julie Cameron (The Artist’s Way) are also beneficial. Or you could try books like Wild Creative by Tami Lynn Kent or Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

The point is to try to keep growing despite the doubt. If you’re not able to work on your Big Project, work on something else. Pen a few haikus. Try flash fiction. Find a writing prompt online and write something silly. Write a blog post. Read books about writing and creativity. The period of crippling doubt will pass. Have faith in that.

Fill the creative well.

What this means is different for all of us. For me, scrapbooking has proved a wonderful creative outlet. Time in nature or meditation helps me to feel connected and grounded. Find another creative outlet that rejuvenates you. For you, this might be cooking or photography or drawing. Read books that inspire you, and don’t be afraid to look for inspiration in unlikely places. If you write and read in the fantasy genre, pick up a good mystery or thriller. Reading books in varying genres also helps to fill the well. The point is to do things that help you grow creatively.

Understand that you are not a writing machine. Writing is less like a one-person factory and more like a garden. In other words, you are not a robot. You are a farmer.

There will be fallow periods, and they are vital to your creative process and growth. Ever wonder what happens to a field that isn’t allowed to lie fallow?

According to Vocabulary.com

Fallow comes from the old English word for plowing, and refers to the practice of leaving fields unplowed in rotation––when a field lies fallow, the soil regains nutrients that are sucked up by over-planting.

Ah. Sound familiar? That period in which I didn’t work on my stories proved sooo beneficial to my writing. I studied, I reflected, and yes, without realizing it, I grew. I emerged with a sense of clarity and purpose that I’d lost in the whole slog of word-count goals and obsession with finishing drafts.

Today, I’ve embraced a slow but steady approach. Instead of rushing through drafts, I write consistently but slowly. Most importantly, I learned so much during that fallow period, and it has infused my writing with a sense of purpose that wasn’t there before. So, consider that a slow period or dry spell might very well be a vital part of your creative process.

Practice gratitude.

This goes for life in general, but be grateful. This means celebrating what you’ve already achieved. That story that you wrote that you’re proud of, celebrate it and be thankful it chose you as its teller. Make a list of three things every day that you’re grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal. Make a practice of thankfulness and gratitude, and you’re readying yourself for the day when words begin to flow again.

Stop the comparisons.

There are people who never seem to experience doubt or dry spells. Don’t compare yourself if you do. There are people who are full of pithy sayings that do nothing but make you feel worse. And then, there will be wonderful writers whose fingers seem to be flying madly against the keys while you are stuck and starting to panic.

That’s okay. There’s no need to be angry at those people, although feelings of envy and despair might fill you. Just acknowledge they’re in a different place, and honor where you are. Accept that fallow periods might be necessary. Find ways you can grow without comparing your growth to someone else’s.

I can’t claim to have all the answers. Sometimes my own Doubt Monsters have threatened to eat me, and only through faith have I persisted. There are times when I’ve faltered, but I have managed to pick myself back up.

If you get a few words on the page, celebrate it. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the small things.

After all, what is a novel but a collection of small, connected moments?

What about you? How do you cope with self-doubt as a writer? Have you weathered a creative dry spell? What helped you make it through? Are you in one now?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. If you’re looking for a supportive community of writers, visit the group here.

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#ROW80 check-ins, fantasy, the writer's journey, travel

Coastal Magic Con Adventures!

Coastal Magic Con 2018 Alethea Kontis Denise D Young
With the lovely Alethea Kontis at this year’s Coastal Magic Con.

The Dreaming Gina BrigantiIt’s been an amazing, wonderful, joy-filled week and a half. I spent six days in beautiful Daytona Beach, Florida, at this year’s Coastal Magic Con. I made a few friends, including the lovely Gina Briganti, whose book, The Dreaming, I can’t wait to read, and Nancy Holland, who just published Thalgor’s Witch, the book of her heart. I also met too many wonderful authors to name, folks like Wendy Owens, Alethea Kontis, and Leanna Renee Hieber, who seem like such sweet, creative souls! I left with more books than I could ever possibly read, and a spirit filled with inspiration and buoyed by the energy of so many writers, readers, and bloggers gathered together in one place.

I’ve now returned to the mountains of Virginia, curling up with a cup of tea and trying to get out of vacation mode and back into writing mode. I have a novel critique to finish by Friday, and some lessons plans to do for Friday’s ESL class. And, of course, I have more WIPs than I can manage, all jostling and clamoring for attention. A Prince in Patience Point has a new opening and a fresh direction, and I’ve realized I really need to work out Neal’s character arc before I dig into the next draft. I’m also looking for Regency-inspired fantasy stories as research for that story, so if you Thalgors Witch Nancy Hollandknow of any, please leave your recommendations in the comments! And revisions to Spellfire’s Kiss are under way as well.

It’s been a big week writing-wise too. I had a short story accepted for publication in a magazine (Squee!!!), and received a request for a full manuscript from an editor at a publishing house. Like I said, a big, full week.

My mind is overflowing with new information and endless possibilities. The trick in the coming days will be to focus my energy and get some words on the page.

The trick, I think, is to do some grounding. Journaling helps me to get all of the ideas and information out of my head and onto the page, and meditation helps me to center and ground myself. I have some grounding stones I can use—maybe some black tourmaline or shungite?

My energy cycles seem to be closely tied to the cycles of the earth, and as the daffodils and crocuses bloom and the temperatures warm, I find myself reenergized, waking like the sleeping earth. Of course, for most of us, energy ebbs and flows, and that’s natural, but I look forward to long afternoon walks and mornings sitting outside listening to birdsong and writing on the patio.

Is spring returning where you are? Have you ever attended a convention or writing conference? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, magic

A Creative Life is a Magical One.

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

A clear February night. I gaze up at the stars. I don’t know many constellations, but I can pick out Orion and his belt, bright pinpricks of light staring down at me.

A summer afternoon. I sit out on my patio, curled up in a chair, a notebook in my lap. The dog sits in the grass, perhaps gnawing on a stick. Birds chirp in the trees. I bring out my Tarot deck, whisper questions to the goddess and god, seek answers in the form of the beautifully illustrated cards.

An autumn day. A leaf breaks free of a branch, caught in the wind, spirals down toward the earth. I’m reminded of a childhood superstition–that if you could catch a freshly falling leaf before it touches the ground, your wish would be granted. I still believe. In faeries. In wishes. In the power of belief.

A creative life is a magical one. Stories whisper from the ether. Brushstrokes reveal hidden worlds. Songs draw emotions out of us. Plays and films and TV shows and books transport us to other worlds.

I am learning that one of the most important things we can do with our lives is to embrace and celebrate the magic. We don’t even have to call it magic. Call it any other name. Beauty. Wonder. Joy. Spirit.

Let’s make space for it to speak.

Magic Exists Nora Roberts Quote

TENDING THE CREATIVE FLAME

This week was a hodgepodge of writing tasks. I made some changes to my author website, finished revisions on chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss, and wrote 1,375 words in Spun Gold. I also got a revise and resubmit for a short story, so I switched gears and dug deeper into the story. I feel like it’s much stronger, but I need to do a read-through and polish it before I send it back to the editor.

TENDING THE HEARTH FLAME

In hearth and home, I’m redecorating our living room with some unique art I found on Etsy. We’re really wanting to revamp this space, so we’re taking it one element at a time until it’s where we want it to be.

TENDING THE SACRED FLAME

I want to find a way to incorporate my magical practice into my everyday life. So far, lots of walks in nature and pausing to enjoy the beauty around me. Sunset walks with Leo have yielded some majestic views, and the cardinals have been flitting merrily through the yet bare trees. I’d like to bring some daily meditations into my life, along with getting back to work on my book of shadows.

What about you? How do you celebrate the magic of the everyday?

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Insecure Writers Support Group, magic, the writer's journey

#IWSG: Magic Most Wild…

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeFunny thing. I never stopped believing in magic. That desire to taste mystery never left me. It lived inside me when, as a young child, I reenacted Little Red Riding Hood over and over in front of the fireplace in our living room, before a captive audience of parents who must’ve been very tired of the tale. It lived inside of me when, as a tween, I wandered the forests of home, dreaming up stories and sowing soul-seeds that would one day grow into the stories I write today. And when, as a teenager, most throw such things away, I found myself beginning the pages of novels I would never finish, tales that blended fantasy and happily-ever-afters.

In college, I wrote poetry, because genre fiction was forbidden, and I couldn’t stop penning lines about magic. But as a poet, they let me write about magic, because in poetry everything is imagery and metaphor and so I could once again taste the way those sweet words burst again my tongue—like wild strawberries fresh from the vine, those words.

And then came decision time. I chose graduate school. And not just any graduate school. I chose the children’s literature M.F.A. program at Hollins University. And there, I spread my wings and wrote the fantasy stories I’d longed to write.

After graduate school, I found myself strongly drawn to adult and new-adult paranormal and fantasy romance and have since shifted toward those genres, combining my two great loves:  fantasy and romance. I fell hard for the magic and the swoony kisses. I’m fascinated by faeries and beings who are larger than life—dark elves, fierce warriors, witches who worship the wild earth.

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I write what I love, and what I love is a blend of fantasy and romance. Sometimes I lean more into the romance. Sometimes I lean into the fantasy side of things, and the romance is a golden thread woven into that tapestry of magic. I explore the magic of the earth, of gemstones, of plants, of the moon, of the forests, of the cottage garden, but most of all, I explore the magic that sleeps inside each of us, waiting to be reawakened.

Many of us have forgotten that magic. But I have clung to mine. Through the ups and downs of my life, it has sustained me. It has called me out of the darkness, a candle burning in the window of an inn on a long and winding road on a night when the rain falls in sheets and the wind howls like a banshee.

Magic is the heart of each of my stories because magic is my heart.

What about you? What genre do you write in, and why?

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(Click here to learn more about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.)

#ROW80 check-ins, personal journeys, simple living, spirituality

The Practice of Stillness

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“The Page of Cups is sentimental. She is a true romantic at heart, and in a world that is filled with so much noise and bustle, she longs for the time and space to simply breathe and to truly take in the pleasures that abound. She listens to the still voice from deep inside that speaks with understanding and intuition, and she longs to believe in the impossible.”—Stephanie Pui-Man Law and Barbara Moore, Shadowscapes Companion

The other night I was reading Tarot with my beloved Shadowscapes deck, and I stumbled across this beautifully written description of the Page of Cups. It resonated with me on so many levels, but most importantly because it’s a great description of the life I am striving to cultivate. A life in which stillness is appreciated, revered, and celebrated. A life where intuition is listened to as a trusted guide, its voice never silenced. A life where creativity emerges naturally because it is given the space to do so. A life where beauty is celebrated for its own sake.

I think the first step to a journey toward a simpler, more purposeful, more creative life is to cultivate stillness. It doesn’t have to be a monthlong vow of silence, or an hour-long practice per day. Even five minutes of stillness can go a long way toward creating a space for a new way of life to emerge.

This week was a perfect example. Tuesday night, I honored the super blue blood moon (you heard that right—lots of power wrapped up in that name) by drumming and meditating. It was a space to connect with spirit; a space to honor the earth, moon, and stars; a space for reflection, pause, magic, and connection.

Stillness, in the right quantities, doesn’t create disconnect or foster loneliness. The right amount of stillness, especially for introverts and highly sensitive persons, cultivates warmth, compassion, gratitude, and creativity.

When we are still, we are open to ideas that will take our creative practice to new heights. When we practice stillness, we create a small space inside of us that is filled with calm and connected to our intuition. We can then call on that calm and intuition during the more frantic, busy, chaotic moments of our day.

This week, in a quiet house, since my husband was away on business for most of the week, I connected to stillness. I worked magic. I listened—to my heart, to spirit, to my intuition, which are all perhaps one and the same.

I find myself recharged, reenergized, ready to get back to the business of making art, ready and energized in a way that I haven’t been for a while.

It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t even have to be every day. Look up. At the full moon, the stars, the patterns of the clouds, a flock of geese, a hawk soaring high above.

Once we’re still, and we’re looking, we can then begin to listen.

I’d like to end with a brief ROW80 check-in. Again, I’ve divided my goals into three categories: creative living, simple living, and healthy living.

CREATIVE LIVING

The big news for the week is that Oak-Bound is finished and out on submission!

I also wrote a new opening scene for my novel Spellfire’s Kiss, the first in a series. I did a ton of brainstorming for that series. I realized one of the key ingredients that was missing was a strong sense of setting. My theory is that if you could pick up the characters and plot and plop them down in another place, if they lift right out of the setting, there’s something off. And I wanted a town where magic, while not necessarily openly acknowledged, could coexist with our world. Enter Gladewood, Virginia, bordered by Emerald Creek. Thus, the new series name is Emerald Creek Magic, and a new fictional place is born. Now that Oak-Bound is submitted, I’d like to revise a chapter a day, but that might be pushing it with all the changes I want to make. Some chapters might take two days.

SIMPLE LIVING

Some meditation, and making a point to be present, to savor the moment, and to practice slowness and stillness this week. As I do so, I feel my creativity opening up like a flower to the sun, and I’m reminded of how closely linked simplicity and creativity are.

On the decluttering front, I used to have a tote bag crammed full of stuff sitting beside the sofa—in addition to a small, round storage ottoman full of stuff. I dumped everything out on the floor and sorted through it. Now, the tote bag is empty and tucked away upstairs to be used for trips to the beach, and the storage ottoman is organized, with a few essential items neatly tucked inside.

Saturday, I took a few things up to the attic for temporary storage. I have developed a system where I label the box with the date I packed it, and if I don’t need anything in that box within six months, I’ll take it to the thrift store. This is mostly to appease my husband, who has more trouble parting with things than I do. I boxed up another box of stuff from the kitchen and that is heading to the attic as well.

HEALTHY LIVING

I did a lot of walking with Leo this week, so I definitely got some good exercise. I didn’t eat a lot of sugar or fatty foods, but I need to get better about making sure I don’t skip meals during the day. Often, I get so caught up in tasks that I forget to stop and eat something healthy, and then by the time I’m hungry, I just grab the first thing I see, which isn’t always the healthiest thing to eat.

(A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge for ordinary folks who want to set their own manageable goals and find a supportive community to cheer them on in their journey. Click here to join us.)

What about you? How do you make room for stillness in your life? How did you practice living simply, creatively, and healthfully this week?

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#ROW80 check-ins, dose of inspiration, personal journeys, simple living

Digging Deeper, in Life and Art

Mountains and Clouds in January

One of the most magical years of my life was spent living on a farm in rural Southwest Virginia. I’d rise in the morning and, before it was too hot, work in the large garden I tended. Afterward I’d sit on the porch, read poetry, work on my master’s thesis, write poetry—I even tried my hand at making jewelry.

It was a creative time in my life, one full of possibilities. Surrounded by mountains and forest, with the New River just down the hill, I was connected to nature and spirit in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time.

Though life has since moved me into town, I still strive to remain close to nature. The photo above is from Monday’s afternoon walk with my dog Leo. Though I live in a townhouse, I’m blessed to have a park filled with walking trails just steps from my backdoor, and we walk there daily.

During Monday’s walk, Leo and I were walking the hills. I paused to admire the way the clouds hung close to the brow of the mountains. I breathed in cool air, aware that cold air was soon to follow, perhaps bringing with it a dusting of snow.

This is digging deep. It’s savoring these precious everyday moments. It’s listening to the flow of things and being present. It is only when we’re connected to the flow that we can live both simply and creatively.

I returned home, where I curled up with a cup of tea and my laptop and put the finishing touches on my novella. It is officially query-ready. I’m still waiting for some feedback on my synopsis, and once that’s revised, I will be sending Oak-Bound off to editors, in hopes of finding a home for a story that began whispering to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to tell it then, but last summer, I realized it was time.

I’ve done several drafts, each time listening intently to my characters and their reactions. Each time letting my world unfold on the page, helping the story to shine.

This is the creative process. This is why revision is so vital. Too often I’ve dreaded revision, but when I think of it not as the dreaded chore of revising but instead as the magic of digging deeper, it becomes less of a chore and more of an adventure.

With any luck, 2018 will be a year of digging deeper into my life and my art. On the home front, I’m paring away the excess, parting with objects that no longer serve me to create the sort of home I’ve always wanted: cozy, soothing, tidy—with a touch whimsy and a hint of magic. On the writing front, I’m listening intently to my stories, allowing them to unfold in their own way, not forcing them into prescribed criteria but instead letting them happen organically.

I’m a firm believer that we must envision the life we want and then find ways, slowly but surely, to bring that vision into being. What’s that saying? That goals are dreams with deadlines? Sure, maybe sometimes. But I think, perhaps, that goals are dreams made tangible. It’s not so much that we need a deadline (although sometimes, for us writers, that helps) as it is that we need a way to help dreams take root and find form.

Digging deeper allows us to pare away the excess to find the authenticity that lies beneath. Too often, our lives are buried under the stuff we own, the trappings we carry that no longer serve us. To dig deeper in our lives, we must work toward a vision of what we truly want to make of our “one wild and precious life.” To dig deeper in our storytelling, we must listen to our characters, make them and their worlds come to life.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my newly completed novella, Oak-Bound.

He landed hard against cold, damp earth. The smells of rich, fertile soil mixed with moss and mushrooms tickled his nose.

The light was diffused gray here—wherever here was. Tendrils of silvery-white mist snaked along the ground as though they were living, sentient things. One began to crawl up his leg, wrapping him like a boa constrictor. Nick took a few quick steps back.

What are you? The mist seemed to whisper in a thick, raspy voice.

He is not from here, another, higher voice hissed.

Human? The first voice.

“Yes,” Nick answered, the single word laced with uncertainty.

Ah. Welcome to The Crossroads.

“The Crossroads?” He furrowed his brow. “The place between life and death?”

High-pitched laughter met his ear.

This place is so much more. Here the roots of every tree, every plant, the energy of every living thing weave together to create a tapestry of life. The dead pass through here on occasion, but this place is not death, young one. Not at all.

Something inside Nick relaxed, a coil of fear inside his belly easing slightly. Not for himself, but for Cassie. He still had time.

What about you? How are you digging deeper into life and creativity? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, dose of inspiration, simple living, the writer's journey

Seeking Magic and Whimsy in 2018

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Creative Commons Stock Photo | Dreamstime.com

By now the glitz and glitter of the holiday season are behind us, a time of brightly colored packages tied up with ribbons—but also a time of harried running around for many of us.

Perhaps, now, we can pause. We can catch our breath.

And we can look forward to another year on the calendar. We’re still deep in the belly of winter. For Pagans, we’ll mark Imbolc on February 1, a celebration of the slightest quickening of the earth, of impending spring. And it’s still a long march forward to Ostara, the spring equinox, when daffodils trumpet the season and robins sing their merry tunes.

No, those of us in the northern, colder climes can look forward to trudging through snowdrifts and returning home to curl up under a blanket with a cup of steaming tea and a good book.

But there is a gift in these colder months. Winter is a time of stillness, of reflection, of rest. We can renew ourselves and look forward to the year ahead. We can plan our goals for the year just as we would plan our gardens.

Too many times, we sally forth without a clear vision. I am called, again and again lately, to Mary Oliver’s lovely phrase in her poem “The Summer Day”:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I spent much of 2017 scattered, and through that scattered energy, I found a renewed call to my purpose: to live a life that blends simplicity with whimsy, the everyday with the magical, creativity with calling. Above all, I am a storyteller. I took on too many things in 2017, trying to be and do too much, trying to make everyone happy, trying to live a life that satisfied other people’s definitions. I was exhausted. On the day before Yule, I woke up feeling awful, burnt out and stressed. It was a wake-up call to focus on what mattered, to return to my creative center. Out of that scattered chaos I found renewed purpose. To eat healthier. To care for my body, my mind, and my soul. To focus on my creative gifts. To simply be. To create from my center, my heart.

My goals for 2018 are to revise and polish several of my manuscripts and send them off on submission. As far as the first quarter–or “round”–of the year goes, I have several upcoming, self-imposed deadlines. My deadline for submitting Oak-Bound is January 8. My deadline for submitting Spellfire’s Kiss is March 3.

I’d also like to finish a draft of another story finished by the end of March–possibly Riverspell, the sequel to Spellfire’s Kiss, or one of my unfinished novellas, such as Fates Entangled or Silver’s Stray. Both of these have drafts finished but aren’t ready to be submitted yet. I’d like to get a draft of either finished, but Riverspell somehow feels more pressing.

On the home front, I’d like to continue various projects in our townhouse and continue my massive decluttering project. If I can tackle one project per month related to this goal, I’ll be satisfied with that.

I’ll also continue teaching English as a Second Language and, perhaps, branch out to animal rescue and take in a foster dog or two.

Magic. Simplicity. Creativity. Whimsy. These are what I strive for as I move forward.

The winter solstice has passed. The days are growing longer.

Perhaps, the signs of quickening are here. Even in the cold, short days of winter, the promise of spring remains. One need only look to the evergreens to remind us of the sleeping promise of the earth.

What about you? What are your plans for 2018? What are some of the words you’d use to define your “purpose?”

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#ROW80 check-ins, simple living, the seasons

Bright Holiday Blessings!

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Photo from Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

It was a simple Christmas in the Young household. We opened gifts—simple things, like t-shirts, books, chocolates, and tea. We drank tea and coffee and ate a simple meal of chicken and quinoa chili with cornbread for dinner. And our big outing for the day was a trip to the dog park, which was unfortunately deserted. Leo looked desperately around for puppy friends to roughhouse with, but no one showed up. So, Ryan and I stepped up. We mostly played keep-away, his favorite game. He grabbed a frisbee and we chased him. This lasted for quite a while.

It wasn’t a warm day, instead cold and crisp, and we ran bundled up in puffy jackets and gloves, our cheeks pink from the cold. Cows grazed in a nearby pasture, and we pointed them out to Leo, who was fascinated (he’d never seen one before!).

2017 has been a year of ups and downs, twists and turns, missteps and breakthroughs. A trip to Germany opened our eyes. Sleeping in the loft of a simple red cabin, surrounded by the sounds of barnyard animals, awakened by the sounds of chickens and goats, we realized we’d been moving away from the life we want. We want to live close to nature, to spend as much time as possible outdoors, to experience nature’s bounty and beauty as often as possible.

Making art and living simply. Today was a simple day. Sitting on the living room floor, opening simple but thoughtful gifts. Cooking and enjoying a homecooked meal. Embracing spontaneous playtime with a rambunctious, joyful dog.

In a few weeks, I hope to have a story out on submission and be digging into the last major round of revisions on my novel Spellfire’s Kiss. I’m trying to keep my other goals open for 2018, but I’d like to send out a couple short stories, finish two more novellas and at least one other novel—preferably a sequel to Spellfire’s Kiss. But I’m keeping it flexible.

Change is on the horizon. My husband has just finished his master’s degree in information technology, and we are planning our escape to the country—though when is still uncertain.

Thus, I end 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose. To spin stories and live simply. These are ever my goals.

Onward.

Blessed Yule, merry Christmas, happy New Year, and happy holidays, everyone!

Blessed be.

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, personal journeys

The Problem with Perfectionism

Coffee with Crumpled Paper
Shirley Hu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Confession time: I am a recovering perfectionist. I am striving to embrace my human imperfection because I have come to realize that is the only path to meaningful fulfillment in life. And I am recovering because I know my struggle with perfectionism is lifelong. The seeds of perfectionism will always be waiting to sprout inside me, if through self-doubt and self-unkindness, I water them and provide them with fertile soil.

Reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly helped me realize what a tremendous burden my perfectionism was—and more importantly, why it had developed. Perfectionism is a form of armor against vulnerability. And vulnerability is scary. But it’s also necessary. Without vulnerability, there is no true love, no vibrant joy, no great adventure. Afraid of judgment or ridicule, I wielded perfectionism like a shield. This is especially harmful because I am a writer. I exist in the creative arena. To create anything meaningful, vulnerability is necessary.

One of my biggest epiphanies as a creative came to me in the middle of the night. As a self-professed night owl, I’m prone to midnight epiphanies, and so I wasn’t surprised, though I was moved by the awakening this realization stirred.

It went something like this: There is no such thing as a perfect book. The best of books has its critics. What one reader loves, another loathes. The best we can strive for is to create a story that moves someone, to stir human emotion, whether joy, sorrow, hope, sadness, excitement, or passion. Or, perhaps, all of these.

This seems obvious, but perfectionism is sneaky. It has its tricks to convince us otherwise.

This dawning was liberating. It freed me from the sharp briars of perfectionism. It renewed my joy in the creative process. It doesn’t make writing easy, but it does make it more enjoyable, more exciting.

Brown opens her book with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I think can serve creatives and recovering perfectionists well:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So, onward I march, flawed and imperfect. Fumbling and failing all the while, I strive forward, toiling at the page, living the life of a storyteller. Starting next year, I will be sending my stories out to editors and agents, daring greatly.

This week I started the second draft of Oak-Bound. The plan is to incorporate my critique partner’s suggestions and a few changes of my own I want to make and then send it to my husband for his feedback. After that, I’ll make some more changes and hopefully by January, it will be ready for submission. I also want to start the next draft of Spellfire’s Kiss this month and try to get that ready for submission early next year.

I’ll share another quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I think can serve creatives well:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Or, as Buffy more succinctly said:

“The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

Be brave. Live deeply. Dream wildly. Create passionately. Embrace imperfection.

What about you? In what areas of your life have you struggled with perfectionism? How are you daring greatly?

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