#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, creativity, personal journeys

The Problem with Perfectionism

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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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#ROW80 check-ins, the writer's journey

Burning the Midnight Oil

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Photo by Wayne Zhou | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last night I worked until 3 a.m. to finish my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. The fifth draft is now in the hands of critique partners and awaits their feedback. Next up is revising my short story, The Forest’s Own, so I can start submitting that story to magazines.

As far as reading, last week I read Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, part of her Otherworld series, which I love. No surprise that I enjoyed this story as much as the others in the series. I’m continuing to read Little Women, which I set aside for a while, and I have a read-through of a friend’s romance manuscript to read as well, so most of my reading time will be dedicated to that.

On the home front, hubby and I took a car load of stuff to Goodwill, and I have four boxes of books that I’m donating to a library near my hometown. It’s a low-income area, and I know the books will be put to good use there. I finally finished painting the living room a rich, royal blue, and I’ve decluttered every room except my husband’s office. It’s definitely our biggest problem area—there’s a reason we saved it for last. We have a serious paper clutter problem that I’m looking for a way to address. I think with a better filing system and a more organized closet, we can get that room under control. I also planted some flower bulbs—irises and gladiolus—so hopefully come summer we have some new blooms in our flowerbed.

What about you? What projects have you been tackling lately? On the writing front? At home?

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#ROW80 check-ins, decorating and organization, simple living

Simple Living: What to Keep?

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Bruce Parrott | Dreamstime Stock Photos

As many of you know, one of my missions for 2017 is to drastically simplify my life. I’ve packed up boxes of stuff—extra dishes, knickknacks and picture frames, even books, and am working toward having a more streamlined home.

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism, and I’ve read enough to know that I am not a minimalist. I want my home to feel cozy, and for me that means a few meaningful items here and there. It’s a balancing act, finding that place that is “enough.” Enough stuff. Enough books. Enough dishes. Enough artwork. Just enough.

I’m not sure how we know when we’ve reached that point. I’m learning simple living is more of a process than a destination. I’ve boxed up a lot of stuff and tucked it away in the attic. If I don’t miss it within the next six months, I’ll go ahead and donate it to a local thrift store.

We’re moving toward a simpler life. The arrival of spring helps with that. More time spent outdoors, going hiking or simply sitting outside with a notebook in my lap. Opening the windows and letting the birdsong and fresh air in. It’s a process. We’re getting there.

As far as writing, I’m making progress with Spellfire’s Kiss. I have cover art and some promotional materials made up; more on that in a few months. I’m 70 percent of the way through a read-through of the latest draft. My goal is to finish the read-through tonight and start working through my notes tonight or tomorrow. I’d like to get this story to my critique partners by early next week.

On the reading front, I’ve read 10 books out of 30 for the year. I just finished reading a book on simple living, Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life, by Lorilee Lippincott. It was good, although a lot of the tips were things I’d already done. I’d recommend it if you’re just starting to simplify your life, but if you’re further along in your journey, it might just be a reminder more than fresh information. I’m currently reading Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, which is fantastic.

What about you? Are you interested in simple living? What is the hardest part for you? What have you decided to keep or not to keep? How are your writing and reading goals coming along?

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#ROW80 check-ins, publishing

Excitement Abounds

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Photo by Daniaphoto, Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s that time of year—the beginning of Round Two of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Feel free to join us on Facebook or on the website and hop in whenever you’re ready. I’m a few days late in getting my goals posted, but here they are…

So, Round One was a bit of a wash for me in terms of writing goals, but it also provided some much-needed downtime. I put a lot of thought into my writing path and the creative journey that I’m on. For the past few months I’ve been having trouble writing, getting words on the page here and there but not really moving forward.

And then, all of a sudden, things kicked back into gear. I realized if I want to make this path work I really need to start charging forward. During one of my tarot readings I drew the card the Ace of Swords, which is all about taking action, cutting through the briar, and moving forward. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I dug into revisions of Spellfire’s Kiss, a novel that I plan on releasing this fall, hopefully in October. I love this story; it’s the first one I wrote when I made the leap to writing full time, and I’m excited to be able to share it with readers.

So, what are my goals for Round Two? Here they are:

  • Finish Spellfire’s Kiss and send to editor by June 1.
  • Finish a second draft of Fates Entangled, a novella.
  • Finish The Forest’s Own, a short story, and start submitting to magazines.
  • Do a read-through and start revisions on Goblins and Grimoires, a novella.
  • Continue on my quest to read 30 books in 2017.
  • Read some books by writer-friends and get reviews posted.

What about you? What are your goals for the second quarter of 2017?

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