Snowy Interlude

I don’t know where you are right now, but here in Montclair, New Jersey, we’re experiencing a thrilling adventure…another SNOW DAY! I know, I know, for some people this is a trial, but for me, it’s a treat. When I was a kid, I considered “SNOW DAY”  two of the most glorious words in the English language. It meant NO SCHOOL! HOT CHOCOLATE! PLAYING CARDS! GOOFING AROUND! READING BOOKS!

I can still see my beloved sister Judy reading one of her favorite stories, Snow Bound with Betsy. Could there be a more perfect book title for a snowy day? Sometimes I wish I had a copy of that book. But then I realize that I don’t even need it — just the title is so evocative, that it summons up happy memories in an instant. Books are like that, aren’t they?

I’m not spending the day in a snow fort made of blankets the way we did when I was a kid, but I am all set to enjoy my snow day. Luckily, I don’t have to travel. I have my children’s novel revision to work on, so I’ve got plenty of work. And I’m well provisioned — an absolute snow-day must. Sillycow Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows! Hazelnut Coffee! Fire Wood! They’re all on hand — everything I need for a fun and productive snow-bound interlude.

Sometimes it’s a gift to have a “time out” — a day where the outside world waits quietly on your doorstep. A day where you can plan and dream, ponder and write. It’s the perfect time to let your imagination soar. May we all be safe and protected, and warm and cozy. Write on!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

With Enthusiasm!

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“From that day on, I began to sell. The ‘Magic of Enthusiasm’ began to work for me in business, just as it had in baseball….I would not want to give anybody the impression that I think enthusiasm consists of fist-pounding…but if fist-pounding is what you need to arouse yourself inside, then I am overwhelmingly for it. I know this: When I force myself to act enthusiastic, I soon feel enthusiastic.”

“Force yourself to act enthusiastic, and you’ll become enthusiastic!”

Frank Bettger, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling

Enthusiasm is a vital quality for us as writers on two fronts:

First, enthusiasm is the self-motivating excitement and energy we bring to our own work — the adrenalin boost we give ourselves when we bring joy and vigor to the page. And second, there’s  the enthusiasm we give others when we share our encouragement and excitement with them about what they are doing. This is a transfer of energy.

As Frank Bettger’s inspiring comments above suggest, there’s a simple, but powerful technique you can use to light an inner fire — “to arouse yourself inside.” Just “act as if” you’re excited and energized and you’ll become excited and energized.

What does enthusiasm look like for you? Would you bounce out of bed, ready for action? Would your mind be buzzing with ideas? Would you be totally “in the zone” when you began playing on the page? Whatever the ingredients are for you, why not try “acting as if” you have them in abundance and see what happens? Let “the Magic of Enthusiasm” work its magic on you.

And if you do decide to up your Enthusiasm IQ, help is at hand! My good friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert has recorded Frank Bettger’s inspiring chapter on enthusiasm from his classic book. Just call this number: 1.862.333.0024 — and you can hear the recording. It takes about 3-5 minutes, but it’s well worth the time. Dr. Gilbert, a sports psychologist, suggests that you listen to it every day for 28 days in order to make it part of your DNA. Why not give it a try and let me know what you think! I’m calling it myself, because I need all the enthusiasm I can create! How about you? Write on!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Best Advantage”

“Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage.”   Jawaharlal Nehru

That word “efficiency” has a cold, mechanistic ring to it, doesn’t it? It sounds at odds with the idea of inspiration bubbling up unbidden and mysteriously. And yet, it’s hard for me to argue with the fact that my work would benefit if I brought more efficiency to it. How about you?

Here’s how my handy Century Dictionary describes this elusive but oh, so useful! quality: 1) “competency in performance;” 2) “ability to produce the best results in operation or work;” 3) in mech., “the ratio of the work done or energy developed by a machine, engine, etc., to the energy supplied to it.”

OK, it sounds promising: When we go for greater efficiency, we’re going for competency in the way we do our work and the power to produce the best results. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But we’re also going for something more, according to definition #3: We’re going for a good balance between the results we get from the energy we expend to get them. Sounds doable, doesn’t it?

But to me, it’s the last part of Nehru’s observation that packs the most punch: We’re most efficient – we perform best and use our energy to greatest effect – when we use “existing material to best advantage.” So what materials do we have readily at hand?

Existing material #1: The time we have in which to work. For some of us, definitely me!, one big challenge is using my time most productively. When we spend this precious, precious asset wisely, our work bears fruit.

Existing material #2: The skills and experience we bring to our work. We can chase around for other things we believe we need: more research, more talent, more this, more that, but in the end, it is most efficient to fully tap into the skills and experience we have in the moment – to get the most from what we have right here, right now.

Existing material #3: The attitude and intention we bring to our work. When we bring an attitude of curiosity and playfulness, our work becomes joyful and fun: It enters the Land of Possibility, where anything can happen. And when we approach our day’s work, whatever it is, with the intention to give it our best, then our productivity is unleashed.

What’s our takeaway here? We’re rich! We have all the materials we need right here right now to do the best possible job of making our work sing and dance. What a gift! Write on!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Those Days

“The quality of writing I do on the days I don’t feel like it is just as good as the quality on the days I do feel like it.”   John Kenneth Galbraith

What a liberating insight—and what value and comfort it offers us! Even a writer as polished and prolific as the widely admired John Kenneth Galbraith struggled with days when he didn’t feel like picking up his pen. And yet, he wrote on – and once he found his groove, his writing found its way. And it was good. Whatever creative endeavor we’re engaged in, we can take heart from John’s experience and his decision to keep going.

Consider how helpful this can be to us today or tomorrow or even next week, because, like our boy John, we all have “those days” – those days when we resist the page and the page resists us write back. I meant “right back,” but “write back” works even better because it says exactly what I mean. Let’s ponder exactly what kind of “those days” we may face as we go forward with our work, whatever it is, and see if John can help us onward:

It could be the day we feel under par or are struggling with a physical problem. When this happens, it’s so easy to turn away from our day’s work and give ourselves the excuse that we’re not well and won’t be at our best. And yet, though we might not feel like writing, if we sit down and start we may find that our pain melts away or at least recedes into the distance and that the muse rewards our decision with something delightful.

It could be the day we simply feel sluggish, dreary, and uninspired. When we’re in this mindset, it’s all too easy to say to ourselves that we’ll wait and give up on our work until we feel more “in the mood” to do it. And yet, as Madeleine L’Engle said so well, “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” The very act of getting to work brings the muse to our side. So even if we’re feeling uninspired, inspiration can find us – if we signal our willingness to welcome it by showing up.

It could be the day we feel full of doubt and fear about what we’re doing and whether it’s good enough — worth our time and, potentially, our readers’ time. When doubt and fear strike our heart or worm their way into it, it’s easy to surrender, to give in to their siren song and stop. And yet, if we push on despite our doubts and fears, if we come to the page anyway, unsure but determined to do our best and fight through these feelings, then so often we find that they are paper tigers – that they aren’t as solid and forbidding as they seem. Instead of resisting, we can coexist peacefully and productively with them.

“Those days” are going to come our way, like the sunshine and the rain. But if we take heed of – and heart from – the knowledge that how we feel on any given day has nothing to do with how well we write, then we are already halfway home. Write on!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Something Wonderful

Since St. Patrick’s Day is here, fresh as the green grass that will soon be sprouting, I thought we’d all enjoy the warm glow of a traditional Gaelic blessing:

May The Road
Rise Up To Meet You

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Reading Update

It’s always a good idea for us, as creatives and writers, to stay current about trends in reading and the publishing industry. With this in mind, here’s the latest on key findings on our field from the latest Pew Research Center:

About three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012.

On average, Americans read 12 books per year, while in the past year, the typical (median) American read four books. These figures have stayed relatively unchanged since 2011, when Pew first began researching Americans’ book reading habits.

Print books continue to be the most popular format for reading; according to the latest research, 67% of Americans have read a print book in the past year.

Roughly four in ten Americans (39%) say they read only print books, while roughly one in three (29%) use diverse formats and read both print and audio books.

While shares of print and e-book readers are similar to those from a survey conducted in 2016, there has been a modest but statistically notable surge in the share of Americans who read audiobooks: Audio readership has increased from 14% to 18%.

Despite growth in some digital formats, relatively few Americans read digital books (either audiobooks or e-books) to the exclusion of print.

Just 7% of Americans say they only read books in digital formats and have not read any print books in the past 12 months.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of 18- to 29-year-olds have listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months, compared with 16% who had done so in 2016.

A few related findings on U.S. consumption of online information:

Overall, 77% of Americans go online on a daily basis. This figure includes 26% who stay virtually connected throughout the day, as well as 43% who say they go online several times a day and 8% who go online about once a day.

As smartphones and other mobile gain popularity, 26% of American adults now report that they go online “almost constantly,” up from 21% in 2015, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey research.

Younger adults are at the vanguard of the constantly connected: Roughly four-in-ten 18- to 29-year-olds (39%) go online almost constantly and 49% go online multiple times per day. By comparison, just 8% of those 65 and older go online almost constantly and just 30% go online multiple times per day. Americans ages 30 to 49 are now about as likely as younger adults to use the internet almost constantly (36% versus 39%) – up 12%.

Now that we know more about our readers, let’s all write on!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Your Magic

“It’s a question that doesn’t have an answer. We, and I think I’m speaking for may writers, don’t know what it is that sometimes comes to make our books come alive. All we can do is write dutifully and day after day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable. I don’t think that we can consciously put the magic in; it doesn’t work that way. When the magic comes, it’s a gift. I heard Rudolph Serkin give a magnificent performance of Beethoven and the magic was certainly there. Rudolph Serkin’s main contribution to it is practicing eight hours a day, every day.”   Madeleine L’Engle

Not surprisingly, the new movie version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has given new life to this classic novel for children and sparked renewed interest in this wonderful writer. With this in mind, and inspired by Toby Stein, my friend and fellow author and poetry lover, I thought we might all share and apply some of Madeleine’s timeless wisdom:*

“When we believe in the impossible, it becomes possible, and we can do all kinds of extraordinary things.” Audrey Hepburn once astutely observed that the word impossible contains the words “I’m possible.” How true this is! The first step to accomplishing something other people say can’t be done is not to buy into their mindset. Madeleine L’Engle is the perfect example of this. Back in 1962, when she wrote her timeless sci-fi fantasy, like so many writers, she had a hard time finding a home for it. Some 26 publishers rejected her book before John C. Farrar of Farrar Straus and Giroux took it even though his firm didn’t publish kids’ books. A Wrinkle in Time went on to sell 10 million copies!

“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.” One of my all-time favorite gems on writing, this reminds us that writing is mostly about perspiration and perseverance. The muse favors those who favor her by showing their devotion to their calling (See Muse Management – one of my favorite posts!) When we write and keep on writing, when we show up ready to give our best, when we persist in not abandoning a project even though we’ve hit roadblocks in bringing it to life, the universe rewards us.

“If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure.” This says it all, doesn’t it? Every day, when we sit down to write, we risk failure, but without taking that risk, we give up the opportunities to share our work, to succeed, and to experience the joys of our creative journey.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book is too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” When Toby passed on this quote to me, I was thrilled. As someone writing a children’s novel, it gladdened my heart and inspirited me. Children have the imagination, the skills, and the heart, to be fearless and creative readers and as writers, we owe them the very best we have to give.

Bravo, Madeleine – inspire on! Bravo, Toby – write on!

* These quotes come to us via the March 7 online issue of Writer’s Digest.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments