Resilience Rocks!

“A relaxed mind is a creative mind.” Yogi Teabag Tag

Stress – this word everywhere! I hear people talking about it at Starbucks or on line.

Anxiety, restlessness, a sense of foreboding – however you capture this unwelcome feeling, it’s not hard to see why it’s a creativity buster. When you’re stressed, you’re often in a mental mind loop, playing the same story over and over – not exactly a reipe for originality. And when you’re feeling anxious, you’re constricted both physically and mentally, which makes it hard to set yourself free to write.

What to do, what to do? Some practical skills that scientists have passed on to U.S. soldiers to help them become more resilient to stress may help us as well:

Gain perspective:   When we’re worried, most of us tend to focus on the worst outcome for a situation we’re facing. Trying to chase away these thoughts usually doesn’t help, but taking a look at their opposite can. So here’s a plan: Jot down the worst-case scenarios on paper to get them out of your system, then spend time writing down the best-case scenarios. Writing all this down not only focuses your thinking, it can also pull you out of a negative spiral. Once you’re feeling more balanced, you can begin looking more honestly at the most likely outomes, which usually fall somewhere in the middle.

Take action: Purposeful action is the sword that undercuts anxiety: It’s the biggest tool in your resiliency kit bag. If you feel stressed that you are not putting enough time into your writing, then work out a schedule for a week and build in creativity sessions to get back on track. If you’re stuck on a plot point, take a friend to lunch and brainstorm together. If a problem at home is plaguing you, then figure out small steps you can take to whittle it down and take them.

Find joy: Abundant research shows that people who cultivate positive emotions meet adversity better than those who don’t. Look for and savor small, enjoyable moments in your day. “Joy and gratitude can help inoculate you against the paralyzing effects of anxiety,” notes one researcher.

Gather your resources: When you hit a roadblock, arm yourself to meet it by identifying your strengths and making a list of them. Then identify and list the strengths of the people you rely on. Now combine them: When you can draw not only from your own skills and strengths, but also those of the people who care about you, you can come up with a powerful package.

Resilience rocks! Let’s take time to cultivate it as we all write on!

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July 5th

Just as July 4th ended, the idea to create my own Declaration of Independence as a writer occurred to me. Since I missed the boat on the 4th, I’m going to declare July 5 as my own personal Independence Day. As a source of inspiration, the July 4, 1776 version is unbeatable. What could be more compelling than these bold, forthright words, which sparked a revolution and changed the world:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.“

Quoting this statement, I was struck by the phrase “unalienable Rights” and in particular, the word “unalienable,” which is variously defined as “incapable of being surrendered or transferred,” “non-negotiable,” and “sacrosanct.” “Sacrosanct” piqued my interest and sent me on another little word chase. I came up with “sacred,” “respected,” “untouchable.” Now that’s food for thought.

What sacred, non-negotiable, untouchable rights do I want to endow myself with as a writer on my personal Independence Day ? Let’s start with these:

I endow myself with the right to believe in my work and its intrinsic value.

I endow myself with the right to honor and nurture my desire to devote the
time needed to pursue my craft and push my writing to the next level.

I endow myself with the right to put my creative writing center stage and to
do whatever it takes to create forward motion each day.

I endow myself with the right to pursue any ideas, tools, training, and experience
that will help me improve my craft.

I endow myself with the right to see myself as part of a long and joyful tradition of
storytellers and myth makers who enrich the world through words.

Well that’s what I came up with. How about you?

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Happy Fourth!

Happy July 4th holiday! In honor of Independence Day, wisdom for us to ponder from our Founding Fathers about an America worth defending:

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”   Samuel Adams

“Citizens by birth or by choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same Religion, Manners, Habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts — of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”   George Washington’s Farewell Address

“This will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.”   Benjamin Franklin

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”   John Adams

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.”

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”   Thomas Jefferson

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Lillian Launches

Lillian Vernon built a kitchen-table business that eventually grew into a $235 million-dollar, publicly traded mail-order company with a catalog circulation of more then 140 million. At one point in her long career, she shared these 10 tips for success in work and life:

  1.   Make time for yourself and your family.
  2.   Surround yourself with the best people possible.
  3.   Be open to new ideas and better ways to do things. Communicate!
  4.   Be prepared to take risks.
  5.   Like what you do and like what you sell.
  6.   Don’t dwell on your mistakes or setbacks — learn and grow from them and then move on. Never let your mistakes defeat and discourage you. Never take criticism personally.
  7.   Don’t try to do it all — delegate!
  8.   Don’t grow too fast without the proper systems and people in place to handle the growth of your business.
  9.   Don’t be afraid of new technology that can help make your business more efficient.
  10.   Keep your debt manageable.

Be open to new ideas. Be prepared to take risks. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Don’t be afraid of new technology  — all these gems of wisdom are as helpful now to us as writers as they were when Lillian first shared them. Why not pick one tip that speaks to you and make it yours? Who knows where it might take you! Write on!

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Let’s Leap

“I find that the very things that I get criticized for, which is usually being different and just doing my own thing and just being original, is the very thing that makes me successful.”   Shania Twain

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically fine line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”   Cynthia Heimel, writer and humorist

Bold advice, but well worth taking: Be different. Be original. Do what works for you. Leap the line between creativity and looking crazy. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.

If we embraced all this, where would it take us?

When a crazy idea for a story or a wacky plot point that could catapult us out of a rough patch bubbles up, we might grab it and run with it.

When a character of ours suddenly wants to do something that’s, well, out of character, we might applaud instead of sticking him or her back in the little box we’ve created for them.

When someone else told us that an idea we had wouldn’t really work and we should forget it, we might nod our head politely and choose to forget their advice instead and go with our instincts and our idea.

When we get out of our comfort zone, when we consider jumping out of our genre or write poetry or try our hand at a film script, instead of telling ourselves, “No, you can’t possibly do that,” we’d say to ourselves,”Go for it!” and get going.

What is there about being a creative that often makes us doubt the very thing that makes us who we are: our creativity? Why are we willing to push it just so far and then feel we have to pull back? Could it be that even we suffer from the twin diseases of our time: WWOPT and WWOPS: What will other people think? and What will other people say? If so, then there’s a simple cure: Just do it!

So, whatever off-the-wall, out-of-the-box ideas we come up with, let’s leap! Write on!

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Something Wonderful

Let’s begin this summer weekend a little early!  This Something Wonderful offering comes to us via my wonderful friend and poet Tara Moyle, who shared at a workshop she taught:

Peonies at Dusk  by Jane Kenyon

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

from Constance, 1993

Have a long and lovely weekend. Write on!

 

 

 

 

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Contest Alert

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”     Dorothy Parker

Short stories appear to be making a comeback and that may suitsome of your perfectly. If so, then you may want to check out this contest: the Summer Short Story Award for New Writers. Deadline: July 31. Have some gems of literary wit and magic that you’ve polished until they sparkle? If so, why not step them out?

The Masters Review, which is devoted to emerging writers, is sponsoring this contest. The winner will receive $3000 and publication on The Masters Review site Second and third place prizes will each also be awarded publication and a small cash prize.

All winners and honorable mentions will receive agent review by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media, and Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company.

The contest is open to emerging writers only – The Masters Review focuses on offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit. Writers with works published with a circulation of less than 5000 copies can also submit to the contest.

Both multiple and simultaneous submissions. are invited to submit. You can submit the same story across any of categories: everything is considered for publication. If you submit a work that it is under consideration elsewhere, please let The Masters Review know immediately if it is accepted so it can be removed from consideration.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication, and agency review)
  • Stories under 7000 words
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • International submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication

For more details and to submit visit: https://mastersreview.com/short-story-award-for-new-writers/

Write on!

 

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