Nov 18, 2015

My Manifesto

I recently attended a webinar by Jeff Goins. I found out about him because Jamie Raintree set up a group and had it as a book of the month to read. I highly recommend reading The Art of Work because it is inspiring and motivating, meant for everyone.

One of the things that stood out to me in the webinar was the necessity to write a manifesto. At first, I thought I’d just jot down some ideas and let them ride. Then, I thought it would be the sort of thing I’d work through, write out my thoughts, for myself. But as it sat in my mind, as it lingered in the back of my brain, I realized that it would be more beneficial, to myself and maybe to others, if I put what I’m thinking out there for the world to see.

Yes, it’s a dangerous thing these days, to express thoughts and opinions and feelings.

But it’s more dangerous to live of life of dissatisfaction. And I’ve been doing that for several years now.

Jeff Goins recommends three steps to fleshing out a manifesto. These aren’t just his ideas - it’s the way Declaration of Independence is constructed as well. Below, you will find thoughts on the three manifesto components:  

1. The Problem
2. Ideal Solution
3. Call to Action


To figure out my problem, and again, guided by ideas from Jeff Goins, I asked myself these questions.

Is creating my primary concern?
Do I write for the love of writing?
Am I working toward a career, hoping that the act of creating will sustain me?

“As we care less about our audience’s affections, more people will be affected by our writing.” —Jeff Goins

Creation is not now, nor was it ever, motivated by the praise and accolades of others. Creation is a sense of self, a divine ability given to man to make more of this world, of themselves. There is a tendency online to become a receiver, to simply adopt the role of a benefactor who acquires motivation, who absorbs inspiration without any indication of reciprocation. This does not align with the role of a creator. 

Writing and rewriting something with the hopes that the numbers will go up, that it will reciprocate its value through monetary is selfish, and not the way of art. Writing is to make sense of a world that can, at times, be frustrating, overwhelming, soul-crushing. Writing is to allow what I keep inside to maintain political correctness, to sustain friendships, to avoid confrontations due to statements, logos, colors and creed because I don’t want to fight anymore. That is different from giving up. That is different from apathy. That is simply valuing relationships. But holding it in can become heavy — heavier than what one person can handle. 

If I let the writer within me have the chance to express herself, even the most frustrating feelings can eventually become lyrical expressions of peace, joy, love. 

And so, I’m declaring my intention as a writer. 

This is different than announcing I’m a writer. This is different than admitting I’m trying to find representation on a book I started two and a half years ago. This is even different than investing in myself through attending conferences, buying craft books, joining organizations and the like. 

This is me, saying to myself, to my loved ones, to the world, that I write because there is a part of me that longs for it. There is a peace that I get when I can put word on screen or paper that doesn’t quite come from anything else. There is a way that writing lets me sort through thoughts, feelings, complications of a daily life that can often remain ambiguous otherwise. 

This is me saying that to have the quality of life that I can enjoy, to be the mom that my kids need, to be the wife that my husband needs, to serve people around me, I need to have time to write. 


Of course, ideal would be that I could work a little less at the job that currently pays me, and make a little more as a writer.

However, I think the ideal solution can’t happen until we admit the actual reality.

I will often let excuses of tiredness get in the way of what I know I need to do to be happy.
I am prone to stare at something for fifteen - twenty - thirty minutes as a way for me to calm down, to take my mind off of all the things that are keeping me from writing when I know what I should be doing is writing.
I am guilty of having been a taker of the internet for a long time, which was beneficial when I was a student of the craft, and while I firmly believe that everyone needs to be lifelong learner, dedicating our lives to just that isn’t sufficient for a society to exist; life long learners need to be contributors as well.
I didn’t pitch a class for a conference this year because I discredited what I have to offer.
I don’t put advice out there because I wonder if I’m expert enough. 

And at the same time, I let my kids, my husband, my friends, my students see me fail because I know they need to see that failure isn’t forever, that mistakes make people better, and that ebbs and flows are part of the process. 

Too often, and I think this is mostly an American thing, we hide the struggle that someone went through in the process of getting it together. We wait and hide until what we have to put forth is “the best” and then offer vain mumblings of humility because it’s not socially appropriate to let someone know how much work something was. 

So I’m not waiting until my career is at the right place to justify an active blog. I’m not waiting until I have an agent, a deal, a book, or a crowd to share what I think about process and struggles and craft. The writers who I love are the ones who are honest about their dealings with their art. Who acknowledge there are incredible days and bad days. 


And finally, as the final part of my manifesto, I’m giving myself a call to action. I’m showing up - here and for my family and with my book - every single day. No more dismissing a day because it might not be as good as the last one was. No more not writing because of whatever reason I’ve used in the past. I tell my students all the time we can fix crap, but we can’t fix nothing. If I want this to happen, I have to have something. And it might not be the most eloquent something. It might not change the world. But I am committing to this goal/dream/aspiration or what have you because every element of my soul is acknowledging this is the right thing for me right now. 


Discovering my love for writing, over and over, has made it clear that there is more to life than repeating the same day over and over. I hope you, as a reader of this blog, know what it is that makes you feel complete. If not, start exploring. Start wondering and trying and testing. Accept the failures (there will be some) and then accept what that means. My failures in learning to crochet (still can’t) FELT different than my failures in writing. I wanted to continue pursuing after the one, I’m really good to never try the other again. 

Have you identified the thing that makes you feel the most you? Is it parenting? Knitting? A passion someone doesn’t know about? Reading? Have you taken the time to identify what is keeping you from enjoying it more thoroughly? 

If not, please set up a date with yourself, a chance to find/rediscover a passion. Identify the problem. Discover the ideal solution. Then formulate a call to action - however big or small - to get you on the path of enjoying that 
And then, experience the magic of chasing a dream. 

Aug 24, 2015

Filling the Pitcher

I was recently teaching a group of youth in my church and we were talking about the nuances of being a parent. I had them list some of their concerns, which ranged from dropping the baby to how to teach the kids all the things. After they had suggested their list, I added one more - WANTS/NEEDS.

This, of course, can mean several things. First, there is the financial aspect. My kids know that there are times they have to wait until payday for things that can be deemed as needs because needier needs were already taken care of (food, clothes, what have you). And they know that if it is a want, they will often have to pick up extra chores (or, quite frankly, actually do the ones they have right now all the way).

I suggested to these youth, though, that moms and dads are often guilty of working so hard to provide for everyone elses everything that they begin to neglect their own. We hear all the time that moms do this, giving everything they have to their children, but I've known way too many men who become reluctant workaholics to think this is a gender based issue. Before long, both mom and dad are on autopilot, both at work and at home, reacting to the circumstances around them instead of intentionally making decisions for a happier life.

Everyone knows that a cup can't be filled if the pitcher is empty, but more and more, I see adults transitioning into empty pitchers.

This, among several other reasons, is why I write. I like that I have something to work toward, something that is mine, something that gives me joy and satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment. Sure, that feeling can come when all the laundry is done, but it's not the same thing at all.

Several of my sisters find this feeling in athletic competitions. Two of my sisters, and my 60 year old dad, are heading to California in a few weeks to complete a century ride down the coast of California. That's 100 miles on a bike - and they are quite excited about the idea. My brother has taken part in starting up a company (okay, a couple) because helping get a business from concept to corporation is thrilling for him.

Yes, there are things that will fall to the wayside in pursuit. But if I'm weighing pros and cons, I'd rather have a kitchen that is less than meticulous than have children who are afraid that one more request might be the one that snaps mom's patience. I'd rather have floors that get vacuumed slightly less often and let my kids see that I can have a career and love/drive/cheer/encourage/comfort/push my children and myself.

The funny thing that happens is happiness begets happiness, talent begets talent, satisfaction begets satisfaction. Time and again, I've seen adults who rediscover a passion they had, and that passion extends to passion for marriage and love and children and family. There will still be the struggle for balance - I don't think that ever goes away. But the end product of such a balancing act can be drastically different if we allow time for ourselves.

Aug 17, 2015

Find Wonder Every Day

Several years ago, I came across this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are a fan of either her or TED talks, I'm sure you've watched it at least once. I come back to it yearly, when I'm full of doubt, when I need a little inspiration, when I need a reminder that there are things I'd like to accomplish beyond the get up go to work come home soul-sucking cycle that can so easily become our lives. 

Knowing this, it probably won't come as a surprise that I'm a fan of her new podcast, Magic Lessons.
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening and heard the advice to find WONDER in everyday things. It resonated with me for several reasons. 

1. I applied for a job earlier this year that I didn't get. 

It was a job I would have been awesome at, and I found out, after, that I was third. But really second because they courtesy interviewed someone already at this institution. Finding out where I stood is both exciting and frustrating - it's the almost, so close, but not quite that lets me know I'm on the right path, I'm doing the right things, and for whatever reason, it's not my turn. 

2. I'm going back to a job that I love and get frustrated by in ebbs and flows

I LOVE teaching, love interacting with teenagers. I don't love that I will have nearly 200 students in six classes, that the workload nearly buries me at times, and that every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have a theory and an opinion about why education in our country isn't awesome. I'm passionate about education, follow updates and theories, brain-based learning and best strategies, and at the same time, work very VERY hard to not see any of the comments sure to follow any of these articles because it is flat-out hurtful. 

3. I'm querying a novel

I've been working on this book for a long time. Part of it was so I could find my writer voice, part of it was to figure out the necessary structure of the book. Twenty thousand words into the book, I broke my hand - then had it reconstructed. 

In January, when I was setting my New Year's goals, I wrote "Put my whole self into The Light Behind the Clouds." I felt then, and still feel, that this is a book that conveys what I want to say to the world, the does it in a manner that is true to my writer self. But the tricky thing about querying is there are going to be rejections - it's the nature of the beast. 

The first dozen rejections were form rejections, with one being simply a sentence of declination "Send from my iPad." 

Through this, I'm trying to find the wonder. I'm trying to maintain joy in the journey. I refer to these experiences as character builders, things I'll be able to look back on with a smile LATER, when I have my dreams. I have reason to believe this will happen because it's happened before, but that's a difficult thing to remember when I'm in the middle of it. 

But now, I'm working on wonder. That might be in a poignant poem, a song that stills my soul, a hug from a child after sixteen million eye rolls, or even holding hands with the guy who I continually fall in love with. These are things that can still bring wonder, things I can hold to when the wonder of other aspects isn't quite so prevalent. 

How have you found wonder in the every day things? What do you know you can count on to help you feel happiness? 

Jul 22, 2015

Women's Fiction Spotlight: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

I was super excited to get a copy of this book, in part because I know Scott, know that he is an incredibly generous, kind-hearted, hilarious guy, and because the premise, the cover, and everything about this book sounded like something I'd love if it could be pulled off well. 

Blurb from Goodreads: Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more exciting is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds. In this unconventional and enchanting tale, Annie and her new neighbor must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and somehow already did.

This is a charming debut. Wilbanks is able to introduce a cast of characters in different time periods in an organic way, giving the reader a chance to get grounded with them, to a little bit fall in love with them, and then brings another on stage who is charming and unique in his/her own way. And then the fun begins, with snarky letters across the time periods, characters with heart-wrenching imperfections, each longing for a loved one to have a better life while trying to discover what that better life is for themselves. The plot twists and winds together, picking up the pace in a steady rhythm that will make you forget about your bed and want to see how everything comes together. And just when you aren't sure you can love what happens anymore, Wilbanks elevates the plot again, bringing everything to a fantastic climax.

I loved this book much MUCH more than I expected to, and I came into it with high hopes. I am smitten with the uniqueness of characters - truly. I will read Wilbanks again.

***I received an advanced copy courtesy of NetGalley for a free and honest review***

Jul 15, 2015

Women's Fiction Spotlight: Lost Lake

Blurb from Goodreads: Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it's the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn't believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life?

Sometimes lost loves aren't really lost. They're right where you left them, waiting for you to find them again.

Over and over, Sarah Addison Allen amazes me with her characters, plots, relationship development and magic. I adore everything she writes and while this starts feeling a bit different, it is utterly charming.