Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ready, set, pause--for 2009!

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking
Friedrich Nietzsche.

Do you have writer’s block once in a while? Have you experienced a growth spurt, especially around the middle or where bottom meets chair? Perhaps your ankles swell after a day’s work at the computer when inspired prose sailed through your fingers onto keys and screen?

If any of this sounds like you, it may be time to acknowledge one of the realities we face as we pursue our passion for story and the word.

To write, we sit.

If your life resembles mine, in December my chair feels more like a top spinning than a calm place from which to write. Life hurls extra work at us now: cleaning the house and decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cooking meals fussy and festive, hosting or attending social gatherings. And don’t even mention that low-key statement, some assembly required.

Whatever holidays you practice, all the extra work must be completed by the date they roll around. Deadlines are nothing new to us as writers. But during this merry season, tasks are heaped on top of looming requirements of editors and agents, or on top of self-imposed target dates we must meet if we’re to achieve our writing goals.

December’s time crunch can be a stressor, and you might want to stop the merry-go-round to pause for some time to yourself. In keeping with the gift-giving of the holiday season, why not give yourself your own present—the gift of a nice, brisk walk?

You don’t have to wait for 2009 and another set of New Year’s resolutions. You can make a modest start now and reap the benefits. Medical science tells us we receive physical and mental goodies when we walk most days of the week, even for only ten minutes a day.

All of us know that walking for exercise can set us on the path to better health, but do we realize it can spark our creativity as well?

Research and testimony support Nietzsche’s assertion. Just google around and you’ll fine a plethora of articles and studies on the walking and wellbeing connection.

Do I sound preachy? If so, I apologize. In writing this post I’m hoping both to encourage you and to help myself. After cheering you on, if I don’t walk, I’ll look pretty foolish, won’t I?

So, here’s a tip: go to http://www.walkscore.com/.

This new site has checked out more than 2,500 neighborhoods in America’s 40 largest cities. You can enter an address and get the environs’ instant walkability score, along with a map of locations such as parks, coffee shops, theatres, markets, etc.—even fitness centers—the types of things you might want to enjoy during your walk. This is useful whether you’re shopping, visiting, or aimlessly roaming. You can check out the neighborhood’s walking potential before you’re even out the door.

As you bring in the New Year, here’s another quote to ponder, one by Raymond Inmon. If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.

May you have hear whispers of many angels this holiday season!

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Days of Dreams: A new month

It's February 3rd already, and I had intended to write this blog on February 1st. But life is like that. More often than not, things don't go as we intend.

Now that we've moved into the second month of the new year, I've been doing a lot of thinking about recommitting to goals. In January, we feel like we have a clean slate, with all possibility before us. Fresh from celebration of year end holidays, we start on a high, formulating goals for the new year. We begin to take action to achieve them.

Then, real life taps us on the shoulder. We get a cold or flu. Our kids get sick. Our spouse works late, or has stress on the job, or we work late or have stress on the job. We can't seem to find time for our writing, and what we do write doesn't flow. Details vary, but we each have our story. No wonder we don't have time for exercise, or we grab that candy bar or bag of cookies or bowl of ice cream. One action leads to another. They feed on each other. This leads to what I sometimes call "The Februaries."

Hang in there! Traveling in the boat with you, I certainly don't have stunning answers, but I've been mulling over this for the past several days. One solution, I think, is to realize that every month, every week, every day can be a mini New Year.

So, it's February first now. Yes. I know. February 3rd. But I'm redefing the date--today is merely February 1st + 2, a perfect time to review goals and recommit! No focusing on what wasn't accomplished in the past month. If I focus on anything, I'll remember what I did right in January.

I'm going to look at my goals again, the ones I posted on this blog. Would it help you to do this, too?

Then, I'm going to recommit and start up again. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'm reminding myself tomorrow is another day.

I'm also appreciating recent comments made by Janice and Jordanne.

Janice talks about waning excitement now that February has arrived. She's noticed posts slowing down on some of her goal-oriented e-mail loops, and talks about struggles with her current writing project.

Jordanne sends some wisdom about JOY being the real stuff of life. She offers us a quote by Sathya Sai Baba: "For at least the next week or two, ask yourself these two questions each and every day: Did I bring joy? Did I find joy?"

These two posts remind me of the preciousness of the mutual support we give each other here. Janice's post inspired me (finally) to write this blog entry because I could see she and I have been noticing the same thing. Jordanne's post inspired me to realize that our mutual support brings JOY to our process.

So, may we enJOY the steps we take on the journey toward our goals. May this new month be the start of more JOY as we take steps toward progress. May we realize the JOY in the struggle and the process, however shaky.

At this new beginning of February, I wish you a month of progress and JOY.

Thank you for your support!

xo, ciao,

Rita

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Days of Dreams: A Writer's New Year

I love this time of year. Now that the holiday trappings have been put away, I get a chance to reflect on the past year, and to look forward to the new one. Goals are very much on my mind.

Last year was a good writing year for me. I finished the second draft of my second book (which I'm still tweaking). I attended the RWA national conference in Dallas, and met one of the top agents in the business. I was a contest finalist. I spent a weekend at the home of Susan Wiggs, along with some writing colleagues I've gotten close to. In 2007, this web site went up, built by my college-age daughter. Now I have two blogs, this one and another that is concerned with exercise and nutrition, called "Off the Couch and At the Table."

Speaking of exercise and nutrition, this year my efforts really paid off. Besides sticking with my exercise program, I improved my diet. The result? I lost TWENTY-FIVE pounds. (The picture on the home page was taken before the weight loss.)

All in all, a very good year. In 2008, I hope to be submitting both my books to agents with the goal of representation.

What are your goals? I'd love to hear them.

To help in goal-setting, this year I've asked myself and some writing colleagues three questions. Here they are, along with my answers.

Question 1: Sit back and close your eyes for a moment and imagine this is December 31, 2008. What dreams (or concrete goals) would you like to be able to say you've made come true by then?

My answer: On December 31st, I'd love to tell you I've obtained an excellent literary agent to represent my works of fiction. I'd like to say I've tweaked my two novels to make them the best they can be, so I can proudly submit them to my agent. Since that will require many hours sitting at the computer, I'd like to say I've been steadfast with my exercise routines, that I've maintained my current nutrition standards of minimal saturated fat and lots of vegetables and fruits. I also have goals for my "personal" life -- to be a good wife and mother, a good friend, a good sister and aunt, and to keep a good house.

Question 2: On December 31, 2008, if you've met these goals or made those dreams come true, what will your life be like? What changes will you see?

My answer: I'll be full of excitement and energy. Having a great literary agent will tell me I'm on my way to being a published author. And, with the vibrant health and energy that come with good nutrition and exercise, I'll feel especially ready. Succeeding with my weight loss goal will make me feel really good about myself, and I'll love being able to wear more stylish clothes. For me, success with diet and exercise and success as a writer are linked in my mind.

Question 3: What specific challenges do you face right now?

My answer: I feel like I never have enough time to get everything done. Another problem is that once I get writing, I don't want to get up to do anything else, and that includes exercise! When I'm working fast and furious on a novel, or on anything involving writing, I don't even want to take the time to eat right.

Those are my thoughts. What about yours?

Perhaps you can ask yourself these three questions as you formulate your goals for the new year. If you'd like to post your answers here, you are welcome to do so.

I wish you the best in 2008. May it be a great year for us all!

xo, ciao,

Rita

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