Are you complacent? Are you living in a comfort zone where you aren’t stretching yourself to be the best that you can be?
Too often we get in a rut and accept where we are as where we need to be. But by doing that we don’t grow and we don’t push ourselves. Being comfortable is easy. To stretch forces us to grow, learn and be more than we are.
I really try to push my comfort boundaries. To try new things. Perhaps it’s just a new way of doing something familiar. Or perhaps it’s trying something totally unfamiliar. Whatever it is that I do, I usually am much better off for having tried it.
The first step of any new endeavor is tough. We might fail. We might make fools of ourselves. Or we might just succeed. And how great would that feel?
Get out of your comfort zone and reach for something new and exciting.
All month long I have been fighting my writing. In my heart, I knew something wasn’t right with this latest book, but I could not figure out what it was. I hate that. After all, I had carefully plotted the book and was happy with both the plot and the characters. Or was I?
By asking myself some questions, I got a glimmer of what was bothering me.
I didn’t want to kill off my intended victim. I’d grown to like her. And because I didn’t want to bump her off, my scenes were suffering and my pacing was off. I was going to the computer each morning practically kicking and screaming. And procrastinating about murdering her on the page. Of course, I didn’t know that that was what I was doing.
But once I figured out that I didn’t want to kill her, I had to figure out what to do.
Was this just a whim on my part, or did she really have a place in the story other than as the murder victim?
When I’m in a dilemma like this, I don’t do anything rash. I turn it over to the characters. So I posed the question to them and asked them to come up with reasons for her to stay among the living.
And they came through.
I woke up the next morning and the answer was clear. She gets to live. And the characters (or my subconscious) came up with all of the answers. I knew why she had to live. I knew who had to die in her place. And I knew what plot complications I could make based on letting her live. I was delighted. The story was going to be better than ever.
What if I’d ignored that nagging feeling? I would have continued to write. That’s a given. But I would not have enjoyed the process. The book would have been completed, but I have a feeling it would have been flat. I wouldn’t have been happy with it. And ultimately the reader wouldn’t have been either.
I’ve learned to pay attention to those “something isn’t right here” feelings – whether they’re with my writing or with other aspects of my life.
We are amazing creatures. We know more than we think we know. But we need to train ourselves to tune into the things that we know but routinely don’t listen to or ignore.
Inner feelings are there for a reason. Sometimes they steer us wrong. But frequently they have merit. Be still and listen to what your body is telling you about your writing, your hobby, your health, your relationship, your whatever.
We’re always so busy doing that often we forget to just sit and be. The answers are always there. We just need to listen.
Time goes by so fast. We work hard all week. The weekends disappear in a blur if we’re not careful. Any many of us get so caught up in jobs and errands that we don’t stop and enjoy life.
Do you take the time to notice a sunrise or a sunset? The smell of a baby after a bath? Dew on the grass or flowers in bloom? Or just nature in general?
Do you have a hobby? If not, I encourage you to consider finding one. Yoga, running, knitting or some other type of handwork, photography, playing with a pet, painting or drawing.
The ideas are endless. And most are free or minimal cost. Something that will allow you to downshift from the daily grind. To destress. To renew yourself. We give and give so much of ourselves that we need to find time to refill our well with the things that will give us pleasure.
All you need to do is schedule the time on your calendar to relax. Make it as important as any appointment or committiment. Because it is. It’s important to your health and well-being.
Since I’ve started taking regular time to pause and enjoy the little things, I’m less stressed and definitely happier. And I think if you try it, you will be too. What do you have to lose?
We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. I have to admit it. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and failed many times in my life. In all areas of my life.
But I know one thing. I’ve always learned lessons from my mistakes. And those lessons have been invaluable in my life. They’ve made me a better and stronger person. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve learned along the way. Will I continue to make mistakes? Sure, I will. But hopefully, I will continue to learn as I go through life.
When we learn from our mistakes, we do better the next time. We only fail when we ignore things and continue to plod through life without learning and growing.
Life lessons are some of the best lessons. They may not feel like it at the time, but they are. Don’t resist learning from your mistakes. Don’t be too proud to learn either. Embrace the mistakes in your life and determine how you could have approached things differently. Live your best life.
The first draft of any novel I write is written without fear. I sit at the computer with a loosely plotted story idea, and as I work I allow my creative side to go where it wants to. Often times I find I’ve lost all sense of time and space. This is called writing in flow and is simply a magical time for any writer.
As the words come I frequently find that my characters have taken over, and I’m no longer in control of my story. Often it seems like I am only along for the ride. The characters have decided on the story direction. Sometimes it is in direct opposition to what I’ve plotted. Most of the time they are right, and I adjust my outline to include their ideas.
Years ago I used to fight them. Over time I’ve learned to trust them. And to give thanks for whatever part of my writer’s brain that is accessed. I have come to realize it’s a gift. I can’t control it, much as I’d like to at times. I simply now accept it for what it is.
If we can turn our internal critic off and allow our creativity the freedom it needs the results might just surprise and delight us.
I see writing as a right brain, creative process, and editing as a left brain logical function. When I edit I try hard not to have any mercy. I divorce myself from phrases, characters and anything else creative I’ve come up with during the writing stage of the book. I am ruthless. It takes an entirely different skill set to edit. I’d much rather write than edit. But both are necessary to produce quality work.
So let yourself be free during the creative process. Then when you edit, take charge of your work and edit fearlessly.
Have you ever seen people who truly look older than their years? They seem to embody all things ancient. Their attitude has impacted how they look, feel and act.
I’ve seen some fifty and sixty somethings look and act far older than some eighty and ninety year olds.
They’ve forgotten how to tap into that playful spirit that lives within all of us. Life has turned into a number for them. A drudgery. They’ve lost their zest for living – and playing.
My father was in his fifties when a group of neighborhood children knocked on our door and asked my mother if my father could “come out to play.” You see, he was always able to tap into his inner childlike spirit. He enjoyed people of all ages. But the children were especially dear to him. He loved to entertain them with endless stories and inspired them to tap into their imaginations. He enjoyed teaching them things and helping them with problems. He never stopped learning and doing. And he never looked or acted old until his health got the better of him in his nineties.
I suggest that we all try to tap into our inner child and encourage him or her to come out and play and lighten our load. Show us how to play again, if we’ve forgotten. Get us to relieve some stress and enjoy our lives. Add balance to the daily work schedule and massive to do items that surround us.
Find a creative hobby that feeds your soul and makes you light up from the inside out. Blow bubbles. Take a walk in the woods or a park. Play with a child and see the world from their perspective. The ideas are only limited by your imagination.
Don’t act old before your time. Enjoy your life. And enjoy the child within you.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot.
If you haven’t read Stephen King’s excellent book “On Writing” I urge you to check it out. Originally published in 2010, it’s now out as a 10th anniversary edition. I’ve just ordered it and plan to reread it.
It doesn’t matter in what genre you’re writing, his book has a lot of good information in it for writers of all levels. But it’s especially beneficial if you are a new or aspiring writer, or someone like me, taking up the craft once again.
Years ago, a friend of mine, who is a New York Times Bestselling writer, encouraged me to read widely. And not just in my genre. I’m a firm believer in this and have done it for probably the last twenty years or so. You learn a lot from stepping out of your genre and your writing will benefit from it.
Primarily, I write mysteries and a bit of non-fiction. But I read romance, science fiction, historical, biographies, all sorts of non-fiction, women’s fiction, the classics. Whatever I happen to find interesting at the moment. It not only gives me the chance to study other writers that I would not ordinarily be exposed to, but it keeps me fresh and abreast of what’s being written by other writers. I also read current events and try to stay up on news stories. Being current is important even if you’re writing historicals. As writers we learn from everything we read.
It’s a new month. Are you making important changes to your life yet in this new decade?
Or are you complacent? Content with your lot in life. I hope not.
Change can be scary. People like their routines. They are familiar. And comfortable. But we need to constantly push ourselves in new directions to be our best selves and to live fully.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
This year I’m resurrecting my writing career. I put it on hold seven years ago when I lost my husband after a very brief illness. Life descended on me. Suddenly I was in charge of keeping everything going. Talk about pushing me out of my comfort zone. But I did what I needed to do, and I learned a lot. However, there was no time to write. Only to do. To stay afloat.
But now I’m ready to stretch myself again with my writing. Yes, it’s scary. I’m rusty. Really rusty. Technology has moved forward in those seven years and things which were once fairly familiar to me have changed drastically. It’s a learning curve to get back up to speed. New writing packages. New ways of reaching readers. New resources which weren’t available years ago. It can seem daunting at times. But it’s also exciting.
Don’t let your fears sideline you. You are capable of achieving your dreams and desires. But you have to be willing to try.
If these last seven years have taught me one thing it is the fact that none of us are guaranteed the next moment. Life changes in the blink of an eye, the sigh of a breath. Why live a life of less than you deserve or want? Decide what will push you out of the familiar and into uncharted waters. Take that first step. Then push yourself further. It all starts with a dream. And idea. A goal. You can do it.
I challenge you today to make a commitment to yourself to try something new or to pick up something you put aside and give it another go. Don’t be satisfied with where you are in life. Reach for your dreams.