Honoring Your Reality When You’re a Blogger

If you’ve been blogging for a period of time, you’ve probably kept at it because you enjoy it. You’re passionate about your subject, have a strong desire to write about it, and find joy in communicating with like-minded people. Maybe you’ve blocked out time in your schedule for writing your posts, responding to comments, and catching up on friends’ blogs. In short, blogging has become part of your routine, and it’s impossible to imagine your life without it.

That is, until something happens in your offline life, and you have to put your blogging on hold.

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Learning to Build My Writing “Cathedral” Again

Last year I read Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page, a collection of essays that encourages writers to transform their attitudes and habits so that they can unleash their creativity, overcome fears, and define success on their own terms – all ways in which they can practice ferocity in their craft. One of my favorite essays from the book is Chapter 14, “Build a Cathedral,” which Cohen begins with this allegory:

… [A] traveler in medieval times comes upon a stonemason at work. He asks, “What are you doing?” The man looks weary and unhappy.  He responds, “Can’t you see I am cutting and laying down stone?  My back is killing me, and I can’t wait to stop.”

The traveler continues on his way and comes upon a second stonemason. “What are you doing?” he asks. “I’m building a wall,” says the stonemason. “I’m grateful to have this work so I can support my family.”

As the traveler walks on, he encounters a third stonemason who seems to be doing exactly the same work as the previous two. He asks the man, “What are you doing?” The man stands up straight. His face is radiant. He looks up at the sky and spreads his arms wide. “I am building a cathedral,” he answers.

Wow. It’s such a simple tale, but the shift it made in my perception of my writing was like feeling the earth move under my feet.

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Reflections on 2017, and What Matters More than Having the “Best Year Ever”

Last January, a friend gave me this New Year’s party hat. The timing for this sparkling “gift” couldn’t have been more appropriate: I was ready to send a YA fantasy novel to beta-readers, and 3 weeks into a crowdfunding campaign to help me afford a trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat. Not to mention I had a whole list of goals and plans for 2017, and if things worked out the way I’d hoped, maybe I’d be closer to my dream of being published by year’s end – a pretty good “best year ever.”

Today, that hat still sits in my writing space (a.k.a. my dining room table), and I’m no closer to being published than I was a year ago. But that doesn’t mean 2017 was “not the best year ever.” Rather, it turned out much differently than I thought it would.

Was it challenging? Absolutely. Discouraging? At times, yes. But it was also one of the most exciting, inspiring, and humbling years I’ve had the privilege of living.

For all those reasons, I can’t write this annual reflection post in the same way I’ve written those of past years. Instead of focusing on milestones, blog statistics, and defined plans that could change in a few months, I’d like to share what I learned this past year. How certain events sent my mental health spiraling and shook my faith and self-confidence. How other events and important choices helped me heal and made me look at life – even why I write – from a different perspective. How it all, in the end, reminded me that I’m intelligent, creative, and determined enough to rebound from setbacks. Continue reading

Finding Gifts and Inspiration: The Blessings of a Writer’s Relationship with Nature

During a recent lunch-break walk at my day job, I almost stepped on a bird feather. It might not sound so extraordinary. After all, birds are part of the everyday outdoors. But unlike fallen leaves, clods of dirt, or patches of grass, it’s not every day that your foot comes in contact with a stray feather. So I stopped and picked it up.

Two thoughts crossed my mind then. First, the feather itself. Gosh, was it gorgeous. It was slender, slightly curved, and mostly brown with white horizontal bars that became indistinct closer to the tip. And at over 1 foot long from shaft to tip, it was also HUGE. I still haven’t identified what species it belongs to. (Someone suggested the wild turkey, and it seems to be the closest match.) But as I twirled the feather between my fingers, what bird once wore it didn’t matter. What did matter was how I felt at that moment: as if I’d found a piece of treasure.

Second, as I returned the feather to the ground, I thought about writing. For me, nature and writing have been deeply connected for a long time. In fact, they might be more so now than ever before. Continue reading

The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 2: The Writerly Wisdom Giveaways

Last week was the launch of this year’s 8th blogoversary “party,” with a giveaway featuring ten unique fiction books I highly recommend. (Sunday, July 9th was the actual blogoversary.) Today, it’s time for conclude the celebration… with two more giveaways! And since both prizes are writing-related, I’m calling them the Writerly Wisdom giveaways, after my semi-weekly Writer Wisdom quote series.

So which books are options for the first giveaway? (Hint: Check out the banner image above.) What did I find so enriching or inspiring about each one? And, what is the mysterious second giveaway? Read on to find out!
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Looking Back on 2016… and Looking Ahead to 2017

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Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the December holidays and had a fun, safe end to 2016. 🙂

Looking back on the year, one of the words that comes to mind is “growth.” This site especially was booming. Thanks to all your shares, likes, and comments, 2016’s stats in terms of page views and visitors doubled 2015’s. And that’s despite the fact that I slowed my blogging schedule to once a week. I may be the one who writes and runs this site, but you, the readers, deserve much of the credit.

So, thank you for stopping by and coming back, for sharing your thoughts and offering feedback, for spreading the word and celebrating milestones with me. But most of all, thank you for encouraging and inspiring me. Yes. You inspire me to be not only the best writer I can be, but also my best and fullest self. And for that, I’m truly grateful.

So, let’s get to the annual year-end wrap-up, along with some quotes that reflect my feelings about 2016 and my hopes for 2017.
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GoFundMe Campaign for Iceland Writers Retreat Begins Today

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I’m sharing some AMAZING news with you today – and asking for your help in making a dream come true, and an incredible learning experience be within reach.

(*takes a deep breath*)

Today I’m starting a GoFundMe campaign to fund a trip to the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat, with the hopes of raising $3,500 USD by February 4, 2017. After the jump, I’ll share links to the retreat and the campaign page so you can see the cost breakdown, perk levels (yes, PERKS!), and so on. But first, let me explain why I want to go and why I need financial assistance to do so.

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The Power and Importance of Compassion in Literature

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I’ve been thinking about compassion lately. It’s impossible not to, with everything that’s going on in our world. Terrorist attacks, increased racial tensions, insensitivity toward other minority groups, and the most vitriolic U.S. presidential election I can remember (notice the timing of this post, fellow Americans?)… From a social perspective, 2016 has been a bleak year, and I’m deeply worried about where we as a society are heading.

But let’s not discuss politics. Instead, let’s focus on a topic that I think many of us will agree on: the power of compassion in literature. By compassion, I mean moments when characters show kindness, mercy, and similar qualities. These actions can draw us closer to those characters, move us to tears, and make those stories all the more memorable. And during these turbulent times in our world, finding – and writing – stories that demonstrate compassion may be more important than ever.

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Using Archetypes to Learn More About You and Your Characters

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One of my favorite blog series is Ariel Hudnall’s Archetypes in Literature, a collection of essays on the archetypes conceived by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and examples of each in literature, film, and television. I can’t remember if what followed next happened in a comment one of her Archetype posts, or in a side conversation on my blog… But she introduced me to Archetypes.com, which features a quiz that helps visitors discover their unique blend of archetypes.

So, I took the quiz. And as soon as I got my answers, the “writerly” wheels started turning in my head. 😉

You see, archetypes can help us understand our own behavior patterns as well as those of our characters. It’s sort of like taking an MBTI test as your protagonist to see where she might fall on that spectrum. So, how can you use archetypes to learn more (or confirm what you already know) about yourself and your characters? Plus, how accurate are the quiz’s results? You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Who Were the First Five Authors You Read in Your Favorite Genre?

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Looking back on the books and authors that introduced us to our favorite literary genres can be a fun trip down memory lane. That nostalgia can bear even more meaning for writers. Sure, those authors built the foundation for our reading tastes. But if we consider our “relationship” with their work closely, we can also discover how their stories or writing have influenced ours.

Today, let’s discuss the first five authors we read in our favorite literary genre, or the genre we prefer to write in. I’ll go first with my first five fantasy authors (since fantasy is more than just my great literary love), as well as one takeaway from each that has impacted my writing. Then, you can respond by either commenting on this post or writing about it at your own blogs. This isn’t just for fantasy writers, by the way. Book bloggers and avid readers of all genres are welcome to jump in – so, please do!

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