Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘challenges’

Stranger than Fiction

20160826_082336I’ve always had what you might call an overactive imagination. My entire life, I’ve made up stories in my head. But it wasn’t until two years ago that I ever thought seriously about writing them down.

Well, actually I’ve thought about it, daydreamed about it, most of my life. But for some reason I was convinced I I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer of fiction.

Even as I say it, I realize how absolutely ridiculous that is. But most limiting beliefs are. Like that meme that makes its way around Facebook every so often, of the horse tied to a plastic lawn chair. The caption is something to the effect of: Sometimes the only thing holding you back is in your head.

Two years ago, I decided to challenge that limiting belief. And on September 1, 2014, I started writing my first novel. Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem, was my guide through a month-long fiction-writing binge, where I endeavored to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

And I did. The result was an atrocious first draft of a novel that may never see the light of day. And yet, it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever written. I love every single word. Someday I’ll go back and make a serious attempt at editing it. But for now, just having written it is enough to make me pretty damn proud. (I have since finished 2 more first drafts, and am half-way-ish through a third.)

Now, writing a novel in 30 days is not for the faint of heart. There are days when trying to meet the daily word count almost does you in. Even worse was playing catch up if I missed a day. Or five. But then you have one day where you finally get out of your own way and the magic flows. It makes even the most difficult of days worthwhile.

For me, the process was even more exciting than the finished product. Because I discovered that, as much as I love reading fiction, I love writing it even more. It’s play time for me.

I know what you may be thinking. Here I am talking about how much I love writing fiction, but I’ve never actually shared any of it. Well, that’s about to change.

No, I haven’t landed some publishing contract. Not yet, anyway. But a girl has to dream.

I’m setting a new challenge for myself this month. My goal is to write fiction every day for 30 days. Rather than work on a serious project, like a novel or short stories, I’m going to play.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been stretching my fiction-writing muscles with a really cool writing exercise. I picked it up from Lawrence Block in Write for Your Life. It’s essentially a timed free writing exercise, but instead of using a topic as a starting off point, you use a sentence.

The first time I did this exercise, it blew my mind. As you may have gathered from my other blog posts, I tend to get in my own way a lot. But every time I have done this, I am surprised and delighted by the characters and storylines that reveal themselves with absolutely no conscious effort on my part. These aren’t fully formed stories by any means, although I do have a few nuggets that may become seeds for other projects. But they are so much FUN.

So for the next 30 days, I’m going to do one of my fiction free writes every day. And yes, I’m going to post them here.

Holy crap. I can’t believe I just promised that.

To pull this off, I’m going to need your help. Each of my 30 entries will require a starter sentence. Yes, I can pull them from other sources, but it will be so much more fun if you’re involved.

So if you’d like to lend a hand to my little endeavor, please post your submission in the comments below, on Facebook, message me, etc. You will, of course, get a shout out – and my undying appreciation – if I use yours.

And bragging rights, of course, if there are any to be had.

This all sounds like madness to me at the moment, but I’m committed to it now. Wish me luck!

xo

M

Bird Droppings: Finding perspective when the unexpected threatens to steer you off course

Not a bad office view, if I do say so myself...

The view from my ‘office’ under the sea grape. Better than my last corporate gig, that’s for sure…

I’m having a bad week. Yes, I realize it’s only Tuesday and therefor a little early to make such a pronouncement. But it fits, believe me. I won’t regale you with the gory details. You don’t need to know, and quite frankly I don’t need to wallow in it, as tempting as wallowing can be. I’ve already given one of my besties an ear full. (Thanks for listening, Liz, and not judging me too harshly for it.)

It all started when a silly little bird took a poo on my laptop. Well, if I’m honest, it wasn’t the bird that was the problem. Nor the milky white substance that scored a direct hit on F10.

No. The problem was me. Because in the grand scheme of life, such an event is pretty laughable, right? It’s even enviable. Since the fact that this little bird even had the OPPORTUNITY to poop on my laptop is something I bet most workers in Corporate America can say is about their cubicle, or even their corner office.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

But my workplace is a little different. One of my ‘offices’ is under the gnarled  boughs of a mature sea grape. I often sit there in the morning, scribbling in a notebook or tapping away at my laptop in the shade of that beautiful tree, lulled by the symphony of the waves and twittering of birds.

It’s a beautiful spot to do what I love most…write.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

There are interruptions of course. The dogs vying for my attention. The occasional ripe sea grape falling on the table. A friend walking their dog on the narrow footpath that is really all that separates our borrowed back yard from the sea. The sirens call of another cup of dark, sweet Dominican coffee.

That whole bird thing, though. That was a first.

I’d rather NOT repeat it. But am I going to let it stop me from enjoying my favorite morning retreat. I feel it’s an acceptable level of risk. I mean, I’ve spent countless hours there and never encountered a bird with such precise aim.

I should be thankful that it wasn’t my head. Or something really important, like the RETURN key. That would have been difficult to live without. (Because, sorry F10, you’re dead to me now.)

Yes, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I’d rather dodge bird droppings all day than retreat to a ‘safer’ place like Corporate America.

It’s easy to let one little thing send us off the rails. But as my mother likes to

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

remind me: no one said it would be easy, just worth it.

That’s true of all the best things in life – the things worth working toward, worth holding on to. Like my life here in the Dominican Republic and my dreams and goals vis-a-vis my writing AND my new business.

I’m not about to let one obstacle, one challenge, derail my current path – because I know it’s the right one. And I won’t do myself the disservice of giving up on it.

Nor would I give the naysayers – yes, we all have those in our lives, even if they mean well – the satisfaction.

Sorry, little birdie, you just don’t have that kind of power over me.

Now, please excuse me, while I get back to work. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our reaction to it and our own actions. I know the way forward. It’s forward, one step at a time.

Although, first, I’m just going to disinfect this keyboard one more time…

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

Counting My Blessings

I took this photo over a year ago off my favorite spot on the beach to hunt sea glass. A year later, and we're living in the house, behind which this was taken.

The Universe moves in mysterious ways: I took this photo over a year ago off my favorite spot on the beach to hunt sea glass. A year later, we’re living in the house, behind which this was taken and I walk this beach every day.

When I sat down to write this morning, I wasn’t feeling all sunshine and happiness. In fact, I was as close to my breaking point as I’ve been in what feels like a long time. (Even though, in reality, it was probably only a week.)

I’m not going to go into the gory details. We all have challenges in our lives and I don’t need to bore you with mine.

Suffice it to say that, as I started pushing my pen across the page, I felt…overwhelmed…by just about everything. But I can’t let it get to me. I’ve come too far in my journey for that.

Shenanigans at our friend Kerri's wedding. Katie - stunning in red - with our friend Maureen on the left and yours truly kicking up her heels...

Shenanigans at our friend Kerri’s wedding. Katie – stunning in red – with our friend Maureen on the left and yours truly kicking up her heels…

Even if I was feeling inclined to wallow, I can’t. Because my friend Katie arrives in a few short hours. That alone makes today a GREAT day. The next week is going to be filled with belly laughs, high adventure and, per her decree, plenty of ‘frolicking’. I’m excited to introduce her to my life, the love of my life and this beautiful country and culture that I’ve adopted as my own. I’ll be doing both her and I a disservice if I don’t throw off this funk. So I hereby promise not to let anything put a damper on the next seven days.

I know exactly what I need: to change my perspective. Instead of dwelling on those negative thoughts – itemizing what I don’t have and what I haven’t yet achieved or accomplished – I need to count my blessings. Celebrate what I DO have. Because those blessings are numerous and bountiful. Too numerous to even count, really.

Here I sit, under the gnarled branches of a massive sea grape tree, not twenty yards from the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the symphony of the waves crashing on the reef and on the shore like an old school round. As I watch, the harbor pilot guides a giant cargo ship through the narrow channel into the Puerto Plata harbor with practiced ease.

It’s going to be hot today, already close to 90 at 9 a.m. But from where I sit, there is such a beautiful breeze that it feels fresh and cool. There’s a dog at my feet that adores me so much that she’s curled up here even though she has a whole yard to play in. I can already taste the perfectly ripe flesh of the avocados that Freddy has promised to bring me this afternoon.

Home sweet (borrowed) home.

Home sweet (borrowed) home.

Freddy, in case you’re wondering, is basically my new best friend. Partially because he keeps me in mangoes and bananas and whatever other fruit happens to be in season, but also because he and his brother take care of this oceanfront property where the love of my life and I are lucky enough to be housesitting.  It is home for us in a way no other house has been for me, other than the 150-year old farmhouse where I grew up. I know it will only be temporary, as the owner has it up for sale, but we will enjoy it as long as we can. The fact that we’re here at all, makes me have to pinch myself. Because I dreamed about living here the first time I walked by – on my first trip here to the Dominican Republic last January.

Funny, isn’t it, how the Universe has a way of granting wishes we don’t even realize we’ve made.

I am blessed to be able to do what I love – CREATE! When I allow myself the luxury, anyway. Even here – far from the trappings of my former corporate existence – I find myself being stingy with my inner artist. I convince myself I have other obligations that must come first. But do they really? And I am forever finding excuses why I can’t sit down and write or create when that’s exactly what every fiber of my being is straining to do.

The why behind this is complex, but I’m working on it. Well, working on working it out and getting past its arbitrary barrier, anyway.

Fear is a big part of it. Fear of taking that first blind step off the cliff – even though the Universe has already made it abundantly clear it’s here to help me fly. I just have to take that first step.

There is also fear of failure. For some reason, it feels safer to let a dream be just that – a dream that we never really try for. Because in pursuing it, we take a risk. That risk is seeing a cherished dream crash and burn. So, rather than risk that failure, we never try. Of course, following this course of action (or, more precisely, inaction) we sabotage any chance of success.

If we can get past the fear, there’s still doubt to contend with. For me, that leads to second-guessing the Universe. Not quite able to believe my good fortune in being here and living this life, I question whether I deserve it. No matter how much positive reinforcement I receive!

But I’m working through all of that. Really, I am. I have started to listen closely for the messages the Universe sends, and then I do my best to follow its instructions. They always lead me in the right direction. The challenge is in both hearing through the other noise out there, and being willing to accept the good that comes my way. I work hard, too, to keep up my end of the bargain. For every step I take in the right direction, the Universe rewards me ten-fold.

So, yes. I could sit here and wallow in self-doubt, self-depreciation, self-pity and fear. But I won’t. Because I BELIEVE – in myself AND the Universe. I choose to embrace the positive. When I do, positive things happen. The Universe is generous like that.

Even now, when I’m experiencing a crisis of personal faith, I will keep positive. I’ll listen for the Universe to guide me, but at the same time keep putting one foot in front of the other. The Universe likes momentum.

I’ll fill one more page, line by line and word by word. I’ll reach out to one more contact. Never forgetting, always appreciating, the blessings I have already been shown. And always ready to receive whatever good the universe decides to send my way.

Because I BELIEVE…

…in myself.

…in this path that I’m on.

…in the power of the Unverse to help me dream big.

…in the ability of the Universe to make wishes – whispered in my dreams and carried away on the night breeze – come true.

Yes, I BELIEVE.

As I type these last words, rain drops have started to fall. For some, that may not be a good sign. But here, where it has been close to three months since we’ve had rain, every single drop is a blessing.

For me, it’s yet another sign that the Universe is listening.

Maybe I should have told Katie to pack an umbrella…

Mother Nature's Blessings: A gift from my friend Julie Gates.

Mother Nature’s Blessings: Photo credit to my friend Julie Gates.