How to write and live: advice from Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury, I’m posting this story from five years ago.
images-2
I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up
Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

imgresThat’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter, who graduated high school last week, was three months old, and my son, a junior in college, was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Riviera Hotel, where he was speaking later. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.images-1

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice 18 years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start. And I’m proud to say, I started down that path yesterday.images-3

My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. images-4

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

Advertisements

The Four Agreements

IMG_2395

The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

IMG_1934

Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”

 

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

IMG_2387

Where I spend my days writing.

I get overwhelmed with big projects and that leads me to procrastinate. Whether it’s cleaning out a room, closet, or working on a book proposal, I also have a tendency to overestimate how quickly I can complete a project. I’ve been reading lots of interesting books lately and I’m seeing the same advice over and over. For example, in Finding Water: The Art of PerseveranceJulia Cameron talks about her goal of writing a few pages each day. She doesn’t say she’s going to write a chapter, or tens of pages. Her goal is three. Her consistency of writing each day adds up to complete books and screenplays.

The most important thing is to keep working small and steady. If you break down a project into small daily tasks and don’t overwhelm yourself, you’ll have less drama in your life and be able to finish the job. The biggest bit of advice is to start. That’s right, don’t wait for things to be perfect or your muse to appear, like Nike says, “Just do it.”

I found an article on Inc. called, “Use These 6 Little Steps to Make Really Big Things Happen” by Chris Winfield. “This simple system will help you start (and finish!) any big project, achieve huge goals, and make each day ‘your masterpiece’.”

Here are the basics of his six tips. (If you want more details, read the article linked above):

Step #1: NAME Your Goal

This one is pretty easy because all you have to do is think about a big project or big idea that’s looming in your mind.

Step #2: SET a Reasonable Deadline

I underlined reasonable because many times, especially when we’re feeling really motivated and inspired (think New Year’s resolutions), we can be a little over zealous with our deadlines.

Step #3: BREAK It Down (Work Backwards)

For this step, you’re going to work backward in time.

Break your goal down by weeks, months, quarters…whatever timeframes are necessary based on the goal itself and the deadline you’ve set…from the deadline backward until today.

Step #4: ANSWER the “When?” and “What?”

Once you have your goal broken down from the deadline to today, the next step entails deciding the “When?” and the “What?”

Step #5: START

The fifth step is simply to start putting your plan (your when and what) into action.

Step #6: BRING IT to the Present

The next and final thing you want to do is maintain that action, that motion, that momentum.

“How do you eat an elephant?” my husband asked me. “One bite at a time.”

IMG_2393

Where I think and clear my head.

What’s advice do you have for reaching your goals and dreams?

My Less than Perfect Persona

IMG_8264

Riding the chairlift at Deer Valley with my daughter a year ago. I was nervous without wearing skis, but my growth mindset took over and I tried something new.

I’m trying to decide what to name my fixed mindset persona. I’m talking about that person who shows up and is judgmental and makes me feel insecure. This person is a  perfectionist who sometimes thinks I’m not talented enough.

Where did I get this idea to name my fixed mindset persona? From the last chapter of Mindset: the new psychology of success by Carol S. Dweck. The last chapter, “Changing Mindsets” offers steps for the journey of achieving a growth mindset. Step one is to “embrace your fixed mindset.” Step two is to become aware of what “triggers” your fixed mindset. Step three is to name that persona. Step four is to educate your fixed mindset persona and take it with you on the journey to the other side.

From the mindset online website:

Every so often a truly groundbreaking idea comes along. This is one. Mindset explains:

• Why brains and talent don’t bring success

• How they can stand in the way of it

• Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them

• How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity

• What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships. When you read Mindset, you’ll see how.

If you want to figure out what type of mindset you have, here’s a quick online quiz that will tell you.

One of the suggestions that Dweck has is to not put yourself down if you don’t live up to your expectations. She says change is hard and the old fixed mindset persona will raise her head from time to time. Bring her along for the ride, is one of her suggestions.

Like I said, I’m currently deciding on a name for my less than perfect persona who is a perfectionist and triggers self-doubt. One name that pops into my head is Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. She’s the nosy neighbor who’s always seen peeking through curtains or windows to see what Samantha and Darrin are up to.

IMG_0951

Learning to dive off the blocks and entering a swim meet was a huge growth mindset moment for me.

What would you name your fixed mindset persona?

Sharing daily inspiration with your kids

13458580_10210124717898252_3301505966351515302_o

Back in the day: summer vacation in Laguna Beach.

One year ago, Thanksgiving week, my college roommate and family came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. My girlfriend stayed with us a few days past Thanksgiving and I learned how she and her two brothers and mom share a little inspiration daily. My kids and I started this practice and we’ve kept it up for a year so far–at least weekly. It’s brought a smile to my face all year long. Read more how you can share inspiration with your family thanks to the miracle of today’s technology:

When my college roommate was visiting after Thanksgiving, I would hear her phone ping every morning with texts.

Her mom, who is in her 80s, lives alone and asks that my college roommate and her two brothers make some contact via text every morning. That way, they know that she’s okay.

I’d hear the familiar ping of my friend’s phone. She’d say, “That’s from mom. Listen to what she has to say today….”

Then she’d read an inspirational quote that her mom sent. Her brothers would chime in and my friend would respond as well.

I thought, what a great idea. I’m a terrible worrier, and if I don’t hear from my kids for a few days or weeks, I get more worried. With one child in the Bay area and the other in Utah, I feel like they’re both too far away. I sent my kids a group text and explained how it would work. We would send an inspiring note to each other by noon each day. It only takes a moment, we’d check in and pass along some inspiration. Also, I’d know that they were okay.

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” —Swami Sivananda

That was my first text. I told them, “Now you guys need to respond by noon with a quote or a ok thanks,” I texted.

“Would that be ‘an’ okay, thanks. Not a,” my daughter texted back.

She then responded with a meme with the following words:

“What are a few things that have inspired you lately?

To be better than everyone. Cause I hate everyone.”

I take it she wasn’t enjoying my inspirational quote thing so much.

My son responded with “I don’t like inspirational quotes, so here is a good painting.”

A Vase of Roses–Van Gogh, 1890

img_2757

The next day, I sent a quote and my daughter responded with “Eew that’s so and so’s bio on Twitter. New quote please.”

I sent “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” It was a quote we had on the back of our swim club’s shirts a few years ago.

“Except Michael Phelps quit and he’s a winner,” she pointed out. Yes, she’s right about that, too.

My son sent a painting by Henri Matisse.img_2866

“I like it. It reminds me of SpongeBob,” my daughter said.

“Fun fact: the SpongeBob art was inspired by his cut-outs,” he answered.

My daughter texted this:img_9775

It’s been interesting to see what they come up with on a daily basis. It adds a little joy to my day like we’re sharing special secrets.

And then my son called, “Thank you, Mom, for starting the inspiration thing. I really love it.”

15220229_10211768666395937_6085698272534760396_n

Me and my college roommate.

 

Inspiration Can Be a Daily Thing

13458580_10210124717898252_3301505966351515302_o

Back in the day: summer vacation in Laguna Beach.

When my college roommate was visiting after Thanksgiving, I would hear her phone ping every morning with texts.

Her mom, who is in her 80s, lives alone and asks that my college roommate and her two brothers make some contact via text every morning. That way, they know that she’s okay.

I’d hear the familiar ping of my friend’s phone. She’d say, “That’s from mom. Listen to what she has to say today….”

Then she’d read an inspirational quote that her mom sent. Her brothers would chime in and my friend would respond as well.

I thought, what a great idea. I’m a terrible worrier, and if I don’t hear from my kids for a few days or weeks, I get more worried. With one child in the Bay area and the other in Utah, I feel like they’re both too far away. I sent my kids a group text and explained how it would work. We would send an inspiring note to each other by noon each day. It only takes a moment, we’d check in and pass along some inspiration. Also, I’d know that they were okay.

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” —Swami Sivananda

That was my first text. I told them, “Now you guys need to respond by noon with a quote or a ok thanks,” I texted.

“Would that be ‘an’ okay, thanks. Not a,” my daughter texted back.

She then responded with a meme with the following words:

“What are a few things that have inspired you lately?

To be better than everyone. Cause I hate everyone.”

I take it she wasn’t enjoying my inspirational quote thing so much.

My son responded with “I don’t like inspirational quotes, so here is a good painting.”

A Vase of Roses–Van Gogh, 1890

img_2757

The next day, I sent a quote and my daughter responded with “Eew that’s so and so’s bio on Twitter. New quote please.”

I sent “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” It was a quote we had on the back of our swim club’s shirts a few years ago.

“Except Michael Phelps quit and he’s a winner,” she pointed out. Yes, she’s right about that, too.

My son sent a painting by Henri Matisse.img_2866

“I like it. It reminds me of spongebob,” my daughter said.

“Fun fact: the spongebob art was inspired by his cut-outs,” he answered.

My daughter texted this:img_9775

It’s been interesting to see what they come up with on a daily basis. It adds a little joy to my day like we’re sharing special secrets.

And then my son called, “Thank you, Mom, for starting the inspiration thing. I really love it.”

15220229_10211768666395937_6085698272534760396_n

Me and my college roommate.