Have You Read This “Life-Changing” Book?

886994_10208609782105804_7268422841485030311_o

Me and my friend Cindy.

Four years ago my best friend Cindy gave me a present. It was a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It took me a while to open it up and dive in, but Cindy kept pushing and prodding, explaining how this book is magical and life changing.

Doesn’t that sound a little crazy to call a book “life changing?” It did to me. But Cindy told me stories about how the book changed a few of her friends’ lives. It led them on entirely different life and career paths that proved to be more satisfying and creative. At the time, I had quit working with my husband as a financial advisor and was facing my empty nest with both kids away at college. I learned the secrets the book offered—morning pages, prayer or meditation, and daily walks. I incorporated each into my daily life and Voila! I saw changes. I made a routine for myself—and best yet, I stuck with it.

Soon after starting my morning routine, I started this blog, submitted a story to SwimSwam.com, rewrote a mid-grade novel, began a project writing the history of Southern California Swimming with the website socalswimhistory.com. I also dove in and learned to swim myself and joined U.S. Masters Swimming.

Looking back on reading the book The Artist’s Way, it was life-changing for me. My writing projects have multiplied and my biggest problem right now, is not spreading myself too thin. Writing my morning pages, walking and praying keeps me grounded. On the rare occasion I have had to miss my morning routine, I feel at odds with myself — a little off like something isn’t quite right.

It dawned on me to buy another one of Cameron’s books and the title I chose was Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. It’s more of the same, but pushing me further along my path as a writer. Then, I sent The Artist’s Way to both of my kids. I have no idea why it took me four years to share this gem with them. I just spent a week with my daughter, and we took our daly walks together and we sat at her dining room table writing in our journals.

My son called me this morning and said he had begun his morning pages today. The book says to write three pages every morning when you first wake up. It’s a brain dump of getting rid of all the little worries, fears and negativity that you’ve carried over into a new day. By eliminating all this garbage, or writing down what worries you—or even the tasks you need to get done—you become free. You’re free to see the creative forces and beauty around you. My son said although he found the spirituality in the book a little “90s” he thought the book had some really good stuff in it.

I’m sharing this with the hopes that whether you’re an artist or not, read The Artist’s Way. Give it a try and see how it changes your life.

Have you read The Artist’s Way and how did it change your daily life? I’d love to hear your story.

Advertisements

6 Tough Questions for Writers

IMG_1569-1

I write a lot about these two characters.

Have you heard of Authors.me? It’s a website for submissions where writers, agents, editors, publishers and new media can meet. I used it for the first time today and one of the first things I had to do was fill out a personal profile.

I started a new project yesterday that I’m really excited about. I’ll go more into depth about it at a later date. One of the agents I want to pitch my idea to, asks writers to submit their project through Authors.me website. It’s touted as “Your Story’s Future” and a “Smart, effective submissions and acquisitions management.”

I’m super energized about my new project, but filling out the profile surprised me. Here are some of the questions they asked:

Your writing is influenced by experience and personality. Tell your audience what you are made of.

Biography Write your bio as if you are a character in a book. Your life experiences are what make you and interesting person.

Writing Style Show some flare and tell us about your unique writing style.

What makes you special as a writer? More than just style, what makes you unique as a writer could be a lot of factors. Tell us.

Who or what inspires you to write? Show us you can not only inspire others, but that you can be inspired yourself.

What constitutes a great novel? There is no wrong answer, just something that moves you. Tell us.

What is your favorite part about the writing process?

I had fun with the first one–writing my bio as if I were a character in a book. (However I noticed a typo on their first question. Can you find it?) The most important things in my life, whether it’s people or events, became clear by answering this question. I recommend trying it yourself. The exercise asks you to limit the writing to 2000 characters or less. I managed to do that in less which was about 250 words. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s a fun exercise to try.

As for the second request, “Writing Style–Show some flare and tell us about your unique writing style,” I thought was a little strange. Am I supposed to show off or show some flare in my writing about my writing style? Can’t the people looking at my work get a “feel” for my style? I’m not much of a show off and I don’t know how to “flare” my writing about my writing. Plain weird. Also, the opening statement “Tell your audience what you are made of” seems a little over-the-top.

 

 

If you’ve used Author.me, I’d like to know what you think about it. Also, what do you think about these questions?

 

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?

Good News Four Weeks Out: Hey, It’s Not That Bad!

 

IMG_0146

This view makes it okay.

 

The breakthrough news one month after surgery is I can hobble around the house and I get to ditch the crutches or walker! This may not sound like a big deal, but truly it’s  major to me right now. Mostly, I’ve been icing and elevating my leg and my few trips out in the world have been to my amazing PT and doctor. I did manage two lunches out with my dad, daughter and dear friend. That’s two lunches in four weeks, mind you.

Not that my home isn’t a perfectly lovely place to be housebound. I feel blessed every morning looking out at the mountain, palm trees, sunshine and citrus trees. But for the past four weeks, I’ve been bouncing between my bed, sofa and chaise lounge by the pool. (Well, maybe not exactly bouncing.) It’s gotten so hot the past two weeks, that I can’t sit in our backyard after 9 a.m. so that’s taken away one-third of my world.

Without crutches, I can actually carry my book, phone, water bottle—or anything else for that matter! The first two weeks, I had to wait for someone to bring me what I wanted. Then, after much teasing and joking by my husband, he suggested I rig up a bag to hang around my neck or walker. I laughed at the thought, but it actually worked!

Now, I’m free as a bird–a bird without wings and one broken leg. The doctor said I still must use crutches if I leave the house. But, I can’t tell you how much I’m going to enjoy carrying items in my hands while I walk around the house!

 

IMG_0142

I can’t wait to get back in the pool!

Even better news, I asked if I could return to the city pool. I want to walk once again in the handicapped lane at the shallow end of the pool using the steps and hanging onto the edge. The doctor said, “YES!” Oh boy! I’m through the worst of this adventure, I can feel it in my bones.

 

What have I been doing laying around post surgery? Not much. I’ve struggled to write because my leg aches and gets stiff after sitting for 30 minutes. I’ve done a little, but not as much as I wish. I have been reading and discovered some great books.

Here are five books I’ve read since surgery that I highly recommend:

Ann Patchett:
Taft
The Magician’s Assistant

Liane Moriarty:
What Alice Forgot
Big, Little, Lies (thank you, Linda, for sharing!)
The Hypnotist’s Love Story

 

 

What good books have you read lately that I might enjoy?

The difference between “needs” and “wants”

 

robertdoor 1

My writing expert a few years ago.

When my kids were in Catholic elementary school, a teacher explained the difference between needs and wants to them. I remember being impressed with how the teacher brought this lesson down to their age level and it was something that I hadn’t thought about explaining to my kids. Yet, it’s such a crucial life lesson. When you’re raising kids, they often have a lot of things they “need.” They want to fit in with their peers and when one friend gets the latest whatever, they feel they need it, too.

When my kids told me they “needed” a colorful iPod mini or a deck of Pokemon cards I could answer smugly, “Is this something you need—or something you want?”

I pretty much think they still believed it was something they needed.

I had a conversation with my son yesterday about needs and wants. I was telling him how I’ve been struggling with a rewrite of a mid-grade novel but was beginning to have a break-through. I hired an editor to review my manuscript and the main thread of advice was to add depth to my main characters. I have a “good” protagonist and an “evil” antagonist. It’s a book about friendships and growth in character, yet my characters are pretty shallow and flimsy. My son—brilliant person that he is—suggested I look at their “needs” and “wants.”

Seriously? The child who “needed” so many material things is now lecturing me on “needs and wants?” Yes, he is and in literature, he explained, needs and wants take on a subtle but different meaning. I found a good article “What your character wants versus what they need” from the Novel Factory. Here’s an excerpt:

What your character wants
We all want something. Some of us crave power, others long for heaps of cash, others want five minutes of fame. Some of us dream of having a baby, or a picture perfect wedding. Then of course there are more specific goals, like to win Countdown, to meet David Attenborough or to bake the perfect flan.

At the outset of your novel, you need to establish what it is your character wants – what it is that they are pursuing? What do they believe will give them a feeling of satisfaction?

What your character needs
However, there is something else under the surface, and that is what your character needs.

There are very few things human beings actually need, in order to be happy, and most of the things we fixate on wanting only obscure the really important things.

The things we need can usually be distilled to one thing: love.

This bit of advice from my son was eye-opening. I truly love my kids and his interest and expertise as a Lit major have helped with the struggle I’ve faced for the past month or two.

 

robert 1

Back when needs and wants were simple.

Have you explained to your kids about needs and wants? If you’re a writer, how do you use needs and wants to enrich your characters?

 

13 Days and Counting…

IMG_0093

My current view of my knee brace and backyard.

It was January 2nd that I fell skiing and I was afraid my world had stopped. I am pleased to report that it has not. The first couple days were tough, but now I believe I’m making progress in many ways. I’ve been in to see an orthopedic surgeon, I had an MRI, and tomorrow I go back for a diagnosis and treatment plan. I think the worst part was waiting. It was impossible to get into the doctor I wanted to see without knowing someone. I am so thankful for the help to get in, and seriously, without the help of my friends, it would have been two months before my first appointment.

Now that I have the end in sight and I’m hobbling around without much pain, I’m enjoying my days. I am sitting down much earlier in the mornings to write–because let’s face it—there’s not much else that I can do! So, I’m taking advantage of the time to catch up on projects. I can go to movies. I can read and go to lunch with friends. I do miss swimming and my morning walks around the park. A lot. I will be relieved to schedule a date for surgery and get on to the next part, which is recovery. Then, someday, I’ll get back to my Masters’ workouts and daily jaunts around the park.

With some big dates ahead on my calendar, I’m not sure when the surgery fits into my schedule, but I’ll have that conversation tomorrow with the doctor.

In the meantime, I’m repeating the motto I came up with for my Piranha Masters, “Hey, It’s Not That Bad!”

14203231_10154532169324612_7605971577516994452_n

Me and two of my Masters friends in the t-shirts we created.

 

Have you experienced an injury that has changed your daily life? What did you do to get through it?

It’s a Privilege: Hanging out With Grown Kids

 

IMG_8231

On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her, unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

IMG_8237

Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

 

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

 

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?