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'cause Baby, I've been ebbing. LOL (notice how mid-month this post is!!). I often joke with the lovely Clare London on whether my "life roller coaster" is up or down at any given moment--and sometimes it's just taking me along or the ride.  It helps me to remember we aren't immune to the seasons and cycles that rule our planet. So if I doggedly keep plugging away as best I can during the ebb, I'll soon charge ahead on the flow. Consistency in other words. Dollar cost averaging for our creative life energy.

It's not been all downhill - I have some lovely ups to celebrate, but they deserve their own post, don't you think?

How about you? Is your life roller coaster chugging uphill or are you in that heady, just about to tip over the edge stage?

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Will this thought help push you along this month? Why? Or why not?
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mm - progress - Copy

December is speeding past and all I want to do is throw my hands up at the playlist of everything I still need to do that keeps running through my head on repeat.

Luckily, I can sit back, take a breath, and focus on this little saying that has helped me make it through 2015! Let me try that now …

… Okay, that’s better.

I’m not sure why December came on as such a surprise, or with such chaos. But instead of hiding under my blankie, I’m checking my list and pulling back to concentrate on the minimums I can get done.

Maybe I can’t get my whole workout in, but I can do 15 minutes. I didn’t have time to post two Free Kindle Pick o’ the Day posts on Twitter this week, but maybe I shared one. This blog post didn’t make it on Monday, but here it is today. I don’t have an hour to sit and edit, but you can make darn sure I’m getting 1/2 an hour of quality edits in!

Not a whole lot of perfection going on over here – but I’m still in the game, and still making progress. By letting go of my “got to’s” I’m freeing up room for more important things this month: Family, Friends, and the Joy of the present moment.

I’m also making time to visit and grabbing a free copy of her workbook, Unraveling the Year Ahead – 2016. It’s a great way to celebrate the progress (slow as it may have been) I’ve made this year, and prep for my goal setting/2016 planning session still to come. Be sure to get your own copy!

How’s your December going? Are you feeling the pinch and pull of too many to-do’s and not enough you? What carries you through the chaos?

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April's "lost month" syndrome seems to have carried through into May. Case in point, this post which was due to be posted yesterday. You'll forgive me, right? My monthly focus for May is courage, and in particular how it relates to writing. I've never given thought to more than the old "I am, therefore I write", but in talking with several new-to-publishing authors I've had to take another look at what it takes to do what we do.

3 Ways Writing Takes Courage:

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image courtesty of Kristin Nador Flicker Wana Commons/CC BY 2.0

1. When we first take pen to paper we shine a light on our dreams. By doing so we risk failure, or worse. Those things we hold most precious are the ones we clutch the tightest. Sometimes it's easier to give in to our desire to keep our dreams safe and bury them so deep even we forget what they are.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”
― William G.T. Shedd

2. Somewhere down the road we have to share our work. It doesn’t matter if it’s with a favorite teacher, an online forum, a beta reader, or (hopefully) a publisher. Sharing our work is hard, lonely, and one of the scariest thing a writer can do. Ask any author you know. Trust me, we’ll go on for hours.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
— Muhammad Ali

3. We have to be  honest with ourselves. Readers can tell when we are authentic in our work. We have to be willing to face the hard questions. Whether they deal with emotions and reactions for our characters, or why we are procrastinating when it comes to putting  words on the page.

Just be honest with yourself. That opens the door.
— Vernon Howard

But to me, the part of writing that takes the most courage is just when we think we’ve won the battle - we have to be willing to do it all over again.

I'm fascinated by this idea both as an author, and a reader. How about you? If you're a writer, what part of the process did you find the most difficult? Readers, do you ever think of what it takes for your favorite author to share their dreams?

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Another Monday. Ho Hum. Not enough coffee in the universe. Same day, different week. What thoughts start your morning? It’s easy to get caught in the routine of day-to-day-to-day, when deep down we’d all like something … more. Some kind of spark. Maybe even a little joy?

These thoughts are a perfect segue into the monthly focus and a newsletter received today.  A strong statement considering my efforts to stay away from the "P" word. As you might be able to tell, March’s focus is joy. Feeling joy. Finding joy. Keeping joy. Such a simple word covering much territory. One that can make a difference in our everyday—if we let it.

The story shared in the newsletter described a young actress who worked at her craft with fierce intensity. She studied her scripts, slaved over her character’s goals/motivations/conflicts, and memorized her marks with determination. Way to go after her dreams, right?

Except, during a recent rehearsal the director called a halt to the scene, and asked her to come to the edge of the stage. She was mortified. What was she doing wrong? His question was simple. Where was her joy?

Technically she had everything down. No question there. But somewhere in all of this preparation she forgot to let herself feel the joy; the spark that brought her to the stage in the first place. And if she didn’t feel the joy, then her audience wouldn’t either.

Many of us start our writing career filled with enthusiasm. We can’t wait to share our stories with friends and fans alike. Our joy bubbles over in everything we do. But it’s easy to lose this spark behind the pressures of production.

We sweat over our manuscripts, fret over our character’s GMC, and dissect Three Act Structure and The Hero’s Journey until we could scream. Suddenly we are faced with deadlines, well-meaning advice from every corner, lackluster reviews, and a looming spiral of paralyzing self-doubt. There are one hundred and one different details that make up our writing life, but when was the last time we stopped and checked in with our joy?

Because if we don’t feel it, neither will our readers.

This current WIP is taking longer than expected with more than few personal hiccups getting in the way. But even at my most frustrated I’m excited for the chance to sit down and do the work. So let me ask—Writers, what do you do to keep your spark, your joy in writing alive when faced with the slow grind of day-to-day? And Readers, I want to know. Can you tell when your favorite author is tuned in?
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We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same. -- Carlos Castaneda
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“There is no work-life balance. We have one life. What's most important is that you be awake for it.”
Janice Marturano
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We’re two months into our New Year, and I’m still wading through the explosion of email. Does your inbox resemble like mine? I swear every mailing list I’ve ever breathed on sent me a link or article touting their path to achieving that new and wonderful catch phrase "work/life balance".

Some were willing to share the secret for free, but most wanted to sell a webinar, seminar, or other type of ar along with the guarantee this would wave a magic wand and line all those little work/life ducks in a row.

Tempting. Darn tempting.

The deluge reminded me of this commercial from way back when:

Anyone else remember trying to "have it all"? (Air quotes are so satisfying. What did we do without them?). Did any of us ever manage to achieve fabled superwoman status with our education, career, home life, and twenty-four inch waist? Or did all we end up with was an erratic sleeping pattern and a healthy dose of skepticism toward promises like these?

The problem with and the appeal to pitches for work/life balance are simple: We want to believe. We’re not even looking for the magic wand, but man are we suckers for the promise of a halfway decent process.

It’s the word balance in all this clamor which usually gives pause. Mainly because we can then travel a path to fairness. And, if applied to a relate-able situation, it’s like trying to be fair to the kids come Christmas time.

Sure, we might think we’ll spend a set amount on gifts, but what Kid A wants one hugely expensive gift, and Kid B prefers a bunch of less pricey items? Will the wrapped results look fair or balanced under the tree? The truth is each child has different needs to respect and account for. Isn’t the concept similar for the varied areas of our lives?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, there’s going to be periods where our focus must flex. Maybe we work full-time and take night classes instead partying with our friends. Maybe our career takes a back seat to raising a family. Or perhaps we cancel our retirement travel plans to care for our elderly parents.

On a smaller scale it’s guaranteed the day of a big work presentation is when stomach flu tears through our family. Our church group schedules an outreach the same weekend as the 5k race we signed up for last month, and that editorial deadline isn’t taking our dental surgery into consideration.

Not a single process, system, or workshop in our inbox allows for any of those unexpected items, because there’s a bigger picture here. One that proves the balance everyone keeps urging us to achieve isn’t a day-to-day, hour-by-hour, project-by-project seesaw.

It’s life. Imperfect. Unbalanced. And it’s okay. Because once we stop teetering on a high wire strung between demands we’re freed from trying to meet our own impossible expectations. Maybe all those little ducks aren’t in a row, but don’t you feel better?
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“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Alain de Botton
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"Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes
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Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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I should first point out I have not actually seen the movie that shares this post’s name, and I’m not talking about gratuitous cruelty to others. Rather I’m wondering, why we are so mean to ourselves?

If anyone asked a few years ago, I would have claimed to be a laid back, go with the flow kind of gal. To be fair, I really believed that to be true. Fast-forward to the here and now, and I’m stunned to find I’m a Type A, all go, no quit, push on through until done, tongue like a barbed whip, micromanager.

At least when it comes to myself.

As some of my blog readers know, my writing and online presence has been erratic over the last several years due to a series of eye surgeries and extended recovery periods. I’ve not shared a lot on this, not only because I was raised in the "keep your troubles to yourself" era, but also I truly believed the experience wouldn’t make a difference in my personal or professional life. I was, after all, a master at driving myself long past any reasonable breaking point and never saying die. Somehow, I’d find a way to keep on, keeping on.

Well, wasn’t I surprised to discover that couldn’t happen in this case.

Part of the self-knowledge acquired during this period included the discovery I am, in fact, a seriously driven Type A perfectionist when it came to "getting things done". And I’m never satisfied when the job is finished either. It doesn’t matter how big, or how small the task, I should have done better.

Exercise for 20 min? Should have done 30. Wrote 1,000 words? Should have written 3,000. Cleaned and mopped the kitchen? Why didn’t I empty, scrub, and re-line the cabinets with new shelf paper while I was at it? Put in a 12 hour shift and go to night class? Why didn’t I work 14 hours, get the rest of the backlog out, take two classes that night instead of one, and then come home and re-line the damn cabinets when I was done?

Where did this inner tyrant of self-expectation come from? Why didn’t I ever realize any of this before? More importantly, how the heck was I going to deal during the long periods of inability otherwise known as recovery?

I won’t kid you, it’s been hard. Suddenly, there’s a lot more gray in my black and white life. I had to cut myself some slack. A lot of slack, and I still do. Because, the funny thing about losing sight and living with low vision you never read in books or see in movies is it’s not a static state. There are good days, and bad days. Times where there’s not enough light, and times where the problem is too much glare and light. You had good focus yesterday and put in 20 minutes of editing time on the computer? Too bad, you only get 10 minutes today. For someone who lived and loved her organized plan the inability to make a plan and stick to it was—mind blowing.

And let's not talk about how much longer everything now takes.

There’s the old saying about how you either learn to bend or you break. Thanks to a caring support system and good friends, I’ve gotten better at bending. So here I am in 2015, flexing my way through one day at a time, learning to release my inner mean girl, and celebrating each accomplishment, no matter how small.

As for those kitchen cabinets? Still unscrubbed, and still with the same old shelf liner. Sorry. But don’t worry. The beauty is I can’t see them well enough to care.