I once read a story about a woman who had survived several tragedies in a fairly short time. With no warning her husband left her, someone close to her died, her house burned, and she had lost her job. I’m not going to say that she didn’t suffer, because she did, and greatly, but she managed to pull herself together and move on.
She moved to a different city and started over. In the process she made the decision that she would say ‘yes’ to whatever opportunities came her way. As she made friends in her new location, she became known as the one who would always say yes to requests for new adventures. Taking this attitude completely changed the woman’s life.
I believe it will change your life, too, when you decide to say yes to life, to your dreams, or simply to a new experience.
It is time to say ‘yes’ to:
You will never have the time is you don’t say yes now. None of us really knows how much time we have, and the tomorrow that we are putting things off until may never come. We only have so many days here on this earth and when it’s over, well dear, it’s going to be too late to take your kids to see the ocean, or go on that romantic weekend with your sweetheart, or study French.
This was brought up close and personally to me when I nearly died one night from internal hemorrhaging. Coming face to face with my own mortality made me sit up and take notice of where I wanted my life to go. I realized that the ‘some day’ I had been putting things off for, had to happen now, not later.
We women are often guilty of saying yes to everyone else’s wants and needs instead of our own. Doesn’t that imply that the needs of others are more important than your own? If you think about that for a moment, you must agree that it just isn’t so.
Everyone’s needs are of equal value, it is just more important to the owner of those needs that you drop everything and attend to them rather than to your own. Get some perspective. Just because someone demands that you submit to his or her wishes, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Think about what you need to say yes to. Your life is numbered by days, and they go by with shocking regularity and speed. Now is the time to start saying yes to what makes your life really worthwhile. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Say yes now.
Not sure what you want to say yes to? My program, The Wish Plan, can help you discover what you value, and make a plan to get it.
Remember those summer days when you played outside until long after the sun went down and came in smiling and worn out? After you mom made you wash and get into your summer pyjamas you flopped into bed and instantly fell asleep between crisp cotton sheets. You woke when the sun came in your window and hit the ground ready for another fun day.
That was then, you say, and this is now.
Stay with me for a moment. What happened along the way that robbed us of the delicious experience of a good night’s sleep? Our date books are crammed with commitments; we’re on call for everyone and the dog, and after another exhausting day, we fall into bed only to be wakened by snoring mates, full bladders, or the thought of tomorrow’s schedules.
We really need to re-learn the art of the wonderful sleep. For sleeps to be luscious and satisfying, we need to put aside the cares of the day early in the evening. If the cares of the day are so numerous that it is not possible to retire them early, then perhaps it is time to re-think how much we are trying to cram into our days.
Not long ago, I felt caught in the constant swirling cycle of too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. I stayed up too late, woke in the night and lay awake thinking about important every detail I must remember to circumvent some crisis. Eventually falling asleep just before dawn, I then spent my days like a flag at half-mast. I was neither awake nor asleep but dragged through my days too foggy to accomplish much at all. Anxiety and fluctuating hormones were ruining my life. Finally, I went to see my doctor. He prescribed a rather benign drug whose side-effect is that it makes you sleepy. I re-entered the world of the childlike sleep.
Once I began sleeping well again, I had the clarity required to see what needed to change to make my life simpler and less stressful. I realized that there are some things that I will not be able to do, that I must choose one main course in life and focus on it. My evenings have become quieter and calmer. I spend more time with my husband. And I look forward to going to bed, sliding between my pale yellow sheets and reading, or snuggling into my puffy pillow and drifting off.
Sleeping luxuriously means giving your whole self to the process.
It may not seem easy to go back to those delicious sleeps of childhood, but it is possible to improve your sleep life. By endeavouring to make the experience a luscious one, you improve your chances of being well-slept.
A few years ago I was working a trade show and while taking a break I walked past a booth advertising a new resort project. When I made eye contact with the man behind the table, we both had a jolt of recognition and said at the same time, “I know you.” It took a few minutes to trace our past connection, but we remembered that he had been the realtor who sold our house several years before. We had also attended the same church for a while.
We agreed to have lunch together to talk about old times, and during our conversation over burgers and fries, he made a comment that I have never forgotten. “A hundred years from now there will be all new people on the earth.” I realized, that with only a few exceptions, the statement was true.
Since then I’ve given that concept a lot of thought. If I am one of the people here now, then there must be a reason for me to be here.
What if we are all here at this time because we are the exact complement to the people with whom we will come into contact?
What if we are each here to be the one to help someone or several others get through this journey we call life?
If that is the case, then what do I bring to the table to offer others as a means to aid them on their journey? What talents and abilities do I possess that will make someone else’s journey easier?
If I have a responsibility to the other people who are inhabiting this earth in my time, then I need to look at what my abilities are that I can offer you. If I am to offer you my very best, then I need to use the talents that God gave me to the best of my ability.
There is no point in me spending a lot of time and effort trying to be something I’m not, since my purpose will be thwarted. Assuming that we are given talents and natural abilities which we might develop for the purpose of using them to make the world a better place, then it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to not maximize those talents and abilities.
If I spent an inordinate amount of time on meaningless tasks, am I not wasting the time I have been given to develop my talents for the benefit of those around me? Am I not squandering my abilities, to not develop them?
Why am I here now?
Who am I here with and why them?
What do I have to offer ?
Am I maximizing my talents for the good of myself and the rest of the world?
Do you have notice that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to figure out what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.
Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing habits and routines. That way we save them for the important stuff. It also frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
Chances are you already have a morning routine. You get up, you get your coffee, read the paper or check email and fix some toast before heading into the shower. Let’s expand on that. If you create a “uniform” for yourself, you don’t even have to think about what to wear. You just grab a pair of pants and a shirt, or a skirt, tights and sweater and off you go.
Implement some routines into your workday wherever possible. Meal planning helps you figure out what meals to fix and eat. A cleaning schedule makes sure you stay on track with your household chores without you having to spend any valuable decision making skills in the process.
Building your creative work—writing time, or art—into your routine soon makes it a habit. When it’s already a habit, you don’t need to try to fit it into your day because it’s already part of your routine.
Wrap your day up with a bedtime routine that not only helps when you’re too tired to make smart choices, it also helps you fall asleep more easily.
Start by doing a few chores that make the next morning easier. Making sure the kitchen is clean and the kids’ school things are in order are great examples. Come up with a few calming things that help you slow down and get ready for sleep. Read a book, listen to some music, or wind down with a cup of herbal tea.
Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and think about what parts of your day and week you can turn into routines. Write the down and create daily to-do lists for yourself until you’ve established these new habits and routines.
Spending a little bit of time creating routines and habits will make your day run a lot smoother. You might just find yourself less stressed and get more done during your productive hours. And that’s a beautiful thing. It allows you to save plenty of decision making for the fun stuff like figuring out what park to go to, what family movie to watch or what board game to play.
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Creating new habits isn’t easy. Here are six simple tricks that will make it a little easier. Use them until you’ve internalized your new creative habit and don’t need them anymore.
Schedule It And Put It On The To-Do List
Sometimes we forget to do that new thing we were trying. Maybe we forget that we’re supposed to be writing first thing in the morning instead of reading the news, or that we need to get that daily walk in that charges up creative energy.
Schedule your new creative habits or make them part of your daily to-do list until they become something you do automatically.
Make It Public and Be Accountable
Let family and friends know what new creative habits you’re trying to establish. They will call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and get you back on track.
You may even go as far as sharing it publicly on Facebook or write a blog about your new journey. Knowing that others read it and know about it might be just enough to keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel or slipping back into old routines.
Piggyback On A Habit You Already Have
Whenever possible, add the new habit to one you already have. For example, if you fix a cup of tea or coffee at 4:00 pm, and you want to get in the habit writing in your journal, make the new ritual to do your journalling while enjoy your tea.
It’s much easier to amend an existing habit or ritual than creating an entirely new one.
Make Slip-ups Costly
Here’s a fun idea. Put a jar on the kitchen counter and each time you slip back into your bad habit or forget to stick to the new one you have to put five dollars in the jar. It will quickly help you remember to skip wasting time surfing Facebook instead of working on your creative project. For extra motivation donate the money to charity at the end of the month or hand it over to your spouse to go spend.
Find A Partner and Help Each Other Along
Find someone with the same or similar creative goal. This could be a writing partner or fellow artist. Keep tabs on each other and encourage each other to keep going. It’s much harder to skip if you know someone else is depending on you.
Make It A Group Challenge
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive group creative online and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days or so. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these simple little tricks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until you have made new creative habits you can stick with without the help of any tools or support.
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They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. That’s kind of a weird idea though, isn’t it? It doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. And sometimes no matter how hard we try it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit.
When it comes to creative habits, how long does it really take to develop a new habit? The answer is that it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If it is your habit to eat a bowl of ice cream at night and you switch from regular ice cream to a low sugar frozen yogurt version, it’s probably not going to take you very long to make that new habit. Giving up ice cream altogether though or cutting out all sugar on the other hand might take a lot longer.
When we ask that question, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we don’t have to try so hard to do things differently or structure your day to fit in more writing time anymore? In other words, when will this new behavior of painting daily or writing a thousand words before work become automatic?
While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s easier to make a new habit than get rid of an old one. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to write every day, try replacing that half hour you spend reading the news over your morning coffee with 30 minutes of writing instead.
Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. Instead of trying to fit in sketching whenever, keep your sketchbook next to the door and schedule your art journalling time right after dinner, for example.
A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Remind yourself every day that you’re writing every day so that you can finish your novel by the end of the year. Or put up a picture to remind you that you’re developing your painting skills so you can have your own show. Keep your reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out. Yes it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end.
It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can stick to a low-fat 1,000 calorie diet and go hungry for a week or two, but eventually our willpower fades. And yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while... until we run out of willpower.
But what about getting up to take the kids to school every morning, brushing our teeth or going to work every day. Those may not be our favorite things to do either, but we do them daily without the risk of running out of willpower. That’s because they have become habits. They are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without even considering skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to shower or drive to work. It’s just what we do – a habit.
When you start to think about it, there is an inverse relationship between habits and will power. When you first want to build a new creative habit, say, write or paint every day, it takes a lot of will power or self-discipline to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Doing your creative work is just part of your daily life.
Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we don’t always have to make such a big effort to go work out or skip the donut for breakfast. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become habit to go write for fifteen or thirty minutes first thing in the morning or grab your paintbrush and add a few more strokes to your work in progress.
While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, we can use tools to make it easier. Use a to-do list or creative planner or set a reminder to help stay on track. Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate each other and help bolster that willpower when it starts to fade after the first enthusiasm wears off. Compare daily word count or report in with each other every day. Even something as simple as laying out your craft materials—brushes, paints, novel research, etc.—will give you a jump start on getting at it in the morning.
Let’s talk about forming new creative habits. We all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work related, or spiritual, or fitting more writing or painting time into your day. There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. For some reason that I'd rather not explore, we seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new creative behavior and made it a true habit – something you do automatically without having to think about, like brushing your teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to write more. Instead say something like “I will write for 30 minutes every single day”. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new creative habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t feel like painting. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while.
Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make daily writing part of your after breakfast routine, or change fitting it in when everything else is done, to doing it before you start on your to-do list for the day.
Congratulations! Decide to create the new creative habit, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to forming a new good habit.
Recently, the writing world is all a-flutter with the sudden (How could it be sudden?) revelation that Huffington Post apparently requires its writers to work for free. While I have no opinion on HuffPo in particular, this scenario does bring up the unpleasant truth that creative people are asked to, and agree to, work for free far too often.
Sure, I know it happens in other occupations too, but it’s particularly rampant in the arts. The contention is that because you love what you do that should be compensation enough.
But you’ll get exposure
The carrot that’s dangled in front of our noses is, “but it will be great exposure.” As a visual artist as well as a writer, I fell for that stinker many years ago, until I wised up and realized that my work was being used and the benefit to me was zero.
People gush over talent but forget that the artist or writer is not building a career on a gift that dropped from the sky onto her head. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing her art. Giving it away is career madness.
For creatives, who admittedly tend to be right-brained people, demanding money for art can be difficult. Part of the reason is that we all know that while people love art they don’t want to pay for it. The same folks who ask an artist or writer to work for free wouldn’t dream of asking a dentist or car mechanic to do the same.
The other issue is that silence about money in artistic fields leaves us all at a disadvantage because we don’t know how to value our work. It takes work, time, and gumption to become intelligent in these areas and to learn how to market your own work.
Small pond, many fish
With the advent of print on demand and digital publishing, the market has been flooded with written materials that in days gone by wouldn’t have made it onto a shelf. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing but a result I’ve noticed from this influx is price competition between authors. It’s no secret that when you compete on price the winners are the buying public, not the people who produce the product and sell it. But if you keep giving the milk away, no one is going to want to pay for it.
Don’t worry; I don’t need to eat
When others consume the creative person’s work without paying, it directly affects the economy of a family. My kids aren’t going to be happy when I try to feed them “exposure” for dinner. My mortgage company won’t accept “I did it for free because I love it” in payment either.
Just stop it
So what’s a writer, artist, or musician to do? Here are some suggestions:
This isn’t just about Huffington Post exploiting writers, it’s about all creatives giving our work away for free so we can be more than the plain girl/guy at the prom “hoping someone will like me.” I learned years ago as a visual artist that benefitting someone else and hoping for “exposure” was worthless and always resulted in a net loss in time, energy, and money for me.
If all creatives stopped “giving the milk away” and stopped competing with each other on price, we would all benefit. So value your work, your skills, your talent, your hours. Charge more, demand more, and laugh when someone suggests that you do it for free.
Value is measured in money. Value yourself.
People ooh and aah over talent, but the artist, writer, or musician is not building a career on talent. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing their art. Giving it away is career suicide.
Do visions of the sleazy used car salesman in a gaudy plaid jacket and polyester pants leap to mind when you think of marketing?
Most creatives dream of quitting the day job and going full-time. Oh, and making boatloads of money. Rather than toil away in obscurity, clinging to fragments of that far-off dream, perhaps it’s time to:
It's not unusual to hear writers talk about how hard it is to write, to get published, to find an agent. Some writers talk about writing as though they have to slit their wrists and bleed on the page. For years I believed these people who complained about how hard the writing life was and allowed all this discouragement within the industry to keep me from writing.
But even if it is hard, so what? What isn't?
Going to work at a job you hate year after year is hard. Having children and going without sleep night after night as you nurse a sick baby is hard. Making a marriage work through difficult times is hard. Losing a job and wondering where the next meal is coming from is hard. Living with illness, family problems, financial difficulty is hard. Losing a parent, or a child, is hard.
Writing? It's a piece of cake. It’s not hard to sit at a computer and make up a story. Putting words together into cohesive sentences is not difficult at all. It's more fun than a lot of other things that make up ordinary life. The act or writing is simple. Sit, type, read, correct, write some more.
I’m not saying that writing isn’t work though some people seem to think it’s not. Like going to school, or learning a new skill, it will take time and attention. You have to educate yourself to become a good writer. You need to develop your skills, and you need to read a lot. You can shorten that process by working with a good writing coach.
Writing a book can take many hours, or even months to complete. After that come the re-writes and the edits to polish a manuscript. Time-consuming? Definitely, but not really that hard.
In fact, compared to a lot of other things, writing is easy!
What about publishing? These days, getting your work in print or digital format has never been easier with print on demand and e-books. Book distribution has also changed in favour of the author. Thank-you Amazon.
If you want to publish the traditional way, through a publishing company, it can be a longer and tougher process. Either way, what if it does take a while to see your work in print? Try harder. Do the work.
Can't find an agent on the first try? Try again. Don’t give up. Keep on until it works. Rejection won’t harm you, but it you let it, it can stop you. Improve the book. Try again. Do whatever it takes.
But let's all stop complaining about how hard it all is. Try doing something really difficult then come back to writing. I predict that writing will seem a whole lot easier and more fun. Perspective is everything.
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This little watercolour is one that I painted from a photograph I took when I lived in the South of France several years ago.
As you know, I am a writer and an artist. I also love to travel and am interested in people, how they live, what they love, and what makes them choose what they do in life. One day soon, I will share how I came to live at a beautiful estate in Provence.
Creative people are everywhere, sometimes disguised as something else, like news reporters, builders, drivers, teachers, office workers, or doctors. Many have relegated their dreams and heart's desires to "someday" while "never finding the time" now to do the things they really want to.
My friend, Harry, was like that. He decided that he would wait until he retired to do some travelling, yet soon after he stopped working at his job, he fell ill. The disease cleared up temporarily but then he was no longer eligible for travel health insurance and didn't want to risk getting sick again in a foreign country. Before long, the disease returned and within a year he passed away, never having fulfilled his travel dreams. From his sick bed, he admitted that he had made a mistake by postponing living until later. It turned out to be too late.
I am in the process of launching a new program to help you make sure than nothing like what happened to Harry happens to you. It's called The Wish Plan. If you would like to hear more about it, please subscribe to my newsletter on the home page and I will let you know. Don't worry, you can unsubscribe any time, no questions asked.
Isn't it time you started going places? Yes, me too.
I took a little trip to the seaside last week, stopping in Coupeville, WA, where I snapped the photo of these sail boats bobbing at anchor in the afternoon sun.
After a little shopping, I even had time to make a small watercolour sketch to add to my collection for an upcoming book project I'm working on.
This is the first time I have take part in a blog hop so it is a new fun experience for me. Suzanne Lieurance, author of the new book, The Morning Nudge, has invited me to take part in the 4×4 Blog Hop. Thank-you for inviting me, Suzanne.
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. One is the third novel in my Jill Moss Adventures series. I like to have the plot and main theme figured out before I get started on the writing so I have a world map on the wall in my hallway that is covered in sticky notes with ideas for what I want to include in this story. My novels feature complex plots with lots of action and adventure so there is a lot of thought that goes into creating the story. I also write about deeper spiritual issues that most of us face or have questions about and weave those concepts into the story.
At the same time, I’m working on creating a book of daily inspirations, including creating the artwork for each page.
As well, I am working with my business colleague, Suzanne Lieurance, on a fun project called 50 Fabulous Food Tips, Recipes, and Ideas for Easy Entertaining, a lovely illustrated book of great ideas to simplify life.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
With regard to my novels, I write inspirational action adventure. This difference between my writing and others in similar genres is that both genders love my books and my writing. It is highly visual (not surprising from a visual artist) and has lots of action but also includes some humour, a little romance, and fascinating research into archaeological and Biblical history.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Mainly because I want to read these things and no one else was writing with the combination of a lot of high action, interesting plots, and a Christian worldview. Think of a woman who loves God but who is a character similar to Indiana Jones – she’s up for going anywhere.
I write for my other non-fiction projects because these are also areas of interest for me. As an artist as well as a writer, illustrated books that make life easier and more pleasant always appeal to me. It’s just a natural fit for me to create them and since I have my own publishing service, it’s also easy for me to publish them. (See www.summerbaypress.com)
4. How does my writing process work?
As a visual person, I have to see things to keep them moving forward. My husband bought me the world map to use to work out my plots for the Jill Moss Adventures books. I often have to do quite a bit of research and have a friend who volunteers to act as my research helper, which saves me a lot of time. Once I have the basic story idea in my mind, I start writing. I love the process of typing and having characters and worlds appear on the page. I don’t write everyday but once I’m into the story I write fast and go back and fix things later.
With my other projects, I try to concentrate on one at a time but I usually end up working on several at once, moving each one forward bit by bit.
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Our lives are full of choices and opportunities. Every day we must make choices, some small and fairly insignificant, some monumental and life-changing.
Too often we make choices without thought or preparation. After all, we are busy. Our minds are occupied elsewhere so we choose without stopping to think where this path might take us.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can live our lives with a greater sense of purpose.
One simple guide that I have used over and over with success when faced with a decision on how I will spend my time is to ask myself, "Will this go toward or away from the direction I want my life to take?"
Will volunteering for the parent council at your child's school lead you closer to your goal of being on the town council, for example? Will saying "yes" to a home product party take up time that is best used working on your novel?
If I am asked to take part in a fund-raiser that I deem worthwhile but for which I have no great passion, and it cuts into the time I could spend reading or furthering my business, which are important goals for me, is this the right thing to do?
Keep your destination in mind and make choices that move you continually in the direction of that destination.
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to help us all make life pretty.