Choose hope. Don’t wear your grief on your sleeve . . .

It was a rare gray afternoon in Denver. The sky was moody, clouds pressing down, rain soaking the world. I sat at a traffic light, wipers moaning across the windshield when I looked ahead and to the right. 

“GRIEVER.”

Why would someone put a license plate like that on their car? 

Had their heart been so wounded by loss that they were compelled to shout it to the world?

Had they given up on hope? Claimed a new identity?

I’ve grieved mightily in my life—for relationships that fractured and for well-loved people that slipped into eternity much too soon for my liking. 

But I never quit moving forward. I never quit believing life would again be joyful. Honestly, at times I had to force myself to believe. I had to remind myself that I was, indeed, a prisoner of hope. I trusted that the good and the sad in my life was a condition of being human, and that God would redeem the pain and sorrow. 

To overcome my grief at failed relationships, I had to learn the practice of forgiveness. To overcome my grief at the loss of life, I had to accept that pain would be a part of my life for a season. After all, grief is hard work. But I believed grief would not last forever.

And in the end, I passed through that veil of grief. In the end, there’s always hope. Always. For me, because of Whom I place my hope in. 

Friends, don’t lose heart. Don’t allow circumstances to ensnare you with grief. Don’t cling to sting of the loss of a loved one. Don’t give up hope. 

When I was trudging through some of the darkest days of my life, I chose to give myself a new label. I chose to become a prisoner of hope. I believe that choice helped to propel me forward. It caused me to think of myself in a new way. 

I hope “the griever” has a legitimate reason for that license plate. I hope whoever it is doesn’t stay locked in that place, claiming that label.

Choose hope. Choose life. Choose to keep pressing forward.   

Book Recommendations with a dose of encouragement

I’ve been a bit remiss lately in sharing some titles that I’ve loved. 

Today I want to tell you about two non-fiction books that have moved me. Yes, occasionally I read books other than novels. I don’t read much non-fiction books, so when I pick one up, finish it, and recommend it, you know it’s good. 

Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World by Lucille Zimmerman has the distinction of being the only book that I’ve ever bought multiple (lots!) copies of and handed out to women in my life.  

This book is a wake-up call to women to remind them to carve out space for themselves. Renewed encourages you to care for yourself. It’s a how-to on how to live happily amid the stresses of everyday life. READ IT. It’s like a spring breeze after a frosty winter. It will wake you up and help you to appreciate the little things in life that contribute to your peace and satisfaction. 

Another book that blessed me is Secrets to a Happy Life by Bill Giovannetti. This book illustrates how God is working in your favor, how to move past negative emotions that ensnare your thoughts, and how to choose to be happy. Secrets to a Happy Life uses examples from the life of the OT Joseph, and boy did he have some difficult circumstances to live through. 

I found the stories told and lessons explained in this book to be so relatable. Bill’s writing made me stop, think, and pray about thoughts concerning past events that floated on the periphery of my consciousness, often dragging me down when I least expected it. 

Over a decade ago, I endured a huge ache in my life that I’m still recovering from. Reading this book was another piece in the puzzle to refining my response to that life-changing event. 

The chapters are divided into 11 secrets to happiness–all issues that impact everyone. The secrets contain beautiful, profound, and affirming words. We aren’t promised a perfect life, but this book shows us that we can choose a happy life. 

Both of these books are keepers. They’ll live on my bookshelf for those days when I need a bit of wisdom to pick me up and keep me going.  

13 Pieces Advice From Famous Authors

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Writers and would-be writers are always looking for wisdom from those who’ve gone before us.
 
I’ve assembled some thoughtful comments and put them in a Q&A format for you to enjoy.
 
Question: When is the best time to begin a writing career?
Answer: “Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” ~Dr. Seuss
 
Question: From where does our writing ability come? Is it inborn? Learned?
Answer: As Mother Teresa said, “We are all pencils in the hand of God.”
 
Question: Is it difficult to learn the craft of writing?
Answer: “Yes, it’s hard to write, but it’s harder not to.”
~Carl Van Doren
 
And here’s more advice on writing from other authors:
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
~ E.L. Doctorow
 
“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
~Barbara Kingsolver
 
Question: How much time should a writer commit to his/her craft?
Answer: “The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.”
~John Irving
 
And as author Ray Bradbury said, “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
Another thought to ponder is, “Either marry your work – take it seriously and do it every day – or date it – write only when you feel like it – but know which you are doing and the repercussions of both.”
~Anonymous
 
Question: Is writing all about sitting at a computer and pounding out a story?
Answer: Not necessarily so. As Victor Hugo said, “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labour and there is invisible labour.”
 
Question: What about word count? Is there any advice on pacing yourself?
Answer: “The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”
~Raymond Chandler
 
Also, “If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.”
~Isaac Asimov
 
Question: Must you have all the answers when you sit down to write your story?
Answer: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
~E. L. Doctorow
 
Question: How do you know you’ve reached a level of success?
Answer: “Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed.”
~P.G. Wodehouse
 
Question: Is there a secret to becoming a successful author?
Answer: “The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write, and keep on writing.”
~Ken MacLeod
 
And I leave you with a final thought: ” May I never grow too old to treasure ‘once upon a time.'”
~Anonymous

Defining Moments

I’ve been thinking about defining moments lately. As an author, they populate my books. As a human being, they have shaped my character and my choices.

I’ve often heard good fiction characterized as real life without the boring parts. That’s very true, and both fiction and real life have defining moments.

 Defining moments can be good as well as bad. The good — the day you know you’ve found “the one,” or the birth of a child. Some defining moments are obvious, like the death of a parent or when a loved one gets in a car accident. But there are some defining moments that come to you quietly in a crystallized realization while you’re simply taking a walk, or else they can seep into your bones when you overhear a conversation not intended for your ears.
 
The funny thing about defining moments is that they may not be honest interpretations. What if someone perceives a situation differently than it is? What if a misunderstanding causes someone to have a defining moment? It’s easy to see that happening in a child’s life: I didn’t pick up my room, so mommy and daddy are divorcing. That kind of thing.
 
A friend told me of a defining moment that occurred at the birth of her first child: “Oh, my goodness. I can’t die for at least 20 years.” The realization that flooded her brain shocked her, but then she knew it was because her dad died while she was a very young woman.
 
Margaret, my character in my current wip (work in progress), is slowly experiencing some defining moments that will eventually shape the rest of her life. I’m having fun playing with the way she comes to discover herself. After all, fiction is real life without the boring parts.

Is there psychology involved in buying books?

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I bought some peaches the other day. Not headline-making news, but consider this, I knew that I had peaches at home in my fridge. 


The reason for my impulse purchase was because the clerk at the store stopped me to tell me how delicious the peaches were. She said that she really looks forward to eating one when they’re this fresh and ripe. She made those peaches sound like the most delicious fruit on earth. I bought them because she hand sold them to me.

Having someone talk up a product adds perceived value to that product. Seeing the clerk’s eyes light up while she talked about the sweet, juicy fruit made me want to experience the same pleasure.

If you’re wondering, yes—this is writing related. Anyone who is concerned that the book market is down can do something about it. You can talk up some great titles that you loved to your friends and family. We can all influence the purchase of books by influencing those in our circle to purchase good books (or even borrow them from the library).

Often when a new book comes out the author and publisher will find influencers to talk up the book. Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful tool. I’ve been an influencer and have had influencers. It’s fun to put a book into someone’s hands and say, “This is a great book. I loved it, and I bet you will too.” I’m not bashful, and when I’m browsing in a bookstore and see someone looking for a book, I’ll strike up a conversation and recommend some books. It’s as easy as selling ripe, juicy peaches.

Oh, and those peaches? D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!

Refreshing your creativity.

Beautiful Castlewood Canyon where I love to hike.
As a creative person, do you ever feel the need to refresh your creativity? I sure do.
 
Writers can get overwhelmed trying to find a new way to communicate the ordinary and everyday moments that make up life. As Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (verse 1:9)
 
Aargh! What’s a writer to do?
 
First, don’t panic. True there is nothing new under the sun, but you can make a concept feel new with your particular way of communicating an idea.
 
Sometimes it just takes a (brief) break from writing to get your creativity sparking. Here are a few ways to get the creative urge back:
• Read. Often after reading a good book I get the urge to sit down and write. Enjoying the way another author turns a phrase or characterizes the people who populate a fictional world can get you thinking about how you would write a scene or breathe life into a character.
• Listen. Music can evoke a mood or take you to a different world. Sometimes when you listen to music you can hear it from the point of view of one of your characters or you can create a character who would be moved by the composition you’re listening to. 
• See. Taking a field trip to a museum can open your mind to many art forms. I enjoy renting the audio commentary available with some art exhibits. You get information on a new culture or a different period of time. You learn what the artist was experiencing when that piece was created or what the artist was trying to express. 
• Inhale. Take a walk and concentrate on the fragrances you encounter. Whether it’s a city street or a prairie trail the scent of your environment can trigger a memory or a wish that set your imagination and creativity in motion. 
• Taste. Go out to eat. Imagine how your character would feel about the restaurant, the food, and the company. Listen to the sounds around you. Design a scene for the reasons some of the other diners are eating there. Let your imagination fly. 
• Be. Sometimes giving yourself permission to sit and relax in a hammock or a chair in a busy shopping mall and just think and observe can unlock creative ideas.
 
What about you? Do you have any suggestions for unlocking creativity?