Posts Tagged 'Getting the life you want'

Endings

There is an old saying among authors: The beginning of your book sells that book. The ending of a book sells your next book. A plethora of information can be found on the web re: writing a great beginning. Advice on how to write that great ending is a bit more scarce.

I sail through the beginning of my books. I march through the middles. But endings often leaved me stumped. I ponder. I procrastinate. I try a scene out in my mind…and then I change it…and then I change it again…and then again…

Endings are hard. Endings are messy. No matter how clever the resolution, so much is left unsaid. Promises are left unfulfilled, dreams left to wither. Friendships are strung like fraying rope bridges over a chasm.

Yeah, endings are hard. But they are necessary.

This morning I ponder a real-life ending in my own life. Not to the whole book, of course–I plan to be here living and loving and learning for many years to come–but to a chapter called “Search One Rescue Team.”

More than nine years of service will likely come to an end today.

Yeah, endings are hard. Endings are messy.

Like any good writer, I’ve played the scene out a thousand times in my head. Should the character take the strong, direct approach? Play it with a softer, more wistful tone? Perhaps shag back to the carefree fool or hit the truth hard with a maniac rampage and see how long it takes people to start walking out of the room?

In the end, it won’t matter. People will do what people will do, including me.  What matters is that in my years of service to Search One Rescue Team I’ve had hundreds of experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And I have only one regret. That’s not a bad ratio.

Today won’t be about endings, it will be about taking one small step to right that regret.

Whatever the outcome, I’m at peace. Because as a writer I’ve hit on that one jewel that will make it all okay. I’ve stumbled on the Best. Exit. Line. Ever.

Sorry, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what it is. After all, the rest of the scene hasn’t been written yet!

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The Quiet Mind

There’s no avoiding the truth: some days it’s darned hard to sit down and get started writing, even though I love what I do and (usually) love the story I’m working on. It’s hard to jump into a fantasy world with all the real-life worries vying for attention in my mind. Did I pay the electric bill? What time is that dentist appointment? Will my editor call today with news about that new contract I’ve been waiting on? The dogs are fighting. The kids are fighting. Hubby is pouting because I spend more time with my manuscript than with him.

Sometimes I think what we writers call procrastination, or even <gasp> WRITER’S BLOCK is really just an inability to hear our stories above all the other clattering and chattering going on in our minds.

Over the years I’ve tried multiple techniques to achieve the quiet mind and hear my story, all with varying degrees of success. As my tip today, I offer a few of these to you.

1) Trained Yoga or Meditation. Take some classes at the gym. Learn to do it. It helps.

2) Poor Writer’s Meditation. Buy a guided meditation recording and practice it. Usually this involves sitting still, focusing on breathing, then visualizing a scene or series of scenes as the guide talks you through it. Focusing on that one scene washes all the other junk out of your brain.

3) Even Poorer Writer’s Meditation. Record your own guided meditation. Talk yourself through sitting still, breathing evenly and deeply. Then take yourself on a trip through some calming places and into your story world. I actually did this during a rough patch a couple of years ago. My first scene afer the breathing part was on a beach. I felt the hot sand between my toes, the sun in my eyes and then on my shoulders. I turned off the beach into a tropical jungle where it was cooler and darker. I walked down a path to an ancient stone ruin with high walls. Inside those walls was my story world. As I walked on the beach and into the jungle, I consciously left outside concerns behind. Inside the ruins, I watched my story play out for a few moments (the part I’d already written). By the time I finished the meditation, I was firmly grounded in my story world, other cares were banished behind the wall, and I was ready to write.

4) Breathing exercises. At a minimum, learn to do this, and practice before every writing session. Just Google it. You’ll find pleny of instructions online.

5) Stretching exercises. Feel oh-so-good and help clear the brain. If you take a break during your writing day and feel your mind wandering before you sit down to start again, do some stretches. It gets the blood flowing. Again, many instructions online.

6) Scents. Scientists say our sense of smell has great ability to impact our brain. Light a scented candle before each writing session. Pretty soon you’ll have trained your brain that when you smell that odor, it’s time to write.

Hope that helps!

100-day challengers, how are you doing??????????????????????????????

Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out

Borders announced this week it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement from management said they did not have enough capital to continue as a viable competitor in the industry.

This doesn’t mean all the Borders stores will be closing their doors, as far as I know. But it certainly doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and that is such a shame. What if they were to fail in the restructuring attempt? Barnes and Noble would remain as the last man standing, a virtual monopoly, and how long would they last against the online sales markets?

I guess the good news is that books aren’t going the way of the dinosaurs (yet) just bookstores.

I love bookstores. I could easily lose a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon perusing the shelves, skimming through opening chapters and backcover copy to decide which were worth purchasing and which went back on the shelf for someone else. Online outlets like Amazon.com just aren’t the same. Sure, they provide easy home access and huge selection, but I can’t run my fingers over the spine. I can’t turn to a random page and read to see if the exciting opening holds up for the rest of the story.

I can’t smell the paper and ink.

Then there’s the e-book revolution. We knew years ago it would come, and it sure has. More titles are available. Sales are skyrocketing. Last week the New York Times even started publishing an e-book bestseller list.

Authors can publish without spending tens of thousands of their dollars on a vanity press or going through the traditional publishing house system, which has been killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. Literary agents are unnecessary middlemen when a writer can upload her book and sell it herself a major outlet like Amazon.com, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the business model.

But it does seem as if the whole publishing industry is turning inside-out.

What remains to be seen is, when it’s done, will the new being be a beauty, or a beast?

The 8-letter word that could change the world. And you.

How could one word change the world, you ask?

Because it can, I answer.

So what is this word?

K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no crime. Hell, there would be no wars.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no homelessness, no hunger.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no animal abuse, no unwanted pets.

If each of our hearts were filled with kindness, we would all be happier people.

Be kind. To yourself, as well as others. And animals.

And that’s all I have to say on that.

Taking care of yourself — mind, body and spirit

In my last post, I expained my theory on the positivity quotient and the connection between mind, body and spirit. What we think about (mind), affects our overall outlook on life (spirit). An unhealthy outlook on life can have devastating physical consequences (body).

But this is not just a one-way process. The flow also happens in reverse for some people. Obesity, disease and illness (body) can affect our outlook on life (spirit). It’s hard to be happy when you’re hurting, or you body tells you that you just can’t do the things you used to do. An unhealthy outlook on life makes it hard to think positively (mind) –lowering the positivity quotient.

In fact that backwards and forwards flow can become a self-sustaining cycle of despair that seems impossible to break. Your negative thinking impacts your health; your bad health makes you think even more negatively. That increased negativity makes your health worse, which makes you think even more negatively, and so on and so on, ad nauseum.

Maybe you loyal blog readers (all two of you, and Dad, you don’t count) are starting to see that Vickie Taylor’s 100-day challenge of 2011 is about more than just writing. It’s about having the life you want, the life you deserve, and living it to the fullest. That means you have to take care of your mind, your body and your spirit.

We’ve talked about taking care of the mind some–more to come in the weeks ahead. Today we start on taking care of the body, specifically, what you eat. I  know I’m not going to convince most of you to go vegetarian or vegan. I do hope that at least a few of you will take the initiative to educate yourselves about what you’re putting in your bodies. 

Much ado is made about the health care crisis in America. Is it any wonder we’re a fat, sickly lot when McDonald’s has become a staple on the family dinner table (if families even still have dinner tables)? When our school lunches count the ketchup that kids drown their French fries in as a vegetable? And that doesn’t even touch on the issues of genetically modified crops, pesticides in produce, artificial sweeteners, factory farming practices, etc.

I’ll leave you with a couple of resources I found enlightening and which started me on my journey to eating healthier (and yes, I still experience potato chip and diet coke cravings–and still give into them on occasion):

  • Food, Inc. — DVD — where our food really comes from
  • Skinny Bitch — book — no, it’s not a diet book, though it sounds like one. Just good information on why we shouldn’t be eating a lot of what we’re eating

Until next time — keep writing!

What’s your positivity quotient?

Negative messages are everywhere in our world today. It’s almost impossible to avoid the tragic news stories, the hate speeches, the violence, the death, such as the senseless murder of a 9-year old girl in Arizona this past weekend and the loss of life due to the floods in Australia. We can’t do much about this cacophony of negativity that surrounds us unless we’re willing to live as hermits and turn a deaf ear to the cries of the world. I’m not advocating that. We need to interact with people, we need to open our senses to what’s happening around us, make changes when we can. We need to live the life that has been given to us, for as long as it’s given to us. But with so much negativity bombarding us everyday, how do we maintain our happiness, our hope, our balance, in a world that seems tilted steeply toward the negative?

I’ve been contemplating this “meaning of life” type question for a while (scary, huh?) and the best answer I can come up with is that it’s about maintaining a healthy positivity quotient–the ratio between the negative and positive messages your brain processes each day.

Those messages come from two places: 1) the world outside,  and 2) your own mind. Yes, your mind.

Life is mostly what you make of it. The morning traffic jam–is it an annoyance that raises your blood pressure, or an opportunity to turn off the in-car DVD player and sing songs with your kid for 10 extra minutes? The lack of money in your checking account a cause to rail against the economy, or to be happy that you and your family can’t afford unhealthy indulgences such drugs, alcohol and fast cars? There is nothing wrong with a simple life.

I’m not saying that we should all try to become the annoyingly-perky type that smiles as the Titanic sinks. Heaven protect us from that! But you can change what you see in many events if you look hard enough–and generate a few more positive thoughts to balance out the negative, raising that positivity quotient.

What’s more, I think we can make huge gains in our positivity quotient by what we do, as well as what we think. When you do something good for yourself, you feel happier. That’s another reason for us 100-day challengers to write every day. If we want to be writers, we feel good when we’ve written. We feel like we’re getting closer to our goals. Writing every day, even if it’s only a sentence or a few paragraphs, raises our positivity quotient.

People also feel better when they do good things for other people, or to make the world as a whole a better place. Pay It Forward is genius, for many reasons. One is that every act of kindness we perform, even anonymous ones, makes us feel good about ourselves. It cancels out some of those negative messages we can’t help but absorb. It raises our positivity quotient.

I love my volunteer work with animals, whether it’s fostering a stray dog or packing up and heading to Arkansas to get 116 horses out of a bad situation. But I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t do it just for the animals. I do it for me. Nothing makes me feel more positive than knowing I’m making a difference, doing something good. Even in the midst of a horrible situation in Arkansas, one that frankly I can still easily work myself up into a negative rage about without trying very hard, my positivity quotient increased exponentially. Doing good deeds makes you feel good. If you don’t believe me, try it!

I don’t know anyone who lives a perfect life, most especially myself. We can all get absorbed by the latest tragedy, or angry that we don’t have everything in life we want. I guess it’s okay to indulge and pout a little, but travelling too far down that road can be dangerous. I really believe in the mind–body–spirit connection. I believe that if you take in too much negativity and don’t find ways to balance it out with positivity, that the imbalance affects  your overall outlook on life, your spirit. And when your spirit is hurting, it’s going to translate into your body in the form of unhealthiness–high blood pressure, obesity, disease. 

A high positivity quotient may not be the cure for cancer…but who knows? It may be one step toward preventing it.

Shooting Ducks – How to make time to write every day

Let me explain right off that I would never shoot a real duck, except with a camera. They are beautiful creatures.

When I talk about shooting ducks, I’m talking about wooden or paper cutouts. You know, the kind they have at carnivals. The duckies float by on a little stream and you have to pick them off with a crappy pop gun in order to win the giant stuffed monkey.

Think of your book as the giant stuffed monkey you wanted so badly as a child. Think of all the things that stop you from writing it as those little duckies float. Pick them off without mercy.

By the way, this thinking applies to any goal you’re trying to meet in life and having a hard time finding time to complete.

Label the duck...then shoot it!

Here’s what you do: Print off this picture of a duck. Make lots of copies. Decorate your ducks if you like. Put bows on some, mustaches on others, color them with your five-year-old’s crayons. Then write on each duck one thing that keeps you from having time to write. Tape them up on your refrigerator and take them down one at a time as you conquer them. After a few weeks, you should have a bunch of dead ducks in your junk drawer.

Here are a few examples:

Cooking a nice dinner for my family. Hey, if you have family dinners and want to serve your loved ones home-cooked meals, I admire that. Don’t give it up. Just plan better. Find a cookbook called  Make-ahead Dinners, or something like it. While you’re cooking Sunday dinner, also make three casseroles that can be frozen, then just pop them in the oven on any given weeknight. Ta-da! You just gained back 45 minutes three days a week. Dead duck.

Giving the kids a bath. Cleaning the kids occasionally is kind of essential if you don’t want Child Protective Services to show up at your door. By the time they’re done, you’re exhausted and want nothing but a glass of wine and a soft couch. But, assuming they’re beyond the age where they tend to wear as much of their dinner as they eat, can they be bathed earlier in the evening, so you can get to the writing while you still have a little bit of energy? Can you make a deal with your spouse that you’ll take all weekday morning kid duty if he’ll bathe them two nights per week (the two nights you still had to cook dinner because you didn’t have casseroles to pop in the oven)? Dead duck.

Working out. It’s hard to find fault with anyone who actually manages to stay fit these days. But most smartphones have an app that lets you record voice notes. Take your phone and dictate a few paragraphs while you rock that treadmill. Dead duck.

Day job. Ok, this one is tough. You probably can’t just ditch the day job. Try to be more specific. Working through lunch every day at the day job. Start going out. Drive your car to a park and sit in your car. Eat peanut butter and jelly and write in a notebook for 20-30 minutes. Dead duck. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings and conference calls all day. If you have a salaried job where you regularly work more than 40 hours (so you won’t get fired for doing this), try scheduling a few 30 minute breaks during the week. Put them on your calendar so no one can book over them. Call it “2011 goal planning” or something. Close your door and write. Dead duck. Long commute to day job. Try that dictation thing again. Use a voice-activated recorder (hands free)–they’re cheap. Dead duck.

Everyone has time to write. Maybe not time to write a lot, but at least a few minutes to get some words on paper. The truth is we choose not to write. Maybe because we’re afraid, maybe because we think it’s really just a waste of time, that we’ll never finish a book, much less get it published. Look in the mirror. The face you see is the only real reason you’re not writing. Not jobs, not kids, not spouses.

Look at your day. Find the ducks–pockets of time that could be spent writing–and shoot them dead.


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

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