Posts Tagged 'Success'

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??????????????????????????????

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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.

100-day challenge of 2011: Another reason to write every day

Still shaking your head over my requirement that you write every day, even if it’s only one sentence? What good is one sentence when I need 100,00 words, you ask? Why spend all that time to boot up the computer, find the file, remember what’s happening in the story, figure out what happens next…just to create one sentence?

I already named a few reasons:

  • To establish writing as a habit
  • To keep the story in the forefront of our minds, where our subconsciouses can access it
  • To desensitive ourselves to the fear of getting started

My goal today is to introduce a fourth reason: Because success is addictive.

When you accomplish something you set out to do–like writing every day–you feel good. Over time, our brains create a positive association between writing and feeling good. Each day we’re a little more anxious to write that sentence, or paragraph or page, because we know we will feel good afterward. The more of these little successes you have, the more quickly and the stronger that positive association will be in your brain.

Success breeds success.

Pleasure is a drug–really, it’s a chemical reaction in your brain. Some people induce the feeling of pleasure artificially through drugs, nicotine or alcohol. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could create addictions to the things that are good for us, make us successful and happy instead of to the things that sabotage our health and our dreams?

So write, or read, or hug your kids every day–whatever challenge you’ve set for yourselves.

And hey, check in with me, would’ya? Because tomorrow I’ve got a blog post planned for those of you who might have experienced a little hiccup over the last five days. We’re up to 15 challengers now, so I suspect there’s at least a couple of you out there who are struggling. I had a close call the other day. I got too caught up in the reading part of my challenge and neglected to write until about 11 p.m. when I had to force myself to open the file and write a few paragraphs. But I did it. And they were good paragraphs. And I felt *pleasure* at my accomplishment.

Positive association.

Keep going!

100-day Challenge – Why writing every day is so danged important

Welcome challengers: Kim, Sandy, Tammy, Leah, Angi, Risa, Kate, Blake, Pam, Ashley and Suzanne! We are an even dozen. That’s 12 people aimed at success. Now we need a name. How about the “Dedicated Dozen?” Anyone got anything better?

How did you do today, day two? I got off to a rough start with a 4 a.m. search and rescue call-out. Didn’t get home until almost noon and then I really needed a nap. Technically I’ve met my goal–finished the chapter I was reading in QUICKSAND and wrote about a page, but I plan to write for another hour or so and then go to bed and read until I can’t keep my eyes open (which will probably be about 2 minutes, lol).

The challenge will be judged on the honor system. You aren’t required to show up here daily and post successes (there won’t be anything but successes, will there? Don’t make me come knock on your door…) but I do hope you’ll stop by periodically. If you trip up, don’t worry about it. Show up, let us know and I’ll restart your counter. It ain’t over till it’s over, baby, and you’ve got all year if you need it.

So why is it so danged important to write, or do whatever your challenge activity is, every single day? Everyone deserves a day off, right?

Right. But not yet.

Let’s get that habit firmly established first. That should take…oh…about 100 days.   🙂

In the original challenge post I touched on two reasons to perform your activity every day. First, because it builds the habit, and we are all creatures of habit. Second, because it keeps that activity in the forefront of our minds. I believe our subconscious mind is working all the time. The question is, what is it working on?

In order to write, even only a single sentence, you have to think about your story. You have to remember where you were, what your characters were doing, what happens next. Thinking about your story moves it to the brain’s equivalent of the cache on your computer. If you’re not a techie, don’t worry about the analogy. Just save to say that it puts the story in the part of your brain that makes it easiest to access. So when your subconscious goes looking for something to work on…there it is. Your subconsious will work on your story long after you close the file. Then when you sit down to write more than a sentence, your mind will already have worked out the next part of the story. You just have to type it.

If you don’t think about your story for a day, three days, three weeks, then your brain shuffles it aside to a remote storage area where your subconscious is less likely to find it and work on it. Don’t let your dreams be shuffled aside!

This line of thought works for other challenge activities as well. For example, Kate is working on acknowledging her kids’ good behavior. Complimenting the kid once caches the activity. Then her subconscious will be on the lookout for more opportunities and remember to acknowledge them.

Tammy is thinking about starting a new business. By doing just one thing every day to move toward that goal, like browsing websites for similar business to get ideas, starting her business plan, or doddling ideas for business cards, she can keep her mind problem-solving all the challenges ahead.

There are two more reasons we should work on our challenge activity every day. I’ll touch on one today and one tomorrow or the day after.

Today’s reason: Because getting started is the scariest part. We all have fears–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, etc. That fear that niggles at us when we’re occupied with other things  suddenly can become a roaring monster with claws and teeth and green slime dripping from its nose when we actually get ready to try our activity. For a writer, opening the manuscript file can be the toughest part of the day. For a reader, maybe we think our spouses or family won’t be happy that we’re taking 15 minutes to spend quietly with a book when there is so much else to do: clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills. Or maybe we think people will think it’s silly that we love romance novels or weird science fiction. Maybe we fear that a teenager will shrug off our attempts at affection (the dreaded, “Moooooooo-ooooom!”).

I train search and rescue dogs. Sometimes those dogs have to scary things, like climb and 8-foot ladder. Sound impossible to train a dog to climb a scary ladder? It’s really not that hard, because we use a process of desensitizing them to the ladder. We start with a ladder horizontal and sitting on bricks so that it’s just about 1 foot off the ground. We put a plank across it so they are really just walking across a board at first. As they get used to that, we start moving the plank off so that they have to walk across a few of the rungs, being careful where they place their feet so they don’t slip through. As they have successes at that, We tilt one end of the ladder up a few feet so they have to climb. We gradually increase the angle until finally, they are climbing an 8-foot aluminum (slippery for dog paws!) ladder at a steep angle up to a 6-foot high platform. All along the dogs get plenty of praise, plenty of reward.

Our challenge activities are not that different. We just have to start easy and desensitize ourselves to the fear. That’s why it’s fine to write just one sentence. If we start out saying we’re going to sit down and write for 10 straight hours and we need to crank out 30 pages…that’s just too scary. We’re like the puppies on the ground, looking up at that ladder that must look like a skyscraper to them. Start easy. Reward yourself. Build on success.

Soon you’ll be opening up those manuscript files and diving into your stories like this (just the first 20 seconds or so):

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off my boy Boogie. I know, this isn’t an 8-foot ladder and he’s not climbing to a height of six feet, but it’s the only ladder video I had, and he was just learning. He’d only been climbing ladders for a few days!

Hopefully you’ve all made it to day two. Tomorrow things will probably get tougher for some of you as the holiday ends and a work week begins. Don’t let it throw you.

Open up those files and write on, challengers!


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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