Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hope, Pride, and Midway Blues

(yours truly)

Last week, my 15-year-old sons and I took beginner tennis lessons. It was a fun but challenging week. We learned new skills such as forehand, backhand, volley, and serve. We felt muscles we didn't know existed.

As we progressed through the week, I experienced the same emotions I experience with each new writing endeavor:


On the morning of our first lesson, as we learned simple things, I was hopeful for what the week would bring. I imagined my skills growing each day, and how much fun my sons and I would have when we conquered the tennis court. Heck, with a cute tennis skirt and a visor, what could go wrong? I was an eager student.

When I first began writing seriously, I was also hopeful. I marinated in each new writing skill, knowing I was working my way toward something important. With each writing project, I open a fresh document with high hopes and great expectancy.

Midway Blues

By the middle of our tennis lessons, I became discouraged. As the coach increased the level of difficulty, I experienced the whole "one step forward, two steps back" thing. As each new skill was taught, I struggled to remember the skills from previous lessons. I wondered why in the heck I fooled myself into thinking I could learn a new sport. I envied my sons, who are super athletic and learn such things easily.

Same with each writing project, and with my writing journey as a whole. With each new project, I reach a point when I feel discouraged and wonder how I'd ever had that initial jolt of courage. I struggle to remember each lesson I've learned, trying to perfect this skill and that technique. How did I ever think I could conquer such tasks as writing a full-length novel?

Suck it Up and Move On

During tennis, right after a brief pity party, I had to suck it up and move on. I realized I was not going to become a Williams sister in the course of one week. I learned what I could, knowing it would take practice, practice, practice. I could either focus on all I was doing wrong, or on all I'd learned in a short period of time.

Same with writing. When we hit a wall, sometimes we just have to suck it up and move on. We can't stifle our creative momentum by sulking about all we're doing wrong. We can rejoice in what we've done right, knowing we still need to practice, practice, practice.


At the end of our tennis camp, I was proud of all we'd accomplished. As our coach pointed out, we had a basic knowledge of how the sport worked. Now we could bang a few balls around the court. We had a foundation to work with. Were we skilled in the sport? Well, more than we'd been at the beginning of the week. We'd taken on the challenge of learning something new. We'd put our hearts into the lessons, and shared a lot of laughs.

With each writing project, I feel pride at several stages. Proud of the original idea. Proud of the perseverance through doubts and insecurities. Proud of the finished product. We writers should feel proud of what we accomplish, while acknowledging there's still so much to learn.

Do you experience these same emotions when writing? Have you learned a new sport or skill lately? Ever played tennis?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Law of Happiness--A Book Review

Instead of my normal "writing lessons learned" post, today I'll share a book with you that teaches life lessons. It's called The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud.

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and this book fascinated me. Why? It's a book where the Bible and science collide. I'm not a scientific person--I'd say I'm more spiritual--but that doesn't mean I don't have questions about how the two coexist.

What I loved most about this book was how it gave scientific proof for how the truths found in the Bible make people happy. It showed how if we followed the advice given in those ancient pages, we are following a path that's paved with happiness. Life will always have troubles, to be sure, but it's nice to know there's a proven guide for how to keep joy in our lives.

Without giving too much away, let me list three laws of happiness. And since this is a writing blog, I'll even point out how these laws apply to writers!
  • Happy people are givers. It's true that giving brings much more joy than receiving. This truth applies when giving tithes at church, or giving clothes to the local homeless shelter. But it's also true when writers give their time to help other writers, or give a kind word to someone who's ready to give up. Giving doesn't have to be expensive. Encouragement is free.
  • Happy people connect. It's great when we connect with others in the physical world, and also when we connect with each other virtually. If we're ever feeling alone out here in our little corner of the world, all we have to do is reach out to a fellow writer. They'll know exactly how we're feeling. When we're tempted to isolate ourselves, reaching out is a great way to add joy to our lives.
  • Happy people don't compare themselves. This is a biggie for writers, yes? Sometimes it's difficult to not compare ourselves. see that writer over there? The one with the accolades and the book deals and the mega sales? He's on his path and you're on yours. We were each given special gifts that make our stories and writing styles our own. My sentences and word choices will be different than yours. My publishing path will be like no other. Same with you. We each bring something unique to the literary world--let's not compare ourselves to others.
These three laws are just a sampling of the wonderful laws of happiness outlined in this book. I highly recommend it. Not only as a writer, but as a flawed person who's figuring out this thing called Life. The beauty of The Law of Happiness is that it's not all about religion. Sure, it's about laws written in the Bible, but it's also about how science backs up those same theories. If you're looking for a lamp to guide your path, this book is a great place to start.

If smiles were like star ratings, I'd give it five smiles :) :) :) :) :)

Have you read The Law of Happiness? Are you curious about how science and the Bible collide? Do you feel happiness when you give, connect with others, and toss aside comparisons? What else makes you happy?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mini Writing Retreat #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! Not a member of this group yet? Remedy that STAT!

I'm currently on a mini writing retreat with two of my closest writing buddies. How is it going? I'll report back later! But I did want to chat abut a couple of things. Writing retreats can be expensive and inconvenient--especially if you're on a tight budget and have little kids at home. I'm not one to dump a lot of money into the writing process. It's just not my style. But when my friends approached me with the mini retreat idea, I jumped on board. Why?

  1. Lower cost. We're not paying for expensive workshops or roundtable critiques. We're simply getting away with our laptops to write. Most of the stuff covered in workshops or retreats can be found online for free.
  2. Zero pressure. I don't feel the pressure of passing my manuscript around to strangers. I don't feel pressure to come back to the hotel room between sessions in order to slash and burn my manuscript. It's simply a quiet time to work with friends who are doing the same thing.
  3. Friendly motivation. Part of the benefits of a retreat is the camaraderie between writers, and the knowledge gained from pros in the field. We can get enough info from pros in the field without spending the equivalent of a family vacation budget. And by meeting with like-minded friends, we can motivate each other to stay on task.
Retreats and conferences have never been my cup of tea, but this mini retreat idea might be something I can warm up to.

Have you ever attended a writing retreat? A big writing conference? What was your impression? Would you prefer a mini writing retreat? Please share!