Monday, December 30, 2013

Henry Moore on Resolutions

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's.  ~Henry Moore

This quote perfectly sums up how I'm feeling about New Year's resolutions before 2014. 

Of course I want this year to be better than the last, but I think in order to do that you have to make every day count for something. Rather than make a big resolution for the whole year (which, let's face it, I would probably not succeed with) I'm going to try to make each day great.

I intend to accomplish even a small thing each day that will help me make progress toward my big goals so that by the end of the year I'm that much closer to achieving my dreams. The only way to make a resolution succeed is by breaking it up into small manageable pieces and making each of those pieces a success. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Creative Cross Training: Photography

photo by me

It's so important for writers to experiment with other creative outlets so that their writing does not get stale. You want your writing to be fresh and interesting, right? The best way to do that is to step away from it periodically and try something new. Let's call it creative cross-training.
The old cliche is "A picture is worth a thousand words." It's a cliche for a reason: a well taken photo can tell you a lot about either the subject matter or the photographer.

A candid photo of a couple can tell you how healthy their relationship is. Are they sitting next to each other holding hands, or is there room for another person between them?

A professionally shot family photo can say a lot about the type of people that are in that family. Are they wearing color coded outfits, or is it just a good thing they all managed to show up?

At first glance a picture of a landscape might look simple, but upon further inspection you might see a rare bird on a branch that the photographer managed to capture on film before it flew away.

I've recently become much more interested in photography, and I've been having fun experimenting with different subjects and lighting environments. Most of the pictures I take are of landscapes or nature scenes but I find it fun to imagine the story that takes place within those scenes. 

Asking myself "What thousand words best describe this photo?" is a great little exercise to get my creative juices flowing so that I can begin my writing day. Maybe the photo has nothing to do with the writing that I'm trying to get accomplished that day, but just thinking and writing about it will get me started and keep my ideas fresh.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

photo by me
Merry Christmas to all my readers!

I'm so thankful to be able to be blogging again. Mostly though, I'm thankful for all of the things that I've learned over the past year. Through all of the tough situations I've been in, I've somehow managed to come out in better shape than I ever imagined.

Last year at Christmas, I was barely able to spend a full twenty-four hours with my family which made me feel awful. It was a bittersweet day - I wanted to enjoy what little time I had, but I couldn't help feeling bad that I would have to turn around and leave again so soon. This year, though, I'm blessed to be in a situation where I can spend much more time with my family and friends who are visiting for the holiday. 

It's funny how things work out sometimes. I'm truly enjoying this holiday season and I hope that you are too. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tis the Season for Baking Treats

photo by me

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is baking cookies and other goodies. I love making different kinds of holiday treats and experimenting with new recipes.

Just last night I spent a few hours baking Cranberry Bliss Bars (cranberry and white chocolate bars with cream cheese frosting) which were a new recipe for me. On top of that, I made them gluten free. I was nervous about how they would turn out. They're one of my favorite holiday treats so I wanted to be able to make them at home, but they turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated. The batter was too thick for my mixer and things got a bit messy.

Thankfully, they turned out very well. Even my dad who never likes gluten free food said that they tasted good. Making the bars was a bit time consuming and rather messy, but they tasted good and will probably be easier to make the next time that I try. I'm happy that I experimented with this recipe because now I can make one of my favorite treats whenever I want.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Abraham Lincoln on Happiness

"Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be."
-Abraham Lincoln

I could not agree more with this statement. Happiness is a choice.

Everyday you have the opportunity to make it either a good day or a bad day and it's your attitude that makes the difference. If something goes wrong, you can either find a silver lining or act like a victim, but how you react makes all the difference. If you make up your mind to be happy at the beginning of the day, you will find that silver linings are much easier to spot when obstacles pop up.

You are the only person who is responsible for your feelings. No one can make you happy or sad but you. If you make up your mind to be happy, you will find it much easier to stay that way.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Books (Don't Always) Make Great Gifts

I remember a teacher I had in middle school once complaining because her husband had given her a book for Christmas. I don't really remember the details beyond that, so I can only assume that it was either one she wasn't interested in reading or that the subject matter was somehow insulting (something with a passive aggressive title like Clean Your House and Everything in It or one of many books in that vein).

The main thing that I remember about this particular instance was that my teacher was basically admitting to us that she didn't like to read. She spent a good chunk of our class time talking about how ridiculous it was that her husband would give her a book. This was a teacher that I liked, so it was strange to me at the time to realize that she didn't like reading, which is one of my favorite activities.

As I've been doing my Christmas shopping this year, I've had a few people on my list that I've been really struggling with what to get. Part of the reason I'm struggling is that these people on my list don't like to read. Ordinarily my go-to last-minute present would be a book, but I'm running into a trap here. Not everyone likes to read.

I hate to be the person who says things like "You just haven't found the right book yet," (which is probably true in most cases) and so I've been running around trying to think of something else. I keep seeing that vision of my teacher complaining about the book she got for Christmas. I'll never understand it, but at least I can try to respect it. After all, any gift giving occasion is about being thoughtful of the person you're giving the gift to. If they don't like reading, you can't force them to change.

Personally, I've always loved getting books on any occasion, but that's just me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lesson Learned: Write Every Day

In anticipation of the end of the year, I'm doing a series of posts regarding the things I've learned this year. Some of them relate to writing, some of them are general life lessons.

You hear this advice more often than you care to, I'm sure. Believe me, so did I. That is, until I actually began to follow it. Once I began to sit down in my chair every day to write in earnest, that is when I finally realized how necessary the daily practice really is.

In the past, I had convinced myself that too much discipline would damage my art. Writing every day would create too much pressure and I would produce subpar work because of the daily need to produce something.

But then I went for a very long time without producing anything at all and I realized that what I needed was, you guessed it: discipline.

I began to write the novel I'm currently working on in June of this year, and after a few months of producing little to nothing but ideas written on scraps of torn-up Post-its, I finally sat down one day and said to myself, "I'm going to write something today." The next day I did it again, and before I knew it I was getting up early each morning to get to work. 

Suddenly, instead of having ideas that didn't even take up full post-its, I was having epiphanies that could take up two or three pages at a time. Rather than wondering why I couldn't come up with anything decent to write, I was excited to get to my desk each day, because I had finally learned that showing up is the hard part. Once you're at the desk, ready to work, the ideas come naturally because there is an outlet waiting for them.

It's cliched advice for a reason: it works. Write every day even if it's only a sentence or two and eventually you'll have a book. It really is that simple.