A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

41DTOzISUVL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott became my writing bible for a while. Her simple advice, her passion, her authentic, messy real self appealed to me on a deep level. She wasn’t afraid to admit to the hard parts of writing. She didn’t pretend that she sat down easily everyday as the words just flowed from her fingertips from some muse on high. In fact, the only muse she endorsed was the work. Showing up was the muse. To this day, I still use her advice: one-inch picture frame to write the next scene, shitty first drafts to write the thing at all and taking it all one word at a time.

The Practice of Tapas.

17022416_10209842569075667_2501385995637702065_n

“Life without tapas is like a heart without love.” ~ BKS Iyengar

One of the stories I’ve told myself over the years is that I am lazy. I’ve lugged that word around throughout high school, college all the way up to the present. Nothing I did was enough (according to me).

Then I discovered tapas. Not the delicious appetizers but the third niyama that calls on me to stoke my inner fire. Literally it comes from the root sanskrit word “tap” which means “to burn.” I take it to mean to burn away everything that holds me back from achieving what I want and being who I want to be. That means burning away the story that I am lazy.

As a writer, I’ve struggled with procrastination on an almost daily basis. My shelves are lined with books promising the secret to being a productive writer. I’ve tried many different tips from waking up early to writing late at night, from focusing on word counts to time spent writing, writing at home to writing in coffee shops.They all worked, for a while. Then I’d drift back into this wishy-washy limbo of wanting to write but never quite committing to it.

Last year I embarked on a year-long writing challenge based on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain” advice. The theory is that you set up a system of marking an x for each day you  show up to write, the goal being to not break the chain. I sat up a dry erase board with 365 boxes for each day of the year. Dutifully, I showed up each day to write something, anything, no word count, no minimum time required and once I did that I could make my x. I did it. Every single day .

This year I decided to require a little more from myself. I still must write every single day but Monday -Friday I need to write at least 500 words on my current WIP. Saturday and Sunday can be for the WIP or Morning Pages or blog posts. I am using the same dry erase board as last year only I am coloring in the top triangle blue for the days I write at least 500 words, red for the weekends.

It’s working. I am up to almost 50,00 words on my novel. I wrote on days when I was crazy busy, when I wasn’t feeling well, even when we had a 72-hour power outage.The story is finding its way, the characters are finding their way and I am finding mine.

What I’m discovering is that practicing tapas in one area of my life is spilling into other areas. I’ve meditated every day since November 9. Some days it’s just been two minutes. Others it’s been thirty. I find myself with more confidence as I continually meet these goals I set for myself that nobody but me cares if I meet. If I can do this, what else can I do?

With this fire ignited, anything is possible.

The Practice of Core Desired Feelings

cdf-2017

I am a huge fan of using Core Desired Feelings to set intentions for the new year rather than resolutions that are doomed to be broken within a month—if that. If you haven’t checked out “The Desire Map” by Danielle Laporte, I highly suggest you do. It’s a game changer.

This year my core desired feelings are: Awake, Vibrant and Courageous.

awaken

Awake: This is such a critical one for me that I will be doing a separate post about it soon. I will awaken to my strengths and weaknesses, to my light and my shadow.To what is happening in the world locally, statewide, nationwide and worldwide. No more looking the other way, assuming that I won’t be personally impacted in my own little privileged bubble. I will awaken too what is happening in my body,mind and emotional and energetic bodies at any given moment. I will awaken to what I desire, what I need, what I need to give and what I need to receive. No more walk-in around with my eyes closed, head turned or numbed out to my feeling say what Glennon Doyle Melton calls my “easy buttons.” For me that are wine, sugar, mindless social media, TV, shopping. Awaken to all of who I am, to all of the world has to offer.

Vibrant: Feeling healthy, energetic. Again, not hiding behind my easy buttons. Allowing myself to shine and sparkle and saying no to anything or anyone who tries to dim my brightness.

courage

Image found via Pinterest.

Courage: I love that courage has its root in the word for “heart.” To me, it mean living, acting and moving from the true space of my heart, Speaking up when I need to. Using my voice politically. Writing the truth as I know it, as I experience it. Being uncomfortable or afraid but staying present and taking action anyway—going to new places, making that phone call, having that difficult conversation with someone or myself. It means being what Brené Brown calls “wholehearted.”

I created the image at the top of my core desired feeling to remind me daily of how I want to feel, then every choice I make is filtered through those feelings. I put it as the screen saver on my phone, printed it out and hung it in my office, in my yoga room.

How do you enter the new year? How do you want to feel? Feel free to leave a comment or a link to your post.

Happy New Year!

happy-new-year

Image found via Pinterest.

#MonthofFaves2016 ~ Challenges {The Year End Updates on Reading Challenges, Personal Goals, Resolutions}

amonthoffaveshome

How did you do? Are you going to do more challenges next year?

I started the year with my own personal reading challenge—read five of my own books before I could buy or borrow a new one. It lasted maybe two months. Good intention to read my own damn books, poor follow through.

I ended the year with two other challenges. #MonthofFaves2016 has definitely revived my blog. I feel more connected to it again and I found strategies that will help in the new year which include writing and saving drafts of posts on the weekend to then post during the week. And using the weekend to visit other blogs and connect there.

Two Instagram challenges revived that platform as well. I did a personal Gratitude Challenge for the month of November and I am finishing the year with the “winterwondergram Book Challenge. It’s been been fun creating photos and meeting people this way.

All year I have doing my own version of “Don’t break the Chain.” I filled my dry erase board with 365 boxes and marked an “X” in one for each day that I wrote. I have yet to break the chain. Yay, me! I plan on continuing it into the new year, perhaps making myself a little more accountable by needing to produce 500 words on my current WIP to earn the “X” during the week.

For meditation, I use Insight Timer and it keeps track of the amount of days in a row that I meditate. It is incredibly motivating plus I get to see the thousands of others meditating with me around the world.

Challenges work for me. I like to see the days add up. I like to see the progress. I like to feel the changes manifest as I remain consistent and motivated.

Check out the challenge here. 

 

 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ 5 Fave “New to Me” Author Discoveries or Audiobook Narrations This Year

amonthoffaveshome

Here are 5 new-to-me authors I discovered this year. Loved each and every one of them!

“A Little Life” a novel by Hanya Yanagihara

Made me rethink what I think I know about male friendship.

“Imagine This—Creating the Work You Love” by Maxine Clair

Made me rethink how I go about my own creative work.

“The Chronology of Water” by Lidia Yuknavitch

Made me rethink what a memoir could be and what writing can do.

“The Empathy Exams” essays by Leslie Jamison

Made me rethink the role of empathy in my life.

“Blackout—Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola

Made me rethink how much I drink and why.

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Best Changes We Made This Year

To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits

writing-chart

I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).

The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”

meditation

The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg,  promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.

What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ This Is How We Blog

i-have-no-idea

Image found via Pinterest.

A blogging routine! Ha! I wish I had (or was consistent with) a blogging routine or some kind of structure. I am hoping this challenge will lead me to a routine. I find it annoying when I go to a blog I like and see that it hasn’t been updated for months or even years. I don’t want to be that person.

Ideally, my routine is a post on Mondays that usually sets the tone for what I am going to use as a theme in my yoga classes for the week. Tuesdays are “Quotable Tuesday” where I share a writing, yoga or other inspirational quote. I created a master template of the artwork in Adobe Illustrator then just change the quote each week. I find that I need to import it into Photoshop to resize it so I can then share it on Instagram.

For a while, I was doing a writing prompt each Wednesday from a photo or written prompt (which I keep pinned to a board on Pinterest) . The rules I gave myself were to just freewrite. No polishing but I could edit for spelling or grammar.

Fridays are for links that I want to share, called “Five on Friday.”

I tried to do something on the weekend but decided I just need to have the weekend off from posting. I use the weekend to write content and get it ready to post for the coming week and to read and comment on other blogs.

I don’t have a lot of knowledge about plug-ins but I did figure out how to add a giph yesterday to my post, so there’s that! Mostly, I feel like I blog by the seat of my pants, just figuring it out as I go. I am actually looking forward to reading other’s posts on this and maybe get some new ideas.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves2016~ These are a Few of my Favorite Things

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things #AMonthofFaves2016 – eg. to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change.

So…2016. It’s been called the dumpster fire of years. With good reason. And it’s easy to settle into a permanent state of angst but forward momentum is needed. In that spirit, I am reviving my blog by participating in this challenge that I saw via Andi of Estella’s Revenge.

Favorite home improvement: My writing space! We (and by “we,” I mean my husband and my best friend), ripped up the cat-pee smelling carpet and laid this beautiful dark wood laminate. I got a couple of new, comfortable chairs, displayed the old typewriter my husband got for my birthday and it feels like a whole new space. So much energy and potential. I just breathe easier the minute I step across the threshold.

my-writing-space

Favorite squee worthy moment of the year: My BFF since we were 14 moved to the area! We haven’t lived in the same state in over 20 years. Now, she’s only 30 minutes away. We hang out on random weeknights and have dinner together, go the movies, yoga, the park. She loves to play and go do fun things which will be great for me when my default is to just hibernate.

Favorite item of clothing: This fun, comfortable cardigan from Dry Goods. It is so me!

sweater

Favorite new TV show: “This Is Us.” The characters are so rich, the unique structure enriches the stories and it is just real. I cry almost every week, so it basically replaced “Parenthood.”

This Is Us - Season 1

Favorite drink: Mimosas because we only have them on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas morning and that means my girls are home! Win/win!

mimosas

Favorite thing I bought: This super cute, super versatile skirt from “The Happy Woman” in Sutton’s bay. The snaps allow it be any size you need it to be. The waistband and skirt are both reversible so it has 4 different looks. Plus it comes with a little purse that is perfect for my phone. Looks great with black tights and boots.I just love it!

skirt

Favorite book I read this year: “The Chronology of Water.” Hands down. It changed what I believe writing can be, what it can do. Read my reflection here.

chronology-of-water

Favorite meme:‘Nuff said.

fave-meme

Books Read in July + August.

july-august-books

“Gonzo Girl” a novel by Cheryl Della Pietra

Everybody is laughing except for me.

Walter Reade is the infamous writer (based on Hunter S. Thompson) looking for yet another assistant to “help” him finish his next project. Recent college grad, Alley Russo, is just desperate enough to take the unpaid internship as nanny/babysitter/word coaxer/drug and alcohol enabler.

Hoping that if she hangs in long enough to get the job done, she will have the chance to help her own book see the light of day. Reade may be too far gone to help and perhaps much too dangerous.

It’s a great page-turner that explores creativity and what we are willing to do get our own art out into the world.

A sentence I love: Seizures in real life are like nothing out of the movies. They are much more awkward and far less violent.

“Blackout—Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola

I’m in Paris on a magazine assignment, which is exactly as great as it sounds.

In the tradition of Caroline Knapp’s, “Drinking : A Love Story,” Hepola gives us an unflinching account of her path into drinking and, eventually, out.

She plums the depths of her addiction in a matter-of-fact, I’m-no-longing-hiding-my-shit kind of way. And she doesn’t hide anything from the reader or herself. But it’s not meant to shock us. There’s a desperate sincerity behind her story. She doesn’t look away so we, as readers, don’t either.

As described on the back jacket copy, each morning after a blackout, she became a detective trying to piece together a missing chunk of her life. The whole book feels like she is detective, trying to piece together how she got there, figuring out when enough was enough and, finally, her long haul back from the edge into sobriety.

A sentence I love: Writing required hush and sharpness of vision. Drinking was roar and blur.

“How To Be Here” by Rob Bell

I once had an idea for a book.

Reading anything by Rob Bell always wakes up my soul. And makes me want to stay awake. Makes me want to be here now, every moment of my life.

Do you think that being creative means being an artist? A writer? A musician? Rob Bell is here to tell you different. He says, “All work is creative work because all work is participating in the ongoing creation of the world.”

He explores the concept of the Japanese word “ikigai.” It is “the sense you have when you wake up that this day matters, that there are new experiences to be had, that you have work to do, a contribution to make.”

He explores the importance of craft, no matter what your work is. The act of taking that first step. Of facing the blank page, whatever than may mean to you.

His writing feels effortless, easily accessible and speaks right to my heart. He connects me to my heart, to my self in this moment. If your spirit needs a pep talk, then Rob is the guy for you.

A sentence I love:

Success says, What more can I get?

Craft says, Can you believe I get to do this?

“Carry On, Warrior- The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life” by Glennon Doyle Melton

A few years ago, strange things started happening to me at church.

This book read like I was sitting down with a dear friend, a friend who knows all of me—all the messy parts I try to hide from everyone including myself— well, she not only sees those parts, she embraces me more fully because of them. And in doing so, she makes me want to embrace all of me too. It’s quite a gift she has.

She reminds me of the badass Christianity of Anne Lamott along with the honest, wisdom-seeking of Liz Gilbert but Glennon is uniquely her own person. She brings her own voice, humor, compassion and utterly quirky and endearing authenticity to every page.

With her utter honesty she encourages the reader to be honest with herself and those around her as well. Touching on everything from marriage to parenthood, church to work, compassion to grief, these essays will make you laugh and cry and left me eager to go live my life out loud.

A sentence I love: When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Okay. So, I didn’t realize that this was a play when I bought it. It jarred me, even annoyed me a little. I was ready to just sink into the Harry Potter world again through prose. Once I got over that little disappointment and found a rhythm to read the play in, I was able to proceed. Granted, a little cautiously, but I proceeded. It felt good to visit these old friends. See them grown up and raising children of their own. I enjoyed visiting the wizarding world again. The story was fine. It just felt a little thin and I’m not sure if that’s because of the plot or because of the genre of it being a play. Without the expanse of a novel to roam through the minds of the characters and their lives and world, it felt a little like skim milk when what I was craving was rich, heavy cream.

“The Seventh Book of Wonders” by Julianna Baggott

This is how the story goes: I was born dead—or so my mother was told.

I LOVED this story! It captivated me from the first sentence and the fact that it was about a writer and had a secret book woven in throughout only added to my captivation. Baggott is a storyteller in the best way, layering in complex characters with a plot that makes you want to keep turning the page, all with a beautiful gift for language. In fact, I underlined many sentences that I loved but I can’t share them since I let my best friend borrow it. You’ll just have to pick it up for yourself and see what I mean. And you should pick it up. As soon as possible.