Listen To Your Younger Self

I was having a conversation with a friend some time ago about writing advice.  Now, in our 30s, we know that all advice comes wrapped up in the reality of that particular authors life.  We know it is okay to add to the advice things such as “within the constraints of our own lives.”

In our teens and 20s, however, the advice often seemed prescriptive.  When an author that you know and love tells you how to write, it is very hard to imagine that you should do anything counter to what the greats were saying.  They were successful, surely they knew the right way to do things, and if we can’t do what they say to do… then what hope do we have?

In our late-teens and 20’s we step into a whole new world – it’s a time of great change, when you are still getting your feet under you, trying to navigate that strange line between childhood and adulthood.  My own writing ambitions took a hit in those years because of the way my work was treated by peers in fiction workshops.  My confidence was already taking a hit on all ends during those early college years, my life was shifting dramatically, and my writing was (and had always been) my outlet to deal with the emotions and changes.  It was also where I was most vulnerable.  Perhaps those peers were trying to prove themselves, show to our instructor that they knew what they were doing, that they were true literary people… walking just slightly on the wrong side of that line of useful critique.

It took me a good ten years to regain even a shred of the level of confidence I had when I was in high school.  It took a decade for me to be ready to share my writing with anyone but the closest of friends, to remember the dream I had.  The dream that had gotten buried deep beneath layers of self-doubt and a conviction that writing could never be anything more than a hobby.

In that conversation about a month ago, my friend and I agreed that what the world needs is more writing advice for people like we were, as we were trying to figure out even the most basic foundations of who we are.  Gentler advice, more supportive of the reality of the lives of those young adults.  Advice that speaks to the reality that sometimes writing and reading are not going to be the ultimate focus of your attention.  That having to put other considerations first doesn’t mean you should give up your writing dreams, or that you don’t have what it takes.

I wish someone had taken me aside when I was in my early 20’s and told me that I should not let that little piece of me hide away for too long.  That it was okay if I didn’t write every day — if sometimes months passed before I could write something new.  I needed to be told that the only right way was the way that worked for you — that each of us has a different path to travel and what I do isn’t going to look the same as anyone else’s journey.

I know I am a stronger writer now than I was when I was younger, but I can’t help but wonder what things would look like if I hadn’t let those ambitions fade away for so long.  What if I had manage to hold onto that confidence that had me sending short stories out to magazines while I was still in high school?  What if I had known that the fact my rejection letters came with hand-written encouragement was a very good sign that I might have potential?

Sometimes I think we need to reconnect with our younger selves, before the harsh world gave us an onslaught of (hopefully) well-intentioned advice which may have actually undermined our self-confidence?

Have you gone through a time of crippling doubt with your writing?  Did you hold confidence in your younger years that you wish you could believe as strongly today?  What advice would you give to those writers who are also dealing with coming into the adult world?

This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We also put out a new book, available for free.  Check it out for great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!

Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorites

Every week The Broke and the Bookish  hosts the “Top Ten Tuesdays” a great blog-hop for readers to reflect on their “Top Ten.


Top Ten Books You Would Classify as ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 (or 5) years.

I am interpreting this as books I have read in the past 3-5 years…. Regardless of how long they’ve been around (and, to be honest, a few might have been read in the past 7 years… I can’t really remember).  And as I sit and type the first 10 that come to mind I am reminded that in the past 5 years the vast majority of the reading I’ve done has been related to seminary and writing my thesis!

  1. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. The Strange Library, Haruki Murakami
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  4. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
  5. Concerning Heretics, Roland H. Bainton and Sebastian Castellio
  6. Sebastian Castellio, 1515-1563, Hans R. Guggisberg
  7. How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West, Perez Zagorin
  8. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Belden Lane
  9. Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer
  10. The God We Never Knew, Marcus J. Borg

Celebrate, Coffee, and Trouble!

If were having coffee….
Today I want to celebrate…

The week completely got away from me.  Which is why this Celebrate Post is coming late, and honestly why the Coffee Post is coming early.  I have plans with the weekend.  They involve writing, writing, and more writing — combined with some social stuffs.  And I know how easily I can slip into spending much of my Saturday putting together my weekend coffee post, so I thought I would preempt that particular procrastination method by inviting you to have coffee with me today.

Coffee on the run, snagged during one of my work breaks.  I’d tell you that it’s been a tough week, with a return of the Invader Ants Army of Doom (yes, that is their new name, I shall henceforth refer to them as IAAD).  They are disorganized, and mostly just a small nuisance.  I’m pulling out the poison tomorrow morning before I head out for a writing-morning at one of my favorite coffee shops but for now I am taking them out one-by-one.

I got some good visiting time with family and friends in this week, which has been nice, but writing time has been severely limited.  I still have managed some – but am going to have to begin to really start putting my nose to the grindstone if I want to get back to the levels of productivity I had before winter hit.  I do feel like I’m coming out of hibernation — a little more energy, and have been interested in reading again (for about a month I haven’t even really wanted to read anything).  It feels good to be coming through that.

Tree in Bloom
Budding trees spotted during my morning commute!

In honor of Celebrate the Small Things Friday, that is one of the things I celebrate — I know that some are still many who are buried (quite literally) in snow.  But here in the Portland Oregon Metro Area there are unmistakable signs of spring.  The other day I was able to sit outside for my lunch-break and write — what a difference that made to my lunch-break productivity!

I’d take a pause in our coffee, and our appreciation of the sunshine (yeah, yeah, so today is actually a rainy and cold day here, but let’s pretend), to express sadness at the death of Leonard Nimoy.  I am surprised at how the death of a celebrity (one I grew up watching on TV) has stirred up the other losses I felt this year.  I don’t want to dwell on that, not right now, but it will get more reflection.   Instead, lets celebrate the gifts we have been given by all those who have passed this year.

I also would call your attention to the fact that there is a new book out today!  Lori MacLaughlin‘s Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble came out today!  Cover for "Lady, Thy Name is Trouble" by Lori L. MacLaughlinI had the privileged of getting an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book and my review will be posting next week.  But for now, I wanted to share with you all the cover (I really love this cover, it’s perfect for the book)!  I’ll share much more about the book and the author on Thursday!

Breaks done, time for me to hurry back to work!  I’d love to hear your celebrations, reflections, check ins… what have you.  How has your week been?  Any plans for the weekend?  What are you reading these days?


Today’s post is a part of the Weekend Coffee Share, graciously hosted by Part Time Monster every weekend! A time for us to come together, share a cup of coffee (or our beverage of choice) to share some of what is going on in our lives.  It’s a lovely check-in time!


Today is also  Celebrate the Small Things Friday.  Hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge, and Katie of The Cyborg Mom, Celebrate the Small Things is a time when we all take a moment to celebrate something good from our week.  It can be small, it can be big, just something to look back on the week and celebrate!

Celebrate the Small Things

Compassion – Reflecting on #1000Speak

On Friday (and over the weekend) I participated in the 1000 Voices For Compassion campaign.  I’ve been a relatively quiet voice in the group, but have been following and listening for about a month.  Watching as it grew from a small collection of bloggers to having over 1,400 members on the Facebook group.  Friday was the day we were all building towards, and though we didn’t reach 1,000 bloggers linking to the hub-list we got over 600, and there were certainly more participants who didn’t link to the hub.  Twitter (under #1000Speak) was a flurry.  I have already read so many great posts I don’t know quite where to start in sharing them all.

It will take me a long time to read through these posts, but I am committed to trying to get to as many as I could.  Compassion and kindness are important themes to me, the idea that every person is worthy of respect and kindness is key to my beliefs.  My own post  looked a little at the challenge that it can sometimes be to show compassion to certain people.

I have been fortunate recently to find some great online communities over the past year, and this is one of them.  While we were talking about the idea of all posting on February 20th, many people were writing posts leading up to the day.

The Facebook page became a real community, with people sharing their thoughts and posts, asking questions, and helping one another along.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that a group of people who had committed to writing about Compassion would be kind and supportive of one another, but it was really heartwarming to see in action.

It was a reminder to me that compassion can be a thing practiced on a very small scale which can ripple out quickly.  Also, when we are open to finding community it is there to be found.  The group has been so fueled by its success that there is conversation of continuing, of finding a way to keep writing in this way.

When a bunch of voices join together to speak it can make a big impact.  People from around the world contributed to this project, and I think it is a powerful reminder of the positive force that we can all be.  Even if the posts were only read by those who wrote for the project (which I don’t think was the case), it was clear that it had an impact.

Thank you, to all the participants (present and future) who have helped to make this such a great experience.  I really have been honored to be a part of it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines

Every week The Broke and the Bookish  hosts the “Top Ten Tuesdays” a great blog-hop for readers to reflect on their “Top Ten.”


Top Ten Favorite Heroines

1) Turtle Wexler, The Westing Game, By Ellen Raskin.

I am not sure why, or how, Turtle came into my head, but hers was the first name that did.  I used to adore The Westing Game, but I think it’s been nearly two decades since I last read it.  Yet, Turtle… I like that she is determined and intelligent.  She figures out what no one else can.

2) Jo March, Little WomanBy Louisa May Alcott

One of the early characters I found myself connecting with; Jo was headstrong, creative, and brave, all things I related (or strove) to be.

3) Beth March, Little Woman, By Louisa May Alcott

Beth’s calm, gentle manner is a counter-balance to Jo’s impulsiveness. I wanted to be more like her in many ways, at at times definitely related more to her shyness.

4) Eponine, Les Miserables, By Victor Hugo

I just really like her — I think it may be in part because I am always drawn to the underdogs, but I also find her such a powerful character.  She goes through great extremes to try to follow her heart.

5) Cimorene, Enchanted Forest Chronicles. By Patricia Wrede

This is another series of books that I haven’t read in a long time, but I know that I admired Cimorene. I just lent the compilation I have to one of our grad-students (with an assignment to read it — because I know that sometimes grad students need an extra push to be reminded to read fun stuff along with their school-work) otherwise I might have devoured it this weekend to remind myself why I really liked Cimorene.

6) Hermione, Harry Potter, By J.K. Rowling

Smart, logical, able to grow and change as needed, passionate for the causes she finds important.  And, really, those boys would not have survived two minutes without her help.

7) Mary, The Secret Garden, By Frances Hodgson Burnett

I think I like Mary because of how she changes in the book, and her ability to hold onto the magic of the world around her.

8) Charlotte, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, By Avi

Another one that I haven’t read in a while, but stands out in my mind as a character that I very much admired.

9) Charlotte, Charlotte Sometimes, By Penelope Farmer

This Charlotte found herself in a completely strange and new situation and really handled it pretty calmly.  A new school, okay.  Suddenly traveling through time, well… guess I have to learn the new rules.

10) Rivka, The Cage, By Ruth Minsky Sender.

This is a story based on the authors own experiences in the holocaust.  I read this book over, and over, and over again.  Her strength in the face of such horror, her ability to create poetry in the darkness… it is a powerful story.

If We Were Having Coffee #29. Magic, Kindness, and #1000Speak.

If we were having coffee I would want to tell you all about the show I saw last night!  It had been a rough week at work, and I’ve been fighting a cold again, so spent most of the week either working, traveling to and from work, or sleeping.

We also went to the dinner that they offered before the show - it felt very fancy to eat in the First Balcony lobby.
We also went to the dinner that they offered before the show – it felt very fancy to eat in the First Balcony lobby.

Last night, though, I went with a friend and her daughter to see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, touring Broadway Cast.  It was the first time, probably since middle school (so… over 20 years) that I’ve gone to see a musical that I was not familiar with.  Don’t ask me how I had missed it, but somehow I didn’t know any of the music.

The show was amazing.  I enjoyed the music, and the way the story was told.  It was really fun to watch with a first-grader (wearing her princess tiara!)  Then there was the magic.

I have always been interested in the behind-the-scenes of theater, dabbled in it here and there.  Usually I can pretty quickly figure out the effects that are used (at least understand how they’re done), and sometimes anticipate them.  But Cinderella’s costume changes were unlike anything I’d seen before.  Standing right on the stage, no smoke, no misdirection, her dress turned from rags to a ball-gown.   And they repeated this trick twice (though the second time there was a little misdirection going on).  Now on reflection I can figure out bits and pieces, or at least speculate on how it was done, but in the moment… In the moment it was magical.  Have you ever had that kind of experience, where the magic of something from when you were a child appears again when you are older?

I also found it fun that there was a clear theme of kindness and compassion weaving through the show.  Coming on the same day as the #1000Speak campaign to flood the internet with talk of compassion and kindness seemed especially fitting.  10409230_10204463022069137_1863086623340445880_n

Yesterday was also fun, seeing all the posts about compassion, all the activity and action.  It was awesome, and so many of the posts prompted good thought and reflection.  If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to go check out the posts.

How has your week?  Any plans this weekend?

Part Time Monster hosts this Weekend Coffee Share every weekend.  Check out the Linky-List to find others participating (and please, join us! The more the merrier!)

#1000Speak: Celebrate Compassion

 Celebrate compassion, even when it is a challenge.

Today bloggers around the world are coming together to talk and blog about Compassion.  Find more on Twitter through #1000Speak, on Facebook, the blog-hub, or the Linky-List of participating blogs.


Join us today as we try to flood the internet with a focus on compassion.

Compassion. Kindness.

These concepts, at their surface, don’t seem very hard.

You try to be nice to other people.

You follow that golden rule.

It sounds like it should be simple.  All things we learn in kindergarten, or preschool, or even earlier.

The reality, though, is that practicing compassion and kindness can be very difficult.

Yes, it can be easy to be kind and caring for those you love.  Or for those who are polite and kind.  People who practice compassion themselves, they’re easier to show compassion to.

But think about the times when you find yourself having to be even just polite — or civil — to someone who is unkind.  I’m not talking extremes right now, just someone who is rude.  Impolite.  Mean.

Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to work with a great diversity of people.  All different ages, races, creeds, orientations, genders, socio-economic classes, education levels… lots of different people, with very different lives, in different moments of those lives.

Sometimes I have the opportunity to develop some sort of relationship with the people I worked with, people I was providing some sort of care for.  And sometimes they were nothing more than a passing customer, someone I have to interact with for a few brief moments before they move on with their lives.  Some have been kind, polite, friendly, and loving, and others have been mean, abrupt, condescending, and a challenge.  The one thing common with all of them — I had to, at the very least, be polite.

Kindness is a step further than politeness. To me, kindness is more active, while politeness can be a relatively passive behavior.  To be polite to that rude customer at the counter is to ring up their items, thank them for shopping with you, and move on.  Kindness would be to do all that, and go a step further.  Perhaps as simple as wishing them a sincere “Have a nice day.” Or maybe going above and beyond in some way, pointing their attention to a discount on an item they had overlooked, or something like that.

In my mind compassion is taking things even a step further.  It is not just being polite and courteous, it is not saying or doing nice things for someone.  It’s something more.  While the dictionary may define Compassion using the term “pity,” I tend to think of it as more of a form of empathy.  To have compassion is to act towards someone with some attempt at understanding what is going on in their life.

I find myself thinking about one of the jobs I had, where it was part of my responsibility to take a bunch of ladies from a senior day-center out for a weekly trip.  Usually this involved going somewhere that they could do shopping, like a thrift store, and then lunch.  There was a group that went on a pretty regular basis, and as I drove them and spent time with them on those outings, and throughout the week, over a period of months, I began to see some dynamics that reminded me of middle school.

You know, one group, usually spearheaded by one or two individuals, decided — for whatever reason – that they don’t like one individual.  They begin to engage in behavior that is intended to upset and exclude that individual.  It’s bullying, plain and simple.

A few of these women were not easy to even be polite to.  When it was clear I was not going to bend policy on their behalf, especially not to the detriment of the woman they were “freezing out,” they began to try to push my buttons.  To bully me.

I have had more than a little experience with being the victim of bullying and learned long ago that certain types are best dealt with by simply ignoring the behavior, not giving them anything to fuel it, not responding, not showing them that it’s impacting you at all  — as I did with this.  It was my job, I was doing my job, and, while I agreed with the policies that didn’t even matter.  They were the policies of the organization, and the rules I was supposed to be following.  And I didn’t see that I was going to be able to change the behavior of an 85 year old who had clearly been cultivating this personality and way of acting in the world for quite a long time.

But I had to be polite.  It helped me in my work to be kind… and I wanted to be compassionate.  That is where the challenge comes in.  How to be compassionate to someone who is just not a nice person.  Without compromising your own integrity, self-worth, and values.

It is not easy.

I don’t have an answer.  In this case I tried to put each instance of bullying and meanness in a little container, to separate it out from other things.  One day she was downright cruel, and the next she was asking for prayers at the weekly bible-study that was offered.  With my interest in religion and theology I had been invited to join them in the group, and I would often sit and listen.  It was a FAR more conservative approach than I have, but always interesting to hear.  And there was always a moments of prayers for people.  So when this woman asked for prayers, I tried my hardest to put aside the cruelty she had dished out, to send her positive and healing thoughts.

It is easy to talk about being compassionate.  To be saddened by horrible things happening in the world, and wish that people could interact with one another with more kindness and compassion.   We can talk about stepping beyond differences to learn more about the similarities we share.  But need to recognize that sometimes it can be a lot harder to actually do those things.

The best way, I think, to push yourself to start living into really being compassionate to others.  Starting by trying it on the small scale.  Maybe start with kindness, with a smile to someone who being rude.  We all have to begin somewhere.

Remember that everyone has things happening in their lives that we don’t know about.  Beneath it all we are people.  People who engage with the world, who have feelings that get hurt, and senses of self-worth that may not be all we project them to be.

Push yourself to be compassionate to others, and yourself.

Care about the people around you, no matter how hard that may be sometimes.  Show compassion and care however you can — even if all you can muster is a warm thought or a smile.

How have you been able to reach out with compassion?

Today is also Celebrate the Small Things Friday.  Hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge, and Katie of The Cyborg Mom, Celebrate the Small Things is a time when we all take a moment to celebrate something good from our week.  It can be small, it can be big, just something to look back on the week and celebrate!

And I celebrate having watched this movement grow over the past while, from a very small facebook group and handful of bloggers to the amazing amount of participants that are going to be exploring Compassion today.

Celebrate the Small Things

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.


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