Happiness & Gratitude

If you’re looking to boost your personal happiness by 40 percent, this series of posts, taken from tips researched at UC Berkeley, just might do the trick. I’m only on #4, gratitude, but have already noticed a general uptick in my mood. Gratitude is a habit that can only help. Begin every day with a big thank you list, maybe even before you open your eyes. I’ve been taking note of gratitude for many years, and one thing I’ve figured out is that the less happy you feel on any particular day, the more you need to find something to be grateful for.

What we are grateful for is such an individual thing, so personal, But it’s universal, too. We in the USA have a couple of precious things to be grateful for this week. Our courts have saved Obamacare (again) and made marriage legal for everybody. Decent health coverage and the right to love. Most of us are grateful our corner of the world is changing in positive ways.

So thanks America, because frankly, I have not been feeling super-grateful these days. It’s been tough going with the knee and the shingles and the pain and the crutches. Yet somehow gratitude wedged in to every corner of my despair, making space for happy. Maybe because I have permission to walk in the world again (without crutches) come July 1. That’s only a couple of days from now. Then a few days after that my Seattle family is coming to visit. See heart overflow with gratitude like a geyser.

The highly individual thing I’m really grateful for this week is the current book-in-progress. I wasn’t sure until yesterday I could manage what I wanted to do. Change setting. Change genre. Change tone. Change a character who has been with me for a few books now. Huge ask but I wanted to do it, really had that on fire desire to create this new thing that has been in my head for over a year now, have been aching to start the new story but the thing was just not flowing.

The problem was Paxton, an important character who would not let me in. Not even an inch. I thought, I stewed, I brainstormed. I simmered, I researched, I assembled a collage. Finally got a big hit of that feeling I’m chasing. The collage is pretty. I can’t stop looking at it. It makes me feel so good and this is even before words:) Somehow pictures help me draw out the words. It’s a mysterious process. I look through dozens of magazines and tear out imagines that call my name. I don’t know why a watch from Shinola called my name, but it did and into the stack of images it went.

I’m so grateful to that collage because yesterday I wrote pages and pages and felt that on fire inspired feeling that is the true reason I write. For me, it’s all in the process. Cracking Paxton’s code. Now I think I can write this book. Another good feeling. Happy, part four.

The fifth happiness booster on the list is Keep Friends Close which has not been a thing I’ve been doing lately. When I’m in pain, I isolate. So…the pain is leaving (thanks and goodbye!) and the peeps are gonna be hearing from me in the next couple of weeks. A lot.

Artist by Accident

PicMonkey CollageLooking familiar, hey? In accidental artist mode, trying to create a beautiful postcard with limited tools.  Okay, tools are adequate, skills limited. Have other side, too, all my book covers, but I could not get them down to thumbnail size so I’m just going to throw myself on the mercy of Speedy Printing, who does my friend Iris’s beautiful cards.

Noticed with alarm that my supply of print books to sell at conference next Saturday (Still time to register; would love to see you there!)  has dwindled alarmingly. So I will hand out the postcards if I sell out of books. Big IF …

Because I am not a salesperson. Or an artist. Not even the kind who can make a cool collage on PicMonkey. But I am learning a few things about promotion and how to sell without spamming. I’m taking courses and workshops and yesterday did a “join me” session online with Rachel at BadRedHead Media. That was fun!

I love learning and being a student comes far before being the teacher, which is also pretty cool. Aries here! We like to strut. When we are not crippled with social anxiety. Notice how I went from “I” to “we”? Distancing technique. Like the movie stars who answer questions with “you” instead of “I” ~

Anyway, this is what I’ve been working on the last few days in my moments when I am not falling over from half moon pose or thinking deeply about my newest characters between scribbles. Lots of pages this morning. Writing first thing is best for me. And writing is the first thing every author should do. Write the best book you can. Then you’ll have something you’ll be proud to take to market.

An Idea Knocks


This is for Sharon, a wonderful writing friend from way back in the e-zine 50-something days:) Her question was: How do you know where to start a story?

This is one of the reasons it’s easier to be a writer than a knitter. In knitting, if you miss a row, it has to be unraveled immediately. In the first draft of a novel, all you need is the slightest whiff of an idea. You write it down and, if it’s a book, ideas and words accumulate. I freewrite first drafts with no plan or plot in mind until something comes to me, like a gift. No unraveling until the first draft is complete in all it’s clumsy awkwardness.

Usually at about 30K or so, I have a real grasp of what I want the book to be, so I print it out and read over what I have. Then I make an outline, which I rarely follow to the letter. Ideas are still coming, much of the time faster than I can write them down. I take notes, reminding me of a scene I must write and the location I want to put it in. At this point I also create a collage incorporating images, patterns, and colors that remind me of the book and its characters. That collage usually goes on a corkboard above my writing desk.

As you see from the picture above, because I recently moved house after 25 years, I saved just a little bit of my last collage: the names of my characters. Since I have a series (Blue Lake) started, I am going to keep my ocean picture and the snapshot of Al & me on our honeymoon with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I plan to create my next collage on Pinterest. If I ever get this WIP finished.

In revision, my beginning is usually cut. That’s how it goes. Lots of darlings are killed in revision. But that’s another post. The short answer to your question, Sharon: I don’t decide where to start. An idea knocks and I answer the door.

Art Day

It’s gorgeous and sunny outside. This morning, Al and I sat on the patio and had a cup of coffee for the first time since last fall. I can report that the Kindle is as easy to read in the sun as it is in the house;-)  

I’ve been in such a good mood all day. This morning I realized the scene I accidentally deleted yesterday was too long anyway…rewrote it this morning and lost half the exposition. It’s better now.

Also got arty and made a new story collage. It’s hanging right above my desk and I am in love with it. Got some new story info, too.