WASTING TIME? NU-NO!

It’s one of those lovely mornings when you awake at 1 a.m. to the crickets chirping away. And, you can’t go back to sleep. Never mind you have a busy day ahead, never mind you have a meeting, just never mind.

I’m not sure what I have been doing, but I just glanced at the over sized clock on the wall and it’s 4:30 a.m. How can that be? I just got up! What have I been doing for those few hours?  How have I wasted so much time?

Keeping a running register in my head, I quickly surmised that I had emptied my mailbox. Plus,  I perused Pinterest for cool motivational pics. I looked up and swoosh!

Even when you feel you’ve wasted time, I believe readjusting your mindset is important.

But now it’s time to work.

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Uh oh.

Let’s get going.

And how do we do that? How do we get going?

In the early days I would put 5×7 cards throughout the house at every turn to remind myself to write. “Write 1000 words.” Do whatever it takes to get to writing.

Every morning now my iPhone alerts me to “write 1000 words.” And everyday I am still surprised by it. The interesting thing is the way I respond to it. I answer it. Usually with “i already did it!.”

I have to confess I still have one 5 x 7 card on a wall upstairs. It’s to remind me what my overall goal of the day is.

It simply says, “WRITE.”

Recently I found the words below. Check it out. I mean, really check it out. It encompasses goals for living. Image

Whether you’re a writer or not, remember the important stuff like …  living in the moment and tune up your overall life, not just the one you think that drives you.

LOOKING FOR THE GREEN LIGHT

Are you really blowing caution to the wind?

Think about it. Sometimes caution is a good thing. Sometime you need to regroup. There is a reason for the yellow light between stop and go.

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Last night  I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. I watched TV for five minutes and clicked it off.  I picked up an article. Went from one thing to another. Tried to fall asleep again. Never happened. Then I decided to go work out at the gym a good 25 minutes away. I was dressed in sweats and headed to the car at 3:45 a.m. I felt excitement at my being able to check off one of my daily goals so early!

I was amazed at how easy it was to fly through the empty dark streets at that hour of the morning, I had passed right through several lights marveling at how astute some programmer of lights was when finally I was confronted with a red stop light.

Interesting though, I could see the next five stop lights lying in front of me up the hill and they were all green.

I considered how often we take a red light, or even a yellow light, as a negative. We’re in a hurry. A light slows us down. It’s stopping us from getting somewhere, from reaching a goal.

I realized that if I  had gotten through the red light, I would have had clear sailing for miles. That reminded me of how we writers deal with rejection.

What if when I pulled up to the red light I had decided it wasn’t worth the effort and had driven back home because it was easier and too much trouble to have to wait, never finding out what would have happened if I’d stayed and carried on.  Maybe I would have hit lots of red lights.  OR, maybe I would have found out that all green lights lay ahead.

And so, right there in the very dark early morning I considered the times I had quit. One in particular.

I quit writing for five years in the early 80s to teach skin care classes. And I was successful. But then I realized cosmetics didn’t have the interest that mystery writing did.  I still  had that burning desire to write. So I got back on track. And this time I created a support system of writers by joining writing groups and attending writing conferences.

I often wonder if I hadn’t stopped writing those five years, would my novel be published, instead of finished and making the rounds?  Sometimes life happens. Disappointments occur. We keep on. That’s what we do as writers.

That early morning I encountered a blinking yellow light and paused, realizing that the smaller bumps are like yellow lights.

Something occurs to make us as writers re-access our approach to our work, your query letters or the selection of publishers we’re approaching.

Who knew even a mere yellow blinking light, a caution light, could be so important?

Whenever your writing is not working,  think of the blinking light, and if it reaches red light status,  remember all those green lights waiting on the other side.

Thanks Pinterest for photos.

COME ON, YOU CAN WRITE ONE PAGE A DAY

Someone said: write ONE page a day. Sounded easy.

But, my situation was different. Unlike everyone else, I had five children. The government didn’t even request me for jury duty anymore!

Two in high school, one in junior high, one in first grade. The last child was three and hung out with me every day. Plus we had Cindy, the cat. And that was the day we ironed and cooked from scratch!! And, I was supposed to write? Are you kidding me?

But soon I discovered something.

Wanting to be a writer and wanting to write were two different things altogether. To be a writer, you had to actually write. You had to put in the time.

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I read writers magazines and talked about writing to anyone who would listen. I took classes at the local community college and freelanced smaller non-fiction projects while I continued to read about writing fiction.

If only, I thought, I had a secret formula. Some way to make me write no matter what.

Ta-daaaaaa!

Then I heard that if you write only one page a day, in a year you would have a 365-page book.

“Wow,” I thought  “Finally someone told me how to do it.”

Still, how I could find time with five children!! Certainly lots of reasons to not begin. To never try. And I reasoned with myself that I could find lots of reasons to throw in the towel after I started. Amazing how many reasons there could be to quit.

But one morning I changed my attitude. I set the alarm for 5 a.m.

I made a cup of coffee and went to my computer and wrote my very first page. I began writing one hour, one page  a day. Before I knew it, I had 14 pages written. And then I had more. And that was how my very first full length book was born.

After I wrote my first book, someone said, “Well, it usually takes five or six books to get good enough to get published. So I kept writing.

I jump out of bed sometimes at 2:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. if I can sleep that late. I begin work almost immediately. And the joy I have received is immeasurable.

Now this doesn’t mean everyone has to write at the crack of dawn.  Some like to write late into the night. I just happen to be my best early in the morning when the birds are chirping.

I have a few manuscripts stacked up, but here’s what’s great. I can see my own improvement.

Following another tip someone gave me,  I regularly attend seminars and conferences and have a bevy of friends encouraging me.

I belong to the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters In Crime, Society of Professional Journalists and the Denver Press Club.

I’ve learned one thing I can pass on to you new writers.

You have to make up your own rules and create your own social network of writing friends. It starts with taking one class, making one writing friend.  Or joining one organization and again, making one writing friend.

So I’m throwing out a challenge. Quit procrastinating, go to your computer every day. Write one hour, write one page.

Do it for a week and let us all hear from you when you have seven pages. Tell us how it made you feel.

Just write.  Write anything. You’ve got seven days this week.  Go!

(Thanks Pinterest for photo.)

Motivation is like coffee. Grab it and Go!

I am fascinated with quotes from people who say what I need to hear.

Being a nonfiction writer and a future published mystery writer…..my favorite quote at the moment is:

“Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

Honestly, I think I’m in love with the man. His quote has saved me so often from quitting a task or quitting a story or actually, quitting anything. I wear a sterling silver bracelet around my left wrist that has his words engraved on it.

One day I was weary of rejection. I thought maybe it’s time to change my focus to something else, perhaps a part-time job, a new  volunteer gig.  My bracelet literally grabbed me by the wrist and said, “Darla, listen here, are you crazy? Your book is good, now go find a publisher!”  So thanks Winston for always being there for me and the zillions of others who cherish your words.

I don’t want to run around on Winston, but quite honestly the real love of my life is Thomas A. Edison. His quote that I am forever indebted to is:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

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And just think. What’s so hard about trying just one more time?

If you break your projects and goals down into small increments, it’s much easier to accomplish them. Eventually you can eat a whole elephant if you do it one day at a time. (Okay, that’s not original, but it’s accurate!)

Earlier in my life a large project loomed over me and it was going to take several years to accomplish.

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I had heard the story of The Wall of China and how it was built one brick at a time. And all of you are familiar with that amazing structure. It was not built at one time, but was rather joined after several had been built.  But I love the idea of the one brick at a time. I have continued to let it inspire me. I have a weathered 5 x 7 card with one thought: “The Wall of China.” That has motivated me tremendously.

Of course, if you’re lucky and you have people around you to inspire you, wonderful things happen.

One night when I was still a newbie at the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America meeting, several people had mentioned their editors, their agents, their books being published and I had little to report. A member I barely knew, on his way to refill his coffee cup, bent down and whispered to me:

“Don’t ever give up and don’t throw anything away. You’ll use it later.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Good advice, support, inspiration, and instant motivation!

CATCH THE WRITING WAVE

Once upon a time…

Trained as a journalist with a dream of living abroad, I married, produced my first three adorable children and figured that had squelched any plans of living overseas.

But no.

As it turned out, when the universe wants to help you, by golly, it helps you.

My spouse received a wonderful offer from his company that we could not refuse. Both of us were from small Texas towns and had always wanted to go somewhere.  We packed up our three kids and headed to Africa for what we knew would be the biggest adventure of our lives.

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I had written for newspapers and magazines in the states, creating news and feature stories from my observations. And so, when we hit Africa, I wrote several stories for The Star.  I also had our fourth beautiful child.

In Africa, though, my writing took a turn.  I discovered fiction.

I had the flu and tiring of the bed, I stumbled into the study and rummaged through bookshelves where dwellers before us had left behind Agatha Christie books. How had I not discovered her before?  I devoured several in a very short time. These murder mysteries began lighting a spark inside me.

Fair Lady in South Africa published my very first short fiction (though not a mystery yet) while I tended an infant and shuttled three children back and forth to their two schools each day. Plus I was out and about with my new daughter talking to people and  checking the pulse of a nation growing politically uneasy as the days passed.

A few months after I narrowly escaped conflict in Alexandra township, we were transferred to the Netherlands where our fifth and last fabulous child was born.

Now I had a newborn and a preschooler and three who went to the American International School in Rotterdam. My children had gone from living with apartheid to a school with 125 different nationalities. I was deliriously happy for their experiences!

Living in a skinny duplex I sent story after story out to various publications from the third floor while watching storms most of the season and becoming depressed with each rejection.

WOE IS ME WOE IS ME WOE IS ME!!

Life progressed. We returned to the states. Children grew up and I would later find myself on my own and that was when it clicked.

I began where any writer begins. With the first word.

I would write day after day, every morning from the moment I put my coffee pot on. Most times I would sit and write and never turn on the lights because I was more focused with no distractions. (I was an early riser.)

I can now say I’ve written in Midland, TX; Tyler,TX, Mesquite,TX; St.Louis, MO; Cleveland, Ohio; Johannesburg, South Africa; Zevenhuizen, the Netherlands; Colts Neck, N.J.; Conway, AR; Little Rock, AR; New York, New York; Denver, CO; Sterling, CO; Denver, CO; Littleton, CO. And, many other places as well.

That has worked for me. I’ve completed several books and with each one, I have become a better writer.

Having been published in The New York Times, The Plain Dealer, The Asbury Park Press and The Star, Johannesburg,  South Africa, it’s tough to be working on fiction and not have reached publication with my mysteries.

But this is what I’ve discovered.

I began to realize there were networks out there I’d never had before. I began joining organizations like the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and others. And I am on the cusp of being published. I can feel it.

Querying agents brought me 75 rejections. But apparently, that’s nothing, which, most writers will tell you. Do I believe them?  I must.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Every agent, editor or publisher doesn’t have to like your book. Just one person who will believe in you.

2. Attitude is everything. Keeping yourself upbeat despite rejection is a journey and it can be a joy, demonstrating your determination. Plus, that can be an inspiration for others no matter their goals. So win-win!

3. It’s important to keep writing on other projects, as well as that gem you have so much faith in.

4. Attend writing conferences. You will  receive feedback there and make connections with other writers and editors and publishers and hopefully agents. The Gold Conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is in Denver September 20-22. You can sign up at www.rmfw.com.

5. Blog. What tremendous joy I have felt from connecting to others. Instant feedback and gratification to spur the writer on.

So stay tuned. I will keep you in the loop.

If you’re a writer, just begin!

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The Now

In case any of you are dreaming of the next season coming up, I’ll give you a hand.

I may be the only one applauding when the lightning and thunder roll in with late afternoon clouds storming and performing proclaiming summer is on its way out.

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In the early days,  I never disclosed that I didn’t like a particular season. At least not openly. Our family spent hot steamy summers in Waco, Texas and I loved absolutely every minute of it, primarily because of the love.

In later years I realized the truth of the matter was I adored  the ocean.

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If I couldn’t live near the sea to  breath in the damp air and smell those summer breezes as they washed over me,  then I wanted the snow.

And that’s where I ended up. Near the mountains where snow is plentiful.

Yesterday someone reminded me that once snow fell as early as September 19. My body relaxed. Snow was on its way.

And I was delighted.

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But something niggled at the back of my psyche. I knew better than to look backwards so I’d become an advocate of looking forward. But, what about being present in the moment?

What about loving where we are right now? This minute.  What about looking out our window and appreciating what we have?

What about our goal for today, just today?

What about the now?

(Thanks Pinterest for lightning and ocean photos. Snow photo by Darla)

ROCK-A-BYE BABY

A new frontier is emerging in Washington D.C.

I learned this from a visiting friend as she was sipping sweet tea on my patio. We’d been friends since the seventh grade and were catching up. I mentioned I might look for a job.

With a smile, she suggested I become a sleep lady.

Before I could say I wasn’t that kind of woman she told me what a sleep lady does.

A busy mom hires a person to help her child fall asleep.

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What? Are you kidding me?

I know, I know. It sounded bogus. I thought she was surely joking, but as it turned out a woman she knew parlayed that talent into $4000 over a period of weeks.

Apparently,  a woman with a high-powered job brought her child home from the hospital, and since she had to have slept to work the next day, she hired a sleep lady.

Flashes from the past raced through my head. Sleepless nights and rocking chairs and holding little ones.

As she continued talking, I felt sympathy for the woman who was not able to stick with her child through the night. Or, of course, to let the child cry and eventually learn to fall asleep on its own.

I do sympathize big time with sleep deprivation both for babies and parents. And I’ve run into some strange ways people solve the problem.

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Two parents in our New Jersey neighborhood years ago put their infant in the car every night and one of them would drive around the neighborhood until the child fell asleep.  I know. I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

I took a sip of tea and brought my mind back to my friend who told me of another new job that had astounded her.

One woman had created quite a reputation for handling head lice issues. You call her after the school notifies you that the scourge has hit your child’s classroom.

The remedy years ago was shampooing everyone and everything in the family with a heavy-duty solution.  I remember having to do that a couple of times  with my own children.

Washing the bed linens and spraying anywhere their sweet little heads might have touched, including couches, carpet, etc.

And then using a special comb to literally inspect each strand of hair to make sure you’d gotten all of the nits.

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I’ll bet the woman who de-liced the house plus the family cost a fortune. And believe me, it was worth every penny.

After my friend left, I became obsessed with searching for unusual jobs.  It fascinated me, really. Until I found this one.

Arm pit sniffer at a deodorant company?

Really?

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Is that legitimate? Maybe.

Thanks pinterest.com for all these photos.