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D is for Discipline #atozchallenge – Am I truly grateful for this?

Discipline in Blogging for #AtoZChallenge!

Well, I was going to pick Dogs, Do-overs, Dumb Stuff, but I guess that's why Discipline is so important today. Let me explain.

My letter D (above) doesn't look like it would belong on a Navy SEAL Sweatshirt, does it? But it is very important, and here's why. We are the sum of all the life experiences we've had. As a storyteller, I spin these stories, placing one flower here, or a vine there, a color here or there, and all of a sudden we have a bouquet, a tapestry of stories filled with emotion. These come from my past, from my fantasies, from the future, from others. Who really cares where they come from, as long as, being a writer, it isn't plagiarized.

And here's the gratitude part (my theme for the month). Thank goodness we have all these experiences. Thank goodness we have the variety, color, the pain and the joy of living. Thank goodness we have more than enough to choose from.

Discipline means to Decide. To “kill of other options.” In a world where we are lucky enough to have so many options, we have to learn to pare down to the useful and focus on our goals, or out energy gets pulled away, wasted, if you will, in thousands of different direction.

The word Decide has the ending like other “cides” – and I know you can creatively think of them on your own. We choose what to let into our lifespace (my new favorite word), we choose what stories to tell. In terms of working with addiction issues, we learn which Dog to feed. We starve the dog that isn't good for us, and feed the dog that brings about all the miracles. Sometimes we are drawn and choose unwisely. Then we get a do-over the next time it comes up.

Here's some Double D's – my favorite thing to write about (crazy, I know). But I just love my heroines to be big chested.

Yes, I think these are DD's

Now, that's a lot of dumb stuff, but I managed to include all my words, weave them together with today's word, Discipline.

What Dog are you feeding and what Dog are you starving?



Carneros Inn

WOW. Just Wow. I spent yesterday at an all-day seminar in the beautiful Carneros Inn in Napa, with the awesome Elizabeth Gilbert. It was a gift to myself for a year of inspiration, frustration, tears and mostly wonder. I'm at the point in my career I'm ready to hit the re-set button. Taking classes outside of writing, more in inspiration, the brain function and what it means to be in connection and relationship. That goes everywhere. And right now all these thoughts are like a school of colorful angel fishes swimming around my brain as I write them down.

To say I got inspired is to say I am alive. Several things she gave to me, but the first one was her connection with her readers and her audience. Her new book, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear is a #1 Bestseller, and there is no wonder why. It is, as she puts it, her manifesto. I think every writer on the planet should read it. Here are only a few of the things that have settled in enough to be identifiable. And how perfect is it that I've booked a room at the Kenwood Inn for 3 days of writing, reflection and planning out next year's schedule for me. The Kenwood Inn has been prominent in some of my yet-to-be works, and some of my SEAL stories. I have an encounter with the uncompromisingly hunky Victorian British explorer in a time travel novel that is half finished, based upon bringing Sir Richard Burton (the explorer) to modern times, where he would have lived a perfect life. A man living before his time, for sure.

Anyway, that's another story or ten. Here's what I learned yesterday:

Have a conversation with Fear. Let Him Speak. Yes, for me, Fear is a man. He asked me some questions and suggested that perhaps I don't want to run away so fast from him, that his rooms were populated with some of the most interesting characters I've written, hope to write and real-life people who scare me with their brilliance. He was sultry and suggestive, I have to say, even sexy. Does that sound insane? He suggested I hang out with him more, that life would be a little more exciting, that he'd have my back, and would make sure I didn't really get into the kind of irreparable trouble I worried about…He asked me this question, “Sharon, when was it that you stopped riding on roller coasters you loved as a child?” And then he asked, “When was it you decided safe meant you'd live longer?”

Have a conversation with my Faery Godmother. She wrote me a long letter about what's in store for me. It involves dressing up in costumes, going to exotic places, going dancing in a big ball gown by candlelight. “Claim back some of the fun you folded and put away in lavender-scented drawers. They looked nice, Sharon, all folded up, and you thought you were practicing good self care.”

Better to eat more gelato

Like the Velveteen Rabbit conversation, she suggested my fun have all the hair rubbed off it and get squishy joints. It doesn't deserve to be folded in a drawer, even if it is lavender-infused…

She also suggested more hair color. More laughter. Finding more people to share the vision with. Oh! I loved this lady, and she didn't look anything like Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, HBC, but she would have been her sister.

Write a Permission Slip. You know the ones, the hall passes you used to get in High School, the permission to do X,Y and Z. What if your inner principal gave you a permission slip for the rest of your life? What would it say? Some of the things on mine were:  Permission to be inconsistent. Permission to play the music too loud. Permission to feel and to mine for the feelings. Permission to express love, to be deserving of pure everlasting love.

This was the hardest list of all for me to write in. My inner principal is looking for another appointment. Summing it up, I think he wants to give me Permission to be happy.

Elizabeth gave me permission to do a creativity triage. Suggested we read this poem every day, and I will, by Louise Erdrich

Advice to Myself 

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first

what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons 
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

My hope is that I be able to play in this arena forever and that all of you who chose to join me will find your lives inspired as much as I have been by all the wonderful people around me. Enjoy your Sunday, my friends. May it be this way forever…


SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Living in Cinderella

Harry Chapin once said that every song he wrote had some little part of his life, some emotion he was feeling, or experience he remembered, and that it was impossible to be a songwriter without this “gift” as he called it.

I feel the same way as a writer. My early days as a child molded me in a very big way. We lived in Oakland when I was little, until my family moved to Palo Alto, where I lived until college. My parents bought the house from our pastor. It was way bigger than we needed, so my parents had two “grandmothers” who boarded two of the upstairs three bedrooms. The third bedroom was mine. My windows faced my mother's flower garden, some half acre going up a hillside. I used to spend hours and hours looking out that window at the garden and imagining all sorts of things in my future. Adventures and stories, and most of them love stories.

My best friend sent me this, the exact player I used to listen to!

I think I was about three when I moved in there. At first, I was scared, being all alone. We didn't get
the boarders for the first year. So I had the creaking upstairs all to myself–the locked attic doors at the side of the large staircase, and the empty rooms waiting for someone to come stay with us. My parents bought me a little record player, and I used to sit there all alone and listen to my stories on that single switch player, playing Walt Disney '45's, of Snow White, Cinderella, Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales sung by Danny Kaye.

These tales, especially Cinderella, resonated with me. It didn't take much imagination for me to put myself in Cinderella's shoes, waiting for my handsome Prince Charming to come take me away. I loved the beautiful blue gown with the lace trim made by her bird friends, as she danced the whole night in the arms of that dark-haired prince. I matched the tilt of her head, imagined what the feel of his hand would be on her tiny waist, imagined what the stars would be like as we'd twirl, and the ballroom would be transformed into some magical place where all things are possible and the future is brighter than the present.

I think I never stopped living there, really. I played those records so often, it's a wonder they didn't

wear out. I'd cry at the sad parts, and cry really hard at the Happily Ever After. I think those days were the happiest for me as a child. Being left alone, listening to songs and music and the spoken word of a love story.

And now it resonates with me. Life has come full circle. I've completed perhaps my “job” of being a mother, a dutiful wife, a career and income generator. I've done all those things for others, as well as myself. Now these days are for me, my gift to myself for a life worked hard for. I get to experience the fantasy of a life in the Happily Ever After, even if reality isn't there yet. I get to live in the fantasy of what could be. I no longer wish for the same things I did as a younger woman. I want to wrap myself in love stories and I don't care about reality.

I'm lucky enough to be living in Cinderella. It's as if I will manifest this fairy tale the more I write about it, the more I feel it. I gladly give up this world for that one.

I hear music. I feel like dancing. Won't you come along?


Jumping Out of Airplanes, Replanting Hydrangeas

I got a great quote this morning from Mark Divine, former Navy SEAL and now coach and Unbeatable Mind Academy founder, “I leaped into the dark abyss. Wind whipped by me, and the velocity of my jump picked up. With my eyes popping out of my head and a joker smile, I managed one thought: “this is either going to turn out really cool, or really shitty.”

This really spoke to me this morning. Several years ago now, our family visited a skydiving facility in the San Diego area to celebrate a great family victory. I decided to try to push my own personal boundaries, doing something that was so way over the top scary, even death-defying, that it would change my life forever.

And since I was going, the rest of my family went as well. Another one of Mom's crazy ideas. 

It was crazy, crazy fun. I jumped in tandem with “Tigger” my hooked up buddy, and he showed me points on the horizon after we'd pulled the chute: Mexico, the ocean, San Diego, the training facility and cars that looked like grains of white rice. I felt the cold air against me and then felt it warm as I got closer and closer to mother earth. I have to say the welcoming she did for this scared and tired traveler was inspiring.

Coach Devine goes on to say that we sometimes need to make that leap of faith, to go for it, put ourselves in failure's way, to get the prize behind the door. The unspoken part is the small print that says, “or die trying.” This is something every elite warrior knows, but not anything we dwell on.

My relationship to the earth is very strong. Being an organic gardener for over 40 years has taught me things about life, while watching plants grow, thrive, and yes, die. So, when I jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet, though I was with someone who was very experienced, it was a disconnect from all the familiar sensations of my everyday life, and a leap into something else. 

I have these big beautiful hydrangeas in our backyard. We're in the middle of a big project to make a space we can look at through our 13′ roll up glass garage door-cum-dining room window. We overlook a forest, but one that had to be pruned and thinned. We have sudden oak death around us, and the bay trees are the carrier. So, about ten big trees are being removed. And so now my beautiful hydrangeas, some of them over ten years old, have to be moved to a more shady location. I am concerned for their roots, and their relocation, just like I was when I jumped out of the airplane with no roots. I resist change and will miss them if they don't make it. They have become a part of me.

The transition from the familiar garden in my backyard to something new and miraculous is hard for me. Maybe all change is hard for me. Maybe that's why jumping out of a plane was hard for me. But do I want to live my life with the routine of the ordinary, “quiet desperation” as Coach Divine says, or embrace: 

The more capable you are as a person, the bigger the challenge you must bring to yourself.

I have to say the answer to that question on this glorious Saturday in June is, yes. Yes. Bring it on. Now, where's the airstrip?


Q is for Quiet

Welcome back to the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my Letters of Gratitude. Q is for Quiet, especially the quiet hours of the morning.

The favorite part of my writing day is the very early “wee hours of the morning,” as the song says. Before the house wakes up and the activities of a busy family begin, the early morning quiet has always been so important to me.

My husband and I have gotten into the habit of soaking in the hot tub, waiting and watching the sun rise. These days, there is the shadow of a chalky moon in the sky, and the last few stars. I love the canopy of black turn into a deep vibrant blue, and then lighten until everything is covered in a golden glow.

Hard not to be inspired with this splash of color. Nature's bounty. Evidence of a great day unfolding. I also spend a half hour writing in my journal, and reading some select pieces that bring me things that enhance the quality of my life.

But when the owls are hooting and the early birds are just beginning to stir, there is a magic that descends over my laptop. I love the words written then.

What about you? What do you do in the early “wee hours of the morning?”


F is for Falling In Love

F is for Falling In Love!

Welcome to Day 6 of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I'm talking about a month of gratitude.

Where would we be without love? Do you remember that fuzzy feeling in your belly when you've just met that “special” person? You can't sleep. You don't want to eat. You run into things and say words you have never said before. You do things you never thought you would do, like go skydiving, go hot tubbing in the nude, wear a string bikini or don Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland. You open the sunroof at night to watch the stars with the heater on full blast. You take more walks, hold hands, go see more movies. You smile a lot more.

In writing romance, I absolutely live for the scene when the hero and heroine meet. If I get that right, the whole book stands up and demands to be written. I mean, take no prisoners. Shout it from the highest hill. It makes me sing along to music in Safeway and do handstands on my shopping cart. I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

Romance is defined by two things:
     1. The woman always wins
     2. There is always a happily ever after.

Fact is, I think reading romance novels is actually good for your health. We live in a world of harsh reality. What's wrong with a little fantasy now and then? I've heard it said that great sex is between the ears. Do you doubt this in your own life?

You can call it animal attraction, or a divine gift from a father who only wants what is good and healthy for us. But falling in love, although invisible, can be measured by the actions it produces. I leave it up to your imagination.

Hey, it's spring. Did you think all my posts on gratitude would be heavy? Let's all get the heck knocked out of us by love. And feel grateful we can feel, we can love, we can have hope for a bright future with someone from our dreams.


I’m Spring Cleaning in the Fall

Leap of Faith, here. I'm de-cluttering my writing room. Taking pictures here so I can show you how nice and clean it will be after Sunday night, when I'm done! Like tossing your cap over the fence (which means you have to scale the fence to retrieve it).

I have piles of things I want to do sometime in the next year. Some things I intended to do 6 months or a year ago and never got to. I have stuffed into boxes a craft project I started too late for Christmas last year. My nose was tweaking the more I sorted through the boxes just to see what I hadn't looked at in over a year!  Dust!

When I sold Real Estate full time, every time I cleaned my desk I would do an extra piece of business that week. Didn't mean it was something I found that I needed to followup on, but the de-cluttering space I now occupied helped me be more focused, more in tuned with my customers. But it was almost a joke, as my staff would wait for that phone call that would come some time in the next  7 days, bringing a new customer. Like God was rewarding me.

A lot of my nice things were destroyed when our house burned down in 2008. We've been in the new house now just over a year. Still incomplete, I discovered I designed a house that was bright and light, with wonderful two story walls and windows, including a huge roll up garage door window in my dining room, but did not plan into it any storage. So, closets, like this one, are few and far between, and have become catch-alls.

I'm reading a book on Simplicity, making do with less. Seems to be something a lot of people are struggling with. Making do with less money, less things, less complications. I'm even doing with less weight, having lost 40# since May, and that definitely means a lot less of the binge foods that got me to my predicament. And, like my closet and messy writing room, putting off until later that time when I should diet and watch my weight, my body became cluttered with extra baggage.

Not any longer.

Truth is, I have a beautiful home, glorious in all ways that are important to me. I love how the music wafts up to the second story, and the grand living room feels like a sanctuary of sound when I play my favorite CD or listen to Sirrius. I play the Spa channel all night long.

So now God gave me this second chance to live here in this new space. Time to act like I deserve it. Watch for my next post where I will proudly display that I've cleaned up my act.



Oh The Places You Will Go

One of my friends retired and was leaving for a very long vacation, sailing around the world. He'd been planning this trip for his whole life. Part of it included some volunteer work in Thailand, I think.

We gave him the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You Will Go, and each of us took a page and signed a personal message to him. It was the perfect gift. I wish I had that book now to be able to quote from it, but all my children's books are still packed, having set them aside in storage during our house re-build. Since my children are all grown, I gave 13 boxes away to our local library. Now that I have grandkids, time to dust of the favorite ones I saved, start reading them all over again. Ah! That amazing cycle of life…
I love traveling, going places and being surprised. If I could afford it, I would travel every month to some exotic place. One of my writer friends, James Garcia, blogged yesterday about going to a Caribbean island or mountaintop resort for inspiration, like some famous musicians do. That would work for me.

In between my writing spurts, I could get a massage, be brought some fresh grilled seafood sprinkled with fresh lime and salsa, sip on fresh squeezed juices, and work on my tan.

The reality of this actually happening to me is practically nill, but I'm not dwelling on this. I'd have to become another Stephanie Meyer (I'm working on it, though). But the idea inspires me: traveling to fabulous places to write.
I copy pictures from online travel magazines and frequently look at them. I think about what story I could write there, let my mind wander. Nice thing about this is I go there without spending any money! I meet imaginary people, act out imaginary love scenes on horse-drawn sleighs, rustic cabins, or in the warm sand at midnight under the moonlight. Each picture tells an adventure I have in my own head, something perhaps I could bring to the page and let readers experience in their own way as well.
Reading a good book takes us not only to a place, but a time. It takes us away from our everyday lives, and for little money, takes us on a journey of the author's mind.
As wonderful as these photographs are, the journey of the written word is much more epic. Imagination has no limitation in time and space. All it takes is just a little time, and a good couch or chair to sit in. And enjoy.