Create Your Own Path

Has your path in life left you sort of walking around aimlessly?  I confess to feeling that way lately myself.  So I’m sharing another of my erstwhile “Weekly Messages” that I used to write at work.  At that time I knew where I was “walking,” even if I might feel a tad aimless right now.  So here’s a dose of my own advice that I’m giving myself, and sharing with you.

When Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” I think he had some insight into plotting a path, whether in life or at work.  Take a look at this conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

Alice Wonderland 1923“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there — and “there” just might turn out to be a place where you do not want to be.  Plus you might have to do a lot of “walking” to get to that place where you’d really rather not be.  People have to take a moment to look at where they are and where they want to be.  Or else they run the risk of overlooking opportunities, spinning their wheels, and never having any control over their own destiny.

Some people are blessed in such a way that great opportunities seem to simply come to them.  The rest of us have to make our own opportunities, develop skills and experience ourselves, and otherwise get ourselves qualified for the jobs we want.  However, we can take a great sense of accomplishment in forging our own destinies.  Take the initiative.  It’s all up to you. Nobody can do it for you.

The first step to plotting your path is knowing what you want – where you want to go.  After that, step outside the box.  Step beyond what’s required of you.  You might volunteer for something, officially or simply helping your friends.  It can give you the chance to do something different, and so create a new skill or interest.  Create your own path.  Find your own way of benefiting your employer, your community, your friends — and therefore yourself, in whatever way you can.

Keep your eyes open for the opportunities that brings.  You might not recognize them right away, because coming from new things, they won’t look the way you expect.  So don’t miss out on opportunities.

Now don’t get me wrong – nobody said it’s easy.  Establishing your path (or changing it for that matter) is hard work.  If you want to make a really big change, or huge progress, you’ll most likely have to make sacrifices.  However, isn’t it worth hard work?  Isn’t it worth (temporarily) giving up some of the things you like, if it lets you take charge of your destiny?  Isn’t it worth it if you can spend your efforts doing things that you enjoy — things that make you smile with a big Cheshire grin?Cheshire Grin

Facing Fear

I gave myself a rule to restrict “Teagan’s Books” to writing and indie publishing related topics. However, with a previous director at work, one of my tasks was writing a motivational message every week. During the past few days one of those messages has repeatedly come to mind.  Maybe, I said to myself, someone needs to hear it.  So I’m making an exception to my rule.

TooncesFor me, the past eighteen years has been a constant exercise in improving my situation in life.  That has forced me to be constantly ready to tackle obstacles that are all but insurmountable for one person; alone.  I mean things like driving all the way across the country with only my two cats for moral support — cats who, unlike Toonces in the old Saturday Night Live shows, cannot help with the driving!

But I digress.  Here is that message.

Facing Fear

Last week I was stuck inside an elevator for a while.  That circumstance made me think of the countless things we all fear.  Many people have one particular fear that holds them back in work and in life – they are afraid of doing something they think they can’t do.  We often hear the terms “fear of failure” or “fear of the unknown,” and I guess those are pretty close to the same thing.

If you’re afraid you can’t lead that project, so you don’t try, then how do you gain the experience you would have gotten by doing it?  Whether or not the project was a success you still would have learned things.  If you’re afraid to swing the bat at that softball, so you don’t even try, then how are you going to get into the game?  If you’re afraid you can’t remember the words to a song, so you never sing it, then who will hear your voice?  If you’re afraid to dip that brush into the paint, so you never create the picture, then who will see your vision?

Was there ever a time when you were terrified of doing something, but somehow, you gathered your courage and did it?  No matter how it went, I hope you were proud of yourself for trying.  There is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. 

You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” 

Isn’t that a powerful thought?  Look fear in the face.  To grow strong, courageous, and confident – look fear in the face.  If you think you can’t do something – do it.  Wow.  It would have been interesting, even fascinating to have known Eleanor Roosevelt.

Cow-Fear Yes, fear has its value.  It prompts us to protect ourselves in dangerous situations.  However, the wrong kind of fear becomes corrosive.  It eats away at our ability to think clearly, prevents us from trying new things, testing new ideas.

So I ask you, what are the things you think you can’t do?  Make a list of them and look at it.  Now, isn’t there at least one thing on that list that you really, really think you should be trying to do?

Yes, I thought there was.  Are you ready to look fear in the face?

Sweet and Sour

Even though Teagan’s Books has been online for a while, I have little time for the blog or the other endless tasks that consume the hours of an indie author.  Still, every few days I learn something new about indie publishing and/or blogging.  It might be a sweet little tidbit that helps me with the marketing aspect, or something sour that is still helpful because it tips me off to a potential pitfall.  However, passing fun “awards” to one another seems to be part of the blogging game, and it’s certainly part of the fun.

Given the limited reach of my blog (so far!) I’m surprised to get a second award.  It’s downright shocking considering how sour I’ve been lately.  Coincidentally, I’ve had a relentless sweet tooth!  Ha!  Maybe that craving attracted this “Super Sweet Blogger Award.” super-sweet

So my sincere thanks to Mary J. McCoy-Dressel, romance writer extraordinaire, for nominating me — and to Siobhan Daiko for getting the game rolling when she nominated Mary.

Again, being new, can’t really follow the rules to nominate a “baker’s dozen” other bloggers, since I don’t know many.  However, I will “nominate” all of you to post a comment about your favorite sweet treat!

Now, for my part in the game.  I will not be held responsible for any cravings the answers to these questions might cause.  Bear in mind that my answers would be more fun, and many would be different, if I was not allergic to eggs.  Oh how I miss pastries…

1. Cookies or Cake?        Cookies; sandies when I can find egg-free.  I used to love angel food cake.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla?                Chocolate.  I buy 85% dark chocolate bars and eat one little square at a time.  That little bit is usually enough to satisfy me, with the intense chocolate content.

3. Favorite Sweet Treat?              Post-egg-allergy it is sorbet – raspberry, peach, or mango, during the summertime anyway.  Or the extra-dark chocolate above.  Or… do I really have to choose?

4. When Do You Crave Sweet Things The Most?              After a meal, or weekend mornings with my coffee.

5. Sweet Nick Name?     For whatever incomprehensible reason some people call me “Sweetheart” or Sweetie.”  Only a few can get away with it.  LOL.  But that’s such a southern thing, it’s really a part of “southern culture,” so I try not to bristle or turn sour.

Have a sweet day.

Summer and Winter

The summer solstice has not yet arrived but… Winter is coming!

I’ve been toying with a cover idea for “The Dead of Winter.”  This is just an initial concept, but I had fun with it.  The image of the girl was so much like “Emlyn” looks in my mind, I thought I’d share.

DoW 06-15-2013 The border was better (dark red) before I had to edit the reflection I made… but you get the idea.  It’s hard to tell here, but I made reflections of the two human images, representing the part of the story that deals with both the living and the dead.  However, I’m tossing around ideas about how many “character” images I should show, wondering if something else might match the story better.  Or perhaps just the young heroine, the raven, and a wolf — also key to the story.  However, finding images of those creatures in similar styles proved very difficult.

Now back to summer.  June 21st is Midsummer, the summer solstice, the first day of summer.  It might be fun to read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” again.  You can get it free at one of my favorite sites, Project Gutenberghttp://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1514

Happy Summer,

teagan

Three Things and Recurring Characters

Many of you have heard me talk about my “Three Things” writing exercise, but let me explain it for those who have not. Many years ago I developed the exercise as a way to keep me writing. I wasn’t working on any novel at that time. This exercise lends itself to any form of writing, but it’s particularly fun for fiction.

Old Chevy Highway My rules for the “Three Things” are that you find three random things and write until you’ve mentioned all of them. The more haphazard the things, the better – it makes your mind reach further. For instance, if you had road, Chevrolet, and sunset, you don’t have to work very hard to write until you’ve mentioned those things. You have probably already thought of a single sentence that includes all of them. Haven’t you? I like to let mine take form as part of a story. It might be the beginning, middle, or end. However, the point is to write as much as you can, whatever you’re writing.

It can be oddly difficult to keep coming up with things that are truly random on your own. I like to ask my friends to send them to me. I also keep a big jar filled with little scraps of paper, each of which as a thing written on it. Sometimes I flip through TV channels jotting the first thing I see on a station. (It’s remarkable how much alike they all appear when you’re looking it from that point of view.)

When I first created this exercise, every day I asked a friend to give me my three things. He was good at throwing me disconnected things. When he saw that I was paying attention to my writing, rather than to him, he started trying to stump me with increasingly absurd things. Unfortunately for him, that’s when it really got fun! Rather than doing separate exercises each day, I strung the daily Three Things together and created a crazy, fun little mystery story. Where the story went was entirely dependent on the random words of the day. I’m sad that I lost that tale, along with several others… but that’s another story.

Reading articles from other writers I’ve found that I’m not alone in one phenomenon – recurring characters. Before I started writing “The Dead of Winter,” I had gone back to the “Three Things” exercise. I found that every now and then, the handful of unplanned words brought up a young girl who lives in a small desert town. Her name is Harley. Here is one of her “Three Things.”

(Anna’s Heir, do these sound familiar?  I think you may have sent them to me back when.)

***

 Jambalaya, 1950s, Mom and pop business

Despite her best efforts to be on time that morning, Harley had missed the bus. Her mom was always pissed if she had to take her to school. Harley understood that it meant taking time away from the morning rush at the little mom and pop business her mother ran. Harley sighed, aggravated at herself. She wasn’t late on purpose, she just couldn’t seem to help it.

She kicked a rock on the dusty road as she walked home from the bus stop. A gust of wind sent a tumbleweed rolling past. Harley watched as it bounced toward town and wondered if the tumbleweed would run the single traffic light. Would sheriff Carson write it a ticket? The idea made her laugh for the first time that day… maybe for the first time that week. She chuckled as she headed up the gravel drive to the house where she lived with her mother, and sometimes with her older brother – when he was in town. It was a 1950s rambler. Between the three of them, they managed to keep it in good repair.

She took a large plastic bowl of Jambalaya out of the freezer so it could begin to thaw before dinner time. That might improve her mom’s mood – something from “back home,” where she had spent her girlhood. Harley knew the aroma of Cajun cooking always made her mom happy.