The Weekly Special: A plate of Inviolability.

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How good are you at being inviolable?

I received this small bit in an email from another writing friend this morning:

“Virtually the only way to free ourselves up for effective, dedicated writing is to block out the time and make it inviolable.  The most productive (and prolific) writers churn out several thousand words in three hours each day.”

I’ve read Stephen King’s Memoir on Writing. In there he revealed that he writes for 3 hours every morning—and then he’s done for the day. Just in case you were wondering.

Somewhere in my stack of clippings I read a piece of advice that speaks to our taking a check-in with ourselves by 2:30 every afternoon.

The writer suggested that we do this to determine if we are using our work day hours to our best advantage.

We are to ask ourselves: Am I accomplishing what I wanted to today? And if our answer is ‘no,’—well then—we still have enough time left in the work day to change our course and make something happen. Something that we will be happy with as we close our eyes at bedtime at the end of that day.

Ann Patchett was in Cedar Rapids a couple nights ago and gave a most rousing and entertaining talk on the writing process and being recognized as a writer (even by fathers who still don’t realize writing IS a REAL job).

In pre-talk publicity in an article in the local newspaper she was quoted thus:

“I know a lot of what my next novel is about, but I hate starting. I’m at the point when I’m ready to start and I wake up every morning and think of something else I can do, like cleaning out my sock drawer. I get down to doing every last thing that could be done and then finally when there’s nothing else to do, I start writing.”

I would like to say a special thanks to Ms Patchett for admitting to being human—and reminding me that I am, too. Having said that—the lady has finished and published, oh, say—at least 6 books by now. She obviously gets those ol’ sock drawers done and then slides into the chair to work.

Further suggestions for the daily work-pulse check come from an article written by Jocelyn Glei, “How to Set Smart Daily Goals.”

She suggests we ask ourselves three questions:

Am I intentional?

We should be aligning our actions with what matters to us. Do everything with a purpose. If our action isn’t serving a purpose, we ought to stop wasting our energy.

What am I doing?

Am I spending too much time on unimportant tasks? Do I want to keep frittering away my time like this?

Have I scheduled uninterrupted time today? (I believe this goes back to that inviolable word.)

Will I set time aside to “be still?” I agree with her that it’s more important than the general public wants to accept. Quiet time is the foundation for bringing order into our lives. Taking time to reflect, journal, meditate, strategize, imagine, and so forth will help us work more effectively.

I’ve been trying to find a new work approach lately. I’ve gone a bit helter-skelter this whole past year and it’s been niggling at me waaaay too much which only causes anxiety, so I’ve been trying to develop a solution.

Two questions I pose to myself these mornings are:

  • What do I want to accomplish today?
  • How realistic are they for this day?

 

Admittedly, I have not conquered my time use issues, but I feel I am at least asking myself the right questions.

We had a guest speaker in church this past Sunday. His topic was “Focus.” He quoted an equation taken from the 1997 book: The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to The Mental Side of Peak Performance, by W. Timothy Gallwey.

The equation looks like this:  P = p – i

Translation: Performance = potential – interference.

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Peace-Full

     In amongst the Christmas gift orders I’ve placed with Amazon and other online sites these past few weeks, I also purchased three new CD’s for our collection. 

     I have music going in the house, or at my desk, much of the time while I’m working, and it comes either from an XM radio source or our CD collection. This ensures having the kind of music that I want to match whatever writing mode, mood or energy level that I require in a given moment. 

     My husband and I are rock and roll ‘crazy,’ but I cannot write against it, so that gets reserved for encouraging one through heavy-duty housework chores, treadmill workouts, or just groovin’ veggin’ time. 

     Contemporary piano, acoustical guitar, New Age or Celtic music playing in the background elicits deep mental vibrations for me so I use it often when writing. I’ve discovered that Gregorian chants can get me through the most stressful of writing challenges or deadlines. 

     The title track from one of our new CDs, Bill Douglas’  Deep Peace,  is befitting for this week leading to Christmas. The Ars Nova Singers perform the choral pieces. Having sung in the past with a large chorale myself, I am a sucker for powerful choral work. 

     The lyrics are from a Gaelic blessing, and I offer them from our household to yours this Christmas week, and in the New Year to come. 

Deep Peace

Of the running wave to you 

Deep Peace

Of the flowing air to you 

Deep Peace

Of the quiet earth to you 

Deep Peace

Of the shining stars to you 

Deep Peace

Of the gentle night to you 

Moon and stars

Pour their healing light on you 

Deep Peace to you

Traditions pave the way.

Never far away

She was our third kid for the sixteen years we had her, and she will have a spot somewhere on our Christmas trees for as long as I’m the one doing the decorating. We used to have a red braided rug just like the one this lab is sleeping on. Our yellow lab Ginger logged in a lot of nap hours on said rug, so the first Christmas without her I bought this ornament and clipped it to the tree. That’s been the practice for the past six years. It’s become a tradition. My take on traditions is that they are like friends we invite back for a short visit every year. Our daughters, as well as friends who visit, look for ‘Ginger’ on the tree when they come for the holidays.

That same Christmas our youngest daughter Jennifer started another tradition for our family. She created the Christmas Wish box you see in the photo below.

That Christmas evening before we all said our good-byes she handed us small slips of paper and instructed us to write our wish for the approaching New Year. We all complied, placed them inside the box, and she took it back home with her for safekeeping until the next Christmas. There’s one major rule: No one is allowed to say their wish out loud.

She’ll be bringing that box home in another week, and at the end of Christmas night we’ll open it up, read our own wish for 2010—share it only if we want to–and then we’ll write down a new wish for 2011.

I honestly can’t remember the exact wish that I wrote 12 months ago, but as a writer looking to expand her horizons I have a faint idea,  and I am looking forward to rereading it.

A writer friend of mine shared the following quote with me that she remembered from some local radio program: Traditions are fine as long as they are tempered by the progress today brings.

In my case—writing down my wish helps me lay a mental plan for moving ahead—as a writer.

If you were asked to commit to a wish for 2011—do you know what it would be?

"Wishes Enclosed"

Nourish the Magic (with fruitcake to boot!)

I offer you the gift of the attached video.  It epitomizes what it is that I love so much about the approaching holiday season, and about maintaining the child still in us.

The smell of Christmas spice is lingering in our house this morning. Over the weekend I baked fruitcake. I used two different recipes yielding six “bricks” as some fruitcake haters might call them. We don’t call them bricks around here—my family likes fruitcake. One recipe uses absolutely no “scary stuff”—those sticky, candied fruit peels. It requires only dried fruits of all kinds and three kinds of nuts. The other recipe has some of the scary stickies in it—and chocolate chips. Quite fun.

Last week when the temps hit 70 degrees one day I got a jump on the season and strung our Christmas lights across the bushes in front of our house. I also went browsing in a floral shop that is decorated for the Season already, and I bought this new snow globe. I picked it up and put it down twice before I decided to give myself permission to buy a new Christmas decoration. We hardly need another thing to be packed away after the day has come and gone, but this globe pulled me in when I turned its switch and watched the lights change color against the snow glitter inside. That evening when I saw the way it lit up the room with its “quiet” way, it reminded me of why I will never grow up completely. I don’t want to miss out on that simple magic.

I cringe when I hear people in the stores say things like, “Christmas isn’t that far off . . .” ‘Oh, I know . . . I’m just dreading it.’

Are you kidding me?! What’s to dread? Christmas isn’t the problem. We have a choice: allow the super-commercialization to clobber us and our debit cards over the head, or guard our time and energy for what really resonates with us.

There’s nothing Pollyanna about my approach here. I have a brother-in-law facing “suspicious” medical unknowns this week. My sister-in-law experienced a near-fatal medical episode a while back. A church I’ve been a part of for many years will decide this week if they need to close their doors; people will be losing their jobs. Friends of mine are dealing with job burn-out and are nowhere near retirement age. I am mindful and concerned for all of them.

I hope you haven’t grown up so much that you no longer ‘get it,’ and I also hope you will keep this snow globe handy for when things get crazy for you.

AUTHOR NOTE: The video was made while listening to the music of W.G. Snuffy Walden’s arrangement of “The First Noel,” as recorded on the CD titled: A Windham Hill Christmas. My family and I own a broad range of both Mr. Walden’s work as well as other Windham Hill musicians/products.

Feel like giving the eternally maligned fruitcake another chance? See if this recipe works for you.

 “No scary sticky things” Fruitcake

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. allspice

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. cloves

½ tsp. mace

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

¾ cup black coffee (cold)

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, craisins, peaches, apricots, etc.)

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or pecans—your choice)

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

¼ cup rum or brandy (apple cider could be used, but why?)

DIRECTIONS:

 Mix the melted butter, eggs, rum and coffee together.

Add brown sugar and mix well.

Add rest of dry ingredients and place in a sprayed and floured loaf pans. I use two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.

Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until done. Test with a cake tester.

NOTE: Do not use glass baking dishes for this.

After cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, remove them from pans; allow to finish cooling, and then wrap well and freeze until needed.

Acquired Grace

       I found the following poster at a gift shop in Chatham, Massachusetts several years ago. Liked it so much I had it framed and now it hangs among the other artwork and intuitive writings on the walls of my office.

 

The Older I Get

The more I notice outrageous beauty

Of stars and moon against the sky…

The softer a baby’s skin feels…

The less panicky I am during sleepless nights…

The less easy answers I have…

The hungrier I am for connectedness…

The less I know, the more I wonder…

The longer I linger in snowfalls…

The kinder I am with weakness…

The more honest I am with myself…

The more I understand children’s logic…

The less rigid I am…

                                      The mightier the ocean seems each time I visit…

                   The less I wonder how old I’ll be someday…

The more hugs I give…

The gentler I am with myself…

The less I think of what I think…

The faster I clean my house…

The wiser I long to be…

The more I realize how impatient I’ve always been with life…

The more opportunities I see in each day…

The more I think about the miraculous gift Beethoven gave to the world…

The more I play

The less I think of what others think…

The closer I feel to old, old friends…

The more natural prayer seems…

The more I enjoy a simple cup of tea…

The hotter I draw my bath water and the longer I lie in it…

The longer I listen…

The wider berth I give to sorrow in the grand scheme of things…

The younger in spirit I feel…

The quieter my inner self becomes…

The greater my appreciation of harmony…

The more time I spend looking at stained glass windows…

The more comfortable I am with solitude…

The more I see good coming out of difficulties…

The more grateful I am to be alive

The more beautiful I am becoming.

    (Gail Kittleson/Holly Monroe ©1998 Abby Press)

Rainbow Living

I have the following poster by Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy framed and hanging in my office.

I don’t care if you are a writer, CEO, lawyer or garbage collector; SARK’s advice in this collection isn’t lost on any of us.

I hope your writing, creative or otherwise, is going well for you today.

Rebecca

 

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

By ©SARK90

 

Stay loose.

Learn to watch snails.

Plant impossible gardens.

Invite someone dangerous to tea.

Make little signs that say Yes! And post them all over your house.

Make friends with Freedom and uncertainty.

Look forward to dreams.

Cry during movies.

Swing as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight.

Cultivate moods.

Refuse to “be responsible.”

Do it for love.

Take lots of naps.

Give money away. Do it now. The money will follow.

Believe in magic. Laugh a lot.

Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take moonbaths.

Have wild imaginings, transformative dreams, and perfect calm.

Draw on the walls. Read every day. Imagine yourself magic.

Giggle with children. Listen to old people. Open up. Dive in. Be free. Bless yourself. Drive away fear. Play with everything. Entertain your inner child. You are innocent. Build a fort with blankets. Get wet. Hug trees.

Write love letters.

 

SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is a best-selling author who offers inspiration and guidance to people for living more authentically, and being actively creative on a daily basis.