Writing Lessons: What Writing Can Teach You About Letting Go

{Etsy journal by BroadwayHouseBooks}

{Etsy journal by BroadwayHouseBooks}

Every day I strip my writing.

Sometimes I work on small business features.

Sometimes it’s advertorials.

When I get a chance, it’s a picture book, or a self-help piece.

But no matter what it is, I always go through the same debilitating process of cleaning up prose. The hard thing is sometimes they’re good parts I fall in love with, but they’re also completely wrong for what I’m working on.

Why Editing Prose is Like Editing Your Life

It’s hard to let go of what seems right.

It’s difficult to push my finger down on delete when I want so much to find a place for that phrase.

It’s heartbreaking when I must finally let it go.

But I realized that the alternative, leaving out of place words just because I can’t part with them, ends up spoiling everything.

How familiar that song sounds when sung about love, friendships, jobs that don’t work.

On the surface, they look good, they seem right. We’re hooked in deep. They serve our need for certainty and comfort. We’re too afraid to be in the space between where we are to where we want to be.

It’s not easy to let go into nothingness.

But when we are courageous, when we’re willing to give up whatever or whoever it is, the mystery of the unknown will surprise us with life-growing and healing gifts.

Like the ill-fitted sentence that must be sacrificed in order to create a whole piece, sometimes we need to give up the certainty in our lives, for the pleasure and joy that comes with finally, letting go.

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The Myth of Aging and Success

{Etsy ornament by AtelierDenise}

{Etsy ornament by AtelierDenise}

If somebody has ever told you, “You’re too old to do that,” you understand the discouragement that comes with aging.

Are they right?

Maybe there are some positions where youth is mandatory. However, I think we need to lift the veil of aging-I think like fame, and luck, age can be a distraction to our success.

I’ve been told I should’ve been successful in my 20s. I started pursuing my dreams as a writer later in life and that means I’m behind, not ahead of the game. It means I won’t get there. It means there are younger, more energetic and ambitious writers who will have more momentum and eventually trample over me.

It’s tempting to think that way simply because it makes sense. I am older. I started later. There are people who are younger than me.

Don’t Let Age Be an Excuse for Failure

We can buy into that belief and let it be an excuse to give up. It can justify why we’re not where we want to be. It can give us a reason to stop trying.

Pastor Joel Osteen reminded me of something. He said we get distracted on our path toward success by the shiny and beautiful person next to us. We forget that we each have our own gifts. We forget we are all on our own journey. It’s not about comparing where we are with that person or that person. It’s about remembering we can achieve what we want, when we’re ready to achieve it.

You may not get there at a young age. You won’t get there the way she did or he did. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever get there. It doesn’t mean you’re destined to failure.

If you need proof, check out all these people who achieved phenomenal success at a later age.

You may need to hustle. You will need to put in the hard work. But don’t let age be another reason, another obstacle that stands in the way of all the jewels you have to offer. The world is waiting for you to stop making excuses and start pursuing your dreams.

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The Key to Coping With Failure

 Butterfly

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he speaks of the dreaded R we didn’t learn in school with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

Resistance.

It’s the word responsible for more failed dreams than anything else. It’s unfinished projects, unsuccessful diets, and unfulfilled dreams. It’s the fear inside that said, “Well last time I failed at that. I’m never going to do that again!”

It’s what’s keeping us all hidden, scared, and silenced.

It’s the reason why we place so much meaning, value and importance on feedback. We’re afraid of the shame that comes from failing, the unworthiness factor, the belief tucked under that asks, “Am I good enough?”

What helped me recently is reading this Real Simple quote:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

You mean to tell me that I can fail again. That the goal to success is to not avoid failure, but to fail better?

That’s what I thought too.

When I realized I didn’t have to tip-toe through the minefield of failure because if I’m growing, it will always be present, life seemed a lot less overwhelming.

The key isn’t to figure out how to never fail again. The key is to fail more efficiently.

What does that mean?

Instead of getting 10 rejections, shoot for 5. Instead of a complete overhaul of your copy, focus on getting feedback to edit a few sentences.

This may sound like shooting for the grass instead of the trees or the clouds instead of the moon. But if you continue on the path of 1 step forward, 2 steps backwards, you will eventually get there. If you approach a dream with the belief that you have to succeed flawlessly, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and give up.

So that’s my motto these days.

Fail successfully…

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Transformation

Transformation is one of those words that sounds easier and loftier than change. The latter often beckons its listeners to hide, avoid or escape. Why is change so scary, but transformation seem as elegant as a caterpillar turning into a butterfly?

I think because all of us innately know transformation is necessary in order to truly live. Change sounds force upon us by something beyond our control. One is our humanely right. The other something to fear.

Truthfully, however, we need both to wake up to our lives.

Change can inspire transformation. An external event, an illness, a loss, even a positive experience like marriage or a new baby can force our hand. What we thought we knew no longer applies. Some people embrace this change. Others fear it.

I tend to fall into both categories. Initially I go into panic mode when change arrives. But by quickly submerging myself into whatever newness is taking place, I find peace in acceptance and surrendering. Through life’s greatest challenges, I realized I can either resist and cause myself more suffering or I can learn how to ride the wave of unexpectedness and allow whatever is happening to transform me. Doing so has always given me the greatest lessons.

Recently, for example, I kept running into an annoying problem without any solution in site. How do you resolve a reoccurring conflict? One way to automatically fail is to continue to do what you have been doing and expect a different scenario.

In order to change the situation and break free from it, you need to reach in deep and do something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, sweat a little and do what doesn’t always feel natural. I learned I can either take this challenge as an annoyance that is “happening to me” or I can think of it as a lesson “happening for me.” That tiny shift in perspective ended up being a HUGE insight to me! I quickly learned the lesson wasn’t to feed my ego, defend myself, or manipulate the situation. What I needed to do was be vulnerable, be honest, and communicate in a way that was 1) respectful 2) genuine 3) filled with integrity.

Sometimes we get bogged down in proving ourselves because of low self-esteem, a critical environment or a traumatic childhood. Automatically we feel the need to justify and defend every decision we make. But if we step out of that and trust our true selves we remember that nothing other people say or think matters as much as how we view and think about ourselves.

How to Transform Your Life

Transformation takes courage, discipline and a lot of patience. But it can start out small. Interestingly, you can start by changing your external circumstances. For example, start noticing your home, your workplace, your physical environment. Is there anything you can do to make things more pleasant for yourself? Decluttering, organizing, donating items that no longer serve their purpose. These things seem superficial. But look at something that bothers you every day is like a paper cut. Seemingly benign, but it cuts at you over time.

Life coach Martha Beck says she notices when clients change their outward appearance, there’s often an internal change. I think you can also begin to start small by changing your physical environment or appearance to initiate change in your life.

Eventually you will gain the confidence to create consistent change in your life and that will begin the journey toward life-long transformation…

Kitchen Reno

Our kitchen before.

{Our kitchen in process...}

{Our kitchen in process…}

{Almost there.}
{Almost there.}

{Nearly done.}

{Nearly done.}

white cabinets with chicken wire

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How to Find Peace in the Midst of Chaos

Smack dab in chaos.

Smack dab in chaos.

I’m literally in the throes of physical chaos and it’s making me a little mental. Our first place is in the process of being renovated and as we speak flooring is going in. At the same time, we have no kitchen sink and our home looks like a tornado whipped through it. It’s forced me to find corners and nooks for peace.

Most people wait until life settles before they enjoy it. Their focus is on what’s not done yet. Like my kitchen, it’s easy to obsess about the things that are not working the way we want it to. We want our life to go faster, our desires to come quicker, our problems to vanish now. Unfortunately, life doesn’t happen on our time. And in reflection, if it did, you wouldn’t be happier, wiser or wealthier. In fact, I’d presume all the growing and learning that could have happened while you were overcoming that stumbling block would stop.

I know it’s difficult to be patient when things are rough. I understand it on a visceral level. But if we could only hold on and learn to have just a tiny bit of faith to carry us through the difficult moments, we might find that the things we want are not as precious as the gifts we receive in the process.

I sometimes forget when frustrated, life is happening for me and everything I need is right here in the now. It’s too easy to get sucked into my own wants. I forget life is about learning. This is, but a platform for my soul to grow and develop as a person. I’m not here to get the best house or the finest job. I’m here to learn how to love and better myself. The challenges that bellow through like waves are not here to wipe me out without a purpose. They’re here to knock me down when I feel weak so that I remember how strong I am and to build me up so I can overcome the next one.

If you’re in the middle of chaos, reflect upon this. Eventually, whatever you’re dealing with will pass. But what will you have learned from it? Will you walk away in anger, resentment and regret or will you realize that was the moment when you grew up? Whatever you decide will predict what happens when the next wave hits…

To combat my own external chaos, I created a little peaceful nook to get me through. And it’s helped me. What will you grow to help you through this difficult time in your life?

Peace in chaos.

Peace in chaos.

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What is My Purpose In Life? The 3 Stages of Finding Your Purpose

{Etsy stamp from MountainsideCrafts}

{Etsy stamp from MountainsideCrafts}

I’ve spent about a decade trying to answer that question. I looked for it in books, from gurus, school counselors, life coaches and even psychics. But it only took revisiting my childhood passion to figure out what I always knew:

wish list for a typewriter + hours of making up stories + writing poems when I was 10 + obsessive reading & journal writing =  writer

It took remembering what brought me joy that helped me to find my purpose in life.

Through my own struggles, I’ve learned that there are several stages to the path of finding your purpose.

Stage 1: Actively Looking

You might be in high school or college or have years of work experience behind you, but feel like you missed the boat when it comes to living the life of your dreams. If that sounds like you, you’re in stage 1. This is when you’re most actively searching. Like me you might be taking career quizzes, searching the internet, talking with friends, family and a career counselor or a life coach, or reading a book to help you get clear.

Stage 2: Soul Searching

I’d call stage 1 more of a superficial search. You need to get to that point in order to start getting serious about what you want to do with your life. But to really find out what you want and who you are, you need to reach in deep. To bring out my passion for writing, I had to explore who I was as a child, what mattered most to me, and what brought me the most joy. It’s seems easy, but recalling who you are at your very core takes a bit of courage. There’s a reason why you’re not doing what you love right now. Someone told you a) that you couldn’t do it or b) that you shouldn’t do it so you buried that passion way in deep.

Stage 3: Trusting Your Instincts

Bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren says, “Your purpose is not about you.” It’s less about what you want, then about how you can use your innate gifts in service to others. How do we determine what those gifts are? When we learn to not just accept our flaws, but to think of them as strengths we can finally uncover our unique gifts. For example, since I was 7-years-old I would hound my mom with questions. I’ve always been this way annoying new acquaintances and old friends by my curiosity and need to know attitude. I realized after many years that this so-called flaw has enabled me to ask the right questions when it came to interviewing subjects for my writing.

Somewhere deep inside you already know who you are and what you’re meant to do with your life. The answers have been left like breadcrumbs on your path toward your purpose. You’ve just been too afraid, unsure or distracted to notice. All you need to do is to stop the outside noise (your family, your friends, the media that tells you what you should do) and listen to the gift that wants to direct your life.

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The Key to Having More

{Etsy print by wickedpaper}

{Etsy print by wickedpaper}

Everyone wants a better life. They desire bigger homes with huge lots, more money, a better job. But when it comes down to it. What we’re really after is more love, deeper relationships, a more meaningful life.

And you can easily get all of those things. You just have to focus on what you really want and stop getting distracted with all the other stuff.

Watching Oprah interview Nate Berkus on Super Soul Sunday was a great validation of that. She talked to him about his newest book, The Things That Matter. I love the title for its simple play on words and its breaking down of the stereotype that things don’t matter, that they are superficial. It also brings attention to the things and people that really do matter. Once you get clear on that, you’re that much closer to getting what you truly want in life.

On Letting Go

One of the reasons why we don’t have what we want at this moment is that we’re holding on to something-a memory, a belief, a relationship-that just doesn’t serve us anymore. We hold on out of fear that we won’t get anything better. We hold on because what we know is less scary than what we don’t know. We hold on out of a lack of faith that we can’t get what we want. We hold on because a foggy past can easily meld into an idealistic memory if we aren’t too careful.

I love what Oprah says about holding on:

“Most people are trying to hold onto wanting the life to be what it was. One of the greatest spiritual lessons I’ve learned from anybody who’s sat in that chair [for Super Soul Sunday] is that when you are resisting the reality of what is that is where all of your suffering comes from. You’re wanting the moment, the time, to be something that it can’t be is what causes the suffering. And your ability to transcend and accept that that is gone, and now I must move on and create a new normal is the real great spiritual lesson no matter what it is you’re going through.” [If you want to watch the entire show, Oprah has the full episode on her website.]

Once we let go of what was, we make room for what is. Life is such a gift if we stand out of our own way and let it happen.

On Gratitude

When we focus on what’s not working, life can be a real bummer and love sucker. When we immerse our selves in what’s working, it’s as if the world opens up like a budding flower. Suddenly, you have a lot more than you think you did. Your friendships may not be working or your job may suck, but you have an understanding partner or feel safe and comfortable at home. Every single person can find something to be grateful for even if it’s for this single breath. When you devote time to what’s working in your life, your life grows.

If you want more in your life, you can create a wish list/collage, you can gripe to your friends about it, but don’t forget to work on these two things. If you do so, you’ll be surprised by how much things change in beautiful and unexpected ways.

What matters to you? Is it your family, your health, your pet dog? What are you most grateful for? Let’s share the love and let it grow here.

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