Featured

Flash Nano 2022 complete!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Writing may be the hardest thing you do because it requires commitment. Commitment requires perseverance.

Amy Wallen

The absolute best part of writing during Flash Nano this past month has been getting through it. Making a commitment to any type of project means balancing expectations, accepting that not everything will go smoothly, and remembering that perfection really is a ridiculous concept. But more important is the reality that when you actually follow through, it feels like a success.

30 flash fiction stories in 30 days. It is so satisfying to open the folder in my Google Drive and see the list of story titles for every day of the month of November.

A word count just under 25,000.

Several of those pieces generate a tiny bit of excitement thinking about what revision, and intentional thought might bring their way.

Each prompt sent to my mailbox every morning met my immediate dopamine infused needs. Except for the ones that didn’t make any sense or stimulate that creative urge because they were odd, unusual, or outside of my comfort zone. Letting those ones, in particular, rattle around in the cerebral realm until inspiration of some sort led me to the computer where a story was hatched in spite of my resistance.

Having the goal, the desire to reach it, and the sheer challenge of creating and writing 30 pieces of flash fiction, coalesced into an achievement of sorts. And a bit of a pleasant surprise at how gratifying this feels. Amazed that I only had two days where I literally had to force myself to write. And that didn’t happen until this past weekend. When I felt tired and uninspired. But I pushed through anyways and one of those reluctant stories is likely worth more effort, editing, and energy. Might be a diamond in the rough.

I always find I need to assess and evaluate whether something like this was worth it.

Without a doubt, it was and I will be back again next year!

Happy writing!

Featured

Benefits of November creative writing

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Fundamentally, I want to value the act of noticing and being curious outside of simply being a writer. It is what makes us feel alive, lucid, and present as human beings. Whether you write about it or not, it’s still wonderful that you stopped to look at something – that it stirred up memories, lit up your daydreams.

Raoul Fernandes

The month of November for writers in the world seems a bit like marathon runners preparing for a race after a bit of a hiatus. If you run full out every day, when it comes time for the big race, you may not have enough energy left to get through it. And you will probably experience a cornucopia of injuries, and other physical maladies. So a runner must learn about pacing, about proper rest, nutrition, and the other fine points of marathon race preparation.

Writers also have to learn the mechanics of a sustainable writing practice. For those writing every day with the hopes of achieving a first draft of “something” during the one month period known as NaNoWriMo, those meta cognitive aspects where learning about the how one does such a thing is every bit as important as what one produces. There are hills and valleys to be endured but there is a palpable energy to this process that excites, that ignites some part of our creative selves.

It is this sense of wonder at being alive and being able to fully look at some aspect of life and write about it, that keeps a writer going. It is Day 23 – the month now more than two thirds over and it is worth noticing the impact this has had. Where all the places in your life are lifted a little or feel somewhat different. Have you noticed creativity seeping into new areas of your life as a part of this process. Or are you feeling wrung out but oddly alert at the same time which is itself a curious state.

But best of all, what keeps the writing flowing, is the fact that we are all doing this together. The community of writers around the world provides a sense of direction, or connection that is the most unique part of this month. Whatever I am able to accomplish this month is equal only to the affirmation of identifying myself to this collective where I feel known in some way as a writer.

Happy writing!!

Featured

Reflections on writing process

Photo by Sindre Fs on Pexels.com

A writer is someone who writes. You have done it; you have expressed yourself on paper. Getting started is almost always picking up an old dream, an old desire. Getting started is usually getting started again.

Pat Schneider

I have discovered there is no easy way to begin writing. You simply have to sit down and do it. For the past several years, I have been keenly interested in how other writers work. How do they ensure their creativity flows best? Do they choose a particular time of the day to unleash their muse? Or is it the medium they use. A computer, writing longhand, or through dictation. Do they choose to use a writer’s journal to capture random bits of imaginative flotsam throughout the day?

Perhaps they use a specific type of app, or a special pen. Leather bound journals, plain paper, or lined notepads? The quest to understand what tools other writers use often mirrors the desire we possess to tap into the writer’s path easily, instantly, or perhaps through a magical manifestation.

But we all have rhythms that influence our ability to work, to write, to rest, and to reflect that we must discover for ourselves. There is no trick to the writing life and what works for other writers may be helpful but won’t transform us. Our way into the words we must bring forth and express seems to require both trial and error and meditative reflection on what works.

Learning to shed fears, worry about judgment from others, self-doubts are as important as routines, writing tools and process. Finding your way into writing what you need to often requires a simple beginning. Pen to paper, fingers on the keyboard, and just start letting the words flow as they need.

And understanding that every day you return to write, requires that you have to get started all over again.

And that’s just fine.

Happy writing!

Featured

It’s time for Flash Nano!!

Photo by Fabiano Rodrigues on Pexels.co

Creating with words is our continuing passion. We dream stories; we make up stories, poems, songs, and tell them to ourselves. All alone, we write. We also write with others.

Pat Schneider

Yesterday morning was the first day of Nancy Stohlman’s Flash Nano 2022. I had set the alarm on my phone for an hour earlier than I typically open my eyes. Setting the alarm was a deliberate action that seemed important in my plan to write through the month of November and to celebrate every moment of that.

I’d like to be able to say that as soon as the alarm went off that I bounced up out of bed, heading straight over to my computer. After making coffee, of course. But that would be fiction. When that alarm first went off, I couldn’t remember why I had set it and groggily hit snooze.

When it went off the second time, I literally dragged myself out of bed. After a cup of coffee, I decided to check my emails to see what Nancy had sent as the first prompt for Flash Nano. With a small shiver of anticipation, I experienced a hit of dopamine as I read her message and thought about what the first flash fiction of this month could be about.

The best idea seemed that I should take a walk first to let the prompt roll around in my head and just as I was ready to leave the house an idea rushed into my head. It felt too important to ignore.

I thought I would just open a word document and write some jot notes for the story that beginning to take shape inside my writing mind. But instead I sat down and furiously wrote a first draft of over 650 words that just might be worthy of a sharper pencil. An editing process that I will gladly go through when Flash Nano is over.

I won’t question what this month means as a writer who loves flash fiction. Writing small stories by myself but as part of a much larger whole makes it special in ways that are difficult to define. I have been thinking about linking some of the stories this month together or maybe not. The prompts that come to my mailbox each morning sometimes seem to take on a life of their own.

And that’s the best part of all of this. Paying attention to the process of creativity as it unfolds over the upcoming month. Knowing that perfection has no role to play over the next 30 days because it’s all about putting words on paper. That’s all I can expect from myself. Hearing from other people who are also accompanying me on this journey. Knowing that other writers across the globe are participating in some type of creative adventure for the entire month of November.

At the beginning it is pure, unadulterated fun. But who knows what day 22 or day 27, will bring. Lethargy, resistance, or boredom? Or not.

And that is part of the magic in this process. Going through the ups and down of creativity, not knowing what the road map is or where you might be at the end of it all. But one thing is certain, you will not be in the exact same place as you have started. You will have written words that you might share with the world or that will never see the light of day. You will be able to face your reflection in the mirror and whisper that you are indeed, a writer.

Whether you are trying to write a novel in 30 days, or 30 flash fiction stories, or have other defined writing goals that you will attempt to meet in the course of the month of November – best wishes to all.

Happy writing!!

Featured

Which “witch” is which?

Photo by L. Meyer

Sometimes making the world a better place just involves creating space for the people who are already in it.

Jodi Picoult

With Halloween just around the corner, a quick walk through my neighbourhood reveals many fabulous decorations, signifying an intense interest in this special celebration. It is always amazing to discover what costumes the children in my community have created before they venture out trick or treating. When they arrive on my doorstep, it is fun to ask them about their costumes and to muse about the ones that stand out either through detail or wild imagination.

Parents can be spotted on the sidewalk waiting with pride and anticipation while their children gather the spoils of the evening. And clearly relish this time to celebrate creativity, connections with others, and the fun spookiness of the evening.

The celebration of Halloween comes from a long history of various cultural traditions and has evolved over time into the present day exercise. The tradition where now each young person attempts to be as individual as possible and where diversity of costume design is honoured and celebrated.

And where you can run up and down the streets of your neighbourhood asking for and receiving treats!

But it’s worth spending a moment to consider how we approach representations of diversity the other 364 days of the year?

When you consider how difficult it is for children to stand apart from one another in any way, the Halloween exception could either be seen as an oddity or as a guideline to follow all year long. Why should it become so difficult to stand out and simply celebrate who you are? We pay a lot of lip service to reconciliation, respect for all aspects of diversity yet it just takes a quick moment of reflection to admit that we are not very far along that path.

What would a world look like where everyone could experience a sense of belonging regardless of any aspect of being or feeling different from others? Just imagine a world where all forms of diversity would be celebrated every day of the year, not just on Halloween. That would be a treat!

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!!

Featured

Curiosity did not kill the cat!

Photo by Henda Watani on Pexels.com

The benefits of curiosity go far beyond the page – when we ask questions, we become engaged in exploration, bright with knowledge, and connected to ourselves, each other, and the world/universe/beyond.

Rita Zoey Chin

Have you ever been surprised by the results of a writing prompt or suggestion? Asking What if or Why questions seems to be a standard boiler plate type of question that you find in many writing craft articles or blogs. But spending a week trying to do this in all facets of your life, seemed like a worthy experiment that potentially could bring interesting results.

Curiously enough, I had written and underlined this idea in my journal about ten months ago. That must mean something, right? So I decided the time is now. With the best intention mind possible, I tried to direct my focus on becoming curious about everything and everyone around me. For an entire week.

But I wanted to move beyond spending an inordinate amount of time on Google. So I had to consider how to respectfully ask questions of others without being rude or coming off as just plain nosy. The best place to begin seemed to be to shine my focus on things rather than people.

Connecting with others to learn more about seemingly innocuous aspects of life, paved the way to fully embrace this curiosity exercise.

Not only did I discover interesting facts about my physical surroundings but along the way I was starting to see how easy it is to slip into a frame of mind where judgement of others plays a leading role. We make assumptions about many things in our daily lives without a solid understanding of why or accurate knowledge about some of our beliefs.

So I tried asking more why and what types of questions with friends and family members and came away having learned much more about the inner lives of those I care about. I am left wondering if some of the judgments I often end up making about others are some type of bizarre artifact from the pandemic. So many people seem to stew in a pot of resentment and judgment these days.

Learning how others are experiencing the world helps generate empathy. And in addition to skill building and creating a writer’s mindset, curiosity about others leads to a place of caring and concern.

Imagine what our world might be like if everyone was just a little more curious about those around them!

Stay healthy and safe!

Featured

Don’t let excuses undermine commitments…

Photo by Jan Koetsier on Pexels.com

There are only two options: Make progress or makes excuses

Anonymous

September started with a renewed sense of commitment. To rejoining the world, making social connections and activities a priority, coupled with a focus on self care. Not just self soothing moments but an emphasis to be placed on good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and most definitely on stress reduction.

On the Canadian prairies, we are all too familiar with wind. When weather systems come in or when they leave, wind is always the usher of change. But not calm, gentle, types of wind. No we regularly experience harsh, blustery, gale force type winds that race across the flat, prairie landscape kicking up dust, leaves, and occasionally, tumbleweeds.

So as I glanced outside this morning before my yoga class, I watched strong wind blow most of the fall leaves that had landed on my lawn onto the street. And in all likelihood they would be whipped further along landing on the lawns of my neighbours. I needed to travel to my class on foot as our car was in the shop. Watching small branches being whipped off of trees, I thought it best to check the weather forecast.

The winds were predicted to only get stronger during the course of the day. It seemed easiest in that moment to decide it was likely not a good idea to attend the class. After all it was just too windy to try and walk to the centre where the class was being held. Heading north into a northwest wind seemed nonsensical to me. It would probably be fine on the way home but that was only one way. Right?

But then I thought about missing the class. There was no way to make it up later in the week. And I had indeed made a firm commitment to myself to take this class face to face rather than on Zoom. So an internal argument in my mind left me undecided as to what to do. Mentally running through a pros and cons checklist, it was clear to me that the benefits would definitely outweigh a blustery walk in the wicked prairie wind.

Further reflection left me thinking about how easy it is to talk yourself out of doing something rather than talking yourself into it. Perseverance seemed the answer. So I bundled up, braved the wind which was stronger than I had envisioned. The urge to turn around and go home was overwhelming. But once I got half way there, it seemed ridiculous not to just carry on. So I got there in one piece, albeit with dust in one of my eyes.

Accompanied by feeling grateful that I was there, seeing people I enjoy being with, ready for a class that makes me feel better every time I go.

It occurs to me that taking the easy way out of something is less satisfying than forging ahead and enduring a bit of discomfort along the way. In fact, it made the whole thing much better knowing that the choice was the right one. The act of challenging yourself to do something that has a degree of difficulty does provide a sense of accomplishment even though in the larger scheme of things it probably was not a big deal.

But the value of the exercise by being true to the commitments you make to yourself was immeasurable.

Stay healthy and safe!!

Featured

Navigating liminal spaces

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on Pexels.com

Choose courage over comfort by vitally engaging with new opportunities to learn and grow, rather than passively resigning yourself to your circumstances.

Susan David

Liminal spaces are often uncomfortable places to be. You have neither moved forward nor will you be staying where you have been. So it can resemble walking a tightrope or being lost in a cavern. Transitions and changes of any type often present this type of liminal challenge.

This week presented one such struggle. I need to take a course to maintain a teaching certification but seemed to be having some reservation about returning to working with people face to face in a classroom format. The annoying voices locked in a fierce debate in my head had me up and down like children on a see saw.

Questions on this teeter totter ranged from, Should I bother doing this? to Yes, of course, this was something you used to be energized by. What about my writing goals? Would this knock me off course? Sitting down, writing through this process taught me that I had once enjoyed the process, the people, and sense of purpose. And that I could certainly do more than one thing.

But fear of having been away from this work for too long coupled with feelings about being concerned about how to step back into the path I had been on before Covid knocked the world off course kept me fretting. Rumination followed by more ruminations.

Reframe. Recognize resistance for what it is. Breathe. It is truly amazing how mind over matter really matters. This tendency to overthink things has only intensified during the past two years. So I just challenged myself to drop all preconceived notions and took the recertification course.

And was pleasantly surprised at how easily I re-engaged with the process and the people. And not long after the course, I was struck with a story ideas and cracked off a first draft of a flash fiction. Hah!

Liminal spaces are like way stations. The kind of thing that won’t last forever especially when you think it will. Choosing courage to embrace a new opportunity became the gentle push that nudged me along the path I need to be on.

Stay happy and safe!!

Featured

Add wander and wonder, then mix

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The key to a wonderful life is to never stop wandering into wonder.

Suzy Kassem

My greatest pet peeve during the pandemic was the loss of things to look forward to. Isolation, fear, and constant worry negate hope, feelings of optimism and the sense of wonder about our world.

Planning for the future, with little faith that you can predict meeting the goals you aspire to, began to seem futile.

Diminished social connections added to the sense that life’s adventures were being held in abeyance. So many aspects of life had been placed on hold. Until what? Til things become safe again?

Once I wrapped my head around the reality that managing the risks we are all exposed to is simply a pathway we are likely on forever, I have been ramping up my life planning efforts. Looking forward to something has always been a touchstone for me. My desire to wander can still keep me grounded. No one ever said I had to travel the world to do that.

Finding a sense of wonder about what is around me is fast becoming a routine that wakes me up. Getting up extra early to enjoy the sunrise. Visiting a friend who has a new puppy. Those wiggly creatures place newfound meaning on the word energy. Talking to my son and his new bride, listening to that afterglow of post wedding happiness. Going out for coffee with friends. And lunch, too!

Balancing writing classes on Zoom with in person writing group dates. Resuming book club, in person, distanced, maybe masking? Doesn’t matter, it’s the connections with others that matters.

Spending time, indoors and outdoors, with friends who also monitor their health and manage the risks of the ever present virus. Masking around large crowds of people indoors and outdoors, if it feels necessary. Regardless of what seems to be needed, the decision made to stop isolating, being afraid, and to continue to embrace and look forward to the unexpected and amazing things that happen in life.

That is all now a part of the life plan. It was time to press the pause button and get back to the realization that anything is possible. May we all spend time wandering and enjoying the wonders of our world!

Featured

Fall – Time for a fresh start

Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt on Pexels.com

Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.

Sarah Breathnach

With fall peeking around the corner, and closing the chapter on a difficult year, it seems right to dust off my normally held sense of optimism and move forward. Without worry about personal stressors, annoying politicians, devastating traumatic events or the death of a long standing monarch. And most certainly without amping up undue anxiety about whether Covid is here to stay or not. It is. Full stop.

It means dusting off goals that got put on the shelf in March of 2020. And going back to the drawing board where I am free to play with all of the ideas I have rolling around in my mind about what I would like to do next in my life.

There is freedom in that. In actually being able to sit back, spend time in reflection, writing and journaling about any and all ideas when they pop into my head. Without fear, or worry that something will interrupt, interfere, or blow up my life plans.

And really when you consider our life’s journey, it is indeed, full of detours, some of our own making and others beyond our control. And that is okay.

What seems most important is the recognition that you have passions that reside inside of you meant to be pursued. At times, they are apparent and at others, they are elusive. It’s just fine to search for that thing that really resonates, that whispers in a kind and gentle voice to try on. It’s comforting to know that you can dabble until you find what feels right.

Knowing that we can pick some things up where they were left off, bid farewell to those that we won’t be able to continue on with, and choose more intentionality with what we do in our lives regardless of the external world around us.

The fall season, resplendent with changing colours, temperatures, clothing choices, and activities seems a perfect time to reflect, consider new goals, and then carry on.

Enjoy what today will bring!