Best Wishes

I get excited when a new year approaches, because I see it as a box full of surprises, and the opportunity for much more. I have good news, and it is that I am three chapters away from finishing the first draft of The Book of Sharon, so it looks like I will meet my goal before the deadline of December 31st. I will work on those today and tomorrow.

I send you my best wishes for the new year and a happy and healthy holiday season.  I will be away from this blog until January 2nd, so I will see you then. In the meantime, and since I celebrate Christmas, I leave you with this little poem I just wrote.

 

Hope in the Manger

 

Hope lay in the manger

for centuries on,

a mother and father

giving up their son.

 

The most precious gift

of Love and above,

so pure and so just

so faithful behold.

 

In the stillness of night

and the new light of dawn,

let the babe in the manger

overcome you with Hope.

 

***

I will see you all soon, and I consider myself blessed to be able to share with this awesome WordPress community.

 

Developing Your Writing Style

English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I compare a writer’s style to her/his fingerprint, a unique signature style that develops over time. If you have a favorite author, then you probably know that author’s style; it permeates the work of the author as a scent picked up by the reader. The author has embedded in the story not only his soul but also his creativity, and in a way that reflects a distinctive writing personality, the writer’s style. Even when the work has gone through several rounds of editing and re-writing, the author’s style remains, embracing the story.

I think that every writer sets out to tell a story, maybe influenced by his/her favorite author, genre, but in time that writer finds his own voice and style. It shines through inevitably, and the writer chooses to develop it or ignore it. In the latest, the writer would be forcing someone else’s style into his work, preventing the free flow of the story, and his growth as a writer. No one can be the next Stephen King or Dan Brown, for example. You might admire their styles, and decide that you want to write in their specific genres, but eventually, you will need to embrace your own style. How do you develop your writing style? How do you facilitate the process?

I think that there are four ways to do this, and all four relate to one another and take time. To develop a writing style you will have to:

  1. Read – Read as much as you can, and in every genre. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you read, the more you learn the do’s and don’ts, but also you train your brain to pick up on many other things between the lines. Research falls into the read category, so research what you must. It is not possible to become an author if you do not like to read. It is like trying to make a cat lay eggs (imagine that disaster).
  2. Write – It may seem so simple, but to develop your writing style you will have to do tons/miles of writing. It is that hard and that simple. The more you write, the more you attune your brain (and soul) into developing your unique voice. Compare it to cooking or riding a bike for the first time, and the difference that practice makes.
  3. Listen – Listen to the flow of the story but also to your characters. Many times, characters know best. Sometimes, forcing the story will end up confusing/erasing your characters. Imagine going into another dimension while trying to stay in the present at the same time; there is conflict, and eventually, something is got to give. Listen to your characters and compromise. For example, when I set to write my first novel (Moonlit Valley), one of the main characters was imagined as being a bit nerdy, second to the female character, and a complete opposite to the character that emerged when I began to write. This character fought me from the start, to the point that I was forcing my writing. In the end, I let him be and Jeremy Sandbeck emerged. After that, it was easy to write him.
  4. Trust your instinct/go with your gut – In other words, listen to your Healthy Inner Voice. This is the voice that looks after you and cheers you up – the one that “feels just right.” At the same time beware of the Inner Critic – that is the archenemy of your Healthy Inner Voice, and it doesn’t feel good; it puts you down. Learn to discern them; balance the first, and ignore the second.

I honestly think that this is the best way to develop your writing style, and it is a writer’s journey.

Little Tree – The Simple Things

It is the simple things that make me happy. For many people, the end of a year presents an opportunity for self-evaluation, and for thinking about areas that need change or improvement, or even things that have to be eliminated from one’s life. Every year, I welcome this season and think about the course of the year, set new goals, and set aside some time to really look at what can be simplified.

I am a planner, love lists, and crave organization and structure – a character trait that serves me well but can become overwhelming at times. Such are the times when I tend to overanalyze, make more lists (on top of lists), and when I am hard on myself for not performing as expected (by me) despite giving more than 100 percent in effort. It is then when I need the simple things to help me refocus, and to bring me back to living the simple life – the life that happens in the now, does not follow lists so much, and focus on the beauty and good things/blessings that are present. One of those things is the Christmas season.

Last year, I adopted a little tree that I came across while at a farmer’s market, and I named it Little Tree. I even blogged about the unusual circumstances that surrounded that day. You can read the post here – The Little Tree That Could. Today, and a coincidence at the writing of this post, happens to be a year since I brought Little Tree home. It has grown a bit, and I want to share before and after pictures of it.

Little Tree before, last year.

Little Tree before, last year.

Little Tree this year.

Little Tree this year.

As you can see, it has grown a few inches, its branches have taken a darker hue and spread out. If it wasn’t for the 2012 picture, the changes and growth would have escaped my mind because its growth has been slow but steady. Maybe Little Tree has a message to share, after all.

 

When Your Inner Critic Befriends the Naysayers

Boom! This is an explosive combination. Inner Critic + Naysayer(s) = Dangerous Liaison. If you are human, you have an inner critic living inside you. It is a ruthless, sneaky, negative, tricky, hopeless saboteur who celebrates doubt, chaos, fear, weakness, and illogical self-punishment. It creeps when you least expect it and creates the perfect environment for growing failure.  It sucks that you have to live with this innate character 24/7 but it does not have to be like that; you, the real you – the positive, enlightened, spiritual, self-assured, divine, and blessed soul who happens to live next to it, have the total control and will to overpower the inner critic. Because the inner critic knows this, it has to find outside help to validate itself, to become stronger, and to overpower the real you. It is when it welcomes any naysayer available for grabs. The inner critic delights in such presence and input; it is the perfect companion to build together an environment fertile for growing the fruits of failure – the enemies of the spirit. Because of this, you have to be vigilant and smart about the kind of company you keep, as well as the kind of conversations you encourage. Too much of it will weaken you, and will lower your defenses. It will dwindle your faith and will consume your inspiration. It will slowly envelop you in a fake comfort-blanket of self-pity and lethargy that will keep growing until it destroys you.

It is normal to have doubt, fear, even a bit of self-pity sometimes; after all, we live in blood and flesh bodies in a material world. However, it is when you allow the inner critic to form the above equation that you empower it.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

Answering Your Calling – Enjoy the Process

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life is full of surprises, of twists and turns, of straight roads, of the predictable, of the inevitable, of the good, and of the not-so-good … life is a miracle. It seems short many times, too short; other times, it may seem as an eternity, depending on what chapter are you living or reliving. When we are young, we live day by day, as if life is eternal; with the pass of time, we realize that it is not, and so our search for meaning begins. We experience mid-life crisis, moments of enlightenment, moments of despair, epiphanies, and absolute sense of loss. Time becomes important, precious, our best ally, and our worst measure of self. We come to a halt; suddenly, we need more, meaning and purpose – we want to find our calling. So we set on a journey of discovery, introspection, and awe. A journey that is different for every human being. To each, its own, says the adage. We focus on finding, and we search and question, ponder and wonder … and we become exhausted. We have not found our calling. Maybe, there is nothing to be found. How can we find what is already there?

We don’t have to find our calling, we have to answer it. Each human being is here for a reason, an important and unique (as DNA) purpose. It is engraved in us, and no matter how much time goes by, the calling is still there. Our searching is part of the process of discovering to be able to answer when we are ready – in perfect synchronicity, in harmony. Instead of enjoying this process, we become frustrated, impatient, sad, lonely, angry, desperate, hopeless, doubtful, without faith … we forget about the now, the moment that is part of the whole that becomes the calling. When we become aware of the now, we begin to answer. Wonderful and magical things happen as we become present.

Majestic New Day

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

The other day, I was thinking about how everyday I look at the same scenery and how a generic mental picture of that scenery is kept on my mind, as if it was a postcard that was filed in my brain. I pondered how I took the visual image for granted every day, and even thought that tomorrow that panorama as seen through the generic image filed in my brain would still be there. Well, I didn’t like the thought, so I had to change it. I needed a “not for granted” appreciation of the everyday scenery. Why? Because writing is a solitary endeavor, and sometimes, too much of it starts to feel stale. I took several pictures of the same scenery on different days. This exercise opened my eyes, and reprogrammed my brain. It also gave me a sense of renewal and gratitude. Pictures sometimes tell it better than words (yes, I said that), so here is a Majestic New Day of the same scenery. This pictures have not been enhanced in any way, which proves how blessed we are every day, and how blind we can become to what each day brings anew.

On an early morning, before sunrise. A thick line of clouds in the horizon, perfectly straight looks like a mountain.

On an early morning, before sunrise. A thick line of clouds on the horizon, perfectly straight looks like a mountain.

The sun is rising on another day, at about the same time.

The sun is rising on another day, at about the same time.

On another day, the same view, the sun already out, and this time a palette of gold.

On another day, the same view, the sun already out, and this time a palette of gold.

Do you see what I mean? The same view in the morning, but on different days this week has no resemblance to the generic mental image that I keep of the view.  It tells a story of a majestic and wonderful gift of a brand new day, that the Creator of this universe paints different every day, and for our enjoyment. I could probably go on an on taking pictures, and each day, it would be different. The generic image might still be in my brain, but not with the same level of appreciation.

Put As Much As You Can Into Your Heads – Nobody Can Take That Away From You

I had to share this beautiful and inspirational story that I found via the blog Thoughts on Theatre. It is wonderful. I invite you to watch the video; you will be blessed.

Thoughts on Theatre

“Every day in life is beautiful. Every day. It’s beautiful.”

Alice Herz-Sommer’s stellar heath at the age of 109 is not the only thing that makes her special. She is the oldest living pianist and Holocaust survivor, and arguably one of the most optimistic people you may ever meet. This touching preview for the upcoming documentary following her life,  “The Lady In Number 6,” shows how music not only saved her life in the camp, but also continues to carry her through each day after the ordeal.

The camp in which she was placed is a terrifying example of the ultimate living-theatre experiment. In 1944, the German leaders created a propaganda film and presented Theresienstadt as a model Jewish settlement to the visiting Red Cross; it was all an elaborate hoax.

Opera

The Germans “beautified” the ghetto, planting gardens and painting houses. Individuals received roles to play and the Nazis staged social and…

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Promises to Keep

It is nice to be back after some time away from writing during the Thanksgiving break. December is here, and I am thinking about the end of the year already. It seems that 2013 flew away, and I find myself pondering about all the goals that I set for this year. Many I accomplished, many I did not. On a scale from 1 to 5, number 1 being less challenging, I think that this year presented its challenges in all aspects of my life, and I give it a 4. However, there are 29 more days until the end of the year, and each one represents an amazing opportunity. I have many promises to keep to myself (one way to view important goals).  Although I don’t like to miss a goal, even when things are out of my immediate control, I realize that as long as I am here, I can keep working on the things that are meaningful to me (goals), and upgrade them to the promise level.

Calling these unmet goals Promises to Keep, helps me focus with intention and without blame/frustration in the new year. I invite you to use this approach and see the difference in attitude when you approach the new year.  Of eleven major goals that I set for 2013, I accomplished six so far, and I intend to turn those other five unto 2014 promises.

I am already working on setting new goals for 2014. The process excites me and keeps me going despite any obstacles that may appear unexpectedly. It is how I function best, and  how I keep myself inspired when “life” happens. Today, as I thought about this year and pondered about the next, I felt a sense of relief and grounding knowing that as long as I have promises to keep, all is well.