For Her (Melissa Robbins)

At the beginning of this month, I was unsure what to blog about.  The other WARA ladies posted about their value, passions, etc.  I thought about discussing my goals for the year.  Then, on January 11th, my entire world turned upside down.  My youngest, who would have turned three this week, died suddenly.  As I write this, we still don’t know what happened or why.  It’s one thing to write about mysteries.  It’s another thing entirely to live it. 

I can’t bring myself to get up at 5 am and write, but here’s the deal.  There were times when I wrote on my computer instead of snuggling with my little girl while she watched her favorite show, Team Umizoomi or played ponies.  Times I will never get back. 

I know I can’t wave a magic wand over my story and get it published, but fear of sending out queries always held me back.  No more fears.  I owe it to my little girl to get my book published or go down fighting.  Then those missed opportunities won’t be wasted. 

I’m holding my writer friends accountable to nag me to edit my story, to enter contests, and get out those queries. 

Me? Myself? I? (Penny Rader)
Earlier this month Pat challenged us with tough questions to ask ourselves.  I'm struggling to come with answers.  Here's what I've got so far.  Maybe you can help me come up with some answers.  Funny how easy it for the negative thoughts to take over.

What is your value?

The voices of the bullies in my past immediately chime in, "Value?  You have no value!  You're fat.  You're ugly.  No one wants to be your friend."   Could also be the Catholic in me.    You know, thou shalt not, the Seven Deadlies, and all that jazz.

So...I try to shove those voices aside and figure out what my value is.

Still thinking.   Could use a Penny version of It’s a Wonderful Life about now to see if anyone’s better off for my having been here. (Surely I'm not the only one who as wondered this.)

Okay.  Here are a few:
  • My kids.  They brighten this world, and their kids in turn.
  • I have kept a roof over my family's head for a number of years now.
  • I like sharing information with others.   
  • I can sometimes make people laugh and, hopefully, cheer them up for a bit.  

What is your strength? 

Aye-yi-yi.   This is as nearly as hard as the value question.
  • Patience?  The ability to wait without fidgeting…much.
  • I used to think I could get along with nearly everyone but I’ve been proven wrong.  Still, I try.
  • I also try to have a positive attitude.
  • I can talk your ear off…which can be good if you’re in need of a distraction.

What do you enjoy?

This one’s easy:
  • Naps
  • Reading 
  • Movies
  • TV
  • Crocheting
  • Learning
  • Laughing
  • Lazy days off
  • Cuddling with babies

What is your passion? 
  • I love losing myself in stories…movies, books, etc. 
  • I also want to make a difference.   I've been crocheting up a storm the last several years.  The feel of the yarn in my hands soothes me; the completed scarves and hats fill me with a sense of accomplishment…I hope they find their way to someone in need of their warmth and comfort. 

What is your weakness?

Another easy question.   Shouldn't that be plural?

In no particular order:
  • Procrastination – I am a pro at this.  
  • Getting words on the page – I am not a pro at this.
  • Fear...of falling flat on my face ...of the words not coming ...of characters not talking to each other, let alone me; fear of failing my kids, my family, my friends, my bosses.
  • I rarely (as in almost never) cook anymore.
  • I am an exceptionally bad housekeeper.
  • Organized…Not!
  • Laziness...lack of energy...just flat out not feeling 'good' for more years than I can count.
  • People pleaser – hate, hate, hate conflict.  Want everyone happy and in harmony.
  • In a crisis, all the energy leaves my body and I feel an overwhelming need for a nap. Or a dark hole somewhere.  Maybe even a nap in the dark hole.
  • Consistently inconsistent.  This post is a perfect example.  
  • Did I mention I can talk your ear off?  

Oh, do you hear her?  Violet, the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey just said, “Stop whining…”  So I shall.
How about you?  Can you answer Pat’s questions?  I’d love to learn more about you.

My Value

My value is best found in the eyes of others for I cannot know myself that well. I've tried to figure it out for myself, but luckily, am self-blind. I say luckily, because if I knew myself well enough to know my value, then I'd also know myself to figure out where I am without value. I'm not sure I want to know that.

I am valuable to others as a source of information.
I am valuable to others as a source of motivation. I rescue people from their lives by letting them know how capable they really are.  One example, when someone is declared dead by a family member, I let them know they should enjoy it as long as possible. They won't be dead forever, and every time they are declared dead by a manipulating family member, the length of time will be less. Manipulation of that sort by overbearing family is a nasty habit some families fall into. I've seen heads cut out of pictures and mailed to a person. Really. Too silly for words isn't it. Anyway, imagine the peace and quiet you can get from not being talked to by such a manipulator!

I am valuable to myself because I can amuse myself endlessly on very little. One thing I like to do is run little experiments. I now know how a dust bunny forms. Where the most likely place to find them is, and what they're made of. The hot popcorn kernal that melted its way into the kitchen linoleum was removed after three years due to my elder daughter's highly honed sense of what is right and proper. I was watching to see how well the hard little sucker would take the wear of daily traffic. Amazingly, it came out almost as perfect as the day it went in.

My greatest strength, I'm not sure, but it may be an utter lack of patience. I see no reason to wait two years, like a friend of mine did, for her husband to install a new toilet. I'd have had it installed myself within a couple of weeks, if I had waited that long. I see no reason why a person doesn't do what they want done instead of waiting for someone else to do it because it is 'a man's job' or 'a woman's job'.  Really?  Who wants it done? Just do it!  I get such shocked looks, but really, it isn't that hard to find your way around a hardware store or get instructions on how to do things.  It took me three different instruction books before I could figure out how to make pin lace. It took three books because I had to find the right book to get it through my head.  Why did I want to make pin lace? Because it looked really cool and the person performing it said it took her three years to learn as an apprentice. If so, she was a slow learner....

My greatest weakness. Thank God I don't know what it is. I have many. I try to not examine them closely. And then came Pat with her questions. I thought about it and decided I didn't want to look. Got other things to do...I'm sure I do...somewhere...something.....

Patricia Davids, flaws and all.

I told you earlier this month that I would post my answers to the questions I posed to you. After some soul searching, here I go.

Question # 1. What is your value?

 I have value as a mother, a grandmother and the daughter of aging parents. My value outside my family lies in being a caregiver and a writer. I also have value as a good neighbor, a teacher and mentor for people who want to become writers. I take my value seriously.

 Question # 2. What is your strength?

I have a huge dose of self-confidence. My real strength is that I believe in me. In my talent, in my ability to master whatever I put my mind to, be it writing, remodeling the house or teaching the dog new tricks. People who know me may say stubbornness and persistence are my strengths. I can't disagree.

Question # 3. What do you enjoy? The answers to this question are just about endless. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy traveling and seeing places I've only read about, I enjoy learning new things. For me, doing research is like a sunny day in the park with homemade ice cream in a cone. Not much gets better than that. I enjoy stretching my mind.

Question # 4. What is your passion? I will tell you what it's not. It's not being a writer. Being a writer is my job, STORYTELLING is my passion. I love, love, love taking an idea and mushing it around like a ball of Play dough and turning it into a happily ever after story. Recounting events in my life and making people laugh, bringing a tear to their eye, entertaining them, that's my passion. Going to the computer and writing is plain hard work. Hitting my daily word count is torture. Making my characters say and do the right thing at the right time is often frustrating. Twenty books and it isn't any easier. Go figure.

 Last question. What is your weakness?
This was the hard question and the one that took the most soul-searching. A lack of focus and procrastination are issues of mine, but my overconfidence is my real underlying weakness. I think I can do anything I put my mind to. The truth is, I can't always accomplish the lofty goal I've chosen. Someday, when I learn to channel my overconfidence into focus and productivity, I'm going to be the awesome prolific writer I want to be. Until then, I'll continue to struggle to meet my own expectations.

If you haven't shared the answer to my question, please feel free to do so. It's about looking inward and mapping a road to satisfaction with yourself.

Getting Down to Business

Pat, Theresa, and Joan have given me a lot to think about.  December was a busy month and now that the holidays and all they involve are over, I can't seem to get in gear.  I know I should.  I keep telling myself I need to at least put forth the effort to start.  But I kind of feel like that picture on the left.  It's after the party and the excitement is gone, and we're left with the empty champagne bottle and the streamers.  I feel like one of those noisemakers that unfurls when blown into, but I quit furling back again and am slowly drooping.

Pat's questions keep going through my mind.  I can answer one. I know my weaknesses.  One of them is staying on track.  I'm truly a Gemini, going from one thing to another, without mastering anything.  Another is lack of confidence.  It isn't new.  I've dealt with it all my life.  For now---if I can make myself stay with it---I'm working on it.  I'm the only one who can.

Value?  Well, yeah, I guess I have value.  I believe everybody does, just as I believe everyone is gifted in some way.  Strengths?  Well, I can be stubborn enough not to give up.  Strangely, I never believed I would be a published author, but I refused to quit writing.  It kept me out of trouble.  It still does. ☺

I love Theresa's list!  I also see myself in many of her points.  However, I can let things go.  It's a major weakness.  She may be a stuff shuffler, but I'm a piler.  It's obviously been passed down in our family, because we all are.  In fact, if our heads were flat, we'd pile things on them, too.

Joan teaches me that we don't give up.  Health issues are one of the worst things that can happen to us and cause us to see ourselves as weak...which is not true.  Joan proves that each day.  I'm in awe.

All of this reminds me that we're eight days into the new year, and I'm dragging my feet.  Why?  Gee, I wish I knew.  It's not that there isn't plenty waiting for me to do.  So I'll make a list, get a calendar, and create a schedule.  There's a whole new year---minus eight days---to get things done.  Wish me luck!

Questions and Answers by J Vincent

Pat Davids’ blog posed several questions to consider as 2013 begins which I’ve condensed in italics below.  Such introspection can lead to confusion at first but then to surprising answers, at least to me when I came up with them.  i also realized my answers would probably change according to how they struck me at a later time.  But for now this is what I have.

What is your value?  Not what do you value, but what is your value? You are valuable. Look inside and see if you can give a voice to that value.
This was a puzzle.  Surely our value lies in what we value? I value hard work, and part of my value is that I am a hard worker. I admire loyalty so part of my value is that I am loyal to a fault. But then I reconsidered.  During the past six months I have thought I had little value. I have been very ill and slow to recover with new problems cropping up in an ever continuous line. My inability to do almost anything made me believe I had no value.  But after some thought I came to a different conclusion.  Do I consider people with handicaps, of whatever source, lacking in value? No. If they have value then so must I. Perhaps my value is different from when I am well but it still exists. I still touch lives. I make people smile; I make people care. I provide a means for their value to increase through the ways they help me. Yes, I will always have value.

What is your strength? What is the most indelible part of you? What makes you tick? Search your heart. What makes you strong?
My strength has always been my persistence, perseverance or whatever name you want to call it. My family would say it’s plain old German bullheadedness, but it has held me in good stead through life so far.  It’s why I have survived my many health problems.  It’s why I have written as many books as I have.

What do you enjoy? Just you. The New Year will be dull and lifeless if you don't make time for what you enjoy. Pick a date and mark your calendar for some you time. 
Pat says these change and how right she is. Macrame, crocheted jewelry (Long ago I made and sold enough crocheted rings and necklaces to buy my first clothes dryer!), and collecting snowmen were once passions of mine.  A current passions is quilt making as you saw via a previous blog.  
One writing passion is for some of my characters. We have people we love and some we don’t. Same is true for characters. I am very fond of all my heroes in my Honour series but I am fascinated by my villain, Donatien.  He has shocked me by how much he has evolved from his first appearance. I’m the author, I mumble now and then, I should know exactly what my characters are up to at all times.  It’s always seemed weird to me that I don’t and that they can surprise me. Learning the rest of my hero’s stories and this villain’s is the most probable reason I will finished the Honour series.

What is your weakness? What keeps you from following your passion? What holds you back from accepting your full value? This is about you. This is about finding out what makes you tick.
Pat’s blog made me realize I’ve been wandering goalless through my life the past year. I had sporadic fits of activity--writing and otherwise. But there was no real direction to any of it. Part of my weakness is just that--physical weakness. This is often compounded by the effects of the various meds I take. In December I was still exhausted all the time, unable to make decisions, didn’t want to get up, etc.  I thought depression and stopped taking one of my newest meds that got me through the crisis this fall but had depression/suicide as a major side effect. That improved matters but the exhaustion and a few other symptoms remained.  A blood test showed I was severely deficient in Vitamin D. It is amazing how much a weekly dosage of 50,000 units has changed me. I actually feel like me again and that it is possible to set goals and attain them. But the above is too simple.
Fear of failure, lack of confidence, and procrastination also play a part. Combine these with the fact that my priorities changed as my health declined. Searching for answers to Pat’s questions helped me focus on what is important to me. Only time will tell if writing is still a passion. No matter what, as Pat said so well, “To know and understand you is the key to finding inner peace and happiness.”
Wishing you all a Happy and Successful New Year!

Spelling it out by Reese Mobley

With the changing of the calender comes renewed hope.  This is my version of writing resolutions.

R is for reading.  As in I want to read more.  And have my manuscript read more.  By critiquers.  And editors.  And agents.  Oh my.

E is for electronic publishing.  I want to learn more about the process and, back to square one, I want to read more on my e-reader.  Easy Peesy--so far.

S is for synopsis.  Gotta do em' so I may as well learn to do em' right.  (ignore the snarl on my face)

O is for octopus.  I wish I were an 8-armed creature.  Imagine all the work I could get done.  Typing my manuscript, baking cookies and folding their tighty-whiteys all at the same time.  OMG! 

L is for writing love stories that touch a readers heart so profoundly they remember the characters long after they reach the end.

U is for understanding.  Understanding the business.  Understanding my characters enough to tell their stories.  Understanding that everyone has their own writing process and what works for them doesn't mean it's the same path I'll take. 

T is for thick skin.  You'd think a profession I could do in my pajamas, if I wanted to, wouldn't have a need for this one.  But there is.  Rejections are hard to take.  Doesn't mean the big shots don't like us, they just don't like our manuscript enough to publish it.  Note to self: rejections are easier to get over with a pint of Chunky Monkey.  Of course that makes for a different kind of thickness, but I won't go there.   

I is for Imagination.  And then some.  Think you've got a fabulous idea but want to save it? Don't.  Unless it's about a whole other set of characters, put the wonderful idea in your manuscript.  I promise another good idea will come around in time for the next book.

O is for organization.  My friends think I've got it all together, but they couldn't be more wrong about me.  My brain get cluttered with email that needs a response.  My desk gets covered with snail mail to read, sort, shred or file.  And recipes I want to try.  And old bills to file.  And new ones to pay.  Versions of manuscripts that need to be edited.  I have a tendency to shuffle stuff from one pile to the other.  Clearly, I am a stuff shuffler in need a twelve step program.     

N is for not feeling bad.  Who really cares if the towels don't get folded because I wanted to finish chapter nine while the words were flowing.  Or I use a box cake mix instead of one from scratch for the birthday party.  Or if the dust is thick enough to write in.  No one but me.  

Well, there you have it.  My 2013 list.  What's on yours?


You in the year ahead.

Pat Davids wishing everyone Happy New Year. Happy 2013!!

This time of year is filled with renewed hopes and dreams for a better year, for ourselves and for others. Resolutions are made, and for the most part, not kept. I know. I do it every January.

Weigh less, spend less, save more, exercise more, and write more.

This year, I want to start the New Year, not with a list of resolutions, but by asking you a question.

It's a tough one. Are you ready?

What is your value?

Not what do you value, but what is your value?

I told you it was a tough question. It's not the only question I have for you, but it's my first one.

Think about it. Are you valuable because you are the breadwinner? A grandmother? A homemaker? The better half? An awesome friend? What makes you a valuable person? Are you an efficient worker? Do you have empathy for others? Are you a problem solver? Every life is valuable. You are valuable. Look inside and see if you can give a voice to that value.

On to my second question. What is your strength?

What is the most indelible part of you? What makes you tick? It can be more than one thing. Perhaps it's your faith. Maybe it's your children or your husband. Perhaps it is your ability to care for others. Perhaps your strength lies in teaching, fixing things or in the belief that what you do matters. Search your heart. What makes you strong?

Did you think the questions would get easier? They don't.

My third question. What do you enjoy?

Think about this carefully. What do you enjoy? Just you. Quiet time or going out with friends? I enjoy both. Family time? Traveling? Serving others? The New Year will be dull and lifeless if you don't make time for what you enjoy. Pick a date and mark your calendar for some you time.

So now, drum roll, please…What is your passion?

Now that you have focused on what you enjoy, pick out your passion. It's the one thing you love above all else. It can't be family. That's a given for most parents. This is about you. You are not just a parent or a spouse. You have a core that goes much deeper. What would you want to do, or to be, if every distraction was removed from your life?

A side note about passions. They change, evolve, migrate, and even disappear completely. What you were passionate about when you are 20 can be a lot different from what you are passionate about when you reach 60. And that's okay. Live in today, not yesterday and not tomorrow. What are you passionate about today?

As romance writers, many of us will say our passion lies in writing romance, but does it really. Are you passionate about weaving a spellbinding story from a simple idea? Taking that word count from 0 to 20,000, 60,000 or 100,000? Or, are you passionate about getting lost in a breathtaking story that someone else served you whole and unblemished and makes you sigh when it's done? We can love books and romance without writing it. We can love horses and cowboys without getting manure on our shoes, too. When you uncover your passion, you won't care what you have to step in to achieve it.

Okay, one more question. What is your weakness?

Lack of focus is mine with procrastination a darn close second. You will notice I didn't tell you my answers to the other questions. I'm still pondering them.

What keeps you from following your passion? What holds you back from accepting your full value? Is it fear? Is it a lack of confidence? Over commitment? It can't be family, or your crappy job, or anything outside of you. This is about you. This is about finding out what makes you tick.

To know and understand you is the key to finding inner peace and happiness.

When you have your answers to my questions boiled down to their most simple elements, you may share them here, or not, but write them down somewhere. Then you will have a place to start making the coming year a more productive and a happier one.

You will see your value. You can make time for what you enjoy. You will know your strengths. You will find your passion, and you will understand what is holding you back. From there, you can go forward with a clearer picture of who you are and what you need in order to accomplish the things you want to get done.

I blog again on the 16th. I'll share my answers with you then.