6 Places I Find Inspiration for Writing

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All the top social media blogs I read tell me where to find ideas for hot blogging content.  So off I go browsing Amazon’s top sellers for my niche, check out Drudge, and see what’s trending on Twitter.  Next stop: Copyblogger and time suck some more, and then I notice the clock has tick-tocked to dinner hour and I’ve got nothing written.

What is wrong with me? Do I have writer’s block? Am I a procrastinator? Or am I trying too hard and discouraged because I’m such a teensy fish in a multitudinous ocean.

If I don’t come up with a killer headline, or a list of how-to’s and secrets that will change your life – I am DOOMED.  You will leave me to read a better scripted blog post by a social media rock star who has the content that delivers what YOU want.

The influencers’ advice isn’t working for me.

Truth? I want to write what I want to write in the way that I write.  I know there are at least three people who read my blog and come back faithfully. Thousands would be cool. But three is enough. Instead of being a me-too writer I’m a come-alive writer.  And I will write for three.

Where I Find Inspiration for Writing:

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  • Conversations: I talk to people and listen with the intent to learn.  I find out who they are, what they’ve been through, what they like, what their dreams and aspirations are. I ask, “Tell me your story.”  That’s the best content you are ever going to find.  Real life, real people.
  • Museums: I took the above picture at the Rochester MAG one sunday afternoon.  That’s my son off to the side listening to the pipe organ concert.  It was transcendent, holy.  I was moved to reflect and consider the lilies.  As I stroll the museum halls I take notes of ideas, my feelings, and memories invoked by a work of art.
  • Nature: It is vital to be quiet and escape from the constant connection to the digital world.  Whether it be sitting on a hillside, playing in the snow, walking through the woods – some of my best writing comes from being still and listening to the heartbeat of nature.
  • Family: Past, present, and future. Aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, pets. I read old letters or journals from those who have passed. I talk to my boys and ask about their day.  They are my muse. I’m blown away when they tell me they liked what I wrote. I’m euphoric when I see them write, read their words, and consider maybe I inspired them, just a little?
  • Music: I will often listen to an album and either write by hand or type on a blank page unedited, freely, continuously until I’m satisfied I’ve emptied my creative bucket.
  • Experience: Crazy things have happened to me. I have cheated death. I have teetered on the edge of cliffs and have had rocks thrown at me. I could fill a thousand journals with knowledge, wisdom, thoughts, fears, truth.

There is inspiration everywhere, we just have to keep the internal critic away and use whatever inspires us.

Here’s a nugget of truth: write what you like, in your voice.  Don’t try to fit the mold, break the mold. And in the end, be you. The world wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

Beat the Winter Blues with These 10 Proven Ways

Frigid temps, overcast skies with no hint of sun for days in a row can make even the hardiest person feel gloomy.  Don’t become a victim of the winter blues! I have already field tested these 10 interventions and stand behind my word: try one, or kick it up a notch and do them all! You’ll be surprised at how quickly your mood will brighten. 

#Exercise: bundle up and take a walk. The hardest part is finding the oomph to get outside, but once you’re out it’s quite pleasant. 

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#Let there be light, and lots of it.  Turn up the lamps, and splurge on a Light Box. I’ve got mine on as I type. It’s called “Happy Light”. And yes, it makes me happy.

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#Have a tropical theme party.  Guests come dressed in loud hawaiian shirts.  Do the limbo, play some calypso, and have a white elephant gift exchange.

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#Spruce up a dingy room.  Add some new color and a few funky pieces of furniture to liven the area.  Go to second hand shops for good deals.

 

 

 

 

#Change your diet.  Add as many super-foods as your wallet allows for a natural body boost.

 

 

 

 

#Host a book discussion group.  Why not turn it into a pot-luck dinner? Try immersing yourself in the book through role playing. Stay in character through the dinner.  We did this with the Crucible. Kept it clean- nobody got hung for being a witch.

#Embrace the winter.  Take the kids (or borrow the neighbor’s) and go sledding or skiing.  Bring the camera.  Hot cocoa, s’mores and a roaring fire once you are home.

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#Vacation. Overnite at a B&B, ski resort, or if you can afford it, go where the weather is hot and escape for a week. Sign up for price alerts on Kayak, you just might find a deal that can’t be beat.

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#Write.  An e-book, a novel, poetry, music.  The world needs to hear what you have to say.

#Square Dance wif callers. Went t’one be4 an’ ah had so much fun, as enny fool kin plainly see.  Ev’ryone fum th’ old folks t’th’ li’l kids had a whoopin’ an’ hollerin’ time of fun an’ fellership wif friends, kin’t wait t’do it agin. fine fo’ th’ heart an’ is sho’nuff sumpin yo’ will nevah fo’git. YEEHAW!

Author’s note: I originally posted this list on January 24, 2013. I freshened it up with some new pics.  For me, winter in Western NY gets the toughest in mid February.  2015 shall go down in my weather memory banks as the most cruel, bone-chilling, treacherously gnarlsome and poorly plowed roads I have endured.  But remember this: we are all in this together and regular exposure to mild cold may provide a healthy and sustainable alternative strategy for increasing energy expenditure. That means more chocolate.

The Top 6 Traits of Likable People

We all want to be liked.  It feels great to see likes on a blog post (hint), and even better to hear someone say, “I really like you!”

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But what really makes people more likable than others? Is it attractiveness, wealth, tone of voice, style of dress, mannerisms, or standard of hygiene?

Research tells us that our qualities such as level of success, fame, and good looks might initially interest others,

but by far, we like people who have good personalities.

The top character traits of likable people are trustworthinesswarmth, kindness, intelligence, sense of humor, and empathy.

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Think about it. Do the people you like the most have “good” personalities?  Do they make you smile, make you feel important and good about yourself? Do their eyes sparkle when they smile at you?  I bet when they ask, “How are you?”, you are certain they really want to know.

We like to be heard, to be noticed, to be recognized.  A warm hug, eye to eye contact, a kind word, the feeling that we are not being taken for granted, made fun of, judged, or criticized – but accepted and respected is what makes us feel liked.

Have you doubted your likability, or wondered why certain folks are a people magnet?

Pause and consider these six traits.  How many do you have? How many do “they” have? It’s not a worthy goal to seek popularity for an ego boost.  But it is a honorable one to be trustworthy, warm, kind, and empathetic: you will become more likable and in so doing,  will make yourself happier in the process.

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Successful People Consistently Do These 4 Things

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Do you think yourself as successful?  How do you define success?

Merriam-Webster defines it as, “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame“.  I think Webster completely misses the mark with that definition.  Success is viewed differently depending on your culture, upbringing,  social situation, work environment, and worldview.

Success is not a one-size-fits-all standardized, measurable thing.  No one would argue that the self-made millionaires, Edison/Einstein types,  Hollywood stars, Olympic athletes, or Pulitzer Prize winners aren’t successful.

But in reality the super famous,  geniuses, and wicked wealthy people represent such a small number.  If we look at fame as an indication of success, Wired Science reports,

somewhere between about  1 in 10,000 and 5 in 10,000 (or 1 in 2,000) people in the world are successful.

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The truth is successful people can be found in every crevice of the planet.  From the tiny fishing village of Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, to the congested metropolis of Tokyo, Japan,  you’ll find success.

Isn’t success simply accomplishing that which you set out to do? Whether it be a goal to climb the world’s ten tallest mountains or to climb out of poverty – you determine what you want to achieve.

Anyone. Including you, can be successful.

There is no secret to success.  Instead there’s a mindset, and opportunities. 

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To be successful in any area of your life, you must consistently do these 4 things

  1. Have a vision and establish clear goals and objectives
  2. Equip yourself with what you need to accomplish your vision
  3. Cultivate emotional intelligence
  4. Stay the course

#Have a vision and establish clear goals and objectives

Know what you want. Rather than wander aimlessly through life letting the “chips fall” where they may, decide what/where you want to be.  And write it down.  Napoleon Hill, the author of The Magic Ladder to Success,  puts it in perspective:

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#Equip yourself with what you need to accomplish your vision 

Once you have your goals and a plan, you need the tools and the people to help.  If you want to lose weight you’ll need to learn how to change the way you eat, and you need to move. Do you need to get exercise equipment, a gym membership, or a new pair of sneakers?

If you want to start your own business, you need education, training, and business mentors.

Make friends with the right people, surround yourself with good influences, and keep moving yourself forward.

Keep moving

 #Cultivate emotional intelligence

Successful people learn to temper their emotions.  They are empathetic, understanding,  set the tone for their team, and know how to bring the best out in others.  They keep their head in the game, and don’t sweat the small stuff.  If you want to accomplish your goals you can’t be pouty, reactive, or vindictive.  I recommend either reading up on emotional intelligence or try taking a free class. A little emotional intelligence goes a long way.

#Stay the course

Success will find you busy working. Build on your strengths,  be persistent, optimistic, and learn from your failures. There will be obstacles, set backs, mistakes as well as triumphs. The point is to never lose your grit.

Anyone who has set a goal and accomplished it is a success. Success does not happen overnight.  It won’t drop from the sky, and it will never come if you turn around and admit defeat.  It is a challenge, and that’s exactly what makes life zesty!

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The Meaning of Life in One Word

It shocks me at how many folks zip through life at breakneck speed, starting many a day behind schedule and ending it complaining  there is not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

They forget to eat, don’t know how to stay healthy, or don’t recognize when they are sick.

I have been asked… what is the point? Why am I so unhappy? Where did I go wrong? How can I do this? What is the reason for it all?

Why am I here?

I sometimes feel like the wise mystic who sits atop a mountain waiting for pilgrims to come and ask,

What is the meaning of life?

It’s always been a simple answer.

Live.

The meaning of Life

Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Do good.  Love what you do.  Bloom where you’re planted.  Give.  Take care of what you have.  Be non-toxic.  Plant hope –  reap joy.  Shine.  Be kind.  Forgive.

Be a daisy.  Daisies are tender, light, unassuming, bright, golden, stirring, profoundly elegant, pure. They show their beauty without having to do much – they quietly blend in yet stand out.  Daisies are everywhere and each time I see one I look, and look a second time.  They are alive, and beautiful.

We rush through our lives so eager to grow up, get a career, make/spend tons of money,  climb to the next rung on the ladder.

We are forever looking back or fantasizing the future that we neglect the present.

The here and now.  This day, this hour, this moment.

I’m not saying don’t ever look at the past – reflection is necessary for growth and learning.  And only a fool wouldn’t make plans for the future.

The point is to find balance, and in the process don’t forget to live.

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Self-esteem: Is Yours Healthy?

We all want to be liked. It’s part of being human.  We are social beings who need to belong, to be accepted by others.  Our self-esteem and success are intricately woven to what others think about us.  It is rare to meet someone who is not hurt by a rude comment, a bad review, or an insult that was neither provoked nor justified.

Just look at social media –  there’s like buttons on every platform. People buy followers so they look rock star popular. I stopped following new folks because I don’t know who’s real and who’s not.

I don’t know why I did it, but I joined Instagram.  I have 7 followers and I am fine with that.  I am a minnow in an ocean of sharks, and it’s ok.  My self-esteem is not dependent on how many followers, likes, shares, retweets,  comments, or views I get.  And I’m learning to not let the mean people I encounter on my day to day adventures have a say in my self worth.

What about you? Do you find yourself feeling dejected if you don’t get likes or retweets? Are you overly critical of yourself,  fail to speak up for yourself or avoid expressing your opinion?

Self esteem is your sense of self-worth or personal value.  In Maslow’s hierarchy he put it towards the top of  the pyramid.

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If you are hungry, sleepless, homeless or your life is threatened, you aren’t concerned about belonging and self-esteem until your basic needs are secure.  Once those are taken care of we can pay more attention to and develop our self esteem.

Is your self esteem healthy?  Try the Rosenberg Self Esteem quiz for starters. Click here and take the quiz, note your score, and then bounce back here and I’ll explain more.

If you didn’t score in the healthy range, don’t put too much stock into this simple 10 question quiz. It isn’t an end-all-be-all-carved-in-stone result.  It is a tool that can be useful in determining where you’re at.

Our self-esteem can fluctuate.  Everyone has low times, high times, and in betweens.  However, if you, or someone you care about consistently voice self depreciating comments,  or exhibit other behaviors that suggest poor self worth, it is important to recognize it  and work towards improving it.

It’s nice to be liked and wonderful to be noticed. But that can’t be the basis for how you value yourself.  Being momentarily hurt by a rogue comment or a two-faced acquaintance is normal.  Have a one minute pityfest, and then let it go. Brush it off your shoulders like lint and watch it fly away.  Those people don’t matter.

You matter. Be kind, do your best work, make your corner of the world a better place and love yourself – embrace your gifts, your flaws, and enjoy who you are. That’s a healthy self-esteem.

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.             ~W.C. Fields

Where I Encourage You to Steal

I am a thief. Well, not in the traditional sense – I don’t go around at night breaking into houses, and I haven’t stolen candy from the grocery store since I was 5 years old.  But, I am doing the things Austin Kleon suggests I should be doing to unlock my creativity and produce some good stuff – I’m stealing like an artist.
In Steal Like an Artist, Austin’s definition of stealing is not unethical, illegal,or plagiarism. It’s about finding ideas out there that are good and stealing them, or “embracing the influence”. It’s the way art is done.

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art is theft

 

 

 

 

 

 

copy.

According to Austin, what to copy is tricky. He says,

Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds.

He continues,

That’s what you really want – to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.

I love this book because I suck at art, yet I am still an artist.  Aren’t we all artists?  The writer, blogger, dancer, chef, painter, mother, student, gardner, speaker, teacher, preacher, singer. This book is for all of us.

Join me. Let’s get busy stealing, and find our voice in the process.

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Top 10 Last Minute Christmas Gifts

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.  Mother Teresa

 

Still not finished with your Christmas shopping?  Don’t panic. I got your back.  I post this every year when I am thinking, oh no! I’m a last minute shopper, again.  Are you like me and need a delicious or marvelous gift that doesn’t require a hefty rushed shipping charge? Then here’s some ideas that should help you out.

  • Amazon Gft Card: Email or print out at home.
  •  Instant downloads for gamers: My boys have a perennial wish list at Steam.
  •  Wine. But what’s a good pick?  Ask the store employees to select one out for you – they have never let me down. Popular wines include: Christmas Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot.  If you feel like splurging, consider Ice Wine.  I once held a bottle in my hand, ah, maybe some day.
  •  Fruit/gift basket: Dust off a nice wicker basket or pick up one from Goodwill. Line it with a new kitchen towel and fill it with a variety of fruit from the grocery store, or pick another theme – popcorn and accompaniments, fancy pasta/sauce, bread, and some italian cookies.
  • Homemade coupon booklet: I still have a few coupons left from one I got a few years ago. Coupons could be for free hugs, lawn-mowing, babysitting service, car wash, breakfast in bed, home-cooked meal. Be sweet, don’t include an expiration date.
  •  Starbucks e-gift card: I give these often throughout the year when I am really in a pinch.  Everyone loves to get one.
  •  Regal e-gift: Who can afford going to the movies?  Keep in mind it’s $10 or more for one movie ticket.
  •  I-tunes/Apple: Can never get enough of these.
  •  Money – we all enjoy receiving cash. Don’t forget to tip special people like your mail and newspaper carriers, hair stylist, babysitter, dog sitter, music teacher.
  • Homemade goodies – We make hot cross buns, decadent chocolate fudge sauce, or caramel corn to give away to neighbors and friends.  I have made this recipe a dozen times and it is absolutely delicious and tops any caramel corn money can buy. It is amazing.

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Above all, do not let the hunt for the right present take from your holiday joy.  Rarely do people remember what they got or didn’t get the year before.  In my house, we celebrate Christ’s birth and our joy comes from being together as a family. Embracing the faith,  embracing each other, recognizing that we are blessed whether we have, or have not.

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I’m still going to pick up a few more things, but even if the Grinch were to visit us during the night and steal all our presents and our  LED pre-lit easy-assemble artificial tree,  may I be found singing alongside Cindy and all of Whoville,

Welcome Christmas as we stand, heart to heart, and hand to hand.

Do it Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments

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Kent M. Keith wrote The Paradoxical Commandments in the late 1960’s when he was a sophomore at Harvard. You may have seen these commandments on a refrigerator magnet or included in a motivational presentation. Or you may be reading them for the first time.  Kent was wise beyond his nineteen years to come up with this list.  Forty-six years later he still writes, does speaking engagements, and seems like the kind of guy who follows both his own commandments as well as the original “10“.

The Paradoxical Commandments

  • People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway
  • If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway
  • If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway
  • Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway
  • The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway
  • People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway
  • People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway
  • Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway

Here’s a few more commandments I think are well worth keeping:

P1150558Do you have any more you’d like to add?