creativity, inspirational, writing

Keep Calm and Write On

0b74b52e8bdf21cf6e421df734d42f03This is my new motto. This is a saying on a mug that I gave Jonas for Christmas. I love the saying, despite it being so cliché, because it speaks to me. These two things go hand-in-hand. You can’t be at your creative best if your mind isn’t calm. Stress dampens creativity. Jonas finds his ability to create is limited by the amount of stress he may be under at any given time. Stress is anti-creativity.

How do I keep calm? That’s a many-part answer. Keeping calm starts with my environment. Jonas and I both work from home and so our home is sacred, especially as it’s our creative working environment. We keep things quiet and peaceful and that includes us. We have a great relationship, so that helps to keep things calm, but we work hard at that, too. No relationship is without its bumps, but one thing we endeavour to do is talk things out before they escalate into a fight. It’s been a journey to get to this place, but I’m grateful we worked so hard at it. It helps to keep our life non-toxic.

I do yoga and meditation. I practiced for years and then life got in the way for a time, but I’m working my way back to a daily practice. For me, this is the most calming thing. For you it might be something very different. The most important thing is to find your happy place. I have several. Between the pages of a good book, on my yoga mat, cuddling with Jonas and talking, reading together, to name a few. Find a happy place and go there as often as possible, especially when feeling stressed.

The next stressor is our relationships outside the home. I endeavour to keep my relationships positive and if they aren’t I think carefully about how I can change them and if they can’t be changed, I have to consider letting them go. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it has made a huge difference in my life. The great news is that now I have wonderful relationships in my life both with family and friends.

My job/career. That has been a source of a lot of unease until recently. I realize now that I have to be organized (outline!) and have clearly defined goals. When I was writing for myself and publishing independently, I didn’t have a lot of focus. Jonas was doing so well that my contributions or non-contributions didn’t make a lot of difference to the finances, so I let myself off the hook. Bad idea. If I don’t take my writing seriously, who will? I’ve made the necessary changes and it’s going better than ever before and I certainly have a lot more respect for myself.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. What areas in your life are causing you stress and making it difficult to meet your goals? Do you have goals? Remember, what you’re experiencing in your life is because you chose it. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but I finally choked it down and started making some changes. Now I can take credit for the good things in my life, because I also chose them.

Keep Calm and be happy.

inspirational, writing

Facing Fear

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It’s difficult to expose one’s weaknesses to the world.  Fear and writing have long been wrapped up together for me. I love to write, have a passion to write and can’t imagine anything better as a career, and yet it’s terrifying. So terrifying that I’ve often quit writing, either for a small time or even for a couple of years. I always come back, though. I can’t stop writing because it’s in my soul. True writers know exactly what I’m talking about.

I once heard someone say if you can possibly do anything other than write, do it. I tried, believe me. There’s a lot of other things I love to do, such as paint and play the piano and knit. I’ll often fill my time with these things until I begin to feel restless again. I’ve learned what that means. It means my soul misses my true passion.

I used to think that if you were a “true” writer, then you’d find it easy to write. How wrong I was. It certainly doesn’t help that I’m married to Jonas Saul, one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever met. He makes it look easy. In the time we’ve been together–we met at a writer’s conference and got together two years later–he’s written over thirty novels. He’s a hard act to follow. What I’ve had to learn is that writing novels is a very personal journey. You can get inspiration from others, but you can’t expect your own journey to mirror anyone else’s.

My writing is intense. The stories I create are fraught with emotion and come from a very deep place. That place is my childhood. It was a traumatic and abusive time, which has given me a lot of material, but it’s like handling a very sharp sword. If I’m not careful, I just might cut myself while handling it. I’ve heard it said that some of the most gifted artists are tortured souls. I’ve got enough of that to qualify, but what they don’t say is how difficult it can be to draw from that well.

I’ve decided to face the fear of failure that has been holding me back. It hasn’t held me completely back as I’ve written three books and most of a fourth. I’ve tortured myself with feelings of inadequacy, which are a legacy of my childhood. No more. I will probably always feel that I’m not good enough, but my mind can override those feelings and realize that I have something to offer and besides, even if I don’t think the writing is good enough, I have to do it. It’s time to stop worrying about whether I should or not and just go ahead and write the words. I’m ready to face the fear.

 

Archive, inspirational, travel

My Friend, the Blackbird

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fullsizeoutput_391I’m sitting outside listening to the melodious song of my new friend, a blackbird. He lands on our terrace each morning and sings me a wake-up song. I’ve never seen the common blackbird before as there aren’t any in, at least my part, of North America. I find them seriously cute with their inquisitive eyes and bright orange beaks. Their song is one of my favorite birdsongs.

Every time I see him, though, I think, “…four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie…” I definitely don’t want to see him baked into a pie, but it goes to show how things stay with us from childhood.

It’s interesting to see all the new kinds of wildlife here in Europe. It was one thing I hadn’t thought about when coming to a new continent. It has surprised me how many different kinds of birds there are in Denmark alone. I come from a country that is filled with wildlife of all kinds, but I’ve never heard as many birds all at once as in Denmark. Sometimes while walking, we have difficulty hearing each other, especially if we pass below a tree. The birds are very loud!

Right now, as I sit out on my terrace, there is a concert going on around me. I could never get sick of this.

inspirational

A Culmination

img_4461It’s a beautiful, sunny day here, and I’m sitting at a local café having a tea and a scone with my husband while writing this post. It’s the day after we finally realized our goal we set out to accomplish over five years ago. One day I’m going to write about the journey in a book. It’s been an incredible ride.

Five years ago we were trying to decide what would come next. We’d gotten married recently and were at a crossroads in our life. We had gone through some very trying times and as a result we had little income and not many prospects. We’d met at a writer’s conference several years before and we both had a dream of becoming authors. Having to work full-time, however, didn’t leave a lot of time for creativity, especially working as an accountant. I was always quite exhausted when I got home.

We discussed many options and Jonas came up with his best idea yet. If you know him at all, you know he’s a guy of great ideas. Sarah Roberts anyone? He suggested that I work for a year (This because I had better prospects to get a job that would support us as he’d always worked for himself) and he would stay home to write. His vow to me was that at the end of that year I would never have to work again. That was the beginning of our crazy journey.

I finished work in April of 2011 and soon after we got on a plane headed to Europe. We spent the first year or so house-sitting in order to keep our expenses low. The rest of the time we wrote. Well, we did some touring, too, but that was in our down time, which we didn’t have much of. We soon released Sarah Roberts book after book and before long I had three novels for sale as well.

By the next year, we were making enough money from our books to come home to Canada. We stayed six months and got itchy feet again. We had discovered a love of travel. After being in Italy for a few months and working on getting a visa to stay permanently, Jonas got an email from a Hollywood studio. It’s been almost three years of going back and forth pitching multiple different studios, but yesterday we finally got an offer on the table. And a good one. A very good one.

Through all the travel and even hard times of having not much money, we believed this day would come. I’ve always believed that Jonas had it in him to be a big name in the publishing world. It’s so great to be proven right, isn’t it? So, lots more things to come. This offer is just the beginning of that snowball that’s already picking up speed. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

For now, though, we are heading back to Greece. We have fallen in love with the Greeks and their lovely country and want to make our home there. Off to a new adventure!

art, creativity, inspirational, writing

Daily Creations

img_0609Creating art has become a daily habit for me, something I find difficult to do without. I try to take weekends off to spend time with the family, which means no art and no writing. I usually succeed in staying away, but by the time Monday comes, I’m antsy with the need to create something, both with words and pencils or paint. This has come out of my commitment to learn how to draw.

I decided that if I was going to learn to draw at an older age, I needed to commit to daily practice. What started as a commitment soon became a compulsion. I love the process of creating a picture or writing a book. The best part of it is when I stand back and marvel at what has come out of my own brain, but I’ve learned for the most part to also enjoy the process. That’s one of the hardest lessons to learn. It’s easy to get too close to what you’re creating and begin to think it’s garbage, not worth working on. That’s when it’s time to, literally in the case of art, take a step back and take in the whole picture. For a story, you should put it away for at least a couple of days to see it again with fresh eyes. This is one of the reasons I take weekends off.

The most important thing to remember is, trust the process. You won’t know if you’ve got a masterpiece until it’s complete. If you quit early, you’ll never know what it was capable of becoming. If, at the end, you still have garbage, well you’ve learned something you can use to make the next project better. Creativity is never wasted.

This is a good analogy for life. You are also a masterpiece in the making. But, the process is ongoing. It’s important to trust the process and allow yourself time to grow and develop into the spectacular human you’re capable of becoming. Don’t criticize a half-made creation, rather watch and see how you will develop. I’m not the person I was twenty years ago and I’m sure you aren’t either.

Creativity is what makes life interesting and makes humans unique. Are you giving yourself space to be creative every day?

inspirational

Is that Your Best?

img_1403My life used to be a constant search for perfection. I believe it came from never being able to please my mother. No matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough. So, I set off on a lifelong search to find a way to finally be good enough. That search led me to be hard on myself and to allow nothing less than perfection in everything I did.

To be perfect means never to make a mistake. But, mistakes are the very things that make us human. In fact, we don’t learn without making mistakes. These are necessary life lessons. How did I get off the perfection roller coaster? By realizing that all I have to do is my best.

In an episode of Breaking Bad, one of the main characters, Jesse, was telling a story about a carpentry class he took in school. He was supposed to make a small chest as his project for the year. He decided to make it quickly and get it over with so he could mess around for the rest of the classes. When he brought his shoddily-made box to his teacher, all the teacher said was, “Is that your best?”

Jesse didn’t feel that the teacher was criticizing him or telling him to do it better, he was just asking a simple question. If Jesse had answered yes, the teacher would have probably accepted the project and given him an average grade, but Jesse suddenly wasn’t satisfied with himself and his workmanship. He took the box back and spent weeks making the best chest he could make. He spent hours sanding and shaping until he had a project he was proud of. You could see the pride in his face even as he told the story years later. Now he could honestly answer, “Yes. This is my best.”

That’s all we need to do. We don’t need to be perfect. It’s actually impossible to be so. Besides, what is perfect anyway but someone’s opinion. One man’s perfection is another man’s lowest standard. If you do your best, you can always feel proud of what you accomplish. The next time you do something that isn’t perfect, remind yourself, “I did my best.”

creativity, inspirational, travel, writing

Castle on a Rock

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Bourtzi Castle in Nafplio, Greece

I lean back against the sun-warmed stones and gaze across the blue-green sea of Nafplio’s harbor. The water swells softly, the crests glistening in the sun which casts a hazy glow across the landscape. A castle sits high on the rocky mountain above the city like an ancient sentinel. I can easily imagine the same scene hundreds of years ago. Not much has changed.

I can’t resist sitting cross-legged on the rocks to pull my journal out of my purse and try with simple words to describe what my eyes have trouble believing. The view takes my breath, sweeping it up to mingle with the sea breezes which threaten to steal my new hat.

The wind picks up, rustling my pages and my gaze is drawn upward by the sound of engines. Two motored paragliders sail across the perfect blue of the sky, coming, what looks to me, perilously close to each other. But, they too, enjoy this gorgeous day over the Aegean Sea. What it must look like to them–God’s point of view.

The boat’s horn sounds, awakening me from my reverie. As we glide back across the harbor, I find myself wishing I could stay longer and soak up more of the peace I found there, along with the fresh salt breeze and the sun kissing my skin. Soon I will return to greet the small part of me that I left behind, gazing across the bay with sparkling eyes and a dreamy smile.