Stepping into the Fear

path through the woods

I wanted you to go away
so I ignored you
turned my head
hummed a song
blocked my ears when you spoke
but you were always the persistent one
your fingers grazing my shoulders when my back was turned
your hot breath on my neck
your whisperings in my ear
you convinced me
and now there is no turning back

pink dragonflies

Have you ever felt like you should do something you were afraid to do? Have you felt that constant tug to step just beyond the light you have shining in your path? Have you ever known that there could be so much more for you if you were just willing to take that first step … to meet your destiny with one great terrifying leap?

I’ve felt that too. I’ve let fear bind my hands and keep me from experiencing all that I can in this life. I live small and tiptoe through the world not really going after what I want.

I do this because I’m afraid. Fear is one of the most overwhelmingly present emotions in my life. It’s always been that way. I was a nervous, fearful child, and now I’m a nervous, fearful adult. You probably didn’t realize that, but it is so true and I’m officially tired of living this way.

What do you fear most? I fear too many things to count, but I’m starting to step right up to those fears one at a time. I don’t expect to ever be able get rid of them completely. Is there anyone who is truly fearless?

The difference between the courageous and everyone else is that the courageous feel the fear and do it anyway. They don’t let that sick feeling in their stomachs and the pounding of their hearts stop them. They feel those feelings and move through them because they know that what they are about to do will be worth it.

There are ideas that I’ve had for years that I’ve never attempted because I was too afraid. There have been opportunities missed because I was too fearful to speak up. No more. I’m finally ready to change.

Losing Track of Time

Rainbow on the Beach

The other day I was feeling so sick that I probably should’ve just gone to bed, but I had an idea for a painting in my head that I just couldn’t shake. It was gnawing away at me and I had to set my illness aside, get up, and paint.

It’s funny how when you’re doing something you love the time flies by. My aches and pains seemed to vanish as I put paint to canvas. Before I knew it hours had passed.

Do you ever have that experience? Is there something that you do that puts you in the zone and makes everything else around you disappear?

That’s your place of genius. Many people don’t spend much time there, but some of us know that we should be spending as much time as possible in that place where time seems to vanish and you can get lost in the moment.

When was the last time you lost track of time because you loved what you were doing so much?

Waiting for Perfection

Rainbow on the Beach

I sit
arms crossed
waiting for you
my legs growing restless
my back aching
I count the days
until I can see the light in your eyes
touch your soft flawless skin
but you never come
I wait for you
imagining your arrival
because only when you arrive
will my life begin.

Have you ever felt like everything needed to be perfect before you could start a new project? As soon as you have this much extra money or that much extra time you’ll be able to realize your grand idea. The circumstances will be right for you to start something new.

I try to pretend I don’t do this, but when I take a good honest look in the mirror I realize I do.

I’ve had an idea for a mixed media art project for years now–that’s right I said years–and I’ve just never done it, because my circumstances weren’t exactly what I thought they should be. I was constantly thinking that once I had more money I’d be able to pay for the supplies and once I had more time I’d be able to …

You know how it goes. When you actually do have more time you use it to watch movies on Netflix instead of starting that project. Once you have more money … well honestly at this point I never actually have extra money and that’s a whole different problem.

Your situation is never going to be perfect because nothing is perfect … nothing. You are never going to be 100% ready. You just have to dive in and hope to learn to swim once you hit the water.

I bought some paints and a canvas last week. I finally got my printer situation sorted. That took way longer than it should’ve. Now I’m ready to dive in. My first attempts have been clumsy and nowhere near what I imagined, but that’s all right. In the beginning it’s always kind of sucky and disappointing. With practice, consistence, and persistence I’ll iron out the rough edges to make my vision happen.

Most times you have to start before you’re ready in less than ideal circumstances, but starting will make you ready and circumstances improve.

Interview with an Author: Angus Woodward

A few weeks ago I wrote a review for a book of short stories by Angus Woodward called Down at the End of the River. Fortunately, Angus Woodward has agreed to an interview. I’m grateful that he has taken the time to share some information about his books and his creative process with us. I hope you enjoy the interview below.

Angus Woodward

Q: Please tell us a bit about your background and how you started writing.

A: I was raised in the midwest by southern parents, in a house with thousands of books and only five television channels. Like so many writers, I started writing by reading and becoming captivated by prose and its ability to captivate me. When it was time to go to college, I wasn’t very good at anything besides writing, but more importantly writing was a comfort. I learned a lot about writing from my professors and classmates at the University of Michigan and LSU.

Q: What is your writing process? When you start a story do you usually know where it’s headed or are you along for the ride?

A: I have resisted any pressure to employ a strict writing routine of exactly X number of minutes or words per day. I don’t even write in the same room every day, or on the same piece of furniture, and I use a variety of writing tools. For me the key is to write every day, even just a little, so that I remain engaged with the work. I really think the process depends on the project. Sometimes I have a premise and I write to see where it takes me; other times I do some very deliberate planning beforehand. Recently my prewriting has consisted of cartoonish sketches of characters and locales.

Q: What do you feel is the common thread that runs through the short stories in Down at the End of the River? Is there a general message that you were trying to convey?

A: The only thread is the land I have embraced, where I have spent the past 27 years. The Soul Rebels brass band has a song called “504,” which is the New Orleans area code, and they sing, “There’s a feeling/you get living here/from the people/and the music you hear/speaking to you/and the message is clear: enjoy yourself.” It’s not just 504, but also 225 and 337 and 985 that have that spirit. That’s the message.

Q: You’ve also written a novel called Americanisation: Lessons in American Culture and Language. Could you tell us about a bit about it?

A: It’s a very different kind of book, although it has something in common with the more comical stories in Down at the End of the River. It’s a novel, but it poses as a textbook for non-native speakers of English. Michael Martone said it was hilarious, which made me very happy.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Believe it or not, I’m working on a novel in the form of a terms-of-use agreement whose premise is that aliens caused the BP oil spill. But I’m also working on a novella that turns Conrad’s Heart of Darkness on its head by telling the story of a rainforest native who pursues a rogue tribesman downriver to civilization. Also a picaresque novel in which a young man gets turned into a Ford F-150 (sort of). I have learned that I write best when I’m having fun.

Q: Where can we find out more about you and your writing online?

A: I love Facebook and am happy to interact with readers there. I am also on Goodreads and LibraryThing, and I have a website at And then there’s this fun story hosted by the good folks at Alimentum:

Live Your Fullest Life and Make Our World a Better Place

Beach Meditation by Lovelyn Bettison

Who told you that you were so special? What made you think that you wouldn’t have to work like the rest of us? Where do you get off thinking that what you create is worth anything? How dare you think your photography … music … paintings … stories are good enough to pay for?

You take these questions to heart and fall into a nine to five. Every morning you slip on a suit, or pin on a name tag, or put on your biggest fakest smile. You’re busy with work and family. Soon you’re too busy to create at all. Your paints … camera … guitar sits in the corner of the room untouched. The stories that once swirled in your head have long since disappeared.

The art inside of you has drained out and you find yourself living someone else’s life. You are no longer special because you’ve decided to ignore the very thing that makes you YOU. Your art is worth nothing because it was never created.

The beginning of this post is a bummer, isn’t it? It has been true though for many, including me. In the past I took jobs that didn’t really interest me instead of focusing on the creativity that came so naturally.

Applying for jobs is a habit that I’ve actually found hard to kick. Just today I passed a now-hiring sign for Bed Bath and Beyond and thought that maybe I should apply. I didn’t though, because I don’t really want the job and I realized that my path in this life is taking me to a new exciting place that doesn’t involve selling people towels. Not that there’s anything wrong with selling towels. It’s just not for me.

You aren’t doing anyone any favors by living an inauthentic life. Living your fullest most complete life is how you can help to make this world a better place. Where does that start? It starts by developing the talents and passions that were formed inside of you when you were young. It starts by making your creativity a priority. It starts by valuing yourself.

Is Art Useful?

Photo by RomitaGirl67

Photo by Ian Sane

My sister is a painter. She doesn’t paint professionally. I’ve often wondered why she’s never really given it a go because I think she’s quite good.

One day she was telling me about a business idea she had. She went into great detail about it and when she was done I asked her why she didn’t just sell her paintings.

“Because I want to make something useful. Art isn’t useful,” she said.

That stuck with me for a long time.

Art isn’t useful?

Each of us consumes art every single day of our lives. We listen to music, read stories, see paintings and photography everywhere. If art isn’t useful why is it so prevalent?

The artist fulfills a basic human need for beauty. The earliest humans painted pictures on the walls of caves and made necklaces from shells. They made up stories, played drums, sang, and danced.

We use art to connect with one another, imagine the unknown, express emotion, capture a moment in time. We use art to celebrate and to mourn.

Art is necessary…

Every afternoon I sit at my computer and type out another chapter to the novel I’m working on. No, I’m not curing cancer or coming up with a solution to global warming, but that doesn’t mean that the stories I write aren’t useful. If someone can come home from a stressful day at work, sit down with one of my novels, and relax for a while I’ve done my job. If they can read my book and connect to the characters, wonder what happens next, or be transported to another world, I’ve done my job.

When someone loves a painting so much that they want to hang it on the wall in their living room and see it everyday …

When someone listens to a song over and over again because it expresses the hurt in their heart more then their words ever could …

When a photograph makes you look at world from a new perspective …

When a sculpture makes you stop and take notice …

… art is useful.

… art is necessary.

Art is what makes us human.</h2

Book Review: Down at the End of the River by Angus Woodward

It has taken me forever to get this review posted, but here it is … finally.

Down at the End of the River is a book of short stories by Angus Woodward. This book of quirky little stories gives you brief glimpses into the lives of a variety of characters living in southern Louisiana. Some are funny and some touch the soul, but all are written in a way that makes the ordinary interesting.

The characters are quite realistic. They could be standing in line behind you at the grocery store or in the car ahead of you at the traffic light. They are ordinary people in so many ways, but also extraordinary because of the stories they have to tell.

Woodward does a wonderful job of capturing moments. His descriptions drop you right into the story so that you feel like you know these people well.

My favorite story in the book is The Story of Jane and George. It the story of a Vietnam veteran and his Vietnamese wife. It really is a lovely story. Here is an excerpt from it.

George and Jane had crossed the big river bridge into Baton Rouge one night six weeks before, making the move from Galveston. The little car had strained to pull the rented trailer up the slope of the long steel span, but at the top every weight had seemed to lift from the car and from George’s chest. The river twinkled blackly, his wife slept lightly beside him, and they descended into a new city at high speed.

Things had gotten rough on both of them in Galveston before they were married. George had felt the beginnings of a subtle persecution when he started to appear with Jane in public. In the mall, in the grocery store, even just driving down the street he had felt stared at, talked about, laughed at meanly. He could tell that similar things were happening to Jane. “Don’t you knew her?” he’d asked her when they saw a plump Vietnamese woman in the meat department of the Piggly Wiggly near the waterfront. “I don’t know her,” Jane had said, not looking. When she and the woman spoke briefly in the cereal aisle, he thought their words sounded harsh and unfriendly. “What did she say?” he asked as they moved on toward the paper products. “She say , ‘Hello, how are you?’” Jane had answered. ~ Angus Woodward

I enjoyed this book tremendously and would definitely recommend it. Buy your own copy of Down at the End of the River.

Are Daily Word Count Goals Necessary?

typingThere’s a lot of talk about putting out a lot of product in order to make it as a self-published author, but sometimes creativity is slow. That’s how it’s been for me recently. I spend a lot of time sitting and thinking, my fingers not even touching the keys as I work out characters and plot.

When I was a college student I used to write poetry. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that, but I did. I’d spend hours sitting in my room trying to work out a poem in my head. The whole thing was complete before I ever put it down on paper. The process was slow and meditative. It required a lot of thinking and waiting. Sometimes that’s what your creative mind needs.

Last year I tried really pushing myself when it came to word count. I thought that if I wrote at least five thousand words a day I’d really be accomplishing something great. Honestly, that kind of writing isn’t for me. It doesn’t lend itself to the types of story I really want to tell. I ended up writing more garbage than I’d like to admit. I ended up experimenting with genres that really just weren’t right for me. My writing was a mess.

I’ve decided to step it back a bit since then. I’m back to my normal five hundred to one thousand words. I’m at my most creative there.

There are some who say that isn’t good enough. That you really have to push yourself to do more, but I don’t think writing is the same for everyone. You have to find your own sweet spot.

Writing words just for the sake of keeping up with a word count goal you’ve set can result in a badly written story. Of course you’ll do edits to fix it up later, but that editing process would be a lot easier if you’d just taken the time to really think about your story in the first place.

Do you have a daily word count? Do you think that daily word counts ever hurt the quality of an author’s work?

Photo by Mikamatto

A New Start in the New Year

new yearHappy New Year! I hope you’ve recovered from your hangover and are ready to step it up for 2014.

Every year people make out a list of goals. They want to drop a few extra pounds, save more money, exercise regularly, eat right, or finally get around to writing that novel. (I’m looking at you Mr. and Ms. I-Always-Wanted-to-Write-a-Novel-But-Just-Can’t-Seem-to-Get-Started.) In my case, I need to get around to revising all of the first drafts languishing on my hard drive. The situation is getting pretty ridiculous that’s for sure.

Since I’m a writer and this is kind of a writing blog, I’m assuming that most of you either actively write now or want to write eventually. It doesn’t matter if you want to write a novel, a book of poetry, or a non-fiction book about the viscosity of the slime trail left by leopard slugs, the only way you’re going to get that book done is if you start.

I’ve written about the importance of writing daily before, I know. I’m like your Aunt Louisa who tells you the exact same story every time she sees you. The only difference is Aunt Louisa tells you that story because she’s senile and I repeat myself because it’s so gosh darn important. You can’t call yourself a writer if you’re not writing. Reading about writing doesn’t count. Talking about writing doesn’t count. The only thing that really counts is writing.

You might not be a writer. That’s cool, man. I want this blog to be a space for all creatives to come for inspiration and a bit of a laugh. Whether you paint, sculpt, write songs, carve holy images into grains of rice, or choreograph interpretive dances to the sounds of factory machinery, you need to start doing it everyday. The only way to get better at your craft is to practice.

This year I’m asking you to find thirty minutes everyday to practice your craft. If you’re a writer write for at least thirty minutes. If you’re a painter paint.

Some of you may say, “But I don’t have time to do that.” I have no idea what you’re schedule is during the day, but if you have time to watch TV, you have time to do this. Stop watching one of the television shows you regularly veg out to and take that time to make yourself better. The Big Bang Theory really isn’t helping you achieve your goals in life, trust me.

I’m going to cut down on some of my You Tube viewing to free up more time to polish up my manuscripts. You Tube is like a black hole. One video of a Boston Terrier wearing shoes, suddenly turns in to five and before you know it, it’s midnight and you’ve done nothing.

So the challenge for 2014 is to spend at least thirty minutes a day working on your craft. That’s writing, painting, playing the spoons, or whatever. Try it out for the month of January. You know what they say, it takes thirty days to make a habit. We’ll call it Thirty Minutes for Thirty Days. Don’t you just love naming things?

I’ll check in with you at the end of the month to see how you did.

Photo by danielmoyle

Start Writing Your Novel Now

typewriterIt’s come to my attention that a lot of people want to write a novel. It seems like most people think they’ve got a book in them, but for some reason they just haven’t gotten around to writing it.

There are a lot of excuses for not sitting down and actually getting to that novel you’ve always dreamed of writing, but this post isn’t about excuses. I don’t want to hear any of those. Many writers have gotten up a few hours earlier than usual to write in the morning before heading out for work. Many have burned the midnight oil after work to write the book they always dreamed of writing.

Walter Mosely wrote his novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, whilst working full time. I heard an interview with Toni Morrison in which she described handwriting The Bluest Eyes on a legal pad with her baby in her arms. If you really want to write a book you will find a way to make it happen. If it is important to you you’ll make time for it.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Make a commitment to write everyday. Writers write. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t. Give yourself an allotted amount of time, whatever you feel like you can set aside: an hour, thirty minutes. Whatever you feel like you can do is fine. Sit in front of your computer, with the internet off preferably, and write something. Write anything at first. This is just to get you used to writing.

Even if you only come up with a couple of sentences that’s fine. You’re just starting out. Writing like everything else in this world require practice. You must be willing to practice in order to get good.

Don’t know where to start? I could be smart and say start from the beginning, but I won’t do that to you. When you write a novel you’ll end up doing a lot of revisions. Where you started the novel originally might not be the place in the story the novel starts once you’ve finished doing your rewrites. A first draft can be cut and switched around. It’s a first draft. Just start from anywhere. Do you have a scene from the book in your head already? Start from there.

Sometimes when I find myself getting a bit stuck about a story I write little bios for the characters in the book. It helps me get a better sense of them and their story. Something in one of those bios might give you the perfect jumping off point to start the book.

To outline or not to outline. Some people swear by an outline. Some people like to just let the story flow out of them naturally. I’ve written both ways. The only way you’ll know which method works best for you is by trying them.

Actionable steps to getting started.

Pick a time to write tomorrow. I don’t care if it’s only 15 minutes. Just pick a time and stick to it. Tell the people you live with that you will be writing at that time and not to disturb you. You may have to wait until the kids have gone to bed. That’s fine. Just make the commitment.

At your designated time sit down at your computer and open up a word processing program. Turn off the internet if possible. You don’t need to have distractions.

Don’t freak out. This should be a relaxing, exciting time for you. You’re about to start your novel. You should feel good about that. Don’t stare at the blank screen and have a panic attack. Close your eyes for a moment and let your mind wander. Don’t fall to sleep;)

Put your fingers on the keyboard and start to write. Write until your time is up or until you feel like you’re finished for the day.

Repeat this process daily and eventually you’ll have the first draft to your novel.

Helpful Hint: You know all that chatter that goes on in your head during the day. Much of it is nonsense like negative self talk. Replace some of that with storytelling. Think about your novel. Work out problems in the plot. Consider your characters’ likes and dislikes. Doing that is a lot more fun than worrying and it will help prepare you for the time you’ve set aside to write. Trust me I know.

Hope this helps.

Photo by JD Hancock