Friday, April 27, 2012

Magical Minutes

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love this quote. I think of it every time I write.
Writing requires BIG faith. And a writing project is a lot like a staircase…
A steep and twisted one…
with 87 Matchbox cars,
an Etch-A-Sketch,
and 9 dog bones on it.
Oh, and the power’s out…
and your flashlight has a bad bulb
and iffy batteries.
But it’s all okay. That’s what it’s supposed to be like.
And you have BIG faith, remember?
You just need to get started – even if you’re only going to crawl.
Even if you’re moving as painfully slow as a snail…
with a hangover.
Just move forward.
You will finish that project. You will make it to the top.

But here’s the rub – most folks don’t know how to get started. And then once they get started, sometimes they forget how to keep going.
This is where the faith-filled 15 magical minutes come in.
Whenever I am working on a project, I commit to working on it for 15 minutes each day.
That’s right, only 15 minutes, but every day. Sometimes I work on it longer – a lot longer, but I only have to work on it for 15 minutes. Then I can get on with the rest of my day feeling great and guilt-free.
Those 15 magical minutes serve an important function for me – they get me started. Because, what the heck – it’s only 15 minutes, after all. I mean, I can waste that much time on lolcats.
Once I’m out of the writing gate, I can usually cover some ground. Of course, there are those days when I get tripped up on one word for the full 15. No matter – I’ll make it past that dog bone tomorrow and take another step.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but this method really works for me. In fact, I did it for the month of April, and now I have a picture book manuscript to show for my efforts.
And here’s why it works –
You see, Fear and his cronies (Resistance, Anxiety, Block, and the conjoined twins Procrastination and Housekeeping) are not very bright.
So, while they’re sitting around my kitchen table playing poker, smoking cigars, and laughing about the preposterous notion that I think I can finish a book by working on it only 15 minutes a day…
I do.
And I’ve got the manuscript to prove it.

PROMPT: Remember all of those great ideas you had when you embraced your hummingbird mind? Well, this is the way to make them into tangible things like manuscripts. Have faith – BIG faith – and those magical minutes will work for you. Trust me, before the batteries in that winky-blinky flashlight of yours run out, you’ll be at the top of that staircase – ready to fly!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What’s in Your Pocket?

If you’re averse to this pocket,
you’d better put a verse in yours!

Today would be a great day to heed that old “miserable death” warning from Dr. William Carlos Williams.
Because it’s National Poem in Your Pocket Day!
And you thought you’d missed it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that you’ve spent weeks wondering, “WHEN is National Poem in Your Pocket Day?”
Well, worry no more; The Mind’s Elbow has got you covered.
Today is the day set aside for carrying a favorite poem in your pocket (hence the day’s clever name). Then when family and friends least expect it, you are to pull it out and recite, recite with all your might. Apparently everybody knows about this holiday, so you won’t get strange looks or be hauled off for a mental evaluation. I’ve even heard that a good recitation can get you out of a speeding ticket.
Okay, I made that last part up. But I DID NOT make up National Poem in Your Pocket Day – you can find out more about it here.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned! DO NOT be a LOSER like this guy:

No Poem = LOSER!

By the way, if you live in Charlottesville, Virginia and are heading to Baggby’s for lunch, you will be getting a poem with your sandwich instead of a chocolate chip cookie today. Don’t say you haven’t been warned about this, as well. The owner, Jon LaPanta, claims that everyone smiles about the switch, but I’m thinking that’s right before they punch his lights out.
I mean, I love poetry more than most, but come on!

PROMPT: Pick a pocket poem and participate!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Gotta Be

Last week I was listening to the radio while doing my daily chauffeuring duties, when my ears perked up to a song I hadn’t heard in a mighty long time. It was Des’ree’s 1994 hit, You Gotta Be.
“Listen up, kids,” I said. “This is a song you need to know.”
So I cranked it up and belted it out.
If you are of a certain vintage, you can sing along with me now…
(You know you want to)
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know is love will save the day

Of course, I was extra loud on the Herald what your mother said part.
Oh yeah.
But honestly, I don’t think they really paid attention.
In fact, I think they spent the whole time praying that my next car would have tinted windows.
Fast-forward a few days later…
I hit the road for some writing information and inspiration at the Western Washington SCBWI Conference where Bruce Hale gave the keynote address. The amazing Mr. Hale is the author of the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries. And let me tell you, he gave such an enthusiastic and encouraging speech about persistence and the writing life  that I think everyone should buy multiple copies of all of his books (yes, he was that good).
And then right at the end of his standing ovation-worthy talk, Bruce said he wanted to close with a little something we needed to know.
He turned on a little backbeat and started to sing…

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Publishers may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
Stand up and be counted
Don't be ashamed to cry
You gotta be…

I kid you not.
He belted out the whole dang song.
And of course, we all sang along…
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know is love will save the day

What are the chances?

And yes, when I came home I told my kids about it. Go figure – they were all ears. Of course they were – it was wisdom from the almighty BRUCE HALE, after all.

PROMPT: Be bad, bold, and wise today! Start the project you’ve been meaning to start (you know the one I’m talking about)! Finish that draft! Send out that manuscript!  I guarantee LOVE will be right there with you… saving the day.

Monday, April 23, 2012


It was an amazing weekend! Not only did I get to enjoy the fantabulous Western Washington SCBWI Conference, but I was lucky enough to start another trip around the sun.
Yesterday, while many were celebrating Earth Day, I was celebrating a birthday, too. And while I am actually older than Earth Day (which technically makes me older than dirt), you will hear no age-related complaints from me. There's just too much to be thankful for.
And that got me thinking…
Sure, it is important to pursue art with passion and persistence. There is no doubt about that. But here’s something else I sincerely believe, deep down in that creative heart of mine:
If the only words you write, every single day, are those in a list of blessings you are most grateful for…
And if the only thing you paint, every single day, is the beauty that dwells within a small piece of sky…
You will have done enough.
You will have made your world a better place…
And that, in turn, will make the whole world a better place.
That’s my belief…
and I’m stickin’ to it.
Of course, all this grateful pondering reminds me of a story (please, forgive me – everything reminds me of a story).
It was a Thanksgiving long ago when my daughter was just two years old. And like many families, it is our tradition before dinner for everyone to take a turn and state what he or she is most grateful for. Well, when it was my daughter’s turn, she paused and considered.
We all held our collective breath.
And then she stated with solemn conviction…
I have been a fan of those unsung arm heroes ever since.

And so I will begin this day by adding a very special birthday gift to my 5000-mile-long personal gratitude list:
·    The storyteller, in the photo above, that my daughter (of “sleeve” lore) sculpted just for me.

PROMPT: What’s on your list?