A Time to Work, A Time to Rest

Talking and writing and teaching, oh my!

I argue against being labeled a workaholic.  Still, in the quiet honesty of exhaustion, I have to admit that I sometimes wobble on the edge. Not that I see it as a definite negative.  I do get a lot done.

Working at writers conferences is a joy.  So was selling a box of my book Women in Crisis:  A Handbook for People Helpers, then scouting out enough extra copies to allow a Southern pastor to present a seminar for 50 women desperately in need of help.  A joy, yes, but also a time consuming challenge.

I do like to teach and speak.  Hey, how often do we get to speak our minds to people who really want to listen?  I like it, but the preparation does take time.

Oh, and writing, of course.  Even with the deadlines.  And an assortment of other  jobs–at church, with family and friends, in the neighborhood.  All good, but all take time and effort.

Which is why I need to get away and recover and renew.

Which is why Dan and I decided to skip out on the recently endless rain at home, and the non-stop work, to vacation in sunny Hawaii.  It’s just what both of us needed.

Yes, I admit it.  I am doing some work. But not much. And I’m doing research here in Hawaii for an upcoming book.  But I’ll save that for another post!

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

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What? The Internet Isn’t Private?

Nigeria.  Women in politics.  Persecution.  Ku Klux Klan.  Breast cancer. New York Times Best sellers.  Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Weather forecast for Hawaii. Median house prices in Southern California. Air flight prices to India.

All of these are things I recently looked up on the internet.  Put them together and they tell you a fair bit about me.

Our internet searches reveal a lot, which is why internet companies know so much about us.  And now our president saddled us with a new law that lets those companies sell all that collected data to advertisers–without our permission.  And not just to advertisers, either.  They can sell to anyone.  Insurance companies, for instance, who might want to know every detail of our health history before setting a price for insurance.  Or political parties, whose calls never end.  Or potential employers who want details of our personal lives.  And what about all those who have something in their backgrounds of which they aren’t too proud?  Could this new law even open them up to blackmail?

A whole new door to our privacy has not only been thrown open, but it has been completely ripped off its hinges.  And what can we do to protect ourselves?  Not much.  Except possibly going off-line.  Which is totally unfair.

Thanks a lot!

“The future is already here;  it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

William Gibson, Novelist

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Then Comes Easter

Yesterday I shivered in the chilly damp.  The wind, blowing through the clouds, beat down the daffodils and tulips, and peppered the rain soaked ground with pink and white blossoms blown from the trees.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

The weather is nicer today.  Nicer, but quiet.  Really quiet. Quiet and strangely still.  As if the earth itself is holding it’s breath.

Today is Holy Saturday.

But tomorrow with the dawn, a warm sunshine is due to return.  It will be a  glorious      day.  Even if the rain pours down and the wind blows.  Even if it should hail or snow.  Even then it will be a glorious day. Because…

Tomorrow is  Easter Sunday

Christ is risen!

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Travel Writing Do’s and Don’ts

You say you took a great trip, and now you want to write about it?  Good for you!  That’s one of my favorite types of writing.  May I offer some Do’s and Don’ts I’ve learned from experience?

DO:

  • …use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
  • …focus on what in your trip was interesting and different.
  • …keep all your senses open for things that will bring your readers along on your trip with you.  Things such as the aroma of Indian curry cooking, the sound of peacocks calling in the early morning, the taste of a fresh mango pulled from a tree.
  • …feel free to include interesting historical tidbits about the place. But be certain those facts are accurate. A detail may seem small and unimportant to you, but someone will know.
  • …read your writing over aloud.  Ask yourself, “If I hadn’t been there, would this writing make me want to go?”

DON’T:

  • …write in the first person.  Readers aren’t really interested in your thoughts and feelings.  They want to be carried away on their own vicarious trip.
  • …state the obvious.  If the waves roll up on the sand… if the rain soaks the ground… if the flowers bloom–guess what?  That’s what waves and rain and flowers do!
  • …use clichés. Hawaii is a paradise. You can read the residents like a book. India is a fabled land.
  • …overuse adjectives: an awesomely wondrous trip, an exhaustingly straight-up climb into the clouds, a fearsomely ferocious bear of an animal.
  • …try to impress your readers with your amazing vocabulary.  The waiter was audaciously impudent, impertinent and insolent.

One more DO:  Get started on your travel piece.  Armchair travelers are waiting!

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

~St. Augustine”

 

 

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Overnight Success

Writers just starting out look at those of us who are further along the writing road, and they often say something such as: “I hope I can be an overnight success like you.” 

Oh, if only they knew!  With few exceptions, it takes years of learning and practicing and writing and rewriting to get to where we can be “overnight successes.”

Not that new writers are convinced.  They often move in close and, with a  conspiratorial wink, ask, “Come on.  You can trust me. What is the real secret to getting published?”

Okay, you got me.  Here’s the secret: Learn the craft of writing–from classes, from books, at writers’ conferences. Especially at writers’ conferences.  Then get busy and write.  Write and write and write some more. Everyone gets better and better.  No one gets worse and worse.

Wherever you are in the process–beginner, getting some work completed, or an “overnight success”–my advice to you is: Learn and Write.  I will be looking forward to reading your work.

Write On!

“Give me a couple of years, and I’ll make that actress an overnight success.”

Samuel Goldwyn

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Education + Contacts + Beauty = A+ Writers Conference!

Here we are at Mount Hermon’s fabulous Writers Conference.  So many wonderful memories. (Of course, I got a head start.  From the time I was 4 until I was 16, I spent every birthday at Mount Hermon.  The highlight of the best week of my year!)  But the writers conference played an even more important role in my life.  It’s where I sold my first book.  And where I learned how to write like a professional.  And where I made the contacts for just about every other one of my 43 published books.

Education, contacts, and a gorgeous setting.  Classes and workshops and mentoring opportunities, editors and agents and encouragers of every kind, all in the midst of towering redwoods, blooming dogwood trees, and showers of cherry  blossoms.

This world-famed conference is held every year the week before Easter.  If you are an aspiring writer and you missed this year, start saving your money.  Can’t wait to see you next year.

“It is the job that is never started that takes longest to finish.”

~J.R.R. Tolkien~

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Depends on what Truth Is

Remember the first time you got caught in a lie?  Remember your mom scolding you?  Your dad’s punishment?  Your grandparents’ disappointment?  Your own defensiveness and embarrassment?  Straying from the truth probably got easier after that.  Or maybe not.  That was in the long ago days before we were drowning in “alternative facts.”

Is right always right?

Is wrong always wrong?

How do parents today teach their children to tell the truth?  How do they teach them to know the difference between right and wrong?

I’m forseeing a run on a new t-shirt that features a portrait of George Washington. Below is this quote:  “I cannot tell an alternate fact.”

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Daniel Moynihan, U.S. politician and diplomat

 

 

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Of Seeds and Tomorrows

Dan started planting our garden this week.  Well, what he actually did was plant seeds in little containers and carefully arrange them on shelves in his new portable green house. He will transplant them into the garden when they are big enough to mature on their own.  There are  pansies and nasturtiums and johnny-jump-ups  for the flower beds, and snap peas, a variety of lettuces, and green beans for the vegetable beds.

I’m impatient for summer. I’m hungry for the blueberries, raspberries, and marion berries warm off the vines, for tomatoes that ripen faster than we can eat them.  I’m eager for…

Wait a minute.  Why am I wishing my life away? Can anything be as glorious as the burst of pink and white blossoms on the trees? Or as hopeful as the camellia’s bursting with color?

Clouds or sun, rain or shine, bad news or good, I don’t want to waste a single day. I have way too much living to do.

Today.  And tomorrow.  And for many, many tomorrows to come.

 

 “All the flowers of all the tomorrows

are in the seeds of  today.”

~Indian Proverb~

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Sweet Little Pauses

Things have been stressful lately.  Not just for me, either. Wars and betrayals and selfishness and greed seem to be rampant.  One quick glance at the news is enough to push any of us into depression.  And it seems that stress and frustration are afflicting people in all corners of the world.  I say it’s time to take a sweet, refreshing pause.

When situations begin to  weigh heavy on me, I find that few things can restore hope like a  glimpse into the innocence of my little granddaughters.

Can anything pull people together like a joyous horsey ride on someone you love as much as your brother?  

Can anything restore hope  for tomorrow like watching little hands indulge in boundless creativity?

Spring is here! Tomorrow will be another day.  A sunnier one, we hope.  A day bursting with possibilities.

We trust it will.

We pray it’s so.

Have a blessed first day of a blessed new week!

“My future starts when I wake up every morning.  Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

~Miles Davis~

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Our Divided Country

After close to a quarter of a century of marriage, a couple in California has filed for divorce.  He a Republican and she a Democrat have never fought about politics. Never even made an issue of politics.  But President Trump was a deal breaker.  They aren’t alone.  A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 13 percent of Americans have ended relationships as a result of this past election.

We are a divided nation: parent against children, husband against wife, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, Christian against Christian.

None of us is benefitting from this, but we’re all helpless to change it. Or are we?  We cannot change everyone else, but we can change ourselves.  Some suggestions:

  • Don’t try to talk about it when you’re angry.  It will be the best speech you’ll ever regret.
  • Instead of simply rearranging your prejudices, do your best to think about the true issues.
  • You can’t personally do away with the problems, but you can work toward being able to deal with them.
  • You’re probably right that the other person has blind spots and doesn’t see things objectively. But you probably do, too.  Be willing to acknowledge this before you rush to accuse the other side.

Being reasonable is like singing.  We can all do it well enough to satisfy ourselves, but few of us are good enough to impress those around us.

“It sounds plausible enough tonight. But wait until tomorrow.  Wait for the common sense of the morning.”

H.G. Wells

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