A FREE GIFT + Things About Your New Years Resolution You Need to Know Now

16 Dec


One in two Americans make New Years resolutions and only 8% fulfill them.

Are you the 42% that makes promises?

Or the 8% that fulfills them?

After the gifts, the choices, the paper tearing, the movie marathons, and the shopping eating drinking frenzies that are the holidays, you’ll get another go.

There’ll be this magical door closing behind you.

And another one will simultaneously open into an unknown, impossibly exciting future.

Despite the obstacles, you’ll sit there reflecting on what you did wrong in the past year.  You’ll think about what you can do better this next time around the sun.  Who you’ll be.  And how you’ll turn into that person.

Like the time last January when I decided I wanted to find out if I was a writer or not. And I knew, for the first time, that in order to determine if I was, I would actually have to see if I could write regularly . . . and then figure out how that affected me.

Was I a writer?  It wasn’t a decision to make, a “yes” or “no” question.  It was a process based on a series of habits and nothing more.  I had to make it simple. Achievable. So I had to define being a writer as someone who writes.

First the verb “to write” had to be present.

Then the noun: “writer.”

So, I guess what I really wanted to do was start a new habit and let it transform my identity.

The word “resolve” is also a noun and a verb.  It can refer to the action of making a firm decision or finding a solution.  It can also refer to the state of being firmly decided towards a course of action.

I did both. I decided to figure something out and then I made a commitment to the process it would take to figure it out.

But I didn’t do this unsupported.  I actually had a toolkit and process I have used over the past 6 years to help support me in any resolution I made.

In a Nutshell, Here are the Basics for Making a Resolution Happen:

  1. Start a Journal and Don’t Stop. Writers and artists who journal have a much higher chance at succeeding in their goals (i.e. not quitting) than those who don’t. I don’t remember where I saw this but it was a respectable study on writers and artists. And the connection between journalling and achieving any goal is well-known and well-researched.  I started this blog as a way to journal about my resolution . . . I can say without hesitation that it helped motivate me more than anything else.  You know, I like to give myself pep talks on here . . . and find reasons to stay excited. When I’m full of doubt and self-loathing (about half my life), the blog is an opportunity to re-group.
  2. Write Your Resolution Down and Have Tea with It (often).There are so many awesome planning tools out there. You can use your journal but I need more structure and guidance.  My favorite are Leonie Dawson’s Business Planner and Life Planner.  I’ve used it for years and love the “BIG 100 THINGS TO DO” section.  No, I never get to all hundred. Especially when they involve living wills and weekly bookkeeping. But I have noticed that this list is an amazing little engine that lasts throughout the year. It energizes me and ensures I don’t lose myself. Any random thing can go on there — like last year, I put down that I wanted to “build an indoor fort” and “take a letterpress class” and “go off anti-depressants.” Well, as for the fort and letterpress, I might migrate those to next year because they didn’t happen. I tried the anti-depressant thing twice and I thought the second try would stick. But I had to go back on them. I’m taking 5000 mg. vitamin D and (maybe) I’ll try again later.
  3. Find Books and Other Resources that Help. What compels us to change habits is the unavoidable suspicion that we’re officially sick and tired of ourselves. Change sucks.  It sucks because it’s scary and hard.  But it’s also exhilarating when done right. Check out 30 Unmissable Resources for Writers to get the tip of the iceberg.
  4. Do the Eff-ing Work.   
  5. Celebrate Your Successes Along the Way. Build forts, eat ice cream sundaes, drink whisky sours. Whatever whispers life is sweet! on any given day.
  6. Don’t Expect Immediate Results. My friend just got her first poem accepted by Poetry Magazine. She’s already published 2 books, has 2 on the way, is an editor for one of the most prominent U.S. literary journals, and has won numerous awards. For Christ’s sake she was just in Oxford giving a special week-long lecture. True, all she could talk about was how Harry Potter was filmed in the Bodleian Library but whatever . . . she’s obviously successful and better yet, doesn’t take herself terribly seriously.  And she’s been turned down by Poetry Magazine for 15 years!!!  You have to develop that kind of perseverance. If you have trouble, study up on the rejection and “making-it” experiences of successful writers in your genre. You’ll suddenly find yourself in fantastic company!

Speaking of Changes, I have a Few  . . .

It’s a fresh start for me in more ways than one. My blog is moving to Cynthialindeman.Com by the New Year. My good friend Kiere over at Lucid Creative Studios helped me design it & I’m VERY excited!! I’ll be migrating all you lovely wordpress followers soon so you won’t miss anything.

I’ll also be sending you some initial e-mails so you can get to know me better.  You can also decide if what I have to offer has the value you want. I might even encourage you to unsubscribe if it’s not because I know that information-overload won’t help you. I hope to be one of the top 5 peeps in your inbox & I’m willing to earn it.

And . . . just so I don’t have to play the guessing game, I would love to hear from you in the comments about what types of things that WOULD make the top 5 in your inbox.  What I don’t want to EVER do is waste your precious time (& then think I’m actually providing value to you!) Horrors!

And you won’t be getting any more e-mails from me till after the New Year. I’ll be working on spiff-ifying the new site.

I have a free GIFT for you! It’s my way of saying thank you for putting your faith in me and taking a few minutes out of your week to read my blog. It’s a vintage-inspired poster with one of my favorite Ray Bradbury quotes!  Get it HERE.

I’m also putting together a free 60+ page workbook called Write Now! that will be available very soon. Why is this so special?

Because I’m putting 8+ years of teaching writing at the university level and my experience as a working writer and avid self-development geek to create a deeply transformational tool that will get you writing and keep you writing.  It’s what I wish I would’ve had . . . and I’ll e-mail it to you once it’s finished.

I can’t wait to make my resolutions and watch them happen (and I’m proud to be in that sweet 8% this year!)

What about you?


Love You, Writers!

(really do)


Totally Obsessed with Writing? 30 Unmissable Resources You’ll Adore

9 Dec


Always on the prowl for writing stuff online that is unmissaable AND exceptional?

Me, too.

In fact, I’ve been prowling the internet for 6 months for a couple of reasons:

  • I’m a nerd
  • It’s my business to know what happening in books and writing

In the process, I’ve complied an exhaustive list of amazing resources.

I’ll be publishing over a hundred of them sometime soon on a bigger blog but in the meantime, here are some of my TOP picks.

I chose them based on their overall comprehensiveness, their authenticity, their respect for writers, and their commitment to offering the highest-quality content.

You might think I’m crazy to point you to blogs that are better than mine.  And I’ll admit, some of these are my models.  But, I think you deserve the very best.

Oh and by the way, there aren’t any affiliate links whatsoever in this article.

We need all the help we can get finding the good stuff.

Oh hey, by the way, how am I doing?  I rack my brain every week to come up with something I think you’d like to read, then I spend hours (hours!) writing and editing it.  But I’m not sure how it’s going.  I would love to hear how I can help you (REALLY help you), ya know?

Take a sec and talk to me.  What are you  missing?  What do you want more of?  What do you wish you had?

Unmissable Online Blogs n Zines

Alexandra Franzen ~ She’s a sweetheart who writes practical + useable scripts for writers and entrepreneurs.

Brain Pickings ~ I have a brain and I like to use it. Maria Popova combs the New York Library daily and uses her research to publish something between an essay, blog, and book review.  Gold standard for smart content with popular appeal.

Copyblogger ~ Anyone who wants to be persuasive on the internet should read CB. That said, they show outstanding respect for writers, even publishing an interview and article series based on creative writing and story-telling.

Creative Something ~ Quality research and musings on what makes creativity go.  The writer, Tanner, also develops apps for creatives.

Lifehacker ~ There are some really nice articles for writers here so get friendly with the search or lose your day in all the other crazy-interesting stuff that has nothing to do with writing.

LitReactor ~ An online magazine for writers worth its salt. Also offers classes and workshops.

Rebelle Society ~ Passionate writing by passionate people.

Terrible Minds ~ Irreverent.  NSFW and probably NSFL.  The excellent and hilarious advice of a working writer.

The Millions ~ The quickest gun in book news.  I dare you to try to keep up with The Millions.

Writers Helping Writers ~ I’ve seen many writers swear by their thesauruses.  I haven’t used them but I wanted you to know.

Justine Musk ~ Intelligent, sexy, soulful.  New feminism in a real world context.  Meet Justine.

Write to Done ~ Put in any search word into GOOGLE that is 3 times removed from “writing” and this blog will come up. Probably has articles on any topic, any detail, of interest to writers.  Also has a yearly “Best Writers Blog” contest going on.  I admit, I hope to make their list next year!

99U ~ Articles, workbooks, videos OH MY!  The Behance blog caters to all concerns and issues of professional creatives.

Boost Blog Traffic ~ Tough love by Jon Morrow, who constantly admonishes writers to learn, do interesting stuff, and pay attention, mostly by pointing out all the necessary things we don’t like to hear. Articles are usually 2000+ words – chock full of value.  My all-time favorite?  How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers.

Penelope Trunk ~ I read everything she writes.  Everything.  Serious, controversial articles done right (you know, with real research and an undeniable voice).

Unmissable Resources

Poets and Writers ~ Mainly, the forums and submission calendars.  The posts are eh.

The Review Review ~ Too legit to quit.  This site is the reason I can actually NOT include a literary magazine on this list (I read those, too).  But I get to know many of them using Review Review, which features editor interviews, classifieds, and awesome reviews of literary mags.

Litographs ~ A litograph of the ENTIRE text of “The Last Unicorn” (beloved book of my childhood) on a t-shirt?  Break out the smelling salts!  Find your fave book and wear it.  Kay?

Grub Street ~ High quality writing workshops.

Gotham Writers Workshop ~ High quality writing workshops.

UCLA Extension ~ Ummm.  See above.

Harvard Extension ~ Not sure how high-quality these are but it’s Harvard and so . . . worth at least knowing about.

Freedom ~ My new Can’t Live Without It! tool.  Every time I sit down to write my novel, I block the internet for my designated time.  You really do feel free.  No kidding.

Story-O-Meter ~ My soon-to-be Can’t Live Without It! tool.

750 Words ~ It’s simple: you develop your writing habit by logging in 750 words daily.  I don’t use this because I don’t use word count (I use a time limit).  But I WOULD totally use this if I just had a word count with no big project.  Totally.

Write or Die ~ Terrifying.  But you can try. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Written Kitten ~ Kitties!  Every hundred words you get to see a new kitty!

Story Cartel ~ Free books for honest book reviews.  Essential for the self-publishers out there.

OFlow ~ Tanner (over at Creative Something’s) app.  A nice way to ease in, a nice way to keep going.

Scrivener ~ I wouldn’t attempt a long writing project without this program.

Got something you think belongs on this list?  Let me know in the comments.



12 Tips for Managing Depression Whether You’re Creative Or Not

2 Dec



It’s officially the holiday season and the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

How did it go?

You might have had a fabulous time.  I so hope you did, sweetheart.

But knowing what we know about the emotional toll of the holidays, how family can reopen even the toughest wound, and how winter can affect our moods and mental health . . . maybe you didn’t have a fabulous time.

That’s OK.

Maybe you’re a little like me – stuck in the mushy middle between hope and dread.

Maybe you’re asking yourself: how can I get through another winter?  Or another family get-together. Or another event of forced holiday fun.

I don’t know the answer to that but I know this: you are strong.  And it’s your weaknesses that make it so.

Blue Snow

A few years ago, I suffered through the 3 brutal winters of 2008-2010.  I lived on the side of a forlorn but scenic little mountain in wild Appalachia.  I had one neighbor across the street whose house was hidden up in the trees.  Other than that I was alone in a forest, in a house I could barely afford to heat, a newly single-mom who had moved across country, leaving a 10 year marriage and everything that wouldn’t fit into her car behind.

Back to back blizzards stomped the east coast, immobilizing my community for days or even weeks. Huge blocks of ice stayed on the ground for 2 months at a time.  Two years in a row, I spent Christmas alone, after sending my daughter off to her dad’s only to get snowed in.

I remember shoveling my quarter-mile driveway to a decrepit road that was not state maintained and looking at snow so cold it turned blue on my shovel.

A killing blue.

I remember looking up and truly seeing that wild country for what it was: a place that killed people.  I thought of all the generations that had lived or traveled right through that spot before me . . . and how many of them didn’t make it out.  I didn’t know if I would make it out.  Maybe I wouldn’t die from exposure . . . but I might die from depression or grief.

I soon learned to visit the doctor every October to start a round of anti-depressants.  We passed it off as seasonal depression.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: The Why of Depression

Last week, we got our first snow here in the southeast US and it was particularly sweet and beautiful.  The internet was chock full of “gratitude” posts and if I thought about it – and I mean really thought about it – there wouldn’t be enough time in the day for me to list all the things I am grateful for.  That said, I still get depressed.  In fact, I’ve struggled with depression since I was about 9 years old.  And this is the time of year - winter and holidays – when so many of us struggle silently with seasonal affective disorder and depression.

Even though my life is awesome right now.

Sure, it could be better.  I could be making more money ( a lot more).  And I could be 10 pounds thinner.  And my daughter could give me more hugs.  Or, a hug.  Just one hug would be great.  But basically, that’s about it.

I still have depression.  And because I’ve had it for so long, and often despite any circumstantial causes, I consider it a disease.

Oh I know you might think we choose to feel depression.  I would even agree with that somewhat.  I know I can affect my thoughts and feelings.  In fact, I know I can usually fully manage my depression with the right set of behaviors.  This set of behaviors is like “self-therapy.”  I know if I lapse, the depression will come back.  Because it never goes away.  Never.  No matter how I feel.  It can go into a state I call “remission” but it never goes away.

That’s why my depression is a disease.

Lots of people in America have it – the disease and the situation.  Because depression is a situation, too. Sometimes, when people should be experiencing grief, they experience depression instead.  It’s easier than really facing loss.

This infographic shows that in 2012, 1 in 10 Americans were affected by depression: a statistic that has remained fairly stable over the past few years.  And in general, women are twice as likely to experience depression than men.

And this Huffington Post article claims that suicide now takes more lives in America than any other injury.  Suicide is not always motivated by depression – but it commonly is.  It overtook car accidents in 2009.

There are so many approaches to cause one can take when trying to answer the “why” of depression.

There’s the positive advice approach which might argue that depression is what happens when who you are and who you could potentially be becomes too disparate.  Then, there are the seasonal, geographic, and genetic approaches, which are mind-boggling.

Then, of course, there’s the temperament approach that links creativity to depression.

Could I be Depressed Because I’m Creative?

There’s a well-known link between depression, mentally illness and creativity – as if temperament could determine mental health.  But scientists are divided on this account and so are anecdotal sources.

This 40 year study found that there was no link between psychopathology and creatives.  However, it did find that people with some diagnoses like schizophrenia were over-represented in creative fields. Huh?

This means that a creative person is no more likely to be diagnosed with a psychopathology than someone in the general population.  It simply means that those who have a psychopathology are more likely to go into creative fields.

When I Googled “creativity and depression” the arguments were all over the place. Apparently, the depression-creativity link is a myth and it blocks creativity.  It also aids creativity.  Creatives are more depressed while nope! creatives are happier than the general population.

As my yoga teacher would say, “meditate on that shit.”

Meditate on This Shit: Unconventional Tips for Depression

Truth be told we’ll never really know why depression strikes or how long it will last or why someone like me will have it all their lives and someone else will only have it for a few months or years . . . or maybe never.

All we can do is get through it, whether it aids our creativity or hinders it.  I would like to believe it aids it so I’m going with that.

Without further ado here are my tips for dealing with depression:

  1. Eat healthy (but don’t go overboard).  We know drugs affect mood and sugar really affects it.  Which is why depressed people often crave sugar so much.  Cut down on the sugar, including honey and other natural sugars.  Eat vegetables and some fruits (careful, fruit has lots of sugar) regularly.  Treat yourself once or twice a week.  If you feel like it, go on a healthy, green cleanse of some sort.  Kris Carr’s work absolutely changed my life in making the link between disease treatment, health, and depression.  I also really enjoy Lissa Rankin’s important work on the importance of the stress response and how to manage it.
  2. Watch your sleep routine.  Getting up and going to sleep at the same time each day is really key.  This is what I’m worst at!  But I’m trying to get up at 7 each day and be in bed by 11 each night.  Research also backs these times up.
  3. Move.  Move your body through dance or exercise regularly.  My thing is yoga and dance.  And I credit belly-dance, not anti-depressants, for giving me the strength to move off that lonely mountain two years ago and try for a better life.  People say any type of movement will work but I feel dance un-sticks emotional energy in a way nothing else does.
  4. Get a tattoo or other strong reminder of where you’ve been and where you’re going.  I got a tattoo on the insides of both of my forearms.  It’s meant to remind me of my 3+ years alone on that mountain, how I wanted to die.  It’s meant to remind me of those lessons.  Does it prevent me from becoming depressed? No (because I have a disease, remember)?  But it does call that time to mind and remind me that if I found the strength to get through that, I can do anything.
  5. Educate Yourself.  Our brains are fascinating, complex organs that scientists aren’t even close to understanding.  But they do know a little bit that you can use now.  I recommend Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.  There are also groups out there doing tremendous work around depression.  For example, there are some amazing tools and resources at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance that I’ve recommended to several friends who have come to me wanting advice about depression (and I’ve used them, too).
  6. For God’s sake, consider stopping therapy unless it’s a match made in heaven.  Listen, if you TRULY feel and believe it’s benefiting you, then continue.  I’ve been through years of “talk” therapy and all it really ever did for me was give me a space to vent.  I needed someone to talk to who wouldn’t judge me.  But was that in and of itself healing?  Not for me.  I don’t remember any solutions coming from it. What I needed was a friend to tell me the hard truth.  Not an enabler.  And for the most part, every single therapist I’ve ever met makes money by enabling.  There are some truly talented therapists out there . . . my best friend is one of them.  But make sure yours is gifted and is actually giving you what you need.  I found more support and resources for myself than any of them ever gave me.
  7. Have lots of (safe and consensual) sex and orgasms.  Okay, remember how women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression?  Well, I’m just saying in general, men are also having more orgasms.  Coincidence?  If you need to teach yourself to have orgasms, then do it.  If you’re alone or in an unsupportive sexual relationship, there are some great resources for vibrators.  For most of us, sex makes us feel alive. Orgasms bathe our brain in happy chemicals.
  8. Talk about it.  Listen, marketers have done research that shows that the three most clickable words on the internet are “You’re Not Alone.”  There’s a reason for that.  In our tribal heart of hearts, all we want to know is that we’re safe, held, and understood.  So, share your story and ask questions in a safe way, whether with a friend, a good therapist, or a support group.  Remember, 1 in 10 people feel JUST. LIKE. YOU.  I know you might feel ashamed about how you feel — I often feel that way too and my first reaction is to hide it.  Trust me, love, it’s so much better when you don’t have to hide it.  Will there be people who judge you?  Yes.  But they’ll be there anyway so you might as well be yourself.
  9. Admit you have a fragile nervous system.  Build a life that supports it – not assaults it.  I have a fragile nervous system.  I just can’t cope with many of the stimuli and situations that many other people seem to be able to.  In fact, this was one of the first personal things I shared with my man when we started dating.  Not on the first date or anything . . . but it was important that he understood this fundamental thing about me.  I thought it would save me a lot of explaining later and give him an easy out.  I mean  not everyone wants to deal with that and I get it.  It means my energy levels and moods are unpredictable, I’m sometimes emotionally unstable, I’m highly creative, and yes, I struggle with depression.  It’s who I am and it’s OK.  It really is.  Especially when I take responsibility for it.
  10. Meditate . . . I mean medicate.  Why not try both?
  11. Deal with grief in a tangible way and keep doing that.  I have a situation going on right now that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  My relationship with my daughter is not what I hoped it would be.  And I grieve for that. Oceans of grief.  It takes me into all my old wounds, depression, bad choices, whatever.  I’ve decided to deal with it or it will deal with me.  For example one of the things I do is bake.  Just like I used to do with her when she was little.  And then I give the food away.  It’s like this grief knocks on the door, I open it and say hello.  Then, I bake, then I give it away and wait for the next time it comes knocking.
  12. Make your dreams come true.  Sweetheart, no one but no one can take the effort away from you – not even depression.  Stay busy with making your dreams come true.  If creativity or self-reflection does in fact predispose you to depression you might as well use it to your advantage.

I’m busy writing books.

What are you doing?

So Much Love,



We Are Lamps, Lifeboats, Ladders: How to End Burnout

25 Nov


Be a lamp, or a lifeboat or a ladder.  – Rumi

Here’s the thing.  I hate rules.  I wish I didn’t.  Really and truly.

That’s why it’s become increasingly difficult to write a stupid blog post.

Instead, I took the last 2 weeks off, one of which was spent in a Las Vegas hotel room watching reality TV, which is a novelty for me since I never watch TV.  I don’t have it – it’s too much of a time-waster.  And besides, I’ve already decided that if I’m going to waste time, it will be through sleeping in and taking naps.


And I know what you’re going to think: who goes to Las Vegas to watch TV?

Actually, I was tagging along on the boyfriend’s conference trip, IBM’s “Big Data.”  By the way, what should I call my boyfriend anyway?  Penelope Trunk has “the farmer.”  The Pioneer Woman has the “Marlboro Man.”  And Leonie Dawson has her “love.”

I want some cute bloggy name for my man.  I ran a few by him like “Teddy Bear” and “Sexy Drummer Guy” and “Big Puffy Mushroom Head” but he didn’t approve of any of those.  He’s not real creative so he also didn’t have any ideas for me.  I’m stumped!

And now that I think about it, I spent my reality TV breaks in Las Vegas watching middle-aged wives from the suburbs try to walk through the casino in their new red, patent-leather “EFF ME” pumps, which they would never wear at home, I’m sure.  Then, it was back to the room to think about writing and wait for the “boyfriend” to return and whisk us off to a cirque show.

And like I said, in Las Vegas I “thought” a lot about writing.  I didn’t actually write.

That was not the way it was supposed to be.

Rules are Contrary to Passion

I had planned a mini-writing retreat, you know?  I had planned to write 1,600 words a day on my novel and post to the blog.

But I was burnt-out.

I had no idea how to begin my novel.  And, I was sick of the all the blogging “rules” and “formulas” I had encountered.  Poetry had run me over an emotional cliff.  And my business planning and ideas foundered on technical gaps.

And to think, all of this started 11 months ago, with a blog.

I began blogging as a way to share my journey as a writer.  I was even going to publish things I wrote like my Fairy Tale, True Story.  Or my travel essay on volcano hiking in Hawai’i.

It began to dawn on me that my blog might help other folks and I cared deeply about that.  I had spent my entire adult life suffering from writer’s block.

If I could help it, I didn’t want that to happen to others.  I mean, even if one thing I wrote helped one person then it was enough.

And I saw the income opportunities, too.

After I left my full-time job in 2011, I’d been experimenting with business ideas that would sustain and support my writing while also paying for my life.  So, the blog is an experiment in that.  To help make sure my posts focused on you, my reader, I started studying the craft of blogging and, as a result, lost the passion for telling my own story.

There were just too many “blogging” rules.  And rules are contrary to passion.

And fundamentally, what drives me, and thus this blog is not about writing.  Or creativity.  Or how to claim yourself in a hostile world.  It’s about passion – the passion that drives any and all of those things.

Let Your Molecules Reorganize

Sometimes I think about how crazy it is that we live in a place and time when we have this concept of “passion” and the ability to pursue it.  I wonder if it’s my responsibility to pursue and fulfill it as much as possible . . . for all the millions of people who couldn’t in the past (or can’t now).

When Angelina Jolie accepted a Governors humanitarian award from Hollywood, she talked a lot about not understanding why she got her life while some other woman who was more beautiful and more talented, sat across the world in a refugee camp, with no voice.

We are responsible to one another.  In a way that a bulleted list or a handy tip sheet can never be.

We are lamps and lifeboats and ladders.

That’s why we do what we do.  That’s why we have these “passion projects” like writing books, studying craft, blogging, whatever.

So from here on out, you can expect to get lots of take-aways and tips and a right good dose of me, too.

We’re in this together.  And you know, I don’t have very many friends right now.  So, I could use hearing about and from you.

And about that burn-out?

My ONE tip is very simple: for as long as long as necessary (or as long as you are able) do nothing.

Go on a thought fast.  Watch reality TV.  Put your inner drill sergeant on pause. 

Let your molecules reorganize.  


BIG Writer HUGS,


P.S. ~ Oh did you quit NaNoWrimo??  Me, too!  But I didn’t quit my novel, yo.  If you’re a quitter, check out Chuck Wendig’s MUST-READ Nanowrimo Dialogues: On Doubt, Talent, Failure, and Quitting.

And, I’m moving soon!  To Cynthia Lindeman.Com.  Please come with me!

Photo Sources are clickable! Just click photo.

20 Micro-Blogs on Passion

4 Nov



What if . . . just what if . . . poetry and passion and connection are going extinct?

What if . . . just what if . . . the world needs your poetry and passion as much as it needs more fossil fuels, another blog, another MBA student?

Let’s face it.  The real shortage here is love.  Pure and simple.

So my dear, what I want to tell you is the same thing I want to tell myself.  Always.

Let’s move the world with our passion.

We’re always better, deeper, richer than “trends,” “power words,” and “labels.”

We already know this.

But it’s good to be reminded.

And in fact, it’s quite necessary.

Passion comes before work.

Then it comes through work.

Then, perhaps success comes.

Perhaps it doesn’t.

Perhaps we can’t tell (what does it look like again?)

We learn these things together.

I swear to God, when they ask you why you’re writing

tell them, because it’s who I am.

Let that be enough.

Move the world with your passion,

your passion alone.

The Truth About Writing Your First Novel (+ How to Prepare)

28 Oct

Like, whoa.  You’ve decided to write your first novel.

Maybe you’re like me and you feel like you ate too much cotton candy before you hopped on that too-tall roller coaster.

It’s exhilarating and horrifying and unimaginable – all at the same time.

You know your time, inspiration, and stamina are crucial resources: do you have what it takes to run this marathon?

Because if you’re thinking about writing a novel, you know that you’re embarking on a feat of mental athleticism unlike anything you’ve yet experienced.

And it all starts with the first draft.  Without that, you have nothing to finish, nothing to revise, publish or brag about.  So focusing on finishing the draft and being ready to carry it into revision is key.

A few strategic preparations will help get you there.

Visions of Love

I’m not going to lie.  It’s not easy.

That’s why last year, out of the 341,375 peeps who participated in Nanowrimo, only 38,438 finished – an 11% completion rate.

Before you get too depressed, the statistics can work for you too.

I really believe whether you finish writing your novel is 10% divine timing and 90% preparation.

Two months ago, I decided to write my first novel (I don’t know what I was thinking).  But since I started it, I think it’s important to finish.  So, here I am on the roller coaster and trying not to look down.

I feel like quitting.  A lot.

But here’s the thing: like most of us, I’ve quit a lot of stuff in my life and I simply don’t want hang this hat on that rack.

Besides, I have a vision for my first novel.  It started on an air plane and it’s still flying somewhere up there, waiting for me to guide it in.

On the plane something magical happened: I had a story idea.

And I did something different with it than I usually do.  Usually, I have a “story” idea that I don’t respect enough to write down.  And guess what happens then?  I forget about it.  And eventually, it never even happened, kind of like that sock you lose in the dryer.

But this time, I wrote it down.  And it only took two short hand-written pages.  These later bloomed into what is now a fully-formed world.

How simple is that?

The first step to preparing to write your novel is simple: contain your idea by writing it down.  Then, be a little circumspect.  Wait to fall in love with it. 

You’ll know when you’re in love if you just can’t stop thinking about it.

When you can’t stop thinking about your story is the exact point at which you need to start writing it.

It needs you and it will continue to need you throughout the process.

It will sometimes get very difficult and cranky.  It needs you to hold your original vision of love.

Two-Hours & A Devotional

Devotion.  That’s what it takes.

Like any important thing in life, it asks for a commitment from you.

In real terms, this equates to about two hours of writing time on most days.

This isn’t the only way to schedule time but I’ve found it’s doable for the average person (including myself).

And if you can’t possibly figure out a way to clear two hours a day for your writing, you might be in danger of not finishing what you started.

Other sacrifices (besides time) can include socializing, difficult decisions, and sleep.  I made a really painful sacrifice when I postponed my poetry routine to focus on the novel until it was finished.

Commitment: 6 Simple Ideas

Looking back on how I began my preparation process, one word comes to mind: naïve.

To be fair, I would have had to be naïve to begin (or I would have never started).

But in the beginning I decided to accept a few basic ideas that are now helping me to finish what I started:

  1. I decided it was okay if the pre-writing and first draft were terrible.  I decided to let the story be more important than my pride.
  2. I decided that I had already written, read, and lived enough to write a compelling story.  I decided to learn how to write and structure a novel as I went – not before.
  3. I committed to simplicity of resources.  This meant that if I ran against a problem or question, I would seek out the quickest, most accessible solution available and then stop resourcing.  Because resourcing, learning, and training is a huge time-suck.  Remember, writing the novel allows me to learn as I go.
  4. I decided that my story lived inside of me.  That all I had to do was let the story take control and things would end up O.K.  Therefore, my story (not an expert or even myself) became my ultimate authority.
  5. I acknowledged that as a writer, I have no product to sell unless I create one.  Therefore, creating the novel would take precedence over all other concerns, including finding agents, publishing, marketing, and all the other 8 million things you have to think about as a writer.  During the process of drafting, I declared a cessation of all other matters.  Imagining the world of my story became my only job.
  6. I decided not to talk about my story.  Something about holding silence around it makes it feel more real and intense.  But if you want to see some pins, check out my inspirational pinboard.

 4 Resources I Just. Can’t. Live. Without.

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock The Story Within.   Several things appealed to me about Al Watt’s book: the unflinching honesty and his unshakable faith in the intuition and imagination to excavate the story.  Watts has you building the world of the novel for 30 days.  Then, you spend the final 60 writing the first draft.  When my 30 days were up, I had over 40,000 words on a pre-write, a structure outline, and an entire world.  My characters had shocked me and evolved into something I could not have imagined at the outset.  Too, this guy’ll really keep you straight. Observe:

When we talk about structure and character, driving narrative, wants and needs, dilemma, transformation, surrender, theme, dramatizing, exposition, and so on and on . . . we can start to feel overwhelmed.  How the hell can I do all these things and feel free to write my story? For God’s sake, the only reason I got into this racket is because I wanted to have some fun!

Scrivener  : I invested in this when I started to feel exhausted and confused.  I thought it would help me organize my notes and chapters.  And it does, it emphatically does.  It also auto-saves every 2 seconds and allows me to backup to Dropbox so I never have to worry about losing anything.  Ever.  Can you feel me shaking the floor as I jump up and down!?

YouTube: I used Johanna Harness’s Cluster Plotting to help me with basic project planning such as developing a word budget.  I also used Katytastic’s How I Outline! and Outlining with Scrivener to start me with a simple chapter template in Scrivener.  I knew it would change as I went but it felt super-doable to have this at the beginning.

Nanowrimo: Not wanting to rely solely on my meager sense of discipline, I happened upon National Novel Writing Month at the exact right time.  When was this time, you ask?  Yeah, you guessed it: precisely when I most wanted to quit (thus far).  But instead of quitting, I decided to join in & get the first 50,000 of my overall 80,000 words.  I’ve also hooked up with other participants near me for support, caffeine-sharing, hugs, and commiseration.

4 Questions for Right Now

Consider: according to physics, an insect with the weight and shape of a bumblebee cannot fly. However, the bumblebee does not know this so it goes ahead and flies anyway.

Take off is easy.  Staying up is the hard part.  And you’ve got to stay up if you want to finish.  Don’t turn into the majority of people who never finish their novel.  Instead, use these questions to prepare for the journey:

What’s your vision of love?

What do (or will) will you sacrifice & how much time will you devote?

What is (or will be) your handful of simple ideas that will carry you through?

What are (or could be)  the resources you can’t live without?




2013 Countdown: The Zen Guide to Actually Completing Your Goals

22 Oct


This past January, you did something that was audacious, beautiful, and bold.

And no one was there to see it.

You took your life and you gathered the rotting failures, the shattered promises, the crippling insecurities, and the inarticulate moments of loss and you traded them out for new hope.

Back then, the year was a gift.  You touched it, as you touched into your deepest needs and desires.

And everything seemed so simple.

You knew that all you had to do was get out of your own damn way.  Learn the new skill.  Sit down at the desk and stay there.  Make the calls.

In a word: commit.

In a word: resolve.

Then, you simply had a problem you wanted to show up for and solve.  And like the hero in your favorite novel, time either moved you into that resolution or carried you away from it.  But all is not lost.  Not even close.

Here’s how to wrap up your 2013 goals with dignity, a renewed sense of purpose, and hey, maybe even some well-earned fulfillment.

Achieve Total Clarity on Your 2013 Goals

If you made steady or even stupendous progress on your goals, reviewing them will tickle your serotonin and bequeath you a zippy, walking giggle that will have everyone asking, what’s up!

If it didn’t go so hot, well . . . you might just strategically lose it in your to-do list.

But without knowing where you are, you won’t know how to move forward.  And since this is all about moving forward, let’s begin at the beginning.

Take a breath and recall what your 2013 goals were.  Now hold that in your mind.

Was it finishing the first draft?  Was it revising and sending work off to publishers?  Was it self-publishing, creating a marketing plan, finding an agent, creating a promotional strategy, meeting Oprah, seeing the word “author” on some sassy business cards?

Maybe your goals were a little more humble, like mine.  All I wanted to do was break writer’s block and figure something important out: was I a writer or not?

Here’s the thing.

All these things really aren’t your goals.  No, they’re simply the action steps that edge you towards a greater and more pristine horizon: the one composed entirely of your dream.

Despite appearances, you actually only have one goal to address here and you share this with everyone else who has goals: you wanted to make a dream come true Period.  And the myriad forms of this dream that appear on your goal list are completely unique to you.

So there’s really only one question you need to ask yourself at this point:  Did a dream come true as a result of actions I took this year?

Yes or no?

Once you know this, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

 The Ultimate 3-Step Mental Declutter

We were taught to never give up on our dreams, right?  And if we’re writers or creators of any kind, this is absolute law.  But just like the yearly harvest, we have to know what to keep and what to cut away before we can move on.

Whether you’ve been making slow, steady, crooked, or sideways progress towards your dream, it’s time be ferocious in service to that dream.

Put short: stuff has to go now before the real stuff can get done.

Now that you’ve gotten clarity on whether or not you’re moving towards or away from your dream, it’s time to actually look at your action steps.  Specifically, you’re going to look at 3 things:

  • what’s already been accomplished
  • what has yet to be accomplished 
  • the obstacles you face between now and the end of the year that could potentially interfere with what has yet to be accomplished

Once you’ve done the above, you’ll mentally declutter so you know what to act on now, what you can save for 2014, and what you can compost.

Here’s a picture of my beginning 2013 goals.  Not all of them happened.  And . . . not all of them will happen.  I made 100 watercolor strips in Hawaii and a jar to declutter and keep track of what I’ve accomplished:

100 Things to do in 2013 - mini book

100 Things to do in 2013 – mini book

But you don’t need all this.  You just need 3 mental baskets.

Now it’s time to declutter.

  1. Pretend there are three baskets in front of you.  One has a sign that says 2013, one has a sign that says 2014, and one has a sign that says COMPOST.
  2. Everything you save for this year goes in the 2013 basket.  Everything you save for next year goes into the 2014 basket.  Everything you trash goes into the COMPOST basket.
  3. Now, put the 2014 and COMPOST baskets aside for later.

The Energizer Bunny Can Do It and So Can You

Are you ready to rock the rest of 2013?

I hope so because you’re well on your way.  You’re going to make an energizer bunny list of the things you want to get done between now and January 1, 2014.

Investing a little time in your goal process now can make all the difference in how you feel about making your dreams come true, whether you enter 2014 dispirited or on fire, whether you soar on the wings of your own confidence or whether you let yourself fall to the wayside, like (let’s face it) most other people.

Don’t spend more than 5 or 10 minutes on this.  Treat it like the grocery list you don’t have time to make.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It just has to be

Use the things in your 2013 basket to create a master list.

Then, take 2 minutes to open your calendar and set aside time to figure out the whens and hows.

Once you’ve got your list, intone the power word: DONE.

And since we’re on the topic, here are a few things on my list (hat-tip to Leonie Dawson for inspiring the energizer bunny!)

Here’s my energizer bunny list (and this is the whole shebang, not just creative goals!)

  1. Finish 1 major creative project (I’m going to try to finish my novel rough draft)
  2. Go to writing group 90% of time (I do this in my poetry workshops)
  3. Create my living will
  4. Write an e-book and publish (this will be my new FREE giftie for my readers!)
  5. Giggle, laugh, and have fun (yeah, need more of this!)
  6. Build a fort
  7. Take a basic book-binding class
  8. Entertain more at home
  9. Build business to create more income
  10. Handmade gifts and cards for holidays
  11. Downgrade/organize storage unit
  12. New site up to better serve other creative folks

Event Awesome: 2013 and Beyond

Today is wild and it is yours.

Let’s go for clarity that centers you in integrity.  A simple method that carries no judgement, guilt, or remonstration.

Because every day you had this year was wild & yours.

You claimed it with your whole self, with all the set-backs, disappointments, and victories.

See, this method allows for your life, all that stuff going on in the margins that gets in your way, your flaws, your humanity.

So you really can be that insanely wonderful, quirky, messy human being you are and make your dreams come true at the same time.

All you have to do is find ways to give yourself more options, more space, and more flexibility while never letting go of the original dream.

In yoga, this is called holding the pose.

This guide is one way to hold the pose but it’s useless until you act.  So, grab a pen and a piece of paper and use it to bring yourself full circle into 2014:  alpha and omega, baby.

Let the dreams of 2013 live on into 2014.  Let them announce to yourself, the world, and the Gods above that your dreams are real, worthy, and alive.

That’s the only way your dreams are actually going to happen & they’re counting on you.

Are you down?


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