Ability


I woke up at 6:00 and was hard at work by 7 this morning. Except for a couple of breaks…and a small little nap [ahem] I’ve been going strong all day. It’s been fantastic. How often do I get a full day, a FULL day with no one and nothing to distract me or need me for anything? The husband is off on a short trip to California, the little princess is spending a couple of days with her Grandori, and I have the house to myself.

WRITING TIME!

Since my last post on 7/10, I have felt the floodgates open and the creativity spark. I keep finding my feet guiding me back to the computer, despite the mounting pile of dishes or the quickly multiplying weeds in my raised beds. I am well and thoroughly hooked, and the progress I’ve made has been quite rewarding. I am now at seven books, all significantly outlined and I am nearly ready to begin writing. Just a few more details and I will be there, ready to roll.

Before I started to work this morning I thought about a book I read recently, “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self” by Ellyn Spragins. The thought occurred then, and again today, that I would much prefer to write a letter to my future self. Somehow, it seems more…useful.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading Ellyn’s book. It made me cry and smile and think of all that has happened in my life, especially the last five years. But it also got me to thinking about what motivates us. What keeps you going? What makes the difference between today and what happens tomorrow? How do we stop from giving up, five minutes before the miracle? How can we accomplish our dreams on our terms, in our own unique way, and within some reasonable time frame?

Does it have to take five, ten or twenty year to make that leap? To jump off the cliff and turn your world on its ear?

It can be so hard, stuck in the present, dreaming of an unknown future, and hoping, praying for a change to happen. I know I’m not the only one who has felt that way. So, before I sat down and began to work on the details of my new book series I wrote a letter to my future self. I wrote it, then I printed it out, and I stuck it on the wall right in front of my face. It is there, along with the quote from Thoreau, an email from my firstborn, and an email from my dad commenting on “War’s End”. I would like to think that when I hit a brick wall (most likely of my own making), that my eyes will stray to that letter and that I will renew my belief in myself again, long enough for it to take hold and make a difference and keep me on the path.

A letter to your younger self is wonderful, but I think that who we want to be tomorrow needs to be believed in and visualized today. And perhaps that is realized in a letter to the person you will be tomorrow or the next day or next year. Think about it, write your own letter to your future self and keep the faith. We are all on such a marvelous adventure!

Here is my letter to my future self…

Christine –

On this day, July 13th, 2010 you are 40 years old. You may look at this in just a few hours or a few days or even months and be filled with fear, stress, or worry. You may tell yourself “it’s shit” or that nothing good can come of it. You may castigate yourself for wasting time that you could have been working and making money. You may tell yourself that you aren’t a good writer or that you will never, ever be published.

But Christine, it isn’t true. None of it. Of all the things I know, in this moment, in this place, on this beautiful sunny summer morning – I know you are capable and that you have this within you. You WILL be published. You ARE a writer. And this project, whichever you are working on at the moment, is WORTH IT. Why? Because you have something to say and it is worthy of being heard.

So Christine, keep writing. Do it for me/you. Do it for your children and husband and friends and family and for the untold thousands who will someday read what you have read and tell you it moved them or amused them or maybe even made them cry. Do it, because this is what you were meant to do.

Oh, and Christine? Stop crying and get back to work. It’s high time the world saw what you are capable of.

Advertisements

I had a good laugh at my own expense this morning and I’m going to share it with you.

I recently finished writing “War’s End” a fictional book I had been working on for way too long. It’s been submitted and now it is a matter of waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, I began to sort through my different book starts, looking for the next project to begin working on. Mercedes Lackey said it best, “I often have a project in the planning stages, one currently being written, and another in the editing stage at any one time.” In other words, if you are a writer, you keep going and don’t get to sit on your laurels for too long.

I had settled on choosing between two possible projects, and as I made notes, created time-lines and character descriptions in each of them, much to my dismay, I found myself gravitating towards the bigger of the projects. How big, you ask? Try FOUR books big. A bigger project than I could have even imagined a few years ago when I was just trying to get one written.

The funny part of this is, the sheer number of books (four, plus several – even possibly many, spin-offs) doesn’t faze me as much as one little, tiny, small little problem…I don’t have the details down of who Liv Rowan encounters, how it might be a problem, or what she might do to fix it. I’ve got four working titles and a solid idea of what happens at the end of book 4. And…that’s it.

I would be writing about this on one my private blogs, I actually started to do so this morning, until I was reminded of the quote from “The Stand.” The big bad guy is interrogating one of the people from Boulder and she claims she has no idea who the guy he is looking for is. He responds, “All the same dear, I think you do know.” For those of you who have seen the movie, you know it doesn’t end well for her, but it got me to thinking.

When I am working with a coaching client and they hit a wall, usually the reason they have a coach in the first place, they will say to me, “I just don’t know what to do.” In that moment, no choice seems right, and the way in front of them is blocked. What might seem incredibly easy and clear to me, is clouded and dark for them. We work on it, nibbling away at the edges, pushing gently against the metaphorical wall, until there is that moment when things suddenly resolve into clarity and conviction. The client is excited, I’m happy for them, and there is progress past this stumbling block.

My job as a coach is to be the catalyst for change. I don’t provide the answers, or try and tell a client what they need to do. I believe the answers are within them and that they know, deep inside, what will work best for them. My job is to get them to the point where they are listening to that quiet voice inside. Once they can access the answers from within, they can make changes in their lives that will serve them well in the weeks, months and years to come.

  • What do I want to do for a living?
  • Is this relationship good for me?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • How do I want to proceed?
  • What should I do about this particular situation?

I believe we each have the answers to all of those questions and more, waiting inside us. I believe that we intuitively know, without a shadow of a doubt, the course that would be best for each of us to take. Life, culture, expectations, upbringing – all of these things pull us away from the truth and distract us from listening to the one person who knows you better than anyone else in the entire world…you.

So how do these two topics – writing and coaching – fit together?

This morning I got up, as I have several morning over the past week, asking myself, “What happens to Liv Rowan in Byd Arall?” It’s been driving me crazy. How can I be so audacious as to suggest I have four books to write and not have story plots worked out for them yet? Who am I kidding?

It was the certainty I have felt over this series that has allowed me to suspend my disbelief at my current writing situation this far. I cannot tell you how I know, but I know for sure that what I have here (as scant as it is at the moment) is worthy of my attention. Something deep inside is pushing me towards this, pointing insistently, determined that I continue.

“I don’t know what happens to Liv in Byd Arall!” I told myself for the 20th time this week.

And then Randall Flagg from “The Stand”…

“All the same dear, I think you do know.”

And with that, the path before me is clear. No, I don’t have all the answers, not yet. But I know it’s in there somewhere. I just need to be patient, eventually I will find it. Most likely it will find me. Somewhere in there, is a complete story. If I keep nibbling at the edges, the details will come.

The answer is within.

Last week I received the following email:

Hi Christine!

My name is Ann and we were on the Self-Directed Learning call this morning.  I hope you don’t mind me writing.  I looked you up on the discussion board and really wanted to reach out and let you know that hearing your story in class today was very inspiring to me.  You seem like a very courageous person who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to shake things up and make your dreams a reality.  I admire you!

–“Ann (from Pennsylvania)”

Thank you, Ann, you made my day. I wasn’t having a bad day, but this little note sure kicked my day up a notch. It was a nice reminder to me that (forgive me for using an rather over-used phrase these days) being authentic is often appreciated by others.

I couldn’t help but love being referred to as courageous. Moi?! Weird, independent, heck, even crazy often fits. But courageous? Is it silly to say I don’t often think of myself that way?

But this email got me to thinking that we often fall into patterns. Patterns of how we view the world, ourselves, and maybe even life in general. Without input from others, our interpretations of who we are often remain static. It takes someone else’s input to shake things up. Hopefully for the good. I find it is the little things, like what my mother once said:

Well, someone once put that couch together, you can figure out how to take it apart. (This said to me when I was fretting over HOW could I reupholster the thing)

Or the bigger stuff, like my Dad saying:

I am really enjoying your book. You are such a good writer, the book just pulls me in. It has generated a lot of reactions in me, but as of right now, the overriding feeling I have is that this book is so real. You have formed your characters as very believable, three dimensional people. And the world in which you have placed them in is totally natural and familiar. Though you have created a rich tapestry of details, it is not the details so much as the way you have seamlessly and, apparently, effortlessly integrated into the story without having them call attention to themselves. You have really hit your stride.

Or simply the words of Mom again, years ago when she said:

Christine, you inspire me.

These are the words that echo in my mind when I am faced with trying times, moments of self-doubt and fear over what tomorrow will bring. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment” and he was right on.

It is often those thoughtful words said to others that change lives and open up new worlds of possibilities. All that we are, the endless possibility and potential that lie within, are awakened and pushed to exist with just a few simple words of encouragement. Whose life can you change just by a simple note that reminds them they are unique, worthy of love or respect, and are cared for?

Something to think about…

Recently my husband and I have been discussing starting an alternative energy company with two other couples. We’ve had a few meetings, and quite a few starry-eyed dreamy diversions into “what if’s” and “if only’s.”

For anyone who owns a business or who is in the process of starting one, you know what I mean. And while it is great to dream about being fully funded and having enough in the bank to fund everyone comfortably for a year so we have time to roll out a business successfully, it’s a bit like waiting for that winning lottery ticket. It sure would be nice, but let’s face it, the odds are stacked against that happening anytime soon.

While in most cases I am an optimist, when it comes to business I have a strong realistic streak mixed with a small helping of pessimism. I believe in writing the business plan and in it, detailing to the nth degree where you are going, what you will be offering, and how you are going to accomplish it. You can have a bold and beautiful vision of what the perfect company, the perfect business offering would be, but if you aren’t able to focus on each component and polish it to perfection before expanding into different realms…you will fail.

Resent my words all you like, but that is the truth of it.

On our third meeting with these two other couples, I went around the room. “Who can commit to spending time on xyz?” I asked. One by one, people were too busy, they had full-time jobs, were busy running down the money or simply didn’t know where to begin. The idea of what we wanted to start was overwhelming and complicated to them.

I get that. I truly do. But someone has to do something or nothing will ever get off the ground. And if you are talking partnership, then it better be more than one someone doing something, if you get my drift. And it was at that moment that I realized they were all looking at me.

Hmmm…

I realized that my anxiety and frustration level had risen exponentially and we dismissed for the day. I needed time. Time for them to think about just what they would be contributing and time for me to decide whether this adventure was worth continuing. More than a week went by before I got an email and later a phone call from one of the couples. “We could tell you were frustrated, Christine, by the end of the last meeting,” she said, “And I feel bad, because it’s like we need A, B, C and D and the only thing I know anything about is D!”

We talked for a long time, over an hour. And I gave her an assignment. Mainly because she had spent a good part of an hour begging me for some kind of direction but also because I know when she does the research and learns what I already suspect to be true, she will stop suggesting we “get a grant for $150,000” and return to earth for what could be a half-decent reality-based planning session.

I say that, and I know it sounds snarky, and for that I am sorry. She’s a great lady and has lots of heart, she’s just hung up on the idea that ‘we have to have this, this and that’ and can’t think past it. The reality of the matter is, with little or no funding and a decent of education we need to accomplish before being able to do this, we aren’t ready to open for business. Dreams of showrooms with glassed-in views near the highway for little or no rent are simply not realistic. Neither is buying equipment that can cost up to $250,000.

But as I said, I gave her a bit of ‘homework’ and said, “You believe there are grants out there for small businesses. I don’t, but I am more than happy to be proven wrong. Go find one. But don’t just come back with a name of a place. I want details…how much would the grant be for? What restrictions or requirements? Find that grant…and I will write the most drop-dead slam it home business plan you have ever seen.”

I’ve heard it said that the devil is in the details. I’ve also heard that God is in the details. I’ll settle for simply saying, with no parallels implied, that I am in(to) the details. Bring me details and you will get results.

In business or in life, things often hang in the balance on details. My husband once said to me, “That first week I stayed at your place, I knew we would be compatible. Not only were you my intellectual equal, but more importantly, you hung the toilet paper the right way and squeezed the toothpaste from the bottom.”

It’s all about the details. Don’t get lost in them. Identify them, recognize them, and use them to move forward in whatever you seek to do.

“Know it all”

“Miss Smarty-Pants”

“Bookworm”

“Miss Million Dollar Words”

“Show off”

I’ve heard it all. Most of the time it just confused me. Why is answering someone’s question wrong? Why is knowledge shared – when it isn’t bragging, but simply the wish to help others, to inform, to educate yourself or others – a bad thing?

Recently I taught a “Change Your Life” class and in it offered a single free coaching session to each attendee. My instructions are always the same, “Call me at the phone number on the card and we will set up a time that is convenient for us to talk. There’s no sales pitch and if you are interested in continuing coaching, here is my price.”

Rarely does anyone make that call.

One woman did. She had sat quietly in class, said little, and merely shared her goal of returning to school and obtaining her Master’s degree. She did not say why but it was obvious that she was struggling with the decision. When she called at the pre-arranged for her coaching session I asked her what it was that was bothering her most about returning to college. She listed several reasons, concern about her grades from ten years ago not being good enough, worrying that they would reject her application. She shared with me that her husband and her daughter were both very supportive of her and wanted her to do this.

Classes can be re-taken. Colleges are desperate for students. These weren’t very realistic fears, but she focused doggedly on them. I could sense there was something more.

“So what is it really that is holding you back? You said you were a good student, why are you so worried about returning to school?” I asked. There was a long pause.

“I’m the first one in my family to go to college. They gave me a hard time before, and then I got pregnant with my daughter and had to drop out. Lately they’ve been really razzing on me, telling me, ‘You think you’re all that’. That I think I’m someone special, too good for them.” She admitted miserably.

“They think you are reaching above yourself, or selling out, don’t they?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Are you?”

“No! I mean I’ve almost got my Master’s, and I want to go into a line of work that will help kids and families, and…” She spoke for several minutes about the dreams and goals she had once she obtained the training. The joy in her voice was obvious, the excitement at the thought of finally achieving her dream was loud and clear.

“So I guess what you need to ask yourself is: ‘What is more important? My dreams and goals or the opinions of others?'”

She paused for a moment and said, “Thank you.”

A few days after the phone call I received a lengthy email from her thanking me for my time. It was worth more than any money she could have paid me. And it got me to thinking about my own experiences in school and work.

“Teacher’s pet.”

“Show off.”

[sigh]

Today I drove to the local recycling center to attend a free rain garden class. The speaker never showed up, but I passed my card out to five people who were all very interested in the classes I teach and my gardening knowledge. We visited for 1/2 hour as we waited for the speaker to arrive, and talked about organic gardening, rain barrels, companion planting, and wild edibles.

As I said goodbye, each and every person stopped and thanked me for coming and sharing my knowledge. Considering I was just there as another student, I thought that was pretty cool.

How ironic is it that I know more now, at 40, then I even could have dreamed of knowing at 15 or 20 or even 30. Back then I was the “know it all” and now what am I? The expert? How did that happen?!

What drives you? What peaks your interest and pulls you in? What makes you stay up late or get up early just so you can learn more or improve?

Whatever it is – be it fly fishing or psychology – be it art or alternative energy – even if it seems silly to others – take hold of it tightly. Immerse yourself within it, breathe it, live it. Become the expert. Become the smarty pants and the know-it-all.

‘Cause you know what?

I might be the know-it-all. I might be Miss Smarty Pants. I might be that bookworm, encyclopedia, who thinks she’s ‘all that’ – but I’m me. And I’m doing what makes me happy, teaching and informing others. And in that, I am of benefit to the world and my heart is happy.

Go do what makes you happy and let the others stand still while you fly.

Go on.

Do it.

p.s. And if you have read this far, would you give me a shout out? Who’s listening/reading out there?

I know I’ve been rather quiet for a while. My husband’s grandmother passed away and he had to make an unexpected trip out to California to help out. It meant a great deal of rearranging of our schedules – and our toddler stayed behind with me for that week.

I decided to drop most of my marketing and writing projects and focus on family for a few weeks. I’m just now getting ready to jump back in and a current home project inspired me so much that I just needed to share it with you.

For months I had been thinking about it, but a couple of weeks ago I made up my mind to paint my daughter’s room. Think lilac, think purple and pink, and think garden.

It was rather amorphous, this idea in my head. I decided I wanted a picket fence around the perimeter and perhaps some butterflies and flowers. “Nothing too detailed,” I told my husband, “I can’t draw to save my life.”

And it’s true. I often tell people that stick figures are challenging for me. My oldest daughter, now in college, is an absolute genius with a pen or pencil. It has always amazed and baffled me – how she learned, how good she has become at it – with me as her parent.

I picked out the paint – lilac for the walls and ‘palace purple’ and ‘pink mauve’ for accent pieces and set a date. I sent the husband away with the child and got to work. My mother showed up well after the wall coats were done and we discussed the color of the picket fence. She suggested making it the same color as the molding, and normally I follow her suggestions, she’s always been the expert on paint schemes. For some reason, for the first time in my life, I didn’t agree with her idea and chose instead to make a purple fence.

I ignored the voice that said, “What are you doing? You’re going to mess it all up!” and painted the fence.

Next came the butterflies and flowers – what in the world was I going to do? My mother looked at me and shook her head, “Buy decals or something. You can’t draw.”

Again I felt that same sense of reluctance. “You know what, I think I’m just going to give it a try. Worse case, I have to paint over it.”

“Ohhh-kay, whatever you say.” Her tone said it all. This was going to be a disaster. She took Emily away for a night at Grandma’s house so that I could ‘get the rest done’ and I began to search online for decals or something to save me. That little voice was running nice and strong inside my brain, “You can’t draw Christine, buy the decals and stick them on, or else you are going to ruin her room!”

I did a search for butterfly and bee coloring pages and hit pay dirt. I printed out a stack and started going through them and found the perfect bee. It was an easy shape, one that I could look at, dissect by drawing one circle or line at a time, and reproduce. I pulled out my mechanical pencil, slapped the picture up on the wall next to me and drew my first bee. Slowly, gently I outlined it in black paint and colored it in with the yellow. I added the little ‘tracks’ and made more bees and more and more.

The point of this whole post is this…

I decided that I COULD and it happened

It’s that simple. Will I win an award for decorative painting? Not likely…unless I made up my mind to! Instead, I learned that, whether I can draw or not, is irrelevant. I can make a bee appear on my daughter’s wall. In fact, I can make TEN bees and two beehives to go with them.

I have felt so empowered by this experience that my plan is to make Emily’s Garden a counting experience as well.

10 bees, 9 flowers, 8 butterflies, 7 dragonflies, 6 ants, 5 frogs, 4 birdhouses, 3 birds, 2 beehives and 1 cat!

If I can draw a bee and butterflies and all the rest and create a garden in my child’s room – what can you make up your mind to do?

The sky is the limit – all you have to do is believe that you can.