Why doing what you love may mean standing on your head

Ashley takes a break from serving drinks to give us a little entertainment!

Drinks with friends last night turned into a wonderful eye-opener. I met a few gal pals at 5th and Wine in downtown Scottsdale (my new favorite place to hang out and drink great wine). Our server, a gorgeous girl named Ashley, made our night even more fun. OK, just looking at her was fun enough, but then one of our group commented on how buff Ashley was, asking if she was a body builder. (No, it wasn’t me.)  Nope, it turns out the lovely Ashley is an acrobat who taught trapeze at Club Med until about a year ago. Dream job anyone? I pictured palm trees, waves breaking on the shore, a giant trampoline and sun-tanned gods and goddesses strapping tourists in harnesses and hoisting them into the air. Not a bad day’s work.

Why is Ashley serving drinks in Scottsdale? She broke her foot a year ago and is healing up nicely. Now, she’s considering a back flip into the acrobatic world once again in a setting that most of us pay to visit. Who wouldn’t want that? Actually, Ashley might not go back after all.

After we all gasped (she had our dream job, what was she thinking?) Ashley explained that when she had started, she had replaced someone else who had broken a foot. “It’s not like pro basketball where they wait for you to get better and put you back in the game,” she said. “They just replace you with another brunette who looks good in the suit.” Ouch, that hurt. But if you think about it, isn’t that the way most jobs end? When you leave your job as a reporter, don’t they just stick another butt in that chair to write? When you leave your job as an engineer, don’t they just get another nerdy guy with glasses and a pocket protector to take your place?

So if that’s the case, what makes it worth doing? Happiness. Does it make you happy to do what you do? Do you like going to work and writing, serving, typing, etc.? What if you left tomorrow, would you be replaced? Probably…even the best athletes are eventually replaced.

Love what you do and let it make you happy. Don’t worry about whether someone else will replace you when you’re gone, just do it as much as you can, then deal with whatever comes later. Do you want to look back and say, “I always wanted to write that book, paint that wall, play the piano…” Well, what are you waiting for?

Write until you can’t write anymore. Submit those queries till you think you’re going to pass out…why not? Rewrite and edit, sculpt that story into a masterpiece and then sit back and look at it for a moment, then jump right back in. It’s what I intend to do because that’s what makes me happy. What makes you happy?

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A crappy necklace and how it made me so happy

Yes, she wore it to lunch!

I had lunch with Mom today. We’ve decided, after all these years, to make Sundays our day together and I look forward to it. Lunch, breakfast, shopping, whatever we want to do. Sometimes my daughter comes with us, sometimes (like today) she decides to sleep late as any respectable teenager would.

Mom loves me, I know that. One thing we all know (or the lucky ones, at least) is that our moms love us unconditionally. It’s a great feeling and something I cherish. Today, Mom showed up at my house with a dorky necklace on – a macramé choker type with a large pendant with an owl stamped on it. My comment…”Hey, the ’70s called and it wants your necklace back.” Ha, I crack myself up. Even my husband chuckled.

“You made this for me when you were 13, don’t you remember?” Mom stroked the owl affectionately. “I found it in my jewelry box and I’ve been wearing it for a few weeks now. Isn’t it great?”

Well, it’s cute. It’s primitive and I remember I was in a massive macramé stage in my teens. I made lots of plant hangers for my grandmother, who used them all in her lovely sunroom in Florida. Surprisingly, they were used on the wonderful, bushy overgrown plants. I remember making a yellow plant hanger with big green beads. Oh, was I talented! Grandma is gone now, and so are the plant hangers.

I can’t tell you how cool it was to see mom standing there with that necklace on. I hugged her, a little too hard probably. But it touched my heart that she saved it all these years. My mom is so cool!

The Ultimate Writer’s Truth

It's the heat that's draggin' me down

Here in AZ it gets very hard to think once it gets above 100 degrees. Just a few days ago it was 110! My energy wanes and my motivation sags when it gets that hot. I try to spend more time working since going outside is not an option unless I have to, but my energy level is at an all-time low. Type…yeah, whatever. Twitter…not much to say. Blog post…I’ll think of something. But honestly, I’m the same person I was when it was 80 degrees and beautiful out there, right? I realized that although I may be more tired from the heat, it’s a good excuse for not writing. At least I thought so, until I realized the ultimate writer’s truth…

There is no excuse for not writing. Period.

Too hot, too tired, too fat, too blocked, too busy, etc. We have them all. When it’s beautiful outside I can’t write because I want to go outside. When it’s hot outside I can’t write because I’m exhausted from the heat. Bullshit! There is no excuse, just do it. I’m writing and editing now after kicking myself in the ass.

What excuses do you use? What do you do to get around those excuses? I have a friend who leaves his house and sits in a hotel lobby a few nights a week. It helps him get away and concentrate. I envy him, but I could do the same thing, couldn’t I? And I think I will, or I’ll continue to get up early, before it’s hot out, and write then. Whatever it takes…that’s the call of the writer!

My short movie career

Makeup!

A good friend is filming a movie here in Arizona titled “Cathedral City.” So far, it looks fabulous and stars Winsor Harmon of The Bold and The Beautiful fame and Ricardo Chavira of Desperate Housewives. Today, my daughter and I were happy to report as restaurant extras. I’ve never been on a movie set and imagined all kinds of action taking place. Of course, as any actor will tell you, most of the time they are waiting for their turn to act and then wait some more. Our experience follows:

2 p.m. –    Report to restaurant where filming a short scene will take place. Luckily, we live 1/4 mile from the restaurant, although we drove since it was about 125 degrees today in Phoenix.

2:30  –      Cast is eating, lighting is being set up, we are told to wait.

2:45  –       Order a Diet Coke, power up the iPad and read. Daughter brought a book, I was happy to read Frankenstein and tweet.

Setting up the lights before filming

3        –      Ohh, it might be time to go. The actors just changed clothes and lights are going on. “Quiet on the set!” We watch them film a scene that takes about 45 seconds. Are we in this scene, we ask? Nope, next one.

3:30  –     Producer shows up and says, “Why aren’t you guys in this scene?” What, we’re in this scene?

Eating in the booth while pretending to talk

4        –     Re-filming the scene and we get to eat fries and sit two booths away, hoping the back of our heads will make it into the shot.

4:15   –    Re-film the scene, fries are gone, we chat quietly pretending not to listen to what’s going on. (Why did we eat them so fast? It’s my first movie, how was I to know? Fries aren’t in the shot anyway.)

4:30  –     Close-up shots take place, we are no longer needed.

That’s it. We sat longer than we worked, and they will most likely use the scenes without us. But don’t get me wrong, it was great fun and fascinating to watch the rehearsal and filming of a movie. Everyone was professional and friendly, even Winsor, who took a moment to say Hello and told me that I did, indeed, have to keep quiet and only pretend to talk. So I can now say that I’ve had one encounter with a movie star and he told me to be quiet. If you know me, that’s not too hard to imagine. Works for me!

Go see the movie when it comes out. It’s going to be fabulous and stars wonderful people. Ricardo Chavira wasn’t there today, but I’m hoping to work my way onto another set just to watch.

My daughter? I imagined that at 14, she’d be thrilled at the chance to be in a movie, telling her friends and worried about her hair. No-that was me. I said, “Hey, that guy is famous and you’re going to be in a movie with him.” She said, “Which guy?”  Kids….

Training your brain to write

I’m still glowing after an awesome experience at Phoenix Comicon. I got a major brain overload of writing/author information from everyone there, along with enough Darth Vader and Pokemon…One panel discussion gave me much food for thought. Not only was there interesting information on what to write, but each author was very forthcoming with the intricacies of how they write. That fascinates me… I want to know how others do things, how they struggle, tricks they use, etc. What I found interesting was a question on discipline as it relates to writer’s block. The panel, consisting of Leanna Renee Hieber, Aprilynne Pike, Jeff Marriotte and Sam Sykes, basically agreed that there is no such thing as writer’s block. The secret, according to the panel, was to keep writing no matter what comes up. Make it a habit if you want to succeed. Now, don’t stop reading because that sounds too simple. There is more…

Like any muscle, the brain has memory. Keep writing in the same way at the same time  and your brain is now trained to write according to  these rules. For instance, Leanna Renee said she drinks a certain type of tea while writing each book. This way, when she brews that tea and sits down to write, her brain is hardwired to create that story. New book = new tea=Brilliant. Many famous writers use this routine as well, preferring to write at the same time at the same place each day. I’ve always been impressed by that.

This explains why so many people can finish Nanowrimo but not finish editing the work once it’s over (including myself). For those 30 days, no matter what, my butt was in that chair at 6 a.m. with a cup of tea, punching out that story for two hours before waking my daughter. I wrote sometimes at night also, but always in the morning. I became accustomed to writing like this for 30 days. What happened when it was over? I’m sure you can guess…I stopped. I figured it was time to catch up on my sleep and to hell with getting up at 6 a.m. I don’t get up that early for anyone, not even myself. (and do not call me before 8!)

This reminds me of a trick I used to use in college while studying. I gave each subject a different snack or gum while I studied. That way, when I ate that snack while taking the test, the material came back to me much easier. For instance, while studying sociology, I ate Twizzlers. Then, during the test, I ate a Twizzler and bam…it all came back to me. M&Ms for another subject, Juicy Fruit for another. Sounds strange, but it really works. Your brain associates this snack with the material you were reading. Just as a smell or song takes you back to a special time.

For that reason, creating a routine is essential to writing. My proof is quite simple, no routine = no writing. It’s not months after Nanowrimo and it’s been hard to get back into it. I know that I have to set aside a certain time each day, with a certain drink or aroma, and get my ass in that chair. Simple.

What’s your writing routine? How have you trained your brain to write and get into the mood?

10 Things That Make Me Happy

I saw a fun post at Childhood today where she listed the top 10 things that make her happy. The list is being tagged to other bloggers and they are filling out their top 10 things. (You can follow along from her site.) I love this idea because I like thinking about being happy. Sappy, isn’t it? But anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a sappy person. I’m happy and straightforward. But these days, knowing who I am and what I want from life has made me a much happier person.

Let me know what your top 10 are, did you have to think long and hard about it, or did it come quickly? I really had to think about my list, but not so much because I couldn’t think of anything. There are so many things that make me happy that I had a hard time whittling it down to just 10. That’s a good thing and should be one of my top 10, but I’m not wasting one with that. So here goes…

Top 10 Things That Make Me Happy

1. A Beautiful Arizona Spring Day

I can’t help it, I just want to be outside all day when it’s 75, breezy and beautiful in the spring here. I want to stay out all day, and even eat dinner on the patio until the sun goes down, then I want to sit outside and have a glass of wine. How can you be unhappy when the weather is so lovely? I can’t help inviting everyone I know for breakfast and tea just to sit outside.

2. Chocolate

Pure and simple, I love it. I don’t have to eat a lot of it, but it puts a smile on my face when I do. One small Godiva raspberry truffle, white chocolate starfish, See’s Dark Chocolate California Crunch, you know what I’m talking about. Skip the huge, cheap candy bar and go for one incredible piece of joy. That one piece of chocolate and a glass of wine can be heaven (take it out on the patio on that beautiful Arizona day.)

3. Organization

OK, I didn’t say I was organized. But sometimes I do get that fly in my shorts and decide to rearrange the kitchen, clean my closet, organize my desk, etc. Wow, does that feel good! I love looking at a room I just cleaned, or sitting at my desk after I’ve taken the time to dust, organize and get ready for a day of writing. It feels almost as good as losing a few pounds. Which leads me to number 4.

4. Losing a Few Pounds

I love losing weight, I admit it. I watch my weight on the scale and I try all the time to lower that number. It doesn’t always happen (read number 2). When it happens, I feel as if I’ve won the lottery. When I fit into a pair of jeans that have been snug, I’m on cloud nine and smile even more. Yeah, this one is great.

5. My Daughter’s Art

My daughter is happy to sit and draw all day and all night, and she does. Being home-schooled, she has the opportunity to work it into her day as much as she pleases. She has a backpack with her at all times just in case the opportunity arises. Me: “We’re going to the grocery store. Why do you need your backpack?” Daughter: “You never know when the opportunity to draw may come up.” And she’s right, you never know. She draws beautiful, expressive faces and creatures from her imagination and I love them all, along with her passion for it.

6. Writing

Being in the zone and following the voices in my head-ahhh, that makes me crazy happy. I may be stiff and thirsty, but I love it when I start to write and 2 hours later I “wake up” and realize I haven’t moved from that spot. And even then I want to just keep going. I don’t want to cook, shop, watch TV or anything else, just write. Some days I don’t start writing simply because I know I won’t want to stop. I know I have things to do and I won’t want to do them, or just won’t do them.

7. Friends

Sounds sappy, but I am a people person. I love having friends around me. I need to bounce ideas, sympathize, hug, laugh, cry, etc. with my friends. I’m honored when someone confides in me, and feel grateful to have friends I can trust with my deepest thoughts and feelings. I can’t imagine a life without the laughter and embraces from good friends.

8. A New Purse

I change handbags every few days. It’s a passion (or obsession, depending on how you look at it). They are large, small, expensive, cheap, rustic, fancy, etc. I change them as my mood changes and it’s quite easy to see how I’m feeling by the purse I’m carrying. Am I feeling light and free? –Then I need the small Coach bag that holds just my phone and wallet. Feeling serious or needy? — I need the larger bag that holds the iPad, wallet, Blackberry, Band-aids, Chapstick, etc. Feeling sexy and having a good hair day? This definitely calls for the vintage pink suede clutch. Whatever I feel, I have a bag to go with it.

9. Blog Comments/Retweets

Doesn’t it feel great when someone comments on your blog? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, like someone just gave me flowers. I know it sounds silly, and I may be very new at blogging, but either here or at my cooking blog I get all tingly when I get an e-mail that I have a comment. I love blogging and that just makes me happy. There, I said it, and you don’t have to comment if you don’t want to. Seriously.

And as far as tweeting goes, I’m hooked. I love being retweeted. Why? Same reason as above, (warm and fuzzy.) Also, how do you know if anyone is reading or paying attention to your tweets or blogs? Yes, I can see traffic to the blog, but comments and RTs tell me people are listening. Thanks people!

10. A Good Hair Day

Fess up, you know you love this too. Having a good hair day can make your day, no matter what’s going on. The only negative about a good hair day might be that you have nowhere to go and show it off. Ever have one of those days? You get up, fix that fantastic hair, then realize you really don’t have much to do that day. Nobody is going to see it! But you see it and it makes you feel good…that’s how I feel. Good hair is better than the perfect purse to match your mood (or equal, at least).

Here’s hoping you’re all having a good hair day today!