opportunity waits for those who knock

Did you ever think that maybe opportunity was waiting for you to knock on its door?  In his 15 Habits series, Jeff Goins emphasizes two crucial elements to pursuing our God-given gifts and abilities in this world.   They are:                     
1. Choose yourself.
2. Make a big ask (filed under "earn patrons").

Let me tell you about a time I did both, and it worked.

When I was a senior in college, the education majors were called to a meeting about student teaching placements. The prof running the meeting told us there was one opportunity for a pair of student teachers to work together in an outdoor education program at a local state park.  My ears perked up. What a cool placement, I thought.  I knew without a doubt I wanted that opportunity, and I wanted it badly. The more he talked about it, the more I wanted it.  The professor told us it would be a lottery drawing of names for those of us who were interested, so after the meeting I grabbed my unsuspecting roomate, made her fill out an entry form along with mine (because hey, she had the car to get us there) and dropped both our names in the basket.

He said he'd be choosing the winners soon.

That wasn't good enough for me. I had to have this placement. 

Every day after that meeting, I made time to stop by the prof's office to let him know how interested my roomate and I were in those outdoor ed spots.  I asked him if he'd chosen the winning students.  "No, not yet" was his reply.  I did this day after day after day.  Around the fifth day, I stopped by as usual, told him (again) how much we wanted to do this, and I'll never forget what he did.  He turned his chair, looked me square in the eye and said, "You know what?  You've been in here every day asking me about this position.  You are the only student who has shown that kind of interest and enthusiasm.  I've just made my decision.  Those spots are yours.  Enjoy."

Sitting here writing this, I still remember the exhilaration I felt as I left his office for the final time that day. 

Now I realize what I'd been doing.

I'd been choosing myself and making a big ask. 

And it worked.

I've recently done another big ask.  I'll tell you about it on Monday.

If you've not done something bold or brazen yet, I encourage you to do so. Make time to do it this weekend.  You must put yourself out there; you have nothing to lose.  And quite possibly a whole lot to gain.

When you've made your big ask, or if you have a big ask you'd like to share, leave a comment below.  One random commenter will be chosen to win a free copy of Seth Godin's The Dip . The winner will be announced on Monday!

Have a great weekend.  And go out on a limb.  I'll see ya there.

why i'm afraid of my own art

I take pictures.  After all that I've learned recently, I should say

I'm a photographer.

But I'm more reluctant to call myself a photographer than a writer.

I have taken thousands of pictures, put some online, but printed and framed just a few.  Once I gave one of my pictures away as a gift but doing that just seemed bold and pretentious (and distracting to me for every time I went to their house...where is it? where is it?).

Even in my own home, if I do print and frame some of my best shots, they stay leaning against a wall or a cabinet somewhere, gathering dust as I just can't bring myself to hang them up.

I noticed this after it happened recently and I just kept moving said unhung, matted and framed photos from room to room, wall to wall, cabinet to cabinet to lean against.   It never dawned on me to actually hang them somewhere.


Because I'm afraid of what I'll see.  Afraid that I won't like it.  Afraid it won't be good enough. Afraid it won't look like all those gorgeous prints I always long to buy at art shows.  Afraid that looking at my own artwork day after day will only spell


Fear holds me back.  Fear keeps me prisoner. Fear must be dealt with or it's never going to go away.

I took a step and did things differently today.  I took the prints, dusted off their frames, rearranged some spaces and now they sit on my headboard.  Once they were there, I realized it only took 5 minutes to go from "hide these" to "these look nice here".  It was painless.  But it took me almost a year to get to those 5 minutes.

Fear no more.

Three things I know that you need to know, too.

1. Your work is better than you give yourself credit for.

2. You are always your own worst critic.

3. I'm living proof that it only takes 5 minutes to go from fear to victory.

Find something you made that needs your attention.  Spend time doing whatever you need to so that you can display it proudly, send it off assuredly, or give it away as a gift with honor.

And then come back here and leave a comment telling what those 5 minutes looked like for you. 

I guarantee you're going to like what you see.

they always leave

My mother dropped me off at kindergarten and I didn't think that was very nice of her, but she knew I was ready and would find my way.

Years later she and my dad dropped me off at college and while I couldn't believe they were actually going to leave me there and I cried all the way through my first dinner in the dining hall, they knew I was ready and once again would find my way and be all right. (My mom cried the whole way home Dad later confessed when he heard my dining hall story.)

When my dad walked me down the aisle, I remember feeling shaky and nervous inside, but he knew that together, my new husband and I were ready and would have to navigate our own way through the ins and outs of marriage.  He couldn't do it for me; he could only take me so far and then he had to let go.

When the nurse in the labor and delivery wing didn't even try to stop us and watched as my husband and I took our three-day-old son out of the safety of the hospital and into the precariousness of world, she knew that even though we probably weren't ready, we would figure it out as we went through our days with no sleep and a lot of dirty laundry to do.  She knew she couldn't come with us, and I'm sure she was happy about that. (I wasn't. I would have paid her good money to come live with us for a while.)

And now our 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge has come to an end, and it's as if Jeff has taken all of us by our collective writers' and artists' hands and walked us to the edge of the cliff and told us, "You know what you need to do.  Now go do it.  And you need to jump off this cliff to make it happen."


Thanks, but I'd rather sit on the edge where it feels safe.

On the other hand, if I never jump, I'll never know what it's like to fly on my own.

Jeff did for us what all great leaders and teachers do.  They show us the way, but make us do the work.

For it is, after all, our work.  It's our art, our writing, our creating, our story of who we were meant to be.

No one can do it for us, but we can do it for ourselves.  In fact, we must.

So let's jump on three, shall we?

1, 2, 3.......................................................................

Leave a comment and tell me what that jump looks like for you. Will you be doing something now that you weren't doing before the challenge?

For me, I'll be writing daily.


don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened

Here we are on the final day, Day 15 of the Habits of Great Writers.  This has been a wonderful time of learning, encouragement, and writing.  From reading the comments on the main page , I can tell that I'm not the only one who is sorry to see this challenge end.  It's been like having our own personal writing coach with us each day, pushing us to do better and better.

That's what a great teacher is all about - helping you discover what you already have in you to do, but showing you a way to do it. No magic formula, just steady practice and encouragement and most importantly, helping you push past the "I can't do it" fear.  Jeff has done this for all his participants. 

His last habit was for us writers to be generous, as in giving away our best work for free.  Yep, freeThe more generous the writer, the more endearing it is to those reading.  Makes sense.  And it's the opposite of what you'd expect, so that makes it fun.

He says, "A great writer is selfless. He doesn’t look to his own needs, but finds a way to help others. He’s a servant.  If you’re going to take your writing to the next level — to be truly great — you’re going to have to learn to do the same."

This is a new way of thinking about writing for me, and I like it.  I have no idea what I'm going to do about it yet, but I like it.

It gives me plenty to think about.

And while I'm fairly sure I won't be giving you a trip to Disneyworld or a pony for reading my blog, I'm certain you'll see some changes as I work to include this new habit.

Let me know what you've done or plan to do to be generous, and to give your best work away for free!


Today we have a party we are hosting.

My youngest graduated from high school a week and a half ago, and it's time to celebrate.

I ran across some pictures this past week while cleaning out a drawer, and found his school pictures from kindergarten, first grade, and some others during his elementary years.  As his sister and I ooh'ed and aah'ed over them, I thought, where did the time go?  Amazing.

When he was about to enter kindergarten, we were in the grocery story one day and as he was sitting in that seat in the cart facing me (he's 6 foot now- how did he ever FIT in that thing?), somewhere near the deli counter I commented to him about how his brother would be going into sixth grade, his sister would be entering fourth, and he would be headed to kindergarten.  Amazing.

He looked up at me with astonishment, reached up and held my chin in his chubby little hands and said to me, "Mommy!  You are going to be all alone!!"

What was causing his fear was causing my joy, and I quickly assured him that Mommy was just over the top fine with this, and I really would be okay.

When I sent him to first grade, we had just moved to our new house (which, if you've been reading, is my old house where I grew up), and I was terrified he wouldn't make it off the bus, up the steps, and to the right classroom without direct guidance by the hand from me.  But I wasn't allowed to go.  And he made it just fine.  Amazing.

Two months from Monday, we will be taking a loaded car down the pike and dropping him off at college.  We'll help him set up his dorm room, make sure he's acclimated, remind him where the dining hall is, and then drive home without him.


Happy graduation party day, Spencer.  Enjoy your day, because it's all about you. We love you with all our hearts and can't wait to see what great things God has in store as you venture out with Him.


Today's challenge?


Sorry, but it just doesn't have my passion.

And that's okay.

In his post, Jeff talks about branding, which includes having a platform and identifying what makes you you as a writer so that you're easily recognizable by style, message, voice, and even photo (make sure it's consistent on all sites - very good point).

This is a valid challenge and an integral and necessary part to the writer's life, especially with so many opportunities for an online presence these days.

I'm just not sure where I am in the process, so maybe that's what's causing my malaise about the subject.

Regardless, I'll share with you what little branding I've done thus far....

I changed my domain name in the past year to be my own name- http://www.bethcoulton.com/.  It makes it incredibly uncomplicated to point someone to your blog or website when they can find you by name.  The previous (free) name I had was long, wordy and not simple to remember.  If you're wondering about a domain name, for a simple $10/year with Blogger, you can have your own name in between the www and the dot com.  Go for it- you won't regret it.

My blog used to be called "A Writer's Journey", which I still like.  But I didn't always write about writing (just watch- that's all I'll write about now and wish I kept that blog title).  I changed to a broader-topic name because I had family stories on my blog, devotional anecdotes, humorous happenings, etc.  Chocolate For the Heart came from the fact that I love chocolate, and it always makes me feel good when I eat it (and let's not think beyond that for this moment).  God and His blessings and everyday miracles produce that same good feeling for my soul, thereby giving Him yet another name I call Him by - He's Chocolate For My Heart. ( I'm pretty sure if you look, you'll find that somewhere in between Lord of Lords and Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.)

As far as voice goes, I try to write like I talk, and I try to keep it real.  I have not found a particular niche except to write what I know, write what's happening around me and relate it to a spiritual truth, and be faithful to what God puts on my heart to put out on my blog.

So that's as far as I've come in the branding of Beth Coulton.

Gee, for not having much to say, I sure had a lot to say.  Some of you will not be surprised by this fact.

Your turn.  Tell me about how you did with today's challenge?

bring on dessert

When I was growing up, after dinner my mom would jokingly say, "For dessert tonight, you can have your choice- no cake or no pie." And as quickly as my appetite would rise upon hearing the word "dessert", it only took a second for my hopes to be dashed, realizing that her choices meant there really was no dessert......unless I wanted leftover green beans or the last snowflake roll.

Ugh.  Not funny, Mom.

Today's challenge is a little bit like that sweet treat being just out of reach unless we actually get up and bake something and put it in the oven.

Or in writer's terms, get it out there for publication.

Jeff puts it this way - "Make no mistake: An artist doesn’t create for accolades. But if you’re going to do work that matters, at some point it’ll need to get noticed in order to have an impact."

So true.  I want my words to make a difference; I want them to challenge and grow people and speak to others' souls. 

But if all they do is sit on my computer, there's no way of that happening.

And as my husband likes to say, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

So let's get some stuff out of the oven and onto the table. Bring on dessert. Decide what you can polish up, ship out, and send forth.  Only you know what's ready, and if you don't, pick something and spend some time putting on the icing.

I've done this, and it's worth it.  It involves fear and thrill, which is a great cocktail.

And I don't even drink.

If you would like a second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes, I'd be happy to proofread what you are teetering on the edge about. If you're not sure where to start, I could give you my two cents about that also.  In other words, if I can help push you out of the nest, I'd be happy to do whatever is necessary to help you get going.

Just let me know when you're ready to fly.

so not my style

The words I dreaded hearing from today's challenge - "Take a risk. Write something provocative and stand by it."

I'm about one of the least provocative people you'll ever meet.

I don't pick fights, I avoid confrontation, and I desire everything to be happiness and bliss for me and my family and the general population.

I am such a peacemaker.

This is not to say I don't have opinions, ideas, and ways of thinking that I adhere to come what may.  It's just that I'm a general "let's make sure everyone is happy" kind of person (and that is not necessarily a good thing all the time).

But, I so completely believe in these statements Jeff makes - "Why do we do this (write provocatively)? Because this sets others free. To do the same. To live freely and honestly. So get in our faces; tell us the truth. And watch the ripple effect."

All day I've tried to think of a few things to tell you that would match this challenge. That's what you'll read next. If you don't like what I have to say, I do hope you'll stick around even if we disagree.  And even leave me a comment telling me so.  That's fine by me.  Here goes.

First and foremost, at 50, I've been through a bunch of crap stuff along my life's way and one thing has become the central focus to my very soul and being, and that is the person of Jesus Christ.  I do not believe all roads lead to God. I stand firmly on the belief that there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus.  He is the way, and the only way.  If that makes me narrow minded, then so be it. But that's the basis of who I really am, and I make no apology for it.  No need to.  He's proven Himself over and over again to me.

Secondly, I have struggled my entire life with my weight.  Starting in my childhood, it still plagues me to this day.  It's been a constant, horrible, self-defeating exhausting mental battle that I am only now learning to conquer through different choices, a different way of thinking, and a gym membership. (and by keeping chocolate out of the house.)  But if you want to know what pain I know best, it's the pain of being overweight and the toll that takes on a life.  I could write a book.

Beyond those two things, it gets a little more common- parenting has been difficult, depression has visited our family and done its damage, I've walked through things as a mother I would not wish on my enemy, and I've been spent emotionally more times than not trying to hold it all together for days on end.

But so have a lot of us. 

So if you're still reading, there you have it;  good old provocative me.

Thanks for listening.  Feel free to comment if I've struck gold with you or if you now have a bone to pick with me.

Either way, I'm glad you're here.

I'll keep this brief, maybe.....

Oh, today's challenge post was so timely- Jeff told us it was time to declutter.

Has he met my 21 year old daughter who just came back to live with us between college semesters?

Actually, she didn't bring clutter, but her tsunami of college girl paraphenalia sent everyone shifting like sand and now my office (which consists solely of a long, lovely, black Ikea desk) sits in my bedroom in front of the window.

Not an ideal spot but at least it's a spot.

I have two wire baskets on either end of the desk that are full to the brim, and one pile of equally important documents sitting right next to one of the baskets.  My clutter is very neatly stacked and organized.

But I can't possibly need all this paperwork.

You see, twelve years ago we traded a two-story, development home for a smaller built-by-my-dad-for-his-family ranch home in the quiet country. 

It was a great decision, but sometimes things get a little tight.  Like when the kids grow.

So today and this week I will work towards diminishing those piles because in actuality, they're bugging me a bit.

Jeff also spoke of decluttering our writing, which is a harder task for me to do. Our church secretary used to shudder when I sent her a blurb for the worship guide, because she knew I said in six lines what she needed me to say in two. Or, quite possibly one, thank you very much.

Jeff's writing appealed to me because of his clean, short path to the point.  I thought, wow, this guy really has something to say.  And I could figure out what it was because....he just said it.

After the piles will come less words.

Time to declutter.

share and share alike

It's the first day of (my) summer - school's out and so am I.

To celebrate, today I hit the gym, got a massage (happy Mother's Day to me, thank you sons), and got a pedicure.

Total all-about-me day.

I'm exhausted.

I can't really express this to anyone, mind you, because I would be looked at as if I had two heads.  How can such self indulgence promote such sleepiness? 

I'm not sure, but it did.

So, I will keep this brief and plan on being more refreshed tomorrow.  In keeping with posting about each day's challenge, I wanted to take a moment to write about what we were given to do on Day 10, which is sharing other writers' work with one another.

Here's one blog I'd like to point you to because it has practical advice and teaching.  The emphasis is on children's writing, but the principles can be applied across the board most times.  Take a look - http://www.teachingauthors.com/ .


know what you're not

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.  James A. Michener

I love this quote, especially considering the source.  It says a lot to those of us who write and it speaks to the fact that what comes out our pencils and pens and keyboards the first time around isn't ever usually our best work.  The real blood, sweat and tears of what we do is in the editing, the fixing, the rewording, the rewriting.  You've got to be willing and able to go more than one round with what you've written. A lot more than one round. 

I've spent some time experimenting with what I write about.  For me, sitting down to write fiction isn't something I do.  I currently don't read fiction, therefore it makes sense that I don't write fiction.  I admire, respect and hold highly those who do, because it's something that I wish I wanted to do.  And maybe someday I will.

Through trial and error, I've discovered where my best writing comes from.  For me it's in the retelling of an event that actually happened or something that I witnessed or experienced, and then putting my own spin on it in any number of ways. That's where I'm most comfortable; that's where I can go to town.  

I'm a non-fiction writer. 

So I would say that while I'm not a very good storyteller, I am a pretty good story reteller.

And sometimes in life, knowing what you're not is just as important as knowing what you are.

I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment and tell me about what you like to write. Fiction? Non-fiction? Fantasy? Humor? Sci fi?

you've got a friend in me

"Great writers connect with other writers."  Jeff Goins

That's what the first part of our Day 9 challenge, making friends, revolves around today - connecting.  Networking.  Getting out there and meeting others in our field, picking their brain and letting them pick ours.  I'm sure that's why they invented Starbucks and Manhatten Bagel - for us writers who need a cool place to hang out with other scribes.  And the food is just a bonus.  I mean, who doesn't like to commiserate and eat/drink?

I can say I've made some friends, one in particular, and you can read about it here.

I continue to seek out, study, and invite myself into other writers' lives whether they want me there or not.  I urge you to do the same, even if you're not into writing.  I guarantee you're into something.  You need to out get out there and start knocking on doors, emailing, Twittering, connecting with other like minds and not being afraid to do so. Hold your head high and assume they want to hear from you unless you hear otherwise (fake it 'til you make it, in other words).   Take it from one who found success that way - you have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain.

The second part of our command, finding fans and earning patrons, is new territory for me.  Any fan that I may have has come to me just because they happened to like what I wrote. And I consider myself very blessed and fortunate to have them.

But there's been no deliberate fan stalking plotting on my part, and maybe there should be.  Here's Jeff's advice - "Take some time to figure out why people would listen to you, then say what you have to say. Say it boldly, and the fans will come."

There's that world "bold" again. 

I'm sensing a theme.

Let's wrap it up with earning patrons....the definition Jeff states is, "These people — leaders and influencers in your industry — will help you grow your platform and get your message heard...So how do you get their attention?"  One way he recommends is by making a big ask.

Oh.  I just did that, actually, and I'm waiting to hear back.

And to do it I had to be bold.

I challenge you to do the same. 

So come on.  Let's grow bold together. Do one bold act this weekend towards making friends, finding fans or earning patrons.

It might not be easy, it might feel uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the better you'll get at doing it. 

Start big or start small, but start.  Then come back here and tell me about it so I can cheer you on!

starting to build

"There’s a fundamental difference between starting something and actually building it."  Jeff Goins

There's an interesting challenge today on Day 8 of the 15 Habits of Great Writers series.  It's something that I never really thought about before.

A few years ago I started this blog, but not until recently did I begin to build it. There's a difference.

Here's an excerpt from today's challenge - " 'Building' something creatively happens the same way it does in the “real” world - with a lot of sweat and pain and grunting. It’s not easy; if it is, you’re doing it wrong.  So what does this look like when it comes to writing? It means showing up and doing the work, day-in and day-out. If you’re not doing this already, you need to be."

I can honestly say I wasn't building.  I wasn't doing the daily gritty work.

But you can bet I will be now.

My father built our house one cinder block and stone at a time.  He bought the land, but didn't stop there.  He knew he had to continue on; he knew he had to build.  He needed to roll up his sleeves and do the daily, difficult work of building something out of nothing.

I sit in that same home today where I came back to live with my own family.  I often thank my dad for going beyond starting - for building this house. For it's in the building that he's reflected; where I can touch stones that he put into place, see the nails he hammered, sit on the wood floors that he laid.  His handiwork is all over this home, and that to me is a precious memory.

When you build what you've started, no matter what it is, you put your unique imprint on it.  That's what makes it stand out from the others, because it speaks of you.  If you've started, great.  Now go the next step.  Roll up your sleeves and build something out of it.

P.S.  - I'd love to hear about what you're building, so leave a comment and let me know!

ugly can wait

I'd love to write about something ugly, but.....

no time to blog today as my youngest graduates from high school in an hour.

And that's beautiful.

See you tomorrow!

I write, therefore I steal

Today's challenge is a completely new concept for me.  Stealing.

And I love it.

I've never actually stolen in real life. Unless hiding a cookie from the kitchen under your shirt when you're 5 and telling your mom you don't have a cookie under your shirt when she asks you is stealing.

But apparently this is an acceptable practice when it comes to art.  Our fearless leader Jeff tells us - "Give up on your pursuit of originality and genius and just find something that inspires you. Borrow from your friends and heroes and mash it all up into something that looks, feels, and sounds like you."

It's a community event. You don't want to steal from just one person, because that would get a bit obvious and maybe illegal.  So open up your options and steal from a large amount of sources. 

I say all this with a smile, because just taking others' stuff and saying it's ours isn't creative.  It's lazy.

It's the mashup part that makes this artistic stealing work.  The taking of all that comes into our life from a myriad of influences, experiences, memories, hobbies, passions and dreams and forming something new.  Just as human individuals we are the sum of our parents' DNA but not exact replicas of our parents themselves, so our stolen art will result in a wonderful expression of a combination of various inputs that suddenly becomes our own voice, our own contribution that is influenced by some but unlike any other. 

So go forth and steal.  Garner and glean.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

Because, as I've learned today, it's just like the hokey pokey.

That's what it's all about.

ship it

Today's challenge?

"Ship it. Put something out there, anything. Don’t wait; move something forward.
You don’t need to know everything, just the next step. If it’s a big project, you don’t have to finish the whole thing; just finish part of it. But for crying out loud, do something."

Oh how I adore this advice!  It can be so hard to get started - doing anything, really- but once you get rolling, it's a wonderful road.  No matter what road you're on.

Old habits are hard to break; new ones are tough to start.  It takes a little practice and patience, but it's worth it. Whatever you're looking to do - it's best to just do it.

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, please remember what Jeff so wisely said, because I've seen it work over and over again - you don't need to know everything, just the next step.

We often don't begin (anything) because we want to know "this" is going to work out the way we want it to.  (whatever our "this" is). We want to know how the story (literally or figuratively) is going to end.  Will our gym workouts helps us shed the unwanted 25 pounds?  Will all the time invested in my writing turn profitable and eventually get me somewhere besides here?  Will the interview I am about to go on produce a job offer?

We can't know the end. We must begin anyway.

When it comes to writing, I've shipped a few things - blog posts, query letters, picture book manuscripts, and most recently an unsolicited letter to a famous author asking if they need help in their writing empire. (I'll let you know how well that one works out for me if it ever does.)

The more you do it, the easier and more fun it becomes.  Just take that first step. Get creative. Think of it like an invitation list to a party - if you want twenty to attend, you're going to need to invite at least fifty or sixty.  Your first opportunity might not come through so go on to number two.  Just don't quit! Ship a lot.  Be bold!  Don't hold back.  You have nothing to lose and a lot you could possibly gain.

Choose yourself, get out there, and ship it!

in training

My daugher and I just joined the gym.  It's a great place with lots of bells and whistles and weights and things that move and move us.  Upon joining, the director told us we needed to make an appointment to find out how all the different machines worked.  That sounded simple enough.

We were so wrong.

Our appointment with the ever muscular, personal-trainer-for-the-evening Ryan was this past Friday night.  My daugher and I arrived looking all Nike and Reebok and wearing a lot of black that stretched.  He put us on treadmills first, and as we were leisurely strolling on the moving belt, he stood between our two machines and told us about heartrate, strength limits, muscle fatigue, and getting the most out of our workout. We chatted and smiled and listened and took a sip of water from our filtered water bottles, never sweating a drop and thinking how easy this whole fitness thing was.

Soon that became a distant memory.

As he spoke, Ryan worked with what looks like the cockpit of a 747 at the front of our treadmills.  There were numbers flashing, electronic red hearts beating and numbers escalating.  With the touch of an evil finger, he pushed up the incline and increased the resistance.  As my calves and thighs started to notice, my smile began to fade a little as I now needed to concentrate on just staying on said treadmill.  There would be no more conversation.

The more I walked uphill, the more I realized my towel and water bottle were now lifesaving devices instead of accessories.

He pushed another button and started us on a program that involved what he called "an upper body workout".  I prefer to call it "pushing a cement block through a brick wall".   And Ryan decided that while I'm pushing this block through the wall, I should be walking on even more of an incline to maximize my efforts.

I'm thinking I should clobber Ryan with my efforts before I pass out.

As I started to balk against these life-threatening changes he was making to my initially flat, slow walk on the treadmill, he just looked at me and said, "Well, you want to see change, don't you?"

He had me there.  He was right.  Yes, I do want to see change, and I guess sometimes it can take a little pain to get there.

Your path may get steep, my friend.  And as you begin going uphill, you may be handed a concrete block along the way to push through a brick wall that is now right in front of you.  But it's all right.  Welcome these things.  They are not your enemy.  They are your trainer.  It's all about change, and God always uses it for your good- to make you more like Him.

And that's always worth it.


May your Saturday take you down pleasant paths.

And when it does - write about it!

public practice

And....it's Friday. Time flies when you've committed to write about something every day.

But it's a whole lot more fun than time dragging on.

When it comes to the practice of writing, the great thing is that it all counts. If you want to be a writer, then write.  The more you do it, the better you become.  You can handwrite in a journal, dot every i and cross every t in an important email, or work on the next best seller on a Word document on your laptop in front of the fire.  It's all good.  It's just important that you and I write - over and over and over again.

Today's challenge was to take your writing one step further than you currently have been doing.  Jeff calls it practicing in public. This step will look different for different writers, depending on where you are with your craft.  For some, it may be sitting down for the first time and writing what you're thinking in your head you'd like to write. 

Or, if you usually take pen in hand and privately journal most of the time, you might want to take a leap and start a blog and share your writing with a small corner of the world. (It's simple to set up and it can be free.  So... there's no excuse.)

If you're already comfortable with blogging, you might want to see if you can guest post on blogs and challenge yourself to write to other writer's guidelines and submission policies. Then again, if you have some killer stuff already written, you might want to see if you can start submitting those items to a magazine, a publishing house, or an editor.

The goal here is to stretch yourself - and your faith in yourself - and push a little higher and futher than you usually do.

Don't let fear hold you back- the only way to start is to just start. 


And then leave a comment below and let me know where your leap of faith took you- I can't wait to hear.  We're better together and we can encourage each other!

my secret

Today's writing challenge was to write down something that I aspire to; that dream, that passion, that "I want to be this but I'm scared to say it out loud" kind of desire which, if it did indeed describe me, would allow me to die happy.

Jeff challenged us with this- Here’s what I want you to do: Write down in some place secret, “I am a ____.” Do it and do it now. We’ll come to it later. For now, pull it out every day and read it. Yes, this is hokey, and yes, I want you to do it, anyway.

So I did.

And I'm not going to tell you what I wrote, but I am going to take it out every day and read it, just as he suggested.

I will tell you one thing I already am that I thought might help me in this writing life; something that could potentially carry a lot of clout and breeze me through a lot of doors.

I am a Michener.

Michener was my maiden name, and while my father is not James A., James A. was my father's history teacher at a private high school in Pennsylvania back in the late 1930's.  And.....my brother happens to be named James.  Without the A. (it's gotten him places.)  My mother didn't believe in middle names so when I got married, Michener slid nicely into that middle spot squarely between Elizabeth and Coulton.

When I started to write, I sniffed a whiff of importance and just in case it had any inkling of helping me get anywhere in this world,  I used my whole, entire, middle-and-all name.  Because I could.

Didn't make a darn bit of difference.  Didn't raise one eyebrow.  Didn't get one reaction.

Oh well.  At least I tried.

Each writer has to stand on their own.  No one's merits can count as yours; each individual's work is theirs and theirs only.  As it should be.  It's all good, really.

But I'm glad I gave it a shot.  Because you just never know what's in a name.  And when I pen "North Pacific", you can be sure I'm going to use my middle name right on the front cover.

a clarification

Picture courtesy of www.lepoidevinmerge.com
As I was writing my post yesterday, I sensed that I was giving off an aura. A not-so-great aura. An aura which implied that you are only a writer if you get paid for it.

Today I'm here to fix that, because nothing could be further from the truth.

And I am sorry if I gave you, dear reader, that impression.

Money does not a writer make.

You are a writer if you do one thing.  Write.

I have been writing for a long time and recently ventured out to see if I could make a little money doing it because let's face it, who can't use a little extra income.  That's what yesterday's post was about - the success of a venture that went as I had hoped (and as I sensed God was leading me).  It happened to involve writing.

But I would have called myself a writer even if I never saw a cent.  And I would still write even if one day that company's powers-that-be said, "We cannot pay you; can you still write for us?" 

Of course I can. Because I love to write.

And that, my friends, makes me and any one of us a writer.

Our challenge today has been to ruminate on that fact, and indeed I have been.  I've slow-cooked that title all day and it's starting to feel more comfortable, a bit better fitting, almost comfy couch-like.  Which is better than the "I can't possibly call myself THAT" sort of thing.

The more you say it, the more you'll believe it.

The more you believe it, the more you'll say it.

Fear not.  Believe in yourself.  Then go forth and write.

hear ye, hear ye

Our challenge for Day 1 came boldly to us this morning - Declare you’re a writer.

It was followed by these sentiments "Do it with pride and boldness. Write about it, tweet it about, record a video if you want. The more outrageous it is, the more likely you are to believe. This is what we’re trying to do here: convince ourselves that we have the right to pick up the pen."

Why is that so hard for us to do?

We seem to have the hardest time believing in ourselves.

As I desperately tried to find someone today to proclaim my writership to, I was coming up short.  I was ready to shout it from the rooftops and fly a plane across the beach with "I AM A WRITER- EAT AT JOE'S" waving proudly behind me in order to get someone to notice me.  But no one did.

Until I got the mail.

Mixed in that pile of catalogs and bills and unwanted correspondence, there was one sacred envelope.

My first paycheck - ever - for writing something.

How ironic that it came to me on Day 1 of this writing challenge.

So, while I may not have told anyone verbally today that I am a writer, I received something that verified my path and said to me "Yes, you are."

And that was the best news I heard all day.

tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow....

Today I decided to make that commitment to write something, anything, every day.  The best practice for writing is to...write. 

Just hours later I received an invite to participate in a daily writing challenge starting tomorrow that will help develop great writing habits, push our pencils further than they've gone before, and get our creative juices flowing (even if it kills us). 

 It is the brainchild of Jeff Goins (who is, himself, a great writer).

If you write, ever thought of writing, or would just like to dip your pen in some ink and try out the craft, I invite you to join me as I partner with over 300 others who will rise to the challenge of weekday assignments meant to hone our skills and make us better than we were before.

And yes, that is possible.

Love is more than...

When I was little I wasn't allowed to sit on the shingled roof of our storage shed. Since the shed was built into the side of a hill, it was very easy to walk from one part of the lawn, take a step up and be on the roof.  And while it didn't go very high, sitting atop of it made us kids feel like kings and queens of the land, surveying our kingdom.

Which would make us disobedient royalty because it was against the rules.

One summer afternoon, something got the best of me.  I can't remember quite what that something was, but it made me go I went on the roof.  I had probably forgotten the rule and was just caught up in being a kid and having a good time and sitting somewhere high.  It was great.

Until I was climbing down and broke a shingle.

And the memory of that ruling came to me in an instant.

I stood there, broken roof piece in hand, and knew I'd done it.

Verdict -  so guilty.

I found my mom in the kitchen and told her my story.  She listened, and then looked at me and said, "You'll have to wait until your father gets home and tell him."  Rats. This wasn't going according to plan. She wasn't going to get me out of it.  (On the other hand, I have no idea why my mother said this because my father was about the gentlest creature around. This was the one and only time my mother ever used that line on me. And on that day it worked just fine. Shiver me timbers.)

I still remember that afternoon, sitting on the top step outside the front door waiting for him to pull in the driveway after work. I remember holding that piece of asphalt roofing material in my hand, knowing it was enough evidence to send me to bed without dinner at least, and perhaps eradicate all my summer plans at most.

So, so guilty.

The car pulled in.  Dad came up the steps.  I'm sure I immediately blubbered in my preteen way something about I broke a shingle because I was on the roof and I wasn't supposed to be and I didn't listen and oh I'm so sorry and......

My father paused for a moment.  Then he patted my head as he walked by, and I'll never forget what he said.

"Love is more than a broken shingle."

I'm almost positive he was smiling.  Even he knew when he was being corny.  And even he knew when his daughter had been punished enough just by waiting for hours to be able to tell him her error and say she was sorry.

As I finally let out a breath I'd been holding in for quite some time, I felt that relief of being forgiven, of the man in charge saying "no big deal", and of not getting what I deserved.

That's grace.

You may be sitting with brokenness today, holding wrongdoings in hand to show your Father.  You may not be sure just how He'll receive you, because you've done what He asked you specifically not to do.

We've all been there, done those things.

And while He may not actually pat your head and give you a wry one-liner, He will always, always exude grace and forgive you and fill you with peace when you come to Him and lay your sins and sorrows at His feet.

So get up off the top step and go to Him because you can. 

This time, He's the one waiting for you.