Crossing the finish line

Today is day 100 of #The100DayProject . I finished. Yay. 

*cue partially inflated helium balloons and off key band.

I feel characteristically underwhelmed. It’s always the way— reaching the end of a project when I should be jumping up and down or popping a champagne cork, but instead I’m shrugging, going, “Eh, it’s over, okay, what next?”

There are 109 days left until NaNoWriMo starts November 1. I think I will do 100 days of illustrated poetry bits (thanks to everyone who commented!), but maybe I won’t start tomorrow. I’ve got nine more days to decide. And some laundry to fold. 

The good news is this time (unlike when I finished my novel OVER A YEAR AGO, ahem) I actually DO have something lined up. I signed on to do a Gale course, Writing Fiction Like a Pro. It starts tomorrow, lasts six weeks, and sounds like a good way to organize my outline for the NaNo novel I have in mind. Best part: several friends from my local writer’s critique group are taking it, too! I will enjoy the camaraderie, and probably need the accountability. 

Do you have some short term goals, writing or otherwise? What are your creative plans?

100 days later 

For the past 93 days I’ve participated in #The100DayProject put on by The Great Discontent on Instagram. My Insta feed is over there somewhere 👉. 

I’ve been learning to watercolor, and it’s been awesome! I’ve even done a few paintings that are actually good. 

When I finished the first draft of my novel last year, I fell into the deep depressing pit of not knowing what to do next. I’ve decided not to let that happen when the 100 Day Project ends next week. I need to line up a new challenge before this one ends. It doesn’t have to be a 100 day thing, but 21 days is not nearly long enough for me to build a true habit, AND I don’t want to think about standing at the edge of the Abyss of Not Knowing again for a good while, AND I kinda sorta have an idea for NaNoWriMo so this needs to carry me until November 1. 

So. Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with. If you have something better, please comment!

100 memories — do I want to focus on the past? 
100 quotes from awesome people, books, songs. Other people are pretty cool. It’d be a curating thing. 

#100happydays — can I choose to be happy (I can choose. But can I actually make it happen?) for 100 days in a row? That’s an awful lot of happiness. 

100 hopes and dreams for the future. I’m not good at saying what I want. Often it’s because I don’t even consider what I would like; I tend to think only about what someone else might want. Sometimes I do know what I’d like, even one hundred things I would like— like a cat, and a bicycle with a basket on the front, and a flat above a bakery in the south of France— but I shy away from speaking them out loud for fear of ridicule or rejection. Dumb, right? 

Was that a dumb question?

100 questions. I’m not always good at asking questions. I ask, but often they’re the wrong questions. I assume. I put words in your mouth. I ask if you feel a certain way, rather than simply, “How do you feel?” I pitch my view by the way my question is worded. So maybe 100 days of practicing asking questions, and thinking of really good ones, would be a smart way to build better habits.

100 days of word play. I do love a good play on words. 

100 snippets of my own poetry, possibly illustrated. I could even watercolor some of them. 

100 bits of micro fiction. Maybe 100 paragraphs of one story. Or a hundred 100-word stories? That would be epic.

Punk says 100 dreams for the future sounds too hard, so I’m kind of gravitating toward that one— not to be rebellious, but I want a challenge! Because if it’s easy, what’s the point? 

Was that a good question? 

What would you do?

These hands

imageThese are the hands I raise to heaven
When I thank God for you.
These are the hands that will guard your heart,
Defend you,
Hold your face when I kiss you,
Wipe away your every tear,
Fold in prayer for you,
These are the hands.

This is part of a poem I wrote fourteen years ago, shortly after my first son was born. Unearthed today in the midst of a search for something else.

Lucid Nightmare

I have a recurring dream. In it, someone I love and should be able to trust does something horrible. The worst part is, this person thinks it’s fine and has no qualms about having done it. Moreover, s/he keeps talking and talking about it. Just won’t shut up.

I hate this dream.

Only last time I had it, about a week ago, the dream changed. Everything went as usual until the part where I normally wake up. This time, I stayed in it long enough to speak up for myself. I simply said, “This is wrong and it hurts me.” Usually in the dream, my mom sits by my refrigerator giving me a reproachful look. But this time when she turned to look at me, she wasn’t my mom. She was ME. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I smiled at myself.

I think the initial dream has to do with my lack of trust. I don’t feel I can count on those close to me to make wise, moral decisions. I cannot trust them to take my feelings into account. I see that maybe they don’t know any better, but it hurts just the same. And of course, dear old mom is standing by ready to disapprove.

But with the new twist, I feel like I stood up for myself. I said plainly that what was going on was harmful to me. I advocated for myself. The other person’s behavior didn’t change, but mine did. I woke up just as emotional as ever, but with a more positive charge to it because I had done something different. And instead of looking to my mother, I was looking to myself for approval.

It feels like a turning point.

My son has practiced lucid dreaming for over a year now. He gave me some pointers on how to know when I’m in the dream. He says while I’m awake I need to practice noticing something in the dream, so when I’m asleep and see the object, I can check my lucidity. His example was if I see a bird fly overhead, I can count my fingers. If I count only two fingers, I’ll know I’m dreaming. so I’ve been thinking about sticking my arm through the refrigerator door. If I can do it, I’ll know I’m in the dream.

So what will I say or do next time? I know I can’t change the other person’s behavior. I probably can’t change my own trust issues overnight, either. But what can I change?

What would you do? Have you ever tried to control your dreams or had a lucid dream? Did it work?

Daily prompt: Nightmare

10 ways to optimize Google searches

Recently an entrepreneur told me he needed to find one hundred pieces of quality content for his company’s new blog. 

“Piece of cake,” I said. 
“WHAT?!?” He was totally skeptical, which surprised me. I thought everyone knew how to do a google search. 
Anyway, he asked for a few pointers. I presented him with these 10 search term strategies. 
I’m happy to report he found the stellar content he was searching for. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for, too.
Before getting to the 10 strategies for better Google searches, make a list (mental or written) of what you hope to find. Writers’ lists should include genres, topics, poetry formats, word lengths, etc. My most recent search was for watercolors and included search terms related to paints, papers, and name brands of watercolor suppliers.
Two keys: Be general. Be specific. They sound like opposites, I know. But you’ve got to use terminology everyone in your field uses, AND get specific about which aspect of the industry you want more info about.
Then add the following:
1. Use words like best, top, five stars. 
2. Use superlatives in your field. If you’re searching for cleaning products, use search words like cleanest. Musician? Try rockin‘. (Fo realz.) 
3. Put 2015 in the search bar, or since it’s early in the year, 2014. Eliminate obsolete answers from outdated websites. 
4. Get specific. Looking for guitars? Use brand names like Fender or types like acoustic, bass, etc. 
5. Enter the name of a specific item + “review.” Benefit from others’ experiences by reading reviews. (Bonus: “review” is an especially handy search word for writers since so many literary journals have the word in their title!)
6. Type in “how to” + whatever you’re interested in. 
“How to dissect frog’s eye.” 
“How to clean grout.” 
“How to Coldplay Clocks bass line.” 
(Note: search terms DO NOT have to be complete sentences or even make sense. Google, or whichever search engine you’re using, looks for the words, not necessarily the order of the words. Also, fillers like “a” or “the” are unnecessary.)
7. Look for magazines, newspapers and journals related to your search. I often search “flash fiction villanelle horror journal submission” or such like. Not pretty, but it works.
8. Subscribe to relevant websites, blogs, podcasts. Links will be abundant. FOLLOW THE RABBIT.
9. Subscribe to newsletters. Read with an eye for new search terms, especially buzzwords specific to your topic. Our church recently latched onto the term “missional communities.” After a few titillating laughs with Punk, I searched the term and realized it’s a thing. A Christian thing. Who knew?
10. Speaking of knew. NEW. If vague search terms give you blah results, adding the word “new” can occasionally perk things up.
What are you searching for? How can I help you search smarter?

from zero to author in 40 years flat