12 Ways 2 B 5 Minutes Closer to Your Dream

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Do something every day to get you closer to your dream. That was one of the first and best pieces of advice I received when I was just packing my bags to begin my writing journey. (Thank you, Ann Purmell.)

Of course, “do something” leaves ample room for personalization. Assuming you agree with the concept, you’re probably wondering how you’d find time to do something every day.

Well, in 2015 I heard Newbery winner Kathi Appelt talk about a time in her life when she was frustrated over finding writing time. A friend challenged her to write every day. Kathi said she’d try for 30 minutes daily, but her friend protested. She wanted Kathi to aim for a mere five minutes a day. Kathi was confident she could commitment to that!

No surprise, Kathi oftentimes exceeds her five minute allotment, but regardless of the minutes, the important thing is, she is doing something every day–creating momentum, a worthy habit, a dream-supporting discipline.

Being the smart little snicker doodles you are, you knew I’d challenge you next, didn’t you. I want to give you a dozen options to spend five or ten minutes each day to bring your dreams closer to reality.

  1. Interview one character from your work in progress.
  2. Order a new book on writing technique – may I suggest Kendra Levin’s The Hero is You.
  3. Compile a list of names—first or last or both together–for future characters.
  4. Read a blog post by an editor or author you admire.
  5. Send someone you appreciate a quick thank you email. It could be a fellow writer, an editor or maybe a conference speaker who encouraged you.
  6. Write one scene.
  7. Register for a retreat or conference.
  8. Read two pages of your WIP out loud or ask someone to read them to you.
  9. Tidy your desk top (either your computer desk top or your actual desk).
  10. Research a publishing house for a future submission.
  11. Type out the text of one of your favorite picture books so you can study it.
  12. Do a Find/Replace in one chapter (or five pages) to weed out your “crutch words,” e.g. just, actually, started or to root out passive voice.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes

Where’s Your Scary?

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The road is longclouds

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

Do these lyrics remind you of your journey toward publication?

How about words like wandering, wilderness, what-if-it-never-materializes, wondering what’s next?

I hear you.

More important, I feel you.

This journey is tough. At least it is for me. And it’s so much longer than I ever imagined it would be.

You too?

Lately, I’ve recognized one of the things that is making it feel even longer–I’ve tripped into a rut.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Now my journey is as dry as winter elbows.

Know what’s missing?

Scary.

For me, Scary equates to doing something new, putting myself out there for an unpredictable payback and feeling my heart stampede.

Now I’m on the hunt for the right kind of Scary.

You too?

These ideas to inject an element of Scary back into our Writing Life–

  • Enroll in a writing course
  • Apply to an MFA program or another form of formal education
  • Register for a workshop, retreat or conference
  • Send three chapters to a willing beta reader
  • Enter a contest
  • Read at an open mic

I’m going for it. Look out Scary. Here I come.

You comin’?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~ Helen Keller

Lyrics by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott

“Rung” in the New Year

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From “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Lobel

When you’re up high, let’s say on a tall ladder, people always tell you–Don’t look down! But do me a favor, will you? Take a minute to glance over your shoulder. That’s right, look down the ladder the today. Here’s why . . .

When your sole focus is looking up the publishing ladder as you clutch each rung, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never reach the top. But let me encourage you to hold the rung a second.

Pause.

Even for a moment.

Stop craning your neck upward.

Look back down that ladder.

You began at the bottom.

Now, see how far you’ve come!

Today, before you uncork some bubbly or sing that silly “Auld Lang Syne,” make a list. Nope, not a mental list. Compile a REAL list on paper or screen–of all you’ve accomplished this year toward your writing goals. You have so much to be proud of. (I know, I should have said, You have so much of which to be proud, but that sounds kind of snooty for my purposes, and using proper grammar wasn’t one of my goals for 2016 anyway.)

Sure, there’s a lot more you want to do (same here), but treat yourself to a moment to appreciate how high you’ve already climbed. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the view!

What’s that? You say you submitted your work this year, but only have a stack of rejection letters to show for it? Well, that’s VERY rung-list worthy. (Honest. I’m not just saying that to give you something to put on your list.) You submitted your work. (It’s virtually impossible to receive a letter of rejection otherwise.) You wrote, revised, researched publishers and took the leap to share your work for consideration. Okay, so you didn’t get the desired response–this time–but you’re now ready to narrow your search and target other houses for submission in the new year. That’s great. Rung it up!

Happy New Year, my little sticky buns! Let’s “rung” it in together.

Umquam porro. Ever forward, Friends. Ever forward. Rung by rung.

A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~ Edmond de Goncourt

A writers guide to raising Baby New Year

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reedWithout doubt, most of us will not think back on 2016 and heave a wistful sigh. It was a Grueler. (Not sure if that’s a word. It should be.)

Yet, it is into this mosh pit of mayhem we are about to bring a Baby New Year. And if there’s one thing we know about babies, as much as we think we know about them, those wee, wiggly love sponges possess an inherent agility for throwing curve balls.

To up our odds for raising a healthy, toddling humanette, in 2017, let’s try these three baby steps toward productivity . . .

Step 1: Brainstorm. Make a list of all the possible things you could do with your Baby New Year as a writer. The outer banks of the universe is the limit. Dream BIG. Really give it a think. (When you hear brain cells bubbling back off a tad.)

Step 2: Using your aforementioned list, select three things you’d like to accomplish as a writer with Baby New Year. (For purposes of sanity retention, I recommend selecting a large, medium and small—or a venti, grande and tall in Starbucks-speak.)

So, for example—

By December 31, 2017, I will:

  • Have a complete first draft of my current novel in progress.
  • Revise ¼ – ½ of another novel.
  • Write 12 messages of encouragement or thanks to a fellow writer (or an agent, editor, beta reader or whom have you).

Step 3: Whether you use Outlook, a phone app or ye olde paper calendar, put prompts on your calendar for each of the things you’re going to accomplish.

To elevate your chances for success, share your list with a trusted friend–a Baby New Year Sitter, of sorts, who is tough, but likely to offer treats.

Wishing you and your Baby New Year unexpected sources of delight, insight and really good cookies in 2017. Cheers! (And remember, we’re all in this together, my little malted milk balls.)

Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year! ~ Ogden Nash
 

Sit down. We need to talk. (Yes, there will be cookies.)

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I know you’re busy. Me too. But, please, sit down a minute.

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Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

We need to talk.

Yes, you can grab a cookie and that pillow.

Comfy now?

Sweetness.

That’s what we need to talk about.

Now, I don’t mean the hazelnut cocoa with an extra dollop of marshmallow fluff kind of sweet (as delightful as that is).

Wait. Please come back. I’ll make you some cocoa when we’re done, okay?

Now,  back to sweet. See, sweet, to me, means empathy, compassion, sensitivity and awareness of others (people, critters, nature, you know, the world around us). It’s one of the best parts of us.

But trust me, being sweet is not for sissies, especially if you intend to stay that way. You gotta be vigilant about protecting your sweetness–now, more than ever ever ever.

Why am I making a fuss with all this “sweetness jazz”?

Fair question. My answer: because children.

You and I write for them. We must sign on to be one of their tenderizers. Through our stories, we can show little ones what empathy looks like, even in–and especially in–painful, challenging, heart-searing circumstances infested with tough choices. We can introduce kids to diverse people and let them see in natural, everyday ways the value of sweetness with each interaction.

Child development researcher L. R. Knost, said, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

I love that . . . “Make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” Amen.

What’s that? Am I suggesting you be a “Polly Anna Pushover Nanny Pants”?

Uh, not sure what that is exactly, but um, no. Staying sweet can take a lot of grit. Don’t be a door mat. Don’t be a cream puff. You know that.

Be you – the best tender, kind, compassionate, welcoming, sweet you you can be. And write the tenderizing stories only you can. And as you do that, gosh, oh my. The world is lucky to have you here. I am lucky to have you here. Children are even luckier.

So, that’s it. That’s our talk. Thanks for listening.

Pardon?

Sure, you can take a cookie with you.

Everyone carries an atmosphere about him. It may be healthful and invigorating, or it may be unwholesome and depressing. It may make a little spot of the world a sweeter, better, safer place to live in; or it may make it harder for those to live worthily and beautifully who dwell within its circle. ~ J.R. Miller

 

Congrats x Four!

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tarzan-2Granted, he doesn’t look thrilled, but Mr. Tarzan Malarkey was honored to draw the names of our lucky Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway. Honest.

He said, “Yes.”

(That’s how he responded when I asked if he had fun.)

Congratulations to these four lucky winners!

Sally Thelen – An idea journal to capture light bulb moments in the New Year

Ann Angel – A surprise! (You’ll like it!)

Lindsey McDivitt – A critique of up to 10 pages – offer good through 2017

Kristin Lenz – Doodle pad and pens (with an original doodle t’boot!)

Piles of thanks to everyone who entered the contest, offered ideas for future posts and shared such scrummy words of encouragement.

My little hand-sprinkled sugar cookies, I wish you all a warm, peaceful and delightful holiday season. Take time to “be,” to loll around in the love that’s all around you and to keep your heart tender. You’ll be ready to make 2017 your most productive, creative, daring year ever.

And then, as if written by the hand of a bad novelist, an incredible thing happened. ~ Jonathan Stroud

Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway

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Can you believe it, my little cinnamon sticks? We’ve reached four full years of Frog on a DSC06765Dime. You’ve made this step of faith (and fear!) so worthwhile for me. My desire to be an encouragement has come full circle so many times, thanks to you, I’m a curlicue (and yeesh, that is quite a sight!)

To thank you for your, well, your YOU-ness, I want to offer you FOUR chances to win this Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway.

Win one of four prizes:

  • An Idea Journal to start your new year.
  • A critique (up to 10 pages) of your picture book or middle grade novel in progress.
  • A doodle pad & pen. (Plus, I’ll draw a doodle just for you to get you started.)
  • A surprise prize!

Four quick as a wink ways to enter:

  • Become a new follower of Frog on a Dime. (Sign up’s on the home page.)
  • Leave a comment under this post on Facebook.
  • Like and retweet this post on Twitter.
  • Share a comment, suggestion or question on this post below.

Your ideas for future post topics, your writing-related questions or nominations for guest bloggers are especially welcome.

Enter by 4 p.m. (EST) on Friday, December 9.

I can’t wait to dole out the prizes. So, hop to it! What are you waiting “four”?

I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ~ Ovid