Thoughts for Success

Betty cowboy hat prairie.1

 

By Betty Kuffel

Believe in yourself when that voice in your head tells you your writing stinks, or you’ve spelled “the” wrong, or you just don’t have it in you to finish the novel that has been living in your brain for years. Don’t listen. Believe in yourself.

Find a positive motto that fits you. Put it over your computer in full view, read it when you have second thoughts about your skills or ability to complete a writing project. Let it stimulate positive thoughts. Mine is from Dr. Seuss:

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

Einstein counting My writing area is a positive corner with a desk facing East. I accomplish the most in early morning, love sunrise, and am usually there to greet the lightening sky. The singing early birds brighten my days, too. Over my desk I have a couple important photos, one is of my granddaughter who makes me smile. I also have a photo of Albert Einstein counting on his fingers to remind me my lacking math skills shouldn’t stop me from accomplishing my goals. I also have a quote from him: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk a sign?”

When my desk looks like his, piled high with books and cluttered with papers, I don’t worry, I press on and put cleaning off until tomorrow … or later.

There are so many things to do instead of writing we have to avoid the distractions, ignore them. At the end of your writing day, take an hour to clean and straighten things out, but get ready for your next day of writing and get a good night’s sleep.

Feather women

Each morning I arise in early morning darkness. I dress, put on a little lipstick as if I’m heading to work and sit down at my computer with a cup of coffee. I look up and admire a woman flying over my desk with feathers in her hands and read my Dr. Seuss motto. It works for me. 

I don’t believe in writers’ block. When a story stalls, go on to another writing project as the stalled one churns in your thoughts. Or take a break and write a blog for deposit in the Montana Women Writers’ blog bank.

Remember: Life.Piano 

Happy writing.

 

 

 

 

The Write Day

palmquist

 

 

By Anne B. Howard-

It’s so easy to pour a hot cup of coffee and retreat to the writing cave for hours, during our long grey Montana winters, but when spring finally arrives, the procrastination and excuses begin. I’ve fought the same battle with myself for years. Give me an inch, and I’ll take The Wild Mile above Bigfork every time. The good news is that this year I’ve called a truce, which doesn’t involve crawling out of bed at four in the morning, as several of my writer-friends happily do, or closing my eyes, ears and soul to the reasons I moved to Montana in the first place.

It’s my way of touching base with the natural world, getting some exercise, and carving out the time to actually plan and commit myself to new goals. Instead of “time I could have spent writing,”FullSizeRender (23) I consider this meditative daily four-mile-walk as the first and most critical stage in my writing day. It’s where I brainstorm for ideas, hit upon solutions, and gain insight, confidence and enthusiasm for tackling the tasks on my to-do list, renewed and inspired by the never ending miracle of new life around me.

Some days, the ideas come so hard and fast I have to sit down and make notes, which is why I never leave home without my big screen iPhone 6-Plus, or the iPad with keyboard.  “Idea traps,” I call them. And, fortunately, if I look closely, great places—no, actually, perfect places—to sit, sip a little coffee from my thermos, and record these ideas abound along that trail, inviting and enticing me to take my time. It’s all good. No second wasted.

Once home, I water the flowers, tidy the house, and prep a quick lunch for the hubs before heading upstairs to the cave, without guilt or resentment, filled to the brim with new plans for committing to paper the stories I feel inspired to tell.

How do you balance the need to write with making sure all of life’s bases are covered?

(Originally published May 9, 2016)

 

Breaking Twig (excerpt)

eppersonBW

By Deborah Epperson

PROLOGUE

 I must have been about five the first time Grandpa Eli told me the story of the Pickers and the Picks. He was sitting in his rocking chair on the back porch of the modest plantation house he’d built twenty years earlier. My imaginary friend, Claudia, and I were having a tea party under the shade of the weeping willow. A clump of purple flowers plucked from the wisteria vine trailing along the back picket fence served as our grapes, while half-a-dozen emerald leaves pilfered from a hothouse geranium represented mint cookies.

  “Becky Leigh,” he called. “Did I ever tell you the story of the Pickers and the Picks?”

  “No, sir.” I headed for the porch. “What are Pickers, Grandpa?”

  “Pickers are mainly folks who are big on the outside, but small on the inside.” He gave a push and the oak rocker resumed its familiar cadence. “Not necessarily tall and heavy big. Pickers are more like puffed up big.”

  I climbed into his lap, nestled into the crook of his shoulder. “Like popcorn puffs up when you cook it?”

  “No, more like a sore that’s got infected and is puffed up with mucus and poisons.”

  “That’s yucky.”

  He laughed. “That’s a true fact, Miss Becky.”

  “What do Pickers do?” I asked.

  “Pickers hunt for someone who looks like easy pickin’s.”

  “Easy pickin’s? You mean like when Momma makes Papa and me pick dewberries along the railroad track instead of by Lost Mule Bog because she says it’s easy pickin’s along the tracks? But it’s not really. It’s just the bog is messier, and you know how she hates messes.”

  Grandpa stopped rocking. “Are you going to be quiet and let me finish my story, young’un?”

  I covered my mouth to stifle a giggle. It was the funniest thing, my grandpa pretending to be mad at me. “Yes, sir. I’ll be quiet.”

  The rocker started up again. “As I was saying, a Picker hunts for someone he thinks will be easy pickin’s. That’s usually someone smaller, younger, or weaker in some way. It can be someone whose only weakness is that he or she is a nice person.”

  I tapped Grandpa’s shoulder. “How does a Picker change nice people into Picks?”

  “Well, he screams and hollers at them. He makes them do things they know they shouldn’t do. Champion Pickers are experts at bullyin’, intimidatin’, and dominatin’ other folks.” The rocker stopped once more. “Do you understand anything I’m saying, Becky?”

  “I think so. Maybe. Will I be a Picker or a Pick when I grow up, Grandpa?”

  “Can’t say for sure. Let’s try an experiment.” He helped me down and pointed to a line of ants marching across the porch floor. “Go stand by those ants.”

  I did as I was told.

  “Now, Becky, I want you to stomp them ants as hard as you can.”

  “Why should I kill the ants, Grandpa? They’re not hurting me.”

  “Because you can, girl. Because you can.”

  I began to stomp. I stomped the ants in the middle of the line, the ants in the back of the line, and all the ants at the head of the line. I stomped so hard my cat’s dish vibrated across the floor, tumbled over the edge, and landed in the azalea bushes that circled the back porch. I didn’t stop stomping until all the ants were either dead or beyond my reach.

  Grandpa Eli motioned for me to come back. He put his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. “That’s what Pickers do, Becky. They hurt other living things just because they can.” Pulling me closer, he asked, “How did stomping those ants make you feel?”

  I lowered my eyes. “Bad. I felt bad, but . . .”

  “But what?”

  “But when I was stomping them I felt . . .”

  “You felt strong?”

  I nodded, too ashamed to acknowledge my Picker-like feelings in words.

  “How do you think the ants felt?”

  “Terrible,” I said. “And so will Pinecone when he sees his supper is gone.”

  “Don’t you worry about that cat. He won’t starve. But that’s what happens when a Picker gets riled up. Lots of innocent folks get hurt too.”

  “Does this mean I’m gonna be a Picker when I grow up?”

  “It’s all up to you, child. You don’t have to be a Picker or a Pick. You can choose to be nice to people and insist that they be nice to you.”

  I climbed back into his lap. “And if they’re not nice to me?”

  “If you stand up to the Pickers in this world, they’ll leave you alone. Remember, they like easy pickin’s.”

  “Have you ever been a Picker, Grandpa, or a Pick?”

  “Sure. At certain times in life, most people are either a Pick or Picker. It usually takes a lifetime for folks to figure out they don’t have to be either one.”

  “Grandpa, do you think a Picker, a champion Picker that is, can ever change?”

  “Maybe. With the passage of time and a heap of prayers, I think anyone can change.”

  I gave him a hug. “I think we should start praying for Momma right away.”

  Grandpa Eli smiled. “I think you’re right, Becky Leigh.”

       *****

I did start praying. But after both my grandfather and my beloved Papa died, and after the only noticeable change in Momma—despite eight years of fervent prayers—was her new husband, I stopped. I let the tales of Pickers and Picks slip from my mind and forgot Grandpa Eli’s warnings on the perils of becoming easy pickin’s.

  Not until one day in November of ’63 did I recall the lessons of the porch. That was the morning Momma and her new husband, Frank, went to the Miller’s house to watch President Kennedy’s funeral, and the time I got caught slipping into my new stepbrother’s room to borrow some paper. It was also the day a seventeen-year-old boy decided to teach a thirteen-year-old girl a lesson she wouldn’t forget. That was the day I knew for sure I was a Pick.

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

 

React Like a Zebra

Betty cowboy hat prairie.1

 

By Betty Kuffel

When you lie in bed worrying about things out of your control and unable to sleep, consider the concepts of stress reduction in the book Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky. The acclaimed Stanford University professor of biology and neurology is a wizard at explaining how stress can make you sick and what you can do to understand and calm the physiological symptoms.

If you begin writing a list of topics that stress you, Dr. Sapolsky says to stop and think like a zebra. zebra headThey survive frequent acute physical distresses and react quickly to save their lives. We, too, have the ability to adapt suddenly in emergencies, but are challenged by sustained chronic concerns about food, lodging, and money, etc. In humans, the real problem occurs with social and psychological disruptions. That is where we are right now, enclosed for safety from an encroaching disease that can be fatal and dealing with many unknowns.

In the midst of disruption of our plans, lives, jobs and writing, we need to focus on what is important, living wisely and calming our stresses. What does that mean? 

We have all experienced life stresses that resolved, and balance returned. A place of balance is what we seek during this period of disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human stressors can be anticipatory, worrying about things out of our control. When zebras are stressed, it is abrupt, they see trouble and react. They don’t stand around worrying about what might happen in the future like humans. 

When the stress response spikes, heart rate surges and blood pressures rise. If stress hormones persist too long, they can make you sick. Insomnia, upset stomach, elevated blood sugar, depression, headaches and inability to focus on meaningful tasks.  A chronic stress response reduces immunity, something you do not want to happen at this time in your life with the pandemic.

What are we to do? Take control and take advantage of this time to accomplish some tasks you didn’t have time for in the past and in the process, improve your health with daily exercise and keep a journal with concepts you may use in future writing.

We can take advantage of our hours at home by using habits of ultra-successful people Like Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Here are some:

  • Focus on minutes not hours. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, use them wisely.
  • Dedicate mornings for 1-2 hours without interruption to the most important task to help you reach your goals.
  • The future is unknown. Do what you can today to accomplish your goals.
  • Check your emails once or twice a day. Don’t waste time.
  • Always carry a notebook. Record notes to free your mind.
  • Avoid meetings at all cost. They are a waste of time. If you meet, stick to the agenda, make it short. Say no to almost everything. Delegate. 
  • Stay organized. Touch things only once.

 

Reduce stress in the face of many unknowns. Don’t dwell on things out of your control. React like a zebra. zebra