Stuck in a rut? Not happy with how things are going in your life? It must be time for a change! Speaking strictly on my own personal experience, I have found happiness by doing a few little things – get rid of the negative influences and alter some things. I’ve changed where I shop for groceries. I bought the lip gloss I had eyed for some time, ignoring the past reservations I had about it being the “right” shade for me. I called an old friend and caught up (yes, I actually picked up the phone and dialed her number instead of writing her a short message on Facebook). I dabbled in yoga and meditation (and still do). I surrounded myself with positive energy. I opened myself up to new experiences (no matter how challenging they might be). I tried to look for the positive in every single situation.
I realize this can be hard – I really do. It’s important to remember the big picture here – you only get one life, and it’s up to you how you want to live it.
It’s quite simple… and it starts by making two lists. (If you know me personally, you know how I love to make lists!)
LIST #1: List All the Stuff You Love. That’s easy enough, right? Just make a list of everything you love about your life. If you find this hard to do because of your situation, make the list be everything you want to love about life. It doesn’t matter how long or short this list is, it’s meant to give you clarity and direction to get you where you need to be. Once you have your list, look for patterns. If you see a yearning for artistic activities being a theme, you might be looking for a way to be more creative.
Now to throw a curve ball – start thinking about what makes you green with envy. It’s helpful, I promise, because jealousy can direct us to our deepest desires. You might be jealous of a friend who seemingly has it all – how did she get to where she is now? Then ask yourself… do I really want _____? How can I make this happen? In the end, it all comes down to this – look for something you love, think about what you want to change, and focus on what you need to do to get there.
LIST #2: Create an Achievable Action Plan. Now that you have the list of what you love and where you want to be… how do you get there? It’s changing the small things that will help you obtain your goal and achieve ultimate happiness.
Let’s go back to the example about artistic activities. Say you love art, but you need inspiration. Hit up some local museums, art galleries, or travel to the next big city and check out their art scene. Or take a road trip by yourself. Not only will you refresh your soul and concentrate on what you want, you will get to see something new and (hopefully) exciting. A change of scenery and surrounding yourself with new people is always a good way to dive head first into making life changes.
Write down what you think are the necessary steps to make your life better. If you’re going to spring for the road trip, map out where you want to go, what you wish to accomplish, and some goals on which you can concentrate. Not only does it get you excited about where your life could turn, it will help you stay organized and on track to making the most of your life.
Now that you’ve made those two lists… it’s time for you to live by my personal motto: just make it happen! Accomplishment is an amazing feeling. I recommend starting small – the less on your lists, the more likely you are to cross items off quickly. Then, continue building your lists. The idea is that these lists will never be complete, so long as you have the drive to build a better life and become a better person. And I know you do!
Don’t Get Discouraged. Start at the beginning of your list. Read through it and ask yourself… what can I eliminate today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? This will help you organize your goals and make them more attainable. These things take time, so work on your patience. Some things can change overnight, but the majority of the life changes you’re seeking will take some serious time to tackle. Once you have a timeline created, you can begin to…
Make the Changes. TODAY. Right now. Stop wasting time! Simply start attacking the list, one line at a time. You’ve already gone through and figured out what can be done immediately, and what will take a lot of time to do. Like I said before, start small. Work your way through the list. Be patient. If you’re putting forth the effort to make the changes, they will come. Whatever you do, don’t give up. You can do this!
I am a firm believer that people are in control of their own happiness. You have to be willing to go to the distance to make the necessary changes for improvement. It’s not up to anyone else, just you. And you can do that – I believe in you. Get excited and make those changes you’ve been thinking about for some time. After all, life is what you make it – awesome, miserable, or just plain old average. It’s in your hands!
Me? I feel like I’m a shitty journal keeper. Personal journaling, that is (unless you count Twitter). I’m pretty consistent when it comes to jotting down my thoughts about my writing journey. I opened a journal I started last September. I’ve barely filled a third of it with personal notions. In fact, most of the entries end are about writing (which is great). Some of my personal life seasons the pages, but not enough. But who really decides what is actually enough – the journaler or the possible reader?
The term journaling can be used loosely, meaning anything from penning some brief thoughts to writing down daily gratitude and grievances. A lot of well-known authors have kept journals about their writing process while working on a project (or just in general). Teenagers begin with their diaries, working out their angsty or whimsical points of view (hello, this was totally me as a kid). Some continue into adulthood recording every detail about their lives for their own benefit, and others find their passion for writing and use it as a tool to keep them going or better understand their personal writing process.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. With that said, I don’t really know what holds me back when it comes to writing about my personal life. I have an empty journal on my bookshelf just waiting for me to write in it the story of my life. There, I could write about all the things I don’t want to talk about with others (although I know I should – honestly, it’s just easier for me to bottle it up, place it on a shelf, and move the fuck on). Maybe I will soon, but maybe I won’t just yet. While I like the idea of a great-grandchild finding my diary several years after I’ve left this life, I’m so undisciplined about writing every detail down in my journal at the start or end of each day. It’s all in my mind, but that’s lousy for those I leave behind after journeying toward the great unknown. I also fear there is nothing exciting about my low-key, fairly drama-free life, but I guess that isn’t up to me to decide in the end.
One thing I know I will do is continue to write about my writing process and journey down this long and crooked path. My struggles with writing fiction as a bred nonfiction writer and poet at heart (even if it is shit) have been a big focus as I’m working on my first serious attempt at substantial piece of fiction. I actually enjoy the complicated process of crafting a well-written story. Yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment… I’ve much room to improve, especially when it comes to structuring the story. My biggest issue is wrangling all the random ideas I have about the project on hand and getting them on paper. I just have to suck it up and try my best to make it happen.
I feel I am becoming better at the fiction writing process. I owe that to the story I am writing and the copious amounts of fiction I read. I think about it all the time’ it needs to come out. I’m desperately coaxing it out of the dark corners of my mind. Some days, I have major breakthroughs and I feel as though nothing can stop me. Other days, life happens and I am at a standstill, which can be discouraging.
I keep writing and I keep reading. Even when I don’t want to, I do it. I feel guilty that I don’t write more; however, actually sticking to a writing schedule is helping ease that guilt. Keep pushing. You’ve got this. Work this story out – it could be really great – just something I tell myself almost daily.
This isn’t a resolution to be better about writing about the everyday. It should be, but I figure if I’m writing something every day, I’m on the right track when it comes to polishing my craft, regardless if it focuses on one genre or another…
…Because writers actually write – every day.
They move their pens, they type on their laptops or typewriters, they push the pencil, and they write shit down every single day. Some have a purpose when they journal and others just free write. Some start with freewriting exercises (writing prompts or whatever they can pull from their mind at the time) and it turns into something profound. That’s me, minus the piece turning into something profound! Pages of prompts could eventually turn into great stories – flash-fiction, a memoir, a novella/novel, poetry, or even online serialized literature. That’s my hope, anyway – it’s enough to keep my pen pressed to the paper.
Today wraps up the last day of the Labor Day weekend holiday. To kick off the weekend I had oral surgery to remove a couple of wisdom teeth, so I’ve been confined to the couch for most of the holiday watching Netflix and napping. When I wasn’t doing one of those two things, I was writing.
Taking a break from my book, I decided to use writing prompts instead this weekend to keep my pen moving. I do this often with the idea that some of the prompts could turn into something substantial – either to add to my current project or to keep off to the side for a new project or story. At the very least, I’m writing!
This weekend, I used 712 More Things to Write About, put together by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. This book is slowly filling up over time and is one of my favorite resources for journaling. There are a few other versions of this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on them once I finally fill this one to the brim!
You are sitting in a café in Barcelona. A man approaches your table, sits down, and slides an envelope in front of you. As you go to open it, he tells you to wait until he is gone. He stands up, scans the surroundings, then walks away. How long do you wait to open the envelope? What are the contents? What happens next?
Describe a room where a murder took place in three points of view: from the maid’s point of view prior to cleaning, from the murderer’s point of view after the crime, and from the victim’s point of view prior to the crime.
Write about a chance encounter at a cemetery.
The first prompt above is something I dreamed up, and the other two come from the book I mentioned before. To shake things up this time around, I’m going to share what I wrote for the third prompt below.
Lizzie picked herself up off the ground and wiped her eyes. It had only been three months since her fiancé, Ben, was killed in a car accident on Route 44 outside the city. Right after it happened, she visited his grave three to four times a week… now she was stopping by once a week to begin moving on with her life because it just became too much. She knew she needed to let go because he was never coming back.
She replaced the wilted rose from her last visit, kissed her index finger and touched the cold marble slab that lay before her. She thought of their last moments together and how happy they were. Before the tears could start, she quietly said she loved him and turned to walk away.
As she made her way back to her car, she saw a man a few rows away. He looked like he was leaning on a headstone. He stood up and Lizzie could hear him get louder as his body became more animated. She couldn’t hear what he was saying clearly, but it was very clear he was upset. She kept walking toward her car but something inside her made her stop and walk toward him instead.
“Excuse me… are you okay, sir?” she asked, timidly.
“I’m… no, no I’m not okay… I’m far from being okay,” he said, placing his head in his hands.
As he moved behind the grave, Lizzie saw the name of a woman on the headstone. The dirt was semi-fresh and she noticed the death date was just a few weeks ago. Lizzie introduced herself to him and asked if he wanted to talk or if there was anything she could do for him. He began talking almost immediately – his name was Jack. He was a newly single father of two after losing his wife in a car accident. The driver of the other car was drunk and slammed into her van – luckily, the children (Sarah and Jane, twins) weren’t with her at the time.
Lizzie moved to stand next to Jack and put her arm around him while he stared at the ground. After a moment of silence, she started to share the story of losing Ben just a few months earlier. He too was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from working the night shift. Sharing tears and memories, the two continued to talk for another thirty minutes before Lizzie asked him if he wanted to get a cup of coffee and talk some more. Jack accepted the invitation and the two walked together toward the parking lot. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in each of their lives.
Remember, you aren’t restricted to specific length with these prompts. Just get that pen moving – that’s what matters. Who knows, the result of the prompt I shared above might turn into something useful for a story later down the road. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see where this story goes… Maybe Lizzie and Jack find comfort in each other and begin a wonderful life together – either as friends or more.
Please share what you dreamed up in the comments section – I look forward to reading your work!
On Labor Day weekend of 2009 my boyfriend and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. when we had only been together for six months. It was our second out-of-town getaway together; I was excited to show him our nation’s capital, as he had not visited prior to us meeting.
Our first stop of the trip was to tour the United States Marine Corps Museum in the town of Triangle, just south of the District. Being the Friday of Labor Day weekend, we figured it would be packed shoulder to shoulder, but to our surprise, it was nearly empty. Snagging a spot on the next available tour, we ended up being two of seven people in the group. We got lucky too – our tour included a Korean War veteran, who was there visiting the museum with his family and was happy to share stories of his own while we walked through the museum. It was so surreal, hearing stories about places memorialized in the museum straight from one of the brave men who happened to be present during the historic events and standing right next to us.
After the tour, we headed for the city to check into our hotel room and hang out for the night. We ordered room service and watched Metalocalypse on his laptop. It was a perfect start to our trip.
The highlight of our visit was exploring the National Mall the next day. While walking around the Washington Monument, he put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me from walking forward, and said “hang on a second…” He starts to get down on one knee and I see a couple in the distance stop watch us. The woman slaps her man’s arm excitedly and starts pointing as us, with a wide grin. I remember my mind started to race with thoughts like “oh my god is this the moment, this can’t be the moment, we haven’t been dating long, what do I do, oh my god!”
You think you know what’s coming next, but you don’t. (more…)