I Had to Disappear…no, really…

I knew the past 6 weeks were going to be busy. I thought I was ready for it. I had mapped out my schedule, penned in slots for everything I needed to do, prioritized and pep-talked myself all the way to the beginning of the start. I was psyched. I was ready.

My mantra: Tweet: No matter what, be kind to yourself. @belindascre8iveNo matter what, be kind to yourself.

And for the past six weeks, I was on airplanes every week, I was in an intense Life Coach certification school, I was finishing up my very first ever Christmas musical (insert shameless plug here for, “Once You’ve Seen the Star,” coming soon), and I had a heavy disability advocacy case load (which meant lots more studying.)

Well, you’ve heard what is said about the best laid plans…

Gang, at about week 3, I looked around and thought, “Holy Mother of the Cows! What have I gotten myself into?!”

Cow

Calls started going unanswered, emails unreturned, I was missing Facebook messages, and my friends were thinking I’d left town for good.

At the point panic was about to take over, and under the heading of being kind to myself, I took an afternoon off. I happened to be in New Bern, NC, and it was a gorgeous day. So, I locked up my computer, my cell phone, my files, my manuals and my worries, and I just walked around. I wandered in and out of galleries and tiny specialty shops. I ate toast with butter (a HEAVENLY accident) at a little diner. I perused the Pepsi shop—the place where Pepsi was invented, and I took a long walk around the bay.

In other words, I took some time to participate in the world outside of ‘me.’ I stopped focusing on Princess Belinda (gasp!).

During that afternoon, I appreciated all kinds of beautiful and fun things. And to be honest, it was course-changing.

On the plane flying home to Nashville that night, I decided that for the next few weeks, there were some emails and calls that were going to have to go unanswered. I was going to postpone the launch of Dashboard Poets AND my 1-on-1 Mentoring course. My newsletter wasn’t going to go out, and I was going to miss a few social gatherings. And that was ok.

Sometimes you have to be where you are.
Sometimes you get your answers when you’re not actively looking for them.
And, like my Dad always says:

All you can do is ALL you can do.

And it’s ok.

…because when you get back from your personal hiatus, you’re going to be ready to get some serious stuff done!!! BAM!

Do You Ever Just FREAK Out?

So, picture this: I got on a plane and flew to Savannah, GA, for dinner. For DINNER! 

Well, okay, it wasn’t just any ol’ dinner. I threw my name in when Susan Hyatt announced her, “Girlfriends Gone Wild” event. One night, 20 fabulous women, a little life coaching and great food. 

Doesn’t it all sound like fun? Well, it was. …until it came time to actually ENTER the restaurant.

See, I’ve always had this ‘thing’ about walking into rooms of people I don’t know. It’s odd—I can be on stage in front of thousands and not bat an eye. I can teach a group without a moment’s hesitation. But to just walk in to a room of strangers and have to start making small talk??? deer.jpg

Jesus, take the wheel.

Guess what? THIS IS SOMETHING I HAVE TO DO! I mean, I just big fat have to do it sometimes. Why? 

Tweet: Relationships are everything.#songwriters #womeninbusiness @BelindaSCre8iveRelationships are everything.

Relationships are imperative for what we do. (Yes, for WHATEVER we do.) And, no, I’m not talking networking. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone’s business card unless I want it, and it’s likely that I don’t want it if there’s no connection. (Soapbox for a another day.)

So here’s how I handled my good, old-fashioned FREAKING OUT about entering a room of people I didn’t know. 

1. I decided on my question. 

You know, the question—So, what do you do?  I spent a lot of years working at a job that in no way defined me or gave much insight into who I really was, and it was during that time that I stopped asking people what they ‘did.’ I’m not as interested in what someone does as who they are. So, I started asking other questions—What do you like to do for fun? or I’m planning my next vacation. Where’s your favorite vacation spot?  Based on who was going to be attending this particular event, I decided my question was, “So what are you most proud of?” (…it was a good one.)

2. I decided on my answer.

Even though I don’t love the question about what I do, I knew I was going to be asked. Here’s the start of my answer: My name is Belinda Smith, and I work with the best people in the world. 

3. I reminded myself of why I was there in the first place.

I was there to meet, be inspired by, and to inspire amazing women. …and I’d just taken a night away from home to do it. SOMEONE was going to make it worth the trip whether they liked it or not! 

Needless to say, I stepped out of my comfort zone in a BIG way. And, yes, it was worth it. For me, though, thinking about how I was going to show up and the kinds of conversations I wanted to have really did help the room-anxiety. It was like I’d given myself a road map of sorts, and Heaven knows we all need a little direction.

So, now that you know about my ’thing,’ do you have tips on how YOU do this? How do you do parties with strangers? HELP ME OUT HERE! 

My Writing has Gone Retro

I’m a huge believer in pen-to-paper writing, or as my cousin, Darnell Arnoult calls it, the power of the pen on the page. As a songwriter, I’ve always found it interesting that the songs I start writing on paper get recorded at higher percentages than the ones I start on a laptop. I have no idea if it’s true for anyone else, but it has been for me.

I recently started taking a new class (y’all know I’m always up into something), and for this class I decided to only use a notebook and pen. No laptop. No voice recorder. I’ve gone completely retro!  Retro

Here’s Why I Think I Made a Great Call

1. I can only write down the really important concepts. Since I’m not typing, I don’t have the luxury of taking down lots of words. I can only pick the big ideas and what I think about them. This has given me a surprising amount of focus.

2. I get to doodle. I recall more of what people say if I can doodle while they’re talking. I’m not the only one, it seems. Jackie Andrade, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth in England, published a study in Applied Cognitive Psychology finding, among other things, that doodlers aren’t daydreaming. In other words, your mind doesn’t wander like it does when you just have to sit and listen and concentrate. 

3. I have archives. I’m a sucker for written pages. I love looking back through old handwritten lyrics and notes. There’s ALWAYS ‘character’ on the pages. Just from looking at the penmanship I can tell how I was feeling that day. I write big and sloppy, small and perfect, and every way in between depending on how I’m feeling. And while I don’t know that anyone would ever care to see the pages, I get a kick out them, and that’s enough for me.

What’s your take on pen-to-paper vs. laptop? Leave a comment below. I’m curious!

P.S. YES! Pencils are fine, too.(Like I didn’t know you would ask?!?!?!)

5 Ways Resistance Kicks My Hiney

 

I’ve had a little time to catch up on some reading the past few weeks, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my processes. One habit I’m really interested in dealing with is my, er, “ability” to put things off till the last minute. Let’s just say that I would be a gold medalist if that were a sport.

The cruddy part about this, though, is that I don’t like it. I don’t like how it feels, and I don’t like that I do it. So, it’s time to face this Enemy head-on. …I mean, in a minute, after I write this.

PROCRASTINATION = RESISTANCE

I would wager that I’m one of the best ‘resisters’ ever. I’ve always chalked up my ability to procrastinate as just one of my eccentricities. However, I’m starting to look at it a little differently these days.

Steven Pressfield says the following in his book, “The War of Art”:

Tweet: Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.

 

And I’m really starting to see that in my own life. I’m also noticing a HUGE amount of procrastinating with the things I’m most excited about doing.

“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.” –Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Here are the Top#5 Tool that Resistance Uses on Me:

  1. Worry. If I’m not careful, Resistance will plant something in my mind to worry about, and then if I don’t worry about sRESISTANCEaid thing, Resistance will tell me I should worry that I’m not worried. And then I worry. But I may not worry about the original thing because, even though I worry, I’m still stubborn.
  2. Facebook. Yep.
  3. Shoes. I’m convinced that I don’t get nearly as much accomplished if I don’t have my shoes on. Of course, the right shoes are never where I think they are, and so search must ensue. Before you know it, I’m 15 minutes behind again.
  4. Email. Did I reply to that? Wait, where did that email go? Am I too late to reply? Should I email anyway? …you know the drill.
  5. Bernice. Bernice is my pug. I have three dogs, but Bernice is the only one that doesn’t know she’s a dog. Bernice is a little, wrinkled, loaf-shaped stinker who will do ANYTHING to keep me from working. She wins a lot. (I’m such a softie.)

You should know that just in writing this little note to you, I’ve worried about my next electric bill (it’s 7 degrees out right now), I’ve had to fight the urge to check my Facebook messages, I’m wearing big warm socks and I’m PROFOUNDLY aware that my sneakers are in my closet and NOT on my feet, I have 2 new email messages in my inbox (that I haven’t checked!), and Bernice has climbed in my lap. (Hey, I didn’t say I’ve got it figured out yet!)

So, going forward I’m paying attention to these five things, and I’m going to be more conscious of managing Resistance. I have exciting things on the books, and I want to be present for them.

Do you notice any Resistance in your life? Am I the lone weirdo here? (Wouldn’t be the first time. ha)

Saddle Up Your Horses

 

Confession: I HATE NEW YEAR’S EVE.

New Year’s Eve is NOT my thing. For years I’d try to pretend that it was fun, but a while back I gave myself permission to stay home a

NEWYEARSEVEWHATEVER

nd enjoy the quiet. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. I just couldn’t handle the ‘fun pressure’ anymore. Bleh. I’m a geek. Geeks Rock.

HOWEVER:

I can totally get behind a brand new cool calendar.

A new set of color markers.

A clean slate.

Possibility.

Hope.

A whole year to make new ideas reality? Yes.

And, Beautifuls, I have NEW ideas. So, so many ideas.

 

SO LET’S DO THIS

I’m playing with my calendar and my markers, and I’m dreaming really big. I’m praying for my dreams and for yours tonight.

 

And, to quote an old favorite, SADDLE UP YOUR HORSES, WE’VE GOT A TRAIL TO BLAZE. 

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What’s your big plan for next year? Come on, inspire us!
Here’s to finding True North, putting one foot in front of the other, and moving forward with a good community.

On Not Having Children

Natural LoveOn my flight today, I sat behind a young Mother holding an 11-month old boy. He was beautiful. Not in a traditional way, though. He was beautiful from the inside out, and I thought so as soon as I saw him.

You should know I’m not really a “kid” person. I’m not anti-kid at all, but personally I’ve never longed for a child. I’m glad other people have kids, of course, but it’s just never been my thing. And as a person with a disability, having kids has always felt kind of, well, I’ll just say “tricky” and leave it at that.

But, this little boy held on his Mother’s lap was captivating. He observed with intensity. I’ve never seen a child consider his surroundings with such concentration–the blue leather seat, the olive briefcase, the orange silk scarf. He was so curious, so deeply invested in putting the mental pieces together that I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

What a sweet soul, I thought.

It was nearly ten minutes before I noticed that something was different about this baby, something more than I’ve just described. As his mother eventually confirmed, he has Down Syndrome.

She talked about how she and her husband had packed up their lives and moved across the country because the baby had breathing problems in their old location. She said he already has an occupational therapist and physical therapist, and he would begin with a speech therapist next year.

He’s been here for 11 months.

I looked at how young the Mother is, and I watched as she wrapped her whole heart around that child. I wondered about all the possibilities for their future, and I thought about how emotionally challenging the past eleven months must have been–so many doctors and tests and treatment plans and research. And I watched as she held that little boy to her chest, how she rocked him gently back and forth, and how she kissed his head. So much love.

…and sitting there on that flight, watching that 11 month old baby with Down Syndrome take in the wonder and love of his new world, I felt the only ping of regret I’ve ever had for not having children.

I suppose it’s true that real love can make you see things differently.

 

P.S. If you know of anyone else who would enjoy this, I’d be honored if you shared it. Click the buttons below to send it to your online universe.

How to Win the Writing Game by William Jeanes

Here’s an article I think all writers will appreciate. Enjoy.

In Issue:  of The Saturday Evening Post

Many of you out there in this great land of ours have taken pen in hand to write in seeking the inside dope on how to write good. I’ve reached into my bag of tricks and come up with one sure-fire tip from the top: Avoid clichés like the plague.

A hearty hats off to the man or woman who gave us that pearl of wisdom. Those are, as sure as I’m sitting here, words for writers to live by.

Though I’m busier than a one-armed paperhanger, and I’ve got a lot on my plate, I’ll take time out of my busy day to clue you in about how clichés can ruin your whole day. Here are three good reasons you should give clichés a wide berth.

Many of you out there in this great land of ours have taken pen in hand to write in seeking the inside dope on how to write good. I’ve reached into my bag of tricks and come up with one sure-fire tip from the top: Avoid clichés like the plague.

A hearty hats off to the man or woman who gave us that pearl of wisdom. Those are, as sure as I’m sitting here, words for writers to live by.

Though I’m busier than a one-armed paperhanger, and I’ve got a lot on my plate, I’ll take time out of my busy day to clue you in about how clichés can ruin your whole day. Here are three good reasons you should give clichés a wide berth.

First, clichés suck the life out of those words you’ve been working overtime on, leaving your sentence without a leg to stand on, as it were.

Second, a cliché is old hat, pure and simple. People in all walks of life have heard them time and time again—more times than you can shake a stick at.

Third, if you were a fly on the wall, getting an earful of folks spewing clichés left and right, you’d fall all over yourself to bid a fond farewell to that wall and get the hell out of Dodge.

If you want to make your writing smooth as silk and solid as a rock, you must set yourself apart from the crowd. Put some distance between yourself and all those run-of-the-mill writers. Realize that you’re not your own worst enemy; the cliché gets that nod. You may work your fingers to the bone, but in the end, when your writing is clear as a bell and beautiful to gaze upon, trust me, you’ll be proud as a peacock.

Keep your nose to the grindstone, and before you know it you’ll find brand spanking new ways to put into words things you’ve kept bottled up in your heart of hearts for lo, these many years. Just a once-over-lightly look at your letters tells me that you’re dead serious about making something of yourself. I know as well as I know my own name that you’re willing to give cliché-avoidance the old college try. It’s as plain as the nose on your face, and you deserve a pat on the back. It’s only natural that you want more than anything in the world to make your colleagues so green with envy that they’ll scream bloody murder. Get with the program, and soon you’ll be in Fat City—sitting in the catbird seat, happy as a clam.

Taking a long, hard look at your questions tells me in words I can’t ignore that you’ll spare no effort to write paragraphs that light up the page like a Christmas tree.

So, how do you rid that Great American Novel, the one you’re burning the midnight oil over, of clichés? It’s as easy as falling off a log—just keep in mind the hoary old chestnut that says: If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a duck. Stick to your guns, and you’ll have those clichés on the run before they know what’s hit them. Tell them not to let the door hit them on their way out. What crosses the mind of your average eagle-eyed editor when a cliché-laden manuscript lands on his desk? Dollars to doughnuts, he’ll get madder than a wet hen. Chances are, at the very least, he’ll tell the writer in no uncertain terms never to darken his door again.

Fighting the good fight against clichés can take the wind out of your sails on any given working day, but there’s no question in my mind that working like a dog to rid the world of clichés is taking the linguistic high road. When you get right down to brass tacks, the herculean task of wiping clichés—and the horse they rode in on—off the face of the earth is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. But only if you adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to your work. Do that, and those hard-to-please editors will not only sing your praises, they will beat a path to your door.

About the Author

William Jeanes

William Jeanes is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of Car and Driver magazine.

Here is the link to the original article.

P.S. There’s a cliche’ contest on the host site. Maybe you’re up for the challenge?

An Appalachian in Southern California

I write this on a plane back from San Diego to Nashville. It was my first trip to San Diego, actually, and I was really looking forward to it. I’d heard so many great things about the city. (They were correct.)

SoCalI’d also been told that people in Southern California can be a bit, well, “WooWoo.” Of course, I’m Appalachian, and we have our own set of stereotypes, so I try to experience things for myself before forming impressions.

I attended a marketing conference with Marisa Murgatroyd, who was fabulous, I should add. I should also tell you, though, that I’m an introvert, and so when I’m in a large group of strangers, my inclination is to be silent. And, as a creative, I become a keen observer, and as a girl from West Virginina in SoCal for the first time, I think we might agree that I was destined to have plenty of, “Am I on hidden camera?” moments.

Here are my Top #5 Awkward SoCal Interactions:

#5  May I Take Your Order?

Me: I’d like a glass of unsweet tea.
Her: What?
Me: Unsweet tea.
Her: Do you mean iced tea?
….oh, yeah. Sweet tea is a Southern thing.

#4  You Have Sticks, We Have Leaves

Me: So was there a fire on those mountains?
Her: What?
Me: A fire, up there. ( I point up.) It looks dead.
Her (rolling her eyes in disgust): Yeah, that’s what it always looks like.

#3  The Non-Judgmental Judgmental Conversation

Me: So what do you do?
Him: I help people channel their past lives so that they can deal with the unresolved issues which are blocking their success in this life.
Me: Really?
Him: You know, past lives. Wait, you’re from the South. Don’t tell me you don’t believe in that? That would be so small minded.

#2  On Preferred Liquids

Her: Look at you, Miss I’m-Not-Hydrating!
Me: I’m not hydrating?
Her: Everyone has green tea but you.
Me: I don’t really like green tea.
Her: Oh. (horrified) You need to go to my website. I have a whole section on the benefits of green tea.
…but I don’t like it.

…and the #1 most awkward moment I encountered in SoCal:

#1  Imagine the Scariest Place You Could Be Right Now

Him: You should join us out on the green for our morning sun salutation.
Me: Is that because we’re in a Naval Training community?
Him: (Confused.)
Me: Oh, wait. You mean yoga. I was thinking about saluting…
Him: You’re SO not from here.

I suppose we’re all different, and really we’re all the same. We drink tea (unsweet, sweet, AND green), we have leaves & sticks, we think we’re correct, and we salute…or “salute.” Regardless, we have a lot to learn from each other, don’t you think?

What is one of your most awkward travel moments?

I Believe in You (Story Behind the Song)

When my beautiful friend and talented writer, Susan Gregg Gilmore, sent me an advance copy of her new novel, “The Funeral Dress,” I already knew I was going to be writing a song for the book. As I mentioned in my last post, Susan and I had talked about what a cool thing it could be, and we had heard her publisher was on board to use it to promote the book.

Just write...

Just write…

 

I admit that this is a totally fun project for me as a songwriter. I’m a great supporter of novelists, and this is a neat way for me to add to (hopefully) the promotion of one. I believe in the power of music, and I definitely love that music could be used to further Susan’s work. I thought you might be interested in hearing the song, “I Believe in You,” and knowing a little about how the song came together for me. Listen to it, and then read on for some insight into my writing process.

I broke my process down into Five Basic Steps so you could follow me. (I.Need.Structure.)

1. What I Didn’t Want

First, I decided right away what I didn’t want. I figured that if I took a few things off the table at the start, then I could get a better focus. The one thing I knew right away that I didn’t want was for the song to be a slow, sad ballad. With a title like, “The Funeral Dress,” I knew I wanted to stay away from writing a funeral dirge. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) So, slow songs were out.

For the sake of melodrama, I also decided not to use a minor key. (Musicians, can I get an ‘amen?’) 

Finally, I didn’t want to write the book title, “The Funeral Dress,” as a song title. I know me, and I can’t be trusted to write that closely to another writer’s title. I inevitably would have made up my own story for the title, and then the lyric wouldn’t have served Susan’s novel.

2. What I Did Want

With #1 in mind, I took some time to think about what I DID want. Right away I wanted the lyric and music to be hopeful. I suppose it is the commercial writer in me, but I thought a lot about the reader/buyer. Again, considering the novel’s title, if I were a potential buyer, I would want to have some feeling that I wasn’t signing up for a totally gut wrenching read. (I prefer to be tricked into those.)

I wanted a musical ‘feel’ that seemed inspiring. While I hadn’t read the book yet, I wanted to go into the reading of it with some sort of ‘soundtrack’ that would lift me up. So, I played around with music till I landed on something that I made me feel positive. Okay, I guess that’s just an instinctual thing, but in the end, if I’m writing it and I like it, then it’s all good, right?

3. The Easy Part

Once I had the musical soundtrack playing in my head, I finally read the novel. (Oh yeah…THAT.)

I didn’t take notes, and I didn’t worry about finding a lyric in it. I didn’t even try to remember facts or names or anything. I just read it at my own pace and when I was finished, I took a few days to see what bubbled to the top. All along, though, I did keep the ‘soundtrack’ in mind.

4. Got Questions?

After a few days of sitting with the story, some very specific questions began to form for me. So, I spent time answering my own questions.

  • What moments kept coming back to me?
  • What characters did I want to know more about?
  • What about the observers? The people in the town who weren’t mentioned in the book, but who were watching?
  • What did I think the real story here was? Was it the same story I guessed Susan intended to write?
  • What is my personal response to that story?

5. Enough Already

Finally, I started writing. I’m not going to talk about the scenes and moments (yet) that shaped the song because it might ruin your read. However, I will tell you about the small moment in the book, the moment you may not even notice, that got the whole lyric started.

Susan describes a scene when Emmalee, a new employee, is sitting at her freshly assigned sewing machine in the factory.

“From behind Emmalee, a woman half stood over the top of her machine and introduced herself as Wilma Minton. She had full cheeks and bright pink lips and eyebrows drawn on her face. The tail of her left eyebrow was smudged, and Emmalee held her hand to her mouth, careful not to snicker.”

For whatever reason, that passing moment in the novel never left me. My mind went off into a million directions when I read that small part–wonder who Wilma Minton is at home? Do I know a ‘Wilma Minton?’ Is Wilma lonely? Is she kind? Is she a gossip?  …and before I read too many more pages in the story, I decided I was going to like Wilma till she proved me wrong. And the lines in the pre-chorus of my song, “Life can break your heart, that’s the hardest part,” are totally, 100% from my first decision about Wilma Minton.

Gang, I wrote this song based on how The Funeral Dress made me feel. The overall story and not just one character or one moment.

It’s not a song for Emmalee or Kelley Faye, nor is it a song for Leona or Wilma or Easter, or any of the characters. Rather, it’s a song for all of them.

And, I suppose if I’m being honest, it’s a song for each of us who needs our own community, however disjointed or flawed or unlikely a community it is, to hold us up, too.

The Funeral Dress is available at your local bookstore, or on Amazon.com. I hope you’ll join me in supporting a fellow writer. Also, please share this post with your particular online universe–facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. However you communicate with the outside, let’s be the people who talk about art.