Tag Archive: inspiration

Flat Stanley Changed My Mind

Do you know those little moments, little details in your life that inspire an epiphany of some sort?  I’m sure we’ve all had one, whether it’s just a last straw or some tiny action that gives you that “Aha” feeling.  One of those most significant moments happened to me right before I deployed last summer.

My then 6-year-old daughter, Jordyn, mailed me a little guy named Flat Stanley.  He was a colorful, laminated paper cutout based on the popular children’s book FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown.  I was supposed to take Flat Stanley around with me, snapping pictures of his travels, and send him back with a brief story describing his adventures.

We, meaning I and a lot of my shipmates, had so much fun with Stanley.  We made little paper outfits for him to wear and took him with us everywhere.  It was so much fun, my coworkers asked if he could go on deployment with us.  I passed the question on to my daughter, who immediately got upset, her small voice wavering over the phone.  I asked her what was wrong.

“I don’t want Flat Stanley to join the Navy and then I’ll never see him again,” she responded.  That was the moment I went from standing on the cusp of ‘Stay’ or ‘Go’ regarding my military career.  Thank you, Stanley, for coming into my life!

Though I’ve had plenty of smaller moments, this was my most epic.  What little things in your lives have led to sudden insight or inspiration?  What Aha moments have you had?


Found Me Some Peeps

…and I’m not talking Easter Peeps! Where do you go to find a crew that will have your back? I was struggling with this question for several days and tried a couple of options. In particular, I needed to find writing buddies.

I joined some online discussion groups. This didn’t seem like such a bad idea at first, and some blogs recommended finding critique groups this way. Uh-uh. This isn’t for me I figured out quickly. A critique does no good if it’s coming from writers who aren’t on your level or readers who don’t give specific enough feedback.

Blogs will give you some really fantastic advice, but they won’t read your writing, slap you when it’s bad, encourage you when it’s good, motivate you when you slump, and guide you when you’re lost.

When I finally found a group, it was where I should’ve looked first. I’ve been using a site for the last two years with phenomenal success,  a social networking site that specializes in face-to-face contact. I finally searched for writers on Meetup and found a group that sounded right for me. Jackpot!

My first meeting was more than I could have hoped for. The group reviewed each other’s work, offered specific and constructive feedback, offered encouragement, and had no problem covering any genre, including poetry and screenwriting. I got nothing but warm fuzzies about all the group members. Yes, I’m pretty sure I found me some peeps. I’m excited now to submit some of my own work to see what I can do to improve.

I wish everyone luck with finding their own peeps. Maybe you’ll have a better experience with online groups, but the face time suits me well. What have you done to find your own support and encouragement?

PS, we met at All American Grill in San Diego, and I had the Salinas salad – Yum!  Highly recommended.

The Prodigal Muse Returns

How I ever truly lived without my Muse is beyond my comprehension, but somehow I went nearly a third of my life without it.  Well, lucky for me, I found it again.  Sometimes things long-dead can reincarnate, as I discovered.

I was one of the blessed ones born and raised with a Muse.  I’ve been a writer all my life, probably since the day I could read and write my first words.  Making up stories and poems came naturally to me, and in my egocentric youth, I assumed everyone indulged in writing for their own personal pleasure.  It was a shocking revelation when I found out otherwise.  Oh, I knew there were those who didn’t like writing assignments and essays for school, but I thought everyone who could write had some kind of hidden diary or journal of some sort.  Then I met those who admitted an aversion to writing in any form beyond their signature, and some said even that was pushing it.  I suppose they never had their own Muse sitting at their shoulder or maybe they had one after all, but it just specialized in something other than writing.

If everyone’s Muse is different, then I suppose mine is like a well.  Sometimes the well is empty, and I’m on my own with my writing.  Other times the well overflows and it becomes a strange ethereal voice that takes over, almost without my direction.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced an in-between.  My Muse is either flooding out or not there at all.

My Muse mysteriously disappeared when I was half-way into my second year of college.  And the worst part is I didn’t even miss it at the time.  I was too busy to notice its absence.  I worked on my college newspaper as the copy editor and then editor-in-chief.  That’s where I burned out.  Not just a little, but burned out big time.  I ended up leaving college.  I stopped reading, and I stopped writing.

Thirteen years later (no kidding; absolutely nothing happened literarily during those years), I picked up a book again.  And then I read it.  It wasn’t for work, but just to pass the time.  Once I finished, I had more time to fill, so I read another book and another and another.  After a few months, I’d reclaimed my book-a-day habit until I’d read everything I could get my hands on.

I began to unconsciously critique the books I read.  And then I talked about some of them at length with my coworkers.  We discussed what they’d want to see in a book.  Soon, I began to write entire novels in the span of a dream.  The stories were in my head when I woke up, but still I didn’t write them down.  Finally, I awoke to write one page, and then the next thing I knew, I’d written a fairly polished, novel-length manuscript in less than a month.  It may not be in the genre I am normally accustomed to writing, but it’s impressive nevertheless.

My Muse brings me joy daily, and I love having it back again.  Now that I do have it back, I realize there was no sneaky vanishing act because it never really left me.  I was the one to abandon the Muse.  Knowing this, I do what will avoid the literary black hole I used to live in.  I write, write, write, and when I’m not doing that, I read, read, read.  But only what makes me happy.  It’s my own personal art fed by my own, ever-present Muse, the well that could raise the dead.