Category Archives: Supporting Other Writers

You’ve got to enter to win.

You’ve got to enter to win – and Suzanne Blaney’s Impressionism: Inspiration & Evolution got runner up in San Francisco Book Festival Awards. I’ve helped a few authors with their books, but so far as I know, Suzanne Blaney is the first to enter her book into a contest. (Thank you, Suzanne.) This is an especially big deal because this contest was open to all publishers – not just indies.

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After Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926), The Houses of Parliament, Sunset, 1903, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.48

I edited, designed the interior and cover, and coached Suzanne through the self-publishing process. She had worked on this book for years and I pushed her to do more to make it better. We were happy with the final result when we got the paperback from Amazon, but getting this award is really nice validation.

Of course you won’t always win, but if you don’t enter you definitely won’t.

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Fried Computer Sequel

So, the computer fried Monday, April 15. On that Friday I got a SATA cord and was happy to find my data still on the hard drive – since I foolishly had not backed up regularly. I also joined Sam’s Club and ordered a new laptop.
 
That evening I went to a village event where they gave away a bunch of raffle tickets to deposit with various merchants. Monday I got a phone call that I’d won a laptop. At first that seemed ironic, but it’s refurbished and, while it is better than what I was using, it’s not what I need for work. One of my sons will end up with it. At least it felt less like the tech gods were angry at me.
 
However, it took another week to get all my data downloaded from the salvaged hard drive to another external drive. You see, I’d had two external drives that I was supposed to be using for weekly backups. I got everything copied onto one and took it to the safety deposit box. Then I started copying files onto the second. It wouldn’t take a file with files within files as a whole – I had to go in and copy them one layer at a time. And when I went back, there were files I thought I’d copied that weren’t, so maybe I was thinking of putting them on the drive at the bank. I thought I was losing my mind when I seemed to be uploading the same files a third or fourth time… until I realized it was the drive, not me. Maybe there’s one tech god still playing with me?
 
Two weeks out, I had the data copied onto one external drive and my new computer arrived. It took another week with lots of time with Microsoft and Adobe techs to get my software onto the new machine and updates downloaded and adjustments made to the computer software by Microsoft. (There may be a few more of those coming – still having some issues with File Explorer.) I actually started working again Friday, May 3.
 
I’m limiting how much I actually keep on the computer now. Some will go to the cloud, though I’m trying to keep that limited for privacy reasons. Folders with things I’m actively working on will be saved to a thumb drive and that will be rotated each week. All the background stuff is on the hard drive in the safety deposit box and on the hard drive from the fried computer. I’m getting a case for that and keeping it at home.
 
Did I mention I also dropped my cell phone in the toilet that first week and had to adjust to a different phone and service? My daughter called me today – only her name didn’t pop up and I wondered who was calling me who sounded like my daughter. She was relieved it was a new phone and not the onset of senility. Me too.
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Fried Computer

Due to technical difficulties, this is the only blog this week. If you really want me to continue Alice, please leave a comment to that effect. I have not been getting emails from my new website. On Monday, I realized they were not being forwarded and I had no way to access them otherwise.

As I started to deal with that, my laptop screen went black. The base was hot to touch and when I got it to a tech and opened it up, it had obviously overheated and done major damage. Two tech visits and $175 later, I still don’t have my files from the hard drive. I do have an old baby laptop fixed up good enough to do email slowly, and my even older VISTA machine that I can use for Word (the baby can’t handle book size files, just short docs). The VISTA machine cannot be hooked up to the internet & therefore cannot print to my new printer. I downloaded Word onto the baby so I can move files there for printing via thumb drives. The first tech said to go buy a new computer; the second said that even though I need a significant number of parts, if I rebuild I’ll end up with a better computer for less. I have to decide tomorrow when they give me an estimate with final specs and compare that to what’s ready to go. My local options are limited.

But what really has me stressed is not having accessed my data files yet. First tech charged me for “copying” nothing into an empty file on my external drive; that night we tried putting the drive from the damaged computer into my son’s desktop and we could see the folders but it wouldn’t give us permission to open anything. The second tech is just setting up shop and didn’t have the SATT cord necessary to connect the drive to a USB port. So I have a cord being delivered tomorrow and am hoping the baby or the VISTA will be able to let me into those files.

It could be worse. I do have two external hard drives that I normally copy to whenever I’ve done a significant amount of work. I rotate them so one is at home and one in a safety deposit box (because I lived in fire country). However, with my work space continually changing, I lost track and hadn’t backed up in a few weeks. Fortunately, one client’s files have all been uploaded to KDP and Ingram; another KDP paperback’s ready to go and I have older versions and the paperback proof copy in which I did final edits with highlighters and pens. Worst case scenario, I rebuild those files on my own time. The new client emailed his files and I hadn’t had a chance to work on them yet, so nothing is lost.

My own records and writing will be the hardest to replace if I don’t get into those files tomorrow. Please send positive thoughts on that.

When I woke up at three in the morning stressing, I stayed up and organized things better so there won’t be a repeat once I have a working computer again. The lesson is learned: I will back up new work each day – either using those external drives religiously and/or getting over my resistance to using the cloud.

Meanwhile, now I have internet again, I’ll deal with the email issue while I wait for that cord. It looks like I’ll be working with my make-do tech for at least a week, so instead of driving myself crazy with it, I’ll do the minimum and focus on settling my environment instead. I still have several days of painting, setup, and unpacking to have both my living and work space settled. I packed up last July and still have 39 boxes of books. Only twelve are for the office – I sorted them tonight while I looked for my Word disc for the baby computer. It was in box 39.

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NEWS for writers & readers

My revised website is now up and running. Go there to get more information about my writing and services. There is also a blog page there, where I will be posting new blogs, including one about my article in Funds for Writers 4/5/19.

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Alice – Episode 1

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This is an abridged version of my novella Alice. You can read it in weekly doses, buy the complete book, or do both and compare the two – a useful exercise if you’re a writer. The plan is to make an audio version, so I’m tweaking the writing to make that work better.

As always, you are welcome to share this link, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish or use the material. Even if you’re making it into a school skit, I’d like to know where my story has traveled. Thank you.

Alice – Episode 1

This is the story of my mother, Alice McKenna. You know her as the Rosa Parks of the Taxpayers Civil Rights Movement. When she refused to give up her seat on that bus, Rosa Parks moved working people to stand up for their rights to end discrimination. That day in 2012 when my mom sat down in the middle of the bank and said “No,” she became the same kind of symbol for taxpayers.

If you’d known her a few months earlier, you’d never have believed it was the same person. I guess it started back in March, when she got pink-slipped. The school board decided football was more important than French. Frankly, my first reaction was relief that she wouldn’t be teaching at my high school when I hit ninth grade in the fall. I figured she’d commute to another town. But it was June, school was out, and Mom didn’t have a job yet. I helped her pack up her classroom.

We were unloading the car, stacking boxes in the garage, when an orange taxi pulled up in front of our house. The back door opened and out came a long-haired, scruffy old man in a faded tie-dyed shirt with a dirty army surplus duffle bag. He turned to look at us.

Maybe I should back up a minute.

You’ve got to understand, my mom was perfect. She always followed all the rules. The only wild and crazy thing she’d ever done was go to a sperm bank for my other half. No one knew about that except us. We never met the guy. People assumed she was divorced and I had a deadbeat dad I never saw. Aside from that, she’d always been very proper. If she ever had sex, it was before I was born and I don’t think that ever happened. And she never ever swore or used what she called “ugly” words.

But when my mother saw this scruffy old hippie standing by the taxi in front of our house? She dropped the box she was holding and said, “Shit.” She said it with a sigh, as if she used that word all the time. Then she set down the box she was holding. She put her hand up for me to stay put and she started for the guy, shaking her head and saying, “No, no, no, no, no! No, you are not here. You never came here. Get back in that cab.” He opened his arms as if she was happy to see him but she dodged the hug and said, “No. Leave.”

“Could you pay the taxi driver?” he drawled. “I used up all the cash they gave me on food. That bus trip took days.”

“Who they?” she demanded.

“The social worker who found you on her computer. Just like Orwell’s 1984.

“1984,” she repeated. “That’s the year I got the hell away from you, Jack.”

Jack! My grandfather. My only other relative and all I knew about him was his name and that Mom had left home at sixteen and never looked back… I’d never seen her so angry and flustered, and the more upset she got, the calmer he got.

“Now, Baby Girl…”

She shouted over him. “Don’t Baby Girl me! What are you doing here?”

The taxi driver interrupted to let her know the meter was still running. “You gonna pay me, lady?”

“Can’t you just take him back to the bus station?” she asked.

“Double the fare,” he said.

“I’d have to walk all the way back here, Baby Girl,” Jack reasoned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Mom glared at Jack and paid driver. He burned rubber pulling away.

“You can’t stay,” Mom said. “Why are you here?”

“Well, the hospital social worker insisted I needed to be with family. You’re it, Baby Girl.”

“Why were you in the hospital?” she asked.

“It wasn’t a heart attack,” he said.

“What was it?”

“Well, they weren’t really sure, but all the tests showed that there was no damage to the heart, so it wasn’t a heart attack.”

Mom took a deep breath and blew it out hard. “Were you having chest pains?”

“Well, I got so upset when the cops came,” he said, as if it was perfectly normal.

She interrupted. “You were being arrested again?”

She’d obviously forgotten that I was right there in the garage where I could hear every word they said.

“I’d been renting the same place for, I don’t know, probably ten years,” he said. “The owner decided to take it back!”

“You? In the same place for ten years?” Mom scoffed.

He kept trying to sweet-talk her. “Well, Baby Girl, I’m getting up there, you know. Moving around gets harder as you get older.”

“It’s tough when you’re a kid, too,” she said.

At that point, he started rubbing his chest. “You’re not being fair, Baby Girl. I did the best I could.”

“Don’t bother pretending to have a heart attack with me. I’m not a wet-behind-the-ears cop. I know you, Jack.”

He squatted down by his bag on the sidewalk and pulled out a little brown bottle of pills.

“Quit faking,” Mom said.

He ignored her and stuck one under his tongue. He closed his eyes and kept rubbing his chest.

“You’re not fooling me,” Mom said, but she sounded a little worried.

“Just call a cab,” he said. “Get me to a truck stop. I’ll hitch myself a ride and leave you alone.”

“Fine,” she said, “I’ll do that.” She pulled out her cell and started to search for a cab company. We didn’t do rideshares.

That grundgy old man was my only relative, aside from Mom. I walked out to the sidewalk and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Nina, your granddaughter. Are you okay now?”

His full smile was like a light going on. “Granddaughter. Wow. Half-grown, too. How old are you?”

I found myself smiling right back. “I’ll be fourteen in August.”

“Almost as old as your mother was when she decided to be on her own.”

“Jack,” Mom warned, “don’t you start on her.”

“I understand, you don’t want me around here causing problems between you and your husband.”

“She’s not married,” I said. “My father was a sperm donor.”

Jack grinned. “Really?”

“From a sperm bank!” Mom crossed her arms and glared at him. “Having a man in our lives would only complicate things.”

“Well now you know what it’s like being a single parent,” said Jack.

“I was always the parent,” said Mom. “Nina’s never had to take care of me.”

“I did when you had the flu,” I reminded her. “I even made chicken soup from scratch.”

“You cook?” he asked.

“I can.”

“Man, I’m hungry,” he said. “Think we could convince your mother to let me stay for some lunch, at least?”

“Fine,” Mom said. “Lunch. Then you leave.”

Of course that’s not what happened.

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Copyright for Short Online Literary Works

Written 3/27/2019

I was going to post the first installment of a piece of fiction this week, but I got a tweet this morning from @hopeclark NEW! Group Registration for Unpublished Works. One copyright fee for multiple works sounded like an important diversion. I’d been wondering about copyright if I serialize and post an entire novel on my blog. That link says “unpublished” – would they be considered “published” on the blog?

First of all, in case you didn’t know it, everything you write is copyrighted as soon as you put it into a “tangible form,” but for better legal protection you “register” your copyright through the Copyright Office. The fee is going up later this year, but it’s relatively cheap insurance against abusive copyright infringement or bogus claims against you.

That tweet from Hope Clark linked to a description and date the rule allegedly went into effect at a seemingly reliable source, the Copyright Alliance. However, whenever possible, I like to get my information from the primary source. The primary source for anything is the base, where it originates, which in this case would be the law or regulation coming out of the Copyright Office.

Searching through the Copyright Office website, all I could find was the proposed change as written back in December. If you open the Copyright Office link, scroll down to “Rulemaking” and, as of today, you’ll see Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works. There you’ll find another link to the proposed change: December 21, 2018 – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Well, rules don’t always go through as proposed, so I looked around the Copyright Office website for the actual rule allegedly put into force more than a week ago, to no avail. Finally, I called them. I was on hold less than five minutes and got a very pleasant person who explained where to find the new rule when it is postedBelow that “Rulemaking” bar on their homepage is a gray bar More Rulemakings which brings up a page where Open Rulemakings are listed at the top (with that same December notice link) and, as you scroll down, Closed Rulemakings. That is where the actual rule will be linked so you can verify whatever other sources tell you.

My competent Copyright Office person (sorry I didn’t think to get your name) verified that this particular rule has been approved and the final version will be posted in Closed Rulemakings. She could not say whether or not it was approved as proposed in December, however I had some specific questions she was able to address. In particular, I wanted to know if I could copyright the novella I meant to start posting this week. She advised me to not use the word “chapter” because this new rule is not designed for books. We will be able to copyright (in one application with one fee) up to fifty blog posts made within three calendar months. Each post has word limitations.

Running the numbers led to looking for online serializations and that led to wondering where I want to post the fiction – here? On the blog that will be part of my new website? Would I lose my WordPress readers and be harder for readers to discover?

Whatever I decide, the next fiction blog will be next week, in April, so I’ll have the option of copyrighting three month’s worth of blogs under one title with subtitles for each blog. Meantime, it feels good to have popped back to writing for writers this week.

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You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the material elsewhere.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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Defining Moments: Where Ponderosa Pines Stand Guard

coverimagespbcBefore the story, I have a brief announcement:

Carla King’s 4th Edition of Self-Publishing Boot Camp, Guide for Independent Authors is available tomorrow (2/1/19). Check it out here. Disclosure: as an Amazon affiliate, I get a few cents if you buy anything after going there from here. But whether you do that or look later, this is my primary resource as a book coach and when publishing my own work. The best part? She stays on top of all the changes in the industry and provides free updates.

Now, the story: “Defining Moments: Where Ponderosa Pines Stand Guard”

Karen was the last to leave. She pulled on her fleece-lined jacket, hat, and gloves. As she said goodbye, she yawned.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay over until morning?” Mary offered.

“I have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“It may be April, but you could still run into snow up on the rez.”

“There was a little on my way over this afternoon, but the sun was melting it off as it landed.”

The road passed through the edge of the Apache reservation. For thirty-some miles there would be no house in sight, just high plains on either side, broken by stretches of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen groves. In the summer, driving across it in a thunderstorm was humbling and exalting at the same time. Tonight it would be dark and peaceful; a good ending to a full day.

Mary was skeptical. “Well, watch for elk; they’re always on that stretch.”

“I will. I haven’t hit an animal in thirty years.” Karen gave her friend a hug. “I’ll see you next weekend.”

Mary watched her walk to her car. “Call me when you get home.”

“No, I won’t. It’s an hour drive and you’ll be asleep by then.”

Karen started her car. As she drove out of town, the bank’s marquee flashed the time and temperature – twelve o’clock, twenty-seven degrees. She had to turn down the heater, though. The car might be old, but everything worked except the air conditioning, which she didn’t really need living up here in the mountains.

She continuously scanned ahead to the edges of her headlights’ beams. It was habit, ever since she’d killed two deer six months apart, long ago, before she moved to Arizona. Elk were much larger than deer, and harder to see from her little car because when they were close, their eyes were above the range of her headlights, and their dark coats blended in with the night shades of shoulder and roadside brush.

She spotted a group of large dark shadows off to the left and automatically slowed in case one should suddenly decide to cross the road. They were far enough away that her headlights flashed off a pair of eyes; the other animals continued feeding. She decided to stay well below the speed limit, to be on the safe side.

She passed only one car, going the other direction. There would be no sign of civilization until she reached McNary, a little town on the reservation. While her eyes continued watching for elk as she drove, Karen slipped into a meditative sense of peace. Clouds blocked whatever light the sky might have offered as she drove the deserted miles on top of the world, but she knew when the road dipped she was moving from the vast open fields into a stretch of forest.

Suddenly, anxiety hit, jerking her out of her reverie.

There was no good reason for it. She turned off the radio; maybe the car was making a noise that disturbed her subconsciously. But the car was okay, knocking a little, but that was normal at this altitude.

A cold shawl of prickles dragged up and across her shoulders and her breathing became so shallow she was almost holding it. She forced herself to inhale deeply. She lived alone; she didn’t jump at shadows. She tried to chide away the unwelcome sensation of fear.

But the chill was palpable inside her winter jacket. She cranked up the heat and still felt icy. Goosebumps were lifting her shirt off her arms.

She hadn’t checked the back seat when she got into the car; hadn’t done that since she moved up here out of the city. She resisted the urge to look back or even in the mirror, as if not knowing would make it not real. And if she didn’t see anything, she still wouldn’t be sure.

The pines rose high on either side of the road.

Suddenly, something dark poured into her and constricted her breath. A triangle of lights off to the right came and went so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d really seen it. Silently she recited the 23rd Psalm, as well as she could remember it.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul.” There was something else she wasn’t remembering, then “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”

Death and evil, that’s what she felt pouring at her from the forest. It wasn’t someone in the car. It was something out there. She drove a little faster, but not so fast she wouldn’t be able to stop for an elk. She definitely didn’t want to have an accident here, not tonight.

At last she saw the sign announcing the edge of McNary. The feeling eased away from her as she drove through the little town. She passed someone walking along the other side of the road in dark clothes. She was almost home.

By the time she got to her cabin, she no longer felt the presence of evil, in fact she felt a little silly about it. She fixed herself some warm milk. Once it was gone, she was barely awake enough to slip under the covers of her bed.

Karen’s life went on. She forgot all about that unpleasant feeling and there was nothing to remind her. The Apache girl’s disappearance never made the newspaper Karen read.

The first assumption was that the teen had taken off with her boyfriend, but then he came back from visiting relatives out of state and asked for her. He’d been in Oregon when she last left her mother’s house, and he could prove it. In Karen’s world this was still not newsworthy.

It was fall when a hiker’s dog happened upon the girl’s shallow grave – not far from the road, where the Ponderosa Pines stand guard.

Defining Moments is a series of character studies and defining moments – short sketches to whet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about one of these characters, leave a comment.
Thanks.

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So how’d you like it?

I put The Incident up over the summer because I was going to be on the road while my home was for sale. 8400 miles later, I’m home again, except my place has been sold so I’m staying with friends while I figure out what’s next.

Serendipity, as always, is playing a role. At the beginning of July, my plans to visit family on the East Coast were bumped a week due to circumstances beyond my control. Denver was kind of on the way, so I decided to attend the RWA conference  and see if romance writing would be a good fit for me. (2018 workshops are still listed at that link, but if they’ve been removed when you read this, check RWA events.)

Well, it was an amazing conference, loaded with so many sessions you could only attend a fraction of them, with thousands of people attending. After listening to an editor and agent address a sub-group of people who write Romantic Women’s Fiction (where the woman’s journey is the core of the story and the romance is secondary), I decided to give traditional publishing another try. So I spent a day pitching and had a really good response. Still waiting while requested materials are reviewed by several people.

I also got to talk with Robin Cutler of Ingram Spark about getting my back list onto Ingram as well as Amazon. That work’s on the list for the next few weeks. Now that CreateSpace is closing, I want to make sure I’ve got everything with Ingram for distribution beyond Amazon. (In case you didn’t realize, CreateSpace was also a division of Amazon – they’re consolidating services to KDP, but no longer doing Expanded Distribution.)

Last week, I gave a Basics of Self-Publishing class through Community Education at Sierra Community College and realized how much I enjoy helping people figure out this process – at the same time I’m hoping to land a traditional contract for Peg’s Story, One Woman’s Journey. Each route has its benefits and drawbacks.

However, with either road to publishing, building a readership is key.

That’s where you come in – while The Incident trickled out over 13 episodes, my followers increased. However, you’re not commenting! Tough to know what you want that way.

Please take a minute to comment. I’d really like to know:

  1. Did you like having a story come in pieces over two months? Would a few weeks be better? Or a short-short that’s all in one blog? Or a whole novel over months?
  2. Do you want the fiction to keep coming or would you rather I go back to writing about writing? Or do you want both?
  3. I keep hearing that a newsletter’s better than a blog because you address people who want to hear from you, as individuals. Would you want to be on a mailing list that alerted you when I post new stories and/or gave you other updates and/or writing tips?
  4. Do you care what time of day the blog arrives? (If so, when’s better?)

Let me know soon, so I can have a story or article ready for you next week!

Sheri McGuinn Photo SignatureI write books about people you could know, people who show resilience as they go through rough times to realistic resolutions.

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Celebrating Success – Not Yours

I don’t remember exactly why he was at a table talking to the authors pitching their scripts, but I remember what the successful screenwriter said:

I don’t even like writing. It’s just such an easy way to make lots of money.

I may use that line some day as the spark that pushes a desperate writer over the edge into violence. Personally, I refrained from choking the life out of him. I don’t begrudge him his success, but his attitude infuriated me. I love writing. It’s selling it that’s hard.

However, in general, it’s important to celebrate the successes others have, even when they seem to fall into it. Our Gold Country Writers have a member who didn’t really want to write a book, but over a period of decades it evolved. The unique story caught the attention of someone who passed it to a major producer, who decided it would make a great film and optioned it. Sure, there was a twinge of jealousy when I first heard this, but every writer who succeeds is an example that it can happen.

I went to her website. While she made it sound like this all just fell into her lap, the full story showed me something different. The initial contact may have been luck, but, without consciously planning to create anything, she gave the initial contact time out of her busy live over a period of decades. Then when she decided to write a book about it, she planned and executed a great deal of research to provide the full, unique, story. Then she did a good job writing and promoting the book so it’s not surprising it caught the attention of someone in the film industry.

While luck is always part of success, usually there’s a long history of work behind it. So smile and offer genuine congratulations to others when it’s their turn.

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Affirmations for Writers

Our inner dialogue has enormous impact on how we see ourselves, which in turn is reflected in what we do with our lives. The power of repeating positive affirmations has been documented and if you search “affirmations” you’ll find all kinds of lists of positive affirmations recommended to improve your life.

I wrote here previously about having balance in our lives and how, several years ago, a group of close friends gathered regularly over several weeks to look at where we had been, discern what we wanted in all areas of our lives, and then plan actions to make those things happen. This included an assessment of our strengths, which we each put into a personal affirmation to be repeated daily.

By making the affirmation personal, it has more power than a generic statement that may or may not be a good fit. At least, that’s how it works for me. I know I’ve done serious introspection and discovered these positive things are true about me – I just need to be reminded of them on a regular basis.

There are several good habits I let slip from time to time and this is one of them. I do keep a copy of my affirmations posted on my motivational board, but I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing them daily. I have to thank Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers for inspiring this blog and a renewal of my affirmation habit.

Hope’s weekly newsletters always have good resources and inspirational messages – I strongly recommend subscribing if you are a serious writer. The one I just read, from 2/16/18, had quotes from Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks about not letting fear make our choices. After reading it, I added two new lines to my daily affirmation:

I make choices in hope.
I plan action with purpose.

These two lines are also personally true, but repeating them daily will help me keep that action moving forward and stifle fear and self-doubt.

Take some time to look at where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished (small things count), and what skills you’ve developed along the way. It helps to do this with people who know you, for they may see things in you that you’re overlooking. Then decide what you want in all aspects of life as you move forward – a year from now, five years, ten, twenty. Determine what steps you need to take to achieve those goals, look at what skills or attributes you have that will help you get there, and write your personal affirmation.

The time taken for introspection will be balanced out by more effective actions going forward. The few moments daily affirmation takes will focus your energies for the day.

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