Twelve Lessons From 2015

For my first post in the New Year I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned in the past year.

I firmly believe that life is all about the lessons. (I’ve said that before on my blog.) Some of them come easy, some not so easy, but like it or not, they still come. And thank goodness they do. 2015 wasn’t what I’d call a spectacular year, but there were some very precious moments sprinkled along the way. Lessons were learned (or sometimes came a second or third round as lessons often tend to do.) All we can do is deal with what’s presented to us and be thankful that we have a lifetime to try and figure it all out.

So here are twelve of the lessons that came my way last year. One for each month. Hopefully, there is something here that you can identify with.

1. The story isn’t finished simply because you think it is. Last year I finished the same novel about three times. This year, I hope to finish it only once. *Note I said hope.

2. Insensitive people don’t intentionally do hurtful things. In fact, they usually don’t take the feelings of others into consideration at all. What’s more, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Either accept them for who they are or give up being their friend. They probably won’t notice either way.

3. The only thing better than the birth of a new grandchild is the birth of two. I mean, why settle for one when you can have two I always say?

4. Not everyone will appreciate the things you do for them—true story. I’m not complaining, just stating facts. If you can’t do something for others simply out of the goodness of your heart don’t bother. Expecting praise for the things you do only puts a price tag on your good deed. Try doing something anonymously for a change. That’s when you truly know you’re not just looking for praise for those kind deeds of yours.

5. A good book will teach you a lot about the person you are. If you don’t think that’s true, join a book club, open yourself up to discussing topics you’ve never discussed before. Find out what your thoughts are on various issues, how they make you feel, what your thoughts and ideas say about you as a person. You might be surprised or even amazed!

6. Some people you just won’t like in life and they won’t like you. Believe me, it’s not the end of the world. For years, I was unwilling to admit when I didn’t like someone. These days I’m more honest with myself. We can’t possibly like everyone we meet. But so what? There are plenty of people out there to like, people who bring a smile to your face or a warm feeling in your heart. Cherish them.

7. You can’t be everything to everyone. Seriously, take care of yourself. Fill your own cup first. Fill the cup for others with what’s left over. That’s not being selfish it’s being realistic. There’s only so much one person can do and do well.

8. Even a new computer won’t make dial-up any faster. Rural Nova Scotia—what more can I say?

9. The email comes when you least expect it. Funny how we can spend time waiting on things, hoping for things, and then right after we give up on it, poof , something totally unexpected arrives, maybe even better than what we’d hoped and planned for. I had a few wonderful surprises this year that totally came out of left field. (In fact, as I write this, I just received one such email…Blows my mind…go figure!)

10. We are given just so many days in this life. Use them wisely. 2015 saw the loss of some people in my life who were far too young to leave us, but instead of spending our days mourning their loss we should honour their lives with the happy memories we shared with them. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

11. There are far too many books on the planet and you can only read so many. Sad but true. Each year my TBR pile seems to grow. Too many good books, people. Too many good books!

12. Sometimes you just need to let go. That’s a difficult one. Letting go of the things we have no control over takes some doing, especially when we allow that “thing” the power to tie us in knots. Letting go gives us freedom and peace, but it often takes time for us to come to that place.

So there you have it; some of the lessons I learned in 2015. Of course there were many more than the twelve I’ve listed and no doubt many more that I failed to recognize as being lessons at the time.

I hope 2016 is a memorable year for you, a time for you to grow and learn and come to appreciate the lessons that come your way.

Did you learn any great lesson in 2015 that you’d like to share?

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Author Unknown

Have you ever wondered who Anonymous is? Now, I’m speaking about Anonymous in the literary sense. You know, those  people who penned the perfect poem, the absolute sublime quote that gets to the heart of our very existence. The internet is filled with these lyrical expressions that all go under the name of Anonymous or Unknown, or Author Unknown. But that is impossible of course. Someone somewhere knows, or knew, who that unknown scribe was, the scribe themselves if no one else. Words do not miraculously appear into the world all on their own. There has to be someone behind them.

A bit of poking around and I quickly discovered mountains of anonymous quotes. Here are a few that I kind of like. Seriously, the list could go on forever.

“Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.” 

 “Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” 

 “Life is not what you live but what you love” 

 “A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool can from a mountain 

 “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” 

I’m sure there are instances where the writer didn’t start out as “Anonymous” but somewhere along the way someone used their quote without remembering who the author was and, presto, they suddenly became “Anonymous.” But for the most part I think of these anonymous writers as people who perhaps wanted to draw more attention to their words of wisdom then themselves.

I do think there is something to be said about the anonymous writer, who can set their inner most thoughts down without fear or judgment of those around them. Writing is one of those professions that really puts the writer out there under public scrutiny. You only need look at some of the book reviews on Goodreads to know what I’m talking about. I’ve read some pretty despairing comments about some of my best beloved authors and books that I absolutely loved.

Expressing oneself though the written word is a little tricky by times— words of course being as powerful as they are whether spoken, written or thought. It is our way of communicating, of showing others another way of viewing the world. While some try to force their idea onto others, many people use words as a vehicle to put their ideas, believes, values, and thoughts about life into the world, and hopefully, others will appreciate what the author has to say. Some writers do this by creating people, places and events, and if we take time to examine the words within those stories we’ll often find some hidden treasure. Other writers don’t shy away from what it is they wish to express. They can get down to the real nitty-gritty of what’s on their minds. And thank goodness for that since not everyone is interested in treasure-hunting nor do they have the tools to unlock those buried nuggets. Some of us simply read for the love of a good story, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I have wondered from time to time what words would surface in my writing if I were anonymous. I do think that it would make a difference in the stories, or even blog posts, that I might produce. I’m sure there are times when many writers pull back, even a little, for fear of what others might think or wonder about them. I’ve had people say, “I don’t know what thoughts go through your head” or that my thoughts even scare them. Honestly, I think we all have our share of scary thoughts that go no farther than our own minds. Writers put these thoughts on paper for everyone to see, and that’s where the difference comes in.

Anonymous brings freedom with it, the shedding off of people’s judgment of our words and perhaps we’d be more willing to share the thoughts of “Anonymous”, hand down those precious words though the ages than, say, some writer with the last name “Best.” That’s just an example, I’m not insinuating that my words are profound or at all inspiring, but you know what I mean.

Have you ever given thought to the “Anonymous” writer? If you were “Anonymous” do you think it would change the way you express yourself in the world?

When Readers Get What We Do

In a Facebook status last week, one author made the comment that it really feels wonderful  “when someone actually gets what you do.”  The comment really resonated with me. While I understand that many people read books simply for the entertainment value (which is absolutely acceptable, in fact it’s wonderful!) some of us gather much more from the story than what lies on the page.  And there are people out there that really get that.

From the very beginning, I’ve known that there is more to the writing of a story than the story itself. I saw it in the short stories I wrote, felt it while I was in the midst of writing. I’m not someone who analyzes the works of others, nor do I analyze my own writing for that matter. Yet while I’m writing, I’m often aware of these underlying meanings that run through-out my writing. It’s not something I consciously set out to do, but something that develops on its own.  I’m sure it’s that way with many other writers as well.

I loved the mother in Bitter, Sweet for her wisdom and understanding about life. The line where she says, “There are all kinds of wisdom in the world, Pru. It’s in everything from a sunrise to a dewdrop. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Complicating things is our own doing. We’re handed life on a platter. It should be so easy.”  Love that line! And no I didn’t purposely set out to write it. Mama came up with that one all one her own. Do I believe it? Darn tootin’ I do.

While Flying With a Broken Wing is a totally different story, Cammie is one of the brightest ten year old I know. She doesn’t come out with any of Mama’s profound wisdom, but you can be sure it’s there.  One thing about Cammie is, she’s not one to sugar-coat things. She just outs with it. “Talking with Evelyn was a lot like picking your nose. You had to do a little digging around, but once you hooked a big booger it would slip out like nobody’s business.” One of my favorite lines from the book, because admit it, we’ve all known people who take a bit of prodding before they finally open up. But rather than wisdom, in Cammie’s case, I call it smarts. Smarts—Cammie would definitely like that!

We all have our own way of seeing the world, and we’re all much wiser than we realize. Often time we don’t express that wisdom, but I believe it’s something we all have. Writers are lucky in that we have an entire blank page at our disposal and we can express to our heart’s content. I’ve always felt that writing was a combination of brain power and heart power. While our brains come up with the premise of the story our hearts lead the way through the telling of it. I’m sure there are many writers out there who would disagree with this, but I can tell you when Cammie came out with that nose-picking line I didn’t have to stop and think about it. She said it. I wrote it. It was a done deal. And I loved it.

I really have to agree with the author’s comment about people getting what we do. One of the greatest rewards for any writer is creating characters and world that others can readily relate to. Not everyone will love our stories, and of course we’d wish that wasn’t so. But there’s a book out there for everyone. We all have such different tastes.

 Yesterday, one person wrote that “I felt so involved, like I was {Cammie’s} best friend.”  For a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that. As an added bonus this week, fellow blogger and writer, Darlene Foster, wrote a wonderful review of my latest book. You can view it here if you haven’t already seen it. Thanks Darlene. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! As an added thought, you might think of letting a writer know when you’ve read and enjoyed their book. It means that all those hours we spend writing and rewriting means something to you, hopefully something good!

This winter I’ve been working at a few projects that I’m really enjoying, and when all is said and done that has to be one of the greatest rewards for a writer. It’s actually one of the greatest rewards period. I feel so fortunate.

There time for you to enter a draw over at Lynn Davidson’s blog for a copy of Shadows in the Stone by Diane Lynn McGyver. Click on the link and leave a comment and you’re entered to win. The draw is Feb 4th at 6:00 pm. Good luck!

What I’ve Learned

Perhaps I’m on a quest for wisdom these days, although I think many of us are, even though we may not openly acknowledge it or even recognize it. Who knows, maybe this is something that comes with the aging process. Aging? Who the heck said aging?

Love this quote by Maya Angelou and wanted to share it. This woman truly know how to express herself. I hope you find a few nuggets here as well.

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou

Wish I’d Said That

Every once in awhile you come across a quote that resonates with you, one you look at and think, “Wish I’d said that!” The following quote of Virginia Hamilton’s pretty much did that for me today.

I think, I dream, and writing is who I am. How much time I spend at it, who I write for, why I wrote, and what next I will write, fall into the realm of propaganda. The fact is that I must write and writing is work, hard and exacting….. Virginia Hamilton, from “Portrait of the Author as a Working Writer.”

Gee, kind of wish I’d said that. Oh right, I already said that.

While I’m pretty sure I’ll never have anything quotable to say about writing, or life in general, it’s nice to know that there are those out there capable of expressing our thoughts and feelings for us. Not only that, when we read such quotes, it feels so right and true, we might very well have written them ourselves. Perhaps that’s the key. A truth is something that, the moment we read it or hear it, we believe it. Not only do we believe it but we know it. There’s no room for doubt. Doubt doesn’t exist. No need to try and convince others. You either know it or you don’t.

While I do suppose we are all born with these truths within us, my pearls of wisdom are not as eloquently expressed as Virginia Hamilton. Still, these tiny seeds of wisdom lie dormant within each one of us until something triggers them; they grow and blossom, and erupt into full bloom. Luckily, someone eventually steps forward to remind the rest of us. Yes, we all possess wisdom, whether we admit it or not. Wisdom isn’t always something profound. Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes in the simplest form.

“There are all kinds of wisdom in the world, Pru. It’s in everything from a sunrise to a dewdrop. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Complicating things is our own doing. We’re handed life on a platter. It should be so easy,” said Mama as she clasped her hand around the delicate golden thread she had dug from the ground.” Bitter, Sweet

If you have any pearls of wisdom to pass along I’d love to hear, or perhaps you have a great quote you’d like to share. This is your moment make the rest of us shout, Wish I’d said that!

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