Gulls (and Boys) Just Want to Have Fun

focus and take the shot

 

Recently I challenged myself to try to catch some action shots with my phone’s camera.

 

seagulls on beach

 

Not much action here. Just some seagulls, hanging out.

 

seagull reflection

 

Although, some gulls took a little time for reflecting.

 

seagull showing off

 

Others stretched their wings–or showed off.

Can’t say for sure as I’m not really a gull expert. 

BUT…

I do know that birds like bread.

 

seagull eating bread crumb

 

They will crane necks to get bread. 

 

seagull landing

 

They will swoop and fly.

 

seagull frenzy

 

They will get rowdy.

 

seagull standoff

 

Not all though. Some will be cautious–maybe even a bit suspicious.

This gull probably has an agent.

 

beach boys

 

So I moved on to other subjects.

Replaced the bread with a Frisbee.

 

beach frisbee

 

And … action.

 

playing Frisbee on beach

beach frisbee action

catching frisbee on beach

 

What challenges have you set up for yourself lately? 

Happy Monday!!

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The Creative Life: Following your Bliss vs. Taking the Sensible Path

This weekend I heard a middle school choral director speak about supporting kids’ creative passions.    

He said, kids often don’t continue with music (or art, photography, writing, etc) because somewhere along the way they are told it’s not sensible, that it’s not a “clear and trusted” practical career path.   

But, he asked, what if a career in the arts is your bliss?

Photo credit: Mallari Sizemore 

 

Dreams are important. When I was a teenager, I concocted big ideas for my future. One involved me owning horses, a show barn, and 537 acres of land, not because I loved horses, but because apparently riding horses with “your hair whipping away from your face” primes the creative pump. Either way, you get the gist, writing was pretty important to me.

 

 My diary dreams.

But, now that I’m a parent of kids sitting (precariously) close to the edge of our family nest, I admit the dreamy thing makes me cringe a bit. There’s an element of fear.  

Fear is the thing that can derail a dream.  

And fear can send a parent into the You Need to be Practical speech (you want your kids to be happy, but you also don’t necessarily want them living in your basement at thirty.)  

Except I also know that it’s not my job to define their happy. So, so hard to remember after years of telling them when to sleep, eat, and blow their noses.  

This whole following your bliss thing can be complicated.  Do you take the risk, or stick to the more sensible pursuit?   There’s a character in my YA contemporary, Come Back to Me, named Evan Foster, and Evan believes without question that you should go “balls to the wall” when it comes to your dreams. Now, balls to the wall is an old aviation term that refers to pushing the ball-shaped grip on the throttle all the way forward, i.e. full speed.  

Full speed, like with your hair whipping in the wind and all that.

 

 I don’t think there’s one answer, or one way to follow your bliss. Sometimes you are not exactly sure of your dream, sometimes all you have is a wispy idea.  

Write those wispy ideas down.  Listen to your heart.   Talk to people who do what you want to do. Take classes. Keep learning.  Continue moving forward.  

If it’s your passion, find a way to keep creating.  

Me? I got a degree in criminal justice, worked in a library (and a whole slew of other odd jobs, like delivering phone books), got married, became a mom (best job ever), worked some more odd jobs (selling makeup, crafts, and gutters—but not all at the same time), and now I’m writing again.  

No, it wasn’t a straight path, and nothing about it felt particularly “clear and trusted.” But still I’m where I wanted to be.  

And I’m picking up some momentum . . . I think there may even be a little hair whipping happening.

 

What do you think about following your bliss? Do you think you can balance the sensible and your dream? What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had?

 

Happy Monday!

Oh and I hope you stop by on Valentine’s day–I will be participating in the Indie-Kissing Blog Fest hosted by the INDELIBLES. 🙂
 

NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Life is for Enjoying

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I’m participating again.  It’s so exciting starting a brand new project.

Although, I have to admit, I’ve never juggled this many writing projects at one time.  I’m thinking about buying brand new outfits–one for each story.  Then I could just change wardrobe when I open a different Word document (I assume my brain will make the transition as well).

Totally makes sense, right?

Even without the new outfits, I’m having fun.  This NaNoWriMo quote sums it up for me:

 

“Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”

national novel writing month

November 1st-30th

Literary abandon.  For me that means locking my inner editor in the tool shed outside–and really enjoying the fun of just making something up.

Last year I blogged about my NaNoWriMo inspiration–about how my brother inspired me to not only pursue my writing, but really enjoy my life.  The information still applies. 🙂  So here’s that post.

Life is for Enjoying

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  But I wanted to do more, and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.  I think we all do.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches, and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes stays with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

my brother daniel patrick opt

My brother Daniel 

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

What are you enjoying this week?  Are you participating in any of the creative marathons this month?  Do you think I need to go shopping to keep my writing projects straight?

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Freedom to Express Our Frolicking Energy

 

I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.

― Mahatma Gandhi

first amendment freedom of expression wall_opt

The First Amendment Monument in Charlottesville, Virginia

 

What would you write on this monument?

Me?  I got creative and wrote my name.

And continuing the theme of relaying the obvious, I wrote:

 freedom slate monument_opt

 

Maybe it wasn’t as colorful (or cathartic) as the citizen who wrote RYAN IS A TOOL, but that’s okay.  The 108 feet of slate writing space exists to express our views on well, whatever.

 

I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.

― Oscar Wilde

 

 Because freedom of expression is one of our rights in America.

art on first amendment monument_opt

This one makes me smile.

 

Whether we doodle on slate, express our political or religious views or write best-selling books, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said that part of the significance of our freedom of expression is to “assure self-fulfillment for each individual.”

Expression = Self-fulfillment

Maybe not right away, but having the ability to express yourself can help you find purpose, passion and meaning in your life.  And there are so many ways to do it.

For example,I express myself in this blog, in my fiction writing and by wearing sparkly shoes.

 converse sequin

 

Maybe I color my hair blue, paint, or do DIY projects. .

 

 

Even my lunch tells a story about me and what I want for myself.

grilled tofu salad_opt

This is a very delicious grilled tofu salad. Not that I’m trying to convince anyone (because of freedom and all that).

 

Plus I like to bake and experiment with recipes.  I planned on showing you a picture of the gluten-free spice cupcakes I made for this weekend.  But sadly, they are all gone.

 

empty platter_opt

 

But cupcake or no cupcake, every day is another opportunity to show the world an expression that is uniquely our own.  Because each of us have a JOY looking for a voice.

 

You are joy, looking for a way to express.  

It’s not just that your purpose is joy, it is that you are joy. You are love and joy and freedom and clarity expressing. Energy-frolicking and eager.

That’s who you are.

― Esther Hicks

 

So, here’s to FROLICKING ENERGY and the unfettered freedom to find meaning.

What would you write on the Freedom of Expression monument?  How do you express yourself?  

I love it when you comment 🙂

Have an awesome week!

Balderdash: A Writer’s Guide to Making Stuff Up

balderdash definition_opt

 “Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.”

 ~Baron Munchausen

 

This weekend I was reading some posts over at Catherine Caffeinated and found a particularly entertaining one on the subject of book reviews.

In it, she included this excerpt from an Amazon customer review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

 

“Where was the editor for this book? In the end notes the author confesses to playing with time. For instance, Shake ‘N Bake is mentioned but didn’t hit the shelves until 1965. A Bob Dylan song is referenced but wasn’t released until 1964. Okay, but why did they have to be included? They certainly weren’t plot points but is a writer allowed to just make stuff up?”

 

Hmm.

Well, it’s kind of in the job description.

 

fiction writing:

1.  any kind of writing that is not factual.

 

So um, what’s a writer to do?

I mean, how do you tame the pesky imaginations that long to smear the pages with historical inaccuracies?  How do you stop yourself from throwing your head back and laughing maniacally as you plot to twist facts and screw with the universe’s fancy logic and statistics?

Sounds daunting.  It’s enough work keeping a steady supply of coffee and ignoring the vacuum.

Besides, what about artistic license?

Check out what Picasso had to say on that subject:

 

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

~Pablo Picasso

 

Okay, upon first skim that quote kind of reads like a riddle.  I think he meant something along the lines of this:

 

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

~Khaled Hosseini

 

So breathe deeply dear writers.  You are not merely a liar making stuff up, you are dealing in GREAT TRUTHS.

And this is a safe place, where nonsense knows no boundaries.  Your knowledge and creativity are revered.

In fact in the spirit of the board game Balderdash, let’s lie create.  Below are a few words.  Use one, two or all three to create a FAKE fact or statistic.

Chocolate       Elephant        Season     

 

 Let your imaginations frolic in the comments!

 

Curiosity and Peeking Behind Closed Doors

 

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.

~Emily Dickinson

 

My sister and I used to babysit a lot when we were teenagers, and one of the perks (other than looking after cute cherubs of course) was scoping out the fridge or pantry.   After our respective babysitting gigs, my sister and I would then compare the loot we snacked on.

Me:  They totally had Chef Boyardee.

My sister:  Well, I got Twinkies and Dr. Pepper.  

Me:  Well . . .

My sister:  They had cable.

Me: Fine you win.

It was like it was the day after Halloween and we were unloading our bags.  Other people’s fridges ended up being ranked like candy bar sizes.

Back then it was mostly a snack thing, but I still have a curiosity about other people’s fridges.

 

When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.

 ~Walt Disney

 

Like medicine cabinets, fridges are revealing.  And personal.  You not only see what people eat (or maybe don’t eat), but how they cook and clean.

Do you see specialty oils and sauces, or ketchup packets?

Lots of home cooked leftovers or takeout containers?

Packages labeled organic?  Lots of brand names?

Is the fridge full or bare?

Is it organized, clean?

Speaking of clean.  I don’t pay much attention to that if I sneak a peek into a fridge, because I hate cleaning the fridge.  I mean I do it, but I dislike it so much that I line the shelves with foil after I clean it so I can make the clean last twice as long (I remove the foil once it’s dirty and then have a clean shelf for at least a little while).

And in case you’re thinking this is a bizarre topic–I’m not the only one who wonders, what’s in your fridge?

One quick search on the internet and you might land on a site called Fridgewatcher. Or Fridge Raiders. Or Fridge Food.

Either way there are pics of fridge interiors all over the internet. Even celebrity fridges, like George Clooney.

But Rob Lowe doesn’t seem to have bared his (while you wait for that, you can get yourself a Rob Lowe sexy fridge magnet on Amazon).

And since I’m going to ask you the personal question of what’s in your fridge, I figure it’s only fair to show you mine:

what's in your fridge coleen patrick 2_opt

I considered editing the photo with a sepia tone, if only to remind my husband that this fridge is 17 years old (hint hint).  Except he would then just remind me of our fridge’s special features.  Like the top shelf”s left corner–it will freeze solid any food I put there, especially eggs.

Fridge diving! It’s all the rage.  And it’s good for your brain too!

Because when you are curious, you are in the moment, you are engaging and you are learning.  Bonus–it’s excellent for creativity (makes for a better writer!)

Oh and I’m sure it must lower your blood pressure, right?

All that from a fridge.

 

I’ve often entertained paranoid suspicions about my fridge and what it’s been doing to my poetry when I’m not looking, but I never even considered that my fan was thinking about me.

~George Murray

 

Just don’t get me started on what’s inside your purse or wallet. . .

So what’s in your fridge?

I’m curious!


Embrace Your Artistic Voice, There will Never be Another You

 

 

Recently I met a writer who said she gave up on the book she was working on because another writer published one with a similar premise.  I don’t know what her story was about in particular, but she was adamant that there would be no reason for her to bother finishing hers.

It got me thinking.  How many books have been published about vampire love stories or teens fighting dystopian governments? A lot.  And I could continue on with the list of similar premises.  Because when readers like a book, they usually want more.

But even working with the same topic or premise, no two writers will end up with the same book.

Because artists have their own style.  Your experiences, your opinions, where you live, who you grew up with, what you do with your day–everything that makes you uniquely well, YOU, weave together and mesh to make up your tone.

It’s your voice and it is influenced by the tapestry of your life.

And we all come to the page, the canvas  or whatever medium with which we create, with our special voices.

For example, check out the difference in perspective on these Alice in Wonderland covers:

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity is open for interpretation.  (more on creativity here in this post.)

 

We writers, as we work our way deeper into our craft, learn to drop more and more personal clues. Like burglars who secretly wish to be caught, we leave our fingerprints on broken locks, our voiceprints in bugged rooms, our footprints in the wet concrete.
~Ross MacDonald

 

Your art is ready for your fingerprints.

 

A part of me wonders if maybe there were other reasons this writer abandoned her story.  Maybe she was afraid of not measuring up. I don’t know.

But I think it’s important as artists to embrace our uniqueness.

Stop comparing and start celebrating.

Because there will never be another YOU.

 

You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth.

There will never be another person the same.

There’ll never be another you.

~Mickey Rooney

 

 

What are your thoughts on the artistic voice?  Do you have any advice for a writer/artist who gets stuck comparing their work to others?

 I love it when you comment, so please share your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

 

 

 

The Courage to Try Something New

 

“Never be afraid to try something new.  
Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark.  A large group of professionals built the Titanic.”

~Dave Barry

 

Over the years there have been many times I jumped right into trying something new.  Sewing, rock climbing, blogging, selling makeup, quilting, flower arranging, painting–

 try something new elmo overalls _opt

Elmo overalls I made for my niece.  My wall mural is the background.

 

Even if I didn’t take to something, at least I learned from it (like that I really don’t like selling makeup and I really can’t sew in a zipper).

But I don’t always try new things.  Habit tends to get in the way.  I get used to my routine.  I like my To Do lists and that satisfied feeling I get at the end of a productive day.

Habit makes it so easy to resist the new.

So does fear.  Maybe you never sign up for those dance classes because you think you will look silly doing the Argentine Tango.  Or stay quiet about that new project idea you had for work because it’s not what you usually do.

Trying something new often takes courage.

And sometimes I think we just plain forget the thrill that often accompanies something new.

 converse sequin

And it’s not only about creating or wearing something new.  It can be trying new foods.  I tried  Vietnamese food for the first time a couple of years ago and I love it.  But most of the time I stick with the same meals because it’s easier, one less thing to consider in regard to taste or nutrition.

But it’s definitely fun to try new food, experience a taste sensation–both good and not so good.  Like last week when I tried gluten free oat matzoh.

Now I can now officially say I’ve eaten cardboard.

Still it’s amazing how many sensory details I eked out of that experience.  Trying something new can get your neurons sparking again.  Sort of like what happens when you put oat matzoh in the oven–it spontaneously smokes at the slightest hint of warmth.  Your brain can get all warm and smoky too, but in a good way.

Plus trying something new can lift your mood.  This weekend my son was in a Spring-Break-is-Over-Funk and I knew I needed to nudge him.   So we all got up early and headed to the batting cages.  It was something neither of us had ever done.

 Try something new batting cage_opt

 

Funk dispelled.

Sometimes new things have the power to do that.

Tell me! Have you tried something new lately?  I would love to know.

Steal Like an Artist or Wait for the Idea Fairy?

 

If you spend a significant amount of time creating–whether it’s writing stories, painting, or whipping up a unique batch of Brazilian cinnamon snickerdoodles, then you’ve probably heard this question:

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t have a profound answer for that question.  If there is an idea fairy, she doesn’t come to my house.  Probably because of the way I handled those mornings when my kids noticed the tooth fairy hadn’t picked up their tooth.

Well kids, looks like there’s a fairy that needs a little sprinkling of punctual pixie dust, right? Let’s scoot on out of your room so we don’t embarrass her when she finally shows up.

Yea, I’m probably on a fairy Do Not Call list or something.

Anyway, I don’t think the idea thing is magic.  Sure those ideas show up in my head, but I know they get there via bits and pieces filtered in from my kids, the people having a conversation next to me in Panera, the TV, YouTube, the bakery in Whole Foods, the mall, the teenagers in the cafeteria at my son’s school when I spy volunteer.

Ideas come from a mash-up of pieces of my life, especially the curious bits.

Or as Austin Kleon says in his new book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

“I steal them.”

 

 

Okay that sounds like plagiarism, but the book is mostly about unlocking creativity.

But as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.  So then what is originality?

  

“Undetected plagiarism.” ~William Ralph Inge

Hmm.

So what if you’re at the Whole Foods bakery, lured in by the smell of baking bread and as you get closer, you smell cinnamon.

That can’t be regular cinnamon, you think gripping the handle of your shopping cart.

You look beyond the glass counter, hoping for answers.

It’s Samba cinnamon, the person robed in angelic white informs you.  Harvested only once a year during Carnival.

How festive!  So then you’re thinking, What if I make bread? No–cookies, yes cookies.  Cookies rolled in Samba cinnamon and sugar.  No–crunchy Turbinado sugar!

Before you know it you are sipping Darjeeling with a batch of warm Samba cinnamon infused cookies.  Did you make snickerdoodles?  Sort of.  It’s similar, but pumped up by the intoxicating addition of a South American spice.

It’s better.  You created something perhaps, original?

Maybe.

It sure is nice knowing  you can roll with your curiosity rather than waiting for the Creative Genius Idea Fairy.

 

“All creative work builds on what came before . . . If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” ~Austin Kleon

 

Where do you think ideas come from?  Do you steal like an artist?