Something Wonderful

April Rain

Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

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Word Stumbles

On the tickle-your-funny bone front, a few word slips and trips:*

Snow blower for sale…only used on snowy days.

For sale: three canaries of undermined sex.

Free puppies…part German Shepherd, part dog.

Toaster: a gift that every member of the family appreciates. Automatically burns toast.

Free; farm kittens. Ready to eat.

Christmas tag sale. Handmade gifts for the hard-to-find person.

Amanda washer: $100. Owned by clean bachelor who seldom washed.

For sale: Braille dictionary. Must see to appreciate! Call Jerry.

Must sell: 3 grave spaces, very reasonable. Plus air conditioner.

German Shepherd. 85 pounds. Neutered. Speaks German. Free.

For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Have several old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.

For sale: Instant coffee table.

Great Dames for sale.

These blush-worthy bloopers come to us via Eats, Shites & Leaves by A. Parody (ha! Ha!) And now, amused and enthused, let us all write on!

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Stumbling Forward

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. When you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Joseph Campbell

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, then dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up. “ Anne Lamont

Mmmm. I found both of these pearls of wisdom in the same quote book aptly titled, “Don’t forget to sing in the lifeboats,” and somehow, they seemed to fit together. How, I’m not exactly sure, but let’s what arises.

First, the treasures of life. According to Campbell, who coined the phrase, “Follow your bliss,” our treasure is found not when we’re happy and contented, but when we’re willing to go down into the abyss and when we stumble. The abyss is never a pleasant place, is it? We’ve all visited or been plunged into it in one time or another. It’s a dangerous place—a place we’d rather avoid than embrace. But, Campbell claims, it’s when we stumble that we find our treasure.

When we stumble, what’s happening to us. Most of the time we’re making mistakes, we’re failing, or feeling we’re off track and losing our way. But think about it for a moment. Aren’t these the times when things are shaken up and falling apart? Aren’t these exactly the times when we’re forced to open up to new ideas and possibilities and to put all the pieces back together in a way that’s new and different? I know this is true in my life and my writing—and it probably is for you, too.

Campbell says that when we go down into the abyss, when we stumble, we “recover” what’s most valuable. So maybe it’s waiting for us all the time, quietly and patiently, until we stumble and are forced to take the time to find it.

That brings me to Anne Lamont, who believes, “…if you just show up and try to do the right thing, then the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.” Great advice when you are in the abyss or when you’ve stumbled!

What’s your take on Campbell’s words of wisdom? I’d love to have you share your thoughts as we all write on!

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Langston Rejoices

Today, the first day of February, is the day Langston Hughes was born in 1902. In honor of this legendary poet and the launch of Black History Month, here’s a wonderful poem of his a poetry lover passed on to me:

Dream Variation

Langston Hughes

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me —
That is my dream!
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at the pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

What a “joyful noise” these words make, strung together like pearls. May they inspire and uplift you as we all write on!

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Useful Ideas

I have a few ideas that I think are very useful to me. One is that you do whatever comes your way as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting.

The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Simplicity—that’s what strikes me about Eleanor’s words. Surely she knew a thing or two abut living a full, productive life—and for her it came down to three simple, useful ideas:

Do your work well: Do the work that you’re called to do as well as you can. To me, that means giving a full effort with a caring sharing attitude. For us as writers that means pouring ourselves without reserve, without holding back, into whatever happens to be on the field of play for us. It may be throwing down a first draft of something we’ve been noodling around in our heads and want to commit to paper. Or doing a revision of a chapter or even just a page. Let’s give it our best—even more than our best: Let’s do more than expected.

Don’t think about yourself: This is tricky, because as writers, I think we are constantly taking our own emotional temperatures. How are we feeling—hopeful or discouraged? Are we still upset about that agent pass? Are we feeling tired or energetic? What if we put all of this aside when we come to the page? What if we don’t really bother about ourselves and simply focus all our intention and powers of observation on our work? Pretty soon, we’ll just forget about ourselves. We’ll just become a window through which our ideas and writing can shine.

Give joy and happiness to others: Here’s where we can really use our gifts to make a difference. It’s a tough world out there: Every day, every hour, things are happening that make us cringe and cry and wonder about how cruel and inhumane people can be to each other. It’s easy to become hopeless and despairing. In the midst of all this, can we, as storytellers and scribes, create islands of hope or happiness for our readers? Can we give them something of worth to hang onto? Can we find light even in the dark places? Can we remind them of the kindness of strangers, of the invisible thread that connects us all? Can we remind them that we are all the same?

Bravo, Eleanor! What a simple recipe for life—and for our life’s work. And now, let’s simplify as we all write on!

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Any Way

My mantra is ‘Get it down, then get it right.’ Things tend to gel for me as I write…voices, situations. It means a lot of revision down the line, but you can’t revise what isn’t there to begin with.Lucienne Diver

Lucienne Diver is a seasoned literary agent and an accomplished author: She’s written two successful series: Vamped and Latter-day Olympians (luciennediver.com). Her inspiring comment led me to a post called “Mantra” on the site Magical Words (magicalwords.net) in which she described her writing style.:

“I admire those writers who can sit down and plot out an entire novel in advance. I’ve never experienced it, but I imagine all the gut-wrenching, hair tearing uncertainty coming at that stage and the actual writing being a breeze….Me, I have to write to find out where I’m going. I can’t come to know the characters until I write them out and wrestle with their voices and their world views.”

I know the feeling! I’ve gazed longingly at J.K. Rowling’s handwritten flow charts for her Harry Potter series, but that’s not my style. I wrote my way into my children’s fantasy and ended up with a jerrybuilt plot that I had to take apart and reengineer.

Lucienne goes on to say that learning how she wrote — and being comfortable with her own process — was the hardest thing for her as a writer: “Giving myself permission to get it down and then get it right, which is my current mantra, was both freeing and terrifying. Doing it that way meant I might actually be (*gasp*) wrong. False starts, scenes that go nowhere, dialogue that doesn’t truly further the plot, places where the tension flags…it’s all there. Everyone goes through it. No one’s first draft is perfect.”

How true! And how important it is to be kind to ourselves: to accept and be comfortable with the approach that works best for us. And to remember that both “pantsers” and “plotters” wrestle with their early drafts. The problems are just different.

When it comes to writing process, it’s any which way you can. Eudora Welty sat at her desk every day from nine to twelve in the morning; Michael Chabon writes in the dead of the night. Balzac guzzled gallons of coffee while penning his novels, but surely Jane Austen imbibed only tea. Truman Capote pounded out his drafts on a typewriter, while Roald Dahl scribbled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using a pencil.

Let’s remember that writing is about leaving our comfort zone and stretching. We pantsers can always sneak under or leap over to the plotter side of the fence to snag a few plotter posies to brighten our words. It’s really any which way you can. Write on!

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Something Wonderful

“This is the true joy in life…being used
for a purpose recognized by yourself
as a mighty one…being a force of nature
instead of a feverish little clod of ailments
and grievances complaining that the world
will not devote itself to making you happy…

“I am of the opinion that my life
belongs to the whole community and
as long as I live it is my privilege to do
for it whatever I can.”

George Bernard Shaw

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“Each Day”

Start each day with a grateful heart,” Unknown

A gathering of uplifting words of wisdom to light our way today:

“Each dawn brings a new hope for a new plan…” Gina Blair

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” Eleanor Franklin

“Greet each day with your eyes open to beauty, your mind open to change.” Paula Finn

“We’re here to feel the joy of life pulsing in us now.” Joyce Carol Oates

“All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.” Eileen Caddy

“I am grateful for whatever helps my spirit grow.” Florida Calloway

“…every moment is the start of the next big thing in your life.” Marianne Williamson

“Ah, life grows lovely where you are.” Mathilda Blind

“Do not hurry the journey at all.” Constantine B. Calvary

And now, on the wings of these words of joy and hope, let’s all write on!

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Beautiful Girl

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
‘Pooh!’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’”

The birthday card with this little story sits in a spot where I see it every day. On it, an adorable little Pooh and Piglet walk hand in hand toward the sun. I cherish this card because it was from my beloved little sister Judy. January 26 is her birthday. Judy passed away very suddenly in 2009 of pancreatic cancer and I miss her and long to speak with her every day. Every year, I post this tribute in honor of her on her birthday.

There were four kids in our family and Judy was the youngest. As a little girl, she just loved A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books; I have two of her dog-eared volumes sitting on a shelf near me as I write this. Judy had a theory that our family mirrored the characters in Milne’s stories. I was Piglet, philosophical and reflective. Our sister, Stephanie, was Tigger, filled with energy and enthusiasm.Our brother Peter was Eeyore, loyal and reliable. And Judy? Judy was Pooh: that lovable, ever hopeful bear, who was forever chasing the sweet honeypot of life.

Judy was a gifted writer with a wonderful imagination — and a fountain of creativity. Whenever I needed help with my work or with a fresh new idea or angle on something, Judy was my go-to girl. Not only was she gifted, she was generous. And smart. And witty. And everything wonderful.

Soon after she passed away, I had an experience that really lifted my spirits. I wrote a story about it called, “Tell Me You’re OK.” In honor of Judy’s birthday, I’ve been inspired to share it here. Please feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who might find it hopeful or consoling. To read the story, just email me at karin.abarbanel@gmail.com and I’ll send you a pdf. 

One of the inspirations for launching Karin Writes Dangerously was my desire to cherish and fan the flame of Judy’s faith in me. So, inspired and encouraged by all those wonderful spirits who believe in us and our work, let’s all write on!

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Walk On!

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” Buddhist saying

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.” Luciano De Crescenzo

The Universe is amazing! Sometimes it drops a gift into your lap. That’s exactly how I felt when I began reading, It’s Not About the Miles: Lessons From The Road” by Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher. What an incredible book! Part memoir, part self-help guide, it’s really an encouragement counselor between two covers. Dr. Terrie isn’t just a former doctor in the U.S. Navy and ultramarathoner, she’s a 4’ ll” beacon of hope.

At 72, she triumphed over one of the toughest sports challenges around: “The Vol State Race”— a 314-mile trek across Tennessee that had to be completed in 10 days and within strict cut-off limits. She came in last, but she’s a winner! Preparing for and completing this race, not once but twice, was a victory over a raft of personal challenges: smoking and eating addictions, major health issues, a troubling childhood, and the biggest foe of all: a tough-as-nails inner critic.

As Dr. Terrie battled her problems step by step over her 10-day trek through July heat, storms, lack of sleep, and rough terrain, she began to see the road she was on as a metaphor for life. She realized she had overcome a lot in her 70+ years, so she wrote “It’s Not About the Miles,” to help others on their own journeys. What a gift to the Universe!

Dr. Terrie’s book is full of inspiring stories and practical life lessons:

“If you’re feeling incomplete, it’s your responsibility to figure out what will fill that empty spot. Search within and you’ll find it.”

“Be happy now, not ‘when.’ Now is all you have, so figure out what it will take this moment to make you smile. That’s where your happiness will come from.”

“Fear stifled our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation….Lost opportunities erode confidence…”

“If you want to do something so much that the fire is burning deep inside, do it! If it wasn’t risky, it wouldn’t be worth it. Of course you’re scared. It’s outside your comfort zone. Do it anyway.”

I wish I could share more, but you’ll just have to read “It’s Not About the Road,” yourself! You can find it on Amazon or through your Indie bookstore. Bravo, Dr. Terrie! Walk on—and write on!

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