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 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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Sweat First

First Comes Sweat Then Comes Beauty.” New York City Ballet Brochure

Easy reading is damned hard writing.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire did 150 takes of a famous movie scene in which they are dancing while skating together on ice. That’s right, 150 takes! Sometimes they practiced their routines so hard and so many times that Ginger’s feet were bleeding. But all you ever saw was the two of them dancing divinely. In one legendary number, Ginger literally floats across the stage in a feathery dress she designed herself.

Wonderful! All this by way of reminding us that any creative endeavor—whether dancing, painting, photography, or writing—takes work.

And time and sweat and practice.

Sometimes, we forget this. We want the beauty without the sweat, the results without the struggle. But as a wise person once said, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Can we have a winning mindset as we sweat and struggle? Of course we can! We have total control over our attitude and effort. If we bring a can-do attitude and consistent, deliberate effort to our work, then we can accomplish anything—the sky’s the limit!

Attitude + Effort=Result.

What a simple, yet powerful recipe for success!

So, let’s not shy away from the sweat and the struggle. Let’s embrace it!

As my wonderful friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* says on his fantastic Success Hotline, there’s nothing more satisfying than struggling with something difficult that you really care about. How true!

So let’s remember what Ginger and ballet dancers know: First Comes Sweat Then Comes Beauty. And then, let’s all write on!

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* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s Success Hotline Podcast or call 973.743.4690.

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Something Wonderful

Life is short.

Break the rules.

Forgive quickly.

Kiss slowly.

Laugh uncontrollably.

And never regret anything that

makes you smile.

Love truly.

—Mark Twain

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Casals Counsels

Pablo Casals is a wonder: a joyful musician and a wise soul (see Marvelous You) — and here’s a story worth sharing about him: The famous cellist was to be interviewed in his studio by a young reporter. Pablo kept the reporter waiting past the scheduled time they’d agreed upon. During his wait, the reporter heard the lovely strains of the master’s music pouring through the French doors. Finally, the doors opened and Pablo breezed through them. He realized he’d kept the reporter waiting and apologized fervently.

“Oh, my young friend, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting. You see, I was practicing my cello all day, as I do every day, and I totally lost track of time. I forgot you were waiting.”

The reporter jumped up in surprise and said, “You are the world’s greatest cellist, and you tell me that you have been in your studio practicing your cello all day and that you do that every day? Whatever for?”

Our friend Pablo smiled at the reporter and, without missing a beat, he said, “Ah,my young friend, that is precisely why I practice my cello all day, every day… to remain the world’s greatest cellist.”

I love this story! There’s so much here for us to admire and apply to our own work. While we may not be in a position to devote all day every day to our own craft, we can bring Pablo’s sense of dedication to our work. We can realize that there’s always more to learn and ways we can improve and tackle them consistently and with gusto. And we can remember that attitude and effort are the keys to the kingdom. Write on!

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No Shortcuts

“Take no shortcuts along the road to success.” Fortune cookie message

Oscar Hammerstein tells this story:

He once saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty taken from a helicopter. It showed the top of the statue’s head. He was amazed at the care the sculptor had taken with the statue’s hair on the back of its head, despite the fact that he probably believed only sea gulls flying past the statue would see it.

The sculptor, observes Hammerstein, probably never dreamed that one day a man would fly over the statue’s head and take a picture of it. And yet, he finished off this part of the statue with as much care as he did her face and her torch – everything people sailing up the Hudson on a boat would see. Why? because as an artist, he needed to finish his work as perfectly as he could — so he did more than expected.

I love this story because it reminds me to pay attention to every aspect of a creative project I’m working on and to finish it off with the same level of care and completion that I bring to every other section.

It can be tempting to skate over a thorny section of a story that’s been giving us a hard time. I know I’ve done it. In the moment, we sometimes just don’t feel we have the mental energy to push ourselves to make our words really sing and dance. Sometimes, when this happens, I tell myself, “I’ll come back to it and fix it later.” And sometimes, that’s the best strategy: to just come up with a “place-holder” paragraph or page and then polish it up.

On the other hand, I’ve found that it can also be a fruitful and a great form of discipline to stop and really focus on the problem on the page and solve it to the best of my ability right in the moment. When I push myself this way, the results can be surprising. Instead of taking a shortcut, I take the long way home and the universe rewards me with a better word, a better phrase, sometimes even a better approach.

When we “finish” our work – when we give whatever it is we’re writing the very best that we have to offer at the moment, when we turn away from the shortcut or the slapdash solution for small, everyday writing challenges we face, there’s a powerful reward waiting for us: We’re training ourselves to pay time and attention to the bigger, more important aspects of a project. That’s a gift we can give ourselves.

How about you? Do you find that “finishing” off something you’re working on is really satisfying and productive? If you have any approaches that work for you, I’d love to hear about them as we all write on!

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Winnie Writes

I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English.” Winston Churchill

Affectionately known as “Winnie,” both Churchill’s speeches and his prose are widely d mired the world over for their elegant and magisterial style. I just came across a book of his called “My Early Life: A Roving Commission.” In it he shares his musings on writing:

“I began to see that writing, especially narrative, was not only an affair of sentences, but of paragraphs. Indeed I thought the paragraph no less important than the sentence….Just as the sentence contained one idea in all its fullness, so the paragraph should embrace a distinct episode; and as sentences should follow one another in harmonious sequence, so the paragraphs must fit on to one another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages.

“Chapterisation also began to dawn on me. Each chapter must be self-contained. All the chapters should be of equal value and more or less of equal length. Some chapters definite themselves naturally and obviously; but much more difficulty arises when a number of heterogeneous incidents none of which can be omitted have to be woven together in what looks like an integral theme.

“Finally the work must be surveyed as a whole and due proportion and strict order established form beginning to end. I already knew that chronology is the key to easy narrative. I already realized that ‘good sense is the foundation of good writing’….

“It was great fun writing a book. One lived with it. It became a companion. It built an impalpable crystal sphere around one fo interests and ideas. In a sense one felt like a gold fish in a bowl; but in this case the goldfish made his own bowl. This came along everywhere with me. It neve got knocked about in traveling, and there was never a moment when agreeable occupation was lacking. Either the glass had to be polished,or the structure extended or contracted, or the walls required strengthening.

“I have noticed in my life deep resemblances between many different kinds of things. Writing a book is not unlike building a house or planning a battle or painting a picture. The technique is different, the matrials are different, but the principle is the same. The foundations have to be laid, the data assembled, and the premises must bear the weight of their conclusions. Ornaments or refinements may then be added. The whole when finished is only the successful presentation of a theme.”

I love Churchill’s no-nonsense view of writing, don’t you? He approaches it as a craftsman and learns as he goes. A great attitude to embrace as we all write on.

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Martin Motivates

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King’s birthday is actually January 15th, but since it is being celebrated this week, I thought I’d inspire us all with some of his words of wisdom about hope, faith, life, and excellence:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive
out hate; only love can do that.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness
like a mighty stream.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well….Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.”

And whatever your goals and dreams are, your words matter—believe in their power and write on!

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Inspiring Insights

A gathering of wise thoughts to fill our creative sails and spur us on:

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon y imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein

“What lies behind us and what lies fore us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams on your heart. It is only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” Roy T. Bennett

“The word you desire can be won. It exists…it is real..It is’s yours.” Ayn Rand

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the close door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Helen Keller

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” Hanukkah Murakami

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Paolo Coello

“It is a mistake to look to dear ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one line at a time.” Winston Churchill

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Alva Edison

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

“It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” Walt Disney

“What you seek is seeking you.” Rumi

And now, enriched and energized, let’s all write on!”

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Something Wonderful

by Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

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