The Gift of Failure


I have read that the older people get the less they try new experiences. They specialize and only do things with which they feel comfortable. If they hate driving highways, they take the backroad. If they hate socializing, they stay in their homes. If they hate reading, they never visit a library.

As kids in school, we were forced to expand our boundaries, to do things we are not good at and in fact hate. Geeks who never played outside had to run the mile and play sports. Boys who hated reading had to recite aloud from Shakespeare. We all survived and were glad when it was over.

I never realized that the fear-of-the-new applied to me until recently. As of the last year, money has gotten tighter, and I had to seek out a new part-time gig. I had waited tables in my youth and thought it would be something I could pick up again easily, like riding a bike—right?

I was wrong.

I didn’t realize how different I had become over the last twenty years. I was still good with people, but the computer systems were different. I was slower. My short-term memory had not been at full capacity in about a decade. Items were forgotten. Customers were upset.

My entire body wound up in a ball of tension. The more made mistakes I made the less confident I felt, which led to more mistakes. My head ached.

I explored this reaction. Why was I so upset over failing?

When I was twenty-four years old and made a mistake, I was embarrassed but moved on. Now it felt somehow magnified. I was so used to being good at everything.  I didn’t remember how to learn, how to take mistakes and use them to improve. My errors froze my ability to think and reason.

I am slowly improving. People have been overall understanding, and I haven’t been fired yet. But if I had a choice I would have left and never returned. I am trying to be more relaxed and enjoy the process of success and failure, learning the tricks of the trade, allowing my mind and body to absorb a completely new process of behavior without judgement. Because with judgement comes stress, and with stress comes mistakes and the domino effect of horribleness.

For the last few years, I’ve been toying with the idea of going indie with my writing. I think one of the things that held me back was fear of doing something new. Fear of not being good. Fear of being judged. But if this stint as a server has taught me anything, it is that I will be wrong. I will fail. But in the end. I will learn. It may be painful, like when someone complains or I get a one star review on Amazon. It will also be fantastic when I get a nice tip, or someone tells me they love my characters.

I need to learn to love to fail, because it is in the fertile ground of failure that you can grow success. What about you?  Fail epically at something?  Still striving to expand your horizons? Let me know in the comments.


Ode to a Library


I was stuck without a way to write this week. No email or books or laptop, just a few hours between two events and not enough time to go home. I found myself searching for a way to be productive even without any resources and for the thousandth time in my life, the local library came to my assistance.

I borrowed one of their terminals, got my daily word count, and had enough time to find a book and check out the third season of Doctor Who on DVD. As I sat at the Brighton Library and looked out the window at their immaculate landscaping, a sense of peace came over me. It was like the library was watching out for me and providing for me like a friend, and it wasn’t the first time.

I remember many things in elementary school did not live up to my expectations. Recess was ok, but you still had to avoid getting beat up and cussed out by the big kids or ostracized by the cool kids. I was excited when they took us on a trip to the laboratory. Thinking it would be like the mad scientist labs in the movies, but was sorely disappointed by the lavatory, which in my vernacular was just a stinky bathroom.

The only thing that truly made my young jaw drop was the library. The shelves were huge, and the room seemed to go on forever with more books then I had ever seen in my life. I was angry that we were limited to two books and could only pick from certain sections, but the visit was thrilling and enflamed a lifelong love affair with libraries.

I found the local library soon after and during the long summer months, before the days of internet and twenty-four hour television with DVRs and DVDs, books provided an escape from the monotonous day to day, a release valve for the imagination, and a fortress from the 100 degree heat.

I got so upset when my mom didn’t have time to drive me that I walked the five miles from my house to the library on a busy highway, not bothering to tell her where I was going. I think I may have been 11 years old. I really didn’t know how I was going to get back with all my books, and I didn’t care. Arriving at the building was like seeing an oasis; I spent the next three hours in Nirvana. (Mom figured out where I was and picked me up btw).

Later when I had kids of my own and no money to entertain them, I took them to the Howell Library to play computer games, pick up books, and borrow VHS tapes. When they were teens, they joined the writing club and participated in carnival style events and movie nights. For a single mom, the library was an invaluable haven.

Later, I discovered my first in-person writer’s group through a library and met most of my best friends in those groups.

As the community moves into a new generation of ebooks, I find again the library is on the cutting edge with apps that allow virtual lending. Some libraries will even lend an e-reader to patrons for in house use.

Libraries serve as meeting places, resources for job searches, information, and research. They have proven time and again to be a lighthouse in a dark and choppy sea of life that I can depend on to light the way into a safe harbor of knowledge.

One of my favorite libraries, the Brighton District Library is currently seeking a millage and I encourage you, if you live in the area, to vote yes to supporting this fine institution, so that more people can have the same joy, comfort, and happiness that I have experienced over the last forty years.

I would not be the educated, informed, entertained, and happy person I am today without the support of libraries.

Have libraries affected your life in any meaningful way? Leave a note in the comments or just stop in and say hi!

Writing Fast

500 wordsI have been experimenting with writing speed and word count goals. Lately, there has been a plethora of blog post, podcasts, and books that extol the values of writing quickly or fast drafting.

Write 5000 words an hour! Draft a book in a weekend! A book in a month! Easy in your spare time.

Now I would love to write quality first draft material at this speed, but I had my doubts. Can I even type that fast let alone move a story along in a logical way? I listened, read, researched and I’ve found several ways that really worked. Maybe not 5000 words an hour, but I can write significantly faster if I observe these factors.

Shout out: Many of the best habits I found came from Rachel Aaron’s From 2-10K.

Best book on writing faster—period.

I’ve been trying to do a daily  count of 500-1000 words. I noted that some days the words just flowed and others it was like trying to coax out an impacted wisdom tooth. Rachel’s book pointed out that  preplanning every scene, using a loose outline to guide your writing, even if it’s just a line or two, helps you have a target to aim for which keeps the prose from meandering.

Another gem I learned is to have a block of time, usually over forty-five minutes, to devote to a writing sprint. Getting back into a story and easing into the skin of the characters takes time and when time is limited the prose becomes stilted.

I’m not saying trying to eke out 250 words in a fifteen minutes sprint is bad. It’s great training for producing on a schedule, but when you give yourself forty-five minutes to two hours, the muse will know he/she has time to come out and play, and the writing flows.

Like a space shuttle taking off uses most of its fuel to get out of the Earth’s atmosphere, writing takes the most energy to get started. Once you find a rhythm and have a target of where you want the scene to go then the words come like a monsoon instead of a spring sprinkle. I highly recommend Rachel’s book (and it’s only 99cents)— a quick read and stuffed full of great tips.

What about you? Do you have a method to get more words faster? I love productivity tips so feel free to share. Or just stop by to say hi.

Why Bilbo Baggins is my Hero



You may have guessed that because I am a writer, I would have chosen J.R.R. Tolkien, but read on and find out why I consider myself a creature of Middle Earth.

I have always been a hobbit-type person. I like my comforts, my home, good food, and gardening — a simple life. I also always wanted to see mountains. But like Gandalf swooping in and shooing my out my front door, circumstance and finance have pushed me back into the job market. I am interviewing again (for a second job) and the process is surreal.

Going in, I wondered why a potential employer could want me when I’m older, slower, and have been out of school longer than some of my interviewers have been alive….then I realized that what I saw and what they saw were two very different things

I thought my age and lack of recent experience in the field would be a major drawback. The employers seem to be attracted to my reliability, real life experience, and leadership abilities, as well as, my proven track record of adaptability. I thought my super long resume would be a turn off, but they see a long job history of reliable service with excellent references.

All the issues that I thought would hold me back are pushing me forward. Like a hobbit with a cadre of dwarves as my companions, I press on.

The more I explore and interview and see results, the more I feel encouraged and adventurous. I understand how Bilbo, even after facing dragons and trolls and spiders, still wanted to see mountains.

I’m still a bit scared. Will I be accepted? Will I be able to handle another job and my home and writing?  Can I earn enough money to launch my indie publishing career, or will I melt in the vortex of stress and scattered goals?

I recall my 10K race and know that I thrive when challenged. I can do this. I will do this. Bring on the rain and monsters, because I can handle them. I will earn the extra money to get my words into the world and provide a buffer for emergencies. And I will someday see mountains. Just like Bilbo.

Good for the Soul



Let me tell you about my fitness/running background. I was a bookish, nerdish girl and hence was not very drawn to physical activity. In junior high, PE was a required subject, and I dreaded it with a singular passion. It was the only class I consistently failed at, even when I tried a somersault or to catch a football, the attempt ended with me in a crumpled heap on the sweat-drenched mat.

Then one beautiful spring morning the gym teacher decided to do a running unit. I hated it. My chest hurt. My legs hurt. Everything hurt. I had to walk most of my required mile run. The days and weeks passed more walking, more hurting. Finally, something strange happened. I started liking it.

The activity was easier than the others and seemed to use mostly mental focus. Oh, there were the boys who ran their 6 minutes miles that lapped me which still made me feel like an incompetent athlete, but something clicked. I walked less, the cadence gave me time to think and cleared my head, I had my first endorphin rush and I was hooked. I didn’t become a regular runner until my later teens and then dropped and picked it up over the years, but for the last seven years I’ve been a dedicated runner. Treadmills and trails, roads and sidewalks, I’ve run them all.

At first, a 5k seemed daunting so I trained and in 2009 I did my first 5K. Work and life intervened and I ran for fun. Then this year I committed. I would do a 10K and if I completed it then I would consider longer distances.

I knew people older than me did these races. I knew I had run almost that far before in training, but it’d been 6 years since my last race, and I was a slow runner. I had to prove something to if not the world at least myself.

I signed up for the my 10K and arrived on the night even with a storm on the horizon. I figured I could quit if it got too bad. I met a couple of runners while I was waiting in the holding pen before the race, both in their mid-thirties-ish and fresh off their first half marathon. They were just using this race a tune up. Their numbers were 1 and 2 respectively.


At last, the loud speaker began to belch, Eye of the Tiger and I was off. I started at the back of the pack and held back on my pace knowing I would burn out if I started too fast. Everyone passed me. Seventy year olds passed me. Seven year olds passed me. People with strollers passed me. I had flashbacks to my junior high gym class. The last one chosen. The one who had to walk. The one who couldn’t catch the football.

But I went back to my mantra. I may not be first, but I will finish.


The forecast called for rain, but I prayed it would hold off until we were done. And it looked fairly clear when the crowd lumbered out of the corral like a giant dinosaur. The speedy people flew away and the crowd thinned. I forgot about the press of people around me, the ones who were older, younger, or had a child-in-tow, and I listened to my music and my heart.

Just like another training run.

By mile 3 the 5 K was almost done and the number of other striders petered out. At mile 4 I felt the first drop of rain. I prayed harder that the waterworks would hold off.

A few fun facts about my running, I don’t like running in the afternoon; I have to run on empty to feel good. I don’t like running in extreme heat or cold, no matter what I wear it just isn’t comfortable. And I don’t like running in the snow or rain. The chance for injury and iciness is just too great. I was already had two of the things I detested. Then came the rain in like Thor was waving his freakin’ hammer.

Some of my faster co-runners were already finishing with the 10K. I was close, only 2.2 miles left but my legs felt leaden. The wind started blowing, and the sky turned black. Of course, it had to happen today. They would call the race because of weather. But the others kept running and so did I.

The sky rumbled with thunder, and lightning flashed in the sky. My already overtaxed heart sped up. I wondered if I was going to die. Then I grew very calm as the wind and rain lashed at me. I would not let gusty water stop me. Nothing would stop me. In fact, I felt energized. The training worked, my legs were a metronome. My brain was stuck on seeing the finish line. I laughed a little and dug in.

Mile 5 the storm blew past and I poured all that nervous energy I’d had into a final dash. I finished with an average of 11 minutes per mile which is 2 minutes faster than my fastest time. I wasn’t anywhere near first, but I did beat number 1 and number 2. I don’t think they had run on trails before and I’d trained on them all summer.

I wondered why the rain had to come in mile 4. Why couldn’t I have a nice clean, easy race? Then I realized. I thrive when challenged. The more obstacles the race threw at me the harder I worked, the more determined I got to finish–to not allow the elements to beat me. And it was empowering, not just for my running, but for my writing and my life in general. It reminded me what I’m made of. I can and will face the challenges thrown at me and even if I don’t win, I will fight until the end. So my first 10k was an adventure and a success. By the next day, I was looking up ½ marathons for next year, already looking for my next challenge. Looking for the next obstacle to overcome, because obstacles are good for the soul.


Is there anything you thought you couldn’t do then you succeeded? How did the experience empower you? Let me know in the comments. Or just stop by and say ‘hi’.