Monthly Archives: July 2016

A reminder, and another giveaway coming!

The day is almost over, and with it goes your chance to enter the draw for a copy of Darlene Foster‘s bilingual children’s book Cerdito a juicio  — Pig on Trial. This book is as good for adults learning Spanish as it is for children to enjoy.

Perhaps you know someone who would like this book. You can enter the draw for them, or direct them here.

Tonight at 9:00 EST a winner will be determined (thanks to an automatic random name picker), so check your email. I will make the announcement here tomorrow morning.

The next day, August 2, I will be offering my eighth 2016 monthly giveaway!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!

Stress & burnout: a post by Kristen Lamb

This afternoon I read the following post, which says so much of what I feel. It’s a good reminder of things I knew, but also addresses burnout. It’s such a good post I am reblogging it for your benefit, from:
We Are Not Alone —  Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Stress & Burnout—How to Get Your Creative Mojo Back

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

The past few years have been just brutal. My grandmother who raised me was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was just one crisis after another and it just never…freaking…let…up. I felt like I was in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu being crushed all the time, but not allowed to tap out. Then, on Independence Day (ironically) my grandmother finally passed away.

I really never appreciated how much her declining health was impacting me until she was gone. It was like I was wandering around in a fugue state only aware that my knees hurt. Then out of nowhere a hand lifted off the 500 pound gorilla and I could breathe again. I never noticed the gorilla, never noticed the lack of air, only the knee pain.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.57.04 AM

So now I am in the process of rebuilding. I plan on taking a couple days off to just rest and get away from all the work that piled up for me to do. Hit my reset button, so to speak. But I figured blogging about this might help some of you who are struggling, too.

Burnout can come from all directions—family, job, marriage, illness, death. Sometimes we are not even aware how hard we have been hit until something radical changes (for me, a death). We are the frog being slowly boiled alive, oblivious that maybe we should jump out.

Writer’s Block

The words won’t flow and you think you might have worn out your thesaurus function looking for another word to say “the.” You might be your own worst enemy.

Writing can be therapeutic. True. But, our creativity can also be one of the first casualties of too much stress, which makes sense when we really study what is happening to us when we’re under too much pressure.

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Biology 101

Have you ever wondered why you can’t remember half of what you said after a fight? Wondered why it seems the only time you can’t find your keys is the day you’re late for work? Been curious why you said the stupidest comments in the history of stupidity while in your first pitch session with an agent?

Yup. Stress. But how does stress make perfectly normal and otherwise bright individuals turn into instant idiots?

Basically, the same biological defense mechanisms that kept us alive hunting bison while wearing the latest saber tooth fashions are still at work today. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in tandem to regulate the conscious mind. Sympathetic gears us for fight or flight. Parasympathetic calms us down after we’ve outrun the bear…or opened that rejection letter.

In order for the sympathetic system to do its job effectively, it dumps all sorts of stress hormones into the body—DHEA, cortisol, adrenaline—to enable that super human strength, speed, and endurance required to survive the crisis. The problem is that the human body thinks in blanket terms and cannot tell the difference between fighting off a lion and fighting with the electric company.

The human brain is divided into three parts:

Cerebral Cortex—higher thinking functions like language, meaning, logic.

Limbic/Mammalian Brain—used for experiencing emotions.

Reptilian Brain—cares only about food, sex, survival.

I believe that writers (and people in general, for that matter), could benefit greatly by truly understanding stress and the affect it has on the mind and body. A brain frazzled to the breaking point physiologically cannot access information contained in the cerebral cortex (higher thinking center). Thus, the smart writer must learn to manage stress.

And for the purpose of this blog, I am referring to bad stress so there is no confusion.

Modern life may not have as many literal lions and tigers and bears, but we are still bombarded with their figurative counterparts all day, every day. When stress hits, the body reacts within milliseconds.

Welcome to Stress Brain

This is me right now *head desk*

This is me right now *head desk*

The sympathetic nervous system floods the body with hormones, increases heart rate, pulls blood away from digestive and reproductive systems, etc. And, most importantly, it diverts blood supply to the mammalian and reptile brain at the expense of the cerebral cortex. Apparently the body feels your witty repertoire of Nietzsche quotes are not real helpful in lifting a car off your child.

Thus, since the mammalian brain is in high gear, this explains why it is not uncommon to experience intense emotion while under stress. This is why crying, when confronted or angry, is very common. It is also why, once we calm down, we frequently wonder why we were so upset to begin with…mammalian brain overtook logic.

This is also why the gazillion action figures your child leaves littered across the floor suddenly becomes a capital offense two seconds after you accidentally set dinner ablaze. Your emotions have taken front and center stage and knocked logic into the orchestra pit.

Another interesting point…

When the sympathetic nervous system prepares us for fight or flight, our pupils dilate. The purpose of this is to take in as much information about a situation as possible. The problem is that, although we are seeing “more” we are actually seeing “less.” The body is totally focused on the cause of the stress. This is why, when we’re running late to work, we see every clock in the house, but cannot seem to find our car keys.

This also explains how, once we take time to breathe and calm down, those keys have a way of magically appearing in the same drawer we opened 763 times earlier (while screaming at the kids, the dog, the cat, the laundry….). Poof! Magic.

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Once we understand and respect stress, it seems easier to give ourselves permission to go on vacation or truly take a day off. It is a matter of survival. When bad stress piles up, we physiologically are incapable of:

1) Being productive.

That book proposal will take 15 times longer to prepare because you keep forgetting the point you were trying to make in the first place.

We will wear out the thesaurus function on our computer looking for another way to say “good.” Face it. Stress makes us stupid.

2) Making clear decisions.

We won’t be making decisions from the logical part of our brain, so eating everything in the house will actually seem like a good idea.

3) Interacting in a healthy way with our fellow humans.

The new trees for your back yard might never get planted because your husband will be too busy plotting a way to bury you under them.

The most important lesson here is to respect stress. We must respect its effects the way we should alcohol. Why do we make certain to have a designated driver? Because when we’re sober, we think clearly and know that driving drunk is a very poor decision. Yet, the problem with alcohol is it removes our ability to think with the higher brain functions. Stress does the same thing. It limits/obliterates clear thought.

That’s why it is a very good idea to have people close to us who we respect to step in and 1) force us to back away and take a break, 2) convince us to take a vacation, get a pedicure, go shopping, hit the gym 3) give us a reality check, 4) take on some of the burden, 5) run interference with toxic people.

Like great violinists take great care to protect their hands, we writers would be wise to do the same with our emotions and our minds. So when the stress levels get too high and you start seeing it seeping into your writing, it is wise to find a way to release stress. Take back the keys to your higher thinking centers! Take back that cortical brain!

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Exercise, read, pray, meditate, watch a movie, laugh, do yoga, take a walk, work in the garden. Most of all…write. But do a different kind of writing. Write without a care in the world. Ever wonder why experts advise us to do freewriting when we hit a wall?

Seems counterintuitive, but it is actually super smart when you think about the biology lesson we just had. If we can just write forward, without caring about the clarity or quality, we often can alleviate stress rather than fuel it. This freewriting can calm us back into the cortical brain so later, when our head is back on straight, we can go back and clean up the mess.

Which is exactly what I will do…after I go for a walk.

What are some ways you guys deal with stress? How do you overcome writer’s block? Have you been through caregiver burnout? How did you recover? Hey, I am a work in progress too😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you!

 

A reminder: The above is reposted from Kirsten Lamb’s blog you can visit HERE.    Please visit her blog and leave her a comment, too.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

A quote for today

I read this quote last weekend, and since I’ve been in a horrible funk I thought perhaps someone else may benefit from it as well.

“DON’T TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU; FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY. IT’S THE ONE AND ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO OFFER.” – Barbara Kingsolver

From a writer’s point of view it makes sense.  What do you think?

Remember to enter the draw for a copy of Cerdito a juicio – Pig on Trial – by Darlene Foster. You have until July 31 at 9:00 PM Eastern. 

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Book Review: Cerdito a juicio; comment by author Darlene Foster; & book giveaway!

Cerdito a juicioBook: Cerdito a juicio 
(translation: Pig on trial)
Author: Darlene Foster
Publisher: Ediciones Camelot SRL
Date: March 24, 2015
Genre: children's
Pages: 30; paperback
Price:  $12.00
My rating: enjoyable bilingual medieval tale

Poor Fredrick! He was innocently minding his own business when soldiers showed up and arrested him, and ten-year-old Sebastian could do nothing about it. When Father came home, immediately the decision was made to go and sort out the misunderstanding. He took Sebastian with him, and what transpires is not quite as easy a rescue as expected. Fredrick was slated to be executed, and  Fredrick is the family’s pet pig!

Imagine medieval times, bizarre accusations, a pig on trial and the efforts to rescue him – as told by a ten-year-old boy. Now you have an interesting story.  Plus it’s in two languages – English and Spanish.

When I asked author Darlene Foster if there was anything she wanted to tell me about the story or the writing of it, here is what she said:

“I got the idea for the story a few years ago when I learned that animals were put on trial and sometimes executed in medieval times. I thought that children might find that interesting. Then, I met someone who, when he was a child, had a pet pig called Frederick, and I loved that name for a pig. As often happens, I couldn’t sleep one night, so I got up and scribbled down the first draft of the story. When I moved to Spain, I was introduced to a publisher here. He offered to translate the story into Spanish so we could offer a bi-lingual book to children (and adults) who wanted to learn either language. I am pleased with how the book turned out and will be doing readings at four outlets in Spain this summer.”

Congratulations, Darlene! 🙂  This is a wonderful book. 

Here’s an inside view to show you how it’s laid out in two languages:

Cerdito a juicio.2Now, to my readers located anywhere in the world I am offering one copy of Cerdito a juicio. If you want to put your name in for your chance to win this book, all you have to do is leave a comment about anything mentioned in this post. Easy peasy. 

You have until July 31 at 10 PM AST, that’s 9 PM Eastern, to get your name in. Don’t put it off! I will use an automated random name picker to select one winner. The next day, August 1, I will make the announcement of who won  Darlene Foster’s Cerdito a juicio.

You can find Cerdito a juicio on my BUY THE BOOK page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Did someone say books?

One afternoon last week my daughter met me in town after I’d dropped my little Meyya off for her grooming. I had awhile to do what I wanted before going back for her, so we went shopping in a secondhand (mostly clothing) store. The fun thing in that store is they now have shelves of used BOOKS! My attention on clothes was quickly diverted when I discovered that. Even better – the sign said: BUY 2 GET 1 FREE! Oh. My. Gosh. I was in the right place!  happy happy happy!   Not that I needed more books to add to my already toppling over TBR pile, but … um … yes I did!    You understand.  🙂

Look at what I bought for $15.00! Plus one not in this shot.

books bought at Frenchy'sI don’t know about you, but I love books no matter whether they are new, used, or very old – and I hope you do, too.  Two of these books I plan to give away on my blog. I’ll let you know later when I’m offering them, one at a time. 

About the above books:

  1. I bought Assassin’s Apprentice – by Robin Hobb because when I was on a bus trip with a friend – I talk about that HERE – there was a fellow on the bus reading one of the author’s books. I had to ask, even though I didn’t know this guy … because seeing anyone immersed in a book makes me curious. He told me the author writes really good fantasy novels. (You know I love fantasy.) He said if he’d not left at his girlfriend’s the one he’d just finished he’d have given it to me! Wasn’t that sweet of him? When I came across this book, of course I had to have it.
  2. The Great Gatsby – by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I’ve watched the movie. Is the book better? I have to find out.
  3. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – I hadn’t read any of her writing, so this was my first. Someone will win this book. 
  4. Song of Solomon – by Toni Morrison – I’m not sure about this one yet, but I’ve wanted to read some of the author’s work and this seemed a good place to start.
  5. The Pursuit of Happyness – by Chris Gardner – I saw the movie of this true story starring Will Smith and his son, and I loved it! I was excited to find the book. Again, is the book better?
  6. I’m Not Wonder Woman – by Sheila Walsh – I’ve read a book by this Christian author, and reviewed it HERE on my blog. I’m interested in seeing what else she has to say.
  7. The Man Who Was Thursday – by G. K. Chesterton – has been recommended a few times by a friend, so when I saw this copy I had to have it!
  8. You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It – by Suze Orman I picked this one up because I thought it would be of interest to my husband. Turns out it is directed much more to the US economy – so guess what I’ll be doing with this book?  😉
  9. The little book I don’t have in this picture is called Bad Cat: 244 Not-So-Pretty Kitties and Cats Gone Bad – by Jim Edgar. It’s quite funny, and since three of my daughters are cat lovers the book has started its rounds.

Have you read any of the above? And of those that have been made into movies, which is better – the book or the movie?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

I am grateful – a video

It’s time to work out my funk. Sometimes things pile onto me and all I can easily see is problems and frustrations. It’s clear I have to adjust my attitude. I have to remind myself that I have so much to be grateful for, and I really, truly am grateful. With an attitude like that the blues and self-pity can’t stick. So … be gone negativity! This is a new day. 

I was just now reminded of a scripture verse I particularly appreciate: This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.  – Psalm 118:24

In light of that, today I am sharing with you a video you may have already seen and hopefully will like to watch again. It’s a spoken word poem by Natalie Patterson, as you will note below.

Enjoy!

Sending you hugs.

How do you pull yourself out of a potentially down day? For what are you grateful?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

We have a winner of my 7th Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who entered my July giveaway contest!

We have a winner!

The prize is this:

giveaway #7

 

 

 

I used Random.org name picker and found out that the winner …

 

with this comment:

“Such practical materials:) lovely picks. I would use the bag to store my journal and writing pens, it will be easier to have them all in one place.”

 

is:

Maemi!

Congratulations, Maemi. I’ll get this into the mail to you soon, hoping Canada Post doesn’t strike.

To everyone who is interested in my giveaways, I’ve been watching for and setting aside fun things that, in some way, have to do with reading and/or writing.  The AUGUST giveaway will be posted in a couple of weeks and is something special!  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)