Terror or Thrill? You Decide!

Last week I shared a story —The Surprise— that I wrote in response to Brian Klem and Zachary Petit’s Bootcamp of Writing Prompts. If you missed it, read it here. But, I didn’t have an ending! I was hoping some of you would give me your ideas, but…no such luck. So, after giving it some thought, here’s the conclusion I came to:

Conclusion to “The Surprise”

You know, I’m a people person–always friendly, always offering helpful advice. So, when I began receiving these little gifts, I was sure that it was somebody’s way of saying “thanks.”

I deserved it!

But when I opened that file drawer, the lid covering a box inside slid back and something leaped out at me! Swiping at its fur, I screamed as an acrid aroma wafted into the air and my eyes began to burn.

I didn’t deserve this.

(The End)

Writing can be fun, but it can also be hard. J.K. Rowling says:

“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.”

But we can’t let the blank page intimidate us!

“I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent–and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.” Malcolm Gladwell

This wisdom gives me courage to keep writing. How about you? Stay tuned! Next week, more creative inspiration.

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

Cover photo courtesy of Warren Wong on Unsplash

It’s Time to Say Goodbye!

So, you may have noticed, if you’re a follower of this blog, that posts have stretched farther and farther apart lately. When we started this journey I was full of ideas! They flowed like a river, onto the page and out to your electronic devices. Granted, over the past two years, there have been some interruptions to this flow, but for the most part I have been able to find inspiration almost everywhere! Then came January 2019! This year has brought many changes—mostly positive—but it seems that I lost my footing. Somehow, I drifted off the path and away from the destination that I intended.

So, it’s time to bring it back!  Books & Coffee is for writers and creative people, like you, looking for inspiration, tips and tools for maintaining your creative flow.  But, even those of you who wouldn’t call yourself “writers” can identify with striving for something that is elusive—whatever it is you associate with success. For writers, it’s a book deal or publication, for others it’s just having your hard work recognized and valued. Whatever your gift, you long for the fulfillment of putting it to use and doing it well, yet sometimes struggle with both.

I get it! That’s why we’re here—to work through those difficulties and celebrate the successes.

With that goal in mind, today—and for the next few weeks—we’re going to tackle one enemy that is familiar to all writers—WRITERS BLOCK! Some say it’s an imaginary foe, but anyone who’s struggled with something knows it’s a thing when it keeps you from attaining your goal, even if–perhaps, especially if–it’s all in your mind!

But we’re not letting this one hold us anymore. Maybe your captor isn’t Writer’s Block, it doesn’t matter. You will discover that writing in and of itself is a powerful weapon. Want to give it a try? Here’s what you do:

  1. Put your butt in a chair
  2. Put your fingers on a keyboard (or, if your old school, grab a pen and paper!).
  3. Say bye-bye–literally!

Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s Block (or whatever “it” is). Start with, “Dear _______, it’s not you, it’s me …”.

Here’s mine:

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me:

I’ve allowed you to control me.
I’ve allowed you to make me feel inadequate.
I’ve allowed you to tell me I can’t.

But no more. I will not allow you to hurt me, hold me or tell me I’m nothing. You will no longer have the control over me that you once had, because I have been weak in the past, but I’m strong now. I’ve learned how to defeat you. I’ve been thinking about you and fretting over you all these weeks and months, but I have finally realized I don’t have to. In fact, focusing on you is what has kept me bound! Instead, I’m going to focus on me. And instead of looking at myself through your eyes, I am looking at myself through the lens of my Creator. You say I’m nobody, He says I’m somebody. He says I can be so much stronger than I am if I just walk away from you. It has been hard, because you’re very persuasive, but this is it! This is me taking the first step away…

Away from abuse
Away from turmoil
Away from defeat

I can do this. I can be what I was created to be as long as I stay away from you.

So, peace out.

What do you need to break up with? Write it in your journal or on a sheet of paper that you will tear into a million little pieces. It’s up to you. Just do it!

Maybe your break-up will inspire someone else to walk away from an unhealthy situation, share your break-up letter in the comments!

Next week: What would you do if someone started leaving little gifts on your desk every day? Come back next week and we’ll see if we can unlock the mystery!

Until next time, Happy Writing!

“Breaking up with Writer’s Block” from Brian Klems and Zachary Petit’s Bootcamp of Writing Prompts

Cover Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

Talk Less, Write More

Recently, I attended a dinner party where the host regaled his guests with stories of his successes, stories that were entertaining and engaging, even impressive–at first. But, after about twenty minutes, I realized that every other word out of his mouth was “I” and the only words anyone else got to say was “oh, really? hmmm….”. Honestly? It was #teamtoomuch. Eventually, I drifted…found something more important to do–anything was more important than this!

Unfortunately, though, this is not a rare occurrence. I often have to retreat to a quiet corner to escape this rising epidemic. There seems to be an increasing number of people with an apparently insatiable need to talk–about themselves!

While their conversation may cover many topics, one way or another they find a way to turn everyone’s attention back to one person:

“I’m not bragging” she says just before launching into a long litany of her achievements.

“I’m an amazing writer,” he says, jumping head first into a detailed description of his process and procedure. (By the way, truly “amazing writers” never say this.)

“Some wonder how I project such a calm and cool demeanor when I stand up to speak,” she says sailing seamlessly into a sermon on style.

It’s unbelievable! Mind-numbing and pervasive– heavily promoted in our “selfie”-centered culture.

Certain people simply enjoy the sound of their own voice, whether or not they have something of substance to say, and they seem to think that their audience will enjoy the sound of their voice in spite of the dearth.

Why? A wise person I know has said that the excessive focus on self is actually a cry for help. Perhaps there is actually something lacking that the person is attempting to mask with his overly boisterous bragging. What could it be?

If you like to talk about yourself all the time, what is it that you lack and how can we–your audience–help you?

Aaron Burr, Sir

One of my favorite lines from my FAVORITE stage play, Hamilton, is from Aaron Burr (not my favorite character, but nonetheless) to the young Hamilton. He says, “Can I offer you some free advice? Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”

Of course, Burr is a scoundrel but, although his advice is off base, there is a nugget of truth buried there. Hamilton and Burr were two sides of the same coin. Both orphans, both ambitious, and both on an upward trajectory. The difference between them is what made all the difference in how their stories ended. A crucial lesson for Hamilton was knowing when to speak and when to keep silent. A crucial lesson for Burr was knowing when to speak up for his beliefs.

What distinguished Hamilton, though, was his ability to write! He did not necessarily talk less, as Burr advised, but he did write more and, unlike Burr, Hamilton spoke up for what he believed, writing his way from obscurity right into our history books!

So, the lesson is this: Burr was right about one thing, people who are truly noteworthy don’t have to tell their audience how great they are. Their success speaks for itself. What we know about Alexander Hamilton we’ve learned from his writings and what was written about him.

So, maybe you have something important to say. Maybe you aspire to be great and happen to enjoy the sound of your own voice–can I offer you some free advice? Talk less. Write more.

Before launching into a diatribe with an unwitting audience, put it down on paper. Work it out in a journal, start a blog! Writing is a powerful tool for processing thought, expressing ideas and creating knowledge.

You never know, something you write could end up in a history book. Maybe someday we’ll be watching a stage play about your life! It could happen. Just let someone else tell your story. Then, not only will your words have a lasting impact, they will probably be more interesting too!

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?