Is it Discipline or Discouragement?


When used correctly, crates and exercise pens are very handy tools for dog training. Like a child’s playpen, they can be overused, or used for the wrong reasons, but they are invaluable when it comes to having a safe place to contain a puppy and avoid the havoc he could wreak when left untended.


Yes, he’d rather be outside romping with the children, tromping unfettered through the gardens, or chasing birds through the meadow and scampering down the driveway to the road, but for his safety and my sanity he can’t be allowed that kind of freedom.

As wistful as he may look in these photos, he doesn’t spend all of his confinement grumbling about it.


He snoozes, plays, and observes what’s going on — and dances with anticipation when one of us approaches with his leash. That means there’s a training time coming, complete with praise and snacks, and followed by a walk with opportunities for lots of exploration. It’s all part of the discipline associated with a puppy’s education (and in the early stages, of housebreaking).

I was writing a short story the afternoon I stopped to take these inside photos of our new puppy. When I later reviewed one of the shots, his expression seemed like one of reprimand. “How come you won’t take me outside if you’re not really working?”


Why was I so easily distracted? Was it lack of discipline or something else? I have to admit it was more a matter of discouragement. I have three pieces to write this summer, each with a deadline. The one with the closest deadline is for a contest I enter every year, and it’s giving me the most trouble.

I’ve had a breakthrough, though. I recalled the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein — that it’s doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. While my early entries in this particular contest were shortlisted a few times, they never won, and more recently they haven’t caught anyone’s attention. The same two people have been judging the fiction category every year for more than a decade, and I’ve realized that if they haven’t rewarded my writing before, it’s probably ‘insane’ to think they ever will. The contest is sponsored by a very reputable group and there’s great prize money, but no feedback is provided, no critique. You either win, or you don’t. I don’t, and I’ve finally concluded I’m wasting my time, energy and entry fees!

The revelation is freeing. I finished a different article and submitted it today, well ahead of when I’d planned. The remaining one is drafted and I have a month to work on its edits. I have time to go romp with the dog! Woo hoo! So much for my self-discipline. 🙂


How do you view writing contests? Do you enter many? Have you ever won?

~  ~  ~


Sunshine, Shadows and Moving On


As much as we might wish it, life isn’t full of blue skies. There are clouds and shadows, too — a lot of mountaintop and valley experiences. We know that.

Blog posts from fellow bloggers illustrate that many have faced staggering obstacles and struggled through difficult times.

The internet has made it easier to share our troubles and our faith, as well as our support for others. It helps to know we aren’t alone, but most often we’d prefer resolution to empathy. We’d rather have health than sickness, life than death, tolerance than bullying, peace than war – and, in the world of writers, publication rather than rejection. But those positives are elusive.

We all look for answers, but the reality I’ve found is that the only way out of the valley, out of the shadows, or past rejection, is to keep moving. Sustained by faith, we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Occasionally there are magic and miracles, but often as not we simply have to persevere on the journey. A hand along the way makes the going a bit easier. It gives us the opportunity to look up from the rocky path and see the sunshine in the distance. A glimpse of hope. But we still have to keep moving to reach it.

Have you reached out to accept, or offer, a hand of encouragement lately? What difference do you think it made?


Sending prayers and wishing sunshine to those in the shadows.


Thou art the Sun of other days. They shine by giving back the rays.
(John Keble, “The Christian Year: Easter Days”)


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
(Psalm 91:1-2)

~  ~  ~

Blowdowns and Abandoned Writing Dreams

Thank goodness for a 4×4 truck! As I’ve mentioned in at least one previous post, when we head north to our cabin, the route takes us via major highways, gravel logging roads, private dirt roads and eventually to our very primitive road.

There is no public access to our land, and therefore no road maintenance. When trees are down, or washouts happen, you know who has to deal with them.

A couple weeks before we arrived there for our summer holiday a localized tornado went through, affecting areas on a hit-and-miss basis. In some places only a tree or two went down; in others, whole stands fell over. We had to cut our way through three trees before we reached our cabin. Readymade firewood!

On our recent fall trip, the now leafless branches became art as they arched across their fallen neighbours. I’ve returned to these photos several times, noting how it was mostly the less mature growth that bent, broke or flattened in the pummeling wind. I see how tall and gangly some of the growth was — struggling to escape the crowd to reach elusive light.

The images morph into a question … whether experienced or perhaps more mature writers are better able to withstand the stresses of an uncertain future in today’s publication industry.

How often do newer writers become discouraged and decide to lay down their pens? What makes them give up on their dreams while others determine to hold on? I wonder why some writers seem more firmly rooted in the path they’ve chosen.

I’d like to hear your ideas.


Happy 176th Birthday to Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” [Mark Twain]


The Writer’s Eureka Moment


Sometimes it’s writer’s block, sometimes mental exhaustion or impossible expectations, that drag us to a standstill. A lethargy sets in that smothers ambition and overshadows everything with its ‘I’ll-never-get-out-from-under-this-cloud’ sense of gloom. If you haven’t experienced it, you likely know others who have.

The thing is, it feels as if it will never end, but it always does.

If we’re writers, we’ve struggled for hours, days, maybe even months, to find the key to some plot dilemma. The harder we try, the farther success retreats. The brain is funny that way. It taunts with a conviction that we’re doomed to fail.

When we refuse to be overwhelmed by discouragement, refuse to give up, we inch forward with increasing momentum. We find other places for our minds to dwell while the subconscious works on the problem, until…


Endorphins release the elusive creativity… or some similar momentous action occurs. That’s my take on it, anyway. I’m not aware of any scientific explanation for why the brain suddenly allows an idea to explode out of the suffocating grey matter into the bright light of inspiration. I don’t need an explanation. I know it happens if I allow myself a smidgen of optimism and a large dose of patience.

How would you describe that moment of revelation? Where are you at present: nearing a breakthrough, streaking along in the light, or still trying to shove the cloud away?

Never fear. The light WILL shine through.

~  ~  ~

“Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, oh Lord.”
[Psalm 25:7]

~  ~  ~

Mid-winter Writing Blahs

My houseplants are looking a little leggy and droopy these days. It might be they’re experiencing the mid-winter blahs that many of us feel at this time of year… discouraged from putting out any effort because light levels are low and chilly air hovers just beyond the window.

Maybe they need repotting in new soil and a bigger container where they can stretch out their roots and find fresh nourishment.

Maybe that’s what I need – something to stimulate growth, to encourage me to stretch.

In this winter of my creativity,



warmth to my soul,

wisdom to my words;

deepen the well of inspiration

in mind and heart

from which I would draw

in this winter of my creativity.



1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
 3 he refreshes my soul…   5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…. [Psalm 23:1-3,5-6]