2016 and My ‘One Word’

We’re into another New Year, and I wish you a good one. Not everything we experience in 2016 is likely to be happy, but it can still be a good year, can’t it? A lot depends upon our perspective … our focus.

Unfortunately, I don’t always focus on the right things.

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Sometimes I’m not even looking in the right direction.

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I haven’t made New Year’s Resolutions for umpteen years; not since the realization that I rarely kept them, and thus proclaiming them only set me up for failure and humiliation. But I don’t go into the New Year without intending to accomplish certain things. (Intending is much more forgiving than resolving!)

Some years ago I discovered the ‘One Word‘ phenomenon, and each year since then have found a particularly meaningful word on which to focus. The word that has thrown itself into my path for 2016 is… ta da! FOCUS.

I really need better focus in my spiritual life, in my daily tasks, and in my writing, so it’s the perfect word choice for this new year. Hopefully it will provide the clarity I so badly need.

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(Pine Grosbeaks, with a few Common Redpolls in the background)

Is the New Year providing you with a new sense of focus? How are you challenging yourself?

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Hanging in there on a Monday

It’s Monday again… and I imagine many of you went into it already counting down to Friday. I happen to like Mondays, but I’m probably an oddity. (Stop nodding your head and laughing!)  Living through the week while being focused on something else is a little like what our resident squirrel does.

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He took all winter to figure out how to work his way over the squirrel-proof bird feeder and reach the one beyond it that contains his favourite black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

Squirrel 2The problem is, he’s so enamoured by his discovery of the food, he sometimes forgets where he is.

Squirrel 3Squirrel 4He throws caution to the wind (along with a lot of millet) and neglects the important aspect of hanging on, occasionally slipping right off.

The fall to our deck is about seven feet, but if he misses that — and he often does — he falls fifteen feet to the gravel path.

Lack of focus may not be his problem so much as ineffective multitasking.

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“Didn’t your momma tell you it isn’t polite to laugh at others?”

So, about this yearning for Friday business…. maybe wishing the days away isn’t as wise as putting all you’ve got into the present, even when you’re planning ahead for the weekend.

I’m sure there must be a writing analogy in this, but I don’t know what it is. I’ll leave it to your imagination. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to burying myself in my March Madness and Speedbo writing. 🙂

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What colours your writing and takes it from mundane to memorable?

You know what it can be like, driving through a winter landscape. There’s not a lot to see, but you’ve decided to make the trip, so you keep plowing ahead and eventually get to the destination.

“Mmm,” you might say, stretching road-weary muscles as you climb out of the vehicle. “What a long drive!”

“How was the trip?” a friend or family member will ask.

“Good, thanks… uneventful. It snowed a bit over the pass, but the roads were fine.”

Someone is bound to ask if you saw any game along the way, or stopped to take in any interesting sights. Unless something significant sticks out in your mind, you’ll probably not remember many details… just a lot of sameness. You’re happy to have made the trip — it wasn’t unpleasant — but you’re glad to reach the end of it.

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Such was the case on the day I snapped the following photograph. A fine snow blew sideways all morning, sending whirlpools of white sliding across the pavement. Distant scenes were pretty much obliterated and everything was dusted into a grey and white monotony. I didn’t take note of much, but I distinctly recall the stark contrast of the occasional orange-branched deciduous tree planted in various homesteads. I’m not sure what species it was, but the sight was memorable.

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge.)

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge.)

Reading a novel is very much like taking a trip. What  you remember about the experience — monotony or flashes of brilliant colour — depends upon the author’s skill.

In its writing, a story inevitably includes a certain amount of mundane action. It may be a transitional scene, or a means of showing necessary details of setting or characterization. But if nothing ever stands out as exceptional, a novel will be remembered (if it is remembered at all) as merely an “okay” read.

Nobody deliberately sets out to write a mediocre story, but it can happen all too easily as it progresses from one scene to another, from beginning, to middle, to end. Well planted plot twists, meaningful conflict, unique character(s), and distinctive settings help give a story colour and pull it out of the ordinary. So can well crafted writing.

If you haven’t read Donald Maass’s books on writing, I recommend them to you, especially WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. In it, Don shows “how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel—one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.” I don’t guarantee that best-seller bit, but following his suggestions can definitely put you on the road to being a better writer!

What makes a story memorable to you?

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