ALWAYS Learn from Others - Adventures and Misadventures in Writing

I'm taking a class from Lit Reactor called, Short Story Mechanics, which is taught by Richard Thomas. Today's homework was to write five hooks (four first lines and one first paragraph) for five different potential stories. I just posted the hooks into the online classroom portal (also below). Richard will review them and select ONE that I will use to write a story throughout the rest of the two-week class. The recovering control freak in me is a bit tense about allowing Richard to choose the story I'll write, but I think it's good for me to surrender to learning. Heh, heh, heh.

I'd ask your opinion about which hooks seem most promising, but I'm already giving away too much power! Kidding... I'd love to know if any of these hooks make you want to learn more!

Lilith peered over the back of her sofa and through the window blind slats to take notes about everything she saw—the lovers, cheaters, crooks, tweakers, dealers, and deliveries—like she’d done day and night for the last week.

Lennox Turtleman felt desperate but hopeful as he lowered his skinny naked body into the sensory augmentation tank, pulled the lid closed, floated with arms and legs spread wide, and began hummed Somewhere Over the Rainbow, just as Madam Naranja had instructed.

Cross-eyed Tommy was not cross-eyed, just a terrible shot, and so much so he now used snakes to guarantee weekly collections were never late.

Fern practiced every night after her waitress shift at the Route 66 Diner for the open mic night at the High Noon Poetry Saloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sebastian pulled the wrecked Chrysler 300 rental car into the Key West Marriott at 7:55 a.m., five minutes before he was expected to deliver the opening keynote speech to a room full of professional gamblers. Right on time, he whispered to himself and then shouted a celebratory shit yeah while pumping both arms in front of his chest. He looked at his shredded jacket, bloody white shirt, and stained pants. He’d have no time to change clothes. He grimaced at his cut up face in the rear-view mirror and then shrugged. A bellhop opened the driver’s side door. Sebastian got out and stood tall and proud. The end of the necktie he’d knotted around his head hung down in front of his eyes. The bellhop looked horrified. Sebastian stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a flattened Banana MoonPie. He handed it to the young man and smiled as he marched into the hotel and headed toward the grand ballroom.


Ignite possibility by owning flaws - A life lesson from Eminem's 8 Mile

This is a post about organizing for possibility. I watched the movie 8 Mile, which stars rapper Eminem and is loosely based on his early life.

The movie features rap competitions where rappers battle each other with words. There are several rounds, and during each challenge the loser is eliminated until the final two face off for the championship. These raps are spontaneously generated because they don't know who they'll battle until it's announced. Each performer tries to one-up the other and show how clever and poetic they are (hurling personal insults an such). It takes a lot of talent to compete - a mastery with words, phrases, rhyme, and rhythm.

The winner earns street credibility.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm about to discuss the final scene in the movie.

The dramatic ending of the movie is one of these competitions. This is Eminem's shot to show what he's got. He blasts through the early rounds, destroying his opponents with words. And then he has to battle the champion.

The mood in the room is tense and the crowd is clearly rooting for the champion. There's a coin toss to determine who will go first - most prefer to go last. The champion wins the toss. Eminem will go first.

He has 90 seconds to give his best rap. How does he approach it? A bit shaky at first but then he does something fascinating. He disses himself. He admits his flaws, he acknowledges all the bad names people call him, he fesses up to all the trash talking that could be hurled his way. He gives it to the champion, too, by revealing that he'd attended a private school and came from a finer background than most people knew (which is embarrassing). He ends his rap by inviting the champion to "tell the crowd something they don't about me."

Whoa - he takes the wind right out of the champion's sail! The champion has nothing to say and he caves. Eminem is victorious.

While I was listening to Eminem's final rap, I couldn't help but think that Dale Carnegie would be proud. You might think that sounds crazy. In How to Win Friends and Influence People (still the best book on human relations IMHO) Carnegie recommends that we be the first to be open about our failings. That we own our flaws. That we beat everyone to the punch.

This is not the same thing as being down on ourselves. I'm not suggesting this. We are all highly talented and highly flawed. And when we can be open about those flaws, we are better able to use our talents fully because because we carry mental garbage about it. Being open also allows us to better address our flaws.

And to be clear, even though Eminem dissed himself, he knew he was talented. He had dreams he knew he could fulfill if he did his best.

We can be confident and open about our flaws.

As Eminem walks out of the building after becoming the new champion, the theme song to the movie, a song by Eminem called Lose Yourself, comes on and takes us through the credits. This song was featured in a Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler (and also in 2020 for Biden/Harris). The lyrics are quite well written and motivating. And the last line of the song says it all.

"You can do anything you put your mind to."

This is not a post about being down on ourselves. It's a post about being cool with you, warts and all, such that you can keep growing and improving.

Even though I ruined the ending for you, check out the movie if you haven't seen it. It has a lot of curse words and deals with mature themes, as we might expect from a gritty movie about struggling rappers from Detroit. You've been warned!

I include Lose Yourself on my exercise playlist because it's motivating! 


Planning is NOT a Four Letter Word

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Caveat* I acknowledge that some are not comforted by the idea of planning when faced with uncertainty. But I am. It's December 31st, and I've got my new Panda Planner set up and ready to use tomorrow morning. 

  • I've taped my 2021 plan (it's flexible and might change) into the back of my planner. You can see my plan here.
  • The monthly page is filled out - not much information here as it's a snapshot.
  • Week 1 weekly page is completed - lots of great detail here for how I can have a successful week (taking uncertainties into account).
  • Day 1 daily page is ready to go. I'll fill in the first part of the day tomorrow morning. Five minutes. Then I'll complete the End of Day Review and prep the next day's page tomorrow night. Five minutes. Here's what that page looks like.

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Ten minutes each day. Another five minutes once per week. This works for me, but I'm a plotter, a planner, and a recovering control freak. And agile planner, though! I hope you've created whatever plan - or anti-plan - that works best for you.

Happy New Year! Yippee for 2021! 


We Live in the Future - So Why Not Dream Big?

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I've written about how we live in the future. We anticipate and prepare for what we think is going to happen. Whether that be a terrific vacation or dreadful 4-day zoom conference with presenters who will read from their busy Powerpoint slides. 

It's a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy and a dash of social construction at work. That's why it's important to have some big goal, maybe an epoch goal, to live toward. 

As we tumble into 2021, we can dwell on the realities of the pandemic and become paralyzed, or we can play full out in our best pandemic-modified way. The former likely feels more natural, but the latter will serve us well. 

We can make better things happen as we're living into an exciting future than we can when preparing for a depressing one.


How to Have More Microadventures - Outside Online

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I like this piece written by Alastair Humphreys for Outside Magazine called, 8 Principles for Living a More Adventurous Life

In particular, I love the idea of microadventures (and mini-misadventures, which I've written about). Humphreys wrote that the secret sauce seems to be:

"Simple + short + local + cheap = an achievable microadventure, unlike the vicarious adventure thrills you read about in magazines but never actually do yourself."

As you think about ways to make 2021 more satisfying than 2020 was - even with this pandemic still raging - the idea that "there's always something new to try" is worth mulling.


Netflix for Jigsaw Puzzles? Stress Relief 2021

I love jigsaw puzzles. They're my zen jam because I'm present and focused when looking for pieces. Puzzles also serve my need for immediate positive reinforcement. Each piece found and placed is a mini-win. And because I've bought a few puzzles online, I get a lot of ads in my Facebook feed for jigsaw puzzles. This morning, I got an ad for a puzzle club that called itself the Netflix for puzzles.

Pick a puzzle, get it in the mail, complete it, send it back, and get another puzzle. 

The idea is intriguing to me because I often grumble over what to do with completed puzzles. I usually donate them but worry they'll end up in the landfill. So a subscription service would solve this problem. I found this helpful article that compared the various jigsaw puzzle subscription programs. I had no idea there were so many!

And they vary quite a bit, with most not being very Netflix-like at all. Some ship monthly puzzles that you've bought and don't send back. And options are sometimes limited. That doesn't work for me.

Completing the Puzzle offers unlimited puzzles that you complete and send back, but you don't get to pick the specific puzzle you're getting (you tell them the type you like/don't like). So it's like Netflix but they decide what they'll send you. The control freak in me is a bit freaked out by this idea, but I like that the puzzles are borrowed, not bought. It's $25/month for a six-month subscription. Not cheap. Nicer puzzles are not cheap, either, and they say they select only high quality puzzles (with precision cut pieces that don't fray).

Why, Lisa, why is this worthy of a blog post? We all need to find stress management methods and habits that work best for us. Puzzles help get me into an almost meditative state in that my mind is focused and calm when I work on a jigsaw puzzle. 

I have one wee challenge with what is otherwise sounding like a terrific idea. My dog, Hazel, has on two occasions eaten puzzle pieces. Not just those I've dropped - that would be my fault. She's sought them out from on top of the table. If I got a subscription, I'd have to create a better system for keeping puzzle pieces from her. They let you off with a warning the first time you lose a piece but then charge you $5 for pieces lost. Yes, they count the pieces when puzzles are returned... and then quarantine and sanitize them.

I like that Completing the Puzzle is a small business. 

Hmmm...I thought this blog post was going to be informational, not a persuasive argument, but it ended up that way. Persuasive for me, that is, because I've talked myself into signing up.

It's called stress management and it's very important...Here's the last puzzle I bought and completed. I left it in the cabin in the woods we rented for a week. I hope others enjoy it. 

Puzzle


Elements of My 2021 Plan with Pics

I've been working on my plan for the year. Here are the elements.

  • Identify major thrusts/fuels that will be at my core.
  • Reflect on and define ONE area that I want to AMP UP and TWO practices/habits I'd like to reduce. 
  • I reminded myself of my decision filter (I wrote about that here).
  • Write a plan story (narrative that expresses what success will look and feel like). Adapted Scenario Based Planning method.
  • Created a digital vision board that corresponds to the story.

Here's my working draft. I've formatted the two rectangles so they fit perfectly when taped inside my Panda Planner, which I will use on a daily basis come January 1.

2021 Plan

And here's the corresponding digital vision board.

Edgy!

And here's my Panda Planner. I like this planner because it's flexible and helps keep me aligned and focused. I spend five minutes each morning and five minutes each evening working in the planner. These pics are from the Panda Planner website here.

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Classic_daily_1024x1024And here's how my 2021 plan will fit in the planner so I can regularly review it. I've just got paperclips on it right now because I'm still tweaking my plan. I'll tape it in so it's smooth.

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And that's what I've got done so far. I have my decision filter graphic as my phone wallpaper, and I'll put my vision board on my computer wallpaper. 

I hope you've been thinking about how to best roll into 2021. Happy New Year! 


Invitation: Let's Get Planning for a Satisfying 2021

I'll be taking the next two-three weeks to create my 2021 plan. I look forward to generating Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals BHAAGS (extra "A" intentional) and a scenario plan story that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand and tingle. There's no downside to thinking big, as long as I have a process that allows me to track my progress and make adjustments. I'll use my Panda Planner to take stock of my daily achievements and plan for an adventurous and misadventurous day, week, month, and year. I'll be blogging about this. But for now, here's my first order of business.

Note: If you'd like to work on your 2021 plan, I've created a private and temporary Facebook Group. You can join me here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/736192860340186

  1. December 15-31st. Generate a vision story for 2021. Create a picture for what an adventurous and audacious year looks like. For me, for where I'm at in my life/health, for this time. By the 28th, I hope to have distilled and crafted a story that expresses my intention for 2021. Here's a copy of my 2019 Goal Statement that I'll be using as my template. Notice that the top portion expressed my key themes and thrusts and the bottom was my scenario plan (expressed in past tense). The way you format or color your story plan is up to you. I did mine this way because it's a perfect fit to adhere to the back page of my planner and I love ORANGE.

Lisas 2019 goal statement