BIG MAGIC for Creatives

At the suggestion of an author I follow, I checked the audiobook of BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR written by Elizabeth Gilbert. After all, I needed something to listen to while I cleaned the house and logged miles on the pavement.

In case you’re not familiar with authors, Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE, so she had a little authority in the are of creativity. As a bonus, she narrated the audiobook.

What’s the Magic?

Inspiration is the magic behind creativity. There’s tons of noise about listening to your muse and being inspired by certain things.

Gilbert has an interesting view on inspiration. She proposes that ideas are the offspring of inspiration. Ideas float freely through the air around us, buzzing into the hearts and minds of various people, looking for a receptive venue.

When they find an artist that pauses to consider them, they stay awhile. They plant their seedling concept into a ready mind where the willing artist considers it.

If the artist, waters and feeds and otherwise tends the idea, it happily grows and flourishes, until finally it becomes the premise for a novel, theme of a painting or thought behind a symphony. Then it goes fully formed into the wider world to be viewed and appreciated by everyone.

Should the artist give up on the idea, it won’t wait around forever. This is why sometimes when we set aside a project for awhile, when we come back to it, the magic is gone. We can’t get into the flow again. It suddenly feels stale and unimaginative.

Gilbert has proof for her hypothesis regarding ideas. It’s a real eyebrow-raiser, and involves an exchange of ideas with Ann Patchett through nothing more than a touch. That’s all I’ll say about that. Read (or listen to ) the book if you want to know the whole score.

Gilbert’s advice: consider art as a vocation rather than a career. Even if you do it full-time. Once you call it a career, the weight of responsibility (to pay the bills and feed the artist’s family) presses against ideas, stifling them.

She names many fears and addresses her own methods for counteracting them. She debunks the idea of a “suffering artist” and proposes creatives fill their well with love for their art. The art will reciprocate with kindness.

My Takeaway

I enjoyed the various anecdotes and personal experiences shared by Gilbert. This will be the only book of hers I have ever read (although I did see the film version of the best-seller mentioned above, but we all know it was NOWHERE as amazing as the book).

Although I’m not entirely convinced of her theory regarding ideas, I can see how she would have made the conclusion she did.

Ideas are inanimate. However, the Creator of all things could very well send them on the air and into the hearts and minds of people He wants to develop them.

I have said, “Inspiration struck. The words poured out of me.” However, this isn’t inspiration in the sense of “God-breathed” scriptures.

Instead, I mean an idea bloomed and was ready for harvest. It responded to my watering with introspection and my feeding through brainstorming or research. It’s growth can no longer be contained in my heart and mind,

Idea explosion makes me adore writing a first draft. Sure, some parts of it might be a struggle, but I’ve learned to skip to the part the muse want to expel. The other parts will fall in line–eventually. Or maybe they will end up being summarized, nothing more than connective tissue for the brain child birthed with a minimum of labor.

A few lines jumped out at me, and I scrawled them down. They’ll be fodder for reflection in the quiet corners of my mind.

It’s true fear dampens creativity, can destroy it altogether. This is why I chose “dauntless” for my word this year. And why I’ve embraced the unexpected opportunities that have flowed my way this year.

BIG MAGIC isn’t an especially long book, so I recommend it if fear is stifling your creativity. It can’t possibly hurt anything, right? And it might invite the Big Magic of Inspiration to drop an idea (or ten) in the fertile soil of your imagination.

If you’ve read this book, what was your takeaway? What fear stifles your creativity?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

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Paying the Ultimate Price: A Salute to Veterans

Veteran’s Day graces the November calendar, brightening it with red, white and blue. And although this isn’t a day to salute those who paid the ultimate price, it is a time to honor those WILLING to pay it.

Thank you to those currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. I offer you the deepest respect. And to those who served in the Armed Forces in times past, thank you for your service.

Yes, I’m technically a veteran since I served in the US Army Reserve, but it feels like a cheap imitation of the service given by men and women who left their families behind to face enemy fire in a hostile place. I’m in awe of those people (and there was a time in my life when I would have gladly been one of them).

A couple months ago, I read a blog post that touched me. It featured a military veteran.

The Price of Giving it All by Kelly Balarie

Two shadows appeared. One was a small, old, hunched over man with a cane and the other a young and vibrant woman with a flowery dress.

Sitting, they leaned in toward each other and talked. A father and daughter? 

All I could think as I noticed this man’s feeble body, his leaning body on that old war memorial was, “He must be telling her about a life that counted.”

He’s saying, “Sure, I paid a mental price, seeing all that war stuff, seeing people fall. The battles, the pain, the sacrifice. But when push comes to shove, I gave my all. My life. I offered up what mattered.”

Only a few minutes later, I saw the “Vietnam War Veteran” pin on his cap. I wanted to remember this man, because without saying a word, he delivered to my heart a message from God: Kelly, if you give it all up for me, you won’t look back and regret your life. You’ll sit on a memorial of what I did and rejoice over it.

I asked the man if I could take his photo.

To finish reading this post, click here.

I was touched by the idea that God used this bent soldier to speak to the heart of a normal woman. A woman who had never donned a uniform.

He used the old war memorial to remind her (and through her, me) that He will build a memorial of our faith when we give up everything for him.

Jesus promised to reward his followers if they willingly forsook all to follow him. This requires daily recommitting our future to him, picking up our cross and following.

Paul compares the Christian life to that of a soldier.

And let’s face it, most of us live in a cushy home and wear whatever uniform we want and eat things that make military chow resemble Dog Chow. So why aren’t we willing to give it all up for Christ?

As we enter these next few days, flags will fly. Memorials all over the U.S. will host special ceremonies to honor veterans.

If Christ is your savior, consider enlisting in his army, signing on for a lifetime of service. Suit up in the spiritual armor and step outside your comfort zone, committing to give Him all.

He already paid the ultimate price for you.

Are you serving Jesus? Can you commit to following him every day?

My Take on Charity: FIRST STREET CHURCH Blog Hop

Charity should be a lifestyle if we’re patterning ourselves after Jesus Christ. Do I succeed in charitable living? Nope. Not at all.

As we get closer to Christmas, awareness for charities will rise. Does this mean we feel more charitable during November and December?

I doubt it. 

Especially when consumerism sticks decorations and the latest-greatest-gadgets under our noses as soon as they get the back-to-school shelves cleared.

In recent years, this marketing push has made me relegate thoughts of Christmas to the back burner until later and later in December.

And that makes me sad.

Because I truly believe the spirit of Christmas is giving. Back in Bethlehem on that first Christmas, God gave us His only son, born in human flesh and humbled with a manger as a crib. That Son grew up to give His life as payment for our sins, purchasing eternal salvation for us—a gift we could never have gained any other way.

But all the media focus on giving to others sounds like another marketing sales pitch.

Charitable Causes

Which doesn’t mean I don’t care about those charities or give to any.

In the past, the ladies from our church have filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. This is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that focuses on getting essentials to children in third world countries.

It’s sobering to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap alongside socks and a small stuffed animal. I can’t imagine my kids needing a new toothbrush for Christmas because they get them at their semi-annual dentist visits.

Oh, the things we take for granted in our First World society.

Our church chooses a missionary family to shower with Christmas gifts. We know the ages of his children and purchase gifts accordingly, being sure to include a package for the man and his wife, too. Everyone loves opening presents (don’t they? I sure do!) and that’s part of the excitement of Christmas morning.

If we can’t ship the food for a Christmas feast, we send a gift card to a grocery store close to his mission field. How many people don’t have a food or dessert they connect with their Christmas memories?

For my sons, it’s the sausage roll-ups I always made for Christmas morning. For me, it’s Russian teacakes. My sister loves the decorated sugar cookies.

Traditions are a huge aspect of Christmas, and we want our missionaries to enjoy building them.

Charity after Christmas

Christmas isn’t the only time for being charitable. Christians should demonstrate charity every day of their life.

A recent project our church began is a barbecue lunch for the first responders in our county. We make a simple lunch (pulled pork sandwiches and smoked chicken) and take it to the main fire station.

We box up lunches that someone volunteers to take out to the 911 call center and the outlying fire stations.

It’s such a small way to thank these men and women for choosing to serve our communities every day. In fact, they put themselves in harm’s way and don’t stop to think about it.

That deserves more than lunch and a thank you, I think.

Still, the small things make a big impact. They touch a person’s life and the impression stays with them.

Sure, you can offer a coat to keep away the winter chill (and should if you can). However, what about the frozen tundra of the heart that is abandoned and alone during a time of year when it looks like everyone else has family and friends to celebrate with?

Charity should reach from your heart to the heart of the person you’re helping. And sometimes, all it takes is to meet their eyes and smile.

Who can you thank for their service? Who can you help with a few simple hours of your time?

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Heroes Heroes Everywhere

Heroes are everywhere. The best thing about natural disasters: they bring undercover heroes out in the open.
And because of smart phones that double as cameras and video recorders, these acts of heroism are easily documented in 2017.
For once, the viral posts on social media sites are things that make a person smile and feel good about being human. It’s a really nice change from the political diatribe and the newest report of yet another mass shooting.
I adore “citizen responders” as a descriptor for neighbors practicing the Golden Rule.
Here’s a video of some of those rescues:


Have you heard any inspiring rescue stories of everyday heroes? I’m sure Florida’s storm inspired similar acts.

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Here’s a Reason to Smile

Life can sucker punch you at times. While you’re bent over trying not to regurgitate your breakfast, you’re not smiling. Smile? When I just got slugged?
Give me something to smile about, and then I’ll smile.
Judging by the frowns on people’s faces and the creases created by them on foreheads, I think there isn’t enough to smile about for most people.
And since I’m the gal who actually built her upper body strength in boot camp by smiling…I thought I’d help you out.
What? You don’t see how smiling builds muscles in the arms, shoulders and back?
Well, if you’re at Boot Camp and you smile, one of two things will happen:

  1.  You’ll get bugs in your teeth
  2. The Drill Seargent will punish you

Exact conversation from the summer of 1984 (and no, I’m not too old to remember back that far):
DI: Do you think this is summer camp, private?
Me: (eyes darting from side to side) Uh…NO, DRILL SERGEANT.
DI: The why are you smiling? (This is a rhetorical question so I stare straight ahead and wait for the rant.) Do you think this is fun?
Me: NO, DRILL SERGEANT.
DI: I think you’re having too much fun, private. Drop and give me 20.
Me: (Assumes the pushup position) One, Drill Sergeant.
DI: I can’t hear you private! Louder. (Yes, they really do say that while you’re counting out your repetitions.)

Anyway, maybe that story gave you something to smile about. And for the record, it didn’t keep me from smiling. I didn’t smile all the time (like when I was being tear gassed or after I’d hiked 20 miles carrying my 100 pounds of gear).
Why not smile? Think about how your face automatically wants to respond when you see a smile.
And afterward, you feel a little better. It’s like relaxing those facial muscles cues something inside your chest.
So, I thought I’d share a few things that made me smile recently.
My cat skidding across the wooden floors in pursuit of a well-used crochet item.


Seeing this sign when I drove into the Fred Meyer Parking Lot


A three-word text from my husband. No, it wasn’t “Is dinner ready?” I’m sure you can figure it out if you think hard enough.

My book cover shared on the page of an authentic fan (a person I have never met who reached out to me after reading one of my books)
Cute kitten pictures on Facebook (or Instagram or Pinterest)


A funny line in a book

Finishing my to-do list for the day


Now, I could continue to list some things. I smile an awful lot, and sometimes at the craziest things. (How many people do you know who grin maniacally in the Fred Meyer parking lot because they see a sign?)

Instead, I’m asking for your stories.

What makes you smile? What was the LAST thing that made you smile? Feel free to share memes or screen shots in the comments. Let’s give each other a reason to smile today.

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Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

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A Word to the Wise–or the Wanna-Be Wise

Years ago, a pastor suggested reading through the Book of Proverbs every month. One chapter per day, 31 chapters in the book, seemed like a reasonable idea. Especially if you’re looking to be wise.

Wisdom isn’t a highly sought after commodity in many circles. People are content to “know enough” to do their jobs, take care of their family and have a good time.

We know I’m a recovering Type A perfectionist, so the thought of NOT being wise rubs me the wrong way. I mean, if it’s as simple as reading a chapter from the Bible every day, why not?

Nothing is ever that simple.

This month, I’m encouraging myself to reinstate this practice that has fallen into a slump lately. After all, there are YouVersion reading plans, so why do the same old, same old? (This month, why not do both? That’s my plan.)

Because God’s Word is a living book. Every month a different verse will stand out or stomp my toes.

I haven’t attained wisdom status yet. (I know that shocks all of you.)

So, I’m sharing the first week of daily reading memes here. Maybe you’re looking for some wisdom in a world gone crazy with blame and accusation. Why not give A Proverb a Day a test drive?

I know I’m a day behind for the week, but bear with me.

Monday: Read Proverbs chapter 2

Tuesday: Read Proverbs chapter 3

Wednesday: Read Proverbs chapter 4

Thursday: Read Proverbs chapter 5

Friday: Read Proverbs chapter 6

Saturday: Read Proverbs chapter 7

Look at that! One week of considering words of wisdom is in the bank. Don’t you feel wiser already?

What is your definition of wisdom? How do you cultivate it in your life?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Poetry from the Corner

I write poems from time to time. I’m not a poet. I don’t have the soul of a poet or the intuition to feel and relay “universal suffering” in my words.

Sometimes, though, I can make rhyme and rhythm into something relatively relateable.

You might guess from recent posts, that I’m struggling with some hard things. Maybe this poem will give you a glimpse through the tinted windows of my soul.

Once upon a Teardrop

Once upon a teardrop
A heart began to weep
Aching wounds so deep
Blood did spill and seep

Once upon a heartbreak
Blackness swarmed like bees
Hope whacked at the knees
Heaven ignored the pleas

Once upon a deathbed
Angels refused to sing
Acidic breath did sting
Hells bells pealed sharp a ring

Once upon an autumn
Leaves refused to turn
Fiery beauty spurn
Smoking furies burn

Once upon a teardrop
A broken heart bled
Joy and truth both fled
Faith in God was dead

I felt my heart stop
Once upon a teardrop

What do you think? Does this short verse bring any images to mind for you? Feel free to add your own stanza in the comments.

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

 

When Bad Things Happen

It doesn’t take more than a minute of watching the news to be convinced that bad things happen every day. And most of the time, we’re accepting of this fact. Until the storm hits us.
In the case of my home state, fires are ravaging the scenic Columbia River Gorge. People I know have been displaced and might lose everything they own if the hungry flames aren’t stopped.


In the case of Texas, it was a hurricane named Harvey. That cruel man dumped a year’s worth of rain in a hour. Needless to say, things were swept away.


In the case of America, there have been shootings and attacks against innocents. This used to be the signature move of terrorists, but these days it seems anyone can get involved.


In every event, people affected by the fallout want to point a finger of blame.
Why is that? Will it make the bad things go away? If the guilty parties cough up whatever restitution deemed appropriate by the victims, will it change anything that has happened?
I’m a proponent of justice. Hello? Wonder Woman is an icon on this blog for a reason.


But sometimes unjust things happen and no one is to blame.
Can we truly blame the hurricane on someone?
Maybe those who ascribe to global warming will say these increasingly severe storms are in direct correlation with that.
I believe God is the Creator and Master of the universe. Does that mean he’s to blame for the severe weather and its damaging outcome?
But I try not to play the blame game.
Why?
Because it solves nothing.
It won’t reset the game table (our country, the planet) to pre-disaster condition. Nor will it put food, water and other necessities in the hands of the destitute.
Instead of pointing fingers, I go introspective.
I ask myself:

  1. What could I have done differently to change this outcome?
  2. What part did I play in this bad thing?
  3. If my bad decisions led to it, what did I learn from it?
  4. Who can I help overcome a similar bad thing?
  5. What is God trying to teach me during this difficult time?

Most of the time, this keeps me from wallowing too long in the slop called self pity.

But it doesn’t free me from making amends when the answers to the first two questions indicate I played a role in what happened.
And question four empowers me to use what I’ve learned to help other people.
When bad things happen, they hurt more when we face them alone.
When bad things happen, people probably can’t stop them or change them, but they can buoy up the ones suffering.
There’s been an ongoing “bad thing” happening in my personal world for many months. I’ve prayed about it. Ranted about it. Tried to stand up to it.

And it’s still happening.

Because I can’t change the minds of other people. I can’t force them to act according to my code of conduct or adhere to my moral standards and beliefs.
I’m not sure I’ve discovered what God is trying to teach me yet. But here are some things I’ve learned:

  • God is in control even when I don’t see it. Even when things are happening contrary to His perfect will
  • God’s love for me (and the people instigating the problems) is strong and secure
  • I have a spouse who will bolster me when I’m ready to quit and who needs me to do the same for him
  • Anything can become an idol, something worshiped above God, even a church

Life is filled with good and bad. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to people bent on evil and destruction.

The sun rises on the evil and on the good, and rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45 paraphrased).

And, Lord, we could really use some rain in Oregon. Although even that wonderful blessing won’t undo all the damage some illegal fireworks caused for so many in this state (and Washington since the fire jumped the mighty Columbia).
What bad things are happening in your world? How do you deal with bad things?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

In Memoriam: The Day When Everything Changed

As I prepared my blogs ahead of time, I came to 9/11. Monday is my regular posting day, and I had a post about writing ready to go. Then I typed the date.

And stopped.

Memories swamped me. Where I was. How I felt. How I needed to connect with my traveling husband, and the phone circuits didn’t work.
Even though it’s not a “special” anniversary this year, I recalled it all. I’ve never understood what makes one anniversary better than another. Twenty-five years is silver, and fifty years is golden.

Every year should be a celebration of the fact there is another year to celebrate.

Anniversaries of hard times aren’t celebrated at all. But they are marked on the calendars of our heart. Four years since Mom died. Eight years since Gram died. Five years since my friend moved away.

Today is that day.

A day loaded with melancholy and horror, grief and terror. On the flip side, it’s brightened by national pride and patriotism.

New York City skyline

In memoriam of This Day, I’m sharing an informal bit of poetry.

It Only Takes a Moment

One moment
Life is business as usual
Alarm clock and workout wear
Planning sack lunches
Checking the to-do list
Heading to the gym
Kickboxing and sweat
Another day in the life
Of a blessed American citizen

One moment later
Everything tilts sideways
Planes used as cannon balls
Sirens, smoking towers
People gaping, weeping
Unquenchable fires
No way to evacuate
This has to be special effects
But no, this moment is all too real

Only minutes later
Another plane crashes
The other tower flames
Too much horror
Not enough time
Rescuers become victims
Newscasters are speechless
Video gives awful detail
Life becomes a horror show

One hour later
Jumpers and screamers
A tower implodes
Thousands of innocents
Who woke up to normal
Sleep forever
No one escapes
Tragic terror
Every foundation rattles

Heroes step forth in this darkest of hours
Defined in their moment of sacrifice

One day later
Prayer vigils with candlelight
Fluttering flags at half-mast
Churches overflow
A nation of mourners
Stunned to silence
Awakened to need
God Bless America
News time sign-off

One week in slow motion
Weeping abates, anger stirs
Patriots stand, orders obeyed
Racial profiling
Fingers pointing
Vengeance and blame
Can justice prevail
To rebuild the ruins
Or repay the death toll

One new tomorrow
Greeted in gratitude
Forged in unity
Gained in freedom
Faded with time
Gone so soon
Forgotten in life
Until that one moment
When everything changes

Again


On September 11, 2001, I walked out of the gym after my kickboxing class at the fitness club. I glanced at the screen (they have TV monitors everywhere in those places) and wondered what movie trailer was playing.
Seriously. It was so horrifying, it had to be from a film.
In my car, the radio announcers explained the situation on the East Coast. Shock numbed me. Many hours later it sank in, devastated me.
The experience is beyond words, but maybe those I shared above touch a little bit of the significance of That Day When Everything Changed.
Where were you when you learned about the 9/11 terrorist attack?

Two Minutes of Darkness

 

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Did I drop gray-lenses glasses over my eyes? That’s what it looked like at ten this morning when the moon cast the sun in its shadow.

Yes, my home was near the path of “totality” in Oregon. Since today is my son’s birthday, we headed south to his house into the path of totality.

Two minutes of darkness on a bright sunny day must have sent people in the Middle Ages into a frenzy. (Maybe that’s why they called it the Dark Ages? Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I understand what made those “dark” times.)

The Setup

After I made a delicious birthday breakfast of French toast and bacon, we headed out into the sunlight. A golden ball shone from the crystalline aquamarine sky.

My husband had two camera rigged up. The rest of us were making bad puns, occasionally glimpsing through our “approved for eclipse” glasses.

The warning on the flimsy frames said I shouldn’t look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time.

Someone suggested an eclipse playlist. Of course, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” made the top of the chart. I quoted “You’re so Vain” because a local station played it yesterday, so it was fresh in my mind.

We made plenty of suppositions about how many human sacrifices the Aztecs fed to their volcanoes during the two-minutes of darkness during their hey day.

The shadows reflect the crescent shape of the sun behind the moon

And of course, I wondered what might happen if your shift to “werewolf” was tied to the solar eclipse rather than a full moon. In fact, we decided an Ocelot-shifter might be a better choice. Something that loved the sun but went into hunter mode when the sun set.

Look for that story in the near future.

The Reaction

After the Chiquita banana stage, I glimpsed through my special spectacles more frequently. Soon a bare cuticle of a thumbnail of sun could be seen.

The glasses came off and the midnight sky turned granite as the sun-powered corona transformed the mid-day-night-like sky.

Whoops rose in the air. Neighbors ignited fireworks (apparently, in Woodburn, OR, any time is a great time for fireworks). Crickets sang their songs.

It was a glorious view. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.

And story-inspiring for my author brain.

Faces were ringed with joyous smiles. Eyes sparked, lit with an inner fiery star.

Afterward

 

My daughter hightailed it to her job. Sadly, everyone had the same idea.

Traffic slowed. Suddenly, freeway travel between the Oregon state capital to the largest city in the state looks strangely like a day in Los Angeles.

Ugh.

Thankfully, my husband was telecommuting. And there’s internet at my son’s house (or the home of his second parents where we enjoyed the total eclipse of the sun outside by their gazebo) for me to do a little writing.

These pictures don’t do it justice. Once I can get to my computer and my husband can download his GoPro footage and his speedy-lens still photos, I’ll share the cream of the crop with you.

If you were in the path of totality, what was your experience? When have you been awed by two minutes (or less)? Continue reading “Two Minutes of Darkness”