The Beauty of Something New

Recently a friend told me he’s fallen in love for the first time. Simply hearing those words made my stomach lift, much like the photo I shared on Facebook the other day. (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) Man, I thought. Brand-spankin’ new love is going to do wonders for his writing. Not that he needs it—just seemed like a bonus. And it really got me thinking.

For years, all of the songs I wrote were sad, the primary themes consisting of loneliness, despair, heartbreak, hopelessness and, at their most positive, hopeful pleas that life would get better. That’s not to say I was always sad. I just never wrote songs when I wasn’t. When I met my husband, the feel-good brain-chemicals went into full force, and voila. Out came songs about bliss, gratitude and love notes to the sky.

Falling in love feels like zipping over roller coaster hills, minus the terror. Sure, there can be fear; love puts us in an extremely vulnerable place. And that is scary. But it’s also beautiful, inspiring and worth every ounce of risk. If we’re not careful (and who punch-drunk in love is?) those chemical rushes can be addictive. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively gain regular doses, without creating a dependency. 😉

According to Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, that initial rush we experience while falling in love also helps us think more clearly and concentrate. So guess what? Falling in love IS great for writing and all art forms. And even “old” relationships—with our partners and craft—can instill roller coaster-like reactions and feelings.

Since my friend’s revalation, I’ve been pondering that stomach-lift-wheeee feeling. I took inventory. I’m blown away by how often these feelings arise—no flings or breakups required.

Over the past few years, these events have sent my brain’s dopamine flow into high-gear, inspiring happy rewards:

  • Realizing that I’m a writer and stepping onto that path fully.
  • Writing and finishing my first novel in a rapid, giddy rampage.
  • Finishing a major revision, and another. 😉
  • Meeting other writers at my first writers conference, and writers in my genre at ThrillerFest and BoucherCon.
  • Meeting, collaborating and celebrating with blogging friends, much thanks to Kristen Lamb and WANA International.
  • Getting offers from literary agents, signing with one. More revising. Getting positive and growth-inducing feedback.
  • Starting my second novel. Epiphanies along the way.
  • Learning that my friend Kourtney Heinz was named a semifinalist in the Amazon.com BreakThrough Novel Award contest shortly after reading and loving an excerpt.
  • On the personal front: Vacations. Fun dates. Seeing close friends and family. Returning from vacation to my dog’s tail-goes-wild greeting. Winning a writing prize. Learning that my newest niece had been born. Seeing Mammoth for the first time. Performing on stage. Seeing The Negro Problem perform live. And a mini-burst today, when I opened my door and saw that my new Kindle arrived.

Regardless of how big or small, seeking and enjoying “something new” can not only give our brain chemicals a lift, but help shake up monotony, prevent and combat creative blocks, boost our confidence and make life more fun. On Monday, Kristen shared 5 Ways to Get Out of the Comfort Zone and Become a Stronger Writer on her blog. I suspect that all five of her suggestions would make for awesome new somethings. Renewal outside of writing can also help…

10 Non-Writing Ways to Get that WHEEE! Feeling

  • Try a new restaurant or cuisine you’ve been dying or hesitant to try.
  • Re-connect with an old friend.
  • Write a thank you letter to someone who’s made a big impact on your life.
  • Have a play date with a friend, where you act like kids: Go swinging at the park. Take a “paint your plate” or other crafty class. Play dress up.
  • Bring homemade baked goods or flowers to a neighbor.
  • Send a thoughtful care package to a loved one.
  • Explore a new hobby.
  • Try a new social media platform, with the aim of having fun.
  • Buy yourself a new outfit. Get gussied up and go out.
  • Try a new recipe. Need ideas? Check out my guest post on mystery author K.B. Owen’s blog. 😉

A few of my favorite posts of the week:

RunningFromHellwithEl: How I Became a Rebel Thriver
Ellie Ann: 15 Thrilling Moments at the Cinema
Natalie Hartford: 5 Things I’ll Never Apologize For

What do you do to keep things lively and joyful in your life or career? What’s the latest “something new” you’ve tried?

Artists Flocking Together (It’s PARTY Time!)

Gone are the days of bar hob-nobbing with Hemingway and Stein… 

…but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed!

If you’re like many artists, stories of writers’ bars and artists’ coves make your heart tighten in envy. (Youch. Yep, like that.) How are we supposed to accomplish our real work (our art) when we have bills to pay? Households to run? Relationships to nurture? All without going crazy? While varying opinions abound, I believe that prioritizing our passions is necessary for artists, if we want to be happy, healthy and successful. This past year, I’ve learned a great deal about another crucial factor—community.

Signing with my literary agent last August was exhilarating, but the aftermath left me a bit lonely and confused. What now? I wondered. So accustomed to working my butt off to land an agent, I assumed there’d be plenty to do, other than writing my next novel. When I asked my agent, he sent me a packet of marketing tips intended for post-publication. May as well start early, right?

In the packet I spotted that loathsome daunting annoying beautiful word: blogging. A web-search led me to Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer, a book by social media guru Kristen Lamb. I dove in and soon felt not only less annoyed at the thought of social media, but excited. No, seriously. (I still have mental double-takes at that revelation…) Kristen demystified Twitter and other social media platforms, and led me toward a world full of talented, passionate creatives, many of whom struggled with the same lonely bouts, passion for writing and determination I had.

The people I’ve met through #MyWANA—a hashtag based on Kristen’s second book appropriately named We Are Not Alonearen’t simply fellow artists, but friends. Before connecting with these fab folks, I thought I’d find passionate, driven writers solely at writer’s conferences. But guess what. While many of these passionate souls do attend conferences, they’ve also sought avenues to bring their craft and careers to the best possible level in between. Rather than complain or shrink away in the face of e-books and social media, they’ve embraced the digital age. They blog, Tweet, share and promote their work on Facebook, support one another in the dark times, the blah times and the brightest of shiny-happy-news times. They are my WANA sisters and brothers, and I love them with my big, squooshy heart. 

Francis, the WANA mascot

Here is more good news: The more we support and connect with others, the more our own artistry grows. And the more we grow individually, the stronger artists become as a whole. Like birds, each artist brings unique beauty and flare to the world. (Just ask Francis!) As a flock, we become breathtaking, empowered, empowering, and even world-changing.

This week, Kristen Lamb and her business partner, Ingrid Schaffenburg, launched WANA International. It’s goal? To empower artists—singers, dancers, writers, painters, actors…—of the digital age.

WANA’s Mission:

WANA is seeking to fill a vacuum. We were inspired by the movie “Midnight in Paris.” We found ourselves longing for a time when creative people—ALL types of creative people—could all hang out, talk, chat, brainstorm, help each other, etc. 

One of the things that bothers me about social media is that I see a lot of inbreeding. Writers talk all to writers about writing and that is good, but after time it stagnates. No new blood and no new ideas. Thus, WANA will solve this
problem. 
—Kristen Lamb

HOW EXCITED ARE YOU, SERIOUSLY??? 🙂 WANA International offers a powerful new social media platform and a broad range of webinars, taught by experts ranging form New York Times bestselling authors to technology, lifestyle and business pros—all of whom are artists, first and foremost. I’m stoked and honored to be among the teaching crew, with my first course, Write-amin 101: Eat Well, Write Better, launching in July.

To help celebrate, please join us on Twitter tonight, using the hashtags #MyWANA and #WANAPARTY. To learn more about WANA and all it has to offer, visit Kristen Lamb’s post, I Bring You…A Gift–A New Era for the Digital Age Artist.

So I WANA know. 😉 What’s your favorite aspect of being an artist of the digital age? Have you dipped into WANA International? Will you be joining the Twitter party tonight? I’d love to see you there.