Take Back Your Social Life & Community

overloadWhat happened to communities? There is an abundance of online “communities” that are supposed to serve as a way to connect to those around us, but very little of it actually creates and nourishes real-life community. We are inundated with social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, and the list continues. All of these are acting as tools for the embetterment of our social lives. The result, however, is that we are trapped in our computers, smart-phones, and tablets while real life is happening around us.

Social media is not the Big Bad Wolf, nor it is the embodiment of evil. It is simply often misused. Imagine trying to serve soup with a slotted spoon. A trying task, indeed. But that doesn’t make the spoon bad. It just means that the spoon was used for the wrong purpose. Social media is meant to be an accent to our lives rather than the entirety. Complaints abound about people paying more attention to their “friends” on social media instead of the friends who are right next to them. Everyone is too busy with having things to share online to have an actual social life. It’s not healthy and it’s not community.

The Oxford dictionary has two basic definitions of community:  1) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.  2) A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

There are many places that fit the first definition. But what about the second? Where was the last place you felt “a feeling of fellowship with others”? If the answer to that is an online group or an instance from more than a month ago, it’s time to make some changes.

Churches used to be a place that fostered community. People would often have a potluck lunch after the teaching or invite someone to their house to share a meal. Now churchgoers tend to arrive just in time for the service to start and make a run for their cars immediately after with a few nods and waves to acquaintances.

Neighbours, too, were friendlier than now. It used to be that when a new family arrived several neighbours would introduce themselves and even bring food! Today, if a neighbour happens to be spotted in between bouts of busyness they are viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

I won’t pretend to have mastered the now ancient art of community building, but I do have a few suggestions for anyone who is ready to change the way they view and live true community.

  • Get to know your neighbours
  • Make friends with people you can meet with – in person- who will share each other’s burdens
  • That new person at church or work, reach out and make them feel welcome
  • Host a game night
  • If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, shovel their driveway or offer to mow the lawn
  • Find a group a people that share an interest or hobby with you

*If you have more ideas of how to build community, please share in the comments. The more the merrier!  And don’t forget to come back and tell us how implementing these ideas helped.*

Molehills out of Mountains: Overcoming Communication Barriers

Successful relationships are built through effective communication. It is not always easy, but worthwhile things rarely are. The first thought that comes to mind with the mention of communication barriers is one of differing languages and social customs. Though those are certainly causes of consternation in many business situationmolehills, they are not the only culprits. Even for those from the same culture can have a difficult time really listening to one another and sharing thoughts in a professional manner.

As a copy editor, I work with writers from various backgrounds and expectations. One of the biggest barriers to having a successful writer-editor relationship is the inability to meet in person. I believe that face-to-face communication is often the most effective. Often more questions are raised and answered in this setting than are over email. For those who are visual and auditory learners, in-person meetings are a better option for sharing large amounts of information.

Differing literary backgrounds also present a challenge. Writers tend to write for the genre they most appreciate. When this differs from my own reading interests, it requires that I do a lot of reading and research to ensure that I will edit in the way the best fits that particular genre. Writing styles vary widely, as well, based on what authors the writer most reads. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien and James Patterson have extremely different “voices.” As such, it is essential that the writer and I communicate clearly on what the desired style to be.

I do not have team-based communications in the sense of teammates working for the same company because I work as a freelance editor. This, however, means that I am teamed together with the writer. There are two obstacles to working together as a team: clear understanding of goals and a clear understanding of jobs. Together we must establish the audience, desired length of the book, and a deadline. Knowing what is expected of each person needs to be established at the beginning of the project. We have to agree on what will be done with the corrections and comments I make. I have had writers who wanted to be involved in every little change and others who merely surrendered the text, happy to let me make whatever modifications I saw fit. Had we not set that expectation from the start there would have been confusion and frustration for both parties.

Intercultural communications add a whole new layer of barriers. I am fluent in Spanish and am very familiar with South American culture. With this, I have had the opportunity to edit and translate texts in Spanish. These experiences have taught me to be careful with how my critiques are worded. It would be easy to expect the same cultural and linguistic styles as the North American writers, but wholly unfair. Intercultural communications can be problematic, but the present a wonderful opportunity for two people to learn more about a culture that differs from their own.

Barriers are not insurmountable. They are walls with doors, requiring keys. They are mountains with tunnels in need of light. Knowledge and patience are the key and light needed to overcome those barriers, to turn mountains in to molehills. As we make others our priority, make an effort to listen to and learn more about them, our communication and relationships will continue to grow.

It’s a Messy, Beautiful Life

attack the dayFor a few years I have been struggling with (short list) fatigue, depression, and pain. These, among other issues, had interfered with my life, but I kept thinking that if only I knew what this was then somehow it would get better. Having now been officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I find that the knowledge brings no relief. Quite the contrary, in fact. I feel helpless knowing that resting for a day or two won’t help it go away. Some many days lately I keep going because there are things that need to get done and people to take care of.

But I was reminded yesterday by a dear friend that life isn’t meant to be merely accomplished. It’s meant to be enjoyed. God wants so much more for our lives than binge watching Netflix. We were created to do wonderful things! I believe that we all have a purpose and we cannot fulfill it by giving in to the fatigue and pain. There will be days that we need to rest, but we mustn’t let ourselves become prisoners in our own bodies.

Enjoy the life God has given you to the fullest. He doesn’t make bad plans, nor does He plan in vain. It is not His plan that we be consumed by our infirmities. So take heart, dear one. Take a deep breath, count your blessings. You are a warrior. You were created by the same One who made the stars whose beauty you admire. Draw strength from Him and enjoy this beautiful, messy life.

Writing with a Healthy Lifestyle

Writing with a Healthy Lifestyle

I will tell you honestly, it is difficult for me to maintain a healthy lifestyle and my writing simultaneously. Yoga or pajama pants are my go to for sitting at my desk at writing. And of course, for the writing time to be effective there must be coffee or tea and a snack. On second thought, I don’t seem to get a lot of writing accomplished between sips and bites. What really ends up happening looks something like this:

  • Make snack and drink.
  • Type a few words between bites.
  • Drink is now cold, go reheat.
  • Notice all the dishes that still need washing and decide to ignore them.
  • Write a few more sentences, then remember that I need to reply to a message.
  • Drink is cold again, reheat.
  • Turn on Pandora in a effort to not be distracted by my loud kiddos.
  • Try to stretch neck and legs finally understanding why everyone had such good posture in the Victorian era.
  • Take a sip. It’s cold…again.
  • Leave writing for now, promising to return after the kids are in bed, and wash those darn dishes in order to make dinner.
  • Dinner, nagging, bath, clean up puddles on bathroom floor, bedtime.
  • Sit down to write, as promised, but brain is tired. Decide to watch The Office instead.

I’m sure many of you have similar days. It’s chaotic and somewhat unproductive. What if you and I were to throw in some workout time in there? Can’t be done, you say? Try it and see, say I. Though inspiration often comes from the heart, the ability to put the muses mumblings into words comes from the brain. Therefore, we would be wise to stimulate our brains before sitting down to write.

Affects of exercise on the brain: Annie Daly, of Women’s Health magazine, list five benefits of exercise to the brain. It boosts endorphins, combating depression, which frequently plagues writers. Stress is reduced even if there are dozens of things on the to-do list. Memory is improved. Imagine thinking of the perfect line and NOT forgetting the exact wording by the time you find pen and paper. It trains the brain to reach goals. After reaching a goal in something as odious as exercise, meeting your word count will be a cinch. Lastly, it helps you to stay focused.

A study published in the Creativity Research Journal, demonstrates that though there are health benefits to be derived from exercise in general, aerobic exercise specifically boosts creativity. They found the effects of weight lifting, for example, would help for a short period of time but then creativity would soon wane. With aerobics, however, it was determined that creativity was augmented for up to two hours.

It seems illogical, but using half an hour to exercise can increase the amount and quality of writing that we can achieve rather than taking time away from the to-do list. How would you like to be able to have a clear mind when you sit down to write, to be in a better mood? Personally, I would love to write without the distraction of muscles that have too long been sedentary. It may feel like a sacrifice at first, but I am positive that we will see amazing results in our writing and overall health if we implement this.

If you decide to give it a try, please come back and share your experiences with the rest of us!

References:

http://www.ric.edu/faculty/dblanchette/ExerciseArticle.htm

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/how-does-exercise-affect-your-brain

 

Why I Let My Young Children Play Video Games

Why I Let My Young Children Play Video Games

I’m sure by now we’ve all seen articles about how bad television is for children. Some go as far as to suggest getting rid of the TV completely, while others say tube time should be limited to 30 minutes. But that is just ridiculous! It would take those poor children three days to watch any Disney movie. And by time you get to the last third of the movie, Bobby and Sue will have forgotten what happened at the beginning and so you’ll have to start all over. Will Sleeping Beauty ever wake up? Does Hiro avenge his brother? Will Po finally learn the power of Chi and save the pandas?! We may never know, but hey, at least we stuck to that 30-minute limit.

Even worse than the parenting sin of letting your child watch too much TV is letting them…du-du-dum…play video games! GASP!!! The thing is, yes, some video games are unsuitable for small children. Much in the way I’m sure you wouldn’t let your four-year-old watch Terminator (even though it is an awesome movie), Call of Duty should likewise be off limits. When we choose age-appropriate games they actually help our children.

My six and four-year-old play games like Sonic and Rayman together. I do limit the time they get to play, but I’m glad it’s an activity they like. I can hear the complaints flooding in now: They’re too young. They’ll get addicted. It’s melting their little brains! Au contraire!

4 reasons why I let them play:

  • Playing games keeps their minds much more active than simply vegging out watching TV.
  • It encourages their imaginations! The worlds and art in these games stimulate their minds, which encourages innovation and creativity.
  • GO TEAM! Playing together inspires teamwork. When one falls behind, the other must go back and help. If there is a difficult part, they help each other.
  • It builds problem solving skills. Not only must new levels be reached, but often the path that leads to the new level is full of puzzles and steps that have to be done just right.

These are my reasons, though there are many more. For some interesting research on the topic check out these TED links!

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+video+games&&view=detail&mid=6D53F5FCBB49022A3F5C6D53F5FCBB49022A3F5C&FORM=VRDGAR

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+video+games&qpvt=ted+talks+video+games&view=detail&mid=25B3768318F9F68C5A1925B3768318F9F68C5A19&FORM=VRDGAR

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+video+games&qpvt=ted+talks+video+games&view=detail&mid=49E2404B57DD1D3CFF3549E2404B57DD1D3CFF35&FORM=VRDGAR

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+video+games&qpvt=ted+talks+video+games&view=detail&mid=D91F0969A62ADE94C2F1D91F0969A62ADE94C2F1&FORM=VRDGAR

 

Don’t Let the Pursuit of Your Passion Be the Thing That Kills It

Don’t Let the Pursuit of Your Passion Be the Thing That Kills It

As you can see from the shameful lack of posts since last June, life has been busy and this blog fell off the priority list.

What was I so busy with that I stopped writing, you may ask. Well, we moved into a house–yay!–my Princess started Kindergarten, Little Dragon got glasses and is still attending speech therapy, and my Knight started a new career. Mostly I was lost in the pursuit of my editing and writing passions. I have been studying full time to earn a BA in Communications, helping to acquire new manuscripts for a local publisher, and doing freelance editing. It’s ironic that the very things responsible for helping me to follow my passions did away with any time and energy needed to fulfill them. And so, here we are, with a few new grey hairs and stress management techniques to show for it.

All excuses aside, I want to apologize to my readers for my silence these last nine months. I promise, dear readers, that I (and soon to be other writers!) will post consistently. This blog is here for you, to help you along your writing journey, and to encourage the building of community. Let us know what topics you would like to see more of, and which ones not so much. Tell us, too, if there are books you want reviews of or author interviews. We will strive your needs.

Thanks for sticking around!

My Intrepid Six Months

I cannot believe that six months have gone with little to show for it…as far as blogging goes.

In that time my son finished his first year of preschool, my daughter finished her last year of preschool, and I am now four classes closer to finishing my BA. We discovered sickness inducing mold in our apartment, and then purchased our first home to escape the aforementioned mold. Other business includes serving as a leader in my daughter’s AWANA class, leading worship on Sunday mornings, being a social media specialist for a local coffee house (in exchange for coffee and experience), and being an admin for Colorado Writers and Publishers Facebook group.

Somewhere around February my brain decided that it was tired of the story I’ve been working on for a few years. Instead it kept giving me ideas for a world filled with steampunk gear and mythical creatures gone wrong. And though I’ve been so busy with other aspects of life, I feel that this is far enough out of my previous comfort zone to count as intrepid. Right?

I wish I could sit down at my computer in a quiet house where the dishes are done, laundry is put away, and dinner makes itself. But instead I sometimes manage to scribble down a few sentences while kids are yelling and music is blasting, there are more dirty dishes than clean most days, and my brain is crying for a creative outlet in all the chaos.

But you know what? It’s okay. I don’t have to be daring everyday. And it’s okay to not meet my ideal word count for days on end. Every sentence is progress, and no matter how slowly, the book will get done.

So today, if you haven’t done so already, write something between calls or whatever it is that keeps your day busy. And if you’ve been writing all day, stop. Go outside, wash a dish, or spend time with someone special.