Monday, January 4, 2010

The Happiness Project

I'm currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book follows Gretchen through a year in her life as she tries to define happiness and figure out what really makes her happy. Each month is dedicated to a particular subject (for example, January's theme is energy) and Gretchen discusses what she can do to bring more happiness into her life that month using that theme.

The book really inspired me to increase the amount of happiness I feel so I'm starting a Happiness Project Group which will meet every two weeks to figure out how to make our lives happier and more joyful.

How can you make your life happier? It could be as simple as vowing to meet with a friend once a week for lunch or taking up painting or joining a book club. Or it might mean resolving to stop bickering with your spouse.

What makes you happy is deeply personal but sharing your intentions with a group of like-minded individuals can really give you accountability. You've made a promise to yourself and the group is there to remind you to keep that promise.

I'm really excited about this group and think it will be a great way to help others and bring more joy into my own life at the same time.

Contact me if you'd like to be a part of the group. Depending on where everyone is located, we can either meet in my home, at a neutral location in Kitchener Waterloo or on the phone via free conference call. There are lots of options!

Here's to a happy 2010!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Bother?

I am currently looking for an agent to represent my novel and over the past week have queried 38 agents who handle Young Adult fiction. Of those 38, 14 have already sent back a “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter.


I try not to take the rejections personally. I understand that I have a product to sell—my novel—and I just haven’t found the right customer yet. But it’s still difficult to maintain a positive attitude—if nobody thinks my book is any good, should I even bother trying to get it published?

That’s a scary, slippery slope to start going down because the next natural question is: if my book isn’t going to get published, why did I bother writing it at all?

Why bother?

In many cases your art won’t be seen, your book won’t be read, your fashion won’t be worn by others and in the end you’re doing it all for yourself.

Is it worth it?

Are you worth it?

I have to say yes! I am a writer. That is my soul’s identity and how I want the others to know me. I truly believe that is why I’m in the world now—writing is my purpose in life.

Writing. Not publishing.

When I write, I get into a zone, a different world. I am “in flow” and everything else falls away. All that matters is my story and the insights and inner understanding I gain by putting my feelings and experience down on paper.

My novel is about a 16-year old girl whose sister has committed suicide. Ronnie, my main character, is left confused and lost after the death. She has buried her feelings and denies that she is grieving at all. She eventually comes to realize that she is furious at her sister for dying and hates her sister for not being to open up and tell the family about the problem she is facing. Ronnie is filled with guilt because she didn’t know her sister was hurting so much and couldn’t help her. These feelings are eating her up but instead of facing them, she tells the world she is doing fine.

This is really my story as it mirrors the feelings I had following my father’s death when I was 18. But I never realized this was how I really felt about his death until I put it down on paper in the form of my novel.

Writing is my therapy, as it is for many others. And this is why I write. Not to get published (although that would be nice) but to understand myself, heal and move on.

Why bother, indeed.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Curse of Perfectionism

I was an anxious child, a worrier who held all my fears tight within my belly, even in Grade 1. I woke up to butterflies in my stomach on test days, butterflies that didn’t disappear until the test was over and I knew that I had done well. I loved coming home from school with a much desired little blue stamp of a happy elf’s face when I had all the answers right. But the dreaded little red x’s made my belly knot up all over again—my work wasn’t perfect. So I took out my little pink eraser and corrected all my mistakes before I showed the test to my mother.

Fast forward to the 90’s when I joined my first writer’s group in Owen Sound. I was scared! As much as I wanted to learn from the rest of the group, I was nervous about sharing my work. What would they think? Was I any good? Did I have talent? Was I really a writer?

Sharing was hard at first, until I read what the rest of the group had written. Some of it was great but a lot of it was average or worse. Yet nobody was holding back, everybody was willing to put their work on display, to open up to the group. And even when my work didn’t appeal to everyone, I got great advice and grew a lot as a writer. I learned it was okay to write crap, as long as you knew how to make it better.

I still struggle with the curse of perfectionism. And it is a curse because it slows me down, makes me procrastinate and makes me doubt the quality of my work. I’ve learned that good writing is all about the editing—it’s okay to just spew out garbage onto the page and fix it up later. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, calls these “shitty first drafts” and encourages writers to forget about perfection and just get the first draft done.

So that’s what I’m doing. Just typing. Just telling a story. No pressure to create a masterpiece. Keeping it real and raw, writing my shitty first draft. All is good.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just Begin

Our lives are so busy that we move from work to home to sleep to work again and barely have a moment to ourselves. So weeks and months and years go by and even though we have a niggling feeling that something isn’t right, we shove down the doubt and keep going.

Then we see a friend do something amazing like get a book published (who knew that she wrote?) or hold an art showing at a local gallery (he’s an artist…really?) and we wake up, really wake up, and wonder “how the heck did that happen?”

When so many of us just barely exist, there are a few vibrant souls who have embraced their passion and are living their joy. This can do either of two things: make us so jealous that we turn our backs on them and continue dying a little more each day or it lights us up and we finally, finally, finally pursue our own dreams.

I hope you are one of the vibrant souls or are on the way to becoming one.

One of the best ways to embrace your joy is to think back to your childhood. How did you spend your play time? What activity got you so involved that hours flew by like minutes?

For me, it was drawing. Drawing horses in particular. I never went anywhere without a pad of paper and a pencil. As I got older I drew cartoons and dreamed of my own strip appearing in newspapers around the world. My Grade 8 art teacher was a great encourager and I had total faith in my abilities.

Then I took art in high school and picked up the message that cartooning wasn’t “real art”. Whether my teacher actually said those exact words or I simply interpreted his reaction to mean that, nonetheless, I quit taking classes after Grade 9 and never pursued cartooning as a career. What a shame.

How easy it is to listen to criticism and take it to heart. Don’t listen to the negative—listen to your soul instead.

Pick up the crayons you once loved or the special kind of pen that dances across the page. Begin. And feel your spirit open up and the tension ease from your shoulders.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Got Fifteen Minutes?

As a single parent with three kids, a full-time job and all the responsibilities that come with that, finding time to pursue my dream used to be next to impossible. Working on my novel got shoved to the bottom of my to-do list every night and I’d go to bed bitter because I had so little time to myself. And to top it all off, I’m a very ‘all or nothing” kind of person, meaning that if I couldn’t dedicate myself 100% to the book then I wouldn’t work on it at all.

Obviously, something needed to change. The kids weren’t moving out anytime soon so that meant I had to do the changing, I had to re-adjust my expectations and accept the fact that even if I couldn’t write for hours every night, I could write for one hour. Or half an hour. Or even fifteen minutes. Yes, even fifteen minutes of working on my joy filled up my soul and lifted my spirits.

By dedicating myself to writing even those few short minutes, I was keeping my promise to myself. I was telling myself that I was worth the effort. And it worked. Some days I could bang out an entire page, sometimes only a paragraph, but no matter how little I wrote I was making progress—I was thinking about my book, planning what would happen next and even coming up with ideas for my next novel.

Fifteen minutes a day. That’s all it takes. Your dream is worth it. You are worth it. The clock is ticking….go for the joy. Now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What is Joy?

If you’re familiar with the self-help section of your local book store you’ve undoubtedly seen books about joy and how to create your ideal life. My favourite is “How Much Joy Can You Stand?” by Suzanne Falter-Barnes, which is all about carving out time in your life to do your art, start your own business or perform in local theatre—in short, to pursue the dream that’s been nagging you for years.

But what does joy mean to you? Some would say it means winning the lottery or finding a soul mate and marching down the aisle. And while these are worthy dreams, I don’t think they do justice to joy. To me, true joy means following the path you know you are meant to pursue, the path your soul points out to you when you’re quiet enough to hear it.

Your dream is calling. Are you listening?

I am, finally.

I’ve always been a writer, one of those “nose in a book” kids who read all the time—even during summer holidays and weekends—so it was natural for me to take up my pen as a child (and later, my keyboard) and start making sense of all the stories in my head. But my art was never a priority. I was never a priority. Kids and work and the latest hit on television always took precedence over writing. I was tired at the end of the day! Or so I told myself, as another day ended and I was nowhere closer to finishing my novel, let alone getting it published.

Then I woke up.

Earlier this year I read a fantastic book written by my friend, Patrick Mathieu, called “What’s Your Expiry Date?” In it, Patrick dares each of us to live each day as if we knew it would be our last. How would you live if you had a limited supply of days? Would you climb a mountain? Paint? Dance with wild abandon? Call everyone you know and tell them you love them?

Well guess what? Everyone’s days are numbered and life is too short to be miserable. It’s time to start living your joy.

Now that I am in my forties, I am finally embracing my creative side. Writing will always light me up and I am happy to say that I have made my novel a higher priority in my life. But I also get totally energized helping others go after their dreams.

The whole time I was reading “How Much Joy Can You Stand?” I was wishing I could help others live their ideal life too. The thought of working hand in hand with positive people ready to move their lives forward excited me so much! Now as a licensed Joy Facilitator I am coaching others, encouraging them and guiding them towards the life of their dreams. This path electrifies me so much I’m having trouble sleeping at night!

You can download a free *pdf version of Suzanne Falter-Barnes’ book by visiting: and if you want an amazingly positive wake up call, don’t forget to check out Patrick Mathieu’s site at: It will change the way you look at your life.

Remember… a goal without a plan is only a wish. Stop wishing. Start living.