Monthly Archives: May 2014

Relief and lessons from success

No matter what we do. We could be writers, dancers, artists, spouses, parents, children, etc. We all work for something. It could be personal or professional or a mix of both but I’m willing to bet that you’ve worked hard for something and are probably working hard for something right now. We do that as we move forward in life always striving for the next thing.

Last weekend I hosted a dance Showcase for my dance students. It was the first time I’ve held such an event with my new dance business here in Saudi. When I taught in the States I had this process down to a fine art. I knew what to do and when, and even though it was still hard work it was mostly a routine. Here I’ve been paving new roads and making connections. This past year has been a constant battle of administrative whit in addition to the usual responsibilities of being a dance teacher.

I’m thrilled to say that while the day was long and tiring everything went perfectly. I had happy dancers and parents and just seeing them dance their dances, showing off all that they’ve learned—I’m still smiling about it.

Running this Showcase though is like doing any other thing, it takes work. There is planning and implementation and dedication. Sounds a lot like writing? I thought so. This is why I love how I’m involved in multiple things. I learn from each and apply that knowledge to everything I do. From the Showcase I learned what it’s like to work hard within another culture. At times I was frustrated over how people could not understand that I need ample set up time. I couldn’t just go “poof” and the chairs, stage, décor, etc. would appear. Everything I did to prepare for this event had to be explained and justified again and again. I was building relationships and helping people understand and this goes for everyone here – every nationality. When you live in a place long enough it’s easy to fall into its ways and forget how things are managed elsewhere. So running a Showcase for one dance class was considerably harder than running an entire recital but I learned from it and so did everyone I worked with.

What I took from this was a reminder of the benefits of hard work. Yes, that sounds cheesy and yes we should all know that lesson but it’s nice to get a reminder every now and then. It’s easy to feel down on my writing some days when I’ve been writing fiction for four years now and I still feel far from my goals. But thanks to events like my Showcase I’m reminded of what success feels like and how much sweeter it is when I’ve worked so hard for it.

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Avoiding the “World Showcase Effect” and planning a trip right

I’ve always believed that half the fun of a vacation is planning for and looking forward to the actual trip. That’s right, we’re in full vacation planning mode at our house. First we sat down as a family and decided on key desires that we wanted from a vacation this year. I want to relax and have a beautiful place to write in and work on lesson plans for the upcoming dance season. My husband wants history and outdoor hikes. Little Miss Markey wants lots of beaches. So we’ve decided on Cyprus.

Like I do when I set out to write a book or teach a dance I always plan a vacation. Of course there will be “down time” but I like to know that we know what we are doing. I refer to this as the “World Showcase Effect.” When my family first went to Walt Disney World (we are now frequent visitors and experts) we fell in love with the happiest place on Earth. And then when we returned a friend asked my mom what we thought of Epcot’s World Showcase. My mom had no idea there was such a thing. From that moment on she vowed to be well informed before any vacations and this is a mentality that I have adopted as I now plan trips for my own family.

A taste of where we'll be hanging out in Cyprus!

A taste of where we’ll be hanging out in Cyprus!

Planning a vacation is hard work. I like to equally divide up activities that will please everyone and of course if our four-year-old isn’t happy then no one is happy! This means dividing up historical site tours and playgrounds. And then we’re dividing our trip into two parts. The first we’ll be at a villa in a village and the second we’ll be at a luxurious resort and spa center on the beach.

Lately I’ve been reading up on the history of the island and can’t wait to escape real life for some family fun and relaxation. How do you plan your vacations? Does the planning tend to take over your life? I can think of no better break from work!

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A creative child and the dilemma of monsters

So if you read this blog then you know that I cover everything from my writing journey, parenting, pets, and my life as an American living in Saudi Arabia. Well, today is one of the “parenting” moments with a writing tie-in. Good news! Little Miss Markey’s creativity knows no bounds and I’m sure she’ll soon start a book series. The bad news? Our house is plagued by nightmares starring monsters on a nightly basis.

The monsters in her dreams are descriptive and always go after her favorite stuffed toy Woof Woof. The dreams typically end (according to LMM) with her engaging the super duper scary monster in an epic battle for the safety of Woof Woof. The battles usually get out of control and involve her waking up with a scream and bolting for our bed. She then cries for Woof Woof while my husband goes to retrieve the trusted toy from her bed.

See? Monsters don't need to be scary. Just like Pixar's Sully.

See? Monsters don’t need to be scary. Just like Pixar’s Sully.

I’ve read all the parenting articles I could find and have talked to so many moms about this topic. How do you handle such vivid nightmares? While I’m a creative mommy (I write fiction, are you shocked about this) I do not like playing around with her monster issues. I know parents who have used “monster spray” to ward off monsters or have used the family dog as a monster slayer. However, I don’t like going along with the idea that they are real. I prefer the “they only live in books and movies” approach. When using this approach though she is a quick to go into explicit details of the monsters and makes it so believable that I nearly think it is real.

So we’ve decided to go with it. Let her use her imagination to combat the problem. Our daughter now believes she is a superhero. That’s right. She works with the likes of Spider-Man and Iron Man in combating the evil monsters of little kids dreams.

So far our new approach is working aside from the fact that she thinks she’s invincible. Although we’ve pointed out that even superheroes get hurt.

Bottom line I’m a believer in fostering creativity in myself and in my daughter. She’s a storyteller and loves make-believe and I’m proud to be raising someone with such creativity and imagination. Seeing her mind work serves as inspiration to me when I’m not having the most creative day writing wise. We’re raised as kids to play pretend and utilize our imagination. So what happens to that? We grow up. When I’m stuck I sit back, close my eyes and try to think like I’m a whole lot younger than I am.

Are you in awe of your child’s creative mind? Have you worked with their imagination to combat a problem or make a point?

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The scientific method of fashion and writing part 1

The usual attire, notice the Baylor shirt. Sic 'em Bears!

The usual attire, notice the Baylor shirt. Sic ’em Bears!

This week I’ve been experimenting and pulling out an old tactic that I used in school. I always dressed my best (no prom dresses but I looked darn cute) on testing days or any day when I had to be my absolute best. Now as a writer working from home and a dance teacher the temptation to not stray from my old college t-shirts and yoga pants or dance attire often wins out to anything that makes me feel “dressed up.” So I’ve been making a point to wear normal clothes when writing and I’m seeing how it impacts my productivity.

But halfway through the week I had a thought. If I’m going to conduct this experiment I should take it all the way old school style. It only seems fitting, as it was when I was in school that I found how what I wore did affect my academic success.

Do you remember the scientific method we used in science classes?

Question: Does what I wear affect my writing?

Research: I found this to make a difference when I was in school.

Here’s the new writer me. Feeling good (ignore the messy hair) and feeling cuter than I normally do to sit in front of a keyboard.

Here’s the new writer me. Feeling good (ignore the messy hair) and feeling cuter than I normally do to sit in front of a keyboard.

Hypothesis: I believe that dressing for work even though I work at home will make a difference in how productive I am.

Experiment: To give actual data to the experiment I am tallying up my daily word count on the days I “dress up” as well as the days I wear around-the-house attire. I’ll also write a paragraph each day describing how I felt while working.

Analyze: I’ll look at my word count and testimony from each day.

Communicate: I’ll blog about my progress and of course share the results.

So here we go! Anyone else want to partake in this project? Has anyone done this or how do you feel your attire affects your work?

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When writers have to actually wear clothes

Ha! I bet that title definitely made you want to read this blog! All kidding aside, I’m serious. While writers do wear clothes (at least I do) we are not in the most fashionable industry. On most days I write in comfy sweats or yoga pants and an old shirt from college. On days when I teach dance I may never make it out of my dance workout clothes. The fact is writers don’t dress up to work at home but then times do creep into our lives when we must actually look professional.

I had one of those moments last week when I attended the annual Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Library Week where I was the only English writing author being honored. Yep, no pressure. So I actually had to go through my closet and make sure at least one of my professional outfits that I wore at RWA was clean and ironed. My daughter even asked, “Why are you so fancy today?”

I guess I do need to dress up more and I think this for more reasons than I don’t want my three-year-old to think I’m frumpy. It felt good to dress up. I felt like I was back in the corporate world. Now I love my job; I am so fortunate to get to write and teach dance all while working mostly from my home with my daughter. To me having the flexibility to take my daughter to school and her activities, to get to have lunch with her each day is worth all the fancy professional shoes in the world. However, I often wonder how my productivity would be affected if I dressed up?

This goes back to my old school “test day” theory. On any day that I had a test I was dressed at my best. Now I’m not saying I broke out the prom dress but I was well put together. This made me feel better and therefore helped my confidence affecting my ability to test well.

So if I actually get “dressed” would I write more? I’m thinking yes but I do think that this theory is worth testing. All this week I’m going to actually get “fixed up” to write. That’s right, no more dance clothes or college t-shirts. I’m going to actually look cute. Then I’ll tell you how productive I was.

Have you done this? Maybe not an actual experiment but do you find that you work differently based on what you wear?

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