Fifth grader Jillian longs to wear bright colors in a school of neutral tones. To run and flip upside down while everyone else whispers and gossips. But no matter how hard she tries to be herself, shyness keeps her true brilliance hidden away. Even if it means getting the wrong glasses or losing an easy contest, Jillian keeps her mouth shut.
After a bully tells her she can never be a winner, Jillian gets fed up. She determines to prove, not only that she’s smart, but brave, too. Her goal? Win the Mind Bender, the school’s biggest battle of wits.
But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done. Jillian has less than a month to overcome a lifetime of shyness and summon the courage to fight for herself—or lose her only chance to win.
I wrote a book, Versify/HMH Kids acquired it, and a year or so from now, it will be out in the world for everyone to see. Just Right Jillian will be my debut – my first traditionally published book!
This is something I’ve wanted to do and be since I was a little girl reading Judy Blume. I’ve got the pictures to prove it.
This is Debut Author Month, and all month long, most of my fellow #the21ders – other middle grade and young adult authors who debut in 2021, will be posting on social media to introduce ourselves and our books.
So introducing me:
I think and write about healing and imagination and love.
I’m 46 this year, and proud of it. I’ve never called, nor thought of myself as, “old.” I’m actually shocked whenever I hear people my age claiming it.
I’m a Nichiren Buddhist and have been practicing for 20 years.
I’m a certified/registered Usui Reiki master. I also know and channel other forms of Reiki as well.
I love to dance casino style salsa even though I haven’t done it in ages. Salsa one of my favorite things to do in life. Teaching 4th grade is the other. Some days I miss it.
I enjoy coaching adults now because it satisfies some of the same highs as teaching kids.
I run outdoors three times a week for fitness and beauty seeking. I take pictures of deer, flowers, and whatever is beautiful when I’m outside.
I am currently working to get off high blood pressure medication. Running and breathing exercises have been helping me a lot. They will help you, too, if you do them regularly.
I love to cook when I have time and the kitchen to myself. My favorites are savory seafood dishes, roasted veggies, homemade veggie broth and yellow grits.
I am married to a man I call “Blue” because I think he looks lovely in blue. His real name is Phillip. I married him at 40 and he came as a package deal with two bonus kiddos, now 16 and 20.
I love reading middle grade books, and that’s what I write. For now. My debut and my second novel are both middle grade. I have an idea for a young adult novel and a new adult novel, too!
I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I don’t set my mind to everything, so sometimes I don’t do anything. But when I do, watch out!
The message I’ve gotten this week, this month, hell, this whole damn season is, “do your work.” It’s been a steady drumbeat, but because I’ve neglected my personal victory strategies while getting busy with work and life, my inner ear got cloudy and I couldn’t quite make it out.
Or I could, but I wasn’t really ready or willing to listen.
But just like any other alarm that goes off long enough, this one alerted me that it was time to get moving. Get back to the things that work. Back to doing my work.
In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield says,
Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
I’ve been distracted. I’ve been shoved away. I’ve neglected my work.
I have reading and thinking and writing to do. Manuscripts to start. Scholarship to undertake. I cannot do anything if I am foiled by Resistance. If I do other things, and, in fact, everything else except my work.
Toni Morrison died last night. And she left us many things to think about. Her words. Her work. Her admonition on the function of racism as distraction – a clarion call these days. And much as anything else I’ve explored this week (Brené Brown’s Call to Courage, Ann Pendelton-Jullian and John Seely Brown’s Pragmatic Imagination, my own thoughts), her death, or rather remembrance of her life and legacy, have prompted me to get back to it. Back to work.
Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” ~Pressfield
I pushed my work away for a month, a week, yet another day. More often than not, it was dereliction of duty more than anything else.
But not today. Today I overcame Resistance. Today I did my work.
A great dialogue can unfold when you seek to truly understand your partner. If you go into conversation with an open mind, ask meaningful questions and listen deeply, you can come away with powerful insights about the topic (and the speaker). With this framing in mind, I offer that the most meaningful journaling is really conducted as a dialogue. With yourself.
Responding to questions like these helps put your brain in a positive state of mind. The brain is easily threatened. Threat dampens your creativity, decreases your understanding of options, and leads to reactive, rather than proactive thinking. When you reduce threat and increase positivity, you increase your field of possibilities, engagement and motivation. In short, you raise your confidence and productivity.
What made me laugh today?
What upset me today?
Did I feel successful today?
Did I disappoint myself today?
What inspired me today?
Self-awareness questions give you the chance to be a truth teller. You can acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly, and your true thoughts and feelings about it all. You can improve your emotional intelligence by assessing your responses to various circumstances. You’re not judging yourself, you’re simply learning more about yourself. Gaining self-awareness helps you to become more intentional over time.
How am I leading?
What do others think of my leadership?
Am I reflecting my personal values?
Am I supporting my organization’s values?
Were my people better off today because of me?
Questions like these allow you to assess your impact and how it can be improved. Again, this is not the time to beat yourself up. Based on your observations, interactions, gut feelings and so on, what did you notice or learn about your leadership today?
My People/My Team
Who needs my attention?
What might my team be feeling?
What techniques/support/resources worked best?
What techniques/support/resources didn’t work?
Who has been consistently dependable / non-dependable?
Answers to these will shed light on how to manage talent better.
Did I get closer or farther from my goals today?
What can I do differently?
What did I prioritize today?
What were the results?
Are my goals still appropriate?
What is the purpose of my work?
What fulfills me?
In particular, when I felt my time did not reflect my priorities or values, I reflected on questions like this quite a bit. It helped me to be more proactive with prioritizing and scheduling. It also led me to do some exploration of my values to find out how I could express them more at work.
My current favorite is the quick run down. I do a check on the day and set an intention for tomorrow:
What were my goals for today?
What went well?
What didn’t go well?
What will I do differently tomorrow?
The categories and questions here are just a guide. I recommend you try journaling a few days and then decide what kinds of questions are most meaningful for you.
If you’re stuck and feel unsure how to begin, you can simply ask yourself one question: What happened today? As you answer, really listen. Pay attention to yourself. Just as in a dialogue, you’ll naturally pose relevant follow-up questions. After a few days you’ll have a good idea of the questions that will make journaling most meaningful for you.
Journaling is a powerful practice. But like any practice, it only works if you work it. That means your goal is to do consistently, not just when you feel like it. You don’t have to carve out a lot of time, but you will need to carve out some time.
If you’re not sure how to make the time, a coach can help you rethink and redesign your day.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, journaling allows you to document ideas and work through hunches. It allows you to keep track of otherwise fleeting, yet potent thoughts, and it also improves your thinking. These benefits accrue to the degree you can make journaling a habit.
Building a habit can feel daunting, so it’s important you set yourself up for success. Consider a consistent time or trigger that will alert you to journal. For instance, set a recurring meeting with yourself for first thing in the morning or perhaps as you close the day.
You might also consider your work ebbs and flows. Look ahead several days, and see if you have short breaks between longer meetings. Block 15 minutes for yourself and commit to journaling during that time. Midday journaling is more difficult for some – especially those without as much control over their calendars. The important part here is to plan ahead and schedule reminders to keep you on track.
Defeat Decision Fatigue
I recommend clients go so far as to picture where you will journal and make sure your notebook or favorite app is handy at the time and place you’ll need it. As you go through the day, each decision you make takes a toll on your brain. As a result, you become more likely to do what’s easiest, rather than what’s best.
Having a clear plan of action in place minimizes your chance of being foiled by decision fatigue. Journaling by hand is great for slowing down and processing, but digital journalingis certainly a viable choice as well. So whether a special colored pen or a stylus, select your tool ahead of time and have it ready.
Silence the Inner Critic
Journaling allows you a moment of quiet honesty. Since you’re journaling for yourself, not for a broader audience, give your inner critic the day off. This is not the time for judgments about spelling, grammar, formatting or content. Avoid editing. Really. You’re thinking on the page, and analyzing those thoughts. You’re not trying to win a contest or create a post to display on Pinterest. Don’t stifle your thinking. Just write.
This is your leadership development time. Use it to better understand and nurture the leader within.
What do you think? Are you making a routine to journal? Are you seeing benefits from journaling? Let me know what you think.
In today’s digital world, there’s one analog practice I cherish. Journaling.
Now to be fair, you can journal on your phone, tablet or computer, but I’ve long found that my best thinking comes when I make time to put pen to paper. This age-old practice isn’t just for personal insights and daily documentation. It’s also a great tool for leadership growth as well.
On first thought, it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest leaders find time to journal, of all things. The business climate changes day by day and there’s pressure from all directions – superiors, stockholders, customers. You have to be ready, agile, quick. But you also have to be visionary, innovate, creative and smart. And that’s where journaling comes in.
Nancy Adler, an expert in arts-inspired leadership, writes:
“Extraordinary leadership requires seeing before others see, understanding before others understand, and acting before others act.”
Wise leadership requires careful reflection of evolving ideas and feelings that may be forgotten from one day to the next. Mental processing is difficult enough without the added distractions from push notifications, information overload and more. Let’s face it – deep thinking seems impossible when you can barely keep up with email!
But we encourage leaders to try journaling as a way to retell, review and understand the events of the day. Just the act of recording what happened and what you thought, felt, or noticed will give you perspective over time.
Journaling allows you a moment of quiet honesty in a busy life. You’re not sharing your notes with direct reports, peers, or anyone else. You’re writing for you, so you can tell the truth as you know it. Document ideas you want to revisit, research or refine. Acknowledge, observe and work through feelings, gut reactions, and hunches.
Not only does journaling prevent your important mental notes from being lost, but it also improves your thinking. Research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that settled brains are better at processing and problem solving. Journaling quiets the mind so you can think more clearly in the moment. I sometimes refer to it as meditation by writing.
Additionally, research sponsored by the National Institute of Health found that replaying experiences in our minds is a great tool for learning. As you relive thoughts and feelings while journaling, you reflect on them. Such reflection is a key step in increasing self-awareness, as well as better understanding the world around you.
As far as I’m concerned, any reason is a great reason to start. Any time is a wonderful time.
Today is the first day of the year, the first day of the week and the first day of the month, but none of that really matters.
The important part is, today is the day I’m ready to begin.
It seems I spent most of 2017 dormant. I basically stopped blogging and limited my tweets to greetings and #templebuilding updates. But the truth is, I helped my cousin/big sister land our first federal contract. We also delivered two excellent projects for a corporate client (we’ll finish one last one this month).
The thing I’m most proud of is a creative victory. I took a short story I wrote years ago and transformed it into a chapter book manuscript. I love my book, AMANDA AND MISSY, and I’m looking to get it traditionally published.
I’ve gotten some encouraging passes (nos) from agents, so we’ll see if it finds a home in 2018. It won’t be my best book or my last, and it isn’t the book I wanted to write last year, but I needed to start somewhere to begin closing the gap.
Ira Glass refers to the gap between your taste and your creative ability when you’re first starting out. Some of your early pieces might anywhere from horrible to even good, but they may not live up to your own standards of excellence. Not due to self-disparagement, but because of an honest assessment of where you are vs. where you’d like to be.
The only way to bridge this gap is by doing the work. Learning, trying, producing. There’s no magic formula, there is only doing. And that’s what I’m about in 2018.
I’m actually about many things this year. I’m returning to some old tried and true productivity strategies and trying out a couple of new ones. I’ll tell you more about those, as well as my three mottoes for the winter quarter in future posts.
What are you about this year? What will you accomplish this year? What’s the work you have in store?
Today was workout 21 of 61, and I ran 3 miles, 5 strides.
The three miles is old hat this point, but we’ve upped the strides this week. That last stride just about did me in! I wanted to give it my all, and I did, but rather than running through the tape, I pulled up at the final split second. I felt disappointed as I heard the last chime, but I gave all I felt capable of at that moment.
All day I assumed the last stride was slower than some of the others, but now I’ve checked – it was fastest! By far! Goes to show, perception is not always reality.
Still, I plan to work at running through the tape. It’s easy for me to do when I’m somewhat tired, but when I’m truly fatigued, I stop short. If I ponder this long enough, I can probably think of many life circumstances where this was true as well.
In other news, I hit a writing milestone. Yesterday I polished a children’s book I wrote years ago, and today I sent it out into the world! Very exciting.
Knowing that it takes anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to hear from some publishers, today’s step motivated me to write more. Several things can happen at this point:
Form letter rejection
Personal rejection/ editor’s encouragement
Rejection with request to revise and resubmit
Obviously I’d prefer options 3-5, but I feel liberated. My only choices are to wait or write. Having this story circulating, no matter her fate, is freeing. I choose to write.
Today I am thinking of fear. Feeling it. Working through it. Understanding it. Appreciating it as a teacher.
Fear, in certain degrees, can feel like a happy excitement. Stomach tingling, breath quickening. I felt that fear today. It comes when I have doubts about something I want to do, and I can see the beginning of paralysis. Self-sabotage. I haven’t given into Resistance yet, but I have the sudden urge to talk myself out of… progress.
But for now it’s just a tingle. It’s commentary about the relative location of me and my comfort zone.
Any time fear is my muse, I ponder the word fearless. I explored this a few years ago, and I have come to understand THAT being fearless is not really being without fear, but about lessening fear’s influence.
If giving into fear means remaining silent or standing still, then being fearless means speaking up or moving, despite the fear. The fear is still present, but it does not defeat you.
Fearlessness is about the steps you take when it feels safer, more comfortable, to stay put.
I’m working on a small project. For many reasons, it inspires fear. Will it be good enough? Will it come out as I expect? Will it have the impact I desire?
If fear wins, I’ll soon make up reasons to work on something else entirely.
If I am fearless, tomorrow I will complete one more task; bring it one step closer to completion.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. People say this often about second language learning, and really, most everything except riding a bicycle.
It’s true, too, about blogging. For years I had a regular blogging practice, changing format, tone and location whenever I was ready for a change. In the past couple of years, my blogging has gotten more sporadic after dramatic shifts in my daily routines. Sometimes I miss it, but I’m not quite sure what to say. So I think about blogging, but leave the page blank.
Beginning April 28, I started a blogging challenge. My goal is to blog something every day through early June. The early going has proven as challenging as I expected it might be. I do expect as time goes on, I’ll write more reflections and musings and commentaries. But for now, I may rely on stream of consciousness, curation, and graphics to get back in the groove.