Writing: A Positive Influence in My Life

I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Hosted by Positive Writer. Here’s my story…….

Writing has definitely influenced my life in a positive way. I am so thankful that I wrote even when no one was telling me to. Somehow instinctively or intuitively I felt the need to write. I don’t know who gave me my first journal/diary, but I am so glad they did. The first entries I have are when I was in first or second grade. They appear to be confessions of love. Really? This surprises me since I was quite the tomboy and most guys were friends. But, this is such an excellent illustration of why writing is so important to me: My writing reveals to me who I was, am, and wish to be.

I can’t begin to count how many journals, diaries, and notebooks I have chronicling my life. From age seven to the present day, my writing tells of my life. There are gaps where I have nothing written down, and I so desperately wish I had taken the time to write. I especially feel this way when I read through my journals during high school. I think I have only done this once. I was reading through one, completely enjoying my entries, really seeing who I was at that time in my life, and then all of a sudden there were just blank pages. Page after page of nothing. What? I felt lost and left hanging. I can’t remember those intimate details, I can’t really even remember the general details. It was a reminder to myself to keep up my writing now. Someday when I am older, I will want to look back at this time, and I won’t want any gaps.

I don’t remember the exact time, but I believe it was shortly after I got married in 1998 that I felt I wanted to be a writer. Like so many things in life, theory is different from reality. I didn’t even know where to start. I wasn’t even sure what to write. I just wanted to do it. I was teaching and starting a family and didn’t have a lot of spare time. I wrote when I could, sent a few query letters. I think a couple were for magazine articles and one for a children’s book. I pretty much stalled out after that not knowing what to write or where to submit my work. Several years lately a friend told me of a writing group in a nearby town. I visited it and saw it for what it was – a wonderful opportunity. The facilitator was a smart, talented, quirky artist type person. The meetings were held at the public library most of the time, and anyone was welcome to attend. She would start with a writing exercise and then we could all share what we wrote if we wished to. We also could share what we had  been working on in our own personal lives. This experience was very validating for me. I was in a “writing group.” That kind of makes me sound like a writer, right?

Since then, I have gained a little more confidence, but most importantly, the desire to write and be a writer is still there. I have been published a few times, and I took a big leap and started a blog on my own website. It felt to me like a wonderful opportunity to share my writing with others. The other day I thought to myself what if I run out of things to say?  Then I laughed aloud and thought any one that knows me knows that is never going to happen! 

I also recently got certified as a grant proposal writer. I felt this might be another way to explore my writing options. I am currently working with our local high school librarian and my teenage daughter to obtain funding for our high school library. It’s all so exciting!

Writing is stimulating; it’s an outlet. It means different things to different people, and we all have our own talents.  Writing pushes me, makes me grow; and it is definitely a positive influence in my life.

 

 

Fun Finds From the Web

Here are some posts and links I recently found – hope you enjoy them, too! Just click on the highlighted words and you will be taken directly to the site.

Five things to increase happiness in your home (link via A Cup of Jo).

9 Easy Ways to Become Unsatisfied with Life.” I thoroughly enjoy Joshua Becker’s writing.

I was super excited to find this site: Blogging For Books.

I very much enjoy “happsters” on Instagram. Check it out!

This weekend I spent time studying the book Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School. This book opened up my mind to a lot of things.

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8 Tips For Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

I was shocked the first time I read in one of my Public Speaking books that people feared public speaking more than death. Really?  I also recently found out that my sister, a successful business woman with her MBA, took Public Speaking in college. The night before her first speech she researched, wrote, and practiced her speech. The following day she walked right past the door to her classroom and went straight to the registrar and promptly dropped the course. It never fails that when someone finds out I am a college teacher, they inevitably ask me what I teach. When I say Public Speaking, the responses are the same “Oh, I need that class. I hate to speak in  public” or  “I could never do that; I’m too scared.”  My usual response is, “That’s why I love teaching it. It’s so much fun to see people conquer their fears.”

According to Psychology Today, “fear of public speaking is also a fear of death – an emotional death. We feel naked and exposed in front of an audience. We think people are going to scrutinize everything we say and do.” I have seen students cry, fumble, turn red, break out in hives, never look up from their paper, and even become so nervous a six-minute speech turned into a 15 minute speech.

So, what can we do about it? It’s actually easier than you think. The following tools come from my teaching and life experience, and from several Communication books I have taught from over the years:

  1. Approach your audience with confidence. I can not tell you how many times I have told students to walk to the podium with their shoulders back and their heads up. Act confident even though you are not. Nobody wants to hear this, and we all know it, you will be judged, you will be looked at. So what? Act as if you’ve got this. You know what you are doing, and what you are saying matters. If you believe in yourself (or at least can give this impression), your audience will believe in you as well.
  2. Breathe. Please. It’s amazing what breathing can do for you. Take a deep breath before you begin. Remember to breathe during your presentation. Dr. Oz has a 3 minute breathing technique that can help you create a sense of calm before you step up to the podium. Go to www.doctoroz.com and type in Relaxation Breathing.
  3. Focus on your message, not on yourself. You are up there for a reason. You have a message to communicate. Think of your audience and what you are conveying to them. It’s amazing what a shift in focus can do for your nerves.
  4. Prepare and practice. Not every circumstance allows us to do this, but on the occasions when you know you will have to get up in front of others, be ready! Get clear on what your main point is. Write an outline of your main points. Practice, practice, then practice again. You don’t need to memorize your speech word for word. You do need to know your main points.
  5. Have a strong introduction and conclusion. You will be amazed at how the jitters will subside once you get through your intro. Remember how you walked up there with confidence even though you didn’t feel it? Well, get through your introduction, and you will actually feels some of that confidence becoming your own.
  6. Look at your audience while giving your speech. Smile. Breathe. Remember this is about them, what you have to share with them. No one likes to be read to or at. Do your best to use a conversational tone.
  7. Turn your nervous energy into positive energy. If channelled properly, nervousness may actually boost your communication. It is natural to feel nervous. In fact, a speech is better when there is energy. No one enjoys a monotone voice and a presentation with little life to it. I always tell my students that if they are bored with their speech, the audience will be bored as well.
  8. Visualize yourself being successful. Restructure the negative self-thoughts. Visualize yourself approaching the audience with confidence, calmness, and joy. Think of the audience smiling and nodding their heads, you being engaging. You get the picture.

So the next time you are called upon to speak in public, try these techniques. See for yourself if they work. And by the way, my sister, the one who walked right past the classroom door, works for a Fortune 500 company and gives presentations on a regular basis. You can do it, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Lit: Spring 2015

my antoniaWe were going on a road trip and I got this book as an audiobook. We only listened to part of it; however, I was hooked. When we got home I borrowed it through Sunflower eLibrary, and started reading it. I loved it! The book was published in 1918. The story is set in Nebraska in the late 19th century. “Through Jim Burden’s affectionate reminiscence of his childhood friend, the free-spirited Antonia Shimerda, a larger, uniquely American portrait emerges, both of a community struggling with unforgiving terrain and of a woman who, amid great hardship, stands as a timeless inspiration” (Amazon Book Description). I found this book descriptive, moving, real, and just wonderful.

james herriotA friend of mine from my writing group lent me this book. I am so glad she did! James Herriot is the pen name for James Alfred “Alf” Wight, a British veterinarian working and living in Yorkshire, England. He is a gifted storyteller. His love for animals, especially dogs, and his love for mankind is felt through his writing. He’s funny, self-deprecating, and down to earth.  I think dog lovers and non dog lovers would appreciate and enjoy this book. It’s nice because you can pick it up and put it down due to the book being made up of short stories.  The book was quite enjoyable. It reminded me of when I was little and wanted to be a vet. I also love dogs and the picture on the front of this particular book (different than the book I borrowed) looks just like my lab, Sam.

undecidedI checked out this book at a local library for my 15-year-old daughter. I thought it was so good that I bought my own copy through Amazon. If I can find a grant, I am willing to write a proposal so our high school guidance counsellor can put it in the hands of all upperclassman. This book really speaks to the young adult (and, us parents, too!) Like it says in the title, this book is about navigating life and learning after high school. “Full of checklists, anecdotes, brainstorming activities, and journal exercises, this is the only book you’ll need to stop procrastinating, put your stress aside, and get busy living” (back cover of the book). I am glad I found this book.

because mr teruptMy son, who is 11, read this book. It was on my kindle, so I decided to read it. Glad I did! It is a sweet, easy read about a new 5th grade teacher and the experiences and adventures he and the students share their first school year together. The story is told by seven narrators, all being 5th grade students. Each has his or her own story to tell throughout the novel. The reader gets a glimpse of each one’s own personal story as well as the lives of the other narrators and what makes their teacher so special. I found this book sweet, heartfelt, and a reminder that we should all be more compassionate and kind to others.

to love and be wiseI bought this book at a very neat book store in Lawrence, Ks. I  enjoy book stores that have hand written reviews about books that are hand-picked by staff that work there. This was one with a nice review, so I picked it up. It’s only 224 pages, but I found it a bit difficult to get through, and the ending somewhat unbelievable. It’s a mystery and it starts off with Scotland Yard Inspector, Alan Grant, meeting Leslie Searle at a Literary sherry party. As fate would have it, it is the last time Alan Grant sees the famous American photographer. A mystery ensues about what happened to Leslie Searle. Did he fall into a rushing river while on a photography assignment? Did a jealous fiancé murder him? Did the local writer with an affinity for all things dark and depressing find a way to make the handsome, young, charming photographer disappear? Or, did Leslie Searle stage in his own death for reasons yet to be told?

I am linking up with Anne, at Modern Mrs. Darcy. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, please do. It’s delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Write

Once when I was at my writing group one of our members said a friend of his would say, “You got the talkin’ part done.” For some reason this statement resonated with me. It made me laugh out loud.  It made sense. The art of talking does very little, especially in writing. In order to accomplish anything in life, we have to work.

I have a friend who loves to listen to NPR and various public radio programs. She shared with me some valuable information she learned from one of the programs. She said that writers need to write. A writer judges his or her day by what they have produced. They write. They don’t spend time thinking about writing or wondering where the work will end up. The amount of writing they have done is the accomplishment.

I have wanted to be a writer for so long. I have written for most of my life. My most consistent form of writing is journal writing. I started when I was about 10. I don’t even know who gave me my first journal (diary). I write so much that some years I just buy composition books (they’re inexpensive) and a nice flowing pen. I feel I need, or have to, write. Writing is such an outlet for me, a much needed outlet.

I think there are a lot of people who want to be writers. My advice to anyone who wants to write is: just write. No fear, no worries about what will become of it. Just write.  Say what you need to say.

Hot Dudes Reading

My favorite new instagram account to follow is “Hot Dudes Reading.” I’m not a real fan of the word “dude.” In fact, I’ve asked my children, their friends, and former students not to call me dude. However, I stumbled across this account, and I laugh out loud every time I see a new feed.

Here is what the account is about: there is a picture of an attractive male reading (I’m guessing 20-30 years old.) These men are traveling via public transportation. The image shows the male engrossed in a book. The writers of the account are quite descriptive, witty, and funny, especially their hashtags.  Check it out.

https://instagram.com/hotdudesreading/

Yoga for beginners

I am not even sure how I discovered 30 days of yoga with Adriene, but I am so happy I did! For years I have wanted to do yoga. From time to time I have tried different approaches, but nothing ever stuck. Then…. one happy day I watched the short video of Adriene introducing her 30 day yoga challenge and I decided to give it a try. And, I did it! I made it through the 30 days and it was wonderful. Give it a try.