Contentment and Peace in 2020

Photo by Paul M on Unsplash

I’ve tried to camouflage my New Year’s Resolutions by calling this blog post “A Look Ahead to 2020” or “Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Balance in 2020,” and finally, “Contentment and Peace in 2020.” I’m sure no one was fooled. 

The title “A Look Ahead to 2020” seemed less daunting, less frightening, less set in concrete than “My New Year’s Resolutions.” “Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Balance in 2020” sounded too braggadocious.

The more time I spent contemplating and writing today’s blog post, I realized that by addressing four or five areas of my life, perhaps I can find a higher level of peace and contentment 2020. I concluded that is “the bottom line.” That is what I’m trying to attain in the new year.

I live in a peaceful community and a peaceful home. I’m on solid ground in my faith. I don’t yearn to have material riches. As long as I have the basic necessities for life, in that regard, I am content.

What are some things I can address in 2020 in order to find a higher level of contentment and peace?


Get My To Be Read (TBR) List Under Control

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There are 302 books on my “want to read” list on Goodreads.com. This is ridiculous! Back in October, I read a good blog post about how to attack one’s TBR. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for a year or so. She is black; I am white. She is a young adult college student; I’m 66 years old. What we have in common is a love of books.

On October 14, 2019 she wrote the tenth in a series of blog posts about tackling her TBR. I should have heeded her advice that very day, but I have procrastinated. (No one who knows me well will be surprised by that admission!)

Her October 14 blog, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/10/14/down-the-tbr-hole-10/comment-page-1/#comment-3704, resonated with me. I like her suggestion for purging one’s TBR by reading the Goodreads synopsis of a few books at a time on your TBR. After reading the synopsis, you’re bound to be able to delete some of the books from your list. As I scan down my TBR, there are many books there for which I have no idea now why I ever put them on my list. If I no longer know why a book is on the list, perhaps it’s time to delete it and get rid of the clutter.

If you haven’t discovered the beauty of Goodreads.com, I invite you to check it out the first chance you get. It’s a place where readers and writers cross paths and readers like you and I (not professional book reviewers) rate books on a one- to five-star scale and can leave an optional review. You can keep a list of books you want to read and a list of the books you’ve read.

Conclusion: Zone in on what I want to read.


Find My Niche as a Blogger

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The title of my blog is “Janet’s Writing Blog,” but it seems like more and more it has become a blog about my reading to the neglect of my writing. That is a direct reflection of my life this fall as I spent more and more time reading and less and less time writing.

By falling into the habit of blogging about the books I read one or two Mondays each month, my reading for pleasure has almost become my job. I refuse to let that happen! To address this in 2020, I need to reevaluate how I approach my blog. This is not a contest. The one who reads the most books does not win.

I usually challenge myself to read a certain number of books each year. It gives me a good feeling for a few seconds when I reach my goal; however, I’m setting myself up for failure by making a goal of reading an arbitrary number of books. Why do that?

Conclusion: Make a new editorial calendar for my blog for 2020. Would my blog posts be of higher quality if I blogged twice-a-month instead of four- or five-times-a-month?


Get My Novel on the Road to Publication

Those of you who have followed my blog for the last decade have probably given up on ever seeing my novel as a real book you can hold in your hands and read. You aren’t alone. Many days it seems like a “pipe dream” to me.

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

“Get my novel on the road to publication” can mean many things. What that meant to me a year ago was the following:  get my novel manuscript into the hands of a literary agent who will put it in the hands of a publisher. After all, I’m not getting any younger.

Over the last several months I’ve started questioning my motives. Few authors get rich. I don’t aspire to become rich. I’m content to have what I need to live a life free of fear of ending up homeless and free of worry of being a burden to my family.

What I have come to realize recently is that I am equally afraid of failure and success. Does that sound crazy? I fear rejection, which is inevitable. My fear of success, though, is equal to – if not stronger than – my fear of failure.

My fear of success stems from my physical health and limitations. When my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was published in 2014, I pushed myself to make presentations at libraries and bookstores and to make “cold calls” at bookstores to introduce my book to store management. I traveled throughout the piedmont and mountains of North Carolina doing that. Do I have the energy now to do that again?

What publication of my novel looked like for the last 10 years might not be what it looks like in 2020. I’m working through that.

Conclusion:  Ask myself WHY I want my novel to be published. Figure out what my novel can look like without the pressure of meeting deadlines set by a publisher. I’ve shied away from self-publishing because I wanted the stamp of approval of a “real publisher.” Self-publishing deserves my attention as a viable option. I need to get my novel published or stop talking about it.


Make Time for Hobbies

Photo by Jeff Wade on Unsplash

I have varied interests. Although I’m retired, I still can’t seem to find time to sew, quilt, play the dulcimer, work on genealogy, knit, crochet, do needlepoint, and cross-stitch. This needs to change.

Conclusion:  “Schedule” time for my hobbies instead of leaving them to chance. I’ll be a more interesting person if I do that.


Find Contentment and Peace

I seek contentment and peace. In the above list, one item sort of led to the next one. By the time I got to “Make Time for Hobbies,” I concluded that if I do what I’ve proposed today, I will surely find a higher level of contentment and peace in 2020.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark T. Sullivan. With only two of 14 discs remaining, I hate to see the book end.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and attain your writing goals – however small or large they may be.

Thank you for reading my blog today. You had many things vying for your time, but you took a few minutes to read my blog. Thank you!


Let’s continue the conversation

How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions?

What brings you contentment and peace?

I wish for each of you to have contentment and peace in 2020.

Janet

Words That Give Me Trouble

Words-That-Give-Me

Writing keeps me humble. There are words I worry about now in my writing that I used to not be concerned about. Since I’ve claimed aloud to be a writer, I feel the spotlight on all my written words. Sometimes I come up short.

Memory and Age

Memory and age begin to take a toll. Words that I used to spell or remember the definition of without a second thought now fall into the “need to look it up” category. Some words I’ve thought to be synonymous aren’t quite equal when examined. I continually learn of words I have used incorrectly all my life. It happens often enough that I’m losing my confidence.

Mark Nichol’s list

After creating an account on StumbleUpon last week, I stumbled upon Mark Nichol’s article, “50 Problem Words and Phrases” https://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-problem-words-and-phrases/. In today’s blog post, I’ll share a few examples of words that give me trouble.

  1. Compare to / compare with – Compare to implies only similarity; whereas, compare with   implies similarity and contrast.
  2. Each other / one another – Use one another when more than two are involved. (Who knew?)
  3. Jealousy / envy – If I am jealous of you, I resent your having something. If I envy you, I   covet something you have. (I’ve didn’t realize there was a difference until reading Mr. Nichol’s article cited above.)
  4. Since / because – As stated by Mr. Nichol in his article, “Informally, these terms are  interchangeable, but in formal writing, since should be used only to refer to time.” (This one from Mr. Nichol’s article was new to me, too.)
  5. Transcript / transcription – Mr. Nichol stated, “A transcript is a thing; a transcription is the process of creating it.” (I know I’ve been guilty of using “transcription” when I  should have written “transcript.”

I need to keep Mark Nichol’s list of “50 Problem Words and Phrases” handy as I’m writing. The more I read about the sometimes subtle nuances of words, the less confident I am in my writing.

chicago-manual-of-style-008

Self-Editing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

I’m having flashbacks of the days when I had to follow the 1,000+-page gold standard of American English, The Chicago Manual of Style, as I self-edited the manuscript for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.* That’s when I began to realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

Writing-keeps-me-humble

Writing keeps me humble.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (Among other things, I’m reading Camino Island, by John Grisham.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and a better memory than I have for spelling and proper word usage.

Janet

*Shameless Plug:  In case you haven’t purchased a copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, please look for it at any independent bookstore. If it’s not on the shelf, please request it. If that doesn’t work, you can order it from Amazon.com.

 

Some books I read in February

On February 21 I posted a blog about some of the books I read in January. I think in the future I will blog about the books I’ve read in a given month at the end of that month or first couple of days in the following month. I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those!

“Exploring North Carolina” is one of my favorite shows on UNC-TV. The host, Tom Earnhardt, never fails to educate and entertain as he explores the varied and rich geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the state. Although the vast majority of my books come from the public library, Mr. Earnhardt’s book, Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt was a book I knew I wanted to own. It’s the kind of book from which one can learn something new every time it is read. As if I needed any encouragement to visit every nook and cranny of North Carolina, this book makes me wish I could spend all my time doing just that.

Now that Sue Grafton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I decided to start reading her books. I read A is for Alibi in January and plan to continue reading my way through her popular alpha series. I couldn’t help but notice how telephone communications have changed since A is for Alibi was published in 1982. It almost places the book in the historical fiction genre.

Another case that falls into the “so many books, so little time” category is John Grisham and his books. I finally got around to reading Gray Mountain. (Yes, Sycamore Row is still on my “want to read” list — which is growing far faster than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gray Mountain. I love the way Mr. Grisham gets his points across regarding social justice issues without beating us over the head. In Gray Mountain, he puts a human face on how surface mining has scarred so much of our nation’s coal-producing region.

I was delighted to win a copy of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Johnathan Wilson Hartgrove. I participated in the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in the summer of 2014, so I was eager to read Dr. Barber’s book. Even though I pride myself for staying informed about local, state, and national politics, Dr. Barber’s book opened my eyes to some historical connections that I had not made. This book shines a light on dirty politics in North Carolina but gives strong hope that this current grassroots movement will persist.

The Dark Road to Mercy, a novel by my fellow North Carolinian Wiley Cash, is primarily set in Gastonia, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is the sad tale of two young sisters abandoned by their father and then left in a children’s home when their mother died. Long lost Dad shows up and wants his daughters. Thus begins a tale that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and what the final outcome will be. If you want to read what inspired Mr. Cash’s book, read his author page on Amazon.com. I’ll be on the lookout for his next book.

David Baldacci’s The Guilty was the next book I read in February. Mr. Baldacci did not fail to give the numerous twists and turns for which he is known. This whodunit is a true page turner. As a Southerner, I think the accents were at times overdone, and I was surprised he made the mistake of having a character ask another character, “What do y’all want” when obviously speaking to one lone individual. Also, I’ve never heard a Southerner use the term, “Yous.” On a positive note, he did spell “y’all” correctly, which is something some Southerners don’t do. The deeper I got into the fascinating story, the less I noticed the vernacular. Not sure how I’d feel, though, if I were from Mississippi.

Perhaps I am just sensitive about the accents because use of accents and brogues in dialogue is something I’m struggling with in my fiction writing. I’m dealing with Carolina backcountry settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and France and slaves from Africa in my historical novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. Since I’m a novice writer, who am I to criticize someone like David Baldacci? I’m striving to strike a balance between giving characters authentic voices and overdoing vernacular to the point that it distracts the reader from the story. It is a writing skill I must master.

Now I’m afraid this post is too long. Do I need to blog about what I’m reading more often than monthly?

Submitted My Author Proposal to Arcadia

I have submitted my author proposal to Arcadia Publishing for a vintage postcard book covering the piedmont section of North Carolina. I sent the proposal to the acquisitions editor electronically a few minutes ago. It felt good to mark that as “DONE” on my to-do list. I have been doing the necessary research to write the postcard captions a little at a time, so I’m well on my way to having many of the captions written.

The book I have proposed to Arcadia Publishing should be a good companion book to my first vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I anticipate that it will cover 32 counties in central North Carolina. I proposed the following three chapters in the book: Metrolina, The Triad, and The Triangle.

I’ll post on my blog as soon as I know if Arcadia Publishing gives me the go-ahead to write The Piedmont of North Carolina.

Striking a balance in life

With my “Writing Plan of Action” in place as of yesterday, today I turn my attention to striking a balance. I have the luxury of not depending upon my income from writing to keep me afloat. I would have drowned a long time ago if that had been the case! My income from writing thus far officially qualifies it as a hobby, according to the Internal Revenue Service. That means it does not matter how much writing puts me “in the red” financially; it’s just a hobby.

Don’t get me wrong; I would love to be able to make a living by writing. That’s what all writers dream of and aspire to, but few of us achieve that level of success. It would be marvelous if my historical novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin turned out to be “the Great American Novel,” but how often does that happen? I certainly won’t gain fame or fortune writing vintage postcard books like The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, but it is a thrill to see my name on a book as the author.

As I jump into my new “Writing Plan of Action” this week, I want to keep all facets of my life in balance. Writing and everyday life tend to leave no time for playing the mountain dulcimer. I’ll never become proficient at playing that lovely stringed musical instrument from the Appalachian Mountains if I don’t practice.

Playing the dulcimer a few minutes each day, studying the Bible, visiting the sick and homebound, walking the dog, quilting, sewing, doing needlework, and reading for pleasure are all things I need to make time to do. Those are the activities that tend to get squeezed out as I get absorbed by the self-imposed demand to write, write, write.

Tomorrow I will make yet another attempt to strike a balance in my life.

A great bookstore in Raleigh!

I finally got to visit Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh! What a wonderful independent bookstore!

Window at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.
Window at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.

I went in and introduced myself to Ted. I showed him my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and he immediately placed an order for several copies. They should be on the shelf at Quail Ridge Books & Music by now. If you live in the Raleigh area, please patronize Quail Ridge Books & Music and thank them for making my book available to their customers.

Entrance to Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.
Entrance to Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.

Quail Ridge Books & Music hosts an amazing number of author events. Perhaps someday I will be fortunate enough to be invited to have a book signing there. They had a display about upcoming author events. I counted 37 author events the store is hosting before the end of February. That is extraordinary!

Thank you, Ted at Quail Ridge Books & Music!

A nice find in Sylva, North Carolina

My sister and I have enjoyed shopping at the used bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina, that is operated by the Friends of the Jackson County Friends of the Library. It is a marvelous store and the volunteers there are always very helpful and welcoming.

I knew there was another bookstore in the small town of Sylva — City Lights. We just never had taken the time to visit it. I’m not sure why. It is a gem and another example of a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains that supports an independent bookstore. I love the Indies!

We visited City Lights Bookstore in Sylva in December. I met Chris, the owner. There was only one copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, remaining on the shelf. Chris asked me to autograph it. I was pleased to be asked to sign the book, although autographing my book is the most unsettling thing I do. It doesn’t look like the signature of an author. It lacks flair. It’s legible. It’s not pretty. It seems silly, but I think I need to practice writing my name. I have fairly good penmanship until I put pen in hand to autograph a copy of my book.

City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina.
City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina.

City Lights sells new books and used books. It shares a building with City Lights Cafe. In futures trips to Sylva, we’ll make time to visit both bookstores and give the cafe a try!