Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stop and Smell the Flowers

"Don't hurry. Don't worry.
You're only here for a short visit.
So be sure to stop and smell the flowers."
-Walter Hagen

In the whirl of a wired world, business never slows, time never stops, and we find little rest. Life passes quickly, numbing our hearts and wearing us down to exhaustion. But our lives were made for more ...

Sometimes, we need to slow down, take a deep breath, and smell the flowers beside our feet, whose scent lingers on sweet breezes and whose faces lift our hearts up toward the sun.

In this post, I'm sharing a series of Spring garden flowers, to brighten your day, and to remind you of the small things that bring life, and laughter, and love ... To this season of New Life, of Renewal, and of Spring.


"The best and most beautiful things
in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart."
-Helen Keller

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear,
an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring:
all of which have the potential to turn life around."
-Leo Buscaglia

"I am beginning to learn that it is the
sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones after all."
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

"One of the most tragic things I know about human
nature is that all of us tend to put off living.
We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden
over the horizon--instead of enjoying the roses
blooming outside our windows today."
-Dale Carnegie

"Love bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things,
Love never fails."
-The Book of Corinthians, Chapter 13

"Love comforteth like sunshine after rain." -William Shakespeare

Starting the conversation: What parts of Spring do you cherish most? How do you slow down and remember to smell the flowers?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Write and Finish Your Novel in 2010

"Everything you ever wanted - personally and professionally - is 2 or 3 steps beyond your comfort zone." -Andy Andrews

Everyone has a story to tell. I believe that. So, based on that belief, I’m writing to encourage you to tell your story. With today being near the end of March, I’m laying out a plan to help you figure out how to write and finish your very own novel by the end of 2010, roughly 275 days away.
I wrote a very similar post in February of last year ... and I heard from a lot of people. Since I'm working on polishing my novel, I thought I'd post on the same topic again, for 2010.

Why, you ask, should I think I can write a novel before the end of the year?

Great question. Two years ago at a writer’s festival, I listened to a man speak about how his novel had taken him over ten years to complete. Every fall, the NaNoWriMo phenomenon goes on, or National Novel Writing Month, where writers complete an entire novel in one month. If we take a middle ground somewhere between the two, I’m guessing nine months to complete a first-draft of a novel might be just about right.

photo of William Faulkner's writing space

Here’s the plan:

Since a full-length novel falls somewhere near 80,000 words, 275 days will provide plenty of time to write at a leisurely pace.

In my experience, writing 500 words per hour is very doable (1000 words per hour is also doable for some). With only one hour spent per day (500 words), nearly two novels could be written in the remainder of the year (150,000 words in 300 days). So, if you factor in taking a day off on the weekend and a few days for holidays and sick days, an 80,000 word novel can be written in the remainder of 2010 with extra time to spare. What to do with extra time? Revision and editing are always a great use of time after the novel is done. In fact, rewriting and editing and revision are what I'm doing right now on my own novel.
Hopefully, by now, I’ve convinced you that you can finish your novel in 2010. But I’m sure you have a couple more reservations. A novel is a big undertaking, after all.

Why write?

For me, I’ve found writing to be an amazing cathartic experience, therapeutic in profound ways. I am a better and more complete person by writing. Story is a powerful connector in the world, and there is no better way to engage in story than in your own novel.

When can I find time to write?

Easy—the hour watching television or surfing the web, instead write. Or the hour before everyone else wakes in the morning. Or the hour when everyone is at school. Or the hour after dinner. Just one hour is all you need.

What do I write?

Well, I would start by thinking what it is you like to read, and even reflect on shows you like to watch. Thriller? Romance? Literary?

How do I know the proper format, margins, etc? Since many books are devoted to this question, I’ll start by pointing to some I think are very helpful. The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Novel Idea by Angela Hunt, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne, and my personal favorite Stein on Writing by Sol Stein along with his How to Grow a Novel.

See? It can be done.But in my experience, the ONE THING that will enable or prevent you from finishing your novel in 2010 is discipline.The most grueling thing I face in writing each day is just that—writing each day. No matter how comfy the chair I choose, I find it almost impossible to put my bottom in it. No matter how sleek and powerful the computer, I find it tough every day to place my fingers on its keyboard. No matter how simply the clock says it’s time to write, my whole will pushes back and says it’s time to do other things.


Writing is hard work.

BUT, if you are one of those adventurous people who says Just Do It … I know without question that you CAN do it. To close, here are some of the benefits I’ve found from the discipline of writing each day.

1. The biggest advantage to writing each day is that the story stays fresh. The writing flows, and continues to flow day after day by writing (even a little—500 words) each day.

2. Like heading to bed at a similar time each night, writing at a similar time each day can be beneficial. The body knows what to expect. The mind comes ready to write, and the flow is easier.

3. The story becomes a place to look forward to going each day, if only for an hour.

4. The routine lends itself to the others in your life respecting your time to write. Distractions are always plentiful, and my house certainly has a constant list of more things to do, but with a routine hour set aside each day, writing becomes a priority.

Go ahead, start thinking today about your novel, and plan to start. You CAN write and finish your novel in 2010.

Questions or extra thoughts? I’d love to hear them—post in the comments section below.

And of course, I’d love to hear about your journey along the way to finishing your novel. You can contact me directly at http://www.jenniferlynking.com/ on the Contact page.



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beauty Is ...

"Beauty is not caused. It is."  -Emily Dickinson
Lately, as I write, and rewrite, and rework my novel, I have thought much about beauty-- in stories, in relationships, in the way things look and feel, and the way words sound when read. But beauty and achieving it is not something easily done. Anyone with a blank canvas and a handful of brushes knows that beautiful art is not easily created. Anyone with a keyboard and a blank screen knows that excellent writing cannot quickly be hammered out. But somehow, beauty is ...

Often, I turn to photographs for inspiration. I thought I would share a few with you, flowers I photographed in our former gardens.

Beauty is ...

one of my favorite combinations of garden roses in bloom

a beautifully-painted Black Swallowtail butterfly on Echinacea

the jaw-dropper of a daylily, about twelve inches wide

my personal favorite: Bellaroma rose dazzling in dew at first morning's light

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting ... "  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Starting the Conversation (leave a comment below):  What do you think about beauty and art? Can beauty be created? Or like Emily Dickinson said so eloquently, do you believe that "beauty is"?

Monday, March 8, 2010

What Prague Looks Like in Winter

This week, as I continue work on my in-progress novel (and deplete all of my brain cells), I'm taking the opportunity to post photographs I've taken from in and around Prague this winter.

So, what does Prague look like in the winter? Beautiful! And, given the heap-loads of snow we've had in the past few months, the sites have been perhaps even more beautiful adorned with snow.

Prague in Winter ... Enjoy!

Josefov, Jewish Quarter

Old Town Square

the Astronomical Clock

one of my favorite buildings on Old Town Square

Strahov Monastery

the view over Prague from Petrin Hill

a Palacial facade near Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Inside Saint Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle

The Star Summer Palace near Bila Hora, Prague

We look forward to watching (and photographing) Prague awakening for Spring.

Have  a great week! -- Jennifer

Starting the conversation: What is your favorite photograph, or site in Prague? Do you have a favorite European city you've visited? (Leave a comment below... Thanks!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Finding Sanity in a Mom's Chaos

One of the most marked-up books in our home library is a book that changed my life. Years ago, several years into the Mom journey, I bumped into a book called Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul by Angela Thomas. With a title like that, and knowing how little mercy I felt in my role as a mom, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t read it just once, but many times, highlighting and taking notes as I went. Somehow, Angela’s words touched me and changed my life forever.

Me, the Mom in a purple wig! with my three little Jedis

Specifically hard-hitting for me was a section on Grace, something I knew very little about (and am still learning more of everyday). Angela talks about a Woman of Grace and writes out a humorous but true List of Rules every mom thinks she should abide by. She writes, “We believe there is a list of rules out there, and if we can just find the list and keep all the rules, then life will be happy and good.” And so starts her top ten list of things every “good mother should do.” (1. A good mother should prepare homemade, well-balanced meals…) It is too easy to believe that if somehow we can just keep the rules, then we’ll find “happiness.”

Every area of life has a list to abide by, but Angela writes “grace has the power to free me from all the unwritten lists that want to steal my joy and run my life. Thanks be to God, grace makes life more than a list of rules to keep.” Grace, she says, frees us from bondage to enjoy the blessings in our life.

I remember also one of the stand-out stories for me—Angela recalls a friend’s biggest personal news to share was fixing the screen on her sliding patio door. The woman’s life, she writes, completely revolved around her children. How easy it is to procrastinate taking care of our own souls, as moms, and say things like, “When the baby is out of diapers … or when the kids are out of school …” etc, then we’ll start to think about cultivating ourselves. Until we can take care of ourselves and invest in what also makes us tick, our lives can be just about as fulfilling as fixing the screen door.

From my own experience, I’ve watched parents pour everything into their kids without thinking a thing for what they are doing—pushing their children onto a pedestal and putting them into a role that they certainly cannot fulfill. Our children are not made to be our everything. They are made to be loved. And out of love for our children, we as moms have to invest in ourselves as well. Our families cannot be it. They cannot complete the hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God, and pursuing also that for which he created us to be. For when our children leave home, and they will, we need to have something other than their absence to dwell on, and something more than falling to pieces to do with ourselves.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts we could give our spouse and children comes by investing in ourselves—even just a smidge every day—so that when our children grow up we still have something of ourselves intact and healthy. It’s important to find sanity as a mom—three basics I think help tremendously:

1. Live:
I heard one of the best pieces of advice for moms from a pediatrician, who recommended a guilt-free “prescription” for Me time for every new mom—minimum one hour each week. However it happens, every human being needs a block of time to remember who they are, separate from the endless demands of work and / or motherhood. Time to go out to lunch with a friend, to take a run through the park, to find the perfect flowers to plant in the Spring garden—time to be.

2. Learn:
Invest in yourself, learn a new skill—read a new book, take a new class, learn a new language, travel to a new place. We need the opportunity to continue becoming our very best—to continue to learn even while we are moms.

3. Love:
The First Book of Corinthians, chapter 13 speaks on Love, and says Love is to guide all we do. When we take some time each day to be still, pray, and let God take the edges off our hearts, He refills us with love and grace for our lives and for our families. We don’t even have to try to do it all ourselves.

The Result is to Thrive: To Thrive is the picture of health and vigor, growing naturally and allowing the life from within to take root. Like a beautiful flower, dazzling with dew in the sun, we can thrive, let our lives shine, and let love take root to grow and bloom with healthy lives.

I count my husband and children as some of my greatest blessings. Each day is truly a gift. I want to enjoy these days, this short time I have to be with them until they are on their own. But it can’t be done by smothering them, by hovering over their every move, or by making them the center of my universe. It can only be done by starting with myself …

To grace, and health, and all things new during this season of rebirth and Spring and Lent,


PS. A friend of mine, TJ Wilson, blogged about being a mom, and a book that helped in her life: click here for the link to her post on She’s Gonna Blow!

Starting the conversation (click below to leave a comment): Is there a book, or mentor, or other help in your life that has helped you become a healthier human being? What pieces of your life can you count as investing in you?