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  1. A Motivational Trick for Writers

    December 29, 2019 by Diane

    You may be wondering where I’ve disappeared to these many weeks, and why I haven’t chronicled my squirrelly thoughts on this blog.

    Contrary to what you might suspect, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, tempting though that may be. I’ve been here, behind the writer’s curtain, churning out fiction. Daily. Lately, a short story a week.

    I accomplished this astounding feat because I took five steps. Five teensy-weensy steps, which I share with you now.

    Step 1: Hang a calendar on the wall

    Hang it where you’ll see it every day, where you can’t ignore its presence. I hung it next to the front door.

    Step 2: Set a goal, and break it down into baby steps

    I knew I could spare fifteen minutes a day to write. In fifteen minutes, I could write five hundred words quickly. No time to pick apart what I wrote as I wrote it, no time to stare out the window pondering what to write. If I spent fifteen minutes a day clickety-clacking on the keyboard, at the clip of five hundred words a day I’d have thirty-five hundred words in seven days, which adds up to (whips out the calculator) one short story. Fifteen minutes was doable. And do it I did.

    Step 3: Set a timer

    Show up at your keyboard (or notebook or legal pad), set the timer, and dive in. Don’t think about the dinger. Don’t let your inner editor fill your ear with his nasty breath. Just play in your writer’s playground for your allotted period of time. I often spent more than my allotted period, but that 15 minute goal got my rear in the saddle.

    Step 4: Buy some colored markers

    Use them to mark an X on your calendar for each day you complete your task. The more colorful the markers, the better.

    Step 5: Don’t break the chain of X’s

    That’s your motivational cue. If you’re like me, that calendar with those brightly-colored X’s will keep you going. When you don’t feel like writing or you’re too tired to write, when you don’t have a blasted idea of what to write or you’re just too lazy to write, even when you feel unwell and would rather sleep than write, you’ll write anyway because you want to reward yourself with that cheery pink, blue, or green X on the calendar. For three months straight, I haven’t broken the chain.

    To prove that I did indeed write a smattering of short stories, I present the first paragraph, a sneak peek if you will, of five stories which I will be submitting to literary journals for publication. Without further ado, here they are, with their titles, in no particular order.

    Mama’s Hands

    The day Sally Wilson turned eighteen, in spite of her mama’s objections, she packed an old suitcase and drove off with the twenty-three-year-old cowboy who had reeled her in but good.

    The Evidence

    Late on a Saturday afternoon, in the shadow of the police building, I sat in a donut shop reading the paper and drinking coffee when Ronnie Deuce rapped on the window and gestured for me to come outside. He wore a yellow plaid suit and pink tie and looked like he’d stepped out of a Damon Runyon story. I was familiar with the two-bit gambler. We’d crossed paths when I was down to my last hundred and had to visit the tables myself. Deuce cleaned me out, not that I held a grudge. It was beyond my capacity. I refolded the paper and kept reading.

    Whatever Happened to Carl Hogan?

    Carl Hogan walked downstairs with a plate of wet cat food and was never seen again.

    Passing Through

    Tunia jolted awake in the back seat when her father pulled into a gas station and asked the attendant for directions to Beaker’s Pass. They’d been on the road for a day and a night, the first time she’d been anywhere with just her Pops, and she didn’t want the trip to end. The pimply-faced boy pumping gas said they’d found it, sure enough, and her father said, “What, this scraggly stretch of dirt?” He wheezed when he said it. The same sound her mother had made.

    I Won’t be Here Forever

    We were doing what married couples do on Sundays, reading the newspaper, sipping coffee, savoring a late breakfast of bacon and eggs, taking a drive, and in the car at the stoplight you straightened and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I want a divorce.” Just like that. The light turned green and I stared at you, open-mouthed, and thought, who will I eat brunch with on Sundays? That’s what sunk into my head. The driver behind us tooted his horn and I floored it. Floored it. Went sailing through a red light, took the blind curves up the hill too fast, and when that sheer drop to the lake came into view I headed for it. At the last moment I squealed to a stop so we both bobbed forward and slammed back against the seats. Dust swirled around the car. Your lips were white. You didn’t say a word. I knew, then, you were willing to die, you were that miserable.


  2. An Uplifting Moment

    November 24, 2019 by Diane

    Photo of yellow rose by Bruno Luz on Unsplash


    Outside my window, the backyard is usually abundant with green leafy vegetables, colorful flowers, and trees bursting with foliage. But as the days grow cold, and light is precious, the vegetables die back, the flowers shrivel and disperse in dust, the trees drop their once massive leaves.

    I sat on the patio this morning reading Norman Vincent Peale. I set the book aside, and looked around the garden. My landlady had cleared out the dead branches, raked up the leaves, pruned the bushes, pulled up any lingering vegetable plants. I looked around and saw the death that signals autumn.

    Yet the sun shone warmly on my hatless head. Birds tweeted. A biplane motored softly into the distance. A lovely summer day in the midst of fall. And there, right in front of me, a yellow rose grew on a trim bush.

    How could I have missed the rose? My gaze had taken in all that wasn’t, and missed this small miracle thriving directly under my nose. I got up to smell it, because it’s written that one must stop whatever one is doing to smell the roses, and this tiny flower offered the most magnificent scent.

    How often do we overlook the sweetness in life? How often do our squirrelly minds rack up a laundry list of everything that’s wrong in the world? My back hurts. My teeth are crooked. My shoulders are stiff, my neck is cranky. I can’t sleep. I oversleep. My hair is too thin or unruly, too curly or straight. 

    And that’s just the body. It’s not enough to find fault in our immediate surrounding; no, we must search outside ourselves, too.

    My desk is cluttered. My shelves are dusty. The wall needs painting, the rug needs replacing. My mattress is too hard or too soft, too lumpy or thin, too small or so vast that I feel lost and alone in it.

    But it’s not enough, is it, confining our dissatisfaction to what houses our bodies. We must look even farther afield. The driveway is cracked. The road has potholes. The grocery store is too big or too small, has too many choices or not enough. Those people in line are too noisy or shifty or sneezy or slow or just plain annoying. It’s probably their fault that my taxes are too high, my medical plan too expensive, my health or job or children at risk, and my life a living hell.

    And yet…and yet…there, overlooked by our critical eye, a rose offers a magnificent scent. The woman in front of you lets you go ahead because you have just the one item, a small bottle of cough syrup. The sour-looking clerk lights up when you wish her a great rest-of-your-day. Your car, a clunker with high mileage, still gets you safely home. Amidst the dust on your shelves sits a photo of your daughter at the age of eight. A painting of the seashore covers a crack in your wall. The sun slants onto your bed from one to two o’clock, making a cozy nest for reading a novel. A solitary rose grows on the vine.

    This week, look for the rose. Lift your gaze and notice the smile. Focus on the stretch of road free of potholes. Firmly set aside the laundry list in your mind and visualize a sunny nesting spot instead.

    This week, be the rose for someone else.


  3. I’m Famous. You Might as Well Know the Truth.

    July 28, 2019 by Diane

    This week, I was featured on WriterCEO.com, a website which offers inspirational interviews from professional writers who share their secrets to success. Why me?

    Because I actually make money as a writer.

    I know, right?

    If you’re curious about how this miracle came to be and exactly what I do when I’m not blogging about the nutty stuff that drives me nutty, or if you’d like a bit of sage writing advice from a hack like me, then I urge you, nay, implore you, to visit the site and read my interview by clicking here. And please leave a comment!

    WriterCEO.com is the brainchild of the wonderful Colleen M Story. In addition to the weekly interviews featured on her site, Colleen also writes about writing and wellness, which you’ll find a link to here. And she wrote two terrific books: Writer Get Noticed!, and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, the latter of which was probably written for me. Because, you know, I’m famous.

    So, what are you waiting for? Skedaddle on over, peel back the writer’s curtain and unlock the mystery behind my disguise. And if you know a budding author eager to make a career with words, direct them to the site so they can poke around and learn from some of the pros.