Letting go is an act of love.

Letting go is an act of love.

For me, to let go means to learn, through awareness, to stop clinging to
pain or joy. It means no longer striving to understand one or the other. It
means to release the need to be understood or the desperate desire for a
relationship to differ from that which it is.

To let go does not mean we no longer have the longing to give, to listen, or
to help. It does not mean we no longer want a voice, a seat at the table,
understanding, closeness, or closure. These things still matter to us, but when we let go, they become uncluttered. In letting go, we have made room for clarity. And with clarity, we leave worry and fear behind. With our unburdened hearts and minds, we find contentment in awareness—and the present.

By letting go, we become free to know ourselves, and in this way, use energy
wisely, with compassion, generosity, and a growing self-awareness. In doing this, we choose to live life in truth.

In letting go, pain becomes less overwhelming and more of an inspiring life lesson. Joy flows. We lift ourselves by letting go of what is not ours to change. Life opens. We expand our perspectives and our life experiences. And what once burdened us to worry, tears, and despair becomes like clouds in the sky… noticeable but passing.

Letting go means we choose to live freely, and in doing so, allow for more of life’s lightness to enter our lives.

In letting go, envy, hate, confusion, anger, and resentment eventually stop consuming us and give way to a brighter horizon, where hope for something better in ourselves, in our relationships, and the world… thrives.

Letting go… is an act of love.

…and look for a bit about joy here.

Learn how to have fun writing a short story.

Learn how to write a short story in one paragraph

Write a story in one paragraph

Learn how to have fun writing a short story. You can create a complete story in one paragraph. Choose any genre. Start with one word and write a story around it. Below are some examples of stories I have written using this method. Get creative. Think of the message you want to convey and create a beginning, middle, and end to your story. You can do it!

In the stories below, I started with the one-word suggestion as given by one of two different accounts on Spoutible. If you don’t know about Spoutible yet, Google it. It’s a terrific, well-managed social platform similar in appearance to the Xbird site without the malarkey. The two accounts I follow to take part in writing one-spout stories are @Spoutories and @DailyPictureTheme. And you can find me at Spoutible here: @sherrydenboer.

Read my stories below, then write yours. There’s no right or wrong writing style. Create a character, a setting, a plot… and go for it. Is your protagonist a hero or a villain? Human or not? Fauna or flora? The choices are infinite. What is the message you want to relate to your reader? Imagine you’re there in your story. Look around. What do you see? What do you hear? Remember, we have five senses… six if truth be told. More? Maybe. You can create your own world. It’s your story. Let your imagination fly. Go ahead, start telling it. And for those of you who want more, check out my Writing Prompts book below. Also, all photos here, and throughout my website, are mine.

Writing prompts

Writing Prompts book: 14 imaginative, diverse genre prompts for creative, fiction writing and busting writer’s block, teens and adults. 7.5 x 9.25″ 120 pages.

Click here for more information.

Short Stories:

Click on any word in the list below to jump to the story.

fuzz social revenge clown think mirror swept crunch lose mountain chip smug busy wet beam ordinary spin car blurry friend wide sparkle glee hesitate music chill tiny courage flustered present rain low change

You’ll find the word of day identified at the end of each short story.

The turntable spun Pink Floyd. We floated on the notes. A wee roach, pinched between fingers, miraculously went about the room. Boom! No one moved. Someone miles away yelled, “Fuzz!” #Spoutories #fuzz

“Living dead,” texted Kit. “What?” Ashley replied. Kit: “Hungry.” Ashley: “Whatever. You used to be social. Such a bore now.” Eyes glued to her phone; the three dots danced. Ashley waited. The three dots vanished. “Proves my point,” she huffed. Kit: “At your door.” #Spoutories #social

Dreaming of revenge, Liz ruminated. She’d show him. He’d see how she’d survived his brutality. She was thriving! The days passed. On she plotted. Until one day, Liz realized her revenge was him showing himself in a different form. Letting it go, she claimed back her power. #Spoutories #revenge

They called him the class clown. Farley made them laugh until they cried. He enjoyed doing so. But beneath his humor was a sadness so heavy, it hung like an anchor around his neck. The ocean floor beckoned, but humor gave him purpose and was a lifesaver. #Spoutories #clown

Above, stars twinkled in a cerulean sky. On the horizon, purple hues lingered; the color of the day was slipping away—a fading dream. Miriam’s heartbeat counted time, but she ignored its measuring; she did not want to think about her losses. “Let them go,” she whispered. #Spoutories #think

Jane avoided the mirror. A window to her fear it held the faces of the people from whom she had escaped. They hovered like vengeful ghosts. She knew to survive their wrath; she would have to face them one by one. But not today. Not today. #Spoutories #mirror

Fall leaves

The soft breeze rustled in the treetops. A single, red maple leaf came loose. For a moment, it hovered magically. In a force of resistance, it was swept high into the fall sky. A beacon of hope. #DailyPictureTheme #swept

Eyes wild with fear, Fran ran. Howling, the past was close on her heels. Ahead, the future waited in silence—a looming wall of uncertainty. This, she thought, is what they meant when they warned, “Look out for the time crunch!” #Spoutories #crunch

A mouse in a top hat tapped a walking stick against an arched door. The door opened. “Come in,” said a grasshopper gleefully. Just arrived, dropped here as if into a dream, from behind a cherry tree, Ben watched wild eyed, thinking, this is what it means to lose one’s mind. #Spoutories #Lose

mountain in iceland

The wind moaned its disapproval. It wanted to blow the mountain away. But the mountain was unmoved. “Howl as you must,” it shouted to the wind. “But I am steadfast and resilient. You cannot upset me. Besides, we are friends.” And the wind settled, rethinking its intentions. #TheDailyPicture #mountain

Joan crept into the dark kitchen and reached for the knife block; the butcher knife was already missing. Clamping a hand to her mouth, she stifled a cry. From behind, the crunching of a potato chip bag sliced the silence. She turned to an onrushing glint of metal. #Spoutories #chip

Storm clouds rolled in like warships. A deep purple, yellow-tinged sky dumped heavy sheets of rain. Lightning sliced the sky. A crackling rumble of thunder followed. To Harry, the brewing storm was a sign. “Last night,” he thought, “Sam was so smug. He doesn’t deserve me.” #Spoutories #smug

In the meadow just beyond the barnyard fence, the two friends chatted. “What do you think? Should we ask him?” asked Penny the pony. “I don’t know,” answered Bob the beetle, crawling to the tip of his friend’s ear. “He might want to come. He doesn’t look busy.” #DailyPictureTheme #busy

Theodore sat hunched on a soggy log. Exhausted, he raised his face to sunlight peeking out from behind passing storm clouds. The forest was lush with fat droplets glistening. He retrieved his map, and his eyes widened. Now that it was wet, it showed a hidden message. #Spoutories #Wet

In the farmer’s field at dusk, the row of scrappy trees is a dark silhouette. Mitch sees the jerky beam of the tracker before the rickety machine comes out from behind them. Crouching out of sight, he waits, hungry, tired, and scared. #Spoutories #beam

They were ordinary stones but piled one atop the other and they spoke of peace. #DailyPictureTheme #ordinary

“Spin!” shrieked the wretched witch to the yellow-tinged sky. “Spin into a fury!” The sky was compelled to comply. Purple, billowing clouds, bellies heavy with water and ice, spun and spun. A tail appeared, it’s tip touching down. The villagers scooped up their children and ran! #Spoutories #spin

Dad with car

He was a car guy so we were a car family. Still are. My dad. Miss him everyday. Endless love. #DailyPictureTheme #car

“What is beauty?” asked the stranger, tipping his hat. The people pointed at this and that, but they did not know. “Beauty is blurry. Is is joy, sorrow, young, old, near, far, life… death. Look at a blade of grass. Listen to a tree. Feel the beating of your own heart.” #DailyPictureTheme #blurry

At 6, a friend was forever. At 16, a friend meant sharing secrets & laughter. At 26, an abusive man stole me from my friend. At 36, a friend meant good wine & adventure. At 46, illness meant finding out who my friend was. 56 was lonely. Nearly 66, a friend is rare & precious. #Spoutories #friend

house in iceland

The wide, majestic view gave Joseph a glimpse of raw beauty and steadfast power. This, he thought, is just what I need. From that point forward, he used the inspiration of the Icelandic landscape to forge his path into an uncertain future. #DailyPictureTheme #wide

It started with a sparkle of light… a flickering glow in the darkness. The two weary travellers, content in their love, watched in silence and waited for the inevitable. One took hold of the other’s hand a breath before the blast reached them. #Spoutories #sparkle

tractor and barn

“I don’t know,” said Harvey chewing on a piece of straw. “He doesn’t look happy to me. He looks… startled.” Charlie lifted his hat from his head. “Ah, shucks, Harvey. Give him a break, he don’t do glee in his old age. Besides, he’s tryin’ to look cool for barn.” #DailyPictureTheme #glee

sign message board

That moment when you hesitate, but only for a breath of creative inspiration… and then get right back to using what ever is left in the bucket of nick-nacks and letters to make your sign shine! Puff up with pride, pal, cause you did it! #DailyPictureTheme #hesitate

“What is music?” asked Bing from beneath his mother’s wing. “Ahh,” said Minka, “it is the love in our hearts and the pain in our suffering. It is a memory, a bridge, a shelter, and a hug. It is every tear, and every smile.” “How will I know it, mama?” “Just listen.” #Spoutories #music

Falling into the freezer, the chill hit like a thousand stabbing spikes of steel, swift and paralyzing. The door moved behind him, and the moment it clicked closed, the evil Varcus King shattered into a million little pieces. #Spoutories #chill


Within the delicate matrix of a tiny dandelion, there is a whole universe. #DailyPictureTheme #tiny

blue bottle

“Wish upon the bottle of blue, and the love you dream will come true,” said the wise oak tree. “Add a white flower to increase its power,” said the sparrow nestled within her leaves. “And be kind,” said the rainbow. Love is love. #DailyPictureTheme #bottle

fog and sun

“Courage has many faces,” said the wise man. “Sometimes, it means entering the storm not knowing whether you’ll make it through. Other times, it means resilience after the storm has passed. Often, it means looking within.” #DailyPictureTheme #courage

When expressing your fears, worries, troubles, or triumphs seems impossible because you are alone, don’t get flustered. Show who you are, anyway. Create. Draw, paint, dance, or play. Compose music, sing, or play an instrument. Write a story. Live. That’s how you’ll share. #Spoutories #flustered

“People come and go,” said the old man. “In my life, no one has ever been truly present.” He nodded sadly, pushing a bowl of water closer to his dog. “There’s always noise or neglect, and life can be lonely… but,” he smiled, “it is not without hope.” #Spoutories #present

double rainbow

As if to show with indisputable resolve that hope is always alive and present, after the torrential rain, a double rainbow appeared. #DailyPictureTheme #rain

bushes on fire

Low to the ground the foliage has turned burnt orange. When the sun casts its light upon the sprawling leaves of these bushes, from afar they appear as if they are smouldering flames. Trail walks will smooth the soul. #DailyPictureTheme #low

“Why are people so afraid of change,” asked the boy.
“They’re afraid of the unknown, son.”
“But, Dad, isn’t the unknown where hope lives?”
Dad bent down to his son, tears in his eyes, his worry subsiding. “Thank you, son.”
“For what, Dad?”
“For changing my perspective.” #Spoutories #change

Find more about all my books here, and my greeting cards and journals here.

This is why journal writing is so helpful.

This is why journal writing is so helpful.

When I was about eleven years old, my parents gifted me my first journal. It was a powder blue color. I wish I could remember fully what it looked like, but, alas, I cannot. However, I remember the emotion attached to having it. Back then, my family did not call it a journal. We called it a diary. And my diary had a lock and key. The lock was heavenly. Even at that early age, I valued my privacy—especially when this gift was also going to allow me to write whatever I wanted. With it, I could now explore my thoughts and express them freely with no one to judge them. And I tell you, even back then, I had much to say.

In that diary, I wrote my secret feelings about life as a preteen. I doodled and drew, printed, and used cursive—every line, swirl, word, thought, and idea was an exploration of my world.

That diary gave me a sense of safety in that I could write whatever I was thinking and feeling without fear of ridicule. I explored all my feelings, letting rip any heartache or injustice… and proclaiming my love for whomever or whatever was front and center in my life.

One day my diary went missing. Oh boy, I searched and searched for it, turning my bedroom upside down in a panic. I mean, come on! All my most cherished secrets were in that diary and now a stranger had it, or worse, my sisters! I never found it. Thank goodness I was about fourteen when it went missing. Three whole years had passed since I had filled that diary cover to cover, which I did in the first few months of having it. I was more mature now, right? Those were the rantings of a little girl, childish, and I had outgrown them. Well, that is what I told myself, anyway.

Instead, I decided I would move on to more grown-up things to write about. I used my allowance to buy what I now called a journal. A journal. I loved the sound of the word. I still do. Journaling: to keep a daily record. You bet. I have this. I want this. Journaling is an adventure perfectly made for me. At fourteen and fifteen, my life had expanded. It now included more varied relationships. Friendship was front and center, but the idea of romance was becoming a close second. So, yes, onto those lined pages I laid out my heart.

I explored poetry and loved this new way, for me, of composing in verse, using language with conscious attention to patterns and rhythms. I used poetry to examine my feelings, explore them fully, articulate them, and sometimes purge them. This new form of expression came in handy as more heartbreak entered my world.

By the time I was sixteen, I had met a boy who turned out to be abusive. At that age, I was suffering from low self-esteem but did not know so. Back then, I had never even heard of such a thing. I have since discovered how this happened for me, but long before that revelation, during my early and mid-teenage years, self-reproach was my primary coping mechanism—that, mixed with denial and trying to make my tumultuous relationship into something it would never be, loving.

So, I had an abundance of material for my journals. And I learned very early in my life that getting my thoughts, fears, worries, and troubles onto paper, which for me was a way then, and now, to take a chaotic mess in my head and sort it out into smaller bits I was better able to manage, was also cathartic and healing, and a way for me to explore my love for writing.

In my early twenties, after four years of that unfortunate relationship, during which I filled my journals with accounts of some horrendous stuff, the details of the abuse notwithstanding, and the odd entry softened now and again with poems about love lost, love found, lost again… and so on, I broke free.

In my early thirties, I cleansed myself of the records of that troubling time—one summer evening by the lake at a cottage. There, I burned all the journals from the time of my abuse. I still vividly remember how the scorching heat caused the spine of the book to arch and the pages to open. They splayed and fanned, surrendering as the flames consumed them, bits of paper spiraling bright molten orange into the inky night sky—until all that remained was ash. At that moment, I regained a little more of my power.

For years after, I wrote about gratitude, healing, and all things I found interesting in my life. I even had a gardening journal. Gardening, for me, is another healing practice. I have taken part in about twenty summits about meditation, resilience, mental health, expanded state of consciousness, and more. And each time I do, I have a journal to record my experience.

My entire first novel is one massive journal because the core of it came from my life experience as a teenager and a young woman during those tough years. The difference between then and now? I now was ready to share that story with the world. I hope it can help others.

Journals are gateways of a sort. They allow us to explore deeply ourselves and the world, to process the good and the bad in our lives, to create, to heal, to grow, and to expand. Diary, journal, composition notebook… the names may change, but the heart and soul of the content we create remain as vivid as ever.

This is why journal writing is so helpful.

If you are interested, I created two composition notebooks to complement my novel REASONS three lives, one soul. You can find them here and here. (second link to follow soon)

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Ahh… the horizon.

Is it the beauty of a fiery, pink-hued setting sun that draws us in? Or is it the gloriously glowing orb that rises to a new day that captivates us most?

In the sunset, we see accomplishment, a toning down, a calmness. In the sunrise, we see a newness, a cleaning of the slate, a gateway. Do we need to see the sun at all to be lulled and soothed, or made hopeful and energized, by the horizon? What about a starry skyscape melding into the shadows of the gently curving outline of our orbiting Earth?

What does a view of the horizon awaken in you?

The sight of the horizon makes us feel things. It rouses in us the pain or pleasure of embodying our emotions: a fluttering in the belly, a sighing release of breath, a rush of adrenaline to our fingertips, goosebumps, a welling of tears… and then, through awareness of such embodiment, the horizon has shown us a new way of being and learning.

The horizon is steadfast. We know it is always there, waiting, being… observing.

When we have a clear view of the horizon, through contemplation we might embody a heightening sense of abundance… a physical experience of limitlessness, of infinity…

such that we might lean forward into forgiveness,


generosity, understanding,

… and in this, the creation of a wider perspective… an expansion… an opening in the fog… a wonder-inspiring awakening, a deepening inner revelation, a breathtaking, broadening of experience—

is the greatest potential for renewed connections, fresh outlooks, and new beginnings that we never have thought a possibility just moments before.

Oh, the horizon, how it makes us dream.

When we catch welcome glimpses of it… say, through the flickering openings shimmering white between a dense wall of tall trees or beyond the rolling contours of dark and majestic mountains… where, far away, is the teasing of a clear blue sky laid flush against the straight edge of a grassy meadow… or a deeper shade of charcoal-blue storm clouds blending into an endless plane of purply blue sea…




We feel a part of something





we could sink our teeth into if only

we understood it better.

Ah well, no problem… we think.

We will keep staring at the horizon,

contemplating it…

painting it,

describing it with our earthbound words.

And, in this way, we will get closer to it, closer to its secrets… closer to the untouchable mysteries that lie beyond it. Maybe.

Oh, the mysteries of the horizon.

In them, there is wonder and awe.

And in awe,

when the horizon beckons us,

there is freedom.

Why do we love the horizon so much? You tell me.

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Learn how to recognize and understand your map of life

Blog post

About two weeks ago, I was taking part in a short, guided meditation. During it, the speaker asked participants to imagine the turning points in their life… and suggested visualizing these moments as the connecting dots of an upward trajectory—and the creation of “the map of your life so far.”

For many of us, one or two or more of these turning points involve challenges and experiences so painful that we are not sure we can face them again—and certainly not with our eyes wide open.

A movie in my mind’s eye

While I had much joy in my life, about a decade ago, this is how I felt. And yet, now, for me, the experience of visualizing the turning points in my life, joyful or painful, was like watching a fast-paced, yet smooth progression… a movie in my mind’s eye… one that indeed revealed an upward trajectory.

I am not so sure this upward progression would have been obvious to me had I tried this exercise years ago.

I will never know. The “movie” might play, but I think I might have become stuck within three or more of the turning points because, in real life, I truly was stuck.

What happens when you’re stuck?

When stuck, the links in my map of life became obscured; the connections became severed, interrupted by my unchecked chattering mind. Left unobserved, my thoughts sometimes made an abundance of painful memories become overwhelmed by sadness, resentment, confusion, fear, or anger.

Back then, to me, my map of life might have resembled a crumpled piece of paper that when unfolded revealed a scribbling of detached lines going in all directions.


Now, things are different, and pleasantly so.

I have done the arduous work. I poured the results into my novel: REASONS Three Lives One Soul.

I have looked inward and scraped the darkest shadows for substance and definition.

What “works” for each of us is as different as we are from each other

Some of you might be ready to stop reading. I get you. I understand. Once, a therapist, recommended to me by a good friend, pulled out a scarf from her desk. She held one end, passed the other end to me, and asked me to pull on it as hard as I could.


Not for me.

Fine for someone else, but not me.

My pain was deep, and I was so far from it, I did not know what it had in store for me then, and past then. Still now it holds mysteries.

Yet through all the flux, my map of life was growing and making connections, anyway. It did not need my permission.

The creation of your map is unique to you

This post, however, is not about my healing journey. I tell you a bit about my experience with pain because it is important to say that I know this journey well—and like many of you, the creation of my map formed from personal experience with both joy and pain—and not an assumption of what they might be like.

Besides, this healing journey of mine? I am still on it.

The remarkable change for me over the years is that I no longer fear my journey. Instead, I am grateful for it. Yes, that too might trigger eye-rolling. But, for me, my journey is a path to the truth; it is a path to my truth.

My journey has expanded my perspective, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

Okay, back to the map of life. Your map is unique to you. And, yes, my map is unique to me.

When the visualization suggested by the speaker unfolded in my mind, I saw myself in these fleeting yet obvious moments of my past. There I was as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, as a woman forging her career, as a sister, a daughter, middle-aged—all coming and going through triumphs and failures, through trauma, through deaths of this and that… and of friends and family…

And yet.

And… yet.

A thread runs through it

There, whirling about these images, threaded throughout them, tying them all together into one long flowing line, was an underlying peacefulness, a rising joy… an opening up and unfolding of me.

And the thread? Well, that ‘essence’ was… is… who I am: the witness.

I discovered, no, I continue to discover that as the witness… I remain whole and true… as I have always been from the beginning of my existence.

During the meditation exercise, at the time to my surprise, in my mind’s eye, the visions of past to current turning points literally and effortlessly ran in an upward trajectory—like dots on an upward pointing arrow… with me the essence that breathed life into the whole of the movement.

The map of my life, so far, has led to authenticity, integrity, self-compassion, forgiveness, self-love, acceptance, letting go of what is not in my control… and so much more—while all the while clarifying that the unknown path ahead, even in the certainty of impermanence, has an infinite quality to it.

Now you have an idea of how to: Learn to read your map of life.

Learn how to generate more joy in your life.

Blog post

Learn how to generate more joy in your life. What does joy feel like? Does joy feel the same for you as it does for me?

These are questions that crossed my mind one rainy afternoon when joy seemed distant and a wishful thought.

I want more joy in my life, so I wondered if, within reason, or even independent of it, I might set an intention to feel joy whenever I wanted.

If I asked you to describe what joy feels like… could you?

At first, it seems an easy query, but, for me, when I asked myself this same question, I paused. Did I truly know what joy felt like? I certainly believed I knew what sorrow felt like, so joy should be easy to describe… it’s the opposite of the crushing weight of sorrow. But had I paid attention to what joy felt like for me? I wasn’t so sure.

Words are important and useful. They portray and elicit deep emotion—but an embodied sensation is personal… and too often, missed or ignored… and existing at the peripheral of our forgotten awareness. Yes, I said forgotten awareness—meaning this: we forget to be aware—we forget to notice what emotions feel like because we’re often too busy being highjacked by our endlessly chattering minds.

We forget to take notice of how emotions feel in our bodies. And if we forget to notice, how will we know when we’re feeling the seemingly more elusive ones, like joy? Increased joy isn’t an impossible wish. We just need to learn to be present for it.

We each have different stories to tell. The embodied experience of our sorrow and joy is unique. I can’t tell you what either of these emotions feels like for you. Sure, I can guess. And I might even find words that seem like a good fit. But why guess when each of us has the truest answer within us? I’ll leave it to you to describe how joy feels for you.

Here’s my description of how I embody joy (while I am mindful that the feeling is ever-growing):

The wonder of joy feels like the rising of warmth in my chest, sometimes bringing gentle tears to well in my eyes and a calm spread of a smile to my lips.

Joy feels like soft shivering from my belly, a gentle trembling near the hollow of my throat, and a wash of tingles and goosebumps caressing the surface of my skin—like I’m re-experiencing a childlike presence.

Joy is a curiosity and clarity of mind that translates into a feeling of being lighter than a feather, as if I’m floating, my limbs no longer weighed down by gravity.

My senses become heightened. I hear more crisply and see more vibrantly, noticing the tiniest of details, the brightness of color—as if I’ve become an explorer in a new world.

My lungs expand more fully and smoothly. I sense the air moving through my body akin to drinking a glass of cool, fresh water, filling me like an elixir, grounding and steadying me as new in every moment with no need for conclusion or anticipation.

I’ll pull from my description all the words I used to describe joy as a physical sensation:

  • The rising of warmth in my chest.
  • Gentle tears well in my eyes.
  • A calm spread of a smile to my lips.
  • Soft shivering from my belly.
  • A gentle trembling near the hollow of my throat.
  • A wash of tingles and goosebumps caress the surface of my skin.
  • Being lighter than a feather.
  • Floating limbs are no longer weighed down by gravity.
  • Senses become heightened.
  • Hear more crisply.
  • See more vibrantly.
  • Lungs expand more fully and smoothly.
  • Air moving through my body like drinking a glass of cool, fresh water.
  • Grounded and steady.

And here are the words from my description I used to describe joy as a cerebral experience:

  • Wonder.
  • Childlike presence.
  • Curiosity and clarity.
  • An explorer in a new world.
  • New in every moment with no need for conclusion or anticipation.

Now that I’ve paid attention to how my body and mind feel when I experience joy, through ongoing awareness, joy is no longer a distant and wishful thought.

Learn how to generate more joy in your life. What does Joy feel like?

It feels like an extension of me.

Here’s a link to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. His life’s work is truly healing for all.

Learn how to enjoy having your creative work critiqued

Blog post

Learn how to enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, the value of creating relationships with critique partners, I remember the jitters that came when first handing off a manuscript for critique.

Like most things precious to us, we don’t want to have our work dissected, altered, and criticized. We want it to remain whole, unchanged, and pleasing just as it is. And sometimes, we believe that our creation reflects us; so, critique it, and you critique us. We don’t enjoy hearing about the parts of our creation, and thus about us, the creator, that might need improvement.

But why are we so fragile about this? I can only speak for myself. Maybe you can relate.

When I first received a critique of the first draft of my manuscript, the many red markings in the margin (or wherever they fit) rose from the page like warning signals of personal failure. Even when I told myself I’d be okay with whatever came back to me, those pages of red markings were difficult to digest… at first.

The next day, after I’d slept on the comments, interestingly, I felt differently about them. One or two of the comments immediately stood out; their improvement to my work was undeniable. If one or two comments made that much of a positive difference, what might all the rest do?

And just like that, I transformed from a wounded ego to an eager creator once more—more excited about my project than ever.

Instead of fearing failure or personal judgment, I experienced renewed excitement about my manuscript, and deep gratitude for the person who’d taken the time to read it, and the care to comment so generously.

My mindset had changed. The critique experience became thoroughly positive; it became a lesson in which I quickly found great value. I was now excited to contemplate and evaluate each thought or suggestion given to me. I moved through each comment with care and consideration. For each critique provided, one of the following occurred:

  • I accepted a critique suggestion outright.
  • I used the clear misunderstanding of a critique remark to change a manuscript description, plot element, character intention, word choice, or another such manuscript-related component. Each change brought a noticeable improvement.
  • I reworked a critique to better suit the intention of my manuscript.
  • I altogether discarded a critique.

Sometimes, well… I’d say, most of the time, we’re too close to our work to see objectively where it needs improvement.

Here are a few examples of errors or omissions we can too easily miss:

  • Words that don’t convey the meaning we intend.
  • Improper use of pronouns.
  • Improper use of tense.
  • Repetition of phrases or words or overused expressions.
  • Use of cliches.
  • Misspelled words.
  • Holes or gaps; the missing bridges that connect the plot or scene structure.
  • Creation of a character who lacks depth or isn’t relatable to the reader.
  • Inconsistencies in the timeline or other details.

In time, handing a manuscript or some other heartfelt creation over to a peer for critique becomes easier. We,

  • Move past worrying about being judged and get back to the business of producing the best creation we can.
  • We see the remarkable value in each critique—even the critiques that at first seem too heavy-handed or harsh.
  • Each remark becomes a path to improvement of creation and craft.

To enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

Here’s a link to a critique partnering website I found helpful: CritiqueMatch

What to do when Friends or Family Let Us Down?

What to do when Friends or Family Let Us Down?

When friends or family let us down, it hurts. It just does. And there’s no way around the associated pain. It sucks. When friends or family let me down, I can feel isolated, alone… and maybe even feel as if I’m not important to them. So… What to do when Friends or Family Let Us Down?

Some say to not have any expectations or to lower them. I think most of us know this is an easy phrase to say, but not so easy to live. When family or friends dismiss us or ignore us or worse yet, promise us something but don’t follow through, what do we do? How do we feel?

I can guess, like me, your reaction to a broken promise might often be negative and sometimes lead to self-doubt. I understand. It’s hard to push aside our expectations. After all, we’re not robots. We have thoughts and emotions. We feel joy and we feel pain. And sometimes, we feel alone.

It may seem as if everyone else has tons and tons of support from family and friends—or even from hundreds or thousands of total strangers. Social media has everything to do with this manipulation of our perspective.

In reality, no one is immune to feelings of self-doubt or loneliness.

Every person feels let down from time to time. People of all makes and shapes can feel alone. The sting of emotional pain is something every person knows.

Social media has distorted the meaning of the words: friends and followers.

An authentic smile from one person in one moment of any day means more to lifting one’s spirits—even if it comes from a stranger.

For many of us, expectations are hard to suppress, almost impossible in our digital age of instant information or disinformation, our desire for immediate gratification, and our tendency to measure self-worth by quantities of likes, loves, shares or retweets.

Better said than ‘don’t have expectations, is ‘don’t become attached to the outcome’.

Of course, I didn’t come up with this sage piece of advice. But it makes sense to me, so I share it with you. The hard part is to remember to live it.

My sense of success, inner calm, self-worth, and self-realization isn’t solely measured by the sense of a good or bad outcome. Nor is it defined by what family or friends do or don’t say or do. It also isn’t determined by the number of people, especially strangers, who click ‘like’, or ‘follow’ on social media. Sure, those things can feel good. But the good feeling is fleeting… because it holds no depth of value.

How we feel about ourselves doesn’t come from outside of us. And a “good” sense of self-worth isn’t hidden so deep within that we need some kind of special skill or magic key to access it. It might seem buried beneath years of emotional debris, never to see the light of day. But it’s there… and waiting for us to discover it. For some, the dig can be scary and arduous. But it can also be rewarding. Successful feelings or achievements don’t have to wait until some future time when everything falls neatly into place. And they sure as heck don’t depend on family and friends to manifest and thrive.

For me, I long ago learned that I can navigate and cultivate my sense of success and self-worth all by myself.

I can realize happiness and joy any second of the day. Sure, sometimes life will be too hard, too fast, too heavy. It’s like meditating when I’m experiencing too much emotional or physical pain; that’s way too rough a ride, and too easily promotes a sense of failure. In those tougher moments, I just breathe… and keep moving.

On other days, I practice patience and self-compassion, and self-love and kindness go a long way, too. These are not attributes granted by a genie. They’re already part of who I am.

It may take a lot of hard work, but in time, many of us who question our abilities or the value of our creations, learn to stop looking for the answers from outside of us.

We can try to understand the perceived dismissiveness of our friends or family members… but we’ll never know the answer because we are not them. We don’t know what’s going on in their lives. We can guess, but where does that get us? We end up telling ourselves made-up stories. Let it be.

Instead, why not choose to settle into the moment? Why not learn to embody it, feelings and all, without trying to solve it like a puzzle? For me, by choosing this quiet, introspective way of being, I’ve found I’ve got all the support I’ll ever need… from within; and I’ve discovered I can keep learning how to become the best I can be.

I’ve got this. And you do too.

As a side note, no particular recent friend’s or family member’s lack of support toward me inspired this post. Like my other posts, this one is about sharing some general thoughts about being human. I am profoundly grateful for my family members and friends who show up to support me, and who keep their promises. I wholly respect their time and consideration. They are stellar people (not that they need me to realize this).

Discover how to describe you without I, me, you, mine, ours.

Blog post

Discover how to describe you without I, me, you, mine, ours.

This is a writing exercise I heard about while attending an online summit during the height of the pandemic. I put it in my back pocket. Until now.

Here’s my attempt at the exercise, and what I learned:

Here’s my attempt at the exercise, and what I learned:

Each morning, the day pulls. It brings a golden glow and awakens the senses. Even if the mind has been active all night long, daylight calls on the spirit to pull itself out from beneath the covers; to shake off the drowsiness of slumber, and to rise. And so, eyes open, legs bend, arms move, hands grasp bed sheets, and out from the warmth they go.

What is ahead? What comes after stretching limbs, brushing teeth, feeding cats, sitting quietly in meditation, eating oatmeal with berries and maple syrup?   

A day of writing awaits. It starts with the opening of a laptop and the preparing of other electronic devices; the arranging of writing utensils; the placement of a cup of tea.

Before the writing begins, is the watching and listening and absorption of… the news.

The news. Sigh.

The news. Defeating.

The news…

Witness. Pause. Regroup.

What were the day’s plans?


                        sort of.

Ah, yes. Write.

Just write.

But first… wait. Is it okay to carry on writing a novel while the world sits on the brink of a third world war? And while so many are suffering?


I think so… yes.

The world watches. The world pays attention. The world must pay attention. And, at the same time, the world must keep going. It must keep creating, writing, dancing, and singing.

But it must also continue to bear witness. And, it must do more. It must help where and when it can. Not just talk. Help! Be present and help. Reach out. Give. Open doors. Connect and reconnect.

Remember, when one suffers, all suffer.

Could have been born anywhere. There. Could-have-been-born-there! And… would fight, too.

Oh, Canada. The True North, strong and free…


Come back.


What did I learn from this exercise?

The first thing I learned is that it’s an ongoing learning experience, like life.

For me, to discover how to describe myself without I, me, you, mine, ours, freed me from… well… superficial me. And instead, put an honest essence into the phrases created.

The writer is no longer separate from the creation.

There occurs a sort of re-connection with that which is embodied and always has been…. but is usually overwhelmed by a cerebral experience… when one becomes lost in thought.

Writing without pronouns is liberating.

A sort of rough poetry… a flowing of the senses from within the whole being emerges. And the writer leaves the ego behind.

What arises is the gleaming illumination of truth.

Try it. Discover how to describe you without I, me, you, mine, ours.

“Tend to the garden of the area you can reach.” Jack Kornfield

I’m published! Now what?

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I’m published! Now what?

Time to just sit back and relax, right? Pardon me while I chuckle…

An author’s work doesn’t end when the book goes live—not if she wants her book to be noticed.

Without marketing the new release, it’s just lost in a sea of books; an enormous sea.

So, off goes the writing hat, and on comes the marketing cap. The writing hat is never far away because the next book is already in the works. And you know what? I’m cool with the workload, excited really.

The marketing aspect is difficult and fun. It’s another creative outlet.

Learning the ropes of Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads and such, while writing copy, is pretty darn challenging. But it can be fun. And writing the new book? Well, that’s a bit like starting a new book as a reader. Everything is fresh; a clean slate; a dawning of new ideas, characters, and plot. As a fiction writer, whether Plotter or Pantser, starting a new novel is thrilling.

And yet, each task, marketing or novel writing, is a full-time job. So, planning and balance are key. And when I say balance, I mean taking time off, getting outside, visiting friends. You get the idea.

I started marketing a year before my book was ready for publishing. As a new author, every step was a steep learning curve. Whether Indie or traditionally published, the author is often responsible for most of the marketing. And as an Indie publisher, the creation of the book’s interior and cover, as well as the coding for the eBook version, is in the hands of the author.

I read so much material and watched so many videos, I couldn’t possibly accurately list them all here. But I assure you that nowadays, good articles and ‘how to’ videos are pretty easy to find.

I created binders of information and sometimes wondered how I’d get through it all. But, bit by bit, I got more and more organized and my publishing and marketing plan took shape.

It started with an author platform—which is an ongoing project.

I learned how to create my website and social media presence—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. My website traffic grew slowly, but it grew (even without a product yet to sell). Social media presence is trickier. Authentically engaging with people while learning how to tell them about you and your book, without becoming a nuisance, is… well… often hit and miss. And, sometimes, the friends and family we thought would support us don’t always come through. Learning how to move forward without them is, at times, difficult, but critical. Believing in and trusting in yourself and your book is important. You put a lot of work into your book, every word chosen with purpose. So, support your efforts with self-compassion, and, well, heart-full, mindful intention.

An unknown author doesn’t build a fan base overnight. It takes dedication and effort and humility and patience.

Having said this, I’m glad I created my website when I did, and I’m proud of my efforts. Now that I’ve published my book, visitors to my well-established website have both my blog and my book to consider.

I’m published!

Time to keep at it. Pardon me while I smile…

I’m published! Now what?