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Motivational Monday ~ Enjoy the Moment

22 Apr

Motivational Monday ~ Enjoy the Moment

Recently, the news has been filled with unbelievable tragedy and sadness. It’s at times like these, I stop and remember all the reasons I have to be grateful.

On Saturday, my youngest made her First Communion. I love this photo because it oozes personality. She’s tired of having her picture taken at this point. 🙂 But I wanted to make sure I captured the day.

During Mass, I held her hand and tried to stay present in the moment. I have three older children and I am all too aware of how quickly times go by.

Enjoy the moment.

Cheers,
Alison

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Motivational Monday ~ External Inspiration

4 Mar
Now available in print

Now available in print!

I’ve always been a firm believer that no one can motivate someone else to do something they don’t want to do, not for the long run anyway. I often say this about my children. They have to want good grades. I can encourage them. Provide the tools they need, but I can’t do it for them. (I refuse to do it for them!)

To be successful in anything, a person has to be self motivated. This is especially true for writers. How else is a person going to go from idea to finished novel? It’s a long journey. The desire has to come from with-in.

However, a little “external inspiration” never hurts when it comes to fanning the flames of self-motivation. Mine came in the March 2013 issue of RT Book Reviews. Random Acts, my debut romantic suspense received 4 Stars (out of 4.5 stars) and this wonderful review:

Romantic suspense fans, hold onto your hats because Stone evokes a whirlwind of emotions from the moment her book begins. This engaging story with a tough-as-nails heroine kicks off with a mystery readers will want to sink their teeth into, and the vast array of characters helps it all come together. Though a bit vague at times, Stone’s story is still easy to follow and so good it’s terrifying.

Whenever I get in a lull in my current project, I think back to this wonderful review and keep chugging along. How do you motivate yourself when you’re feeling uninspired?

One last thing, Random Acts, currently available as an eBook, will be out in print tomorrow, March 5, 2013. Check it out if you get a chance.

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Stay Away from the Joy Suckers

18 Feb

photo (90)Last week I was reading The Buffalo News* and  I came across Lisa Earle McLeod’s column titled, “What is the poison person costing you?” As I read the article, I found myself nodding in agreement. She divides co-workers into three categories: Nitpickers, Subversives and Eeyores.  I think we’ve all had to deal with people in each of these groups.  I’ve long described a few people I know as Eeyores and I wholeheartedly agree with Lisa Earle McLeod’s description.

Eeyores: Their calling card is heavy sighs, beleaguered looks, and endless complaints. They’re always searching for someone who will finally listen to their tale of woe. Being around an Eeyore is Chinese water torture. You’re dying, but it’s one slow drip at a time.

I also describe these people as Joy Suckers. I have no idea how people live with them, nor how they live with themselves.  If you’re like me and work at home, you can still find poisonous people all over the internet. I have learned to tune out these poisonous people on social media. If you’re a writer, you may recognize a few on this list.

  • The person who badmouths publishing professionals or publishing houses.
  • The writer who tears another writer’s work to shreds.
  • The writer who constantly complains about how hard writing is and how she never has time because of her kids, her husband, her mother, her job, her (fill in the blank.)

Sure, writing is hard. Bad stuff happens. But if you fill your head with negative comments, it will zap your creative energy. You will begin to believe all the bad stuff and only the bad stuff. Instead we need to focus on the positive.

  • The writer who signed her dream agent.
  • The writer who had fabulous success with her latest novel.
  • The writer who took the time to give you advice.

I prefer to surround myself with positive people. Life’s too short.

Do you naturally gravitate toward positive people? Have you taken active steps to move away from those who poison your dreams? I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Alison Stone

*Why, yes, I do still subscribe to my local newspaper. I read it old school, too — spread out underneath my bowl of cereal. Since The Buffalo News’ website is by subscription only, I linked to Ms. Earle McLeod’s syndicated column in The Huffington Post. This side note reminds me of a funny exchange I heard on iCarly. Yeah, I have preteens. They watch iCarly.

Carly : What’s going on?
Spencer : I’m shredding newspapers with an industrial gasoline-powered paper shredder. How was school?
Sam : I don’t remember or care. [picks up a newspaper] Man, why do they even make these things anymore?
Carly : Some people still read newspapers.
Sam : Yeah, hobos and the elderly.

I think of this every time I renew my news subscription and it makes me smile.

Motivational Monday ~ Going Back in Time

4 Feb
My alma mater. Isn't it a gorgeous building?

My alma mater. Isn’t it a gorgeous building?

On Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at my alma mater’s Career Day. This wasn’t the first time. Over the twenty-five years since I graduated (you do the math!), I’ve spoken twice about my career in engineering and twice about my new career as a writer.

My parents made huge sacrifices for me and my 4 siblings. We all attended private Catholic schools. When I walk back into the building, it looks the same, it smells the same, it feels the same. Stepping through the large wooden doors transports me back in time. I am once again the insecure fourteen-year-old who went from a teeny-tiny elementary school to a new school where I hardly knew anyone. Over the course of four years, I grew into a young woman ready to take on the world. Or so I thought.

Flash forward more than two decades later and I’m still trying to figure things out. As I stood in front of the class and talked about writing as a career, I stressed more than anything that, God willing, life is long. You will make many choices. Some good. Some bad. But don’t be afraid to make changes, to follow your passion, and to take advantage of all the opportunities that lie ahead.

I love the expression, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I don’t think they realize how fortunate they are. They can still carve out their futures. They have so many choices! Then I take a step back and remind myself that we all have choices. No matter our age, we can all take steps to move in the direction in which we want to live.

If you could go back to your 18-year-old self, what would you tell yourself? I think I’d tell myself to relax. To enjoy the journey. It’s the same message I remind myself of today!

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Visualization

21 Jan

The Secret website has this to say about visualization:

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Law of attraction is forming your entire life experience and it is doing that through your thoughts. When you are visualizing, you are emitting a powerful frequency out into the Universe.

Even before The Secret became a huge bestseller, a writing mentor told me to “see my success.” She suggested I create a faux book cover with my name on it to SEE what it would be like to have a book with my name on it. The idea was that it would motivate me to work toward that goal.

Well, I never did take the time to create that book cover, but last week, my first book (in print) arrived in the mail. When I pulled out the sleek, shiny new book, I thought about my old writing mentor. She was right. It did feel awesome to have my name on a book. If I had taken her advice and visualized my success in a very tangible manner (by creating a book cover), would I have achieved success sooner? No one really knows. But one thing I do know: every time I pass the dining room table with my books stacked up neatly on the corner I get excited. Excited to share my book with those who prefer print. Excited to see the product of all my hard work. Excited to get to work on the next book.

Do you believe in the power of visualization? I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ It’s a brand new year! Rise and shine!

7 Jan

Happy 2013! There’s nothing better than a clean slate, even if only in our minds. 🙂 

100_7657Okay, I’m trying something new. Something I hate doing, but love having done. Something I have failed at doing over and over again. Are you wondering what I’m talking about?

Getting up early!

Okay, technically, I already do get up early. I need to roll out of bed by 7 am if I hope to get the high school kids to school on time. My goal is to get up an hour earlier to get some words in before my day gets away from me.

Have I mentioned how much I love my sleep? Have I mentioned how dark it is at 6 am in the winter? Oh, and my bed is so cozy warm.

Years ago, when I worked in the corporate world, I had to get up at 5:45 am to get to the office by 7 am. But it’s so easy to get used to “sleeping in.”

I am determined to do it this time. This morning I did it and edited 10 pages before I headed downstairs. I love that sense of accomplishment. I need to hold onto that feeling and remind myself of it when I want to slam off the alarm and pull the covers over my head.

I’ve always been envious of early risers. Are you an early riser? Any suggestions for a night owl who’s determined to change her ways? I’d love to hear from you.

One disclaimer: if I am on vacation in a sunny climate, I can always get out of bed early. See the photo. It’s proof.  It’s this winter hibernation thing that’s doing me in.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year ~ and to early risers.

Cheers,

Alison

Motivational Monday ~ It’s Not Too Late to Be Who You Were Meant to Be

22 Oct

Last week, I was over on SavvyAuthors (an awesome site for authors) blogging about my path to publication. I titled the blog, “What If You’re Not a Born Writer?”  Here’s the link to the original post, if you want to check out the comment section over there. (Click here.) The entire post is re-posted here. I like the new title, too: “It’s Not Too Late to Be Who You Were Meant to Be.” Never to late.

I am in awe of the writer who knew her destiny since birth. She has a gift for storytelling. Her bio is filled with stories about how she put crayon to paper when she was in pre-school and her peers gathered around with their blankets as she weaved stories about princesses and dragons and the knight in shining armor who saved the day. Or maybe it was the alien who abducted the naughty little boy who ignored his momma’s warning not to take the short-cut through the woods.

This same “born” writer relays stories about how she snuck grandma’s Harlequins from her closet and devoured them under her blanket by the light of a flashlight when she was a precocious ten-year-old. She absorbed the elements that made a wonderful romance by virtue of her voracious reading habits. When she put pen to paper, no one had to tell her what made a good story. She knew. Inherently.

But what if you didn’t share the experience of the “born” writer. Is it too late for you? Will you always be playing catch up with the writer who had a passion for it from an early age?

I was close to thirty when I first got the idea to write. The idea came in the form of an advertisement in a women’s magazine. Remember the ad about writing for children? Heck, I had a kid, maybe I could write. But from day one, doubts plagued me. In the beginning, I had an obsession with reading author bios. I’d click on author websites and sigh every time an author had a MFA in Creative Writing. I’d throw down my pen every time an author said she’d been writing stories since pre-school. How could I compete? I have a degree in engineering and up until my mid-twenties, I only read books I had to. You know, the required reading for AP English? I had spent my youth focusing on math and science. English was too subjective for my analytical brain.

However, the desire to write grew. I used my “left brain” to study the market. I learned that romance readers were a voracious bunch. I read across the different subgenres and realized romantic suspense was my favorite. I think it has something to do with putting the puzzle pieces together to solve the who-done-it?

Yet doubts continued to plague me. I couldn’t instinctively put together the pieces of a story, not like some of my peers who had been reading romance for twenty years. But I had a desire and the inclination to learn. And darn it, the desire to write wouldn’t leave me. So, I started to take concrete steps towards my goal:

  1. I joined RWA. Since I write romantic suspense, this was key. If you write a different genre, seek out a group that would best support your writing. Through RWA, I attended conferences, learned from workshops, and met other writers. Little by little, the elements of writing were no longer shrouded in mystery.
  2. On-line resources. When I first started writing, the internet was in its infancy, however it was my first means to reach out to other writers. And I did. Writers are a helpful bunch. Now, there are so many online resources including Savvy Authors which has fantastic workshops. I highly recommend them.
  3. Read. There is no way you can become a better writer if you do not read. Read all different kinds of books. You’ll start to see what works and doesn’t work. I can’t believe I didn’t discover the joy of reading for pleasure until my adulthood.
  4. Find a critique partner. Sometimes this takes trial and error. Be open to constructive criticism, but be willing to leave a group if it’s not working for you. You’ll know when you click with a critique partner. They shouldn’t praise everything you do, nor should they rip you to shreds. In the end, the right critique partner should help you become a better writer. The benefits should be mutual.
  5. Read craft books. This doesn’t work for everyone, but because I’m analytical, it helped me understand the elements of story. Some of my favorites include:
    • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. This book is very dense with knowledge, but if you push through it, you’ll learn a lot.
    • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. I’ve reread this one a few times.
    • Stephen King’s On Writing. I can’t say enough about this one. It’s more inspiration than anything else. There are countless craft books. Ask other authors for their recommendations. Different books click for different people.
  6. Write. In order to be a writer, you must write. I highly recommend steps 1-5, but if you don’t do number 6, you are not a writer. Writers write. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write through the doubts. I constantly have to remind myself of step 6. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. But once I sit down and push through it, I remember how much I love to write. Heck, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

If you are a born writer, congratulations! I think it’s fantastic that you recognized a gift in your formative years. However, if you’re more like me and didn’t find your calling until you were an adult, don’t despair. I truly believe God (or the universe) wouldn’t plant the desire to do something if you didn’t have the ability somewhere deep down within you. You just have to dig deep.

Happy writing.

Today’s a new day! What steps are you taking to pursue your dreams?

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ A Feeling of Accomplishment

15 Oct

Writing can be a tough gig. It’s a solitary profession and I don’t get a lot of immediate gratification from it. It’s all long-term. Word by word, paragraph by paragraph until I have a completed manuscript. I do get a lot of satisfaction out of hitting send (to my agent or editor), but then it’s back to waiting.

Friday afternoon I found myself very fidgety at the computer. I am one of the fortunate ones that calls writing my full-time job. (Well, between raising four kids. :)) However, I sometimes find myself stuck. That’s where I was on Friday. I realized I needed a sense of accomplishment in something….ANYTHING.  I don’t believe I’m alone in my thinking. I’ve joked with other writers that we’ve actually cleaned the bathroom just to get a visual sense of accomplishment. Hey, the fact that it needed done anyway makes it all good.

So, this weekend I took my girls shopping for much needed fall clothes. We  went through some hand-me-downs to see what fit. We picked up a pizza and spend the evening with Grammy. I did my grocery shopping for the week. Went to see a fun movie. A soup I made last night is sitting on the stove all ready for Monday’s dinner. Ah…a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes it helps to look at the book covers from my previous books to remember that YES! I can do this.

My current work in progress isn’t any further than where I left it Friday afternoon, but I needed a little break. Recharge the batteries.

What have you done to feel a sense of accomplishment? I’m thinking of taking up a hobby to mix it up a bit. I used to do cross-stitch. Hmmm? Any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Happy Monday!

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Happiness Part 2

8 Oct

Be happy!

This is a follow up to a post I made a few weeks ago about choosing happiness. I was reading my Saturday morning paper and came across a commentary by Lisa Earle McLeod titled, “Don’t postpone happiness.” In it she writes:

Do you suffer from the “When…” syndrome? When I get a promotion, I’ll be happy. When I lose weight, I’ll start going to pool parties. When things calm down, I’ll learn to relax.

Or maybe you suffer from the “If’s…”

If we had more money I would be happier. If I were married (or single), I’d have a better social life…

We’ve all done it, putting our happiness on hold until some magical future date when the big thing that we want happens and we’ll give ourselves permission to be happy.

Oh, how I can relate to this commentary. I can’t even count the number of times I said, “I’ll be happy when…”

…I graduate from college.

…I have a better job.

…I have a nice car.

….I sell my first book.

…I sell a second book.

…I have a lot of money in the bank.

STOP! The only time we have is now. Be happy! Enjoy the journey.

Do you suffer from the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome? You can read Lisa Earle McLeod’s full commentary here.  Give your self permission to be happy now. Everything else will come in time.

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Choose Happiness

17 Sep

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings, more specifically happiness. When our mind is focused on something, we tune into it. As a result, I’ve noticed a few tweets regarding the subject lately. One in particular jumped out at me:

Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.

The quote has been attributed to a few different people, but the message is clear. We have the power to REACT to a situation in the way WE choose. We shouldn’t let other people or circumstances dictate how we feel. Okay, I’ll concede that we are allowed to react strongly in the negative when we receive really bad news, but why let our moods shift with all the little minutia of life?

How many times have I started off my day in a really good mood and then someone tells me something or I see something on the news or I read something on Facebook and my mood plummets. Why? I am letting forces outside myself dictate how I feel. Most of the things that affect my mood aren’t going to matter in a day or two (or maybe even in an hour.) Once I became aware of this, I started to consciously train myself to not react negatively to the small stuff. Hey, I think someone wrote an entire book on that theme. 🙂

I’ve always been a thinker. From the time I was a little girl, I would over analyze everything. I have passed this trait onto my youngest. She always seems to struggle with the start of a new year. (She’d rather hang out at home with me.) After we said our prayers the other night, she started to tell me how her belly hurt in school. I explained to her that because she kept thinking about how much she didn’t like school, she was making her belly hurt. I told her she had the power to create happy thoughts and then her belly wouldn’t hurt. I gave her a few suggestions like how she should focus on how much she loves math and to just stay in the moment.

I’m not sure my advice will have immediate results with my eight-year-old, but it reinforced what I’ve been working on. I need to continue to be aware of my own thoughts and my own feelings. I don’t need to let things outside of my control dictate my mood. A dip in Amazon rankings shouldn’t make me want to quit writing. I shouldn’t get so frustrated when my day gets filled up with other responsibilities and eats up all my writing time. I shouldn’t allow other parents to draw me into the momma-drama. 🙂 I get to choose what’s important to me. I get to decide how I feel.

Here are some more awesome “HAPPINESS” quotes:

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be ~ Abraham Lincoln

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. ~ Epictetus

I much prefer to be around happy people. Since I am always around myself, I choose happiness.

Do you work on controlling your thoughts to control your feelings? I’d love to hear how it works for you.

Cheers,

Alison Stone