Practicing Thinking

So it’s been a month of doing.

storystorm2020participantIt started with me doing Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, which basically led to me stockpiling bunches of ideas. But just so we’re clear, it wasn’t the reading of the blog posts every day, though they were swell and often prompted me. It was doing the thinking every day.

I mean, when was the last time that you just sat around, thinking? Not in the shower or soaking in the bath, though those are both Jim Dandy thinking spots. Except really, you’re doing something else while you’re thinking. I’m talking about just stopping for five or ten minutes to sit and think. To stare into space and let your mind wander as you think about…well, whatever you need to think about (besides me ending a sentence with a preposition). For me, it was story ideas.

You know what? It’s very hard to allow yourself time to think. But something interesting happened this year: In the beginning of the month, when I’d sit there, thinking, it would take a while for a thought to come to me. Yeah, yeah, I know, but seriously, 87 different things would pop into my mind. Mostly domestic-y things I needed to do. Or a Junior Hall Conundrum. Or how Libs the Tiny Terror could sleep upside down? So I had to practice just thinking. How crazy is that?

Anyway, now when I start my thinking, ideas explode in my mind! I’m not saying they’re good ideas or that anything will come from them or that they’re even more than a word or two. But really, that’s not the point. I’m just exercising my thinking skill. So if you want to jump start your thinking skill set, you can still go over to Tara’s Storystorm and read all the posts; you won’t be eligible to win any prizes but you’re still going to be a winner.

And what else this month? Because thinking was just the tip of the iceberg, as they say, and one thing led to another and another and…well, you can read for yourself in“It Started with a Link”over at the Muffin. (And then you can let me know what you think about the oh-so-subtle but new changes here at Cathy C. Hall.)

Hmmm…I guess that’s enough for now but honestly, y’all, I can’t wait to see what I do next.

Reading, Reading, Reading (And a Dare)

Happy New Year’s, y’all!

And before you give me that look (because it’s January 9th), you should know that technically, it’s still the Christmas season. I just came back from my church and all the greenery is still up, all the manger scene men, women, sheep, and camels and the Baby Jesus are still hanging out. So really, I’m not late at all.

But I have been busy, reading books, coming up with a word for the year, thinking, thinking, thinking. And writing, too. I know. I’m surprised, too.

download (2)Oh, goodness, I love Bob Goff’s books! So when I saw that he had a daily devotional, I didn’t have to think about that choice, I just clicked. It’s called Live in Grace-Walk in Love and yes, it’s Christian-based but if you know anything about Bob Goff, you know he’s love-based. He’s a consummate storyteller and he uses these skills to make his points; I could grab a quote from each day but here’s one from Day 6 that moved me as a writer but I think it works for anyone who has big dreams and might be frustrated in the journey to accomplish them:

Go change the world from where you are, while you’re moving toward where you wish you were.

And then because I am a writer, I had a delightful time, hanging out with Julie Hedlund this year for the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. That’s come and gone but lots of inspiration and fun, a good way to end a year and start a new year. (Pssst! If you’re a picture book writer, go see all that she offers!) And she read from Jane Yolen’s book, Take Joy. 

takejWell, I clicked on that, too, because I love Jane Yolen (and not just because she raved about the voice in my first page in a manuscript years ago). I clicked because I liked what Jane said in the very beginning: write because it brings you joy.

Speaking of Jane Yolen, she’ll be at our SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in March,along with daughter Heidi Stemple. So if you love Jane and Heidi (and really, the entire faculty at wik’20 is stellar!) and you’re somewhere around the Southeast, then come join us in Birmingham on March 13th and 14th. I will be very happy to introduce you to Jane and Heidi because we’re this close. Or we will be by the time the conference is over. If I’m not arrested for stalking.

AND one more book I have to mention is Make Your Bed. 

So when I was thinking, thinking, thinking about 2020, I kept coming back to “20 Hard Things You Need To Do to Be Happy” by Mark Chernoff.  (I told y’all, I was busy! In a sitting-around-reading-stuff-on-the-web sort of way.) And specifically, I kept thinking, thinking, thinking about Number 1:

You need to take small chances every day.

Now, I realize that taking a small chance is not exactly going to help change the world, but the more I thought, the more I began to figure that maybe taking a small chance might in fact, change my world.

I wondered if taking a small chance every day would move me past fear and into action. Because here’s the thing: when your world is rocked by crises or losses or major setbacks, you may be numb at first. But eventually, fear settles in your soul as you begin to realize that there’s so very little in this life we control. Love and faith and friends and family help--they help a lot!–but sometimes, we can be caught in the “playing it safe” zone because we’re so afraid of what may happen.

And so the word “dare” began to form in my mind. Dare to do something that you might not have done before. And not something big; I didn’t need to take a trip around the world. I just needed to maybe go to a movie by myself.

Which I haven’t quite done yet. But I did go into a restaurant and sat down to eat by myself. “Yes, table for one,” I said. And you know what? It was empowering! I know it’s a small thing, but honestly, I haven’t sat down in a restaurant to eat alone since my working days, before I had kids.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the WorldSo though I don’t usually do a word for the year, I chose DARE so that I’d keep that first hard thing foremost in my mind. I mean, even I can remember a word. Which leads me to Make Your Bedthe last book on the list.

Admiral William H. McRaven gave a speech at the University of Texas–you might’ve seen it, it went viral–and this book is a longer version of that speech. It won’t take you long to read it but he talks about changing the world, and gives ten lessons from his days as a Navy Seal that tells you exactly how you might change the world. One of them is taking risks. And in his book, he cites the British Special Air Services motto: “Who dares, wins.”

Now I will never take the kinds of risks a Navy Seal does; I won’t win any special medals for bravery. But if I don’t risk putting my writing out there, I’ll never know what might be possible in my life, how I might change the world of a child or adult who reads something I’ve written. And perhaps he or she might go on to change the world in some way.

It could happen, but only if I dare.

(Yikes! I’ve gone way past my usual ramble and I forgot to mention my Muffin post! So if you want to change the way you revise, take a look at “Writing Lessons Learned From Love It or List It.” And maybe you’ll start 2020 pulling out an old manuscript and giving it one more chance. Come on, I dare you.)



All I Really Want For Christmas


The Christmas Bookcase in my office, 2019


You know you’re getting old when you say, “No, no, don’t get me anything for Christmas! Just come over to the house. That’s enough for me.”

First, you’ve pulled out the Mom Guilt Card. The “I don’t want your money, I just want you to spend a little time with your poor, sainted mother.”

But it’s true, isn’t it? Because secondly, you really don’t want anything; you’re at that point in your life that when you want something, you get it yourself. That’s one of the perks of being old and having all your kids making their own livelihoods. I don’t have to give up those expensive boots I really want because Junior needs braces. (He may still need braces but that’s on him now.)

And I don’t have to wait for Christmas, either. When I want something, I just go and shake the money tree. If cash tumbles down, wheeee! If a few pennies knock me on the head, then I wait for the Money Tree Elf to come and do its magic. Either way, I’m happy.

So that’s what I was thinking about in “‘Tis the Season! Gifts for Writers” over at The Muffin today, that perk of being older (and maybe a teeny bit wiser) and the benefits that come along with age.

Mostly, that we don’t need a lot of things to make us happy, but that it’s a good idea to figure out what we do need, whether it’s a physical, mental, or emotional want, and to stop waiting for jolly old Santa to give it to us, or any loved one, for that matter.

Because love starts with yourself and then spreads to others. So go love yourself and have a joyful Christmas!

(P.S. This doesn’t mean Youngest Junior Hall is off the hook for getting that 20 lb bag of bird seed for me. You know your mother can’t lift that big bag but that’s all I want. Also, there’s still spider webs in the windows and they need to find another home for the holidays, so if Oldest Junior Hall could remove ’em, that’d be swell. But that’s it. Really. Until after Christmas when the lights need to be taken down. Juniorette Hall is good at that sort of thing. Maybe get the Hubs to take the tree back down to the basement? But seriously, that’s all.

For now.)