Showing posts with label special. Show all posts
Showing posts with label special. Show all posts

Monday, 27 April 2020

A to Z Challenge: Day 23 - W

WAIT by Michelle Kemp

wait - a poem by Michelle Kemp on a background of the setting sun in the bushveld

Life is busy and stressful. Even during this time of lock down when we are forced to sit at home all day, we remain busy. 
Personally, I find it very hard to do nothing. Often, I will be doing at least two tasks, even when binge watching a series. I think this is true for many of us. Gone are the days of standing in a line, doing nothing except possibly striking up a conversation with a stranger.
Now we are constantly entertained and kept busy; millions of activities at our fingertips. This is not to say that it is a bad thing,  we just do not know how to be still. We are living in a world of instants; we demand gratification at the click of a button; we cannot stand to be bored.
The very act of being so busy and stressed is prized; the black circles under our jumpy eyes are seen as some sort of twisted trophy that says we are successful. In this period of uncertainty and our rush to digitise in order to remain productive, I feel we are missing a vital message. WAIT.
The world is telling us to stop for a moment and breathe. This message is clear that we need to un-busy ourselves and try to capture the time we are losing to our so-called productivity. Wait, while the Earth recovers. Wait, while we look around and appreciate the silence that has descended. Wait and then wait a moment more.
The world is literally forcing us to take a breath, to reset and to reconsider what we are actually achieving. We need to reassess our priorities: is that email really so urgent that you miss the sunset, the work call more important than listening to your child sing, no matter how terrible they are. We are being called to WAIT.
We are too afraid to do nothing, to be alone with ourselves and our own thoughts. How terrible that we have been using the constant stream of busy noise to muffle our quiet inner voices. If we could just take this time, as it is, and wait.
Wait and see if that little voice actually has some vital things to say. Wait and listen to the silence until it feels comfortable. Wait and just be, be with ourselves and learn to the love the people we are, not the polished products we show the world.
Wait, until waiting becomes a state of being, a place where we can thrive instead of fear.
Wait, just wait.



Thursday, 9 April 2020

A to Z Challenge: Day 8 - H

Holistic Health and Covid-19 by Vanessa Wright

Thanks to Linze Brandon, who allows me to place my ramblings on her blog.
The world has changed. We are living in uncertain times while we watch the number of infections rise daily. I look around me and people are afraid of human touch, they jump at the sound of someone sneezing or coughing. It is now, more than ever before, extremely important to be aware of changes in mental health and overall well-being. Our current lockdown and self-isolation prompted me to make an art journal entry.
My anxiety has been through the roof lately as I battle to make sense of a changing environment and the adaptation of a new way of living. Art has been a welcome relief amidst the turmoil.
I wanted to address a holistic way of approaching the subject of mental health. I am bipolar and need to keep an even keel as much as possible. Please look out for the following signs during isolation:
  1. Extreme fear and worry about your own health. Fear of leaving the security of your home to do essential shopping.
  2. Changes in your sleeping patterns. Sleeping too much or too little. 
  3. Changes in your eating habits; again, too much or too little.
  4. Difficulty concentrating, feeling as if you are moving through fog.
  5. Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
If you find that a number of the above things have been going awry, here is what works for me:
  1. Get up. Make your bed, brush your hair and teeth, shower, put on clothing which doesnot involve yoga pants, your favourite bath robe or boxers.
  2. Create a routine for yourself. This will instil a sense of normalcy and productivity. If needs be, make an A3 chart. Now you have broken up your day. Try to change your environment while doing the tasks you have set out for yourself.
  3. Eat healthily; fresh fruit and veggies, hearty soups.
  4. Meditate and do some form of exercise.
  5. Stay connected with friends and family via cell phone- WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom, etc.
  6. Do not spend too much time on social media, limit your intake of bad news and updates.
  7. Help others as much as isolation allows you to. I shop for my elderly neighbours and bake a cake or two.
  8. Be grateful for what you have, it is much more than some people who are going through the same isolation as you are. Start each day by thinking of 3 things you are grateful for.
  9. Take your medication regularly. Now is not the time to purge yourself of your anti-depressants.
  10. Any form of creativity goes a long way in alleviating anxiety.

The Art Journal Piece:

Materials

Art journal or old book.
Gesso, HB pencil, kneaded eraser for those inevitable mistakes. Acrylic paint in the colours of your choice. Words which I cut out of an old magazine. Glue, paint brushes and a Sharpie for the outlining.

I use an old book as an art journal. I glued three pages together and treated it with gesso. Next, I drew my abstract figures with my HB pencil. I used complimentary, bright colours for my artwork.
Vanessa's Holistic health art journal entry
After painting the figures, I outlined them with the Sharpie and stuck the words on with glue. As you can see, they represent gratitude, meditation, activity, reading or studying and contemplation. The two figures at the very edges are black which represent the effect the virus and isolation has on us.
Stay safe and healthy.
Love,
Vanessa

Sunday, 29 March 2020

A-to-Z Blog Challenge 2020 Theme reveal

April is almost here and this year I am taking part again in the blog challenge. I have guest posts and books and art and art journaling to share with you. There are still a few spots left if you are looking to feature a new book or would like share your creative journey with me and my readers. The schedule is updated and posted to my Twitter profile if you are looking for some free promo.
Remember your name, last name, title or theme has to suit the letter of the alphabet, so make sure I still have a date/letter available to suit your creative post.

I hope to see you soon here on the Broomstick!

💜 Linzé

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Blog Calendar: January and February

  Need a boost for a new book, artwork, blog post, or some other creative project? Or maybe an older project needs a bit more love? Give me a shout and I would love to help out. Rules and requirements -> here

  Reserved = my spot. I need some of my own time too 😜
  The hashtag shows the dates when #TheTinyBroom tweets. Pick your date right and get an extra boost with #TheTinyBroom.

  Oh, and it's first come, first choice, no exceptions! Thank you for understanding.



Remember to use the link here to send me the details. Replies to this post, or any other PMs and DMs will be ignored. Thank you!

Don't want to miss out on more news, special events, or discounts? Sign up to my newsletter - it only pops into your inbox once a month. Promise.

💜 Linzé

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Goodbye, 2019! It was great to have lived you.

Like all good things there comes a time to say goodbye. But it will only be a short reprieve before we tackle 2020 with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. Lots of exciting things happened in 2019 and many more wonderful things are still ahead for 2020.
Christmas bells on wooden background, Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
  
My last newsletter of the year will also go out tomorrow. More exciting opportunities await in 2020 for my subscribers. Subscribe now then you won't miss out.

Until then!
💜💜 Linzé

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Why I got bored with a vegan diet

Fourteen months ago I switched to a vegetarian diet for health reasons. The net result was worth the pain and inconvenience of those first weeks of detoxing from eating meat for 50 years. But about a month ago, I came across a Veggie Challenge on Instagram and decided to try it out - as a vegan. So this my take on following a vegan diet for 31 days, in South Africa.

Exciting and challenging

The first two weeks everything was great. I cooked interesting meals at home and even managed to lose two kilograms. The weight-loss was not planned, but I do have to say not unwelcome. The challenge at this time was mostly finding things for snacking. Having a snack or two each day helps to keep my blood sugar levels stable - a good thing to do for anyone with a busy lifestyle.
As the challenge coordinator mentioned, there are more vegan snack options available these days than there had been say, 5 years ago. Unless you have high blood pressure, then these temptations are not an option. Too much salt, as you would have guessed no doubt.
So snacking options were severely limited for me, hence the weight-loss I think. I did have raw nuts in the cupboard, the bag is still fairly full, but nuts are heavy on calories, and I can only eat so much of them anyway.
Snacks remained a frustrating challenge throughout the whole 31 days.

Then the boredom started to creep in

Ever since leaving my high paying full-time job in January this year, we have been more conscious of the budget and eating out less often than before. On the vegan diet eating out in this country is a huge challenge on the best of days. Something I was not so aware of, until last month.
Boerewors picture courtesy
TempestSA at the English language Wikipedia
Allow me to elaborate for a minute. South Africans love meat. The more the better. We have a standing joke that people in South Africa eat boerewors for salad and chicken for vegetables. Seafood is probably considered a snack I suppose.
Unfortunately, there is more truth in that joke than you can imagine. Eating out options are extremely limited for a vegetarian, and borders on the near-impossible for vegans.
I do have to say this though: at the places where we dine out often, the waiters and chefs have been nice in trying to accommodate my vegan choices during October, but franchise restaurants are so restricted in their menus, that it became a problem for me after a while.
Whoever designs those menus seem oblivious to the fact that there are more food options out there than butternut (which I dislike except during winter), mushrooms (don't much like those either) and zucchini (also called courgettes over here). Whatever happened to lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, wild rice and all the other (very tasty) options to use as a base in cooking?
Even salads - which I love all year round - can definitely be spruced up with nuts, and the aforementioned ancient grains and starches in summer dishes.

Vegan proteins and vegan cheese

Fortunately for me, I had a vegan shake available which I could use to supplement my protein intake during the month. Since I have a dairy allergy (mainly the raw product - milk and cream) I even use the shake on the vegetarian diet.
Meat substitutes are readily available in supermarkets and are wonderful for home cooking. If only the restaurants shopped at the large supermarket chains too. (Hint?)
Back to the cheese. I like the taste of vegan cheese, but be warned, it is not a protein substitute. Aside from being expensive (even more so than the mature dairy version), I feel it a waste to buy because it is only a starchy food.

Fruits and vegetables

October is basically summer already in this country, so the abundance of fruits and vegetables is a pleasure to someone who has always loved fruit and raw vegetables. At least I got all my fibre and vitamins!

Enter the last ten days

By now I was getting really bored with the vegan diet. Except for the breakfast cereal, which I do eat every day of the week irrespective of the kind of diet - with almond milk.
Eating out became a chore, not a pleasure and I started to eat more 'normal' again, including cheese in my evening meals, and sometimes even for lunch. Two days before the end of the month, I started eating eggs again too.

Coffee, coffee, coffee ... my kingdom for a coffee

I drink my coffee black and have been since I was a child. I was the first person in my family diagnosed with the dairy allergy, after almost dying when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I have some tolerance for the mature cheeses, but still have to watch how much I eat.
I love coffee, Americanos, especially, but since hitting the sexy age of 50, drinking my coffee black has become a problem too. So I stuck to drinking coffee after a meal, but I don't have time to eat the whole day just so I could drink coffee.
I found a cappuccino premix - it does contain some milk powder - which I could drink at any time without the pain I experienced with drinking black coffee without eating. Vegan? Not so much, but I love coffee too much limit myself to two cups a day (I don't drink black coffee after a breakfast of cereal and fruit).

A veggie future?

I am not keeping up the vegan diet. That is not to say that I will not eat vegan meals, because I mostly still do at home, but as a South African the long term options are not worth it, at least not right now. Will the restaurants ever change?
I am delighted to say that some already have. Even on Friday when my friend, Vanessa, and I were having breakfast together for the first day of NaNoWriMo, our favourite meeting place had two new vegan options on the menu. I cannot claim to be the reason for it, but maybe I helped to raise awareness for the need that some of us have not to eat any meat at all.
But unless more people ask for a meal to be adapted to a vegan, or vegetarian, diet I don't think the average South African restaurant is rushing to include more interesting and seasonal vegetable-based options on their menus. And they really should.

PS: With NaNoWriMo challenging me once again, this will be the only post for November. But do keep an eye out for my newsletter, and #TheTinyBroom tweets twice a week.

Until December!
💜 Linzé

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Mindfulness Week: 5 Tips to take Mindfulness Practice to Your Next Level by Linzé Brandon


Today is international Mindfulness day and here on the Broomstick we have been celebrating this practice everyday this week. Some of the writers of the Pretoria Writers' Group are sharing their experiences along with me and I hope that you too will take a few moments of your day to celebrate with us.
Before I get into the details of my practice, let's take a step back at what mindfulness is and how it works in daily life.

Mindfulness vs Flow
Definition of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. [1]

Definition of Flow
Flow is…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost. [2]

Practical Experience
To my mind, the two concepts are not exactly the same although I will concede that there is a significant overlap in the "state of being" between mindfulness and flow. Perhaps I could illustrate this with two personal and one general examples.
#1: When I am meditating my focus is completely inward. My concentration and focus are centred on my state of being. I am focused on letting go of the thoughts that are creating noise and chaos in my head and secondly meditation helps me to accept and learn about the state of me, physically and mentally, at that moment.
#2: When I am drawing, entering the flow state, my focus is directed towards controlling the pen in my hand. Drawing with ink is one of my favourite pass times and unless my concentration is on my fingers and the pen, there is the risk of making a mess of the end result. Fixing mistakes in an ink drawing is almost impossible and starting over is usually the only option.
I have a back problem and sitting in one place for longer than two hours, causes a lot of pain. When I was busy with a recent project, I would spend in the order of three to four hours at a time only focused on the drawing, completely unaware of my back, until I stopped. It was not fun to get up from that chair, I can promise you. Being in a flow state means that I was unaware of anything except the activity I was engaged in at that moment.
So you can see that mindfulness meditation (inwardly focused) and the flow state (action-focused) have different and separate states of mind. But being mindful is more than meditation practice. When you are focused and aware in the present, it can become a lifestyle instead of only a few minutes on a meditation cushion.
#3: Think about driving a car. It is by definition a mindfulness action. If your attention is not in the present, on the road, on your surroundings, you run the risk of being in or causing an accident. If all drivers were mindful, think how wonderful it would be to drive a vehicle. I love driving, but these days it is a stressful and mentally exhausting activity I have to deal with every time I get behind the wheel.
You can see that mindfulness is present during the flow state, but it is not only a single moment of focus. For the flow state to bring the enjoyment, creativity, and happiness people report, the state of being mindful has to be present for sometimes hours at a time.

Pros and Cons of Mindfulness
Concerns have been raised about the real benefits of mindfulness [3] in the way it is being sold as the quick fix for the problems of modern living. Mindfulness will not fix your stress levels with an app reminding you to breathe. Nor will it make you better human being when meditating for twenty minutes every day.
Mindfulness is not a fix, it is a journey of growth. Often the spiritual aspects of mindfulness meditation are removed from the modern practice and therein could lie the problem identified with the practice. Practitioners are accused of being self-centred and self-absorbed, and even more so than before starting the practice. You don't have to be a Buddhist to practise mindfulness meditation. Being more in touch with who you are does not distance you from any spiritual beliefs.
As a Christian, I find that the meditation practice strengthens my faith because of my increased awareness of my own limitations.
However, to me, the advertised benefits are there too, but I have been a consistent practitioner for almost two years now. I am calmer, even in stressful situations. I have found that I am less likely to judge people, and am much slower to anger. When I included some aspects of stoicism [4] in my life, the benefits grew exponentially.
At first, I thought that as I grew older it was purely for that reason that my temper has not been so quick to rear its ugly head, but personal observation of people around me has lead me to a different opinion altogether. Age has nothing to do with it, in some cases, it gets worse.

If you are already mindful, how can you take it to your next level?
Mindfulness is an individual journey. Mine cannot be the same as yours since your life's journey is not the same as mine. But here are 5 tips to help you figure out the journey you need to map to take mindfulness to your next level:
  1. Practice: There is a saying that says "practice makes perfect" which makes a whole lot of sense if you want to make the most of the mindfulness practice. Perfection is not what we are aiming for, but unless you practice daily you will not grow and become better at it. If you are a journal writer, use that to help you track your progress as you grow in your practice. If you don't use a journal, start a notebook and keep track of how and when you practice and your daily experiences. You will be surprised how quickly you will notice the difference in your life.
  2. Study: Many people stop learning as soon as they leave school or university to start "life". But learning is a part of life, even though exams don't have to be. Read about mindfulness, meditation, and stoicism then you will be more aware of all the aspects to each practice. The more you know the easier you will be able to adapt your practice and adjust it to suit your lifestyle.
  3. Meditation: Meditation is often cited as the way to mindfulness, and it has many benefits, but you don't need to meditate to be a mindfulness practitioner. Explore meditation practice as an option, and if you are unsure, do it with a guide to assist you. In the end, it is up to you to decide whether you like to meditate or not, but don't disregard it because you are not a Buddhist.
  4. Moving meditation: This may sound weird, but there are several methods of meditation practice where you don't have to sit in one position with your eyes closed, or staring at a burning candle. Tai chi is often called the practice of moving meditation and well worth exploring if you prefer a moving to a sitting meditation. I have been a student of tai chi for three years now, and I can confidently tell you that it takes real focus (in the moment) to learn the movements associated with the martial art. It is not difficult and you don't have to be in top physical condition to start, and it has the added benefit of moving so you also burn a few calories while you are at it. Walking meditation is also a meditative practice and there are lots of information available on the internet to learn how that is done.
  5. Stoicism: I believe that stoic practice can be the counterbalance to the perceived negative aspects of mindful meditation. Stoicism has an unfortunate name since it is believed to cause its practitioners to become emotionless. This is not the intention of stoicism, and practitioners will tell you that it is not the case.
    At its core stoicism encourages rational thinking, instead of emotional decision making. This has the benefit that the stoic practitioner will be aware of their own behaviour and always work towards a situation where other people are not hurt or taken advantage of.
    To my mind, the stoic practitioner takes the concept of mindfulness to the ultimate level of mindfulness: awareness of one's actions and behaviour and the effect this has on the world around us. 
(Note: Stoic week [4] is in October again, where you too can learn about the practice)

Going forward...
Like all mindfulness and mindful meditation practitioners you need to find your own way. Start with the small things: pay attention to what you eat, listen to someone speak, or notice the way the air smells when you walk outside.
We live in a world of distractions and as a result we are putting greater distances between ourselves and everyone and everything else.
Maybe it is time to bring yourself back into the present, and be mindful of every moment in your life, because we only have so many available to us.

If you want to learn more:
  • Flow - the psychology of optimal experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ISBN 978-0-06016-253-5, 1990
  • The complete idiot's guide to short meditations, Susan Gregg, ISBN 978-1-592257-614-2, 2007
  • Seven secrets of mindfulness, Kate Carne, ISBN 978-1-84604-504-2, 2016
  • Meditation is not what you think, Jon Kabat-Zinn, ISBN 978-0-316-41174-5, 2018
  • Mindfulness for creativity, Danny Penman, ISBN 978-0-349-40821-7, 2015
  • The meditation handbook, David Fontana, ISBN 978-1-906787-65-3, 1992
  • The daily stoic, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, ISBN 978-1-78125-765-4, 2016
References used in the text
[3] The Problem with Mindfulness, Gustavo Razzetti, https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-problem-with-mindfulness-7ceddf4d41c

About the Author
author picture, Linzé Brandon
After many years, Linzé left her full-time job to enjoy the challenges of self-employment once more. Now she spends her days working as a consulting engineer and competence trainer.
She is a mindfulness meditation and stoic practitioner, and a student of Yang style tai chi. In August 2019 she submitted drawings for her first, and hopefully not her last, art exhibition.
Linzé is the author of non-fiction books, novels and short stories.
Her life's philosophy can be found in the words of the stoic Epictetus - first say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do.
Linzé Brandon lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her engineer husband and German Shepherd dogs who are convinced that the world revolves only around them.

Connect with Linzé:
On Instagram @linzebrandon
On Facebook @LinzeBrandonAuthor
On Twitter @LinzeBrandon

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A-to-Z Blog Challenge: U is for...unbelievable

I chose unbelievable for my word today, because that is how I felt when I saw the list. Yesterday, I posted my 750th post to this blog. It's true, even though I am not sure quite how all that happened.
Number of posts
per year
I suppose it happened the usual way - one at a time! 😉
Thank you for reading and here is to the next 750. May I continue to strive to not bore you to tears 😂 Cheers! 🍸

💜 Linzé

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A-to-Z Blog Challenge: T is for...thank you

Today's post is for saying thank you. I decided to make a list, because this kind of post requires a list.

Thank you to you:

  • If you have read one of my books;
  • My writers group members for your continued support of each other;
  • My online friends and followers for allowing me to be part your lives;
  • Friends, family, colleagues, every book lover and fellow artist - you make my world alive with life, creative expression, contentment and happiness.


Thank you!
💜 Linzé

Monday, 17 September 2018

Keeping up...with me

Photo Hannah Olinger on Unsplash
How hard can it be to be an adult? Apparently harder than I sometimes tell myself. Read about that life lesson here.

Writing, studying, working, exercising, and a change of diet all together tends to keep me pretty busy. I took a leaf out of my current writing project, Take Your Journal to the Next Level, and restarted using a Bullet Journal. I have used it before, but I made a simple mistake which I now fixed: I am using a separate notebook.

In the past I used my normal journal to add the bujo activities, but it wasn't effective. Two weeks ago I dug out a blank journal out of my cupboard and have been using it with much greater success. I changed the format slightly to suit me, but that is just one of the benefits of the simple planner style-it is adaptable.

All the things I need to do are now in one place, and I can better see what I will have time for - yes, priorities. It helps to prioritise my study hours for the week, and when to work on my assignments so I can hand in early, leaving me more time to work on the book mentioned above. With better planning, I can make better progress, while studying. As it stands the first draft is now 75% complete, and I am back on schedule.
Go bujo!
If you are a journal writer stuck in a rut, or want to start a keeping journal, or just want to experiment with different styles of journal writing, then I want your input.
If you live in Pretoria, South Africa, and would like to learn more about journal writing, contact me to get your name on a mailing list for a course that will start in October.
If you are not living in my home city and still want to learn more about journal writing, you too can pop me an email to be a beta reader for Take Your Journal to the Next Level.

And since I have now committed myself to finishing the book by October, I better get back to it.

Wishing you a terrific week!
💜 Linzé

Saturday, 13 January 2018

StoryCubes Short Story Writing Competition 2018

StoryCubes, www.storycubes.com

The Competition

1. Write a short story using the nine story cubes in the graphic (see HOW TO ENTER below).
2. The cubes must be used in the way they are laid out, ie. the opening 3 must be in the opening scene of the story, the middle 3 in the middle, and the last 3 in the ending of the story. The order of the use of the three cubes in every part of the story, is left up to the author.
3. Each story must have a single author.
4. No changes are allowed to stories already submitted.
5. By entering this monthly competition you declare that the stories you submit are your own work, and that you have not committed plagiarism in any form. If any story is found to be the work of another author, copied from any source on the internet, or other published work, the entrant will be banned from any future entries and any work already published will be removed with a public announcement to that effect.
6. By entering this competition you grant permission that your story may be published on Butterfly on a Broomstick and promoted on social media
7. The entry fee is not refundable, so make sure you submit your story on time.
8. South Africa is located in the GMT+2 time zone. Late submissions due to miscalculations on the time zone, will not be accepted as an excuse.
9. Three winners will be picked every month and their stories will be promoted on my blog, Butterfly on a Broomstick. Promotions will take the form of shares on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter.
10. Linzé Brandon is the administrator/judge of this competition, and will not take part as an author.
11. Judges for the month are not allowed to enter, but are welcome to do so for other months.
12. The judges' decision is final.
13. The submissions remain the intellectual property of each author.
14. The top three authors (with the most votes) at the end of the year will be awarded Amazon gift cards to the value of - $25, $15 and $8. In case of a tie, the prizes will be combined and divided equally.
15. The cubes will send out the 1st of the following months: February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November.

The stories will be judged based on the following criteria:

1. Word count, excluding the title, must not exceed 750 words.
2. All nine (9) of the Storycubes must feature in the story.
3. All family friendly genres are welcome - that means no explicit sex, no violence, and no offensive language.
4. Stories that thrill the judges or make them laugh, cry, horrified or touched by your characters are what we are looking for.
5. The story is the most important, but take the time to edit your story before submission. Where stories are tied for a winning place, the better edited story will be chosen.
6. The top three authors for each month will be contacted by email.

How to enter?

1. Subscribe to my blog to get the nine Storycubes sent to your inbox, every month. No spam, I promise.
2. Submit your story in the BODY of an email message. Emails with attachments will be automatically disqualified.
3. Put the title of your story in the SUBJECT line of the email as follows: STORYCUBES {The Month you are taking part} - The Title of Your Story. The email addresses for submission and payment will be sent with the cubes every month.
4. Stories received after the deadline are not eligible. Since the cubes are different for every month, late stories will not be carried over to the next month.
5. Deadline for each story will be in your inbox.
6. Entry fee: $2. The Paypal reference number must accompany the entry to be valid.

How to get to the top spot?

1. Promote your story to all your friends on the internet.
2. Ask them to vote for your story.
3. Take part in the next month's competition.


NOTE: The details of this post will be relocated to a TAB on my blog, so you don't have to search for the rules next time.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Why do we write? Let me count the ways by Richard Beynon

Why do throngs of people around the world feel the urge to record their thoughts and feelings and observations, but, more than that, to shape them into narratives that engage and enthrall others?
The internet age – with its promise of instant publication and worldwide distribution – has ushered in millions more writers who dream of firing the imagination of readers, and making a mint of money in the process.
But it’s not simply money that drives us, I don’t believe. Even the most commercial writers who crank out an annual thriller or detective story in time for the Christmas rush, are driven at least partly – and I suspect, mostly – by the thrill of creation.
Because it’s out of the threads and tangles of our imaginations, fed by our observation of the world and its players, that we weave our stories. And that act itself nurtures the powers of our imagination, and sharpens our observation of the world. There is instant reward and gratification for creating stories – and the more skillful we become at shaping these stories, the greater the reward.
Perhaps it’s because the act of writing calls on our whole selves in a way that few other – if any – activities do. Not only does it yoke the active and fluid imagination, it also calls on all our powers of critical reasoning.
Many of us have remarked on how totally lost to the world we become in creating our own universes. This is little wonder, given the complete commitment that writing demands and elicits.
Writing plays a subversive role amongst the snarls of our own prejudices. We might create a villain who embodies all the vileness we’ve encountered in others – and then find, when we stand in his shoes, that there are vulnerabilities and weakness present that, while they might not excuse him, make him human, and capable, therefore, of remorse and redemption.
One of the injunctions directed at writers of fiction is to give their antagonists the best arguments. Thinking your way into the logic of a bad character - or even a character very different from you - yields surprisingly good insights and will develop sympathies that could, not to put too fine a point on it, expand your moral horizons.
And then, of course, whenever a writer plugs in her laptop, or uncaps her pen, she embarks on a hero’s journey of her own that at once generates surprises, heart-stopping climaxes but above all direction. Every story you embark on constitutes a project with its own imperatives and goals.
Ursula le Guin, author of the magical Wizard of Earthsea, dwelt on what writing means to the writer. She wrote, “A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls.”
Perhaps we should encourage others to join the throng.
Happy writing,
Richard

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For more writing tips and a little motivation click here to read Jo-Anne’s latest blog, Writing Secrets: Sentences aren’t strong men – don’t overburden them and click here to read last week's Monday Motivation: The bigger the story, the larger your lens

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Note from me: The post was reblogged with permission from Richard at www.allaboutwritingcourses.com

Monday, 28 August 2017

I paused, and took a breath

Source: Medium
  
The project I am working on (at work) will soon be ending, and I will technically speaking be out of a job. Other projects are starting and some more in the pipeline, but the company has many project managers, and not all of them have a technical background to fall back on. As an engineer I also some experience as a system engineer, so I have more options to consider.
But I decided to take a metaphorical breath. While the project is not yet at an end, it is now a good time for me to reflect on my own future. Do I go back to engineering? Find a position as a systems engineer? Project manager? Or am I ready to do something else?
In 2018 I will be celebrating my fiftieth birthday, and as frightening as that feels sometimes, I have decided that I am not too old for a career change. I have changed careers before, but I had been younger, and the change was not as drastic as the one I am contemplating right now.
Then everything just fell into place. Whether you believe in fate, karma, or God (I am a Christian) when so many things fall into place, you know that the universe is on your side.
It all began with the course I recently completed. If you are a leader or have aspirations to go into management in the future, I can recommend the Values Based Leadership (VBL) Course, presented by the Graduate Business School of the University of Cape Town. The course is available online, and I had classmates from all over the world which added to the perspectives one needs to be exposed to in this environment.
You might readily wonder what the course did to trigger this radical change in my life because I am already in a management position. It wasn't the content of the course, it was the eye-opening it gave me at the lack of leadership and guidance for the younger generation of the workforce. In South Africa, and my industry especially, the concept of a generation gap is very real. In fact, that gap is about twenty years wide and if that doesn't scare the executives of any company, nothing will.
Why is it that bad? Engineering is engineering, isn't it? Unfortunately, when it comes to the military industry is not that simple. The design of a weapon system is not taught at university. How a system needs to be designed around constraints outside of your control (the military environment) is another thing not taught at any academic institution. So the real world is the only learning platform. But with the skilled and knowledgeable labour force about to retire, who is going to fill that gap? How are the executives going to ensure that the company will survive until the next generation is ready to step into those strategic leadership shoes?
Succession planning, knowledge sharing and vocational mentoring are the answers for the technical skills. But the organisational environment is changing almost every year, and the old guard has little interest in the new styles of leadership to encourage and motivate the younger generation. And that was what the VBL course taught me, or rather opened my eyes to the future.
I have had mentorship training at a previous employer, but that is not what I am aiming for in my career change. I want to be a life coach.
I don't know more than other people, nor can I claim to be a better engineer or project manager. But I have been where they are heading to. In fact, I am standing there right now. A four, five, six-way crossing leading away from me into an unknown future. Cross-roads are nothing new in anyone's life: personal, professional, financial, etc. Decisions that affect the future of your life either scare most people into inaction until it is too late, or they make the wrong decisions for themselves and their futures.
Life coaching was a natural choice for me, given my interest in training and mentoring. But it is so much more than that. People know deep inside where they want to go with their lives and sometimes they just need someone to help them find their way.
So I spent weeks thinking, praying, scribbling deep (and often scared) thoughts in my journal only to find yet more signs that the choice is the right one for me. I swallowed my trepidation at the radical choice and enrolled into a life coaching course online.
While the qualification I plan to do is more expensive, I decided to do that as soon as I can. My goals for this year remain in place, but this year is almost over. My current project will soon end.
I needed to look at my future.
I paused and took a deep breath.
I have a new goal. And a plan for my professional future.

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