Four Days Before Christmas and …

It's a Wonderful Life Village

It’s a Wonderful Life Village

As this is posted, it’s four days before Christmas. I’m in Missouri with the Midgorden clan and we’re having a wonderful time.

Since the election, I’ve been soothing my frazzled nerves by watching lots of Christmas movies. I don’t watch the news and have even cut back on my check-ins on social media since I’m highly sensitive to the emotions of others, and lot’s of people are angry and hurting. Sometimes it’s difficult to separate my emotions from those of others.

These past two years I’ve been working on changing my thought patterns so that I can maintain my calm while chaos is happening around me. It’s my goal to be more trusting and loving to all people no matter what. I knew this when I was younger, but I let life beat me down. It’s been a challenge to regain that infallible knowledge that God, or the Universe, or the Field of All Possibilities has my back no matter what.

Anyway, as I was watching all the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, for which I’m grateful by the way, I got to thinking about the people who aren’t Christian. How do they soothe their fear, anger and disillusionment in this season of discontent? Reading, watching movies and focusing on my creative projects helps me feel better. Yet, it would be nice to read more books by authors from different countries, and to see movies about people from other cultures so I can get a feeling for the insights they gain from their experiences.

To that end, I’ve decided that this coming year I’m going to widen my reading and watching fare so I can deepen my understanding of people from other parts of the world. It’s one of the ways I can advance the cause of peace within myself and in my interactions with other people. If I’ve learned anything from the election, it’s that insulating oneself and being unwilling to change is not a good thing. I don’t want to do that. I want to be open, accepting, compassionate and loving.

Another thing I’ve been thinking is that it would be nice if the networks would open up their programing during this time of year to be more inclusive. It must sometimes feel quite oppressive to have so many programs centered around just one religion’s celebration. It’s just a thought. I know ratings are the name of the game, but I’d watch.

I thought I’d share a list of books and movies that helped me get a different perspective of the world, and the people in the stories.

The first three books and their corresponding movie, or mini-series, that were deeply affecting were, A Tale of Two Cities, Roots, and Shogun. Once I’d read those books and seen them on TV, I was irrevocably changed, especially given the fact that people really were beheaded because of their class, or association with that class, people were captured and transported here against their will, and foreigners were treated with deep suspicion.

Other stories that widened my world were:

A Price Above Rubies with Reneé Zellweger. It’s about a young woman who is married to a devout Jew. It tells of the problems the main character has in her marriage. She wants something more out of her life and eventually breaks free. This movie affected me long after I saw it. It’s a beautiful story of a woman searching for herself and her place in the world.

Loving Leah – A Hallmark Hall of Fame quirky love story revolving around the unexpected wedding and unconventional married life of a 26-year old devout Jewish widow and her late husband’s brother, a handsome 30-year old cardiologist. I loved this movie because it showed a bit about the Jewish culture and how love is something we all hope for.

The Book Thief – Both the book and the movie are fantastic. While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being protected by her adoptive parents. I loved both the book and the movie because it showed how some of the ordinary people of Germany might have coped under the oppressive Nazi regime.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Again, both the book and the movie are touching and poignant. Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing-village roots and became one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha. It’s a world shrouded in mystery. Again, we see how the ordinary people coped with World War II, and how the role of the Geisha was changed forever.

Bridge to the Sun – Based on a true story, this compelling drama relates the difficulties of a young woman married to a Japanese diplomat during World War II, a victim of suspicion and animosity from her husband’s government. I loved this story because it showed, like The Book Thief, and Memoirs of a Geisha, the life of the ordinary people during World War II, some of them not agreeing with their government.

Cheyenne Autumn – In the light of the stand off at Standing Rock, this might be of interest to you. It’s an older movie based on true events. When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians having taken more abuse than it’s worth, break the treaty too by embarking on a 1,500 miles journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. It paints some of the whites in a rosy light, but what is particularly interesting is the way the Native Americans are portrayed. They are proud and determined to live life on their own terms. They have conflicts among themselves but manage, at least for a time to gain their freedom. You can fast forward through the scenes with James Stewart playing Wyatt Earp which was added in leu of an intermission.

To round out my movie suggestions, you might want to watch Babette’s Feast. It’s based on the novel by Karen Blixen, of the Out of Africa, fame. I suggest it because it’s climax is a feast which most of us will soon be enjoying as well. In a remote 19th-century Danish village, two sisters lead a rigid life centered around their father, the local minister, and their church. They both have had opportunities to leave, but ended up taking care of their father. After his death, they take in a French refugee, Babette Hersant, who agrees to work as their servant. When Babette wins the lottery, she offers to repay them by cooking an elaborate French meal in honor of their father’s 100 birthday. The meal turns out to be an eye opening experience for everyone in attendance.

I hope you are able to have feasts and share lots of love this holiday season. Cooking and sharing a meal with those you love is one of the things we all have in common.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

If you would like to receive notifications about my upcoming book, The Space Between Time, or my “Loving Literature” videos, you can join my email list by clicking this link.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Finding My Direction

Classic Books

Classic Books

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

“As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my plans to offer a video series called “Loving Literature.” Today I want to tell you why I’m so jazzed about creating this series.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to tutor a young person who is having great difficulty with reading. I wasn’t hired, but the cosmic tumblers in my head all fell into place, and the idea for this video series was born. I’m not giving up writing. On the contrary, creating this video series has renewed my fervor and desire to improve my story telling techniques.

My love of story all began with my parents. I’m sure that is where lots of people learn to love reading. My mother shared books with me, which helped me learn to love reading, but it was my father who helped me learn to analyze a story.

As I was growing up, we didn’t have lots of money, so six people going to the theater to see a movie was a rare treat. However, showing recently released, or classic movies on television was a big event back before cable and satellite, and my family took advantage of them. In fact, I didn’t see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen until I was in college. Yet, every year we watched it as it was broadcast on television.

My father turned these movie events into educational sessions as well. He’d ask question after question about what we liked about the movie and the characters. As I recall, he and I would still be discussing the movie long after the others had gone to bed.

One weekend my dad came home unexpectedly with a new color TV after a trip to Sears for something else. That began a new ritual of Dad and I staying up late on the weekends watching and discussing movies together. By extension, and because of a great English teacher, I became deeply interested in the books and stories we studied in class. That’s why I became a theatre artist.

Fast forward to teaching high school drama and English. I realized that I had a unique skill in story analysis when my students became engaged in deep discussions about a story, play or book. It was that realization more than any other that convinced me to quit teaching and become a writer. I’ve been supremely happy these eight years, but teaching at the college sometimes gets in the way of what I really want to be doing. This series will be the perfect blend of teaching and being creative.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been putting the first three videos together and I get more excited every day as ideas for more videos come to me. To begin with, the videos will be about how to read a textbook, play or novel. Then I will have a series on the elements of literature: plot, character, conflict, setting, language, and how to use these to determine the author’s purpose for writing the story. Then I’ll move on to the different genres. Who knows where I’ll go from there. Eventually, I hope I’ll be discussing books, movies and plays I like.

Creating these videos will not take the place of my writing. I see it as an extension of it.

I’ll keep you posted about how it goes, and even invite you to take a look.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are recovering after election day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Rethinking Meandering

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” ~ Phillips Brooks

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” ~ Douglas Adams

“Artistic self-indulgence is the mark of an amateur. The temptation to make scenes, to appear late, to call in sick, not to meet deadlines, not to be organized, is at heart a sign of your own insecurity and at worst the sign of an amateur.” ~ Harold Prince

“Typically creative people are usually not clock-slaves or list-makers, so the idea of enforcing goals and deadlines can be somewhat daunting.” ~ Kristin Armstrong

Last week I wrote a post titled, “Determined Meandering.” In it I was exploring the advice my writer friends gave me about the seemingly endless rewrites of my novel. They advised not to get impatient to publish my book. That was probably their way of telling me that I still have a great deal of work to do before it’s ready, which is true. However, since last week, two things happened that have made me rethink my daily agenda.

First, I admit it, I’m impatient to publish my novel. It’s not that I’m sick of it, it’s more of a feeling that the time is now to publish it. I can’t really explain why I feel that way, except that when I meditate I feel that I need to get on with the rewrites, or be more efficient about how I accomplish the work.

Second, I’ve been reading the book E Squared by Pam Grout, who happens to be a full-time freelance writer herself. In the book she gives practical experiments to help the reader retrain their thinking so that they can accomplish their dreams and goals. One of the things about the experiments is that each one has a deadline, 48 hours.

As I was reading, and thinking about my current situation, I came to the conclusion that, though I hate deadlines, I must set one for myself in regards to my book. It occurred to me that sometimes people do their best work when they have limited time to finish it.

And thinking of the analogy of the meandering river, there are slow moving rivers and fast moving ones. When I was a child, I lived near the Columbia, which is a fast moving river. For years I’ve been telling myself I’m a slow writer, when I could be telling myself I’m a fast writer. So, I decided to change my mind and become a faster writer since perfection is impossible anyway.

Other interesting little tidbits have contributed to my shift in thinking. Barry and I’ve been watching the original Star Trek series again since September 8 was the 50th anniversary of the premiere. We’ve also watched some of the special features with segments by the writers. More than once writers related times when they were up against the clock to finish the script for the next episode, and how, by some miracle, they managed to produce an exceptional story, one the fans and critics loved. Thanks again, Star Trek for saving the day!

So, my conclusion: I can finish the rewrites and have an exceptional manuscript ready in about a month by being focused and determined. To that end I’ve changed my daily schedule around. So that I go straight to my office to write first thing. This way all the ideas I woke up with are emptied out onto the computer screen and later in the day when I go to meditate etc., my mind is less cluttered. It’s working so far, four chapters down, thirty-one to go.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Words, Words, Words

Classic Books

Classic Books

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~ Will Rogers

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

It’s ironic that someone like me, who loves solitude should also love words both spoken and read. Or maybe it’s that I love stories. Stories in all forms, visual, aural, and on the page touch my soul. I just finished reading a fascinating book series by Marissa Meyer using the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and weaving them together in a Sci-Fi/fantasy world where the evil queen is ruler of Luna but wants to conquer Earth. After finishing the first book, Cinder. I was hooked and now that I’ve finished the last book, Winter, I can’t stop thinking about the characters and events of the books. I highly recommend them for all you Sci-Fi/fantasy lovers out there.

The fact that I’m having a hard time letting go of the story of these four strong women characters got me thinking about other novels, or short stories that have had a deep impact on me. So for today’s post, I thought I’d share an abbreviated list of my all-time favorite books.

The first book of quality that grasped me was A Tale of Two Cities. The character of Sydney Carton is my favorite from the book. He’s a flawed character who redeems himself by taking Charles Darnay’s place to face the guillotine during the French Revolution. The speech he gives as he faces his death is one of the classics for all time. I love the theme that people can change, and in the direst of circumstances make a difference, no matter how small. This book ignited my love of British literature, both classic and modern.

Later, my perspective of the world changed when I read first Roots and shortly after Shogun. Both books put me into the heads of characters who lived in very different cultures and circumstances than I did and I still feel their influence to this day. Who could have read, or seen Roots and still think slavery was a tenable practice? When I read it with one of my English classes, my students were just as appalled at what the slaves experienced as I was. It’s a book that helps the reader develop empathy, and that makes it a classic in my mind. Any book that can give the reader new insights speaks a universal language for the ages.

In recent years I have been deeply affected by each of the books in the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Outlander series, and I loved The Book Thief, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Go Set A Watchman. Each of those books showed the strength and resilience of the women main characters, a trend I love.

In general I don’t read short stories often because I like to take my time and savor the story, but one collection that changed my perception of spirituality was The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images by Martin Bell. It was first published in 1968. I discovered it in the early 80s when I was still very involved in church. One story in particular continues to influence my thinking. It’s “What the Wind Said to Thajir”. In the very short story, Thajir, a young boy, goes out to play. He loves the wind. On the fall day in the story, the wind speaks to Thajir and shares three great life secrets with him, everything that is is good, at the center of things life belongs to life, and that the meaning and purpose of life is in dying on behalf of the world. Recent events have brought back to mind the importance of these three great secrets. For that reason, I read the story again to refresh my memory of the important message shared in the story.

What I look for when I read a book, is to get inside someone else’s world and experience it with them. A book that allows me to get inside a character’s head to feel their confusion, fear, despair, awakening and finally growth is to me the epitome of a great story. There are so many superb books that I’ve read that I continue to think about long after I’ve read them. Too many to mention here. If I’m still thinking about a book years after I’ve read it, that’s the sign of a great author.

I understand that we all come into this world with different agendas and points of view, so these books I’ve mentioned might not speak to you the way they do me. That’s okay as long as we each remain open to new ideas however they come to us, that’s the point. The people I’m concerned for are those with closed minds who think they already have all the knowledge they need. Hopefully they are few and far between.

I hope you will share some of your favorite books in the comments below. I’m always looking for the next life changing book.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

How Writing Is Like Life

April Morning Rose

April Morning Rose

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger than Fiction

“I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.” ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Today I’m feeling reflective. I finished yet another round of revisions to my novel, The Space Between Time. I’ve been working on it for six years this summer, more if you count the months I spent on it in 1999 when I first began writing it.

Eight years ago when I quit teaching to write full-time, the first thing I did was take a writing course. I wanted to be a writer, but I lacked experience. My degrees are in religious studies and theatre not creative writing. But I felt drawn to writing so I took the course to help get me started. I nearly quit after that course.The instructor said that my writing was guarded. She suspected there was deep feeling behind what I had written but I needed to strip away the layers and get down to the raw emotions that I was trying to express. After I recovered from my hurt feelings, I made that my goal. I reminded myself what I told my students, that it takes time to learn a new skill. After all they didn’t learn to walk the first time they got up on their feet. So, I did as I had told them, I began writing every day. That was the only way I was going to be able to peel away the layers.

Over the years I’ve come to discover that my writing was guarded, because I had spent a lifetime hiding my true feelings. It wasn’t that I didn’t have deep emotions, quite the contrary. It was that for the most part, I didn’t express them. However during a particularly painful time in my life, I used journaling as a way to heal. Three years ago when I began this blog it was another attempt to become more vulnerable in both my writing and in my personal life.

Many years ago, Mary Manin Morrissey, said something in one of her sermons that has been of great comfort to me. Life is like a spiral. When something happens to us we do the most healing we can in the time period right after the incident. Then at some point, the issue will circle back around and we get a chance to do more healing work. The problem, or wound, will continue to circle around until we’ve completed the work. We get many chances to improve our lives when whatever it is we’re working on comes back around. Writing is like that. We write the first draft, but the work is not finished. We must allow the characters and story to circle back through our consciousness so we can see new facets, deeper emotions and nuances of motivations. That’s why revising is so important.

During this latest round of revisions, I have finally allowing my characters to make mistakes, be vulnerable, to feel pain, be confused, and to not know how to find their way. I think I still have a way to go before they are well rounded and more like real human beings, but it feels good to be digging deeper into how they cope with their pain and their mistakes.

The thing I’m most grateful for about being a writer is that I’ve become more vulnerable. It’s helped me dismantle the walls I hid behind thinking that they would both protect me and keep me from making mistakes. Writing has helped me accept myself as a flawed human being who is just trying to figure out how to live and connect with those around me. It’s allowed me to learn through my characters and thus discover my own personal truth.

Like what Stephen King expresses in the above quote, sometimes I feel apologetic that it is taking so long to finish this book. However, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my God-given talent. And as the Anne Lamott quote states, I’m using my talent as God intended to write toward vulnerability and to tell the truth as I understand it. The way I, and all artists do that, is to plumb the depths of their humanity to bring some reflection of themselves to light. I think we need more people to do that and that’s why I’m proud and excited to be able to do this work.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend or leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Things I Learned from My Father

James Calvin Sage

James Calvin Sage

“Here is my secret, A very simple secret, It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ The Little Prince

“We are approaching a new age of synthesis. Knowledge cannot be merely a degree or a skill … it demands a broader vision, capabilities in critical thinking and logical deduction without which we cannot have constructive progress.” ~ Li Ka-shing

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and aiming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ~ Adrienne Rich

“Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.” ~ Richard W. Paul

Yesterday, March 8, would have been my father’s 86th birthday. I still miss him though it’s been twelve years since his death. He was my mentor, and on this anniversary of his birth, I’d like to share some of the wonderful things he taught me.

First and foremost was to Question everything. My father was extremely intelligent, even though he had to drop out of school. His teachers called him lazy, and told him that he’d never amount to anything. Boy were they wrong. It’s amazing the extent of influence one person has on the world.

After years of struggling, my dad discovered that he had dyslexia, which was unheard of in the 1930s and 40s when he was in school. But by the time he had a label for his condition it didn’t matter because he had taught himself how to read. And what he read about was history and historical places. He loved biographies like those of the Founding Fathers. When my brother and I began college he read philosophy and theology, which was what we were studying. In fact, dad was interested in everything, especially what was going on in the present. “It’s history in the making,” he’d say. So, of course, he read news magazines, the newspaper and watched both the early and late news every night. And he questioned all of it.

He taught me never to assume that I understood what someone was saying or writing. We each attach different meanings to the same words. So, I should analyze information by asking lots of questions. He taught me this, oddly enough, by watching movies with me. When I was a teenager, we’d stay up late on weekend evenings watching and discussing old movies. We’d talk about the plot and characters, their motivations and what we thought the theme might be. Every question he asked me sent me to a deeper level of thinking.

Because he watched movies with me, I began to watch the news with him. I’d ask him questions like, why the police were beating the peaceful demonstrators, or why people were killing black people who wanted equal rights, or why we were fighting the Viet Nam War, and he would say things like, “People hurt others because they’re deeply wounded themselves. They’re scared.” “Scared of what?” I’d ask. “Scared of losing their way of life,” he’d answer. Another thing he used to say was, “People who are in great pain don’t know what they’re doing. They just want to feel better. They think hurting someone else will get rid of their pain, not realizing that one violent act leads to another.” So I began asking lots of questions no matter what I was listening to, or reading, or who I was interacting with.

When I became a public school teacher I learned that asking questions is called the Socratic Method. It’s the method Socrates used to help his students learn to think. Thanks to dad, it’s the way I teach, it’s the way I live my life.

Asking questions about why people do what they do is a particularly valuable tool for me in my day to day life. It’s extremely important to ask what a commentator, a politician, a TV ad, or a writer means by the words they use in their news and TV shows, ads, articles, movies and books. When I ask questions, it causes me to take a deeper look and helps me understand someone’s intent, or their motives. When I have a clearer picture, I’m better equipped to make decisions, and understand my family, friends, students and colleagues in a way I might not have realized had I not asked questions.

This method has also helped me a great deal as a writer. Because as I ask questions about the challenges I face in my personal life, what I learn becomes part of my novel or these blog entries. I’m mining my own life to help me convey complex undercurrents of thoughts and feelings that are pushing their way to the surface of my consciousness hoping to be expressed. I don’t always understand what wants to come forth until I begin writing.

Asking questions has helped me in other ways as well. There have been times when some tragedy happens and because I’ve asked lots of questions for so long, I can make connections between historical events and what’s happening in the present moment. What looks like chaos is really an opportunity for all of us to grow.

Hmmm, I took up so much time on this first important thing I learned from my father, that I didn’t have time to write about the other wonderful things he taught me. I guess I’ll have to turn these posts about my dad into a series. I’m happy to take another look at what he taught me and share it with you. I’ll probably gain some new insights by doing that which is a good thing. Thanks, Dad.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

On Strength and Weakness

It's a Wonderful Life Village

It’s a Wonderful Life Village

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” ~ Bill Bullard

“We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.” ~ T. D. Jakes

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been thinking a great deal about strength and weakness as we approach this most sacred time of the year. We often think that a show of force is strength, as in military retaliation, or getting revenge on our enemies. To me that’s the weakest kind of human interaction. I think strength is having the courage to accept and feel all our emotions. To cry and not be ashamed, to love with abandon, to be kind and compassionate, to feel another’s pain. When we can do that we can effect real change.

While revising my novel, I came to a section where Jenna, one of the main characters, is fired from a position that she thinks is her dream job. That and other life shattering events force her to face herself and who she is meant to become. If her life hadn’t been shaken up in such a cruel way, she would have continued to follow the path she was on and not reached her full potential.

Though the circumstances are different, the situation I wrote for Jenna came from an experience in my own life. I was fired from a much beloved teaching position. It was a political thing. Shortly after I lost that job, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine from the school and I was stunned when she said, “I hate to say this but you were weak and they took advantage of that.” I’ve thought a great deal about that statement over the years because I think my friend is dead wrong.

One of the major lessons I learned from that experience is that we each live in our own little worlds with a set of goals we want to accomplish. We see anybody who stands in the way of achieving those goals as our enemy. In fact one day as I was driving by the turn off to the school I remembered something an actor, I don’t remember who, said when asked why he played so many villains. He squinched up his eyebrows and said, “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story”. I had a huge aha in that moment. I was the villain to my school enemies and they were the villain to me. We had opposing goals and stood in each other’s way to accomplishing them. All of a sudden I thought of those two people differently. They weren’t evil, they were just righting a situation they thought was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be hired for the job, you see, the daughter was. Someone was going to lose the fight and it was me.

Now I can’t say I forgave them that very day. Oh, no. I wanted to hang on to my anger a while longer. I wanted the situation made right, which meant I wanted them to apologize for wounding me so deeply. I wanted them to see that I was really the better teacher for that position. I wanted my job back. It wasn’t until I gave up wanting a different outcome that I was able to look for what I could learn from the situation. Once I did that I began to make the steps toward forgiveness and toward finding my true purpose in life. In fact it was only a few weeks ago as I was meditating that I saw myself hugging them and telling them they had done me a huge favor and I thanked them for helping me find the most happy and fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Over those several years when I was struggling to make sense of why my perfect life was shattered, I’ve learned that real power is wielded by the compassionate, the loving, and the empathetic because they are the ones who see the true souls of others. They are the ones who know that who we really are is not the things we own, our bank account, our jobs, our belief systems, or our behaviors. Most of us are completely unaware that we are beautiful light beings connected to each other and to the Divine.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because almost all of us celebrate the sacred. Instinctively we know that light is more powerful than darkness for it is easy to dispel darkness by lighting one candle. Spiritual light shining from within is much the same. It can lead us to peace and happiness if we commit to loving those who are drenched in the darkest of places.

I know it’s a little early for making resolutions, but this is mine for the new year. To be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. If we band together in our intention to be the peace we wish to see, it can’t help but happen one day soon.

I hope you have a blessed holiday season.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Mind Shift from Amateur to Professional

Shakespeare - There's a Professional

Shakespeare – There’s a Professional

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

“At 20, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin.” ~ Rita Levi-Montalcini

About a year or so ago, I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it changed my life. Six years earlier I’d retired from teaching public school to follow my dream of being a writer. I thought it would be easy to work from home, another dream come true, but it wasn’t. Every morning I found all kinds of excuses and tasks to do INSTEAD of making writing my first priority. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but I’ve seen lots of people do the same thing when they attempt to follow their dream. What is it about humans that makes us sabotage ourselves? Anyway when I read Pressfield’s book I realized that there was a switch in my head that had not been flipped from amateur to professional. By the end of the book, I’d flipped the switch and I’m immensely happy that I did.

Steven Pressfield’s concept of what it means to be a professional is very simple. A professional puts the work they want to be doing first every day no matter what. For me that means that I have to set a time to be in my office everyday with my hands on the computer keys working on my latest project. Writing is my work, and I must treat it like any other job even on the days when the ideas don’t come easily, or when there is a shift from one task to another. At the end of the writing day, I may throw out all that I’ve written, but at least I stuck to my commitment.

Being creative is like anything else in life, sometimes it flows easily and other times we’re faced with difficult challenges and feel like we’ll never create anything wonderful again, we’ll never be happy again, and we’ll be stuck in our misery forever. Yet, if we are willing to do the work, we always come through to a happier situation. Our muse comes back and we find the solution to the problems we’d been struggling with.

I’m in a little bit of a lull period in terms of my fiction writing right now. My novel is in the hands of writer friends and I’m waiting to get their comments back so I know whether I need to do more work or if I can have my manuscript edited and published. That’s a completely different set of tasks. My fingers itch to be working on something creative, but so far all I’ve been writing are this blog and pieces I hope to use in marketing my book. It’s good to work on those types of writing too, but I don’t find as much joy in writing them as I do creating characters and the worlds in which they live.

As I was typing that last paragraph, I remembered a story Pressfield shares in the book about finishing his first novel. When he’d finished the first draft, he went to tell his mentor that he’d finished the book. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, but his mentor said, “Good. Now go start the next one.” Remembering that little story helps me realize that I’ve fallen down on my commitment to myself. I did what Pressfield’s mentor said when I finished the rough draft of The Space Between Time. I sat down immediately and started the sequel. But then I got caught up in revisions of the first book, which were rather extensive. I haven’t gone back to the second book even though I’ve got this span of time while I’m waiting for feedback. That’s not good. I need to be working on the sequel in addition to my promotional materials.

I’m convinced that every creative person has to find their own “voice”, their own method of creating and being a professional. Maybe it’s more about finding their own rhythm. I’m still new to this writing thing and still learning how to juggle the various parts of the process. For now, I plan to go back and do more work on the sequel to my first novel. Who knows perhaps parts of the sequel novel can be things I include in the promotional materials for this first book.

Thanks for reading. I hope you don’t mind that I used Shakespeare’s picture again this week. He’s my idea of the ultimate professional. If you’ve got ideas about how I can improve my creative process, feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Writer Expectations

My book shelves

My book shelves

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“My literature is much more the result of a paradox than than of an implacable logic, typical of police novels. The paradox is the tension that exists in my soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” ~ Barbara Tuchman

“In my teaching, I try to expose my students to the widest range of aesthetic possibilities, so I’ll offer them stories from Anton Chekhov to Denis Johnson, from Flannery O’Connor to A.M. Homes, and perhaps investigating all that strange variation of beauty has rubbed off on me. Or perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching literature.” ~ Change-Rae Lee

At present I’m writing a novel. I’m in the revision stages and I’m struggling with a fundamental problem for writers. A writer friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get your main character into trouble and keep her there.” I know she’s right. That’s been the rule for literature since story telling began. It’s been that way because stories imitate life. However, just recently, I’m feeling worn out by conflict.

That might not be a good thing for my writing because readers expect adventure from their books. Yet I feel drawn to create characters who learn from the things that happen to them, and who find peace in the process. My protagonists could be a new kind of character. For the most part they stay calm while helping to solve the conflict around them.

I have to say that my favorite books are ones much like that. It’s not that the protagonist doesn’t face problems, it’s their attitude in facing them that is different. Jane Eyre is one such character and many of Jane Austen’s heroines are the same. They are determined to make the best of any situation in which they find themselves. Because they look for ways to be useful and happy no matter what, good comes to them. Maybe it’s the difference between male and female writers. I’ve read lots of exciting books by male authors, books I loved, but they’re a little bit different than the books that I love by female authors. The male created protagonists struggle and push to make things happen, while the female created protagonists look for subtler ways to get what they want. I don’t mean to imply one approach is better than the other, they’re just different.

The Harry Potter series, all of Jane Austen’s books and many other books written by women seem more intimate. The Mists of Avalon and The Crystal Cave series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart respectively, are completely different tellings of the Arthur myth than those written by men. What’s going on inside the characters and what they’re learning along the way is more important than the plot.

I guess I’m thinking about all of this because I’m just finishing a fantasy series that I found through BookBub. I loved the first three books, but as I began the second series, I had battle fatigue. The books are written by a man with a young woman protagonist. It’s one of those series where one person has to save the world she lives in. But there is no respite from battle at any time. No time for reflection on what she’s learned. Mostly, she just reacts with no chance to assess the situation and to use her wisdom. Another thing that bothers me about the series is that story lines are left unfinished. It’s a great adventure series but what good comes to the society at the end of it all? Admittedly, I still have a little bit more to read in the sixth book and maybe the unfinished storylines will be resolved, the main characters will have learned something and find a measure of peace. Or maybe he’s planning another series that will do that. But as a reader I’m left unsatisfied. I don’t want to write books like that.

Recently I saw links on Facebook to articles by movie and TV critics of the Outlander series. I love those books because there is a strong female protagonist who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. She doesn’t panic. She finds a way to cope with her situation and in the process, affects everyone around her, including the men. One of the things that was controversial about the book and TV series is a horrific rape scene. But it’s not the rape of Claire, the main character, but her husband. After she saves him, they have to find a way to heal. They do that together. The rape is an integral part of the development of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. It’s not there for exploitation, or because there was a hole in the plot and “so why not put a rape scene in.” When I read that section of the book, I was amazed at the courage Diana Gabaldon showed in writing it. We find ourselves in horrific or traumatic situations at one time or another in our lives. Often we ask ourselves how can we cope with the pain. Ms. Gabaldon is one among many authors who have shown us a way to heal by writing honestly about life.

To me, literature should help us go places, both inside and outside ourselves, that we have never gone before. The beauty of reading is that we go on a journey with the characters and learn from the mistakes they make or the situations in which they find themselves so we don’t have to experience them ourselves. That’s the kind of literature I want to write. I want people to have fun while getting something to take away with them and use in the future.

Writing isn’t an easy profession. Even those who’s books aren’t huge sellers, I hope their work touch someone. I hope my book touches someone too.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great week. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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