Make A Friend Day

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February 11 is Make A Friend Day. How cool is that? I’m serious. Where are you reading this post right now? The bus/ metro/taxi, a coffee shop/juice bar/gym, in the car/waiting room/porch while your child/friend/parent finishes a piano lesson/taking a shower/chatting with the neighbor? Is there someone you can approach in your vicinity? Someone you’ve been meaning to approach, but have been too busy or don’t know how ? How busy can you be that you can’t take the time to say, “Hi, I’m Catherine. We always end up in the same elevator in the morning. I thought it might be nice to introduce ourselves.” Once the possible awkwardness passes, you’ll probably get a laugh and “It is nice! I’m Jess and I’ve been meaning to tell you that I love your new haircut!”

Yup, it’s happened to me and it can happen to you. Just slap on a smile, walk through the coals of fear of rejection, and be your friendly self.

Human beings are social animals. We are meant to live together: couple, family, clan. A newborn child cannot survive on its own. From the day we are born, we seek to be understood and so we learn to  interact with others and form relationships. As babies, we communicated with cries and giggles, as small children with hand signals and single words, as teenagers with appearance and actions, as adults with hopefully well-thought out words. We are constantly learning to be with others and to be ourselves. From the beginning, we seek connection and belonging.

So how is it that the one-person household is rising around the world? In developed countries, solo living ranges from the mid-20% to just over 40%. In developing countries, the statistics show about 5%-15%. According to demographers, the numbers will continue to grow. They suggest financial independence, fewer children, changing cultural/religious views on marriage are some of the contributing factors. A good thing then that some created Make A Friend Day.

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4 Benefits of friendship

  • People with friends and family handle stress better, therefore feel more at peace which allows them to be healthier.
  • People with friends take better care of themselves which points to having higher self-esteem. Meaning: they feel more in control of their lives.
  • Sharing with friends implies trust and alleviates loneliness. This increases a sense of belonging.
  • Two other benefits of sharing are a more grounded perspective toward problems and the ability to ask for a trusted opinion.
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4 Ways to make new friends

  • Pursue your interests. Volunteer. Join a sports team, a book club, a cooking class. These place you amongst like-minded people. The interaction that comes from participating will help you discover who would make a good fit for you. Or, you could do what I do: smile and say hello to everyone. In time (and it will come fairly early on), the group will separate into two: those who step closer and converse and those who politely reply while making minimal eye contact then quickly move away.
  • Online groups are another way to make friends, if you are active in a group. Whether it’s photography, writing, or politics, the more exchanges, the more we get to know how people think and feel, where they are from, and their day-to-day lives.
  • Surrounded by people, but don’t know them? Try approaching someone with the elevator conversation above.
  • Whether you are in university or working full-time, networking events abound. I’ve always had a hard time with them. I want to pick the right person to talk to. I want to say the right thing. I want to see understanding in their eyes. I want to impress. The pressure of that single opportunity either keeps me at home or in a corner, where no one except the guy who thinks he’s funny, gravitates to. An entrepreneur told me about her brilliant strategy. (Thank you Chantal.) She forces herself to go and allows herself to leave after speaking/delivering two business cards. That’s it! How easy is that? I can totally speak. As long as I’m on topic, I don’t have to be terrific. The business card serves as an ice breaker and avoids all that messing around with the phone’s contact list.

Remember true friendship takes time and commitment. Don’t freak out because I didn’t say marriage with kids and in-laws. So, coffee or a meal once in a while, a text or call on a birthday, a card at the holidays, a visit when your friend is sick, an invitation to an event of shared interest. And share and listen, listen and share, share and listen, listen and share, etc. Those are the little things that allow care, respect, trust, loyalty to grow.

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4 Quotes on friendship

  • “There are no strangers in the world, just friends you have never met.” –W.B. Yeats
  • “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” —Ed Cunningham
  • “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” —Seneca
  • “Remember: No one’s more important than people! In other words, friendship is the most important thing–not career or housework, or one’s fatigue–and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” —Julia Child

Happy Make A Friend Day!

Who will you approach on February 11? How do you make new friends? Have you ever tried to make a friend and it backfired? Do you have a friendship that surprises you? Tell me about! I love hearing from you. Leave a comment

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Happy New Year

Wishing you all the best of everything.

Incentives For Writers

The Challenge

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

This was my first year attempting NaNoWriMo. I didn’t officially register since I hadn’t decided to participate until November had started. Surrounded and inspired by participants in my online writing group, W.A.N.A. Tribe, I thought I’d give it a try and bumped Word Count up to the top of my priority list.

The Unexpected Challenge

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Everything was going well until the last ten days. I was having a terrible writing day. Zero ideas, zero inspiration. When I had decided to join in the fun, I had an outline and half the story had been plotted. It was easy to write since I always knew what came next. I had done the thinking and the planning ahead of time. But I had stopped to focus on that 50,000 words word count.

The Muse

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As the days went by, it seemed to me like the words flowed less and less until the day nothing flowed. I realized that I only had ten days left when at the end of one day I had written something absurd like 163 words. That’s barely a paragraph! I was so discouraged. I announced to my online writing group that I was giving up on NaNo. There were only a couple of people in the chat room at that time but one of them was Kristen Lamb, W.A.N.A. founder.  She challenged me to write 500 words in 40 minutes. If I met the challenge, she would give me a free class. I won that challenge by writing 518 words. That made me feel so much better about my abilities. I would go to bed that night knowing that I had made a splash in the bucket instead of a drop.

How did I end up writing so much in so little time without a jumping point? Two things:

  1. I’d been offered an incentive – the class with Kristen Lamb
  2. Kristen told me to get out of my own way and just write: follow the muse

I want to elaborate on the latter. Her words really struck me because I was trying so hard to stay within the frame that I’d made it too narrow in my mind. When in fact, any kind of art is always in mutation. Until the paint is dried, until the song is recorded, until the poem is read to an audience, until the clay has hardened, the artist always has the ability to add, remove, or change with their own imagination being the only restriction.

I’ve always scene my outlines as guides through the story. I never felt that I had to write a scene exactly like I had planned it. I always felt like I could add scenes, change the plot direction, do whatever I wanted as long as the story made sense. For whatever reason, I thought I was stuck and I needed someone to point out that I wasn’t actually stuck.

I, more or less, pantsered my way through the second half of the story. I did get lost once as I wrote some scenes out of sequence and had to update my outline but I didn’t let it get me down because I needed to hit that 50,000 words word count. And why? Because there was another incentive.

The Incentive

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While I felt better about myself after completing Kristen’s initial challenge, I doubt I would have hit the NaNoWriMo word count on November 30 without more motivation. I suspect Kristen knew it too. After I wrote the 518 words in 40 minutes, she offered me a second incentive: a free consultation with her on my story if I hit the magic number. I wrote like a maniac for ten days and by 6 pm last Friday, I was done. 50,086 words! I sent her my story and relaxed for the entire weekend. I didn’t want to do, read, hear about writing for 48 hours.

The Result

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It is a first draft and I would say an unfinished first draft. While the beginning, middle and end are all there, I want to add another 10,000 words. I have some ideas for a few more scenes that I didn’t have time to write. This week, I’ve happily been reviewing my work, pleased with its current state and updating my outline. So it’s not finished, but it will be done soon. The incentive this time: being able to hand off a completed novel to an editor so I can get it to my readers early next year.

P.S.

 

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In passing, if you become a True Hearts Insider by subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you’ll receive monthly updates, go behind the scenes, and automatically be entered to win prizes exclusive to True Hearts Insiders (This month: One pair of super cozy faux fur trimmed reading socks). Subscribe to my True Hearts Insider Newsletter. Fill out the form at the top of sidebar on this page!

What incentives have motivated you? Or how do you motivate others? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

RHCP Carpool Karaoke

As I mentioned earlier this month, NaNoWriMo has got me busy so I’m keeping my posts short and funny. Hope you have a good time with this one.

My ten year old daughter introduced me to James Corden last week. I’m really behind some of the cultural media evolution. Please forgive me if this is redundant. For those of you who might not have discovered Carpool Karaoke yet, I want to share this episode of Corden and, one of my favorite bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What did you think? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

Challenge: Writing Romance In Fiction

Yesterday, my critique partner and I had a chat about a romantic scene I wrote in Covers, the next book in the True Hearts series, and we concluded that it needs to change.

About My Critique Partner

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First, let me say that I use the term critique partner loosely. She critics my work, I do nothing for her except acknowledge her in my publications. Let me tell you that she deserves more than that because her comments take my work to another level. Having said that, Christmas might be a good time to show more gratitude.

My Comfort Zone

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Secondly, while the scenes in Covers are not the first romantic scenes I have ever written or published, they are the most intense and explicit. I decided to include this type of scene a little more because I’m more comfortable writing it now and the genre, which is New Adult, can totally handle it. Time to stretch that comfort zone.

The Right Fit

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Back to the chat with my critique partner. The tone of the romantic scene was wrong. It suddenly switched like it was written a different author or it was a different story. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I was not surprised either. I felt it when I was writing it. So how do I fix it? I’m not sure but I’ve started reading a few articles which might be of interest to you too:

Back To Drafting

 

Now that I’ve done some research, I need to mash up what is comparable to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Suck My Kiss” with something along the lines of Kings Of Leon’s “Sex On Fire”. A little humor, a little heat, and a whole lot of intimacy. Wish me luck!

What are some romantic movie or novel scenes that you love? What are some songs that  would convey the right mood? I love to hear from you. Leave me a comment.

Welcome To Fall

Welcome to fall! I love all the seasons but autumn is particularly exciting.

Schools and the traffic pattern of the next ten months has been established. (Come to think of it, this may not be so exciting.) The hot summer days of sitting in traffic due to construction yield to dull fall days of sitting in traffic due to everyone trying to get somewhere at the same time.

Roadwork on Côte-St-Luc Rd., between Décarie Blvd. and Bonavista Ave. in Montreal, on Monday, June 4, 2018. DAVE SIDAWAY /MONTREAL GAZETTE

While we’re replacing our shorts and tanks with pants and long sleeve shirts, I’m to have enough room in the closet for a couple of new piece. The best fashion always comes out in fall.

Fall Fashion Trends to Shop on Amazon // Notjessfashion.com

At home, we’ve started talking about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This week, we made our first hearty meal of the season: stew served with crusty bread. It was delicious. We plan on making tripe and pot roast, apple spice cake and apple pie.

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Image courtesy of OZphotography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

TV is getting a refresh. I’m excited about a new series called New Amsterdam and the return of Navy SEALs.

I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where the leaves on the trees change colour and provide a spectacular site which allows us to appreciate the cooler weather and single digit temperatures.

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Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are you looking forward to this fall? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

Mixing Tourism With Learning in New York City

I spent last week in New York City with my family. We played tourist together for four days. Despite the crazy heat and high humidity, we managed to grab the hop-on hop-off bus to tour Manhattan. Then, we got the bird’s eye view from the Empire State Building.

View from Empire State Building

Restaurants were quite expensive, but we did find a grocery store a few blocks away from our hotel and we’re able to eat more affordably. Thank you Morton Williams Food Market.

Capture

We boarded a ferry and admired the State of Liberty from all sides. Until we approached the island from the boat ourselves, it had never occurred to me what a combination of fear, excitement and relief newcomers must have felt when they first saw her.

Statue Of Liberty

We sweated our way through some of Central Park, visited the impressive Cathedral of St John the Divine and admired the architecture of the buildings facing the Park.

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Of course, we had to grab red velvet and chocolate cake from Magnolia Bakery.

Bakery

And it wasn’t enough to see Times Square during the day time, so we went back in the evening. Interestingly, there’s so much digital advertisement that you can’t tell that it’s night time.

My touring time ended on Thursday night. I’ll have to go back because I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to. Plus, there are still so many libraries and museums to visit.

Friday morning, I joined my fellow writers. Writers tend to write alone. Maybe that’s why most of us are so social. We join associations, attend workshops, network at conferences and support each other online.  And why not? We write to share our knowledge through non-fiction, our experiences through memoir, or our stories through fiction and poetry.  We are people of the world. I love to meet new people, explore new places, and learn new things. Who doesn’t? I’m sure there’s a little bit of a writer in everyone.

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The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference was great. I got to learn craft from Steven James, Jane K. Cleland, Whitney Davis, Jordan Rosenfeld, and Chuck Wendig. I also took some genre workshops and discovered some great speakers like Gabriela Pereira, Kim Van Alkemade, and Rachael Herron. Any writer will tell you that you need to know the business of writing as much as the art of it. So I sat in on lectures by Jennifer S. Wilkov and Carol Van Den Hende. If you think that’s enough, it’s not! I made some new friends: Gail Nastacia, Marti Mattia, Patricia Powell and Silas Archambault. Overall, the conference helped me grow as a writer and charge my writing batteries.

Time to work on novel number three.

Number 3

Is there an event in your field that focuses and energizes you? Tell me about it. I love to hear from you.