The Healthy Benefits of Crochet

Stacks of samples
Photography by Cindy Pope

 

Arts and crafts, such as crocheting and knitting, are not only healing and restorative, they are also therapeutic in numerous ways.

Crocheting eliminates stress. Crocheting can be a solitary act where the crochetier is able to focus on the repetitiveness of creating stitches for rows on end. When feeling stressed, the crochetier makes time for themselves to be creative with no judgment.

Crocheting acts as a form of group therapy. For people who prefer group therapy instead of one-on-one sessions, there are crocheting groups that meet weekly and monthly where crochetiers gather to talk, laugh, eat, and fellowship, providing the attendees with a sense of community, and takes the focus off the person in therapy and places it on the crochet project. This type of group therapy not only eliminates stress, but it is a great ice breaker for new friendships to develop.

Crocheting can alleviate depression. Because this is a hobby crochetiers enjoy, the brain releases dopamine, a chemical that acts as an anti-depressant and affects emotions. When crocheting, the release of dopamine allows the crochetier to feel happy.

Purple Crochet Scarf

Crocheting can reduce Alzheimers. Studies show that the physical act of crocheting can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 30 to 50%. Practicing crocheting is a cognitive exercise which stimulates the brain. Crochetiers can challenge themselves by learning a new stitch, pattern, or technique. This simple act can slowdown or prevent memory loss, thereby preserving memories.

Crocheting helps with Math. Most crochetiers are creative people who love colors and textures and designs, not numbers. Yet every crochet pattern starts with a number and measurement. Crochet hooks are sized by numbers and letters, such as E4, F5, G6, H8, etc. Yarn is sized by weight from sock yarn, 1, to supper chunky, 7, the larger number the larger the yarn size. To match the yarn with the hook, instructions may read that 4” of single crochets = 25 stitches.

Yarn has dye lot numbers or color numbers. To ensure the color remains consistent throughout the piece, each skein must contain the same dye lot or color numbers.

Each pattern begins with a number – chain 4, chain 104, chain 250, etc. Every row is to be counted as pattern instructions may say repeat rows 2-5 for 75 rows or until piece measures 60”.

Crochet Hooks
Photography by Cindy Pope

Crocheting builds self-esteem. Whether working on a project, planning a project or shopping for materials, the crochetier has an inner sense of productivity and usefulness. Seeing those stitches stretched out before the crochetier provides proof of accomplishment. When the project is given as a gift or sold at a craft fair, that purpose is deeply satisfied, hence generating a huge boost to self-esteem.

Crocheting helps with insomnia. Crocheting is repetitive and soothing, which gives the crochetier a chance to focus on the project at hand, instead of the problems of the world. This soothing effect calms the mind and body allowing the crochetier to fall asleep easier.

Crocheting puts the crochetier in control. By choosing everything from the crochet hook, yarn type and color, pattern, and type of project, the crochetier is in control, giving the crochetier a purpose and direction. This is a way for the crochetier to literally put control back into their own hands.

Green Jasmin Handwarmers

For the crochetier, the whole idea of creating something new and exciting with their own two hands gives a sense of accomplishment that no one can take away. At the end of the day, the satisfaction of seeing the amount of those stitches growing closer and closer to the completion of a project is priceless.

So pick up your hooks and yarn, and get healthy!

sydneymontgomeryauthor.com

The Bountiful Benefits of Writing

Journals 2
Photo by Cindy Pope Lowman

 

During this time of Covid-19, social distancing, and uncertainty, most people are now discovering what it’s really like to be a writer, staying home with the solitude and being disciplined enough to stare at a computer screen for hours and days on end. And you wonder why we writers would do this of our own free will.

We keep writing because writing is a huge part of our lives. And the benefits are huge! And they can be huge to anyone who applies these tips.

Writing eliminates stress. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages of journaling. Just by writing down your thoughts and anxieties, that act of putting pen to paper gets those stressors out of the body, which leaves the mind better able to process the cause and effect of actions to be taken. Only then are the mind and body calmed.

Writing teaches communication. Writing every day for any length of time teaches how to communicate with clarity. When a person is writing, there is no body language or tone of voice to suggest a specific emotion to another person, so the words must be chosen carefully, and in a manner that expresses complex ideas in the most effective way. The whole process causes the writer to choose the most appropriate words and group phrases in a more eloquent manner, thereby increasing vocabulary.

Productivity rises. The physical act of writing thoughts on paper activates brain neurons, preparing the brain to process upcoming tasks, like an athlete warming up before training exercises. This process, for some people, can aid in the prevention of mental illness, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Writing down tasks and goals to be completed with the best applicable words aids significantly in achieving them.

List Pad
Photo by Cindy Pope Lowman

Better decision making through a clear mind. When thoughts are defined and focused, the writer becomes aware of the many choices for their situation and can thereby make the best decisions.

Increases learning. If the writer can express that information in their own written words, they increase the retention of that knowledge.

Awareness of reality. Writing down daily goals and achieving them helps the writer accept those feelings about those achievements, thereby increasing awareness. By writing those feelings, the writer achieves a greater perspective.

Writing makes writers happier. When writing goals and achievements, the writer gains a sense of reality and makes better decisions, and the mind becomes freer because it is no longer weighed down by burdensome thoughts. The writer with a burden-free mind is a happy writer.

Live more focused. Writing down daily thoughts, ideas, and goals is a constant reminder of the dreams the writer wishes to achieve. A writer must always write down ideas that suddenly come from nowhere, otherwise they may be lost forever.

Overcome hardships faster. By writing through struggles and gaining a clear perspective of goals, the writer is able to overcome tough moments more quickly. The physical act of writing through those hard times in a journal not only provides a safe place to vent, but when hard times return, the writer will have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to get through them.

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Photo by Robert Lowman

Written memories. After all the writing and focusing and achieving of goals, the writer will have a rich history of memories, a stockpile of thoughts, and emotions, which could lead to an entertaining and emotionally satisfying memoir.

Should the writer use those memories to write fiction, the act of writing fictional characters and situations provides the writer a chance to analyze things around himself, giving a chance to look at situations from different perspectives. Some will see a parallel between the fictional situation and their own.

Writing a blog. Writing a blog can be challenging to some because it makes the writer think in terms of writing for an audience that will be able to locate and read those words on the Internet and know who wrote them, for eons to come.

Whether one is a writer or non-writer, novice or professional, the whole idea of writing gives the author a huge sense of accomplishment that no one can take away. At the end of the day, the satisfaction of having those words on paper is priceless.

Heal yourself with writing.

Sydney Montgomery

sydneymontgomeryauthor.com

Writing Through Setbacks

 

Vintage typewriter keyboard

 

Writing through Setbacks

During this year’s spring clean, I opened two reedy decorative baskets I had stacked in a corner and forgotten about. Inside one I found 20 skeins of this yarn I had purchased while my children were still at home. I jumped for joy and spread the yarn in the middle of the living room floor. I stood over my find and giggled while pondering what stitch pattern would best show the texture and colors. Too excited to wait, I shrugged my shoulders and immediately began the chain stitches for my newest project.

I finally found a pattern and labored for hours. The first evening, it was after midnight before I stretched and yawned before heading to bed, only to discover my rear-end had gone numb. Several mornings later, I examined my previous night’s labor, and fumed. The design had gaping holes throughout. And there is nothing I hate worse than pulling an afghan over my shoulders, only for my toes to fall into the cavernous holes. I unraveled each stitch and started over.

The next week, I worked many hours on another pattern, to the point that my eyes stung, and my hands and shoulders ached. First thing one morning, I took a gander at what I had accomplished, and the afghan curled in on itself. My yarn was too big for the stitch. I untangled every stitch, hand-rolled the used yarn into balls, threw the balls in a tote bag, and mulled over my options.

I found another pattern I absolutely adored, and commenced once again. With this newly-acquired stitch, I had the afghan halfway completed, then ran out of yarn. Extra yarn could not be purchased because, after all these years, the manufacturer no longer made that style or color. So, I pulled out every stitch, sat back, and considered my options.

My husband can testify that I began the project and pulled out all the stitches at least ten times. After a while, he looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “What are you doing? You’re never going to finish if you keep taking it apart.”

I could have agreed with him, and slapped something slipshod together. Or just thrown the whole thing in the back of a closet and shut the door, never to lay eyes on it again. But I knew if I threw something crappy together, I would have to look at it and know I could have done better. I had started this project, so I became determined to finish and show myself what I was capable of achieving.

Was all of this a waste of time and energy?

Not at all.

Crocheting is a hobby I’ve enjoyed since I was 12 years old. Even so, I know I’ll never learn all the stitches and patterns and new techniques. So while experimenting on this afghan, I taught myself five new stitches and five different patterns. I saved the swatches for ideas down the road.

I learned that while all patterns may not work with such thick wool as this, they will work with several other types of yarn in my stash.

I discovered how not to beat myself up when required to change strategies. It’s no sin or weakness on my part to seek expert advice—that is how YouTube became one of my best friends. I knew there was a pattern perfect for this type yarn, I just had to keep searching.

And this is the finished product.

afghan photo
Photo By Cindy Pope Lowman

Now, what does any of this have to do with writing?

Writing is a God-given talent that I enjoy crafting and polishing. And after several years of working with Word Weavers and The Christian Authors Guild, I’ve come quite a long way. Even through the setbacks.

When we moved to Georgia, I had to make new writing contacts and find other magazines willing to publish my stories. One day the editor assured me I had the lead article in an upcoming issue—then promptly left the publication. The new editor, determined to change the entire format and schedule, dumped my story, and made me look like a fool.

I went home, pulled some of my old writing and tried something different.

Later on, I signed a three-book publishing contract with a local publisher. But that deal fell through when the publisher went out of business, after I had done the rewrites and was preparing the book launch.

Contract
Photo by Cindy Pope Lowman

But like this yarn needed the right stitch, I know there are publishers out there just right for this manuscript; I just have to find them.

Now most of us have an idea for a plot or character that’s been rattling around in our heads for years. Like this yarn I had stashed in a corner, I had to find them. I suggest the same of you. Draw them from the corners of your mind and spread them out before you.

Experiment by putting those ideas on paper. If they don’t work now, unravel them and stitch those words into a written piece worthy of your skill and talent. But don’t ever throw away those tossed-aside words.

Learn as much as you can about writing. That’s what Word Weavers and The Christian Authors’ Guild is all about. We’re here to help you practice and hone your skills.

Never be afraid to seek help. That’s what we’re here for. Join, attend, and engage in Word Weavers critique groups. And don’t forget about their workshops and conferences. You may love your plot and characters, but your critique partners may find cavernous holes the reader can fall through. You will learn how to plug those holes with stronger characters and a tighter story line.

And if necessary, tear your story apart and begin again.

Listening to other writers in Word Weavers will show you what they found important in your story. Not only will the process teach patience, you will become inspired.

Living in a Word Weavers writing community was how I made contact with my critique and accountability partners.

At Word Weavers and The Christian Authors Guild, we never, ever discourage anyone in their writing, and certainly never to the point where you want to slap something slipshod together just to get it over with.

My writing partners have taught me how important it is to set a manageable goal for the completion of my manuscripts. We can teach you the same.

Persistence is the key. Work on your project until your hands and shoulders ache, your eyes sting and blur, and your rear-end becomes numb.

With a lot of hard work, like crocheting this unique afghan, you will develop your own definitive voice.

When you see what you are capable of, you will come to appreciate how wonderful and thrilling completing that manuscript will be. In time, you’ll come to know what works best to allow your talent to shine through.

And you’ll never be satisfied with anything less than your best.

 

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THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD

hollywood sign

I have no idea where my obsession with classic Hollywood movies came from. But I do remember on Sunday afternoons, after church, my mother, father, and I went to my grandmother’s for lunch and family time with my aunts, uncles and cousins. One particular Sunday, instead of the usual football game, the silent movie, Modern Times, starring Charlie Chaplin, was broadcast. Everyone else turned away from the TV in disappointment and boredom. But I sat riveted to the screen, watching the characters getting into all kinds of comedic trouble. It struck me that what movie patrons found funny in the 1920’s I still found funny.

I spent many evenings in my childhood lying in the living room floor and watching The Big Valley and Perry Mason with my parents. As I grew older, I read and watched interviews with the stars of these programs. I learned that Barbara Stanwyck had been a determined starlet in the 1930’s who graduated from shop-worn female characters to a classic film noir character. Raymond Burr played some really nasty bad guys when he began his acting career.

Barbara-Stanwyck-2624618837-1571088647984.jpg

 

That whetted my appetite to know more. Not just about the actors, but about the movies.

In my small Southern town, the only way to access movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood was to stay awake past midnight on Saturday for the Late, Late Show. Once I wanted so bad to watch Lucille Ball and Bob Hope in Fancy Pants. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it past the second commercial break.

When I was in my 30’s, cable finally came to my hometown. And there they were—all those glamorous stars I had heard and read so much about were right before me. In glorious black and white and vivid Technicolor, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I felt I had died and gone to heaven.

To us movie fans, these films stand up today because the human characters are portrayed with real emotions, desires, and goals. And I love watching them in pursuit of solutions to their varied problems. Sometimes they are played for drama, sometimes for sheer comedy.

I lived vicariously through them. As there was no nudity, cursing, or bloody gore, anybody could watch them with me. Whenever plots did contain adult subject matter, it was subtly handled. In The Maltese Falcon, I only realized when I was an adult that Peter Lorre played a gay character. It was noted when Lorre’s character handed his business card to Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, and the card smelled of gardenia.

In Shanghai Express, Marlena Dietrich plays a prostitute. You know that when she says one specific line, “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lili.” If you don’t listen and watch carefully, you miss it.

 

I didn’t just watch these movies. I studied them. I have bookshelves devoted to biographies of legendary Hollywood actors and actresses. I have read enough to know how the films were made, and who was originally contracted to play the roles we associate so well with certain actors. Most people don’t know that Ronald Reagan was scheduled to play ‘Rick’ in Casablanca. Or that the movie was almost not made because no one thought Bogie could play a romantic lead.

And sometimes the backstory of these movies proved more interesting than the movie itself. After agreeing to sell David O. Selznick the movie rights to Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell changed her mind and refused to sell. David finally got her to agree, and the movie went into production. Only one problem: There was no Scarlett cast. But there was already a shooting budget and schedule established. Without the perfect actress yet contracted to play the role, the first footage to be shot was a stunt couple portraying Rhett and Scarlett running from the Yankees. For the burning of Atlanta, the original set of the 1931 movie, King Kong, was set afire. If you look closely, you can see the three-tiered platform blazing in the background where King Kong first saw the sacrificial maiden, played by Fay Wray.

Gone With the Wind

I started to understand how the movie industry operated, and I began to appreciate how much work and worry goes into the making of a single movie. Which made me appreciate them even more.

As a history buff, I enjoy how these films show a glimpse of Americana in specific time periods. It still amazes me at how much influence these characters had on the movie going public. Clara Bow made it fashionable for young ladies of the 1920’s to bob their hair and use lipstick – a product that caused many divorces in real life because cosmetics were considered to be used only by ‘ladies of the evening’.

The dresses the stars wore were very important to fashionable young women. When Marilyn Monroe posed for her famous subway scene in The Seven Year Itch, the search was on by every young female for a copy of the white dress that blew over Marilyn’s ankles. That scene was filmed while Marilyn and her husband, Joe DiMaggio, were supposed to be on their honeymoon. Poor Joe had to stand silent and watch while other men drooled over his wife’s exposed legs.

In A Place in the Sun, when Elizabeth Taylor stepped onto the screen wearing a white off-the-shoulder party dress with white flowers on the bodice, every girl would have died to have that dress.

Elizabeth Taylor

The clothing company, Hanes, almost went bankrupt in 1934 when Clark Gable pulled off his shirt in It Happened One Night, revealing he did not wear a tee-shirt. The male movie-going public decided if Clark Gable didn’t wear tee-shirts, then they would not wear them either. Until Marlon Brando wore his in his famously dramatic scene in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Clark Gable

During World War II, film star Veronica Lake was famous for her peek-a-boo haircut. So many women tried to imitate the blonde bombshell that the Defense Department asked Veronica to star in a short film and demonstrate to female defense plant workers how to put up their peek-a-boo hairstyle up during the day for safety and productivity, then let the popular style down at night.

If you ever watch the original The Postman Always Rings Twice, pay attention to Lana Turner’s character, Cora. When you first meet her, she is in white shorts, white halter top, white turban, and white shoes. After helping commit her husband’s murder, she is all dressed in black.

Lana Turner

Same thing with Janet Leigh in Psycho. In the beginning, her character Marion Crane dresses in white blouses and bras and slips. After she steals the money, she is all dressed in black undergarments.

Janet Leigh

I still laugh at the most controversial aspect of that movie. It wasn’t the shower scene stabbing. The movie almost did not pass the censors because Marion flushes a piece of paper in the toilet, and the censor board thought seeing the bits of paper swirling in toilet water would be offensive to the mature audience.

As a means of bonding, I tried once to get my mother to sit through Casablanca, but a third of the way through the film, she stood up and advised, “something in the kitchen needs my attention.” She didn’t return until the closing credits were rolling up. When dad saw me watching a 1938 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, he just stared at me and asked, “Why are you watching that old stuff? That came out before I was born!”

When we have family reunions, my aunts, uncles, or cousins have no idea what or who I’m talking about. My grandparents never spoke of movies to me. They acted as if the movies never existed, or was too far in the past. Maybe it was because they were poor country folk and glamorous movie stars only reminded them of their poverty. Maybe it was because they lived too far out to come to town every week. Yet, To this day, I still wonder if any of my family members saw these films when they first premiered. Did they see them in movie palaces? And what did they think of them?

Why does any of this matter to me? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because as an only child, I grew up understanding the difference between being alone and lonely, and these movie characters keep me from being lonely. How many times I’ve watched the films is not important; I still find them comforting, almost a guilty pleasure.

My children grew up understanding my fascination with these classics. In 1993, when snow-poccalypse hit the South, we received 18 inches of snow overnight. The city shut down for a week, and my kids were horrified to learn that we had lost cable. “Oh, dear God, we’re stuck inside and mom can’t have her movie fix.” My son stared at his sister. “What are we gonna do?” Their only saving grace was that I had a bunch of movies on VHS.

Once when my daughter came home from junior high school all upset and crying about not being popular in school, I sat her down and tried to console her by telling her of similar experience I had had at her age. But she advised that I was old and things had changed and she was “the only one in the world going through that.” I put Dark Victory with Bette Davis in the VHS player and sat back, watching my daughter. During one scene, Bette’s character comforts a fellow patient in the sanatorium, a pre-teen girl with braces and pig tails, and Bette listens while the girl talks about her fears and doubts about school and friends. That character, from the 1940’s, spoke the same words my daughter had just spewed forth an hour before. I grinned at my daughter. “And you said you were the only one in the whole world to be going through this!” That was thirty years ago, and my daughter still hates it when I bring up that story.

Every time the kids come to the house, they check the TV to see what movie is playing, happy to see that sometimes the movies are in color. Then they ask how many times I’ve already seen it. But that’s not important to me.

I begin each day by sipping on my morning caffeine while checking the “Guide” feature on the remote to see the movies scheduled for the day, then plan my day accordingly. Now days, my TV is tuned every day to Turner Classic Movies, and I record most of them to enjoy over and over. Most days, movies play in the background while I sit at the computer and try to get some writing done. And I know the films so well, I can tell how far along the movie is because of the dialogue.

Most evenings, I bore my husband to tears by pausing a film I have recorded or purchased on DVD to ask if he recognizes a well-known actor in an early role, or what was going on in the star’s life at the time the movie was being made; who was married to whom; how and when they died; etc. The funny thing is, each morning while he prepares his coffee, he asks, “What’s the movie theme for today?”

I anxiously await the month of December when ‘TCM Remembers’ shows snippets of the stars, directors, editors, musicians, etc., who have died that year. It’s heartbreaking sometimes, because I feel that I know these people and/or characters so well, and it is such a loss. But with the movies constantly running, it’s almost like the members of the movie system never really die.

I know life isn’t like the movies, but it is comforting to know that somewhere in the world good overcomes evil, and the characters that need killing eventually get their just desserts.

Now What Do I Do?

Tea Cup & Journal photo

 

One year ago, I had a three-book contract with a local publisher, rewrites to do before the book launch scheduled for October, a book tour to plan, and money in the bank. My dream was coming true. So I retired from the corporate world.

Suddenly, there was no alarm clock to jar me awake every morning before dawn, no traffic to deal with, no lost time commuting, and no one making demands of my time or energy.

Traffic Jam Photo

However, all has not gone as planned. Just as I completed the rewrites and were in discussions on book cover designs and where to have launches, the publisher went out of business. My world shattered.

After receiving that news, I was up again before dawn, crying, worrying and praying. Had I done the right thing? How could I have been so stupid? Then I played what if with myself: What if Rob or I had a serious accident or illness? What if we lost everything in a house fire? What if the economy went into a depression and we lost all our savings?

And no one ever tells you about the loneliness. One day, after I completed a chapter, I turned around to ask a co-worker about lunch – but there was no one there. Just me, my spouse, and the dogs.

I spoke with a friend of mine who advised it took at least six months to get used to the lifestyle change. And she confirmed that it was a lifestyle change, not something I had done to myself. So I gave myself six months to see if I felt any different.

Beaming with new-found confidence, I sent the manuscript off to a couple of publishers that had expressed interest in the novel. I also applied to job sites and employment placement agencies—just in case.

Six months passed, and several agencies advised that my skill set, experience, and maturity were not major influences in the current work environment. Should I chose to go back to school and beef up my computer skills in at least five different software programs, I might be able to get an entry-level position in downtown Atlanta or Alpharetta. For $15 an hour. And a 2-hour commute each way. And I would be in direct competition with kids fresh out of college.

On top of that, from November through April, it rained nearly every day, which did nothing to appease my fears and worry. And I still haven’t heard back from either of the publishing houses.

With no real purpose, and nothing to do during those rainy days, Rob and I also fell into a routine of watching TV while I crocheted all day or going to doctor appointments.

Crochet Photo
Yes, I made this scarf with my own two hands.

And I ate heartily of the evening meals my husband prepared, eventually gaining over fifteen pounds.

As the days, weeks, and months passed, I worried and pondered and thought even more.

Do I go speak with a guidance counselor about going back to college to earn another degree and debt so I can work until I’m seventy five to pay it off?

Do I speak with a counselor about how best to deal with the loneliness and depression?

Do I get a mentor to assist in focusing on producing other novels in my head? But several of my writer friends have told me over and over that books are not selling.

My daughter suggested I volunteer at a local charity. If I volunteered at the Humane Society, I know I would be heartbroken over every stray and bring them home, which would be detrimental, not only to the animals, but to my bank account, as well as mine and my husband’s sanity.

Volunteer at a children’s hospital? I wouldn’t be able to hide my tears and fears from the patients, which would depress the poor kids even more.

And there’s still the question of what do I do about the lack of income?

People have suggested I become an entrepreneur and sell products or life insurance or real estate. Don’t make me laugh. I couldn’t sell heaters to Alaskans in the middle of winter.

So what is a poor, old woman to do?

Until I find my real purpose, I spend my time reading an awful lot of books in several different genres.

 

Book photo
This is just a sampling of my bookshelves!

 

I teach myself new crochet stitches and incorporate them into scarfs and afghans for Christmas presents.

I continue meeting with my writing and critique groups.

I started a weight-loss program, then signed up for Pilates classes, became a member of the aquatic club, and take the dogs on five-mile walks a couple of times a week.

With my exercise and new eating regime, I have lost ten of those 15 pounds.

I write articles for a local magazine, which pays fairly well, but is not sustaining.

I wrote several personal essays that my writing instructor suggested I send to publications. One of my essays was on my passion for Turner Classic Movies. I took a chance and sent it to the TCM Backlot Atlanta chapter president, who published “The Golden Age of Hollywood” on their website.

Hollywood Article

While I await feedback from the publishing houses, I keep in touch with my editor who is mentoring me on completing the other novels in my head.

And I’m waiting for my next assignment from the magazine publisher.

I still get up some mornings before dawn and cry, worry, and pray but I know God has something better planned for me.

Just in His own time.

“Why Not Now?”

Forest Flowers

(Photo Courtesy of Cindy Pope Lowman)

 

After working in Corporate America for thirty years and writing a novel, I finally signed a three-book contract with a local publisher. Knowing I had to get the rewrites completed in a few months, plus two other books written within the next two years, why not retire and concentrate on my writing? This had to be God’s timing.

Great! No more getting up before dawn every weekday, no more beginning my commute before the sun comes up, no more coming home in the dark. Instead, I could sleep late, go to the lake during the week when it is not so crowded, go to the park, walk the dogs, and stay up late. Oh yeah, and get some writing done.

But there were two things I had not counted on.

The reality was that suddenly, it was just me, my spouse, the dogs, the cat, and my computer. Now I had no co-workers around, no one to talk to or laugh with. All of my friends and family were either at work or had already retired and were busier than ever with grandchildren or volunteer work.

The second was worry. Every morning between three and five, I would roll over, wide awake, my mind refusing to shut down. Did I have enough income to last me the rest of my days? Can I afford to go to writing conferences? What if something goes wrong? What if there is a medical emergency? What if I lost the house? What if . . .?

That feeling of gloom and doom sat heavily in my heart.

I worried so, I became sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t write.

But I could pray. Each time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, I prayed. And cried. Oh, God, how I cried. I laid everything out at God’s feet. And I prayed some more.

During this time, I continued attending my critique writing group. One Saturday, I got there early and was able to speak to our hostess, alone. Since she and her husband were retired, I had to know how they coped.

She smiled and advised that I was transitioning into a whole new way of life. She said that everyone went through these changes, and that I was perfectly normal. It’s a period of adjustment that takes about six months to get used to. Because everything was so new to me, I was afraid of the change.

I also spoke with my editor about this. With her having a degree in counseling, I told her candidly how I felt. She told me that I was feeling guilty for following my dream instead of contributing the household responsibilities, as I had for the past thirty-plus years.

She then advised that I get up at the same time every day, perform my morning toiletries, and make sure I dressed and put makeup on. She said for me to find out my best writing time and make sure to schedule my day around that time.

She advised me to go write in a public place, like Starbucks, a park, etc. That way I would be around people and surround myself with new sights and sounds. I could also people watch for body language and listen to their voices and speech patterns. Maybe I could use these for making my characters realistic.

It all made sense, and I agreed to all of the above.

But that fear, doubt, worry and gloom and doom would not leave.

At one of my lowest periods of feeling lost and useless, someone posted on Facebook a motivational video from Les Brown on the Chinese Bamboo tree. He said it takes five years for the tree to break through the soil. During that time, it has to be watered and nurtured, with nothing to show for the time, effort and patience the planter put in. After five years, it is fully grown and standing tall in five weeks. And I just knew this was God talking to me again.

But worry and doubt again prevailed in my gut.

In order for me to become even remotely successful as an author, it will take at least three years, which is a lot of time, patience, and effort to put into a dream, with no guarantee that the book will ever be a success.

Could I hang on for that long to get my book published, my name branded, and my platform going?

Another day, my daughter posted a Cookie Monster meme on Facebook that read “Live in the Moment.” That was yet another message from God I was meant to see.

Suddenly, it hit me that I had been living in the future. My mind kept repeating, “If you do this now, will there be enough money in ten years? Will you even be alive in ten years? Will you have something to leave the kids after ten years?”

I finally calmed down enough to listen to God, who asked a simple question. “You’re going to have to transition to retirement soon anyway. Why not now?”

I realized that our dreams are like the Chinese Bamboo tree. They have to be nurtured with our time, patience and effort.

And our belief in God.

Still So Much to Learn

Dark Obsession Cover(1)

Tentative Cover for Dark Obsession.

Cover Courtesy of Crystal Wilkins

I attended the Georgia Romance Writers meeting in Atlanta recently and sat with Mary, my editor (that still sounds funky) and other authors at Gilded Dragonfly Publishing. For some reason, that particular Saturday meeting generated a packed house.

The president, Tanya, began the meeting with announcements, then asked if anyone had sold a book.

I sat there.

The announcements continued.

Mary looked at me and asked why I didn’t raise my hand.

“Because I haven’t actually sold a book to the public.”

She stared at me. “You sold a book to us!”

So that’s what that meant! I still have so much to learn.

I met up with Tanya and admitted my ignorance. She brought me up to the front of the room and introduced me as having sold my first book. Then she asked me to go to the podium and say a few words.

All those eyes upon me, I froze. Somehow I managed to rattle off a bit about the contract and acknowledged Gilded Dragonfly Publishing.

Then I received my Purple Rose Pin in front of everyone. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that would ever happen.

Purple Rose Pin

Photo Courtesy of Cindy Pope

 

While I made my way back to my seat, they all cheered and clapped.

Mary advised me there was much more to come. She then asked if I was working on the new book.

Suddenly I was brought back to reality.

But it was fun. And I’ll treasure that pin forever. And the memories.

 

DREAM COME TRUE – SIGNED CONTRACT

Contract
Photo by Cindy Pope Lowman

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I ended 2017 with a signed contract from Gilded Dragonfly Books, LLC.

My dream has finally come true!

The rewrites for Dark Obsession are to begin late winter of 2018.

I am currently working on Book #2 – Dark Desire.

Updates are forthcoming.

As are future Writing Life blogs.

I want to thank everyone for hanging in there with me. It’s been a long road with a lot of hard work and frustration. But I’m getting there.