9 Ways to Waltz Write in to a Better 2016

The King and I

The King and I

When I was 13, my mom took me to see Yul Brynner in The King and I at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago. She’d been flinging us around the kitchen, belting “Shall We Dance, da da DAH,” for as long as I could remember. Seeing him twirl his co-star around the stage, along with every ballroom scene from every Disney Movie ever made, ignited a lifelong dream of mine to ballroom dance.

So what does this have to do with writing? Turns out, just about everything.

Most creative pursuits happen in the face of fear; all are driven by action. Whether you want to dance, play an instrument, learn to draw, or write, here are a few things you can try to jump start your 2016:

Action 1: Identify Resistance and welcome it as a guide. According to Stephen Pressfield in The War of Art:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Resistance manifests as procrastination, doubt, and sometimes physical anxiety. Treat yourself to Pressfield’s book and learn to recognize resistance as a sign you’re on the right track.

Action 2: Make a Vision Board. Sure, might be corny, but research proves we’re more likely to achieve things we’ve envisioned and documented.

Neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.

There are many ways to practice visualization. Doing something concrete matters. Here’s a picture of my vision board for 2016. For some other great visualization techniques, check out this article in Real Simple Magazine.

Vision Board

Three days after making my board, I received an email announcing a humor essay contest. If you zoom in, you’ll see the following on my board: laugh, contest, we have a winner!

Action 3: Choose a word of the year. I first saw this on Author Jennifer Davis Hesse’s blog and I thought it was genius. She cites Christine Kane as the inspiration behind this movement. Did you know that by January 17, most of us have abandoned any resolutions we’ve made?

Go with Kane’s plan and pick a word or theme instead. Easier to remember. My word for 2016 is “Do.” It appears prominently on my vision board.

Action 4: Leap. In Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, she encourages readers to take an action for which they believe they’re not quite ready. Hang gliding might not be the best example of this.

Instead, send a story to that lit mag you’re not quite ready for, make one call to volunteer to teach a class, or sign up to read a poem in public. My January leap was to lead at least one friend in a visioning exercise. It was a blast!

File Folders

Action 5: Take up space. Claim a spot for your writing. Stock it with colorful files, inspiring quotes, and your favorite books. I love TJ Maxx for great deals on journals, note cards, and unusual office supplies.

Action 6: Schedule Your Year. Hang a calendar and load it with writing events. Block out time for morning pages or your work in progress. Schedule at least one weekly writing-related activity such as a class, a live reading, a retreat, or if you’re on a budget, a podcast or video lesson. Again, better to have too many things to choose from than too few.

Action 7: Develop a Growth Mindset. Read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Seriously, or get the Audio CD. We all have the ability to substantially improve in any area, provided we foster a growth mindset.

Change your mindset, change your life. It helped me to earn my degree, complete my first 5k, and get off the junk food. Writing my first novel was just a bonus. It’s not magic, it’s hard work. But it’s possible.

Action 8: Pick a number, write it down. Send in that many submissions this year. Better to shoot high and fall short than to aim too low. Shoot for the moon and all that but really think about it. If you write down 10, and you do 9, not bad, right? But what if you write down 25, and send in 11? That’s more than 9. See, I’m good at math!

Action 9: Find Your People. Contact one new acquaintance each week this month who shares your passion. Call them, email, or connect via social media. Invite someone for coffee. Exchange links to helpful articles. This is a trial and error undertaking but we all have to start somewhere.

Boldness required. Don’t worry about how others respond. Just do the action. Check libraries, the local paper, bookstores, online groups, or form your own on Meetup.com

Broadcast your desire for a network and you’ll manifest one. Tinker, revise, and keep building. Groups have a shelf-life. There’s one out there for you.

Dream, but don’t stop there.

You don’t have to try all 9 actions. Even doing one or two will propel you into motion. Don’t forget to celebrate each attempt.

Sleeping Beauty


If you look off to the right on my vision board, you’ll see a picture of dance shoes. Last Friday, I waltzed. Sure, I was wearing jeans instead of 500 yards of satin, but I waltzed.

My husband and I never got around to ballroom dancing lessons before our daughter’s wedding last June. A few months ago, I asked him if he’d be interested in going. He was less than enthusiastic, and it was my dream not his, so I went without him.

Voila, within 40 minutes, a charming instructor named Zach had me twirling around the dance floor, making another of my visions a reality.

I perspired a little, I cried a little (happy, joyful tears). I think I made him nervous, but he hid it well. My audition for Dancing with the Stars is a long way off, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. (Turns out, I’m “advanced.”)


We’re all energy in the universe, and I believe that Law of Attraction stuff is for real. DO ONE SMALL THING.

And don’t forget to pass it on. Encouraging others and celebrating their successes will bring you closer to your own dreams. You never know who you’ll inspire. Someone is looking up to you.

What will you start today?

7 Thoughts on “9 Ways to Waltz Write in to a Better 2016

  1. Uplifting and thought-provoking as always, dear Suzanne! Or should I call you ‘Twinkle-toes?’ 😉 xx

  2. YES! This all rings true. There’s a lot here to consider and delve into. I need to claim and pretty up my writing space, schedule my year, and network more…among other things.

    Good luck with the humor essay contest (I see you have comedy on your vision board too!), and congrats on following your dream to dance! That’s awesome.

    Thanks for the shout-out too. 🙂

  3. Thanks for remembering, its one of my very favorite memories!!!! Love you….Mom

When Bad is Good: A New View on Your Inner Critic

Choose Your Thoughts

Several years ago, I won a free consultation from a professional home organizer. Embarrassed but desperate, I revealed the clutter in my disorganized kitchen wondering what, if anything, could be accomplished in one 30-minute session.

This domestic genius took one look around and said “Why don’t we just put this here, closer to where you use it.”

She said it about three times—it sounded more like Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo to me—and soon, papers piled on the table, spices jumbled in a crowded cabinet, and CDs splattered with orange juice, miraculously migrated to their new, logical locations.

I watched in awe and could only think Of course that belongs there. It seemed so obvious once she pointed it out.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo

So what was my problem? Why did this expert instantly see a solution where I saw only frustration and mess?

Perspective. Her view was new and different from mine.

Perspective is everything. This became crystal clear to me recently, during a discussion with a writing mentor.

Rehashing my goals one day, I confessed that I loved the attention that came with publication. How needy and pathetic, right? I even told her my best friend had once called me an attention whore.

My mentor’s reaction changed the way I react to the negative thoughts that come with writing, or any pursuit of passion in life.

“What if your craving for attention is what’s allowing you to do what you feel called to do? What if it’s that drive for affirmation that wakes you up at 5am to work on your rough draft?”

It happened again when I told her I sometimes found myself jealous of the talent of other writers. I didn’t begrudge them their success, I just coveted a smidgen of the talent I witnessed in other, more accomplished writers.

Her response: “Excellent! When we’re jealous, it shows us we’re on the right track. We know what we’re shooting for. So many people don’t have a goal in life. Congratulations, your jealousy is pointing you in the right direction.”

Hmmm . . . maybe there’s something to this. Maybe I had been looking at my negative thoughts and labels the wrong way. As long as my thoughts weren’t manifesting in undesirable actions, maybe they weren’t so bad.

“Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.”

~ David Foster Wallace

I decided to test my theory. In a post in one of my favorite Facebook groups, a member asked if any other writers sat down to work on their manuscripts each day, riddled with fear.

My response was “Fear is good!” Fear sent a message that what you attempted carried weight and importance in your life. When I mentioned the interaction to my mentor, she practically jumped for joy. “Yes! That’s exactly what it means.”

Of course, fear is also a life-saving emotion pointing human beings to safety and survival. But we’re talking writing here folks, not hiking in the Alps.

This is more than a lame “think positive” mantra. Changing your position and perspective takes practice. Maybe it’s all B.S. but I don’t think so. It’s worked for me.

Time and energy spent doubting abilities or fretting over perceived character defects keeps us from giving 100% to our creative projects.

Next time you’re ready to label yourself, take a minute and question the label. What are the benefits of being afraid, jealous, attention-seeking? Make a list.

Domestic Goddess Kitchen

My organized kitchen (I wish)

Fifteen years later, my spices, CDs and papers are still stored where the expert suggested, I still like attention, and I’m still not-so-secretly jealous of favorite writers. I’ve learned to question my negative thoughts and labels when they pop up.

Rethinking them has made all the difference.

Don’t be so quick to beat yourself up. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Don’t waste time fretting over imagined inadequacies, and instead, get down to what’s guaranteed to make us all better, no matter the endeavor: practice and hard work.

The Most Powerful Question I Know

The Most Powerful Question I Know
The Most Powerful Question I Know

Creative Commons: http://www.backpackingmatt.com/

I was parked under a tree on my lunch hour, talking to my best friend of 39 years on my cell phone relating the details of a family disagreement that had me in tears.

She did her job, siding with me just enough to make me feel better without letting me tilt my crown of thorns at too jaunty an angle.

After I vented and she empathized, we signaled permission to move away from the subject with our shared, go-to question:

“Well…what are ya gonna do?”

This question was rhetorical in this case, but isn’t always. If you can ask it with a practical, Midwestern accent, a slight shoulder shrug and an easy eye-roll to the left, all the better. Either way, it gets the job done.

The Most Powerful Question I Know Suzanne M. Brazil

What is the job? The job is survival. Dealing with crap days and acknowledging you will survive. It’s getting on with things. After all, resiliency is the latest buzz word of parenting experts and self-help gurus. Grit is the new black.

Here are just a few situations where this magical question comes in handy.

You have a fight with your husband. You’re hurt, you’re furious, you’re scared. So you ask yourself, a friend, or the air:

“Well, what are ya gonna do?”

Possible answers include: 1. Kill him. 1(b) Hire someone to kill him. 2. Move out. 3. Get counseling. 4. Let it go.

Of course there are myriad variations but those four options cover the basics.

The Most Powerful Question I Know

Creative Commons: https://pixabay.com/

You have a flat tire on a deserted freeway at night and you’re wearing a skirt and high heels and have no cell phone. So you cry, imagining the horrors that await you in the dark and then you ask:

“Well…what are ya gonna do?”

Possible answers include: 1. Stay in the car waiting for police or your superhero husband to master ESP.  2. Get out and walk to a nearby establishment with a public phone.  3. Get out and try to change it yourself.

Need one more example?

The best grandfather in the world dies a painless, natural death after 84 years. You cry, you laugh at the funny way he fell asleep in the chair and the crooked pinky on his right hand and you regret the time you didn’t get to spend with him. Then you or your sibling (the one you love with whom you’re in an argument) wipes away a tear and asks:

“Well…what are ya gonna do?”

Possible answers include: 1. Keep crying until you’re hysterically depressed. 2. Blame yourself and regret not spending more time with him. 2. Wash your face, take some aspirin, make dinner, and commit to sharing his memory and spending more time with the loved ones you still have.

In each of these real life examples, it’s the timing and the break required to ask the question that keep you from getting stuck.

Sometimes, the answers you come up with make you think long and hard about the situation and force you to take responsibility for forward movement in your life. Sometimes, they just make you feel silly. So your husband didn’t buy you a card for your birthday. Are you really moving out? If no, then you need to deal with it. But you’ve brought down the threat from DEFCON 4 to something more reasonable.

The Most Powerful Question I Know

Creative Commons: http://tower.arcadia.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Stress-Bernard-Goldbach-topgold.jpg

I’ve always valued the question as a coping mechanism. It’s like a speed bump. Things are bad, they may be getting worse, and you certainly feel bad or are feeling worse. But just before you ramp up into full hysteria, you exhale and ask:

“Well…what are ya gonna do?”

The question was passed down to me and my siblings from my practical mom. Life is too tough to get away with whining, and we are too fortunate to get away with moaning about things that don’t go your way. Even on catastrophic days, eventually, asking the question diffuses the terror. It’s a safety valve.

Everyone needs a release, a way to expel the pressure that builds up when life gets messed up.

But then it’s time to wash your hands, call it a day and get back to living.

The tide comes in, the tide goes out. This too shall pass.

The Most Powerful Question I Know



4 Thoughts on “The Most Powerful Question I Know

  1. A very good question Suzanne, and one that I have asked myself many times over the years! Thank you for reminding me to STOP… and COOL down, before wading in like the Taurean that I am!! :O It’s a good lesson to re-learn.

    Hugs to you,

    The Hedgehog x

    • Thanks, Hedgey (ey, y only, couldn’t decide!) Life waits for no one, LOL, better all get on board. And by the way, I had to look up Taurean (assumed something to do with Taurus, bull, zodiac but you know what happens when you assume)!

  2. barb armstrong on June 28, 2015 at 7:46 am said:

    I must give uncle jim the credit for this too shall pass, and the rest goes to you for being the person you are!
    after all, what are you going to do?????