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What are you waiting for?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but haven’t done it because it’s just never been the right time?

So that “something” becomes one of those gnawing passions that doesn’t go away, that thing you feel like you should be doing, but for some reason, you’re not; something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting your degree, starting a charity or foundation, starting a blog, writing poetry, painting, doing yoga, learning to juggle, performing as a clown, or traveling the world.

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you want to do that?” you may have a hard time answering.

There may not be a clear or straightforward explanation for wanting to do this thing you want to do. All you know is that somewhere along the way a seed was planted in your soul that made you think, “I want to do that.”

But “Life got in the way,” as they say.

When we say “Life got in the way,” it makes it seem as if there’s a straight path to something ahead and along the way you live life, maybe get married, have kids, buy a house, etc.

We wait to:

  • have kids grow up
  • have more money
  • pay off the car
  • lose weight
  • get a better job
  • get a promotion
  • have more time
  • get more training
  • be more mentally prepared
  • have better conditions

But “Life” goes on. And all those moving parts and people in your life sometimes move and act in ways you don’t expect, further delaying your chance to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Even in the unlikely scenario that “Life” goes exactly as you’d expected and the day finally comes when you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, will you be ready? Will you be okay with starting at the beginning? Or will you feel like it’s too late for you now?

What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for condiitons to be perfect and don’t expect it all to go smoothly. When you take on your dream you will encounter struggles, some external, many internal.

As I’ve been out promoting my book I’ve met people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

My response to them: Do it. Now. You absolutely can. Start writing.

Obstacles in your path

I used to get cranky because something always came up that stopped me from what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t realized that my biggest obstacles were the ones that came from me: fear, Resistance, lack of confidence (to name a few).

There will always be obstacles in your path.

The question is: will you step over them, go around them, ask for help in getting past them, or will you let them block your way? Will you continue to use those “reasons” for keeping you from doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Stop waiting. You can figure it out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect (in fact, it almost certainly won’t be!) but you have to start somewhere. (Read my blogpost Strive for progress not perfection for more on this point.)

Some tips to get you started:

  • Set small, incremental goals. Little by little adds up to a lot.
  • Have a cheerleader. You’ll need someone who can give you a pep talk when you’re doubting you can or should be doing what you’re doing. Even online groups or social media groups can help you through the rough patches.
  • Ignore the people who say you can’t. Or that you’re crazy or stupid or irresponsible for doing what you’re doing. You may actually agree with them on some level, but don’t let that stop you.
  • Life is a composite of what you do and how you spend your time. Keep your priorties in order even when you’re working toward fulfilling your dreams.
  • Fill as many “time leaks” as possible. It’s like when you’re trying to reduce your water or electricity usage, some sound advice is to repair all leaks. What are your “time leaks”? A little occasional mindless down-time isn’t a big deal, but pay attention and don’t let yourself get sucked into a “time waister vortex” so what you intended to last 10 minutes turns out to be two hours you’ll never get back. No bueno.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop waiting to do whatever it is you’ve “always wanted to do”. Get started now to make your dreams a reality. The world is waiting.

Think it’s too late for you? Check out this awesome woman who got around the obstacles in her way to finally do what she’s always wanted to do:

Why One Woman Decided To Become A Doctor At Age 59

photo by ruby montalvo published on

It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too

Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on

The struggle to finish and get to the “The End”

I’m working on another book, a follow up to A Song for Jessica.

And I’m having a heckuva time getting to “The End,”

Finishing that last 1/3 of the book has really gotten me down.

It’s hard to finish off a project, especially one that has no concrete deadline, no one waiting for it, no one depending on it for life, health, welfare, or other.

And I’ve given this idea a lot of thought: Why is it so hard to get to “The End”?

Here are some ideas:

Finishing the first draft means I’ll have to look at what I’ve done.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is sh**.” This first draft is a necessary step in a long process. I can’t expect the work to be good at this stage, but I can’t go any further until I finish this first draft. Finishing the first stage forces me to see what I’ve written which leads me to wonder if it’s enough of a story.

Self-doubt can shut me down.

It’s constant, but for me, self-doubt gets worse toward the finish. I have to do my best to avoid the negative self-talk and keep the positive and encouraging self-talk going.

I feel impatient for the final draft and I have a long way to go before I get there.

With my first book I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was naive enough to think it was pretty decent when I handed copies out to my Beta Readers wanting their honest feedback on the work, and Thank God, I had people who could tell me the truth. It needed work.

I think most projects are hard to finish, but maybe for slightly different reasons.

  • We get bored and are ready to do something else.
  • Or we love what we’re doing and don’t want it to end because then what would we do.
  • We lose our motivation to finish for some other undefined reason

Years ago I ran the Chicago Marathon and I was so close to the finish and so tired and ready to be done, and I remember thinking, “One step at a time. Just put one foot in front of the other.”

I kept my eyes on the finish line and kept moving forward. That’s how I finished. It wasn’t pretty, but it was done.

That same mindset will get me to “The End.”

There must be some sort of study about why it’s so hard to finish stuff (books, notebooks, challenges, etc.), but I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s hard.

And there may be other, more sophisticated ways of getting to the end, but I’ll just keep doing it the way I did it that unseasonably warm October day in Chicago:

Focus on the finish line and take one step at a time.

That’s how I’ll get to “The End”.  And I can’t overthink it or I’ll never get there. 

Slow is okay as long as I’m moving forward with the finish line in sight.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on

The downside of comparing yourself to others and how to get past it

Everyone does it, right?

Compare your success to someone else your age and think, “Wow! She’s so successful and so happy. And I’m struggling every day. Why can’t I be more like that?”

Maybe it’s only human to judge your actions and success as compared to others. That sense of competitiveness is ingrained in us. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But how does another person’s success or failure impact you?

Let’s say your friend is super successful. Great job, happy marriage, cool vacations, nice car.

Does it make you feel happy for her and worse for you? Does it spark a drive that makes you want to work harder, be smarter, and more like her?

Or does it make you feel more like a failure? Do you beat yourself up for not being further along or more successful?

What if your friend suffers a setback, maybe loses her job? Do you suddenly feel better about yourself and your situation?

Focus on you

Comparing yourself to others may be “normal” and “common”, but it can put you in a lingering negative mindset.

Even though, when you think about it,  you know your experience/situation/progress are unique to you (as others’ are to them), and it’s counter-productive to compare yourself, it can be difficult to stop.

Some things to consider:

Keep your focus on you.

The only person you have any hope of controlling is yourself. Be your best you and life will be better for you and those you love.

Count your blessings.

Nothing can turn around a bad day like a healthy dose of gratitude. Life is fragile and nothing is guaranteed. Spend more time counting your blessings than comparing yourself to others.

Celebrate others’ success.

Have you ever known anyone who waits for someone to fall on her face and then laughs like Nelson from The Simpsons, “Ha ha!” If you watch The Simpsons you know Nelson was a bully and a sad and lonely kid.

Another person’s success doesn’t make you a failure. Be happy for them and keep focusing on your work and goals.

Get past the negativity

It’s normal to compare yourself to others, but don’t let it leave you feeling negative and envious.

Make your only challenge to be better than you were yesterday. Strive to be the best “you” you can be.

Photo by ruby montalvo published on

3 Empowering messages to tell yourself when you feel doubtful

You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, 
and smarter than you think. 

~ A.A. Milne

We’re often our own biggest obstacle. And we don’t even have to say a word or lift a finger to sabotage our own success.

All we have to do is play those old messages we keep in our heads, the ones that say we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not good enough, we’ll never succeed, and our ideas are stupid.

Those negative messages that fill us with doubt and keep us from ever getting started.

They become our excuses to stay where we are and keep us from trying something new. Those messages keep us from doing what we’ve always dreamed of doing.

What does that mean for you?

What’s that thing you’ve dreamed of doing, but never tried because you think, “It’ll never happen.”

What would happen if you empowered yourself to move forward instead of shutting yourself down before you even start?

Replace those old, negative messages with these empowering truths:

You’re braver than you believe.

Bravery is not the absence of fear, it’s taking action despite being afraid. The unknown can be scary. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let fear keep you from taking steps toward your goals and dreams. Build yourself up instead of building up your fear.

You’re stronger than you seem.

What’s your idea of strength? If you consider a person you think is very strong, chances are she wouldn’t have chosen her course. She did what she had to do. Even she may not have imagined she could do what she did, but when the time came, she chose to persevere.

And when you pursue a goal because you want to do it, not because you have to, you may not realize the strength you posess. You think, “I could never do that.”

But you start anyway. And little by little you accomplish that goal you didn’t believe you were strong enough to accomplish, and you’re as surprised as anyone.

You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.

You’re smarter than you think.

You have intuition that goes beyond knowledge. Intuition helps you sort through what you know and guides you in your best direction. You may not think of yourself as being very smart, but your intuition makes you smarter than you think.

And no one knows everything about everything. That’s okay. Ask questions and figure it out as you go along.

Your goals and aspirations are important. Don’t let self-doubt and fear can keep you from  them.

When you feel doubtful about your own abilities, remind yourself:

You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Have you ever had a project that you want to do and know you need to do, but for some reason you avoid doing it? Maybe it’s really important and you’re afraid you’ll mess it up, or you’re not 100% confident you know what you’re doing so you avoid it completely.

This is my account of one of those days written as it happened.

Today is Thursday.

The time is now 11:40 AM and I have not written a single word of my work in progress.

It’s getting late. I need to sit down and write my daily 1000 – 1500 words (first draft of new book, a sequel to A Song for Jessica). I can usually get it done in about an hour and a half, two at the most. Most days I’m done by 11 am.

But today I’ve felt distracted.

Usually, the idea of sitting down to write a scene or develop a character gets me out of bed in the morning. Seriously, I know how lucky I am that I get to to do this.

Today, instead of jumping out of bed ready to write, I lied in bed feeling sleepy until I remembered it’s my watering day (San Antonio Stage 1 water restrictions). I haven’t been very consistent about watering the grass and my yard’s looking downright dusty, so I had to get up.

Once I got the sprinkler and water height just right, I set the timer to remind me to move it to the next spot.

Put a load of laundry to wash.

Walked my dogs.

Moved the sprinkler.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

Water my potted vegetable plants that aren’t doing so well.

Moved the clothes.

Talked to my daughter on the phone for at least 20 mins.

Moved the sprinkler.

Wrote a few words, then deleted them.

Got on Social media, checked emails, read some articles on book marketing, made coffee, ate watermelon.

Folded clothes.

Turned the water off and put the sprinkler away.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

This is really not like me.

It’s like I’m avoiding sitting down to write as if I don’t want to do something I usually love. What’s wrong with me?

Because I’m an analytical person, it makes me wonder why I’m not doing what I know I need to do. I can think about that for another 30 minutes or hour, which will solve nothing.

So instead of writing my work in progress (my 2nd novel), which is my priority because I want to publish in December, I’m writing this blogpost about avoiding my work.

This avoidance doesn’t feel quite like procrastination. I’ve often …

(oh, hold on. Someone’s at the door.)

Okay, I’m just getting back to my desk. My niece stopped by to drop something off and we ended up talking for about 40 minutes. But that’s okay!

Focused conversation with a grown niece or nephew is a rare and special occurrence.

So, yes. It’s now nearly 12:30 and still not a word of my story written today.

I have a blogpost drafted. That’s something.

My yard’s watered. That’s something. A load of laundry’s done. That’s something. I talked to my daughter and she had a very productive day. That’s something. I got to visit with my niece. That’s something.

Those are all good and important things.

But I have work to do.

It doesn’t matter why I’m avoiding it or what I’m doing instead. What matters most, in this case, is that I’ve committed to tell a story. So tell it.

Okay. I’m ready.

Just do it.

When I finally settle in and get it done, I exceed my 1500 word goal. The scene is done and will need extensive editing, of course. But I can’t edit what’s not there, so writing the far from perfect first draft is a necessary step.

And I realized something interesting as I wrote.

The scene needed an important pivotal point in the plot that I wasn’t sure how I was going to work through. It made me wonder if that’s what I had been avoiding all morning.

But an idea developed as I worked, something I hadn’t planned. The scene may change, but it’s a starting point and that’s what I needed.

So, it’s nearly 3 PM and my work is done for the day. It wasn’t pretty, and it felt a little painful today, but it’s done.

That makes me smile.

It’s a good reminder:

A day when you’ve done your work, even when it was hard and even when you could have left it for tomorrow, is a good day.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. ~ Tanzanian proverb
A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

You know that frustrating feeling when you have a lot of stuff you need to do, but it’s not your favorite. (For me, that’s paperwork and admin stuff.)

You put it off until you just can’t anymore and it leaves you kind of discouraged and cranky.

I had a day like that last week.

And on top of all my least favorite work to do, I was absorbed by News Headlines and couldn’t seem to pull myself away. That didn’t help my mood. The more I read, the more discouraged I felt.

After a few hours, I knew I’d been at my desk too long to be productive. I decided to take a break and stepped outside into the afternoon heat.

It was a beautiful break from the noise and chatter.

I happened to record a few seconds of it.

It’s nothing much, just a quiet moment from a quiet summer afternoon in the neighborhood.

But, wow, did it make a difference.

I returned to my desk feeling re-set and renewed.

Time well-spent

Sometimes we let work, noise, and chatter put us in a negative mindset. We have trouble pulling ourselves away from it even for a few minutes.

But those few minutes can re-set your mind and body in a positive way.

That’s time well-spent.

Photo by ruby montalvo published on

When leaving well enough alone is a good thing

It can be hard knowing when to leave well enough alone and even harder doing it.

It’s like having a tiny pimple on your nose, so small it’s almost unnoticeable. You ask people, “Do you see it?” and they have to squint and change angles until they see it. That’s how small it is.

But you know it’s there and it’s bugging the heck out of you that it’s there, so you start messing with it.

And it gets worse. Until the tiny blemish starts to ooze and it’s red and you ask your friend and she sees it right away without squinting.

The challenge

It can be challenging to know when to stop, and even more challenging to actually leave it alone.

“It’s all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.” ~ David Sanborn, musician

It’s true of music, but also of relationships, work, and life.

I wonder if Michelangelo struggled leaving his Statue of David alone or did he think, “It’s good, but I can make it better.”

When we’re determined to keep tweaking to make something that’s already pretty good even better, we run the risk of making it worse in a couple of ways.

First, we can have the whole thing collapse. Or, as in the case of the pimple, explode.

Second, we miss out on enjoying anything else because we’re obsessing about making this thing perfect.

Third, we can’t appreciate the amazingness and beauty of what we have when we’re focused on its flaws.

David Sanborn says, “knowing when to leave well enough alone” is a “lifelong quest.” I never thought about it that way, but I see what he means.

Especially if you have a tendency to fixate on things and get obsessed with an issue. It’s hard to let it go.

Getting away from it for a while can help. Get your mind off of it, look at something else, do something else. Go for a walk or run an errand. Start a new project.

The problem or flaw may not look as serious when you look at it again.

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The beauty of revising fiction and the power of words in real life

Writing fiction has its challenges, like typing words out of your head onto a blank screen and battling doubt every day, to name a few.

But there’s something great about fiction: the ability to revise.

Think of it. You’re writing out a scene and your characters get in an argument and one of them yells something rude, attacks a sensitive issue, and maybe slams a glass to the ground and leaves.  (As I’m writing this made-up scene, I’m imaging them in a bar for some reason.)

Awesome. The scene’s done.

“But wait,” I think to myself the next day when I re-read the scene. “What happens after that? That was a serious argument. They both said some pretty vicious things. I need them to be speaking to each other in the next scene. They won’t speak to each other for days after that argument. What if I tone it down a notch? Maybe she thinks about slamming a glass to the ground, but doesn’t do it.”

And I tweak it. Change a word here and there and, like magic, the feel of the scene changes.

Oh, the beauty of fiction.

Too bad real life’s not like that. Not at all.

Once you say something hurtful, do something hurtful, use poor judgement, etc. it’s done. You can’t change it. There’s no erasing a gesture or even a single word.

And the sting of your words and actions can stick around long after the argument or misunderstanding.

In fiction you hit the delete key and that’s all there is to it. That rude, stupid, angry scene never happened.

But real life is full of real interactions with people, real choices, real consequences.

There’s no revise, no do-over.

Whoever said, “Words can never hurt you,” was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Words are powerful because they express emotion. Add the element of tone and they become mega powerful because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

That puts a lot of responsibility on us to:

  • think before we speak
  • take a moment before reacting
  • remember there’s no revising the scene.

To quote an old James Taylor song, (which I’ve done before here): “Shower the people you love with love.”

And it’s hard, especially in the heat of the moment, but it’s a challenge we all face. No one’s perfect. We’re going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing once in a while.

Thank goodness for forgiveness.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on

Life, confusions, and clarity. It’s simple, but not easy.

You live out the confusions until they become clear. ~ Anaïs Nin

Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar role, like being a new mom or at a new job, and you realize you don’t know what you’re doing?

Like you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” at least once a day.

Or maybe you think/say the sister statement, “I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Okay, you’re confused. You’re unsure about what to do, but you still have to do it.

Confusion isn’t the end game

Doing something new is scary and can be confusing, but you live out the confusions until they become clear. You keep working, forge ahead, keep hanging on to the people you love, keep doing the work you love, and know in your heart that at the end of the day if you’ve done your best, if you’ve been kind and loving, and done your work with joy in your heart, it will all work out okay.

That’s what it’s about, I think.

The long haul

When my kids were young and especially through the teenage years, I was often confused. I would have moments where I felt like a horrible mom, wasn’t sure I was doing the right things for them, or had made mistakes and should have done more for them.

But life demands moving forward. Parenthood demands moving forward and doing your best even if it’s not clear what “the best” is.

It may make you want to throw your hands up and say, “I’m done!”, but don’t give up. Keep going. “Live out the confusions until they become clear.”

It’s okay to be in the learning stage

I’ve said to myself at least a hundred times in the past year of writing and publishing my first novel, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” And yet, I’m doing it.

If I wouldn’t have worked through the confusion and been okay with making mistakes, I wouldn’t have gotten very far.

I had to:

  • ask a lot of questions
  • learn all I could
  • make the best decision I could with what I knew at the time
  • overcome my fear of taking action
  • be okay with making mistakes
  • learn from my mistakes

It’s been a long and winding road, but I’ve learned so much and the whole process is becoming more clear to me now.

If you’re at a point of confusion and uncertainty, don’t despair. Keep moving forward. Learn all you can and strive for progress, not perfection.

Live and love the best you can and clarity will be your reward.

I believe that.