discovery, science

This Just In: Images from space knock me out and wake me up

Pillars of Creation by Hubble Space Telescope
Pillars of Creation by Hubble Space Telescope

Tonight, go out into the streets or into the yard and look up at the sky knowing this: our worries are so small in the grand scheme of life. Here are the two biggest announcements in space news this week that got my mind off my worries and piqued my curiosity:

The Pillars of Creation
Oh, Hubble. You never disappoint. 20 years ago, Hubble Space Telescope snapped the first photos of the “Pillars of Creation”, three columns of gas and stars of the Eagle Nebula. Thanks to advances in technology, Hubble snapped a photo this week with much higher definition and the results are even more stunning that the ones that have fascinated us for two decades. Majestic and haunting, they are 7,000 light years from Earth. Through them, we are witnessing the creation of new stars. The finger-like protrusions at the top of the pillars are each larger than our solar system.

1,000 Earths
I’m working on a science fiction short story about a young girl, Marin, who travels the Universe with her father. They land on Earth after the apocalypse so that her father can teach her the cautionary tale of human consumption habits. As I was doing some research for the story, I came across a story in Scientific American. This week, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft discovered two more Earth-like worlds. That brings the total of planets similar to ours to over 1,000.

When life gets a little overwhelming, I’m grateful for space. It reminds me that there is so much more to the universe than us. It lets me escape, for a little while, into the deepest depths of my imagination, so I can face whatever it is that needs facing with fresh eyes and less ego. I hope it helps you, too.

courage, discovery, faith, fear, Life

Inspired: It’s okay to feel broken

Rocks grow in places that are crumbled
Rocks grow in places that are crumbled

“Be crumbled so wild flowers will come up where you are.” ~ Rumi

I know a lot of people who’ve had a tough year. Maybe you’re one of them. You feel a little broken by life, by the holidays, or maybe you feel a little broken and you’re not even sure why. Maybe someone you love is facing this reality right now. I came across this quote by Rumi yesterday in my reading and I think it’s an important one to keep close. Know this: perfection is a myth. Truthfully, we’ve all got small cracks, chips, and breaks somewhere in our lives. They aren’t always visible, but they’re there and there’s some comfort in knowing that we’re all on this imperfect journey together. So don’t be embarrassed or afraid or feel despair for the parts of you or the people you love that are a little crumbled. The flowers are on their way.

adventure, art, creativity, discovery, story, writing

Inspired: What fiction writers learn from Michelangelo and Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones

Legend has it that Michelangelo conducted autopsies to heighten his understanding, and thus his art, of the human body. Fiction writers must also conduct autopsies, though their subjects are stories. Compelling, intricate, luscious stories.

I’m reading and watching a lot of fiction as I prepare to write Where the Light Enters during National Novel Writing Month. As I read and watch, I sketch the story. At the end of every scene, I answer these questions:

  • Whose POV is represented?
  • What happens?
  • What did I learn about the characters and the story?
  • What were the interesting turns of phrase and images?
  • What did I learn about the characters through their actions?
  • How did it end?
  • What questions am I asking that move me to keep reading and watching?

At the end, I answer these questions:

  • What was the story about?
  • What happened?
  • Who’s story is it?
  • Do I care and if so, why?
  • What questions remain?
  • Did I get what was promised at the beginning of the story? And what was it?

This exercise is immensely valuable and fun.Like Indiana Jones, an archeologist who digs in the dirt for buried treasure, I’m discovering the bone structure, value, and meaning of the words that comprise page-turning books.

What have your learned about writing from reading?

action, adventure, creativity, discovery, New York, New York City

Inspired: The future takes shape one piece at a time

imageI was in a holding pattern on leaving New York for a long time because I didn’t know where to go. I knew it was time for new adventures but I wasn’t sure where to find them. I still don’t know for sure. I’m going to Orlando to see if that’s the right place. It feels like the right next place, and that’s all that matters right now. Nothing lasts forever. We change our minds. We grow, evolve, and get new information. The only step we ever need is the next one. The road ahead will reveal itself when it’s good and ready, and in pieces. I’m trying to live my life that way, just one step at a time.

art, creative process, creativity, discovery, imagination, sleep, writing

Inspired: The magic of sleep and its impact on creativity, clarity, and writing

Dan Levitin’s latest research on the power of sleep to bolster and ignite creativity is fascinating. For writers, this research is especially valuable because one of our chief tasks is to connect disparate dots of information to create a cohesive story.

Levitin reveals a number of actionable pieces of advice on how to make our sleep cycles most beneficial to our imagination. The brain prioritizes the thoughts we have right before going to sleep and spends a good deal of its sleep time working on them. I’ve been spending time before bed working on my most important personal projects and challenges. The results of this practice have been amazing for me. I’m waking up with insights and connections in my work that I haven’t been able to see in my waking hours. I’ve also been going to bed and waking up hours earlier than usual and that’s tripped a powerful switch, too.

While we often think of creativity as elusive and unexplainable, I’m fascinated to learn how we can engineer it at least to some extent. At the very least there is much we can do to make room for its arrival and help it to feel welcomed and valued. Sometimes all we need is awareness and openness. Sometimes all magic needs is a space to happen. Get some shut-eye and create.

creativity, discovery

Beautiful: We Can Always Be More Than We Are

From Pinterest“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” ~ Buckminster Fuller

I always think about this quote whenever I find myself saying, “I don’t think I’m qualified to…” or “I don’t have any experience in…” The truth is that if we’re passionate and committed to getting something done, we’ll find a way to do it.

We all start at zero. None of us had any kind of expertise in anything when we were born. We gain experience by living and learning. That doesn’t stop once childhood is over. We’re all in process throughout our entire lives.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. So many of our capabilities lie dormant until we need them. They are just waiting to be discovered and the only way to discover them is to live.

creativity, discovery, dreams, product development, work

Beautiful: Want to Find Your Purpose? Forget Avenue Q and Take a Page from the Product Developer’s Handbook.

from Pinterest“Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s needs.” ~ Frederick Buechner

Finding Purpose can be a daunting task. Just ask Princeton, the lead puppet in the show Avenue Q. He’s looking for purpose and his life takes a number of twists and turns, some happy and some incredibly unhappy, in his quest.

But finding purpose doesn’t need to be a torturous task. You don’t need to be a Princeton. There’s a better way, and it’s very similar to how companies create products every day: they identify what they do well, then they look at what the market needs, and they build products and services at the overlap between their strengths and the market’s needs.

You can do the same thing, and it won’t take long.

1.) First, figure out what you like to do and what you do well. These areas can be as broad or as narrow as you like. “Writing” is just as good an answer as “writing poetry for children”.

2.) Second, identify a pain point in the market. A pain point is something that causes people to waste time or causes frustration. For example, many people in New York City don’t have cars of their own and it can be difficult to transport a lot of goods from a store to home. For this reason, many stores and service providers have delivery service. This reduces frustration and saves time for consumers. As you go through your day, think about things that cause you to waste time or energy and things that cause you to be frustrated. Ask your friends, family members, and neighbors about their pain points. Observe other people’s behavior on the street, in stores, at work, etc. What pain points are they experiencing? Again, you can make these pain points as broad or as narrow as you’d like.

3.) Now for the fun part. Look at the list of what you like to do and where your strengths lie side-by-side with the pain points you’ve identified. This is where your creativity comes in. What can you build in the places where these lists overlap? That’s purpose, and a profitable purpose to boot!

choices, decision-making, discovery

Beautiful: Finding Your Purpose Is The Only Work You Have To Do

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.” ~ Gautama Buddha

A very dear friend of mine recently lost someone close to her. He was taken at far too young an age; he still had a lot of living left to do. Letting someone go is one of the hardest things we have to do, and it’s also an excellent motivator that helps us make the most of our own lives.

The only way I can make sense of loss is by understanding that it makes me live more fully. I don’t take any day for granted. I don’t assume I’m getting a tomorrow. It all goes by too fast, and I try to grab as much of the whirling, swirling wonder of life as possible.

Deciding on our purpose, what we’re meant to do with the small sliver of time we have, is difficult. The only thing more difficult is not undertaking the pursuit. Our purpose can be a cause, person, community, line of work, or role we wish to play in the story of humanity. It’s the only thing we have complete control over. It’s our choice.

So go out there. Discover what it is that lights you up and decide to make a go of it. In that way, no matter how much time you have it will be worthwhile. You will have done what you came to do, and you’ll inspire others to do the same.

choices, decision-making, discovery, risk, time

Beautiful: Make Room for What You Want

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Here’s the one thing I know about getting the life you want – you must make room for the people and things in your life that matter in order to find them. To find peace, you must be peaceful. To find happiness, you must be happy. To be in love, you must love. Do the work that gives you joy so that you discover the work you are meant to do.

Making room often means taking a risk. We have to let some things go, we have to turn away certain opportunities, so that we have the space in our lives to receive the blessings we want. My very wise friend, Susan, once told me many years ago that I should never compare options to one another, but rather to compare each one to what I really want. It’s one of the truest pieces of advice I’ve ever received, and I try to live it every single day. It’s not easy, but my God is it worth it!