Making the Writer’s Dream Real: creating a vision board for 2016

vision board

While winter churns its way toward spring, here in the heart of January, I contemplate the road already traveled and make plans for the trip to come. As an assist to my musings, the stats helper monkeys prepared this 2015 annual report for my blog. (See below) How useful to see what I’ve been doing. Useful and instructive and a goad to starting the new year well.

First, I look back at that which was. Since most of 2015 was consumed by work on my first novel, I wrote fewer blogs than I intended and fell behind in following others. I expended the bulk of my energy on my debut novel, The Dark End of the Rainbow. (Oh, and there was the brain surgery and the procedure to remove a skin cancer from my nose, but who wants to dwell on those procedures?) My well-intentioned vow to post more blogs was swallowed by the need to polish, publish and publicize the book.

Then, I glance ahead. Most of 2016 will be taken up by work on my sophomore novel, The Rules of the Game. I see no way to avoid the intense concentration required to take this idea from kernel to full-blown pop. For me, immersion in the creating and the revising entails pursuit of the writing with single-minded fervor. I find it difficult to digress to other projects. Perhaps my resolve to post more blogs will drift away as it did in 2015. This is a problem I am determined to solve. But how?

Recently, I had the opportunity to ground my mental checklist in a visual way. A group of writers from the Dayton area met for food and fellowship and to create vision boards to help us focus on the year. We searched through magazines for pictures and words that fit the goals we hope to achieve this year. This concrete and tactile effort allowed us to ‘see’ the dreams we hold for ourselves, as writers and as human beings. Still, amidst the creative, the grand wish to create and publish, there must be the mundane, the chores and the errands that keep us all grounded in the reality of daily life. And it is the details of our lives that give substance to our creative ones. How can I reconcile these two necessary parts of my whole?

At the meeting, I took a poster board and began to dream. Not surprisingly, my selections from the magazines were more prose that pictures. Write from the Heart… read, write, be read… the world is Bigger than we Imagine. To no one’s surprise, each writer in the group chose to visualize her year in a completely different way. Several boards contained more pictures than writing, more family goals than individual ones, more specific plans than general ends. We found the process and the outcome so delicious, we’re going to reconvene for Vision Board 2.0, come back together to describe and discuss our boards. In the sharing, we hope to find strength and support for the work ahead.

You know, newspaper advertisements at the beginning of a new year include, with some frequency, organizing items: bins, shelving, storage units. It is such a basic human proclivity, to clarify at the beginning where we hope to be at the end. Creating a vision board is a writer’s way to do that for our work. The idea is not mine. It is borrowed from other visionaries, who coupled writing and art to allow those of us who work in words to express our goals in an artful way, a way that allows us to focus and refine. My vision board is not static. It is a fluid reminder of where I’ve been and where I hope to go. I can add or subtract, revise and re-vision. And each day, as I sit down to write, I see the path I’ve laid out for myself and take the first step. Again and again and again, until I reach the end.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 270 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why I Decided To Like Chamber Music

I’m not a musician. Wish I were, but the truth is that particular talent eludes me. However, I do love music, all kinds of music: classical and country, rock and jazz, folk and church and norteño. While I may not be able to play the notes, I can appreciate the complexity of a composition, the talent required to create and arrange. I attend philharmonic  concerts, when time and finances permit. This past year I’ve gone to hear Emmy Lou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Madelyn Peyroux and Boz Scaggs and the Eagles. But I never choose chamber music as a preferred musical experience. At least, I didn’t…until Charleston’s Spoleto Festival.

My first attempt to become a musician began with, you guessed it, the flutophone. When I was in grade school, an elementary education required one to learn notes and the scale and to play this plastic wind instrument that resembles a clarinet. The nuns demanded daily practice. My fingers, inexperienced and inept, struggled until I mastered the damn thing. In retrospect, I probably drove the entire family (I come from a large one) half insane with my stumblings. After months of preparation, our teacher judged us proficient. Donning our school uniforms and a short cape bearing our school colors, I and my classmates rode buses to a large auditorium where all the fifth graders in the entire Youngstown area played a concert for parents. Oh, the humanity! as Newman would say.

In seventh grade, my father handed me his old saxophone and announced that I would be taking lessons. Learning to exhale enough air to power the instrument strained my abilities. The effort occupied several months, and once again I subjected the family to painful aural stimulation. My lungs quiver remembering it. Then the dentist said I needed braces and my saxophone days came to an end. No swinging jazz band for me.

Since my husband brought a piano to our marriage, I dabbled with playing. But the children were small and soon I returned to teaching. The time just wasn’t right. After the kids grew up, I bought a guitar and took lessons, intending to play for my students and fulfill a long-held fantasy of making music. But that experiment, too, fell by the way when I returned to graduate school. My bright and soaring desire to master an instrument dashed itself to pieces on the rocks of my crazy life. And my non-talent. Sigh. I drowned my disappointment in the albums of my favorite musicians. Then, an amazing thing happened. I discovered Spoleto.


For twenty-one days every May and the first week in June, Charleston, South Carolina, transforms itself into an arts haven, presenting dance, theater, art and music in many venues throughout the city. The chamber music concerts take place at the Dock Theater. Tickets to the concerts are affordable, the presentations are only an hour or so and the presenters demonstrate the most amazing level of personality and technical skill. Inclined to take advantage of as much art as possible and striving to be kind to the budget, the first year we attended the Festival, we chose to attend one of these presentations. Oh, glory!

The chamber concerts  introduce attendees like me to new music, explain in detail the compositions and the composers, and entertain the audience.  This past year we elected to attend two different chamber programs, and we weren’t disappointed. I fell in love with Mozart’s “Sonata in G Major,” not only for the music, but also for the explanation given by the director as he explained the three parts of the sonata in a moving and passionate address.The piece begins, the maestro explained, on a lighter, happier note but turns a little melancholy before ascending again into cheer. At least, that’s what I understood him to say. To be honest, I was swept away by the work itself, finding reflections of my own life in the composition. Music that reveals the heart…oh, my!

The discovery of beauty is, as Kahlil Gibran suggests, the reason we live. Art speaks to that anticipation, that moment of joy when we find meaning in the medium. To encounter this anew by opening myself up to a new form magnifies the experience. Which is how I came to appreciate, embrace and applaud chamber music and musicians. Bravo!