Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Scarecrow and I


I've always sympathized with The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz; like him, I've sometimes had a hard time making a decision. And hearing Dorothy and The Scarecrow's voices in my head . . . "If I only had a brain" . . . certainly doesn't help.

When I was married, decision-making was much easier. Well, except for the occasional "Where do you want to eat?" discussion that could last for hours -- until one of us gave in and chose a place or until one of us passed out from hunger.

If both of us, or the entire family, would be affected by the decision, we discussed the options and possible outcomes as a couple before coming to a decision.

Even when only I would be affected by the option chosen, as part of a couple, I had someone to bounce my ideas and options off of, someone who would eventually (if I pestered him enough) proffer an opinion or two. Usually, though, just talking through the decision to be made and the various options with my husband helped me arrive at a decision on my own.

But like so many others who have experienced a major life upheaval and are then faced with the challenge of creating a "new normal", I'm now making decisions on my own. My children are happy to listen, but they are busy with their own lives; additionally, sometimes the details I would need to share would only remind them of their own terrible loss and would burden them. Even when I feel comfortable sharing the situation with them, they often lack the life experiences (both are in their 20's) to truly understand what I'm facing.

In the past month, I've faced a major life decision, and as I've prayed about it and waited much more patiently than I would have imagined possible for the answer to make itself known, I've come to realize that indecisiveness is not caused by a lack of critical thinking skills; rather, several very specific factors are what make the process difficult.

The first factor is thinking skills that are too sharply honed. When I was first faced with this most recent decision, for example, I followed the textbook-advice and brainstormed options.I wrote every single option on my list, not prejudging and dismissing out of hand a single one of them. I set the list aside for a day or two, jotting down additional options as they occurred to me until, finally, I couldn't think of another one.

That's when I recognized the second factor that makes decision-making difficult: too many options to choose from. Because I'd thought through the situation and possibilities so diligently, I ended up with far more options than I'd anticipated.

But I didn't give up; instead, I culled out those that, with closer thought, I could see just weren't reasonable. My list slightly shorter, I began listing the pros and cons of each of the remaining choices.

It was that process that brought to light the third factor that those of us who are redesigning our lives often run into. The proverbial "clean slate" that so many wish for often brings with it very few limitations. With a clean slate and the ability to start over, a person can go almost anywhere, do almost anything.

Too good thinking skills + too many options + too clean a slate == the perfect storm for decision-making.

Finally, it came down to one last, quite simple activity. On a piece of notebook paper, I made a grid: 3 squares across the top and, down the side, one square for each of the remaining options. Above the 3 horizontal columns, I listed my 3 top values or priorities: God, family, and my own physical & emotional health. For each option that had made the not-so-aptly-named "short list", I put a plus, check, or minus to indicate how well that option honored each priority.

Within minutes, my choice was clear.

Decision-making is hard in the best of situations. When a person is redesigning their life or reinventing themselves, the process becomes much more daunting. In the end, it comes down to a person's values and priorities. When measured against them, the decision will be the right one.

I've discovered it's not our thinking skills -- or lack thereof -- that cause indecisiveness. .

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's Never too Late . . . But


Fitzgerald is right. It's never too late to start over.

He's also right in implying that it takes strength to do so. More specifically, a person must be strong in all aspects of his or her life -- physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally -- to make such a sweeping change.

To wipe the slate clean and draw a new picture.

Even, sometimes, to gather the broken pieces of the slate and glue it back together before wiping it clean and picking up a fresh piece of chalk.

But it can be done. You . . . and I  . . . can start over.

Because we want to. Maybe because we have to.

I hope that you'll join me each Tuesday, as I share . . .

* stories of those, including myself, who have started over

* information and resources that can help you draw a new picture on the slate of your life

* inspiration for your own journey through the process of redesigning your life

I hope, too, that you will share with other "redesigners" you know or encounter how they can join us here.

Lastly, when you feel inspired to chime in, to share your own experiences, your own successes and failures, your own thoughts, your own fears . . . whatever you might feel led to share . . . it is my fervent and heartfelt hope that you will share either through a comment here or by email (pattimiinch@yahoo.com).

So join me . . . let's start over together.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Eureka Moment, Writer Style


I wasn’t sitting naked in a bathtub, a la Archimedes (sorry if that put a mental image in your head), when it happened.

No, I was fully clothed, sitting with a large group of writers (also fully clothed) at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp last Friday evening when I had a mental lightening-bolt moment that actually made me gasp aloud.

I grabbed my notebook and hurriedly jotted down a few notes, and then I sat back in my comfortable theater-style seat, let what gifted speaker and author Vonda Skelton had said sink in even deeper, and relished the moment. After almost exactly two years of floundering along in the wonderful adventure of blogging, I found absolute clarity about what I want to do and where I want to go as a writer.

It was, as they say, a heady moment.

But it was more than just a moment. For the remainder of the weekend, as I listened to presentations by one dynamic writers/speaker after another, what came to me in that initial moment of clarity was not only confirmed, but also clarified.

The following morning, I was blessed to have a 15-minute appointment with social media guru Edie Melson, author of Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’d purchased her book 18 months before on the advice of several experienced novelists but hadn’t read a single page.

I’d been too busy floundering.

Something Edie said caused me to think of the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference, a conference I’d been reading and hearing about from successful writers for over two years. Over and over, I’d heard about the impact this conference had had one published writer after another.

I asked Edie about the conference. Her eyes widened slightly, and then she informed me that she is its new director. Coincidence? I think not.

Fast forward through one fantastic workshop after another with LaTan Murphy, Larry Leech, Bob Hofstetler, and Scott McCausey, and I was back in my hotel room at 10:30 p.m., googling the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference and registering to attend.

And so, I am excited to share that on my XYth birthday (some numbers are not meant to be shared), I will be attending the opening day of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina.

If you are a writer, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider attending this conference. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know you’re going so we can meet for tea/coffee while we’re there. I’d love to meet you.

If you’re interested in attending, please click on: Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

I hope to see you there. And if you have your own Eureka moment, I hope you’ll tell me about it!
And if you’re interested in attending the 2017 Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp, registration will be opening soon. Bookmark this site and check back — you don’t want to miss it! Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp