Empathy on a Sidewalk, and You?

I still remember walking along the sidewalk in Kerrisdale as a young child – the cracked and worn sidewalk along Maple Street. I was with a friend, and ‘someone’ (oddly, I don’t even remember who!) explained the difference between empathy and sympathy. It stuck with me my whole life. Given how often that little memory pops into my head, I can’t help now but wonder how much it played a role in who I’ve become and what matters to me.

Ah, those brief childhood. Fleeting, seemingly inconsequential, yet having life time impacts.

So, of course, I must share this short video by Brene Brown. Perhaps somehow, someone will share this with just the right person and change their lives forever.

And besides, this concept is a rather nice fit for us here at Novel Minds. Sometimes we complex creative creatures need a little empathy. And sometimes it feels good to the core to have empathy for another.

And now that’s all well and good… but here’s a bigger more important question:

What moment/s in your childhood keep repeating themselves in your memory? Looking back, any particular lifetime impact from that moment?

If you don’t recall right now, keep the question in mind for a few days.  Our minds will always search for an answer, and find one. Even if it has to make stuff up. ~snicker~   (I snicker, but in fact, that made up stuff can be even more awesomely revealing than the real thing.)

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John Steinbeck’s Tips for Aspiring Writers

Novel Minds certainly isn’t just about writing.  It is about that unique, novel mind of yours. Of course, ‘unique and novel minds’ is a rather good fit for writers. So, for the writers here, I’m sharing this link to John Steinbeck’s writing tips. Very worthy of the ‘click!’

John Steinbeck’s Six Tips for Aspiring Writers

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Eek! I put the damper on genius…

I feel like a big corporate entity.. the difference is that I do care, but still, I put the damper on genius because I’m bigger and I could, and the safety of my home and the cost of running my home mattered more.

Brilliant little Swallow once again decided that my clothes dryer vent would be the best place for her nest. Really.. it is brilliant:  Safe from anything that can climb or leap or otherwise harm her eggs.  And warm. Imagine.. so cozy and warm when the dryer is running that she probably can go out and play, knowing her little eggs are incubating, while other moms-to-be just squat for hours on end.

Even more brilliant.. the fuller she fills the vent with twigs and string and nesty things.. the longer my dryer runs to dry my clothes and warm her babies.

Yup. And I wired it off. Chased her right out of there and attached a wire screen. We’ve been through this before. .. If I don’t realize she’s there until the nest is built, and the eggs are laid,  I leave it.  My clothes take forever to dry.  I stop running the dryer if I’m not home, just in case I’ve created some sort of fire hazard.

But this year, I heard her as she began the nest.  And big mean me told her ‘Go build a nest like a normal bird.”  That was the moment I realized I was playing the role of the ‘systems’.. corporate, government, religious, etc… that stomps on the genius of those who think differently because  1. they aren’t doing things ‘normally’ and 2. they are interefering with what matters to the organizations.

So, little bird, I am sorry. I hope you don’t get discouraged, and shut down that innovative thinking of yours. I hope you find another way to be a mommy AND get to play more often. I hope you don’t run into more people like me in the process.

Oh jeez… now I’ve written this, am I going to go take the screen off?


There’s genius in everyone.
Find your way.
And don’t let the likes of ‘me’ (today’s me, not my everyday me!) stop you.

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Imperfectly, Playfully with a touch of Couch Potato

What was I thinking? A new website and publish a book at the same time? And can the content and wildly new way of creating a hangout ever be perfect? Hell, Facebook still isn’t perfect. (and going downhill. There’s reasons I want to create a creative safe haven for us.)

I’m modelling imperfectionism here. (After all, perfectionism seems to manage to keep us from getting anything done at all.)  I’m also modelling ’20 seconds of insane courage’*  –  it took that to make this site public!  And it’s just one of an endless collection of attitudes and activities that help you (and me!) sneak past nasty perfectionism.

I’m also modelling playfulness.  Via tools and techniques we get to share. Via encouraging you to find your playful,  to find what makes your eyes sparkle.  Via me missing in action playing with grandkids, or paddling, or immersed in clay or paint or writing while time magically alters itself,  or maybe being crew on a Tall Ship (though you can be sure you’ll hear about that when it happens again!)

By the way, I am not always that playful or ambitious. Sometimes I’m a couch potato. Or overwhelmed. Or cranky. Or dealing with some difficult challenges in my life. Or tired. And that’s okay. Life isn’t always easy. (I even have moments of wondering if it’s ever easy!)  And I get to be human. So do you.  But – here’s the BUT – we can plan more of ‘playful’ for each of us, anyway, because… 

BECAUSE playfulness opens doors in your mind that haven’t been opened for awhile. There’s all kinds of great secrets in there. With answers to managing some of those ‘less-than-easy and certainly-not-inspired’ moments, and tools for figuring out your next step, your next line in your novel, your next change in your life.

So, let’s be our imperfect, playful and kick ass selves and turn your world into a better place! Bonus: the ripple effect will make the world a better place, too.

*   “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”  ― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

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Im·ag·i·na·tion: Maybe it doesn’t want to play with crayons anymore

Im·ag·i·na·tion: Maybe it doesn’t want to play with crayons anymore

Oh, how the imagination has been discredited. But why? Look at the official definition…


A. – the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
– creative power, fancy, vision; informalmind’s eye, “a vivid imagination”
– interest, fascination, attention, passion, curiosity, “the album captured the public’s imagination”

B. – the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
“technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination”,
– creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
vision, inspiration, inventiveness, invention, resourcefulness, ingenuity;
originality, innovation, innovativeness
– “you need imagination in dealing with these problems”

C. – the part of the mind that imagines things.
– “a girl who existed only in my imagination.”

These are decent definitions. Then, why, why, why has it taken such a beating?

You’ve heard it all: “It’s only her imagination.”  “He’s imagining things.” “You have an overactive imagination.” (Ya, that one. The method of dismissing an opinion.) “It’s just your imagination.” yada yada yada.

Why are things like visualizations, day dreaming, and inspirations from ‘who knows where’ still generally considered the stuff of flakey people?  There’s no simple answer. But part of the reason is that a larger percentage of the population don’t get it. And it’s easier for the masses to act like imagination belongs with a box of crayons, than to even begin to look at it’s huge potential.

The writers of the definitions get it. The innovative business people get it.The olympic athletes and elite musicians get it. They know, and science has proved, that visualizing a practise not only inspires, but actually builds muscle and increases heart strength. The brain can make the same connections during an imagined sport training or musical performance as a physical one. Yet, they, too, have to confront being dismissed constantly – that their ideas are outrageous, that they should be living a normal life. They, too, can succumb to the pressure of those outside, and to the voices in their heads, and not get to those dreams.

A lot of creative folks get it… but often not without some of those limiting beliefs and negative comments sneaking in, nagging.  Even the most imaginative might find themselves lost in a world of day dreaming, and beat themselves up for not getting the other stuff done. You know, the dishes and things.

A lot of adventurous people get it … they can imagine stepping beyond normal boundaries, and past fears, and they curiously explore life in a big way.

Maybe… we could print the definitions listed above. And paste them all over the place – throughout our journals, sketchbooks, on mirrors, on the vacuum, on our climbing equipment. Or maybe the crayon image suits you. Or maybe you have your own idea.

We get to do a lot with our imaginations at Novel Minds.  I’m glad you’re here. Your imagination deserves all the compassion and support it can get.

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Anchors Away!

Anchors Away!
Lady Washington

Lady Washington

The opportunity of being a sailor on a Tall Ship: I learned so much. I lived so much in a very short time. It’s another book in process. But for now, I had a little discovery after my second time crewing, that I want to share…

At the end of the day on a tall ship, the Captain holds muster. The crew gathers and waits respectfully for the Captain to speak. I was surprised to notice a common occurrence during muster on both ships and with both Captains that I’ve now had the opportunity to crew with. It is this: If we had gotten to sail that day – if the winds were fair, the sails set, and we got to feel the magic of a large tall ship slicing its way through the ocean powered by wind alone – then on those days, the Captains would start muster with: “We sailed.”

And then, it was like nothing more need be said. “We sailed” said it all. We had lived our passion and purpose that day, nothing else mattered. The crew would all nod their heads, contentment and a hint of pride on their faces. It takes a lot for a Tall Ship to be maintained and ready to sail, let alone actually sailing her. The crew and Captain deserve to have this moment of complete satisfaction. You can be sure, too, the crew were kindred in knowing those days ‘we sailed’ would keep them inspired as hours on end they tar lines and file rust to keep their ship shipshape.  Muster always continued as it must (wait…is that how muster got its name?)… but I do recall one captain one evening adding, after the pause that followed “I sailed,” something along the lines of “I suppose we should talk about more things, but that does seem to be enough.”

Fast forward a few weeks. August. Back in Kamloops. Driving in my car, fussing in my head about stressful things, feeling anxious about more changes coming up in my life – good changes, including another move, but unsettling in the process. Running endless details through my head and thinking myself into a bit of overwhelm.

P1010259And then it happened: I heard myself think, “I sailed.” I grinned ear to ear. The fussing thoughts fizzled out as if water was dropped on their fuse.  It was like nothing more need be thought.  Sure, it might not be everybody’s way of finding zen. But then, I also find zen in clay that goes entirely out of whack on a pottery wheel.

(And that’s one thing we get to do here at Novel Minds – admit that some of the things that work for the other 75% of the population, may or may not work for us. A perfectly balance pot on the pottery wheel is what I’m ‘supposed’ to do. I like ‘wonky.’  You might be struggling to love yoga.. but don’t really. There’s something else ‘more you’ for you.)

Anyway, back to in the car: When I started thinking again…still grinning, I admit… I was simply reminded that life is always offering up grand things, even making impossible things possible,  and will continue to. The proof is in the past (and surely in the future): I sailed. Life long dream. I did it. I sailed.

That simple two word thought has now become my anchor. (sheesh, I’m so nautical now)  When I’m feeling like I’m in a whirlwind of change, and uncertainty is feeling more unsettling than it is adventurous, I think “I sailed.”   Another phrase  I’ve used in the past and it’s even a better fit now with my “I sailed” is “All’s well.” Besides reminding me that, in truth, in the big picture of things, all is well, whether I as my mortal self can fully understand it or not,  I am reminded of the calls of the first mate as each sail was set;  “Mizzens  well. Tops’l well…”  When the sails are set just right, all’s well.


Hawaiian Chieftain

It was magical, really, how instantaneously my thoughts and my mood shifted when”I sailed” came to mind that day  driving in the car. Nothing less than magical.  You know the kind of magic…  like faeries had dumped a bucket of “lighten up” dust on me. Or spirit guides rolled their eyes at what was going on with me and snapped their magic fingers to make me happier.  You know that feeling, right?

I  wish for everyone to have moments like that… and I suspect many of you have, being the curious and interesting folk that have found your way here.  In fact, I suspect everyone can have those magical thoughtshifting spiritlifting moments. Worth finding an anchor for. Worth finding one unique to you.

How about you? Anything that says, “all is well”  even when life is a bit crazy?  Life can get stormy. Seems there’s always going to be some uncharted stuff getting in the way. We can all use an anchor we can count on.

Thanks for reading alllll the way to here! Other posts will be shorter. Really.

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