Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The best advice for writers

"I never know how to give advice to a writer because there's so much you could say, and it's hard to translate your own experience. The main thing that I usually end up saying is to read a lot. 
To read a great deal and to learn from that." 
~Sue Monk Kidd

Cindy La Ferle

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English and American literature were my favorite classes in high school and college. I've always loved to read (and hang out in bookstores), but I doubt that I'd have finished as many classics had I not been required to write critical papers on them. 

I believe I developed a better understanding of our country's roots and politics in my American Thought and Language classes, which covered novels and nonfiction by some of our greatest writers, including Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, and more. Their work still inspires me today.

That said, I've never been a literary snob -- and I'm turned off by folks who claim to be. 

When I was on a Ray Bradbury kick several years ago, I learned that Bradbury read, in his words, "everything I can get my hands on every single day" -- including ads on cereal boxes, magazines, comic books, pulp fiction, and classic novels. I loved that. The author said that his eclectic reading material informed his writing style and improved his craft. 

Sue Monk Kidd (another favorite of mine) was right when she advised new writers to establish a regular reading routine. But even if you're not a writer, reading a wide variety of books and periodicals will open your mind, improve your cognitive skills, and even change the way you look at everything around you. ~Cindy La Ferle


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The willingness to change

"The moment a thing becomes a fixed point, it is dead. 
The true living thing is always in between 
and in a state of becoming." 
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Ignoring our critics

"What other people think of you is none of your business. Judgy criticism often has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. 
Don't let their drama dull your sparkle." 
~Kris Carr


Ready for the parade / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

No competition

"A flower doesn't think of competing 
with the flower next to it. It just blooms."
 ~Anonymous quote found on Pinterest

Cindy La Ferle

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Great art, best friends, and Mister Rogers

"When we can talk about our feelings, 
they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. 
The people we trust with that important talk 
can help us know that we are not alone.” 
~Fred Rogers

"The Nut Gatherers" by William Adolphe Bouguereau at the Detroit Insitute of Arts 

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The Detroit Institute of Arts is a wonderful escape on gloomy late-winter days when spring seems ages away. Beautiful art always lifts my mood and transports me to better places. I needed that, more than ever, this week.

I never tire of revisiting my favorite paintings, including the one shown above by the French artist William Adolphe Bouguereau. Depicting a tender childhood moment, "The Nut Gatherers" touches on the themes of innocence, friendship, and the art of listening. The two sweet-faced girls appear to be sharing a confidence while taking a break from their task. Are they sisters or best friends? What secrets are they confiding?

The way I see it, a great painting invites us to read our own stories, our own meaning, into the work. Each time I visit "The Nut Gatherers," I'm reminded of my own close friends, past and present, and how much I appreciate being able to share what's on my mind with trusted companions.  Having friends who listen deeply -- and validate our feelings -- is a precious gift. ~Cindy La Ferle

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Decluttering

"When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets 
or commitments on your calendar.” 
~Victoria Moran, Lit from Within


At Greenfield Village / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Seeing ourselves clearly

"We go blind to our deepest selves 
in order to fit in with other people." 
~Martha Beck

Who are you trying to please today? Cindy La Ferle
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Speaking out

"Once you start to speak, people will yell at you....or put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. 
And new ones will find you and cherish you. 
And at last you'll know with surprising certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. 
And that is not speaking."  
Audre Lorde


And one day it dawns on you / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Loving what we have

“It’s almost impossible to be satisfied in your own life if you’re constantly looking at what someone else has.” 
~Rachael Cruze


At Studio Sandra, Royal Oak / Cindy La Ferle

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Cats and books

"Those who understand the true nature 
of humanity are often loners." 
~Dean Cavanagh

Izzie's happy place / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Words and prayers are not enough


"A new wound makes all the old ones ache again." 
~Mignon McLaughlin

 Cindy La Ferle

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February 15, 2018
From my personal journal:
Today my heart is breaking as I remember our country's mass shooting victims. Already, during the first seven weeks of 2018, we've logged eight school shootings in the U.S., resulting in injury or death. Last year, there were 346 mass shootings. As I write this, I'm hoping our political leaders will find the courage to do something about this abhorrent, ongoing gun violence. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, and I can't fathom how any of these guys could stand at the podium and say it's "too early" to talk about solutions. When is the right time? How much sicker does our nation have to get? How much longer can we go on like this? That's all I'm going to write about this topic. I'm joining the kindred spirits who are ready to get busy and get involved.  ~Cindy La Ferle

UPDATE, February 18, 2018:
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom wrote an excellent pieces on this topic. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Puppy love and dog lovers

"My favorite thing is being in your lap 
while we sit there together and love the whole world." 
~Brian Andreas

A Valentine for Coco / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Giving your heart

"It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, 
so long as somebody loves you." 
~Roald Dahl

We're in this boat together / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Chocolate with nuts

“Anything worth doing 
is worth overdoing.”
 ~Mick Jagger


Cindy La Ferle

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Indoor gardening

"Just living is not enough. 
One must have sunshine, freedom, 
and a little flower." 

~Hans Christian Andersen


Cindy La Ferle

Here in southeast Michigan, it's been snowing almost every day for weeks. Even if you've managed to dodge the flu epidemic, you've probably developed a raging case of cabin fever. It's the time of year when I miss my garden so much that I can't make it through the remaining winter weeks if I don't surround myself with potted plants. I also make a point of buying fresh flowers from the grocery for the kitchen counter whenever I can.


Cindy La Ferle
According to an article in Psychology Today, research shows that the presence of indoor plants in a variety of environments has been found to help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve productivity, and ease depression, just for starters. 

Indoor gardening is easy if you've got sufficient light. Pick up a set of potting tools to work the soil -- and don't forget to fertilize every few weeks. I swear by liquid Miracle-Gro for indoor plants, which I found in handy pump dispensers at Frentz & Sons in Royal Oak, our favorite hardware store.

Whether you prefer exotic orchids, African violets, or the humble philodendron, your winter-weary spirits will be lifted by the sight of a few houseplants placed where you can see them every day. ~Cindy La Ferle 

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Expressing appreciation

"Nothing haunts us like the things we don't say." 
~Mitch Albom

Sunset in Mexico / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mellowing out

"My state of cheerfulness is a reliable gauge of my level of spiritual enlightenment at that moment. The more cheerful, happy, contented, and satisfied I am feeling, the more aware I am of my deep connection to Spirit. "
~Wayne Dyer

Mellow yellow / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Doing your own thing

“Do your own thing. Let others own their own thing. 
If you copy too much, you'll find yourself 
in late-night cocktail lounge cover-band limbo.” 
~ Kurt CobainJournals

Horses of different colors / Cindy La Ferle

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The secret to success in any creative venture, column writing included, is finding your own voice and sharing your unique view of the world.

But being original is tricky these days -- especially now that we're all exposed to so many other voices, trends, and ideas. Google any topic online, and you'll find scores of articles, poems, essays, blog posts, or books already written about it. You'd like to believe it was your brilliant idea -- but apparently a lot of other people thought of it first. Even if it's unintentional, there's a lot of copycat work floating around in cyberspace. 

When I started freelance writing for newspapers in the early 1980s, I didn't have the convenience of the Internet. I did my research at the local library or in phone interviews. I paged through heavy dictionaries to check spelling and usage. I typed my articles on an electric typewriter, then dropped them off at the local newspaper office or snail-mailed them to out-of-town editors. I had to make a bigger effort to see what other writers were publishing or what was trending in the news. I read a lot of hard copy, subscribing to newspapers and magazines that published the type of work I wanted to do. 

Not that I'd ever want to work that way again. I'm only suggesting it was easier to be fresh and original in those days. You had to take a chance on the creative ideas that popped into your own head -- rather than emulate what other people were putting out there. Instead of rehashing the hot topic of the moment, you wrote about what you knew or genuinely cared about, or what you wanted to learn.   

In 1993, Anne Lamott wrote Operating Instructions, a memoir of her first year of motherhood. I was awed by her candor and courage in describing the challenges of being a single mom and a recovering alcoholic. To borrow from a quote on Pinterest, Lamott's voice is hers alone -- not an echo. Soon after, the motherhood memoir market was saturated with copycat Mommy blogs and memoirs, and it was harder to pitch personal pieces to parenting publications. 

With millions of writers and artists promoting their work on web sites, blogs, and other social media, it's harder to dazzle editors with something new. 

My husband, an artist, and I often talk about the perks and challenges of doing any type of creative work today. We often discover that dozens of others have already produced or published what we thought were our own ideas -- before we had a chance to take them out for a test run. Do we produce them anyway and risk plagiarism? Or move on to the next idea? It's easy to get discouraged or frustrated, even though we know better. 

Lately I've found that I'm better off limiting my time on social media. For starters, I appreciate my own life more when I'm not watching what other people are doing. I stumble on the best creative inspiration when I visit art and science museums, hike outdoors, explore different towns, browse in bookstores, watch independent films, try new recipes, or engage in face-to-face conversation with people -- anything that wakes me up and makes me look at the world with fresh eyes. 

I remind myself, too, that truly original people -- whether they write newspaper columns, design web sites, or paint landscapes -- will always put their own spin on anything they do. Even if it's been done before. ~Cindy La Ferle   

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Starting fresh each day

"To be happy, each of us must create meaning 
and joy from the raw material of every day life." 
~Martha Beck


Morning light / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Resilience

“Accept responsibility for your life. 
Remember that it's you who will get you 
where you want to go, no one else.” 
~Les Brown


Against the odds / Cindy La Ferle

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Friday, February 2, 2018

When things make me unhappy ...

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my 
lucky rocket ship underpants don't help.” 
~Bill Patterson, Calvin and Hobbes


Another depressing week of partisan politics / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The mystery of masks

Do they love you or the mask you put on every day? 
~Shimika Bowers


Mask from New Orleans (a gift from Nate) / Cindy La Ferle

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