Advent Wreath Link-Up at CatholicMom.com

Today I am linked up with the CatholicMom.com Advent Wreath Link-Up.  If you have a camera and a blog be sure to share your wreath with us.

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Our Advent Wreath is our first as a family.  My husband and I have been married for 3.5 years.  We bought a simple gold ringed wreath at our parish bookstore.  I then went to the Dollar Tree and purchased fake pine garland and some simple white poinsettia flowers that have a hint of glitter.  We have four purple candles this year because last year’s candles melted in the attic.  Walmart only had purple and no pink.  The white flowers symbolizes that Christmas is soon to come.  Although we wait in the violet of Advent, soon we will give way to liturgical white to celebrate The Nativity of Our Lord.

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Advent is a season that teaches me a lot.  I struggle, like many people, with wanting instant gratification.  Advent teaches us to wait, it teaches us patience.  Instead of rushing headlong into Christmas, we are told to become quiet, reflective, repentant, and expectant.  The Savior of the World is coming to us at Christmas, and he will come again.  It is not a day we check off of a list after hours of shopping.  Instead, it is the day God came to rescue us.  It is when the fullness of salvation story became clear.  It is also a season that lasts beyond December 25th.  We live the Incarnation each and every single day as followers of Christ.

May Our Lord bless you in the quiet of the Advent season and prepare your heart to receive Him at Christmas.

Tips to Help Your Writing

In the past few months I have really increased my writing.  I try to write every single day, even if it is just gibberish in a notebook.  Writing, like all art forms requires practice.  It also needs inspiration.  I am working on a novel right now and it has evolved in the last few weeks.  More and more characters are appearing in my mind, and the story, while still the same as what it started as, is developing more layers.  I think that part of those developments come from my taking a step back for a few days.

 
I really enjoy writing, but I have two other vocations that must come before it: my family and Dominican prayer.  There are days when I can sit and hammer out a few pages while my daughter naps, and days that I have things I must get done.  I am hand-writing the novel.  My writing flows more when it is pen to paper.  It is more time consuming because I can type at a high rate, but even my husband has pointed out that my work is higher quality when I do it by hand.
 
On the days when I cannot actively sit down and write, I still think about the novel.  I let it develop on its own in my imagination.  I sometimes write a few notes down, but for the first time, this is a story that never seems to leave.  I don’t forget it and it is vivid.  I know the entire story, I just have to fill in the details.
 
There are some things that I like to do that help keep the creative juices flowing while I am living out my vocation.  Here are some suggestions that might help other writers:
 
1. Go for a walk.  There is nothing like natural beauty to help you think about settings, descriptions, seasons, or even people.  Looking around your surroundings help give you ideas.  I live in a beautiful part of Virginia.  I am amazed on a daily basis by the beauty of the mountains and the changing of the seasons.  It gives me ideas.  It helps me to remember details that are triggered by the senses, like the crunching of leaves underfoot.
 
2.  Go for a drive.  Since I have rural areas nearby, I can pack up my daughter and drive through country roads.  The natural beauty around me helps inspire my imagination, and driving in this manner relaxes me.  A lot of my writing ideas come to me while driving.  It is an automatic function for most of us who have been driving for years.  That means other areas of the brain are free to process.
 
3.  Play with your kids.  If you are a parent, playing with your kids can stimulate creativity.  It could be something they say, a facial expression, or an action.  Just relaxing and being thankful in that moment with your child can help free up creativity.
 
4. Go to an art museum.  Viewing art helps increase our desire to produce our own work.  Beauty stimulates beauty.  We were made by a good and loving Creator, who desires that we create as well.  God gave us talents and the desire to share beauty.  If you don’t have an art museum nearby, find a co-op or local gallery.
 
5.  Occasionally go to the symphony, a ballet, a play, opera etc.  When I lived in Washington DC, I made it a point to get to the ballet, a play, or a concert at least twice a year.  There are so many opportunities when you live in a city. I no longer live in DC.   I do live in an area that actually has a symphony, ballet, and even an opera, but it is not as easy to get to with a toddler and the cost.  As your pocketbook and schedule allow, try to make it to a concert or other artistic opportunity in your community.  I do look forward to when my daughter is old enough for me to take her to The Nutcracker every year.
 
6.  Take a class.  Sign up for a creative writing class, or even painting, pottery, wood-turning (I am married to a very talented wood-turner), sculpting, photography, or other creative class.   
 
7. Write every single day.  Even if you only write a couple pages of non-sense, write every day.  It keeps your skills fine-tuned and you never know when that gibberish could turn into a story, poem, essay, blog, etc.
 
8. Share your writing with someone you trust.  I have made the mistake of sharing some of my writing with the wrong people.  If a person does not understand your worldview, they may be critical of your work.  I write from a Catholic perspective, and that means Catholics and other Christians are more likely to understand my writing, especially my poetry, and when I get it done, my novel.  Sharing is extremely important.  Writers struggle with an inner critic.  If we let that critic get the best of us our art form suffers, and we may even give up on a good project.  I found that by sharing my novel idea with my husband and allowing him to read what I have written, I was able to silence my critic more easily and getting his feedback helped me to expand my ideas.  Find someone you trust and share!
 
9. Pray.  My writing is about sharing my vocation, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Catholic Church.  I want Our Lord’s message to be heard through me.  I am not interested in writing that stems from my ego.  I have days when I write from there and it is not very good because it is all about me.  Even if I am writing a poem or story that is not directly linked to my Faith, I want the words to be true and genuine, to stem from something deep within the human condition.  When I work on my novel, or even my blog, I ask God what He wants me to say. It helps me center and get myself out of the way.
 
10. Take a break from social media.  When you are working on a project it is important to eliminate distractors.  Social media is one of those things that sucks us in and becomes a huge time waster.  We can become too distracted with everyone else’s lives and we neglect our own work.  Being a writer should be enjoyable and an outlet.  Staring aimlessly at status updates does nothing for creativity.  You don’t need to be as radical as me and get rid of your personal FB page, but take a few days off here and there.  The world won’t end.  I find that it is a great lesson in humility too.
 
 What are some things that help you to write?  I am always looking for suggestions.
 
Happy Writing and Creating!