Yesterday we stopped to
chat with Mac Daddy --
a man of few words who
walks with his dog, Mac.
We call him Mac Daddy
because we don't really know
him—or his name, but were once
introduced to the dog, Mac.
We crossed paths on the trail
in the woods out by the
We said—isn't it a beautiful day.
He said—yes it is.
We said it was good to be
out in the woods on such
a nice day.
He said he's been walking
out in the woods on the trail
Said his wife grew up
in the neighborhood.
Said they courted out there --
all "kissie face and huggy bear."
We parted with lingering laughs
and silly smiles, giddy with
conversation about what
people you hardly know
will tell you.
My life's not that interesting.
That's what someone wrote in the comment section of a memoir survey I sent a while ago.
It's not what I expected, and I don't believe it's true.
After all, what makes an interesting life to one person may not be interesting to another. Is an interesting life one with lots of travel? A successful career? Life on a farm? Sailing around the world? Lots of dinner parties and dancing?
Any one of those things might fill your days, but I'm not sure that would guarantee a good memoir. What makes a good memoir is your take on the world ... how you see things, and why they matter.
Your perspective is what people want to read about.
I like to write about the unexpected, curious ways the commonplace can (and does) surprise and shape me.
Memoirs that offer a behind-the-scenes look at how someone created or experienced something can be reassuring, educational, and inspiring.
The stories that resonate with people are the ones they can relate to ... stories that remind them about something they've experienced ... or want to experience.
Where you go and what you see.
So don't worry about whether or not you have an interesting life. Where you go with your writing and memoir is more about what you see and how something made you feel; sharing what you learned, and the joys, and frustrations you experienced. That's what people want to read about.
The stories you tell could be about the pets you've had and what you learned from them, your first job, how you started your business, or what it was like that first and only time you went to summer camp. It's the common experiences, disappointments, successes, and life affirming joy that people are looking to connect with.
When I re-read some of the stories I've written, they remind me of different times in my life; a life filled with curiosity and attention to detail. And that's what matters, no matter where or how you live your life.
What did you see? How did it make you feel? What did you learn?
Write about that.
Years ago I met a friend for a walk in the woods on a trail neither one of us had ever walked.
There was snow on the ground and the trail blaze, a white swash of paint on the tree trunks, was difficult to see against the snowy landscape. With each twist and turn, we had to look, really look, and concentrate to find the next marker.
Next Saturday is National Trails Day and it reminded me of that walk. And that reminded me of how hard it can be to see the good that exists in this ever changing, often difficult world.
So I decided to do something about it.
I created a good things journal ... to start a trail of good.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about that journal in my Sunday newsletter and a few of you said you were going to start a good things journal. If you've been thinking about it, but haven't started yet, don't have a book to write in, or find the idea of filling an entire journal a bit overwhelming, try this: the Good Things Zine.
A zine (pronounced zeen) is a mini book. You can download and print it ... the whole thing is on one side of one sheet of standard printer paper, folded into a book.
If you're not sure how to fold a zine, here's a link to a short video. I've included a dotted line to help you know where you need to cut the paper. And as you fold, be sure to fold edge to edge and create crisp, accurate folds. It will make a difference in the final steps.
I hope you'll make one and blaze your own trail of good things. Print, fold, and fill one. Then make another.
Alarm bells sounded high and low, all around the pond. From a distance we heard the persistent screech of the blue jay, then the urgent squawk of a duck, and as we neared the pond, the bong-bong call of the frogs.
What, we wondered, was going on?
Stopping at the edge of the pond, we scanned the water, the trees, and the sky, listening and looking.
And then we saw it. A big owl, a Barred Owl (yes, we had to look that up when we got home), perched in a tree on the edge of the pond.
I'm not sure if the frogs were sounding an alarm, mating, or doing what frogs do, but the duck and the blue jay were visibly agitated. The ducked paddled frantically from one area to the next squawking all the way. The blue jay, in full screech with fanned tail, was swooping down at the owl ... from the left, then right, again and again and again.
But that owl.
Talk about composure. It flicked an ear and spun its head at the bluejay's aggressive fly-by graze, but otherwise it remained still. Focused.
Fascinating stuff ... and the final entry for the day in yesterday's good things journal:
3. the owl in the woods
I started the good things journal last month. A list of three good things I see, experience, do, or feel during the day. Every day.
It's a matter of semantics, really. Like me, you've probably seen the prompts to keep a gratitude journal (and maybe you already do), but somehow that never materialized for me.
Until I read about a "good things list."
It's simple. I keep a small notebook and pencil within ready, on a table in the living room. The idea is to make a list of three different good things you experience every day. Short entries, a few words each.
Here are some of the entries I've made (with the original numbering):
3. clean sheets
4. trip to the library
5. takeout pizza from Otto
2. raking the yard
1. the sun is shining
2. almond flour chocolate chip cookies
4. Wordle in two
1. a good night's sleep
2. got the laundry done
3. the own in the woods
Like the owl, despite the unexpected swoop of outside influences, I've remained focused.
One entry at a time ... on the good.
And yes, it feels good.
Sometimes I write one thing at a time as it comes to me during the day, other times I write my list at the end of the day. And more often than not, once I get started, I'll remember something and add that to the list, coming up with not just three, but four or five, sometimes six or seven good things about my day. Not monumental, over-the-top exciting things, but small pleasures that, in remembering and recognizing them, make it a better day ... today and tomorrow.
We never had a dog when I was growing up. There were a few cats, a snake even, but never a dog.
I can't even recall knowing any one dog all that well, but there came a day when I wanted one.
So I went looking for one, talked about getting one, did my research on bringing a dog home, and finally got one. A basset hound.
Why a basset hound? I think it was the ears. They have big, beautiful ears. Velvety ears. And they are solid dogs, well-tempered, and laid-back.
Unfortunately, they are not great about walking in a straight line, moving along from here to there ... at least not Agatha. Nope, she'd walk a few paces and stop. Sniff, move on, and stop again.
After reading the most popular and recommended books about having a dog, I understood the importance of daily exercise, and made sure we went out. Every day. We went in the woods and around the neighborhood, but it was always the same ... a herky-jerky trek from here to there.
Now, granted, I wanted a dog that was easy-going, but when it was time to get her out for some exercise, it became an exercise in frustration. For me and the dog.
The frustration, I realized, came from expecting Agatha to power walk, get moving, and do what I wanted her to do ... to go against her nature. Bassets are after all, scent hounds. Sniffing is what they do. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed our time outside.
What I learned
I learned to take myself for a walk first ... alone. And to accept what Agatha was teaching me ... to slow down and notice things.
In the coming weeks, I'll be releasing a new picture book, Things I Notice When I Walk The Dog.
It's a picture book memoir. Agatha's legacy ... and part of mine.
Think memoir's not for you?
If you think memoir is not for you, think again. People love stories and you've got some good noes.
Stories you can share in a collection or how-to book.
Remember, memoir is not an account of your entire life. It's the account of an experience or event where some kind of understanding, lesson, or insight occurred.
How did you get started doing what you do? What does someone entering the field you're in need to know? What do you wish you knew? Share it and help someone in the same position.
Have you completed a self-initiated challenge where you learned something you didn't expect?
What do you do in your spare time? Are you a mast chef, a marathon runner, or member of a band? What's that like? Let us know.
Your insights and experiences are unique. And that's why we want your take on how it's done and why it matters.
Once you get started, you'll be surprised a what you can share.
Writing about your experiences can feel self-indulgent or out of reach in the beginning, but you tell stories all the time. The challenge is putting them down on paper.
Want to ease into writing? Check out these new tools.
The Hello Dahlia! printable stationery and journal papers.
Some still hang
bright and red
others make like
polka dots, red on
The ones that
fill the gutter
line up like bowling
balls in the automated
Is it the imperfections,
or it it because they're not
already picked, in a bag,
in a store?
I wish it was my
December marks time like no other month.
Tomorrow the winter solstice brings us the shortest day of the year followed by the longest night ... and days later, the end of one year and the beginning of another.
I’m thinking about how I can add light to my days and mark new beginnings. Not just new beginnings on the calendar, or the light from longer days, but the light and change that comes from doing things differently, seeing things in new light, and being curious.
Last week we had a snow storm ... a big one. Most of us got anywhere from 18 - 24 inches. And as it so often happens, the next day it was glorious. Sunny and bright and fresh.
After the storm, we took a ride ... uptown to State Street, left at Longfellow Square ... and there it was. A rainbow. Shimmering in the windblown snow hanging in the air.
This week's calendar ...
Thursday is Egg Nog Day. Are you a fan?
You'll also see that today is Poet Laureate Day. Because the statue in the rainbow photograph is poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I want to share a post I did a while ago on blackout poetry.
Follow this link to read more about Longfellow and blackout poetry, and give it a try. Use it to create a poem. Stick it to the refrigerator or mail it to someone. It may add new light to your day.
After all, you could be a poet and don't even know it.
Even if you don't want to try the exercise, click through to read Longfellow's poem, Holidays anyway. It's fitting for this holiday season ... one that is so very different from so many others. Read it and let me know what you think.
And if you create a poem, share it with me. I'd love to read it.
p.s. There's also a link in the post to Robert Frost's poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. You can read the poem and find out why it's one of my favorites.
A less intimidating approach to journaling
This is my second hand-made journal. The first was the October journal - 10 pages folded in half to make 40 pages. At least one page for every day of the month.
I decided to create my own journal book because big, blank journal books are intimidating. So many pages to fill compounded with the idea that the pages should look good, my handwriting should be at it's best, and what I write should matter.
But I've discovered those things don't matter. With a small, monthly journal, the pressure is off.
Why have a journal?
My goal is to write once a day. To mull over what I'm trying to get done, how it's going, and what I need to do next. To ask questions of myself. Writing helps me work through the tough stuff, make sense of what's baffling, and record my progress...and success. However small.
And I get to create a new cover design each month.
In the front of last month's journal I wrote two goals for the month. To finish my letter writing book and a book about birds and birding.
I accomplished the first. Still working on the second.
To be honest, I forgot that I wrote my goals in the front of the book. When I flipped through the book at the end of the month, it caught me by surprise. The other thing that caught me by surprise was that I wasn't disappointed that I hadn't completed both.
I'm thrilled that I completed my first goal (I'm waiting for the final proof of A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice to arrive in the mail today(!)), and I'm working on the second.
The second book is underway, but far from complete. I think the reason I felt okay about it all was that I've been working on it. Making steady progress.
It's hard to know exactly how long it will take, but I do want to push myself and try to finish it by the end of the month.
What I'm discovering, though, is that working toward something is just as important as finishing it by a certain date. The work is the reward. It makes me feel productive, engaged, and ... just better.
And that's why I wrote, "Just the beginning..." on the cover of this month's journal. Because after I finish the birds and birding book, I've got another idea, and another. And that means beginning ... all over again.
Every day is the beginning of something. Maybe it's because something ended yesterday, maybe it's because we discover a new approach, trick, or method, and we're starting in a new direction.
The key is to keep going. Plugging away at things. It's amazing what can get done.
Every day we begin. We can toss aside a bad habit or distraction and focus on something we deem more important. Or not.
If it doesn't work today because you're tired, or not feeling well, or someone needs something you can't put off, you can begin again tomorrow.
It's up to us to do what we tell ourselves we're going to do. Because in the end that's what matters most. I don't want to disappoint anyone ... but most of all, I don't want to disappoint myself.
What are you beginning?
And give them something to hold on to
It's hard being apart from the people you love and like best. Texts, phone calls, and social media are great, but sometimes it's just not enough.
What can you do?
Write a letter. Yes, an old-fashioned pen on paper letter. And mail it. Write to a friend or family member. Tell them you're thinking about them. Write about what's happening in the neighborhood, that disaster of a recipe you cooked last night. Or the yummy cookies you baked today.
No, it won't replace a hug or having a conversation across the kitchen table, but it will give them something to hold onto.
And people love getting mail. They really do.
Embarrassed by your handwriting?
A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice will help.
Was you school one of the schools that dropped cursive writing from the curriculum? Has it been a while since you've handwritten ... well, anything?
A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice has instructions for writing each letter of the alphabet, tips for improving your handwriting, and all you need to get started writing letters:
- ideas for who to write to and what to write about
- how to address an envelope
- where to the stamp
- how to set up your letter
Springsteen's newest title track and album: Letter to You
For true fans of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, every song is like a love letter. But this new release, "Letter to You," really is a love letter. A letter to who? We don't really know. About what? He doesn't say.
That's not the point.
The song is a reminder that letters are a way for us to exchange our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. A unique and personal way of sharing ourselves with one another.
Listen here, think about someone you could write to, and as Springsteen does, grab a pen send a letter.