Dec 102019
 

I rarely marry the concepts of ‘celebration’ and belonging to professional groups, but there is one such group that seems to push me to unexpected boundaries and edges. Earlier this week another member of the group asked the rest of us whether we were taking enough time to celebrate our wins. I quickly responded that such a review was a regular part of my year-end reviews and promptly forgot about the conversation.

Celebration in the Draft File?

Sometimes life calls bullshit. Sometimes, when updating a website, an author will come across posts that never made it to publication. Perhaps they were not up to her usual skill level. Maybe the idea that seemed so compelling in Paragraph One ran out of juice a few lines later. Or maybe the thoughts hanging out in the “draft” folder just seemed a little too self-congratulatory.

That’s where I found these — in the draft folder. I almost put them back. There are other, more important things to write about, right? But there are situations that have had me thinking about celebration. I’m a big fan of this little book and all the people it has helped me connect with since it first came out.

Sometimes life calls bullshit. If I’m honest? Sometimes I forget. Click To Tweet

 

Do You Look at Your Wins?

Was it, in fact, lack of love and attention to my very own inner critic that stopped me from sharing these lovely thoughts with you? Could be, but I really don’t think so: I’ve just been lazy about looking at my wins. Like so many of my women friends, I set goals, work hard to achieve them, smile… and just move on. Sometimes I forget the celebration.

So here it is: a celebration of The Inner Critic Advantage. And, as I put together this post full of kind words from friends, I am picturing each of them raising a glass and toasting the people who are making peace with the noise in their heads.

To your health!

I am picturing each of them raising a glass and toasting the people who are making peace with the noise in their heads. Click To Tweet

 

ya4wr

 

“What makes this book so special? Important information about the autonomic nervous system presented in an entertaining, user-friendly manner so it can help us on a daily basis.”

— Dr. Kevin Lin

 

“In The Inner Critic Advantage, author Andrea Patten invites us to explore the possibility that the critical voice in our heads can become ally and friend and then she shows us how to do it. Practical, insightful, wonderfully humorous, and, ultimately, full of “wild wisdom,” this book will change lives.”

— Terri Clements Dean, psychologist, author, Traveling Stories

 

orange gratitude

 

“As an artist I’ve got to acknowledge my inner critic and accept her as part of who I am. By doing that she actually becomes helpful. Fabulous!”

— Bonnie Jayne O’Keeffe, Bonnie Jayne Art

 

Explore the possibility that the critical voice in our heads can become ally and friend... Click To Tweet

 

“Andrea doesn’t just deliver great advice and innovative strategies. She gives her readers gifts that few authors offer: compassion, respect and love. She really wants them to thrive, and that comes through in every line of this warm, wonderful book.”

— Tim Vandehey, co-author, Produced By Faith and The Wait

 

First world problems

 

“Everyone has an Inner Critic. In The Inner Critic Advantage, author Andrea Patten explains how to work with your biology and turn that endless supply of self-directed criticism into an unbeatable advantage.”

— Linda M. Lopeke, Smart Start Coach

 

“Thought-provoking and liberating—a balm for creative souls.”

— Barbara Bond, author, The Beach Walkers

 

Norma Grider Avon

 

“To continue to grow in all areas of life, I believe you need to make a study of the things that surround you. Certainly the “voice in our head” is one of those things — maybe even the most important one. This book goes a long way toward helping us understand its origin, triggers and what we can do to insure that voice is a gift and not a curse. Well worth the read!”

— Lisa M. Wilber, Avon Platinum Executive Leader, sales trainer & author

**

 

Andrea Patten has managed to love her inner editor long enough to publish  The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head a little book full of big ideas about how — and why — you can learn to love “that voice.”

 

 

Nov 202019
 

 

Inspiration. What does it mean to live an inspired life? It’s a phrase that can bring to mind images of artists, monastics, and martyrs. It also makes me think of sweeping the floor and tending my weeds.

I think the phrase got stuck in my head the other day when one of my friends referred to another as an inspiration. Word nerd that I am, I was intrigued: my friend the inspiration has a serious breathing disorder and one of the definitions of “inspire” is “to breathe in.” In fact, the word dates back to about 1300 when it meant “to breathe upon or into” or simply “to breathe.” Today I am thinking about the relationship between inspiration and breath in our day to day lives.

She’s an Inspiration

What does it mean to live an inspired life? Click To Tweet

purple coffee cup in woman's hands

Spending time with other writers and artists, I hear a lot of talk about “inspiration.” It can sound magical and mystical; it can appear impossible to achieve. Sometimes we sound like we’re sitting around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick.

Hit by the Inspiration Stick

I don’t think I’m alone when I say my ability to produce quality work ebbs and flows. I’m not always happy enough with what I’m writing to share it with you — even here. I think that has more to do with my personal standards than a lack of inspiration.

I don't want to sit around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick! Click To Tweet

The other day a colleague told me she considered my first book  What Kids Need to Succeed  “inspirational.”

Apparently I was silent for too long.  She went on to explain that, although she thought the book contains good and useful information, she believes that its greatest value is to provide support and inspiration to parents… especially when they doubt or question themselves.

I was only quiet because I was moved.  Deeply moved.  Frankly, it’s hard to imagine something better than throwing a virtual life preserver to a drowning parent and helping them to shore.  (Except maybe for those parents to not to feel like they’re drowning in the first place.) Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment.

Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment. Click To Tweet

Throwing a Virtual Life Preserver

Being a parent can bring us face-to-face with some of the most powerful versions of anything we feel:  love, pride, joy, fear, self doubt.   Many people are fortunate to have had great parents to show them the way.  Others have to work much harder to extract the value from some of their early lessons. Buttons get pushed.  People hurt.

But feelings aren’t facts.  They can be a valuable source of information. Sometimes we need help to translate our feelings to thoughts that can be more useful to us. By the way, a little reminder: one does not have to be a parent to feel overwhelmed in the face of a seemingly impossible task. It can happen to authors and artists, sales people, and those facing physical or medical challenges.

What if “I don’t feel like I can do this” means:

  • I need support
  • I don’t know how to ask for help
  • I’m taking on a big challenge
  • I’ve never done anything that matters more
  • I’m in pain
  • I need to improve my skills
  • I’m going to get more training
  • I’m looking for a mentor
  • I want to make sure I’m looking at (and compensating for) my “blind spots”

Sometimes We All Need Translation

But what if “I don’t think I can do this” means you’ve got the open-mindedness and willingness to be great? What if it means you have something inside of you that wants you to go beyond any of the pictures you currently have? What if you’re in the process of establishing a new normal?

What if “I don’t think I can do this” is a signal that there’s something inside, yearning for more? What if it has to do with being great? Click To Tweet

 

“Breathe in. Soften. Go a little deeper.” I’m new to yoga and fascinated by the various instructors’ descriptions of breath and the ways they coach us to be aware of it. Maybe that’s part of what has me thinking about inspired life.

the words namaste yall against a starry sky

My husband goes on silent meditation retreats. Silent meditation is another place where ‘breath’ takes center stage. I’m told that counting breath is a way to re-center, to come fully into the present, and to stop thinking.

Some of my friends paint. I write. And occasionally try my hand at other forms of art: redacted poetry, multi-media painting, landscape design. It all feels connected.

What’s Your Jam?

I also just finished reading Painting Life by my friend Carol Walsh. It’s a memoir about balancing her life as an artist with her life as a therapist. And about the endless process of reinventing the self. Her book made me wish I had known more about both self-care and reinvention when I was a young therapist and advocate. I burned the candle at both ends, pushing beyond comfortable limits both at work and at home. I rarely said “no.” It took time to see that I short-changed everyone — especially myself. Eventually, I learned to embrace both self-care and personal evolution. Maybe there is no “wrong.” Maybe there’s only “next.”

What if the fact we have breath means we are inspired? Click To Tweet

What if inspiration only meant “breath?” Does the fact that we have breath means we are already inspired? Could inspired living simply mean using our breath? Using our lives in the best way we know how? Is it really all that simple? How do we best use that precious gift?

 

 

 

Nov 052019
 

 

What is NaNoWriMo? Is it a new erectile dysfunction drug? A political party? A space alien? And what is a NaNoWriMo rebel? Is it dangerous? Actually, it’s a shorter way to say National Novel Writing Month — a crazy, fun event that runs through the month of November. And, most of us rebels are pretty darned harmless.

The free, internet-based writing challenge began in 1999, with fewer than two dozen participants. The idea is to write 50,000 works (aka a lousy first draft) between midnight November 1st and 11:59 on the 30th. For some of us, 50,000 words is a pretty good stretch. I understand that for fiction-writers it’s novelette length.

Is NaNoWriMo a new erectile dysfunction drug? Click To Tweet

I’m not a novelist. I’ve been writing non-fiction for most of my life, only fairly recently transitioning from corporate and copywriting assignments to books. Shortly after moving to a mountaintop in northern New Hampshire to be with the love of my life, he handed me a newspaper article about the thing. I’m not sure I’d have found it on my own. Always one to “try stuff,” taking advantage of our relative isolation made sense to me. I had no idea what I was getting into but, after winning the first year I was hooked. With the exception of the year Favorite Husband and I moved twice between October 1st and December 1st, and maybe the year of the multiple surgeries I’ve done it every year since.

And I WON!!! Almost every time. (If you’re not familiar with NaNo,NaNo, please don’t get too excited about the “winning” thing. It simply means that along with about a kazillion other people, I completed my 50,000 words!)

So why would your average, nondescript author of only two non-fiction books (and a whole bunch of blog posts) spend her time rolling around in novel-writing stuff? Is NaNoWriMo a good idea for a non-fiction author? And how does it work on the years I don’t even bother to try to write fiction. (That, by the way, in the parlance of the site, makes me a NaNoWriMo REBEL!  A non-novel writing writer committed to cranking out 50,00 words in another genre? Yep. That’s a NaNoWriMo rebel. Yee-ha! I love being a rebel without a clue. I’ve done it a time or two before — in different disciplines. Usually it works for me.)

How can novel writing be good for non-fiction authors? Ask a #NaNoWriMo participant. Click To Tweet

This crazy-fast, smash words approach might not be for everyone but for me, it works like this:

  • The event helps me ignore the end of Daylight Savings time
  • It loosens me up. It’s hard to “write tight” when you’re going for quantity
  • My family re-connects with the fact that I sometimes disappear into writing and editing — especially when I’ve been editing for a lot of other people
  •  I feel more creative. Trust me, I’ve got to make up some stuff in a hurry if I’m going to hit my daily word count. All before my second cup of coffee.
  • The process gives me permission to fail… not on a quantity level but it is one time that I can try to care a little bit less about the quality of what’s coming off the tips of my fingers.
  • It makes a huge dent in the paralysis of analysis. It’s a lot easier to edit a crappy first draft than a blank screen
  • And, oddly enough, by letting go of the end result I am able to create a draft that may — someday — develop. The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head has some roots in NaNoWriMo and the endless community discussions about that wicked Inner Editor!

 

 

One year, (on November 28th) I took a friend to her outpatient surgery visit. She was appreciative and apologetic and worried about me getting any work done. Given that this was the third time that month I had been her designated driver, I was able to reassure her: medical waiting areas are wonderful places to jack up the ole word count — especially as a NaNoWriMo rebel trying to get a few blog posts drafted. When I took her back for a follow-up visit she asked how I was coming along with my goal. I was delighted to report that I had finished — more than twenty-four hours ahead of the deadline. I am a winner! (Phew!)

Medical waiting areas are a wonderful place to jack up the ole word count. #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

I think it was the year that we hosted more than twenty members of our precious extended family for Thanksgiving, that seemed to raise more questions than ever. There were family members who wanted to know why I participate. There were others who were more excited about the layers of paper covering the kids table and Grandrea’s great collection of colored pencils at every place. Still another kept asking why I don’t do 1,667 new words every day, all year long. (Note to self: is a careful look at the guest list in order? That one is definitely not my favorite relative.)

 

 

Look what they sent me: “You, wonderful author, spent this past November unleashing your creative powers, fighting back inner editors, and teaming up with thousands of writers around the world. We’re incredibly proud to welcome you to the NaNoWriMo winners’ hall. Congratulations on your superheroic achievement!” Is it strange that I find motivation in this sort of thing? Or in the comments that sometimes appear at the end of my blog posts?

It’s almost 6:00 a.m. and I’ve got a word count waiting, so, here in no particular order, are some of my past (and present) NaNoWriMo revelations.

  • I am fascinated by creativity and brilliance. The idea behind #NaNoWriMo certainly encompasses both. The project’s geometric growth is proof that there are LOTS of people who appreciate creativity and brilliance.

 

  • #NaNoWriMo exists to promote literacy. In addition to this crazy 50,000 sh*tty first draft in 30 days there are a number of ways the group seeks to encourage writing (and reading) in classrooms around the world. Actually, this seems like it would be a very good collaboration for the Amelia Island Book Festival or any other group that purchases books for classrooms. After all, isn’t writing sometimes the result of a love of good books?

 

  • Permission. Once upon a time, I have a brief but powerful conversation with one of the well-known authors headlining our local book festival. He asked a few questions and said, “You have permission: go ahead and write the one you can’t stop thinking about.” That memory, combined with the November  mantra “quantity over quality,” helps me uncover many of the” things I think I think.” I don’t know which ones will ever see the light of publication but it doesn’t matter. This is something I do because it makes me better at my craft.

 

  • I love the generosity and creativity of the #NaNoWriMo team. There are pep talks by well-known authors  and virtual rewards all month long and, seriously: who doesn’t like being referred to as a winner and superhero? (That’s the sort of language they use — even for the NaNoWriMo rebels!)

 

  • It’s a stretch goal that is — for whatever reason — important to me. I enjoy the gratitude and appreciation I feel each time the website’s massive “official word count validator” says “Congratulations — you did it!” It may be weird but it is what it is.

 

I now look forward to returning to our regularly scheduled programming: which includes some slow and focused editing, possibly sleeping in past 5:00, and maybe a slightly smaller daily word count.

 

My award-winning title The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head was conceived during a #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

 

 

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Andrea Patten’s award-winning title The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head was conceived during a #NaNoWriMo… and while she was working on a crappy first draft this month? Stay tuned!

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Oct 292019
 

boxer dog faceUntil Alex came along, I’d never once had the urge to put a dog in a dress. It’s neither dignified nor necessary. Too anthropomorphic for me. And besides, for more than two decades I have lived in places that don’t have trick-or-treaters.

Last year was different but, then again, so is Alex. A mellow, white, deaf dog sandwiched between two intense German Shepherd ladies, he provides relief. He’s funny. And calm. We need him around here. And sometimes we underestimate his depth. Last Halloween was a case in point.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of bomb threats through the mail, a shooting at a supermarket, and a massacre in a temple while people worshipped. I can’t. It’s still beyond my ability to comprehend. Grief. Sadness. Rage. Helplessness. I didn’t know how to feel, never mind what to do.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of such overwhelming violence. I can’t. Click To Tweet

Frenzy in the News, Red Sox & a Dog in a Dress

The week wore on and the news had folks in a frenzy. Despite doing much of my work online, I minimized time on social media. The world was far too crazy and I was making my best effort to close it out. To read. To meditate. To think things through. As a lifelong New Englander the world series of baseball provided a welcome distraction.

Of course watching the news wasn’t a great idea, either. Sometimes I’m still naive enough to think that information aides in understanding. It often does. But this time the news — regardless of the leanings of the outlet — bordered on hysterical. More guns. Less guns. Armed guards. Arm the teachers. Don’t leave the house. Politicians can’t fix it. Politicians all lie. Love is the answer. Fight back. F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken for strangers. Worried about area first responders. Who’s got the answers?

For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress.

F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken. Who's got the answers? For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress. Click To Tweet

Honey I Lost the Dog

The dogs love it when Favorite Husband and I settle in for a movie or a ballgame. They snooze and cuddle and cruise for snack remnants on the floor. Alex, my goofy little boxer boy, usually cuddles up with my feet — it helps him know when I leave the room. So looking around and not white dog on back smilingfinding him was a bit unsettling. Unfortunately, finding him did little to put my anxiety to rest.

To enjoy the newly cooler weather we had been leaving the front door open to the screen. There he was: nose to screen, wagging his entire little butt end like crazy. He was watching our usually quiet street like a movie. There were fire engines and multi-jurisdictional police departments represented by cars that lined the streets flashing bright strobes of various colors. There may even have been an ambulance or two. I don’t know. I didn’t go out. The police vehicles carefully blocking each neighborhood driveway were a clear enough message: stay put.

It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn’t like it a bit.

Multi-jurisdictional police cars with their blinding strobes. It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn't like it a bit. Click To Tweet

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood, It’s Not Always Like This

I know most of my neighbors but there were a few recent arrivals. We knew there were little kids in the house diagonally across and that nobody seemed speak English. At first I didn’t understand the feeling of urgency  attached to my need to meet them but chaos around the country made me want to do something special. Something welcoming.

Sometimes the internet is wonderful.

Have you heard of “booing”? Apparently it’s a cross between Secret Santa and reverse trick-or-treating. And while much of our neighborhood was not ready for the full “boo” experience, Favorite Husband and I decided to try some creative outreach to our newcomers. While he went out to buy a plastic a plastic pumpkin head and some goodies, I dressed Alex the boxer in his Halloween finest: a tutu left over from a year or two before.

Boo, a tutu, and a fine how do you do... Click To Tweet

Boo, a Tutu and How Do You Do

dog with pink tutu around his neck

When we headed off to deliver the goods, he somehow knew it was different from a regular walk. There was no sniffing or wandering. In a delightful contrast to his froufrou, Alex strutted, with head up and chest out, down the middle of our rarely-traveled street. He was a dog on a mission.

And his bravado was well received. Two preschoolers, a young teen, an infant and their surprised mother got quiet for a moment as we turned up their driveway. Then came the giggles. And the smiles. Some Spanish. Some English. A plastic pumpkin head full of candy.

And the most special part of all: love from a dog in a dress.