May 152019

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!


Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

Apr 302019

With the ability to stream TV classics from almost any era, I’m not dating myself too much when I think about Ally McBeal’s quirky characters and their various adventures with theme songs. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a litigator who wasn’t ready for court until he heard bells… and someone who needed the attitude adjustment that came from channeling his inner Barry White. I did some work with Mark Victor Hansen, one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys and saw him come to the front of the room to either You’re Simply the Best or Soul Man.

So I recently asked a bunch of Facebook followers what sort of theme song they might recommend for a person who had a goal in mind but needed a little extra support in the “gigantic butterflies in the stomach” department. They’re some interesting folks and came up with some pretty good additions to a playlist. Or, maybe an entire playlist. You be the judge. And I’ve included a crazy number of links in this post; if you can stand all the YouTube ads, you can hear each of the songs.

What's YOUR theme song? Click To Tweet

Whenever I post about developing confidence or taking motivation to a higher level, I’m not surprised when Avon Superstar (also known as Captain Platinum) Lisa Wilber jumps in first. She gave us Reba’s  I’m Gonna Take That Mountain.

Some of the contributors offered deeply spiritual music: Thirty-one Gifts consultant Patricia Darley chose Made to Thrive.  Roslyn Evans — the co-owner and designer of exquisite jewelry at Earth and Moon Design — is inspired by This Little Light of Mine while another artist, Heather Maria, added Walk on Water.   Rachel Keiffer, the HealthNut Girl introduced some of us to a Hebrew song called the Song of Ascents.

Some of the women turned to their spiritual sides for musical inspiration. Click To Tweet

Intuitive healer and coach Robin Ann Reid offered This is Me.  and Suzie Cheel from down under tossed Happy, as well as Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s beautiful version of Over the Rainbow, into the mix.

And Lore Raymond from Florida’s gulf side led the charge for Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.  I don’t know about you, but “you can bend but never break me, ’cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal” rings true for so many of the important women in my life. And Vatsala Shukla reminded us of another “you’ve got this” anthem: such Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

You can bend but never break me... Click To Tweet

When it came time to pick up the tempo, Colleen added Sly and the Family Stone with You Can Make It If You Try while Michelle dished up a little Uptown Funk.   Author Beverly Golden joined Etta James to advise:  Trust Yourself.  And we can always count on Barb Parcells to bring us classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone.  I hope you like Josh Groban’s version as much as I do.

Many of these women have wonderful projects going; I’ve linked to their sites or Facebook pages so you can get to know them if you choose. In the meantime, I’m off to iTunes to buy a couple of these songs for one of my “you go, girl” lists!


Apr 232019

What do birdseed, potato eyes, and peach pits have in common? Not much — unless you share my obsession with letting things (and animals and people) grow to their highest potential.

For years I have kidded Favorite Husband about being the king of compost. He builds bins and saves scraps and carries the mess out of the house every day. And, when it’s time to plant things, he willingly shovels the stuff to its final destination. If not king, his efforts are worthy of some sort of title.

When we first moved to the South, my gardening efforts were, at best, pathetic. Aside from an abundance of painful sand spurs, I didn’t know what would grow. The Florida sun and I burned up a lot of plants. I struggled with the idea of my growing seasons having been turned virtually upside down. This former New Englander had a hard time learning to protect my plants in summer months and forgetting about the process in the fall.

I subscribed to an online permaculture group that encouraged me to take my time and to build soil where there was only sand. Not a patient person by nature, I found some solace in the fact that the fried plants could receive a second life by becoming part of the dirt, helping others to grow.

I found some solace in the fact that the fried plants could receive a second life Click To Tweet

Isn’t that a lot like what happens when humans begin to undergo a radical change of some sort? Initially, we rely on trial and error, going solo, and making a lot of needless mistakes. Like brandy new gardens in the South, there’s lots of getting burned. But, also like the garden, those mistakes eventually become food for growth. And, if we’re smart, we make our way to others for guidance. Ultimately, those who have been helped can provide shelter for others — perhaps to help them burn a bit less while they are beginning the journey.

But, also like the garden, those mistakes become food for growth. Click To Tweet

But you’re probably wondering about the birdseed and the peach pits. I sure would be.

Usually a competent gardener, I grew frustrated when it looked like things wouldn’t grow here. I tired of throwing good money after bad in search of seeds that would help our pitiful soil-building efforts. Well, those permies were right. Things eventually began to grow. I finally noticed that the seeds dropping from the bird feeder — the volunteers — seemed to develop a life of their own. Regardless of the feeder placement, those seeds sprouted and grew — sometimes even turning in to sunflowers.

The volunteers seemed to develop a life of their own. Click To Tweet

So, pragmatic at heart, I decided to sow birdseed on every single bare spot in the yard. And it worked. The effort was rewarded with tall seedy grasses, lots of sunflowers and a bunch of bees.

Finally on the right track, some of these rogue plants were tall enough to shelter other, smaller seedlings. Marigolds began to poke up through the dirt as did several herbs. Sprouted sweet potatoes and eyes from baby whites encouraged us to try more and different types of planting.

And the peach pits? They come from a prolific little tree, surpassing all expectations after recently moving to a less squirrel-friendly part of the yard. The fruit is tiny but delish; we can’t seem to let go of all of those lovely, fresh pits. Although we probably won’t be creating a peach orchard, we’ll figure out how to start some of them and give the tiny trees away to others.

Because you see, when a person or a thing is determined to grow, the best we can do is get out of the way and let it.



Mar 232019


How would you like to tour Ireland with a small group of history lovers? And what if that group was made up of folks who love to read?


How would you like to tour Ireland with a small group of history-lovers? Click To Tweet


And how much better would that be if such a tour was led by Irish historical fiction author and all around awesome human Nancy Blanton?


And what if such a tour was led by Irish historical fiction author Nancy Blanton? Click To Tweet


I realize this is an unusual post for me but I’m excited about this wonderful opportunity for folks to explore Ireland with my friend and business partner, author Nancy Blanton. Virtuoso Tours has teamed with Nancy to explore the Emerald Isle, visiting many of the sites described in Blanton’s luscious 17th-century historical fiction. Pubs? Castles? Ruins? It’s all there — and brought to life by a premiere story-teller.

We all know that an epic trip of a lifetime takes a little advance planning so please share the opportunity with your friends.

Virtuoso has created a spectacular itinerary . Click here BLANTON Ireland TOUR for full details. And, to prepare, you can start to get to know Nancy and her spectacular 17th-century Irish historical fiction.


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