Ivan the Gorilla Was Right After All: How Success Can Sneak Up On You

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In looking back over the past year on my blog, I’ve noticed something that surprised me and made my writing heart happy.

I posted The One and Only Ivan and a Measure of Peace after reading a kid lit book based on his life. The One and Only Ivan is a fictional story about a gorilla based on a true story of an animal I saw as a child in the Tacoma B&I. Katherine Applegate’s story sunk deep into my heart, and I published my review feeling like it was one of my best. No one commented or seemed to notice.

I paused for a bit like I do when I get crickets and then kept writing.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Only-Ivan-Katherine-Applegate/dp/0061992259

It took me a while to notice, but over the last year and a half Ivan has gotten more hits than any other post. People have viewed it 151 times. Ivan has gotten more views than the nostalgic pictures of Auburn High before the wrecking balls came through this past summer in My Doomed High School (74).

It doesn’t always take this long for others to notice posts I’ve poured my heart into. The Triple Amputation School of Beauty got noticed around the world quite quickly but still does not have as many views as Ivan.

And, honestly, I have no idea why people have been drawn to my posts. The interest in Ivan may have nothing to do with how well I wrote it. Maybe clickers are drawn to the book by an interest Applegate or maybe they just love gorillas. But a little slice of joy lights up inside me whenever I notice that people are still looking at my words about a story that captured me.

In case you want the graphics, here’s the full review of 2014 including a map of the places in the world where people could be reading about a gorilla who once lived in Tacoma, a condemned high school, or a brave woman who lives life to the fullest.

Click here to see the complete report.

I wish you all found memories of your time in 2014 and the years that came before. This year I learned sometimes it takes a while for people to notice when you’ve done your best work.

Besides. Those stats reminded me that even if people never noticed and even if they were only looking for a book review, I would still be glad I wrote about the inestimable Ivan. May you all keep doing whatever it is that brings you slices of joy whether you get crickets or clicks.

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The Little Things: How Small Rewards Lead to Big Projects That Get Done

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Writing a novel takes a ridiculously long time. So do many other things that are incredibly worthwhile like raising children, practicing for a concert, or knitting an afghan. (I hope to finish this for my son before he gets too cool for it!)

Q's blanket

To keep myself going, I create small rewards for myself as I go along.

My rational grown up serious brain shakes her finger at me and says fussy things like:

“You shouldn’t need a reward! The work is its own reward! What are you? Some kind of kid who needs a treat for every little thing?”

To which my creative kiddo self says (in a tiny little voice as she kicks the gravel): “Yes?”

More and more of the time I block out the fussy voice and give myself treats.

A few weeks back, I finished a rough draft after about 11 months of work. The book’s not done of course. There will be revising and revising and then more revising. But I resisted the urge to push on and made a treat for myself.

I went to the Seymour Botanical Conservatory on my lunch break that very day. Here’s my Facebook post from that day:

I was typing along this morning when I realized I had finished the first draft of my middle grade novel. To celebrate, I went to Seymour Conservatory today and shelled out the 3 bucks to go inside. The lady there gave me a Ponderosa lemon tree leaf and an Allspice tree leaf. They smell delicious! Plus, I saw another work in progress. I’m trying guess what the chainsaw artist will create. Something with a dolphin…

I also bought glass earrings from the Hilltop Artists inside the conservatory that day. Every time I put them on, I think about finishing my novel and about supporting some other artist out there as a celebration.

For my next bigger reward I’ll buy a print from Summer Kozisek when I finish my focused reading program.

Something about giving money to other artists feels like a call to my own muse.

Other ideas I’ve seen for tiny rewards include keeping calendars or making a small celebration at dinner. I especially like Steven Pressfield’s idea of writing on a paper wall calendar and using check marks and the end of each day. It’s so visual and kinesthetic that it really appeals to me.

I’m scanning the shelves for new wall calendars since it’s almost 2015 and my current cupcake calendar is almost done.

Rewards, after all, need to come daily, not only at the end of big projects.

My treats are marvelous. Sometimes they are even the whole point. Not only does it keep that little gravel kicking kid happy, but the finger shaking lady gets happier, too, when she realizes more gets done in the end.

Besides. What fun is it to be creative without joy? The careless driver at the intersection in front of my work might hit me tomorrow before the novel gets done, the kids are raised or the afghan is knit. I’d like to tell St. Hildegard that I loved the gift of life while I was here.

At the Liberty for Christmas

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“It turns out you play clarinet with my mother!” said the woman I see every morning when I drop my son off at preschool. I thought the new lady who took my place as last chair looked familiar at the practices.

Last Tuesday, I played a Christmas concert in the Puyallup Community Band at the Liberty Theater in Puyallup. The last time I remember being in the Liberty it was a dollar to see a movie. We saw The Natural with Robert Redford that was released in 1984. Yes. It was that long ago.

Much of the woodwork is the same. The theater is still small. The stairs to the women’s bathroom are ridiculously steep and definitely not up to code. Now the place has been remodeled and is known as a wedding venue. And I had a marvelous time in 2014.

At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage. Work wore me out on Tuesday. I went to my mother’s house with the kids for dinner and lay on her couch, mustering the energy to iron my white shirt.

Things got better when I walked in the doors to see the guests finishing their dinners around tables with white linens. It’s hard to be tired in a room full of happy chatting people. I made my way down front where I would sit, starting to wake up a bit.

The woodwinds and small brass sat crammed in a pit with the big brass on the stage behind us. My clarinet playing neighbor had her family handing over the rails into the pit. Her 3 small grandchildren stared down at us while one of them sucked a pacifier.

This made me feel much less annoynymous. Usually I feel hidden behind the flutes with no one looking at me in particular.

Still. The sing alongs gave the audience something to do besides watch my fingers mess up. And I loved the narrated T’was the Night Before Christmas. At times I even could get to that place where I set my thinking aside and let my brain rest into the notes and the intense feeling of togetherness that comes from making music with others.

I left the Liberty full of energy with Sleigh Ride ringing in my ears on a night when I could barely drag myself off the couch to get there. Life can be really fine if you are in a band. Sarah’s mom and I are lucky.

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