Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | September 11, 2013

Where were you 12 years ago today?

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On the morning of September 11, 2001, I lived in Evansville, Indiana, and had my office on the basement level of my home. I am a night owl and often don’t start my day until 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. As soon as I walked down to my desk, I listened to a voice mail that I’d received a little earlier. It was Lisa Thomas at Methodist Hospital who was letting me know the Foundation Recognition Dinner I was to attend that evening was cancelled. Then I heard her say something about America being under attack! Those words just did not equate. America is under attack?

I turned on the TV and saw the surreal images of a plane flying into the second World Trade Center tower. As I listened to the newscast and tried to take in what was being said, I was in shock. I remember getting on my knees and praying for America and our safety. At that point, who knew what the rest of the day would bring? Could there be more planes in the air, ready to crash in other locations? I called my Mom and told her to turn on her TV, then spent the rest of the day glued to the television, watching in disbelief and dismay.

My world…our world…changed forever that day. Patriotism was heightened. Our nation was drawn together in a common grief and a common resolve. The American flag was flown everywhere and was on t-shirts, pins, decals, and anywhere it could be placed to show we were proud to be Americans. Like the mighty oak, we may be bowed but cannot be broken.

Twelve years later, I commend many efforts of the government to keep us safe within our borders, but I also lament the state of our nation today and the complacency that has settled in once more. It seems to take a tragedy to make patriotism swell. I suppose that is human nature, but let’s take time today to think of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on this day in 2001, and to salute those who have played and continue to play a role in keeping us safe and free.

While I grew up in the era of the Cold War, when some had fallout shelters in their backyards and we lived with the spectre of bombs being dropped, none of that seemed real and nothing ever happened to us on our home soil. 9-11 changed all that. Our innocence has been lost. My reality, and yours, can change in an instant. And it did on 9-11.

So, where were you 12 years ago today? What were you doing, and how has 9-11 been a pivotal event in your life? Please share your story here. I’d love to read it.

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | August 2, 2010

Small stuff

Ever since the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff, came out in the late 90’s, that title phrase has become a life concept that has stuck with me.

When I’ve felt overwhelmed with lots of stuff going on, or started to have a “pity party” for me, myself, and I… that’s what I usually end up saying or thinking: “Don’t sweat it. It’s all small stuff.”

Today, we have more “small stuff” than ever – to keep track of, to remember, to mark off our lists, and to clutter our minds with. We also all have life’s stresses and strains to deal with, from health issues to unemployment and everything in between – not as easy to call “small stuff” unless we can take our eyes off our own stuff and look to someone else’s. Without exception, I can always find someone else’s situation that makes mine seem trivial in comparison.

As I was thinking about writing this blog post, I decided to look up its author, Richard Carlson, PhD, and found out some things about him that made an even stronger impression on me… more reasons to persevere, to not let “life happens” moments get me down, to not sweat the small stuff.

First, there is encouragement for authors and would-be authors: Eleven years and 11 books after publishing his first book in 1985, he wrote his bestseller, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff. It stayed on the New York Times list for two years, was later published in 135 countries and translated into 30 other languages. Twenty additional books followed.

Second, there was apparently a catalyst to his changed lifestyle. Said to have been “a driven workaholic, living a life ‘consumed with collecting achievements,’” things began to change after Richard’s best friend and his girlfriend were killed by a drunk driver on their way to his wedding.

Third, he died way too young, in the prime of his life at the age 45. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism resulting in cardiac arrest while on a flight to New York to promote his latest book; he died instantly.

My intention for this blog on “small stuff” was taken to a new level after reading about this man who coined a single phrase that became part of popular culture in the mid- to late-90’s. It has changed my thinking whenever I am presented with an anxiety-producing challenge, and leads me to think about those things that truly matter.

Here are some other Richard Carlson truisms:

> Do one thing at a time.

> Don’t answer the phone when you’re rushing out the door.

(Nowadays, the phone is no longer a stationery object in our homes, to be ignored as we leave the house. We need to revise this one for 2010 to say, “Don’t answer the phone when you are in the car, at lunch or dinner with family and friends, in a meeting, and on and on…”)

> Give yourself, and others, a second chance.

> Don’t kill yourself over a mistake.

> Don’t finish other people’s sentences for them.

> Take a vacation, not a guilt trip.

> Your ‘in box’ is not your life.

Another seems to apply to Richard Carlson’s life and untimely death. It is probably the most compelling reason to live life fully and not become consumed with all the “small stuff” that is temporal – those things that will most likely not be important a year, a month, or even a week from now:

“Accept the fact that life is unfair.”

So, what is your “small stuff?” What can you mentally re-categorize and remove from the “big stuff” file to where it belongs?

And what is the “stuff” in your life that really does matter? Are you giving those things the time and attention they deserve? Are you being grateful for all the ways you have been blessed? Are you shifting your thinking and your perspective to focus on the things of life that cannot be moved, destroyed, or taken away – the things that are eternal?

Richard’s wife, Kristine, his co-author on Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff in Love (2000), shared this about her husband: “He was very good at living in the moment, and it came through in every correspondence – always a personal hello. And he always ended his correspondence with ‘Treasure Yourself.’”

And I would add: Treasure those you love, and treasure every day you are given. No one is promised tomorrow.

Link to the book on Amazon.com:
http://www.amazon.com/Sweat-Small-Stuff-small-stuff/dp/0786881852

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | July 8, 2010

I am a storyteller…

I am a storyteller. I hadn’t thought of myself that way until a few years ago when I participated in a networking workshop. We were asked to develop a “30-second commercial,” as it’s often referred to in networking circles – an “elevator speech.” The point is to be able to communicate what you “do” in a concise way… to paint a word picture that someone who has never met you can relate to.

And so I began thinking of how to best communicate what I do for my clients. The main goal of what I have done throughout my writing career is, essentially, to tell stories. When writing a people profile, my goal is to provide a snapshot of who the person is within a certain word limit. Since a good portion of my career has been spent writing for healthcare, my goal has often been to tell the story of a patient’s successful surgery, or to inform others about the benefits of an advance in medical technology.

When I was writing for a travel agency, I told the stories of the trips taken by agents and customers to exotic places – an African safari, a European cruise, or a stay at a Montana dude ranch. Wherever their travels had taken them, my assignment was to communicate their experiences in a way that would inform and inspire others to perhaps book a similar journey.

Telling others’ stories often requires writing with the “voice” of another. Writing with a corporate voice for a business is very different, for example, than writing for an individual. As a co-author or ghostwriter, the ability to become the “voice” of the first-person story being told is critical. I must tell the story from his or her point of view, in words that sound like the author. Editing words already written by another is another form of storytelling, although the essence of the story already exists and my role is to not only clean up spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but to improve the story, smooth out the rough edges, and make it more compelling to the reader.

Marketing and advertising agencies have long been aware that good stories sell products and services. The “just the facts, ma’am,” type of advertising may work when shopping for a new washing machine, but who doesn’t love a good story to go along with the facts? I remember some of the best classic commercials because a character was developed and a story told in 30 or 60 seconds. How about the Maytag repairman… or are you too young to remember? Then there were the longer Hallmark commercials that could tug at your heartstrings. Here are a couple of classic ones:

While I am not an ad copywriter, I appreciate good storytelling when I read, see, or hear it. Stories can evoke an emotional response because we can see ourselves in someone else’s situation. Memories are often tied to stories we heard or read long ago. We remember and retell the story, while the facts can become fuzzy.

Facts and figures may be very important to the story you have to tell, but unless a story is woven into the fabric of the facts, very few people will remember what you have told them. Stories can make statistics come alive. Charts and graphs without supporting information that is interesting, engaging, even emotional when appropriate, will fall flat, going in one eye and ear and out the other.

I am the kind of storyteller who strives to get to the heart of things. I ask all the “W” questions: who, what, when, where, and why, not in the role of news reporter, but as a way to get to the inside core of the story.

Who are you trying to reach with your message?

What is the purpose of telling your story?

What are the most important points to include?

When does it need to be told (timing can be everything) and where (in what format)?

Why does your story need to be told? Is it to sell something, build awareness, or inspire someone to action?

No matter what type of story I am telling, I want it to resonate with both the reader and the person who has come to me to help tell it. On my website, www.wordjourneys.net, I equate “story” with “word journey.”

Your word journey may be in the form of a book project, a newsletter, blog, brochure, press kit, or other means of business or personal communication. Whether you are struggling over writing a one-page letter, or have a more ambitious journey in mind, I am prepared to take my expertise and love of storytelling on a trip into your unfamiliar territory. I will help you navigate the curves and avoid the bumps in the road. Whatever your destination may be, I can help you tell your story without the agony, without the stress, and with the assurance that you will say, “That’s just the way I would have written it, if I only had a way with words!”

Your story is waiting to be told! Find out more about my storytelling past and the projects I’ve completed at www.wordjourneys.net.

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | July 4, 2010

Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

There are lots of ways we talk about time. We kill time. We waste it. We make time. We lose track of time. We find it.

Time drags by when we’re waiting for something. Time flies when we’re doing something we love. And sometimes, like the song says, time just slips away…


We always want more of it.

We say we want to live a long life, because we want more time…to be with our loved ones, to do things we enjoy, to travel to places we want to see, and to become all that we want to be.

You may have heard it said that no one on his/her deathbed says, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” To the contrary, many who find themselves at the end of their lives express regret that they didn’t spend more time with their families, or didn’t say “I love you” enough.

So, maybe we should take a good look at the time we have now – the days, weeks, and months that we are filling up with “life.” Maybe we should evaluate how we are we using this precious gift that Barbara Sher has called “the only wealth we’re given.”

We’ve all seen this quote: “Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” Although now a bit overused, it’s so true, as are most well worn adages:

“Time and tide wait for no man.” This ancient phrase, which can be traced back to the year 1225, means no one, not even a king,* is so powerful that he or she can stop the march of time or be in control of the tides.

The desire to harness time, to hold onto it and stretch it to its limits has always been and will always be. We’ve heard it expressed in modern day songs like “If I could turn back time” by Cher and “(If I could save) Time in a bottle” by Jim Croce.

Does anyone remember the 1961 Broadway musical, “Stop the world – I want to get off?” That’s what I think of as I watch everyone rushing around to get more done within the 24 hours of the day. Who wouldn’t like to step outside the time domain for a while and just “be,” without an agenda?

But all the wishes and “if onlys” won’t make it so. God is the only one who has the privilege of existing outside the strictures of time. After all, He invented it, and gave us in His infinite wisdom, 24 hours to do all we need to do: work, play, eat, pray, love (there’s a book title in there somewhere!) and sleep.

How many parents have watched their sons or daughters graduate from high school and wished, just for an instant, that they could watch them grow up all over again?

How many of you have wished you could have had more time with your mom or dad while they were here?

Do you wish you could spend more time with your kids, or your husband, but can’t seem to win the “battle with busyness?” As Michael Althsuler says, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” If you know a situation needs changing, get in the cockpit and fly that plane!

All that we can do is be aware and remind ourselves daily of time’s precious fragility. Like a flower that blooms and soon wilts, time is ours to be used, to be filled with memory-worthy moments, and to be cherished.

I leave you with quotes on time by others that may inspire you even more to think about how you are using your “24 little hours.”

Henry Van Dyke — Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.

Henry David Thoreau — 
You cannot kill time without injuring eternity. Thoreau also said: — It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?

Samuel Smiles — Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.

Jack London — I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a briliant blaze that it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

John Randolph — 
Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.

Sir John Lubbock — 
In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.

Mary O’Connor — 
It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.

Benjamin Franklin — Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

*King Canute (995–1035) was the king of England, Denmark and Norway. The story has it that he commanded the tide to stop. Most people thought he was being arrogant and presumptuous. According to the original story though, he knew he couldn’t stop the tide and was trying to demonstrate to his subjects the limits of a king’s power.

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | June 24, 2010

10 tips for terrific trip pix

Wanna take better vacation photos? While today’s ‘automatic everything” digital cameras almost take the photos for you, there is still a human element involved. Of course, improving your pictures from snapshot status to a creative image that deserves to be called photographic art takes time, instruction, experience, the proper equipment, and a creative “eye.”

These 10 tips may not turn you into a pro, but hopefully you’ll be a step closer to taking photos you’ll be proud to include in your photo album…or at least post on Facebook!

1.    Fill the frame with your subject. First, determine what the subject or focal point of your photo is. If you are photographing people, make sure there isn’t too much space around them, but also don’t cut off their heads. (This was a unique characteristic of photos taken by my Mom… Can anyone else relate?) Being able to look through the viewfinder (or display on a digital camera) and really see what is within the frame takes practice, but it is a skill you can develop.

2.    Don’t shoot into direct sun. Unless you have a “fill flash” setting, taking a photo of a person standing with the sun or other bright light in back of them will cause the person to be dark. The camera will pick up the bright light, not the person’s face. Instead, allow the sun to be at your back with the light on the person, but not so much light that he or she has to squint! Position him or her so that they are in indirect light or open shade.

3.    Don’t take photos when the sun is directly overhead, if you have a choice. Photos taken early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the light is soft and warm, rather than bright and harsh, will become your best photos. For example, many professional photographers get up at dawn to get the best landscape shots.

4.    Look at professional photos of the area you’ll be visiting to get ideas. Brochures, websites and magazine articles about your vacation destination can give you some great ideas for shots you may want to take. While your photo of the same location may not look exactly like the one you saw, it can stimulate ideas for your own creativity, and perhaps give you a tip about where to locate yourself to get that angle of a famous landmark.

Nevis, West Indies (photo: Debbra Brouillette)

5.    Who doesn’t love a good sunset photo? Preparation and patience are needed to get a really, really good sunset photo, not to mention luck! You have a short “window of opportunity” before you lose the light. Take lots of photos to make sure you capture the beauty you are witnessing!

6.    Review the photo you just took. If you need to get closer or farther away, take another photo. If you have a zoom lens, take an overall shot, then zoom in for a tighter one. When you have some downtime, review the photos you’ve taken that day and, if shooting digital, delete duplicate shots and bad ones so you’ll have more room on your memory card. Preparation and patience are needed to get a really, really good sunset photo, not to mention luck!

7.    Take photos from lots of different angles. First take an overall photo of a historic building, straight on. Walk to one side and take another. Stoop down and shoot up. Take a vertical shot, then a horizontal. Next, concentrate on “pieces and parts.” Photos of an interesting window,

Monkey Crossing sign, Nevis, West Indies (photo: Debbra Brouillette)

an old iron gate, an interesting carved door, or other feature can make your photos stand out from the standard snapshot.

8.    Take photos of road signs, license plates, restaurant and hotel signs, historic markers, and other unique signage that will add interest and information to the photo album you’ll put together of your trip. If you are on a beach vacation, write the place and date in the sand and take a photo, which can become the title shot of your album.

9.    Take your camera’s manual with you to refer to, especially if you aren’t totally familiar with all its settings. If you can, review the settings before you leave on your trip (or read it on the plane). You may find out about a cool feature that you didn’t know existed.

10.    If at all possible, take an extra camera, extra batteries and an extra memory card, in case your primary camera quits working, or is lost or stolen. (Believe me, I have learned this lesson the hard way.) If you travel with your laptop computer or a portable digital storage device, download your photos daily, to preserve the images you’ve already taken.

BONUS TIP: It was Marcel Proust who said: “The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” As you take photographs on your next vacation or day trip, take your “new eyes” with you. You might be surprised at what they are able to “see.”

If you have a photography question or a tip you would like to add, please leave a comment here, or email me at: debbra@wordjourneys.net.  If you are on Facebook, become a fan of my Word Journeys page at http://bit.ly/dtznbw

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | June 16, 2010

Don’t Try to Control the Journey! Instead, Embrace It!

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.     —John Steinbeck

View from a hammock, Nevis, West Indies

I’m ‘fessing up right away. I have been there, done that. Tried to control things, that is.

When it comes to planning a journey to a new place, for example, I’m the ultimate trip researcher — some might say “over-researcher.” Before our departure date, I will have familiarized myself with the not-to-be-missed restaurants, downloaded menus, and read customer reviews. For our island journeys, I’ll have checked out the scuba diving operators, the dive sites, and local car rental agencies. I will have devoured any scrap of information I can glean from reviews on travel websites like TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com).

Is there a difference between being an informed traveler and trying to control the journey? I like to think so. I enjoy every minute of my research, and am convinced that planning and anticipating the journey is at least half the fun of the whole experience!

While I will never transform into the “free spirit” type of traveler who leaves with a backpack and an airline ticket to somewhere, agenda unknown, I am not too old to learn. Over the years, I have gained a new perspective about controlling the journey, which has allowed me to relax more and embrace it instead.

When we try to control our journey, be it a trip, or our all-encompassing journey of life, we stifle it, reducing the possibility of experiencing those inspired, serendipitous moments, thoughts, and events, which bring us to the edge of all we know.

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you know, And step into the darkness of the unknown, Believe that one of the two will happen to you. Either you’ll find something solid to stand on, Or you’ll be taught to fly!”    —Richard Bach

Does this mean we should embark on our journey without a map? Of course not! May we use a compass to find our way? Definitely! Should we have a destination in mind before we begin? Yes, even though detours may alter it, and experiences along the way may persuade you to take a different route!

In a similar way, word journeys must also be mapped out and have a direction. The writer must know where the words are taking him or her, yet be open to inspiration. Have you ever looked at a blank screen or a blank piece of paper and had no idea where to begin?

Some call it “writer’s block.” However, it usually happens when you haven’t mapped out your journey. You’re unsure of which direction to go, and you haven’t truly decided upon your destination. Most writers have found themselves in that place at one time or another but, over the years, I have found my own personal key to creativity. I have expressed it in my website’s (www.wordjourneys.net) tagline: “The longest journey begins with a single word.”

So, here’s the key, succinctly expressed in three short words: Just start writing! Type a word, then another and another, even if you think it’s all rubbish and not worth reading! Once you have released your thoughts and committed them to paper (or, more likely, your Word document – don’t forget to “save!”), you are on your way to unblocking, and restarting the creative flow.

Embrace the journey of the writing project — the article, the letter, the book — word by word. It’s all part of the creative process. Let the ideas flow. Write, and then read it aloud. Delete words or sentences that don’t resonate upon a second read-through. Add others. Save your work and come back to it hours or days later. Let it marinate, if you have the leisure of time. And keep in mind that you can’t totally control your word journey, or you may reach a destination that you won’t particularly like after you’ve arrived!

If your word journey simply never progresses from thoughts to reality, or if your ideas seem to be stuck in your head, and are never expressed in the way you think about them, there is help. Allow me to work with you to complete your journey, to accompany you on the path.

After all, journeys are often enjoyed most when shared with another. We can embrace it together, and once the destination is reached, your project will stand on solid ground, ready to be shared with the world. Or, who knows? Maybe we’ll be taught to fly!

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | June 6, 2010

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

Imagine being given the best book ever written, reading one page, then putting it on the shelf.  Every day, you look at the book, and complacently watch it collect dust. Friends occasionally come by to visit and tell you stories from the book, regaling you with tales of adventure and places of beauty, yet still you do not open the book.

You convince yourself life is just fine without reading the book. You live each day in your comfort zone, never venturing too far from home. You fill your hours, days, and weeks with routine tasks and events. Most of the time, you are satisfied, doing the same things, interacting with the same people, and thinking the same thoughts. Both your sphere of influence and your world view remain small, and that is how you like it.

The book, you’ve been told, would open your eyes to people and places you never knew existed. It would open your mind to new ideas, and would open your heart to what lies beyond your own horizon.

What holds you back? What prevents you from opening the book, reading page after page, savoring each chapter, and waking up each day longing to read more?

As St. Augustine metaphorically suggests, the “book” is the world – our big, wide, wonderful world. Mountains and seas, deserts and swamps, prairies and beaches await our discovery. People from other lands, other cultures, or even other states within our own country are ready to welcome us.

And, as Augustine continues, “…those who do not travel read only a page.”

My husband frequently comments, “The best money you can spend is first on education, and second on travel.” When I think of my own travels, I never regret the money spent; in fact, I feel enriched by each experience.  Travel broadens our perspectives, stretches our thinking, opens our eyes to how others live, and educates us in a classroom without walls and without limits.
Each new destination I have been exposed to has left an impact. Memories have been created; friendships have been forged. Bits and pieces of other ways of life have been incorporated into mine. I relive my travels through the photographs I take and the small mementoes I bring back that become part of my home.

Since I have traveled to many Caribbean destinations, I surround myself with things of the islands – pottery from Tortola, Nevis, Cozumel and Barbados; handcrafted wind chimes from the Grenadines; cookbooks, artwork, and jewelry.

I have DVDs of our dive with dolphins in Curacao and our reef dives in Cozumel. My sand collection – sand samples placed in glass spice bottles – grows with every trip.  Shells and remnants of coral and sea fans collected on countless beaches are on display in nearly every room.

If I had not traveled – to Germany, Great Britain, twenty-plus islands in the Caribbean, and a lot of the U.S. (with a lot more yet to see…) – I would be bereft. In many ways I would be a different person. It was in Germany that I learned to love coffee. In England,   I gained an appreciation for a good cup of tea and scones. If I hadn’t traveled the Caribbean, I may have never tasted Ting or Ginseng-Up. And that’s just the beverage category!

If I had not focused on island travel, I would never have been able to pursue my love of scuba diving. I would not have the appreciation and understanding that I do of the undersea world.

When travel to a faraway destination is out of reach, I satisfy my feelings of deprivation by traveling closer to home, but with the same enthusiastic explorer mindset. A lot of us never play tourist in our own backyards. There is much to see and experience within a 100-mile radius of wherever we live, if we are willing to forsake the familiar and seek out an adventure.

I have read many pages in the “book” that is the World and hope to read many more, but, alas, there are so many pages (places) and so little time. It is one book that I will never finish.

So what holds you back? What prevents you from opening the book that is the world and exploring it from cover to cover? I urge you not to make the mistake of living your life in a small, narrow, closed world.

Read more than one page.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you are ready to explore the world of tropical travel, check out my column on Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/x-12498-Tropical-Travel-Examiner

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | June 2, 2010

Writing for me…

If you are a writer, even a “wannabe” writer, you are most likely often writing for someone else. You have an assignment to complete for a class you’re taking. Or, you are being paid to write for an employer. You are writing to meet a deadline, to fit certain parameters: “Three to four hundred words, please. Need it by the end of the day.”

Writing to please a client, an editor or a publisher is, of course, necessary if you want to build and sustain a career as a writer. No one will pay you to write it the way you want, without taking into account the needs and purpose of whatever it is you are to be writing.

On the other hand, think back to when you wrote your first bit of prose. For me it was a poem at age seven. Later, it was a song. Even later, it was a short story, then an essay. More poetry followed; more songs. Back then, I was not writing for anyone else but me. I was expressing myself – my thoughts, my dreams, and my longings. I didn’t think about whether someone else would like it, read it, or sing it.

Ray Bradbury, renowned author of such famous science fiction/fantasy novels as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, had this to say about “writing persistently.” (View the short YouTube video below to hear his full comments.) After writing a short story at age 22 called “The Lake,” borne out of a personal experience from his childhood, Bradbury revealed, “I realized after 10 years of writing, I’d finally written something beautiful. I’d turned a corner into my interior self. I wasn’t writing exterior stuff. I wasn’t writing for the right or the left or to the in-between; I was writing for me. And I discovered that was the way to go.”

After writing for my “bread and butter” for the past several decades, I am re-discovering the joy of “writing for me.” I’m thinking more about my life experiences and what I might want to share with the world. I’m jotting down ideas, saving quotes from others, and even waking up in the morning with a fragment of what might become a future blog. Or, who knows, perhaps a future book?

I will, of course, continue to write for others. That’s what I do. It’s my chosen career and my natural gift.  It’s still extremely rewarding to please others with the words I choose, with the turn of a phrase, and with the blending of their thoughts and mine to create something meaningful and communicate something powerful.

But as Ray Bradbury’s words continue to echo, I’m encouraging myself and other writers to take time to write “off the clock” more. To write for the joy and fulfillment it brings. To let your mind wander and think outside the box of your next assignment. In whatever I write, I’m going to strive to bring to it my “interior self” even more than before, so that special “me” ingredient shines through. Like Ray, I think I’ll discover that is the way to go.

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | May 27, 2010

Fear is a four letter word

Fear. It’s a four-letter word that I try to eliminate from my vocabulary — and from my mind, as well.

I guess everyone has fears, innate ones that keep us from danger, subconscious ones borne of long-forgotten experiences, and nagging ones that creep in to haunt us when we are feeling weak and vulnerable.

Most of our fears can be traced to fear of the unknown. When we allow “what ifs” to invade our minds, logic goes out the window and our thinking becomes irrational. What if the plane crashes? What if this pain turns out to be a terminal disease? What if I make this choice and later I wish I would have made that one?

I’ve never forgotten a quote I saw years ago that had been carved into a wooden mantelpiece in the dining room of an historic inn north of San Francisco.

It said:
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Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there. – Anonymous

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When I allow myself to “go there,” and that little “fear gremlin” takes hold of my thoughts, I try to remind myself of that and to embrace what it means. Faith vanquishes fear. It disappears and can’t exist in its presence. Faith gives us courage.  It says in Psalm 31, “Be of good courage…” and, while I’m not sure who said this, I love it:

“Courage is fear turned inside out.  It is impossible to be courageous if at first you weren’t afraid.”

Am I still afraid sometimes? I’m human, aren’t I?
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Once men are caught up in an event they cease to be afraid. Only the unknown frightens men.
–  Antoine de St. Exupery (French aviator and author of the novella “The Little Prince”)

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Antoine de St. Exupery was right. Once you have moved beyond paralysis – a state that fear can sometimes put you in – you are in action. Once you are “caught up in the event,” you are no longer afraid. Or if you are afraid, you can feel the fear fading away, as you stay with whatever it is you are fearful of.

Stephen and I diving in Cozumel (2006)

I remember being afraid of learning to scuba dive, and recently wrote about the experience in my tropical travel column (http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-12498-Tropical-Travel-Examiner~y2010m3d26-Learning-to-scuba-dive-getting-certified). While my fears were real, I conquered them one step at a time, and felt stronger afterward. The unknown had become the known. Fear fled.

Becoming scuba certified taught me a huge lesson about how to face fears. From that time forward, I have approached potentially fearful things differently. Here are some suggestions:

Eat the elephant one bite at a time. (or should I say, “Eat the shark one bite at a time” to stay with the diving theme?) This cliché applies to many things in life, and it also applies here. One step, one day, one bite at a time. I did this when learning to scuba dive, as I conquered my fear of learning the skills one at a time: treading water, the pool swim test, taking my mask off underwater, buddy breathing, etc.

Research the heck out of whatever you’re fearful of. This is my approach and may not work for you. For me, however, the more I know about what I’m afraid of, the more I can replace the “unknown” with the “known.” Knowledge is power.  For example, viewing the statistics surrounding your chances of dying in a plane crash versus your chances of being in a fatal auto accident, may help you deal with your fear of flying.

Replace fear with courage and confidence. Once you have a handle on what this “fear gremlin” is made of, you can kick it to the curb with confidence. You can arm yourself with knowledge, look back on the one-bite-at-a-time experience you’ve gained, and emerge with newfound strength and courage.

The next time you feel fearful, remember the acronym: F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real. Don’t allow yourself to buy into false evidence that is appearing real. It’s sometimes so close to real that you can taste it, touch it, feel it in your bones. But 99 times out of 100, it’s not, so give whatever you are fearful of the “truth test.” Is it a legitimate fear, or something that you’ve mostly conjured up in your mind?

Stand strong in faith. If you are a person of faith, you can rely on God to help you cast out fear.  You can have an assurance that although fear may knock at the door of your mind, it cannot gain entrance and take up residence. Fear and faith cannot be companions.

Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | May 13, 2010

Mopion Islet, Grenadines – My tropical isle has a name…

Mopion islet, Grenadines: My tropical isle has a name…

The photograph above, which is the banner for my website, www.wordjourneys.net, is one I took in the Grenadines in 2004. It is one of my favorites. I look at it and am immediately transported back to the day I took it, following a dive on the reefs nearby. Only recently did I find it had a name – Mopion islet – and that it is somewhat famous, having been photographed for “dozens of magazine covers” and written up in a Caribbean Travel & Life article about “dream beaches of the Caribbean.”

Variously described as “the quintessential ‘deserted island'” and as “a dollop of sand surrounded by a transparent sea,” Mopion is located near the private resort island of Petit St. Vincent, and not far from Palm Island, the private resort island where I stayed in early December ’04, when I unwittingly captured this photo following a dive on nearby reefs.

If you’d like to read more about Mopion islet and see more photos about it and the two private island resorts that are nearby, go to this link to read my Examiner.com article about it:

http://www.examiner.com/x-12498-Tropical-Travel-Examiner~y2010m5d2-Mopion-islet-Grenadines-my-tropical-isle-has-a-name

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