#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

Resources to explore and learn during Covid-19 & #WATWB celebrates three years!

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit.

This month also marks our third anniversary, we send a huge thank you to everyone who has joined us throughout the years.  We feel now more than ever that positive stories are needed to help balance all of the heartbreaking news we’ve been hearing in the wake of COVID-19. Having the internet is helping to keep us all connected, to ease the isolation and to let people know they are not alone.  For now, I hope to continue sharing on the last Friday of every month. This month’s five co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath,
Damyanti Biswas, Shilpa Garg, Dan Antion, and myself Belinda Witzenhausen.

If you are interested in joining us please feel free to check us out on Facebook and Twitter


In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are now all facing a life-changing crisis.  Most of us will survive this, it will be difficult, challenging and many of us will have to rebuild but many of our grandparents and great grandparents endured their trials too, World wars, famine, diseases and the great depression just to mention a few…and yet here WE are. Most countries are implementing drastic measures to halt the spread of the virus, including social distancing, closing schools, public venues, bars, restaurants or even, putting the entire communities on lockdown.  As a result there seems to be a shift that despite our isolation thanks to the internet we are seeing that we are not alone.

Good deeds are being spread online too…we are seeing celebrities and organizations making extraordinary donations to charities that are in desperate need. We are hearing positive stories of people stepping up to help their communities and many celebrities are going online providing encouragement to help people in isolation.  Due to pleas online from frontline workers some big manufacturers are stopping production of their usual products to help provide essential medical equipment and supplies. Big or small gestures we can do our parts by social distancing (if you are able) keeping ourselves, our families and our communities healthy. Reaching out to those who might be lonely, by just checking in.

While in lockdown or self-isolation we need to try and keep engaged yet positive but unlike previous generations, we have this wonderful thing called the internet. For as much negativity we see at times it is also a wonderful way to reach out to friends, we can video chat with those we are missing, share resources, learn, pick up hobbies and console each other when we are overwhelmed. Museums and Artists have opened their doors virtually to brighten up those who are isolated.  Experts are offering free online help to students who are now being educated at home. Musicians are holding free online concerts and Authors such as Deborah Harkness, V.E. Schwab to name a few are reading their favourite books online via Instagram Stories to their fans. So many things to occupy our time here of my favourite links, most free are:


Museums

Ten Museums to Visit virtually (Smithsonian) ~  Click here

Guggenheim Museum, New York ~  Click here

British Museum, London ~  Click here

Musée d’Orsay, Paris ~  Click here

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam ~ Click here

Louvre, Paris~ Click here


Education

190 universities just launched 600 free online courses ~ Click here

NASA has made their entire collection publicly searchable and copyright-free ~ Click here

Scolastic has created a free “Learning at Home” hub for teachers and families which presents 21 days of engaging, knowledge-building learning journeys for different grade levels that can be accessed at home by kids on any device, even phones. ~ Click here

Fun activities and downloadables for kids~ Click here

Teaching kids about coronavirus ~ Click here


Books

Download free books, e.g. Shakespear, Edgar Allen Poe, Frankenstein from Project Gutenburg ~ Click here

Listening books.org  Audiobooks for people with Parkinson’s Disease, visual impairment, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, mental health difficulty or learning difficulty such as Dyslexia, which impacts the ability to read or hold a book ~ Click here

How to access local libraries virtually~ Click here

Neil Gaiman offers tons of cool stuff for free for you to kill your time with ~ Click here


Music 

Austin City Limits Online Archives and live streaming ~ Click here

Canadian band the Arkells fight COVID-19 social distancing isolation with online music classes via Instagram  ~ Click here

Canadian live streams ~ Click here


Cooking

“Kitchen Quarantine” With Michelin Star Chef Massimo Bottura offering free daily cooking lessons at 3pm EST via Instagram ~ Click here

America’s Test Kitchen posts full episodes of its cooking show, and more than 50 of the most recent episodes are free to stream. ~ Click here


Health and Well-Being

The people behind the Headspace Meditation app are offering a free collection for everyone called “Weathering the storm. It includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises ~ Click here

Yoga with Adriene my go-to YouTube Yoga instructor has classes for everyone and at every level. ~ Click here

Planet Fitness has a free daily class at 7 p.m. ET on its Facebook Live page. ~ Click Here

The YMCA has a variety of resources for FREE online including Tai Chi, Barre, Youth Sports Performance and Weightlifting. ~ Click here

Even those who aren’t spending every waking moment online but are making the best of it…families are spending more time together, books sales are increasing and even from city blocks, while on lockdown, singers and musicians performing from balconies, fitness instructors are running exercise classes from rooftops, local restaurants closed to the public delivering meals to those on the front lines. Everyone is doing their best!

My advice for what it’s worth, take this seriously, adhere to advice but maintain a cautious optimism. If in isolation take this opportunity to take up a hobby or pursue an existing one, spend time with your family, read, write and create. You can’t control what’s going on but you can control how you respond. A cute little infograph I found on Facebook via TheCounselingTeacher.com puts it in perspective…

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For those brave ones on the front lines, the nurses, doctors, essential store clerks, farmers, truck drivers and all of those who are stepping up in this crisis putting themselves at risk I thank you!

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

~Kitty O’Meara

#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

Bringing the #Healing Power of #Art to Sick #Children #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Damyanti BiswasSimon FalkShilpa GargMary J. Giese , and Dan Antion.

To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


I am a huge believer in the healing power of art and when watching the video from the CHILDREN’S HEALING ART PROJECT (CHAP) I am convinced. An art program in Portland Oregan designed to help children impacted by a diagnosis, disease, or special needs lose themselves in creating.

 The Children’s Healing Art Project was founded by artist Frank Etxaniz in 2006. Frank was in a serious bus accident in 1989 left his consulting firm, and returned to school to for art, healing himself by doing what he loved. In the 90s  he was involved with AIDS organizations in LA, New York and Berlin and was co-publisher of “100 Legends,” an art portfolio containing the work of AIDS patients. Initially Frank began visiting the hospital’s cancer wing for a few hours a month with a case of art supplies. As of 2017 CHAP provides 40 hours a week at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Oregon Health & Science University’s Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center, Knight Cancer Institute and Pediatric Neurosurgery Clinic. CHAP also hosts art clubs for children with chronic illnesses or medical challenges.

To learn more about CHAP please check out their website: https://chappdx.org

#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

#Painting with Light, #Blind #Artist Finds his Artistic Voice & Celebrating Two Years of #WATWB🎉

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). This month we celebrate our two-year anniversary and we couldn’t have done it without our wonderful co-hosts who help share, visit and promote all of the positive stories our bloggers share. I would also like to thank Lynn Hallbrooks who volunteers to manage our Facebook page. The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation between myself and the wonderful Damyanti Biswas discussing how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath,Damyanti Biswas, Shilpa Garg, Dan Antion, and myself, Belinda Witzenhausen.
To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


If you follow any of my blogs you’ll no doubt notice that I am always sharing stories about individuals who turn their adversities into something positive. Today I’m going to share another one of those stories.

Artist Steven Erra’s vision is slowly deteriorating due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. When he was in college, Steven had no idea he had a disease that would rob him of his sight, in fact, it wasn’t until he was nearly finished his art degree. But Erra was determined to make the most of what sight he had left. Receiving that diagnosis only motivated Erra to further pursue his passion. He began taking photographs and using flashlights to paint images into his work. Personally, I find his work brilliantly creative and unique. These days, he works with The Seeing With Photography Collective, a group of sight-impaired artists who specialize in “light painting.” Watch his story below.

To view Steven Erra’s work online, check out these links:

http://www.literal-latte.com/2015/12/steven-erra/

https://nothingperipheralasightimpairedartist.blogspot.com

#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

The Art Of Converting Adversities Into Opportunities #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Simon Falk, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese. To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


If you follow any of my blogs you’ll no doubt notice that I am always sharing stories about individuals who turn their adversities into something positive. Today I’m going to share another one of those stories.

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via Twitter @muniba_mazari

Muniba Mazari AKA “Iron Lady” is currently living an inspiring life with her husband and son in Pakistan. She is an incredible artist, writer, singer, social activist, motivational speaker, model and ambassador for UN Women, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Life hasn’t always been easy for Muniba, at the age of 21 while a university student working towards her BA, Muniba was involved in a horrific accident which left her paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound. Some people would have given up on life and wallowed under the circumstances, but not Muniba. After a period of frustration and hopelessness, Muniba found the strength to move forward realizing she had so much to be grateful for. Tired of staring at white hospital walls Muniba began to find her escape by creating bright colorful art which helped rejuvenate her spirit and brighten her days. She used art to break through the pain and find the beauty in her life. Muniba is much more than an artist though, she has become an advocate for turning adversities into opportunities.

After viewing an advertisement, Muniba began to realize how society objectifies disability, seeing it as a shortcoming. Muniba decided to use her voice, her art, and her spirit to change society’s perceptions of what it means to be disabled. She has carved a wonderful life for herself embracing the positives and not letting anything stop her. Muniba went from being a victim of her fate to being a fighter in life.

As a motivational speaker, Muniba shares her story and is a wonderful role model who teaches us that limitations are just an illusion we create for ourselves but with passion and perseverance nothing can stop us from achieving our goals.

Full TED Talk

“the wheelchair cannot be an excuse for not doing anything……… be grateful for what you have, and trust me, you will end up having more……… learn the art of converting your adversities into opportunities, so be happy, be grateful, be alive and don’t let anyone ‘dis’ your abilities.”~Muniba Mazari

To learn more about Muniba or her artwork check out her website: www.MunibaMazari.com

Chronic Illness, Information, Writing

We’re The Superhumans! #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Damyanti Biswas and Sylvia Stein.We are also looking for bloggers to help co-host. If you are interested in joining our team please contact me here!


I’m always interested in hearing stories about those individuals who break stereotypes, especially when someone is labelled disabled. Instead of feeding the stereotype many decide to follow their passions and do what they love despite what people “expect”. These individuals believe and achieve!

A Cannes winning advertisement to promote Channel 4’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Paralympics  “We’re the Superhumans” features disabled people of various backgrounds performing various activities. Set to a performance of the Sammy Davis Jr. song “Yes I Can” by a band consisting of musicians with disabilities the video proves that in fact with the right attitude anything is possible!

We’re The Superhumans

“The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” ~ Tony Robbins

Chronic Illness, Information, Writing

Writer/Director Doesn’t Let ALS Stop Him #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Lynn Hallbrooks, Michelle Wallace, Sylvia Stein, Sylvia McGrath, and myself. We are also looking for bloggers to help co-host. If you are interested in joining our team please contact me here!


Those who know me can tell you how passionate I am about living a creative life.  I believe any creative art form has the power to heal, motivate and empower us.  Having the power to lose ourselves in our creative world and to have the ability to make meaning is a gift that so many overlook.  When my husband shared an interview about Simon Fitzmaurice, I was so inspired.  Many of us make excuses for not following our passions, our lives get in the way, we don’t have the time, money, ability etc.,  and we push it to the back of our minds.   Simon despite his challenges decided he needed to pursue his passions and is not letting anything stop him from reaching his dreams.

In 2008, writer and director Simon Fitzmaurice had a perfect life; a wonderful wife, supportive family and was rising star in a promising career his film premiering at Sundance.  The same day Simon and his wife found out they would be expecting their third child they received devastating news about Simon’s health. Simon was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s) and was told he would probably only have four years to live.

Simon could have done what so many of us might have done…given up, accepted our fate, surrendered, but he wouldn’t. Simon loved life too much to just let go and it was important for him to share with his children the importance of never giving up.  Simon lost so much but he chose to take something back, to follow his creativity and live his life to the fullest.  Simon with the support of his family decided to keep pursuing his passion for writing and filmmaking.  Simon lost his mobility, speech and ability to breathe without a respirator but he refused to surrender his creative dream. Simon wrote and directed his movie  “My Name is Emily” which has won worldwide acclaim.

Trailer for My Name Is Emily

In addition to the film, he has written numerous short stories and penned a memoir called “It’s Not Yet Dark” which was made into a documentary, narrated by Colin Farrell and shown at Sundance this year.  With passion, determination and using a Tobii eye gaze software which allowed him to use his eye movements to communicate via voice and writing.

Although life is a constant challenge for Simon he has not let anything stop him from living and loving his life.

Trailer for It’s Not Yet Dark

“Although the world is full of suffering, it also full of overcoming it” ~ Helen Keller

Information, Quotes, Writing

One of my favourite quotes on #writing…

Sometimes I think we all need some inspiration, something to remind us that no matter how old we are there is always a chance for a new beginning. 🙂

Writing Quote

Photograph © Belinda Witzenhausen 2016

“Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where — if you missed it by age 19 — you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world — at any age. At least try.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Information

Weekly Writing Spark~November 17th,2014|| via www.BelindaWitzenhausen.com

Spark

“Buying a book is not about obtaining a possession, but about securing a portal.” – Laura Miller

You’re at an estate sale when you are drawn to an old journal and the price is too good to pass up. When you get home you decide to go on the internet and do a little research on the author.  What you discover frightens yet intrigues you at the same time.  The writer of your masterpiece is known to have dabbled in the occult until they went missing over a decade ago.  It is rumoured that by reading the journal you can open a portal to another dimension.

Write about your adventure with this journal.  Are you brave enough to read it? What do you find inside? Does this portal exist and if it does where does it lead?  Is it a dream come true or your worst nightmare?

Get creative, write and have fun! 🙂

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Interview with Author Corinne O’Flynn (@CorinneOFlynn)

Corinne Headshot

Tell us a little about yourself. When did your interest in writing begin?

I’ve been drawn to books for as long as I can remember. Like many authors, my love of great stories drew me in early. I grew up in a family of readers where books were always important. I began to take writing more seriously in high school and then college, but didn’t aspire to write novels until I was in my twenties.

 

Tell us about your YA Fantasy Adventure, THE EXPATRIATES.

I had a blast writing THE EXPATRIATES. It’s the first in a series that follows teenager, Jim Wales, who can communicate telepathically with animals. He discovers his family has been hiding him because they know he’s a scholar—one who can manipulate energy using magic—and someone is hunting all scholars.

 

What was the inspiration behind this book?

Oh, it’s the ultimate cliché! The kernel for the idea of this series came to me in a dream, almost 14 years ago. It was a little scene in my head where this dark-haired kid is walking through a meadow of golden grass with a tiger and there’s a falcon hovering in the air over him, and he was communicating with the animals with his mind. It is still so vivid, all these years later.

 

Is there a message you hope to relate through your books?

I didn’t write the book with a message in mind, but after the book was finished there were many themes that emerged. This book is about what makes a family and a home, friendship, trust, and, taking a stand—even when that’s scary.

 

What is the most important thing for you when writing your novels—the characters or the plot?

I think there needs to be a balance in a book—especially adventure and quest stories—between the weight of the plot and the characters.  When I’m planning out the story, I find the plot takes the lead, but the twists and turns are only meaningful because of the how they impact the characters. So, I think it’s important to give both equal time and attention while writing.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you outline/plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea leads you? Has your process changed from when you first started?

I am a converted plotter. I first wrote THE EXPATRIATES as the pansters do. No outline, nothing but my mind to guide the next thing. Believe me when I say that I made every single mistake you can make. The whole thing was a mess. Rewrites took years, and finally I had to stop, outline it as if it were a new story, and start over. That process was laborious and took another few years to complete, but I can honestly say that it’s made me a much better writer. Now, I plot using a whiteboard with color-coded post-it notes, which allows me to plot but also lets my inner pantser make some changes along the way.  I try not to make it too rigid.

 

Do you ever get writer’s block?  If you do, how do you get through it?

I find that when I get stuck in my writing, it’s usually because something isn’t working. If that’s writer’s block, then yes, I totally battle with it. I believe the subconscious mind is constantly tinkering and when it needs time to percolate over something, it will put on the brakes. I’ve discovered that I get through it more easily when I don’t stress over the block. I put my writing energy into something else and let the mental knots tease themselves out until the aha! moment arrives. And it usually does, so that’s always good.

 

What books and/or authors have most influenced your life?

I read most of the usual things as a kid, but I remember discovering Stephen King when I was a tween. I was sick, home from school, tucked into my parent’s bed in our apartment in the Bronx, reading SALEM’S LOT. I was totally freaked out, and completely hooked. Then came THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I love everything about this book and its ties to the women of the Arthurian tales. After that, it was anything supernatural, magical, or creepy. Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice, Harry Potter, LOTR, and His Dark Materials. I also adore PILLARS OF THE EARTH and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

 

If you could go to lunch with one of your characters who would it be and why?

I’d have to pick Hollis. He’s a minor character in THE EXPATRIATES who’s intrigued me from the moment he appeared. I’m looking forward to seeing some more of him in book two!

 

Can you tell us what is coming up for you and where can we find you online?

I’m busy with book two at the moment, finishing up all the plotting and starting to get the words in order. I’ve been working on some short stories, some related to this series and some not, that I hope to release as well. I blog at http://www.corinneoflynn.com. I am also on facebook.com/oflynnbooks and Twitter @CorinneOFlynn

 

Expatriates_CVR_SML

 

Next week, Nov 17-23, Corinne will be taking her book across the web on a blog tour with giveaways via Xpresso blog tours. Bloggers can sign up here: http://xpressobooktours.com/2014/10/09/blitz-sign-up-the-expatriates-by-corinne-oflynn/  Readers should visit her website for links to participating blogs.

 

What readers are saying:

 

“Told in a beautiful, flowing style full of colorful images and adrenaline-pumping action.”

 “Pop some popcorn, sit back … and enjoy the thrill ride, right up to the end, which leaves you begging for more.”

 “Captures your attention from the start and then guides you through a roller coaster of adventure, drama, mystery, magic and young love.”

 

 

About Corinne

Corinne O’Flynn is a native New Yorker who now lives in Colorado and wouldn’t trade life in the Rockies for anything. She loves writing flash and experimenting with short fiction. Her novel, THE EXPATRIATES (Oct. 2014) is a YA fantasy adventure with magic and creatures and lots of creepy stuff. She is a scone aficionado, has an entire section of her kitchen devoted to tea, and is always on the lookout for the elusive Peanut Chews candy. When she isn’t writing or hanging with her family, Corinne works as the executive director of a nonprofit. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The Expatriates is available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble. She blogs about her adventures at www.corinneoflynn.com.

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Expatriates-Book-One-Song-Sending-ebook/dp/B00OLDLOBQ

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/expatriates-book-one-song/id931169374?mt=11

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-expatriates-book-one-corinne-oflynn/1120628321?ean=2940150751088

Information

Weekly Writing Spark~October 20th,2014|| via www.BelindaWitzenhausen.com

Spark

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
~C. S. Lewis

Do you dream about pursuing your creative goals only to push them to the wayside because you feel it’s too late? Every now and then, does that nagging question “what if?” rear it’s ugly head? Now really think about it, what is stopping you? Do you feel you lack skill? Lack time? Lack resources?

Let’s pretend you’re writing a letter of encouragement to a dear friend who wants to become a “insert your dream here” (writer, artist, musician,sculptor etc.). What would you say to encourage them?  What would you tell them if they kept making excuses? Brainstorm and help give them ideas of  how to accomplish their goals.

Would you take your advice? Reflect and write! 🙂