Nov 27

Great Expectations

As the holidays approach I’m reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with a lovely Swiss woman – our boys were in Kindergarten together and I remember feeling particularly annoyed with the overwhelming pressure to present my children with the best Christmas ever(!) on a limited budget. As I voiced my fear of holiday inadequacy to her, she confided in me that her family simply did not participate in the “American Christmas” – the one that’s filled with over-eating, over-spending, over-celebrating and over-extending oneself, followed by all the anxiety that comes with weight gain, debt, poor time management and exhaustion. Instead, she expressed to me in her charming French accent, they chose to celebrate Christmas with the old traditions from the mother land – a small family celebration, a few wooden toys for the kids and stockings filled with fruit and nuts (and I thought my family was the only one who received oranges and nuts in their shells from Santa). And that was that. No drama. No stress. No mess.

Note the word “chose,” past tense for choose, meaning “to select freely after consideration.”

This year I met and began to work with a luminous woman who is writing the story about how she chose to give up many things that weren’t working in her life – a failing marriage; a toxic career; meaningless “things” – in order to find what truly mattered. This is no Eat, Pray, Love story. Her message is one of total mindfulness, humility and appreciation of the beauty in our lives. Visiting her home it became absolutely clear to me, the woman practices what she preaches – she lives, eats and breathes her message. She chooses to live life simply, mindfully, beautifully. No drama. No stress. No mess. The lady knows how to deal, ya hear? And let me not fail to mention, she sticks to her writing schedule.

What do these two ladies have to do with writing? Nothing, really. I’m inspired by their ability to make decisions that have had a positive effect on their overall well-being. In my experience, if one approaches writing feeling like garbage, body, mind and soul, well guess what the prose is going to sound like.

Many a romantic artist will tell me writing is something that chose them. OK. So writing chose you. What are you going to do about it?

Writing is something most busy people come to at the end of their day, once their energy is spent on the non-negotiables (jobs, child care, pet care, people care, etc.) and the negotiables they think are non-negotiable (volunteer time, shopping, must see TV, etc.).  Others rush through or skip their allotted writing time to handle more pressing matters. Then the writing gets put off because of lack of energy or concentration. It then becomes a time issue, as in, “I just didn’t have time to write,” or “I don’t have the energy to write.” Or maybe there’s something more going on – they’ve got some emotional stuff to cut through. Cue self-loathing and exit stage left.  Oh, it’s a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad downward spiral.

If you are in this place, I want you to STOP where you are and snap out of it!  Go ahead. You’ve gotta come to eventually, right? Now is just as good a time as any. You don’t need to create a new regime to start on Monday, next week, the New Year. CHOOSE now. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself.

The holidays will be in full swing soon. News stations are broadcasting major economic failure while endless commercials blather on about holiday sales and must-haves (turn it off!). The good news is, you can choose to celebrate simply, you can choose to say “no” to over-extending yourself. You can choose to walk away from toxic behavior. You can choose to live your life mindfully, selecting your daily activity with care and attention to detail. You can choose to take time for self-care so that when you come back to the page, you are ready to write.

This holiday season, I wish you peace of mind and heart, joy and simple pleasures – all of which are yours for the taking if you so choose.

Happy writing!



* Please note, if you are experiencing serious depression the best choice you can make is to seek the best professional care that is available to you.  



  1. Andrea Beltran 28 Nov 2011 | reply

    I needed to read this post today. I am doing my best to try to live mindfully and realize and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, one of them being writing. Thank you for the nudge!

    Andrea Beltran

  2. Christine Rose Elle 28 Nov 2011 | reply

    Love this Erin! The best part of the holidays is the hot tea and the cozy slippers. Puts me in the frame to write! Thanks for this sweet reminder of what really matters!

  3. TheLitCoach 28 Nov 2011 | reply

    Thank you, Andrea and Christine! I’m rooting for you! Here’s to a truly peaceful holiday season filled with inspiration and good words.

  4. Lorraine Devon Wilke 29 Nov 2011 | reply

    I could not agree with you more, Erin, on the importance of mindfulness in how we CHOOSE in our lives, from how to experience the holidays to the way in which we approach our writing.

    After growing up in a large family and all its attendant holiday obligations and pressures, I escaped with, certainly, a love of tradition but a firm mission statement to make my own holidays joyful instead of financially draining, time demanding and good will diminishing! Over the years my husband and I whittled our traditions down to: gifts for just the immediate children, beautiful and cost-free (but very well-written!) e-holiday cards, and at least one grand meal where everyone gathers and the only obligation is great food, good tidings and lots of love! At this point we look at everyone else rushing around with frowns on their faces, checkbooks flapping and blood pressure rising and we wonder how the holidays got reduced to this melee of obligatory purchasing and familial obligation. It’s a choice…we all just have to realize that, as you did, as your friend did, as we did. It literally changes the way the holiday is embraced and experienced.

    As for the pleasure of writing….yes, that, too, must come with choice. How do make it work within your own life, how to maximize your best time to do it, and how to reject paradigms and “rules” that really do not apply across the board; these are all questions that demand our thoughtful assessment. And choice. As fits your theme, “to select freely after consideration.” I love that…and it a mantra so important to implement in every area of our lives. Thanks for a thoughtful post, Erin…and the very best to you this holiday season! LDW

  5. Mira 29 Nov 2011 | reply

    Many heartfelt thanks, for this gift of words shared. The past few weeks have been trying with a family of mixed generations, I care for. I really needed to read this today when life felt like it spun out of control these past few weeks.
    Writing time is a gift I give to myself to nudge others as well. Even those of us whom nudge need wise words shared with us no matter our age or experience.
    Many heartfelt thanks for this gift to us out here. I greatly appreciated your posting.

  6. Charlene Ross 29 Nov 2011 | reply

    Beautiful Erin! I love it. (Now if only I would listen.) Being mindful and taking time to write are high on my list – you know right after Facebook and must-see TV! Thanks so much for the important reminder. (Now if you could just convince my kids about the simple Christmas thing!)

  7. TheLitCoach 29 Nov 2011 | reply

    Ladies, thank you all for your thoughtful replies. I love it!

    Lorraine, BRAVO to you! LOVE it.

    Mira, hang in there. I always say writing comes after caring for yourself and others who depend on you – stay healthy!

    And Charlene, I hear you. I was just speaking with one of my writers and good friends about how good some TV writing is right now – at least you can justify it as character/plot development study, right? Well, in good measure.

  8. Jennifer Johnson 1 Dec 2011 | reply

    Here, here!!!

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