Tag Archives: writing

You gotta be flexible

My mother-in-law Jinny Combs taught me many things.

As one of my most formative bosses, I probably model my leadership style off of hers more than I recognize. I know that I rely on two pieces of constant Jinny advice, “Look for people with good attitudes, you can teach them everything else,” and “You gotta be flexible!”

After running a guest ranch in southwestern Montana for fifty years, Jinny could have easily written a long book on leadership, but instead she penned three cookbooks and a collection of funny stories about life at the Diamond J.

Jinny taught that you could use writing to foster flexibility. When we would lose a pet or a person, my mother-in-law would write a poem. Sometimes a haiku composed at 4 am fit the bill and in other cases, a prose poem was right. Really anytime life surprised her, Jinny took pen to paper and reframed the situation into one that had value and, most often, a whole lot of humor.

These poems were never just for her. Once the story was captured in verse, it was typed, copied and sent out to a large distribution list of friends and family.  An envelope with Jinny’s distinctive writing was a harbinger of news that although it may contains some sadness would always have us giggling.

Each piece would also end with an “ole!” Since my in laws spent their winters in Mexico that felt fitting, but this now feels like a constant call to get back on your feet and cheer that you are still here. Jinny was never one for focusing on loss or grieving, at least around us. There were guests to meet in the summer, or to correspond with off season, and more fun to be found.

Jinny read whatever I wrote loyally, including this blog. The videos were her favorite and, before she got sick last spring, they always engendered calls and emails.  It should be no surprise to me that I have been putting off composing a post after losing her last August.  I would like to chalk it up to too much work, but if I am honest, I have been avoiding the pain of writing without her reading.

But, you gotta be flexible — is not following our mentors’ advice is one of the ways that we can honor them? Jinny often said that her mother-in-law created the most brilliant sunsets. Following her tradition, maybe it’s time to believe that Jinny is out there watching in the vast worldwide web. She’s sending along her favorite emails full of animal photos and waiting for me to get back on my feet. And so, I send this far and wide, just as she would have, and end this post with a rousing, but I must admit teary “OLE!”

Check out lifebyme.com

A few months ago, I was asked to write an essay for www.lifebyme.com and today it is being featured on their home page! I hope you check out “Paradox” and find it of interest.

As always, thank you for your support. Today, I get to practice being seen…

Kevin Connolly — Playing Well at the X Games

Have to let you all know that our friend Kevin Connolly just took 3rd place in mono ski at the X Games! To get a sense of what that means, click here for a short ESPN clip of the final run…This is not skiing for the faint of heart.DoubleTake -- A Memoir

I have to sing Kevin’s praises since he’s been playing well — by both making his mark and having a great time — this year. His recent book, Double Take: A Memoir published by Harper’s Studio was released last fall and he’s taken to the air waves to promote it. Here’s a fun clip of an interview with Today Show’s Meredith Veiria:

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I can tell you that Kevin isn’t much for being considered “inspirational,” but he consistently reminds me to reach for the stars while maintaining a great sense of humor. We are cheering his win here in Bozeman and look forward to seeing where Kevin will next set his sights. Congratulations!

The Creative Process

My creative spirit can be quite moody. Sometimes she wants to play for weeks, dropping by at all hours with seductive ideas and pretty accoutrements for what I’m developing. I can’t keep up, she jostles me awake at 3 am or rallies me on to write for 10 hours straight. Like that friend in college who would knock at your door at 11 pm during finals to go for a run in the first snowfall of the year, I love but get a bit nervous about Creativity’s visits. Her presence is surprising, fun, but demanding.

Apollo and the Muses by Raphael

Apollo and the Muses by Raphael

After a creative binge, she can “sleep it off” for months…this spring I wanted to finish my latest book, Thriving Through Tough Times. I’d sit down and try to wake her. If I nudged her hard enough I would she would mutter a phrase or two and I could create a blog post. But, then my fickle companion would roll over and start snoring again. A post a week I was allowed to produce, but the book I couldn’t get complete.

In the 2002 movie Adaptation Nicholas Cage portrayed a protagonist tasked with completing a screenplay for The Orchid Thief. He struggles to sit long enough to actually write a coherent page. We watch him bouncing up and down and becoming obsessed with wanting a banana nut muffin. My friend novelist Marcus Stevens and I often respond when asking one another about book progress, “Banana nut muffins.”

Sometimes it’s the cookies calling from the pantry or the dishes screaming from the sink. Then there’s the laundry, the emails I’ve neglected or a lunch date I’ve scheduled since “I’m free.” Frustrated with my own lack of progress, I really appreciated the following TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about the creative process and its fickle nature.

I resonate with Gibert’s description of writing being a long, slow slog and fussing at her muses that she is holding up her end of the bargain. At her virtual urge, I decided to “do my part.” To ignore the siren song of groceries, friends and the Internet, I hid out in a cabin for a week…perhaps you noticed the blog lull in the later part of June? With few distractions I sat down at 9 am and made myself work til 5:30 each day without fail and finished a rough draft of book #3.

I shouldn’t be surprised, it was the only way that I could complete Worst Enemy, Best Teacher. Some can get up at 5 am each day and diligently go straight to their office; Miss Creativity and I don’t seem to work that way. She wants me all to herself and as long as the cell phone and emails can garner my attention, she treats me with the same level of affection that I am affording her.

I’ve now got a book, but there is much more work to be done. I have reached the culling, combing and cutting stage of its development, but, next week holds a family vacation and I won’t bring my laptop. I need time with my wild invisible girlfriend, but since she doesn’t share well, I need to postpone our date. It is time instead for focusing on incarnate friends, family and a devouring good banana nut muffin or two.