Got Empathy? How Seeking to Understand Serves Us All

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

“Don’t Make Assumptions.” I appreciate this one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s tenets from his book The Four Agreements in particular because it reminds us to give grace to others due to our own blind spots.

There’s no way we can fully know what someone else is going through or has gone through – especially by watching their social media “commercials.”

There’s no way to know the complete behind-the-scenes experiences that have motivated others’ next steps or perhaps left them stuck – unless we both ask with an open heart (when appropriate) and listen with unfiltered ears (always).
Until we can truly see and value others, we’ll always assume what “should” or “could” be their reality and/or their responses. But what good does this kind of judgment yield?

So consider this agreement a practice worth pursuing, in the spirit of elevating relationships of all kinds.

Ask instead of assuming you know their truths and speak up instead of assuming they “should” know yours.

Pause instead of pointing fingers; reflect instead of rejecting. Know that unless you’ve walked the very path they’re trodding, you really know very little – and vice versa!

Extend grace as you’re also seeking it. Hold at the forefront of your mind that each day and each personal encounter should begin and end the same – with love as the central force.

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Writing Their Way to Joy

May These Authors Making Moves Offer Inspiration for the Purpose You Want to Pursue

One of the participants in the writing workshop I hosted at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden yesterday shared a profound revelation that she received after attending my inaugural Writing @ The Garden seminar at Lewis Ginter two weeks ago.

While her comment gave me chills, I won’t share it verbatim, because I’m expecting it to show up in the book she’s writing. In essence, however, she challenged herself after that workshop to get off the sidelines of life and claim all the good she possibly can.

I celebrate her courage and the courage of all of you who are loosing the shackles of “Why me?” and celebrating where your “Why not me?” attitude is taking you – in particular my literary friends who are touching the lives of others with their words and deeds as they live their dreams: authorwritingcco

Congrats to Kwame Alexander for opening a library in Ghana in his mother’s honor.

Congrats to Robin Farmer for securing an important platform at the 2019 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference.

Congrats to Sadeqa Johnson for being named National Book Club Conference Author of the Year.

Congrats to Bonnie Newman Davis for launching and leading a successful media camp for RIchmond-area teens – filling them with wisdom and ideas that will help shape their future.

Congrats to A’Lelia Bundles for landing a Netflix series for the story of her great-great grandmother Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first African American female millionaire, in the early 20th century.

And this is just in the past week and just in my writer community!

I celebrate their wins and cheer you on, too. Look around you and dance with those in your circle who deserve it. As you applaud their steps forward you’re also moving in the right direction. 😘

 

When Change is a Gift

Research shows that most people dislike change so much that they’d rather stay in unfulfilling, stagnant or unstable circumstances rather than risk the unknown or stretch past what feels safe. It’s human nature, it seems, to “go with what you know.”

Over the course of my personal and professional journey, however, I’ve become convinced that the different or the uncomfortable (or even the heartbreaking) can sometimes be a sacred path to purpose.

For it is on this fresh course and in unfamiliar territory that we learn more about ourselves, discover strengths we might not have otherwise realized, and connect with ideas, skills and relationships that are meant to play pivotal roles in our destiny.

Yet, if we’re not open to change, or avoid accepting its unexpected arrival, how will we ever know our other (possibly wiser, stronger, happier) selves?

This is my sentiment as I bid farewell to readers of Life Notes, the parenting column I’ve had the pleasure of writing since July 2007 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Yes- more than 10 years! (Read my farewell column, in today’s newspaper, here.)

Life Notes was actually my second venture as a columnist for this daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia: From 2000 to 2006, I wrote a weekly column for the Saturday metro section called Inspirations, which acquainted readers far and wide with the uplifting and resilient journeys of metro Richmond residents and with their explorations of faith and personal growth. It had a tremendous following, and according to Times-Dispatch reader surveys, was a primary driver for Saturday newspaper sales during that time.

Both columns were meaningful to me, as was my connection to their readers.

I retired Inspirations, however, when I “retired” from my daily journalism career to focus on penning books and freelance writing. Not an easy decision since I loved my work, but an exciting and necessary one, in order to fulfill the other dreams on my To Do list. I never regretted the choice.

This time around, with changes abreast in newspaper column inches and editorial direction comes the opportunity to take another leap that has long been on my To Do list: expanding the genre of books I write to include more nonfiction (in addition to my women’s fiction) and perhaps some young adult reads.  And while I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to blog for the Huffington Post, I look forward to penning more essays and profiles about the power of story and the relevance of our individual journeys for additional national publications. (Stay tuned!)

So yes, this is a goodbye of sorts to one platform for my writing, but a hello to all of the opportunities and open doors on my uncharted path. Will you celebrate with me?

I hope you’ll follow this blog to see where the written word takes me. Feel free to comment below and share ideas about what you’d like to learn about personal growth, matters of faith, living your best life, walking in purpose or writing your way to joy. I look forward to exploring these themes and more with you, and to growing with you.

 

Stacy Hawkins Adams ~ Author, Essayist, Journalist, Blogger

Why Your Next-Level Thinking Must Begin Today

Are you ready for your next level?

You don’t have to have it all together before you start (no one does),

Or know exactly how it all will unfold (life happens),

Or be without flaw (curveballs and mistakes are par for the course).

What you DO need is a belief in your vision and a belief that you’re worth the self-investment, because you are.

So go after your personal goals with faith and focus,

And recalibrate your professional ones with strategic creativity and heart.

Your tenacity, passion and purpose will inspire others to embrace their best life, too.

Don’t wait until 2018…start now.

Writing from and for the Journey

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I haven’t turned on my creative fiction juices in a while, because although I absolutely love manufacturing interesting characters and breathing life into them, I also have a deep love for nonfiction writing. Over the past year or so, I’ve focused my attention there.

I recently entered my 10th year of penning a parenting column for a daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia; I launched this inspirational blog a few moths ago, and I occasionally write commentary for the Huffington Post.

Beyond those outlets, my “day job” of serving as Director of Communications for a private school in my community affords me an opportunity to do all kinds of writing – from marketing and advertising copy to social media posts to letters and other messaging that share the “how” and “why” of this school and its mission to produce service-minded leaders who make a difference locally and around the globe. All of this excites me.

And yet….the ideas for a new novel still rise to the surface every now and then, teasing me to consider what my 11th book could and should be. I’m not sure yet when that one will be birthed, but I already have a list of character names, a few potential plot ideas and even a tentative title.

I’m not ready to start writing the first draft because the ideas are still “baking.” I’ll know when the plot is just firm enough to put pen to paper, and then move those handwritten notes to my computer.

In the meantime, I’m doing my writer’s “homework”: Leaning into the gifts and opportunities that come with daily life, enjoying special moments with family and friends, overhearing compelling conversations or intriguing names that might make their way into my story, and taking in the scenery, sights and sounds around me, so that when I need these things most, they are a finger tap away in the notes section of my iPhone, or stored in my mental image bank.

I recently had the pleasure of joining an award-winning children’s author for dinner, and during our conversation, Newberry Medal winner Rita Williams-Garcia announced that she no longer writes under deadline. When the manuscript is ready – however long that may take – she intuitively knows, and she only writes The End at that point.

While many of us scribes may not have that luxury – or be disciplined enough to know the difference between being stuck and accepting that the project is substantive enough to move forward – learning about her method left me thinking that more of us should find the courage (or be extended opportunities) to give our words, ideas and stories the space to grow and mushroom into something fantastically wonderful.

If and when you can, I encourage my fellow writers to let your story marinate; let the words come on their own; let the characters show you who they are in their own time.

Because I’m not on deadline or under contract with a publisher at the moment, this is exactly what I’m doing. I’m also reading some great fiction, and books about the art of writing, along the way.

It’s an unsettling experience in some ways – especially when my readers say they’re ready for another book-  and I hate to keep readers waiting. Yet, in another way, it’s freeing, because I’m allowing the writer journey to unfold before me.

I’m confident that when my new characters are ready to meet the world, they’ll let me know. When they start nudging, I won’t be able to get them out of my head unless I tell their stories! Lol

Until then, I hope you’ll continue reading my current novels, the few fictional short stories I’ll be penning soon, and also my body of nonfiction writing. The mission of all of my work is to enlighten, uplift and inspire. I hope my fictional characters and my intriguing true-to-life subjects do just that for you.

Note: This essay was originally published on the Black Christian Reads blog, in July 2017.

My Writer’s Journey Dissected – Part One

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Stacy Hawkins Adams

I’ve had the privilege of being featured recently on two podcasts to share details about my path to becoming an author.

Thought I’d share one of them here today – my interview on The Writer’s Voice podcast with Robin Farmer – for any aspiring authors who need inspiration, and for readers who want to know more about the writer life. I’ll share my podcast interview on Writers and Authors on Fire with John Vonhoff in a few weeks.

The Writer’s Voice Podcast

The Writer’s Voice is a series in which authors talk about their work and read from their favorite writings. It is a service offered by Virginia Voice – a statewide nonprofit run by volunteers who read and record a variety of materials to enhance life for individuals who are unable to independently read print.

Meet The Writer’s Voice host, freelance writer Robin Farmer, then listen to her podcast interview with me.

Robin Farmer

Robin Farmer: I decided during a wonderful (writer) residency at Djerassi that once I returned home I would volunteer more in the community. Months later, I read that Virginia Voice functions only because dozens of volunteers pitch in.  On the spot, I decided to go and audition so that I could be a reader, ideally of young adult books. However, during a conversation while there, I was asked to consider interviewing authors with ties to Virginia about their novels and nonfiction books. I was elated, as many local authors are friends. I also wanted to work with Virginia Voice as I have serious eye issues that fortunately, can be corrected. If I was unable to read, I would want this type of programming.  I am honored to interview authors about their work and their writing journey for an audience who loves books and the people who write them as much as I do!

Click on the image below to listen to Stacy’s podcast interview or click here.

 

To hear additional author interviews on The Writer’s Voice, click here.

 

More about The Writer’s Voice host, Robin Farmer:
Robin is an award-winning journalist whose accolades include the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on business, health and education and has appeared in the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, the College of William & Mary, AARP Bulletin and Virginia Business.  In 2016, she was selected from among 900 applicants for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program to work on her debut YA novel. Her short story, The History Lesson, was included in the anthology River City Secrets: Stories from Richmond, which was published in 2016. Robin also writes screenplays. Visit her at robinfarmerwrites.com.

 

 

Literary Love: Writing Changes

By Guest Blogger Sadeqa Johnson

Here’s the honest truth: My biggest challenge as a writer is to keep my butt in the chair, and my computer screen locked on my novel.

I am a chronic email checker. There, I said it. I go to my Gmail inbox often, looking for an excuse to take me away from writing. It’s not right. I know better, but I do it anyway. I use everything as a reason to get out of my chair. The bathroom, a drink of water, a bowl of cereal, a walk out back to check on the weather conditions.

And don’t get me started on social media. My goodness, who’s idea was this electronic second life anyway? I sit with my fingers on the computer keys trying to lose myself in the story, and the next thing I know I’m clicking through Facebook. Lurking through inspirational quotes, participating in questions of the day, and liking those cute first day of school pictures.

I am blessed with three busy children and they are another distraction, even from school. It’s not totally their fault – I’m the Type A mother who starts planning summer camp in January. There is research to be done and it must be done right before I write that character sketch, flashback scene and mother/daughter confrontation.

Oh, and vacation? How I love to be distracted by vacation surfing. Many of which I will never go on, but enjoy looking at the pictures and imagining myself on the lounge chair, in sunglasses sipping a Margarita.

So how do I get anything done? I start by writing all of my ideas in longhand. Even though my once beautiful Catholic school handwriting has turned into chicken scratch, writing in a five-subject notebook keeps me from being distracted by the mighty internet. When I write longhand, there is no stroke of the key that can transport me into the world of the social conversation. It’s just me, my pen and the paper.

Another tactic is what I like to call time and treat. I tell myself, you must sit and write for an hour and then receive a treat of five or ten minutes of surfing freedom.

I’m still a work in progress, but with my third novel coming out in April (And Then There Was Me) and my fourth emerging from my notebook, I’m working hard every day to be disciplined and get it done.

Sadeqa Johnson, a former public relations manager, spent several years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an award-winning author herself. sadeqa-from-family-shootHer novels include Love in a Carry-on BagSecond House From the Corner and the soon-to-be-released And Then There Was Me (April 2017). Sadeqa lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. Learn more about Sadeqa and her work at sadeqajohnson.net.