The Gift of Words & Writing

I’ve connected with quite a few writer friends this week and it has fueled my creativity in ways that I didn’t realize I missed so much during the pandemic.

Two of the catchups were one-on-one reunions over a meal, and both of those friends/mentors reminded me that writing is important work – to be leaned into, wrestled with, granted free reign, yet relented to with finesse, because words hold power and stories help us understand each other; and when we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, sometimes we even surprise ourselves at the important truths, wounds, dreams, hopes, fears, strength and more that lie just beneath the surface.

Whether we’re writing fiction or nonfiction, that power – and responsibility – are the same.

My other gathering with writers was filled with amazing talent and wisdom too, and left me with an inner glow.

I share all of this to note that as I’ve spent time at my keyboard after hours and in the wee hours of morning this week, editing others work and also nurturing my own work-in-progress, I’ve felt more grateful than ever for the gift of words and writing, and for the opportunity to speak to the world in a manner that can endure.

What part of your purpose or your journey are you most grateful for this week? Acknowledge it and celebrate it in some way.

Author & Essayist Stacy Hawkins Adams

50th Plans…And Then Came COVID

Celebrating My 50 While 50 – Update #1

Nearly two months ago, in mid-January, I celebrated the Big 5-0. Like many people do as a milestone birthday approaches, I’d begun pondering months earlier just how I would celebrate.

I was super excited about this birthday, because 2011 – the year I turned 40 – had also been a big year of a big change in my family dynamics. I spent the decade between then and now leaning into my new role as single, co-parenting mom of two adolescents, making sure they had the nurturing, the education and the extracurriculars that would help them thrive and be prepared to discover their purpose. The choices and sacrifices I made during that season were more than worth it; but I was looking forward to launching this new decade with a special trip somewhere in that world that would serve as a kick off for more opportunities to explore never-visited American cities and states, and places around the globe.  

Then came COVID. The world stopped, and along with having to help my son celebrate his high school graduation virtually and my daughter celebrate her college graduation without a formal ceremony, I had to abandon my looming 50th birthday plans. 

Trust me, I know how minor these and a few other very disappointing setbacks were, given the tumult and loss unfolding every single day. I couldn’t complain (then or now), and I continue to seek ways to offer help and encouragement to friends and many others who are in need.

My past 12 months of pandemic living have been graced with many blessings, including a new job filled with meaningful work; settling my son into a college where he gets to run track; watching my daughter practicing “adulting” in a way that has made me proud(er) to be her mom, and everyone in my immediate family remaining healthy.

I know this hasn’t been the case for many people, including some of my closest friends and loved ones, and I don’t take it for granted. So, being the optimistic person I am, I turned my attention to creating a Plan B. For me that is my 50 While 50 List – i.e., a list of 50 things to do while I’m enjoying my 50th year. 

I asked readers of my author newsletter to chime in with suggestions, and boy, did they answer. Between the 30 or so ideas I already had on the list and their wonderful ideas, I’ve now got a lineup of 67 things to do! Lol And if you know me, you know I’ll fit at least 50 things in during 2021 and “carryover” the other 17 into 2022, if necessary.

I promised my newsletter readers that I’d be sharing periodic updates on my progress in this space and this is my first 50 While 50 installment. 

I’ve spent January, February and some of March keeping promises that are fun, practical, fulfilling and maybe a bit uncomfortable enough to stretch me, including:

  • Treating myself to a few favorite “non-everyday” foods whenever the whim hits me, including calamari and German chocolate cake. I haven’t gone overboard, but I’ve enjoyed leaning into those “why not today?” urges when they’ve randomly occurred.
  • Getting a colonoscopy. Not a fun task, but not a necessary one! It was uneventful, and it gave me peace of mind to check this off my list of responsible things to do.
  • Sitting in silence more than usual. As a writer, I often ponder and create in silence; but these particular quiet times have been filled with more intentional journaling, meditating, letting my thoughts roam free, praying, and envisioning some of my goals and dreams as reality. The process has helped me refine my goals and know myself even better.
  • Buying two instead of one. I’ve bought myself a bouquet of fresh flowers every two weeks, just because, for years. Since January, I’ve sometimes made it two – one bouquet graces a vase on my dining room table and the other is placed where I choose – my living room or family room or bedroom.
  • Taking time away. I spent a few days on the Chesapeake Bay, leaning into long walks, prayer time and socially distant meals and laughter with two of my closest sisterfriends. The experience was fun and gave me the clarity and courage to say yes to a few new things. 
  • Spa-ing. I treated myself to a mid-week facial with a fun millennial esthetician, whose chatty style and excellent work left me refreshed and renewed.
  • I sat in on a virtual masterclass about the book-to-movie process, with goals of learning how to someday see my novels on the big screen.
  • I secured three sessions with a life coach to help me refine my short-term goals and to create an accountability plan. This has been a worthwhile investment!

These are just a few things, and it’s only mid-March. I’m enjoying this process and along the way asking myself a question that a professional acquaintance posed to me in a recent conversation: What will you do differently? 

I’ve been leaning into that query in every area of my life, to ensure that I’m not just going through the motions or simply checking things off the list to say I’ve gotten them done. Either I am leaning into doing things the same as always because there’s a reason this way is best, or doing them differently because making slight changes will get me closer to the joy, the journey and the results that I want to be most impactful and lasting.

What about you? How’s your start to 2021? What are you leaning into? What are you willing to do differently? Regardless of whether this is a milestone birthday year for you, this can be a year that you set and reach new milestones, just because you’re worth it.

Share your plans in the comment section, and thanks for reading and cheering me on. As we all move forward and evolve as best we can, may we also remember our simple and significant blessings and pay them forward as best we can.

Take A Chance On You

You can’t declare you want something different yet follow the same routine; or pour new wine into old wineskin, or never try a new path or lane.

Find the courage to push past your comfort zone. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Elevate a long-held dream by making it relevant for today.

This is how Amazon transformed from a bookseller into an everything-seller;

how some real estate investors started the Airbnb revolution;

how fashion designers have become bestselling mask-makers,

and plastic companies now distribute millions of window and desk shields, to keep us all safe. 

Hold true to your gifts, goals and integrity; but be willing to ideate and pivot, for such a time as this. 

Pursuits of Passion

A message I watched on YouTube this week reminded me that just because we’re pursuing our passion doesn’t mean we’ll coast. In fact, living out our passion often requires sacrifice, late nights, elbow grease, and fits and starts. But because we love it, it’s worth it, right? 

The story I’m writing these days is kinda like that – it requires digging deep, sitting in silence, answering the hard questions and embracing the authentic answers. 

Yep, I’m talking about the novel I’m penning, but real life, too. For isn’t this how it’s supposed to work? Fiction is a reflection of life that’s meant to help you better understand yourself, and others. I’m excited to be in this “creating magic” phase. 

Dreaming and Doing: My Writing Journey

I’m honored this week to be a featured guest on Earrings Off!, a podcast focused on the journeys of women and men of color and how we are navigating this world with hope, authenticity, daring and candor.

Thank you to Earrings Off hosts Lou Ali and Teresa Vaughan for featuring me in Episode 35! I share how my love of writing developed as a young child and has been nurtured throughout my life by family, friends, mentors and readers.

Listen and be inspired to chart your own course from dreamer to doer, whether you’re a writer or passionate about some other endeavor.

Whatever your gift or talent is, you’re meant to share it with those in the world around you, so that in their joy of experiencing you, you too are rewarded.

– Stacy Hawkins Adams

Listen Here or search for Earrings Off! on your favorite podcast platform – Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher.

Stacy Hawkins Adams, featured guest on the Earrings Off! Podcast

How Taking Risks Helps You Grow

Yes – there will be missteps, mistakes and moments of doubt when you set sail in a new direction; but is the alternative really better?

Stay anchored in who and Whose you are, but don’t stay put and get stuck.

Launch out into the deep and experience your life, your relationships, your purpose and the things you’re most passionate about from another vantage point.

You’ll see – perspective is everything, and so are the new levels of hope, possibilities and joy you didn’t think were possible.take a leap

When you take a chance on you, you’ll never go wrong. If you fail, learn the lesson. If you succeed, use that blessing as fuel to go to the next level.

Love you, trust you, honor you. Be your own best friend so that you can be a better friend to others.

When you grow your heart, your mind and your purpose in ways that stretch you, you elevate the energy around you and within you, and bring others along for the beautiful ride.

So today, don’t dwell on what could go wrong. Focus on what could go right, and work on making that vision your reality.

 

6 Steps to Loving Others While Leading Yourself

Only you know the purpose that fuels your passion;
Only you can conquer the mountain over which your destiny awaits.
How you get there matters just as much as when.

  • Focus with fearlessness. It’s natural for fear and doubt to sneak up on you every now and then – we’re all human. When it surfaces, pause in the moment and recognize it for what it is. Briefly analyze what’s causing the anxiety, then decide to push forward.
  • Persist with integrity. Be the same person in private as you are in public, and be sure that’s a person you honor and respect, so others will learn to do the same. Make decisions filled with honor and fairness so that you can expect the same when others deal with you. Not everyone will treat you right; but in your doing the right thing consistently, you’ll sow enough good seed to make a positive difference.
  • Dream big, then do. If you don’t dream beyond your borders you’ll have no new territory to conquer. Allow yourself to imagine the grandest vision possible for your life, then sit down with pen and paper (yes – old fashioned journaling) and map out your path and plans to get from idea stage to reality. Stay the course and eventually you’ll get there.
  • Travel with likeminded warriors of hope who’re willing to stand with you. Everyone needs friends, family or colleagues who believe in you as much as you do – those supporters who will remind you why you started and insist that you finish on the days you want to quit. Some of us may have a tribe of people and others of us may have just one. One is all you need, and as Beyonce’ once sang, in some instances we have “to be our own best friend” and be that one! Whatever it takes, stick with hope.
  • Bless and release those meant to travel another way. Not everyone will get you and not everyone has the stamina to stay the course with you until you win. Be grateful for the part they’ve played in helping you grow, embrace those lessons and wish them well. Just because their part in your story has shifted doesn’t mean they didn’t add some value. Yet, value yourself enough to know when your inner circle must morph in order for you to get unstuck, avoid becoming stuck or humbly soar to your next level.
  • Be an example of the light and generosity of spirit that make the most difference, and remember to treasure the journey as much as achieving your goal. Everything begins and ends with love. Keep this circular reality in mind and operate accordingly, so that when you arrive at your destination, you’ll have few regrets.

Video Viewpoint: How Storytelling Helps You Grow

Whether personally or professionally, may this brief video inspire you to write a vision, life strategy, book, blog post, journal entry or essay about your experiences and set a new resolve to thrive.

 

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